Melody opens the door and leaps to embrace me. Dressed to withstand the outdoors, in snow boots and a huge, ankle length jacket over her flannel pajamas, she steps outside to join me. Stuffing my hands back in coat pockets, I wish I brought my gloves today, then again no one really believed the weather man when he said it would snow after lunch today. The White Mountain usually doesn’t see snow until after Turkey Day, but this year winter came way early in mid-October.

“Thanks for coming by. I would invite you in, but it isn’t appropriate for us to be alone together.”

It’s 4:15 according to my phone. I tried to be here earlier, but there was an accident on the main road by school, traffic was backed up for over an hour and it was the only way out.

“Grab some essentials and come with me right now.”

Melody stares into the distance contemplatively. Conclusively, she crosses her arms and shakes her head no. “I’m gonna stay, Asher. I’ll be okay.”

The ambient crunching noise of car tires treading over mulch and dirt means I’m out of time. One car door slam, several rushed heavy steps, and the hum of angered breathing behind us moments later keeps me put just a little longer.

“Go inside, Melody,” Adam sternly commands. Father like son when it comes to demands.

Slowly, I turn around to face a mortal judge. A mortal judge that given the authority would kill me with a deathly glance.

“Adam, good afternoon.”

“Allow me to make this clear, you are no longer welcomed at our residence.”

“Sir, Melody is—,” Adam cuts me off giving me no room to speak.

“We will have papers drawn up relinquishing your rights to the child, so you don’t have to worry about anything. We’ll see to it that he or she gets a good home.”

“Tenor told me that Melody believes like my faith now, and—,” again, he interrupts me.

“Melody is just confused.”

“Sir,” I say and then regret it. He talks over me and hogs the attention.

“That night after she told us, I made it very clear, she wasn’t welcomed in this house if she didn’t respect our beliefs. She started packing her things. She set her cell phone, her driver’s and medical insurance cards on the table, and she was fixing to walk out the door with just a hoodie to keep her warm…” He pauses scratching the back of his neck, “She was mumbling that believing your way meant God would provide everything she and the baby would need. She wouldn’t listen to reason. She failed to remember the guidance of her religion…” Draping his head, he sighs. “I hate to say it, but that near miscarriage or that vanishing twin prevented my daughter from leaving my protection. That’s the providence of a god I serve.”

“But You can’t hold her against her will, Adam.”

Defensively, he jerks his head up and firmly aligns his gaze with mine, he states, “She is free to go whenever she wants, but if she is going to live in my house, eat my food, use my money, she is going to abide by my rules. She isn’t in school right now because the doctor prescribed bed rest. We talked it over, but when she is well enough, she will go be with my sister and her husband down in the Valley. We will place the child in adoption. The Bishop even has a few wonderful, faithful couples in mind. Then in the Fall, she will attend Brigham Young.”

Nothing can follow that up. He is in no positon to reason otherwise and for whatever reason Melody has seemingly agreed to his terms. Like I already knew, there is nothing I can do.

As I walk down the steps of the porch, Adam explains why I’m not welcomed in their home. Apparently, I’m home alone with his daughter too often, even though this is only my second offense, he is under the illusion we sneak around all the time.

Driving home I ask God why all this happening. Melody should be with me right now. If she went to all that trouble of lying in the first place, she wanted to keep her baby, and now her family won’t allow her to. She finally chooses Christ for real and now she’s trapped… I should be relieved. I should relax. I didn’t have to break up with her. I didn’t have to tell her I know she is a manipulator and a liar to her face. I’m entirely free from Melody Gartner drama in my life.

Yet, the burden on my heart for her is not lifted. Part of me wants to turn around, risk going to jail, and ask her to marry me just so has another option to leave. The other part of me realizes how dumb that would be… We’d be homeless and broke together facing the same issues she would out in the world alone.

These mixed emotions bring on tears, which blurs my sight, and therefore forces me to pull off on the side of the road to give me the chance to gather myself. I don’t even get why I’m crying. I didn’t even love Melody like that… At least I didn’t think I did. But it is true. I do love her. I care about her and I’m really scared she’ll go back to being Mormon. She doesn’t know enough about real Christianity to stay rooted in Christ. She doesn’t understand how to have dialog with God. She needs a body of believers to be her support system. She has yet to learn the power of prayer.

“Asher…”

I jerk to look in the back seat but no one is back there. I rub my eyes dry and look around outside but cars pass by on the left and the snow-kissed forest sits on the right. I check my phone to see if butt dialed anyone, but my cell isn’t on the line with anyone.

“Asher…” the same voice calls my name.

Am I crazy? Am I having a psychotic break or am I hearing the voice of God?

