What Happened After We Left the Building? (You may want to read the previous blog first.)

We had left the building but we were still in our home state of North Carolina.  Bill was prepared to work though the summer’s rental season at the real estate company he had worked at when we had moved to Sneads Ferry and I was living between three places:  the beach, my parents home in Tarboro, North Carolina and in Nashville, Tennessee with my children.  Bill had taken a one bedroom condo to share with his work pal, Mitchell and his bird, an African Gray, named Sweetie.  Mitchell had the bedroom and Bill had the living room and an air mattress.  They called it the “flop house,” and when I saw it for the first time, I understood why.  It looked like someone had flopped down all their unwanted furniture there instead of  putting it by the side of the road.  It was ugly but it was on the ocean front, three stories up and had a glorious view.  At night Bill and I could lay on the mattress by the sliding glass door, open it slightly and see the stars up above.  With that and the relentless sound of the ocean’s surf pounding below, we had a little bit of heaven on earth, not to mention Sweetie asking us as we were falling asleep, “Hey, what are you doing?”    photo

That was a really good question.  I had asked myself that question dozens of times a day but to hear the bird ask it,  freaked me out a little.  It’s one thing to ask yourself the hard questions but when a bird wonders the same thing out loud to you, the question bounces around the room,  slips out the sliding glass door, gets swept up by the ocean breeze, broods a bit over the deep, dark sea and  then wafts upward towards the stars straight through Heaven’s gate, directly to the throne of God and takes on the form of a buzzing bee, whispering in His ear, “What  IS Donna doing?”

Never let a bird ask you that question if you have doubts in your head already about your future. It’s natural to doubt yourself and your plans, even if you feel that God Himself gave you a specific plan or assignment.  But that night, I could only imagine God getting up off of His mighty throne and looking down in my direction, his eyes spotting our heads by the sliding glass door as we tossed and turned on the air mattress, wondering to Himself, “What ARE they doing down there?”  I finally fell into a restless sleep and dreamed I was swimming in the ocean and got pulled out into the rough sea by the strong undertow and God was standing on heaven’s edge, peering down to earth, shaking His head, hands on his hips,  asking a little angel bird on His shoulder,”What is she doing?  What IS she doing?”

I awoke the next morning determined to walk on the beach until God spoke to me.  I had questions that needed answering.  How do we begin to carry out the plan God gave us?  How could we move to another state unless we had a financial plan in place (or money to finance the plan?)  How could we get to Point A to get to Point B and achieve our destination?  Plus, where would we live in Nashville?  Would I ever be reunited with my furniture and beloved things?   I was a woman on a mission to hear from God.  I was getting nervous and a bit scared.

I was thankful the day was warm.  I put on some workout clothes and tennis shoes and made my way across the wide beach and down toward the water.  It was a weekday and the beach was deserted.  “Good,” I said, out loud.   Just me and You, God!  Me and You!  I need for you to talk to me today.  Give me a bit more of the plan!”  I stretched and looked up into the milky blue sky,  lifting up my arms above my head and continued to beseech the invisible force behind my dreams… “and I have got to know, what SHOULD we be doing?  What should we do next?”    I was shouting above the wind,  looking out to where the heavens met the horizon for answers.  I gave another look around to make sure no one was on the beach with me.  I didn’t want anyone to think I was a crazy lady shouting at the ocean  like a desperate woman.   I rolled my shoulders, took a deep breath and began to walk toward the morning sun.

My hopes were high.  The tide was out and rocks and shells blanketed the shore.  I played my game with God.  “If you love me, Lord, you will let me find a piece of sea glass.”  I know it sounds childish to play that kind of game with the God of the universe, but my insecurities were getting the best of me.  I felt like a child.  I stopped to look, my eyes looking for bits of flashing color amongst the sand and broken shells.  I saw an emerald green piece catch the light and smile up at me.  “Oh, yeah, God.  You DO love me don’t you?”  I kissed my little proof of love and put it in my pocket and started looking for another piece.  “If You REALLY love me, You’ll let me find another one.” I know, that is really childish.  But to understand the Kingdom of heaven,  one has to become like a little child, although at that point, I was nothing more than a big baby!   Soon, I had five pieces of sea glass jingling in my pocket, confident that God loved me but still uncertain of my future.   photo seaglass

