Words, words, and more words!

I’ve been writing like a house afire since the beginning of the year! Just not on my blog. Having only so many hours in the day I find I must choose where my words go, and lately that’s been to my novel. I’m 65,000 words in. The end is in sight! Of course when the last word is written – it’s not really over. Then the revising and editing process will begin.

I feel a confidence in my current project I didn’t feel in my last novel, Sisters. Sisters had beautiful moments, and was an unbelievable learning experience. But this novel is different. I’m different. Hopefully my skill level has grown. I also feel a greater sense of purpose and vision with this book.

My goal for this novel is to use the characters to challenge the church’s status quo and stretch our desire for compassion. It has been a transformational, painful, and invigorating process.

Many days I’ve spent six or more hours writing. I write while the kids are in school. I take notes of ideas in my phone when I’m out. I dream about my characters, literally. I chat with them in the shower. I have no doubt I’ve often sat with a glazed expression at the table as I picture a scene and test out dialogue in my head. My poor family, they’re becoming used to such quirks and neglect!

In the past I found it difficult to ignore dirty dishes in the sink, piled up laundry, and floors needing vacuuming. Writing now seems to trump all else. I don’t seem to notice the mess until I resurface!

I have piles of books stacked around my favorite chair. Not pictured is the pile of writing books on the floor. And for three days I’ve had piles of laundry stacked around the living room. To me this is a good sign! It means I’ve taken my passion and commitment to writing to a new level. Which is what it’s going to take to land a book deal and become an honest to goodness author. So far I’ve been dabbling. It’s time to role up my sleeves and get this done!

The message of this book motivates me to keep going, it’s a tribute to every wounded, rejected, lonely person I’ve known, just looking for a place to belong. (Which includes me.) We are good at building walls, even, and maybe especially, in the church, but that is not in keeping with a Savior who walked among the broken, touching the desperate.

It’s my desire that this book honors God’s heart, and builds a bridge. If you think of it in the days ahead I would love a prayer for blessing and favor!

Dixie Lee ~ Part 10

If you’re new here welcome. Every Friday I add to the story I’m writing about Dixie living in small town Mississippi.

I got a little writing in today, in between making an Elsa costume and teaching my kids school. It’s still not midnight so technically I made my self-imposed Friday deadline! I hope you’re enjoying the continuing story of Dixie and the people in her life. If you need to catch up you can start with part 1 here.

If you like the story the best way to pay me a compliment is to share it with a friend!

Dixie Lee

Exhausted from the mental and emotional drain of arguing Dixie had slipped into a heavy sleep. The afternoon wore on as she slept and when she shook off the stupor of a Sunday nap the shadows were already beginning to stretch themselves long.

The house was quiet. Pumpkin vibrated beside her, singing a song of cat contentment. Stretching the crick in her neck she sat up and struggled to gain her bearings. As Dixie shook the lingering cotton from her mind she felt an urgency. Maybe Joe McAllister would have time for her this afternoon. Quickly she laid aside the soft blue skirt and knit top she’d worn to church in exchange for jeans and eggplant sweater.

Kissing Pumpkin’s fuzzy head she switched off the lamp and headed quietly out of her room. Seeking the comfort of her old blue pickup she was gone before anyone noticed. Driving out-of-town she sought the small frame house hugging the rich delta fields. She knew her way to the old man’s house from a visit years ago with her daddy. The radio blared and orange roads flashed by as she made her way to the outskirts of town.

A humble, hungry eagerness fought the natural-born stubborn streak in her heart. In a few moments she had pulled into Joe’s bare front yard. Stepping up on the creaking porch of the modest frame house Dixie raised her hand to knock on the screen door. After what seemed like a couple of minutes she heard a shuffling step approaching. Mr. McAllister opened the door. A surprised smile spread across his face.

“Well, Dixie my girl what are you doing here on a Sunday afternoon?” Joe’s crinkled smile welcomed her in as his gnarled hand-held the faded screen door open for her.

“I was hoping we could visit for a bit. I have a question to ask you.”

“Surely, surely. Let me get us some tea and we can sit on the porch and visit a spell.”

“I’ll help you,” Dixie said, following him to the tidy, simple kitchen.

Dixie got the ice and Joe poured cold tea from a blue plastic pitcher. “There you go Dixie girl,” he said, handing her a glass. “Let’s go enjoy the last little bit of that sunshine.”

She followed him back through the living room out to the wide porch. Joe eased himself down in a rocking chair. He had taken off his coat and tie revealing brown suspenders over his white shirt. He was a southern picture sitting there, ice tea in hand. Dixie took the corresponding rocker. Looking passed the porch railing that was more gray than white, to a field of cotton ripening in the fall sun, they sat companionable, sipping their tea. Southern snow. She could smell the tangy scent of cotton warm in the fields.

Joe took a swig of the tea, sighed contentedly, and said, “It sure was a pleasure to see your young friends at church today. I hope they’ll be coming back.”

Dixie looked at him, “that’s what I came to talk to you about. What did you think about Kenny, did you notice anything, well, different about him? I mean did he seem, was he, did you… Do you know what I mean?” she finished lamely.

Joe looked at her puzzled.

She plunged forward. “Did you notice that Kenny’s, well he’s gay, Joe.”

The old man’s eyebrows arched up, “well I’ll be durned,” he chuckled under his breath, “I guess that explains the painted finger nails. I just figured that’s what young people were wearing these days. Things change mighty fast, I can’t keep up – I just hang on.”

“He really appreciated how kind you were to him, Joe. What made you take the time to talk to him?”

“Oh, I saw the hunger in his eyes. Like a stray looking for a meal. I surely do hope he comes back. And your little friend too, he’s a bright boy.”

“My mother and Daniel don’t hope he comes back,” Dixie said softly, looking back over the fields. “They think I’m reckless to have invited him in the first place. Why doesn’t he offend you?” She looked back at Joe. “My daddy said you might be willing to spend some time with him. He told me to ask you why.”

“I guess your daddy figured I knew something about not fitting in. Dixie, your friend doesn’t offend me ’cause I got enough to deal with by taking care of my own offenses to be worried about anybody else’s offensiveness. I guess church is the best place to be for a young man like Kenny, struggling with the challenges of life.”

“Why can’t other people feel that way, Joe? Daddy seems worried not everyone will be so understanding. I think he’s right. Already I’ve gotten the cold shoulder from some of my friends, and definitely my mother. I know he’s different, but if they could hear his story. I can’t imagine people would be so willing to turn him away.”

“Stories are a powerful thing Dixie girl. They put a face on our fears. Some stories change us but sometimes we just can’t handle another person’s story. Sometimes it reminds us too much of our own.”

Dixie sat quietly thinking about Joe’s words. The sun sunk to the tree line, painting the fields with gold. Shadow and light mingled making strange shapes, distorting the landscape’s true form.

“Why aren’t you afraid of Kenny’s story?”

“Because I’ve made peace with my own, Dixie girl, a long time ago.  I’ve lived in the Delta all my life. It’s always been a poor area but when I was a young man times were so tough it was all a person could do to keep body and soul together.”

