KYLIE

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“I like the name Gwendolyn for a girl and Murphy for a boy…” Kylie confessed with an unsure look on her face. She winced worried she’d bring up painful memories for Jon.

“I think both of those names are lovely. Papa Silas and Mom will feel honored when you share your preference, but I like Marie for a girl or Yesh a for a boy…” Jon said.

Kylie rolled her eyes wishing she could argue with him over those names. He like Marie because it’s a form of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and he likes Yesh, short for Yeshua, the Hebrew name of Jesus. Jon believes names are prophetic statements over once’s life… that a name can help shape who you become… that’s why God changed peoples names in the Bible or said what their names should be before they were born.

Kylie stuck her nose back in her book-styled tablet. The paper-light made it similar to reading an old-fashioned paper book. And though Kylie had plenty of regular paper books to choose from in the manor, with the rare blessing to be the newest, and youngest Philosopher’s Wife, she was used to using a book-tablet for all her reading like when she grew up in a Sanctuary.

The sudden touch of Jon’s cold, large, slender hands on her bulging middle made her heart skip a beat for a moment. She closed her book-tablet, and set it in the middle of the bed. She watched Jon lay sideways on the bed, his torso facing her, while his face was fixed on the exterior of her womb. Gently, he rested his forehead and his lips moved but no sound came out. He was praying for their unborn child. She could feel the warmth of the Holy Spirit flow from his hands and into the baby’s chamber. The baby began to kick and move around. Kylie giggle trying not to let the discomfort the baby gave bother her. She imagined the baby was dancing.

In Romans, the Bible says we are all born with the knowledge of God… her heart’s deepest prayer was that her baby would never forget about God. She prayed that God would lead the child to the path of eternal life.

If she knew God when she was pregnant with Bailey’s and Garrison’s daughter… she would have prayed the same… She’s so big now. She’s the 97th percentile for 7 year olds in height, She towers over all boys and girls. Kylie didn’t think her egg and Garrison’s sperm would make such a beautiful, tall, lanky kid. She worried the kid would be ugly. With the exception of Gwendolyn, the Angelcrest’s looked like the trolls that hung out under the bridge… not pretty. Kylie personally doesn’t find herself pretty, but little Taylor is the most gorgeous girl that ever lived.

Sometimes she wished Taylor could be her daughter instead of her niece… but right now, Kylie held the title of most awesome aunt in the world! As long as Kylie kept that what could go wrong.

When Jon finished praying, he used his elbows on the mattress to crawl to meet Kylie face to face.

“Have I told you lately how much I love you?”

“Only every chance you see me…”

“I love you,” He said as kissed Kylie on the lips.

There’s no one more she loved kissing than her husband of three amazingly sweet years. Though sometimes it was weird for her.

She remembers when they were much younger and kissing like this gave her anxiety. Where she felt tortured being treated like a girl. How when Nix would touch Lore’s breast she hated herself for being a woman and was depressed she wasn’t a man, like Nix. She would sometimes picture being the man and even though it wasn’t true, thinking that way helped her cope…

If she didn’t think like a man she may have killed herself. Because every time she had to look at her naked body, not matching how she felt on the inside, she desired death opposed to the living hell she was in… Two things kept her going in the Sanctuary… Her friendship with Nix and the chance for I.D. Synthesis.

“I love you,” Kylie said when they paused for air and she kissed him back.

Kissing Jon now made her feel every bit a woman. She felt a subtle power in being a woman- a life giver because only woman can bear and deliver children. As a woman she found peace in following Jon’s lead. She looked to him to be her guiding light and when Jon was weary and when Jon needed help, in those times she felt called to be his comfort and to be his support. Every day, she got up, she would spend time with God in her secret place, in her mind as she pretended to do her morning yoga, but then the rest of her day was spent making sure Jon got what he needed, and every need she had Jon did his best to meet it. Yes, they both failed everyday to be everything for one another, and they didn’t need each other, but they both chose to need each other.

Jon gently settled away from sucking Kylie’s face and laid on his side, holding up his head his hand on bended elbow. He lied there in his night tee and bed shorts like a total king and Kylie wanted more… if she wasn’t the size of an elephant… it was more work at this stage of pregnancy to get laid than it was worth… in her opinion… but not all women are like Kylie.

“Tomorrow, the Panel requested to see my latest Philosophy in pamphlet form… isn’t that cool?”

“No!” Kylie panicked. That meant he had to share his sources and all of it came from the Bible, using a portion is okay, but using all of it isn’t…

“Relax… whatever will be will be…”

Another topic she wanted to argue about with Jon. He could at least postpone to do something that could kill him until after the baby was born… but the Kylie thought what if one of the Philosopher’s needed to be reminded of the truth before their last breath…

She thought about the sacrifices both Gwendolyn and Murphy made for her.

GWENIE THE DEARLY BELOVED

‘I am grieved that my daughter will forever be known for supporting an ideology that spread bigotry, hatred, homophobia, and down-right judgmental thoughts and attitudes… but that doesn’t change the fact she was my daughter, dearly beloved. She was the wife of my brilliant apprentice I am honored to call son. Her laugh, her smile, her zeal of life will never be forgotten. She will forever be treasure in my heart. Her mother’s heart. Her brother’s heart. Gwendolyn Celeste Angelcrest Fenix aka Gwenie– is her own paradise fashioned by the delusion built on her faulty belief systems– and knowing she now rejoined with the deity that surrounds us, that is in us all and in all things, gives me peace of mind.’ Silas said at her for Gwenie’s eulogy.

Jon cried heavy tears the entire time. Kylie held his hand trying to be a comfort but knew she wasn’t. Gwenie was his wife for two years and he loved her deeeply. Jaya sat on the other side of Jon, rubbing his back in a circular motion.

Kylie’s mind was plagued with guilt for betraying Gwenie like Judas did to Jesus.

A few weeks before Gwenie was arrested at Taylor’s first birthday, at Garrison’s and Bailey’s home… Kylie was summoned to report to her Sanctuary for a spontaneous evaluation. At her second to last evaluation Kylie requested an extension to be an egg donor and surrogate for Bailey and Garrison. Bailey transitioned from a male to a female but still couldn’t have children. The Society agreed to stop her IDS, allow her to fulfill her duty to her family for however long it took and six months after giving birth should resume her IDS for six more months and then transition into a male like she originally desired.

Six months after giving birth, Kylie wasn’t sure about becoming male. Something about giving birth didn’t make her hate being a woman anymore.

In the last month of pregnancy, she lived with Garrison and Bailey, and one weekend they went of town didn’t time alone before becoming parents. Gwenie came over to stay with Kylie because Jon had a ton of work and he needed solace.

One night for dinner, Gwenie dragged Kylie to the Public Sector or the Sailor’s Barge… They had bomb fish and chips and then they stayed until the club hours and went to the basement and Kylie broke out crying when she was welcomed a small group of fellow believers. She no longer had to keep her faith in her mind. She could freely talk about God. She could pray out loud. For the first time, she sang a worship song about the second coming of the Lord… she didn’t want to leave.

Since that night and after giving birth, Kylie went to the basement of the Sailor’s Barge as often as she could. She took more copies of scripture than anyone else, but she never shared them. She saved them to make her own copy of the Bible.

