Part II: The Storm Breaking
She knew she could find her way to where the stone-spawn were. If she knew who her enemies were, she could find them. That had often been an immensely useful gift in the wars. Aia skimmed across dense mounds of treetops rocking in the wind, fields of tall grass that rippled under her, reeds by riverbanks where herons and geese glanced up at the strange human creature.
In the days when she was used to doing this, she would have done it easily and probably enjoyed it. It was not without some thrill now, but the effort quickly became a strain, and soon a painful one. Yet she forced herself to keep up at the same speed, knowing that if she reached her goal too late it would all have been for nothing. When she finally allowed herself to rest, amid some boulders near the edge of a ravine, it was because she knew, even without seeing it, that the stone-spawn were on the other side.
Part I: The Storm Brewing
The day of the great change came in autumn, when the green wooded mountains were beginning to burn with golden and orange and crimson, and the apples were hanging ripe, and the sunflowers were heavy laden with black seeds, and the wind grew strong again. The wind was strong that day, heaving the branches in waves, scattering bright leaves, strewing dirt and bits of plants up from Aia’s garden.
Aia wasn’t expecting a change that day, but she was wishing for one, as she pulled weeds out of the rows of carrots and squash and beans. Fiercely she tugged at the weeds, ripping out tough, thick roots with firm jerks. Old as she was, she was more than equal to the work—though this, she thought grimly, was a poor way for her to test her strength.
Our age, in all its folly, thinks
That she who chooses hearth and home life shrinks
From fullness of adventure, of life’s glory,
That hers is but a dull, short story.
But were the truth to once be seen,
They’d hail her as a champion, a warrior queen.
Her kingdom may be small, but oh, it’s deep,
And so wild its keepers can take but little sleep.
Day by mad day, chaos’s flooding force
Into her realm presses its course;
With patient vigil and with shrewd stratagem
That tide she finds new ways to turn or stem.
Amid the pressing jungle, for the wild things
She raises a fair dwelling, and to it brings
All things needful. This castle she looks after
Armed with her mighty weapons, love and laughter.
Warriors of more renown, on fields of blood,
May fight for worthy ends, and maybe do some good,
And yet there’s sorrow in a trade
That must destroy so much that God has made.
But the queen of the hearth fights not as they;
Her tactics, toils, valor are not to slay
But to bring forth life, make it thrive and grow,
To lead the Wild Things the way they ought to go.
And though on this dim earth no man may know nor sing
Her labors, deeds, adventures, great heart unwavering,
In courts beyond, where every story will be known,
Shall angel-minstrels tell the tale of the queen of hearth and home.
The rising, crashing waves of dark
Come rushing up around
The tiny island where we stand,
A scrap of battered ground.
Their brutal might tears round our feet,
A ravenous death-tide,
And everything that’s made of sand
Goes washing down the side.
Beset upon this barren rock,
A small and piteous sight,
Yet will we stand and never fear
The monstrous waves of night.
For all they thunder, thrash and rage,
And pound the stony beach,
The truest object of their hate
Is ever out of reach.
Above the waves, above the storm,
It ever shines the same,
And fills our eyes with certain light,
The blazing Easter flame.
The wind comes driving round our heads
And screaming in our ears
Of terror, pain, and emptiness—
All man’s heart hates and fears.
Its voiceless wails bid us give up
Our long and lonely stand
And go the same dark way as all
That’s only made of sand.
Though all but deafened by its blast,
Still if we heed, we hear
Another sound persistently
Pierce all the rush of fear.
‘Tis quieter, but stronger too,
And speaks of greater things,
Whose might and splendor yield naught
To all the tempest brings.
Above the wind, above the storm,
It rises clear and strong,
And fills our spirits’ inner ears,
The soaring Easter song.
O hearts that blow in brutal blasts
Or ride the roiling waves,
Come take your stand upon the rock
That still endures and saves!
Though fury of the floods and gale
May with no respite beat,
And though our tears fall bitterly,
Yet will our song be sweet.
Yes, and its sweetness will be sure,
For every storm must end,
And there is a shining sky above
Where all lights rise and blend.
And the Light of the shining sky above
Has taken on the night
And won a way for each and all
To shores with peace alight.
Above the shadows of the storm,
His glorious grace is poured,
His Presence changes everything—
The living Easter Lord!
Originally published in Wonder magazine
The question as I near this door
Is, do I even dare
To enter past it any more,
When ghosts await me there?
Not such as rise from frozen fear
That heroes laugh to scorn,
Nay these, by wearing faces dear,
Draw blood with sorrow’s thorn.
My heart still thirsts in tired quest
For these beloved gone;
Shades born of longing promise rest
But leave me still alone.
Each day I see these visions of
Where it seems they should be,
Faces of those whom I still love,
And yearn again to see.
Ah ghosts of grief! how can it be
That joys so sweet and pure
Become, as living memory,
Most bitter to endure?
These shades of dear ones ne’er console,
Yet I can’t bid them fly,
For each one’s past bonds with his soul,
Love’s imprint does not die.
My God! this love is all from Thee,
Thy Spirit joined our hearts,
Let Him then all our comfort be
While distance still us parts!
Let Him who brought our bond to birth
Now keep it warm and strong,
Be our communion ‘cross the earth,
Be Thyself us among!
Keep me for them, and them for me,
And make our love, in small,
Thy mighty sun, bright Trinity,
Untouched and over all;
Lord, pain will ne’er us overwhelm
With ghosts of memory,
If in Thy single Heart we dwell
In sweet reality.
Now will I enter through this door,
Be mem’ry e’er so keen,
And should I weep there any more,
God’s light will intervene,
Illumining a landscape dim
To eyes of fleshly ken,
Where all God’s own are joined in Him
Who needs no where nor when.