His watery blue eyes took on a wistful look as he stepped back through the years. “My family was poor. Daddy was a sharecropper, white trash folks would have called us. And I guess we were. I hoped for something better than digging in the dirt, scraping to get by. I could easily have dropped out of school, a lot of my friends did. But I stuck with my studies. I was determined to make something of myself. I went to Ole Miss in 1948.” He shook his head. “Law is seems like a lifetime ago. I had been too young to fight in the war. After it was over the whole country was bursting with optimism and potential. I didn’t want to be left out. I had never been out of the Delta before but I took the train to Oxford on my own. I don’t know how we paid for my education, everyone in the family scrimped and saved, I worked and studied all four years.”

“I met my sweet Ethel in Oxford. We got married when I graduated. I got a job in business right out of school in Vicksburg. We moved, starry-eyed and hopeful. Me determined I wouldn’t live like my parents had – hand to mouth every day.” Joe rambled on through his memories, sometimes quiet, thinking over his experiences, sometimes sharing them. “After our second son, Joe Jr., was born I just couldn’t seem to make ends meet with the growing demands of a family. I was still young, a few years shy of thirty. Temptation got the best of me and I took advantage of the business’ finances. One lie led to another and before I knew it I was in up to my chin. Worse yet, I found myself becoming a liar. The lies followed me home, everywhere I went.” He sighed deeply, shaking his head.

Looking at Dixie he said, “Being found out was the best and worst day of my life. I lost everything. But the spell of the lies was broken. I went to jail. Ethel and the boys went to live with her parents, the house was taken to pay the fines and restitution. I would work for several years to pay off the debt. Six months in jail gave me time to think, sort out what kind of man I’d become, get right with the good Lord. Eventually Ethel and the boys came back. ‘Course that’s a long story. Forgiveness doesn’t happen overnight. For a time I thought I’d never get a decent job again. We came back home and tried to start over. It wasn’t until Mr. Hamner at the city works gave me a job that I could feel hopeful again.”

He thought a minute. “But it wasn’t the job what changed me so much as someone taking the time to see me for what I was. In prison the Lord had showed me that any identity other than being his child just wasn’t enough. Bill Hamner didn’t see my record. He saw me as a person and gave me a chance. I can’t do any different.”

Dixie had known Joe McAllister her whole life and had never heard about his past. How many other people had stories she didn’t know? It was a thought to ponder. “Thank you for telling me your story, Joe.”

“Well, ’tis no secret little lady. I’m not proud of my past but I’m not ashamed of it either. Just thankful.”

“I guess that’s why I brought Kenny to church. If he can be around people like you, hear your story, know there’s hope maybe life will be different for him. My mother just doesn’t seem to realize that. She seems to think I’m just trying to ruin her life and my reputation.” The bitterness clung to her words more thickly than she intended.

In the gathering darkness she saw Joe’s eyes looking at her thoughtfully, “Your mamma has a story too you know. Don’t forget that little missy.”

“I suppose. But if that’s the case then why isn’t she more kind to Kenny?”

“Maybe his story hits too close to home. Maybe it makes her afraid.”

“It’s hard to think of mother being afraid of anything.” Dixie dismissed the thought quickly. “Would you be willing to spend some time with Kenny, Joe? I know he could use a friend. He doesn’t have family in his life.”

Joe rattled the ice in his cup and stroked his chin thoughtfully. “It’d be a pleasure. As long as he doesn’t mind an old coot like me.”

“I hardly think you’re an old coot. But I don’t doubt he could use your wise and compassionate influence.”

“Tell me when. My porch’ll be ready.”

The shadows enveloped the landscape as light gave up its claim. Dixie stood and stretched. “Thanks for the tea and conversation, Joe.”

“Any time, little lady, any time.” He moved to stand but Dixie stopped him.

“No need to get up. I’ll bring Kenny by for a chat soon, I hope. I’ll let you know.”

Joe nodded, “I’d like that. I’ll be looking for you all.”

Dixie hopped down from the porch and swung up into her truck. Crunching out of the drive she waved at the gentle old man rocking on his porch.  As she drove her mind replayed the conversation. Could her mother really have a painful story hidden away? Or was she just cold by nature? She certainly couldn’t see what she would be afraid of. Maybe she hadn’t asked the right questions to know what really was in her mother’s heart.

Check back and see what happens next in Dixie’s story.

So what did you think about Dixie’s story this week? Don’t leave me hanging, I’d love to know what worked and what didn’t. Please feel free to offer suggestions, ideas, and corrections.

{I encourage you to share this link with friends. But please don’t copy and paste, that way ownership of the story will never be in question. Thank you.}

Dixie Lee ~ Part 9

I’m glad you’re back as we forge ahead in Dixie’s story. This week was challenging, on a personal and writing level. I trust I was able to convey the right emotions in this week’s piece.

I hope you’ll continue joining me on Fridays as we dive into Dixie’s world. It’s my goal to post a section every week until the story is finished. I hope in the end these posts will turn into a full-fledged book. If you see a typo or feel a particular sentence or scene doesn’t work well feel free to let me know. This project will be the better for your collaboration!

And if you like the story the best way to pay me a compliment is to share it with a friend, or on your Facebook or twitter feed!

(If you need to catch up with the story you can start here.)

Dixie Lee

The house was quiet when Dixie walked back in later that afternoon. She expected her mom to be ready and waiting to face her down, but she wasn’t. Her brother and dad were in the den. Daniel called to her as she headed to the stairs.

Standing as she walked into the room he met Dixie head on.The siblings faced off, green eyes flashing.

“Dixie, what are you thinking, girl?” Hands on his hips her older brother looked like a smaller version of their dad.

She instantly bristled. “What are you talking about?” Her delicate chin jutted forward, lips drawn in a firm line. She loved her big brother but she wasn’t about to be parented by him.

“You know what I’m talking about. Why did you bring that, that queer to our house. You are a respectable young lady. Think of mama and daddy. Think of your reputation.”

“Kenny is my friend. If mother and daddy have a problem with him coming over they can speak to me about it, this isn’t your house.” The conversation was childish and she knew it. She turned to face her father who had his hands folded in his lap, one leg crossed over the other, his caramel colored head resting against the high back of his chair. His eyes were solemn, brow furrowed slightly.

“Dixie, what are you trying to accomplish, honey, by bringing that young man here? I understand your tender heart, but you’ve upset the whole family.”

“Are you upset daddy?” Dixie asked boldly.

“Not upset, myself, no. But your mother and Daniel certainly are.”

“But why,” turning back to her brother, “why be upset by someone coming to church and dinner? Just because he’s a stranger, a little different? It’s not like we haven’t ever seen a sinner before is it? That’s kind of the point of church from my understanding.” She shot the words out like she was firing a cannon aimed at their hearts.

“Dixie you don’t know what you’re getting in to.” Her brother annoyed her with his overprotective tone.

“No, I don’t think you do. I’m not backing down.” Her chin jutted more firmly. “Kenny cared about what you all thought of him. Daddy,” she turned her eyes back on the man she adored, “he respects you. You could influence him in a really positive way. He doesn’t have a dad.” She could see the lines around his green eyes soften thoughtfully. She had struck a nerve. He loved encouraging people.

“Honey, truly, your compassion is commendable.” He came to stand beside her and rest a gentle hand on her shoulder. “But you may be asking too much of people all at once. They aren’t used to seeing a young man like Kenny in church.”

