Thursday, May 11, 2006

Eph 1 vs 8-10 - Provision

7Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we're a free people--free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! 8He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, 9letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, 10a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.

“He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need…”
There have been times when I’ve felt in want. When my husband was laid off for nearly two years, we cut back. We didn’t eat out as often. Our entertainment was limited to free things. We were careful not to buy clothing or material possessions that weren’t necessary.

And yet, we had everything we needed.

“…letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making.”
Genesis 2:8-12 shows the account of the creation of provision.

 8 Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin [footnote: pearls] and onyx are also there.)

There were trees, pleasing to the eye and good for food—I’m sure they were great for shade and lazy afternoons, too. There was water from four rivers. Gold, pearls, onyx. I’m sure all of the five senses were bathed in lavish abundance.

During those two years that I felt in want, God seemed silent. I know now that He wasn’t, because I didn’t starve, I had a roof over my head, the bills were paid. Had I noticed the verse in Ephesians, I would have known He had plans for my provision, and that He took delight those plans.

“He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him…”

The Genesis account shows how He took care my physical needs. Ephesians takes it further. His long range plan for provision encompasses, indeed, envelops my whole being. His provision is evident in the things I can see, touch, taste, hear, and smell. But look again at this promise. He has “a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in Him.”

“Everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.”

God didn’t only take care of my physical needs, very important when living in a world rife with limitations. God took care of me, even beyond my life-span. Even after I die, after my physical body no longer needs food, clothing, or shelter, God will still be providing for me. And He did it all in Christ. In Christ alone can I enjoy God’s provision, on earth and in heaven. No one else makes this possible.

I’m beginning to see this provision as a whole rather than two parts: heaven and earth. I can see God, his hands cupped, scooping my time-line together, from the day I was born into eternal fellowship with Him. The word “delight” tells me that He’s holding that time-line close to his heart, pressing it to His massive chest—close enough so that when I question Him and His provision—if I just be still and listen—I can hear His heartbeat.

Dear Heavenly Father,
In this bruised and battle ridden world, it’s hard to hear Your heartbeat. It’s hard to believe that You took delight in the plans that are unfolding in my life. And yet, knowing Your character through Your word, I know that you ache whenever I doubt. I praise You for Your patience. I praise You for loving me in my weakness. I praise You for Your heartbeat. –In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Abundantly Free! - Ephesians 1:7

Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we're a free people--free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! 8He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, 9letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, 10a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.

How horrible it must be to live in a third-world country, under a cruel dictator. In some societies, if a man looks at another man’s wife, his eyes are gouged out. If he steals, his hand is cut off. Often death is the punishment for even the most minor crimes.

Even here in America, do any of us know what it means to be free? Sure we live in a free society, but there are still rules and restrictions. If you break the law, you pay a penalty, either with money or time served, depending on the crime. As I used to tell my children to keep them in line, “If you do the crime, you’ll do the time.” I had a no nonsense attitude, and let them know that I would back up any authority of the law if they ever messed up.

But, what about me? How often do I “mess up” under God’s authority? Often. Sometimes on a daily basis. Those ten commandments are tough. Not the biggies like “Thou shalt not kill,” although Jesus furthered that rule by saying if you do it in your heart it’s the same thing. The penalty for breaking these laws is death. Wait a minute! Does that make God a cruel dictator?

Unlike human leaders with their own flaws, God is perfect. And He created his list of laws because He loves us, and doesn’t want us to die in sin. Yet chiseled on those two stone tablets is my death sentence. I can’t possibly keep all of those rules, especially as laid out by Jesus who, in essence said, “If you think it, so shall it be.” Yikes!

I can testify that God is not a cruel dictator. He’s given us this wonderful verse that explains Who has paid our penalties. The Messiah. Jesus, who made those rules even harder, took our punishment. It should have been our blood spilled, our eyes gouged, or our hands cut off…our death. But Jesus Christ paid it all, once, for all mankind. We are now a free people. And not just barely free, as if we could lose it at any moment. No, we’re abundantly free! Forever!

Thank you, Lord, for the cross. You set the rules, and yet You also paid the penalty because You knew we couldn’t possibly be perfect. Sin took care of that when it entered our world through Adam and Eve. You required a blood sacrifice, then you provided that sacrifice. Help us to accept that sacrifice as our own. Help us to understand that we’re not just barely free, but abundantly free!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Reality TV? I Got Them Beat!

We’ve had a bit of a drama going on in the middle of the night. My daughter-in-law is on her way here to Colorado from Florida to live while my son is in Korea for a year. Air Force.

Actually, the drama started days earlier, but in lieu of reliving the stress, suffice it to say, moving is not for the faint of heart, or the pregnant, or the husband-less. Poor Angela has been through things that would make a trucker weep. But she’s a trooper, and a shining example of survival. Speaking of reality TV, (we weren’t but I’m too tired to think of a good segue,) if the producers of Survivor were to take six men and six pregnant women and place them in the middle of Baton Rouge, LA at 1:00 a.m., with a toddler, a three-year-old, and a couple of pets, and the three-year-old suddenly complains of a tummy ache, breaks out in drought-busting sweat, and actually asks to be taken to the doctor…I’ll bet the six pregnant women would win! It amazes me the fortitude and protective instinct that has kicked in. Every time she says she’s had it, she goes one more mile, hits another road block, (the tummy-ache was the latest in a long string of mishaps since Angela closed her house a few days ago—it was a bladder infection and took a trip to the ER in a strange city, in the middle of the night, with a drug bust going on inches from her motel door…see what I mean?) and then presses on. Amazing! Hey, if they took three couples of men and three couples of pregnant women and put them on The Amazing Race

Anyway, to get on with the point of this blog—after the call at 2:15 this morning, whatever evil forces were at work to keep Angela from driving thousands of miles hit me in the doubt department. We’ve been praying this little family makes it safely, no mishaps, smooth sailing for days. So why—WHY—were these things still happening? I belong to an awesome prayer loop through my writing organization ACFW, so I e-mailed the request to heal little Sophia and to break the stronghold beating this family up at every turn. This was at 2:30 a.m. Obviously, no one was up at that time of the morning, but it felt good just to get it down. As people woke up and started their day, I began to get responses and words of encouragement. Then, my friend Margie wrote saying she knew something was wrong when she awoke and God had impressed on her to lift up Angela and the girls. The following is my response to her:

What a rush in my spirit when I read your post. Last night before going to bed I asked God why these things are happening, even though we're praying. Well, first of all He had to bring up Job to me. I know, Lord. Praying isn't a good luck charm, but an avenue that we can stay close to You in the midst of the storm. There are times when, like Job, we have to "choose" to bless His name, even when we don't feel like it. Then He told me that He wouldn't have prompted people to pray if He weren't in total control. He knows the plans He has for Angela, and they are plans for good, not evil. There's a scripture verse in there, but I'm too tired to find it.
So, all that mini-sermon to say, thank you for being obedient and praying. I think I'm going to copy this over to my blog. Somebody else might need to hear it. Hmm.

So, I did. That verse, BTW, is Jeremiah 29:11. Margie furnished that, too.

Angie’s journey is not finished. She isn’t even out of Louisiana, yet. So if anyone is reading this, please lift her up. I know it’s been the prayers of the saints that has gotten her this far.

I think we need to come up with a new reality series. Surviving the Race with an Amazing God. Hey CBS, you listening?

Monday, February 13, 2006

A New Look!

Do you like my new look? I always love to read on rainy days. Something about the isolation, curtained in behind the gloomy drops. You feel wrapped in your own world, hand picked from the shelf. For an explanation of how I did this, go to my Main Site.

Watch for further entries on Ephesians in the near future.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Love Scrooge

Ella clutched her throat. A tombstone. Were those really her initials carved in careful precision?

Twenty-four hours earlier...

Ella snapped the newspaper with her wrists and read the final words of her article: "So, if you want to make the greeting card companies rich, if you want to spread chocolate like the black plague, if you want to bow to pressure on this, the most hyped holiday since Christmas, go ahead and celebrate Valentine's Day. Suffer your disappointments on the fifteenth, when she doesn't look as sparkling as she did in the moonlight, or he wants to watch ESPN instead of making you the center of his world. As for this writer, I say Bah, Humbug to Valentine's Day."

Her literary face smirked from a tiny square next to her byline, E. Benezer, with the title of her article right below, "Pass the Love Bug Repellent." She'd been writing for the Daily Chronicle fifteen years now, and had made quite a name for herself—good and bad. This pleased her as an opinion columnist. She knew she hadn't done her job until at least ten people wrote the editor to complain. So, she embraced her fans and dismissed her critics.

Every critic but one.

Rick Hart, a local disc jockey for KROK 105.3, had declared war on her a couple of years back, when she wrote her first anti-Valentine's Day piece. Apparently with a name like Hart, he took exception to anything that suggested a down-with-love mentality.

She flicked the power button on the radio in her home office. KROK blared immediately, and she waited for his reply to this year's article. True to form, he began his attack early, even before she could finish her morning cup of coffee.

"And that was Teddy Bear by Elvis Presley, dedicated to Ella Benezer, columnist for the Daily Chron. Miss Benezer's annual column on the down side of Valentine's Day predictably showed up in the paper this morning. Ella sweetheart, if you're listening, maybe all you need is a teddy bear to squeeze. Perhaps then you won't be so cynical. How 'bout it listeners? Why don't you send Ella a teddy bear today, care of the Daily Chronicle? If we band together, maybe that will soften up the Love Scrooge."

"Ooh!" She pounced on the power button, silencing the insufferable man. "Love Scrooge, indeed!" Rick Hart could keep his teddy bears. She had work to do.

Berta, her assistant, arrived right on time. Ella insisted on promptness. She had her weekly column to get out as well as a couple of books with deadlines. At the end of the day, when Ella handed her the latest handwritten draft, Berta seemed to be edgy about something. She averted her eyes and began playing with her fingers.

