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Bobbie Jo Morrell is a mountain woman, poet, writer, leather crafter, rustic furniture builder, cat owner, technical writer, website designer. She says, “Colorado’s Front Range, with the smell of pine trees in the cool air of morning, is my home.” Her blog address: http://soulscompass.blogspot.com/.

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Deeper Warrior Chapter 18: F.R.E.D.

I rather surprised myself, introvert that I was (and am), deciding to spend four weeks of my summer break living in a sorority house at Drake University with about 50 Navigators from around the state at the Summer Training Program. Women at one end of the building, men at the other. Five people per bunk room.

We were to work each weekday; I had my real summer job with the corn breeders, and left the sorority house every morning after oatmeal for the 45 minute drive to the Agronomy Farm. I’d walk up and down corn fields that were more like rice paddies that wet year, then drive another 45 minutes back to Drake. I was very thankful for my solitary (or nearly solitary) work and driving time to counteract the crowded conditions of the training program.

Being a misfit in the Navs, I was fortunate to end up on a team of misfits—to varying degrees. Renee, our team leader, was a journalism student with definite artistic tendencies and sensibilities. One of our first team projects was to take a big sheet of butcher paper and many crayons and make a mural.

Teams had to accomplish certain tasks, in addition to attending the group teachings and events.

  1. Come up with a Team Name that had a meaning relevant to the theme of the program (“Run to Win” based on 1 Corinthians 9:26-27).
  2. Create and perform a skit to present the team name to everyone else—usually during dinner.
  3. Travel as a team on the next to last weekend for two days of “evangelism” in the real world.

We quickly and easily decided on a team name: FRED. The hard part was determining how the team name was relevant to the program theme. Surely it must stand for something…but what? After much discussion we decided that it meant “Freely Running & Enduring Disciples.” But we just said “Fred.”

As a run up to our skit, we started writing notes to our fellow Navs, including encouraging words and mysterious questions, all signed, “Fred” and put them in the little mailbox cubby holes. Whenever we safely could, we tried to be present when the recipient read the note. “Who’s Fred?” they asked aloud. We kept quiet and moved on.

Then on the big day I hovered outside the dining hall with a hairbrush for a microphone. At the right time I jumped into the room, shocking everyone by launching into a loud talk-show-host patter, asking, “Will the real Fred please stand up?”

“Is it Fred Astaire?” Renee and Angie came tangoing out of the kitchen and did a twirl in the middle of the room.

“Is it Fred Flintstone?” Elaine burst into the room shouting “Yabba Dabba Dooo!”

Finally we all lined up together for our FRED cheer, lame, but suitable to us. I can’t remember if we got much applause.

For the evangelism weekend we went to Renee’s mom’s house, near the University of Iowa. Mom was an artist, and her house was small and white with a studio on the north side. She made us pancakes with cottage cheese for breakfast.

Mostly we painted her fence and served her around the house. But we had to do something evangelizy, so we all went to the University, scattered in different directions and tried to pretend to start conversations with strangers. I had taken my tenor recorder with me, stopped to play now and then (I should have had a hat with me, perhaps) and got into a five minute conversation with an older woman about the different sizes of recorders. My duty done, I went down to the river to meditate in solitude under a weeping willow.

story by bobbie jo morrell, all rights reserved

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Francine Phillips is a poet, author, and editor living in San Diego, California. Please check out her blog at http://francinephillips.tumblr.com.

__________________________________________________________________________________________Because Chapter 2

Because God so loved me, Mike sailed into my life.

I was coming up to 40, a single Mom for nearly eight years. My marriage to my seminary boyfriend had broken and died, mostly because, like many Christian virgins at 25 years of age, the only thing I had been taught about being a wife came from Proverbs 31.

Ridiculous.

I was blessed with two incredible kids, Molly and Jesse, who had to compete for my attention after a demanding day on the job. My father died and left me a little money, so we moved to a wonderful property with woods, a pool and a pond. I had a lot — great kids, an interesting job, a cool home, and incredible women friends. I held writer’s salons, parties, painting gatherings, readings, and planted a garden.

But I wanted a man.

Sleeping alone is one of the most painful parts of being a single woman. Just the act of turning down the covers,getting in alone, and turning out the light by yourself is something that those who are alone can’t understand as the loneliest moment of the day. Whether you take a book to bed with you, a strong blast of Scotch, or a bowl of Rocky Road ice cream, nothing is like sharing the warmth of the bed with a man. It just isn’t.

