Let’s journey on the faith track for a bit.
I’m not a stranger to Jesus, the Son of Man. As I read miracles in the Bible I believe He can still do miracles. I’ve asked and I’ve seen God work miracles in my life…
Yet, lately, I’m having a really hard time believing God for some things right now.
My dad needs a miracle.
My mom needs a miracle.
My brother needs a miracle.
My grandmother needs a miracle.
My uncle needs a miracle.
My cousins need a miracle.
My best friends need miracles.
At this point, I could care less if God ever gives me another personal miracle.
I’m super analytical. So immediately, I think about all the reasons why these miracles haven’t happened.
My father doesn’t believe God will help him.
My mother is on her own walk with God.
My brother is rebellious.
My grandmother is missing the mark on the call of God on her life.
My uncle is a prodigal.
My cousins need to be saved.
My best friends are going through tests and trials with the Lord.
Now, I admit I know nothing and I’m probably wrong, and if I am right… I saw Jesus work plenty of miracles for imperfect people. It was His perfection that healed them. He was obedient. He was in tune with the Holy Spirit. He was the vessel acting in faith and doing miracles.
And Apostle Paul is like one of my favorite examples in the Bible, but he said to imitate Christ Jesus over him.
Lately, I’ve thought about how Jesus was always praying and pressing into the presence of heaven. And we can say this was/is so easy for Him because He was/is God, but He clearly lived a human life. What if He ran to God in prayer because the presence of heaven was like eating a whole carton of ice cream and an entire pizza? What if being in God’s presence was where He ran when the temptations and anxieties of life became too much for Him?
Then if He could do it, can’t we then?
That’s why we read the Word and we believe every bit of it in our hearts, right? So nothing in this world can satisfy like the presence of heaven?
Now, we must be careful to not covet heaven that we become spiritual fruit loops and nobody on earth can relate to us. Pastor Rod Parsley says that we shouldn’t be so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good.
When we go into heaven over load mode, we’re trying to escape the woes of this life, and Jesus didn’t set that example. He showed that we charge the troubles of this life and we let heaven become the remedy in the midst of that situation.
I have a knack for seeming like I know what to do in any given situation. But when it comes to kingdom business, I don’t have a clue without God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit giving the directions, dropping the revelation, and showing up and showing off!
Yes, I can easily keep a defeated mindset and wonder if these miracles for my family will ever happen, or I can read the Word, and pray to God, and trust in time these miracles will happen on this side of heaven, down here on earth…
It’s easy to type this confession. And it won’t be a challenge in my heart, if I set my gaze in the right place… on Jesus and the Word, not my circumstances.
Now, it’s perfectly healthy to acknowledge when I’m sad and when I’m hurt and when I’m angry, but the key is not to moved by the emotions to the point it determines my reaction. I need to respond like a soldier in God’s army, which often means going to God in prayer or in worship. I don’t need to reach for the remote or eat a box cookies or eat two dinners in the middle of the night… My comfort needs to be found in the Comforter (the Holy Spirit), not in my comfort foods.
TV, Movies, and Food are what I run to sometimes instead of the presence of God. They never fully satisfy like God does… More and more I’m running to Him instead of these things that only offer temporary relief. I love music too, so I try not to run to my worship playlist.
I wrote this whole thing fighting tears and listening to a bunch of strife in my household tonight… maybe I ran away from the chaos into this blog post searching for peace… All I know, is that I want lives to be changed and transformed. I want to see the Gospel manifest in the lives of those I love. Not to prove that Jesus is real, because I know He is real. Simply because I want people to be free, for that is the only way we should live, and it is an injustice to be chained in bondage our whole lives.
Pray for me saints as I pray for anyone who reads this post.
If you’re not a believer, I think you’re on your way to becoming one. Why put it off, when you can believe RIGHT NOW?!