“I Am, Asher.”

That’s definitely a God answer. I would never call myself ‘I Am’ and that is God’s true name.

“Yes, I Lord.” I say back.

“Melody is my daughter.”

“I know.”

“Do you believe that Asher?” The LORD seems to question my honesty. He’s right, I don’t really believe Melody is totally saved. Most of her theology must still be predominantly Mormon.

The LORD adds, “I’m also Qanna. Melody is safe with me.”

“What does Kahn-Na mean?”

“Look it up. Exodus 34:14 is a good place to start. Or Google it.”

“Why can’t you just tell me? I asked you.”

The atmosphere in the car changes. My overloaded heart feels like a lightweight now. A joy sparks in my soul. I have peace and somehow, I’m certain everything will work out. I don’t know how. I certainly don’t fully understand why.

I’m so stoked I want to speed home. Treat 77 like the Audubon, but wisdom convinces me to remain a law-abiding citizen. I get back on the road, blast the worship music, and enjoy the experience of this victory in Christ that goes beyond words.

What’s done in the dark will eventually come to light… Another biblical truth I can’t run away from. I broke down in the car before I drove home. I cried out to God because I knew he was the only one that could sooth my aching heart, bleeding spirit, and troubled mind. After a fervent prayer pleading for guidance, a voice I thought I’d never hear again… which is crazy… how could I believe the lie, spoke to me, “Will you listen to me Asher?”

Considering that not listening to Him last time put me in this situation… I have to… I need to… There and then I swore to Him that I would. As He told me, “Good,” a wave of relief rushed through me and peace I could only credit to my God, my Savior, my Lord took root in me and sprouted in my entire being.

Melody doesn’t want to tell either of our parents yet… she thinks we need to break the news in stages. The stages being: stage one: Unveiling our relationship by telling our parents over dinner; stage two: Going public on social networking cites, since she’s the only who’s on them that will be her job; stage three: Reveal that Melody’s pregnant with our unborn child.

It seemed wise a couple of weeks ago when she proposed it. Unfortunately, we failed to implement it since our friends and family kept us busy with our birthday weeks. Last Friday, the 4th of October, was Melody’s 18th birthday. September 30th to October 11th during our fall break to celebrate Melody’s 18th birthday, her dad flew the whole family to Hawaii… for the entire break. Wednesday, on the 9th, on my 18th birthday youth group threw a surprise birthday party for me. Melody Skyped me from her fancy hotel room before I went to bed for the first time as an 18-year-old. Then for the weekend, my parents took me down to Tucson, we went to Old Tucson since Westerns are my favorite genre of literature. I can’t totally get into Western movies though. But what’s more romantic than a cowboy, in a white hat seeking redemption from his old wild ways by protecting the folk of the old west who need it, and in the end winning the heart of the fairest lady in town. Therefore, a dinner at my place and then hers, didn’t pan out, but I figured we get to it by this week.

Monday wasn’t good because it was a school night, except for my mom (her fall break was this week). Tuesday same excuse as Monday, Wednesday night Melody was too tired to attend church with me, Thursday night was family game night for the Gartner Clan only. Friday, Melody had to go into school since she’s failing English, and she knew after her day she would be exhausted. I woke up this morning expecting her to cancel, but I didn’t receive a text or a call, therefore I figured we were a go.

Today, with our Saturday tradition well and alive to commemorate our 6th weekiversary, as we walk holding hands like the love struck teens we are, along the lakeside Melody’s proposal shocks me, “Let’s get married,” she just blurts out.

Not given the chance to think it out, she kisses with an intensity she never has before, or maybe she has, I just can’t remember. Spellbound by the magic of this moment I find myself weak in the knees and running on fumes just to continue the motion of kissing with passion. And yet, holding her, kissing the mother of my child, I want more… Do I really want my kid born outside of wedlock; do I want Melody to worry that I’ll leave at any moment? What a better way to assure Melody and our future child that I’m never going anywhere than saying, ‘I Do’ at the altar before God, family, and friends.

Abruptly, prying her lips from mine to catch her breath she gently begs for clarity, “Is that a yes, Mr. Lucas?” Her hands clasped at the small of my back, her bottom lip tucked inside her mouth, her eyes on fire with anticipation, and my thoughts soaring through the euphoric clouds of my mind I proudly accept to have Melody Gartner become Mrs. Asher Michael Lucas, “Yes,” I tell her.

