Leif stirred. There was something on his chest...wait, that was Drostan—how long had they been asleep? The world was dark. Was it cloudy, or still night? Where were they? What time was it? Why had Leif been waken up? Was something wrong?
“We’re at the port.”
Ah, this made sense. Carefully, Leif sat up. If he moved slowly enough, quietly enough, maybe Drostan would stay asleep. Nay—don’t move, son—go back to sleep….
“Whisht, you’re alright,” Leif whispered. Drostan grew quiet again, his head heavy against Leif’s chest. Thank God.
“I’ll give you a hand with your trunk,” the sailor offered. He kept his voice down, as if he knew how hard it was to get children to fall asleep. “You’ve more important things to carry.”
Leif smiled. “You’ve your own children, I suppose?”
“Four of them, and another by autumn.”
What a lucky man, to have four children and a wife to care for them all! But all the work they required! “How do you do it?” Leif asked, a hand on Drostan’s head. “Having one is trial enough.”
“You’ll find it gets easier with time,” the sailor said. “I’ve overheard your plight—you’ve my condolences.”
The word was said with as little emotion as Leif could muster. Now was not the time for thinking back on Adelaide, or wishing she were here and they were together, the big happy family she promised. Now was the time for thinking, for doing, and for being brave.
Nay, but there would be feeling, Leif realized, as he stepped onto the dock. But strange, good feelings. He was home.
Here was the path he played along as a boy. There was the longhouse belonging to Ljot the fisherman—the same longhouse, only a little more weathered—and the fish drying racks. Leif had often stolen stockfish as they hung drying from those racks. He ought to visit Ljot and repay him.
And the docks—ah, the docks! Leif had always loved them. Perhaps it was the stories he’d been told of how he was born on a boat, in this very harbor, as the warriors of Diaparn were forcing the tribe of Gythia off the island. Perhaps he’d loved the docks for the simple freedom they offered from his chores. Or perhaps it was the scent of the salt and the cries of the gulls, the ringing of hammers and the shouts of the shipwrights that had called him.
He knew the houses he passed. This was the longhouse of Hanvald the Stout, here lived Yngvar Sturluson—if he still lived, and his sons if he didn’t. Yngvar’s son Thorstein had been a good friend of Leif’s growing up. How had he fared in the five years Leif had been gone?
And there was the house of Elder Steingrim. Leif hurried past this house. He prayed that Steingrim’s daughter Signy had been promised in marriage to someone else. Steingrim had been rather eager to marry his daughter to someone from high society—Leif, as the son of the chief, had seemed favorable to him. But he couldn’t bear Signy, nor the thought of her raising Drostan.
Leif scanned the streets. He caught the sailor out of the corner of his eye. He looked lost. Leif realized how slowly he’d been walking, how aimlessly he’d been wandering.
The sailor smiled. “Where to, sir?” he asked, his voice thin and losing its patience.
“Konar Idirson, the chief—his house.”
Not Konar’s house. Leif’s house—or it had been. He would be a stranger here, like he was in Scotland. He’d lost his home. No, he hadn’t lost it. He’d given it up. He’d given everything up, but willingly, because Adelaide was worth it.
But Adelaide was gone.
Without her, nowhere was home. It didn’t matter where he would go, how much time he spent there, who he lived with. He would always be alone without her.
Leif pressed his eyes shut. He wouldn’t cry now—not in front of Drostan, not with Konar just a few houses away. But the knives in his heart would not wait for an opportune moment, and tears slipped down his cheeks despite his efforts. His Adelaide. He would have given anything to keep her.
He looked up. He needed to compose himself—dry his eyes, take a breath, run a hand through his unkempt hair. He hid Drostan under his plaid and knocked at the door of the house he stood before.
He was home.
I know it's early...but happy St. Patrick's Day to all of my wonderful readers!
