Chapter Twenty One

Linda was laying in her new bedroom listening to new sounds of people stirring early in the morning. It was peaceful and homey but she was still a little apprehensive staying with Sam and Robin after their initial meeting. She liked Robin a lot. She was a good mom; very protective and forgiving. She neither justified nor condemned what her son had said but did apologize for his outburst. Linda had learned to read people well. It was the nature of her business and a skill that sometimes determined her survival on the street. The argument that she had inadvertently witnessed reminded her of one that she had been a part of when she was younger. She could relate to what Ben was going through. She had left like that too but now Linda was able to see the residual effects she had bestowed upon the family she walked away from. The pain and anguish that Robin tried so hard to suppress in order for Linda to feel welcome and the anger and frustration that Sam didn’t hide very well. Her new friend Erica was such a strong and powerful supporter of hers. Linda had wanted to leave this family but through Erica’s strong insistence and friendship she had agreed to give it a try for a week.

Linda walked into the kitchen and both Sam and Robin laughed. Her brown hair was standing straight out in multiple directions, she had borrowed a sweatshirt of Erica’s that was at least once size too large for her as were her pajama bottoms.

“Good morning Linda!” Sam said, “How did you sleep?” Robin asked her if she wanted some coffee and she nodded. “I slept so good!” Linda said, smiling sleepily. She sat in a chair at the table pulling her knees up to her chest with her feet on the seat of the chair. “It has been such a long time since I have slept in a real bed all night!” Linda had washed off all of her makeup the night before and there was one bruise by her temple that was yellow and healing up. Her eyes were still a little hollow but there was a sparkle in them that Robin keyed in on. It was her soul coming back alive! Robin put a large cup of coffee in front of her with some cream in a small container if she wanted to add it. Marty came over to Linda and put his head on her hip. Linda really liked Marty and gently stroked the side of his cheek. Marty loved her attention and accidently snored out loud in bliss.

“It sure looks like you did,” Sam said. Linda could tell that Sam was not sure of her being there and could sense his awkwardness. “You two girls have a great day” he said, walking over towards Robin. She handed him his lunch box and gave him a kiss. Marty broke away from Linda and followed Sam to the door. Sam turned and spoke to the dog saying, “You keep an eye on the place while I am gone Marty” and patted him on the head.

Robin leaned up against the granite countertop on the island and asked Linda, “What do you want to do today?”

“I don’t know. I would like to read my bible for a little bit,” she answered.

“Well you are welcome to join me in my daily routine if you’d like and we can do it together.” Robin offered.

“What is your daily routine?” Linda asked.

“I always start off the day in prayer. I have found when I skip prayer in the morning it makes for a rough day! After I pray, I read the bible. I have been doing this thing where you read the bible in a year. You can join me where I am at. After that I think we need to go shopping and get you some clothes!”

“Oh that sounds fun! My mom and I used to go shoppi…ng when I was younger.” Linda stuttered realizing what she was saying. She had not allowed herself to embrace those old memories. Robin moved on acting like she never noticed.

“This afternoon there are going to be some guest speakers at the church sharing their testimony of the Broken Lives program. I thought maybe we could stop by, listen to them and find out about the meeting times if you’re interested.

“Oh that would be good. I am a little nervous about it but Erica told me that the program had really helped you and Sam when you were younger”.

“Yes, it was very helpful for me. My life was a mess and they helped me get on track. I met a lady there who became my mentor and showed me how to embrace my relationship with the Lord. It was like she introduced me to the Lord. I want to help you like that if you will let me Linda”.

“Thank you Robin. Your family has been great. I cannot tell you how much it means to me. If Erica had not stopped me that night I am not sure if I would be alive today”.

There were about twenty people at the Broken Lives meeting. The first man that got up to give his testimony shared how he and his wife were Christians and their relationship was very solid. Pressures from the demands and deadlines on the job eventually took their toll first on their church obligations which eventually broke down their communication. He was climbing the ladder rapidly at a law firm. It started off with a long lunch with cocktails and evolved into working late several times a week. His secretary seemed to understand him and the struggles of climbing the corporate ladder and he allowed it to go too far one night at work and then everything fell apart. His wife sensed that all of this work was having negative impact on their relationship and decided to surprise him with dinner. She walked in and… After his divorce, he started drinking and could not stop. Eventually they fired him and he ended up on the street at the mission.

He came to Broken Lives by way of a visiting pastor who invited him to a meeting at a Bridal Ridge Community Church in California. The church had a unique program that really worked to change how you looked at yourself and revealed to you how God had a plan for your life. It was a cutting edge program similar to AA developed by Pastor Rob Landon changing the way we approached God.

After attending for a  year , he met a lady through the program and they married and began a new life together. They were both councilors now, proud to be coming alongside Pastor Rob Landen and the Broken Lives program.

Robin looked over at Linda. She was completely engulfed in his story, tears rolling down her cheeks. Robin got a tissue out of her purse and gave Linda one.

Hearing Rob Landon’s name perked Robins interest. She listened closely to what the speaker was saying.

He finished off with, “My wife and I owe everything to Pastor Rob Landon and his Broken Lives program. Without them I certainly would still be on the street”. Something about their testimony bothered her but she couldn’t put her finger on it.

The next two speakers had similar stories. One lady had especially touched Robin’s heart when she shared her testimony about one of her children who ran away from home . That hit too close to home with her. Each of the speakers dedicated their success to Broken Lives and Pastor Rob Landon.

When Linda and Robin were driving home, Linda commented on the success of the program.  Still something wasn’t right, but she could not put her finger on why this had left such a bad taste in her mouth. Linda commented on what the last speaker had said, “You can go anywhere in the country, to any church where the Broken Lives program is offered and same curriculum will be there.” Robin had missed it because she had still been reeling from the second lady’s testimony. What Heidi’s said when they were at coffee came back to her mind:

“the material Pastor Rob Landon wrote for “the program” was in nearly every church in the country and that Broken Lives program had been significantly if not entirely responsible for the transformation of up to eighty percent of the broken homes and restoring families. It is making a significant impact on the churches and communities across the nation if not the world.”

Robin then remembered looking up on the web, Pastor Rob Landon coming alongside the Most Holy Bishop, embracing the Mother of Apostles Church and announcing that all faiths worship the same God.

Robin was sick to her stomach. The deception was much deeper than she ever realized.

Chapter Nineteen

“Ben let’s get going, were going to be late for church.” Robin hollered for the third time.

“I don’t feel like going to church today, mom.” He responded back from his bedroom.

Sam had just come in from checking on the new calf. “Where’s Ben, we need to get going?” he asked Robin.

