The next several weeks dragged by slow, and painfully for Jules. She started getting up earlier in the mornings to work out and make a healthy breakfast. All of the lifting, pushing, and caring for Duncan that she did was wearing out her mind more than anything else. She tried to set aside time each day to take a walk while Duncan was sleeping in the afternoons. She always looked forward to this time to let her mind wind down and relax, but it wasn't always enough.
On Friday nights Miles would bring Angus over to Jules' place. Charlie and Greta would join them to enjoy pizza and a good movie together. Jules looked forward to these laid-back evenings of fellowship. She appreciated the cheerful company of her friends.
One particular Friday evening was more quiet than usual. Charlie and Greta were both busy, and hadn't been able to make it. The movie had long since ended, and Duncan and Angus were both snoring in their easy chairs.
Miles and Jules sat quietly in their places on either end of the long sofa. Jules had her feet tucked up under her and a decorative pillow hugged against her chest. She put her chin in her hand and rested her index finger against her lips.
Miles had his leg crossed, his hands loosely clasped above his denim knee. He was wearing a soft black tee shirt and converse; his usual way of dressing for a casual get-together. Jules sighed gently, cutting into his thoughts. "What's on your mind?" He glanced over at her with a smile.
"Well," she spoke quietly, rubbing her forehead in a tired motion. "I've been having a bad attitude lately."
She paused, and Miles gently prodded. "What about?"
"Everything," Jules grimaced and then laughed quietly. She picked at the fringe on her pillow while she continued. "You know how you feel when you've got your whole life planned out ahead of you, and then something happens and puts all your plans on hold? Or destroys them altogether?"
"Yes, I think I understand what you're talking about. Is that how you're feeling about everything that happened with your grandpa?"
"Yes, that and everything that happened with Martin, too. Plus my dad coming into the picture so suddenly. It just felt like everything happened all at once, you know? And I haven't had as much time to do the things I want to do lately. I'm so selfish, I know, but it bothers me that if I want to paint I pretty much have to stay up really late to do it. I know that I should be thanking God for the good and the bad, but sometimes it's easy to get stuck feeling like it's all bad." She sighed and shook her shoulders.
Miles nodded and sat quietly for a few minutes. Spring night sounds were coming in through the screen door and open windows, adding a subtle home-like feel to the evening. Miles smiled slightly over the cheerful chirp of a nearby cricket, and then turned back to Jules. "I think what you're experiencing is sanctification at its finest."
Jules nodded and met his glance. "I'm listening."
"Well, you said that you knew you should thank God for the good and the bad, right?"
She nodded her head and continued to braid the fringe on the edge of the pillow.
"Well, that's true. But sometimes I think that even the things we see as bad are actually good. At least, they're good for us. We may not see it in the moment, but God is using these situations to grow us. It's almost like God gives you the key to a door and then changes the lock out before you can open it. I don't know if that makes sense, but I think what I'm trying to say is that God is blessing us through (what seem to be) curses. Sort of like blessings in disguise."
Jules smiled. "No, that makes perfect sense. I like the way you put it, calling sanctification a 'changed lock'."
Miles smiled again. "Gramps used that analogy on me when I first moved in with him. It made so much sense when he put it that way. He said to me, 'Miles, don't take the will of God for granted. We can plan, and hope, and dream all we want to, but it always comes down to what He wants for us, and what He expects from us.'"
"That's beautiful. And what do you think He expects from us?"
"Cheerful obedience, among many other things." Miles grinned. "He wants everything we fight so hard to keep from giving. Our loving commitment to follow Him, our willingness to give up everything in order to carry out His will for us, our trust; everything."
"So much, yet so little in comparison to the fact that He gave us everything we already have. Just like you said in your poem, 'Gift for the Giver'."
"You remember my poem?"
"I don't remember it word for word, but lines from it come to me occasionally. Mostly when I'm in the middle of feeling sorry for myself." Jules laughed. "So basically you're always convicting me of ways I should grow in my walk with the Lord."
"Wow. I feel... I feel like I should be honored by that."
"Oh, you definitely should. In all seriousness, though, your words carry more weight than you probably think they do. Have you ever thought about sharing your poetry?"
Miles rubbed his clean-shaven chin absentmindedly. "Well, I've always thought I'd like to publish a book of poetry someday."