On the day she was summoned to the Sanctuary, they had pictures of her reading a paper booklet tied together with yarn in a makeshift spin. They searched the purse she had with her and found it that booklet… as a makeshift Bible… when they asked where she got it she didn’t want to give up the Sailor’s Barge Basement… She gave up Gwenie instead, after all… she was the one who had access to a Bible and it was in her hand writing. As an offspring from the Private Level, she was one of the few people in the world who could write by hand… everyone else in the Public typed on devices or spoke into devices to create text messages and to write epapers for school.

They asked her right then and there if she believed she wanted to say yes, but she said no. When they asked why she read the pages she claimed she was curious. They asked why didn’t she report Gwenie and offer the book as evidence willingly, she honestly said she wanted to protect her best friend’s wife. Then they asked her why she wanted to be a woman after giving birth.

Kylie answered, ‘Having a child made me feel powerful… I don’t want to give that up… I want more children and if I must sacrifice my desire to be a man for that, then I can live with myself.’

New medical reports at this time shared the alarming rate of infertility. Shocking discoveries that people healthy to reproduce where giving up their ability to reproducing by becoming the opposite gender. And though some female to male people could bear child, it violated the Society’s Social Codes, so they’re started sterilizing all transgender people to make it equal across the board. If the world’s birth rate remained low, there would be no one to replace the world’s current population in the next 100 years.

Simply because Kylie proved to give a healthy offspring, she was spared punishment for breaking the Society’s number one Social Code – worshipping the One True God.

Kylie told herself Gwenie would get a slap on the wrist for being the Chief Philosopher’s Daughter and the Granddaughter of the Chief Policymaker, but it was because of her they decided to televise the stoning of One True God Followers. The Panel chose stoning as the delivery for death to honor their belief in an ancient horrid religion.

Due to the rise in believers, the Panel discussed bringing crucifixion back to scare people out of taking the risk of even thinking of believing.

Anyone who didn’t watch the stoning was arrested and stoned after Gwenie. Everyone was warned beforehand. Kylie sat in Silas’s TV Room, next to Jon, holding his hand, and she watched Gwenie get stoned by the armored lawenforcers. She stood for as along as she could, she only cried when it was unbearable. And when she couldn’t stand, she hoisted herself up on her knees, and in her final breaths on the ground, she cried the name of the Savior again and again until a stone  hit in between the eyes and caved her head in.

Jon and Kylie held each other balling together. He grieved from loss and Kylie wept from overbearing loss. She wished for death. In that moment, she wanted to stand up and say she believed, but Jon did something weird… He kissed her on the lips and then he whispered in her ear. ‘I need you… don’t leave me…’

They didn’t go on a date until two years, forty-two days, and nine hours after Gwenie’s death, but by then Jesus made it clear like Peter, Kylie was forgiven.

The day after her 24th birthday, she became Kylie Taylor Fenix… and without hearing the truth five and half years prior… she wouldn’t be a woman… and she would be on track to hell in the next life living this life as a man.

OUTSIDE THE LOUNGE

Kyl had been tormented for six months. Going through hormone treatments, to harvest eggs, and then having to handle failed implantation after failed implantation… Kyl loved his sister Bailey, but he couldn’t handle putting his dream of becoming a man for real on hold.

To blow off steam, and to relax, AND to FIND someone to HOOK up with to really let go off ALL the CRAP he FELT… he went to the Lounge. Though Kyl fished to take a pretty lady home, no one bit the bait. So Kyl got trashed. Drunker than he ever got before.

Leaving the lounge, he stumbled and nearly fell face first into the sidewalk. He caught himself on the post of a street lamp. A man met him there on that corner and helped hold him up. He looked like an old and gray Nix. And even though, him and Nix were friends again, things weren’t the same between them, and Kyl missed what he and Nix had in the Sanctuary.

‘Excuse me, have you ever heard the Gospel?’ The older man asked.

After giving some speech about Jesus, death, and resurrection and being born-again, and going to heaven instead of hell, the man asked, “Do you believe in the Gospel, Kylie?”

Suddenly, he was tackled by three armored officers. He fought back but the beat him until he fell limp unconscious. Kyl was so freaked out and confused by everything he passed out.

He woke up the next day in his bed. The officers must have brought him home.

Three weeks later, Kyl had a dream of a glamorous place. The streets were pure gold, so pure it was see-thru. There was endless light all around her and total peace. She say this man with holes in his hands and where a white robe. He was bearded and she knew who he was… the man who was God who died on a cross for her sins.

“I love you Kylie.”

Abruptly, she woke up and instantly believed the Gospel was true. She left like she needed to look in her back pants pocket and she pulled out a little piece of paper that had written on it, “God sent his only begotten Son for the salvation of the world. For whosoever believes in the Son should have eternal life…” John 3:16. The old man must have slipped it in her pocket somehow. Deep in her heart she believed in Jesus and she felt free. She no longer wanted to be Kyl. She wanted to be Kylie like her parents named her.

KYL LORE

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Three days after commencement, Kyl finally got leave. He got little panicked trying to leave the Sanctuary the first day and he feels bad that he stood Nix up. But when he was walking down the hall the first, a panic hit him heavy. Bailey always visited him growing up in the Sanctuary, would if his parents wouldn’t show up for him, and he would be all alone like Bailey was after her commencement.

For three days, he rested in a blue light room to release. He talked about his fears with a counselor. He did a lot of meditation asking spirits to guide him to peace.

He cut his hair into the male style he wanted and he selected faux eye-glasses to look smart. Chicks dig nerdy guys.

On his second attempt to leave the Sanctuary, he could feel another panic attack coming, but he pressed through fearing life in the Sanctuary more than the unknown that awaited him.

Bailey and Garrison came to pick him and took him to the Private Level to their house, though he was assigned a nice apartment on the edge of the Public Level. That’s when Bailey told Kyl about their parents. They were famous entertainers who took their lives in a double suicide when Kyl was 6 and Bailey was 12. They watched a marathon of movies their parents starred into together… they were the Society’s hottest actors and hottest celebrity couple.

Entertainers may live in the Private Level, but they only have the rights of Public Level Members. Their child must be raised in Sanctuaries but do get to return to their entertainer parents during IDS.

Kyl was never that into movie so he never realized who his parents were, but watching the movie where their parents fell in love on set, she remembered one visit from them in the Sanctuary.

LORE

Sage Lore was six years old. Hirs (here) caretaker took hirs to the Visitor’s Hall to see hirs parents. Sie (zee) was so excited! Lore’s Alma (mother) was pencil thin and looked like a walking corpse and Lore’s Animo (father) was big and bulky like a comic book superhero. Their teeth blindingly white, their skin seemingly perfect, and their clothes super pressed and fresh looking.

Lore sat in between them on a bench to a long table. All three of them used the table top like a back rest.

They spent a long time giving Lore kisses and telling sie they loved hirs. Hirs Animo sat hirs on the lap. Lore faced inward looking at hirs Animo’s face while hirs hair was braided by hirs Alma.

The time came for them to leave and hirs Animo set Lore on the ground on hirs feet. They both hugged Lore at the same time and whispered in hirs ear, ‘Believe when you hear the Gospel. Jesus loves you.’

