Below, you will see the graphic for the blog’s next featured story:

Grace Trials

THE STORY

If you saw the post about Manuscript Monday, going into extensive detail about why I chose the story I selected, I mentioned a story I wrote called, “Girls of Grace”.

“Grace Trials” is “Girls of Grace” rebranded, revamped, an under-new-construction rewrite. I guess, this will be my revision quest and I’m inviting all of you along for the ride.

In the original “Girls of Grace”, it was about three girls who became friends through church. In all honesty, this story is slightly based on real life, but in totality it really isn’t.

Like, the main character is a little like me. One of her friends is a little like one of my strong-willed friends that battles depression. The main character’s other friend is this super-family-oriented-person who has OCD. All three of them go to a tiny, baptist church where everybody knows everybody.  Me and my two friends, all went to a tiny, baptist church where the three of us formed a friendship. Beyond that, that is as real as the story gets. Okay, most of the story takes place in the city where we all live…

But the main plot points, the scenarios that unfold, and events that take place… never happened to me or my friends in real life… to my knowledge.

This revamp, however, will be wildly different. I started the project in 2012. Seven years later, with the characters well developed and a plot with lots of options, the content will be richer.

SYNOPSIS

Lauren Rae Tyler – 18, Melissa Grace Russell – 21, and Makayla Johnson – 17, are best friends that are closer to each other than sisters. Through all the trials life hurls them into, they rally to be there for one another and see each other overcome their tribulation. But they know they can’t obtain any victories without God’s grace.

Grace Trials may be the name of Lauren’s dad’s ranch and church, but the “Grace Trials” make up the casebook that proves God’s grace is for those who believe and cannot be saved, delivered, or set free without the free grace of God. (Okay, you’re right – the Bible has already done that, and proves so… It’s great!)

DREAM-GOAL

Yes, I want this story turned into a movie too! Executively-produced by Kirk Cameron. Pray with me y’all! (I’d accept working with David AR White too.)

It’s odd that I want to work with him so much… like I’m not a fan girl of his… I don’t really watch a lot of his ministry videos, nor have I seen any of his latest Christian Film Productions.

I just want to work with him. I think it would be cool!

WARNING

This story will feature some hard to swallow material, but the topics shouldn’t be ignored and swept under the rug in the church anymore.

MY REQUEST

If you like it as you read it, share it with someone you think may enjoy it, or benefit from it in someway.

MY HOPE

Is that someone who never had faith before, find faith in Jesus.

Yes, this may be a fictional story, with fictional characters, but the God of the Bible is the only God. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life… and in this little piece of fiction, God can save you or someone you’re praying for to be saved!

MANUSCRIPT MONDAY or STORY SUNDAY

At this point, I’m thinking neither, but we’ll see.

Thank you for joining this journey with me.


If you read my post,“Crossing the Finish Line”, then you heard about my story on LITNET called, “A Digital Age Courtship”. If you didn’t read that post or even if you did…

A Digital Age Courtship

The link below takes you directly to that story. ENJOY!

https://litnet.com/en/reader/a-digital-age-courtship-b106691?c=928921&p=1

Originally, “the wildflowers along route 77” was titled “Everloving” and the little book was 17 chapters, not 16. But near the beginning of posting each chapter, I combined two separate chapters into one.

I didn’t realize how many gaps I left in the plot and how I left so many questions unanswered. As the author, I know in my head what happened at the moments in between and where people are now, however, I wanted it to feel real in the aspect we don’t know what happens from every angle and not every person gets to find out the full the picture. Often in life we are left with so many questions.

Anything you want to know about any character, ask in the comments below, and I will respond wholeheartedly leaving nothing out.

I plan on writing a sequel that will go back and forth through Asher’s last year of college and Melody reaching out to LDS family members. As to when that sequel will be written, I don’t know yet. I have so many other ideas I want to work on and finish before they become out of season.

Anything I write, I consider it a job well done if one part can make me cry, and when I read the chapter where Asher confessed everything to his dad, and his dad was there for him as a father first instead of as a pastor, choked me up! I have some friends who grew up under the pressure of being a preacher’s kid and the ministry always came first over their needs as kids. I’m sure there are wonderful parents out there who happen to be in ministry and are more like Asher’s dad than “the-ministry-first-parents” my friends had.

