Penrose stared at the mirror hanging on the wall. The Prince had told her more, more? More what? She had been made for more. Looking in the mirror at her reflection, with her small frame, messy hair, crooked teeth, and dull, brown eyes, Penrose could not imagine she was made for anything more than living in the small, quiet village of Rose. It was comfortable here. She never had to leave her comfort zone. And sure, Bitterrose, Sadrose, and Angryrose were there. But she could mostly ignore them. She had to wear her gloves of numbness, she had to wear her boots of insecurity, and her pack that contained bitterness, sadness and anger weren’t all that heavy. She was discontent, but she was safe here in Rose.
“We can’t go against your parents, not more than we already have.” I felt the ringing in my ears, I heard the but in her voice, something else, something was going to happen and I didn’t know what.
“But that is why, me and Thomas talked it over, we have a perfectly good basement you could live in if you need to. We know how important it is that you leave that house.”
“Yes.” I said quietly. “I cannot live here anymore.”
“So don’t be pressured to say yes or no right now. Think it over.” I had made my decision before I hung up the phone. I was going to live with them. The tears sliding down my cheeks were relatively unnoticed. the resolve in my heart was very simple: if I were to stay living here, I would die, emotionally, physically. I knew if I stayed much longer, the neglect and pressure from my family would drive me to suicide.
It is interesting looking back I had no reservations. No wondering if it was the wrong thing. Prayers flew out of my mouth as quickly as my breath. I could not live there any more, I knew that, and I did not question it. I had decided to leave before they had offered a place. I had decided the darkness I had been willingly living in for so long was too much. I would do something about it. Either that, or it would kill me.
A coke. If I got into town at 4:45 or earlier I would stop and get a coke. I was tired. Sugar and caffeine would help. I checked my speedometer to make sure I wasn’t speeding. I looked up and felt a sudden slap in the face. The breath oozed from my lungs: I was in no danger of crashing, I was in danger of living the moment again. I heard God say, well, I didn’t actually hear words, maybe he didn’t say it but I felt it, it was like in the Voyage of the dawn treader, when Eustace told them the lion spoke but he didn’t see him speak he just kinda heard the words. God told me very clearly, whether with words or thoughts or feelings.
I’m getting ready to move. I’m getting rid of a lot of stuff. Who knew when you don’t think you can keep stuff it all seems pretty meaningless. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of my wardrobe, I don’t want to pack it and move it. I also see a lot of stuff I spent money on leaving my house packed up in bags for the thrift store. I really need to get my spending under control, my saving too. I always felt that I had the same mentality as everyone else, but maybe I don’t. I was deprived the ability to distinguish between want and need. I can neglect myself and self care because I don’t understand how it’s a need and not a want. Now that I am moving, I can look at something and go “do I want to move this to Oregon with me?” Or “does this reflect the person I want to be?” If the answer is no, it is chucked, not a second thought. I am getting rid of some furniture next.
“Baby,” she said her voice laced with concern. “What ever you do, don’t shut people out because of this. Don’t you not trust people. Don’t you stop letting people in. Okay? You gotta promise me.”
I remember tears coming to my eyes as she said it. As her voice cracked a little over the phone line. I remember thinking to myself: ‘how am I not?’ Sure, they hadn’t hurt me, I had not been the victim in all of this. But I had been too close, I had let them get so close to me I could feel them breathing. And when it happened, I had been so shocked I had been unable to tell their breath apart from mine. The days that followed after it, as the dark force ate away at my insides, had been all I had needed for me to know I was never going to do that again. That trust was something I was giving God, and not humans, not again.
I would not talk to anyone about it. I had decided to let it eat my insides. As long as they were not hurt by my words, as long as I kept it to myself. I was safe. Safe from harm, or whatever it was I claimed harm to be.
Penrose brushed her hands off. They were dusty, blistered and sore under the gloves. She bent down again her back aching as she shifted through the skeletons for another brick. No one could see these skeletons. These ghosts from her now. She didn’t want them to see them, and she didn’t want them to see her. She was afraid. Afraid of laying down and becoming a pile of dry bones, just like these skeletons. Penrose saw the mirrored floor and caught her breath. She swore when she stared at the mirror, all of her imperfections were amplified, ten fold. She kept stacking. Are they bones or bricks? She piled them one by one onto her wall. To keep them out. To keep out the hurt.
