A ride to the country for a specific purpose was on the list of things-to-do. It was going to be pleasant enough. Still ... it was going to require a big chunk of time.
Outside the sun was shining ... unusually mild for a June day in Arkansas. Perfect top-down weather. However, on this day the trip was to be made top-up.
Top-up on a day like Saturday tends to rob a little bit of my joy.
The drive was nice ... especially since I got to ride ... instead of drive. Seems that's all I do these days ... is drive.
Let me find something special ... in a random place today ... I whispered as we set out.
My heart couldn't help itself ... it wanted something more from the day ... something more than another to-do list with all of the boxes checked.
As we approached the gate, I noticed some beautiful orange wildflowers on the side of the road. Little clumps of happy ... amidst the weeds. I knew that I would have to have some when we headed home.
Simple as that. Something special in a random place. Sigh. Nice. But not soul-satisfying.
The trip to the country was to pick up one specific thing that was supposed to have arrived in the mail. The mailbox was full ... of sale fliers ... campaign stuff ... various other types of junk mail ... and a few bills.
No sign of the envelope that was supposed to be there.
We went on up to the house to check on things since we were there and all. Turns out he had a to-do list of sorts, too. It was obvious that he was looking for a specific item as he rummaged through the drawers and boxes that held pieces of his past life.
"What are you looking for?", I asked.
"Your birthday present," he replied.
It was a sweet moment and it caught me off guard.
I had made an off-the-cuff comment earlier in the morning about wanting ... a stapler that works ... for my birthday. Now He was on a mission to launch my birthday-season with
the-one-thing-I-had-asked-for as a gift.
Maybe the orange flowers weren't the special somethings in a random place after all.
After much poking around, he finally gave up. Amidst all of his things, the simple stapler was no where to be found. On a different day, I bet we will wander through to find it sitting on top of a counter or desk ... in plain sight.
Seems that's the way those stories go.
It was time to head back. My list was calling. So many things to do ... and never enough hours in a day. I moseyed around outside ... looking for some of those wildflowers to pick ... thinking that there must be little patches of them ... everywhere.
But there weren't.
As we pulled back out onto the highway, I hopped the ditch and gathered me a small bouquet. Orange wildflowers amidst the weeds ... finding special things in random places ... once again.
He didn't turn right at the crossroads. Instead he headed straight down the highway in a direction I have never traveled.
"Have I ever shown you the cave that's up the road here?" he asked with a boyish grin.
He knew he hadn't ... or maybe he really thought that he had ...
Pull off on a wide shoulder, jump the creek and a make short climb up to the cave. Actually, it was more of a grotto than a cave. Still it was a very special place.
Getting across the creek was a bit of a trick. The water was high and running due to the recent rains. It was a balancing act across some pointy rocks with slippery spots ... to the other side and back.
Agility and grace aren't really my strong suits. I often make up for a lack of coordination by sheer determination and courage ... ok, ok ... it's actually stubborn-hard-headness that gets me through most of the time.
For some reason I was unable to move my legs in a steady forward motion without some sort of support. I didn't really need the support ... it was just my perception. All I wanted was something to lean on as I moved from one rock to the next ... in case I lost my balance.
My inability to move ... without a prop ... wasn't amusing to him ... somehow. I guess he thinks I really can do anything ... when the truth is, I can't.
A hand. All I wanted was a hand to steady me as I faced the challenge of crossing over. He was sure that I was going to slip and pull both of us into the water. Funny. That outcome never occurred to me.
Just in case, though, I handed him my phone. Then I lightly touched his hand ... that was all I needed to find the confidence to move forward. I didn't need to cling or hang on ... I simply needed to know he was there to catch me ... should I stumble or fall.
Back in the car, we continued to travel along the scenic route. It was pretty much the long way around. It was now well into mid-afternoon ... and my list was virtually unchecked.
After all, what we had come to the country for in the first place had never materialized.
Along the way, he pointed out things of interest and as Lake Maumelle embraced us on both sides, he asked if I had ever visited the little park that was just ahead.
Maybe ... once ... a long time ago ... like in high school.
He turned into the shady area and parked. There was a picnic table or two. And some paths that lead to the water's edge at various places.
Immediately, I spotted a can. Collecting cans is something that we do. It's a goodness that he has brought into my life.
So there it was ... a can ... a symbol of the balance we are striving to find between the vast differences between who he is and who I am. It made me smile.
I find lots of cans ... and pennies ... and occasionally a dime ... as I visit gas stations all around the state. And once, I found a ten dollar bill neatly folded by a rock in a side yard. Ever mindful of the terrain, I pondered the possibilities as I wandered to the lake's edge.
Then came the nudge ... the whisper ... look for something really special in this random place ... and you will find it.
It was getting later in the afternoon and nothing much had been accomplished yet. Grass mowing ... ant killing ... laundry ... dinner cooking ... all were still waiting for me back at the house.
He moves at a slower pace. He never lets his to-do list take over his day. Some days his to-do list never even comes into play.