"What's wrong with you?" Ella growled.

" you want this done by tomorrow?"

"Of course. If I can write it in a week, you can certainly type it in a few hours."

More hesitation on Berta's part made Ella snap. "What?"

"I was going to ask for tomorrow off. It is Valentine's Day, you know."

"Is it a federal holiday? Do they close the post office? Does the world stop revolving on Valentine's Day? I don't think so." What was wrong with the silly girl?

"It's just that..." Berta stared at her shoes. "My boyfriend made plans and..."

Ella, still riding on the adrenaline from her column, barked, "Is that what I should tell my editor? That your boyfriend made plans? This deadline is looming. We can't waste any time."

"Okay, I'll let him know."

Berta left with tears in her eyes, but Ella didn't care. Her assistant's contract specifically stated no time off within a week of a deadline.

Minutes after Berta left, Ella heard a knock on her door. When she opened it, she felt the blood drain from her face as she stared into familiar green eyes.


It couldn't be! Marly was dead.

The Visit

"My name is Josie, Marlene Jacobs' daughter. I believe you knew her in college."

Ella's hand flew to her heart. Marly's daughter! Marly had been her best friend in school. Partners in crime. What one couldn't think of, the other could. She staggered at this blast from the past.

"Wow! You look like your mother!" Now that her brain could assimilate this sudden information, a twinge of guilt ran through Ella. She'd read the obituary, but skipped the funeral.

"Thank you, I'll take that as a compliment." She walked into the apartment holding a white box tied with a red ribbon. "We're finally selling Mom's house and found this box in her closet. It contains clippings and mementos from her college days. Also, she followed your career and saved every article and column she could find. She still had the autographed copy of your first book."

Ella cringed. Marly had inspired her to write that book. Now she was ashamed of it. A hard copy of How To Get Him to Say I Do, lay forgotten until now in the bottom of her bureau drawer. How naive they'd been in those days.

She invited Josie to take off her coat and hung it on the coat rack next to the door.  "Please join me for coffee in the dining room. You must be chilled," she said as she glanced toward the kitchen window. "I see it's started to snow outside."

Josie thanked her and pushed the box across the table. She looked uncomfortable as she did so, and Ella cocked her brow.

"Like I said, Mom followed your career, and she became quite concerned."

"Concerned? Why?"

Josie fidgeted in her seat. "She wondered what happened to make you so cynical about life. I don't know if you realize, since the two of you lost touch, but Mom suffered a bitter divorce from my dad."

"Is Ben Sable your father ?" Ella felt the catch in her throat as she said the name she once vowed never to utter again.

"Was." Josie's eyes grew sadder, if that were possible. "A car accident, nine years ago."

Ella felt her head pound. This was too much to take in. The two people who once mattered more to her than her very life, now gone.

"The divorce affected Mom deeply, but after she became sick with cancer, she found a new love. Jesus Christ. She wanted you to know that."

Ella's heart felt as cold as the ice building up on the window. Jesus? God? She had no time for such nonsense.

Her face must have revealed her feelings. Josie said, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have come. But when we found the box and the note inside, it sounded as if she really wanted you to have it." She caressed the lid as if she were saying goodbye to her mother. Then she stood abruptly, grabbed her coat, and fled.

With shaking hands, Ella untied the ribbon. The note on top was a simple plea to deliver the box to Ella Benezer and included her address. She rummaged through pictures and articles from the school paper of their exploits together. Ella's past lay in the cardboard box. A videotape and a small New Testament were among the contents. She set them both aside. It was too much to take in. She'd watch the tape later, but the Bible would remain closed.

The Past

She dressed for bed. No use trying to write this evening. Thoughts of Marly swirled through her head instead of her latest project, a book on how to spot a false relationship. She slipped the tape into the VCR and curled up in her chair. She remembered vivacious Marly. Energetic with a lust for life. However, an older version of Marly greeted her on the screen. Dark circles under her eyes marred the once flawless complexion. She wore a desert rose colored hat with a tiny rolled brim, and Ella wondered if chemotherapy had robbed Marly of her gorgeous blond hair.  

"Ella Bella," Marly smiled weakly, using the nickname she'd called her friend eons ago. "I wish I could do this in person. Forgive me for not calling you. I couldn't bear it if you were still angry with me. This is the coward's way, but sincere nonetheless."

Ella mourned not only her friend's death, but the incident to which she referred. It seemed silly now. Marly had stolen her boyfriend, Ben Sable. Well, she admitted now, years later, you can't steal something that doesn't mind being stolen. She couldn't blame him. Marly was so fresh and lovable. She, on the other hand had already begun to focus on her career in that final year of college. Ben faded from importance, and he naturally fled to Marly, whom Ella had also begun to ignore.

"The following scenes are of our life," the ghost from the past continued. "I give these to you with all my love and pray that you'll forgive me. He wasn't worth our friendship."

Ella sat in the dark watching herself twenty-plus years younger, attending parties, ski trips, hugging Marly and kissing her cheek. Two zany girls growing up together.

When the home movies were over, Marly came back on. "We were so good together, Ella. I wish we could have kept in touch. It would make what I have to say next so much easier. I messed up my life when I married Ben. If he'd leave you for me, why wouldn't he leave me for someone else?" Marly offered a mirthless laugh. "I became very bitter, just as you seem to be. Since Ben, others were interested, but I couldn't stand to be hurt anymore. However, since my illness, one Man has entered my life. I've accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. I can now die knowing true love in a way that lasts forever. I'll be with Him for eternity. It's not too late for you, Ella Bella. I don't know what turned you against men, or love in general. I've read it in your column. I pray it wasn't from my foolishness."

Marly's voice faded to background noise as Ella began to reflect. What had turned her against love? Had it been her best friend's betrayal? Had that been the catalyst to losing herself in her career? Whatever the reason, no man would ever soften her heart.

A certain disc jockey might take exception, she thought reluctantly. After his first attack on her anti-love column, Rick had shown up at the Chronicle saying he wanted to see for himself the only person in town who hated Valentine's Day. He'd talked her into having dinner with him—for research.

She felt her lip tug into a smile. Rick had surprised her with his wavy dark hair and blue eyes that sparkled with mischief. Certainly not a face for radio—he should have been a game show host. That perpetual smile unnerved her. One date led to two, then to three. Her column began to suffer as she smothered it with fluff. The world started looking rosy. She knew she'd been set up. He was trying to ruin her—steal her edge. She broke it off. Shortly afterward she wrote another book: Lose the Noose, You Silly Goose—What To Say When You Aren't Interested. Persistent DJ Rick Hart continued the feud every year on the air, infuriating her even while trying to soften her heart. No one would ever soften Ella Benezer. She liked being thorny. It brought in great royalties.

Marly's voice became stronger, claiming Ella's attention once more. "But please know that there is one Man who will never let you down. He's waiting patiently for you to take His hand..."

Ella paused the tape. Marly's face was different, beyond the pain of cancer. If possible, she was more beautiful than ever. A...peacefulness rested within her eyes.

She hit play again. "...and He wants to be the Lover of your soul. Give Him a chance, old friend. I love you and want to see you on the other side."

The television screen went black and Ella wept as if Marly had died right there in her arms.

The Present

"Hello, lovers everywhere. It's Valentine's Day." Rick Hart's annoying voice woke her way too early. She hit the snooze on her clock radio alarm. She hadn't slept well the night before.  The past haunted her dreams.

Exactly seven minutes later, Rick's voice pulled her from another nightmarish dream. "...I understand the Teddy bears are pouring in."

"Mmph." Ella hit the snooze again. What must her boss think? She buried her head under her pillow.

Seven more minutes passed. The radio clicked on again just in time for Ella to hear the end of yet another love song. "...If you want to know if he loves you so it's in his kiss."

"Yes lovers, that's the 'Shoop Shoop' song. Silly title, great message. Now, to Miss Love Scrooge, I issue a challenge."

Ella slid her head out from under the pillow to hear what Mr. Hart had to say. "I'll be doing a remote later today right in front of the Daily Chron building. If E. Benezer would like to have it out with me, she can do it on the air. Meet me at two o'clock and give me a kiss, then I'll stop this feud. However, if you won't come, be warned. I'll simply have to pursue you until you relent."

Ella sat straight up in bed. "Pursue me?" She stared wide-eyed at the radio as if the DJ could reach right out and lay a wet one on her through the air waves.

She threw the covers off. "That's it!" She'd show up at that remote and give him a large piece of her mind. She'd been trying to keep her private life private, but that was no longer possible. He needed to be put in his place!

After Ella showered and changed, Berta arrived.

"What's wrong?" Berta asked, cringing as if her boss might beat her.

"Is it that obvious?" Ella stormed into her office. "It's Rick Hart again. Every year we go through the same thing. Well, this time he's gone too far."

"I heard. He's called you out."

Ella nodded her head. "That's a good way to put it. Dueling pistols at two o'clock. Well, he'll wish he hadn't."

"What are you going to do? I don't think you can humiliate the man. He has, after all, made his courtship public."


"You can't see what he's doing? He must have it bad for you. Why else would he embarrass you like this?"

Ella took a deep breath. "Whatever. Let's get to work." She wouldn't let the disc jockey disrupt her day. She'd have to cut it short as it was because of his stupid challenge.

The two women worked throughout the morning. Ella glanced over at Berta as her hands flew over the keyboard and caught a flash on her ring finger. She grabbed at the digit. "What's this?"

Berta blushed, then blanched. "It' engagement ring."

"Where'd you get it?"

"My boyfriend, Tim, of course." Berta pulled her hand back and cradled it with her other.

Ella sat hard in her desk chair. "Does this mean you'll be leaving me?"

"Of course not. I'll still have to work, he doesn't make enough for the both of us."

"When did this happen?"

"Last month. You only just now noticed it?"

"Why wouldn't you share something this important with me?" Ella was beginning to see herself as others saw her. She should have commented on the ring, but truthfully, she'd never noticed it. Why would her employee not share this with her?