“Why do I live in a constant mess?” I irritatingly asked myself. I looked around my apartment, knee high in stuff. My place was a disaster, garbage, laundry, stuff, it was ruling my life. I had stuff everywhere. I loved stuff, I did. I will admit it easily, those cool nick-Nacks? Vintage stuff? Camping stuff? All of it. I loved it. I liked to look at it. I liked to romanticize it. A story from a small coin, a heartfelt loved in a necklace. Anything. I see so much in things. Books, too, touching their spins, seeing them on a shelf. I could look at things forever. But they were taking a toll on my life. My car was so messy I couldn’t even give kids rides anymore. I shuttered to think of myself as a hoarder, but what else was I? It was time to get rid of things. If I wanted to move, I needed to get this under control.
Penrose fluttered her stuff wings. She swore the back pack was heavier just over night. What had she put in it? Just the rotting flowers the Windgiver had given her. Didn’t he want her to keep them? She trudged down the crest of the hill, hands on the straps of her backpack to make it easier to carry. The Prince was walking beside her.
“Do you really want to take that with you?” He asked. Penrose looked up at him.
“But you gave them to me.” Penrose told him. He nodded.
“Everything belongs to me, I can give you what I want to, but that doesn’t mean you should keep it forever.”
Penrose held her hands to her chest. Her eyes never leaving the sky. She knew the Windgiver was up there. She knew he had planned her journey out. Every step of her journey. But she did not like or see the point in the thorns that pricked her side. She did not understand why the flowers that she had had wilted. She did not understand why many things had happened. She knew they had happened for a reason, but it did not make her less dismayed.
“Oh Lord my God, You are very great, You are clothed with splendor and majesty” ~Psalm 104:1
When peace like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say It is well, it is well, with my soulIt is well With my soul It is well, it is well with my soulThough Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soulIt is well (it is well) With my soul (with my soul) It is well, it is well with my soulMy sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soulIt is well (it is well) With my soul (with my soul) It is well, it is well with my soulIt is well (it is well) With my soul (with my soul)
Empty. A church empty. Was an odd thought. But that isbut that is what I felt like, an empty church. I looked around at all the faces, they smiled. They looked just as they did when I had first come-perhaps a little older. But something had changed in my heart. Was this church a bad thing? Absolutely not. Was me coming here somehow bad, of course not. But, as I slid my purse over my shoulder and headed for the first time alone, to sit up stairs I knew something had changed. Changed in me. I was no longer content to sit in these pews, not because of what was taught to them, not because of the people that received it. But because of one small little heart in a small heaving chest.
It is well, with my soul.
I am not surprised. I am not sad. I am not going to fight it. I am well. Well with What he is going to do with me.
I remember laughing “it’s the first /boy’s/ number I have-and we aren’t even like that!” I was sitting in the cool, fall air, swinging back and forth with my friend Kelly in an old, beaten down playground outside of the closed school. She laughed with me and looked up at the dimming sky. I remember seeing s few very faint stars.
“Do you think you like him?” She asked.
“Not like that,” I said. “He has a girlfriend, besides, I’ll probably never meet him in real life.”
Penrose looked over to the other cell, and saw a startling similar pair of wings to hers. They were broken, white tipped with red, just like hers.
“Who are you?” She asked quietly.
“My name is Alistar.” He told her. “And we are getting out of here.” His voice was strong, but the bars between them felt like a million miles.
“How?” Penrose couldn’t fathom escaping this cell, and she suspected Alistar was the same.
“I haven’t figured it out yet, but I know we will.”
I remember sitting, the ache in my chest as real as a stab wound. Distance felt like a sentence. The state I lived in a prison. The house, a chain. The absence of my friends in my life was a burning hole. Something loud and obnoxious that somehow reminded me I wasn’t enough for them, or myself.
The miles we had between us was easily remedied with a quick, hour flight. The remedy was used twice. The solution never quite right. I felt as if those who loved me were always far away, so I could not touch them, I could not hold onto them, I could only see their words on a screen or their voice on the line. I couldn’t help feeling lonely, when my best friends were across the country from me.
Everyone’s wings in the Valley of the Crags were broken.
That was why they were in the Valley of the Crags instead of in the Crags themselves. For you see, in the beginning, when the Wind Giver made the Crags he made two Flyers to fly in the Crags with him. The first was man, named One and the second was woman named Two. And they flew for a time in the towering heights of the Crags. All their food was grown for them on wonderful fruit trees. All their water came down to them from roaring waterfalls so clear they sent rainbows everywhere. They were happy. Until they became curious of the Valley of the Crags. The darkness below pulled on their heart strings. The One Who Betrayed told the Flyers that if they broke their wings they could go into the Valley of the Crags, and would know what the Wind Giver knew, and be just as powerful. Overcome with the lie, both Two and One broke their wings to see what was in the dark Crags below. They fell to The Valley where there realized what they had done. The Crags were cold and windy and had no good food to eat. The water was murky and tasted bitter. They hid themselves in the forest below and attempted to climb the mountains so they could get up and see the Wind Giver again. But they were doomed to live in the valley forever after that. They could not reach the Crags. And they could not fly with broken wings.