Two sea gulls swooped down in front of me and seemed to laugh at my unfinished plans.  “She’ll never get to where she’s going.  What is she doing?  She doesn’t know.  Bahahahaaaa.” Reaching deep into my pocket, I pulled out my fist filled with the frosted glass and raised it at the squawking sea vultures and yelled, “See,  He does love me and I know He has a plan for me!”  I immediately felt a little silly.  I was arguing with sea gulls.  Was I in a cartoon?  I still had not heard Him speak to me about our plans. I continued to walk trying to keep fear from rising up within me.  Then, I knew that fear was a huge ocean swell coming toward me with the power to knock me off my feet and pull me out into the unsteady arms of the chilly sea.

“Wait a minute,” I reminded myself.  Wasn’t it enough just to know that God loved me?  Of course it was.  He was for me and not against me.  He was always standing up for me, beside his throne, His heart beating out of His Holy chest with concern, keeping His eyes riveted on me.  He wasn’t going to let me fall or slip or destroy myself…

I was thinking on these things when I saw the little boy directly up ahead of me.   He was about three years old,  standing by the shore, floaties on both arms, goggles over his eyes looking down at the water.  He was a few feet from the edge of the water and I noticed that he kept looking back at his mother, a few away from him.  She had been keeping her on eye on him although I could not see her gaze.  She had sunglasses on but watched his every move, anticipating what he would do  next.  He kept backing up from the water, never letting it touch his feet.  Finally he turned and ran back to his mother.

She leaned over and put her arms on his shoulders and began walking slowly to the shore line with him.  It was then that I walked directly by them and could not help but overhear what she told him.  “Honey, I don’t expect you to just jump in the ocean.  It’s big and scary.  All I want you to do is stand right by it’s side and let the ocean come to you.  You don’t have to jump in.  Let it come to you.”

I kept walking but turned to look at what they did next.  They both stood and let a little wave of water come to their feet.  The little boy giggled and his mom did too.

I turned away from them and started walking back the other way.  I couldn’t believe that they were the only ones on the beach that morning except for me (and God, of course.)  How did I manage to stumble across them at that exact,  teachable moment?  Was God standing up by His throne looking down at me shake my fist at sea gulls?  Did he plant the boy and his mother in front of me to tell me something?

I believe He did.  My plans at that moment seemed as big as the ocean and I didn’t know how to approach them.  God wanted me to stand still and let His plan come to me.  I didn’t need to be afraid of it.

I stopped by the water’s edge and decided to take off my shoes.  I carefully picked my way across the sharp, broken shells and planted my tender feet side by side on the very edge of the North American Continent.  I wondered if God was in His heaven, cheering me on, saying, “Let my plans come to you.” The water  rushed over my feet and when it flowed backward, toward the deep sea,  took my fears with it.  What IS Donna doing?  I smiled up into the atmosphere, letting the winds carry my gratefulness up to God.  I was standing still.  The ocean was tickling my toes.

Here’s your song….

The Springtime of our Autumn

The Springtime of our Autumn

I said goodbye with my eyes as I slowly looked around the empty house.  It had welcomed me with the open arms of a friend when I first showed up on its doorstep two years ago, badly in need of a refuge and happy place.  I remember stepping into its entryway, thinking that I would be too picky and judge it as a place that could not hold my treasures and favorite things.  I was wrong.  It was perfect, an empty canvass waiting to be filled with our collections of a life time together.

Once we had a place to call home, we took a trip down to Alabama and took our belongings out of storage, bringing them to Sneads Ferry, on the coast of North Carolina.  We desperately needed a place of peace, a place to sort out our minds and rest.  We had been at the mercy of kind, family friends for over six months and it was time to have our own nest.  I set out to feather it with things that made me smile. It was a nest empty of children but full of the things they left behind and the new things I had sought after to fill the in void of familiar faces and things that go with them.