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you, but I know how you feel about this sort of thing." When Ella glared at the young woman, Berta stammered, "Love and...stuff. We were going to plan the wedding today. You know, spend the whole day together, make it special, but I had to work."

Ella rubbed her temples. What kind of a shrew would make her employee so frightened that she couldn't tell her why she wanted the day off?

"Listen," Ella finally said when she had a voice. "There's nothing so important that it can't wait until tomorrow. Be with your guy."

Berta looked at her skeptically. "Are you sure? You won't call me with a web site question, will you? Or make me come back to handle your fan mail?"

"I'm sure," Ella tried to smile, but she suddenly felt very tired. Her restless night must be catching up with her.

"Okay," Berta slowly picked her coat and scarf off the rack. "I'll see you tomorrow." She gingerly walked through the front door and as she pulled it behind her she whispered, "Thank you."

Ella shook her head. Berta acted as if she'd lost her mind. Maybe she had. She glanced toward the white box on the dining room table. Reaching inside, she pulled out the New Testament.

The Future

"Love is patient, love is kind." Ella read the pink highlighted text of 1 Corinthians, chapter thirteen. Throughout the book, Marly had marked a plethora of references about love. She cringed when she read, "It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs."

When she reached 1 John, chapter four, she found herself on her knees. "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God...Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." She wept as she read how God showed His love by sending His Son as an atoning sacrifice for sins. "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear..." These verses seemed to leap off the page.

What was she afraid of? Being hurt again? More importantly, why was she afraid of God's love? Maybe for the same reason she was afraid of Rick's love. She knew she would change inside.

Change. That was it. She wasn't ready to change her lifestyle. She glanced toward her wall of awards, all touting her expertise on books and articles teaching others how to live without love. She couldn't give that up, could she?

Suddenly, she remembered the time. She'd have to hurry to meet Rick at two o'clock.

When she arrived at the Chronicle, a crowd had already gathered. Applause greeted her as she stepped out of her car and made her way to the remote booth the radio station had set up for this fiasco. She rolled her eyes at the dozens of teddy bears next to the booth.

She heard Rick say over the fading last lines of This Guy's In Love With You, "I feel your pain, Burt Bacharach. Well, I can't believe my eyes! Miss Love Scrooge in the flesh. She's come to meet my challenge. Luckily we're on the air, so if anything happens to me, I have you all for witnesses."

He walked out of the booth dragging his microphone with him. "What will it be E. Benezer? A kiss? Or this..." He kicked the teddy bears aside to reveal what they were hiding.

Ella clutched her throat. A tombstone. Were those really her initials carved in careful precision?

"Yes folks, this is the time of reckoning," Rick informed his on-air audience. Then he looked at Ella with hope burning through those dazzling blue eyes. "What will it be, Ella? A kiss to stop this feud and start a promising future? Or is love dead between us?"

Is love dead? No, she didn't want that. Not from Rick and not from God. If she turned away from Rick now, if she didn't put her faith in something—or someone—if she didn't allow perfect love to drive out her fear as she'd read in Marly's Bible, her future would loom dark and bleak. Suddenly the awards, the prestige, and her reputation didn't matter anymore.

Her practiced speech evaporated. She straightened her shoulders, locked eyes with the persistent DJ, grasped the lapels of his sport coat, and soundly kissed him. When she did, she also kissed God, who whispered to her softened heart, "Ella, I am the Lover of your soul."

Copyright: Kathleen E. Kovach, 2005. All rights reserved.
If you wish to share my work, please do not copy without express permission, but I do invite you to send the link to those you feel will benefit from my stories. Thank you for understanding.

A Grave Promise

The Intriguing Man

The train jolted to a stop and Penelope wiped a cinder from her eye. The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad had just hauled the Christian romance writer and a couple hundred tourists through the splendid Colorado San Juan mountains and up almost 3000 feet in elevation. She knew that because she’d bought the guide book.

Her research trip started in Durango when she left her car in the secure parking lot at the train depot and hopped onto car number 402. The renovated box car had two rows of wooden bench seats running its length, with an aisle down the middle, reminding Penelope of church pews. The seats faced out, providing a panoramic display out the open windows on both sides.

As people began to file out, Penelope stayed seated, reflecting on what she’d just seen. Once the train pulled out of Durango, leaving civilization behind, God’s handiwork unfolded before her. They wound in and out of valleys, flirted with the Animas River, marveled at mountain peaks that appeared to touch heaven...Ooh, that’s good.

Penelope searched in her backpack for her notebook. She should have taken notes on the trip up to Silverton, but the beauty before her claimed all her attention.

A dark, wavy head of hair bobbed past the window. Penelope forgot about the notebook and leaned out to get a better look at the fellow underneath the luxurious locks. His clothing suggested a European influence, not the western garb of jeans and a T-shirt.

She dove head first into her backpack again, and came up holding the digital camera she’d put away when the trip ended. She managed to click off a couple of shots before he disappeared with the sauntering tourists.

When she finally hopped off the train, her backpack snugly in place and the strap of her laptop slung over her shoulder, she viewed the pictures on the screen of her camera. The stranger carried a small, worn leather suitcase. The next picture showed his face. Oh, yeah. That’s what I’m talkin’ about. He was as beautiful as she’d imagined when she first saw that thick ebony hair.

But the set of his jaw and the glint in his eye seemed to set him apart from the other tourists. This was a man on a mission.

“This will do,” Penelope said as she looked around the suite in The Alma House Bed and Breakfast. It had a living room with a comfy couch and a table for her laptop. A queen sized bed took up most of the bedroom, but an antique dresser sat in the corner. She had a bathroom all to herself instead of having to share the one down the hall. “Yes, this will do nicely.”

She opened her computer and started typing. Oh, how she hoped this trip would unjam her creative juices. Two years ago, she gave her life to Christ. Before that she’d been a semi-successful romance writer. Now, she wanted to switch to the Christian market, and found that her imagination had stalled somewhat. She thought she’d heard a clear directive from God. But now she wasn’t so sure.

Her thoughts turned to the mysterious stranger. She shrugged. “Just as good a place to start as another, I suppose.”

The man leaped from the train, she typed, clutching his last possession, a worn, leather suitcase. His eyes shifted about him. Had he been followed? He hoped not. No one must know about—her.

Man on the Move

She had written half a chapter when she looked out the window. Her mystery man was leaving the bed and breakfast.

“Is he staying here?”

Frantically, she threw her camera and notebook into a tote bag. An irrational urge caused her to run into the bathroom to comb her hair and swipe on some lipstick. “Just in case,” she told her reflection.

She scooted down the stairs, but it was too late. “Only one way he could have gone.” There wasn’t much to her left in the way of touristy things, so she headed right toward the gift shops on Blair Street.

“Blair Street was once the red-light district,” Penelope read from her guide book. “Dance halls, parlor houses, and saloons helped Silverton prosper. But the respectable folks living on Greene Street rarely walked the one block over to grace those establishments with their presence.”

The mysterious man walked the length of Blair Street. This was where it had started. This was where he’d first met—her.

Speaking of Mystery Man, where was he?

Not in the rock hound shop.

Not in the pottery shop.

Not eating anywhere.

Okay. He was a product of her overactive imagination. Mystery Man didn’t exist.

She decided to leave the “red-light district,” charming as the little shops were, and look for him on Greene.

“Yep, there he is.” The man was coming out of a general store, clutching a small paper bag.

Click. Click. Her camera caught every movement. He reached into his jacket and pulled out an envelope. People passed him on the sidewalk, but he seemed to be in his own world. He looked lovingly at the envelope, bulging and nearly as worn as his suitcase had been. He kissed it and placed it back inside his pocket.

She suddenly felt like aa trespasser. How many years could a person get for stalking?

The store clerk came out and tapped him on the shoulder. “You forgot your receipt, sir.”

“Oh. Grazie.”

“He’s Italian! Cool!” Penelope clapped her hand over her mouth. Did she really say that out loud? Thankfully, he never heard her.

The Italian man made his purchase, slowly counting out the American change. It hadn’t been stick candy that drew him into the store. Information. That’s what he sought. Information about—her.  

“What’s his name? Nunzio? No, that sounds like a mob boss. Francisco. Hmm.” That may be too pretty for this man who apparently was an athlete. He’d left town and was now marching up the hill to the Jesus statue.

Penelope’s book explained the statue as a twelve-ton marvel made of Carrara marble. Crafted in Italy to honor the  miners of the San Juans, it arrived late in the summer of 1959. Only a few months afterwards, a renewed mining operation began one of its most profitable periods ever.

“Then, in 1978,” she read aloud, trying to keep her heart rate normal while trudging up the steep path, “Lake Emma, located above the Sunnyside Mine, bottomed out and flooded the mine. It was a miracle that this happened on a Sunday evening when no one was in there.”

Penelope found it impossible to keep up. “I gotta get back on my Stair Master and quit using it as a clothes rack.” She had to stop several times to catch her breath. He, on the other hand, only stopped to scoop up wild flowers in what was beginning to look like an impressive collection.

Her Italian finally reached his destination. She grabbed her camera again and using the zoom, managed to find him sitting at the base of the Jesus statue. No, he was kneeling. Was he praying?

Penelope slowly lowered her camera. This was intruding. She’d let the man have his privacy. No pictures.

While the Italian was praying, Penelope sank onto a rock and began praying, too. She thanked God for saving her two years ago, praising Him for keeping her pure, even while writing the worldly scenes that made her books so popular. She’d never found the right man.

“Not that I’m complaining, Lord.” Well, maybe she was a little. “All I ask for is a small light in this darkness. Just a glimmer of hope that there is someone out there for me.” But she knew her main priority was to figure out how to write a Christian romance.

It will happen, my Beloved.

“Which, Lord? The husband or the book?”