Six people wearing clunky black outfits and black face glassy covers came and surrounded Lore’s parents. The people in black showed Mr. and Mrs. Taylor out. Lore got to visit with Bailey the next week, even though older kids did not hang out with younger ones.

Over time, Lore realized sie would never see hirs parents again, but sie knew sie would always have Nix.


Author’s Note

You may have realized everyone who got saved in this story was connected to believer in their family before them. I’m not saying only the relatives of believers get saved, but I do know God is faithful to answer prayer. If fellow believers are anything like me, I pray for my family who don’t know God personally, to know Him and I thank God for the salvation and I trust God will give them chance after chance until they die to know God.

Martyrdom turned out to be a huge theme I didn’t expect to hit on until I wrote Murphy’s section. Then this theme took over.

I know I personally don’t reflect on the fact that I could die one day for my faith in Jesus. Not that I think anyone aspires to be a martyr, but can you say you truly believe in something if you’re not willing to die for what you believe in?

This concludes I.D. Synthesis. This was originally a novel length idea that I compressed into a four part series.

I’m sure there are so many questions! Look out for some videos explaining the things not resolved in this series. Please, drop questions in the comments below or on any parts of the story and I’ll do my best to address them in my videos or by responding to your comment. Thank you for taking this journey with me and I hope you come along for the next one. Bring some friends too! Spread the word about this weird story you read online and you made you think a lot!!! Say what you want how you want to say it, I simply ask you be kind.

Thank you,

Much Love,

Bri,

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“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…”

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.

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.

Melody ignored me completely on Thursday. I tried to sit by her at lunch, but she got up and walked away. I assumed going to homecoming together was a dead concept.

But as I’m saying bon voyage to my family, my phone alerts me I’ve received a text message as mom hugs me goodbye. I pull out my phone as mom’s the final person to get into the minivan.

The text from Mel G. reads…

We’re still going to homecoming tomorrow night, right?

Is this girl bipolar? One minute we’re all buddy-buddy, then she ostracizes me for an entire day like a typical Amish shunning, and suddenly I’m acceptable to talk to again. No; let’s not go together. I want to text that and I begin to, but then the thought love her like Christ loves me blares in my head. Whoever thought being a Christian was easy was a lunatic… Doing the right thing is harder than doing the wrong thing. Sometimes doing the wrong thing is a struggle too, but it still seems easier majority of the time as if wrongdoing is second nature. Oh wait, it is… thanks a lot Adam and Eve for the wonderful gift of sin.

Before I respond to Melody, I figure I should get my parents’ permission. I call mom’s cell. She worries why I called so soon and asks me what’s wrong. She asks if I’m locked outside of the townhouse. I remind her that it’s impossible to lock the door unless you’re inside or outside with a key, with a deadbolt lock there’s no way to lock the door behind you.

“What is it then?” She wonders.

“Can I go to homecoming? I’ll be home by curfew, I’ll go pick up Melody and drop her off at home. The only reason why I asked her is because I could tell she really wanted to go and nobody asked her.” I blurt out as quickly as possible. If I spoke slow enough for her to grasp all the words, it would somehow give her a chance to tell me no, but she could still tell me no.

“Let me ask your father.”

I can hear her talk to dad. Abbey bickers about how unfair it would be if they allowed me to go. Dad requests the phone to talk to me.

“When does the dance end?”

“Eleven-thirty,” I say.

“How faraway does Melody live from school?”

“About 15 minutes,” I’m pretty sure that’s right.

“Be home no later than a quarter to one. We’ll probably all be sleeping, but send your mother or me a text when you get home, so we can be relieved in the morning when we wake up.”

A wave of relief mixed with a touch of eagerness ripples through me as I thank dad ecstatically. I don’t have to let Mel down now. Dad hands the phone back over to mom. She tells me to drive safely and she sends a bundle of love my way. I thank her too, because none of us Lucas kids get to do anything, if both parents aren’t onboard.

As I walk inside, Mel shoots me another text asking if I want to go to the homecoming game tonight. I text yes if she really wants to go. Her ex will be the star, her brother will be a bratty showboat, and her ex-eagan bffs’ will be there. She texts that her parents are going, therefore she has to go. Begging me, she pleads that I go to spare her from boredom and humiliation. When I feel like I should accept her invitation, the alarming mental reminder that I have Worship Practice tonight blares in my mind. Regretfully, I tell Mel that, but I’m completely honest.

She texts back:

I understandJ Rock Out 4 Jesus. C U 2morrow nite!

In the Youth Sanctuary, everyone waits for the leading worship duo. Aden warms up on drums. Nicolette double checks the sound levels on the mikes with Chlonelle. Wilma plays scales on the bass. And since Zeven, left his acoustic guitar, I daringly pick it up and play around with it. Once I get into playing a Gabrielle y Rodrigo song, a song that carries the heat of running with bulls yet sooths like summer rain, everyone on the team stares at me, therefore I stop.

From way in the back, in the control booth, Chlonelle hollers, “Where did you learn to play like that?”

“I taught myself…” I say overwhelmed with embarrassment. Everyone thought that was good? If I practiced more often, I’d be way better.

“Can you play Desert Streams acoustic version of Born?” Nicollette asks.

“What key?” I wonder which she would prefer, “A, Bb, or E.”

“E please.”

My parents never got me a capo, so I learned how to play in different keys without one. It’s not always easy, but it is possible.

After I play the intro and the chorus, Nicolette uses her brazen mezzo-soprano voice to slay us all in the Spirit. She is such an anointed singer. She would probably lead more often if Tash wasn’t Pastor Chastity’s daughter.

Midway through the bridge, Tash bolts into the sanctuary with Zeven rushing behind her.

“Can we at least talk about it after practice?” Zev pleads.

Abruptly, spinning to face him, she whispers loudly, “No. You… bring it… and we… done!” Is all everyone could make out. She turns around and faces the group. “Sorry we’re late. Lost track of time.”

Zev glares at me as he approaches the stage. Hopping onstage he questions if I can play and challenges me to play a G-progression. When I do, he grudgingly acts like it is cool I can plays as well. I surrender his guitar back over to him. Everyone takes their rightful places and we officially rehearse for the week.

Okay, we all know 21st Century Americans (or any member of a first world country) love TV shows! Netflix, Hulu, and AmazonPrime are beloved streaming services people flock to for entertainment. For the Faith-Based Audience, we live off Pureflix and the Hallmark’s Movies app. But let’s keep it real… it’s because God taught us to see the good in anything, we can find satisfaction in Pureflix and Hallmark, because these are the avenues that give us grown up content without the nudity, the language, the gore, and the darkness. Yes, there is Vidangel that filters all the bad stuff out of “Game of Thrones” and “Stranger Things”, but is it really as good as the uncensored originals?

Programmers make content that the current society can relate to, and they do this to ensure people will watch their show. If programmers want to introduce something new to society, we now consider taboo, we will see it in comedic format until society catches up to this “something new” and having a drama with the content is palatable.

One of the first TV characters to have a baby, out of wedlock, on TV was Murphy Brown. “Murphy Brown” the TV show, was a comedy in the late 80s to mid 90s (it has been rebooted and cancelled after season one… not gonna lie… I prayed for that cancellation). Single mothers were common across America at the time. The programmers (producers, writers, directors, executives, etc.) addressed single mothers because they knew there were many out there and could relate to it. Also, think about the young women at the time who watched this show, and were raised to believe having kids out of wedlock was wrong… how many do you think decided maybe it wasn’t so bad if they had a kid outside marriage, and they made different life choices because of “Murphy Brown”?

