Archive for December, 2014

Girl in the Morning

The first thing she felt as she slowly awakened, was the slight, sharp point of a feather sticking through the bedcover. She shifted and opened her eyes. Early spring cold seeped in around the edges of the leather skin covering the room’s one window.

She lay there, quiet. Outside, the faint voices of birds could be heard in the almond trees her father had planted before she was born. Three of them stood between the house and the dirt street. They were budding now, softening the stark silhouettes of winter branches.                                                                                                 almondblossoms

In the stillness she closed her eyes and thought of her mother and father. Gone. They had been taken so suddenly by a virulent winter illness two years ago that she still could hardly believe it. They, so loving and devoted to one another, and to her, their only child. She felt tears threatening.

Words of scripture began to drift through her consciousness. Her father had been her teacher. Recognizing in his bright, intense young daughter an uncommon hunger for knowledge, he taught her to read. This, too, was uncommon. He ignored the remarks of friends and family about the waste of time. He copied down texts memorized from the synagogue onto stiff pieces of leather and shared them with her. The histories and the psalms, the poetry and the prophets.

He told her the ancient stories of betrayal and war. “When our people turned from the true and living God, daughter, terrible things followed.” She learned of blessing. “God rewards obedience. God blesses those who serve Him with a pure heart. Keep a pure heart always for Jehovah.”

They were as living things, those words. She sat and read them in every spare minute. They wove into the fabric of her mind and flowed from her memory through her days. She sang them as she cleaned and gardened and sat at the loom.

“God will send a Deliverer.” Her father’s voice rang in her mind. “We live in dark times now with the occupier. But, God will send a Child, a Son, a Ruler. Never doubt it.”

In the difficult days and months that followed her parent’s deaths, it was their devotion to God that had been her greatest comfort. Her father’s brother and his wife had moved into the house. Kind and attentive, they did their best for the grief-stricken young woman now in their care. She spent much time alone in those early days with the old leather pieces, reading, praying.

When a local man came calling, her aunt and uncle were thrilled. Joseph, with an unblemished reputation and a good livelihood, would be a fine choice for their niece. And she was happy, recognizing the hand of God in His provision of an honorable husband.

This morning, she prayed from the Psalms as she lay still and warm in her bed: Your righteousness, O God, is to the height of heaven, You who have done great things. O God, who is like You? She suddenly felt a joy expand throughout her very being as she had not felt since her parents died. I may worship Him, the true and living God. I, even I, may worship Him.

Slowly, she rose and reached for her wool cloak. No one stirred in her aunt and uncle’s room. A few minutes later, her feet in sturdy leather shoes, she walked into the cooking room.  Stirring ashes in the clay oven, she added sticks until a good fire burned steadily. The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children.

She stood for awhile, warming her hands. Her aunt would be up soon. Tea would appear, and fig cakes.

Reaching into a small sack by the door, she took a handful of grain. Pulling her cloak tighter, she walked out the door into the chill dawn air. Chickens scattered around the small courtyard, clucking in alarm. She tossed the grain onto the packed earth and they began their frenzied pecking.

It was light enough now to see the dark form of their cow in the tiny stable. Her big, friendly face hanging over the side of the stall seemed to smile a welcome.  “And good morning to you, soon-to-be-mama,” she greeted the heifer. Stepping through the wood crosspieces she walked to the cow and laid her head on the wide back. A calf would be born within a fortnight.

She loved the creaturely smells of hay and barn. Thankfulness welled in her.

When, as a small girl, she had heard the story of Hannah, her heart had thrilled at the sorrow and sacrifice and joy. She had memorized Hannah’s song long ago and it washed through her mind this morning especially clear: My heart rejoices in the Lord. For there is none besides You, nor is there any rock like our God. The Lord makes poor and makes  rich. He brings low and lifts up.                                                                                                                                                              

A shadow appeared on hay stacked in a corner, a slight shimmer, a presence. She stared at it, mystified. It slowly took form, filling the dim interior of the stable with an impossible radiance.

The Being spoke: Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you.

And it began.

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