“More’s the pity, daddy. They should be seeing people like Kenny sitting beside them. Mr. McAllister didn’t seem to have a problem with him.”

“Joe? No, I wouldn’t expect he did.”

“Why? Why would he not have a problem with Kenny?” Her heart quickened. Maybe this would be the answer.

“Dixie, you should go ask him that question yourself,” he answered softly.

Daniel sighed. “Dad are you not going to tell her to stay away from that boy? What will people think if she hangs around him?”

Her eyes flashed fire and she spit out, “Do I look like I care what people think, Daniel Lee?”

Her dad pulled her to him and hugged her tight, “calm down darlin’ no need to bite your brother’s head of.” Looking up to Daniel he said, “Our family is going to have to agree to disagree, there is no need to fight each other in this matter. We need to find a way to get along not tear each other up.” And then to Dixie, “You need to respect the feelings of your mother and brother in this matter Dixie. Tread softly. I know you care about what happens to this young man, but you need to care about the feelings of your family as well.”

He had a point, Dixie conceded. Of course she wouldn’t admit that. She was too mad. She felt like a runaway freight train on a collision course. There was no stopping, no turning back.

Daniel looked at her with a mixture of hurt and aggravation. “I’m going to see how Muriel’s doing with the baby. We need to get going.” Dixie watched as he stalked from the room.

Her father pulled her away and held her at arms length. “Dixie, go talk to Mr. McAllister this week. Joe has a kind heart and wisdom that may help you. Maybe he could invest in Kenny. And cut everyone else some slack. Your brother is just worried about you. He cares for you, regardless of what you may think.”

“So, you’re not telling me never to see Kenny again? That he can’t come to church?”

“I don’t think I could bring myself to say anyone is unwelcome at church. And I know you too well to forbid you from seeing Kenny. Besides, you’re an adult. I have to trust that your mother and I raised you right and that you’ll act on that training. I hope you’ll be cautious and think through your interaction with him. And I’d be glad to see you involve someone like Joe McAllister in befriending him.”

“What about you, daddy? Kenny really likes you. Why can’t you invest in him?”

“Dixie, I’m not sure you understand the implications for our church. There will be men on the board questioning me as it is. They will question my position on homosexuality for sure. If I spend time with Kenny they might think I condone his behavior.”

“Dad, that’s ridiculous! If you spend time encouraging a person going through a divorce or an alcoholic they wouldn’t think you condone those actions. Just that you care about people. What is it about homosexuality that freaks people out? He’s just a person. Don’t you see a person when you look at him?”

“A person with finger nail polish and eye liner,” he chuckled softly. “Dixie, you are the most head strong person I know. Can you not see how far outside of their comfort zone you’re asking people to go?”

“I guess so.” She tossed her head. “I just don’t see why we wouldn’t want to for another person’s well being. He has a heart, daddy, and it hurts. Why wouldn’t we want to meet him there? Did Jesus not meet every one of us in our most unpleasant places? Sometimes I look at our pretty, dressed up church and wonder if we’ve forgotten what we were.”

Her dad looked at her with a strange look. He didn’t say anything for a moment. Then he pulled her into a tight hug. “You’re somethin’ girl, you’re somthin’. Now go on and settle down. Think about something else for a while.”

She kissed his cheek and smiled. “Okay, daddy.”

On her way up the stairs she passed Daniel and Muriel coming down. She stroked her fuzzy headed little nephew and said goodbye to her brother.

Muriel put a gentle hand on her arm as they passed and smiled softly. “He’ll come around Dix. Be patient.”

She patted Muriel’s hand and smiled back. She wasn’t very good at being patient. Sighing she headed to her room. Pumpkin was waiting for her, stretched out luxuriously, as only a cat can, across her bed.

Dixie shut the door. Sitting beside Pumpkin she sighed again. Her furry friend stretched, showing her his cream colored belling, yawned and greeted her with a soft meow. “Hello, little muffin,” she cooed, scratching his belly. Stress melted like butter with Pumpkin around.

A soft tap broke the silence. Dixie involuntarily sighed. She had to stop doing that. “Come in.”

The door opened softly, just enough for her mother to be seen. “May I come in?”

Dixie nodded, unsure if she could keep the edge out of her voice.

Her mother came in and stood by her dresser. “Dixie, why do you insist on bringing that young man here against our wishes?” Her voice was soft and pleading.

Dixie remembered her father’s words; “you need to respect the feelings of your mother and brother.”

“I’m sorry mother, I just thought we could make a difference to him. He’s lonely and he seemed to like our family. He doesn’t have a family anymore. I won’t bring him back.”

“I hope you realize now what a mistake it was to give him a ride and befriend him.” Her mother seemed insistent in driving her point home.

Dixie flared. “No mother, I don’t. I didn’t say I was going to stop being his friend. I just said I wouldn’t bring him back here.”

“Dixie, dear,” her mother measured her words, “please consider what being friends with a person like that young man will mean to you in this community. Will mean to us. I think it will cost you more than you realize.”

“Mother,” Dixie felt weary, “can’t we just let this go. I know how you feel about it, and you know what I think. We’re not going to see eye to eye and I’m too tired to argue right now.”

“I’m worried about you Dixie, that’s all. I don’t think you’ve thought through this carefully. You’re impetuous and head strong.”

“And I don’t think you have taken time to see things from Kenny’s point of view. How would you feel if you had been abandoned by your family?”

“What do you expect his parents to do Dixie? Good, moral folks with a son, a son, like that.” She fairly spat the words.

Dixie looked at her shocked. “Mother! You’re not saying that you would do the same? You wouldn’t kick me out of the house if I said I was gay would you?”

She saw emotions she couldn’t read flicker across her mother’s eyes. Her mother said in low, resolved tones, “I certainly would.”

Dixie’s head spun. “Seriously? I don’t even know what to say to you. I can’t imagine being so cold. You must have a heart of ice, mother.” She swallowed the lump in her throat. “Please leave me alone.”

She saw hurt wash over her mothers face. Why couldn’t they just get along? Why were they always at odds?

Her mother’s mouth moved as if she wanted to say something. Instead she slipped quietly out of the room and shut the door behind her.

Dixie curled up next to Pumpkin on the bed. Hot tears slipped down her cheeks.

Come back next week as Dixie visits with Mr. McAllister.

Whew, that was intense. I question sometimes what I was thinking beginning a story of this nature. But I hope this isn’t a story about homosexuality so much as it’s a story about people. People with hurts, convictions, fears, secrets, hopes, and flaws. Just like every human we know. These characters are shaped by people I’ve met. People who, by God’s purposes, have changed my heart. We must learn to live, as Jesus did, with the tension of personal holiness, love for others, and obedience to the Father. It’s possible, though hard.

Dixie Lee ~ Part 8

For those of you who have been joining me on this journey of discovering Dixie’s story, thank you! I have a rough outline and idea of where we’re going but I find myself surprised along the way as characters take shape.

I hope you’ll continue joining me on Fridays as we dive into Dixie’s world. It’s my goal to post a section every week until the story is finished. I hope in the end these posts will turn into a full-fledged book. If you see a typo or feel a particular sentence or scene doesn’t work well feel free to let me know. This project will be the better for your collaboration!

And if you like the story the best way to pay me a compliment is to share it with a friend, or on your Facebook or twitter feed!