Truth is hell is real. Truth is hell will be eternity for those who don’t choose Jesus the Messiah in this life. You can ask God later why hell is real. But today, you can believe that Jesus died paying for your sins, sins that Adam and Eve passed down to you through their disobedience. And you can give up your nature that is self-seeking and self-destructive, and undergo a life-long process of how to become humbly, selfless to the point you look like a mini Jesus to people. The Holy Spirit will empower you to live such a life. You’ll have ups and you’ll have downs, but through it all, you’ll know all is well. And on the other side of heaven, in eternal paradise, you’ll enjoy forever with God, me, and many more saints. All you have to do right now, is believe Jesus came for you, died for you, and when He rose from the dead made you alive with Him forever…
That was easy, right?!
I suggest reading the Bible now. The Hoy Spirit will teach you everything you need to know. So will a great pastor at a church you’re meant to be at, and as will other leaders and mentors and fellow saints.
Your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are as broken as you, so when one hurts your feelings in church, go to them and resolve the issue. Take the high road and let it go. Don’t expect them to take your side. Like, forgive them in your heart before you go to them.
Then next, find out why you’re on this planet and what God has called you to do. Then go through the process to fulfill your destiny. No one can say how long it will take, but enjoy the ride day by day because you only get one life. Also, you’ll never fully arrive, so you might as well enjoy the little things as they unfold into bigger things!
And when you reach a point, when you don’t see God coming through in some areas… don’t fall for the lies or base the possibilities on your feelings. Like God came through for Abraham and Sarah, God will come through for you!
Also, your actions are important. Think very carefully before you do anything, unless, you believe God is instructing you… His guidance you just do, and trust me, how things turn out will show you if it was God or not. In my personal experience, it is mostly God.
So what do you do… when you can’t see the miracles? Serious question, drop your thoughts in the comment section.
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.
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.”
“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.
I stop my alarm, expecting a text from Melody asking if I’m up. Sometimes asking whether I’m awake refers to morning, but mostly it is an inquiry if I’m up in the middle of the night. She suffers from insomnia. A dilemma I didn’t have until lately. For some reason, I partially wake up a split second before my cell screen lights up and the whole device buzzes alerting me I have a new message. Last night I slept straight through until now, and there are zero text messages from Melody.
As I’m debating between Sunday’s Best attire or dress causal my cell rings. I drag myself back over to my bed to retrieve my phone thinking it is Melody and totally not wanting to go through our morning routine. To my surprise however, Natasha is calling me, not Mel.
“You can play guitar, right?”
“Yes, I can. Not ‘Zeven’ well though.”
“It doesn’t matter. Can you play today’s set list or do I need to make some changes?”
Talking under my breath, I say the set list in order trying to recall all four songs. “All but the third song on the bridge… That progression is too tricky for me in Eb Major.”
“What about D and you sing lead?”
The cell slips out of my hand from shock, but I jerk out of it and catch my phone against my abs. I’m not ready to lead worship? Not like Zev. I can’t do it. Negative thoughts cross my mind. Fear rises I my heart and gallops to its out rhythm in my head as more negative thoughts flood my mind.
“You’re ready Asher,” I feel the Lord speak to my heart. Determined to listen to God’s voice above all others, I nod my head yes. Then I remember Natasha can’t see me.
“Yes…” I say. I didn’t agree softly or firmly, just generally.
“Okay. Thank you so much, please be here at 9 am for sound check.” She says and then she hangs up.
Forget Sunday’s Best or dress casual. Jeans, black canvas shoes, Desert Streams graphic tee with my black leather vest. Lord knows I’ve been saving that outfit for the first chance I’m blessed to lead worship. I can’t think about it too much or I will psych myself out.
I arrive 15 minutes early to pray and to plea for peace to do what is asked of me today. I find Nicolette at the altar on her knees. Soft worship music by Desert Streams plays subtly in the Youth Sanctuary. Nicolette and I eerily dressed similarly. We have the same gray, blue, and black color scheme. I wonder if the rest of the team is dressed the same? That will be weird if we are, especially since none us discussed color coordinating today.
Put the guitar onstage. I think. As I do this I pray in the Spirit and a soothing peace sweeps over me. I put my electric acoustic guitar on the stand where Zev usually keeps his. Tash didn’t tell me to bring my guitar, I just felt I should since Zev got upset the last time I touched his guitar. I place my case in the closet on stage left, where we keep extra music stands, mike stands, and extra sound equipment and instrument pieces. I set my case on top of mangled chords, piled in a black plastic milk crate.