It’s not until after I dropped Melody off, I realize that I didn’t consult God. I didn’t ask for his direction. I’m scared to ask Him… I got the gut-wrenching feeling He’s going to make me choose the harder road… the one I’ve been avoiding. But I promised Him that I would listen to Him… that I was done doing things my way… But if I don’t marry Melody, she’ll probably just think I don’t love her, or that I want out of the relationship, or even worse she may close her heart to Christ altogether.

Suddenly the Lord says to me, “It’s not you who saves Asher. I SAVE.”

“What do I do God?” I beg for His guidance. He doesn’t say anything…

I’ve learned His silence means I got things in my heart I have to sort out before He can answer that question. He could tell me exactly what to do right now, but the big question remains: would I listen to Him? God doesn’t ask us questions because He doesn’t know the answer, He asks the questions to help us open our eyes. To help us realize where we’re at in life or to help us acknowledge a desire or a sin in our heart we haven’t recognized yet. Does God keep asking me if I’ll listen to Him, because in the deepest, truest part of my heart I won’t listen to Him? I keep doing my thing… Or do I keep doing Melody’s thing? Making me feel bad for her, she swindled me in to asking her to homecoming. I wanted to stop drinking punch and she persuaded me to drink more. Pitying her, I asked her to be my girlfriend. Thirty minutes ago she kissed me into accepting her proposal. Melody’s a devil, a snake! She’s the weed in my heart making me disobey God…

What do I do God?

As clear as the first time He said it to me, “Love her like I love you.”

God’s love is unconditional… I’m fully human… how can I love her unconditionally? A thought crosses my mind: Would I love her if she never found Christ? My love for her is conditional… I want her to accept Christ with every inch of my soul, that I’m compromising my soul just to please her. As if I fall from the graces of her favor, she’ll not only say the heck with me, but Jesus too… I’m standing in as savior of her life instead of allowing Jesus to come in and be her savior. I was there for her when she had no friends, I became her boyfriend to spare her a broken heart, and now I’ve agreed to marry her for security. What happens, if for whatever reason, I’m suddenly removed from the equation? What would Melody do? Would she just find another boy to be her knight in shining armor, would she run to her father like the daddy’s little girl she is? And what if, Natasha didn’t say yes to Zeven, and by some miracle she said yes to me (if I got the chance to ask her out)? I wouldn’t have taken Melody to homecoming, we wouldn’t be a couple, and the baby wouldn’t exist.

“Yes, he would,” the Lord inaudibly speaks to my heart.

Yes he would? Now I’m confused. God is love shouts from east to west in my mind.

God is love. In God’s Word Translation of the Bible, it uses the word love from Genesis to Revelation, with all its different forms and variant definitions of the word, but even with all of love’s many meanings, one underlying truth is clear: God loved us first, so we could love Him. We’re only capable of loving others because we’re made in His image. We were made to love. The reason why we fall short or fail to love is because of the callous nature sin brings into our lives. For our sake, out of love, God came as Christ to save us. God isn’t in the business of being liked… He’s in the business of being loved! To obey the Lord I have to be bold enough to love her more… to love her without conditions. The real question now is: how?

History Lesson

Elle After Civil War 2.png

When I was a toddler,  the Republic of America declared independence against the United States of America. Sleeper agents for the RA within branches of military and intelligence agencies rose up. Those who considered themselves to be conservative, patriotic, capitalistic made of the RA. It wasn’t over race, even though race served as a factor. Minorities had a tendency of siding with the USA over joining the USA. Russia backed the RA sending aid and troops.

For three years, Americans were forced to pick sides that offered them the best chance of survival. It was clear the RA was never going away. Out-manned, out-gunned, and at the risk of losing territory, what remained of the USA on the East Coast signed a peace treaty with the RA… agreeing to new borderlines and recognizing the RA as a country.

Washington, Oregon, and California remained as a part of the USA. Everything between those states and the Mississippi River became the Republic of America.

The year of the treaty, the great lakes flooded, drowning Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and most of Pennsylvania and New York. A virus spread across Washington State, Oregon, and California killing 80 % of the population. The land also became incapable of producing vegetation. The survivors were forced to seek asylum in Canada, the RA, and Mexico because USA was found guilty of using biological warfare that devastated those three states. Their target was the was RA, but they miscalculated. Some think the RA did it and framed the USA. Those regions are now the “Dead Zone”, an unlivable place.

The next year, the USA reformed their branches of government and agencies forming the Democratic Coalition of America. The government gave more power to the people over policymaking, eliminated capitalism and started merit economy called meritism, and became determined to be the manifestation of Utopia.


