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A Mother's Promise
By Ruth Scofield
Steeple HillCopyright © 2006 Ruth Scofield
All right reserved.
Lisa Marley guided the dual-wheel rusty red pickup truck into the deep shadows of the parking lot. A lighted sign declared she had reached the right place — Blue River Valley Community Church.
"Okay, God," she whispered. "Here I am, as promised."
She turned off the growling engine and headlights. A few windows illuminated nearby houses, but there was only silence, and the church stood quietly before her in the autumn mist of early evening.
Silence was good, Lisa thought, only she'd grown unused to it. She shivered. From the cool evening or from nerves, she wondered?
Only a small number of cars were scattered across the parking lot.
Her friend Beth Anne Hostetter had warned her there wouldn't be a large crowd when she'd issued the invitation to New Beginnings. The organization was meant for men and women over forty who needed just what the name implied. A new beginning in life. A second start.
Beth Anne said the person in charge of this ministry, Dr. Michael Faraday, was a very capable, compassionate man, and Lisa could trust him.
Sure, sure... Trust.
Beth Anne knew Lisa's fears. Lisa had faith in very few people these days. Sometimes not even in herself.
Those were the middle-of-the-night times when she lay still, listening to her own heartbeat, begging God to talkto her. To tell her how to get her life back.
Did God hear her? She didn't know, was never sure. But she'd promised Beth Anne to give New Beginnings a chance, and she was willing to do anything to help rebuild her life.
New Beginnings wasn't just another singles group, Beth Anne insisted. It offered hope for people. Some were in crisis, some in a rut. Others simply needed to change their attitudes toward life.
That certainly described her — Lisa Jane Marley. Beth Anne's passion about a loving God had drawn Lisa to a Bible Study last year, and over the months, Lisa had tentatively given her heart to God. Now she was learning the hard part — trusting Him with every ounce of her being.
Her nerves felt stretched as she contemplated getting out of the truck and walking through that door. What if those people asked questions?
Her stomach tensed. Beth Anne had assured her that no one knew of Lisa's recent history, but still...
If anyone asked Lisa what she'd done this last year or two, or where she'd been, she was outta here.
Yet Beth Anne had said Lisa could make new friends. She couldn't ask for more. Beyond that, the group's ideals appealed to Lisa. It offered her a place to work on her future, with people her own age who had similar needs.
She clenched her eyes shut while a familiar gut-deep yearning and hope rose high. Please Lord, let this count...
"Okay, God," she murmured aloud, taking a deep breath to steady herself. "This is it, soYou gotta keepYour promise and stay with me. I'm not doing this all alone."
Swiping her hand down her thigh, she opened the door and slid to the ground. As she started across the lot, another car pulled into it. Instinctively, she turned her head toward the new arrival. The high beams hit her face, momentarily blinding her.
Lisa froze. Her heartbeat jumped, then raced. Her lips went dry. For one long moment, she couldn't make herself move.
The car parked, and Lisa blinked. On shaky legs, she ran the last few yards to reach the sidewalk that led to the church door.
"Hey, wait up!"
She ignored the masculine shout and kept walking. Almost at the door, she paused long enough to suck air all the way into her lungs.
"Sorry about that," came a blithe baritone behind her. Lisa glanced over her shoulder long enough to take in a tall, rather broad-shouldered male flashing her a wide grin. There didn't seem to be a jot of real regret in his shadowed expression.
"Anyone ever tell you it's rude to blast your high beams in a crowd?" she snapped.
"A crowd?" Another car was turning into the lot, but the tarmac was empty of pedestrians. The man fell into step beside her, a scarred guitar case dangling from his grip.
"A place that's often crowded, then."
He reached past her for the door handle. The air between them stirred, and she sidestepped to avoid closer contact, only to bump into the instrument case.
"Sorry," he said again.
"I'll just bet," she muttered under her breath.
"Hello and welcome," greeted a tall, rangy man as Lisa entered the foyer. A touch of silver threaded his thick brown hair, and Lisa guessed him to be in his forties. He was neatly dressed in a casual cotton checked shirt and summer-weight slacks. Clear green eyes met hers with neither flirtation nor judging assessment.
"I'm Michael Faraday."
Lisa was about to answer when her companion spoke up enthusiastically.
"Hiya, Mike. How's it going?"
"Hi there, Ethan. It's been a good day." Mike nodded, as though conceding something that was understood between them. "Glad you remembered the guitar. Jimmy has his, too, so we can open with a little music. Who's your friend?"
"Don't really know, preacher. Found her out in the parking lot looking lost. She just sorta followed me up to the church door."
"I didn't!" Lisa protested, then clamped her mouth closed. He made her sound like a lost puppy looking for a home.
A lot of teeth...she thought as she turned her annoyed gaze on Ethan. His grin widened, his eyes sparkled. Lisa felt a slight flush creep up her face.