Offstage, at the base of the stairs, I get on my knees to pray, when I hear Pastor Chastity’s voice from behind me.
“I’m glad you and Nicolette came early.”
I stand back up, turn around and Nicolette comes alongside me to face our Youth Pastor. She seems a little heavy-hearted with something troubling her mind. Her droopy eyes paired with her downcast countenance says it all.
“Until further notice, the two of you will be leading our youth worship team. Natasha and Zeven were asked to step down this morning.”
What? This can’t be good. I begin to think the worst because it’s natural. With Natasha coming from the home of a teen mother, her odds of repeating the family curse is higher than other teen girls. And living on the Reservation where teen pregnancy occurs at an alarming high rate. Yes, I always wanted to lead worship, but not like this, not at the expense of someone else’s virtue.
“Will you be telling the rest of the team or will we?” Nicolette asks.
“How about after church? We’ll meet briefly. I’ll have Natasha and Zeven sit in with us and we’re going to go over the criteria for serving in ministry again.”
“Yes, Pastor.” I agree biting my lip. I try to quiet my worst-case-scenario thoughts, but they won’t quit.
Pastor Chastity leaves toward the prayer room and when she is far out of earshot, Nicolette whispers out loud what I’ve been thinking.
“I knew they were doing it! Do you think she’s pregnant?”
“That could be why Pastor Chastity is so sad… I’m sure the last thing she wanted was Tash to follow in her footsteps like that.” Now I feel worse for saying something out loud. This is borderline gossip. We aren’t certain if what we’re thinking is true. “Wait, how do you know they’re having sex or they had sex?” I ask Nicolette.
She looks over her shoulder to make sure Pastor Chastity is out of the sanctuary. She looks around and spotting Chlonelle in the sound booth, she leans in close to my left ear. She softly whispers, “That fight they had in September. Aden said he heard Zev at school talking to his buddies about going to Third Base with their girlfriends. Zev said he and Tash did all the time. He was working his way to Homeplate by homecoming.”
The front doors swing open and Wilma and Aden walk in. Nicolette walks past me and adds, “It’s so disappointing. No one ever seems to make out of here.”
I don’t even understand all the sexual connotations implied in the baseball plate metaphor. Homeplate would be sex all the way though, right? Zev better join the adults today for worship. If I see him, I will deck him… Okay, I won’t. I’ll do what most Christians will do. Stare at him with seething anger and monumental disappointment, which will equal the unveiling of pure disdain for the boy who stole my dream girl. Big fat, giant lesson learned, and huge, greatly important note to self: DON’T LET THE FEAR OF MISSING OUT STOP YOU FROM TRYING FROM GETTING WHAT COULD BE THE NEXT BEST THING IN YOUR LIFE.
Suddenly, my peace evaporates and restlessness forms in my core like raging seas. Guilt hits me heavy in the heart. I cannot not go onstage and lead worship like this… I can’t let Nicolette either.
Approaching Nicolette and the rest of the band, I overhear them gossip-guessing what is going on with Tash and Zev and why they aren’t singing. Filled with a little righteous indignation and I throw words to proudly monkey wrench this conversation, “Maybe none of us should lead worship today and make the entire Youth Group join the adults in the Main Worship Service?”
“What are you talking about?” Nicolette questions?
“We have no idea why Tash and Zev were asked to step down. We can guess all we want, but until we’re told or the Holy Spirit tells us, and even then, the last thing we need to do is talk about it. In fact, we shouldn’t be murmuring about them. We need to be praying for them. I’ll admit, I gave in to the gossip monster too, but Tash and Zev are family…”
“Good point, Bro.” Aden says.
I hold out my hands before me, one towards Nicolette on my left and one towards Wilma on my right. “Pray with me.”
The ladies take my hands and include Aden and Chlonelle. We bow our heads and close our eyes together. Nicolette leads us in a prayer of repentance for our gossip. Aden then begins to intercede for Zev and issues with lust. When he finishes Chlonelle prays for Tash about peer pressure and following the crowd. Wilma sings over our prayers with a song of praise. I close in prayer thanking God for the cleansing blood of Christ that purifies. I pray that we all have clear hearts and clean hands so the we may ascend the hilltop of God and receives all His promises. I pray for our worship to be pure and true, in Spirit and in Truth.
