Sweet Sanctuaryby Sheila Walsh, Cindy Martinusen Coloma
Before Wren was a mother humming lullabies, she was a lonely daughter aching for unconditional love.
Wren Evans is an ordinary mother parenting an extraordinary child. Charlie and Wren share an incredible bond—forged in the fire of a single-parent home. Their intimacy insulates them from the outside world. And Wren will do anything for Charlie, even if it… See more details below
Before Wren was a mother humming lullabies, she was a lonely daughter aching for unconditional love.
Wren Evans is an ordinary mother parenting an extraordinary child. Charlie and Wren share an incredible bond—forged in the fire of a single-parent home. Their intimacy insulates them from the outside world. And Wren will do anything for Charlie, even if it means uprooting their little family yet again to expose him to the best musical training.
But Charlie has a deep desire of his own. With the earnest belief only found in children, Charlie goes to his heavenly Father with a request: "God, please make my mom happy again." The answer to his prayer comes soon and unexpectedly with the fulfillment of a promise made long, long ago.
- Thomas Nelson on Brilliance Audio
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Meet the Author
Sheila Walsh, Bible teacher and speaker, is the author of the award-winning Gigi, God’s Little Princess series, God Loves Broken People, The Shelter of God's Promises, and a novel, Sweet Sanctuary. Sheila lives near Dallas, Texas with her husband, Barry, and son, Christian.
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By Sheila Walsh Cindy Martinusen Coloma
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2011 Sheila Walsh and Cindy Martinusen Coloma
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe morning was already off to a difficult start when Wren found the flyer tucked inside her ten-year-old son's backpack. Sandwich making and mental planning for her meeting with the library director came to a halt.
Where had the paper come from? Charlie's music teacher must have given it to him. She couldn't think of any other possibilities.
If not for the location given on the paper, Wren would have dismissed it completely. But the touch of cold in the late summer morning, winter's gentle whisper, spoke to the deepest part of her mothering instinct. Wren felt a chill down her back, and she carried the f lyer as she closed the kitchen window, reading the words for the third time.
Summer Music in Malta "Play with the masters where the masters played." June 15– August 1st Applications due November 1st
Charlie's father lived on the Mediterranean island of Malta, or he had the last she'd heard any news about him. Charlie didn't know this. He only knew his dad lived in Europe somewhere, and that they hadn't heard from him since Charlie was a toddler. The absent father was their norm and thus seemed no absence at all.
Wren wanted to wake Charlie and ask him about the flyer, but instead she took a deep breath to calm herself. Anything that hinted of her ex-husband sent her into a momentary panic. He'd abandoned them to pursue his dreams in Europe, and after ten years, Wren had become warily comfortable that he wouldn't return.
She'd been packing Charlie's lunch and putting a quote for the day into his backpack when she'd found the paper. The quote she'd written was taken from Peter Pan: "All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust."
The words took on new meaning now, and seemed more for her than for Charlie. She wrote "Love, Mom" with a heart at the bottom and slid the card into the zippered compartment. She kept the flyer on the counter to ask him about it and made coffee.
On mornings like this, Wren wished for Anne Shirley from her favorite childhood series Anne of Green Gables, or Jane Austen or another of her friends from literature, to discuss life over coffee—or perhaps tea would be more appropriate. Their blend of sense and sensibility and bosom friendship would surely bring clarity to the worries that kept disrupting Wren's sleep. Even Scarlett O'Hara could offer brittle but sound Southern advice. Wren hadn't been sleeping well, as if unwanted change tapped at her subconscious and this flyer was the catalyst.
The women would sympathize with her past mistakes—falling in love and marrying spontaneously without reason or logic, which now meant raising a son without that all-essential male influence. She hoped they'd encourage her in the life Wren lived now—safe and controlled, organized and meaningful.
"Mom," a voice sounded at the edge of Wren's thoughts.
Jane, what would you tell me to do with my life? And how much therapy will Charlie need when he grows up?
Wren imagined Scarlett taking her by the shoulders and declaring, "Fiddle-dee-dee—if I can fight the Union and save my plantation, then you can keep it together!"
"Mom. Mom. Mom."
Wren turned from where she'd been staring into the open refrigerator. "I didn't hear you."
"What book were you living in?" Charlie, still wearing his pajamas, rubbed his eyes with his head tilted to one side.
"It's Women in Literature month at the library." She smiled, trying to brush away the lingering pessimism. Charlie nodded as if this were the most normal thing in the world.
"Do your book characters know if there's any milk for my cereal?"
That's what she had been doing in the refrigerator. Wren reached in for the gallon of milk, holding it up to see if any was left. Charlie was notorious for leaving empty milk or juice cartons in the refrigerator.
"Didn't we just buy this milk?" Wren asked as Charlie opened the pantry to search for his cereal. She considered asking him about the music flyer, but decided to wait until he was a little more awake.
