Happy Easter Season! I pray that you continue to celebrate the Easter Alleluias during these days of the Easter Season. As we enter into a second year of living with Covid conditions weary of many of its restrictions, I thought I would do something to put a smile on your face and a spring in your step. My friend and author Joni Woelfel is putting the final tweaks on a novel. Joni was kind enough to provide a brief synopsis of her new book Polly’s Chronicles, along with a few reflection questions for you.
The novel is the story of Polly and four angels she encounters during the pandemic. I think you will find it interesting and perhaps identify with the questions she shares at the end. When you have time, check out Joni’s other books on GoodReads.
May your journey this week be filled with Alleluias.
Till next week,
In the opening scene of the novel, eighty-year-old Polly, housekeeper at Happy Endings Retreat House, has a secret angel ministry in which she places plates of chocolate chip cookies on the doorsteps of all her neighbors in lock down. Attached to each is a note with the words, “May angels surround you,” and the Bible verse from Psalm 91:11, “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways” (KJV).
As the pandemic unfolds, which she calls Days of Dread, Polly has many dreams which bring insight to her, including four visitations by angels that take place in the backyard sacred hosta garden by the pandemic sanctuary and victory wall.
The first angel arrives when Polly is worn out and spent, the death toll surging. The heavy, humid sunlight has a subdued uncomfortable pinkish hue that hurts her eyes and she settles on the moss-encrusted stone bench with a sack lunch. Physical and emotional fatigue is like a shrouded familiar companion, present but kind… calling her to daily chores, priorities, self care, rest and ministry work. Suddenly, she envisions the world’s collective weariness personified as a hooded angel, robed in pale lavender, named Fatigue Incarnate. A forerunner of three more to come, the angel is silent except for three words. Holding out her hand, she reveals an hour glass with sands passing through and says with tenderness, “All seasons pass.” The angel’s compassionate words remind Polly of blessings to come in their season, which becomes the theme of the book from Ezekiel 34:26.
The second angel appears in a dream when Polly looks out the hallway cathedral window and sees a faint glow coming from the garden. An angel is sitting on a rock surrounded by the beloved farm animals with Fraidy Cat on her lap. She is wearing a patchwork quilt cape reminiscent of Joseph’s coat of many colors from Genesis, and seeing Polly, holds out her arms in a loving gesture. Reaching into her pocket, the angel pulls out a pair of worn work gloves, which she puts on, pointing to Polly. Without words, Polly knows deep within that the angel is encouraging her to continue the outreach work and responsibilities she has been called to as the darkest winter to come in one hundred years approaches. Privileged to be a part of something greater than herself, Polly asks the angel her name, who, as she fades away, says, “The Angel of Steadfast Service.”
The third angel comes when Polly is dreaming she is having a panic attack. She is in the garden while images of bad news surround her like a whirlwind of deaths, injustice, screaming rioters, people lined up on gurneys in hallways struggling for breath and a big yellow foreclosure sign nailed to the retreat house door. In the dream, Polly beseeches the heavens for help and guidance. Suddenly, by the wall where the first two angels appeared, a woman who is neither young nor old appears, dressed in a beautiful sheath made of living, green vines, reminding Polly of Jesus’ words from John 15:5, “I am the vine and you are the branches.” At the height of maturity, growth and power, the angel is barefoot and has bird nests in her auburn hair. Polly falls to her knees in exhaustion and relief as the angel holds out a delicate aqua robin’s egg and says, “Let this ancient symbol of new life emerging, rebirth and resurrection sustain you through the dark days still to come.” Loving the egg, Polly asks the angel what her name is. She replies, “The Angel of Generous Goodness, of course.”
The fourth angel comes when Polly is dreaming of the countless universal emotions of not feeling safe that the pandemic had ushered in. The dream shifts and standing amongst the sacred hostas an ancient, wrinkled angel appears with piercing blue eyes. Her long white hair drapes across her shoulders to her waist and as she chants “dust to dust, ashes to ashes,” she beckons to a suitcase at her feet. She is wearing a practical outfit consisting of a buckskin fringed skirt, boots, and her vest has a map tucked in its roomy pocket. She is leaning on a gnarled, diamond willow walking staff. After imparting wise words, the angel holds out a compass and says, “Let my words guide you.” When Polly asks the angel what her name is, the angel smiles, “The Angel of Divine Continuance. Encouragement goes on forever, it is never finished. Keep traveling the journey…”
The novel ends on Easter Sunday, with many inner resurrections rising through hardship, fear, suffering and tragedy. Polly’s final, compelling dream is about historic kindness and a historic invitation. The concluding quote is by Henri Nouwen, “We need to be angels for each other, to give each other strength and consolation. Because only when we fully realize that the cup of life in not only a cup of sorrow but also a cup of joy will we be able to drink it.”