Originally, “the wildflowers along route 77” was titled “Everloving” and the little book was 17 chapters, not 16. But near the beginning of posting each chapter, I combined two separate chapters into one.
I didn’t realize how many gaps I left in the plot and how I left so many questions unanswered. As the author, I know in my head what happened at the moments in between and where people are now, however, I wanted it to feel real in the aspect we don’t know what happens from every angle and not every person gets to find out the full the picture. Often in life we are left with so many questions.
Anything you want to know about any character, ask in the comments below, and I will respond wholeheartedly leaving nothing out.
I plan on writing a sequel that will go back and forth through Asher’s last year of college and Melody reaching out to LDS family members. As to when that sequel will be written, I don’t know yet. I have so many other ideas I want to work on and finish before they become out of season.
Anything I write, I consider it a job well done if one part can make me cry, and when I read the chapter where Asher confessed everything to his dad, and his dad was there for him as a father first instead of as a pastor, choked me up! I have some friends who grew up under the pressure of being a preacher’s kid and the ministry always came first over their needs as kids. I’m sure there are wonderful parents out there who happen to be in ministry and are more like Asher’s dad than “the-ministry-first-parents” my friends had.
I think the story makes it really clear, I don’t believe the Latter Day Saints of the Church of Jesus Christ is real Christianity. They don’t believe in the core Biblical things the rest of Christians believe. I’ve had a friend in real life leave the LDS Church after God Himself led her out. I did my best to present my fictional LDS characters as realistic as possible. These characters are loosely based on LDS members I know in real life, with a lot of fictional components I developed from some research.
Overall, I hope the point and message this story is clear, having a personal relationship with Christ through His love is the main point of existence. The second point, for why we live, is to connect others to the love of Christ.
I will make it clear, I don’t agree or believe in missionary dating, but I do believe in obeying God. Sometimes, God asks us to do things now that don’t make sense but one day, when we see the full picture, it will make sense!
Thank you for taking this journey with me, and one day may you see this book on a shelf or this story made into a movie! Hopefully, “the wildflowers along route 77” will be a published book and a feature film. And that I will be able to say, to God be all the Glory, for why such things were accomplished.
Thanks for participating in this Manuscript Monday,
“Four years ago, I can attest Luke Joshua Torwalt was born 7 lbs., 6 oz., and 19 in. tall in the Valley, Arizona. The Torwalts are the lead pastors at Faith Rising Church and they are full gospel, Pentecostal believers, and to this day I’m blessed to be a part of Luke’s like as ‘Mellie’.”
The auditorium erupts with applause. Happy to hear about the happy ending, to the personal testimony of Best Selling Author, Melanie Gartner Begay.
“And doctors say my ER visit was a misdiagnosis, because I did not have a vanishing twin. The placenta proved it.” The crowd explodes with various hallelujahs and praises to God. She adds, “I’m a firm believer God gave me back my baby because I asked Him to.” She smiles at everyone with her face flushing bright, lobster red. She lowers the mike and sets it in her lap crossed at the knees, where she sits center on a stool with a back rest.
Her husband, seated in a matching stool beside her, grabs her free hand that sports her sparkling, very visible diamond ring. He lifts the grill of his mike to his chin and takes over the spotlight, “Does anyone have any questions for my wife… or for me… since her book sort of is the story of us…”
I stand up raising my hand. Risking, looking like a total fool. With a shaved scalp, a full beard, and glasses on, I’m certain neither of them can recognize me.
“Yes, hipster that just stood up.” Mr. Begay calls on me.
“Melody states in the last chapter, neither of you believe in missionary dating, but did not missionary dating lead you both to salvation?”
The young Navajo man chuckles. He cracks his neck by jolting his head sideways and then back upright. “Uh… As she explains in the book, God is Everloving. His love is unconditional, continuous, ever present, all encompassing, constantly pursuing us because He has the singular goal of having a relationship with us, His way. Yet, He is such a gentleman, He pursues us by wooing us, and He uses any method we give Him permission to chase us. By grace and probably a little luck, Christ encountered us through a person we dated.” He gazes at Melody, completely spellbound by her, madly in love with her, and gives her a peck on the check. Majority of the audience gushes over the public display of affection. “And I got to ask that person to marry me. Thank God she said yes!” The crowd nervously laughs with the couple.
“To add to what Colton said…” She raises her mike back up. She gulps and explains, “Now, I obviously didn’t marry Asher, but it took his love for me to open up to Christ’s love for me…” She falls silently and stares at me. The look on her face is the classic expression of the Holy Spirit downloading fresh information into her spirit. “Sir, could you take off your glasses?”
I think I’ve been discovered. I comply interested to see where this will go. The moment I do, Melody gasps, leaping off her stool. “ASHER LUCAS!” Everyone reacts in various ways. Some are excited, others are confused, by some facial expressions of audience members they think this was planned, and Colton leaves his wife’s side and hurries up to me. He nearly trips half way up the steps by not paying attention to his feet, but he grapples me into a hug and the NBA’s first Navajo point guard won’t let go.
“How could you sneak in here all incognito?” Melody asks from the front of the lecture hall.
Rubbing my shiny head, Colton asks, “What happened to the curly fro, Bro?”
Colton holds his mike to my mouth for the whole place to hear my answer, “I was tired of everyone commenting I had chick hair.”
Taking the mike back, “So you’re not prematurely going bald?”
“No. I’m not.” I confess.
“Asher, can you come down and tell everyone why you d—,” she pauses and then she murmurs, “Okay Holy Ghost…” Again, she re-asks me, “Can you please join my husband and I upfront and explain why you did what you did?”
Following behind Colton down the stairs, and the crowd goes crazy with excitement, I think to myself: God, your sense of humor astounds me. Colton was my best friend in Sanders. He was convinced he’d never go anywhere or do anything with his life. He didn’t even want to go to college. Then he becomes a Mormon. Goes to Brigham Young for free and plays basketball. Helps them win enough to make it to the Final Sweet 16 in March Madness his Freshman Year. He convinces Melody Gartner to date him before being the number three draft pick and playing for the state of Utah. While they’re dating he rededicates his life to Christ.
Because yes, that is what Melody did, she went to Brigham Young not believing an ounce of Mormonism. At her graduation, she gave a speech preaching the true gospel and nearly everyone there dedicated their life to Christ. The Dean of Students and the Chancellor resigned from their jobs the next day. Brigham Young did not ratify her degree and to this day are withholding it from her. However, that’s okay. The Lord encouraged her to write a book, which she finished in a week living in the Torwalts basement, because her and Colton were still engaged, and Everloving is currently #1 on the New York Times Best Selling List.
I knew about the book prior to publication. She wanted me to have a 5% royalty from the sales, but I said no. When I went to the campus bookstore to buy a copy, and found out her book was sold out, I regretted not taking her offer.
Melody clarifies things for the audience, “We had no idea he’d be here tonight. What are you doing here? Didn’t you graduate already?”
“I’m a senior this year.” I state. Anyone who reads her book learns her pregnancy encouraged her to graduate high school early online and she began college courses at Brigham Young over the summer. Upon her enrollment she took 20 credit hours a semester and whatever she could every summer, determined to be out of there as soon as possible, which enabled her to graduate her Junior Year as Salutatorian of her class. She was chosen as the key speaker for her exemplary community outreach, on campus contributions, and sexual assault activism.
“Right, I forgot I graduated early.” She giggles. Clearing her throat, “Anyways, this is Asher Lucas, who was a great friend to me high school and even with all my tricks and schemes stayed by my side for as long as he could. Asher, please explain why you did what you did?”
Colton hands me his mike. The bright lights are blinding but they help make the audience seem non-existent, which makes it easier to speak to the crowd. I never set out to date Melody. It would be rude to tell the truth, wouldn’t it? That I never wanted to talk to her. That I had to force myself to be cordial to her.
What do I say, Lord? I ask Him mentally.
The truth… He answers in my heart. I should have known that. God is big on the truth and anything hidden only remains hidden if God intends it to be a secret, but at some point, He reveals things.