Don’t twist my words… making choices based on what one sees on TV can be negative, but it can also be positive. Some may think, “No one makes life decisions based on TV and TV characters!”

I was on Instagram today, and one of my favorite actresses Olivia Wilde, made post about how proud she was of her bisexual character Alex Kelly on “The O.C.”. I literally read a comment where someone posted they realized they were gay because of her character on that show

Now, depending on what worldview lens you hold, will determine how interpret what I wrote above.

As a person with a Judeo-Christian perspective, I don’t agree the homosexual lifestyle can be lived out and lead to Heaven with the God of the Holy Bible. There is enough scripture in there to support my personal belief. Now, if you’re reading this and you don’t believe homosexuality will lead to eternal death, I’m not angry and I won’t try to convince you otherwise. If you want a better understanding of what I believe and why I believe it, please email me at justbriannamonique.blog@gmail.com. If I quote scripture on homosexuality such as the following:


Leviticus 18:22: Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin. (NLT)

Leviticus 20:13: If a man practices homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman, both men have committed a detestable act. They must both be put to death, for they are guilty of a capital offense. (NLT)

Romans 1:26-27: That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. (NLT)

1 Corinthians 6:9-11: Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive or cheat people –none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (NLT)

Then I could be accused of using hate speech on social media and I don’t want to get removed from Facebook. I’m quoting from the sacred text that billions of people believe to be the WORD OF GOD, the One who MADE EVERYTHING. Now, what the WORD says may not sound awesome to embrace and may be contrary to how a lot of people feel and think, but in a world where definitions and truths are as fickle as feelings and ever changing, what my God says today is the same it was 4,000 years ago and that brings me peace.

[Let’s rabbit trail, and think on this for a moment… God is love (1 John 4 says so) and love that is unconditional will always do what is best for the other person, regardless of how that other person feels, thinks, or acts. However, we have learned as the human race, we don’t do anything unless we believe in what we’re doing and believe what we claim as truth as our reason for why we do what we do. We are like this, because God designed us to believe in Him, but if we miss Him, we will find anything else to believe in that makes ourselves feel good…

So God, who is LOVE, had awesome experiences with humanity for thousands of years, but no one could stay consistent in listening to Him. Through the founding fathers of faith (in Judaism), He gave guidance and instructions to live a blessed life and because God longed to connect with the rest of humanity, he asked Abraham and his descendants to live according to love and to live for others as opposed to living to self, which is vain and leads to death.

Think about circumcision? Men are less prone to diseases and less likely to spread diseases if they are circumcised. How loving is that? God wanted men and women to be in good health! I will spare us specific details of why, for all the adults reading this, you can think of why.

To help humanity out, and specifically His people out, God writes down His guidelines and His instructions to the Blessed Good Life. Anyone who reads it, believes it, and lives out their life upon what the WORD says will live a BLESSED GOOD LIFE (in the end, when you look back on their life).

If you look at the Kosher Diet, that some people in Judaism follow to the letter, living in a time without the FDA, antibiotics, probiotics, and weight loss pills… that diet is the best diet to live a long, prosper life way back in those Bible days.

The Ten Commandments may have had harsh penalties, but if we look at 8 of them, they all prevent people from doing bad things, if they abide by them. The first two, if those are followed, those people would never do anything bad because following God of the Bible didn’t ask for crazy rituals to be pleased…

Do you realize most pagan idols (gods) back then required human blood sacrifice, sexual orgies, eating raw animal meat, torturing people, killing animals, doing drugs, mutilating their own bodies, and who knows what other vile things?!

People back then lived by fear. If they were afraid of something or someone, they most likely didn’t do what would get them in trouble. To ensure the people Israel wouldn’t do super bad things, God made a super bad punishment knowing most people would be too afraid to go against that. And if you read the Bible, when the whole lot of Israel got disobedient, He just graciously exiled them from the Promise Land, he didn’t kill all of them and start again, He realized after Noah, that doesn’t really work (kidding… I think…).

God is GOOD. He is LOVE. His WORD is LIFE. Living by His SPIRIT does HELP US in our EVERY DAY LIVES.

End of rabbit trail.]

Again, why isn’t there anything good (suitable for believers) to watch on TV?

I think we settle for it.

We watch what we want because it gets us hooked and because we know the truth all the sin, all the falsehood, and all the blaspheme against God doesn’t affect us that much. If we’re solid in the WORD, solid in our PRAYER LIFE, and connected to the BODY these shows don’t impact us deeply. For some folks, watching a scene with nudity could lead them to falling in the area of lust and acting upon those lusts. Or watching a show with bad words could lead them to cuss. Apply a scenario you watch on a show and how you do similar things in real life.

I’m not telling anyone to quit all TV, but if you want a program that honors God, and puts what is good on display, free from deception and the grips of the enemy, then we need to let programmers know there is a demand for it and there will be an audience that watches it. But it starts with us writing emails to local networks and asking why isn’t there a primetime show safe to watch with your kids about doctors? Who would love a Shonda Rimes Drama free from the scandal – okay, probably no one because she does scandal so well she created a show called SCANDAL! Hopefully, you see my point!

Another thing we could do is pray… Pray for more content to be made not just for the enjoyment of believers but to spread the Gospel beyond using the Nativity Story and the Life of Jesus. (Be on the look out for Chosen TV on Vidangel. Yes, the creators of Vidangel are Mormon, excuse me, LDS, but the creators of Chosen TV are not. Dallas Jenkins is the creator and director and this series is going to be BETTER than the BIBLE SERIES because it is more Biblically accurate with consulting from Messianic Rabbis from Israel! The first season isn’t out yet, but it’s coming sooooooooooooooon).

Also, have such an appetite for the things of God that whatever you’re watching, you see Jesus in it or where Jesus is lacking!

Programmers will make what we want to see when we show them what we want. Maybe we’ll luck out and Sarah Drew and Chris Pratt will team up and create an AWESOME show that is faith inspired and faith based for Hulu or for Netflix, and everyone can’t stop talking about it because it is SO GOOD! (Yes, this is secret prayer of my heart…Oops, it’s not a secret anymore, where two or more are gathered, HE IS THERE!)



Feel free to comment below, I only ask that you remain respectful. If anyone has any personal questions or wants to know my testimony about being set free from gender dysphoria and then lesbianism, email me at justbriannamonique.blog and I’ll be more than happy to share how I was Transformed By God’s Love (LBGT backyards acronym).

ALSO, if you feel inspired to, SHARE THIS POST with whoever and wherever! I’m already grateful for the gift of writing, this blog platform WordPress, and apps like Canva and Adobespark that help me do all this. I give God the MOST GLORY (like all of it) because I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing without His constant leading and prodding.

My meditation scripture for the foreseeable future is Psalm 23:5-6 (ESV):

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely[a] goodness and mercy[b] shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell[c] in the house of the Lord
    forever.

