Struggling today with some deep depression. Half my house is in moving van, another quarter is at my parents in boxes in a shed, and a few items are in my echoing house. Things took a bizarre turn three days from closing when our mortgage company dropped us in a massive dump of loans they’d already approved. Worse yet, the mortgage broker never told us what was happening and it took repeated phone calls to get answers but I’m sure that’s just because of all the craziness going on in the world.
Anyhow, our life is in limbo but we are still trying to move out of this house and may need to stay with my parents for a couple of weeks, which could cause them to be exposed to the virus going around, but I hope not.
I need a distraction from life right now and I’m sure some of you do too. I couldn’t decide which story I’m working on to share, honestly. I have one that’s important to me but I’m not working on the way I should. I thought that sharing here might motivate me to actually finish it so I decided to share the first part of the story today. Tomorrow I’m sharing the first part of a different story.
I’ve shared a little bit of both these stories on this blog in the past. They are being updated, rewritten and revised and will be again before I publish them anywhere. With all that said, here is the first chapter of Fully Alive.
Josefa felt weighed down, unable to lift her arms or legs.
Her mind was racing and she tried to remember why she was on her cot in the middle of the day. She remembered the dizziness, the weakness, feeling so warm, falling to the ground.
Her father had placed her here on the cot, calling for their servant, Josiah.
“Stay here,” he told Josiah. “Come for me if anything changes.”
His voice sounded so far away. Why was he so far away? She wasn’t sure how much time passed before the voices of her family faded into silence, darkness enveloped her and seconds later a blinding light fell over her.
Blurred shapes, faces of people she didn’t recognize, were slowly coming into focus before her
The voice was soft and familiar. Her grandmother was standing before her, smiling, hands outstretched.
“Josefa, my darling. Come! Come! I have someone I want you to meet! Oh, so many I want you to meet! Your brother, Jacob, the one your mother lost before you. Your father’s brother, your uncle Malaichi, who died before you were born. Come!”
The village around her was beautiful, bright, bathed in a glow much like sunlight but even brighter, even more brilliant. People followed her as she walked with her hand in her grandmother’s, crowding around her, pushing against her. Josefa felt lighter than the wind. She could see her arms and legs, but she couldn’t feel them, certain somehow she didn’t need them to move in this mysterious new place.
“Welcome, Josefa,” they said, over and over, one by one, a dizzying mix of joy.
A small boy looked up at her with bright brown eyes and her father’s smile. She stared at him in confusion which quickly dissipated into realization. This was Jacob, the baby her mom lost in childbirth two years before her own birth.
“Jacob…” she whispered, feeling warm tears in her eyes.
She kneeled and pulled the small boy to her, breathing in the sweet smell of his hair, the warmth of his body against hers. She looked up to see a man with a long brown beard, streaked with gray, standing above her.
“Oh, Josefa. Why are you here with us already?” he asked. “What has happened, my child?”
“I – I don’t know, Uncle Joseph. I had been so weak and so tired and . . . I don’t know what happened.”
Her uncle reached out to touch her face, but slowly his face began to blur, then drift away. She reached out for him, but his hand slipped through her fingers. When the darkness came again Josefa gulped air sharply into her lungs and bolted upright into a sitting position, her entire body vibrating. The world around her came into focus. She looked at her hands and arms, realizing she could feel them again. She focused on the intense buzz sliding through her limbs. She felt as if she had been struck by lightning.
The tingling rushed from the soles of her feet to the top of her head as she stood quickly and looked around the room, dazed. Three men stood on one side of the room, looking at her in disbelief. One burst into laughter, seeming to be delighted at the sight of her. Another had his hands and face raised upward, his lips moving but no sound coming out. The third was kneeling down, stroking his beard and watching her while shaking his head.
A fourth man was standing before her, a peaceful expression on his face.
Suddenly her parents were clutching her to them, both taking turns to kiss her and cry. Their voices were loud, unabashedly loud, sounds she’d never heard from them before. They were usually reserved, quiet, certain to look proper to the community around them.
