The Saga of Amberlin: Chapter 4

Edited version updated on Jan. 22, 2011

Chapter 4

After finishing with the dishes, Herb and Amberlin walked out the back door and along the gravel path to the small cottage about twenty yards from the main house. It had once been a guesthouse, but after Herb and Rose had made their agreement, Herb had taken it over as his office space. It wasn’t long before he thought of it as his sanctuary away from the craziness of the world, and the name stuck.

As they approached the cottage, Ruffin stuck his head out from his doghouse and took a sniff of the air. “He smells those grits you have, Amberlin. Better let him have them.”

As Amberlin put the bowl down, the blue-merle, rough-coated Australian Sheepdog pulled himself from his shelter, stretched his front legs, then his back ones before moving in on the bowl of grits.

“Ruffin likes grits,” Amberlin said, as she rubbed the soft fur behind Ruffin’s ears.

“That’s for sure,” Herb said with a laugh, “Unfortunately, they go straight to his hips. I might need to get you to start walking him around the neighborhood to take off some of that weight. Come to think of it, I might need to join the two of you.”

Herb patted his less than flat stomach, then reached down and undid the chain from Ruffin’s collar. “When you finish your breakfast, you can come on into the office,” Herb said to his aging companion. Ruffin was rarely allowed in the main house. Rose felt strongly that if God had intended dogs to be indoors, he wouldn’t have designed their coats to shed, but Ruffin seemed content to make the Sanctuary his home.

The Sanctuary was made up of one large living area that included its own kitchenette, a smaller bedroom, and a bathroom. Herb had converted the living area into his office and library, leaving the bedroom to collect clutter through the years.

“We’ll clean out the back room and convert it into your school room. How will that be?” Herb asked as he turned on the lights, and breathed a deep sigh as he gazed around the cozy room. He truly felt more at home in this one room than he did anywhere in the main house.

“Papa Herb be my teacher,” Amberlin said again.

“That’s right. I can’t think of a better way to prepare and protect you.”

“Prepare me for what? Protect me from what?” Amberlin asked as she climbed onto the overstuffed couch that sat against one wall across from the stone fireplace.

“Well, answering those two questions is the perfect place to start, I guess.” Herb pulled the swivel chair from his desk and pushed it closer to the sofa.

“Humm, let’s see, where to begin?” He paused for a moment, rubbing the course whiskers of his chin from where he’d failed to shave this morning. “I’m not completely sure what I’m to prepare you for, least not yet, except… I’d say, for starters, to prepare you for life, and for your own destiny.”

“What is a destiny, Papa Herb?”

Herb smiled. This wasn’t going to be as easy as he’d thought. “Well, I believe that God has placed each one of us here on Earth for a special reason. Some people call it a life purpose, or their destiny. We’re each here for a reason, and I believe you’re here for a particularly special reason, although I have to admit, I don’t know what it is yet.”

“Then, how are you going to prepare me for it?” Amberlin asked with a coy smile on her face.

“That’s another good question, my dear. I kind of thought I’d be the one asking you the tough questions.” Herb joked. “Remember what Mo told me just before I left his room, when I asked him about the third P-word?”

Amberlin frowned for a moment, trying to remember. “I was just about asleep by then.”

“Well, he said the third word was “purpose,” and that the person who I was to prepare and protect would bring a deeper sense of purpose to Earth, and so that’s where we’ll begin. In fact, I’d say we already have.”

Apparently satisfied with that answer, Amberlin nodded. “And what are you to protect me from?”

“Anything and anybody who would keep you from fulfilling on your life purpose.” Herb replied.

“Who would do that?”

“Oh, plenty of folks, I’m afraid, mostly out of ignorance and fear.” Herb paused, trying to think of a simple way to share his thoughts with his granddaughter. Finally he continued. “What I’m about to share with you, you might not understand, least not all of it, but we’ll continue to talk about it from time to time until you do. Ok?

“Sure, Papa Herb. I’ll try my best.”

“That’s good, sweetheart. So will I.

“There are different ways we can know and relate to God. I won’t go into all of them right now, but one of the ways is to think of God as our protector. I know you’ve heard the stories in Sunday school about God being up in heaven, looking down over us to keep us safe, right?”