I think the story makes it really clear, I don’t believe the Latter Day Saints of the Church of Jesus Christ is real Christianity. They don’t believe in the core Biblical things the rest of Christians believe. I’ve had a friend in real life leave the LDS Church after God Himself led her out. I did my best to present my fictional LDS characters as realistic as possible. These characters are loosely based on LDS members I know in real life, with a lot of fictional components I developed from some research.

Overall, I hope the point and message this story is clear, having a personal relationship with Christ through His love is the main point of existence. The second point, for why we live, is to connect others to the love of Christ.

I will make it clear, I don’t agree or believe in missionary dating, but I do believe in obeying God. Sometimes, God asks us to do things now that don’t make sense but one day, when we see the full picture, it will make sense!

Thank you for taking this journey with me, and one day may you see this book on a shelf or this story made into a movie! Hopefully, “the wildflowers along route 77” will be a published book and a feature film. And that I will be able to say, to God be all the Glory, for why such things were accomplished.

Thanks for participating in this Manuscript Monday,

Love,

Bri

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I can’t believe I left my pencils at home. Now, I must buy overpriced mechanical pencils at the campus bookstore. The line could not be longer!

The song ‘Love is an Action’ blares from my pocket. The gf is calling for the umpteenth time. I pull my cell out reluctant to answer it. Seeing Melody a few weeks ago brought more to the light than I anticipated. I’m beginning to wonder if I truly love my girlfriend. Last month, I was certain we were ready for marriage. I have the ring picked out. I got permission for her hand. And God hasn’t told me not marry her. Double negatives really mean yes, right?

A small person abruptly runs into me from behind. How do you bump into someone standing still in line?

A panicked, petite voice shrieks, “I’m SO sorry!”

Rolling my eyes, I take a deep breath, I turn around and smile. “Don’t worry about it. I’m not bleeding.”

The pretty young lady laughs. She’s an African American woman, sporting a small afro. Her lime green and cream paisley go-go dress looks like it could be vintage and now a recreated fashion trend. She keeps her eyes closed enough to prevent anyone from actually seeing them clearly.

I haven’t felt this way since I was a teenager. That indescribable, yet cosmic proportion, sensation in my heart that I now set eyes on the ONE.

I’m craving to ask what her name is and to get her number. Then I remember I have a girlfriend, who I love, and I can plan a life with… Dang it, I’ve already started planning that life!

“Again, I’m sorry. I’ll buy whatever you’re getting in line.”

“No, it’s fine.” I turn away from her and face the front.

Only third in line from reaching the register, a slender hand grabs my forearm to get my attention. I look behind me and the African-American timidly asks, “Excuse me, but are you Asher Lucas?”

“Yes,” she holds out her copy of Everloving with a pen. She wants my autograph.

Cordially, I accept to fulfill her request. “Who do I make it out to?”

“Janet Washington,” she bops up and down ecstatically, holding her purse. She thanks me and says, “You may not be Melody but you’re the next best thing. Your role in her life encouraged me to invite every non-believer I know to church.”

Having signed her nearly purchased book, I hand it back to her, and yet she keeps talking.

“I wanted to buy the book a couple weeks ago at her speaking engagement, but I had zero funds… I barely meet my tuition deadline payments.” She smiles clutching the book to her chest.

Neglecting my burning desire to ignore her, I figure small talk can’t hurt. As we talked my admiration for her grew. Without understanding it, every part of my being wants to marry this woman. My head reminds me I have my dream girl. Eventually, I block out my head’s reasoning for the remaining duration of our conversation.

I purchase my pencils and she gets her book. We exit the bookstore together. Outside the front doors, I confess I must dart to class if I don’t want to be late. She admits she has a lecture to catch in the opposite direction. I defeat the urge to ask for her number. We wave goodbye to each other and I walk away feeling like I’m walking on the moon. I can’t remember the last time I felt this way, if ever after talking to the opposite gender.

‘Love is an Action’ rings loudly from my pocket. Like a man, I answer my gf’s call.

“Hey, what’s up?”

“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…”

I stop my alarm, expecting a text from Melody asking if I’m up. Sometimes asking whether I’m awake refers to morning, but mostly it is an inquiry if I’m up in the middle of the night. She suffers from insomnia. A dilemma I didn’t have until lately. For some reason, I partially wake up a split second before my cell screen lights up and the whole device buzzes alerting me I have a new message. Last night I slept straight through until now, and there are zero text messages from Melody.

