The screen porch addition to my house was my gift to myself. All the furniture is shabby. The cushions in the rocking chairs are flat in places. The current green color of the chairs is not original–obviously. Begonias, hostas, and ivy are exuberant in their variety of pots. Wind chimes sing as the breeze tickles the pipes. The three-story magnolia tree just beyond the steps embraces the porch with its wide, old branches. Dinner-plate-size white flowers release their lemony fragrance for all to enjoy.
I created the porch as a sanctuary for me. I realized that I might not always be able to leave town for a getaway, but I could always go to the porch and rock. Friends joined me and commented about what a special place it was for them as well. Some admitted that it was the only place in the world where they could truly relax. The porch became, for many who visited, a sacred place that nurtured their spirits. They found, if not answers, at least signposts for their journeys in life.
It was on this porch that conversations with women from the Bible took place. One summer afternoon, I was sitting there dozing in the warm sun that shone through the screen. As I rocked gently and hummed along with the bees flitting about the magnolia flowers, I realized that I was not alone. A woman sat in the other chair, rocking in rhythm with me. I was shocked at first and thought that perhaps I was hallucinating from the heat. I found my voice and demanded to know know who she was. We simply rocked a while longer. Then, somehow, I knew that Eve had come to the porch to share her life and be a guide for my journey. After Eve’s visit, others came. I recorded the conversations of the first thirty women in Conversations on the Porch. After a while, even more women came. These are their stories in More Conversations on the Porch.
Sometimes I would go to the porch having been overwhelmed with the day. Over and over again, the women came to me, sharing their lives, offering their insights, and challenging me with new visions for how to live, what to care about, and how to use my passion and energy.
The women came from their places of power or powerlessness, with their strengths or vulnerabilities, and their successes and failures. Some of the women are considered saints. Others are vilified. They came to the porch to share their insights and guidance. These visitors embraced me with their wisdom, their love, and their passion. They rocked in the chairs and asked that whoever would hear their stories would listen. They are depending on us to hear their ancient voices as we move into our own renewed and expanded visions of life as people of God. They challenge us to embrace living as they did and to continue the conversations. I’ve been asked if the women appeared “bodily as with flesh and blood.” That’s a difficult question. To me, each woman was real. Whether she was visible to the eye or only to my heart and mind is inconsequential to the wisdom she shared. You can determine from yourself the answer to this question.
–From the introduction to More Conversations on the Porch. Both Conversations books are available at http://www.iuniverse.com, at online retailers, and at Ten Thousand Villages in Greenville, SC.