Lots of people celebrate the feast day of St. Patrick, one of the three patron saints of Ireland, by wearing green and eating potatoes. Last year, I made Irish soda bread. I doubt I'll do much this year since we're getting back from a vacation that day, but I'd better wear green or my sister will pinch me black and blue. Heck, I'm pretty sure we pinch each other even if we are wearing green. We're sisters.
But similar to St. Valentine (whom I blogged about back in February), not many people know much about St. Patrick. To be honest, I don't know very much about him, either. But what I do know actually came from VeggieTales. Watch the short yet wonderfully hilarious video here: https://youtu.be/fg5ejLGEnZk
Anyway, the man now known as St. Patrick was actually an English boy named Maywin Socket who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Ireland. People who are kidnapped into slavery, especially when they're sold to a distant land with a strange language, don't always react in the greatest ways. Some grow angry, others escape, and yet others develop a victim mentality. But not Maywin. He clung to the faith he'd learned in England and began to pray. By the time he left Ireland six years later, he was praying 100 times a day!
Eventually, Maywin went back to England and became a bishop. The church, for reasons I have yet to understand, decided to change his name to Patrick. Patrick then had a dream in which he felt led to go back to Ireland and preach to the people there. Today, he's credited with introducing Christianity to Ireland, as well as driving out all the snakes. But that's a story for another day.
I find it interesting that St. Patrick was called to preach to the same people who enslaved him. And he went willingly! I remember being in spiritual bondage. It's similar to physical slavery in that whatever bondage you have, fear in my case, dictates your every action. Sorry, I can't go to that party, I'm too scared. Sorry, I can't spend the night, I'm too scared. I don't want to go on vacation. What if something happens while I'm away from home?
And yet St. Patrick was willing to face all those fears he had, fight the good fight, and do what God was calling him to do. And because of him, an entire nation met God for the first time.
I know that I'm not always willing to face my fears. I have a lot of growing to do. But I'm starting to learn that God uses the battles we've gone through in life for our good. I dealt with fear--heck, I'm still dealing with it on occasion--but I can help other people. I can give them a hug, along with the kick in the pants and the "snap out of it!" that I needed in the midst of my own battles.
I haven't had many opportunities to help people through their fear. Maybe I'm not ready to do that yet. I know I still have a long way to go, that I still give into fear more times than I ought to. But I know I'll keep growing, learning, and that someday I will be ready to teach others.
Do you have any St. Patrick's Day traditions? I knew a family that dyed their Guinea pig green every time March 17 rolled around. If you have anything that crazy--or if you're just planning on eating a potato and wearing a green shirt--be sure to let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to like us on Facebook!
Good afternoon, dear readers! In case you haven't seen it, you can actually buy your own copy of Where the Clouds Catch Fire! Scroll up, it says "Purchase." The book itself is $10; the price you'll see includes shipping and handling.
That being said, I can get into what today's blog is really going to be about. And strangely, this blog isn't going to be about the onion slices on my feet right now. Some people say that putting onions in your socks help cure things, and I want to see if it'll help this cough I'm starting to develop. So far, I just feel stupid. But one of my many favorite quotes in life is "If it's stupid but it works, it isn't stupid." And that can be said about so many things besides putting onions on your feet.
So many things we as humans do on a daily basis might be considered strange. Why do we drum our fingers on tabletops? It doesn't serve a purpose. Why do we twirl our hair, chew on our lips, clear our throats our of habit? Why do people have quirks? What purpose do they serve?
Honestly, I have no idea, other than the fact that quirks make people unique individuals. They help cement our personalities. And if you, like me, are a writer, I can almost that you'll have certain quirks.
A common quirk writers have is the compulsive need for their work stations to be perfect. They have to have three sharp pencils and four black pens in their pencil holder. The Kleenex box has to be perfectly flush with the side of the desk. The mouse pad can't be crooked. The radio has to be tuned to 101.7 FM, even though the same station comes in clearer at 101.8 FM. Let me find a Stock photo that more clearly demonstrates what my own desk looks like.