“Yes, they tell us about him watching over us all the time.”

“And that’s one way to know God. If we’re in trouble he’s there to watch over us and protect us. Have they also spoken to you about God giving Moses the Ten Commandments?”

“I think so, though I don’t remember what they all were.” Amberlin replied in a worried voice.

“That’s ok, sweetheart. You’ll have plenty of time to learn them, over and over, I’m sure.

“Well, thinking of God as the Supreme Rule Maker is another way to know God. And if we think of God as our protector, like a parent, and someone who gives us certain rules to follow, what should we as good children do?”

“Follow the rules and do what he says!” Amberlin replied quickly.

“Exactly.” Herb chuckled. “And those are two important and common ways for us, his children, to know God. Is this making sense?”

“Yes, I think so,” Amberlin answered. “But what does this have to do with people being ignorant and afraid?”

“Another good question. Well, sometime people get stuck knowing God in only those two ways. They never bother to look further, to consider other ways to be connected with God. When that happens, and unfortunately it has happened a lot throughout history, people often become afraid when God shows up in different ways. These people then think that their way of knowing God is the only way. That’s their ignorance showing, and when God shows up in different ways or when other people get to know God in different ways, it frightens them.”

“But what other ways are there to know God?” Amberlin asked, a perplexed look on her face.

“Well, as I said, there are many different ways: more than I’ve discovered at this point in my life, but let me share one other way by telling you a story about your grandmother, Rose. I think you’ll also begin to understand why she’s frightened by what she saw last night.

“The story takes place many years ago, when Rose was a young girl, not too much older than you. I didn’t know her then, but she told me this story once, just before we were married because she was afraid if I found out on my own, that I wouldn’t want to stay married to her.”

The incident happened in this community, and while almost no one knows about it, Rose was still afraid I might find out from someone else.”

The “voices,” as Rose calls them, started when she was 12. She began to “know” things about the people around her – things that they hadn’t told her. At first, she didn’t think much about it assuming everyone else had the same ability, but before long she figured out that she knew things in ways that others didn’t have access to. She finally shared this with her best friend, Missy.”

“Missy Stover, the reverend’s wife?”

“Yes, except her name was Missy McMillan at the time, and this was long before Reverend Stover. Missy and Rose grew up together as best friends. When Missy found out about this inner knowing that your mother had, she didn’t believe it at first, so she challenged her mother to put it to a test.”

“A test?” Amberlin asked.

“Yes, an experiment to see how accurate it was, and to see if it was real. There was another little girl in their class named Emily Rogers, that neither of them liked, but that Missy particularly disliked, so Missy asked Rose to see if the voices could tell her what Emily’s greatest fears were. It took a few weeks for Rose to come up with the answer since this ability was new and she was still learning about it, but eventually she got the message that Emily was deathly afraid of two things – spiders and the dark.”

“Emily sounds a lot like me.” Amberlin said. “I’m not too crazy about either one of those.”

“Well, it was even worse for Emily. She had what is known as a phobia against spiders and also about being in the dark. In fact, it was so bad that her parents kept a small lamp in the shape of an angel turned on in her room even when she slept, and she was constantly asking her parents to check under her bed for spiders.

“When Missy learned of this, she decided the only way to check to be sure the information was true was to put it to a test.”

“How’d they do that?” Amberlin asked.

“Well, late one night after everyone had gone to bed, Rose and Missy met outside Emily’s home. Over the past couple of weeks they both had collected a jar full of spiders from every dark little hole they could find. Missy climbed into Emily’s bedroom with the spiders and one other surprise for Emily while Rose entered the basement where the fuse box was.

“Fuse box? What’s that?”

“It’s what controls the electricity that goes through the house. By loosening a fuse, you can cut the power to that section of the house.”

“Oh,” Amberlin said, then realizing what that meant, she repeated, “Oh, I see.”

“As soon as the nightlight went off in Emily’s room, Missy dumped the spiders out on Emily’s bed, replaced the nightlight with one that Missy had left over from Halloween that was in the shape of a spider. Then, just before climbing out the window, she shook Emily awake.”