The longer something stays a secret, the bigger and fancier the miracle is, after all, Christ was planned from the foundations of the Earth. His birth, his life, his ministry, his death, his resurrection, his ascension, and his yet to occur second advent… Clearly, Christ is the biggest, greatest, fanciest miracle to ever exist. Yes, exist, because he wasn’t created. He always was and always will be, He is eternal and all things were created through Him. Truth be told. All truth already exists and has yet to be revealed. Lies are created based on the truth. Life is one giant journey that begins in the dark, where everything is hidden from us, and we are to find the light in the pillars of truth placed in our midst.
I think I know what to say now.
“Um… I totally didn’t set out to date Melody Gartner. I had a severe allergy to Mormons at the time. Every time I came in contact with one, tell-tell symptoms of fear, judgement, and a critical spirit made my spiritual heart sick and believe-it or not, brought me closer to Christ. Before I could defend my faith to anyone Mormon, I needed to be reassured by Christ’s love that I knew Him personally, and my faith revealed more and more of Him daily…”
To an extent, Melody’s my precious little secret. No one knows we’re an item, but I imagine people suspect we are. We agreed not to partake in public displays of affection; in fact we don’t kiss much. Occasionally, she’ll bid me farewell with a peck on the cheek, or to thank me for her weekiversary gift, she’ll lightly lay a tender a kiss on my lips, but for the most part the only level of physical intimacy we practice as of late is hand holding. How I love to walk with her and just hold her hand, a warm blanket of security snuggles my heart in a bundle of joy.
The dawn of our couple-hood opens windows into each other’s soul every day. As friends we enjoyed the company of one another, but we didn’t exchange details about ourselves to grow and truly learn who we are. Who is Melody Gartner?
A girl without a middle name because her parents want her to keep Gartner as a part of her name once she’s married. Despising her flat, dull, nearly black hair she dyes it to look like a sandy blonde and by five in the morning she’s up styling her hair to make it wavy or curly with a special hot iron… I forgot what she calls it. All the creepy crawlies yet to be discovered, known, and classified terrify her to her innermost core and for that reason, she’s not a camper. The common white daisy holds the title of Mel G’s favorite flower, I of course, already knew that, but as of late, the wild, yellow daisy grows on her and her favoritism ventures toward a crossroads. I don’t see why she can’t like both? She tries, and tries, and tries, and tries, and tries but she’s a C+ student and she’s completely envious of my perfect 4.0 GPA. Jessie J stands alone as the pop, borderline hip-hop, diva when it comes to the Queen of Music in Mel’s opinion. If she were to meet Niall Horan of One Direction, she’d drop me in a second to be his lawfully wedded wife, if he’d have her. Unable to describe what attracts her to him, it could be his voice or his charm, but whatever it is makes her head spin daydreaming about him in math class… maybe that’s the problem with her grades? Mel harbors a well-guarded secret for her love of ‘enjoying the aromas of air fresheners’. In her closet, in the far back left corner there’s a chest full of aerosol cans and spray bottles of disinfectants and deodorizers of the popular brand variants. The latest thing I learned about Melody Gartner, though we hardly talk about religion since our relationship began, she’s deadly afraid God doesn’t exist and disappearing from existence when she dies.
Speechless I remained as we embraced in a long, lingering hug. When we were by the lake in the park, and she told me that about God, I wanted to say she’ll never doubt God or fear death knowing God personally, but I feared sparking an argument. I exhaled and I let the subject go. I stayed quiet that time, and we sat on the bench among the trees, where the light glowed like beaming rays from heaven through seams in between the branches of the pine trees. The entire forest-park was alive with the sounds of nature working around us…
Today marks our first monthiversary and I know I should get her something special… like a piece of jewelry. At Hallmark, in town, with mom and Abbey I notice a platinum, Celtic-inspired, ringed cross near the check out. Kyrene’s maiden name is O’Malley and if I’m not mistaken O’Malley is an Irish Surname. It would be perfect. I just have to figure out how to buy it without mom and Abbey seeing me. I have the cash ready when I see mom and Abbey in the far back corner by the mugs and I rush to buy the cross.
The mixed girl behind the register recognizes me from school. She even knows my name.
“How you doing Asher?” she asks.
“Pretty good,” I admit smiling to be polite. “I’m sorry, but I don’t remember your name.”
Putting my purchase in a small paper bag, she’s not surprised she’s nameless to me. “No one ever notices me… I’m a wallflower you know?”
Clearing my throat I apologize, I clarify what I meant to say, “May I get your name. I want a name to match the face in my memory? Pre-cal front center desk, right?”
A subtle rosy tint flushes her cheeks as she flashes an impressed grin my way handing me my purchase. Quietly, barely loud enough for me to hear, she shares her name, “Melanie Glover.”
Now I remember her, Melanie in the front. The thought rolls into the shoreline of my mind like a wave riding up to the coast: is Melanie Glover the childhood friend of Melody Gartner? I’m sure it’s just coincidence…
Is it? Questions a thought.
“What did you buy Ash?” Abbey’s voice pries into my business.
Facing her I tuck the bag into my back pocket, and in all honesty I inform my sister, “It’s none of your business.”
Abbey steps up to me and stares up into my eyes, “You’re so secretive lately, what are you hiding?” Her gaze scrutinizes me. I deliver a firm, “Nothing,” as I shuffle sideways toward the door, but Abbey follows me.
“I don’t believe you,” she huffs crossing her arms and if looks could severely dismember a body, my limbs would be spread throughout the store thanks to Abbey Gail Lucas’ deathly scowl. “Welcome to the dark side brother,” she smirks cockily as she steps around me and pushes the door open. Before exiting the store, she says, “I’m gonna go help dad and Ann with the groceries.”
I don’t know what happened to my little sister. Once upon a sweet time ago, she embodied the grace of a princess and her heart was that of gold. As an ugly reminder of her current state of witchery, that time ago is ever in the past, and a part of me longs for Princess Abbey Gail to return and once again share her love of singing gospel hymns and the peace of Christ’s Gospel she loved to share with the lost sheep. Where did she change? Was it here or back in Sanders? And what happened that changed her? It couldn’t be her christening into the teenage years, a different perspective of life fogged by raging hormones and the overwhelming desire to “fit in”. An event mom, dad, and I don’t know about? Some deep dark secret she’s harboring and allowing her heart to blacken with bile?
[*All I can do for her is pray. Again the thought poses the question Is it? It’s the type of thought not entirely my own… I know it comes from that place in me I’ve been ignoring one day shy of a month… well, since I didn’t listen to Him at the dance, today could count, and therefore, it’s been a month. (confusing)*]
A comforting, familiar slight hand touches the middle of my back. I look down and it’s mom creeping under my arm, folding me in her sideways mama bear clutch. Patting my stomach, she asks if I’m hungry. I am actually, but dad’s buying groceries and he’ll probably whip something together when we get home. Instead, she asks if I want to go to the Chinese Buffet a few doors down. I love my father, but I’ve been my mama’s boy since birth. Normally, I can talk to her about anything, but I don’t want to break her heart… I’ll wait for as long as I can to break the news gently. I want to accept her offer, but afraid from my growing guilt that I may spill everything about Mel, not just how great she is, but how and why we’re dating may be the main topic of our table talk, therefore, kindly, I convince her I can wait until we get home.
We agreed to meet at Woodland Park around ten in the morning last night while we were texting in bed. I’m the first to arrive by the mucky lake, the air refreshingly reeks of pine needles and a faint coolness follows the warm breeze. On a bulky rock, with a smooth top, about the height of 17-month-old Annika, I take a seat. Holding the Hallmark bag in my hands, I figured I could get away with not wrapping it, since I’m a guy.
The forest floor gets crushed and crunched by approaching footsteps behind me. The pace is rushed; someone is excited to celebrate our first month together. I stand up in preparation for a huge, bear caliber hug. But the face of Melody opposes the celebratory expression I expected. For the first time, before me, she’s without makeup. Her eyes swim with tears and glare with the gloss of a troubled soul. Dressed in baggy sweats, her dad’s Brigham Young Tee, old, scuffed white tennis shoes, and her hair− flat and un-styled thrown into a sloppy hybrid of a bun and a ponytail she looks like she was reluctant to leave the house.
“What’s wrong?” I ask reaching out to her.