Together we say, “Amen.”
We release each other’s hands and we lift our heads opening our eyes. Pastor Chastity stands right behind me. With tears in her eyes and a feeble smile on her face, she hugs me. She whispers a thank you in my ears. She ends up hugging everyone, saying thank you and thank you again, to all of us. Chlonelle offers Pastor Chastity tissue paper to dry her tears, and as Pastor does so, she asks if we would be okay with cancelling the entire Youth Service and joining the Main Service today. The band looks around at one another with hesitation. I’m not sure whether to be relieved or disappointed, angry, sad, or happy. And I’m confused, I thought God said I was ready to lead worship today.
“Pastor Josiah has requested that the Youth Worship Team lead worship for everyone today.”
I titter, freaked out and excited simultaneously. God cannot lie. He is not a man that he should change his mind. Will his word not do what he says it will do? When he makes a promise, does he not keep it? My GOD IS AN AWESOME GOD! Somehow now, I know I’m ready.
All eyes are on me as if I’m the official authority on making this call today. I start nodding my head yes and the rest of band starts speaking yeah as if they’re expressing their approval with a ‘hell yeah’!
Two minutes to 10 am, we take our place. The church worship team sits upfront next to the Pastor and his wife. I go over the set list in my mind when the Holy Spirit lays on my heart to start off with Our God is an Awesome God by Rich Mullins. I tell Aden, who tells Wilma on bass. I whisper it to Nicolette and right at 10 am we intro with a classic oldie worship song. Ready for God to show up and show off!
Tucker brings the last of my things into the tiny, fully furnished one bedroom apartment and sets the box of dishes Cory gave me on the two person kitchen table. Milo continues his nap in his carrier that I placed in the middle of the sitting room, by the coffee table.
“I don’t understand why this is necessary…” I state.
“Look at the bright side, you’re a Beta now… Working in product development for PlumTree… You’ve been released of High School classes. This is a sweet deal. When the new housing is finished, you’ll get a bigger place. You’ve achieved every teenager’s dream. You get to be a BIG PERSON.” Tucker chuckles.
“But I’m not comfortable with anyone taking care of Milo but me.”
“Oh relax, there’s a daycare at the office and you can check on him as often as you need.”
Rex knocks on the open door as he enters in without asking.
“Miss Elle, mom wants to know if you want come back to our house for dinner or will you be okay for the evening?”
“She’ll stay.” Tucker answers for me.
“Grandpa, I asked her… not you…” Rex retorts.
“Ah… Milo and I will join you, just let me make some new bottles for Milo.”
“Okay, we’ll wait for you downstairs.” Rex smiles like a dork, super stoked I accepted his invite.
Cory set all of Milo’s supplies on the kitchen counter. I go over there and look for the open canister of formula on the gray countertop. The entire decorum of the apartment are shades of gray. Light gray carpet through most of the place, an almost white tile in the bathroom and the kitchen. Dark gray appliances, sofa, recliner, coffee table, cabinets, tub, bed, entertainment center, dresser, and wardrobe. The sinks are silver. Then every other surface and the walls a normal gray. The ceiling a light gray.
I’m allowed to repaint and decorate however I want, but then I have to put everything back to the way I found it. What a hassle. I think I’ll just let this dreary gray grow on me.
“You stay away from my grandson…” Tucker says. He clarifies what he means as I shake formula powder and water into a milk-like substance in two bottles simultaneously. “Rex is not gonna be my first grandkid to make me a great-granddad.”
I giggle. It’s funny how he’s worried about a virgin ruining his clearly mutually virginal grandson.
“Don’t worry grandpa, Rex isn’t my type.”
Legal age of consent for intercourse is 15 in the DCA. If a couple are expecting, they don’t need parent permission to marry if they’re under 18.