“I don’t know what has gotten into him. He is acting strange. He says he doesn’t feel like going to church. I have asked him three times now.”

Sam went to Ben’s room and knocked on the door. “Hey chop, chop were going to be late. Let’s go!”

“I don’t want to go today.” Ben said stubbornly.

This was unusual for Ben. They never had to ask him twice about going, he was typically waiting on everyone else. “What’s up, son? You always want to go to church.”

“I just don’t feel like it today.” Ben said.

“Well, get going, and we will talk about this later.” Sam said impatiently. “You know how your mom hates to walk in late to church. I am right with her on that too, so let’s get going!”

The last thing Ben wanted to do was talk about this later with his folks. He dreaded going to church and running into Pastor Mike. The last look he gave Ben was enough for him to hide for the next hundred years. He was tired of going to church anyway. There were too many rules and those rules confined his freedom. After tasting that forbidden fruit with Susan he couldn’t get it out of his mind. He thought about her all the time and wanted to have sex with her again and she felt the same way. What was the big deal anyway? It was their bodies; they should be able to do whatever they wanted. It wasn’t like they were hurting anyone else. The more he thought about it the more he felt like he needed to move out and get a place of his own so he could live how he wanted to live. Living under the roof with mom and dad was too confining anymore. The problem was that he wanted to go to school at the University of Idaho in their Agriculture program. If he moved out, he might lose mom and dad’s blessing for assistance. He didn’t want to get a loan. The smart thing to do was to live here at home until fall and then he could have a place of his own in Moscow. Reluctantly he got dressed and hurried out to where they were sitting in the truck. He could tell his mom was annoyed at being late.

Robin told Sam that Erica was going to bring Linda out this afternoon to meet them and she thought it would be nice to have them stay for dinner.

They arrived at church five minutes early. Cory Jacobs was walking in at the same time and stopped to talk to them. Robin asked him how Monica was doing, his face flushed and Robin wondered if it was just an early spring sunburn. “Oh, she is good. She is going to be leading worship this morning actually.”

“Oh good, I would like to visit with her!” Robin exclaimed. Sam told Cory about going back out to the property to find the corner pins with Aaron. He asked Cory about the old road up to the spring and how hard it would be to get equipment up there to develop it. Cory had an older small excavator that he could let Sam use if he wanted to haul it up there.

Ben scoured the building to see if Pastor Mike was anywhere to be seen. He saw him talking to an elderly gentleman on the far side of the church so he headed in the opposite direction to where his family normally sat. Once he got there he opened his bible and stared at the pages.

Sam shook Pastor Mike’s hand on the way to their seats. Pastor Mike acknowledged Robin and asked how Ben was doing. “Good, I think, he’s finished with school now and trying to figure out what the next move was in life.” Pastor Mike followed Sam’s glance over to where Ben was sitting reading his Bible.

Pastor Mike looked at Sam quizzically wondering if maybe Ben had told them about Mike catching Ben and Susan behind the church. Mike chose to hold his tongue and give Ben an opportunity to talk to him personally.

Sam and Robin worked their way over to where Ben was sitting. Sam sat next to Ben where he was still staring at his bible. Sam reached over and took Ben’s bible and turned it around saying “You will understand it much better if you read it the right way up.” and smiled at Ben.

Ben’s face flushed. “Dang, I just can’t catch a break!” he spoke under his breath. It all compelled him to pray, “Please Lord just get me through this service without running into Pastor Mike.”

Monica stepped up to the worship platform to open in prayer. Before she began she caught Robin’s eye. Robin gave her a supportive smile and Monica looked away abruptly, stuttering with her opening prayer. The lights dimmed and worship began. Monica avoided looking over at Robin. She knew that Robin would find her after service and ask how things were going with Cory. She did not know what she was going to say to her so she devised a plan to grab Tyler and quickly go somewhere with him. Monica and Cory had driven separate cars to church to give the impression they were living in separate places.

After service Sam, Robin and Ben were working their way out of the crowded church. Pastor Mike was shaking hands and when they passed he put his hand on Ben’s shoulder smiling said “How are you doing Ben?” Ben’s knees were shaking and he couldn’t think clearly. Everything was a blur. His hands were sweating profusely. He was searching for anyway out of this situation. “How’s Susan?”

“Oh, hi Pastor Mike. Susan is great!” he said in a complete panic. Suddenly he saw Tyler and said “Oh hey, there’s Tyler, I have to go!” and hollered to Tyler.

Robin looked at Sam with an “Okay, that is weird” kind of look and she saw Monica heading in that direction too.

“Hey Monica!” She called out. Monica saw her and knew there was no avoiding the meeting, she reluctantly gave Robin a hug. “How are you doing Robin? That dress looks so good on you!”

“Well thank you Monica! How are you doing?”

Monica spotted her son, Tyler, talking to Ben. Tyler was lavishing the attention that Ben had suddenly given him. “Oh there’s Tyler” she exclaimed! “I need to take him downtown and we are running late! It was so nice seeing you Robin.” She turned abruptly heading in Tyler’s direction. “Hey Tyler are you ready? We need to get going or we’re going to be late.” Robin saw the confusion on Tyler’s face as his mom pulled him away abruptly from the conversation with Ben.

Robin went over and put her hand on Sam’s arm “Something is up with Ben.”

“What?” Sam asked.

“I am not sure but we are going to find out!” Robin said determined.

Ben was already sitting in the truck staring blankly into the parking lot when Sam and Robin got there. Sam looked at Robin acknowledging the strangeness in how Ben was acting.

“Are you alright Ben?” Robin asked.

“Yes, why?”

“I don’t know you seem a little preoccupied.” Robin started “You kind of cut Pastor Mike off when he was talking to you and that seemed out of character for you.”

“I just needed to talk to Tyler about some stuff, that’s all.”

“Oh what is going on with Tyler?” Sam asked.

Ben panicked he hadn’t had time to think of a good answer and blurted out “Well I wanted to ask him how it was going living with Cory now. He said it was weird living there the other day at youth group.”

“What? Monica and Cory are living together?” Robin said shocked. That explained why she acted the way she did after church.

“Does Pastor Mike know about this?”Sam said.

Ben was having an out of body experience. Everything was coming down on top of him. He couldn’t keep all of the stories straight and wished he hadn’t said anything. “No, no one knows about it and I wasn’t supposed to say anything.”

“Well we need to take this to Pastor Mike because this is not right. Monica is leading in worship and Cory is a prominent man in the men’s group. This is not acceptable for any Christian leader in the church!” Robin said determined.