So I prayed for a husband. I told myself I needed a “helpmate,” which is Christian code for sex partner, even though you try to convince yourself that it’s really someone to cut wood for the fireplace, fix the car, help wash dishes, and sit in the driver’s seat. Bottom line, I wanted a man. And I wanted God to bring me one. Pleaded for one.

Not that I had been alone that much. In fact, I had just been through a final break-up with my artist lover after four off and on years of whisking the kids away for their Dad’s weekend and scurrying downtown for two days of snuggling like puppies to the sounds of drunks shouting on the sidewalk, sirens in the night, Van Morrison soulfully providing back-up vocals. A million miles from cold, stuck Cheerios, homework papers, lunch boxes, and alarm clocks. That getaway to another world was fun while it lasted. Now I wanted a man in my world.

It’s a mistake that many divorced women make who have financial security and a certain professional identity. Most are looking for a guy to come into the world they have made for themselves and simply help. My girlfriends and I were like that. We were the “’80s Ladies” that gritty K.T. Oslin sang about. We were women who owned our homes, and had obtained success, recognition and job satisfaction. We got together for poetry readings, gala events, lots of glasses of wine on the patio and laughter over dates from hell. Over the years we had refined our criteria for a mate. I shared our findings, once, with a male friend.

“We have narrowed it down to two requirements,” I said. “Solvent and capable of erection. Is that too much to ask?”

He thought for a moment. “Actually, it could be.”

We didn’t want to particularly change our worlds, just have help with the ones we had created. Husbands to explain things to the pool man, accompany us to the plays that we like, give us a kiss on New Year’s Eve, hold us at the end of the day. We thought marriage was 50/50 and we could probably talk the right guy out of wanting his
50 percent because we were smart, successful, brought home the bacon, and gave head.

God so loved me.

story by francine phillips, all rights reserved

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Bobbie Jo Morrell is a mountain woman, poet, writer, leather crafter, rustic furniture builder, cat owner, technical writer, website designer. She says, “Colorado’s Front Range, with the smell of pine trees in the cool air of morning, is my home.” Her blog address: http://soulscompass.blogspot.com/.

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Deeper Warrior Chapter 14: It’s About Forgiveness

My  finger tapped the open page of the brand new Ryrie Study Bible (NASB) before me.

“So, what’s this where Jesus is telling us to forgive as we have been forgiven? How does that work?”

Christine looked up from her Bible. “Well, forgiveness is necessary to remove obstacles to relationship, you know, between people, and with God.”

She set her Ryrie aside and leaned forward in the chair. “Like when you and I had that conversation about the night I broke my ankle, when you were, er, incapacitated…”

“Yes, I remember.” My face felt suddenly warm.

“I was hurt that you weren’t, well, really there for me that night. And you felt bad about it too, didn’t you? So we were able to talk about it, forgiveness came in, and our friendship became deeper and better, right?” She threw her arms wide in a generous gesture, beaming at me.

“Right.” I couldn’t help but smile back at her, full of gratitude.

“But let’s say you hadn’t felt bad, or decided that you were justified somehow – or I decided that I couldn’t stop being hurt about that, couldn’t let go of it, what would have happened then? Broken relationship.” Her hand moved in a knife-like wave. “It would have become a huge obstacle, and interfered with our friendship. It works with God that way, too. I bring myself to God, whatever sorry state I’m in, without getting stuck in defensiveness or hurt, and the broken relationship with God is restored—because of Jesus.”

“Yes, I kind of get that.” I scowled for a while at the black letters printed on the onion skin paper, scratching at them lightly with a fingernail. Then I flipped back to a previous section of the text.

“Here it says too, that we should love our enemies, not just our friends.”

“Ye-es.” Chris sat back thoughtfully. She tapped her chin a few times before speaking again.

“Remember last fall, when I broke up with Dave, then?”

“Oh, yes! Denise and I had been telling you to dump him for quite a while.”

She smiled ruefully at me. “Yes, indeed. But during finals week I did break up with him, and then went over to your place on the west side to hide out. While I was there, he came here looking for me here at Ash House, stomping and shouting and threatening violence.”