(If you need to catch up with Dixie’s story you can begin here.)

 

Dixie Lee

After dropping Gabriel off the ride to Dixie’s house was quiet. She and Kenny were lost in their own thoughts.

What had Mr. McAllister seen in Gabriel and Kenny that had caused him to take the time to be kind when no one else was? Or, maybe, the better question was, what had he seen in Jesus to cause him to be kind?

Where was that confidence she had felt in church? What was the passage she had read? The Word dwelt with us… glory… from the Father… grace and truth.

What was the truth? What was grace? All Dixie knew was that she was about to get people’s backs up, and if she was she had better know why. Sighing she shook herself loose from those heavy thoughts.

Kenny seemed to take her cue and shake himself loose as well. He looked over at her. “I’m glad Gabriel came with us today. He’s a cute little fella’.” He cleared his throat, “What’s wrong, I mean what’s the matter with him, his legs I mean.”

“Oh, I should have explained that to you. He has cerebral palsy. He was born that way. It affects movement, in Gabriel’s case mostly just his legs. He can explain it better.”

“Well, I really like him. Maybe his whole family will come to church next time.”

“I hope so too, Kenny.”

The conversation lulled again as they drove by a yard lit with the color of a stunning dogwood in full flame. The Mississippi Delta wasn’t painted with the full colors of fall her northern neighbors displayed, but a few trees put out an effort to mark the season. The Delta didn’t get a lot of things her neighbors did, come to think of it.

Looking out the window as they drove Kenny asked, “Do you believe what your daddy was talking about today? That Jesus really is God? I don’t know how I missed that before. But it makes all the difference, don’t it?”

“Yeah Kenny, it does make a difference, and I do believe it. I trust what the Bible and my daddy say. But I’ve also experienced God’s forgiveness because of Jesus. I don’t think any ordinary man has that kind of power.”

“Your dad, he’s real smart. I wish I knew as much as he does.” Kenny’s voice sounded wistful.

“He is smart, but everything he knows can be found in that Bible you’re holding. Start with John, Kenny, and see what you learn.”

Regardless of his rough past, and unpopular lifestyle, Dixie couldn’t help but be drawn to Kenny’s sincerity. She found herself rooting for the underdog.

They pulled up to the Lee’s immaculate home. She parked her blue truck alongside her mother’s white Toyota Camry and took a deep breath. Whatever it was Jesus and Mr. McAllister saw in Kenny she wanted to be brave and see it too. She just hoped she could help her family see it as well.

Dixie and Kenny entered the house through the kitchen. Sunday’s pot roast filled the air with a rich aroma that made her stomach rumble. She hoped Kenny didn’t sense her nervousness. Voices drifted from the dining room. Dixie led Kenny through the hall and into the room stylishly decorated by her mother.

The family was seated around a large cherry table laid with the family’s Sunday best, a grandmother’s silver, her mother’s old-fashioned Lenox china in Brookdale with its dainty flowers and silver trim. Daniel and his wife Muriel were seated to the right of Dixie’s daddy. Her mother to the left.

Had Dixie understood the undercurrent she was trying to swim against in her family and small community she may have hesitated. Instead the force of her personality led the way. She stepped boldly into the dinning room and said, perhaps a little too loudly, “Hey folks! Daniel, Muriel, I’d like you to meet Kenny.”

The room was hushed as Kenny stepped forward smiling, “Nice to meet y’all.”

“Dixie, dear,” her mother’s hand gestured to the chair beside her, “have a seat, and your friend can sit at the end there.”

Daniel and Muriel both murmured polite hellos to Kenny, though Dixie noted veiled animosity behind her brother’s eyes. Dixie’s dad, Richard, who was in the process of serving the excellent pot roast smiled, “Kenny, good of you to join us. It was a surprise to see you in church today.” He shot his daughter a meaningful glance.

Dixie felt the heat rise to her cheeks. Daddy was such a good man, she hated for him to be disappointed in her. It was thoughtless of her to have surprised him. She shoved the thought to the recesses of her mind. “Daddy,” she said, her freckles popping and green eyes flashing, “Kenny enjoyed your sermon today, I thought he might enjoy dinner and further conversation. We were talking about the importance of Jesus being not only a man but also God.” She looked between the two of them.

Had Dixie been in her father’s head it would have sounded something like this: “How I love this daughter, her vivacity and determination, but she will be my undoing.” He was sure of it. He didn’t know whether to chuckle or to sigh.

Dixie waited expectantly for her father to take the bait of conversation. Kenny’s face was eager. Across from her she noticed her brother’s brows knitted together, quizzical and unapproving.

She nudged a little further, “I gave him one of the pew Bibles daddy, I knew you wouldn’t mind. He didn’t have one of his own.”

“Well, son,” he bit, “I hope you’ll take the time to read the book of John. It answers just about any question regarding Jesus you may have. John knew Jesus personally, we can trust his account. His gospel begins by establishing Jesus’ divinity. That is, that Jesus really is God. And also reminds us that he became a man. Why do you think that might be important Kenny?”

Dixie smiled to herself triumphantly. Her father couldn’t fight who he was, a teacher. There was nothing he loved more than to explain the Bible to others, especially those in need of direction.

“Well, sir, I suppose it’s cause if Jesus was just a man when he died on that cross he would have just stayed dead.”

“Good observation, Kenny. Of course God can raise any man from the dead but the death of Jesus, had he been only a man, would have been ineffective for us. One man can hardly die for the sins of the whole world and be an effective substitute. Only a pure sacrifice, who had never sinned would do. And only Jesus fit that bill. Jesus is where God and man meet and the issue of separation is finally settled.”

“Richard, I do believe you’re on the verge of preaching another sermon. Why don’t you say grace for us and we can eat.” Sharon placed a slender hand overtop of her husband’s as she spoke. A hand of restraint Dixie frustratedly observed.

“Good idea, Sharon,” he said taking her cue. Looking at the whole table he said, “Let’s pray. Gracious Father, thank you for this food that you have provided and for the people around this table. We pray our conversations would be seasoned with truth and we would be ever grateful for the gift of your Son. Amen.”

Plates had been passed and filled with pot roast while the conversation was unfolding. Now rolls, homemade applesauce, and pea salad were passed around the table.

Sharon directed her attention to her side of the table and asked Muriel how baby Jackson had been sleeping lately. Soft spoken Muriel confessed he was a restless sleeper and she was worn out. To which Sharon proceeded to offer advice and opinion on how to get a baby to sleep.

Richard asked Daniel if he had had any difficult cases at the law firm, of which he was a junior partner, lately. Daniel began a storied answer about disputed boundaries between some colorful locals.

That left Kenny and Dixie quietly enjoying their pot roast. The window for conversation with Kenny had passed and an awkward chill had settled over their end of the table. Dixie doubted that Kenny realized he was being snubbed but she could read his discomfort.

“Your mom makes a great pot roast, Dixie.”

Dixie suddenly noticed how out of place Kenny looked in her mother’s fine dinning room with his country ways and unique appearance.

“I agree Kenny, I love her pot roast!” She wished she could say or do something to make him feel more at ease.

Softly, as he studied the contents of his plate, Kenny said, “Don’t think I’ve ever been in a home this nice or with a family so fine.” She wasn’t sure if the comment was directed at her or to himself.

