Chapter 14, The Visitor
“So, this is the book?” Stella was sitting on the couch next to me in the cabin. We each had a mug of coffee, steam swirling in lovely whimsy. I had a decorative pillow in my lap, playing with the fringe, as my other hand was bordering on burnt from the scorching hot mug. I breathed in the aroma of freshly brewed dark roast, with a splash of Irish cream creamer. Stella’s mug was currently residing on a coaster atop the coffee table, Lillian Sander’s book in hand.
It was late. Darkness had encased the earth some hours ago, bringing Stella with it. The sound of her car door slamming shut, followed by the clicking of her skipping up the stairs to the porch, was a sigh of relief from heaven. She welcomed herself in yelling, “Hey love! Momma is here,” the moment the front door swung open. She was adorable in a blue dress, falling mid-thigh, with ruffles around the collar, meeting in a V just above the natural waist. Under the palest yellow sweater I have ever encountered, a thick brown belt cinched it all together. Her hair fell to her shoulders, an interesting strawberry blonde.
I met her in the hall, sporting sweatpants, which came just below the knee, and a hoody. My brown hair pulled up in a messy bun. In five minutes, her glamour was gone, replaced with natural beauty in comfort, matching messy bun and all.
“Yeah, that’s the book.” I felt empty. No, confused numbness – too many conflicting emotions, the toll of discernment an unbearable weight, leaving the only course of action to close in on itself – is more appropriate. I feel that I am at a crossroads, only there is no road to take. This map is a jumbled mess of inaccurate memories, facts that are vague, and doubt becoming a very prevalent reality.
“Weird…” She said this so quietly, it was as if she breathed the word in hopes of not waking the book.
Even though nothing has been solved, I felt so much better having my other half with me. Stella has been my friend since college. We grew up together, creating a bond many siblings dream of. I thank God for this relationship, and in this moment I realize the gift He has given me in this friendship. How many people would drop everything to come to a friend’s vacation just to hold their hand while they maneuver their way through an identity crisis?
My mug was empty. I rose to get a refill, offering to do the same for Stella. She opted to follow. One of my favorite things about Stella is that we don’t need words. She knows what’s going on in my head. Questions do not need to be asked. Answers do not need to be given. We can feel what is happening inside of the other. And not in the same way I share silence with Todd. As I think about this, I realize that the similarities and differences are so great, but the words to express exactly what those differences are, well they don’t exist. How do you explain things that are beyond words? Beyond understanding?
Then, for some reason, as I am pouring coffee in Stella’s mug, my mind wanders, to how with a word, God created things into being. He used words to bring things into existence. His word is truth. Is this why I cannot find words to describe my inner self right now? Because I don’t know what is true? Is there more searching that I must endure to receive my answered prayer? What am I missing? What am I doing wrong? What am I doing right? Or, am I exactly where I am supposed to be…waiting on God? I am beginning to feel probed, not physically, but spiritually. I am not sure how I feel about this, either. That’s not true. I love that I am learning the depths of my soul, though I expect I will never fully understand myself entirely –
Be still, and know that I am God.
The words were whispered to my heart, a poem, a song. I felt like a child being reprimanded, only not that severely. A better way to describe it, I am being steered. How do I heed this gentle command? A command that is almost a request, only I know better than to think that it is merely a request. How do I know this?
Tears roll down my face. I am reminded that I am not alone. A pressure builds within my core, a light expanding. My soul throbs, a hand on my heart. Overwhelming is not an accurate word, because to be overwhelmed is to feel close to a breaking point. I do not feel close to breaking. Stella reaches out, holding my right hand with her left. The warmth emanating from her hand intensifies the presence within.
Before I realize what’s happening, I have led Stella upstairs, into the locked room. The bible is in my left hand, the right still clinging to Stella. I guide her to the bed, only now releasing her, and flip to Psalm 46, verse 10:
"Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations; I am exalted in the earth." The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.
God is with me. I feel God. My mind is finally still, no longer chasing after tangents and loose ends, like a child chasing fireflies in the night, Mason jar at the ready. Calm spread, breathing slowed, and thoughts cleared.
No longer of my own accord, I left Stella on the bed to peruse the bookshelf. Without knowing, I knew what I was looking for.
The dining room was finally being utilized during my stay here: we had books spread out the entire length of the table. My laptop was on and opened. Stella had started a fire. It was past midnight. A fresh pot of coffee was brewing. I put together a snack tray of cheese, crackers, and fruit. We were wide awake, determination pumping through our veins, excitement perpetuated by our need to know more; a new sense of vigor erasing all sense of doubt and confusion. We were on a mission.
And I was learning how to recognize something incredibly crucial: how God chose to speak to me. It isn’t always with words, or in the form of an image, but a feeling that can be entirely encompassing there is no way to confuse what it is.
Finally set up, Stella joined me at the table. “My mind is blown, Ivy.” Her face was lit, curiosity dancing in her eyes, and a childlike smile graced her mouth. I smiled up at her, encouraging her to continue her thoughts. “To think, all of this time, you were being led to find your family’s story. You are being led to your family's story. How crazy is this?” She looked down at the quantity of books decorating the table. “Your grandmother wrote all of these?”
“It appears so…what is utterly lost on me, is why I never knew about this.” I picked up the books, placing them in order of publishing date. “What a secretive family I seem to have come from…” As I organized the books, Stella typed away at the computer, searching for the author Lillian Sanders.
“What I find odd,” Stella said between key strokes, “Is why that room up there was locked for all of this time while the rest of the cabin was in use…I mean, if you bought this place to turn it into a retreat, wouldn’t you want to go poking around in every nook and cranny of the place? Why leave the door locked? Why never find out what was behind it? I mean, even look at a monetary reason: this cabin could have been used as a three bedroom retreat instead of a one bedroom…” And she trailed off.
“What did you find?”
“I’m not sure. Hold on…I need to check something out further…” She was quiet for about five minutes, giving me enough time to put the dozen books in chronological order. Next, I was going to see if there was a theme of which I could trace any truth my grandmother pulled from her life, as inspiration for the fictional worlds she created.
“Ivy…” I tensed at the way she said my name; her voice slow, and drawn, with a touch of you’re not going to like this, but it is valuable information…like I said, we don’t always need words to convey. I know Stella. “You are not going to believe–” And then there was a persistent knocking on the door, cutting Stella short.
We looked at each other from across the table. Slowly, I slid out of my chair, using the table to help me stand up. In what I perceived to be still time, I somehow managed to make my way to the front door. My heart began to pick up speed. I knew I had no right to be feeling nervous, but I could not help but feel that I was not ready for whoever was on the other side of that door.
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