Her Italian was on the move again. He’d placed something at the statue, and curiosity got the better of her. She didn’t mind giving the man his space, but if he placed it in plain view, that meant he didn’t mind people seeing it, right?

With her second wind, she managed to plod up the last few yards as the man sprinted down, heading off to the left, taking a path that skirted the back of town.

The wild flowers, those he had pulled on the way up the hill, lay reverently at the feet of Jesus. A folded note with the word “Grazie” was tucked underneath. He was thanking God for something. His trip to America? His incredibly good health? What? She opened the note. His handwriting was neat, bold, but oh, so Italian. She couldn’t read a word of it!

She peered off to her right, down the hill. Now where did he get to so fast? Maybe she should write this book about an Italian decathlon winner.

After placing the note and flowers as she found them, she hoofed the path he’d taken, which meandered through a forested area. Finally Silverton came back into view.

There! He disappeared between some buildings at the edge of town. She nearly rolled down the hill as gravity helped her the rest of the way.

She found herself back on Greene Street, standing in front of a stately building with a clock tower. Quite a different neighborhood than the red-light district. Her paper tour guide told her it was the San Juan County Courthouse. A red brick building near it was formerly the county jail. “Now it’s a museum. I’ll have to check it out... Later.”

A quick look up and down the street proved to be futile. Did he go into one of these two buildings?  “Where are you my illusive, mysterious, Italian man?”

A movement caught her eye. “No! Please don’t tell me you’re climbing another hill.” This one led out of town to the Hillside Cemetery.

Mystery Man Revealed

When she finally made it to the cemetery, she was shocked to see it wasn’t like those back home in Denver. No lush green lawn carpeting neat rows of marble headstones. This literally was on a hillside, with natural rock and pine trees as decoration. Wooden markers were rotting in the ground, some so weather worn you had no idea who was buried there, or when. Mixed in with the sad, forgotten markers were ornate stones of marble as well as simple memorials.

She wound her way through, getting lost in the stories embedded in the epitaphs. She could soon tell that 1906 must have seen a bad winter. Many people were killed by snowslide or exposure to the elements—freezing to death. Too many infants and children died that year, too. Then she learned that in 1918 there had been a devastating epidemic. Marker after marker, people of all ages died, but especially the very young and the very old. A quick look at her book informed her that Silverton had lost ten percent of its population that year to the Spanish Influenza, all within a three week period. Between 1918 and 1919, an estimated twenty-one million people died worldwide.

“How awful.” She said a prayer for the lost, not knowing what else to do.

Some graves were marked with simple wooden crosses. Others were more ornate with wrought iron fencing that looked eerily like a bedframe with no mattress. Clearly, Silverton in its day had been a mountain haven to affluent and poor alike. Eventually, they all ended up in the same place. Hillside Cemetery. Penelope shuddered and again lifted a prayer of thanks to her Savior.

Among the alpine sounds of wind rustled pine, chattering chipmunks, and squawking blue jays, came a steady stream of Italian words, pouring from a soul as if they had been pent up for a long time.

The Italian man, on his knees at the grave, had finally found—her. Too late.

He opened the paper bag and Penelope was surprised to see it was merely an empty mason jar, the kind pickles are made in. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the envelope. Kissing it as he had outside the store, he placed it inside the jar. Then he made sure the lid was screwed on tight. He set it aside and began digging in the hard dirt next to the grave with his bare hands.

Penelope thought about leaving him, but saw how he struggled. He’d never dig deep enough to bury that jar.

She approached him, her heart in her throat. It had been one thing to follow him, remaining anonymous. Quite another to have him look up at her with those black-brown eyes. She quickly looked around at the ground and found two jagged rocks. She knelt down and offered one to him. His smile illuminated the entire cemetery. And a place in her heart as well.

“Grazie.” He jammed the rock into the earth next to the grave marker. Minnie Elizabeth Butler Pedrini, born April 6, 1877, died October 30, 1918.

Neither spoke during the process. He worked until a bead of sweat escaped the dark curl of his sideburn. She scraped the dirt he loosened out of the deepening hole. When the jar was finally submerged in the earth, and covered over by large, calloused hands, he smiled at her and then helped her stand.

He pointed to his chest. “I am called Lucio Pedrini. And you?”

“I’m Penelope George.”

“Pen-EL-opee Gee-Or-gia.” She loved how her name danced when he pronounced it.

Should she pry into his activity? She glanced at the grave marker.

“She is my, grandmother.” He pointed to another wooden marker. “This is my grandfather.” He held up two fingers. “Two times great.”

She noticed the years they had died, his great-great grandfather Luciano Pedrini in 1907, the year of the great storm. His great-great grandmother Minnie in 1918, of the flu. Whatever Lucio had buried, he’d placed it between them.

“Allow me to explain.”

“Oh, it’s none of my business. You don’t need to tell me.”

He placed his dusty, callused hands around hers, and shook them as he spoke. “I want to tell somebody. You see, it is such a lovely story, and should be told to a lovely person.”

Penelope felt blood rush to her ears. She nodded and reluctantly pulled her hands from his gentle grasp.

“My grandfather...” Again he held up two fingers.

“Two times great...” she helped.

“Si.” His smile caused her heart to dance. “He came to this country to work on the railroad. Many people from Italia came to help.” He motioned to the other graves, and Penelope realized this was the Italian cemetery. They were standing in the Pedrini family plot.

“He met Minnie,” he continued, motioning to the first grave. “She was not, how you say, acceptable.”

Ah, they did meet on Blair Street.

“He loved her so, that he gave her his name. He talked of Christ and brought light into her dark world. Together, they started an American legacy, making many babies, some who did not make it,” he said, looking around at the tiny grave markers. “Others who had families of their own.”

Lucio walked over to another set of graves. “My grandfather, one time great,” he said holding up one finger. “Bennedetto. He worked the mines. He and my Nonna Rose wanted many babies, but only had two. He was also a victim of the terrible flu, only a few days after his mama.”

Penelope didn’t know if she could take much more. All the heartbreak. These people loved each other, and yet were separated too soon. And here she wondered if she’d ever meet anybody. How selfish.

She glanced around Bennedetto’s grave. “Where’s your great grandmother? She couldn’t still be living, could she?”

Lucio put his hand over his heart. “Sadly, no. But I did know her. My Nonna Rose,” he said with a smile. Clearly, this had been a special person in his life. “She called me Luke. After my grandfather died, she joined the army and worked as a nurse during World War II. By God’s grace, she was stationed in Italia. After the war, she stayed and found her husband’s family. She died in 1994 at the age of ninety-eight. I enjoyed her for nineteen years.”

“Well,” she said, nudging a stone with her foot. “You’ve got me curious. What about the rest of your family?”

“My grandfather Charles,” he said, this time with no fingers. “He worked the mines like his father until he also joined the army. He spent the war in Germany and became angry with God over the bad things he saw. His mama wrote letters telling him about the beautiful place she was living. Carrara, Italia. Lying near the Carrione River, in the Apuan Alps. He joined her after two years. But for him, it was not family that made him stay, but a beautiful girl named Leonora. She brought light into his dark world.”

Penelope smiled. That’s what Great-Great Grandfather Luciano did for Minnie.

“So, my papa was born. His name is Gian. He married my mama, Serena. They had three bambinos. Three strong sons.” He laughed and tapped his chest with a sinewy fist. “I am the last.”

They began walking and he held out his hand to steady her as she maneuvered over loose rocks. He held up both their entwined hands apparently noticing the dried mud on both.

“I almost forgot. Were you wondering why we were digging in the dirt?”

Yes! she wanted to scream. But she managed a polite, “Only if you want to tell me. I’m sure it’s personal.”

His eyes twinkled. “I have already told you my genealogy. What could be more personal than that?”

“True.” She laughed. Lucio Pedrini had turned out to be an interesting Mystery Man. She guessed she couldn’t call him that anymore. “Please, tell me Lucio.”

“First, may I ask a favor? Call me Luke, like Nonna Rose did. She was American, and so are you. I long to hear the name with your accent.”

“Okay, Luke.” How funny. She thought he was the one with the accent. “But Lucio is such a splendid name. What does it mean?”

“Light, just like Luciano.”

Penelope praised God silently. Hadn’t she just asked for a little light, a glimmer of hope?

Lucio continued on, oblivious to the impact he was having on her. “Nonna Rose wrote more letters than just to my papa. She wrote to Minnie and Luciano, telling them about the family, how their children all grew, how they died.”

They were on the path leading away from the cemetery. Penelope was glad, she’d rather think of the living.

“It was more of a diary, really.” Lucio said. “But to her it was a promise. When she moved away from America, she promised God she would never forget her roots. She thought of her husband’s Grandfather Luciano, and how he loved an unacceptable woman living in darkness. This to her was the redemption story. So, she promise God to write down the history of the Pedrini family, in dedication to His faithfulness. In those pages we buried, she tells of miracles, such as the marble used to build the Christ of the Mines Shrine. A miracle because the Pedrini family still living in Italia worked in the quarry where that marble came from. The statue that honors the miners, many in our family, was carved by stone excavated by people who loved Luciano. This statue is also dedicated in thanksgiving for another miracle.”

Penelope nodded her head. “I read that on a plaque.” She blushed because the only reason she had been there was to spy on Lucio. “It was to thank God for deliverance of the entire work force when Lake Emma flooded the Sunnyside mine.”

“Si. My uncle was spared.”

“So,” Penelope said as they reached town, passing the courthouse with the clock tower. “You’ve come all the way from Italy to ride the rails that your Great-Great Grandfather Luciano built, thank Jesus at the statue that your family quarried, and visit your ancestors.”

“Si. And do not forget the jar.”

“Oh yeah. And to bury Great Grandma’s letters. Isn’t that a waste though? All those beautiful words buried in the ground where no one can see them?”

“I photocopied them before leaving Italia. They are in Nonna Rose’s suitcase. I also came back to America to find someone to tell their story.”