Ben realized how this had completely unraveled. The last thing he wanted to do was to sit down with his parents with Pastor Mike. He blew up and said “I am not going to be a snitch on my best friend! He asked me not to tell anyone.”

“Well honey this needs to be dealt with. Premarital sex is a sin in God’s eyes and when it is in the church then it effects the whole church body.”

“Man, you are so Holier than thou, mom! Everyone has sex now days. You need to get with the program!” Ben screamed.

Sam slammed on the brakes and pulled the truck off the road almost putting it in the ditch scaring everyone in the truck and the cars following him. He turned around to face his son and said “Don’t you ever talk to your mother like that again!”

Robin gently put her hand on Sam’s arm and softly said to Ben. “What is going on Ben?”

Ben had tears running down his face and he was looking out the window into the field. He had one eye cautiously on his dad. Sam had never been aggressive like that with Ben and it was frightening.

With a sigh Ben told his parents what happened after youth group, how Pastor Mike, his wife and their daughter had caught them having sex in the truck in the parking lot of the church.

Robin was shocked and started crying “I cannot believe that you did that Ben. We have tried to raise you to be a good Christian man and model what that is supposed to look like.”

They drove in silence the rest of the way home. Robin stared out the window touching a Kleenex to the corner of her eye.

As they pulled into the driveway Sam told Ben. “You need to understand something son. This is not going to be happening under the roof of our house. You need to talk with Susan and stop this and change the course of the path you’ve turned on.”

Erica and Linda had arrived while Sam and Robin were at church, they were now coming out of the house towards the truck. Everyone looked at them, the truck doors were all open and Ben said, “Yeah right dad, you will not allow me to love my girlfriend but you’re going to let a prostitute live in your house!”

Sam lunged for Ben but Ben ducked and ran to the Willy’s Jeep sitting in the driveway. Robin grabbed Sam’s arm and said “No Sam! Let him go!” Erica turned to Linda in shock who was looking at the ground ashamed.

A rooster crowed from the barn.

Chapter Eighteen

Sam laid on the bed watching as Robin stood in front of the mirror taking her makeup off, Sam fidgeted with her phone and jumped as suddenly it began to ring. He picked it up and it was Erica “Oh, hi dad… is mom there?”

“She is taking her makeup off do you want me to relay a message to her?”

“No, that’s okay can I talk to her?”

“Sure” he rolled off the bed and handed the phone to Robin. She mouthed “who is it?” and he said “It’s your daughter.”

Taking the phone from him she said “Hi…. No, I haven’t had a chance to…. I will call you when I know… I know honey….. I understand…. Yes dear…. I love you.” and she hung up.

Sam laid back on the bed watching his wife. He loved watching her do her nightly routine. The things women did to make themselves presentable in their own eyes. He never understood why she went through all of that. She didn’t need to for his sake. “So what’s Erica want?” he said laughing.

Robin was finished at the sink and came over to the bed kissing Sam deeply and then lay down across from him wearing her purple t-shirt and her black thick glasses. Her hair was up, she was irresistible to him like that and she knew it.

“Okay, what am I getting roped into!” he said.

Robin told Sam about Erica’s bible study the other night and the girl that had walked in off the street and how she felt that the Lord had healed her addiction to Crystal Meth.

“Wow! That is something!” Sam said listening intently. He was very proud of Erica. She had a heart like her mom and him.

“Ya, Linda has been staying on the couch at Erica’s place for several days now. Erica wants to get her into the Broken Lives program at our church. Sam she wants to know if she can stay here for a while in her old room until she can get on her feet. She has nowhere to go Sam.”

Sam rolled off the bed and walked towards the sink. “I am not so sure having a prostitute-addict in our house is such a good idea Robin.”

“Ex-prostitute and addict Sam. She is a new creation in Christ old things have passed away.”

Sam picked up his toothbrush and brushed his teeth. When he was finished he walked over to the bed and lay down propped up on an elbow with a sigh. “Ya, I can’t argue with that. Is this what you want to do?”

“Yes, can we try it for a while? Sam, she doesn’t have anyone and her parents won’t take her back. She is only 17.”

“Well we need some boundaries. She needs to understand that this is just a test to see if it will work out.”

“I will mentor her Sam. This is going to go so well! Thank you!”

“Well Robin, now we need to talk about that property Aaron and I went out to look at. I think time is of the essence.” He told her about the sign being blown away and how he felt bad for the missionary family over in China. If they were expecting to use this money to pay for doctor bills and the sign blew away they are really in trouble.” He told her about finding the note and the quarter from 1948.

“What did Aaron think about the place?” Robin asked.

“He loved it. He actually put dibs on one of the caves!”

She laughed “I like him, he is very knowledgeable. How much is the property and what do you think it is worth?”

“They want fifteen thousand. Aaron and I talked about it. With the spring, it is probably worth twenty thousand.”

“So now what are your plans with this place?” she asked.

“Well especially after talking to Aaron today. I would like to develop the spring, build a small place with a greenhouse attached to it and get a little prepared in the event things go south. Like Aaron said we may be heading for some tough times.”

“Here is my honest opinion, Sam. I am concerned that if you buy this place you are going to spend every weekend working on it and skip going to church like you did during hunting season. That being said we were planning on finding someplace special to tithe on the money you got from your uncle, I think we should give it to the missionaries in China for their little girl. And I think you should pay twenty thousand for the property if you’re going to buy it. Those missionaries are doing God’s work.”

It amazed Sam how he could pray to the Lord for something specific and Robin consistently confirmed what he prayed for.

I will call them and set it up on Monday with the lawyer. If there aren’t any problems with the title we could close in a week.

