A Story within a Story or a Nested Story

Come, take my hand. Let’s walk and perhaps talk awhile.”  The woman pled with her keen eyes watching for acceptance.  And so, it started…

Christian fiction, as well as all forms of writing and expression can be used by the Lord to carry out and spread the gospel of Christ as well as to encourage and uplift the reader.  As an artist spreads color on a canvas to express an emotion, thought, or a mood, the pen can propel the reader to places never visited, roads never traveled, and thoughts perhaps never encountered.  I am excited when the Lord puts a scrap of fiction in my mind; I eagerly follow its trail with a cautious excitement.  The Lord gives me clues along the way as the story weaves and bobs along waiting for me to find direction.  I pursue the storyline over the course of time (long or short) until I stumble over the conclusion.

Often it is hard to end a tale: it has become real, it has been in my thoughts in the daytime, and passes through my dreams in the night.

This is one such “God given” tale:
I made plans for the day. (By the way, I truly believe plans are the Mother of frustration!)  There I was, at our City’s new river front park to enjoy the warm early fall day and to write a while in solitude as the calmness of the water worked its charm in me.  I had hopes that inspiration would wash over me just as the sun washed its dazzling presence over the tiny silver ripples on the mirrored surface far below the low stone wall that kept me safe, and dry.

The swinging bench I had chosen was almost in the shadow of the big blue bridge that spans the mighty Ohio and leads into southern Indiana.  School is in session so the park was relatively quiet, peaceful, and lulling.  A few bees buzzed around the Coke I had placed on the ground beside my feet.

I pulled the large note book from the quilted bag I carry, dug around and found a sharp yellow #2 pencil.  I flipped the paper to a fresh page, clamped my teeth on the end of my eraser, and was immediately captured by the glassy hypnotic current as I stared into the deep flowing water.  I stared and stared.  Suddenly, my bench swing began to sway back and forth; I had a visitor.

She was ten or so years older than me, I supposed, although I have never been good at telling ages of people.   er face once was beautiful I am sure; her eyes sparkled, and her smile was bright behind a deep red lipstick.  The wrinkles were just a nuisance, not getting in the way at all of her radiant appearance.  Her white hair, you know the hair, was slightly tinged with a color of the by-gone days, lavender, and her fragrance matched, so did the lace on her “petticoat” (or slip, to you young readers) as it peeped out beneath her denim dress.  She appeared affluent; well shod with expensive walking shoes that showed signs of having carried her in comfort for many miles.

We made pleasant introductions; she entranced me with her soft, but clipped English accent.  She asked, “Am I bothering you?”

What could I say?  I have actively been practicing not telling little white lies so, I answered truthfully, “I will write another time; let’s just enjoy this day.”

Are you healthy?” Anne asked, “Can you walk a distance?”

With my answering nod, she stood as the swing tilted forward and said, “Come, take my hand.  Let’s walk and perhaps talk awhile.” in her affable way.

We started down the brick walk at a very slow pace, a gentle wind at our backs. “Do you know God?” she asked. “Do you know He is love?”

Yes!” I quickly answered. “And I know His Son as my savior.”

Her smile almost drowned her face as a tear slipped from a clear brown eye and found its way to a deep crevasse, and slid from her chin on to a bright blue button on her dress.

May I tell you my story?” she asked in a rather shy way, as if I would perhaps refuse; no chance of that, I was hooked.

I was a girl of 12 in Kingsdown in Kent, England in 1939. My life was full of family, friends, and fun.  Like all of my neighborhood friends at the time, we left the house in the morning and played until noon; ate our meal, then resumed playing till tea time or on until near dark.  At the end of day I would read myself to sleep; generating dreams of great adventure.  Oh yes, I was an adventurous girl.

There had been many serious discussions in my house which I seriously tried to ignore.  Talks were held with hushed voices about bombs, enemies, and many dangers.  I hid my nervousness, derived from eavesdropping, by playing all the harder.  However the nights ~ in the nights if I awoke it became real, and I would play with the word as though being dared to touch something hot: ‘War.’  Shivering, I would return to a troubled sleep.

Japan had attacked China in 1937; in 1939, Germany attacked Poland and that’s how it began: World War Two. By September, we were in it; we were “going to war!”  My Da left shortly thereafter to do his part.  He belonged to the Royal Navy.  It was a tearful good-bye for all; my heart felt so heavy for a little girl.