As I’m debating between Sunday’s Best attire or dress causal my cell rings. I drag myself back over to my bed to retrieve my phone thinking it is Melody and totally not wanting to go through our morning routine. To my surprise however, Natasha is calling me, not Mel.

“You can play guitar, right?”

“Yes, I can. Not ‘Zeven’ well though.”

“It doesn’t matter. Can you play today’s set list or do I need to make some changes?”

Talking under my breath, I say the set list in order trying to recall all four songs. “All but the third song on the bridge… That progression is too tricky for me in Eb Major.”

“What about D and you sing lead?”

The cell slips out of my hand from shock, but I jerk out of it and catch my phone against my abs. I’m not ready to lead worship? Not like Zev. I can’t do it. Negative thoughts cross my mind. Fear rises I my heart and gallops to its out rhythm in my head as more negative thoughts flood my mind.

You’re ready Asher,” I feel the Lord speak to my heart. Determined to listen to God’s voice above all others, I nod my head yes. Then I remember Natasha can’t see me.

“Yes…” I say. I didn’t agree softly or firmly, just generally.

“Okay. Thank you so much, please be here at 9 am for sound check.” She says and then she hangs up.

Forget Sunday’s Best or dress casual. Jeans, black canvas shoes, Desert Streams graphic tee with my black leather vest. Lord knows I’ve been saving that outfit for the first chance I’m blessed to lead worship. I can’t think about it too much or I will psych myself out.

I arrive 15 minutes early to pray and to plea for peace to do what is asked of me today. I find Nicolette at the altar on her knees. Soft worship music by Desert Streams plays subtly in the Youth Sanctuary. Nicolette and I eerily dressed similarly. We have the same gray, blue, and black color scheme. I wonder if the rest of the team is dressed the same? That will be weird if we are, especially since none us discussed color coordinating today.

Put the guitar onstage. I think. As I do this I pray in the Spirit and a soothing peace sweeps over me. I put my electric acoustic guitar on the stand where Zev usually keeps his. Tash didn’t tell me to bring my guitar, I just felt I should since Zev got upset the last time I touched his guitar. I place my case in the closet on stage left, where we keep extra music stands, mike stands, and extra sound equipment and instrument pieces. I set my case on top of mangled chords, piled in a black plastic milk crate.

Offstage, at the base of the stairs, I get on my knees to pray, when I hear Pastor Chastity’s voice from behind me.

“I’m glad you and Nicolette came early.”

I stand back up, turn around and Nicolette comes alongside me to face our Youth Pastor. She seems a little heavy-hearted with something troubling her mind. Her droopy eyes paired with her downcast countenance says it all.

“Until further notice, the two of you will be leading our youth worship team. Natasha and Zeven were asked to step down this morning.”

What? This can’t be good. I begin to think the worst because it’s natural. With Natasha coming from the home of a teen mother, her odds of repeating the family curse is higher than other teen girls. And living on the Reservation where teen pregnancy occurs at an alarming high rate. Yes, I always wanted to lead worship, but not like this, not at the expense of someone else’s virtue.

“Will you be telling the rest of the team or will we?” Nicolette asks.

“How about after church? We’ll meet briefly. I’ll have Natasha and Zeven sit in with us and we’re going to go over the criteria for serving in ministry again.”

“Yes, Pastor.” I agree biting my lip. I try to quiet my worst-case-scenario thoughts, but they won’t quit.

Pastor Chastity leaves toward the prayer room and when she is far out of earshot, Nicolette whispers out loud what I’ve been thinking.

“I knew they were doing it! Do you think she’s pregnant?”

“That could be why Pastor Chastity is so sad… I’m sure the last thing she wanted was Tash to follow in her footsteps like that.” Now I feel worse for saying something out loud. This is borderline gossip. We aren’t certain if what we’re thinking is true. “Wait, how do you know they’re having sex or they had sex?” I ask Nicolette.

She looks over her shoulder to make sure Pastor Chastity is out of the sanctuary. She looks around and spotting Chlonelle in the sound booth, she leans in close to my left ear. She softly whispers, “That fight they had in September. Aden said he heard Zev at school talking to his buddies about going to Third Base with their girlfriends. Zev said he and Tash did all the time. He was working his way to Homeplate by homecoming.”