I nodded. “We were afraid he would hurt you. Physically, I mean. He’d already hurt you…”

“So I have to forgive him for hurting me, but that doesn’t mean that I should let him hurt me any more, or risk physical injury.”

“No-o-o.” I cocked my head to one side, trying to grasp the mist swirling around in my brain. “So, what’s the big deal about forgiveness, then?”

Chris thought for a minute. “I guess maybe holding on to the hurt and sense of injury, not letting it go, interferes with my relationship with Jesus. If I spend my time and energy nursing a grudge, or wallowing in pain, then I get stuck there. Like how it could have been an obstacle between you and me—it was also an obstacle between us and God that we need to hand over to him, and not let it shut us down.”

She looked at me with smiling eyes. “I mean, if I stayed wound up in how Dave hurt me, how would I have time and energy to read through Matthew with you, or do things with the other girls, or get any school work done? It would be a serious drag.”

I scratched at the letters again, slowly. “But it still hurts, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah, but it doesn’t eat me up; it doesn’t control me. Usually, anyway. I feel the hurt, but I try to turn it over to God and not cling to it.”

Her gaze sharpened, and I felt her waiting, silently questioning.

Looking up quickly to make sure the door to my room was closed, I spoke in a low voice.

“So if I don’t forgive the guy who raped me as a kid, then that could become an obstacle in my relationship with God.” My eyes were riveted on the worn carpet.

Chris let out a breath with the sound usually written as, “Whew!”

“Bobbie…” She stopped, tried again. “I… well, I don’t think you have to put yourself at risk, or anything…”

My dark, sarcastic sense of humor came to my rescue. “I don’t see myself running to Nebraska to give him a big bear hug, no.”

Christine’s quiet laugh was tinged with sadness.

I rubbed my forehead vigorously, as if trying to erase some mark. “But what will it look like?”

“I don’t know.” Chris leaned forward and took my hand. “I guess we should just ask? Maybe all you need to do to start is tell Jesus that you don’t want it to be an obstacle, but you don’t know how to get started or what to do. He won’t leave you all alone to do it yourself, I’m sure of that.”

story by bobbie jo morrell, all rights reserved

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Bobbie Jo Morrell is a mountain woman, poet, writer, leather crafter, rustic furniture builder, cat owner, technical writer, website designer. She says, “Colorado’s Front Range, with the smell of pine trees in the cool air of morning, is my home.” Her blog address: http://soulscompass.blogspot.com/.

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Highway to Reality

Wow, what a weekend, surrounded by a bunch of gung ho young Christian types. OK, so they say “Joke!”  in situations where I would use a different four-letter word (beginning with the letter “f”). Still, not a bunch of dour faced puritans, or those fakey smile types that you see on TV with plastic hair. Fun people.

At the end of the conference, all the students from our campus took off together, a four car convoy rolling straight up I-35. First went a car full of young men, followed by Christine and me in my Pinto, the other cars with two or three young women in each behind us.

The scenery of southern Iowa on a rainy March day lost some of its appeal to the women at the end of the line after a while, and they suddenly came roaring past us in the blue Citation, holding a piece of notebook paper to the window on which was written, “TAG – You’re it!”

Chris immediately grabbed her notebook to scribble a similar note as the next car went flying by us as well. I laid on the gas and we raced up to catch the women in the Citation, making faces at them as we went by. The three of us leapfrogged like this, orange Pinto, blue Citation, red Toyota, for several miles, until I got one of my brilliant ideas while we were ahead of the other two.

Seeing the tan coupe that the men were driving in up ahead, I thought it only appropriate that they be included in the fun game we were playing.

“Let’s pass the guys! Get the sign ready!” My foot moved to the accelerator again.

“No,” said Christine in an odd, flat voice, “Let the men lead.”

My foot fell off the gas pedal and I turned my head to stare at her, mouth hanging open. What? What?

Confessing her own doubt, Chris talked a little about how she was learning that women should “submit” and men should be the leaders because that’s what God wanted. She shook her head, puzzled and confused.

I said nothing. That was absolutely insane.

Shortly after this, we all pulled into a truck stop to get gas. The rain had revealed the pathetic condition of my windshield wipers, so I jumped out and shouted to everyone, “I’m going to see if they have wiper blade refills that fit here!”