I adored the place.  Somehow, all of my possessions and pretties came together as if I had bought them specifically for that home.  Teapots and teacups, ceramic roosters and artwork with French words,  emerald green and aquamarine glass bottles, beachy quilts and shadow boxes, cross stitched needlework I had worked on through all of my pregnancies, sea glass collections,  garden print fabrics for bedding and curtains, white, creamy 1840’s bedroom dressers with mirrors,  a set of thrift store dining room furniture with peeling paint, fit for a king,  and Craig’s List “to die for” shabby-chic couches and graceful chairs with ruffles were all placed carefully in the Byrd Family Museum.203 a

There was a cherry red painted hutch with blue and pink Willow china patriotically displayed in the wide hallway and warm antique oak tables and washstands glowed in the corners.  Curtain rods wearing shirts from India and Africa hung on guest room walls with colored straw hats flirting from an angle above them;  chic scarecrows keeping an eye out for angels unaware. Oh, and our newest smile maker, a mermaid weather-vane friend, Ariel, was our dining room sentinel beauty.   I filled the dining room windows with a pair of matching antique leaded stained glass windows and lived quietly behind them as I let Fleet Foxes, John Prine and Emmylou Harris loosen the knots that were clotting up my soul, through music therapy.     203 c

At night, Bill and I would open the doors to the old, mahogany book case and gaze at the rows of shiny stemware and wonder why we had so many to choose from since there were only the two of us.  Often times we’d take a glass of wine or a cup of tea and sit on the screened in back porch.  This was a favorite spot.  We filled the corners with Boston and Adelaide ferns, red geraniums and multi-colored impatiens.  Just outside the screen was a row of pink knock-out roses and wind-chimes that sounded like a symphony tuning up when the wind blew hard. We sat on squishy patio chairs well into the night, until we saw the moon rise up over our eight foot fence.  Sitting under the patio fan, we spent time sipping and talking…talking and sipping…wondering what had gone wrong and what had gone right, how the kids were doing and most of all…how we could move near them for our next phase in life and what our “assignment”  would be.

The back porch therapy was the best, sometimes sorting through life with others; my brother Scot and his wife Kelly, fellow ministers who understood our questions and reasoning; my cousin Linda and her husband Bake, who had the ability to listen to our woes and distresses and help us comb out the tangles and knots of ministry life and sometimes… just us and God…God and us… Me and the muse…

Then, I would go and get into my other favorite spot in the house; my bed.  It was high and I bounced up on it with joy and relief that I was there and could sit in such a beautiful spot and be so blessed. I would sleep and think…think and sleep…dream and pray…pray and dream…until the day we were ready and rested up for our next adventure.

Then, it happened.  It had been two and a half years and we had waited for the “go-ahead.”  We were sitting on our happy, yellow, ruffled couches, full from a delicious dinner and the plan opened up to us, filling our heads and swelling our hearts and we knew it was almost time to go.  Time to enter the next phase…the springtime of our Autumn.  Our ground was itching and twitching underneath and roots were trembling and seeds were germinating and shoots were inching up out of the soil towards the sun.  It was time to pack up the house.  We had our assignment.

Are we well enough and of a sound mind?  Are we able to do this?  Are you sure we’re not too old to leave this behind to start all over again?  Can God give us a vision at this point in our lives to help others?  To make us feel significant in this crazy world?

We thought He could.  We were confident in the plan.  It was the “Byrd” Arab Spring.  We had mountains to climb and places to go.  People to help and grandchildren to watch grow before our very eyes.  We packed it all in, moved it into storage and began our move to Nashville, Tennessee.

I walked through the empty house, my footsteps sounding loud on the hardwood floors.  I saw birds out in the back yard looking for bird seed and I willed them to go two houses down to another bird feeder.  I checked the dryer to make sure there was no laundry accidentally left behind and I checked the toilets to make sure they’d all been flushed.  All of the words that had been spoken, all of the dreams imagined and prayers requested had been hidden in our hearts. Within the house, there was no trace of us left.

I closed the front door and made sure it was locked. I stepped back and looked at the house where we nursed our wounds and bided our time.  Thank you, God…Thank you house.  We were whole.  We were healed.  We had left the building.

Here’s your song…



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