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Picture It And Write It, Prompt #28

I’ve been dealing with being physically and mentally drained for a few days because of some meds for fibromyalgia and for bone spurs on my spine.  After a 6 hour nap yesterday I finally feel like I’m back on an even keel today, so I thought I would try to spark my creativity by taking Terry’s lead, from http://terry1954.wordpress.com/ , using a writing prompt to boost my imagination.  She gets the writing prompts from  Picture it & write or   Ermiliablog, and I thank all of these blogs for sharing this picture with me.  So here it goes…

It had been years since Charity had been back to her hometown, but it was time now to face her past and the sin that had held her captive.  She must go back to the beginning, and just a few moments in her mother’s home looking at old photo albums was enough to trigger many memories, both good and bad.  Now driving down to the lake, she hoped that some of those memories would explain to her where she went wrong.  Not much had changed except the lake seeming to take back some of the land that surrounded it, a result of the Spring storms that inundated the region, pouring down flood inducing rains for days.  Mom had said the flood had reached over the top of the old dock, crumbling it like a pile of matchsticks.  The city council had decided not to rebuild it, since there was a new pier available at the new Marina just a mile around the lake from the old pier.  Pulling into the Marina, Charity marveled at the beauty that had been put into its creation.  Beautiful oaks grew to each side of the entrance, giving shade to the long drive into the Marina.  A variety of flowers stood like a welcoming committee as they lined the street under the shade of the oaks.  As Charity entered the gate, she was greeted by a security guard, who welcomed her to the Marina, and made small talk about the weather today, and how he hoped she enjoyed her time at the new Marina.  After collecting her five dollar parking fee, the security guard gave her a receipt, a pamplet of services offered and planned activities of the day, and waved her on.  He reminded Charity of a programmed robot, showing no emotion, and repeating the same mantra over and over.

Back in her childhood days, Charity would not be going to a marina on a Sunday.  For years every Sunday she would go with her parents to the little church just a few miles south of the new Marina.  She remembered how much she loved Sundays back then, the singing, people praising God together, and a sermon from Pastor Smith that left each person meditating on their relationship with Jesus Christ.  The old church had been a place of solace, of love, and a beautiful place filled with peace.  Peace…that is what Charity needed now.  Life had taken its toll on her, and nothing in her life brought peace.  After she checked out the new Marina, Charity decided to drive around the lake to the old church and see if she could make the evening service at least.

Walking around the Marina, Charity marveled at the beautiful, white marble columns that adorned the entrances of the club house.  There was everything a community could want at this marina, from a large resteraunt, to a conciearge to fulfill your every need.  There was an 18 hole state-of-the-art golf course to the north of the main building, a series of boating docks and a pier lined with old fashioned street lights reaching out into the large lake.  One dock was lined with paddle boats and canoes for rent.  The other docks were lined with ski boats, family cruisers, speed boats, pontoons, and bass fishing boats, all just waiting for the owners to take them out on the lake.  It looked like there were many families, fishermen, and water skiers preparing to make excursions out on the lake for the day.  Charity wondered about why none appeared to have come from a church service, none were in church clothing, and all seemed to be more involved in family and friend activities, and the seeking of worldly enjoyment than on giving any acknowledgement to the Maker of this day and of the creation they were about to enjoy.  This was quite different from when Charity was a child, because it was stressed that this day was the Lord’s and a day of rest.  Church would have been a families first destination, and their last destination as well.  In between there might be a picnic at the lake or a family dinner at home, but to spend the whole day on the lake was not something that was even considered for a Sunday.  Although this way of spending a Sunday was common in the city, Charity began to wonder what caused this change here in the small town she loved.  Were there even churches in the community anymore, or had the churches changed their day or times of worship to allow this activity?  She began to wonder more about the little church around the lake where she had attended as a child.  Looking at her watch, Charity decided a quick lunch and tour of the clubhouse would allow her time to drive to the church, and make it just in time for the evening service.

An unfriendly hostess, led Charity across the diningroom to a table by the main row of windows.  She mentioned that this was the area the mayor liked to sit in the most, because he was able to see money rolling into the town’s bank account.  Charity was amazed at how materialistic that thought was, and a feeling of nausea filled her stomach.  One of the things that had made her leave the big city was the materialistic attitude that seemed to permeate the rude behavior of soceity there.  No one seemed to care about their neighbor, only how they could take advantage of them.  Consideration, compassion and respect were absent for the most part, and because they were missing the feeling of community and neighborhood were absent as well.  After perusing the menu, whistling at the high prices, Charity settled for a simple bowl of New England Clam Chowder, the House Roll, and a Chef Salad for lunch.  Bowing her head, Charity gave thanks, not only for the food but for being back in a community where God was still put first.  As she raised her head, Charity realized that many eyes were upon her, as if she was doing something unusual.  She looked around the diningroom and realized she was the only one who seemed to be bowing their head in prayer before their meal.  That nauseated pit in her stomach began to grow even more.  Finishing up her food, paying her check, Charity quickly walked around the Club House, took in the Gift Shop, the Golf Pro Shop, the Rental Desk, and perused the rack of pamplets of things to do at the Marina and in the area.  Taking a few, Charity walked to her car, stopping long enough to take in one more view of the whole Marina, before she got in and drove back through the oak and flowered lined entrance.   It seemed that this visit to the Marina had only left a larger feeling of loss and anxiety in her.  Where was the peace that she had come back to her hometown to find?  Charity was beginning to wonder what had happened to the hometown she remembered.