In the RA, age of consent remains at 18. If you’re under 25, you need a “blessing” from both sets of guardians to marry. Usually, teen parents place their child in adoption because they don’t have the means to care for the infant. No one can get employment without a college degree. Abortion is a felony for the mother and the abortionist, and if the father knew about it and didn’t notify the authorities, he’d charged with a misdemeanor…
I guess mom found the perfect place to hide Milo.
Tucker checks to make sure the apartment is secure and then picks up Milo in his carrier to help me down to Cory’s SUV.
The apartment door automatically swings shut after we both step out. The apartment A.I.- Roogle, says goodbye in a pleasant, calm male voice.
In the ride back to Tucker’s neighborhood, Cory makes small talk.
“We’re gonna miss having you next door.” She says, looking at me through the review mirror.
“I’ll miss it too… I love you guys…” I say honestly.
I only read in mom’s journal what Paxton, Cory, Tucker, Uncle Houston, and dad were like. But even though Paxton and Cory will older and wiser, their charm and joyous spirit was the same.
Standing, Paxton holds out his wine glass to make a toast. The short man’s black full beard had the two gray streaks at the corners of his lips like white fangs.
“I’m so happy, that- that Elle here is gonna come into the office and use her genie mind to like make more new awesome tech for the company… For the WORLD! I’m ecstatic that Quora and Walker are here- back with fam will on break from college. AND next week- it is the anniversary of when Cory agreed to go out with me -like a lifetime ago- a long time ago- cause we’re old…” He lifts his glass high and we join him in the gesture, “Let’s toast, to a great year ahead life just getting better!!!”
As we clang our glasses up against one another, the lights go out, rushing steps close in on us, and before my eyes can adjust to the dark to defend myself, a needle pricks my arm as a bag is placed over my head.
Natasha runs off to put the daylilies in a vase of water while Chastity escorts us to the dining area. The table is set with all the fixings, seven place settings, and a high chair for Annika stands at the end of the table where an eighth place setting would normally be. When Natasha joins us, she’s accompanied by Zeven holding hands.
We all take our seats, the way everything works out, Natasha ends up sitting across from me. Today she sports a blue, faux peacock feather in her hair. It matches her dangling, lab-made sapphire earrings. Zeven has frosted the tips of his black Mohawk with blue to match Natasha’s color phase fascination with blue. Looking at the two of them, side by side, they do look like a cute couple. Their features complement each other, and will one day blend well together… if… they’re meant to be together…
Chastity asks dad to say grace, we all take hands and bow our heads.
“Dear heavenly father, thank you for this gathering of friends. Thanks for the food you’ve provided for the Lane household and we’re grateful they’re sharing it with us. We ask that this food be blessed, and especially, our time together. Thank you for all that you do. In Jesus’s precious holy name, Amen.” The rest of us follow suit and say a collective amen.
Chastity hands the main course, meat loaf, to dad and allows him to serve himself. Natasha picks up the basket of crescent rolls and takes one as she passes the basket to Zeven. Zeven does the same, continuing to pass it on to Chastity. Zeven grabs the bowl of green beans and serves Natasha a few spoonfuls on her plate. Graciously, she thanks him with a peck on the cheek. They’ve been dating for a week, and they’re already at the kissing phase? Getting through this dinner is going to be harder than I thought.
Chastity kicks off the table talk by telling my mother, “The flowers are gorgeous Becky.”
“They are, aren’t they? Actually,” mom starts to say.
“Daylilies are my favorite.” Natasha interjects.
Zeven looks to Natasha surprised, “I thought wild, yellow daisies are your favorite.”
In unison, without intention, Natasha and I say, “They were.”
She looks at me caught off guard. She further explains without breaking eye contact with me, “But once I saw and smelled my first daylily back in June, daylilies are my new fav.” Clearing her throat, she directs her attention to Zeven, “I thought you were around when I talked about it at Worship practice?”
Zeven shrugs his shoulders as he takes the dish of meat loaf from my hands. “I guess I need to pay more attention to my girl.” He remarks.
Mom finishes what she meant to say earlier, “Actually, Asher picked out the flowers.”
Both Chastity and Natasha look at me, but with different opinions displayed on their faces. While Chastity’s expression reads as impressed, Natasha’s expression seems conflicted. Getting the daylilies was a good move… Natasha knows my selection wasn’t by chance.