Dixie’s heart squeezed tightly. Why couldn’t everyone else see what she saw in Kenny? Not a threat but a great need.

The rest of the meal passed in quiet conversation. Her brother never spoke to Kenny but kept himself involved in other conversations, none of which Kenny could follow. Dixie consoled herself with the fact that at least no one had been overtly rude. Dinner was followed by dessert, old-fashioned caramel cake. As soon as dessert was finished Muriel and Sharon began clearing the table. Dixie noted the meal had not been lingered over as the family usually did on a Sunday afternoon.

Dixie took her cue and stood saying, “Well Kenny, I should get you home.”

As the young man stood to follow her Richard and Daniel interrupted their conversation to say goodbye. She led him back through the hall and into the kitchen where Muriel and her mother were putting away leftovers.

“Thank you Mrs. Lee for the delicious meal, that was the best pot roast I’ve ever ate.”

Her mother turned from the kitchen counter. “You’re welcome Kenny, I’m glad you enjoyed it.” And then turned back to her task.

“Goodbye Kenny, it was nice to meet you. I hope we’ll see you again soon,” offered gentle Muriel.

Dixie could see her mother’s back stiffen.

She led him out of the kitchen and into the warm afternoon air. Bees droned and children laughed in the distance. A sudden weariness descended on Dixie as she opened the pickup door.

The pair rode in contented quiet, fighting off the drowsiness of the afternoon. Dixie crunched into the gravel drive of the trailer.

Kenny turned his sincere blue eyes on her, “Dixie, thank you for bringing me with you. I really enjoyed it. Maybe I can go to church with you again next Sunday?”

“Of course you can, Kenny. I’ll talk to you later this week.” He slipped out the door. “Bye.” Why shouldn’t he, she had already waded into that muddy water.

Check back next week to see how Dixie handles challenged relationships, small town gossip, and her mother.

Once again thanks for sticking with me! I feel like Dixie’s story is important to tell and I appreciate those of you who are listening. I’d love to hear how you think the story is working so far!

{I encourage you to share this link with friends. But please don’t copy and paste, that way ownership of the story will never be in question. Thank you.}

Dixie Lee ~ Part 7

It’s that time again! Here’s the next part of Dixie’s story. I enjoyed writing this week’s scene, though I always feel like there’s more to write as the clock breaths down my neck!

I hope you’ll join me every Friday for the continuing story of Dixie Lee. It’s my goal to post a section every week until the story is finished. I hope in the end these posts will turn into a full fledged book. If you see a typo or feel a particular sentence or scene doesn’t work well feel free to let me know. This project will be the better for your collaboration!

And if you like the story the best way to pay me a compliment is to share it with a friend, or on your facebook or twitter feed!

(If you need to catch up with Dixie’s story you can begin here.)

Dixie Lee

On the ride to church Kenny and Gabriel chatted pleasantly. Dixie was surprised how comfortably Kenny interacted with Gabriel. He was good with kids.

By the time the trio pulled into the church parking lot her two guests had become friends. Dixie’s heart was racing. They were late. Any hope of quietly hiding in a back pew was gone. Kenny helped her get Gabriel out of the truck and situated with his crutches. Slowly they crunched their way across the gravel parking lot, Kenny and Dixie on either side of Gabriel to help steady him.

Everything in Dixie was straining to move faster. But there was nothing to be done about it, Gabriel set the pace. Finally they made it to the white church’s double doors. They were opened by deacon Peal. He smiled and offered a bulletin. “I see you brought a little friend with you today Dixie.” Leaning down towards Gabriel he said, “Hello buddy, glad to have you.”

The three made their way to the doors of the sanctuary. Organ music was filtering into the small lobby. Dixie peered through the narrow windows in the doors. Everyone was standing, she couldn’t tell where any empty seats were. Straightening her shoulders she pulled open one of the doors and let Gabriel pass through, followed by Kenny. A couple of ushers came toward them. She didn’t need to be told where the empty seats were, she knew, but she greeted them warmly and followed one of the men down the center isle. They moved slowly. First Dixie, then Gabriel, followed by Kenny. Every head turned and followed their progress down the isle until they came to the second pew. Dixie’s mother looked up sharply. First confusion, then surprise flashed across her face in one brief second. Immediately she checked her response and set her jaw. Dixie saw the steel come into her eye as she moved down to make room for Dixie and her entourage.

The song leader finished “‘T’is So Sweet To Trust In Jesus” and asked the congregation to be seated. Dixie helped Gabriel get situated on the smooth wooden pew. Her father stood to welcome the congregation. Briefly she caught his eye. She saw the question flash across his face as he quickly took in the scene before him. In that moment Dixie’s heart caught and she was ashamed. It was inconsiderate of her not to have told her dad that she was bringing Kenny and Gabriel. After all these years as a pastor’s daughter she should have known it was unfair to surprise him. How many times had she seen people approach him with a concern or complaint right before he preached and watched as he struggled to regain his composure?

Casting a sidelong glance at the little blond boy and young man beside her her heart sank. Maybe this was going to be harder than she thought. She could feel the eyes of a hundred people boring into her back. Her father began preaching. His words floating around her. Kenny’s head was back lit by one of the stained glass windows that lined the white sanctuary. The one where little children all gathered around Jesus sitting on a rock.

Dixie had always loved the simple, old fashioned building. The pews were satiny from years of use, glowing with a rich patina. Her dad’s pulpit was solid and timeless, matching the two sturdy chairs on the platform behind him. She doubted much in the sanctuary had changed in the last century.

Again she cast a sidelong glance at Kenny. His face was intent, taking in her dad’s words. It had been such a busy morning she hadn’t really had time to notice his appearance earlier. She hoped no one else would notice the earring and eyeliner he was wearing. Her eyes swept over him briefly, assessing the situation. Was he wearing nail polish? Yes, yes, he was. Dark brown that matched his tan stripped shirt. Great.

Sighing, Dixie looked down at Gabriel. Sweet little thing. His hands rested gently in his lap. Dark lashes blinked solemnly over bright eyes. His face looked as intent as Kenny’s though perhaps more peaceful.

Turning her attention back to her dad Dixie tried to ignore the ramrod straight figure of her mother to the left of her. Her dad was saying, “John had walked with Jesus, touched Jesus, loved Jesus. When we read his gospel we know we’re hearing from someone who has the inside scoop. Right from the first verses of his gospel John tells us that Jesus was no ordinary man. He’s the one through whom the whole of creation was made, he is very life and light itself. God had put on skin and moved into our neighborhood. Darkness has not overcome the light, John says. But the light has come to point the way.”

Dixie remembered her dad telling her he was starting a new sermon series on the book of John. As she read along in the first chapter renewed confidence surged through her heart. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory,the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Could that not be the answer? Grace and truth. Jesus was full of both. Not sacrificing one for the other. What if we were? Isn’t that what Kenny needed from God and from people? Truth to make sense of his life and set it right, and grace to meet him where he was and help him find his way. The hesitation and doubt left Dixie and courage flickered, lighting her face.

She turned her eyes back to her dad and listened with renewed interest. He concluded his sermon and the song leader, Mr. Jenkins, came up to lead them in “Blessed Assurance.” At the end of the song her father stood up and prayed over the congregation, blessing them for the week ahead.