And yes, I plan to meditate on these verses three times a day, every day. Normally, I would think such an act is “too religious”, but I found out Lindsay Lohan meditates three times a day and that is her “personal religion”. She made zero mention of a god or believing in an existing religion as hers. Who knows what she meditates on… maybe she thinks of something or maybe she empties out her mind.

But meditating with God’s Word is simple, it’s a matter of going over the verses for a few minutes and thinking on them. Soaking the verses in to the point you believe them.

If you ask me right now, “Hey Brianna, do believe in the Lord in the way David described Him in Psalm 23?” I would say, “yes”. But if you look at how I respond to certain circumstances in my life, no way… okay, maybe sometimes. But David was always saying out loud what he thought of God and who God was to Him in relation to how he saw the world. Many times, he received prophetic words about our coming Lord Jesus. So he wasn’t thinking of God in light of how He wanted to see God, he thought of God how the Lord revealed Himself to David. And for living as he did because he thought as he did, David became the man after God’s heart. David was after God’s heart. David was not ultimately after his own. 

Wow… rabbit trail two! I am definitely a woman, right?


To really sum it up, let’s make TV Networks give us more of what we want. Let’s watch less of the smut they are showing us and force them to create something that glorifies God, not exploit God. Be intentional what you stream, download, and tune into on TV.

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…”

“Yep.”

“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.”

“Sure.”

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.

Last night, I went to one of my dearest friend’s gender reveal party. As great as it was to be a part of that, for the first time I understood how unwed, childless women feel… People with kids talk about their kids mostly and it gets weird and awkward when you don’t have kids too stay share parenting war stories…

But it wasn’t all bad, I met a woman who was questioning the validity of the Gospel. She grew up in a Christian home but when she began to question if the Gospel was true, she was discouraged from raising those questions because “it would make her faith harder to hold on to”…?

I could relate to the woman because she was a fellow analytical thinker and counted on evidence to make a solid decision. For once, in my 26 years on this planet, I wasn’t nervous about discussing scripture, hearing her questions, and I had a lot of peace to share my experiences that strengthened my faith over the years.

Nowadays, we have too many people falling away because of experiences. They either have bad experiences with believers or whacky experiences with devils or themselves and credit such workings to God. The same factor lacking in the aforementioned experiences is scripture… what does scripture have to say in light of those experiences?

Then, we also have a bunch of people who worship the Bible and don’t rely on personal experiences with God at all! What a dry, dead life?!

We need a balance of everything. We need a solid foundation of scripture, we need a consistent prayer life to stay connected to God, and we need experiences with the Holy Spirit or orchestrated by God for our faith to grow and live fervently within us.

As I talked to this woman (that I am ready to friend), and we hit a really sweet spot where I can unpack all this evidence with science to support scripture, and personal experiences in light of the Bible, we get interrupted because the gender reveal party is over and people start to leave… so people come over to say goodbye…

If only I had two more minutes…

Then after I say goodbye to everyone, and I leave, on the car ride home I think about the things I could have said, or I think how I should offered to pray with the woman who had questions, but I stop my thoughts on that should-have, could-have, would-have train. Everything I said in that conversation wasn’t for nothing and God doesn’t separate cultivating relationships from saving souls (sometimes we do that in our ignorance and/or arrogance).

Therefore, I’m going to friend this woman. Not with the sole ambition to win her soul, but we have common interests and I know in God’s goodness He is going to reveal Himself to her. There’s a high probability I will be used as a vessel to connect her to God, but her salvation or reconciliation with God isn’t my mission. My mission is to love her as I would any other human being that is a dear friend to me, and keep my hope alive in Christ, that the Holy Spirit will draw her back to the Father’s Heart… because she once considered herself a believer. Is God not a jealous God and in the business of keeping us?

Never discourage anyone from questioning the Bible or the Gospel. Simply trust God will keep them in the truth. Be open to taking their questions and sharing your thoughts and experiences. Don’t be nervous. Don’t feel their salvation rests on your shoulders. Jesus saves, we are just the messengers.

Remember, our relationships with people are the most precious because our commodity is love. God loved us first so we could love Him. Humanity is driven by the presence of, or the absence of love, and the quality of that love. Humanity is at its best operating in love centered around the love of Yeshua-Son of Man (aka Jesus Christ).

Shine like a star, as yourself, who God is making you to be every day. Maybe people think you’re too religious, or not religious enough. Maybe you talk about Jesus too much or not enough, if you live at peace and know you’re in God’s will for your life, DO NOT CARE WHAT ANYONE THINKS!

We are not people on a mission, we are people of faith! Dr. Lester Sumrall said faith is knowing God. Yes, we must spread the Gospel, but notice how Jesus told the Good News… First, he obeyed God. Then, he made a group of friends and taught them what he knew. Next, he started sharing what God wanted him to do how the Holy Spirit led him to do it. When he healed someone or set them free, he sent the person to testify to someone else who was that person’s direct link to a community.

For example, when the lepers came to Jesus and begged to be healed, he healed them (Luke 17:11-19). Jesus told them to go show their priest that God made them clean. In that day, lepers were excommunicated from everyone. And lepers most likely lived in leper towns. It was customary to go to the priest, go through a ritual cleaning and to be forgiven by God to be made clean (learned this in Bible College from a professor, I trust this source), and only if the priest saw the leprosy was gone, could they go back and join the community.

Another example, when Jesus delivered legion out the Gerasene Man, Jesus told the man to return to his family and testify about what happened and to show the man was delivered (Mark 5:1-20).

The famous woman at the well (John 4:1-42), she went and told everyone she knew who Jesus was.

The over all point being is that God is in the business of relationship. Clearly, God reached out to Abraham and he answered the call. God could reach out to all of us one on one, but because God designed humanity to be a family and to build all sorts of communities, God calls us to cultivate our relationships. We are blessed to partake in spreading the good news not just by telling people about God and leaving them with pamphlets to know God, but through loving people and building our lives through the ties we have with people.

Paul said that our lives were to be letters from Christ to everyone around us. Writing a letter can be so intimate. Putting words on a page to pour out your entire heart without any interruptions. Without anyone twisting your words. Without anyone diluting what you have to say. Reading the letter is all the more richer when you know the one who wrote it. Jesus is the author of life crafted in the Spirit of God, and to the people around us, when they look at us, or talk to us, or spend time with us, they experience firsthand what God has done for us or is currently doing in us, and it is the experience of our company that probes them to connect to the Father. As they understand who we are as a person, they begin to understand God in part.

Not only are we letters from heaven to the world, but we are the translation of God’s love. A love that cannot be grasped or experienced in a fuller way until they believe for themselves… Jesus died on the cross for them and rose from the grave, just to connect them with an unseen God who loves them more than we ever could!

Take this year to love the people you know and get to know them better. This year, when you spread the Gospel, don’t just think about depopulating hell, but think about birthing new babes in Christ, and then commit to be there for as long as God will allow to mature them in the faith. And PLEASE, love your brothers and sisters in Christ like you love your blood family. Be quick to forgive, slow to anger, and even slower to speak!

Best of all, live everyday with God behind you, before you, and right by your side. Never try, but just be like Nike and do it! Live boldly and fearlessly!