We move on to another subject: Chastity’s upcoming sermon series for Youth on Sexuality creatively titled Knowing Him and Her. She came up with that title from the scripture Genesis 4:1a from the New King James Version, “Now Adam knew Eve his wife…” More modern versions tell how it really was by replacing “knew” with “made love”. Since Chastity was a teen mom, and based on the high rate of teen pregnancy in America and on the Res, and some of the concerns parents have brought to her, she felt God placed on her heart to discuss sexuality with the youth of the church.
In actuality, it’s more about God’s design and purpose of marriage, and how Christ comes first for both husband and wife. She’s hoping that through the message God will instill in the youth a desire to do things God’s way, and that each young man and young woman will feel precious in the eyes of God. And as current temples of the Lord our God, we’ll respect that honor and choose to do it God’s way… by waiting to have sex until we’re married.
Mom and dad are impressed. They agree that the youth are in need of such a message and they are glad to hear she’s doing it. Showing the sliver of uncertainty left in her, she asks dad and mom for their prayers that when she begins the message the Holy Spirit leads the series. Proudly, my parents accept the request and promise her they will do so.
After dinner, Zeven shares the new worship song he wrote in the living room with everyone else while I help Natasha stack the dishwasher. Natasha isn’t her normal, snarky, talkative self. Deafening silence builds a barricade between us. I can tell she’s deep in thought. I want to speak… but I don’t know what to say. The song of Zeven travels faintly into the kitchen. I listen to what I imagine the chorus is… it sounds like it’s in the Key of E or maybe C.
“We will shout on the hilltop.
We will sing in the streets,
And dance in the yard.
Praising the only worthy-
Of our praise- Jesus Christ
Lifting our voices
We sing- Hallelujah
To our King-
As we band together
In unity not conformity
The light that’s in us
We let it shine
As we lift our arms
Lifting praise we sing
To our king
As the body of Christ
We will shout from the hilltop…” he continues to sing on, singing the chorus again.
Now I have a talking point. “That’s a pretty good song.” I say.
Natasha winces, “It needs a lot of work. The words don’t flow. They’re good, but the song needs to be fluid, not forced. I’ve tried to help, but he’s too proud of it. Maybe now that I’m his girlfriend he’ll let me revise it.”
“Musically, it’s perfect though.” I comment.
Smiling in defeat, “True, when it comes to notes Zeven is a genius.”
“So maybe he’s the music and you’re the lyrics,” I say. Wow, I sound supportive of their relationship. I know I’m kind of coveting my neighbor’s significant other, it just feels like she’s been taken away from me, and I didn’t ever really have her.
Her whole face lights up with excited joy as if I prophesied to her. “You’re so right!” she closes the dishwasher, now that it’s stacked full, and then gives me a quick hug. Every hug from her is magical and heart-warming. As she slips out of my reach I wish the hug could have lasted a second longer, and I wish I had the guts to reel her back in, but I let her walk away. I follow her into the living room, where we’re all about to enjoy a game of Bible Trivia. Well, Annika’s gonna watch.
It is senior year of high school for Asher Lucas. His family moved to the Fort Apache Reservation the year before. They move into a cozy, three bedroom townhouse in Teacher Housing in Whiteriver, Arizona. His mother teaches second grade and his father serves as the Associate Pastor at a church nearby their new home. He’s the big brother of two sisters, 15-year-old Abbey, and baby Annika.
Asher grew up in a Christian home. He’s known Christ Jesus personally since he was a little boy, but in his last year of high school his faith has never been tested more, when he starts a journey to share the love of Christ with Melody Gartner, a senior girl at his school, who goes from Miss Popular to Nobody after breaking up with the school QB, Jon. Melody is a sweet, bubbly, vibrant girl whose dad is the Pinetop-Lakeside’s best vet and her mom is the queen of charity events. And she goes to church too– the Church of Latter Day Saints of Jesus Christ. Melody once embodied everything a Mormon Teen should be, but rumors spread she’s a cheating whore and she struggles to deal with the social fallout.