Dixie turned to Gabriel and helped him with his crutches. The little boy turned his sweet face up to her and said, “I liked the singing a lot. I have missed singing in church.” Dixie smiled and squeezed his shoulder. She turned toward Kenny.

“I had never heard that about Jesus before. I liked your dad’s message.”

“Do you have a Bible Kenny?” Dixie asked him.

“Not with me, my mom’s bible is somewhere at my dad’s house.”

Impulsively Dixie grabbed one of the Bible’s from the pew and held it out to him. “Here take this one.”

Kenny looked surprised. “I can’t take that, it belongs to the church.”

“Nonsense, Bibles are for being used. If you need one that’s what it’s for. Take it and read the book of John this week for yourself.”

He hesitated and then smiled reaching for the book. “Okay, I will. Thank you.”

Dixie’s mother, Sharon, was engaged in conversation so the three headed down the isle toward the back doors. Dixie glanced up and caught Sadie’s eye. In a moment she read her thoughts. Sadie made her way to them and stood by Dixie’s elbow.

Under her breath Sadie whispered in Dixie’s ear, “Dixie, what are you doing?”

Dixie turned to her friend and said aloud, “Sadie I’d like you to meet my friends, Gabriel and Kenny.”

Sadie was caught off guard for a moment. Her good manners took over and she said, “Hello, it’s nice to meet you.” She turned her attention to Gabriel, “Dixie’s told me about you. I’m glad you could come to church with her this morning. How is school going for you?”

Gabriel responded politely, “It’s going real well. I like Manning Academy.”

Sadie smiled at him, then turning back to Dixie said, “well I’ve got to get going, I’ll see you later.” And she hurried to join her family. Dixie’s heart sank for just a moment. Surely Sadie would come around. She was the sweetest person Dixie knew.

As the three continued down the isle Dixie caught Bo Sheridan’s eye. Dixie stopped beside him. He was handsome in his light blue oxford shirt and khakis, his gray eyes twinkling. “Hey Bo. How are you?”

“Good Dixie. I haven’t seen you since the race the other night. You been workin’ to hard?”

“No, not really.”

“Well how about after the race next Friday we grab something to eat?”

“All right, I’ll plan on it.” Turning to Kenny and Gabriel Dixie said, “Hey, Bo, I’d like you to meet my friends Kenny and Gabriel.”

Bo turned his attention to them. Dixie saw his face cloud as he took in her guests. He hesitated, then replied, “Nice to meet you boys. Glad you could come today.”  Turning back to Dixie he said, “Well Dix, guess I’ll see you Friday then, looks like the family’s leaving without me.” Dixie knew he had driven separately, she’d seen his truck in the parking lot. But she told him goodbye as he turned to go.

Mr. McAllister was standing by her elbow as they turned again to head to the door. “Oh Mr. McAllister, how are you?”

He reached out both of his bony, age freckled hands and clasped one of hers in a friendly hand shake. “Good, Dixie, I’m good. I see you’ve brought some guests.” And turning he stuck out his hands to her friends, “I’m Joe McAllister, so glad to have you.”

He was a small, old gentleman, clad in a light brown suite three decades out of date. Wispy white hair was smoothed back over his age spotted head. His watery blue eyes were smiling at Kenny and Gabriel.

“Mr. McAllister, these are my friends Kenny and Gabriel. Gabriel is in my music class at Manning Academy.”

The old man was patting Gabriel’s shoulder. “Good, good, Dixie’s a fine musician isn’t she young man? So glad she brought you along with her today.”

He turned and rested his hand on Kenny’s shoulder, “And how do you know Dixie, Kenny?”

Dixie held her breath. “She gave me a ride home last week, sir. I was having kind of a bad day and she was a good friend to me,” Kenny answered.

“Well now that’s our Dixie isn’t it? I hope you’re doing better now son. I’ll be praying for you. I’m very glad you joined us today and sure hope you know you’re welcome back any time.”

“I appreciate that Mr. McAllister,” Kenny said, and Dixie saw he meant it.

“Joe, call me Joe, young man.” And turning to Dixie said, “Well little lady, I guess you need to get these young men home but I’m sure glad you brought them today.” He reached out and cupped Gabriel’s fresh cheek with his worn hand, “sure glad.”

Dixie could feel the tears pushing a lump up in her throat, “Thank you Mr. McAllister,” she responded.

The three had just turned to head back to the door when Dixie’s mother approached, “I’ll see you at home Dixie, once you’ve dropped your guests off.” She didn’t great either of them.

“Mother, this is Gabriel,” Dixie said smiling down at the boy, “And you know Kenny.” They both smiled at the commanding woman dressed elegantly in plum colored wool. “I’m going to drop Gabriel off,” Dixie continued, “but I thought it would be nice if Kenny joined us for lunch. He enjoyed Daddy’s sermon and I thought he may want to discuss it with him.” She had her mother cornered and she knew it.

“Very well.” Sharon’s tight lips clipped out the words, her green eyes where impenetrable depths. She turned to go, “I’ll see you at home.” Dixie knew so much lay behind those words.

“All right guys, let’s see if we can make it out the door this time.”

Dixie and Kenny loaded Gabriel in the truck and headed to his house.

“I like Mr. McAllister,” Kenny said. “He was kind.”

“Me too,” piped up Gabriel. “But my favorite was the singing. I loved the singing.”

Dixie smiled, she was glad Gabriel had found such enjoyment in the hymns, and she was touched and relieved at Mr. McAllister’s kindness. Had he not noticed Kenny’s appearance? Maybe he didn’t see well enough to notice. Or maybe he had and didn’t care.

Come back next week to see how lunch with Kenny and Dixie’s mother goes!

So what did you think? I’m always interested in feedback. I don’t think I’ve ever written anything as challenging or as important as Dixie’s story. I believe God has given us story to teach us how to think through the reality of our lives and express ideas more clearly. Jesus used story better than anyone else. He brought truth home in contexts his listener could understand. Stories go beyond our heads and touch our hearts. I’m learning so much as I write Dixie’s story. I hope it’s reaching your heart as much as it is mine.

You can follow this blog, by clicking the button to the right that says follow, so you don’t miss any of Dixie’s story.

{I encourage you to share this link with friends. But please don’t copy and paste, that way ownership of the story will never be in question. Thank you.}

Dixie Lee – Part 6

Well it’s been another crazy week. Late again getting Dixie’s story posted, but never-the-less here it is. It’s a much shorter entry. But I’m going to post what I have and pick it up again next week. If you need to catch up you can read the first part of Dixie Lee’s story here.

I try to post the continuing story of Dixie Lee every Friday. I’ll be writing her story, which I hope will turn into a full fledged book, every week until it’s finished. I could use your help in making the story better. If you see a typo or feel a particular sentence doesn’t work well feel free to let me know. This project will be the better for your collaboration!

If you like the story the best way to pay me a compliment is to share it with a friend!

Dixie Lee

A couple of peaceful days had passed since Sunday’s altercation. School was going well and Dixie felt at home among the staff and students. Teaching with Ms. Bushnell was a real pleasure. Dixie had found in the music teacher a kindred spirit.