Immediately all of the guys clustered around my Pinto, flipping my wipers over, pulling off my blades while conversing about them to one another, all without reference to or consultation with me.

Now, I had been doing my own car maintenance since I was fifteen: changing my own oil, adding water to the battery, replacing spark plugs and distributor caps. My dad trained me well. Wipers were no big deal; done it dozens of times.

So I stood there, watching young men who probably didn’t know what a distributor cap was messing with my car, ignoring me, and generally behaving like I was some helpless know-nothing. Rage began to warm my face, and I clenched my fists to keep from shouting at them to leave my car alone.

Chris, knowing me pretty well, came up and said quietly, “Stay calm, Bobbie, they’re just trying to be helpful.”

Yeah, helpful. I spun around and went to get new blades. When I returned they took them from me without a word, and began to do the replacement. Apparently I was completely irrelevant. I’m surprised they didn’t see the smoke coming out of my ears as I watched them put the first blade on backwards.

As we drove on, Chris kept a strained silence, and I tried to calm myself down. Men should lead! Women should follow! Men know it all! Women know nothing! Gah!

By the time we got home I had relaxed some—I did realize they were just trying to be helpful—and enjoyed Chris’s company again. But eventually I shut my door, stood in the middle of my room, and gave God an earful.

“Is that what you think about women, God? Is that what you really think? Because if it is, then I tell you, I am outta here!”

A long dull silence followed my rant. Then a sense of God – nothing so clear as a voice, no – just a sense.

Wait. Hang in here with Me. Find out what I really think.

Hmph. All right. I would wait and see.

story by bobbie jo morrell, all rights reserved

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Bobbie Jo Morrell is a mountain woman, poet, writer, leather crafter, rustic furniture builder, cat owner, technical writer, website designer. She says, “Colorado’s Front Range, with the smell of pine trees in the cool air of morning, is my home.” Her blog address: http://soulscompass.blogspot.com/.

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Chapter 12: Navigating a Sea of Navigators

by Bobbie Jo Morrell

Less than two weeks after my spectacular and personally mortifying barge into Christine’s Navigator group as a brand new christian, the two of us piled into my Pinto and took off down I-35 toward Kansas City. I was headed for my first Navigator conference.

The brochure describing the conference was simple black and white, the front looking like an excerpt of a page of want ads. In the middle was one large ad, circled in red: “Laborers Wanted” followed by a Bible reference. Yet I had no idea what the speakers were going to talk about.

After throwing our stuff in the motel room, we gathered with the two hundred other college students in a large meeting room with no windows. I stuck close to Chris, as I knew no one else who was there, not even the folks from our group at college.

Everywhere I heard excited young people reading out of Bibles, reciting verses off of little cards that they carried in their pockets, talking about being “sold out” to Jesus. Here and there the older Nav staff folks wandered, offering encouragement or listening with smiles on their faces. I hadn’t realized there were so many of these radical-type Christians in the whole world.

The speakers spoke, encouraging us to seriously consider what it meant to be a “laborer in God’s harvest” and the possibility of full time christian work. We met in small groups in our rooms to get to know each other better, and hear each others’ stories. I excited many people by saying that I had been a christian for only 9 days—they asked for all the details of my story, and Christine watched with a big smile. Tentatively I began to enjoy being a part of this group, this movement, although I still wasn’t certain what it all meant.

But Saturday afternoon Chris began to be irritable, and kind of upset about something; not her usual cheerful and extroverted self at all. Even I could see it. She wasn’t talking about it, though, and went at one point to our room to lie down for a while, leaving me alone in the sea of Navigators.

I was a relational moron at the time; I had no idea what was going on, or what to do. But I fidgeted, knowing that something was up with Chris and that I wanted to be there for her, to help her if I could. But how?

After some reflection, I decided to try this Jesus thing, and I asked God directly for help. What do I do about Christine?

“Just love her,” a voice rang in my head.

What the hell…? Quickly, furtively, I looked up and down and around the meeting room, but there was no one talking to me—much less anyone that could have read the question in my mind.

“God?” I answered in my head silently—I didn’t want people to think I was nuts. “OK, great idea, but HOW?”

“Just love her.”

“OK, yeah—but could you be more specific?”

The rich voice was endlessly patient. “Just love her.”