What had happened? Why did she suddenly have so much energy when she could remember feeling so weak only moments before?
Josefa heard a voice, soft, gentle, yet firm.
“Do you not see? Your daughter is alive. Get her food, drink. She will need her strength.”
How could someone speak with such authority yet also with such love?
“Yes, of course, Rabbi.”
The voice of her mother was reverent, trembling with emotion. Josefa sat on her bed again, trying to take it all in, decipher what was happening.
The water against her lips was cool as voices spoke excitedly around her and she drank, suddenly thirstier than she’d ever been.
“Praise be to God!” one of the men cried.
The man who had told her parents to bring her food sat next to her, placing his hands on each side of her face. His eyes were full of kindness, compassion, of life. When she looked at him it seemed as they were the only people in the room. She could hear only his voice, see only his eyes.
“Josefa, your life has been returned to you. Go forth and live it fully.”
His hands were warm as he cupped her face in them. He kissed her forehead then gently lifted her face to look into his eyes.
“Do you understand?”
She nodded meekly, not sure she truly did understand, but knowing she wanted to.
The man her father had called Rabbi stood and turned to the other men in the room.
“Kefa, Ya’akov, Yochanan, we must leave. There are others who need us.”
Her parents took his hand, kissed it and then each cheek.
“Teacher, how can we ever –“
His voice interrupted them. He gently shook his head, raised his hand.
“This is a gift. Treasure it. Tell no one what has happened here. This gift is for your family alone.”
Josefa could hear members of the crowd outside calling to him as he left.
“Yeshua! Yeshua! Are you who they say you are?”
“Tell us, Yeshua! Are you truly the Messiah?”
“Yeshua, your followers say you call yourself the Son of God. Who do you say you are?”
Josefa closed her eyes against the growing brightness of the rising sun.
Each day her memories grew stronger of the day she’d come back from the dead.
The sobs, first in grief, then in joy.
The declarations of praise.
The laughs of disbelief.
The gasps of amazement.
There was only so much she had been able to remember from the day the man they called Yeshua brought her back to life.
The rabbi, the teacher, the man who people in the city said was performing miracles, had performed one in her.
She had been dead, no heartbeat and pale, cold to the touch.
But at his word she was warm again, breathing, heart racing in her chest.
That first breath was like breathing for the first time. The air had never felt so fresh, so crisp, so new. She wished she could remember the words he had said when he brought her back or had even heard them. Her father told her days later what Yeshua had spoken.
“ Talita kumi! Little girl, I say to you, get up!”
Josefa still could not understand how it had all happened. She asked her father question after question that night when everyone had gone home.
The lamp had been extinguished. Only the moonlight lit the small home. Her mother had drifted to sleep, next to her, holding her close, afraid if she let her go, Josefa would be gone again. One of her brothers, Efron, was asleep on his mat in one corner of the room. The other brother had gone home with his family, vowing to return in the morning to see her, make sure she was doing well. He had visited each day for two weeks with his family, as if he couldn’t believe Josefa was still with them, cupping her chin in his hand, kissing her cheek and telling her how happy he was she was well.
“How, father? How did he bring breath back to me?”
Jairus paused as he pondered his daughter’s questions. He hesitated, but he knew what he was beginning to believe in his heart, even as his mind rejected it.
“I believe it is possible that he is as he has said,” her father whispered as he answered her questions. “He may, truly be the Messiah.”
He couldn’t imagine what the others at the synagogue would think if they could hear him.
“He is the son of the most high God,” her mother, Myriam said, half asleep. “I never would have believed it until he brought you back to us. Just a teacher can not do these things. A simple man does not have this power. He is the Messiah, Josefa. The one the prophets spoke of. We must believe now and live our life as He would.”
How would Yeshua want her to live her life now that it had been given back to her? She didn’t know. Should she pack her things and follow him? Maybe she could learn more about how to be like him. She was scared. Now that she had been given a second chance what would she do with it? It was the uncertainty that scared her. Yet something in her had been ignited. She felt a rush of anticipation as she pondered her future days.