She rambles anxiously and incoherently as she begins to accept my embrace but when she notices the Hallmark bag in my hand, she asks curiously, “What’s that?” with a twinge of poutiness in her tone.
“It’s a gift that can wait until you tell me what’s wrong.”
Looking into my eyes, she questions, “For our monthiversary?” with the whine in her voice still present.
“Yeah, but what’s wrong?”
Turning her back to me, staring out at the lake, and with gray, stormy clouds looming in the sky she thinks for a moment. Finally, she builds up the courage to admit… “I don’t want to lose you…”
I step up and stand next to her looking out at the lake too. I figure she’ll be more comfortable if I don’t look at her. “How can you lose me? I’m right here.”
A feeling of change rises in my spirit the instance our gaze reconnects… a little like when I saw Natasha for the first time… knowing… thinking we were destined. I’m not sure what I’m feeling… Entirely wrapped up in her light, golden brown eyes I hardly notice what she places in my hand. A cold end of a hard plastic stick, and as I look down at what it is, Melody says apologetically, “Probably the worst gift for an unwed teenage boy…” The words from Melody that follow afterwards trail off. Two pink lines… I’m pretty sure that means she’s having my baby.
Tears try to escape my eyes, and the overwhelming urge to flee rises tall within me, but I fight the cry pleading to breakout from me and I force myself to stay. I allow Melody to fall apart in my arms. Both weighed down with shame, guilt, and regret we fall together to the dirt soil ground and kneel on a bed of twigs, pinecone remnants, and pine needles as we grieve over the loss of a bright future and prep for the hard one to come.
WARNING: Contains content that may be a trigger for anyone who has experienced sexual assault. However, the content is not graphic just a relay of events.
On Saturday, at 7:29 pm I pull up in the Gartner driveway in front of the porch. In the rearview mirror, I notice my tie is crooked. Usually mom ties my tie, and does a perfect job, but I am capable of tying a tie myself. I should probably do it more often to get better.
Walking up the stairs, I freak out for a second worried I didn’t wear the right colors. Tan suit, pastel green shirt, and sunburst (or closest shade I had to) yellow, and brown leather dress shoes. Fortunately, as a pastor’s son I have a wide variety of suits and dress suits. I haven’t worn one lately because the church on the Res isn’t very demanding that we dress up every Sunday.
A petite, boldly, blonde woman with a fake sun tan and heavily masked face caked with makeup opens the door with an exaggeratedly happy face of salutations. As if she’s a relator ready to sell me this overpriced home.
“Come on in Asher.” She encourages me to step inside. Closing the door, she tells me, “I’m Kyrene, Melody’s mama.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Kyrene.” I say looking down at the woman looking up at me.
“You’re almost as tall as my husband.” She jokes knowing I’m a good 4 to 5 inches shorter than him.
“MOM!” Melody frantically hollers.
“If you’ll excuse me, Asher, I have to finish Mel’s hair. She’ll be right down.” Kyrene explains as she heads up the stairs.
Adam emerges from the living room holding a huge blue leather bound book and wearing gold, wire-rimmed reading glasses. Astutely, he takes off his glasses, folds them up, and tucks them into the front pocket of his shirt. I know it’s a father’s duty to be intimidating, but is there any way he can tone it down a bit? It’s not like I’m dating his daughter, we’re just friends going to homecoming together.
Clearing his throat, in a deep gurgle, he steps further into the foyer, inching closer to me. I see the silver inscribed title of the book, which reads: Doctrine and Covenants and the subtitle reads: of the Church of Christ of the Latter-Day Saints. Adam cups the book to his chest.
“Have her home by midnight,” he says looking at the ground, yet I can feel the seriousness of that request. As if it was a threat if I don’t have her home by then.
Walking over to a drawer, a part of a fancy, tall end table with a dark wood finish, he slides the drawer open and pulls out a small, hardcover blue book, which I’ve seen before. Kaylie gave one to Colton. It’s the Book of Mormon. I’m prepared to reject the offer to take it, but Adam faces the living room archway. Barely looking over his shoulder, looking back at me out of the corner of his eye, he says, “Have fun… and keep my daughter safe.”
“Yes sir,” I promise… I forgot to call him Adam, but I suspect he’s okay with it this time. He knows I’m serious, but to be safe, I correct myself, “Of course Adam.”
Adam’s trek into the living room is interrupted when Kyrene announces, “May I present to you the lovely, Melody Gartner,” from the second floor by the stairs.
From around the corner, Melody makes her descent down the stairs. Her sienna sand hair is up in a voluminous bun of big, roller-made curls. Little yellow, wild daisies are woven with the strands of her hair. Two long, wavy strands of hair dangle, one beside each ear. She wears a long, pastel green shawl around her shoulders to accent her simple, yet elegant sunburst yellow dress gown. Once she makes it to the bottom of the staircase, she turns to the side, and the waistline of the gown is tightened by a rope-looking tassel tie wrapped in a bow, the colors of the tassel rope are brown and tan. Under direct light, her skin sparkles with a golden, glittery glint. I totally get it; she’s a wild daisy along the roadside under the sun.
Kyrene forces us to model before a camera to document this special night. For the first pic, we stand side by side, but for the second pic, Kyrene has us stand like were in a conga line. She’s folded in my arms around her stomach, her outward facing head rests against my chest, and her hands are clasped over mine. The third take is similar to the second, Melody stands in front of me off to the side, but our arms and hands are near the same position. I know we’re not a couple, but it feels like it currently, in this pose… I’m not sure what to compare it to or what feeling describes it. To hold her in my arms, the way her hands clutch to mine, it’s like she needs me to stay tethered to life, and every part of me wants to be that stability for her.
All eyes are on us, when we walk into the galaxy-themed, strobe lit, various neon flashing lights gym. Okay, not all eyes are on us, just the jealous eyes of Jon Hurst, the jaded glance of Meaghan, and the envious stare of Charley. Living on a prayer, I hope they all leave us alone.
Melody drags me to the dance floor immediately, and I follow her lead. We keep a safe distance of a foot and half apart. I’m not really into the whole dancing thing, but Melody clearly is. She has serious dance moves… like she could dance professionally… Not like a pole dancer but like a backup dancer for Beyoncé or some other pop star.
After a gazillion songs I need refreshment and a break. Reluctantly, Melody drags me to a table and sits me down. Talking over the music, she tells me she’ll go get us some punch. I try to do it instead and ask her to rest, but she demands I let her do it. Her demanding side has the bite of a hungry wolf. I’m not a fool… I’ll let her do what she wants. The punch citrus flavor packs a powerful kick, but sweet tanginess settles the kick a little. It’s pretty good.
We rest. We dance. We repeat the process. I lose track of time. By the time I have my fifth or sixth glass of punch, I must have a sugar rush because I feel super charged! I’m SO amped to dance, Dance, DANCE! I never noticed how strobe lights can make you dizzy, but they can. I didn’t think I’d have this much fun at a dance… Dancing… I love dancing… it’s like… AWESOME!
After a bathroom break, Melody hands me another glass of punch. If I drink anymore I’ll be peeing all night.
“No thanks,” I say nudging the cup toward her.
“Aren’t you thirsty from all the dancing though?” She questions.
That is true. I’m pretty parched from all the grooving. I hold out my hand and she smiles handing it to me. As I drink from the cup, the thought don’t drink it comes to me… Why not drink it?
“Asher,” I hear someone say.
I look around, but I don’t recognize who it could be. I guzzle down the punch and lightheadedness comes over me instantaneously, and my breath drops down into my stomach… you know, the type of feeling you get on a roller coaster ride lunging down the slope. Hunched over, holding my stomach makes the feeling cease. When I stand up, the strobe lights jumble everything in sight around and people start to double. I hope I’m not epileptic… I hear lights like this can trigger a seizure and since this is the first dance I’ve ever been to with such lights, how would I know?
Rest. Drink. Dance. Restroom. Repeat. Rest. Dance. Drink. Restroom. Repeat. Dance. Drink. Dance. Restroom. Dance. Repeat. Rest. Repeat… Repeat… Dance? Rest? Drink? Repeat? Sleep? Yes… sleep!