“OK, OK…”

So I walked back to our room muttering, “Just love her…” to myself. I had no clue what that meant or how to do it.

Christine was curled up on the bed, reading. Still without a clue I walked over and sat on the bed next to her. Then suddenly a strange and brilliant idea struck me: why not ask her what was wrong?

Terror washed over me at the thought. What if I pissed her off? What if she told me to get lost and stay that way?

I screwed up my courage, opened my mouth, and asked, “What’s wrong, Chris?”

She looked quickly up at me; my hands and feet were suddenly like ice, and my face flamed. But her expression immediately softened and relaxed, as though she had been waiting hours for me to ask just that question. She spoke with relief of the growing fears that had crept up on her this weekend, and what she thought God was doing in her life around them. I listened with relief and wonder. She trusted me! Later I spoke of my fears also, and of what God might do in my life.

A deep, serious conversation about important things, about relationship that didn’t involve a painful injunction for me to back off or go away, and in fact brought Christine and myself closer in friendship! Apparently, God was right.

story by bobbie jo morrell, all rights reserved

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Bobbie Jo Morrell is a mountain woman, poet, writer, leather crafter, rustic furniture builder, cat owner, technical writer, website designer. She says, “Colorado’s Front Range, with the smell of pine trees in the cool air of morning, is my home.” Her blog address: http://soulscompass.blogspot.com/.

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Deeper Warrior Chapter 10: Laundry on the Edge

One hand tipped the plastic basket, the other shoveled dirty clothes into the washing machine. Christine was in her room with her Navigator friends, doing “Bible Study.” For me, a quiet evening doing laundry and studying. I shoved the quarters into the slots and headed back upstairs to my room.

Once I reached the mailbox hallway, I saw Tom knocking on the door to my room. Short, barrel shaped, a kind of teddy bear type who would be equally at home on a Harley Davidson, he was dating a friend of Chris’. Why was he visiting me? I considered hiding until he gave up knocking and went away, but that would be rude.

“Hi,” I said, opening my door. “What’s new?”

After a few minutes of awkward chatting—small talk has never been a gift of mine—he got to his point.

“I just felt that God was telling me to come talk to you tonight.”

My left eyebrow rose in a classic Mr. Spock expression. “Really?”

I’d had visits from wacky Christians before, long ago: unnaturally friendly and smiling strangers handing me small, cheaply printed pamphlets with titles like “The Four Spiritual Laws.” I’d avoided them religiously. I had discovered that pretending to be a Buddhist just encouraged them, but pretending to be already “born again” had worked well to keep them at bay.

Now, though, I couldn’t play that game. Not only did Tom know me through Christine, but I was also stuck up on the ridge of choice, the cold watershed trying to decide which darkness to choose. Tom rambled on about Jesus, and I heard that carpenter’s voice chanting, “Hope, hope, hope…” I stared at him helplessly, until one sentence finally penetrated.

“What’s keeping you from becoming a Christian right now?”

What indeed? I rehearsed all my traditional responses, and they echoed hollowly in my mind. Don’t want to give up drinking? Well, where had drinking gotten me? Don’t believe that God created the world in a literal 6 days, after all I am a scientist? That didn’t seem to stop Chris in pursuing her degree in agronomy. Don’t want to be tied down to some restrictive and primitive belief system? The Jesus I was getting to know through reading Matthew seemed to be offering me something different, something richer and deeper. I felt a cold sweat pop out on my forehead and I opened my mouth to reply.

“I have to go put my laundry in the dryer. I’ll be right back.” I fled downstairs.

Desperately I pulled out the wet clothes and stuffed them into the dryer. Where were those quarters? Into the slot with them and the whir of tumbling dampness. I leaned back against the warm dryer for a moment. Run away? No, too late for that. And I knew that I had to choose—this was my last moment on the ridge. Which way?

Slowly I climbed the stairs again. My excuses were gone. Even though hope scared the shit out of me, I couldn’t deny it tonight. I told Tom that there was nothing to keep me from becoming a Christian.

He began to pray, and I bowed my head with him. I couldn’t take life in the darkness anymore; I wanted what Jesus was offering, even though I didn’t know what it would look like, what it would feel like, what pain I would have to go through…

I can’t remember what Tom said in his prayers. But as soon as he said, “Amen,” he jumped up with a big smile and gave me his classic bear hug.