The front doors swing open and Wilma and Aden walk in. Nicolette walks past me and adds, “It’s so disappointing. No one ever seems to make out of here.”

I don’t even understand all the sexual connotations implied in the baseball plate metaphor. Homeplate would be sex all the way though, right? Zev better join the adults today for worship. If I see him, I will deck him… Okay, I won’t. I’ll do what most Christians will do. Stare at him with seething anger and monumental disappointment, which will equal the unveiling of pure disdain for the boy who stole my dream girl. Big fat, giant lesson learned, and huge, greatly important note to self: DON’T LET THE FEAR OF MISSING OUT STOP YOU FROM TRYING FROM GETTING WHAT COULD BE THE NEXT BEST THING IN YOUR LIFE.

Suddenly, my peace evaporates and restlessness forms in my core like raging seas. Guilt hits me heavy in the heart. I cannot not go onstage and lead worship like this… I can’t let Nicolette either.

Approaching Nicolette and the rest of the band, I overhear them gossip-guessing what is going on with Tash and Zev and why they aren’t singing. Filled with a little righteous indignation and I throw words to proudly monkey wrench this conversation, “Maybe none of us should lead worship today and make the entire Youth Group join the adults in the Main Worship Service?”

“What are you talking about?” Nicolette questions?

“We have no idea why Tash and Zev were asked to step down. We can guess all we want, but until we’re told or the Holy Spirit tells us, and even then, the last thing we need to do is talk about it. In fact, we shouldn’t be murmuring about them. We need to be praying for them. I’ll admit, I gave in to the gossip monster too, but Tash and Zev are family…”

“Good point, Bro.”  Aden says.

I hold out my hands before me, one towards Nicolette on my left and one towards Wilma on my right. “Pray with me.”

The ladies take my hands and include Aden and Chlonelle. We bow our heads and close our eyes together. Nicolette leads us in a prayer of repentance for our gossip. Aden then begins to intercede for Zev and issues with lust. When he finishes Chlonelle prays for Tash about peer pressure and following the crowd. Wilma sings over our prayers with a song of praise. I close in prayer thanking God for the cleansing blood of Christ that purifies. I pray that we all have clear hearts and clean hands so the we may ascend the hilltop of God and receives all His promises. I pray for our worship to be pure and true, in Spirit and in Truth.

Together we say, “Amen.”

We release each other’s hands and we lift our heads opening our eyes. Pastor Chastity stands right behind me. With tears in her eyes and a feeble smile on her face, she hugs me. She whispers a thank you in my ears. She ends up hugging everyone, saying thank you and thank you again, to all of us. Chlonelle offers Pastor Chastity tissue paper to dry her tears, and as Pastor does so, she asks if we would be okay with cancelling the entire Youth Service and joining the Main Service today. The band looks around at one another with hesitation. I’m not sure whether to be relieved or disappointed, angry, sad, or happy. And I’m confused, I thought God said I was ready to lead worship today.

“Pastor Josiah has requested that the Youth Worship Team lead worship for everyone today.”

I titter, freaked out and excited simultaneously. God cannot lie. He is not a man that he should change his mind. Will his word not do what he says it will do? When he makes a promise, does he not keep it? My GOD IS AN AWESOME GOD! Somehow now, I know I’m ready.

All eyes are on me as if I’m the official authority on making this call today. I start nodding my head yes and the rest of band starts speaking yeah as if they’re expressing their approval with a ‘hell yeah’!

Two minutes to 10 am, we take our place. The church worship team sits upfront next to the Pastor and his wife. I go over the set list in my mind when the Holy Spirit lays on my heart to start off with Our God is an Awesome God by Rich Mullins. I tell Aden, who tells Wilma on bass. I whisper it to Nicolette and right at 10 am we intro with a classic oldie worship song. Ready for God to show up and show off!

         Dad had repairs to oversee at the church. For once, I need my father both as a parent and as a pastor. I go inside through the unlocked side door and I follow the noise echoing through the empty dark halls. Dad and Elder Cain Blair are in the men’s room replacing the piping underneath the sinks. Immediately, Dad instructs Elder Cain to keep working and escorts me to his office.

            To endure the trek, he makes small talk with me.

            “We’re blessed God provided the means for these repairs. I’m tired of soaking wet floors, holy walls, and torn up carpet.”

            “God is good.” I say, still analyzing in my mind the best way to bring everything up to dad and to get some direction.

