AFTER THE CHRISTMAS celebrations ended and the last few fireworks released into the night sky we attempted to get back to our routine. I was working on a couple of projects for my small business and trying to get my book into the hands of anyone that would read the words that ignited my passion. I sold copies to family and friends and even a few books online, but my goal of selling a half a million copies seemed unreachable at the pace I was going. I asked my mom to come over one Sunday morning to watch my daughter as I felt I needed to take a long walk and clear my head.
Parallel to our home was a beautiful walking trail I had been traveling daily to explore my oneness with nature. The whispering wind that circled the landscape had a particular way of providing clarity when impurity was obscuring my thoughts. It was a form of walking meditation I was trying to incorporate to provide more focus and awareness to my surroundings.
The curved path stretched across the small city for kilometers with numerous narrow roads branching from the primary trail. I started taking a few of these rugged paths because I was curious about where the trajectory might lead me. Occasionally they would bring me to the human-made suburban structures and other times they would reveal the simplicity of creation.
It was almost a month since I released my book and I was struggling to find anyone to even read my work let alone make enough income to feel validated for the time I put into its creation. I couldn’t feed my family selling a few books a week. The enormous weight of the real world was taking its toll on my creative sanity.
I was so far away from my dream as I walked the downward trail questioning my next move. I put whatever I could summon into my belief of earthly heaven, but all I could feel was a walking hell. I was only traveling for a few minutes, but I felt so tired as I lifted my heavy boots.
I saw a nearby bench in the distance, so I turned toward it hoping to rest my cold feet underneath its comfort. It laid between a rickety bridge and another trodden path that branched out towards the street. It looked so welcoming as I searched for the strength to lift my weary feet three more steps.
When I got closer, I reached out my arm and grabbed the wooden back to brace myself and sit on the right side of the bench. I took a deep breath with my bony elbows resting on my wobbly knees. My claw-like hands moved up and down my wrinkled forehead as the grinding of my teeth became the only sound I could hear. The path the others wanted me to follow was widening with every thought of failure laughing its way to the surface of my soul.
My violent hands became forceful while l scratched the top of my head so hard the marks would have been visible from the gloomy sky above. I had such a feeling of anger boiling over that I slapped my hands on my knees and looked at the clouds. I shook my head in frustration as I exhaled.
Then out of nowhere, I saw him. Sitting on the top of a lamp post directly over the bridge lay a blackbird. I wasn’t frightened when I saw him, I was angry. It was almost like he was sitting there mocking me. He didn’t make a sound, but I could feel discontent as my voice echoed through the thick trees. I internally screamed at the bird to fly away, but he continued to mock me with his lack of movement.
I was so full of rage as he flapped his dirty feathers. I waved my left hand in the air and yelled at him profusely to go away. I continued to scream at the unresponsive bird, but he remained fixed to his post. If the path I was following had the power to move mountains, I figured repositioning a simple bird was possible. I wanted to test the ability of my mind and forcefully get him to fly to the adjacent lamp post to my left. I wanted to prove to myself that the path I was following was the way. If I could get the bird to move with a thought, it would validate the outrageous claims that I had control over my physical environment.
I attempted to visualize the bird flying to the nearby lamp post and even tried to get inside of his head to demand him to relocate. It seems ridiculous, but I was so fed up with the lack of movement in my own life I was willing to try anything to regain my faith. I sat with my sunken eyes closed for what seemed like an eternity, but each time I looked up, he remained stationed at his post.
I decided my attempts were futile and in another moment of self-defeat, I looked in his direction and softly yelled the words I give up.
As soon as the words released from my mouth, he took flight. He didn’t reposition himself to the lamp post I ask him to occupy but flew up the path that held my footprints. When this happened, I immediately stood up from the bench and started to follow him. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but my only instinct was to move forward.
As I walked the path towards my primary dwelling, my bitterness seemed to disappear as my feet found the footprints I left behind. I couldn’t look up from the thin layer of snow as I purposely placed my boots into each imprint. It almost became a game as I marched one by one. With each forward step, I grew dissident. The beauty of the landscape surrounding my actions and the passion behind the dream placed inside my heart was too vital for me to give up just yet. I decided to push forward and see where this mysterious road would take me.
Then out of nowhere, I heard him. Resting on a lamp post a hundred feet away from the bridge over troubled water stood the same blackbird. He wasn’t silent anymore but echoed a series of loud caws in my direction. I immediately froze in my footprints unable to move in any direction. All I could do was stare at the mixture of sounds vibrating down into my being. Every time I thought he would fly away, he got louder.
Every time I tried to move his improvised song invited me to listen. I stood in disbelief as I watched him for over a minute. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Was this the same blackbird I yelled at moments before?
I took a breath and listened to his musical voice calling to me from above. It wasn’t the direction I asked him to move, but as I exhaled, I felt connected to his presence. When I stopped forcing his movement, I was free to experience his song.
I felt reborn again as I opened the back door to my home. I jumped back into my work and looked for any direction that could bring me closer to my goals.
Over the next month I would open every door I could get my hand through. I figured if I opened enough doors I would eventually find the right direction, but my bank account was taking a beating.