He's cute and he knows it! Jerk...
She was here at New Beginnings for a lot of reasons, but flirting wasn't on her agenda.
Forgetting her earlier hesitancy, she offered the minister her hand in greeting. "I'm Lisa Marley."
"Glad to meet you, Lisa." Michael spoke with sincerity. "I hope you'll feel at home with us tonight."
Three other people came into the foyer, and the minister turned to welcome them. "Hi, folks. Go on into the fellowship hall. It'll be roomy enough there."
Lisa hadn't a clue which direction to take, so she fell into step with the others. They headed down the hall on the left, through double doors opened wide, into a spacious, airy room. At one end, a semi-circle of chairs already held nearly a dozen people, chatting to one another. Off to the side, a man had hooked up an electric guitar and was strumming a few chords.
In the center of the room, a huge Bible lay on a simple oak podium.
"See you later." Ethan left her to join the other musician. "Uh-huh." Her reply was so noncommittal as to be ungracious, but she wasn't about to encourage the guy. In Lisa's opinion, most men didn't need but a flutter of interest to try a pick-up. Finding guys who wanted her wasn't her problem.
It had never been her problem. "Lisa!" Beth Anne called her name. Lisa hurried toward her friend, gratitude and relief flooding her.
"I'm only going to remember first names," Beth Anne said as she started introductions. "This is just the third meeting for New Beginnings, you know. Let's see. Jenny, isn't it? And Pam, and Karen and Cindy. The guys are Lorne, Matt, Charlie and Jimmy, helping out on the guitar. And the man you met as you came in — can't recall his name."
"Ethan," Lisa supplied.
"That's it — Ethan Vale," Jenny said. Her blue eyes shone in keen interest. "Can't wait to hear him. He played in a band once upon a time."
"I've heard him," Cindy added. "At a banking function, before his wife Sharon died. The band played bluegrass that night, but Sharon said they also did country-and-western. He's really good."
Obviously, Ethan was already popular among this crowd, Lisa mused. And he was widowed. A thin ribbon of sympathy threaded through her consciousness. She let her gaze roam his way and watched him, tuning his acoustic guitar along with the other musician. He had long, masculine fingers that stroked the strings with care.
Lisa put a clamp on her wayward thoughts. She'd had enough romantic entanglements to last a lifetime, and they'd all been disastrous. Besides, she didn't intend to let anything get in the way of what she had to do now.
The fact Ethan was widowed did tie in with what Beth Anne told her about this group. New Beginnings was made up of all kinds of people, in all phases of life, looking for new directions.
"Didn't know that," Beth Anne remarked, gazing around the room as others drifted in. "Well, I haven't met everyone yet. Looks like our crowd has increased, praise God. You sit tight, Lisa, and I'll join you in a minute."
Lisa exchanged a general greeting with the others, too nervous to offer a smile, and sat down in the second row on the end seat. Michael stepped up to the podium and welcomed them all, waited for the low hum of chatter to quiet, then opened the meeting with prayer. True to her word, Beth Anne slipped silently into the chair next to Lisa, giving Lisa's knee a reassuring pat as she did.
Lisa sighed and let her thoughts join in as Michael's rich, deep voice intoned an earnest praise of God's presence in their lives, their rock in time of trouble, then sought God's attention, help and blessings for them all.
Yes, Lord. Do You hear him? He's a minister, so I guess You just have to listen to him. And I guess he's first in line for receiving Your help. But I'm here, too, and I'm one of those who needs all the help I can get. I can't afford to mess up again. Oh, by the way, thanks for the job. I can get tips as a waitress. If the court had let me work in a place that served drinks, I'd earn more, but that's okay. I'll work as hard as I need to, You'll see. If only Aunt Katherine will see reason...
Fifteen minutes later, as the musicians let the opening music drift to a close, Lisa conceded that Ethan knew how to use his guitar. The man could play.
So what? Lisa mused. That didn't cover much by way of character.
She was into character study these days — good, bad, weak, strong. Her observations of those around her had become an obsession.
The meeting covered a lot of ground. There were announcements of planned activities, most of them strictly for fun and bonding, Bible studies held in small groups, and the private counseling services that Michael offered.
Maybe she should go see him, Lisa thought. Would Beth Anne go with her?
"We officially launch an ad in two weeks," Michael went on, "for our first big event. An all-day seminar entitled What Are You Doing for the Rest of Your Life? and subtitled, Following God's Blueprint."
She certainly needed that. But it was on a Saturday... Her thoughts drifted; she'd have to work.
"Blueprint?" commented one of the men. "Guess I was standing behind a door when they was passing out them things, "cause life has sure passed me by."
Excerpted from A Mother's Promise by Ruth Scofield Copyright © 2006 by Ruth Scofield. Excerpted by permission.
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