Chapter Thirteen

She had started off simple enough smoking pot in high school at a party. It was fun and became an every weekend occurrence with her and her best friend. The following year they started getting high before school, at lunch, after school and sometimes she would go out for a walk after dinner and smoke a little just to take the edge off. One day they tried a little speed and that was fun. It gave her a lot of energy and she liked being alert while the pot made her so mellow. It was a good mixture. One day a guy at a party offer them some meth. It was inexpensive and they thought it would be fun. It was her friend’s birthday so she bought her a hit. The high was exhilarating but  the down had taken both of them down further than they ever had been before. It was depressing and in order to maintain a level of normalcy she bought another hit the next day. Just a little to get her back to the “normal” feeling so she could then stop. The problem was “normal” never came back. Before long things were spiraling out of control. She needed the meth to maintain and was running out of money. First she stole money from her mom and dad and even her little brother. That turned out bad and alienated them from her. She started turning tricks because men would pay her to have sex with them. She was young and good looking, at first. The lows consistently got lower and before long she didn’t care how she looked which in turn affected how much guys would pay to have sex with her. Her friend spiraled out of control faster and harder than herself. They had fallen into a toilet bowl and someone had flushed the toilet. One day Linda’s best friend had a bad trick. He beat her and made her do things sexually she had never done before. Afterwards she could not stand to look at herself adding that to the low from the addiction to Meth she wandered around the streets aimlessly completely hopeless. Linda followed trying to pull her out of the hole she felt like she had fallen into but her friend would not respond. She had nothing to live for. She had lost everything, a nice place to live, her family and now even her self-respect. She was walking over an overpass over the freeway and stopped. She stared at the traffic coming towards her. It wouldn’t take much to just jump off this bridge. Maybe a few seconds of fear but then it would be over. She was so tired of being thrown around and forced to engage in every degrading kind of sex that a guy could dream up. This would solve all of her problems. She didn’t even know where she was going to sleep tonight. The last time she saw her mom she had been so disgusted with her. Her dad wouldn’t even talk to her. He called her a slut. The first time he called her that she had cried. It hurt so badly, and then it made her angry. She got so angry that she purposely took the rougher clients to get back at her dad. He would be sorry some day she thought, but he never was. Why didn’t he understand that all she wanted was a hug and for him to be proud of her. Why was that so difficult to see? Why couldn’t he tell her that she was his little girl. Something was pulling her to the rail, like a moth to a flame. She was sure that she could hear a voice inviting her into the next world. It would be better after she died. The pain would be gone for good. There would be no more guys trying to touch and prod her. She swung her leg over the rail. Cars were honking at her like they were inviting her to jump. It was going to be okay now. She heard someone calling to her over the honking horns and the rush hour traffic. Something was compelling her to let go, whispering for her to fly. She let go one finger at a time in slow motion until there was only one finger left. She felt it slip slowly then releasing into a last desperate attempt to fly away from her hopeless reality into the grill of a loaded dump truck.

Linda watched in horror. She had screamed at the top of her lungs for her friend but she was deep into a trip on meth. She was gone for good. Linda was completely alone now. She knew better than to hang around. The traffic from both directions were stopped and backed up. Sirens were getting louder. She started walking aimlessly; heartbroken, hungry, cold and so alone. Walking in complete numbness, oblivious to her surroundings, all night and all day. It was getting dark again. She heard faint music coming from somewhere but could not place where for certain. She was drawn to it. The melody was familiar and somehow comforting. She had heard that song once before when life was simpler. Through her meth induced stupor she was drawn to the music pulled by an invisible force that she could not or did not want to control. She had given up on trying to control anything in her life and just followed the tug. It was coming from a church building. She walked up the steps. The large wooden doors were open and creaked when she went through them. Hearing the sound of the closing door, some of the young people turned and stopped singing in shock to see her standing in their sacred place of worship. She could see it on their face. She was a whore. Dressed in a short skirt, blouse with no bra, more makeup than usual to cover side effects of nasty bruise a guy had given her for payment and the meth aging around her eyes. It was the attire of the trade she had been forced to work. The girl playing the guitar and leading the music stopped for a second when their eyes met but regained her rhythm quickly. Everyone was dressed much differently than she. Although out of place, the building was warm and so was she. Maybe she could sit there just long enough for the chill to go away. She did not fit in with these people. She sat in the last row close to the door in case she needed to escape. When the music stopped Erica invited Linda to come closer and join the group. Everyone turned to look at her and she could feel the judgment and condemnation for who she was. It was more than Linda could take and she got up and walked out the door. Erica gave her bible and her lesson for the night to the first person she passed and headed at a run out of the church. She met Linda going down the front steps.

“Hey, I am sorry. I didn’t mean to put you on the spot! Please forgive me!”

Linda turned to look at her but couldn’t say anything. Inside of her she wanted to cry out but the words wouldn’t come. She saw the true love of someone that honestly cared for her. She wanted to cry but couldn’t and just sat down where she was. Erica sat down next to her and put her arm around her. Linda was shaking uncontrollably. Erica could feel the leanness of her thin body. She asked Linda if she was hungry. Linda nodded. Tears were coming now, streaming down her face. She felt the love in Erica’s touch. Not the touch of a man wanting to fulfill his desire but love of a sister, a friend, like how her mom used to touch her when she was little. She had not felt that gentle touch in so long and it was almost painful.

Erica took her hand and led her to her car. She set her in the passenger seat and ran back in the church to get her coat and purse. Everyone wanted to know what was going on with that girl. Erica asked one of her friends to take over for the night that she was going to take Linda to get something to eat.

Driving to a hamburger joint around the corner Erica asked her name. “Linda” was all she said. Erica did not press further. Linda was eyeing this new person. She had learned not to trust anyone because no one was trustworthy in her world. This person was different, she wasn’t sure why. She had a genuine urgency and concern for her well-being. She wanted to trust her but was too afraid to try.

Erica pulled up to the speaker and asked Linda what she wanted. Linda shrugged not looking at the menu. Noting the response Erica took it upon herself to order a double cheeseburger deluxe with a large fry and a chocolate shake. They sat in silence while Linda wolfed down her sandwich. When she was finished she burped out load accidently and apologized quietly and then said “Thank You.” Linda felt like she could trust this new friend. Erica listened quietly when Linda began telling her story. She tried not to show how shocked at what Linda was telling her, but she had never heard anything about this lifestyle before.

For Linda, there was a release sharing what the last few months had built up to and watching her friend kill herself. She had been carrying it and never realized how it had tightened all of the muscles in her back, neck and shoulders. The difference was physically noticeable. One by one the knotted muscles relaxed.

Erica was prompted to ask her if she knew Jesus. Linda told her that was what had brought her to the church that night when she heard that song they were singing. “Put your eyes upon Jesus, Look into His wonderful face… My grandma used to sing that song to me when I was a little girl but, no I don’t know Him. I don’t think He wants to know me either. I saw how everyone looked at me when I came into the church. I don’t fit in there.”

“Oh Linda, Jesus wants to know you so much! That is why He called you into our church! We are all sinners that have been forgiven with His grace! You caught everyone by surprise tonight. If you give them a chance they will love on you.”

“I am so tired of people lovin on me!” and they both laughed!

Jesus has something better for you Linda. “He will take the addiction away all you have to do is ask Him.”

“Really Erica? I want that so much. I am so afraid that I am going to end up like my friend in the middle of the freeway.”