The scent of clean linen and lavender comes from the soft fabric my face is buried in and it’s a glorious smell to wake up to. Did mom switch the laundry detergent? Turning my head, not wanting to open my eyes and admit I’m awake, the thread of the sheets caresses my skin with a fresh sensation. That was so sweet of mom to change my sheets… I’ve had the same ones for a week. They were getting grimy and gross. I feel liberated lying in bed… I don’t feel smothered and imprisoned by my PJs. Am I in my boxers?
Upon the realization I’m butt naked under the covers I wake up and find myself in a room that belongs to a girl, not me. This room is the size of two of mine, therefore, definitely doesn’t belong to my sisters. I’m in a huge beige, framed canopy bed, under a tangerine sheet, and a lemon-yellow comforter. The bottom of the walls are paneled with wood the color of the canopy bed frame, and the top of the walls are thin vertical lines of tangerine orange and pearl white. I see my suit laid out on a chair by a window that peers into the piney forest.
An ache ten times stronger than a brain freeze pulses through my head. Looking toward any source of light intensifies the headache. Closing my eyes helps, but the pain twinges on. I hear a door creek open and close gently. Soft, but fast footsteps creep toward me. The bed dips lower as I sense someone sitting beside. A moist, faint pressure purses against my lips and startles my eyes to open wide. I jerk back to part Melody’s lips from me. She’s wrapped in nothing but a towel and her hair is flatly straight, dripping wet.
“Well, you’re kissing attitude has certainly changed from last night.” She titters.
I scoot away shutting my eyes tight. I don’t want to see anything I shouldn’t.
“What are you freaking out about? You already saw all of me last night… well it was dark. Maybe you just felt your way.” She says poking me in the ribs.
I sense her stand up and hear her walk away from the bed. I hear doors slide open. That must be the closet. Hangers rattle and clang as she looks for a wardrobe.
“I’m not looking your way if you want to get dressed.” She says.
I open my eyes, thinking she must be hidden behind a changing partition, but instead I’m exposed to her entire back side. For the first time, I experience what the first Adam felt for his wife after he left the garden: lust. Instinctively, I stare at her backside asset and marveled by a fascination I can’t grasp it’s hard to look away.
A flood of shame inflicts my spirit and hurriedly I avert my eyes. I rush to get dressed. When I finish, I discover fully clothed Melody’s been watching me. She’s wearing jeans and a white t-shirt.
Another thought invades my mind: Adam! He’ll kill me!
“Your dad,” a panicked squeal leaps from my mouth.
“No one noticed us sneak in. It rained last night, hard. I called dad and said we were going to wait for the rain to let up. He said he couldn’t wait up any longer, that he was going to bed.”
“But how am I going to get out of here?” I ask.
“Out the front door… My parents are already on their way to church. Tenor drank the spiked punch too, so he’s still out like a light.”
How could I be so stupid?! Strobe lights don’t make the world spin, intoxication does. It was the Lord that called my name last night… That thought wasn’t me saying not to drink the punch, it was God! And now I did the worst thing possible… I lost my virginity to a woman that isn’t my wife. I disrespected her body and took advantage of her while we were influenced by alcoholic spirits (alcohol in our system)…
I’m so sorry God! Unable to stand I buckle to the ground on my knees. I try not to cry, but my breath shallows as the salty tears leak from my eyes. An ache in my heart plagues me with sorrow and spiritual agony… How could I be so dumb to fall so low? Melody bends on her knees, rushing to my aide. Her arms reach to embrace me, but I reject her comfort by scooting back from her extended arms-length.
I fold myself into an empty corner near her bed. I repent again and again and again, but relief doesn’t find me and I lack the sense of God’s forgiveness. I betrayed Him. I broke my promise to stay pure. And worst of all, I disobeyed God by ignoring His voice. I try to be still enough to hear God’s voice say something. To hear Him say He’s still with me. To hear Him say He forgives me. I’d take comfort in a simple hello, but nothing. I just feel the overwhelming guilt of my sin consume my spirit and place a bleak hopelessness in my heart, taking root in my mind.
My parents… they trusted me to be alone and I broke their trust. They’ll never trust me again. And now I’m so confused. In the Old Testament, once a man and a woman lied down together, they were married in the eyes of God… And even though we have a ceremony today, the truth is a soul tie was made between Melody and I. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, we’re closer now than we were before, because we have exchanged a piece of each other. There’s no going back to the way things were, pretending like nothing happened. Does that mean I should date Melody now… give her a chance… but what if she never gets saved…
Oh God! I’ve ruined my witness. I claim to be a legit born-again Christian waiting until marriage to take that step of intimacy sex offers and I just slept with her because I was drunk? Saliva pools in the corner of my lips as nausea-on-roids attacks my stomach.
“I’m gonna be sick.” I moan.
Melody rushes and grabs the trash pale beside her desk and hands it to me just as barf bursts out of my mouth. Soothingly, she rubs my back as I empty the contents of my stomach. At the least optimal time, she jokes, “Glad I kissed you before you hurled.” I’m too depressed to laugh.
Since Tenor was trashed too, Melody drove us home in the black truck. My dad’s car is still at school. When my stomach settled enough to travel, she drove me back to school. Parked beside the old silver Toyota Corolla, Melody questions if I’m okay to drive home, and I tell her yes, but I must not have been convincing. She drives out the parking lot and takes us through the Mickey D’s drive thru.
In the parking lot of Mickey D’s, she forces me to drink an iced-coffee and a breakfast sandwich. I’m surprised that she downs three breakfast sandwiches and three hash brown bars. Driving back to my dad’s car, she makes me drink a coke too. She’s claims it will help with the hangover. Surprisingly… it does… I feel way better than I did thirty minutes ago.
Parked again beside the Corolla, Melody questions, “You’re not gonna blow me off are you?”
“Well, you kept your end of the bargain… You took me to homecoming… You could like let things go back to the way they were… and just wave hi to me in the halls.” She explains entirely convinced that I used her for sex and now I’m going to treat her as if she didn’t exist.
I start off to say we’re friends but how do you stay friends with someone after having sex with them? Wouldn’t we be lying to ourselves? I don’t know what to say.
“Melody…” I sigh.
What should I do? I’m tempted to ask for God’s help… to have Him speak for me… but my sin has separated me from Him… He’s the furthest He’s ever been in a while for me. Internally, I feel completely alone, yet I can feel Him watching me… looking down on me with disappointment and embarrassment. But just because I messed up once, doesn’t mean I should change who I am all together. I’m about honesty and doing the right thing, especially when it’s hard, but what is the right thing to do? What is my honest opinion? What do I want our relationship to be from here?
“Melody… I never meant to give you the wrong impression…”
She interjects, “We don’t have to be more than friends… I get that what happened last night was a mistake, but you’re the only friend I have right now and I don’t know what I would do without you. I’d be totally alone…” she whines with tears swelling in her eyes.
“Of course we’re friends Melody. It’s just… You have no idea how sorry I am for not treating you like the treasure you are.”
Sniffling, she looks at me confused.
I continue, “You deserve more than a drunken night with a fool… I took something that belonged to your future husband.”
“You didn’t take anything. I’m not a virgin…” She admits shamefully.
“That’s not exactly what I’m talking about. I took a moment of intimacy that was meant to be for you and him… and whether you acknowledge it or not… We gave a part of ourselves to each other last night, and the only way we’re going to get it back is through God’s grace… We’re never going to think of each other in the same light and therefore, our friendship is going to be a struggle.”
“So you don’t want to be friends?” She asks with a quivering lip. Crinkled, meshed ripples coil in her chin.
I take her right hand and hold it delicately. “No… I want you to be my girlfriend…”
Pure awe embodies her gaze as she looks at me. I think she expected me to dump her as a friend altogether.
“But, we’re not having sex again unless we’re married, because we owe it to ourselves to honor God as being His living temples.”
Melody nods excitedly, as tears stream down her face. She tugs me into a hug, locking my neck in the fold of her arms. “Thank you,” she shudders in my ear…
Then her hands slither to cup my face, and slowly her lips approach and for the first time we kiss… without being under the influence. The moment is everything I dreamed and dreaded at the same time. The fact of having a girlfriend, something I’ve wanted since early boyhood, fills me with joy, but the way I got my first girlfriend breaks my heart. With her being Mormon and me being a Christian… there’s no way this relationship will last, not without one of us making huge sacrifices and I will not give up Jesus for religion.