“What happened?” Amberlin asked.

“Well, unfortunately, the test proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Emily hated spiders and the dark more than anything in the world. They kept her in the dark for several minutes, with the spiders climbing over her bed and on her. Then Rose replaced the fuse turning the spider light back on. That’s when the Emily started screaming. The combination of darkness and spiders was too much for Emily. She flew into hysterics, crying and screaming, and swatting at the spiders that climbed over her. Finally, in a blind panic, she ran out of the room, into the hallway, tripped at the top of the stairs, and fell.”

Amberlin gasped.

“Meanwhile, seeing what had happened, Missy quickly climbed back in the room, exchanged the lamps, and then escaped out the window again.

“What happened to Emily?”

“They said she was dead before she reached the bottom of the stairs from a broken neck.  “Oh, no.” Amberlin gasped. “Poor Emily.”

“Yep. No one ever quite understood what happened that made her panic, though they figured it was probably a bad dream. But, of course, Rose and Missy knew. That’s when Rose decided the “voices” inside her were a curse from Satan. She refused to listen to them or ever talk about them again with Missy or anyone else.”

“Wow!” Amberlin said, whose eyes shone bright with amazement. “No wonder she’s afraid. Is Satan tempting me too, Papa Herb?”

“Well, that’s what Rose is afraid might be happening,” Papa Herb replied, “but I have a different opinion about it. Do you want to hear what I think?”

“Sure. After all, you’re my teacher who’s here to prepare and protect me.” Amberlin smiled, revealing her two charming dimples.

Herb smiled back. “I think these special powers that the women of this family have are like other gifts and talents we all have. Like I have the talent of writing, others have the talent of being able to draw well, while other people have musical talents. In other words God has given us all special gifts. Some gifts are more common and are therefore considered more acceptable while others, like yours and Rose’s are…well, less common.”

Papa Herb leaned in closer to Amberlin. “But it’s what we do with our talents that determine whether they are truly gifts or curses. You see, Missy convinced your grandmother to use her gifts in an evil and malicious way so they became a curse.”

Amberlin thought hard about what Papa Herb said, and decided it made sense to her. “So, you’re saying there’s nothing wrong with what I can do as long as I don’t use my abilities to do wrong things?”

“That’s what I’m saying, sweetheart. Rather than rejecting or denying your special gifts from God, embrace them, develop them with the intention to do good, and do so carefully.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because, remember, not everyone has the same way of viewing them as you and I do. I’m afraid people in the Golden Acres Community spend much of their time stuck in fear, so anything that is different or that they don’t understand, like your special powers, is automatically assumed to be trouble.”

“And from the devil,” Amberlin added.

“That’s right,” Papa Herb sighed. “So, if you notice new things that you can do that you’re not sure if others can do…”

“Like moving the water around?” Amberlin asked.

“Like moving the water around,” Herb agreed, “Or hearing voices, or having a feeling that you know what’s going to happen before it does, or knowing what someone else is thinking without them telling you…”

“Wow! I’ll be able to do all that?”

Papa Herb chuckled. “I don’t know, sweetheart. I just don’t know. Only God knows at this point what you’ll be capable of as you grow older.” But I have a feeling you’ll have a lot more power than either one of us can imagine, he thought but did not say.

“I do know this, though. You’re here for a very special reason. In truth, we all are. I just have a hunch that your reason may be even more special.”

Amberlin thought about what her grandfather had said. “Papa Herb, is a ‘hunch’ one of those special gifts from God?”

Herb laughed again. “Could be. It sure could be.” He patted her lightly on the head then a thought came to him. “You know, now that you mention it, having hunches and inner voices and the like could be considered another way of knowing God. It’s called the ‘intuitive response,’ and we all have the ability whether we develop it or not. The potential to tap into God’s wisdom in this way exists within us all. It’s unfortunate that in Rose’s world she couldn’t be open to that possibility, but you can be.”

Amberlin sat quietly, nodding her head with a faraway look of innocence in her eye. “Ok, let’s not blow a fuse in your brain on our very first day. What say you and I see about turning that junk room in yonder into your special classroom?”

“Yea!” Amberlin shouted. “I like having you as my teacher.”