Castello di Sovicille
Red-gold tentacles of an autumn moon
Spill across uneven cobblestones
Halo he warrior statue in the piazza
Reach through shutters
A peaceful Madonna and child
Poised above a rose carved bed.
The twelfth century castle
Breathes the night air
Whispering a lullaby.
While traveling I do not grab a camera or a sketch book, I find a pen and distill an experience with words. Years ago, Rod and I joined a food and wine tour of Tuscany with dear friends. We stayed on a marvelous ancient abode, restored over the centuries to fit with the times. We had indoor plumbing, lights, and an ambiance slathered with garlic.
We came in autumn, when Tuscany shimmered golden and cedar trees perfumed the air. Rod nibbled on grapes since wine and spirits are not his forte. I sipped an occasional glass of Chianti. We both enjoyed the food. A handful of us wandered to Florence. A familiar setting. Returning from working in Kenya we had walked the piazzas with my father. Dad had been stationed in Firenze during WWII. Before shrapnel was imbedded in his head. He showed us the Uffisi museum, and where a poem had been born and scribed on a scrap of paper.
Years later, hand in hand, Rod and I wandered the public gardens. In a small shop, I found a wooden carved chicken for my nativity scene. Memories of our children licking gelato and my father’s laughter warmed us on a blustery October day. A day later, memories brought tears.
We were at a winery and friends told the vintner that my father had served in that part of Italy during the war. The man rushed to my side and kissed my cheeks. He held my hands and told of the hardship for the Italian people during the German occupation and when the Americans arrived, the GI’s fed the children from their rations and spread the joy of Hershey bars throughout the countryside. A boy of twelve when his father was conscripted, the vintner went to work at the winery sweeping floors. His family needed to eat. Smiling through tears, he cried his gratitude.
In the middle of chaos of war, our soldiers left a gift of love in his heart. What is it I leave behind as a memory infused with love?
A ranger in Kentucky said that Copperheads attack flames before they retreat from a forest fire. It is a clear picture of the danger we’re in when we believe we can overcome the assault of the enemy of our souls without a plan. And that plan is not our own.
‘Finally, be strengthened in the Lord and in the strength of His power. Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.’
Remember the scene with Indiana Jones when he jumps into a plane to escape and finds a snake on his seat? “Snakes, I hate snakes.” Indiana Jones isn’t the only one who is repelled by the reptiles. My first encounter with the invertebrates dates to sixth grade. In order to pass science class, you had to touch a garter snake. The teacher grabbed my hand and forced the snake into it. Problem was, I’d heard my uncle’s stories about rattlers biting his cows when they lowered their heads to eat. The consequences? Blotted bovines.
Avoiding rattlers is dead easy. Don’t go where they habitat. However, I was a western girl, my grandparents had farms and we camped in the Oregon woods. Walking quietly in a pristine forest is not wise if your desire is to keep clear of snakes. And look before you lower your bum onto a log, turn over a rock, or peek into a cavern.
My anathema to snakes grew exponentially while living in Thailand. Posted on the wall at our military base were the poisonous snakes in the area. Photos accompanied what I dubbed, ‘The Dead not Alive,’ poster. I clutched our baby and memorized the appearance of Green Tree Vipers, Cobras, and assorted water snakes.
I only encountered two of the local types in my eight months living at Pattaya Beach. A Green Tree Viper shot out of a tree above my head and landed three feet away from my bare legs. Somehow, with baby in arms I levitated onto a cement porch and pounded on the door of a neighbor. Luck, you say? I would offer another explanation. The hand of God lifted us. I was never a standing broad jump type of girl.
Then there was the cobra. I had released my three students from school and we met at the pool with four other kids and one other mom for a swim. Our toddler was floating nearby in her arm rings when I spotted a cobra slither into the water. “Deadly, very deadly,” to borrow a quote from Raiders of the Lost Ark. I yelled at Nora, the other mom who was between the snake and the children. After getting two kids out, I pulled myself onto the cement walk. The snake aimed our direction from the deep end. She snagged the children paddling around and began to throw them to me. Those who could, scrambled out of the water. As the last child vacated the pool, I checked the foliage for the cobra’s mate.
To be attacked when you think you’re safe is unnerving. However, it is what we see in spiritual warfare. When you think you are prepared, safe, on guard, the enemy sneaks behind the lines and destroys. Ephesians 6 is clear about how to be armed for the inevitable encounter. It is not by our might, power or preparation but by God’s word and power that we are protected. To put on shin guards protects a small portion of the body. It is the whole armor of God that we need.
To those who enjoy a good book:
I glanced at my husband as we recently unpacked our bags and piled our mushed clothes into wash, hang up, or iron stacks. Our last two month journey had taken us from Greek Islands to Normandy Beaches researching World War II locations for a novel. Our motto should be, “Have Bag, Will Travel.” I smiled. I’d always claimed Rod had feathers in his britches, but I have an itchy foot as well.
Journeys intrigue me. Your story is unique for there is only one person like you in all of history. I am eager to hear my readers tell their life experiences, for each has been on a trek with God. Perhaps, they didn’t know God’s fingerprints were in their lives, just as my husband and I didn’t until in our twenties. How fun to look back and see God’s protection, guidance, and love in our lives, even before we knew Him.
Sitting down over a meal with a new acquaintance, I listened as she spun out her tale of God’s ministry in her life. He brought her healing, not just physically, but spiritually as she suffered through disability and bed rest. Knitted together in the body of Christ by Him, and her sharing enabled me to rejoice in God’s provision, bear her up in prayer, and humbly encourage her to write her story to share with others.
One of the joys of writing is hearing from my readers. If a poem, short story, or novel I’ve written has been a catalyst for change I want to know and honor God with you. How did our Lord work in your life to bring healing, closure to a situation, or peace in the midst of a storm?
Each of you have stories of God’s grace. I am blessed when I hear how God is working. Perhaps, wrapping words around God’s handiwork to part of glorifying Him.
May your days be filled with His grace,
February slid in on ice skates like an awkward adolescent. Ice crystals coat the walkways, the tree limbs, and my cheeks as I walk along the sidewalks cracked by magnolia roots. Bundled in hat, gloves, muffler, and ski jacket, the edges of the polar vortex turns my nose shiny pink.
Kentucky’s winter blue skies are hidden by gray clouds racing from Colorado to Maryland. I am thankful of our cheery gas fireplace where I cuddle with a book and cup of tea. The grand dogs lounge by the Aga stove downstairs, content to let their frozen paws warm with the constant heat.
Our cardinal family found the new bird feeder. Flashes of red come and go like autumn leaves carried by the wind. Perching in the rangy Chestnut tree by our deck, a juvenile bird waits as his vibrantly hued father picks through the seeds. His dull-colored mother is by the fence. The females are last in line for the offering my husband has spread on the patio table and scattered in the clear plastic feeder attached to our window.
February can’t make up its mind if winter is fleeing toward spring or extending icy fingers into March. I think the tropics are calling me.