Natasha runs off to put the daylilies in a vase of water while Chastity escorts us to the dining area. The table is set with all the fixings, seven place settings, and a high chair for Annika stands at the end of the table where an eighth place setting would normally be. When Natasha joins us, she’s accompanied by Zeven holding hands.
We all take our seats, the way everything works out, Natasha ends up sitting across from me. Today she sports a blue, faux peacock feather in her hair. It matches her dangling, lab-made sapphire earrings. Zeven has frosted the tips of his black Mohawk with blue to match Natasha’s color phase fascination with blue. Looking at the two of them, side by side, they do look like a cute couple. Their features complement each other, and will one day blend well together… if… they’re meant to be together…
Chastity asks dad to say grace, we all take hands and bow our heads.
“Dear heavenly father, thank you for this gathering of friends. Thanks for the food you’ve provided for the Lane household and we’re grateful they’re sharing it with us. We ask that this food be blessed, and especially, our time together. Thank you for all that you do. In Jesus’s precious holy name, Amen.” The rest of us follow suit and say a collective amen.
Chastity hands the main course, meat loaf, to dad and allows him to serve himself. Natasha picks up the basket of crescent rolls and takes one as she passes the basket to Zeven. Zeven does the same, continuing to pass it on to Chastity. Zeven grabs the bowl of green beans and serves Natasha a few spoonfuls on her plate. Graciously, she thanks him with a peck on the cheek. They’ve been dating for a week, and they’re already at the kissing phase? Getting through this dinner is going to be harder than I thought.
Chastity kicks off the table talk by telling my mother, “The flowers are gorgeous Becky.”
“They are, aren’t they? Actually,” mom starts to say.
“Daylilies are my favorite.” Natasha interjects.
Zeven looks to Natasha surprised, “I thought wild, yellow daisies are your favorite.”
In unison, without intention, Natasha and I say, “They were.”
She looks at me caught off guard. She further explains without breaking eye contact with me, “But once I saw and smelled my first daylily back in June, daylilies are my new fav.” Clearing her throat, she directs her attention to Zeven, “I thought you were around when I talked about it at Worship practice?”
Zeven shrugs his shoulders as he takes the dish of meat loaf from my hands. “I guess I need to pay more attention to my girl.” He remarks.
Mom finishes what she meant to say earlier, “Actually, Asher picked out the flowers.”
Both Chastity and Natasha look at me, but with different opinions displayed on their faces. While Chastity’s expression reads as impressed, Natasha’s expression seems conflicted. Getting the daylilies was a good move… Natasha knows my selection wasn’t by chance.
We move on to another subject: Chastity’s upcoming sermon series for Youth on Sexuality creatively titled Knowing Him and Her. She came up with that title from the scripture Genesis 4:1a from the New King James Version, “Now Adam knew Eve his wife…” More modern versions tell how it really was by replacing “knew” with “made love”. Since Chastity was a teen mom, and based on the high rate of teen pregnancy in America and on the Res, and some of the concerns parents have brought to her, she felt God placed on her heart to discuss sexuality with the youth of the church.
In actuality, it’s more about God’s design and purpose of marriage, and how Christ comes first for both husband and wife. She’s hoping that through the message God will instill in the youth a desire to do things God’s way, and that each young man and young woman will feel precious in the eyes of God. And as current temples of the Lord our God, we’ll respect that honor and choose to do it God’s way… by waiting to have sex until we’re married.
Mom and dad are impressed. They agree that the youth are in need of such a message and they are glad to hear she’s doing it. Showing the sliver of uncertainty left in her, she asks dad and mom for their prayers that when she begins the message the Holy Spirit leads the series. Proudly, my parents accept the request and promise her they will do so.
After dinner, Zeven shares the new worship song he wrote in the living room with everyone else while I help Natasha stack the dishwasher. Natasha isn’t her normal, snarky, talkative self. Deafening silence builds a barricade between us. I can tell she’s deep in thought. I want to speak… but I don’t know what to say. The song of Zeven travels faintly into the kitchen. I listen to what I imagine the chorus is… it sounds like it’s in the Key of E or maybe C.
“We will shout on the hilltop.
We will sing in the streets,
And dance in the yard.
Praising the only worthy-
Of our praise- Jesus Christ
Lifting our voices
We sing- Hallelujah
To our King-
As we band together
In unity not conformity
The light that’s in us
We let it shine
As we lift our arms
Lifting praise we sing
To our king
As the body of Christ
We will shout from the hilltop…” he continues to sing on, singing the chorus again.
Now I have a talking point. “That’s a pretty good song.” I say.