It was a not-so-subtle move on his part ... to take the wheel ... to take the long way home. No doubt he knew that I would have told him that there was ... no time ... for dallying along the way.
Live in the now. Enjoy the moment. Slow down. Relax. Breathe.
These are the rhythms he brings to my life.
Sitting at the picnic table, we spread out the piles of mail we had picked up from the mailbox. Carefully removing all identification and addresses before depositing in the trash cans, we sorted through each piece ... setting aside things that were important ... or possibly just interesting for a closer look later.
At the very bottom of the pile ... was the envelope ... the one we had driven all the way out there to find in the first place ... tucked up inside one of those silly advertising papers that come every week.
I could hear His laugh floating on the wind. The day hadn't been a total waste after all.
We decided to wander around the little park ... down the trails to the water ... amidst the tree-shaded paths in between ... in search of any more stray cans ... saving the trash bins for last.
Down a narrow way I went ... getting as near as possible to the blue glint in the weeds ... that I was sure was a can. It was steep and I chuckled to myself because once again I needed that hand to steady me ... as I manuevered my way from top-to-bottom-to-top ... but no one was there.
It wasn't a can. Just a shiny piece of packaging off of a snack of some sort. I had gotten myself over there on my own ... now the challenge was to get myself back to the parking lot.
Taking a deep breath ... I told myself that I was fully supported and there was no danger of falling. As I began to move forward, I glanced down ... and there it was ... as promised ...
something very special ... in a random place.
A feather. Not just any feather. A black feather. It was dusty and a little cob-webby. Whoever dropped it had been there way before me ... preparing the way ... securing the premises ...
Feathers have only become special to me recently. I have been enjoying a friend's stories of feathers found and what they mean to her. Sometimes it's evidence of an angel present ... other times it's a reminder that loved ones are always at our side ... always it's a reminder that my best friend, God, Creator of the Universe knows exactly where I am and what I need at any given moment.
Since I've been collecting feather-evidence, it seems that I most often find the black ones. I am sure that naysayers will state the obvious ... that black feathers are the most common ... and that there's nothing terribly special about them.
The very first time I found a feather ... it was a BIG black one. I am not 100% sure that it was an authentic one ... it seemed a little too crinkly and stiff to be real. It, too, turned up in a random place ... with no explanation as to how it got there ... on the floorboard of my car.
Awestruck by the encounter. I knew that it was ole R.J. coming along for a ride. The black hat with the black feather was always his icon on our card-playing score sheets. Yeah, my dad, he was way ahead of his time ... he drew icons before icons were cool.
My father had a great sense of humor. It would be just like him to leave a fake feather. Real feathers are for real angels ... and who would ever believe he was an angel ... for real ...
Each black feather found captures an intimate moment with my father ... usually followed by some message or direction or understanding that I hadn't been able to come up with on my own.
Something very special found in a random place.
All in all it was a wonderful day. Perfectly balanced between ... orange wildflowers ... and a gajillion things to get done ... a nice glass of wine ... and the lingering of the strawberry moon.
Not another thought was given to the little black feather. It's purpose had been served ... or so it seemed. An unexpected Dad-moment ... nothing more, nothing less.
Sunday rolled around. Drew was filling in for Del. He told of the struggles he faced as he grew from a boy to a man ... his father was taken from him, you see, as he entered his teen-angst years.
An encouraging word ... a simple touch ... a vote of confidence ... a solid validation that something is being done right ... a forgiveness for things that have not gone so well ... these are things a father brings to a life.
Love from a father ... makes all the difference ... no matter our age.
Drew told his story. It hinted at hurts & regrets ... and hope.
"No matter where I was, love always pursued me", he said.
And as I sat there in my seat, I knew He was speaking to me.
There was more ...
"Safety is not found in the absence of danger but in the presence of God." I am not sure if Drew borrowed that from Brennan Manning ... or someone else ... or whether he turned the phrase himself.
It doesn't really matter. Truth ... when spoken out loud ... brings out the AHA in each of us.
"Faith is the willingness to press on regardless of the situation ... regardless of the outcome''.
In that moment of reflection, I was overwhelmed by the warmth of His presence reminding me that there was always a hand ready to steady me ... within easy reach. Just because I can't see it doesn't mean it isn't there. And so what if I splash around in the water from a misstep from time to time.
Living a life fully alive is my heart's desire. Safe isn't really an option.
I could feel His presence ... His support ... his love ... as Drew pressed on ... he was talking about ... fathers and their approval ... after all.
Maybe it's not so much that I need help when faced with challenges ... don't get me wrong, we all need help at times ... but in those moments of self-doubt ... when the voices chant
"you-can't-do-it-you're-not-good-enough-seriously-mj-you-can't-do-it" ... all I really need is a word of encouragement ... someone to believe in me as I face the giants ... the touch of my Father's hand.
And my father ... with his feathers ... to remind me of who I truly am.
Drew ... and God ... double-teaming ... to reveal to me the message ... of my father's feather" ...
"Through your wounds ... you can hear from God."
Ah yeah, you got this one, MJ!
(c) June 2014