"You really should."
"Enough about my poetry. Have you painted anything lately?"
"I have one piece that I did a few weeks ago. I think you'd like it."
Miles looked excited. "May I see it?"
"Sure. I'll run upstairs and get it real quick. Be right back." Jules quietly ran up the stairs, and was back down very quickly. She sat down on the couch and handed the canvas over to Miles.
He held it carefully, and gasped at what he saw. "The detail on this is exquisite, Jules. How long did it take for you to paint this?"
"I worked on it for four hours one night, and then finished it in one the next. Do you like it?"
"I love it. I can't believe you remembered how everything looked so perfectly." His eyes lingered in the silhouetted figured in the center. "This is supposed to be us, isn't it?"
"Yes," Jules answered softly. "I wanted a tangible way to remember that night."
"Thank you. I've thought about dropping it off at the coffee shop, but couldn't bare the thought of some stranger admiring it simply for the blending and brushstrokes. I'd rather keep it here and love it for its heart."
"For some reason I agree with you."
Jules smiled and carried her painting into the kitchen. She set it down on the counter and then went back to her seat.
"As much as I'm enjoying this evening, I really should get Gramps home."
"Oh, I didn't realize that it was so late."
"Yeah. I'll help you get Duncan to bed before I leave, though."
"Thank you. I'll walk Angus out to your car while you do that."
Miles grinned. "Good deal."
They each woke up their own grandfathers, then Miles supported Duncan down the hallway to his room.
Jules walked with Angus out the front door. He put a friendly arm around her shoulders and smiled down at her. "Thank you for a lovely evening, Jules."
"It was my pleasure," she smiled. "You know you're welcome here any time."
"Of course. And you're welcome in our home any time, too."
"Thank you. I'll remember that."
Angus climbed into the passenger seat of Miles' car and reached for the door. "I'll be fine alone out here for a few minutes. I'm sure Miles would like to hear you sing to Duncan." He winked.
"Oh, Angus." Jules laughed. "I guess I won't deny him of that pleasure. Goodnight, Angus."
"Goodnight Dear. Take care of yourself."
"I'll do my best." She walked back up the steps and through the front door.
"There you are," Miles met her in the living room. "Duncan asked me to see if you would come in and sing to him now."
Miles lingered in the doorway of the bedroom while Jules crooned a sweet hymn from Duncan's bedside. When she had sung the last note she kissed Duncan's cheek and stood up. She smiled warmly when she caught Miles' eye. They stepped out into the living room and closed the bedroom door. "Thank you for coming over this evening, Miles. I know it wasn't quite as exciting as usual since Greta and Charlie couldn't make it."
"A quiet evening can be really nice for a change. I really enjoyed it, Jules."
"I'm glad. I'll see you on Sunday."
She watched the taillights of his car disappear before walking back inside. She locked up and shut all the windows before going upstairs to her room.
Jules stared reflectively at her face in the mirror while she braided her hair for the night. She tilted her head slightly, studying her profile in the side mirror. She sighed and turned on the cold water, washing her face and then patting it dry with a pink wash cloth. Once she was in her pajamas, she walked back to her bed and sat down. Her glance fell on her thick, leather journal. She picked it up and turned to a blank page. I want to meet my birth mom. Jules wrote. She held up her pen, hovering over the page. I am determined to ask Dad about it very soon. Maybe next week? I don't know. I just feel like it's something I should do. I just want to meet her and see what she's like. Would that make her happy? Would it make ME happy? I feel like I need some closure. She shut her journal with a sigh and turned off all the lights.
The darkness closed in on her, and her mind wandered to her conversation with Miles. "A changed lock," she whispered to herself. The words rolled over her mind, their significance sinking in even deeper. She had never given much thought to the subject of sanctification before; it had always been just a word to her. She tapped her index finger against her lips and sighed a little. "Lord, thank you for my changed lock. Help me to bear it with patience and joy." She sat bolt upright and turned the lamp back on. After jotting down a few lines in her journal she lay back down and repeated the lines to herself in her head. She fell asleep with them as her last thought.
"When it feels like life reset my clock
Help me remember my changed lock
Not to gripe about this life's demands
But look to You for Your commands
While living as You do above
Giving myself away in love"
Again, please let me know if anything is unclear. :)