Cast all your care upon Him, because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-8 MEV
It started with a hooker….
I have a few narratives in my life that could begin that way…
This summer I have been reading. I chose to read random, suggested, long put away things that I would not have read during a typical school year. I have borrowed books from the library, ordered one or two from the online book purveyor, picked out copies of things from my own library, and I’ve read books loaned to me by friends and family with the promise, “Read this! It is so good!” For the record I found that one merely meh. Lukewarm at best and I was moved more by the Jerry Lee Lewis biography than the weeks on the NewYork best seller.
One of my borrowed selections was a book about Birmingham’s Magdalen…Louise Wooster, a Turn of the twentieth century Madame. Embedded within a book outlining her entrepreneurship here in Birmingham was her own autobiography. I opened that book expectantly and I finished it heartbroken. Like many women of her time, of our time too I suppose, her support system failed. Parents passed, provisions not prepared, she was used and abused. Eventually she was led into a life of prostitution, and finally she became an alcoholic and drank herself death. I know the story well, it has played out in my very own life, and I am a mama of three children as a direct result.
The book gave insight into lore and traditions and fun facts – I love a good bit of trivia. The benevolent Belle Watling in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind, is based on Lou Wooster. The book debunks this as likely, but historically it could be possible. Also, when she died, businessmen from all over the budding Birmingham area who had been among her clientele sent their empty carriages as representatives of themselves to line the processional. A dark long black snake stretched for miles. She is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery, Downtown, and that’s where our worlds collided.
In her autobiography she mentioned how she loved fresh flowers and in her early days, pre-soiled-dove days, she grew brightly-colored cutting flowers that brought her joy. I completely identify with this very thing. Some people do not like receiving flowers for various reasons, but I am not one of them. In fact, I love a flower and I grow them just so I can bring them inside and enjoy them even more.
Lou also talked about the church women of Birmingham. She was careful at the time not to mention actual names, but she didn’t have to. They were the upstanding Christian Women of the community. She would offer them money and they would gladly take her immorally obtained funds. Yet the one time she called on them for help, for assistance that would cost them nothing but time and attention, they shut the door in her face in the name of Christian dignity. She would say in her own writings that she believed in Jesus and in His work, but that she did not want what it was that these women claimed was Christian. That resonated with me! Perhaps it is because I and generations before me have been rejected in the name of Christ, knowing full well that very act contradicts Christ Himself. When I finished reading I decided to visit her gravesite and to take her flowers, a single act a century later to solidify for myself to love better, and that, as mama says, just because you have Jesus is your name doesn’t mean you act like Him.
On Tuesday we headed out for adventure, by now I had read another few books and had a few history lessons in a graveyard up my sleeve. When we entered the cemetery we were met with a sign on the office. It began with, “Covid,” and I knew we were on our own to find Lou. We turned left and traversed up the hill full of monstrous Oaks, some standing tall and strong, others toppled by time and storms. We saw names familiar because of roads and communities, schools and hospitals that still stand bearing the names now written in marble. We learned via the googles that this place was 22 acres, and I knew then, finding Lou without guidance would be impossible. So as I stood and looked eastbound I asked Jesus to help me find her so that I could give her the gift I’d brought. We drove and hunted and looked, and we read from a history book of Birmingham’s early people. I figured Lou’s visit would have to wait until another day, post COVID when the world rights itself.
We were within walking distance of the exit, when a tree caught our attention. A single lightning strike had struck a huge tree. We are the wife and children of a meteorologist, so we parked the car to investigate. The headstones around us now secondary to this impressive force of nature. It was clear that very recently a single strike had stripped the inner bark into a strip of wood that fell in one piece onto the ground, chunks of singed bark thrown about the perimeter. I walked to the opposite side of the tree, the side that faced the road, and I marveled at how untouched it was. Totally normal on the front, singed and broken on the back. “You look like me.” That was the thought I had for the old tree. You look good where the people see, but where but a few can see, there is a fresh and open wound. I circled back around and began picking up the pieces of bark, by now Mama was a hundred yards away and she held a piece up. What tremendous natural force had thrust that projectile such a far distance. I picked up and moved diagonally and as I looked up, the bark led straight to Lou!
I screamed, “I found her!!! I found Lou!” I sent Mags to the car to get my flowers. Elated I could give her the gift and astonished that Jesus had heard and cared enough to answer my prayer in a most literal and tangible way! I took several pictures so that I can not, even if I try, forget that He cares and He hears and that He uses all that hurt and trauma for good even if it just doesn’t seem possible. We left soon after, filled with stories and pictures of other things and headed for our next adventure that had to do with the cedars of Lebanon. Those are other stories for another day but they too served as tangible reminders of the King and how He rolls.