I'm not just a writer. I'm also a student. Which means that at any given point in time, there is a calculator, three textbooks, an empty package of fruit snacks, a whiteboard, and a Teeny Ty on my desk. Right now, there's also part of an onion, because I also read keeping an onion nearby can help you get over colds faster.
But the time is coming, saith the professional authors, when I shall be smitten by the overwhelming desire to keep my work station perfect. Apparently, it's inevitable. I should just give in, and start organizing my work station. But until that time comes, I will fight. I refuse to bow to the pressures of society to have a perfect desk. I will leave sixteen CDs scattered on the dark composite wood. I will deposit my weekly earnings on its dusty surface. And no matter how many pennies I lose, no matter how many pencils fall into the abyss, I will fight until the dust grows--
Never mind. My sister nearly stole $12 off my desk. I really should be taking better care of things. Now, how much longer do I have to keep these onions on my feet? They're starting to burn....
What's on your desk right now? Have you ever put onions in your socks? If so, did it work? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear reader, and don't forget to like us on Facebook!
The air was dark and chill. Leif hoped that Drostan was snug and warm in the fold of his plaid. He leaned against the back of the ship. He wouldn’t sleep. He’d watch over Drostan, and be alert for when the ship came to dock at Diaparn, and then he’d pick up his trunk and go to his brother’s house. Would he be accepted there? There was no telling with Konar. Ever since he was a boy, he’d been mad, slowly losing his sanity and replacing it with a strange, manipulative cunning. And anger. A good deal of anger. What was he doing, bringing his three-year-old son to live with a madman?
Guilt welled up in him. Aye, he was bringing his son back to his aunts, uncles, and grandmother on the next ship to Scotland. He was making a mistake.
“We’re nigh there, Mr. Leif,” one of the sailors called. “We’ll dock before sunup.”
“Thanks,” Leif said. He settled back against the ship and sighed. Drostan’s tiny hand slid across his chest as he rubbed sleep out of his cat’s-green eyes. Where he’d gotten those eyes, Leif had no idea. They weren’t his own, and they certainly weren’t Adelaide’s. Perhaps one of Adelaide’s siblings, or her mother, had green eyes, and Leif hadn’t noticed. Or had either of his own parents had green eyes? His father’s, Leif remembered, had been hazel, like his own.
Drostan’s eyes opened. “Mum?”
Leif blinked. He swallowed the lump in his throat and kissed Drostan’s disordered hair. Adelaide would have insisted on brushing it, so Leif tried to sort the little red wisps into a more natural layout. “Mum’s not here,” he said.
Drostan’s little voice was full of sleep and innocence, too little to understand death or heaven or grief outside of his toddler’s need for a mother. “Where’s Mum?”
What could he say? What was there to be said? He’d tried to explain that Adelaide was gone, that she was in a pretty place with Jesus, and that she was happy there. Drostan never seemed to understand.
“She’s…she’s with Jesus, son. Don’t worry about her.”
“When’s Mum coming back?”
“Perchance you’ll see her if you go to sleep.”
Leif ought to have been speaking in Norse, he realized, if his son was going to be spending any time on Diaparn. He’d tried to raise Drostan bilingual. His mind was brilliant, flexible, soaking up knowledge of the wide world he lived in. But he still preferred Gaelic to Norse.
Leif hoped Drostan would drift back to sleep. He had no energy to deal with him. He was tired, but it was a strange tired, as if he’d been sick and spent the day in bed. And yet his spirit felt as if he’d just completed a long day of work.
Work—what was he to do, once he arrived at Diaparn? His family had owned a good deal of land, but Konar had probably sold it. He preferred the much more profitable slave trade. It hadn’t bothered Leif until he had become Christian, but now the mere thought of it sickened him. He’d learned the trade of the shipwright in Scotland. Perchance Hakan, the shipwright of Diaparn, would hire him. Hopeless wish. Hakan had always hated sharing his business.
Drostan wiggled free of Leif’s arms, and he caught him by the back of his tunic. Drostan wailed. “I’m not sleepy, Da!”