On Wednesday the thick humidity broke and the air held a delicious hint of fall. The summer had grown old and tattered. The trees were just beginning to surrender their leaves. After school Dixie hopped in her old truck and headed out to the river. She wanted to call Kenny but didn’t want to risk being overheard at home. The fallout wasn’t something she felt like dealing with today. No doubt she would deal with it, but she would avoid it as long as possible.

Old man river called her, and the fresh air was a balm. She pulled up to the sprawling oak on the river bank where she and Kenny had last spoken. Settling herself between the tree’s roots she dialed the number Kenny had given her. Butterflies danced in her stomach.

One ring, two rings, “Hello,” Kenny’s voice twanged in her ear.

“Hi Kenny, it’s me Dixie. I was just calling to check on you to see if you were settling okay at your friends house.”

His voice sounded really pleased on the other end. “Thanks Dixie! Yes I am doing fine here. I still need to find a job but I like living here. Dad hasn’t bothered me at all.”

“Good Kenny, I’m glad to hear it.”

Awkward silence filled the air.

“Are you feeling better than the last time we spoke?” Dixie ventured.

Pause.

Softly Kenny responded. “Dixie, I’m still a gay kid who’s Daddy doesn’t want him and who’s Mamma is gone. Honestly, I’m a little depressed. I’m thankful my friend is letting me stay here but I’d rather have my family.”

“I know Kenny, I’m sorry.” Dixie took a deep breath and collected her thoughts for a moment. “Kenny, would you like to come to church with me on Sunday?” Then, before she lost all nerve, “and why don’t you come have lunch with our family after?”

“I’d like that Dixie. I enjoyed dinner at your house the other day. What time does church start?”

“It starts at 10:00. I’ll come pick you up by 9:45, okay?”

“That sounds good. Thank you for thinking of me Dixie. You didn’t have to.”

“I’m glad to Kenny. See ya’ Sunday.”

Dixie sat with the cool breeze on her face, her heart pounding and mind spinning. What had she just done?

“The right thing,” her heart answered.

It was the right thing. But in the process she had defied her mother, and she would pay for it. Why was her mother so unfeeling to this sad young man? How could she help her see he wasn’t a threat but just someone needing to be cared for? Dixie hoped her Dad would understand and support her decision.

Dixie sat by the river for a long while. Her untamed head rested on the enduring strength of the oak. The secrets of the river bubbled up in song and washed over her, through her. How many years had Old Man River sung his murky music? Mockingbirds scolded and copied in the branches overhead. A comical ground hog waddled along the bank. Her heart settled. Her mind stilled.

“God,” she whispered, “what do you think about all this?”

No lighting or voice answered. Just the ever moving river; always changing, always constant. That was life wasn’t it, changing and constant.

For better or worse Dixie would bring with her two very unique people on Sunday. She didn’t see how she could do otherwise. The religion of her youth was crumbling in the face of humanity’s very real need. Her heart insisted she choose compassion over expectation.

Perhaps she should have warned her parents. But instead Dixie slipped out early Sunday morning while her mother was in her bedroom and her dad had already left for church.

She headed for Gabriel’s house first. She had checked with his parents during the week to make sure it was okay to pick him up. They were pleased Dixie wanted to take him to church and spoke of a visit themselves in the future.

Dixie knocked on the dark green front door and waited. Lindsey, Gabriel’s petite mother opened the door. Her blue eyes, so like her son’s, smiled up at her. “Miss Dixie, come in. Gabriel is so excited to go with you this morning. Thank you for thinking of him.”

“It’s my pleasure. Gabriel is a special young man. As I’m sure you know!”

They walked together to the front room where Gabriel’s father, Joe, was helping him put on his jacket.

“Good morning Ms. Lee!” called the little boy cheerfully.

“Hey buddy! You ready?”

“Yes ma’am!”

Gabriel’s soft blonde hair was combed neatly. His little button up shirt matched his eyes. His parents helped him up and they started to the door. As his dad lifted and settled him into Dixie’s truck his mother spoke quietly to Dixie. “If the service isn’t long Gabriel shouldn’t need to use the restroom. But if he does he will need assistance if there is no handicap stall. I still take him to the ladies room if he needs help.” Her eyes held the worry of a mother reluctant to trust her son to new circumstances.

“No worries,” Dixie placed her hand on Lindsey’s shoulder. “We’ll be just fine.”

His mom had already gone over the basics with Dixie on the phone earlier that week. It wasn’t Gabriel Dixie was worried about.

By the time they had loaded Gabriel in it was later than Dixie would have liked. Gabriel waved to his parents as they pulled away. She headed down the road to pick up Kenny. By the time she swung in to the gravel drive it was past 9:50. It had taken longer to load up Gabriel than she expected.

Kenny was by the front door waiting for her. He waved and trotted briskly to the truck. He opened the door and paused as he saw Gabriel sitting in the front seat by Dixie.

“Kenny this is my friend Gabriel, he’s joining us this morning.”

Kenny stuck out his hand, which Gabriel shyly took, “Hey, it’s nice to meet you Gabriel.” Then he slid up on the seat and slammed the door.

Looking at Dixie Kenny observed, “We’re an interesting group aren’t we?”

She chuckled, “I suppose we are.”

Then turning to Gabriel Kenny asked, “How old are you Gabriel?”

“I’m eight.”

“So, how’d Dixie get you to go to church with her?”

“She asked me to go and I wanted to. She’s nice.” replied the little boy, smiling.

“She is nice buddy.”

Check back next week to see what happens when they get to church! What will people think?

What did you think about this week’s story? Was there anything you really liked, anything you didn’t like? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below!

Also, you can follow this blog, by clicking the button to the right that says follow, so you don’t miss any of Dixie’s story.

{I encourage you to share this link with friends. But please don’t copy and paste, that way ownership of the story will never be in question. Thank you.}

Dixie Lee ~ Part 5

Whew what a week! I’m late getting the next part of Dixie’s story posted, but better late than never! If you need to catch up you can read the first part of Dixie Lee’s story here.

I try to post the continuing story of Dixie Lee every Friday. I’ll be writing her story, which I hope will turn into a full fledged book, every week until it’s finished. I could use your help in making the story better. If you see a typo or feel a particular sentence doesn’t work well feel free to let me know. This project will be the better for your collaboration!

If you like the story the best way to pay me a compliment is to share it with a friend!

Dixie Lee

Dixie retreated from Angela’s home as quickly as she could. Sliding behind the wheel of her truck she rested her head briefly on the steering wheel, blinking back hot tears and breathing past the lump in her throat.

Her perception of life, people, and church was unraveling. How many years had it been that she’d known Angela? In all that time she had never questioned what it felt like to walk in her shoes.

She heard a soft tap on her window and looked up. There stood Mrs. Murphy, compassion crinkled the edge of her eyes. Dixie rolled down the window. Mrs. Murphy reached her hand in and rested it on Dixie’s arm.

“Don’t you fret baby girl. Truly open minded people don’t have an agenda and I’ve met precious few of those in my life. It’s hard to be different from what you know. Just keep your mind and heart and ears open and you’ll be okay.”

An agenda? Did she have an agenda for Kenny? Did the church have an agenda to attract or repel certain people? She didn’t have the answers to those questions. But a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach told her she needed to ask them.

“Yes ma’am. Thank you.” Mrs. Murphy squeezed her arm, smiled and turned to go in.