Note from the Author:
The night of Homecoming in this story can be a trigger from those who have experienced sexual assault. If you or anyone you know need help to recover from trauma, please DO NOT hesitate to reach out for assistance. The link below is from the RAINN website and the info there can connect you to resources that will lead to healing and can even lead to justice. There is HOPE.
Call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.
Natasha and Chlonelle (Clo-NELL) are setting up the stage, making sure the sound levels are right for worship, and that the lights are ready for their cues. Melody’s grip of my hand is firmer than her father’s handshake. I didn’t realize someone could be so nervous over going to church, but I remember walking in here is more a spiritual battle than a mental one for her. Nicolette, Aden, and Wilma enter the youth room from outdoors laughing together. When they see us, standing by the door to the hallway, they come over to greet Melody.
Nicolette’s style complements Melody’s. Today they’re both wearing black flats with ribbon bowties, skinny jeans (Nic’s are faded while Mel’s are midnight blue), Nicolette wears a white blouse with a ruffled collar and a knitted light gray, long sleeve cardigan sweater while Melody wears a yellow blouse with a cow bell neck line and a long, baggy black cardigan. Stubbornly, keeping my hand in her clutch, Melody uses her right hand to shake. I introduce her to Nicolette first, and Nicolette winks saying, “Nice shoes!”
As Aden, Wilma, and I join Nicolette in a quick giggle, Melody only smiles uncomfortably. Fixing her sandy blonde, wavy ponytail Nicolette complements Melody’s hair too. This time we spare the giggles to alleviate the awkwardness of this first encounter.
Aden opts to wave instead of shake hands. He’s a borderline germaphobe. Hopefully, Melody isn’t offended by it.
Lastly, Wilma and Melody shake as I inform them of one another’s name. Melody’s grip has loosened now that she sees these guys are cool.
But she tenses right back up when Nicolette asks if she’s ever been to church before. Grinning out of angst, she huffs lightly, “Not one like this…” I expected her to follow up by professing she’s a Mormon, but she just lets her sentence drop and die out. Averting her eyes, she looks around the Youth Sanctuary… it’s really just a humungous room with a two foot high stage in the corner.
Wilma says, “We’re glad you’re here.”
“How do you know Asher?” Aden asks.
“We go-,” Mel and I both start to say, a titter escapes through our breath from our lips in unison too. She lets me finish the sentence. “We go to school together.”
Nicolette nods her head pursing her lips, her lame attempt at trying to be cool, as she says, “Right on.”
Until I’m required to report to my Youth Worship Team post as an ensemble singer (as Natasha calls us) Melody and I hang out in the Book Nook Corner. It’s a corner in the back, filled with Christian literature for youth and young adults. Bean bags surround the outer edge of the area, turning the corner into a square. Melody still holds my hand hostage while exploring the book selection. When I tell her she can borrow anything for free, she just has to sign it out on the clip board, she appears eager to take something home. By the look in her eyes, it’s obvious she doesn’t have a clue where to start. I would make a few suggestions, but I don’t want her to feel like I’m pushing her. Only if she asks… I’ll point a few books out.
“There’s so much here…”
“Have you ever checked anything out?”
I think she’s fishing for me to tell what’s good to read, but I shouldn’t just assume. I answer honestly, “No, but-,” I point to a book I own and have read several times, “I have this one at home.”
Without hesitating, she pulls the red softcover book titled: not a fan. The book divulges what it really means to follow Christ and answer His radical call. After reading the summary on the back, she puts it back.
“Could I barrow it from you? It may take me a while to read it.”
She continues to look on, dragging me with her. I try not to look as surprised as I feel when she pulls The Case for Christ off the shelf. Holding it up, she inquires, “Is this a good one?”
“I heard its good, but I’ve only read More Than a Carpenter… they’re similar, since both authors were former atheists.” I say.
Handing it to me, she says, “You should check it out and then after you read it, tell me which one I should read.”
I hand the book back to her, “Or you could check it out, and tell me what you think. Then maybe I’ll want to read it.”
“Asher man, let’s warm up.” Natasha calls out to me.
I manage to break my hand free. Once I think I’m scot-free to walk on, I’m held in place by a nervous-someone tugging at my shirt.
“Don’t leave me,” she yelps in a frantic whisper.
I pry her fingers off my shirt, and I join her hands together to the clutch the book in her grasp instead of me. Locking eye contact with her, I say to her, “You’ll be fine. Hang back here and skim the pages. See if it’s worth checking out.” Gently, I guide her to my favorite bean bag to sit in. It’s filled just right, not too full, and not too flat. Tenderly pressing down on her shoulders, I guide her to sit down in the royal blue, cloth bean bag. As she sits in it, her posture stiffens like a tall board, and her knees hug up against each other as they point to the side. Apparently, she is a princess now, sitting as royalty should.
Zeven happens to make his way to the stage as I’m heading there. He looks over his shoulder at Melody and asks, “She with you?”
I just nod, not feeling in a very talkative mood toward him.
Patting me in the back, “It’s about time you got a girl man. Congrats dude.”
I open my mouth to correct him, but a part of me wonders if Natasha would be jealous if she thought I had a girlfriend. I just pretend like I didn’t hear him.
We do a quick run through of our set. Natasha just makes sure we understood her notes on our sheet music about her arrangement, and she makes sure our sound level is perfect for worship. While we’re singing How Great is Our God, Chastity, who’s been standing in the sound booth all this time, steps out and goes over to Melody and interrupts her reading.
I’m fortunate this song is programed in my brain, because I can’t seem to concentrate as I observe my Youth Pastor talk to my Mormon friend. Considering my past experiences with Mormons and misguided Youth Pastors, I’m totally panicked that Chastity’s going to kick her out. But everything seems to be okay. Chastity gets Melody to genuinely laugh, which should help me relax, but now I wonder how close Melody is to accepting Christ… the real one…
The strangest thought crosses my mind once she’s saved, maybe we could date… My heart literally skips a beat, which is the first time I’ve ever experienced such a phenomenon. Clearly, my heart is aching over my missed chance with Natasha and Melody is the close proximity rebound.
The music dies instantly and Natasha hounds at me, “We’re repeating the chorus twice in the end Asher.”
Autopilot doesn’t always work out best. I apologize.
“Let’s take it from the bridge.” Natasha orders.
Melody tries not to laugh at me, by burying her face in the book. Once the music plays, Melody gives me two thumbs up trying to be encouraging. Chastity looks at me and in her expression she tells me to get focused without words. A peace sweeps through me as I trust Chastity to look out for Melody while I practice singing praises onto the Lord.
We get started right away tonight because everyone managed to show up five minutes after we finished rehearsal. Melody makes sure she’s front and center during worship. She doesn’t sing along much, but she reads the words on the projection screen, and sways to the beat of the music as she keeps the Case for Christ clinched in her hands.
The worship team joins the rest of the youth group on the ground as Chastity takes the stage with a bible in hand and a head mike attached to her face. As usual she makes announcements. On Sunday, we’ll begin the sermon series on Sexuality: Knowing Him and Her. The first Saturday of September, we’ll be having game night here in the youth room. There will be food and drinks and games provided. All we need to do is bring ourselves and some friends. Melody whispers in my ear that she wants to go. I nod my head, promising her we’ll go. Zeven and Aden walk around with baskets to collect tithes and offerings, then after everyone has given to God what belongs to God, Chastity begins her sermon.
“Tonight, we’re going to start a new series… Does God Know You?”
Zeven’s hand pokes in between my head and Melody’s with two slips of paper. Aden comes beside me and hands us a bible to share. Melody and I went out to eat at Lucano’s, which gave me no time to run home to get my Bible. Usually, I bring it with me Wednesdays to school in case I run behind, but today I forgot. Breakfast time was quite the showdown as Abbey picked a fight with my mother over cereal. The cereal was a cheap knock off brand and Abbey put her two cents in about it. She’s lashing out because she doesn’t get to attend homecoming, instead, she has to stay home and babysit her little sister. Dad told me to go to school alone, he had to have a talk with Abbey and he said he would drive her up the hill to school. Dad text me at lunch that he would pick Abbey up from school too, and by the looks of her not being here, I think she’s in big trouble.