We were moving into a little two-bedroom apartment close to my family as the house we were renting was in the process of being sold. I only had a couple of clients I was working with at the time, so I decided to ramp up my small business. I spent a week sending out emails to potential clients and prospects trying to bring in enough cash to keep my dream alive.
I remember getting an email back from a potential client one day in response to an email. She was looking to start her own business but had given up on the idea before my email found its way into her inbox. She was currently unemployed and taking care of her sick father after her mothers passing. She knocked on every door and put out hundreds of resumes but couldn’t find any work. Her email response was a series of explanations of why she couldn’t get a break in life.
As I read her lengthy email, I couldn’t help but notice all the negative I am statements that infected her words. I decided to take off my business attire and find a way to change her thinking. I crafted a detailed email to send back to give her hope and let her know she wasn’t alone. I wanted her to see that life can be great once she had faith good things were possible.
Later that night I was checking my email to see if I had any bites from potential clients, but the only email highlighted was from the same women. She was so grateful for my encouraging words and told me she was putting her situation in Gods hands.
At the end of the email, she asked me a question that shocked me. She asked if I was a Christian. I stood up from the kitchen table a little confused because I didn’t make any references to Jesus in my email. Her question seemed odd to me. I emailed her back and told her I wasn’t a Christian, but I did believe in a power that connects us all. I even sent her a copy of my book.
I woke up the next morning and grabbed my phone to see if any prospects had responded to my proposal, but the only message waiting for me was from the same women again. She had read my book cover to cover and explained to me how much of a blessing it was for her. As I read the email, she told me how my words helped her face the anxiety that was driving her fear of failure and the nervous feelings that existed in her life.
It was only one person, but the encouraging words she expressed precisely represented what I envisioned my book would become. A piece of literature that could lift someone from a life they thought was already written and find a better part of themselves.
I felt so alive as I read her words. She even told me she was offered a temporary position the day after she read my book and was starting her new job that week.
I read her email over and over, and each time I felt resurrected. When I looked in the mirror, I could see the reflection of the man I wanted to become. I intended to lift her spirits but what she gave me in return was immeasurable.
This personalized email gave me proof that my purpose and my words could help someone searching for hope in a world surrounded by anguish. It was the first time I was able to empower a complete stranger to find the strength to look beyond what they see and encounter a place where expectation became a friend and not an enemy.
The question she asked about being a Christain stuck with me. I didn’t think I was a Christian. I wasn’t even sure what being a Christian meant so I decided to go back to the source. I now had a whole new set of unanswered questions floating around in my mind. That Sunday I attended a Christian church to see what I could find. I even scheduled a meeting with my reverend to discuss my ideas about God and what it meant to be a Christian.
When I meet her at my church, I had a list of questions at the forefront of my mind. As I walked through the doors of the church, it was empty. When she went back to her car, I stood looking at the altar and realized it was the first time I was ever alone in the church. It felt strange to look at the abandoned seats. With only myself and the closest person I could find to God, I asked my questions and presented my thoughts.
We sat in the back of the church for over an hour discussing what Jesus represented. I was a little nervous as I explained to her my new beliefs because it was miles from the God taught in Sunday school. I was unsure how she was going to react to my thoughts and my questions, but I felt connected to her willingness to listen.
As we were about to leave the empty church, she said something I believe sparked my desire to write this book. She said a person’s connection to God is never the same for everyone. It is on the journey to find God that he will reveal himself.
As I drove off, I couldn’t help but think back to the first day I heard a voice inside myself ask the question that changed my life. I flashed back to all the moments since then when I felt a connection to something I couldn’t understand.
Was that the day I started my journey to find God? Was the decision I made to follow my passions a decision to let God into my life? In the moments when I felt lingering doubt and fear was it God that brought me out of the dark? Was every moment from that day leading me to the realization that God was closer than the threatening clouds where the others said he was resting?
I’m not sure if I believe everything the church represents, but I’m convinced it can provide answers when you are willing to look through the stained glass windows. When I looked beyond religion, I was able to feel a connected relationship to a childlike belief in a divine power.
I was still looking for a way to incorporate my passion into some financial gain so I could continue this journey. With my brother off work resting his back, I discussed with him a new idea to shed light on other unknown artists.
There were a ton of musicians, photographers, and other creatives around our hometown, so we decided to develop a website to share their passion for the arts. My brother would take care of the social media, and I would write featured articles and share their stories.
Over the next two months, my brother and I attempted to find other artists that shared our love. We launched our website, and I wrote over a dozen articles on the talented men and women that comprised our city. We did interviews and made some connections, but after a few short months, we were still relatively unknown. It felt like the next road to connect my writing to a broader audience, but we were struggling to find support for our idea.
We continued to push through because I could see an opportunity to not only follow my passion but bring together all artists to share ideas, creations, and experiences.
My brother and I were texting back and forth one day tossing around plans to grow the idea when I got a call from my mom. My grandfather was back in the hospital and although there wasn’t a significant concern I had a sinking feeling as I hung up the phone. The laughter that I brought to my last visit may not be my only objective this time around.
Check back in next Sunday for Chapter 9 – Personal Crosses
IT WAS EASTER Monday when my grandfather was checked in to the local hospital. It seemed like one of his routine visits, so I kept checking in on his progress to see what the medical staff had to say. Nothing looked…Read more