Rolling up the window Dixie started the old truck. Heaving a sigh she backed from her friend’s driveway. Now she had more questions than she’d started with and she didn’t feel any better at all.

The thought flickered through her mind, “what must God think of these things?”

Truly she didn’t know. Not really.

She did not call Kenny or see him again that weekend. And yet he was the shadow that stalked her, never far from her mind. On Sunday she sat on the second pew to the left, beside her mother. She greeted the same smiling ladies, older gentlemen, freckled children she did every Sunday. On this day her eyes were different though, she felt as though she were looking through someone else’s. Everyone was so very… white, and clean, and well dressed. She had never noticed before how much alike they all were.

Where did everyone else go to church? Or did they?

She was quiet at lunch. Her mother chattered about the upcoming ladies tea, hosting Glenda Sue’s baby shower, and a variety of other niceties. Her father nodded and responded when appropriate. Dixie’s brother Daniel and his wife Muriel were polite and attentive. But Dixie was distracted, lost in her own musings as the conversation swirled around her.

“You aren’t still stewing about that boy are you Dixie?” Dixie’s eyes snapped to her mother’s face, she hadn’t realized she was being spoken to.

“We won’t speak any more of the incident. There is no need to fret about it dear,” her mother reassured.

“What boy?” her bother asked curiously, looking between them.

Oh, great, Dixie thought to herself. That’s just what she needed, a family discussion at the dinner table about her ‘indiscretion’. Daniel was the golden boy. Four years older, a young lawyer with a new baby and lovely wife, he was heady on the good things of life. Despite his glowing reputation and paternal attitude he and Dixie had a pleasant relationship. Lately though he was beginning to annoy her with his self assured, successful posture.

“Dixie brought home a hitch-hiker to dinner the other night. A young gay man, of all things.”

“Seriously, Dixie?” She could hear the surprise and derision in Daniel’s tone.

Her father cleared his throat. “I’m not sure it was as sordid as all that,” he interjected. “I understand Dixie thought she was approaching a young woman on the road when she stopped and found herself caught up in an unusual situation. It was just kindness she was trying to show.”

Dixie’s eyes met her dad’s and softened, a knowing, warm look passed between them.

Her mom refused to let go. “Perhaps so Richard but I hardly think it was necessary to bring him home to dinner. And ever since you’ve been quite sullen, Dixie. I hope you aren’t fretting over the matter, that’s all dear.”

“Actually, mother I wasn’t thinking about Kenny just now. I was thinking about other things. At the moment I was wondering why no black people attend our church.” She shot back acidly.

The room fell silent. Sweet Muriel cleared her throat, “I need to check on baby Jackson.”

Her dark hair swung across her face as she bent to get up from the table. As her slim figure disappeared from the dinning room Dixie felt guilty. She could imagine how uncomfortable Muriel must feel.

“What on earth…” her mother began, but her father stopped her quickly.

“I think that’s quite enough Sharon. Let’s save this conversation for another time.”

“No, I think…” her mother began again but this time Dixie put an end to the conversation.

“I’ve lost my appetite,” she said standing. “Excuse me I’m really finished with this conversation.” Dixie stalked from the room. Her red hair flashing a warning sign to anyone who might attempt to follow.

Upstairs she sank wearily to her bed. Sighing she slipped off her heals and stretched out her legs. Tomorrow was the beginning of a fresh week. She was looking forward to getting back to school and working with the students. It would be a good distraction from the rising tension at home.

The next afternoon found Dixie perched on the edge of a picnic table under a sprawling oak, observing the antics of a couple dozen 3rd graders during recess. Beside her, balanced on the bench, sat Gabriel. His hands rested on the tops of his crutches. Wide, blue eyes took in the movements of his peers. Dixie was keeping him company as he rested from the exertion of trying to keep up. Tentatively Dixie cast him a sidelong glance. His face was intent on the fun his classmates were having. His soft mouth curved slightly with pleasure in his small, pale face.

“What are you thinking Gabriel?” Dixie heard herself ask.

He turned expressive eyes on her and blinked solemnly for a moment. “I was thinking I’m glad to see other people who are healthy. It makes me happy seeing kids enjoying running around in the sun.”

Dixie blinked in surprise. “You are? It doesn’t make you feel bitter to see other kids enjoying something you can’t?”

The little boy turned back for a moment and watched the motion and color of bodies speeding by. “No. Why should I resent something someone else is enjoying? If everyone else had a disability it wouldn’t make me feel better and I would miss out on watching their fun.”

“Well I must say, Gabriel, that’s a pretty mature attitude. A lot of adults could do with a dose of your wisdom. Where do thoughts like that come from?”

“My parents started teaching me when I was very young that God has a purpose for my life and if I fought him because I thought my circumstances were unfair I might miss it. I wouldn’t want to miss something as important as that.”

Tears stung the back of Dixie’s eyes. Gabriel wasn’t her son but her heart burst with pride for the little fellow, she couldn’t imagine how proud his mother must be of him.

“Where does your family go to church, Gabriel?”

“We don’t go very often, mostly just at Christmas when my grandparents visit,” he answered.

“Oh, I’m surprised, I would have thought with that kind of faith you would attend church.,” responded Dixie lamely.

“Well,” said Gabriel thoughtfully, “I’d like to. And I think my mom and dad would as well. But it’s challenging for me to get around at most churches and I know by the end of the week my parents are already tired. They’ve had to bring me to school all week and take care of my little sister and brother too. I remember one Sunday school I went to when I was six told my mom it would be best if I stayed with her in big church because they didn’t have enough space and helpers for me. I remember that upset my mom so much she didn’t want to go back to church for a long time.” His voice trailed off and his eyes wandered back to the children playing.

“Oh, Gabriel, I’m sorry. That must have been very disappointing.” What could she say to such an injustice? They sat quietly and reflectively, watching the antics before them. Suddenly Laura Parson’s yelled as she tripped and fell, hitting her head. Dixie jumped up and ran to check on the little girl. After a bit of inspection and consoling it was determined she would live. Just as quickly as she was down she was up again and back in the fray.

Dixie ambled back to her spot beside Gabriel. She smiled and sat beside him again. She liked his easy companionship and sincerity.

“Miss Lee,” he turned his solemn eyes on her, “you shouldn’t feel too bad that my family doesn’t go to church. We worship Jesus every Sunday at home. I think he understands.” His blonde hair ruffled in the cool breeze. The green and gold jacket fit at angles on his frame. She studied him for minute thinking.

“Gabriel, I think he most certainly understands your heart. But I’m afraid he may not understand the churches’. When Jesus commanded his disciples in the book of Matthew to let the little children come to him I’m pretty sure he meant all children.” She paused. “Will you come to church with me this Sunday Gabriel. I would be happy to pick you up and bring you. Your parents are welcome as well, of course. But either way I’d like to come get you and take you with me as my friend.”

His china eyes twinkled, spilling sunlight. “Miss Lee, it would be my pleasure.” He drawled with a smile.

Dixie threw back her head and laughed. Ruffling his hair she smiled, “well I look forward to it. I’ll pick you up at 9:30. Now let’s get these hooligans rounded up and back into class.”

Come back next week to see if Gabriel makes it to church with Dixie and if Dixie gets up the courage to see Kenny again!

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