Authors: Michelle Lynn Brown
Tags: #Fiction, #Christian Romance
“I told her that her mom’s faith wasn’t just about God healing her, it was about God’s sovereignty in her life. She had faith that God is and will always be who He says He is in His Word.”
For Kristina, those words settled around her heart softly – not enough to take hold of, but just lingering there, as if they were looking for a place to rest.
Nathan continued with a smile, “All she said was ‘Humph!’ and she walked out the door." Nathan lifted their joined hands to his chest, covering his heart briefly as he remembered, “Oh man, I thought I blew it! I prayed so hard for her that night. But she came back the next day and told me, ‘I have to be honest with you, I haven’t been paying too much attention in church. I just went because my mom said I had to. But if my mom thought that Jesus was worth trusting her life and death with, I think I can too.’” Nathan’s eyes misted over as he finished in barely a whisper, “We sat there, and I told her about how much God loved her and her mother. That He sent his only Son to die for her sins because that is the only way any of us could ever get to Heaven. That Jesus’ blood was shed, not just so that we could go to Heaven, but He rose, so that we could have hope, and abundant joy and peace – while we are still here - even when things come crashing down around us.” Nathan wiped a tear from his eye with the back of their intertwined hands, and he finished, “That’s when she just looked at me and said, ‘My mom had that peace, even when she knew she was dying.’”
“After that day, Barb has lived her life totally on fire for God. She fell head over heels in love with Jesus, and led her father to the Lord a year later.” Stroking the back of her hand with his thumb, he said quietly, “Much like her mother, she lives for God’s purpose in her life – even when she doesn’t know what it is.”
Kristina was so lost in thought that she just sat there, staring at their intertwined hands laying in the space between them. His words echoed the longings in her heart - to have peace and hope that is not destroyed by circumstances.
When she looked up at Nathan, she was brought up short. Kristina wanted to look away from the depth of compassion in his eyes. She wanted to run inside and hide, she wanted to lock the doors of her house and her heart, refusing anyone entrance. But something halted her flight. Her soul cried out, thirsty for the promise she saw in Nathan’s eyes. Peace, rest, safety, all wrapped up and hers for the taking.
“Please,” she whispered unknowingly. Her vocal acknowledgment startled her, and she coughed as she released his hand, “Please, make sure you take care of Barbara."
Before he could say anything, she slid out of the truck.
“Wait!” she heard him call, but she ignored him and hurried into her house.
Inside, Kristina was crying softly on the couch.
No, God, not again. I cannot trust another man with my heart. I cannot lay myself bare for another to rip me apart. I know what he offers looks good. I might be fooled into believing I can live happily ever after, but I know better. I know I can never trust anyone else with my heart ever again.
As she sat curled on the couch, the thoughts whirling around in her head, another thought fluttered through her mind,
“Can you trust Me?”
Kristina went still, and the thought came again.
“Can you trust Me?”
I want to
, she thought,
but I’m afraid.
Nathan sat for a few moments in his truck, staring at the house. He had struggled before with physical attraction, but he had no trouble conquering that roaring beast. But this overwhelming desire wasn’t for her physical presence. He wanted to know her - her heart, her past, her fears and hopes. He wanted to protect her and cover her with his own peace. When she had looked up at him, he was overwhelmed with the depth of emotions flashing through her eyes. It was like God had opened her heart for a brief peek, and he could see she was in pain, and struggling with immense burdens. All her barriers were down, and he was getting a brief glimpse of the real Kristina. The situation and the feeling so overwhelmed him, that he slammed the truck into gear and sped out of her driveway.
Moments later, he pulled into his own driveway. He could see David peeking his nose through the blinds. He laughed at his dog, but the laugh was shallow. Lately, coming home with only his dog to greet him had stung more than he cared to admit. He always had peace with the fact that he was still single, despite the fact that he longed for a family of his own. He knew it would happen in God's time. But ever since Kristina came into town, his loneliness had gnawed at the pit of his stomach.
Nathan unlocked his door, and rubbed David’s head affectionately before bending down to pick up the box his mom had left for him. She had called during school today to let him know she was dropping off a box of his stuff that she had run across in the garage. When he had left for college, he had told her to just toss it, but she had refused. “Sometimes we need to look back on our past to get a clear perspective on where we are going next.”
Setting it down on the counter, he let David out into the back yard. As he watched his dog frolicking in the backyard, his mind wandered again to Kristina. It had been doing that a lot lately. She fascinated him, and that bothered him. Though she came to church, he could tell she didn’t really understand what a relationship with God entailed. The look she had on her face today spoke of a hungry soul crying out to God. But whenever he tried to help her, she skittered away.
He turned at the sound of the doorbell, and was surprised to find his mom at his doorstep.
“Hey, Son, I just thought I’d check on you. Make sure you got the box of stuff.”
Nathan gave her a quick kiss, and the two sat at the kitchen counter. Never one to beat around the bush, Sandra McKinley asked, “What’s on your mind?”
He started to say nothing, but knew better. “I’ve just been wondering about God’s timing."
“The three M’s – music, ministry and marriage?”
He just stared at her, not wanting to answer, but knowing she already knew.
Instead of giving him her nuggets of wisdom, she opened the box and began pulling things out of it. One was a school paper he had written on the topic of where he saw himself in ten years. It was written just after he felt he'd been called into ministry. Afire with his new mission, he’d poured out his plan to be used by God. None of it had happened. He was a music teacher, and a worship leader at the same church he had grown up in. He had long ago decided he wasn’t worthy of being a pastor, and marriage – well, it eluded him as well.
“You know, I wrote one of these papers when I was a young girl in school. I was going to be a nurse, marry a doctor, and together we would be missionaries.” His mom laughed, “But then I met your father and that dream changed. Just think, had I been looking for a doctor, you would have never existed.”