I look at the half sheet of paper.
Does God Know You? Part I
1) God knew you in the womb. Ps. 139:13-16; see all Ps. 139
2) God has a plan for you. Jer. 2:5; Jer. 29:11; Ps. 16:11; Ps. 119:105, Pr. 3:5-6
If God had a plan for Jeremiah, certainly He has a plan for you.
Trust God and see His plan unfold. (Pr. 16:4)
3) You were born with the knowledge of God. Rom. 1:18-25
4) Seek God (knock) and you will find God. Mat. 7:7-10
Have you sought God with all your heart?
Have you asked to get closer to Him?
Melody pokes me to get my attention. She mouths: Do you have a pencil or a pen? I scout my pockets and find my favorite sketch pencil, but I trust Melody with it. Taking it, she notices what pencil it is, and she mouths: Are you sure? Casually I nod yes.
The sermon wasn’t questioning whether or not we legitimately know God, it was encouragement to seek God’s face and know him personally. Over the next four weeks, on Wednesday, we’ll be learning how to deepen our relationship with Christ, so we can have that deep, intimate relationship with God. I was wrong about Abbey being a no show, she showed up ten minutes into the sermon and she looked pissed. I try to find out why she was upset after our closing worship song, but Dad showed up to collect her. I know I’ll find out later.
On the car ride up the hill, into town, Melody won’t quit with the questions. Why were a lot of our worship songs about Christ and not God; aren’t we putting Christ above God doing that? I explain that Christ was fully man and fully divine, which she agreed with, but I lose her when I tell her God gave authority to Christ. I admit that I totally don’t understand it, but Christ is one with the Father, because that’s exactly what the Word says.
Next she asks, if we were born with the knowledge of God, wouldn’t that mean we were spirits with Him, before we passed through the veil and were born into fleshly bodies and forgot about Him? She almost lost me with that question, but I ask her, “If we forget about God once we pass through the veil, how could we be born with the knowledge of God?”
She argues the fact God knew us before the foundations of the Earth were laid, so we had to be spirits living with Him before entering earth. God knew us, because he foresaw us, but he knits us together in the womb (says so in Psalms), and directs our paths to fulfill the plans He has for us (mentions something like that in Proverbs). Taking a moment of silence, she mentally chews on my response.
“So if God, Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit are three persons in one… what does that mean? Like how are Elohim and Jehovah not actually father and son, because the whole three persons in one concept seems like the father and son relationship is a figure of speech or symbolism for something, right? Like why would God talk and pray to Himself?”
For fun I question, “Do you not talk to yourself?”
“Well yeah, but…” her words cease as she looks out the window up at the stars.
“I don’t really know… and I think if I did it would boggle my mind. In my short 17 years on this planet, I’ve learned that God doesn’t think like us… If He did, why would we need Him, so that means some things about Him are incomprehensible; and when we try to understand Him in light of our knowledge, we misconstrue the message.”
Sighing, Melody wonders, “How do you reconcile your faith?”
What does she mean? “What do you mean?” I ask for clarification.
“In the beginning, the law was mandatory wasn’t it, then all of a sudden it isn’t, how do you progress in God’s grace?”
Lord, what is she asking and how do I answer it? Take over Lord. Holy Spirit give me the words.
“Why don’t you ask God and find out for yourself?” I ask her.
Really God? What about explaining that Jesus set us free from the law through His death and resurrection and that God’s grace is a completely free gift impossible to gain or keep by what we do. The only way to receive grace is choosing Christ and building a relationship with God, and through the Holy Spirit we’re empowered from within to imitate our Savior and live in God’s will.
“I did that about six years ago and I thought I got my answer…”
“How did you do so?”
“Well, I had all these types of questions before when I was 12. I had a friend at school, Melanie, and I spent the weekend at her house. I didn’t know she was a Baptist. When she talked about church, I thought she went to one like mine, I just figured she attended the church in Show Low or something. After Sunday school I started thinking that maybe I’ve been lied to about God all my life. I was scared of going to hell because I didn’t know the true Jesus the Baptist preacher talked about. I went to my dad and he told me to read the entire of the Book of Mormon. Just like it says at the end, you’ll pray seeking God’s Wisdom and know by the burning in your chest. And it happened, I felt just that and I knew I grew up with truth… or so I thought.” She sighs heavier, keeping her gaze out the window.
“Why are so unsure again?” I question.
“I don’t know…” She sniffles.
Is she crying Lord?
“Do you believe in devils?” I ask curiously.
“The Devil exists. He was upset he didn’t get to be our Redeemer so he fell and God chose Jehovah, who was an angel before He was born to Mary.”
“Of course you believe in Satan, but do you believe in devils and demons?”
Melody makes a gentle “ah” noise about to speak, but she falls silent after a short, low grunt. “I’m just confused!” She blurts out.
“God is the God of peace, confusion comes from the Enemy.” I say calmly.
Melody doesn’t say anything; she just grunts again sounding annoyed. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice her elbow resting on the window seal and her hand shoveled in her wavelets of hair.
Adam comes out to the car as I pulled up by the porch. He opens the door for Melody. Ducking low, and poking his head inside the car, he probes for details about our night by simply asking where we were. I open my talk piece to confess we went to my church, but she says we went to a movie: The Nephilim Class: Nexus the First
“How was it?” Adam asks.
I try to say, ‘Good’ but I just shrug my shoulders.
Melody covers for me. Resting a hand on my shoulder, she lies, “He fell asleep. His baby sister kept him up all night. I liked it though.”
Adam steps back so Melody can get out. Melody forgets her backpack, but Adam notices it on the passenger floor and picks it up for her. Slowly, closing the door, he tells me, “Have a good night Asher, and tomorrow after school, could you just drop her off right away. It’s family game night. You’re more than welcome to join.”
The chance to say yay or nay passes for he closes the door without waiting for a response, which I think he’s trying to encourage me to say nay.
On the drive down the hill, I pray nonstop for Melody, and ask the Holy Spirit to take care of the seeds planted within her tonight. In the parking lot, I take a moment in the car. Tears swell in my eyes as Colton comes to mind… I beg God to bring him back home before it’s too late, and I plea for Melody to see the truth. I confess that I don’t care if she stays my friend… I just ask for her salvation. If I could, I’d take her place, but You Lord already did that… You paid the price for her… Help her see that… When she asks… and I think she will… reveal Yourself to her so she knows without a shadow of doubt that You Lord are God the great I AM. The burden that built a home in my heart during our conversation in the car has lifted and peace once again resides in my heart the moment I say, “In Jesus’ name… Amen.”
It’s twenty after nine when I get inside and for some reason as of late I tend to get home when Abbey’s throwing a tantrum toward my parents. Rising from her place at the dining table, nearly across the front door where I stand, Abbey yells at mom and dad, “This is ridiculous! You don’t trust me, but you trust a 17-year-old boy to have the whole place to himself for the entire weekend? I swear I’m your least favorite child and you just love to see me suffer. I hate you!
Both of you!” She follows up with a loud, angered shriek as she stomps up the stairs to her room. For sure we presume she’s going to slam the door, but Annika must be in bed already, because she closes it as softly as possible.
“What is she talking about?” I wonder.
Dad stands up and grips me by the shoulder carefully, “Abbey’s coming with us to babysit Annika while we attend the wedding festivities. It’s her punishment for her disrespect lately.”
Mom comes to the other side of me, crossing behind me, and kisses me on the cheek.
“Have I ever told you how grateful I am you’re not a troublemaker?”
A little prideful that mom sees me as her angel child, I huff a tender a smile.
Giving me a quick pat on the back, dad says, “Don’t be too wild while we’re away.”
We all chuckle in a unified matter as we go our separate ways. Mom goes to the kitchen, dad plops down on the couch for his nightly devotions, I go upstairs to my room.