Natasha winces, “It needs a lot of work. The words don’t flow. They’re good, but the song needs to be fluid, not forced. I’ve tried to help, but he’s too proud of it. Maybe now that I’m his girlfriend he’ll let me revise it.”
“Musically, it’s perfect though.” I comment.
Smiling in defeat, “True, when it comes to notes Zeven is a genius.”
“So maybe he’s the music and you’re the lyrics,” I say. Wow, I sound supportive of their relationship. I know I’m kind of coveting my neighbor’s significant other, it just feels like she’s been taken away from me, and I didn’t ever really have her.
Her whole face lights up with excited joy as if I prophesied to her. “You’re so right!” she closes the dishwasher, now that it’s stacked full, and then gives me a quick hug. Every hug from her is magical and heart-warming. As she slips out of my reach I wish the hug could have lasted a second longer, and I wish I had the guts to reel her back in, but I let her walk away. I follow her into the living room, where we’re all about to enjoy a game of Bible Trivia. Well, Annika’s gonna watch.
Happy Thursday everyone! I can only hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. As November comes to a close, keep an attitude of gratitude.
I recently went to a seminar for documentary filmmakers and the speaker, who worked on Oscar-nominated projects, said the most successful people she worked with carried two key perspectives to life: Gratitude & Sense of Abundance. Therefore, thanking God for everything you have under the sun and believing you have more than enough to work with in any given situation will take you far in life.
I must be lacking thankfulness and abundance because all I see lately in my life are failures. LOL. JK.
If you got to see any part of my creative process, you would know I sometimes write a bunch of different versions of any given concept my brain develops. Sometimes, I have three or four different versions in my head before I commit the idea to pen & paper, or to keys & word doc. My goal with this blog was to be disciplined. To force myself to stay the course of my first thoughts, but this isn’t the case… I think I’m just trying to create a formula for my creative process and I now know that is impossible and if it is possible, I should treat such a process as non-applicable.
Part of the excitement in life is the journey, correct? Just because I thought of one plot point first, doesn’t mean it is the best plot point, correct?
What are you trying to say, Brianna?
I’m saying I decided to change the story featured on Manuscript Monday. Instead of chapters of “Girls of Grace”, you will read sections of “The Wildflowers Along Route 77” every week.
Check out the title graphic art below. I made it in Canva with my free access. I used white font, size 12, style Trocchi. I used Unsplash for the photos. I’m incredibly grateful for the creative eye of “gades photography” and “Nathan Anderson” for the beautiful photos they captured. I did add a filter to the forest to brighten it up and I made the sunflower more transparent than normally.
My inspiration for the graphic and the story come from Whiteriver, Arizona along Scenic Route 77. In July, after the monsoon rains flood the land, along the two-way highway flowers spring up along the road. They look like sunflowers, but I don’t think they are, I’m pretty sure they’re weeds. Whether they are weeds or flowers they are absolutely beautiful. Especially, when the green grass is vibrant from drinking in the rain. The wind blows gently as soft gray storm clouds loom over the mountain plateaus in the horizon. Simply breathtaking to see as you cruise 55 mph down a winding road.
What is this story about?
Let’s back up a bit and talk about Whiteriver, AZ a little. The town sits on the Fort Apache Reservation. The only people who live there are Natives and Hired Teachers. Depending on how fast you drive, the town Pinetop-Lakeside is about 40 minutes away, Show Low is another 10 minutes away. The land is a mixture of chaparral and piney forest inside a valley on a mountain. The White Mountain Apache have four tribes: the Eagle, the Bear, the Roadrunner, and the Butterfly. Of course, these English words have Apache word counterparts, however, I do not know the language “AT ALL” to even relay the information.
(I will also confess, all this information I have about the tribe I picked up through observation, and what my friends at church told me. If I get anything wrong and you have empirical evidence or first hand knowledge that I describe something wrong, please email me with the details or leave a comment and I will make the correction, and credit you for the update.)
Their language is not lost, though much of the youth don’t know it, the Apaches are hopeful the language will be kept alive. Members of the tribe are either Christian, Traditional, or both. Many of the tribal members who live on the reservation experience alcoholism, suicide, teen pregnancy, physical abuse, sexual abuse, drug abuse, gang violence, witchcraft, and spiritual warfare in their families. Though there are Christians, there can be a big emphasis on RELIGION over RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.
The Apache identify as a people group through their native culture. Christianity preaches that all of their native practices are of witchcraft and are of the devil. And I would agree a lot of it is demonic based on what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard. But I have seen some struggle to hold onto their culture and pursue God will reckless abandonment, because they do not want to lose who they are.