Here’s your Christian romance, Beloved. Live it.

Penelope placed her hands over his elbow. “Luke,” she said, already discarding the Mystery Man tale. “I’m a writer...”

Copyright: Kathleen E. Kovach, 2004. All rights reserved.
If you wish to share my work, please do not copy without express permission, but I do invite you to send the link to those you feel will benefit from my stories. Thank you for understanding.

In Love With Rosy

Kit sighed. Her little brother now had physical therapy to endure, on top of the numerous surgeries to correct his leg injuries. This meant more time spent in Children’s Hospital.

“That’s okay, Sissy.” His pure blue eyes looked straight into her soul. “I like it here. I gots lots of friends.”

She blinked back the mist that had blurred her vision. It seemed Cubby was always teaching her a lesson. This time—patience.

Why did God allow the car accident that took her dad and step-mom and left Cubby with leg injuries at the age of two? Her father had been so happy, remarried to his second wife and starting a new family with a baby boy. How could God be so cruel?

Cubby, now five years old, wheeled his tiny chair around so he could look in his half-sister’s face. “I lub you, Sissy.”

“I love you, too. Now go play.” She motioned toward the room full of children, all with disabilities, but each full of energy as they interacted with the others.

“How’s it going, Kit?” Her friend plopped down next to her. Peggy, a plump, pretty woman, volunteered at the orthopedic play center. She was attempting to hold an active two-year-old girl with a clubfoot. “Looks like Angel Baby is doing well.”

Kit smiled at Peggy’s reference to Cubby. He'd made a name for himself around the ward, visiting with new patients, relieving their fears.

“Now we start the therapy process. Because of his injuries, he’s never walked. They tell me it may be painful for him, but it’s necessary if he’s to grow up normally.”

“He’s sure a little miracle. I’m going to miss him.” Was that a tear glistening in her eye? “Hey,” Peggy changed the subject. “Have you heard about Rosy?”

“Who?” Kit had become distracted by a vigorous game of racing cars on an imaginary track.

“Rosy. He’s a mystery clown.” Peggy whispered dramatically.

“Is that like a super hero with a secret identity?”

“In a way, yes. No one knows who this guy is, except, of course, Administration, and they aren’t talking.”

“Rosy, eh? How’d he come up with that name?”

“Supposedly from his painted rosy cheeks, but from what I hear, more likely for the roses that appear in mid-air for choice members of his audience—always of the female persuasion.” Peggy wiggled her eyebrows. “The children get balloon animals. He’ll be here next week.” She pointed to the flyer on the door.

“We’ll be here. Cubby will enjoy it, and I can use the distraction.”

“Speaking of distractions...” Peggy's face flushed as she looked over Kit's shoulder.

“How’s it going ladies?” Dr. Lovell entered the room and knelt by Kit. “Here’s the schedule for Cubby’s therapy.” He handed her a computer printout. “I checked on availability, and we can get him started tomorrow.”

“Thank you, Dr. Lovell.”

He placed his hand over hers and squeezed. “My pleasure. I’ve enjoyed getting to know Cubby, and I want to make sure he gets the best care possible. I also have a great deal of respect for you. That’s one lucky little boy to have you for a sister.” The doctor straightened his six-foot frame and winked. “‘Bye now.”

When he was out of the room, Peggy groaned, sounding like a lovesick cow.

“What’s wrong with you?” Kit asked.

“He’s so gorgeous.” Her eyes still lingered on the closed door.

“I hadn’t noticed.” But Kit had noticed. However, Cubby was the only man she wanted in her life for now. She had no room for any other kind of love.

“Way to go, Bear! You’ll be running bases in no time.” Jake Miller, the physical therapist, cheered.

“Look, Sissy.” Cubby alternated winces of pain with bright smiles. “I’m walking!”

Hanging, to be more exact. Cubby’s arms were draped over two parallel bars while Jake stood behind him with a firm grip on the special belt around the child’s waist.

Kit clapped her hands. “Good job!”

“Yep,” Jake said as he gently slid the boy’s feet along the mat, “Cubby Bear told me he’s going to pitch for the Colorado Rockies some day. So we have to get his legs strong.”

This was their fourth visit with Jake, whom Kit found to be personable. She also found him to be attractive. His six-foot muscular build could easily lift and move patients of all sizes. She found herself wondering what he did for relaxation. His tan arms, dark hair, and green eyes gave him an outdoorsy appearance.

For the next hour, she worked closely with Jake as he showed her things to do with Cubby at home to strengthen his legs.

What a cacophony! The combination of the children and their built up excitement over Rosy reminded Kit of an unstable nuclear reactor. The playroom could blow at any moment.

Cubby, always the exception to the kid rule, sat peacefully in his chair next to Kit. His serene features contrasted with the flushed, spirited faces around him. What do you know, Cubby? What do you see? Since birth, Cubby always seemed to be linked with an unseen world. A place from where he drew his strength. Kit often wished she could visit him there. Since the accident, she found it difficult to find that place within her to draw near to God. She had read her Bible and gone to church before the accident. Yes, she felt herself to be a Christian. But she hadn’t prayed for the last three years, unless you could count yelling at God as praying. She had so many questions, and Cubby had all of the answers.

“Children.” Peggy clapped her hands to get their attention. “We have a very special guest with us today.” The announcement brought the house down with cheers and clapping. “Young ladies and gentlemen...ROSY!”

A brightly colored figure burst into the room. Kit tried to look past the thick, white makeup and false eyelashes. Who was this mystery clown, anyway? Someone she knew? Someone she passed in the corridor everyday?

Rosy began with a few simple slight of hand tricks. He pulled daisies from little girls’ ears and made his finger disappear for rugged little boys. He spotted Cubby, and with a squeak-squeak-squeak of his size sixteen shoes, he waddled toward the tiny cherub.

Now that he was closer, she would surely be able to recognize him. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get past the ridiculous red cheeks and overstated mouth. She did notice that past his two-inch long lashes he had luscious chocolate brown eyes.

Suddenly, a rose appeared in her line of vision. Cubby clapped with glee. “Take it, Sissy. Rosy gived it to you.”

“T-thank you,” she managed to stammer, embarrassed to be singled out. Rosy’s white gloved hands squeezed hers as he placed the flower between her palms.

The rest of the show continued, but she barely knew it. The intoxicating scent of the rose...the real, thornless rose...made her light-headed.

When Rosy waved goodbye, the children voiced what she felt in her heart. “Don’t go, Rosy!” He shrugged his polyester shoulders and pointed to an oversized watch on his ruffled wrist. Glancing Kit’s way, he winked one overly lashed eye, then disappeared with a puff of smoke.

After the room had cleared, Peggy sidled up to Kit. “Well, that was special!”

“The children loved it,” Kit agreed as she picked up sticky paper cups.

“I’m not thinking special for the kids. I’m thinking special for you.”

“Whatever do you mean?” Kit’s cheeks warmed and she avoided Peggy’s eyes.

“The gossip mill is hard at work.” She indicated two uniformed women in the corner. “Some of the nurses have gotten roses, too.”

“So it’s not so special that I received a rose. Lots of people get them.”

“They’re a little upset.”


“They only got paper roses.”

"Everyone is a suspicious character," Kit mumbled to herself as she sat in the cafeteria sizing up everyone around her. Rosy had an average height, average build. “Sure! That should make it easier.” She looked around. Too tall. Too short. Too round. He could be a doctor or a janitor. He could even be a woman! No, not with those shoulders. And his hands were strong and warm. Even through his gloves.

His one identifying feature was the color of his eyes. Deep brown. Earthy eyes that belonged to someone who would enjoy hikes in the mountains, lengthy campfire chats, and trips to the zoo.

“That dreamy look could only mean one thing.” Peggy broke into her reverie as she sat down with a tray.

“Who is he, Peggy? Why did he choose me?” She cupped her chin while picking at her chef’s salad.

“You know what I think?”


“Rosy has a crush on you.” At Kit’s unladylike snort, she added, “Think about it. He had to plan to have a real rose the day you were there.”

“You’re sure no one has ever gotten a real rose?”

“Nary a one.” Peggy’s smug smile unnerved Kit. “So who is he? Let’s narrow down our possibilities.”

“I’ve been trying. He could be anyone in this room,” she wailed just before shoving a black olive into her mouth.

As if playing a game of Clue, Kit and Peggy ran through the cast of characters. Peggy began with, “What about Kurt the Flirt?”

“You’re kidding! That snot-nosed intern? Besides, he has freaky pale blue eyes.”

“Okay, how about Dr. Hawthorne?”

“Too old.”

“How could you tell how old Rosy was?” Peggy rolled her eyes.

“I just got the impression that he was younger. Late twenties. Maybe early thirties.”

“Cubby’s therapist? What’s his name?”

“Jake Miller. But he has green eyes.”

“Ooh! I know! Dr. Lovell.” Peggy slapped the table to make her point.

Kit considered him a moment. He did have brown eyes, and he seemed the right build. But if it had been him, did he really care about her that way? Or was the rose simply to show his appreciation of her dedication to her brother?

“I don’t know,” Kit said. She turned her head away from her friend.

“You already have him fixed in your mind, don’t you?” Peggy shook her head. “All you saw was his eyes and height and you already know his favorite color and what toothpaste he uses.”

“I know he fishes with a fly and loves long walks in the rain.”

The two giggled like silly teenagers while they finished their lunch.

Throughout the following weeks, Kit’s spirits soared. She looked forward to the therapy sessions almost as much as Cubby. She found out Jake was single and when asked about his chosen profession, he replied, “I was an athlete, in the emergency room more than on the field.” Cubby was on his back, pushing against Jake’s hand with his foot. “I soon realized it was more lucrative to be on the medical side rather than the injury side, so I moved into sports therapy thinking I could be a team doctor. But I also had this passion for children.”

“Like me!” Cubby interrupted from his prone position.