“You will go back to sleep,” Leif said in Norse. “It’s night time.”
Drostan’s Norse was pitiful, nearly impossible to understand, yet a valiant effort for a three-year-old. “No!”
“Drostan, when the sky is dark, it is time to sleep.”
“Then why aren’t you sleeping, Da?”
“Because I’m your father, and I don’t need sleep.”
“You sleep during church.” Drostan used the Gaelic word for ‘church.’ Was there even a Norse word for it? “And you make a noise with your nose.”
What grace was given to mothers, that they spent their lives with children like this! For less than a week had Leif been Drostan’s caregiver, and he was losing his mind! Had Adelaide ever grown impatient with him?
Precious Adelaide. What would she do?
Leif lay on his back, making Drostan lay facedown on his chest, and he covered the both of them with his plaid. “Suppose I tell you a story?” Leif said, returning to Gaelic.
“Saint Cuddy and the geese!”
Leif had heard Adelaide tell the story enough times—about how the affectionately-nicknamed St. Cuthbert had turned a miserly farmer and his geese into statues. Drostan simply thought that “geese” was a funny word to say, and he giggled every time he heard it. But as the story wore on, Drostan’s giggles turned to simple smiles, and he was asleep by the time it ended.
It was peaceful—the gentle rocking of the ship, the dim starlight, the quiet noises of the waves lapping at the side of the ship and of the wind ruffling the sails. Leif closed his eyes. It might not hurt him to have a nap...just a short one….
I've heard a lot of wonderful things from my pastor, and one of the most powerful is "The only thing worse than unbelief is a wrong belief."
It's true. It's easier to build a house on an empty lot than it is to destroy a building that's already there. It doesn't just apply to beliefs, but to knowledge.
That's one of the reasons why, when I'm writing a book, it's important for me to get everything right the first time. Research lays foundations. If I start writing a book on an incorrect assumption, I might not be able to correct myself. And that's where excuses and imagination have to come together beautifully.
For example, most people know that all monks wear brown robes. Right? Nope. Only Franciscan friars wear brown habits and rope belts. Benedictines typically wear black, and Augustinians wear white. But I didn't know this when I started writing Where the Clouds Catch Fire, and so I designed Lukas as always wearing a brown habit with a rope belt.
Later, I realized just how much I hate researching after-the-fact. I couldn't get brown-robed Lukas replaced by a black-robed Lukas, at least in my mind. Brown suits his personality better. Brown is my grandfather's favorite color. Black is the color of business suits and funerals. And besides, Lukas just looks better in brown.
I could have done a simple search-and-replace and solved my problem. I could have just sucked it up and made Lukas more historically accurate. But I didn't. I didn't have a good reason not to. Or maybe belief is the best reason in the world to do something. And this was when my imagination started working with whatever part of me is good at making excuses.
I did more research. Turns out, the Law of St. Benedict didn't specify what color monk's clothes were supposed to be. They would wear the same clothes a poor person would. The black color was added later, just for a standardization across the Order. I might have exploited that loophole, but I had a better idea.
We tend to take colors for granted today. If a store doesn't have a shirt in the color we like, we order it online. There's an entire aisle at Walmart dedicated to different colors of yarn. But back in the day, dye had to be made by hand. It involved time and plants and hot water and, for some reason, urine. Some colors were harder to obtain than others, and one particularly difficult color to make was black.
But one particularly easy color to make was brown.
I still feel a little guilty about not doing my research beforehand. I've learned my lesson for future books. And while I'll do my best to learn information before I need it now, it was still worth it for the simple exercise in creativity.
What's the most creative solution you've ever made? Do you prefer wearing black clothes or brown clothes? Tell me in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to like us on Facebook!
There was only emptiness, and the knocking of the sea against the wooden sides of the listing ship—a fine ship, Leif had to admit. But who was he to take delight in things when his darling Adelaide lay cold in her Scottish grave, and he was running from her?