            Chuckling softly, dad says, “All the time…”

            Sure that’s only half the saying but when you grow up in church, Christianese gets old and boring quickly.

            Dad sits down in his brown leather, swivel chair behind his dark mahogany desk. The wall behind him sporting his credentials and awards over the years. I sit across from him, in a simple, armless green sanctuary chair, wide and sturdy enough to hold all sizes. To postpone the burden, I’m about to place on dad, I ask where Pastor Josiah is. Dad says the board decided he would handle maintenance needs for the church since Pastor Josiah holds many other responsibilities.

            “Enough with the chit-chat, what’s troubling you?”

            I want to cry, but the strength to fend off that urge sustains my plain countenance.

            “Melody Gartner−,” I go to explain, but dad chimes in.

            “The girl you bring to youth group sometimes?”

            “Yes, sir.”

            Dad chortles, “Son, I’m your father first and a pastor to you second. Drop the sir. Call me dad. What about Melody?”

            “She’s my girlfriend.” I say.

            The shock on his face could stop time with his wide-eye stare and slight agape mouth. I know my parents believe I’d follow in their footsteps and not date until college. My dad did a lot of research on youth dating and majority of the data reflects more negatives than positives.

            Taking a very deep breath, as I exhale I confess, “And she’s pregnant.”

            That knowledge causes his face to fall into the palm of his hand as a feeble attempt to hide his broken heart.

            “She also wants to get married.”

            Sighing as he wipes his face lifting his head, “When did it happen?”

            I knew the it inquiry referred to the night of conception.

            “She says the night of the homecoming dance…” Relief rushes over me. I used to think back on that night a feel ashamed, now I no longer do.

            “You’re not so sure?”

            I shake my head. Everything about her and me makes me completely uncertain. “No.” I say, but I explain, “Before I came here I was spending time with the Lord… I felt so guilty… I regretted going to that dance, I regretted becoming Mel’s boyfriend, and I deeply regretted creating that baby… I thought if I never went to that dance the kid wouldn’t exist and as clear as day the Holy Spirit told me that the baby would. If I never slept with Mel, she wouldn’t be my girlfriend. I would have never slept with her, if the punch wasn’t spiked, and−,” dad holds his hand up to stop me from talking.

            “Are you sure you had sex with Melody? If you were drunk, do you remember that night?” Dad asks a justifiable question.

            “The last I remember is getting in the passenger seat of my car…I felt so weird I just wanted to sleep it off…”

            “How far along is she according to the doctor?” Dad asks a good question. “If it happened the night of the homecoming dance she’d be about 5 or 6 weeks”

            “The dance was a month ago?” I say.

            “Maybe you should take that sex ed class at school. Son, women are pregnant before they get pregnant. That’s just how the doctors count.”

            Silence rises between us and creates a giant of awkwardness. It didn’t really matter how far along Melody is in her pregnancy. Dad and I had a mutually strong feeling the baby isn’t mine. When I muster the courage to speak up, dad beats me to it.

            “Let me see if I understand why you’re dating her… You took her to homecoming, to be nice. Then you thought you lost your virginity to her, so you asked her to be your girlfriend?”

            I just nod my head yes feeling a little embarrassed.

            “Why do you think you did that?”

            The horrid sensation of my masculinity dissolving as I think of the real reason why, I slouch crossing my arms over my chest as if this position could protect how I feel inside… Sighing I confess, “I’m gonna sound like a girl if I tell you.”

            “No, you’ll sound like my son. It’s just you and me.” Dad says.

            “I want to wait or at least I wanted to wait until I’m married to have sex… Any kind of sex…” I shift forward and dangle my arms from my bent kneecaps. Scratching my head, I try to feel less exposed then I do right now. Why does guilt rack my heart with trouble when I’m just being honest? I go on to say, “I want to be like you and mom. You two waited until you met ‘the one’. And—,” before I could go any further, dad bursts into laughter.

            “What?” I ask.

            Cupping his mouth, he takes a deep breath. Shaking his head, he removes his hand and grabs a push pen from his desk. He presses the button again and again, and makes the pen click again and again as the ballpoint tip plays hide and go seek according to his actions.

            “What makes you think I was a virgin when I married your mom? I never stated that and I hope I didn’t imply that.”

            “You and mom both said several times you waited to sleep together until you married each other.”