“Let’s pray” Erica grabbed a hold of Linda’s hand “Dear heavenly Father, I thank you so much for my new friend Linda and for bringing her into our church tonight. Lord she is going through a really tough time in life right now. I ask that you touch her heart, heal her pain and Lord please cure her of her addiction. Lord you know what she needs in this life and I ask that you please give her what she needs. You and I both know that she needs you and when she is ready Lord I ask that you lay it on her heart to call upon your name. Your word says that anyone that calls on your name will be saved. That you stand at the door and knock and if anyone hears your voice and answers you will come into them and sup with them. Linda heard your knock tonight and answered.”

Linda interrupted saying “Yes Lord, I am so sorry that I am a sinner. My life has not gone the way that I wanted it to go. Jesus I am scared, I don’t know what to do. Please help me!”

Erica felt Linda’s hand jump and she opened her eyes. Linda was looking at Erica in surprise mascara running down from her eyes. “What was that?”

“What?” Erica said.

“Something just flushed through my body.” she said dropping her hands from Erica’s. “Seriously, something is different. I don’t know what it is but it is way different! That down depressing feeling is not here right now. This is kind of freaking me out!”

“I think that was Jesus. He just answered your prayer.” Erica said with a big smile on her face. “I am telling you that doesn’t happen all of the time. Sometimes people don’t feel the touch of the Lord, not to say that they are not saved by His grace but it is just different.”

“I think you are right!” Linda said excitedly “I feel so different.”

“Do you have a place to stay tonight?” Erica asked.

“Not really, I usually try to get into the rescue mission or one of the shelters but I think it is too late to check in now.”

“I have a couch and a sleeping bag if you want you are welcome to crash at my place tonight.”

“Thank you. but I can sleep on the street.” Linda said reluctantly.

“Ya, no. That’s not going to happen.” and she headed to her apartment.

Erica called Robin from her bedroom after they got home and Linda was settled on the couch.

“Hi Mom, what was the name of that recovery group where you met daddy? I have to tell you about what happened tonight at Bible study!

Chapter Nine

Ben came dancing in the kitchen and put his arm around his mom who was layering lasagna noodles in a large glass pan.

“What are you so happy about?”

“Susan is home! Mom, it has been such a long vacation.” He said dramatically.

“I know it has been honey. Why don’t you ask her and her mom over to dinner tonight? We are going to have lasagna and I made too many noodles so we will have more than enough to eat.”

Ben went across the granite island where she was working and sat down texting Susan on his phone. Within seconds a beep came in with a response.

“What time mom?” Ben asked.

“How about 6:30, your dad won’t be here until 6 or so.”

Robin texted Sam and asked him to pick up some garlic spread for the French bread and let him know that they would be having Susan and her mom Heidi for dinner.

Sam and Robin had met Heidi when they had all gone to Broken Lives Fellowship group. She had a nasty breakup with her ex-husband had a difficult time trusting anyone since. She had dated often earlier but it was too hard to find a Christian man that truly walked the walk. She had come to the point where she was tired of compromising and stopped dating.

Before Sam and Robin had married, Robin and Heidi were very close. They had since drifted apart but still remained friends. Heidi was now attending another church in town so they didn’t see each other as much. It would be fun to catch up with her.

Lasagne_0894_1When they arrived Heidi was very impressed with the lasagna cooling on the granite counter top. Erica was putting the final touches to the table setting on the long farm table. She had changed the Christmas centerpiece with some fresh flowers that she had picked up from the store earlier. Sam, Ben and Susan were out doing the chores so the girls sat and visited.

Heidi was very excited about her trip to Oregon. She had an opportunity to attend a revival concert that Meadow Song was playing in at a friend’s Community Church in northern California. Meadow Song was one of the most popular Christian groups in the country. They traveled globally to bring Christian music to the world. Heidi expressed how exciting it was to see so many Christians at the revival reaching out to the Muslim community and the Mother of the Apostles Church. To see them all come together praising God was very emotional. Heidi commented about the stirring message that the pastor of the large Christian Church gave. He had called everyone together to embrace each other’s differences and pray to God together. She was especially touched by the depth of love that the most holy appointed Bishop from Mother of Apostles gave to him afterwards by kissing his feet. What humility. They had offered an alter call at the end and hundreds of people came forward to be saved. It was one of Heidi’s most moving experiences ever.

What Heidi was saying stirred Robin’s spirit and she asked Heidi,

“Do you think that they were all praising the same God?”

“Of course they were!” Heidi said.

“Hmmm. Well that just doesn’t make sense to me; I am not sure how that can be possible. Muslims consider Jesus to be a prophet, not God and the Mother of Apostles pray to Mary to intercede to Jesus and the Bishop is given the power to forgive of sins through penance usually by how much they give financially and the charity given. That is works and implys that Jesus dying on the cross was in vain. That makes me curious about this.” Robin wondered out loud.

“Well I am pretty sure they were praising the same God. I mean I assume they were… “ Heidi said. “But I sure see what you mean when you say it like that.”

“ And the Bishop was kissing the pastor’s feet?… That is just not right.” Robin said. “That just gives me a wrong feeling inside.”

“Well he did say before he did that how he wanted to wash that pastors feet but because they didn’t have any water on stage he was going to offer him humility by kissing his feet instead.” Heidi said.

Marty came in barking excited to see everyone in the kitchen. That was his favorite place and with all of the people there it ensured him some scraps afterwards. Sam, Ben and Susan all hung up their coats and removed their muddy boots in the mudroom and joined the girls in the kitchen. Sam and Ben relished Robin’s lasagna and even though the first serving was enough they had to have another helping. It was only right.

After supper they were so full that they both needed to go outside and check on the cows to walk off some of the lasagna. After clearing the table Susan and Erica both joined them. The night was clear and cold and the skies were filled with stars. There was no moon and the Milkey Way lit up sky like a highway from one end of the horizon to the other. Marty stared out into the darkness beyond the where barn light reached growling a warning when a coyote howled answered by another. The scent of worn leather hit their noses walking through the barn past the tack room. Erica’s gelding nickered upon hearing her voice and she stopped to rub his nose. One of the cows was still eating on the remainder of the hay left in the feeder while the other two drank noisily out of the water trough.

Sam and the kids all leaned up against the rail fence looking out into the back pasture. Ben and Susan were whispering and giggling, happy to be back in each other’s company.

Night sky_140908_0072_1“Back to school” Erica said

“Yup” Sam replied. Both of them stared at the incredible display of stars across the sky. Marty stood on his back legs between the two of them with his front legs on the second rail nudging Erica’s arm.

“It sure was a good Christmas with you here honey” Sam said to Erica.

“I know Daddy” she said and leaned her head against his shoulder. He put his arm around her and kissed the top of her head. She felt safe and he felt like his little girl was leaving forever.

