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.}

Advertisements

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.}