Earth’s activity is stilled;
houses shut their curtained eyes;
men and beasts and birds in silence hide.
Day’s fire faded, all is soft and cool,
and the world’s colored in dark grays,
deep-water-blues, dim purples, and a bright silver,
earth submerged in a deep, serene sea.
No noise, save insects’ rasping harmony,
And then the wind flows in a light stream,
Bearing fragrance of blossom and leaf,
Turning grass to waves,
Setting leaves to ageless, quivering dance.
They whisper, whisper all the night,
repeating secrets, each to each,
in hidden tongues of mother earth.
Fireflies’ silent calls of light
fill shadows all around,
a storm of golden flash and glitter,
earth’s dark alive with wild, heavenly sparks.
And on high, in the heavens,
in the shadowed, solemn blue,
through gauze of clouds the glowing hosts
of brilliant stars in purest white
as lights of some empyrean realm
still veiled from mortal sight.
Enthroned among them in its radiance,
the moon floats o’er dim night,
to bring it some pale, cool portion
of the sun’s white glory,
a mirror of a day elsewhere.
This dream-light gleams o’er all the earth,
soft silver-white shimmer on field, tree, and wall,
all at rest in quiet and in gentle half-light.
Earth lies asleep, in a dream of heaven,
of a night that will not be dark,
but lovely as morning’s light.
Away amidst the desert wastes,
Underneath a furnace sun,
Great stones stand, reaching upward from the plains,
While strong winds, streaming free across bare land,
Make sharp, hard currents of the sand
And scourge the towering rocks continually,
Smoothing, shaping, sculpting,
Their impassioned rush fashioning something new,
Monuments of firm, enduring glory
From Nature’s hard and patient hand.
Walking the burnt, bare wilderness of self-denial
Beneath the Spirit’s ineffable fire,
Our spirits worn and chiseled by the swirling, sandy winds
Of trials that with love we bear,
Yet may joy’s deep torrent through us flow,
For our great Sculptor guides the wind,
And plies it, not to wear us all away,
But that our sculpted souls might take the shape—
From earthly roughness hewn to glorious shape—
Of that which they were always meant to be.
Amid the bubbling, glittering rush of excitement that accompanies Christmas, a considerable number of people feel themselves outside the whirl of merriment. Whether anyone is to blame or not, many hearts are weighed down with sadness at the time when joy is most widely emphasized. If Charlie Brown were to raise his questions today, he would find himself in very good company.
The reasons vary. Some are going through their first Christmas without some loved one, in whose absence the festivities can easily become painful reminders of how things were when that person was there. Others find themselves left alone, with no family or friends to share any sort of celebration with them. Still others may feel unable to rejoice in the face of physical or mental illness, the suffering of someone close to them, material hardship, family conflicts, anxiety over a troubled past or an uncertain future—any of the things that can cripple the heart and impede even peace, to say nothing of joy, from rising inside.
These are the souls for whom there is no room in the inn—no room in the comfortable space where everyone streams to congregate, no way into the realm of merry cheer that our culture has established.
It is these souls who are especially invited into the stable.
All through Advent, we’ve been hearing the promises of the Old Testament writers: “The wilderness and the parched land will exult, the desert will rejoice and bloom” (Isaiah 35:1), and a few verses later, “Say to the fearful of heart: Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God, He comes with vindication; with divine recompense He comes to save you.” The promised Lord is coming for the parched land, the withered, afflicted places, the fearful of heart who wait in darkness for a rescuer.
Now He is here—and He did not come so that halls could be decked, feasts consumed, lights set to twinkling, or even hymns sung, appropriate as all that may be. He came to become one with His broken, tormented creatures. He came to enter into the entirety of human life, “like us in all things but sin,” to deliver us from sin, from death, and from all the disorders in the world. He came to descend into all of our darkest, most hopeless places, that He might be with us there, our light and strength and life.
Ultimately, He came to raise up our lost humanity to a new life in which every wound, even the deepest, will be healed for good and no evil or pain will ever trouble us again. His Nativity doesn’t bring that about all at once, but it is the beginning of that transformation. It is His promise to us that God’s saving work has begun, that deliverance has arrived, that our God is here among us from now on. We are never alone. He is Emmanuel, “God with us”—He knows and understands everything we experience, and He cares more than we can ever know. His presence in flesh reveals that to us.
If you, then, are one of those who feel only emptiness amid the gaiety of the season, know that the Newborn King, Whose coming we celebrate, is here especially for you. Be strong, do not fear. Here is your God. With divine recompense He comes to save you. You may not be able to feel particularly cheerful, but you can make the choice to believe in His love for you and to accept the gift He offers you of Himself.
Rest in quiet before the Lord in the manger. Lay at His feet all that’s weighing on your heart, as the Magi laid before Him the precious and bitter myrrh. And know that if you have to follow Him from here up the road to Calvary, He will also lead you on beyond the crucifixion to an Easter you can’t even imagine now, one beside which “the sufferings of the present are as nothing” (Romans 8:18). The joy of Christmas is a promise, a bright forerunning glimpse, of that future glory, offered to us to lift up our weary hearts.
I leave you with these excerpts from the great hymn “O Holy Night”:
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn . . .
The King of Kings lay in a lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need,
To our weakness is no stranger.
Related posts: Glory of a Winter Night
Dear Gilded Weavings readers,
I am excited to present my first book publication! It consists of my first ten short stories, updated and gathered into a collection: Eyes of the Night Sky and Other Stories. Most of the stories are some form of fantasy.
The book is available on Amazon here. At present it is only in paperback form, but the Kindle version should be forthcoming soon.
Thank you for your interest in and support of my work!
God bless you,