Precious Adelaide—beautiful, perfect, so full of joy and laughter and spunk. He had never seen her cry, except for tears of joy at births or weddings. She hated no one, she feared nothing. Adelaide was like the ocean—sometimes calm, sometimes wild, never yielding, always beautiful, always strong.
He remembered some of the last few moments they had spent together. The sun had been shining that day, and Leif had escaped work that morning to be with her. They had walked to the sheep pasture. The sun was warm, the wind was cool, and the overall effect was wild and invigorating. It was the perfect day for doing things.
Leif and Adelaide had sat down in a lush green lea. His arm around her, the perfect love of his life, and neither of them giving a thought to death. Only to life.
“Suppose it’s a girl,” Adelaide had said, a hand resting on her stomach swollen with child. “What was yer mum’s name?”
“Angerboda,” Leif replied, “and I wouldn’t wish that name on anyone, least of all my daughter. Suppose we name her Richildis, after your mother.”
“She’d like that.” Adelaide grew silent, perhaps thinking, perhaps feeling her unborn child move in her womb. A gentle breeze blew her flame-colored hair, and Leif tucked it behind her ear. She was a gem, precious, perfect. And very beautiful. Her eyes were blue, deep pools of wonder, and her nose was as cute as a young child’s. She knew how to make one side of it twitch like a rabbit’s. Sometimes she did it on purpose, to make someone smile; it happened involuntarily when she grinned, and sometimes when she scowled.
But Adelaide wouldn’t be complete without her sprinkling of freckles. Nay, those freckles were the very outpouring of her spirit upon her face, a sign that there was still some girlhood in her. She would laugh and make jokes and play in the sunshine like a teenager, and everyone who loved her loved that part of her especially.
Leif kissed her freckles, and she blushed.
“Ye need a namesake, Leif, if it’s a boy,” Adelaide said. “Please?”
Leif laughed. “Why?”
“I want him to turn out just like ye.”
“Trust me. You don’t.”
Adelaide smiled, and her eyes flashed, like they did when she was playing a game. “Fine. Then Eamonn.”
“What about Ivar?” Leif suggested.
The left side of Adelaide’s nose wrinkled. “I don’t like it.”
“It’s the name of a hero!”
“It’s the name of a Norse pillager. Eamonn is a good, sensible, respectable name.”
“The lady who hangs clothes to dry when it’s raining wants her son to have a sensible name,” Leif teased. “But I wouldn’t have you any other way.”
He kissed her, and she kissed back until she drew away with a gasp. Her eyes were closed, her face flushed, a hand pressed into her side.
Leif’s heart stopped. A fear like he had never known before seized him, and for the first time, he saw death instead of life. Suppose Adelaide left him. Leif couldn’t raise a child, at least not the right way, without her.
“It’s nothing,” she had promised. She lied. Adelaide had been known to tease, but for the first time since Leif had known her, she lied outright.
“Don’t worry so much, Leif! Nothing’s going to happen. The baby will come, and we’ll both be fine, and we’ll be one big, happy family.”
The baby came. That had been the only truth Adelaide told that day. Just four days after she promised him that everything would be fine, Leif had kissed her freckles one last time, then touched the silky hair of his stillborn son, then closed the casket on them both.
But he shouldn’t have left.
It was only natural, Leif kept telling himself, that a man in a strange country would want to return to his hometown after his wife’s death. He had no family in Scotland, not anymore. He’d never truly fit in there. Perhaps it was his accent, or his height, or the fact that he always carried a sword. He dressed the same as everyone else, after Adelaide made him a plaid to go over his shoulder. Leif pulled his plaid closer around him as a chill wind blew over the waters.
He knew that he would be fine no matter where he went. If only he had merely himself to worry about! In the warmth of his plaid, close to his heart, lay the one thing Adelaide had given him that Leif could never bear to part with—a precious son, three years old, with his mother’s red hair but none of her freckles.