…10 Years Forward…


“Homecoming”

I’m honored to do Genie’s hair. Brings back memories of doing hair while Derek and I were both in college. He was finishing up his Bachelor’s in Religious Studies and I was getting my Master’s in Education. I worked at a high end salon, so I was racking in a lot of dough. Derek was working two jobs on top of going to school. And when I wasn’t at the salon, I was taking care of our girls… we barely saw each other.

But now, I work at Brink as a Math Teacher and Derek works at a Christian School as a Chaplain. He still works at warehouse some nights and on the weekends, but we’re not crazy busy like we used to be. He’s currently working on his Masters and wants to get his Doctorate eventually. I’m amazed at where we are!

“Wha-la!” I say spritzing her tight, pulled back bun with hairspray to hold it in place all night. I really didn’t do anything fancy.

She stands up and gives me the mightiest hug for the skinniest girl. Then she holds my shoulders and looks me in the eye, “I had a dream you and Derek had a baby boy.”

With an eye roll, “Derek and I are happy with both our girls… we don’t need anymore kids.”

We really couldn’t afford that right now.

“I’m just saying… he’s adorable! He looks like Papa Trick.”

Julie is pasty white with straight black hair and hazel eyes. Priscilla has straight red hair and ice blue eyes with freckles. She’s trying to tell me Derek and I are going to have a kid with brown skin and curly hair? HA!

“What are you smoking?” I joke.

“I know this is hard to accept but accept it!” She says keeping her cheery smile. She takes her navy-blue ball gown off its rack that helped it hang on the door of her closet. The bell of the gown embellished with faux diamonds and pearly-looking jewels. The sleeves of the gown matching blue but also see-through.

“I’ll wait for you downstairs with everyone else.” I say as I leave.

I was prepared to go through the whole safe sex talk. I know that makes me a little hypocritical as a Christian… but I think it’s better to have that conversation, but Genie’s pretty on fire for God… which I know we’re all prone to falling and sinning at times, but her heart desires what God wants for her life. At least I’m pretty sure, if her heart isn’t in that place, she is a GREAT actress.

In the foyer, Bobby lectures Oliver, Genie’s date, about when to be back and all the things father’s lecture their daughter’s date about. I picture Derek doing the same thing in like seven years when Julie goes to her first school dance. O my God! That’s only seven years away… I feel OLD. Okay, I’m only 26, but I have a 9-year-old! All my friends are just getting married and starting to have kids…

Xzavia, Bobby’s wife, has Albany on the home video-chat system. She’s away at college in Columbus, OH… That’s so far away from us, but we’ll see her at Christmas.

I purposely step in the line of sight to steal the attention.

Albany: Savvy!

Me: Hey Al!

Albany: I miss you.

Me: I miss you more! I can’t wait for Christmas… why aren’t you coming home for Thanksgiving again?

Albany: I’m going to spend it with Philip’s family. They’re right here in town.

Me: Aw… I forgot you have a serious boyfriend. Stop growing up! Just stop!!!

Albany: Whatever! You can take it.

Me: No, I can’t… (I get all teary-eyed.)

Albany: Are you crying? Are you finally pregnant again?

Me: Did Genie tell you about her dream?

Albany: No, we were praying for our families in class last month and I had a vision of you having a boy. He looks like your dad, just a lighter version. His curls are so gorgeous. You’ll finally have a kid that looks like you.

Me: (Trying not to be offended I say🙂 Julie and Priscilla look like me! We have the same eyes and noses.

Albany: Whatever, your son is gorgeous! I can’t wait until you find out your pregnant.

Me: D and I are done having kids!

From the top of the stairs, Genie yells, “No, you’re not!”

Looking at Albany on the hand held  video-chat sphere, Xzavia comes to my rescue, “Stop pestering her. Prophecy can change according to obedience, are you sure you were released to share that with Savvy right now?”

Albany: (wincing from shame) Oops. Sorry Savvy. I love you.

Clearing her throat loudly and theatrically fake, Genie directs everyone’s attention to her. We applaud her and tell her how beautiful she is as she descends the stairs. She walks up to Oliver, who nervously tells her how pretty she is. He puts the red rose corsage he brought on her right wrist.

In front of the door, she stands locking elbows with Oliver. Oliver’s black bowl-cut hair is slicked with a lot of moose to stay in place. He wears a gray suit with a navy-blue bow tie and a burgundy dress shirt. They smile for photos. I don’t get why Genie died her beautiful blonde hair jet black, but she wanted a different look. I never pictured Genie dating a Native American, but they look cute together. I for sure thought she would date a Mexican with her love of Mexican culture.

I remember when she was tiny playing princess in Bobby’s living room! I can’t handle this!!!

After pictures, I swoop in and hug her not wanting to let her leave. I whisper in her ear, “Guard your heart…” She totally knows what I mean by that.

Derek is the youth pastor at church, that we all go to together, and he preached a sermon about sexuality and purity. He preached when we guard our hearts we’re holding dear all the promises of God, and when we trust God and follow in His precepts, when we receive God’s promises it gives glory to God and prevents us from damaging our souls or hurting others. He emphasized sex out of marriage compromises our relationship with God. Because we’re designed for marriage and only meant to have sex within marriage, doing it outside of marriage damages our heart, but within marriage sex ignites our hearts and helps us build healthy concepts of commitment, love, and intimacy. I wish I heard a sermon like that as a teenager… Even though Derek and I didn’t have sex until our wedding night, this night ten years ago, which was like 4 months after Julie was born… I think Derek and I would have just had a smoother first year of marriage, if we heard the message he preached on “Guarding Our Hearts” at Genie’s age…

“Can you let go now? I don’t want to show up after all the fun is over.” She says loudly.

I release her drying my tears on my sleeve.

“Oh, Happy Anniversary! Why are you hear and not with your husband?” Genie wonders.

“He had to work… we’re gonna celebrate next weekend. Thank you.”

Bobby embraces me on the left and Xzavia embraces me on the right, as we stand outside by the door and watch the young couple get in Oliver’s mustang and drive away to one of the best nights of their high school career.

“Belated Happy Anniversary”

Half awake I feel a warm light appear in front of my face. The smell of pine firewood hits my nose and I perk up suddenly opening my eyes. To my wonderful surprise, it’s Derek holding a new candle of my favorite sent to my nose. I look at the alarm clock and it’s 4:13 am. He must have just gotten in.

“Happy Anniversary… Have I told you lately… I love you so much.” He set the candle down on my night stand and kisses me.

He breaks away and goes to stand up, but I hold him by the head, “Are you coming to bed?”

“I’m all sweaty and musky from lifting packages all night. Don’t you want me to shower first?”

“You can shower afterwards.” I kiss him back.

He pulls away to gain clarity, “You mean I’m actually getting lucky tonight?”

“So, you don’t want to then?” I tease.

Quickly, he stands up and whips off his shirt and then leaps over me and lands on his side of the bed. His long locks cover his face like a curtain. I turn over and I hover his head. I wipe the hair out of his eyes, strand by strand. For a good while, we just smile and stare at each other. He doesn’t look that different than he did 10 years ago. He’s a little thicker. I remember after military school for two years he had a six pack but now it’s a pouch… I’m very grateful he isn’t going bald like his dad…

But beyond his looks, I’m so in love with who he is on the inside now. I love the man of God he is. I love the father he is to our girls. I love the type of son he is to his parents. The type of brother he is to his siblings and to mine. I love the kind of neighbor he is to everyone around us. I love how he treats me like I’m his queen, but he leads me like a king. I love him more than I did yesterday. And yesterday, I loved him a lot because he picked up an extra shift at work to earn more money for our family vacation next June.