The Wind Giver left them in the Valley of the Crags, saddened by their disobedience to him. He told them that once they had faith, once they accepted what they had done wrong, once they had grown back their broken wings, they could come and fly with him in the Crags once more. One and Two had to live the rest of their lives in The Valley of the Crags, where they had children, and tried to make a life for themselves away from the paradise above.
In the Valley of the Crags they had to grow their own food from the land and find their own water from the murky river. It was hard to live in the Valley of the Crags. Soon their children had children, and their children had children, until there were many houses and farms in the valley. And a few of these children grew up and learned how to mend their wings so they could fly with the Wind Giver. They circled above the Valley, their large beautiful wings spread wide. But not everyone found the way to Fly, though many claimed they knew how. And it was common knowledge there was a way, but everyone seemed to disagree how. Everyone wanted to fly in The Valley of The Crags, but not everyone accepted it.
Penrose wanted to fly. She wanted to learn how to fly high in the sky with the Wind Giver. But the problem was, Penrose’s wings were broken just like everyone else’s, she was very small, she had bushy eyebrows and a crooked nose. She also had hair that wouldn’t grow past her shoulders, and it was a dull, light brown with no highlights. She was not pretty like the Flyers that came down from the Crags. Her wings were so broken they hurt sometimes if she tried to stretch them out. So they lay crumpled on her back most of the time.
I do not remember the first time I heard the story of creation. I do not remember sitting wide eyed as the teacher, a beautiful woman named Lydia, explained to me about man and woman, and how they chose something that looked good over perfection. I remember the Sunday school room, and how she had decorated it with vines and leaves. It looked like trees. I remember running around the pillars wrapped with dollar-store vines, I remember her rocking chair. I do not remember how she told me the story of disobedience, but like any child, I knew what disobedience was. And I new to avoid it at all cost. Whether it was in word or deed, disobedience to my parents wasn’t even considered, the utmost respect for their authority wasn’t pounded into me, it was simply understood. I always wondered how long it was, that God walked with them in the garden, how many years pushed by and every year it didn’t even occur to them to disobey the one order of what they shan’t do. How many times they walked by that tree, saw the beautiful fruit, and reasoned in their minds one simple truth: “God is better.” It only took one moment of weakness. “Did God /really/ say…?” Suddenly, the beautiful candy wrapper looked better than perfection. Disobedience suddenly occurred to their small, simple minds. Their mindset completely changed. And they altered their behavior. They fell from union with God, they chose something else.
How many times a day do I look at that beautiful wrapper, and reason to myself the worth in not choosing perfection? It’s just one small thing. It’s just one more cookie. It’s just one small moment. It’s just a few small words. It’s just one small video. I reason my way out of so much. I reason my way into so much.
I wondered too, as a small child, if God could hear them, as the serpent spoke, as the woman reasoned against perfection, why God did not step in, throw his hands up between them and tell her “no no no no, you know the truth, why are you even considering?” I see now, it is a small thing, we knew we were not God, and we knew we were not perfect. And we were proving it to ourselves, and also God. We heard the words the serpent said, and we believed them. And suddenly, that candy looked much better than eternal life.
Penrose was cold. She shivered in the wind. The top of this hill had been particularly hard for her to climb. Her broken wings were pressed tightly against her back. All she could do, standing at the crest of the hill, was sob. Everything she had looked forward to, was meaningless. While this hill had been large, there was an equally large one right behind it, and another behind that. The journey would never get easier, it would never come to an end. She had thought this hill looked beautiful, as she stood far away from it, now, it was cold and desolate.
“Abba.” Penrose cried out. “Why am I here? Why have you made me climb this?” There was silence that followed.
To the end
It was a perfect moment. I remember staring into the fire and thinking how perfect a moment it was. I did not want the moment to end. I didn’t want to move. I remember I was working the next day, I had to get up early. But the warm crackle of the fire, the laughter amount my friends, friends I thought understood me, it called to me, telling me not to leave. It was alright though, I was told, we would have plenty of nights like this one.
No, I thought. This was it. I remember walking from the fire pit, turning my keys in the ignition and the music blaring to life as I pulled away. I knew that would be the last time I was happy there, I didn’t know how, but I just knew. Tears fell down my cheeks. I sobbed as I drove home in the dark. If you had asked why I cried, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you, I didn’t know yet I was mourning the loss of something beautiful.