Drostan was a miracle. He was full of pluck and fire and stubbornness, but when he was sleeping, as he was then, he was perfect. Leif kissed his soft hair and held him closer to his heart.
What business did Leif have, bringing his son to live among the Norse? His brother Konar was a berserker, given to fits of rage since childhood. Would he hurt Drostan? Or worse, would Drostan turn out to be like him? Leif bristled with self-rage. What was he doing? Making the worst mistake of his life, that's what he was doing.
Lord, forgive me, Leif prayed, nearly crushing Drostan in his embrace. If anything happens to him, I’ll never forgive myself.
I'm blessed with two jobs. Actually four. But since writing doesn't seem like work to me, and I don't think being a student technically counts, I'll stick with two.
My first job is at a nursery. I work every Tuesday morning from nine to noon, and I absolutely love it. The kids are great, my co-workers are great, and even the pay is pretty good. But my second job is that of a lowly dog-walker. Having walked dogs for two years before I moved, I'd say I have a little experience. And so I present to you, dear readers, nine things your dog walker doesn't tell you.
1: Don't waste your money on a fancy dog-walking service unless it's your only option. Kids between the ages of 10 and 13 will charge the least and do every bit as good of a job. Most of them don't understand the concept of money (or how expensive everything is nowadays) very well. But if you don't have any kids in your neighborhood (or if none of them are homeschooled and you need your dogs walked before 4:00), try a college student. They'll charge more, but will probably settle for less than the going rate for professional services.
2: If you end up hiring a kid, expect some sort of parental involvement. This might range from getting Mom's phone number to Dad negotiating wages to someone actually going with the child on the walks. On a rare occasion, a parent might come inside your house, especially if you hire someone younger than 12 or who has never walked dogs before. You might want to discuss all of this beforehand.
3: Every once in a while, I'll bring a friend on a walk with me. Sometimes they'll even hold a leash. But I don't let them into your house.
4: Speaking of coming into your house, you can give me your garage code or some keys to the front door. I'm impartial, and I'll do my best to keep everything safe and confidential. I'm also pretty careful about locking up again afterwards. However, when I stop walking dogs for you, I'll need to meet with you to return your keys. If not, I'll just keep them as a memento.
5: I'm a lot more dedicated than you think. Wind chill is -5 degrees? I've walked dogs in that. Thirty-two degrees, rainy, windy? I've walked dogs in that, too. Unless I'm running a fever, I won't let sickness get in the way of my business. Heck, I walk your dogs more faithfully than I walk my own dog.
6: Speaking of my own dog, yes, I've called your dog by my own dog's name. Probably more than once. But I do remember your dogs' names. I've been known to get attached to my charges. Sometimes, I'll spend a little extra time at your house, just bonding. When one of my clients moved, taking my beloved Annie with them, I cried. (P.S.: I'd also love to know your cat's name, if you'd be so inclined to tell me.)
7: Sometimes, your dogs get so excited to see me that they wet the floor. I wipe it up when I get back, and if there's an all-purpose cleaner in sight, I'll use it. I don't want you to think that you've hired me for nothing. But don't expect me to wipe up wet pawprints after it rains.
8: If you could pay me on a regular basis, that would be great. I hate reminding my employers...wait a second....
Whatever I'm supposed to call you, I hate asking you for money. But I'm not giving my time and services away, either. You can pay me once a week or once a month, or every time I show up if you're so inclined. (Just a hint: younger dog walkers need to be paid more often. Cash on a weekly basis keep them motivated.) If your dog walker is high-school age, it's safe to assume they have a savings account and you can start giving them checks if you need to. But cash is better for tax evasion. Just kidding--we don't make enough to report.
9: Please communicate. If you're home sick from work, please text me so I don't trudge five houses down the street just to risk getting the flu. I had one client/employer/owner leave me daily notes. I'd spend quite a bit of time writing notes back. Of course, kids would be more interested in notes than older teens and college-age dog-walkers. But still, keep me updated when you don't need my services.