“Just like you, Bear.” He moved to the boy’s other foot. “Anyway, after winding my way down the career path, I found myself working with kids.” Jake looked at Kit and asked, “What about you?”

Kit told him how she had inherited Cubby. “He’s my life right now. Everything revolves around getting him better. Our parents’ insurance money made it possible for me to take only temporary jobs so I can concentrate on Cubby.”

“Thank God he has you.”

“If God had cared, Cubby would still have his parents.” She tried to suck in the words, but they spilled out too fast.

Jake started to say something, but a voice from behind interrupted him. “How are things going?”

Dr. Lovell approached Cubby and shook his tiny hand.

“Great,” Jake said, lifting the boy and helping him into his wheel chair. “We’re finished for the day.” He gave the doctor a run down of Cubby’s progress. While the two men were talking, Kit found herself scrutinizing Dr. Lovell. She tried to imagine long lashes surrounding his brown eyes.

“Glad to hear Cubby’s doing so well,” Dr. Lovell said to Kit.

A wink! The man winked as he said goodbye!

“Kit,” Jake touched her elbow when they reached the door leading to the hospital corridor. “Do you think you could get someone to watch Cubby tonight? I’d like to have dinner with you.”

Kit pulled herself back to the present. Jake had asked her out and all she could see in her mind’s eye were brown eyes and a single rose.

Jake had chosen a place near her apartment, a little bistro that served gourmet hamburgers and stuffed mushrooms.

“I’m glad you could make it,” he said after they ordered.

“Peggy jumped at the chance to watch Cubby.”

They filled the next few moments with small talk. She told him more about her dad and step-mom. Her parents had divorced when she was a child, but stayed friends, always putting her needs first. They both remarried, her mom just a few years after the split, but her dad waited longer. Kit was thrilled at the age of nineteen to learn she’d have a baby brother.

“Then the accident happened.” She stabbed a cherry tomato with her fork.

“Yes, it did. And you blame God.”

Kit jerked her gaze from her salad. It sounded so harsh coming from someone else.

“That’s why I wanted to talk to you,” he said. “Away from the hospital. Away from Cubby.”

She swallowed hard. Had she hoped this was a date?

“If you don’t want to talk about it, I’ll understand. But I want you to know I’m here for you.” His broad smile seemed genuine. “I have big shoulders, made specifically for leaning on.”

Yes, you do have big shoulders. Hmm. Rosy had big shoulders. But he also had Dr. Lovell’s eyes.

It would feel good to talk. She knew she had bottled everything in. Her slip of the tongue earlier at the hospital had caught her by surprise. She never said anything like that in front of Cubby. Jake’s manner evoked openness.

She began with her confusion. They were active in church. Dad was on the board. Cubby’s mother sang in the choir. “Why would God take them?”

“I have a verse from Hebrews. ‘Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.’ The Bible refers to our need a lot. God never promised us we’d be spared from bad things, but He does promise to help us through those times. If we seek Him when we’re hurting, He will strengthen us.”

Jake stopped to sip his coffee, and Kit asked. “That may help me in dealing with all this, but what about Cubby? He’s too little to understand.”

Jake reached across the table and wrapped his coffee-warmed hand around her fingers. “Cubby already gets it.”

Rosy was scheduled to entertain a month after his first appearance. Once again, Kit sat next to Cubby’s wheel chair in the playroom, soaking in the peaceful glow that radiated from deep inside his soul.

Cubby gets it.

Jake sure called that one right. For the past week, ever since their dinner together, Kit poured through her Bible, something she hadn’t done since the accident. She’d looked up everything that had to do with need and strength. She began to feel a hint of the peace she used to know, trickling slowly like early spring runoff over a dry river bed. It wasn’t about her, or even Cubby. In the midst of their circumstances, all that mattered was that God loved them. He was their source of strength.

“What’s the dreamy look for?” Peggy pulled up a chair. “Thinking about Ro-sy?” She sing-songed the name, mischief dancing in her eyes.

“I’m over Rosy. But I had dinner with Jake the other night. We shared a moment.”
“Ah, the therapist with a heart...a heart for you.”

“It was a spiritual moment.” Kit back-peddled. “He helped me put things into perspective. He quoted scripture.”

“Wow! Sounds like he’s a keeper.” Someone gave a thumb’s up signal by the door. “Gotta introduce our guest.”

Rosy waddled into the room and performed. At the end, he again presented her with a real rose—and a note. After his smoky departure, she read, “Meet me tonight in the cafeteria.”

After the show, Cubby was due another therapy session.

“Cubby Bear!” Jake called out. “Up and at ‘em, young man. We have work to do.”

Kit thought of her rendezvous. Should she go? Peggy told her she owed it to her sisters, then made her swear to reveal his identity.

When Jake leaned over to pull Cubby out of his chair, Kit noticed something on his collar. Something white that showed up well on his navy polo shirt. Pancake makeup, perhaps?

“Look at me, Jake.” He gazed at her with curiosity...and with brown eyes! “Do you wear contacts?”

“Well, yeah.” He put Cubby on the padded table.

“Different colors?” She placed her hands on her hips.

“I get bored with one color.” He shrugged, clearly not knowing why she was grilling him.

She narrowed her eyes. “I’ve had an invitation to meet somebody in the cafeteria later. I wasn’t going to go, because I’ve found someone I care for more.” She reached over and pulled on his collar. He tucked his chin to look at what she found so interesting. “Should I go to the cafeteria, Jake?”

Understanding dawned in his face. He smiled and pulled her close. “I don't think that's necessary.” Though their lips only touched for a fleeting moment, their lives were changed forever.

“Sissy,” Cubby sat up and poked his fair face between theirs. “Rosy lubs you!”

Copyright: Kathleen E. Kovach, 2004. All rights reserved.
If you wish to share my work, please do not copy without express permission, but I do invite you to send the link to those you feel will benefit from my stories. Thank you for understanding.

Odd Ducks and Tea

(Odd Ducks and Tea is the first in my Odd Duck series. Read on to meet an unusual old woman named Aunt Molly.)

“Look, there she is.” Krystal motioned for her husband to join her at the window. “She’s an odd duck, isn’t she?”

Krystal pulled the living room drapes back just enough to peek through the crack. The object of their interest turned toward them from the sidewalk. Aged laugh lines crinkled around grey-blue eyes, and a gloved hand rose in greeting.

Krystal groaned. Busted.

The couple side-stepped into full view and waved back weakly.

Ron frowned. “You’re so nosey!”

“I’m nosey? You didn’t have to stand there with me.”

“Why can’t you leave the poor woman alone? She may be odd, but you act as if she’s committed a crime. You need a hobby. Ever since you lost the baby…”

There it was—again.

Krystal sucked in an automatic response as Ron rubbed the back of his neck. His image blurred, and she ran from the room, brushing away the tears. When she reached her sanctuary that would have been the nursery, she heard Ron yelling at the children.

“Shut off that video game and go play outside!”

A door slammed, cutting off Sarah’s whiney voice. Krystal cringed. She knew she overindulged the children ever since the miscarriage. Still, Ron shouldn’t have yelled.

She heard the garage door open and the mini-van back out of the driveway. They would never solve anything at this rate.

An hour later, Krystal pulled the slightly burned pizza from the oven as Ron pulled into the driveway.

“Kids!” Krystal called the children, hoping they would turn off the game before their father walked in the door. They made it to the table as he entered the kitchen.

He glanced at the set table. “Just in time, huh?” He rubbed his neck and avoided looking her in the eye.


“I’ll go wash up.”


Her heart pounded. She should tell him how much he hurt her, but not in front of the children. Later.

A knock on the door interrupted any thoughts of reconciliation.

“Hi. I saw the van pull in from across the street, so I figured someone was home.”

“Come in, Harry.” She turned to her daughter. “Sarah, why don’t you make a salad for Daddy? That will make him happy.”

Harry ruffled the top of Sarah’s head. “I’ll bet you’re a big help to your mom. How old are you now.”

Sarah smoothed where he had mussed up, and rolled her eyes. “I’m eight.”

Krystal gave her a look, silently communicating that she had better behave herself. Sarah must have taken the hint because she left the room without another word.

“I’m sorry, she thinks she’s older than she really is, and she’s got her little brother believing that she’s really the mom around here. But she can pour a salad out of the bag like a pro.”

She motioned toward the couch and they both sat. “So, what do you need, Harry?” Krystal figured it was to borrow the electric hedge clippers or something. That is, until he began fidgeting with his hands.

His next words came out with an adolescent crack. “It’s about my great-aunt.”

The odd duck. Krystal placed a smile on her face.

Harry continued. “She’s just moved in with us.”

Her plastic smile began to melt. He’d better get to the point.

“Bev and I have to go out of town for a week.” He cracked his fingers. “Aunt Molly doesn’t fly.” Where is this going? “I was wondering if you and Ron could keep an eye on her. You know, make sure she doesn’t burn the house down or something.”

She tried to sound diplomatic. “Can she take care of herself? I mean, does she cook and…” How could she put this delicately? “And bathe herself and all?”

“Oh! Yes, she’s very self-sufficient, but she doesn’t know anybody here. We were wondering if you or Ron would be available if she needs anything.”

Was that all? “Sure. Not a problem.”

Harry relaxed. “I’ll tell her. You don’t know what a relief this is. You’re a God-send.”
As Harry left, Ron came down the stairs. “What was that all about?”

Krystal told him.

“You didn’t even consult me? What if I don’t want anything to do with that old lady?”

“You’re at work all day. What do you care?”

Krystal knew the arguing would continue until bedtime.

The next day, Krystal watched Harry and Bev load up their car. She should have gone out to introduce herself to Aunt Molly, but she hoped the old woman wouldn’t need her for anything. However, the couple hadn’t even turned out of the neighborhood when Aunt Molly’s gloved hand gave a muffled knock on the door.

A wrinkled face with grey-blue eyes stared up at Krystal. “May I come in?”