Tossing my backpack in the closet, I realize I don’t ever have to tell mom and dad I’m taking Melody to homecoming, but I should ask encase they’re not okay with it. Too lazy to put PJs on, I strip down to my briefs and the Sanctus Real band shirt I’ve worn all day. For the fun of it, I rush and leap into bed, landing face first into my pillow. The impact wasn’t as cushiony as I imagined it would be, but it was a small thrill… I’m too easily amused.
Lying on my back, wide awake in the dark I think of all the things I could have said to Melody in the car, but didn’t. It must have been the Holy Spirit because I wouldn’t operate a conversation that way… Restlessness rises up in me again… and I’m not sure why. Like an alarm clock blaring, very alertly the Lord says to me, “Melody, pray for her.”
But I did Lord?
What do I pray for? I prayed for everything I could think of in the car. Well, when you don’t know what to pray for, you let the Holy Spirit pray for you. After I say aloud, “Dear God,” strange ramblings of gibberish I don’t understand, yet it sounds like a combination of Spanish, French, Hebrew, and complete nonsense spews from my mouth. I pray in tongues until the ick feeling in my spirit dissolves. I look at my alarm clock on the nightstand and the red, block numbers illuminate the time: 10:45 pm. I prayed for one person for over an hour… I’ve never done that before… at least I don’t think so.
As I close my eyes to go to sleep, the Lord leaves this final word with me, “Will you listen to me Asher?”
Of course, Lord. I respond.
When I give her the drawing at lunch, she studies it carefully. I can tell she likes it, but she’s partly confused.
“Why isn’t it colored in all the way?”
“I wanted the petals of the daisies to stand out… I think… I’m not really sure why. I feel like just the various shades of yellow say a lot.”
“It’s beautiful… thank you.” She smiles touching my hand. Retracting her hand she adds, “I love it,” keeping her attention on the sketch of her.
Having a muse is new to me, and I don’t know why, but being around Melody makes me want to draw. Not just her, but other things. I forgot the freedom that art brings to the soul. Fueled by a joy I can hardly grasp or explain, and my only driven desire is fixated on sketching all the ideas blooming in my mind.
I spend nearly all of lunch drawing a griffin flying through the forest with a living black smog chasing it. I’m not sure where these images come from sometimes. The ancient Greeks believed muses were actual spirits that influenced writers and artists, almost like the writers and artists were just instruments or tools for the muse spirits. Considering all the crazy tales and mythology the Greeks created, I believe one hundred percent they were influenced by demons.
“You should at least eat your apple.” Melody suggests, concerned about my level of food consumption, in particular my lack of food consumption.
“I don’t want to get apple juice on my sketch.” I say.
“Then can I have your apple?” She asks.
She’s already eaten my honey roasted, peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich, my bag of chips, my bag of carrots, and now she wants my apple? All she’s left me are my mom’s homemade chocolate chip cookies. Why am complaining about that? That’s awesome! Cookies for lunch…
“Sure,” I say reaching for the apple to give to her, but her zebra-decorated faux nailed fingers grasp the big, delicious red before me. Without thanking me for it, she bites into it. I snatch a cookie while there’s still one to grab, after she devours that apple she might want some junky sweet food next.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Jon Hurst plops down beside me.
“Hey I got a question for you Christian boy.”
“Jon, go away.” Melody snaps.
Jon ignores her and asks me his question, “If God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, why don’t you believe in prophets or the priesthood anymore?”
He’s asking because he’s curious and that’s good.
“In Matthew 5:17, Jesus said, ‘Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.’ So he didn’t come to do away with it. He wants us to still obey the law and to respect our prophets; does the word not say so?” Jon reasons.
He makes a convincing argument, but the first thing that comes to mind is when Satan tempted Jesus in the desert. He used scripture trying to entice Jesus to bow to his corrupt will, and not to rely on God. I think I shock Jon when I tell him I agree with him, but only about Jesus fulfilling the law.
“While Jesus walked the earth, he did fulfill the law. He had to because he was a rabbi and to some he was considered a prophet, but he had to live by the law and the teachings to prove he was the Messiah, but after he died on the cross and rose again we were set free from the law and salvation was made possible for gentiles like you and me. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, but we are all children of God. The Book Galatians and Romans Chapter 8, explain it well if you don’t want to take my word for it, but God’s word for it.”
Without asking, Jon takes one of my mom’s cookies. While chewing, he says, “But Paul wrote that… Jesus didn’t say it.”
I want to say Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon and you take it as the word of God over the real thing, but I don’t say that. Instead I ask, “Is Jesus not the Word of God, who existed in the beginning, before all creation came to be?”
“But why would God change?” Jon questions.
“God hasn’t changed, but his relationship with man has… So you believe that every prophet in the church is appointed by God?”
“Yes.” Jon answers.
“Was Brigham Young considered a prophet of the LDS church?”
“Yes.” Jon answers affirmatively, very proud of the dead man.
“In Jeremiah chapter 28, the prophet Hananiah makes a prediction about Israel, and Jeremiah confronts him questioning whether that prediction came from the Lord. He basically said that a prophet of the Lord can be known when what that prophet foretells comes to pass.”
Jon and Melody continue to listen to me intently. Their eyes seem fixed on my lips instead at me as a whole. I pose this question, “Did Brigham Young not claim that the Lord told him Utah would not be accepted into the State of the Union unless polygamy was legal upon ratification?”
Neither Jon nor Melody says anything.
“Utah became a state, but polygamy was not legal.” Before I can say anything else, Jon quickly jumps to the dead man’s defense.
“He’s only human, no man is perfect. And polygamy protected women and children during that time because men kept dying from wars and quarrels with the Native Americans fighting over the land.” Jon says throwing my mother’s half eaten cookie onto the floor as he comes to his feet.
“Jonathan, if God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and He is love, truth, and just, why would he appoint a prophet who can’t tell the difference between his own inner voice and God’s voice?” I’m astonished by the rhetorical question that I spoke from my mouth. Who else could it be but the Holy Spirit speaking on my behalf… Thank you Lord.
Jonathan walks away faster than he appeared. Ever since we had that huge debate in Geography class last year over the introduction of oxen to the Americas, he likes to come up to me and ask theological questions. At first, it made me nervous, but every time the Holy Spirit always spoke for me. Like I know for a fact I haven’t read the entire book of Jeremiah. I didn’t even know there was a prophet Hananiah. Who else could it be other than He who is in me?
Melody stares at me quietly as she eats my apple. I finish up my drawing, well, I try. Melody staring at me wigs me out. Why is she staring at me?
“What?” I huff in frustration.
Munching on apple mush, she mumbles, “Nubbing…” as she conveniently stares up at the ceiling. Swallowing a large gulp, she raises a brow, staring at the table instead of me and says, “It’s just… I just realized… you always talk about God and what He does.”
Now I’m confused… We’re supposed to testify about what God does, not to boast about how He loves us, but to Glorify Him. Doesn’t everyone who loves Him talk about God and what He does?
“Well, what has God done for you lately?” I ask, again sensing that question wasn’t all me, but more the Holy Spirit’s asking.
Melody’s gaze sinks into an expression of thinking. If you have to think about what God has done for you lately, you either have too much to testify or you have nothing. I can’t imagine what the latter is like nor do I want to.
The bell rings signifying the end of lunch. As I put the final details in the griffin’s feathers, Melody gathers our collective trash from lunch and throws it out. In gratitude for her gesture, I carry her books to class as we walk together since my next class is just down the corner from hers.
At the door to Mr. Thrall’s Government class, Melody takes her bundle of books from me. Clearing her throat keeps me standing by her, since I figure she has something to say.
“You have church tomorrow night, right?”
“Yeah,” I say.
My heart begins to pound fast. I think I know what she’s about to ask and I want to tell her of course before she even asks, but I speak in tongues mentally to stay calm.
“Can I go with you, if your parents are alright with you driving me home afterwards?” She asks.
A twinge of excitement surges through me. She actually wants to go to church with me. I didn’t ask. I haven’t ever asked her. Out of pure curiosity for herself she wants to go! If my parents say no, I may defy them. It would be worth it, just to give Melody the chance for true, freeing salvation.
“Yeah, I’ll check with them tonight.”