“Now,” he said, “we must go tell Christine and her friends the good news!” He grabbed my arm and hustled me out the door into the hallway.

“No, I mean, really…we shouldn’t disturb…” I pulled against him to no avail. He banged on Chris’ door loudly. As soon as the door opened, he pushed me in front of him into the midst of these women, shouting, “We have a new sister in Christ!”

My first prayer was that I would sink through the floor and disappear.

Everyone exclaimed loudly, and their surprised faces blossomed into happy grins. I stood silently, wiping my forehead and face with my hand. At last, after a whole, say, two minutes, Tom and I retreated and they resumed their Bible Study. With another bear hug, Tom said good night and left me alone with my laundry and my new choice.

Slowly I carried my dry clothes up in the plastic basket, set them on the semi-decrepit chair and began to fold. All the frantic tension of the past few weeks had gone, and a weird, resting peacefulness had suddenly descended. No more cold and windy ridge. I chose hope, as unknown and frightening as it was.

Presently I heard Christine’s door open and her Navigator friends spill chattily into the common room. And then came a knock on my door.

Trina, the leader of the Navigator group that Chris belonged to, came in with a smile. “Welcome to the family,” she said and gave me a hug. I felt very shy and silly, but it warmed my heart.

After everyone had gone, Christine dove back into her room for a minute, then burst out again to meet me in the middle with a big grin and her former-shotputter bear hug. She held out a gold chain with a cross made of deep red garnets hanging on it.

“It was my grandmother’s,” she said. “I want you to have it.”

Overwhelmed and silent, I let her put it round my neck. She seemed about to burst with laughter or something big and joyful.

“Let’s go out to Lost and Found Lounge for margaritas to celebrate!”

story by bobbie jo morrell, all rights reserved

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Bobbie Jo Morrell is a mountain woman, poet, writer, leather crafter, rustic furniture builder, cat owner, technical writer, website designer. She says, “Colorado’s Front Range, with the smell of pine trees in the cool air of morning, is my home.” Her blog address: http://soulscompass.blogspot.com/.

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deeper warrior 12Chapter 9: Original Documents, Jesus Edition

Christine bounced into my room and plopped into the semi-decrepit armchair.

“I have an idea.”

I pushed aside my microbiology notes without much regret.

“Let’s read the book of Matthew together,” she said. “That way you can read about Jesus, and we can discuss as we go. What do you think?”

I considered. Things were getting kind of bogged down in Proverbs, so maybe something new would be good.

“OK. When shall we start?”

We started. What a story; I mean, I’d heard a lot of the general idea of the story all my life, right? But I was startled by the same thing as when I read the Old Testament: the story came to life just as in Tolkien’s world. Prophecies were fulfilled, prophecies were spoken; fish and bread multiplied profusely, mysteriously; people of all kinds were healed; the hero walked on the boisterous sea as though it were the smoothest highway.

This Jesus guy really seemed to know who he was and what he was meant to do—and turned the world upside down with grandiose ideas like “Blessed are those who are persecuted?” “If you lose your life, you will save it?” “The greatest is the servant?”

As the climax approached, I began to see what kind of story it really was: a bold rescue mission deep in enemy territory. Real danger—torture and death—was necessary to forge the passage out of the prison for those trapped. And I also began to see that I was one of the prisoners that Jesus had gone to such lengths to set free.

There he stood in the dark tunnel, a sturdy bearded carpenter with his bloody hands held out to me, saying, “Come to me, you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” But it didn’t look like rest; it looked like torture and death. I felt panic rise inside me.

Like a cornered animal, trapped, I was stuck on a high razorback ridge with a terrifying choice set before me. I would have to descend one side or the other. My choices? Both were full of enemies like fear, unbelief and pain. One side, the darkness I knew: isolation, alcohol, despair. The other side even more unpredictable, an unknown odyssey into a new world: the hope of the possibility of hope.

I didn’t think I could stand returning to the old void, cold and desolate. But the thought of the darkness of hope paralyzed me. Like jumping off a cliff into a Kansas thunderstorm just because some disembodied voice whispered to me, “I will catch you.” Yeah, right.

Life and school went on; I attended classes, worked on assignments, took tests. But inside I huddled shivering on an icy mountain pass staring down into two black pits on either side.

story by bobbie jo morrell, all rights reserved

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