At least the gravel road leading to her old church had not changed, and the forest that lined part of the road were still in tack.  Charity remembered hunting mushrooms in this forest, and gathering raspberries and blackberries from the bushes that grew at the edge of trees.  She always came back with enough for Mom to make pies for Sunday dinner, along with pockets full to snack on herself.  Mom always laughed at the stains of red and purple on Charity’s face, that told the truth about how many berries had actually been eaten as she picked them from the bushes.  A sense of impending peace filled Charity’s soul, only to be shattered by reality a few moments later.  Coming into the clearing of the parking area near the bridge that led to the little chapel of her youth, Charity stared in disbelief.  Her childhood memories of the little church were battling with the reality that lay before her eyes at this very moment.

The lake had all but swallowed up the land the little church set upon, and the bridge that once lay over a small creek set over a river of water from the lake that now surrounded the church, leaving a little island of land, with the church perched on the edge of it.  Where the bridge had once gleamed of white washed boards lining it, was now nothing but old damaged wood with rusty nails, and missing boards.  The path that once had been lined in beautiful wild flowers, was now lined with mud and cracked dry dirt in places.  The once well-kept lawn of the church grew wild with grass, weeds, and brush.  Only a few scraggly trees still stood near the little chapel, that looked like it would fall apart should a slight wind blow against it.  Not a drop of white paint had graced the outside of the church in years, and it was obvious that the community had let it fall into disrepair for some time.  At least the steeple was still on top, and the little metal cross that had been made by the local blacksmith as a gift to the church, still stood, watching over the lake side of the church.  As Charity looked across the lake beside the church, the glow of the gleaming white structures of the Marina spoke of where the community’s focus had been.  It wasn’t on God anymore, not on his church, but on the materialistic enjoyment of the worldly things.  Charity’s heart sank even more.

Charity was thankful that she had decided to wear tennis shoes this morning, especially when she saw what she would have to traverse to get to the little church building.  There were sticker bushes lining the broken and missing boards of the path to the bridge.  Rusty nails stuck out of the walkway, and the rail across the bridge.  Near the water’s edge the mud was slimy and thick, but the ground around the little island still appeared dry and cracked, much like her soul had felt for the past few months since losing the one man she had loved to a car accident, and then suffering a miscarriage just days later.  These losses had left her feeling empty, dry of the ability to shed tears, and as if her heart was cracked beyond repair.  Somehow this old church and its surroundings spoke with empathy to her very being.  Charity gently opened the creaking door at the front of the church, and cleared the cobwebs that hung like spooky lace curtains inside the room.  She stopped a moment at the greeter’s stand that still stood by the center entrance to the church sanctuary.  Blowing dust off the visitor’s book, and flipping through the pages, Charity noticed that there were fewer and fewer entries in the book over the last decade and a half, until finally there were no more in the last 4 years.  A sadness filled her soul, as she realized this book marked the last heartbeats of the little chapel.  A tear dropped upon the now graying silk of the book’s cover, as Charity mournfully closed it.  Walking into the sanctuary, Charity noticed that the heart of the church, although dingy, filled with cobwebs and aging broken pews, still held a warmth to it.  It was obvious that someone had been in there in the last few years, as there were areas on the velvet covered altars that were free of dust.  The shapes of elbows and knees impressed upon the knee rest and along the top of the altar spoke of someone’s journey to the church to pray.  Charity dusted off a seat in a pew near the altar where the prints were and she sat.  Could these be the prints of someone hurting like her?  Were they the prints of a parent remembering a child who was loss,  or a wife mourning the loss of a husband?  In her heart she asked the Lord to give peace to the person who had traveled there to pray, and seek peace in their stormy life.

Leaning back, Charity’s memories took over.  She could hear the old piano playing, and a small choir of usually 7 singing…”Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling.  Calling for you and for me.  Here on the portals he’s waiting and watching, Watching for you and for me.”  Charity heard herself join in on the chorus of the old prayer hymn…”Come home, come home.  Ye who are weary come home.  Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, Calling ‘O sinner, come home.”   Tears streamed down her eyes, as Charity felt drawn to the alter, to fill in the empty impressions with her own knees and elbows.  Prayer crept for her lips, as she asked for healing for her broken heart, and peace for her weary soul.  An arm filled with love and warmth reached around her shoulder, and a soft prayer was being raised beside her, for a daughter who had been lost to the world, but now had come home.  There was a thankfulness for many prayers finally answered for the child, and another prayer for healing and peace, then a simple amen to close it out.  Teardrops and another set of imprints of one handprint and two more knees joined the other imprints on the altar.  As Charity looked up, the tears flowed even more, as she realized it was her mother who had made those original imprints on the altar.  It was her mother who had come weekly on Sunday to pray for a loss child, and ask the Lord to bring her home.  It had been her mother who asked God to bring peace and comfort to a child who had suffered loss.  It was Charity’s mother, whom she had left alone in her hometown over 15 years ago, after her father had passed on, who had faithfully held onto her child in love, hope, and prayer.  Tears streamed faster down two faces now, as the welcoming of a Prodigal Child now happened.  This was not the superficial one that they had shared earlier, but the welcome that God always has for his child who has been lost, the welcome of a parent who had poured out prayer to a Heavenly Father for a child that they shared concern for.  This was the warm welcome and celebration that one who has found their way home longs for, and it was Charity’s to treasure forever.  As the two women, old and young, walked arm and arm out of the rugged, empty chapel, out into the evening, Charity and her mother turned for a moment to look at the church that brought them back together.  The glow of the sunset, gleamed like candles in the dusty windows, and at the top, the sun gleemed off of the metal cross, making it shine with golden warmth.  Charity felt the peace she had longed for bubble over inside her, and knew that although the church had been abandoned and broken down, God had not abandoned it, nor had he abandoned her.

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