Heidi helped Robin clear the rest of the table and put the dishes in the dishwasher. Heidi shared with Robin about the rest of their trip to Oregon and how her mom was dealing with life now that her dad had passed away. Robin listened but was still processing what Heidi had said earlier. When they had finished tidying up everything they both sat down at the kitchen table drinking coffee. Heidi looked at Robin seriously and asked her.

“You seemed concerned about that revival thing I was telling you about. Are you seeing something there that I don’t see?”

“I don’t know for sure but I think it might be something we need to look into Heidi. Things are changing rapidly in the world right now and something inside of me is telling me to pay.”

“I have been noticing that too Robin.”

“How is your church? Do you like it?” Robin asked.

“Well, I am searching for a new church right now.” Heidi said “It is so hard to find one anymore that teaches the truth. I really like when the message on Sunday makes you think all week. Sometimes a convicting message is a very good thing. It is like pastors are compromising, preaching a watered down message. “

“It is funny you say that Heidi. I was thinking the same thing after church last Sunday. It is like Pastor Mike is too concerned about offending anyone like if he offends someone with the message it will adversely affect the incoming tithes or attendance!”

Everyone came in through the mudroom laughing. Marty ran in and greeted Robin and Heidi. They both stood up and Heidi gave Robin a hug and said “We need to do this more often.” Robin agreed and walked Heidi to the door. Sam, Robin and Erica stood at the back door watching Heidi and Susan load up into the red Dodge Ram. Ben was over at the driver’s side of the truck saying good bye to Susan. Suddenly Robin ran over to the passenger side of the truck motioning Heidi to roll down the window. “Let’s get together one of these Saturday’s for coffee.” Heidi grabbed Robins hand and agreed over the rattling of the diesel motor.

Chapter Six

It was the darkest sky he had ever seen and it unnerved him. The billowing black clouds were ominous moving quickly, churning like water coming to a rapid boil. Sam ran outside smelling the storm. Every direction he looked, the sky was closing in on them. There was no escaping it.

He had seen that kind of sky only once before in Wyoming many years ago when a tornado went through Cheyenne. The wind was so strong that you couldn’t stand upright. Hail the size of a golf balls pounded the earth breaking windshields in cars, stripped trees of their leaves and completely decimated entire wheat fields that night in a matter of seconds. The next morning looked like a war zone. Cars riddled with dents like they had been hit by a ball pin hammer.

This was different; he sensed something more sinister. Sam had the feeling that there would be no escaping this one. There was nowhere to hide and it was coming from every direction, closing in faster than he could react. Lightning and thunder wrapped around him in the sky tormenting him violently with each bolt that shook even the ground.

He had the sensation that he was losing his family and needed to reach them, to warn them but he was stuck and couldn’t move. He could see them, they were right there. He could almost touch them. They were sitting in a lush green park, completely oblivious to the tumultuous storm. In a panic Sam was desperately calling their names but they could not hear him. Robin and Erica were sitting on a blanket having a picnic. Their hair wasn’t even moving in the wind surrounding them. The sunlight covered them brilliantly shining on them. They were laughing. Oh his beautiful wife and daughter! Sam was screaming for Ben to pay attention and he was ignoring him off to the side, not on the blanket, but in the shadow of the storm. He was talking to Susan who was sitting in the grass. The sunlight was not shining on them and their hair was blowing in the wind. Susan held her hair down so it would not blow in her face. They were both laughing, ignoring Sam and the blatantly obvious storm quickly enveloping them.

Sam was angry now, yelling at the top of his lungs for Ben to pay attention but Ben acted like Sam didn’t exist. Sam was running towards them as fast as he could but could not reach them. It was like he was running in deep water, fighting every step.

He never got closer, remaining at the same distance. Sam was jumping over obstacles and ducking under flying debris. It was like a vine had hold of him pulling him back. Giant limbs of trees were hitting him in the face. He was doing everything in his power to break through to warn his family until he finally collapsed when a giant tree limb landed on him pinning him to the ground. No matter what he did he could not wriggle himself free.

Marty was barking and Robin was calling his name.

“Sam! Sam, Wake up Sam!” She was on top of him with both hands shaking him. He was drenched in sweat, shaking, breathing hard and his heart was racing. He looked at the clock and it said 5:55.

She rolled off of him and he sat up on the edge of the bed.

“Wow, I am so glad that was a dream!” I could not get your attention!” He said.

“Do you remember it? What was it about? Sam, I could not wake you up and it was like you were fighting me. That was really scary.” Robin was about to cry, visibly shaken.

She watched as he got up and went into the bathroom to get a drink of water. Looking in the mirror he saw the sweat glistening off of his forehead. His salt and peppered hair was drenched and matted. There was a red crease between his eyes; like he had grimaced so hard it left a mark. His eyes were bloodshot. All of his muscles were weak in his back and arms. He felt like he had just gone a couple of rounds with Mike Tyson.

Sam paced back and forth while he relayed the dream back to Robin who was sitting up in the middle of the bed listening intently. Looking at the clock he gasped “Oh man, I have to get going. I have a meeting at eight!”

Robin went downstairs to start the coffee and make breakfast for everyone. S

he had a busy day ahead too.

Chapter Five

Robin and Erica both slept in after Sam and Ben had left chukar hunting. Sam and Robin didn’t usually attend the later service and hadn’t been to that one in a while. Monica led worship that morning and kept looking over at Robin and Erica. She had always admired Sam and Robin’s marriage. All she ever wanted was a marriage like they had and had hoped that Corey would marry her someday.

She had been married once before to a man who was not a Christian. They met right out of high school and had two boys right away together. He had started drinking excessively after the last one was born and would not touch Monica anymore. She felt that they should try to find a church and had tried to get him to go look for one with her; but he had no desire and whenever she brought it up a fight ensued so she stopped bringing it up.

One night he didn’t come home until late the next morning. She asked where he was and he said that he had drunk too much playing pool. After closing time he had fallen asleep in the car in the parking lot because he was too drunk to drive home and didn’t want to get arrested. She asked him why he didn’t call her that she would have come down and picked him up. He said that he didn’t want to hear the complaining all the way home. That hurt her.

Later that afternoon she took the car to the store to get some groceries for dinner. Loading the groceries in the car her cell phone slipped in between the seat and she couldn’t get it out. She got out of the car to reach from behind the seat and found a bracelet lying on the floor, and it wasn’t hers. Her heart raced. She was blinded by fury on the way home so much that she ran a red light. A car screeched next to her almost hitting her and she swerved down into the ditch to avoid the accident. She knew enough not to stop or she would be stuck so she punched the gas and pulled back up onto the road. Tears were welling up in her eyes but she was too scared to let them go. Her whole body was shaking uncontrollably. The person that had almost hit her turned around and walked up to the window of her car. Monica jumped when they tapped on the window. Looking up Monica saw a mature woman with a concerned look on her face. She knew she was going to get yelled at for running the red light and she slowly rolled the window down ashamed. The lady asked her if she was alright and Monica started crying trying to explain everything that had happened.