And there you have it! Nine facts about your friendly neighborhood dog walker...or at least the honest ones. Not all dog walkers have high moral standards, and I don't recommend you hire just anyone. Take your time to pick the right dog walker, just like you took your time picking your dog, and it'll be a match made on the other side of the rainbow bridge.
Do you have a dog? What's its name? Have you had any interesting experiences with dog walkers, or are you a dog walker yourself? Tell me about it in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers--and don't forget to like us on Facebook!
Ah, yes...I am excited.
If you've been following our short stories every Monday, you might have realized that "A Prayer for Purpose" has come to a satisfying conclusion. At least for some readers. Personally, I think I could have done better. But as a random Viking from the first How to Train Your Dragon movie says, "Out with the old, and in with the new!"
This is why I'm excited.
I'm going to try something new. Something different. Something I've never tried before. Is it science fiction? High fantasy? Or simply a different style of writing?
Ah, wait. I'm a nerd. Nerds are never understood, except for by fellow nerds. So I can tell you blatantly that I'm going to try writing a stream-of-consciousness short story, and you're going to have absolutely no idea what that means.
Unless, of course, you Google it. I love Google.
So maybe I shouldn't have told you. Or maybe it doesn't matter. I'm not quite sure why I feel evil, unless it's the fact that I'm going to be using a style of writing that has allowed famous authors stretch a few hours of a character's life into a full-length novel. God willing, I'll be able to take a boat ride and make it interesting. Or standing in line for a theater. Or being a homeschool student and sneaking downstairs for some fruit snacks to eat during physics.
But something big is cooking, and I'm sure you're going to love it.
Happy belated Valentine's Day to all of my wonderful readers!
I hope that you were able to celebrate the feast day of a randomly-chosen third-century saint with as much chocolate, hugs, and stuffed animals as your hearts desired. I got plenty of chocolate, and I don't need any $1 plush bears from Dollar General, but I could use a hug from my sister. Typically, I only get hugs from her under three circumstances: if she wants something from me, if she misses me (for example, when I come home from summer camp), and if I chase her around the house long enough to catch up to her and forcibly obtain one.
Other than that, I spent most of my day at church trying to learn a fancy part on the piano that I ended up performing with more mistakes than a seven-year-old's rendition of Beethoven's "Fur Elise." But I'm guessing that no one in the audience noticed. Hopefully.
At any rate, somewhere between the eating of chocolate and practicing of piano parts and my wondering if I should get my sister a box of chocolates or one big caramel-filled chocolate heart, I started thinking about this strange holiday.
Back in the day, people were more apt to celebrate the feast days of Catholic saints than they are today. And there are quite a few saints. To date, there are over ten thousand canonized saints. Things were more simplified in the Middle Ages. There was no such thing as canonization until the turn of the millennium. Local saints were celebrated at a particular place, such as Saint Winnifred's following at her hometown of Gwytherin, Wales. Basically, the only qualification for being a 'saint' was living a particularly holy life, performing extraordinary miracles, and/or being martyred. Most female saints died as virgins, although a few of them were noted for raising their children in the fear of the Lord.
Saint Valentine lived in the 200s AD in Italy. He wasn't a very popular saint, although churches worldwide claim to house his relics. Everyone was too busy preparing for the season of Lent to pay much attention to him. One of the only reasons we might celebrate St. Valentine's Day is a pagan Roman celebration celebrated in mid-February that was aimed to make women fertile. This festival was Christianized because...well, why not?
Valentine's Day picked up speed as time went on. By the Victorian Era, people made and bought elaborate valentines like the one above--not at all like the ones we buy in $2 packs of two dozen. Today, people spend billions of dollars on things to show their significant others how much they love them. I don't have anything against any of that, especially the sugar. This is the one time of year I get Little Debbie cakes. I just think we should try to show people how much we love them every day, instead of just on the day that celebrates the life and death of an obscure saint.
What did you do for Valentine's Day? What did you get? And do you have a hard time getting hugs from your siblings? I'd love to know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to like us on Facebook!