The Republic of America Government & Agencies

(Allies: Russia, France, Italy, Israel)

National Language: English

Agencies of Intelligence for the Republic of America

MIB: Main Intelligence Branch (CIA knock-off)

PAN: Protection Agency of the Nation (NSA knock-off)

CDI: Countrywide Department of Investigations (FBI knock-off)

The Eagle’s Senate

The meeting place of Senators of the Republic that represent each RA State. Just 1 Senator per state.

The Eagle House

The Eagle (President knock-off)

1st Olive Branch (First Lady/First Gentleman)

__________________________________

The Eaglet (Vice President knock-off)

2nd Olive Branch (Eaglet’s spouse)

The Democratic Coalition of America Government & Agencies

(Allies: Australia, England, China and Japan)

National Languages: Spanish and English

HORAI: Headquarters of Reconnaissance and Intelligence (CIA knock-off)

NDS: National Department of Security (NSA knock-off)

DDI: Division of Domestic Investigations (FBI knock-off)

Hall of Democrats

The meeting place of hundreds of Democratic Representatives from each DCA State. (Half the number of the USA Congress)

House of Liberty

Lead Democrat (knock-off president)

1st Assistant Democrat (spouse of the LD)

________________________

Associate Lead Democrat (knock-off vice president)

2nd Assistant Democrat (spouse of the ALD)


Opinions vary but each country still operates a lot like the old USA. Except on is highly conservative and the other is super liberal.


Mom speeds down the highway heading for east border. Clearly, she is not worried about getting pulled over or caught by speed regulator cameras.

The baby stays quiet in my arms. He’s sort of cute. But his constant hypnotic stare at me is totally creepy.

“In New Jerusalem, we’ll get a motel and I’ll go out and get us some things for our trip.” Mom says like she’s still thinking about a million other factors to flee the country successfully.

The RA has spent millions of dollars to rebuild and wipe the memory of the old America away. I hear the DCA mends what is broken, but they don’t generate enough revenue to start over and build everything new.

“Where are we taking a trip?”

“Well, if you never opened the bag, I was just going to take you to a safe house for a few days, but your disobedience changed our plans big time.” Mom sounds disappointed as she keeps her eyes on the road.

“I’m sorry… I didn’t think you were in the baby smuggling business… a weird smuggling baby business that has genetically engineers infants that imprint on their masters/caretakers.” I defend myself, weakly.

What am I talking about? This all sounds nuts! When mom explained it all, I felt more insane by every unfolding detail.

The Chinese were working on Project Hercules, which combined the research of the Prometheus II Project with the concept of coding the Theus Sphere properties into a genetically engineered human being. The Theus Sphere was designed to fuse with a person and make someone average into a superior human being that would a be killer machine taking orders from the boss. Project Hercules would breed humans that at birth would imprint on their handler, forming a bond to secure total allegiance and compliance. (Sort of sounds like a video game about assassins, huh?) The baby in my arms is the very first baby if the reality.

A wealthy mercenary, Baptiste Guyon, stole Project Hercules the Chinese and destroyed all their research and either kidnapped or killed every person connected to the project. At first, when the RA got the intel 10 years ago, they thought Guyon wanted to sell the project to the highest bidder, and the RA was prepared to purchase it, but then it became clear he wanted it for himself.

He set up headquarters for Project Hercules II in the RA near the Mexican border. Mom was sent in to infiltrate his organization. She played herself. A spy without a country to serve. For the past eight years, she’s been a field agent for Guyon, while feeding his plans and operations to the MIB. Occasionally, she would send misinformation to Guyon.

Mom’s original orders, once the first Hercules was born, was to destroy all the research and to bring the baby back to MIB central in True Dallas. But the day this baby was born, mom learned Guyon has several facilities around the world and more babies like Hercules I were about to be born. She called her MIB handler and got a new directive. Fake the baby’s death, bring the child to HQ, and go back undercover to find all Project Hercules Facilities across the globe.

Seeing what Hercules I was capable of, mom planned on killing the baby for real, lying to the MIB and to Guyon. But in case her plan failed and the RA was going to burn her for treason, she wanted to come take me to a safe place. If Hercules didn’t imprint in the first 24 hours of his life, he was going to die. Mom figured he could die slowly and peacefully in that duffle bag not wanting to add baby-killer to her repertoire. I screwed up the plan.

She’s going to still tell the RA and Guyon the kid died. It will be convincing because mom was on security detail transporting the surrogate in labor back to the facility from Guyon’s house, when Mara and her team were ambushed in a tunnel. Mara got out of the vehicle just as it exploded, unable to rescue the surrogate and the baby.

The real story is that mom stopped in a tunnel the MIB was sending a drone to attack. She killed everyone under her charge. Then she ripped baby Hercules out of the surrogate’s womb and fled for cover with the baby in the getaway SUV she parked nearby. She drove away as the drone bombed the tunnel.