            Dad raises his eyebrows, stops clicking the pen and sets it down as he looks me in the eyes. He says, “Yes, we said that… So I guess I see where you get that concept from, but I had a few girlfriends before your mother. One reason why I allowed your mother to leave that bookstore without saying anything to her, is because I was in a long distant relationship with my high school sweetheart. She went to Liberty University. We did a lot of fooling around. The girlfriend before her is who I lost my virginity to. We were both so scared that she could have been pregnant… Luckily, she wasn’t… And before that girl, I fooled around girls all the time at church camp since 7th grade. I actually got caught in 9th grade making out in the boys’ bathroom with the hottest girt at camp. And what we did is not safe for your ears to hear.”

            Dad gets real. He divulges the first time his eyes set sight on a dirty magazine when he was 11 years old. He admits that fantasizing and fondling himself wasn’t enough. He got the real chance to kiss a girl and explore the sensations of raging hormones. He added his middle school peers only inspired him with ways to explore the sexual desires within him without getting caught. In high school, his guy friends made it seem like a man was gay if he wasn’t having sex. For a long time, dad just flirted with girls on campus and went out on dates, and he allowed his friends to think what they wanted. However, it was different when he got a girlfriend. Making out and groping stories wasn’t enough to prove dad was a man. The pressure to prove his masculinity made him convince his girlfriend to have sex.

            When I asked dad, what about church and God, wondering if he felt guilty? He said he wasn’t serious about his faith. He added his church just preached on burning in hell a lot. If you weren’t a drunk, a homosexual, or an adulterer… no one feared going to hades. His church growing up taught him how to be a church goer not a Christian.

             His high school sweetheart, who was a different girl than who he lost his virginity to, was the girl who introduced him to the concept of a relationship with Jesus. They were never alone together. The only places she’d go out with him were to bible study, Sunday School, church, and church fellowship events. They would talk over the phone about the bible and he listened to what Jesus put on her heart. He wasn’t sure why he dated her for so long. He thinks it may have been because a few of his guy buddies were getting in trouble having sex. One caught Chlamydia, one got a girl pregnant, and the other got accused of rape, but was acquitted. All of them knew their friend was guilty, for he had no respect for women and was a very troubled young man.

           Dad planned on marrying the Liberty University girl, but that changed on their third-year-anniversary. She flew out to Tennessee and visited him at Belmont University. He was excited to see her. They went and grabbed coffee off campus and she explained this dream she had to dad. At the end of telling him about it, she confessed the dream made her realize she wasn’t in love with dad and didn’t think it would be a good idea to be together anymore. Simply because God was leading them both in separate directions and dad didn’t disagree with her. The break up lifted a weight off his shoulders and he felt free. He told himself when he saw mom next, he would talk to her. Liberty University girl left as mom walked into the café. The rest I know.

            “Looking back on things now, she showed me what it was like to personally know God. It was the process of growing closer to him, I thought about sex less, so I fed those desires less, and eventually, I didn’t think about sex again until your mom and I got serious. Then I had to practice self-control. It really boils down to where your mind is at, when you want God’s will more than anything else, because you trust God understanding that He knows what is best for you and that He loves you…”

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!

Chapter 2

Natasha runs off to put the daylilies in a vase of water while Chastity escorts us to the dining area. The table is set with all the fixings, seven place settings, and a high chair for Annika stands at the end of the table where an eighth place setting would normally be. When Natasha joins us, she’s accompanied by Zeven holding hands.

We all take our seats, the way everything works out, Natasha ends up sitting across from me. Today she sports a blue, faux peacock feather in her hair. It matches her dangling, lab-made sapphire earrings. Zeven has frosted the tips of his black Mohawk with blue to match Natasha’s color phase fascination with blue. Looking at the two of them, side by side, they do look like a cute couple. Their features complement each other, and will one day blend well together… if… they’re meant to be together…

Chastity asks dad to say grace, we all take hands and bow our heads.

“Dear heavenly father, thank you for this gathering of friends. Thanks for the food you’ve provided for the Lane household and we’re grateful they’re sharing it with us. We ask that this food be blessed, and especially, our time together. Thank you for all that you do. In Jesus’s precious holy name, Amen.” The rest of us follow suit and say a collective amen.

