Leaving the ninety-nine
A change was inevitable; a move inexorable, and while this was a decision I had wrestled with for months, years, even, nothing could have prepared me for the journey ahead. My native city – Miami, had long become a place of closed doors, of brutal stagnancy. The chain of events over the years, specifically in the recent months proved repetitious, and I knew then, just as I knew as a young girl feeling overwhelmed with separation anxiety to parents and a family I then shared a home with; that it was time.
It was a matter of- ‘move, or be moved”!
Almost to the day, a year ago, on a beautiful, crisp and cool Saturday-October morning, the scent of autumn in the air, I lurched from my 4th floor kitchen window, hands clasped around my mug, embracing the distinct aroma of pumpkin spice java; and almost as if wedged in a dream, I gazed at the movement below; when interrupted by the anticipated knock at my door.
I, reluctantly, set my mug down and confidently made my way to greet my visitor. It was my then landlord Vicenzo Coppolli, a 4-something-foot, 72-year-old Cuban-Italian, whose smile and witty banter could light up a town. He held out his hand wherein he held some papers, a renewable lease ready for my “Mary Hancock”; and it was in that very moment that I decidedly put my feet to my faith, and began to execute my plan. I looked down at him, and said: “I’m sorry, Vicenzo, but I won’t be renewing my lease, you see I plan to leave Miami as soon as I find a place. “Well, where are going?”; he asked. “Not sure, but I’ll let you know when I get there!” I replied. He slowly took two steps back, and I knew I had lost him to his own cynicism. As a smile tried to make its way to his face, it was replaced by a smirk, and he muttered: “well, Madeleine, send me a postcard, will ya?” I nodded and said – “you got it!”. He smiled, I smiled, and off he went to visit his spinster sister two floors below, to, in all likelihood tell her that I should be ‘baker acted”-immediately, if not sooner!
I closed the door behind me, and like a Catholic-school girl after “mooning” the reverend sister, could not help but laugh to myself, in recalling the horror on his face. I returned to my then cooled cup of coffee and pondered the meaning of the word “purpose”, my purpose, and how might all play out over the course of the coming weeks.
We all need the certainty that comes with knowing we are living with and within our purpose. Yet how far and long will we travel before, as the song goes, “the distance becomes a chore?” Furthermore, all too often our own purpose can and does come in conflict with “Gods purpose”, a lesson I’ve so often realized. However ironic, and all-the-same confounding, is how so many will ask God “to reveal His purpose for them”, yet dare not step out from within the confines of their immediate contentment.
This was clearly not a tactic I was preparing and settling for… I was instead, secure in knowing that He, Christ, the lover of my soul, “overcame so that I might have peace”(Jn. 16:33)… And so, with a hopeful heart, a pint of chispa and a barrel of courage, I soon began to make arrangements to place my things (furniture, et al) in storage and temporarily move into my parents home as I journeyed out “into the wilderness” (again!) heading west along the Florida gulf coast, in search of, not God’s will; for as a redeemed daughter of the Almighty I was already well within His will, but instead, “His purpose” for my life.
The weeks that followed proved enjoyable, thrilling, in fact, as I took to the road, the straight and narrow venturing “frequently and carelessly” up and down the trail (Tamiami) otherwise known as “alligator alley”, and merging onto interstate (I75) 75; the cool breeze in my hair, blasting and singin’ to the gospel tunes of Casting Crowns and Jeremy Camp— “until the whole world hears”!
The days were sunny and rip-roaring, the nights nippy and electrifying, as I, initially, concentrated on the Tampa Bay area, specifically St. Pete, then, working my way down through Bradenton, Sarasota, and so on, meeting and greeting, interviewing and house hunting; making frequent stops, accepting social invites (as is my nature!) to connect with people from all walks of life… artists, agents, entrepreneurs, spiritual leaders, street vendors, and then some; collecting names phone numbers, stories, and sunsets… Oh! – Those intoxicating sunsets!!!
The time spent with my parents, and family in general was equally rewarding as I asked the Lord to shine His light through me/us daily, realizing that it was no coincidence that, much like the glimmer of a single candle can light up an entire sanctuary, God had carefully and purposefully placed me among the lost.
In the interim, I met an otherwise kind and easygoing man from the bay area, and began a short-lived, long–distance relationship which fizzled out within a few weeks when I realized that not only did our theologies and morals clash, but more importantly he was inherently claiming all my time, reverting to juvenile ultimatums… Say what? This God-lovin’, Latina wasn’t havin’ any of itI
I believe my last dialogue with him began with “it’s not you, it’s HE”… (Cue the Dixie Chicks’—“Cold Day in July”!)
We parted as friends, and I promised to pray to continue to pray for him, and did, as my journey through the wild, wild-west marched on, every week more eventful than the last.
Fast-forward 6 months…CLICK TO CONTINUE READING…