Soon excitement reigned when my friends and I learned we were to be evacuated (a strange, and mysterious word used to describe my future) to the countryside to family or host families, most were going to Cornwall or Wales.  My little brother and I were going to my mother’s uncle and aunt, who lived South Wales.  I remember the occasion as a deep, bitter-sweet experience, excitement of the adventure and sadness at leaving my mother, who in turn could not leave her parents, and stay, they would.”

She paused for a moment and asked, “Could we sit on the wall for a while, I would like to watch the fountains shoot to the sky, moving water always eases my heart break for days gone by and for people whose flesh I will never touch again.”

We shared a little silence as we sat, then she was on the move once more; she was talking as we went.

My mother put James and me on a bus to ride to the train station; we had the address of where we were to go pinned to our sweaters, and we each carried a bag and a lunch, and of course, our gas mask.  Suddenly, we were off, on our way to South Wales.  Many children were with us and guardians also, but only a few knew with whom they would be living. James cried a little; I just looked out of the window and thought of words to songs of the day.

There’ll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover, tomorrow, just you wait and see. There’ll be love and laughter and peace ever after, tomorrow when the world is free.

She sang the words in a trembling high voice; I hummed along.  After all, although I was younger, this was sort of, my history, too; the songs were around for a long while after the fact.

She sang on, “The shepherd will tend his sheep; the valley will bloom again. And Jimmy will go to sleep in his own little room again. There’ll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover tomorrow, just you wait and see.

I could hear my mother singing with her as she had sung to me as I went to sleep each night so long ago, safe and sound in my own little bed.  Hot tears sprang to my eyes; I remembered the poignancy of the time.

There’ll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover, tomorrow, just you wait… and see.

As we strolled on, she spoke again, “We arrived finally in Tintern, there we saw a famous abbey; it was nestling close to the river Wye.  Our bus continued on to the village hall, and we found ourselves being hustled inside.  Suddenly, there appeared a happy looking older couple; they were reading our labels and smiling widely.

“We were very happy with Auntie and Uncle.  Beatrice and Arthur were so kind and loving; they never admonished us, but thoroughly guided us.  They seemed quite old to us, but they were so active and they loved us.  Auntie was always working away in the house and Uncle in the garden; we had plenty to eat and felt relatively safe.  We shared a big bed high up under the eaves of the house; we arrived there by a steep ladder after climbing a narrow staircase to the second floor. It had one tiny window, which we shared with an English sparrow who awakened us each morning by pecking on the wavy glass.

“Each day when the weather permitted, we rode our old bicycles, once the transportation of Auntie B. and Uncle A., around the village, and made new and interesting friends. Life was good, for the moment, with our homeland in war; we lived in the moment.

Uncle A. read bible stories and spoke a great deal about spiritual matters and gained our interest quickly.  We liked the thought of demons, but preferred angels.” She threw back her head in mirth, and then she bowed her head slightly, looking at me straight in the eyes she said, “I feel certain my parents were Christians; they went to church often while I stayed with my little brother.  I went on special occasions, but only to visit with my friends and to make an ‘appearance!’  They just didn’t speak to us concerning things of God, of the salvation of Jesus, or of the Holy Spirit.  I think because they were Godly they thought it would take care of us too.

My uncle was concerned with those things.  He would hold me on his lap, and we would share prayers.  I learned God loved me and would listen to me, and He cared for me in a special way because I was an “evacuated” girl without mother or father nearby.  He said when I had the desire, and true understanding, God’s spirit would come to me and live in my heart.  I couldn’t wait for the day.  I needed God; I wanted to know His love.  I was learning to love Him for sending salvation in His son, Jesus, who paid for my ticket to go to heaven.   Now that was a trip I was interested in taking… someday!

We lived near the school and just down the hill from the church; James and I attended both regularly!  On week-day evenings, there were card games to play and listening to the radio to keep your thoughts occupied, and your mind entertained.

We soon received word that the roiling sea had claimed my father, my Da; it wasn’t in battle, but by accident during preparations for the fight.  He was thrown into the briny waters while mishandling equipment and could not be rescued.  By the time they missed him, it was too late; his body was not recovered.  My little girl’s heart bled; it was so broken I thought it would never be well again.  In my mind I always thought of him as he went flying through the ocean to meet his creator… Uncle held me and washed me with the beautiful words of Jesus.  He told me it was ok to grieve, to hurt, to be angry, but some day my heart would feel peace again, and the great big hole would get smaller.  But my memories of Da would never leave me, and I would see him again someday.