The lady introduced herself as Mallory Johnson. She was married to Mike Johnson pastor at Seven Mile Community Church. She was just returning home early from church because she had a migraine which had for some strange reason just disappeared. Maybe it was fear of being in an accident! Mallory asked Monica if she wanted to pray and whether she knew Jesus or not.

Monica said that she had gone to Bible Camp when she was a little girl and had accepted Jesus as her Savior but she hadn’t gone to church since. Mallory prayed with Monica and then writing her phone number down on a piece of paper gave it to Monica with specific instructions to call her if she needed anything.

Praying seemed to calm Monica’s nerves, a little. She drove home to confront her husband more confident.

He was drinking beer watching football when she got home. Monica felt unusually calm when she pulled the bracelet out of her purse and asked him whose it was. He said “How should I know?” but his eyes told a different story. She never said a word just kept looking straight into his lying eyes. It was too much for him and he got up yelling at her accidently knocking over the lamp on the table. “Why are you accusing me of this?” he yelled, storming around the house dramatically.

The two boys heard the yelling and came into the living room with their eyes open wide. Tyler was fumbling a Leggo piece in his hand. With a scared questioned look on his little face he looked up at his mom and said “Mommy, are you okay?” Monica had tears in her eyes and her bottom lip was trembling. “Yes honey.” She lied.

Her husband brushed past the youngest boy knocking him down. He started crying and fury overcame her. The tears left instantly and motherly protection came over her. She jumped up and told him to get out of the house! He turned to Susan looking square in her eye and said “No. I am paying for this house. You get out!”

Without any hesitation she grabbed the two boys and her purse and left. She drove down the road and called the number that Mallory had given her. Mike and Mallory brought them into their home until they were back on their feet. Monica started attending Seven Mile Community Church with them and soon became part of the worship team.

After church Monica approached Robin and Erica. “Do you think that the guys are doing any good?”

Robin replied with “I hope so. I sure will be glad when hunting season is over with! You have such a beautiful voice! I really enjoyed praise this morning. How are you doing Monica?”

“It’s all good.” Monica said but Robin could tell there was more. Monica asked her if she could ask her a question and Robin said “Absolutely!” guiding her over to a bench in the foyer.

She started in telling Robin how much she admired her and Sam’s family and then asked her if she had any advice for what she should do with Cory. She wanted to get married but he just didn’t seem like he wanted to. Robin didn’t know what to tell Monica. She asked her if she could ask her something personal. Monica said that she could, knowing what was coming.

“Are you sleeping together?”

Monica dropped her head nodding, looking at the floor. Robin hugged her. She remembered what it was like to be so alone. She whispered to Monica quietly “You know you need to stop. God will not bless your relationship when you are walking in sin. Sin interrupts your communication with Him.”

Monica just nodded wiping her eyes and said “Thank you Robin.”

Robin told her to call her anytime if she needed to talk.

Pastor Mike came up to the ladies saying to Robin “Where is that husband of yours? Robin’s cheeks flushed and Monica recovering quickly answered “He is hunting with Cory. It’s the last weekend of bird season.” Mike laughed and said “I am glad I am not with them it looks pretty miserable out there!”

 

Later that night Sam and Robin were in bed. Robin had a pillow against her back with her knees up reading her bible. Sam had just lain down and was watching her with her hair up wearing no makeup and her thick black glasses. She knew he was staring at her and she set the book down and turned to him with that “Stop looking at me look!” That made Sam laugh and he pulled her towards him to kiss her. She fell lazily over onto his chest. He stroked her hair and told her about how well Ben did hunting that day. She was laying there listening to his heart beat enjoying the closeness.

“I am worried about Monica”

“Why is that?” Sam asked.

She told Sam about their conversation at church. Sam listened to her stroking her hair. When she was finished, they both laid in silence. Sam broke it with “Cory won’t marry her.” Sharing what they had talked about. “That’s just not right Sam” Robin said sternly. “He needs to tell her then!” she sat up and rolled over on her side away from him, pulling the covers up close to her neck.

He laid there thinking.

She was right.

Sam fell into a deep sleep completely exhausted.

Chapter Two

A column of smoke rolled out of the stone chimney cascading to the ground before disintegrating in the strong east wind across the pasture. When Sam turned the corner onto the long lane the three cows in the pasture lifted their heads to greet him. Even though he was an hour early the site of the gray three quarter ton Ford coming down the lane rang the dinner bell for them and they ran alongside the fence throwing their heads up bucking and bawling. Suddenly, aware of the cow’s commotion Marty the family’s Australian Shepherd tore out of the barn barking and intercepting the cows sending them running towards the barn.

Marty wriggled a greeting from every part of his body as Sam stepped out of the truck. “Hey you old hound!” Sam greeted him. Sam could hear an axe come down hard on a round of lodge pole pine in the barn. Grabbing his dented and rusty lunch box he slipped on his jacket and headed in towards the sound of splitting wood, with Marty leading the way.wood pile_1

“Hey Dad!” Ben and Erica said simultaneously.

“Hey guys, how was your day?” Sam replied.

Ben put down the splitting maul with a heavy sigh and Erica greeted Sam with a warm hug.

“Okay”, Ben replied wiping sweat from his brow “We’re stocking up the wood box.”

Keeping the wood box filled was one of Ben’s chores. It made Sam happy to see his older sister helping him. Her little brother missed her since she had moved away to begin college. The separation had been good for them, Christmas break had rekindled their relationship.

“How are you doing, young lady?” Sam said with his arm still around his daughter. He was proud of her for what she had accomplished in college. She was taking a full load of classes in line for a degree in veterinary medicine. She was much like her mother, Robin. When she set her mind to do something it was better to get out of the way. School was an obstacle that needed to be accomplished in order to acquire her goal. She had graduated at the top of her class, being awarded the Valedictorian for Centerville High Class of 2013.

“It was a good day! I helped mom take down the Christmas tree, just finished feeding the chickens and decided to work out a bit helping Ben with his chores.” she said while dramatically lifting her arm to show off her lack of muscles. She was wearing her mom’s coat to do the chores; he smiled noticing how much she had grown, still, Robin’s coat fit her loosely.