Chastity hands the main course, meat loaf, to dad and allows him to serve himself. Natasha picks up the basket of crescent rolls and takes one as she passes the basket to Zeven. Zeven does the same, continuing to pass it on to Chastity.  Zeven grabs the bowl of green beans and serves Natasha a few spoonfuls on her plate. Graciously, she thanks him with a peck on the cheek. They’ve been dating for a week, and they’re already at the kissing phase? Getting through this dinner is going to be harder than I thought.

Chastity kicks off the table talk by telling my mother, “The flowers are gorgeous Becky.”

“They are, aren’t they? Actually,” mom starts to say.

“Daylilies are my favorite.” Natasha interjects.

Zeven looks to Natasha surprised, “I thought wild, yellow daisies are your favorite.”

In unison, without intention, Natasha and I say, “They were.”

She looks at me caught off guard. She further explains without breaking eye contact with me, “But once I saw and smelled my first daylily back in June, daylilies are my new fav.” Clearing her throat, she directs her attention to Zeven, “I thought you were around when I talked about it at Worship practice?”

Zeven shrugs his shoulders as he takes the dish of meat loaf from my hands. “I guess I need to pay more attention to my girl.” He remarks.

Mom finishes what she meant to say earlier, “Actually, Asher picked out the flowers.”

Both Chastity and Natasha look at me, but with different opinions displayed on their faces. While Chastity’s expression reads as impressed, Natasha’s expression seems conflicted. Getting the daylilies was a good move… Natasha knows my selection wasn’t by chance.

We move on to another subject: Chastity’s upcoming sermon series for Youth on Sexuality creatively titled Knowing Him and Her. She came up with that title from the scripture Genesis 4:1a from the New King James Version, “Now Adam knew Eve his wife…”  More modern versions tell how it really was by replacing “knew” with “made love”. Since Chastity was a teen mom, and based on the high rate of teen pregnancy in America and on the Res, and some of the concerns parents have brought to her, she felt God placed on her heart to discuss sexuality with the youth of the church.

In actuality, it’s more about God’s design and purpose of marriage, and how Christ comes first for both husband and wife. She’s hoping that through the message God will instill in the youth a desire to do things God’s way, and that each young man and young woman will feel precious in the eyes of God. And as current temples of the Lord our God, we’ll respect that honor and choose to do it God’s way… by waiting to have sex until we’re married.

Mom and dad are impressed. They agree that the youth are in need of such a message and they are glad to hear she’s doing it. Showing the sliver of uncertainty left in her, she asks dad and mom for their prayers that when she begins the message the Holy Spirit leads the series. Proudly, my parents accept the request and promise her they will do so.

After dinner, Zeven shares the new worship song he wrote in the living room with everyone else while I help Natasha stack the dishwasher. Natasha isn’t her normal, snarky, talkative self. Deafening silence builds a barricade between us. I can tell she’s deep in thought. I want to speak… but I don’t know what to say. The song of Zeven travels faintly into the kitchen. I listen to what I imagine the chorus is… it sounds like it’s in the Key of E or maybe C.

“We will shout on the hilltop.

  We will sing in the streets,

  And dance in the yard.

  Praising the only worthy-

  Of our praise- Jesus Christ

  Lifting our voices

  On high,

  We sing- Hallelujah

  To our King-

  As we band together

  In unity not conformity

  The light that’s in us

  We let it shine

  As we lift our arms

  Lifting praise we sing

  To our king

  Of everything

  As the body of Christ

  We will shout from the hilltop…” he continues to sing on, singing the chorus again.

Now I have a talking point. “That’s a pretty good song.” I say.

Natasha winces, “It needs a lot of work. The words don’t flow. They’re good, but the song needs to be fluid, not forced. I’ve tried to help, but he’s too proud of it. Maybe now that I’m his girlfriend he’ll let me revise it.”

“Musically, it’s perfect though.” I comment.

Smiling in defeat, “True, when it comes to notes Zeven is a genius.”

“So maybe he’s the music and you’re the lyrics,” I say. Wow, I sound supportive of their relationship. I know I’m kind of coveting my neighbor’s significant other, it just feels like she’s been taken away from me, and I didn’t ever really have her.

Her whole face lights up with excited joy as if I prophesied to her. “You’re so right!” she closes the dishwasher, now that it’s stacked full, and then gives me a quick hug. Every hug from her is magical and heart-warming. As she slips out of my reach I wish the hug could have lasted a second longer, and I wish I had the guts to reel her back in, but I let her walk away. I follow her into the living room, where we’re all about to enjoy a game of Bible Trivia. Well, Annika’s gonna watch.