Is to find
Penrose didn’t understand a lot of things. But she knew that. She didn’t want to know everything. But when she had received the flowers she had thought they were from the Prince himself. But staring at their wilted ends, she knew now they would not last forever.
She had thought that the flowers had been a beautiful gift from the Prince. But they turned out to shrivel and die in her hands, turning to nothing but thorns and a mess. She didn’t know why the Prince would have let these small things into her life if it hadn’t been for her good.
“Why did I have them Prince? If I was not to have them forever?” She asked as she let go of them Into the wind.
“Penrose,” his voice was very soft. “Look at your hands.” He told her. She looked at her hands, at how they bled and how they had been cut. How they hurt.
“I don’t understand.” Penrose told him. “I am hurt because of it.” He nodded and she felt a hand pat her shoulder.
“But look at your hands.” He told her again. “You no longer wear your Gloves of Numbness. I needed you to take them off to fulfill what I need you to do.”
A new beginning
They all kept asking if I was going to continue. I kept telling them yes, but the sinking feeling in my heart remained. How could someone do something like that? Or, how could they lie about it? It felt like a snake, curling it’s way up my throat and onto my tongue, telling my tongue what to say, and spinning around my lungs to command my chest when it could breath. I remembered this past summer, the endless days I had had with them, the fun I had had. Was it all a lie? Surely not. I remember the feeling of wrongness I had tried to shake when I was their, as if I as pretending to be something I wasn’t. When in reality, it was my heart trying to prepare me. A lizard in a princess’s bed. A drawing that could have meant nothing but looking back meant so much. I wasn’t supposed to fit in there, but I was there for now.
But something wasn’t right, and I couldn’t go back, I knew it before I had known it. The gentle and forceful tug at my heart: that door God had closed. And I was not supposed to try and force it open.
Sometimes, people in your life lie, people close to you hurt you. But just like Joseph, being thrown into the pit and sold into slavery, we must count it joy-and count it as what God wanted us to do all along.
I remember talking to a complete stranger online, he once told me he was afraid he had messed up what God wanted him to do by moving into the city. I had laughed at him, in all caps, before very graciously telling him “You think you are that good? That messed up that bad? That the creator of the universe saw what you did and said ‘oh darn! I guess I can’t use that one!’ He knew you would do that, and he is using you right here the way he wants you to.”
“All the way up those mountains?” Squeaked her small little voice.
“Yes, all the way.” He said to her. Penrose looked down at her heavy Boots of Insecurity, fiddled with her Gloves of Numbness, the weight of her pack, containing all her Sadness, anger, and bitterness growing all the heavier.
“But how will I ever make it with broken wings?” She asked Him.
“You cannot.” He told her. She felt her heart drop down to her toes. “Not without Me,” he clarified.
“But I am so very small,” she said.
“But I am so very big.” He said.
My hands were raised as if able to brush the lights that flashed above me. I felt Him, I do not even remember the song He came to me through.
I heard him tell me, “You will go. Help the youth. Be who you do not have.”
“But I am so young, how can I help youth as a youth?” My small frail voice said, not audible, but He heard it anyway.
“I told you to go where I send you, I will figure out the rest.”
With a single
Penrose looked at her broken wings, then, up at the Craigs where The Prince had told her she must travel. Her wings were broken, they could not fly-and the mountains were such a long way, a dangerous way. To get there she would need to walk countless miles, climb over innumerable hills, how could a small, broken flyer like Penrose do anything, let alone go all that way.
She looked back at her house, where Bristlerose was, where Sadrose and Angryrose and Bitterrose were fighting. She thought of the four walls she had always lived in, the comfort and solitude that her small house outside of town had been. How as she thought about leaving, it suddenly turned into a prison cell, bars stopping her from what she dared to wish for, what she dared to do.
It was cold. I remember blowing into my hands. This cafe was always cold. Freezing. But free WiFi had brought me here. I had tried once on my phone at work to fill out the application, to my dismay, halfway through I lost it. Now, as I wrote what accumulated into a biography about me I was cold. My fries were unnoticed on my tray, my sandwich half eaten as I reviewed everything.
I took a deep breath.
I sized up my finger on the enter button, and I didn’t hesitate as I clicked it.
The screen read: Application SUBMITTED
A warm feeling of right filled me. It spread like a beautiful perfume over me, warming me right down to my toes. I had no further use for my computer, my fingers clicked the screen closed, I hurriedly unplugged it and slid it into my bag. I put the bag over my shoulder and grabbed my tray to throw the rest of my food away on the way out.
As I opened the door into the September heat a squeal left my lips.