After a brief introduction, Aunt Molly glanced toward Sarah and Petey in front of the television. “I’m about to give a tea party and would love it if you and the children could come. I would have made formal invitations, but it was a spur of the moment thing.”

Krystal hesitated. “Who else will be there?” Had Aunt Molly made friends at the local senior center?

“Just us.” Those eyes—clouded with age, yet with a piercing clarity that seemed to look into the very core of a person.

Sarah and Petey put their game on pause. “Please Mommy? It sounds like fun!”

Who are these children? Only an act of God would pull those kids from their game.

She looked down at three pairs of hopeful eyes. “Okay. But not for too long. I have things to do around here.” She didn’t. She just wanted an out in case things got weird.

Aunt Molly clapped her gloved hands, not making a sound. “Come, children.”

Sarah and Petey went to hug the frail matron and Krystal gasped. “Be careful, kids. You might hurt her.”

Aunt Molly wrapped her thin, bird boned arms around each child. “I might be tiny, but a hug never hurt anyone.”

* * *

Krystal looked at her watch and nearly dropped a cookie in her empty teacup. Where had the past three hours gone? Aunt Molly was fun! She told stories of the English court, explained her fascination with glove and hat collecting, and confided that she’d never been quite the same since Stuart passed on.

I wonder if that’s why she’s so quirky.

“Stuart loved cookies. We’d eat them at high tea in the garden.”

“You must miss him very much.”

“He was a wonderful companion. You never realize how much you love someone until they’re gone. It’s a precious gift to care for those nearest you while they’re still around to care back.” The purple feathers on Aunt Molly’s hat quivered as if they were a part of Aunt Molly herself. The woman, though feeble in appearance, seemed to percolate with energy. That image struck Krystal as ironic, since Aunt Molly had made peculiar faces at the mention of Krystal’s love of coffee. But, she obviously knew everything there was to know about tea.

“You always steep tea slowly,” she told Krystal. “Never use a tea bag. That’s not the queen’s way. And never in the cup itself. Always use a separate pot for steeping. Why, if you offered tea to royalty the American way, you’d be thrown out of court.” The wrinkles near her mouth nearly met her ears as she smiled. “Love is like tea, you know. You choose only the best you have to offer, put it in a special pot, and let it steep slowly. Always linger over love. Let the flavor of your love always be on your tongue, so no matter what you say, love is given in return.”

Had Aunt Molly heard the arguing? She and Ron never spoke with love anymore—only accusations and anger.

That evening when Ron walked in, the succulent aroma of roast beef filled the house. Krystal had laid out his favorite home cooked meal on her heirloom tablecloth. Scented candles graced the dining room table, their reflections dancing in her best china.

“What’s this?” His look of surprise pleased her, but then his eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Why aren’t we eating in the kitchen?” His gaze trailed into the living room where the television sat, dark and abandoned. “Where are the kids?”

Krystal smiled, flavoring her words with love. “They’re upstairs reading a book Aunt Molly gave them. They’ve already eaten. Tonight is our night.”

She took his briefcase, loosened his tie, and led him to the head of the table.

That night they talked about the baby, her feelings of hurt whenever he blamed her, his feelings of inadequacy that he couldn’t have done something to save their child. Tears were shed. Love steeped slowly, creating a flavor to savor forever.

Within a week, Harry knocked on the door again. Both Krystal and Ron greeted him, holding hands.

After small talk Harry began massaging his fingers. “I hope my aunt wasn’t any trouble.”

Krystal placed her hands over his to keep him from cracking the knuckles. “We love your Aunt Molly.” She then patted him gently and scolded. “You never told us your family was English.”

Harry blinked. “I’m not, and neither is Aunt Molly.”

“Well, she talked of the court.”

“My aunt has a vivid imagination.”

“But, she and Stuart would have high tea in the garden.”

He shook his head. “She told you about that odd bird?”

“Is that any way to talk about your deceased uncle?” Krystal didn’t know her neighbor well, but she certainly didn’t like this side of him.

Harry burst into robust laughter. “Uncle?” He wiped his eyes. “My aunt is a spinster.”

Krystal looked at Ron and they both shrugged. “We don’t understand.”

“This is too good.” Harry cracked his knuckles, hard. “Stuart was a big white duck!”

Dear Reader: If you enjoyed this story, read how Aunt Molly reveals the beauty in a weed of a man in Odd Ducks and Periwinkle, and how she brings tradition to its knees in Odd Ducks and Clotted Cream.

Copyright: Kathleen E. Kovach, 2003. All rights reserved.
If you wish to share my work, please do not copy without express permission, but I do invite you to send the link to those you feel will benefit from my stories. Thank you for understanding.

Odd Ducks and Clotted Cream

(Odd Ducks and Clotted Cream is the second in the Odd Duck series. This is my Christmas tribute to Aunt Molly.)

"Oh, it's too pretty to use! Are you sure you aren't afraid it'll get broken?" Noelle held the fragile teapot with both hands, cupping the bottom. Aunt Molly, one of the more colorful senior citizens in the congregation, had brought her own teapot to the Christmas Tea planning meeting at the church. "I've never seen anything so beautiful!"

Delicate golden tea roses adorned the alabaster white china. Green leaves with a tinge of plum cushioned each rose. Noelle imagined the round pot to be a delicate bouquet straight from an English garden. It would be perfect for the annual tea.

Aunt Molly smiled, pulling her wrinkles toward her pearl studded ears. "This vessel was not meant to gather dust, dear. It will never be truly happy until it is serving others."

Noelle looked at the odd little woman. She wondered if Aunt Molly referred to herself or the teapot. She always seemed to be busy doing something at the church, shuffling about in her outdated purple dresses and adjusting her old fashioned hats with gloved hands.

Krystal, Noelle's friend, had introduced the octogenarian to the congregation last summer. They met after Aunt Molly moved into the neighborhood to live with her nephew. Krystal warned Noelle of Aunt Molly's uniqueness, even relating a funny story about the old woman's pet—Stuart, a large white duck.. It seems they had been inseparable at one time, and Aunt Molly still spoke of him with fondness. Later, Krystal confided that Aunt Molly had given her sage advice concerning her marriage to Ron. When Noelle inquired about that advice, just in case she ever tied that knot, her friend smiled dreamily and rambled on about steeping tea.

At twenty-seven-years old, Noelle still wasn't ready for marriage. Or maybe marriage wasn't ready for her. She knew no one with whom she wanted to spend the rest of her life.
"Hello, ladies. Is it tee time again? May I play through?"

Lon Thornton. Youth pastor and child all in one. She rolled her eyes as the other women in the fellowship hall giggled at his golfing pun.

"Hey, my band is available to perform at your tea." His teasing eyes settled on Noelle.

"I don't think the women are ready for your style of music."

"Why not? It's Christian."

"Christian rock!" She folded her arms to let him know the subject was closed. Though they were both in their late twenties, she was way more mature.

He laughed and continued to walk through the room on the way to his office. Before disappearing, he said, "Oh, I hear you're heading up the Christmas decorating committee. Welcome aboard, partner." He then ducked down the hall.


She had volunteered to decorate the church, offering her love of the Christmas tradition. After all, her mother had named her after the holiday, and Noelle considered herself an expert.

Now she would be partnered with Lon Thornton? The man who wore jeans to church and purposely messed his bleached-tipped hair to look like he'd just rolled out of bed? The man who argued that choir robes were archaic and the King James pew Bible should be replaced with a modern English version?

After hearing rattling glass, she realized she still held the teapot and gingerly placed it on the table. She glanced at Aunt Molly whose faded gray-blue eyes suddenly seemed to look straight into her.

* * *
Noelle felt the blood rush to her head. Surely he wasn't suggesting they put that eyesore in the sanctuary.

"There is nothing wrong with this tree," Lon said. She barely heard him through the buzzing in her ears. "Look, the branches light up at the tips. They even change colors, so you're never bored."

"I will not put a white fiber optic tree in the sanctuary." She folded her arms. He could drag that thing into the foyer, but he'd have to get past her if he wanted to go through the double doors. "It's not even big enough."

"We can put it on a table. Most of the congregation can't see the bottom from where they sit anyway. And look." He tossed a flat package to her. "It comes with a metallic silver tree skirt."

Was this the vision of Christmas future? Fake trees with color spurting from their tips? She dreaded to see what his idea of ornaments were.

"Pastor Thornton." Her attempt to be formal, and perhaps remind the man of his age, was met with a teasing grin. "Would you care to hear my ideas, or have you made up your mind without consulting me?"

"Miss Douglas," he responded in kind. "I would love to hear your ideas. Do they involve hours in the freezing cold, squeezing through narrow rows of imperfect trees, strapping one to my car and  lugging it back here?"

Noelle felt her cheeks grow warm. "You make it sound like a chore."

"I just can't see why we should go through all of that, keep the tree watered throughout the season, and then throw it away when we're done. It's wasteful and costly. My tree can be used for many years to come."

Yes, his plastic tree would last a long time in a landfill. Clearly they were at a stalemate.

* * *

Noelle sat in the fellowship hall, her head resting within the folds of her arms on the table. If money were a concern, she would pay for the tree. Lon had no idea how important it was to uphold the tradition of Christmas. As youth pastor, he should be teaching the children all about the rich history of the holiday. Caroling, the holly wreath, gift-giving. Instead, he expected them to worship next to a Macy's icon representing the latest percent off sale.


Noelle looked up to see Aunt Molly walking slowly toward her carrying a serving tray. She jumped up to help.

"What is all this?" Noelle asked, scanning at the food on the tray. She also noticed the rose teapot and two matching cups. However did the frail woman carry it all?

Aunt Molly lowered herself onto a metal folding chair using the table to steady herself. "I was showing the ladies in the kitchen how to make sandwiches and desserts for high tea. I thought maybe you'd like to sample some and let us know how we did."

