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  • Leanne W. Smith

like a bird ensnared

Blogging not from Florence or Vienna, but from Nashville. The unexpected roads traveled turned out to be unexpected indeed.


Ecclesiastes 9:12 says “As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly on them.” Evil times, or at least inconvenient ones, seem to be falling the world over. We are fish caught in a cruel net, trapped by the bizarre spread of a virus. And, if you’re in Middle Tennessee, you may also have been affected by recent tornadoes with little warning. Solomon, who prayed for wisdom and was granted it, also said “Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning.” I never like to be reminded of this when I am all up in the middle of my mourning. Because it’s hard to believe I’m actually in a better place here than if I had gotten what I wanted. Isak Dennison wrote, "I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills." I had an apartment in a Villa in Florence west of the Piazzale Michelangelo. I was supposed to see the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terra. I had reservations overlooking the Acropolis in Athens. Shelby and I, on the advice of a former student who serves as a missionary there, were planning a 3-island hop-on, hop-off ferry. The wind was going to blow through our hair. We were going to snap frame-worthy pictures. When the Amalfi Coast and Greece trips got canceled, we re-tooled, re-planned and set our sights on Ireland. Ireland has wind for the hair. Ireland has camera-loving shorelines. But Ireland didn’t happen either. They sent us home instead. No leprechauns for us. I am not thinking Solomon-like thoughts here, that somehow this is better than the pleasures I had envisioned. But I’m tired of fighting it. I’m tired of being stalwart and brave and upbeat. I’m on the losing end of this battle, my hope pitted against a worldwide pandemic. This whole time I’ve been teaching a course in Servant Leadership. Talk about being in the hot seat! Never has it been more challenging to try to model what I preach. I know iron is forged in fire, but I’m growing tired of “opportunities” to grow stronger. Once, when my friend Johanna was having a bad day, she said, “I’ve gone to an island in my head and I’m having a little pity party. But don’t worry—I’m not planning to stay.” You're welcome to try it when life’s suck factor sets your own thermostat too high. That's what I've begun to do, anyway. Lean into the grief when it comes, but make intentional plans not to stay there. So…I am blogging from Nashville today…not Florence or Positano or Castilenti where my cousin October lives or Athens or Vienna or Dublin. When you read this I’ll likely be in quarantine since I will have come from Europe…on an airplane…and no one will want to be around me on the chance that I am germ-infested. I went on that hop-on, hop-off ferry ride (inside my head) and had a little pity party standing on the shores of each Greek isle, the sands rolling over my toes. But don’t worry—I didn’t book a room there. By the time you read this I am home with a great cup of coffee, rocking in the Lazy-Boy that sits beside my husband’s, thanking God for the memories I made with Liz, Nina, Hannah D, Caleb, Katie, Savanna, Braden, Brynn, Symphony, Hannah C and Spencer. And Emily, David, Shirley and Zoey. And Marco and Marco who make a mean tiramisu. And Melissa, Jaren, Willie, Heather and all the Vienna crew. And John and the OC and Rochester students. I'll always be thankful for the memories, and the bonds forged in the fires of "unprecedented times."


Flower shop of my dreams. Thank God for flowers in the midst of unexpected roads traveled.

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