The bell sounds as she walks into class. Quickly, I zip around the corner into Mrs. Schuster’s for math class. Pre-cal is one of my favorite subjects, but if I ever admitted that out loud I’d be a laughing stalk. There’s something about numbers and complicated equations that soothes me and relaxes me. I’m so amped right now because of Mel’s choice to attend church with me; I could use something to bring me down to earth.
Happy Thursday everyone! I can only hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. As November comes to a close, keep an attitude of gratitude.
I recently went to a seminar for documentary filmmakers and the speaker, who worked on Oscar-nominated projects, said the most successful people she worked with carried two key perspectives to life: Gratitude & Sense of Abundance. Therefore, thanking God for everything you have under the sun and believing you have more than enough to work with in any given situation will take you far in life.
I must be lacking thankfulness and abundance because all I see lately in my life are failures. LOL. JK.
If you got to see any part of my creative process, you would know I sometimes write a bunch of different versions of any given concept my brain develops. Sometimes, I have three or four different versions in my head before I commit the idea to pen & paper, or to keys & word doc. My goal with this blog was to be disciplined. To force myself to stay the course of my first thoughts, but this isn’t the case… I think I’m just trying to create a formula for my creative process and I now know that is impossible and if it is possible, I should treat such a process as non-applicable.
Part of the excitement in life is the journey, correct? Just because I thought of one plot point first, doesn’t mean it is the best plot point, correct?
What are you trying to say, Brianna?
I’m saying I decided to change the story featured on Manuscript Monday. Instead of chapters of “Girls of Grace”, you will read sections of “The Wildflowers Along Route 77” every week.
Check out the title graphic art below. I made it in Canva with my free access. I used white font, size 12, style Trocchi. I used Unsplash for the photos. I’m incredibly grateful for the creative eye of “gades photography” and “Nathan Anderson” for the beautiful photos they captured. I did add a filter to the forest to brighten it up and I made the sunflower more transparent than normally.
My inspiration for the graphic and the story come from Whiteriver, Arizona along Scenic Route 77. In July, after the monsoon rains flood the land, along the two-way highway flowers spring up along the road. They look like sunflowers, but I don’t think they are, I’m pretty sure they’re weeds. Whether they are weeds or flowers they are absolutely beautiful. Especially, when the green grass is vibrant from drinking in the rain. The wind blows gently as soft gray storm clouds loom over the mountain plateaus in the horizon. Simply breathtaking to see as you cruise 55 mph down a winding road.
What is this story about?
Let’s back up a bit and talk about Whiteriver, AZ a little. The town sits on the Fort Apache Reservation. The only people who live there are Natives and Hired Teachers. Depending on how fast you drive, the town Pinetop-Lakeside is about 40 minutes away, Show Low is another 10 minutes away. The land is a mixture of chaparral and piney forest inside a valley on a mountain. The White Mountain Apache have four tribes: the Eagle, the Bear, the Roadrunner, and the Butterfly. Of course, these English words have Apache word counterparts, however, I do not know the language “AT ALL” to even relay the information.
(I will also confess, all this information I have about the tribe I picked up through observation, and what my friends at church told me. If I get anything wrong and you have empirical evidence or first hand knowledge that I describe something wrong, please email me with the details or leave a comment and I will make the correction, and credit you for the update.)
Their language is not lost, though much of the youth don’t know it, the Apaches are hopeful the language will be kept alive. Members of the tribe are either Christian, Traditional, or both. Many of the tribal members who live on the reservation experience alcoholism, suicide, teen pregnancy, physical abuse, sexual abuse, drug abuse, gang violence, witchcraft, and spiritual warfare in their families. Though there are Christians, there can be a big emphasis on RELIGION over RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.
The Apache identify as a people group through their native culture. Christianity preaches that all of their native practices are of witchcraft and are of the devil. And I would agree a lot of it is demonic based on what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard. But I have seen some struggle to hold onto their culture and pursue God will reckless abandonment, because they do not want to lose who they are.
In Pinetop-Lakeside and Show Low, the wealthy or upper middle class vacation there for skiing, hunting, and fishing all in the appropriate seasons. For the people who live there year round, like other towns they have their share of the poor and the wealthy. Small businesses for the time being are able to flourish there, but who knows when big business will fully takeover. (Oh that’s so grim, let me change it!) I mean, IT’S AMAZING AT ALL THE GREAT SMALL BUSINESSES THERE!
Must go to places are Darby’s, Baked in Pinetop, White Mountain Ice Cream, and Village 8 (Movie Theater). If you ever pass through the area, try to grab breakfast at Darby’s. For sure pick up a fresh loaf of sourdough from Baked in Pinetop. If you love ICE CREAM, go to the Ice Cream Shop by the movie theater in Pinetop-Lakeside. And, for those like me who can’t go on vacation without going to the movies… GO TO THE MOVIES in the WHITE MOUNTAINS because I used to work at VILLAGE 8 and it was one of the most fun jobs I ever had. The theaters are privately owned by the Croney Family and they LOVE what they do and owners like that give the people the best deals and the best service!
Believe it or not, Pinetop-Lakeside and Show Low are heavily affected by the drug scene. People who are born in the area, rarely ever leave. Many families encounter alcoholism, abusive homes, teen pregnancy and drug addiction.
And I can continue to compare and contrast life on the Reservation as opposed to life in the towns, but hopefully, it becomes evident in the fictional story I wrote.
The White Mountain area is a huge Latter Day Saints region. They have churches in Pinetop-Lakeside, Whiteriver, and in Show Low. In Taylor and Snowflake there are statues to commemorate important LDS moments or history in those towns. Then there Assemblies of God Churches and plenty of Baptists. There’s a Methodist church somewhere up the hill (Pinetop-Lakeside or Show Low). And even a Unity Church.
I will state I believe the LDS church and the Unity Church are falsehoods preaching doctrines of men and devils. It depends on the Assembly of God Church and Methodist Church… some are starting to stray away from the truth.
Now, I lived in Whiteriver for three years with my mom. She taught 2nd grade on the Reservation and I lived with her until I went away to college for a second time in Columbus, Ohio. We went to Canyon Day Assembly of God, under the leading of the Holy Spirit, and to this day, that church family is FAMILY. When we go to Pinetop-Lakeside or Showlow, if we’re there on a Sunday, we go to Canyon Day for church!
These two facts play a big role on the story you will read on Manuscript Monday. The main character Asher, moves to the Reservation with his family. His mom is a school teacher and his dad becomes the new associate pastor at a church near teacher housing. Asher is multiracial like I am, but he’s mixed differently.
Would you say the story is autobiographical, a little?
I’m gonna say no. I used realities in my life and applied them to the main character Asher, but there’s so much the story covers and goes into I’ve never lived or experienced in my life.
Now religion vs. relationship with God is a huge theme in this story. Many moments will feature Asher wrestling with his faith and the pressures of being a teenage boy in our modern culture. I do include a lot about the LDS Church. It may be different than what you’ve heard or seen or know. I can honestly tell you, I’ve heard different things from different LDS members. I think a lot of it has to do with what region the members are from and because the LDS Church is not based entirely on the Word, and not truly led by the Spirit of God, stories and doctrine will be contradictory.
True, a lot of people say Christianity is contradictory. The Bible has loads of evidence authenticating its many books. All legitimate denominations believe in core values from the Bible, therefore, unifying us under one belief. And all and all, I believe there’s only one way to the Father and that is through Jesus the Messiah. Once you believe in Him, you are sealed with the Holy Spirit and you pretty much live your whole life, from the point of belief, growing closer to God.
Of course, you’ll see my trademark ingredients to a story. Who knows, maybe I’m the future Nicholas Sparks of Teen Faith Fiction. His books always feature a death, a forbidden love story (one person comes from money and the other is poor), and a broken relationship (an abusive relationship, a bad daddy-daughter relationship, or estranged parent and child relationship). I still love the stories all the same, but he has a very clear niche that has made him very wealthy.
Is my aim wealth?
I certainly don’t want to be a dead published author or a starving one. But I write for this simple fact: writing is my passion and telling stories is life for me. I would write for nothing. Wait, I already do! At times, I’m a little vain glorious, but God so help me, in the end let my work not be in VAIN!
This venture is going to be an amazing journey and I’m glad you decided to join! I pray this story blesses you in some way! Enjoy.