Monday, February 23, 2009

Little Big Foot -- A Pretty Preacher

Dee Anna adjusted the bomber-style jacket of her favorite suit. It was sage colored and had a soft flowing skirt that elongated her rather short frame. Wondering if the temperature would rise and she would melt, she stepped into green pumps. They were comfortable but stylish, and they were just the right shade to compliment her suit.
As she retrieved small jade earrings from a side pocket of her suitcase, the Reverend Dee Anna Hanson recalled the afternoon she had purchased those shoes. It had been spring in Madison. She had taken advantage of an unusually warm day to enjoy lunch near Madison’s federal-look-alike capitol building. Sitting on a stone bench, she had rejoiced in the vivid colors of the tulips that filled the flowerbeds of Capitol Square.

On a whim, she had decided to wander down State Street. She always enjoyed “people watching” and State Street offered plenty of opportunities. A mix of students, artists, musicians, state employees, and aging hippies gave the area an aura unexpected and rare in the Midwest. The shoes were on sale at a pricey boutique. Her budget did not allow for shopping in the eclectic stores of State Street and she had planned to window shop, not buy. Still, they were perfect to go with her favorite suit--and on clearance! She would be foolish not to buy them, she had thought.

She remembered placing the shoebox on the floor in her closet with a feeling of satisfaction. She loved shoes. She loved her house. She loved her neighborhood. She loved the beautiful church building in which she worked—loved its grey stone, stained glass, and sense of history. She loved jazz in the park, and street vendors selling hot dogs. Aloud she said, “I love Madison, God.”

Now, why had she said that?

Dee Anna stepped to a mirror that hung on the outside of the closet door. She knew she was reasonably attractive, and she knew she dressed well. The face gazing back at her was round and a spate of freckles splashed across the nose. “Too round,” she always told herself. Her eyes were green and her short hair was copper colored. She did like her eyes, but her nose, she thought, was too short, and her mouth was too broad to be perfect. Her hourglass figure, like her face, was a bit too round to be stylish in a world that valued stick-thin glamour.

She wrinkled her nose at herself and adjusted her gold cross. The cross was an anniversary present from a few years ago. The design was simple but elegant and she usually wore it when she was preaching.

Satisfied, she sat on the edge of the bed and reached for her Bible where she had placed it on the vintage nightstand. “I’ll bet they got that nightstand at Goodwill” she thought. “Nothing but high class in this parsonage. Yah sure, you betcha.”

Checking her watch, she saw that it had only taken her five minutes to finish dressing. She had twenty minutes until Sunday School was set to begin. She was thankful that she only had to preach the sermon and close the service. Others were taking care of various elements of the worship.

Taking a deep breath, she opened her Bible and prayed, “All right then, Lord. I do not know why I am here, but I guess you must know, so I give you the day. I cannot imagine a place more unlike home. I wish I had known before I came. Still…sorry, God. I am rambling.”

She took another long breath and began again. “Holy Spirit, please be with us. I know I need your grace to preach well. I need your presence with me. May you speak to those who are listening, and may they hear what you say, not simply what I say. And…God, please don’t let them like me too much.”

That made her laugh out loud. “Amen” she said, and reached for the ribbon in her Bible. It marked where she had stopped reading the previous morning before she had climbed out of bed to deal with a sick dog and a distressed child. Yesterday morning seemed a long time ago to Dee Anna. She thought of loved ones at home and for about the tenth time she scolded herself for not bringing her cell phone charger. She wondered about the dog—and then she began to read from Isaiah, Chapter 57:

And one shall say,
Heap it up! Heap it up!
Prepare the way,
Take the stumbling block out of the way of My people.”

For thus says the High and Lofty One
Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“ I dwell in the high and holy place,
With the one who has a contrite and humble spirit,
To revive the spirit of the humble,
And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

She stopped, aware of an indefinable change, a shift somewhere. The room felt deeply still. After a few moments she quietly asked, “Lord, are you trying to speak to me?” She read the passage again, and then again. The words contrite and humble spirit seemed highlighted.

“The High and Lofty One lives with the one who is humble” Dee Anna thought. “And that infinite, holy God wants to revive the heart of the contrite ones. The contrite ones.” Suddenly, with uncomfortable clarity, she thought, “I am asking God’s Spirit to be with me. Am I humble?"
Again she was aware of a strange stillness. “God, are the people feeling faint? Are they needing to know that you long to give them renewed hope and life?” She sat still, almost afraid to move. “God?”

A crow cawed loudly outside the open window. The stillness passed. Dee Anna decided she was just tired and, therefore, fanciful. Fanciful—a word her mother had often used, and not kindly. She stretched and glanced at her watch. Like her entire ensemble, the watch was simple and elegant. Eight minutes before nine…time to go. She closed the window. She pulled her sermon notes from her suitcase and thrust them into the Bible. Hurrying down the stairs, Dee Anna was aware of butterflies in her stomach. “What is that about,” she wondered. “It’s not like I haven’t preached before. And not like this is a big deal.”

She felt self-conscious as she stepped out from the doorway of the parsonage. The church was so close she felt she could have touched it from where she stood, and she saw a family with three children approaching the glass doors. She smoothed her skirt and stepped across the driveway.

The small church building was surprisingly southern in appearance. It was close to the street. A front porch with a triangle-shaped roof supported by white pillars graced its red brick. A white steeple pointed into the blue sky. She had been too stressed yesterday to notice much except the glass doors and the four deacons. Now she saw that there was a wide lawn and a parking lot behind the church.

She stepped inside the small foyer. Children’s voices drifted up the stairway from somewhere below. The nursery, where she had met with the deacons was on the right. The pastor’s study was on the left. There didn’t seem to be a church office. Dee Anna realized that, oddly, she had not seen anything of the building except the nursery and the small restroom where she had made a quick stop the day before.

Ted Turner Boy stood by the doors that led into the sanctuary. He smiled. Dee Anna had not seen him smile before. It softened his intense appearance, and Dee Anna thought, “He may look too much like Ted Turner, but he really is a young guy.” She struggled to recall his name. Chad. That was it. And she knew that Portly Bald Guy was the teacher. His name was Jim Johnson.

Chad tossed his hair back from his forehead and extended his hand. “Hi, Pastor Dee Anna.” Welcome to North Woods Chapel.” He eyed her rather intently. "You are without a doubt the prettiest preacher this place has ever seen."


Confessions of a Wandering Soul said...

You are blessed to be surrounded by god's gift of nature.Thats a heart capturing photo :)

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

The green shoes captured your heart???

Anonymous said...

Singing Owl,
I like this story more with every installment. I only wonder if my patience level will hold out-I want to read it to the end - and more.
I also really like the visiting pastor and am excited to find what God has in store for this little church.
I can't help but wish she was a real person because my little church will soon be interviewing pastors and ...well, you know..
Love you ,

Anonymous said...

Singing Owl,
I forgot to add that the green shoes are too cute.You could dance on St. Paddy's Day in them too. Lauriej.

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

YAY! That is for you, Laurie! You did it! \o/ \o/ \o/

Betsy said...

This is just too much fun! You have me totally caught up in the story :-)

Anonymous said...

Go, Dee Anna! She's going to end up there, isn't she?

Diane M. Roth said...

wow, you are writing a story! I'm going to have to go back and get in on this!

good for you!

much2ponder said...

Still reading and will leave a comment at the end of the next installment. I am getting into it and enjoying the imagery in your words:)