He thought about her words, and his earlier thoughts of Kristina.
Just then David spied Sandra through the sliding glass door and began to bark excitedly. She didn’t hesitate to go see him. Outside, Nathan stood next to her as she threw the ball for David. His arms crossed, he was lost in thought until she spoke.
“Nate, I can’t even remember what David used to be like when you brought him home your first year back from seminary.”
Nathan laughed, “I can, and he was a frightened mess. He was too scared to even come out from under the bed and eat his food.”
“But you brought him around. He was so scared, so frightened of everyone. But your love saved him.” She tossed the ball again and watched David bounce after it. “I think his love saved you a little too.”
Nathan looked at his mom for a few moments, knowing she was preaching to him without a sermon. He thought about calling her out on it, but instead just said, “I thought you said you couldn’t remember."
Kristina gave her appearance one last critical perusal, smoothing a nonexistent wrinkle from her cream silk blouse and straightened her knee length floral skirt. She caught the sides of her long thick hair in a simple barrette and let the length of it tumble softly down her back. The soft click of her heels sounded on the hardwood floors as she headed for the door. Tucking her book and notes into her bag, she grabbed her keys and headed out the door to pick up Barbara.
As she arrived at Barbara’s house, the vivacious young girl came bounding out her door, waving goodbye to her father as she was dashing toward the car. Sliding in, she said, “Hey, Ms. Talbot, you ready?"
“Yes, are you?”
“You bet.” Barely taking a breath she went on, “I can’t believe I let you talk me into this. I stayed up late last night, trying to decide what I was going to say. I changed it over and over, and I still don’t know what I’m going to say.”
Kristina smiled again and said, “I know you can do this, and I’m going to be right there if you need any help. It is always scary at first, but you will find once you get up and start talking, you will forget your fear, and your love for books will take over.”
Nathan had quickly spread the word about the book club, and before she could even blink, the club was formed. Mrs. McKinley suggested they meet at her house, and Kristina talked Barbara into not only joining, but helping her lead the club. Tonight, they were just getting started and doing an overview of the book they would be reading.
Once they arrived, Kristina scooped her bag out of the back seat and they headed for the door. Pressing a hand against her fluttering stomach, she headed for the front door with Barbara at her side.
No one had arrived yet, and Mrs. McKinley welcomed them warmly into her home. Kristina was both relieved and disappointed to find Nathan absent. After their last conversation in the truck, she’d been avoiding him, uncomfortable with how vulnerable she had been. Yet at the same time, she couldn't erase the promise she’d seen in his eyes. To her storm-tossed heart, it was like a lighthouse, beckoning her toward safety. But she still feared the rocks she knew must be lying just beyond the light, ready to tear her heart and envelop it in darkness again. She was just beginning to enjoy happiness. There was no way she could risk that.
Mrs. McKinley led them into the living room where the chairs and two sofas were arranged to form a circle. Spread out in the middle of a large square coffee table was a tray of refreshments. As Barbara pulled out her notes, she burst out, “I think I’m going to puke!”
“Oh, my!” Mrs. McKinley said, rising from her chair.
“No, I mean, I don’t mean that literally. I’m just really nervous.” Smiling sheepishly, she said, “Sorry, Mrs. McKinley.”
“Barbara,” Kristina said, laying her hand on the young woman’s, “You don’t have to do this. Maybe you can try another night.”
“No,” she said, as some of the color returned to her face. “I mean, I’m nervous. But at the same time, I really want to do this. I really want to get everyone excited about this book, and to let them know what I got out of it, and hear what they did.” Shrugging, she added, “And that keeps me from puking."
Pride filled Kristina’s heart. “How about I get the official stuff taken care of and you handle introducing the author and book?”
Hugging Kristina, Barbara said, “Thank you!”
The situation with Barbara momentarily made her forget about Nathan, and as people started coming in and she began talking with them, Kristina relaxed considerably. She was talking with Principle Shirley’s wife when Nathan came in, and she missed his entrance, failing to notice him as everyone took their seats.
As Kristina began, she stood near her place on the loveseat. As usual, when she stepped into her teaching role, she was focused and oblivious to all outside distractions, including Nathan sliding into the other side of the loveseat. After all the business was concluded, Kristina turned it over to Barbara, and with an encouraging smile, she turned to sit down. Her heart leapt to her throat as she saw Nathan sitting next to her empty spot. There was no avoiding him, and she settled next to him rather stiffly. She could feel the warmth from him, and when he crossed his ankle over his knee and settled his arm across the back of the loveseat, she rebelled at the vision in her mind. She could picture herself settling back next to him, cozy and comfortable, in the crook of his arm. It took every nerve and effort on her part to focus her attention on Barb. But soon the rapture of books consumed her, and allowed her to unconsciously relax back against the sofa.
As the meeting ended, he bent close to her ear and said softly, “Hey, Kristina, I just wanted you to know, my father and I talked to Bobby. I told him if I ever caught him harassing you or Barbara again, I would make sure he never played football in this state again.”
Relief flooded Kristina. “What did he say?”
“‘Whatever, man. I was just playing.’” Nathan mimicked Bobby’s tone, wringing a laugh from Kristina. Laying her hand on his arm, she said a soft, but sincere, thank you.
“You know, I have seen you teach, how would you like to see me teach?”
Startled, Kristina stammered, “I don’t have any musical abilities. I can barely sing without making dogs howl in pain, and I’m all thumbs when it comes to instruments.”
It was Nathan’s turn to laugh, “No, not my music class. I teach adult Bible study on Thursday nights at the church. I thought you might like it.” His charming smile lit up his face as he said, “After all, the Bible is the best literary work around.”