Whatever she did with her life it had to be something meaningful, something magnificent, maybe even spiritual, something worthy of the Son of God taking time out of his teaching to bring her from the darkness of death to life again.
The whole world looked different in the days after he’d come.
Colors were more vivid.
Sounds were more beautiful- all sounds – even the sounds that once drove her to the brink of insanity- people passing in the street, donkeys braying, men arguing in the market, women gossiping, children laughing when they should be working.
Smells and tastes were different.
Oh, the tastes of all the spices and the softness of her mama’s bread against the inside of her cheek. She savored food now, held it against the roof of her mouth, and soaked in the flavor with her eyes closed.
Always now she let her sounds of pleasure at life escape her and while her parents once chided her for what they called her exploits they now smiled and laughed, simply overjoyed she was still here for them to love and be loved by.
“Josefa, come with me to the market.” Her mother was gathering baskets to carry any fish or fruit they might buy.
The market was crowded but Josefa didn’t mind. It was exciting to see the different fabrics, smell the food, hear the laughter of those trading and bargaining.
“Did you hear about the man Yeshua healed?” She heard a man behind her talking and tilted her head so she could hear better.
“I heard he spit on him,” laughed the other man. “Are we to really believe this man is the son of God? Spitting on people to bring healing?
Both men were laughing now.
“I don’t know about his ways, but many are speaking about his miracles. Who am I to say he is not who he says he is?”
“But if he is, then we should be gathering an army, Isaac. An army to finally overthrow the Roman rule.”
“I don’t know if he is here to lead us out of being ruled,” the first man said. “He said in the temple we should give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
The other man snorted. “What does that even mean? This Yeshua speaks in riddles. He’s not even a real leader or teacher or he would speak plainly. Why do people follow him? We need a warrior, not a storyteller.”
Her mother’s voice startled her.
“Josefa, hand me that basket for the fish. We have to get back soon for supper. Pay attention.”
She handed her mother the basket and turned to see if the men were still there, but they had blended into the crowds.
Josefa followed her mother back to their home, deep in thought, kicking at the dust with the tip of her foot.
“Josefa, come,” her mother reached behind her and waved her hand at her daughter.
Myriam smiled as Josefa looked up, startled out of a daydream. She’d always been a daydreamer and while it had once frustrated Myriam to no end, she now welcomed it, simply glad to still have Josefa still with them.
Josefa was her second to youngest, her only girl and she was the girl Myriam never thought she’d have. She’d lost Jacob to a fever long before Josefa was born. After Josiah she didn’t think she’d have anymore. Josefa had been a pleasant surprise to her and Jairus both.
“A blessing from Adonai,” Jairus had said when she told him, his smile broad.
“You’re not upset?” she had asked, worry and concern etched on her face.
“Why? Why would I be upset?”
“It’s another mouth to feed.”
“And if Adonai gives us another mouth to feed he’ll give us a way to feed this child and all our children.”
Jairus had pulled her close, pressing his lips softly against her forehead. Seven months later his smile had been even wider when the midwife had held the baby up and they had seen their blessing was a girl. She had been the light of the family since, always laughing and telling stories, ready for an adventure. Her brothers had protected her and delighted in her. The day she had first become ill a dark cloud fell across the family and when she had died as Jairus sought the man so many were calling a prophet, the family had felt as if their life had been shattered.
Myriam smiled as Josefa came into step with her. Where there had been darkness there was now light again. Josefa was still with them and they had the man named Yeshua to thank for her life. So many felt Yeshua was another false messiah but Myriam knew he was the true Son of God, the one who had been prophesied to lead the Jewish people out of bondage. She knew that only the Son of God could have brought her child back from Sheol, where all who die go to spend eternity. Like her, Jairus now believed Yeshua was who he said he was, but she knew he couldn’t share his belief with anyone within the synagogue because the other rabbis believed Yeshua was a trouble maker and spoke blasphemy.
Myriam wondered if one day even the rabbis and other Jewish officials, even the P’rushim, would one day believe the way she and Jairus did – that Yeshua would deliver them from all their hardships in the world, that he would save the Jewish people from the rule of the Romans.