Noelle's stomach growled. She and Lon had argued through lunch. "Thank you." She chose a delicate crustless cucumber sandwich first, cut in quarters. The cream cheese melted in her mouth, and she tasted a hint of dill. After sampling several other delights, she asked, "Where did you learn to make these?"

"Did you know that high tea was invented by the Duchess of Bedford? At the time only two meals were served—breakfast and dinner. She decided that a new tradition must be started or she might starve in the middle of the day. She called it 'that sinking feeling.'"

Tradition? Had Aunt Molly overheard her argument with Lon?

"Have some clotted cream on your scone, dear." Aunt Molly used her gloved finger to push a crock of white, fluffy cream and a jar of strawberry preserves toward her.

"This is delicious," Noelle said with the food still in her mouth. "Oh, excuse me," she said after she swallowed. She was sure the queen would have her head if she talked with her mouth full.

Aunt Molly leaned back in her chair. "Stuart used to love Christmas. We'd sit near the fire and open our presents." Noelle had to force a serious expression. The old woman spoke as if her pet duck were human.

After her wistful mood had passed,  the oddly endearing woman fixed her gaze on Noelle, once again. "This cream was bought in a store. But to make real clotted cream takes much time and patience. It's a process of hot and cold, two opposites that produce a perfect product."

Two opposites. That's what she and Lon were. Hot and cold.

"You take fresh, unpasteurized cream and let it stand for twelve hours. Then you heat it slowly, so it never boils. If you let it get to the boiling point, it will be ruined."

Noelle felt things had almost reached the boiling point in the foyer. It was a good thing they had walked away from each other.

"Remove it from the stove and then store it in a cold place for twelve more hours. After that, the best part can be skimmed off the surface. That's the clotted cream."

The best part rises to the top. She and Lon were hot and cold, and nothing good had come from that union. Could it ever?

Aunt Molly's eyes took on that knowing gleam again.

* * *

Noelle sought Lon out, finally finding him in his office.

"This is good," Lon said, flicking his tongue over his lips to draw in every crumb. "What do you call it?"

"Clotted cream." Noelle offered Lon another scone.

"For such an awful name, it sure is tasty." He brushed the crumbs from his fingers over the china luncheon plate. Noelle smiled at the way he tried to be so proper when she knew he'd probably prefer to use his jeans.

"This is my peace offering. I shouldn't have been so judgmental over your ideas."

Lon settled back in his leather desk chair. "Apology accepted, if you'll accept mine." She found his crooked grin endearing, and she was glad he didn't answer in his usual teasing manner. He was actually quite attractive when he managed to be serious.

"I was thinking," she ventured, "would it be possible to use both our ideas?"

He leaned forward and cocked his head. "What do you have in mind?"

"Could we put a real tree in the sanctuary, and put the modern one in the youth room?"

He scratched his chin. "Maybe the Fellowship Hall? More people would see it."

Noelle sighed. It wasn't a perfect solution, but at least the real tree would be where she wanted it.

* * *

"That one! No. That one! Oh, it's crooked. Maybe this one. Yes. It's perfect." Noelle smiled at Lon's expression. His eyes had glazed over and he had that guy look—the one her father would use when he didn't understand her or her sisters.

"Are you sure?" His voice came out ragged, maybe a little weary. "We've been to four lots. I've lifted twenty trees. I've been poked with cones, needles, bark—and will this sap ever come out of my sweater?" He picked at a minuscule spot on his right shoulder.

"Didn't your family ever take you tree shopping?"

"No, we always had an artificial tree."

"How unfortunate for you." Noelle breathed in deeply. "Smell that? That's the smell of Christmas."

"The smell of Christmas is ham, spiced cider, and chocolate." He took a tiny whiff. "Mom did keep a pine scented Air-Wick near the tree. It almost smelled like this."

Noelle rolled her eyes. He simply didn't get it.

They returned to the church and dragged their perfect tree into the sanctuary. After setting it into its base, Noelle laid out her plans.

"I think gold ball ornaments would be pretty," she said while walking around the tree. "Gold garland. Gold tinsel. Gold angels and a gold star. White lights. Yes, that would be perfect."

Lon glazed over again.

"What?" she asked, perhaps a bit too snippy.

Lon further irritated her with a fake yawn. "Boring! What about those colored programmed lights that twinkle, then run, then fade in and out?"

"The congregation wouldn't be able to concentrate on the sermon!"

"Well," the youth pastor said while rubbing the back of his neck. "Could we at least put a little character on the tree? Musical instruments maybe?"

Was Lon actually trying to work with her? She looked past the messy hair and the faded jeans. When had he become attractive?

"Musical ornaments would be perfect. And we could get different colors of velvet ribbon to tie around them."

Lon's face lit up, and she felt hers changing colors like the fiber optic tree in the other room.

* * *

"At least we didn't have to fight over this." Lon pulled the two-foot-tall manger scene from various boxes. First the plastic shepherds, then the wise men. Noelle noticed how gentle and reverent he handled each piece. After Joseph and Mary, he set up the wooden manger that would eventually hold the baby Jesus.

Noelle glanced around at the empty boxes scattered about the sanctuary floor. "Where's Jesus?"

Lon shuffled through the boxes with increasing panic. "He's not here!" His face blanched. "Did I forget Jesus? I thought I'd checked that box on the order form. I remember I was in a rush because my band was rehearsing that afternoon." He shook his head. "There's no time to get one now."

Noelle sunk onto the first pew and leaned her head into her hands. She had finally started to enjoy decorating with Lon. But now, because his priorities were in the wrong place, her perfect manger ensemble would be ruined without the matching Christ child.

"Ahem." A tiny voice gained their attention at the back of the sanctuary. Aunt Molly entered, the purple feather on her hat vibrating with each shaky step. She carried a small bundle of cloth. Upon closer inspection, Noelle realized it was a doll.

"I want to show you what I found in my things." Aunt Molly said as she shuffled to the couple. "I thought I'd donate it to the nursery."  She sat next to Noelle and handed her the doll gently, as if it were a real baby. Noelle noticed the fine features on the sleeping face. A faint halo could be seen surrounding the dark curls. "It's the baby Jesus."

Noelle glanced toward the empty manger, then at Lon. He was already studying her intensely. "Aunt Molly," Noelle ventured. "Would you mind if we borrowed this doll until after the Christmas Eve service?"

Aunt Molly's eyes sparkled, even in their dimness. "I would be honored if you accepted my Jesus."

A thrill went through Noelle's spine. The woman had a way with words!

* * *

The sanctuary looked beautiful.

Noelle had forgiven Lon, especially once she saw how upset he'd been at himself. The crises averted, they worked side by side to grace every window with garland and each pew with red bows. Poinsettia plants now adorned much of the large room, and her tree stood tall, a perfect centerpiece among this holiday banquet for the eyes.

Why then, did she feel something was missing?

"Merry Christmas Eve," a deep voice said behind her. She whirled to find herself within hugging distance of Lon Thornton. He clasped his arms around her and squeezed, but what started out feeling like brotherly affection turned to something more awkward.

Noelle pulled away and stammered, "Merry Christmas Eve to you too, Lon." She swept her hand toward the garnished sanctuary. "It's perfect. Thank you for working with me."

He dipped his head and cleared his throat. Was he blushing? "I'm getting compliments on the other tree, too. The children did a great job of decorating it. And they had fun guessing which color would spring out of any given branch."

"I'll bet you instigated that game." She was suddenly grateful for clotted cream—a tasty product made from hot and cold.

He stuck his hands in his back pockets and rocked on his heels. "Yeah. I guess I'm just a big kid."

She had to agree, but after getting to know him, she realized she didn't care.

"Oh," she burst out. "I know what's missing—Mistletoe." The moment it burst from her lips, she wished she could snatch it back. The surprised look on his face spoke volumes, as did his next words.

"We don't need Mistletoe."

He leaned down and placed a sweet kiss on her lips, and then left it there to burn into her heart.


Aunt Molly! Noelle looked at her watch. It was about time for people to start arriving for the candlelight service. They had asked Aunt Molly if she'd like to come early so she could place her baby Jesus into the manger.

The old woman walked to the display carrying the tiny bundle in her arms. Lon helped her to her knees. She reverently laid the baby in the manger and stayed to arrange the cloth. When she was through, she continued to kneel, gazing at the face of the beautiful doll.

Noelle wondered if she had trouble letting go of the toy. She'd probably owned it for many years. Aunt Molly began to hum a faint tune. Noelle couldn't make it out from where she stood. A lullaby? To a doll?

People began filing in and she motioned to Lon to help the old woman up so she wouldn't be a distraction to the beautiful adornment they had created together.

The look on Lon's face suddenly changed. Wonderment? She could imagine that look on the shepherd's faces as the angels broke out into song. He motioned her to allow the people in, then shocked her as he also sunk to his knees emulating Aunt Molly. As the congregants arrived they found their seats, but then, sporadically, after noticing the couple at the tree, rose and joined them. Each person who knelt with the odd couple began humming the same tune. Noelle soon recognized it as "Silent Night."

Aunt Molly wasn't attached to a doll, she was loving on the Baby Jesus. She wasn't latching onto something she owned, she was letting go and giving herself completely to her Savior in the manger.

The Savior in the manger.

That's what had been missing. It didn't matter that all the ornaments matched or that a real tree stood in a place of honor.

Jesus had been missing from her holiday tradition. Like the Duchess of Bedford who changed tradition to include high tea, Noelle changed her view of tradition, and joined the growing crowd around the manger to sing "Silent Night."


Dear reader, If you enjoyed this story, and would love to know how steeping tea saves a marriage, please read Odd Ducks and Tea and how she reveals the beauty in a weed of a man in Odd Ducks and Periwinkle. ~Blessings, Kathy.

Copyright: Kathleen E. Kovach, 2004. All rights reserved.
If you wish to share my work, please do not copy without express permission, but I do invite you to send the link to those you feel will benefit from my stories. Thank you for understanding.