“Opening the Bible to the book of Joshua, Uncle told me how God had spoken to Joshua, reminding him that the great leader Moses was dead, and it was now up to him to lead the people and God told him to get going.  Later in chapter 3, I think it was, God said, ‘You stay close to me; I’m taking you down a road you have never traveled before!’ Oh how that spoke to my heart; I was on that road, and I needed Him to guide me.”

She paused and looked out across the river; the passing barge took her attention for a bit, then with a whisper she said, “This talk brought the understanding I had been waiting for, and I knew I needed and wanted a savior, one who would be my doorway to the Father, and the deliverer of His holy Spirit.  I asked Jesus to come into my heart in that moment; He did and I knew love.

Well, time passed and I began to play again with the little neighborhood girls.  We watched the boys play many ‘long- ball’ games, but every so often when I cried in my loneliness, the salty tears would remind me of the sea, and they would flow like a neap tide, as they receded, I would find little broken shells of healing scattered in my heart.

After all of my years in Tintern during the war, I can recall only one bomb falling on us, and no one was hurt.  At night we could see the, glow in the sky from incendiary bomb fires and hear the sound of distant explosions.  The eternally lasting war was so near, yet we were safe.

Those years passed in a sweet happiness; I was now going on eighteen, a grown woman.  I had received many letters from my mother during the years apart.   Then after three years, my mother came to us at the cottage; my grandparents had both died, and she was free to be with us.  I missed them greatly, but I needed my mother and was so glad to have her with me.  She was wonderful help to Auntie B.and Uncle A. We were a great family.”

By now, I was sucking on a dry straw and my “carry all” bag was getting heavy, so when we reached the end of the walkway once again we settled on a swinging bench.  I re-tied my shoe lace and waited; I felt there might be more.

She shared that shy smile once again and apologized for taking up my time and capturing me without warning.  I grinned and replied, “We’re at the end of the path, are we at the end of your story?”

Not quite.” she said wistfully. “The year after the war ended my mother met a returning soldier, who had been the town tailor, and they fell in love and married.  He was a nice person, and I also learned to love him.  James went away to London to school; I stayed with my Auntie and Uncle.  I learned to play the organ at the church on the hill.  I made friends with one of the boys I use to watch play long-ball. One day we stepped behind a hedge, and William kissed me, oh yes, the earth lurched; we were married three months later, both so young… so long ago.

A few years later we moved to America, again I was on a road I had never traveled, away from family, in unfamiliar circumstances.  My God and His gift to me( my husband) were the only known quantities to me; they met my need.  My steps were secure; I felt safe again… I traveled on.

So,” she breathed, (with that accent I will never forget) “that’s my story.  I am now alone, the only person who knows this story, who remembers each face, knows each voice; it has been a wonderful trip.  I have known love as wild as the ocean and deep as the sea; it flies you to the moon and dances with you among the stars and when you land back on earth it puts your feet on a road you’ve never walked before, stay close to love.  Oh, you do know ~ God is love?”

I swallowed hard; I had no voice.  In the distance I heard a voice calling, “Anne!”  A genial young man came up to us, “Hey, sweetie, it’s lunch time; we need to go.  Did you have a good walk?”

Oh Andrew!” she was startled. “Can you give me just a moment?  They can bring my food later on a tray.  I have just met a lovely person.” In her buoyant, but composed way, we made pleasant introductions; she entranced me with her soft, but clipped English accent.  She asked, “Am I bothering you? Can I tell you my story?”  I watched as Andrew led her away; I know where to find her, and I will visit… someday.

I was left with thoughts of my road.   Time is passing; things in life are changing, but one thing I do know, and it is unchanging: I know God, and He is love.

After telling a story such as this, it is as though I have been awakened from someone else’s dream. I was having a hard time recognizing the fact I was here, in the 21st. Century, sitting in a brand-new park of stone, steel and plastic, in modern days and modern ways.  Yet, I hear a lingering refrain, another song from the old century, from that other era; it is echoing across the river from the other side, someone else’s road…

We’ll meet again -Don’t know where-Don’t know when
But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day
Keep smilin’ through-Just like you always do
Till the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away

So will you please say hello-To the folks that I know?
Tell them I won’t be long-They’ll be happy to know
That as you saw me go-I was singing this song
We’ll meet again-Don’t know where-Don’t know when
But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day.

That’s it!  The story is told, I reached the conclusion… now what do I do?  Forget Anne?  Remind myself these were thoughts and impressions passed through me by One who surely had a reason.  Could it be I am to remember love has a past, present, and a future, and no matter the road, I must stay near Love because… God is Love. 1 John 4:7-10


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