He lifts his head to kiss me, but I back up.

“What? You changed your mind?”

“Genie, Albany, and Xzavia have had visions of us having another baby… and I know we can’t really afford that right now?”

“Well, I wasn’t planning on going unprotected tonight.”

Yeah, we’re that couple that still uses condemns… Birth control makes me sick… we tried many different kinds but I’m one of the women in the world that gets terribly sick under hormone manipulation… and neither one of us like the idea of getting fixed… I’m usually pretty good about tracking my ovulation and make sure we avoid making love on the days I ovulate to be extra safe, but I don’t know… I kind of want another baby.

“You don’t have to tonight… if you think we can manage the expenses as they come up…”

“Oh, we can handle anything together. Are you sure?”

“Yeah…” I say right as I kiss him.

“The AMAs”

Tyler Swipe, who some how transformed into a pop star after rising to fame as a teen country star, announces who the New Artist of the Year is, “Kaylie Johnson!”

Julie and Priscilla leap off the couch and start jumping radically all over the floor. Julie does a somersault in between the coffee table and the TV yelling, “SHE DID IT!”

“Aunt Kaylie won! Aunt Kaylie FREAKING WON!” Cillie shouts exuberantly.

I’m like crying… This is the moment she’s been working for the past ten years. She moved to Nashville after high school. She would call me after every rejection, every fallen-through deal, and every disappointment for encouragement and prayer. When she took the huge risk to transition from a Christian artist to a Secular artist, she got a lot of criticism from our circle of Christian friends. But last September, her album dropped and beat out some of the top artists in the country. Her single “Love & Freedom” still sits at number one. Her album is the most downloaded across all platforms. Over half the songs on her album have been featured on TV shows, and in films…

Kaylie wears a stunning red dress, he long hair in a fancy fishtail braid, with sparkles and jewels woven in. She hugs the songtress Tyler Swipe and accepts her AMA.

Crying joyfully, she wipes her tears, “O dear Jesus my Messiah… I don’t have any words… but… Thank you! Thank you God, thank you to my producers Lauren and Ed, to all the musicians who played on this album… thank you to Neill, my husband… I love you honey… Oh, and I have to thank my bestie- Savvy! I’m so grateful for this and I would not be hear today if I did not trust the path God sent me down. My glory is God’s glory. Oh- and thank you Julie and Cillie, your prayers got me through- now go to bed!”

The girls freak out they got mentioned on national TV.

God’s goodness can be overwhelmingly beautiful.

“Cash Moneymaker, Future NBA ALL-STAR”

“Let’s go defense!” I blare at the top of my lungs.

“Cash Money!” Trick hollers.

It’s nice that we’re all here. Derek, my girls, Bobby, Genie, and Xzavia, Netty, and Deshaun, and Arnie and Jessica. Trick too, my dad, who is the best. I still can’t bring myself to call him dad like Netty and Arnie, but he’s cool with me calling him Trick. So… after Julie was born, I did start writing him letters, but even after he got out of prison we didn’t connect until my grandma, his mom, got sick. Julie was five and Priscilla was three. Julie has always been close to my grandma since she was born, so over the last week of her life we camped out at the hospital and Julie bonded with my dad right away. I knew there was no way to avoid him anymore.

Cash takes after his dad. He has a beautiful set of curls and yet, he shaves them all off to sport a bald look… He’s so tall for 13… 6’0”! College scouts are already recruiting him. He plays varsity for the high school he’ll be attending next year as point guard. Last week an analyst on ESPN brought him up and says he’s the second coming of Kobe Bryant…

Watching him on the court dazzles us.

One-minute left in the 4th quarter, we’re down by two points, and the other team has the ball. Cash didn’t play most of the game because he hasn’t been listening to the coach. He’s in right now, because he’s the best player defensively and offensively. He’s also the number one stealer in the region right now.

Sure enough, Cash steals the ball from the opposite team’s point guard. He drives to the hoop. On his way up for a lay-up he gets fouled, but he still makes the basket. He makes the extra point putting the team ahead by one.

 The clock slowly whines down, between the fouls and the time outs and the free throw shots, from both sides.

Ten seconds to go, we’re down by two, our ball. Full court pressure after the ball gets passed in to Cash. Cash spins around his defenders and rushes to the top of the key at the three-point line, he pops his shot off and it goes in putting us up by one!!! Yes.

They put full court pressure on the other team and the clock runs out before they cross over to their side of the court. We WON!

The whole family high-fives and hugs as we cheer about the victory. Cash leaves his teammates to join in our family hug. We don’t care that he smells and is drenched in sweat. We put him in the center of us and smother him with love!

This is one portrait of family I never pictured. I wanted a close family like this my entire life, since I was a little girl. We are far from perfect. We fight a lot and get on each other nerves, but there’s no doubt any of us love each other. We are all alcohol and drug free. We spend every holiday together. We get together once a month and we take giant family vacations together. We attend the same church. We live in the same city, and whether we’re blood or not, because we’re family, we’re there for each other, no matter what… All things are possible with God.

And my nephew will make it to the NBA if my prayers have anything to with it!

As we release Cash to go back to his team, Trick announces, “Pizza on me at Mama’s EVERYBODY!”

Trick does really well financially. He wrote a book about his life and his conversion to Christ while he was prison. He goes around the world sharing his testimony and preaching the gospel. And last month he just sold his book’s rights to Pureflix so they can make a movie about his life. Makes me wonder if I should write a story about my life… no one would believe I’m not on drugs, not a smoker, and not an alcoholic. That I’m a teen mom that lives in upper-middle class with a Master’s Degree. That I’m married to my childhood sweetheart. That I survived rape, kept and raised my rapist’s baby, and put my rapist behind bars… No one would believe my story.

“I Miss You”

Ten years ago today, a time of tremendous gloom

I sat in your hospital room

I witnessed you rededicate your soul to the One

Who bled, died, and rose again for you- the Son

Messiah Jesus- our glorious savior

Who won your heart through a painful cross labor

I’m at peace knowing you’re in paradise

I can’t imagine the glory you know and the size

Of the smile on your face

In that wonderful place

I have so many unfulfilled wishes really

I wish you got to hold Julie and Cillie

I wish you were there when Derek and I said I do

I wish I could hold you and kiss you and tell you I love you

I don’t really remember telling you that

And even though you put me through a lot of crap

I’m so grateful we had that best time together

For your finale in life, that it was better

Than our ugly beginning

I know you know in life now I’m winning

But with all my blessings- it doesn’t change this fact

I MISS YOU. I MISS YOU. I MISS YOU.

“Truth Prevails”

I stare at the letter from Kurt. He got sentenced for 15 years but he’s up for parole due to good behavior. He claims to have found Christ and his letter is filled with a long-winded apology. He wants me to be a character witness for him at his hearing! I believe he’s changed, but I don’t want to help him get out sooner. He wants to meet Julie too.

