Bliss Steadmon didn’t know which direction her life would take as she turned into the parking lot. According to her car’s compass, she headed south. But where was she going? She had to be going somewhere.
Her usual parking place sat open and waiting for her. She pulled in, turned off the engine and closed her eyes. Where will I be ten years from now?
This morning she was at work. Physically, at least. She took the job to get by. It seemed that’s all she’d been doing since Jeff left; just getting by.
Lugging her heavy cotton-weave purse into the hotel lobby, she smiled at the night clerk. The bleary-eyed woman smiled back.
“Was it a wild night?” Bliss asked Sally Macon, the woman behind the counter.
“The usual round of Friday night drunks, tired truckers, and a few late driving travelers,” she answered with a yawn.
“Nothing new, then.”
That’s how it went, the status quo.
Six months ago, Bliss had her life all planned out. She and Jeff would be married, and she would be a military wife. Navy bases here and there would be her home. They were going to have children. The whole happily ever after had been a ring finger’s reach away.
Then came the “we’re still really young” speech Jeff gave her just before he said he was shipping out. There would be no wedding. Bliss hoped his toes were frostbitten from the case of cold feet he’d gotten.
Once Sally clocked out for the morning, Bliss took command of the front desk, and tried to focus on the duties of the day. She forced a smile to form on her face each time a guest approached the check out.
Eva Gardner, head of housekeeping, drifted in to collect her morning report. She hummed a familiar tune as she went about her daily routine. Occasionally she broke into song.
“I got the love of Je-sus deep down in mah ha-ah-art…”
Bliss smiled at the woman who was obviously enjoying her morning.
“How are you doing, Bliss?” Eva asked, once Bliss no longer had a guest to work with.
“Same old stuff. It’s just a different day.”
“It’s a glorious day. You just see the same old stuff. Open your eyes, girl. We’ve got clear skies, the air’s got a little nip of December in it, and there’s so much to do. And look, you’re still carrying that old spring purse too. Go get a new one. It’s almost Christmas.”
Bliss chuckled. Eva always had instructions for her. She had them for everyone, and the older woman commanded respect, so her audience always listened.
“I might just do that.”
“And you know, it wouldn’t hurt to carry that new purse to church tomorrow. We’ve got a few people your age in the congregation.”
“I’ll think about that one too.”
Bliss thought she placated Eva. Then, as the woman hummed and sang her way back to the housekeeping office, Bliss wondered if maybe she could feel love deep down in her heart one day too.
* * * *
Bliss plunked her ten pound purse into the cart at Wal-Mart. She’d just left the hotel, and planned to take Eva’s advice about the new bag. Well, she’d buy one, but she didn’t know if she’d be taking it to church or not.
The rows of purses hung on hooks. They mocked her. Some were ridiculously small. Others looked like gaudy Christmas decorations. Bliss used to love shopping, but now there just didn’t seem to be a point to anything.
“Yeah, and I have every right to be,” she mumbled back to the voice in her head.
Christmas carols played from overhead. The thought of snow by Christmas brought a small smile to her lips. There was something about snow that made her feel fresh, and clean. A cleansing was just what she needed. The smell, and the feeling of the cold air in her lungs as snowflakes fell on her warm skin completed a winter somehow.
However, at present, she stood in the accessories department at her hometown Wally World. Maybe shopping could be a start to reclaiming her life. A little to her left was a purse just the right size for all of her necessities. All ten pounds of them.
Bliss took the handbag off the hook, ignoring the price tag. If she looked at prices today, the defeated feeling would rise up again.
So, she had a new purse. Shoes had to come next. It was only logical. Of course, why wear new shoes when you had an old dress? Bliss revved up her shopping cart, and took off. She had a mission. All from the seed planted by Eva.
Almost two-hundred dollars poorer, but somehow feeling perkier, Bliss left the store with a lot more than a new purse.
A tune came to her, and she hummed until she laughed out loud. It was Eva’s song of the day. Or should she say hymn?
* * * *
Saturday night found Bliss staring at her bedroom ceiling. Insomnia teased her, again. Many nights she couldn’t sleep. Most of them were plagued by the memory of Jeff backing out on all their dreams. How do you just pick up and go on?
Bliss’ tired mind began replaying Eva’s voice from that morning.
“Deep, deep down, deep, deep down, deep down in mah ha-ah-art…”
“Fine! I’ll go to church. Just be quiet, and let me get some sleep! Okay Eva?”
Within ten minutes, Bliss was sleeping peacefully.
* * * *
Bliss opened an eye. Blue digital numbers stared back at her from her clock. Six-thirty. That was a small number for a Sunday morning.
The only way to do anything, was to just do it, she thought to herself as she pushed her body out of bed.
The steamy shower, and dressing in new clothes did nothing but good for Bliss’ spirits. The next step was waiting for her at the red brick church on Main Street. Except she was ready to go an hour too early.
“Might as well get warmed up.”
She settled on the couch with her old Bible, a book that hadn’t seen much use in the last few years. Without really thinking about what she would read, Bliss opened the cover and found First Corinthians. Her pages fell to chapter two, and she skimmed the words until she came to verse nine.
But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.
Bliss pondered this for a moment. Yes, she knew there were wonderful things waiting for her, if only she could embrace them.
The air was cold and biting as Bliss started her car. It would take a few minutes to warm up inside. Her breath puffed in front of her like smoke. It was certainly December. The weatherman on the radio predicted snow for the afternoon as she drove to Main Street.
The church building was filling up as Bliss entered the double doors. She caught sight of Eva coming toward her just before the woman squealed in delight. It was a good thing she knew Eva so well. The sound might have startled her otherwise.
“Oh, you came. And you brought your new purse, too. Good for you.”
“You know it was all because of the new purse that I came here this morning.”
“Uh-huh. Sure. Come meet Timothy. He’s one of the early twenty-somethings I was telling you about.”
Eva steered Bliss toward a handsome dark-haired man.
“Timothy, this is Bliss Steadmon. I thought you might like to show her around.”
Timothy blinked a couple of times, then nodded his head to Eva.
“Good morning, Bliss, this is Martin and Jennifer Pascal, our church family newlyweds,” Timothy said as he took over for Eva as the welcome wagon.
“So, are you new in town?” Martin asked her.
“Well, no. I’ve been here a while. I guess I decided to come today on a lark,” she answered with a nervous laugh. Oh, that didn’t sound right. Martin and Jennifer think so too, they’re both trying not to laugh.
“It’s better than other things you could do on impulse. And I think you’ll find sometimes impulses are more than you think they are at first.” Timothy had a smooth, rich speaking voice. It sent a tingle over Bliss before she mentally stamped it out. You’re in church. And you aren’t in the market for a romance. Remember that.
Bliss smiled up at Timothy as he escorted her to the twenty-somethings Bible class.
When the class was over, Bliss found a place in the sanctuary with Timothy. After a bit of milling around and chatting, the congregation settled down to give an elderly man their attention. He went over a list of announcements while Bliss’ mind drifted.
“…and leading the singing is Timothy Lark.”
Lark? Bliss glanced at Timothy who obviously suppressed a laugh.
“I didn’t know your last name when we met,” she whispered.
“I didn’t think you did,” he whispered back with a wink.
* * * *
The following year, Eva led a handsome young man to Caroline Harper.
The Larks were with Caroline saying their good mornings as Eva approached.
“Brent, this is Caroline, she’ll show you around,” Eva said before she whooshed off to her class.
“Good morning, Brent. This is Timothy and his wife Bliss,” Caroline, the next bride-to-be of the red brick church said with a welcoming smile.