In Pinetop-Lakeside and Show Low, the wealthy or upper middle class vacation there for skiing, hunting, and fishing all in the appropriate seasons. For the people who live there year round, like other towns they have their share of the poor and the wealthy. Small businesses for the time being are able to flourish there, but who knows when big business will fully takeover. (Oh that’s so grim, let me change it!) I mean, IT’S AMAZING AT ALL THE GREAT SMALL BUSINESSES THERE!
Must go to places are Darby’s, Baked in Pinetop, White Mountain Ice Cream, and Village 8 (Movie Theater). If you ever pass through the area, try to grab breakfast at Darby’s. For sure pick up a fresh loaf of sourdough from Baked in Pinetop. If you love ICE CREAM, go to the Ice Cream Shop by the movie theater in Pinetop-Lakeside. And, for those like me who can’t go on vacation without going to the movies… GO TO THE MOVIES in the WHITE MOUNTAINS because I used to work at VILLAGE 8 and it was one of the most fun jobs I ever had. The theaters are privately owned by the Croney Family and they LOVE what they do and owners like that give the people the best deals and the best service!
Believe it or not, Pinetop-Lakeside and Show Low are heavily affected by the drug scene. People who are born in the area, rarely ever leave. Many families encounter alcoholism, abusive homes, teen pregnancy and drug addiction.
And I can continue to compare and contrast life on the Reservation as opposed to life in the towns, but hopefully, it becomes evident in the fictional story I wrote.
The White Mountain area is a huge Latter Day Saints region. They have churches in Pinetop-Lakeside, Whiteriver, and in Show Low. In Taylor and Snowflake there are statues to commemorate important LDS moments or history in those towns. Then there Assemblies of God Churches and plenty of Baptists. There’s a Methodist church somewhere up the hill (Pinetop-Lakeside or Show Low). And even a Unity Church.
I will state I believe the LDS church and the Unity Church are falsehoods preaching doctrines of men and devils. It depends on the Assembly of God Church and Methodist Church… some are starting to stray away from the truth.
Now, I lived in Whiteriver for three years with my mom. She taught 2nd grade on the Reservation and I lived with her until I went away to college for a second time in Columbus, Ohio. We went to Canyon Day Assembly of God, under the leading of the Holy Spirit, and to this day, that church family is FAMILY. When we go to Pinetop-Lakeside or Showlow, if we’re there on a Sunday, we go to Canyon Day for church!
These two facts play a big role on the story you will read on Manuscript Monday. The main character Asher, moves to the Reservation with his family. His mom is a school teacher and his dad becomes the new associate pastor at a church near teacher housing. Asher is multiracial like I am, but he’s mixed differently.
Would you say the story is autobiographical, a little?
I’m gonna say no. I used realities in my life and applied them to the main character Asher, but there’s so much the story covers and goes into I’ve never lived or experienced in my life.
Now religion vs. relationship with God is a huge theme in this story. Many moments will feature Asher wrestling with his faith and the pressures of being a teenage boy in our modern culture. I do include a lot about the LDS Church. It may be different than what you’ve heard or seen or know. I can honestly tell you, I’ve heard different things from different LDS members. I think a lot of it has to do with what region the members are from and because the LDS Church is not based entirely on the Word, and not truly led by the Spirit of God, stories and doctrine will be contradictory.
True, a lot of people say Christianity is contradictory. The Bible has loads of evidence authenticating its many books. All legitimate denominations believe in core values from the Bible, therefore, unifying us under one belief. And all and all, I believe there’s only one way to the Father and that is through Jesus the Messiah. Once you believe in Him, you are sealed with the Holy Spirit and you pretty much live your whole life, from the point of belief, growing closer to God.
Of course, you’ll see my trademark ingredients to a story. Who knows, maybe I’m the future Nicholas Sparks of Teen Faith Fiction. His books always feature a death, a forbidden love story (one person comes from money and the other is poor), and a broken relationship (an abusive relationship, a bad daddy-daughter relationship, or estranged parent and child relationship). I still love the stories all the same, but he has a very clear niche that has made him very wealthy.
Is my aim wealth?
I certainly don’t want to be a dead published author or a starving one. But I write for this simple fact: writing is my passion and telling stories is life for me. I would write for nothing. Wait, I already do! At times, I’m a little vain glorious, but God so help me, in the end let my work not be in VAIN!
This venture is going to be an amazing journey and I’m glad you decided to join! I pray this story blesses you in some way! Enjoy.