Maggie at the feeder

Maggie at the feeder

“Did you get any eggs?” Sam asked. “Nope. They’re still not laying.” She said picking up a split chunk of wood and tossing it into the wheelbarrow”

“Hmmm, must be the short days or maybe they sense this storm coming. The way that wind is blowing out of the east it’s going to be a pretty good storm. You might want to make sure we have extra wood stockpiled on the deck just in case we get dumped on tonight.”

One of the cows bellered from over by the feeding stanchion. “I’ll be there in a minute! “ Sam retorted.

“Where’s your mom?” Sam asked Erica.

“She’s in the house. She made something special for you!” Erica said teasingly.

“Oh”? Sam said turning towards the house. “For me?”

Even though the tree had been taken down it still smelled like Christmas in the large log house. Robin had spent hours in the kitchen baking for Christmas and enjoying her time with Erica. Baking and being in the kitchen was something they both shared together. Erica and Robin had talked nearly non-stop since she’d returned from school, Erica informing her mom about all the details that she hadn’t shared throughout the semester. Robin informed Sam of all the pertinent extras later in the evening before they went to sleep. Erica had needed to leave for school in order for the mother daughter relationship to develop to the next level, which he could now see was that of cherished friend. The season of absence had been rough for Robin and she was very grateful to have Erica home.

Robin looked up from the sink when the door opened and Sam came in. There was something about a barefoot woman in an apron in the kitchen Sam thought to himself. He wasn’t sure if it had anything to do with food or not but he was sure it had something to do with Robin wearing that apron. Robin loved the heated tile floors where she could go barefoot even in the winter and she always had her toenails exquisitely painted.

Sam casually looked around the room for what Robin might have made for him but the granite island where the sink was and the surrounding countertops were bare, tidy and cleaned. Everything was in its place. Nothing was baking in oven, stove-top, or the microwave, nor was there anything setting out in the open to cool. The table was set for dinner with red and white checkered cloth napkins and brilliant white china plates with an embossed floral design around the outside. The center piece of Ponderosa pine needles remained the same with two red candles and a taller white one in the center. As always, her decor perfectly placed. Each season appropriately defined, the centerpiece complimented the Christmas table cloth that draped over the long wooden farm table. All Sam could smell was cinnamon, pine and Christmas; nothing that might give the surprise away.

“Hi” Sam said putting his lunch pail on the end of the counter.

Drying her hands with a towel she walked towards him with a smile on her face. “What are you looking for Sam?” she said with a big smile.

“I think I found her!” he replied, embracing her fully. He held her tight rocking back and forth, taking in the gentle scent of her soft fragrance. She closed her eyes lost in the embrace while he looked over her shoulder for anything that would reveal what Erica was talking about. The combination of her body close to him and the lingering perfume that she wore overtook him evaporating the surprise.

 

Marty, took the small piece of elk gristle politely from Sam’s hand.

“Dad, you’re not supposed to feed the dog at the dinner table” Erica scolded while passing out the chocolate pie Robin had made for dessert.

He glanced up at Robin and she gave him a stern look from directly across the table. A hint of a dimple line appeared in the corner of her mouth revealing that the depth of her visual reprimand was more for the kid’s sake.

Chocolate pie was Sam’s favorite dessert and he savored the first bite dramatically moaning with delight.

“I ran into Cory at work today” Sam said. “He wants to go chukar hunting this weekend.”

“In this weather? Go ahead, you’re going to freeze!” Robin replied.

Ben interrupted enthusiastically “Can I go?”

“Sure, if you want to” said Sam “Cory has a new bird dog. He wants to see how good his nose is. We’ll probably be leaving early so don’t stay out all night Saturday”

“Susan is still over in Oregon at her grandmother’s house so I am free!” Ben was anxious to get out of the house since Susan left. It had been a long Christmas for him having his girlfriend away.

The couple had been going out for over a year. She and her mother, Heidi, had gone to Bend, Oregon to spend Christmas with Heidi’s mom. Heidi’s dad had passed away earlier that fall and this would be their first Christmas without her dad. Heidi hadn’t wanted her mom to be alone for the holidays so had opted to make the drive over the snow covered roads.

Robin, now visibly annoyed asked, “You’re going Sunday? Why don’t you go on Saturday? I cannot believe that you’re going to miss church again this week, you’ve missed the last two Sundays!”

“I know, honey, but Cory has to work on Saturday and it’s the last weekend of hunting season.” Sam said patting Marty on the head.

“No, it’s about priorities, Sam!” Robin got up and started clearing the table, lips pursed.

Sam scooted out his chair, picked up his plate and silverware taking them to the sink. Robin’s back was facing Sam and he ran his hand down the outside of her arm. Robin tensed at the touch.

“Hey “, Sam whispered, his voice cracked unintentionally. She turned towards him enough for her to see his face.

“What kind of message are you sending the kids?” She whispered. He could see the bottom of her eye was filling with a tear. He wiped it away with his calloused thumb.

“One more weekend and you have me all winter. I promise” She tentatively turned to him and smiled, but the concerned look in her eye sent the message directly. “Okay.” she breathed in clearing her runny nose.

Sam leaned over and to give her a kiss on the cheek. She pulled back saying “I’ll have your lunch packed for you. Do you want lunch-meat or tuna fish sandwiches?”

“Lunch-meat would be awesome, honey.” Wrapping one arm around her waist and pulling her close he said, “Thanks for the chocolate pie!”

Leaning back she wiped soap bubbles on his face and then kissed him.

Erica and Ben brought their dishes over and put them in the sink. Ben tugged on Erica’s hair and Erica’s slugged Ben. “Ow! Geez, Erica that hurt!”

Sam laughed at Ben “You better not mess with your sister Ben. She can handle her own!” Erica was a sophomore at the community college in Nampa. Last semester, before Christmas break, she had taken a course in self-defense at her parent’s suggestion. Sam noticed that the classes made a positive impact on her self-esteem. She was not the timid, slender girl she was in high school. He was glad to see that; she had her mom’s looks although his darker hair. Sam had seen the way boys, and even men looked at her. It riled him inside and he fought the urge to say something. He was proud of her, but also protective. Her new found confidence assured him.

In her first year of college Erica had started a college-age bible study at the local church she was attending. She was faithful to lead the study every Tuesday night, even though it was one more thing on her plate. The bible study started with just a handful of friends getting together but word had spread of the group and numbers increased to over twenty five, a majority being freshmen. Erica had mentioned to Robin how rapidly the group had grown. Robin wanted to see Erica in action so decided to visit the group one evening during fall semester, she relayed to Sam how Erica had deeply impressed her. She was a powerful speaker and connected well with her peers. They respected her. When she spoke she was not the girl that they had raised. She was dynamic and filled with the Spirit.