I sit on the couch. It’s a beautiful summer morning and I’m struggling to let ink flow onto the paper—well, actually, it’s pencil. I should switch to ink? The words swirling in my head are spinning like the wheels of a bicycle. I haven’t overcome this self doubt. It’s still here, it kept me company in the night, it woke me up this morning. Is this a test? To reveal all pretense?
His right hand held the frame of my new bike. He kept it steady. All five years of me trusted him to keep me from falling. My dad stayed beside me as I found my balance and before I knew it I was riding across the field. He had let go long before I realized it, seeing my ability before I did.
It was a red bike. I have been drawn to red ever since. Red shoes, red dresses, red walls, flowers, pillows, journals, lipstick, nails… But I’ve realized this has nothing to do with the red bike and everything to do with my father. He showed me I could do much more than I knew was possible. How often do I put my focus on the wrong things?
Yesterday I was sure and steady, today I am shaky. Here I sit, blank paper, beginning again, I don’t know if I can. Or if I should even try.
I write out what I have asked before, but need to ask again. So I put it in writing this time. I want more. I want more reassurance. It’s new every day. This need. For reassurance. The invisible silence sometimes drives me crazy. So I ask and I write as if that will make it more reassuring. I begin. Good morning, God…
I’m struggling again. You have watched me buy book after book, and they sit unread as though I might be able to absorb them by osmosis. Help. How do I write this novel? Where does it begin? Where does it end! And how about the middle? I have folder after folder filled full of files. New beginnings. New endings. I can’t even keep them straight anymore. And what‘s worse, the early writing seems better than the rewrites.
Should I create some collections? How about that? Like little assortments of seashells, each individually created with their own shapes and colors and sizes. Each so different but created by the same right hand. Help me. You get this kind of thing. You are the Master at it after all. Creating something beautiful out of nothing. Help.
Help me to focus. I promise not to buy another how-to book. Can’t I just write my own way? Is that pretentious? I start reading, jump around, page through, and stop. I feel like I’m peaking into someone else’s closet, as though I think their clothes will fit! I have a closet of my own to straighten out.
I laid my journal down on the coffee table then and picked up the journal I have saved from my dad. One day at a time, it’s filled with scriptures. I discovered that on June 29, 2013, he had written “Debbie and Joan are with me on the Island,” followed by three verses:
In the morning. O LORD, You hear my voice, in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. Psalm 5:3 Did he know I would lay my request before God this morning…?
O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you: my soul is thirsty for you, my body longs for you in a dry land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1. Did he know I would be thirsty…?
I can do anything through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13. Did he know he would offer me reassurance this morning?
I know dad didn’t know at the time what he had written would be what I needed to hear on the exact day six years later. As writers we never know who our words will touch. It’s not our job to know. Trust in the Lord, Dad would say. And keep at it!
Three years ago today, was the day my father died. I still ride a red bike, I still love red, and I still know my Father’s hand keeps me from falling. He holds me steady and before I know it I will be off and writing.
He knows our abilities before we do.
Now to the one who is able to keep you from falling and to make you stand joyful and faultless in his glorious presence. Jude 1:24 International Standard Version
Ode to my dad Bill. February 9, 1939–June 29, 2016
Artwork: Nick Fewings, Unsplash