I’m not sure how she’s going to fill in the holes to the MIB or to Guyon, but she’s survived being a spy for over twenty years, I’m sure she’ll figure it out.

“Do we have to call him Hercules?”

“You can call him whatever you want. He’s your new baby son.”

“Why can’t he be your kid?”

“I’m not going on this trip with you. I can’t and it will be easier to keep the cover that he’s your son and not your brother.”

I don’t see her logic. But the last time I didn’t listen to her I became a mom, so if I don’t want to end up dead, I ought to do what she says.

“Milo Xavier Taylor.”

“Xavier? You like that name, huh?”

“It’s dad’s name…” I say.

That much she has told me. My father is Xavier Douglas Wace. When they met he was an analyst for the CIA. They fell in love while he was a field agent after fusing with the Theus Sphere from the stolen Prometheus II Project. She was sort of in love two different people for a bit. When dad first used Theus, his own consciousness would be suppressed by a the persona built into the sphere. Agent Xavier was Agent Theus, a different man in attitude, demeanor, decision-making, and personality. But eventually dad figured how to use the properties of Theus without letting the Theus-persona loose. Then they got married and were working on impossible missions as part of a deal with the CIA that would end in their early retirement to enjoy civilian life. More than anything my mom wanted to start a family with my dad and they didn’t want to be spies raising a family.

Their last mission was to intercept a piece of technology similar to Theus, but instead of fusing with the technology, the tech was a giant download onto some willing person’s brain. All this information would be in their mind to learn without having to take time to learn how to do things. What would take months or years to learn, only took seconds after finding the info on the hard drive of their brain. There was one version before the type they intercepted but it killed the person was the guinea pig. The Traverse 1.0 fried their brain into liquid… literally. Good thing that didn’t happen to my mom. Neither of us would be here.

Dad wasn’t as good of a spy as Theus. He got himself captured by the bad guys they took the Traverse 2.0 from. Mom wanted to save him, so she used the stolen tech– the Traverse 2.0, and it worked long enough to save dad. But her brain couldn’t handle all the information and she passed out. When she woke up she could talk and walk, but she couldn’t remember the last five years of her life… She couldn’t remember dad at all.

Mom got pregnant before that mission, but she didn’t find out until that mission was complete and she had already left my dad in the dust. Her mind rebooted during her pregnancy  and by the time I was one, she remembered her whole life with my dad, and was in love with him all over again. But thanks to Civil War 2, there was no family reunion.

Now, all my life, she told me she picked up a regular civilian life after the war. The truth is, the MIB formed and drafted her services. If she refused, they were going to kill her and put me in an orphanage, because they didn’t want her joining the former USA now DCA.

Until a few months ago, I believed her civilian life lie. But then I began to wonder why my mom forced me to learn to Spanish, German, French, and Mandarin. She’s taught me Kung Fu, Krav Maga, and how to use guns, swords, and knives. I know how to read a room to find a way out in case of an emergency. Every once in a while, we would go on free shopping sprees where she taught me how to shoplift without getting caught. When I was 12, she ditched me on a camping trip and left a note for me to get home using what I had and without getting help. If didn’t make it home in three days, she would come for me. Sometimes in sparring she would beat me to a pulp just to increase my pain tolerance. I know how to make a bomb out of household cleaners and house items. Need I think on this more, she trained me to be a spy! So I started snooping on her.

First, I cracked the code to her safe in her closet and found her journal. I know it is a major invasion of privacy but reading someone’s inner thoughts is the fastest way to discover what is going on with a person. I learned fast mom was still in the spy game. I just didn’t what she was doing. I know if I read about this Baby Hercules Project, I wouldn’t have removed that blindfold and I would be childless now.

“You want me to be his mom because if he loves me like a mother, that’s the best way to ensure he won’t become a monster… Right?” I check if I figured out her angle.

“Um, I guess… He’s designed to only form a personal connection with a parent figure. I’m not sure he’ll have the emotional intelligence to care about siblings… But I’ve been thinking. We should kill the baby.”

“What? Why?”

“You’re not ready to be a mom and if my plan goes south, it will be easier to survive on your own. Plus, if anyone ever figures out the truth. They’ll kill you just to get him. Then whoever has him, will make more of him.”

“Cloning people doesn’t work.” I point out.

“No, but anyone with the right background could make an army like him with his DNA. And they wouldn’t hesitate to train him and use him in the field. It’s better to kill him and burn his body.” Mom argues.

Before we make any rash decisions, I have to know, “What is the plan, with me as his mom?” I ask.

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.

BT - TWAR77

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.