Since I was 11 years old, I’ve dreamt of publishing a book for an entire generation to enjoy- okay, obsess over. But I didn’t want this story to be vain and simply pure entertainment. I wanted to restore that sense of awe and wonder kids today get robbed of too early. One of the biggest ways children lose their sense of innocence is through film, or at least this is how I felt. Therefore, my dream was to write this book that I extend into a series and the series becomes a movie franchise.

So with just a notebook and a pen, I began writing this story about a boy who became a shark (this is before Shark Boy and Lava Girl), and later on, my father became my illustrator. My father finished the first rough draft, doing all the writing and drawing himself, because were living apart. He showed it to a children’s author he knew through a friend and the author said to contact her when we were finished with the project.

I battled low self-esteem. I struggled to grow as a writer, and I believed this lie that I would never be good enough to be a published author. Every time I went to write a chapter to that story, I was convinced every word, every sentence, and every paragraph wasn’t good enough. For the longest time, I was convinced I could not write a version better than what my father wrote alone, using my concept, my characters, and my vision.

I friended people who aspired to be published authors like me and that motivated me to pick the task up again. I finished the second draft in high school. Unfortunately, my dad and I lost touch with the author my dad built a connection with and I didn’t bother to reach out to literary agents to get it published.

I finished the third draft when I was 22, exactly 11 years later from when I started, and I did show it to some self-publishing companies that kindly gave me a bunch of tips on how to improve it.

I’m now undergoing a fourth draft, co-writing it with my father with him as the illustrator, and I’m going to do my part and trust God with the rest that the work becomes published…

What does that book-in-the-making have to do with this blog? That’s the very first story I ever took seriously to write and had the nerve to re-write again and again, making it more perfect than before. With that catalyst story, what I do on my blog today wouldn’t be a thing.

About a over a year ago, in July 2017, the blog went live with a story I wrote, basing the main character off a friend and her dreams. I placed her and her dreams in a setting of my choosing. I chose the end times and the rapture. I posted it on the blog, because I wanted my blog to be a place where shared all these imaginative stories I developed. I figured while I practiced my writing skills, enhancing them, I could build an audience and having a blog with lots of follows would give a publisher confidence to publish my book…

I may not have many followers but I’m grateful for the ones that do I have… If one thing I write can inspire someone or help someone connect to Jesus the Messiah, then it is worth to me. Yes, I want to influence a bunch of people… thousands or perhaps even millions, but above all those things I want to live the life my Maker designed for me. Not just for my own sake and my own personal fulfillment, but for others who are not known by the Savior may become known.

I figured with this blog, I could do just that… I could write my weird, unconventional stories with Christ at the center and people would be provoked to examine their own worldview and decide if they can afford to keep their current life the same or does some part of it need to change.

A year later, my blog is nowhere where I dreamt it to be, but I’m not giving up because it doesn’t look like what I envisioned. Trust me, I have done all the things hip, popular bloggers say to do, and they all agree it takes time. My faith, however, is not in this blog alone, or at all really. My faith is in God and I know in due season, I will step into each and every promise He has for me, and along the way my family Heaven is just going to get bigger and bigger because more and more souls are connecting with Christ Jesus the purpose God has for their lives.

There you have it readers, this blog is to stretch and grow me as a writer, build an audience to impress a traditional publisher, and to connect people with the heart of God and the truth of Word, in a out of the box kind of way. I’m not on wattpadd because I didn’t think of that, but I may be in the future. We’ll see.

Thank you so much stopping by the blog today. If you don’t know Jesus the Messiah as Savior, friend, and brother… then I don’t believe it’s by chance you discovered my blog. Feel free to comment if you want to know how to know Jesus and to be known by Him today. Or if you’re not ready yet, start by reading the Gospel of Mark… it’s short, it’s simple, and it’s all about Jesus! You can read the Bible at Biblegateway.com. I highly recommend the New Living Translation, God’s Word Translation, or the English Standard Version. The Passion Translation is growing in popularity but I haven’t checked it out personally yet, so I can’t recommend it personally, but people I trust love it, therefore, I think it would be okay to give it a whirl!

Much love,

Bri

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