Abbey has a crush on Tenor Gartner, Melody’s brother, and Asher being the protective big brother he is, wards Tenor often at every opportunity presented. Tenor doesn’t like Asher’s religious influence over his sister Melody, so Tenor tries to make Asher’s life difficult.
As his he grows closer to Melody, Asher desires to save Melody from her world of mess but he knows he can’t. Therefore, Asher battles to allow Christ Jesus to step in and be her Savior. Along the way, he gets a little closer to Christ.
MEET THE CHARACTERS (Drawn by Me)
[I sketched these beauties on SketchBook, on my SurfacePro 3, using a PAC DOT S PEN. I used Canva to lay them out for a blog title template.]
[I sketched this too on SketchBook… I drew it to scale of the space I had, so some petals are incomplete. This is a simple PNG File.]
Originally, the story was called “Everloving”. Yes, I was trying to coin a new word like Shakespeare. I wanted to create a word to describe the EVERLASTING LOVE of GOD and I came up with EVERLOVING because HIS love is continuous in action towards us!
I remember feeling like a genius when I came up with this title. I sat in my living room, pretending I was being interviewed on The View, along with Kirk Cameron about “Everloving” the Movie. Kirk Cameron was the executive producer and played Asher’s dad. While I was the writer and director of the film. I imagined being asked what it was like when Angelina Jolie stopped by on set to watch her daughter’s performance. That’s right, I envisioned Shiloh Jolie-Pitt playing Melody when she’s old enough.
And we discuss how controversial everything is because not only are we saying a popular religion is wrong, we get a girl who is a hardcore tomboy to be a girly-girl in a film. The big kicker is the Shiloh gives her life to Christ onset and it rattles Hollywood.
Yes, clearly, I’m a dreamer, but you never know, it might happen.
Every Monday for the foreseeable future, I will post a chapter from TWAR77. I encourage you to share the posts with your friends and family. PLEASE, bombard me with constructive feedback in the comments. This means even if you catch a typo or super awful grammar mistake. I do ask that you’re respectful in your feedback, otherwise, you will be ignored.
I truly you hope you visit weekly for Manuscript Monday. I can’t put fully into words how I feel about this project. I do plan on publishing this book. Will I self publish it? I don’t know. I’d rather not.
I wrote this story for a few reasons. When I got the idea, I was unexplainably driven to write it. I think part of it is was I live in a region where being a Mormon/LDS was the same as being a Christian. I even went to church with people who didn’t understand that Mormonism doesn’t follow the Bible alone and founded by a con artist Joseph Smith.
I know a lot about Mormonism because I had a friend that became Mormon, but through fervent prayer and staying in touch, she came back to Christ Jesus within a year. I thought if I could understand the religion I could understand why she converted… but it didn’t help.
The Holy Spirit once told me to just love my friend when I was with her. I’m an intellectual, so I thought using apologetics for faith was loving, but I was missing the mark. It didn’t matter how well I debunked the LDS Church with history, science, and scripture from the Bible. When I realized my words were futile, and I recognized loving her was hanging out with her and just being us together, there would be moments she would ask what I thought about some Mormon practices. That’s when I was able to answer with what the Bible had to say, or history, or science… There were times I didn’t have an answer, but then I could pray with her for her to receive an answer. The loving approach was better and way easier than trying to be her savior.
I also know some really great people, who are Mormon, well LDS members (using the M-word is a no-no now according to HQ) and part of me hopes they read this one day and they make the decision to follow Christ Jesus through the Bible and the Holy Spirit alone as an ex-member of the LDS Church.
Melody’s dad is Adam in the story and many of things he says or experiences he has are from actual accounts I’ve heard LDS members share online in YouTube or in person. And Asher Lucas is my display of how I think a teen today should aim to carry out their faith. These people are fictional but there is truth in their interactions.
To be clear, I wrote this story because I was inspired to, I want to reach the lost, and I want people to connect with God and embark in a real relationship with Him. God is my DAD and I’m beyond blessed to be His Daughter, and I’m so grateful I don’t have to buy or earn His love. He gives it because He is LOVE and all He does is done because of His love for US.
THIS MONDAY – 12/03/2018 – VISIT HERE TO READ CHAPTER 1
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.