“Well, son?” Mattathias asked Lukas as they walked in the barley fields together. “Have ye decided?”
“Nay, I haven’t,” Lukas admitted. “I’m too hapless to copy manuscripts, I can’t switch between languages fast enough to be a translator, and I can’t be an herbalist fer fear I’d give someone the wrong medicine.”
“Ye oughtn’t avoid a task simply because ye’ve failed at it,” Mattathias said. “No one expects ye to be perfect the first time ye try something.”
“I know—but—the jobs in the scriptorium just felt...stuffy,” Lukas said. “I can’t sit still long enough fer those. Ye know that.”
“I do.” Mattathias chuckled to himself. “Even as a toddler, Lukas, ye squirmed….”
“Don’t all toddlers squirm?”
“Not as much as ye did.”
Mattathias’s eyes shone, and he ruffled Lukas’s brown curls. “God has big plans fer ye. If He didn’t, ye wouldn’t be here right now. I’m not about to know what they are, but ye will. Give it time, give it faith.”
“But how will I know?” Lukas asked.
“What is it that ye love doing, more than anything else?”
Lukas thought. He enjoyed reading. Praying wasn’t that bad either, although he knew he didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as some of the other monks did. The one thing he loved, foolish as it sounded, was getting his hands dirty in the fields. He always loved the smell of soil, its cool feel between his fingers. He laughed inside when he scattered seed, and pride mixed with the sweat and soreness of harvest.
“More than anything else, Father,” Lukas said, “I like being out in the fields with ye.”
Mattathias smiled and knelt to examine the base of a barley stem. “A lad who speaks three and a half languages oughtn’t waste his time doing what an illiterate man could.”
“I can spend all winter in the scriptorium.”
Lukas held his breath. He would ask Father Sean’s approval, of course, but he wanted his own father’s first. Finally, Mattathias stood with a smile in his eyes.
“Do what ye will, lad,” Mattathias said. “I’d be glad of yer help.”
Lukas beamed. “I’ll go ask Father Abbot!” he shouted as he ran inside.
After some searching, Lukas located Abbot Sean in his cell. The door was open, and voices came from the inside. Lukas stopped and listened.
“...They’re coming too close, too often,” a voice was saying. “The monastery is hidden from the coast, but if they were to settle here….”
“I am aware,” Father Sean sighed. Lukas peeked into the room. The abbot was sitting at his desk, his head in his hands, while Lukas’s cellmate Eoghan was trying to keep his fear off his face and his hands, which doubtlessly reeked of the fishnets he worked with, behind his back.
“They didn’t come too near the coast this time,” Eoghan said. “We watched until they were out of sight.”
“Ye did well not to startle the others,” Father Sean said. He looked up and saw Lukas. “Let me think and pray, Eoghan. Thank ye for yer information.”
Eoghan smiled at Lukas as he left, and Father Sean bid him come in the cell. “Father Abbot, what are we to do about the Norsemen?” Lukas asked. “Why do they come so near St. Anne’s Cleft?”
“There are many things that have no answers,” Father Sean said. “Do not be afraid, my son. I’ve faith yet that the Lord will protect us.”
“Will we fight them if it comes to it?”
Lukas opened his mouth to protest, but he quickly shut it again. What wrong was there in self-defense? Did not even Peter have a sword? Yes—and the Lord rebuked him for using it.
“Father Abbot,” Lukas said, “the reason I came was—I wish to apprentice myself to my fa—I mean, Brother Mattathias—and learn farming.”
“Farming, my son?”
“Aye, Father Abbot. I have Brother Mattathias’s blessing.”
Father Sean managed half of a smile. “Ye’ve mine as well.”
Lukas smiled and thanked Father Sean as he left. His failures in the scriptorium, his excitement at the eminent Easter feast, and even his fear of a Norse invasion seeped out of his mind. He had a task on earth, one he loved, one he’d do for his whole life. And he was excited.
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.