Now, we’ve told Julie that Derek isn’t her birth father. We told her that Kurt was and that he wasn’t a very good man and he was in prison for something bad that he did. We did not tell her about the horrendous act that led to her conception. We’re waiting until she’s older and more mature to handle that reality. We’re not lying to her, we’re just withholding part of the truth.

For the past year, I’ve allowed Julie and Kurt to exchange letters, but Julie’s never expressed she wants to meet him. She’s never referred to Kurt as her father. She tells her best friend Stacey that Kurt her is sperm donor dad. She came up with that take all on her own, after she watched a PBS special about IVF and egg and sperm donating in America, and how laxed our restrictions are on how often people can donate their genetic material. She may be 9, but at times she’s like 30.

I don’t know what to do… I don’t think I can handle this right now. Christmas is coming up, Derek and I just found out we’re pregnant for a third time- I really don’t why I let my sisters manipulate me into this pregnancy, and I have the classrooms from hell this year!

God, what do I do?

GO.

I laugh.

Julie walks past me and sits down at the kitchen table, and she set her backpack on the tabletop. Cillie follows her lead and sits next to her. They pull their school iPads out and log in to start their homework.

I snap out of it and put the letter in the junk drawer.

“What do you both want for a snack, before dinner?”

“A peanut butter and banana sandwich.” Julie asks.

“That’s weird!” Cillie says sassily to her big sis. “I just want PB&J mommy,” in a sweet girl tone to me.

That was Kurt’s favorite snack…

“Have you ever had a peanut butter and banana sandwich, Julie?”

“No, but Daddy Kurt says it’s is favorite snack and he misses it.”

“How come Julie has two daddies and I just have one? Paulie has two daddies too, but they live together, but he doesn’t have a mommy… that must suck.”

“Cillie, watch your mouth.”

I try to process Julie calling Kurt dad and wanting to eat a snack like him as I gather the ingredients. It’s so much easier to talk about forgiveness and moving forward when you don’t have to face the person who hurt you… I mean, I know I don’t have to worry. He has to register as a sex offender and he can never be alone with Julie, but I can’t stop my heart from racing with panic…

DON’T BE AFRAID.

Yeah, I don’t have to be afraid.

“Ooo! There are beautiful angels surrounding you mommy!” Cillie exclaims. She’s a seer. She sees angels all the time and she’s been getting visions about her baby brother like crazy. She told us his name the other day, Rodney, which before then we couldn’t choose between that name or River for a boy and Delany or Laney for another girl. We’re very private when discussing baby names not revealing the name until the seven month, but with prophetic kids and family members you can’t keep anything secret.

“Yeah, mom, God sent His messengers to help you be okay with Daddy Kurt’s letter. So are you okay with going to see him?” Julie wonders…

The mail was in the house, waiting on the kitchen island counter when I got in the door… The girls came in after me and there’s no way Julie could know about the letter let alone know what it was about…

Okay God… I will go… I’ll speak on his behalf but God… just keep me sane and my girls safe…

Both my girls get up and race over to me. They hug me as I start crying.

“It’s okay mommy.” Cillie says.

“You don’t have to go if it’s too hard.” Julie says.

Laughter tickles our hearts and as I crouch low we just keep laughing in the Holy Ghost. They smother me in kisses on my cheeks. Then Julie hands me the kitchen hand towel to wipe my tears.

“I’m okay… How did I get blessed with the best girls?!”

“Because God is too good!” They shout in sync.

…Back to the Present…


“God is Too Good”

I want to write a poem but I can’t really settle on rhyme and meter… But just thinking about God’s goodness, blows my mind… I went to church with Derek and Kaylie last week and I learned why awful things happen to people.

We live in a fallen world and we all have free will, because God loves everyone unconditionally, He will not override anyone’s freewill. Unless we submit our will to pursue after His will, is when He’ll interfere in our affairs and impact the earth because He gave authority of the Earth to us.

When we have relationship with God and we live our lives for Him, we build the Kingdom on the Earth. Through loving people like He loves us is how we change our world and bring people to Him. We don’t have to be perfect, we just have to listen and to trust Him and have faith everything we go through has a purpose that will make God’s Kingdom bigger. As believers we are one big family and our job is to add to the family God has designed and to build a home for God on the earth.

I have to forgive the jerk, Kurt- I have to forgive Kurt… Because Jesus died for all of us, he deserves forgiveness. I have no idea how I can forgive him… but I know with God… anything is possible.

I think last night I had like a vision of my future… Ten years from now… I don’t remember anything but the names of my kids… I think… nope… I don’t remember. I have immense peace! Whatever life throws at me, God is with me, and He will never leave me or forsake me!

Thank you, Jesus, for saving me.

And I must be this way because Netty’s been praying for me… probably Derek’s prayers too… And well Kaylie’s as well… who cares! Jesus is the best friend I’ve ever had… greater than Derek and Kaylie put together.

I don’t hate my life anymore. I’m sad my mother is dying. I’m sad I don’t know my dad. But I got this hope, knowing everything is going to get better. I have a purpose now. And that purpose is living life with God, after all He made humanity because He wanted to enjoy community with us (Rev. 4:11).

I think I’m going to write a book about my life… or at least blog about it… so if anyone suffered like I did or do… they know there’s real hope. Not the kind of hope where you wish for things to be better, but with hope that confidently knows something better is COMING!


Author’s Note

Originally, “Bussing It” was going to be 12 parts. But I cut it short, when I incorporated the flash-forward, I felt like it offered enough to showcase the direction Savvy was going to take with her life.

I was seriously thinking about Savvy putting her first child in adoption, but I decided against that. I felt like a stronger story of forgiveness prevailing that way. But I’m pro-adoption…

This story is the first Story Sunday where I have campaigned like crazy on social media and the first series where I was very adamant about being consistent. I only broke once by failing to post a part one week, but life happened and I didn’t plan enough to make up for it.

I’ve had this idea since 2012. There’s many different versions on my flash drives. The only part I used from those other versions are the characters and the stories that Savvy told her little sisters. In one version, I was going to have Savvy grow up to be a famous children’s author and I think based on this version, we can see she definitely followed some path of writing in life, but I left it very open-ended as to where that goes.

In all the other versions but this one, Savvy and Derek were going to break up and he was going to die in  a car accident and or a drug overdose. But I really fell in love with this idea of the two of them forever and never separating until death from a ripe old age.

Originally, she was going to be pregnant by Derek and not Kurt. Originally Kurt was really sweet and Bobby was the child molester, but somehow those roles changed and I’m okay with that.

As usual I have people getting saved in my story because salvation is the best and I love seeing the power of that even in a fictional context. I think I’ve used the power of conversion too much. For the next one, we’ll have a series with already saved people!

Thank you so much for reading this serious. If you loved reading it, feel free to share it with someone you think would enjoy reading it!

If you have any questions for me, drop them in the comments section, and I will respond as soon as I can.

I know Disney uses the slogan “Dare to Dream”… and I don’t know how long they’ve been using that, but I thought of the for story title back in 2013/2014, and I feel like I came up with it first… but I have no proof and I very well could be wrong. But I dare you to dream and to never give up on your dream, you have that dream for a reason, and you are meant to fulfill it. God will show you how to do it the best way! And if God crushes your dream, he has something better in mind because He knows you the best!

Best regards,

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