"I've been drinking three glasses a day so I'll grow taller. I'm the shortest kid in fifth grade."
"I remember your grandpa said he grew so much one summer that his classmates didn't recognize him when he went back to school."
"That would be so cool. I wish that would happen to me."
"Here, I think we have enough for your cereal." Wren set the milk on the tile countertop next to his cereal bowl as Charlie hopped onto the barstool with a box of Cheerios in his hand.
Wren returned to search the refrigerator, hoping to find a hidden coffee creamer tucked behind the leftover lasagna, some take-out cartons, the yogurt, and orange juice. She always bought more than one creamer to avoid being caught without any.
The day will not be ruined because you don't have cream for your coffee, she told herself.
"Mom, is everything okay?" Charlie asked as if he were an adult stuck inside a ten-year-old body.
Wren glanced at him as she closed the refrigerator without finding creamer. Perhaps this was the moment to ask him about the flyer. He watched her with that morning sleepy look she found adorable, and Wren decided to wait until he'd had a few more minutes to wake up.
"Everything is great. Not too much sugar this time. Cheerios don't need sugar."
"Oh yes they do."
"Sugar stunts your growth."
"Funny. Now don't be avoiding my questions. Are you running from the law or something?"
Wren raised an eyebrow and tucked a loose strand of her brunette hair behind her ear. "I do need to pay a parking ticket."
Charlie poured his cereal, then flooded the bowl with the last of the milk. He dropped in two spoonfuls of sugar and nearly a third but stopped at Wren's warning expression.
"Maybe you're a double agent, and the gig is up."
"Double agent? Since I speak only English and a little Français, I wouldn't make a good double agent."
"Or so she says," Charlie said, giving her a scrutinizing look before stuffing a spoonful of cereal into his mouth.
"You can interrogate me further in one minute. I need to see if the dryer got the wrinkles out of my blouse. Less than ten minutes till takeoff—we're running a little late already."
"Don't spies know how to iron?"
"Not this spy," Wren said and opened the back door.
"I knew it," Wren heard Charlie say as she stepped onto the cold stone walkway in her bare feet, making her wish for her slippers. She shivered in the morning chill and spotted a single gold leaf resting on the green back lawn. In the distance came the faint rhythm of the waves on the rocks below the property.
Wren tiptoed across the damp lawn and picked up the leaf. Summer was making its final exit, and before long the harsh Maine winter would bind them inside or keep them wrapped up whenever they opened the door, shoveling snow from the walkway and scraping their car windows every morning.
Sometimes Wren almost missed the Chicago winters when at least the roads were cleared and the electricity didn't regularly shut off. Wren and Charlie had survived one winter in the caretaker's house on the property of her family's old vacation home, but she'd planned for them to move on before facing another one. Now they'd need to stock up on firewood and prepare the house and themselves for winter's fury. More than that, the longer they remained on this property, the longer she felt they were cheating fate.
This land could become a trap, holding them captive and stealing their future as it had stolen so much of her family's life since childhood. Wren wasn't willing for it to take Charlie's dreams and future as well.
When he was three months old, after his father left them, Wren had held Charlie up to watch their first sunrise, just the two of them. She'd promised that she'd take care of him, give him the greatest life possible, and do everything she could to provide him with the very best.
Wren had a plan, and if the pieces came together today, she'd be much closer to fulfilling her promise to her son. Today might be one of those turning-point days. The outcome of her meeting with the library director would mean either proceeding forward, or else—Wren wasn't quite sure and didn't want to consider it. The morning interruption with the flyer and its reminder of her ex-husband was a mere distraction, she decided. She needed to press forward and keep ominous thoughts far away.
Wren tucked the leaf into her robe pocket and hurried into the laundry area in the woodshed beside the house. As she opened the dryer, the heat warmed her face. But it was too much heat. She looked at the knob; it was pointed at hot.
"No, no, not this shirt."
Wren returned to the house, holding the shrunken vintage blouse before her. Charlie nearly spit out a mouthful of Cheerios, trying to hide his laughter.
"Poor Mom. Another shirt eaten by the dryer monster."
"I need to learn how to iron," Wren muttered to herself as she sped down the hall to finish getting ready. This had been one of her favorite blouses. She quickly tossed clothing from her closet until she found a poor substitute in a plain blue dress shirt. She buttoned it up, smoothing it over her black cigar pants.
"Charlie, are you ready?" Wren called when she heard him using his drumsticks on various objects around his bedroom.
"I'm ready, Mom," Charlie called back, and she heard final taps on the elaborate chimes he'd created from various metal and glass objects from around the house, including a metal sculpture she'd made in college, some tin roofing from the shed, and several of their drinking glasses. He burst into her bedroom and whistled when he saw the clothing piled on her bed.
"I know why this is happening," Charlie said in a sing-song voice.
"Why what is happening?" Wren tucked one last bobby pin into her hastily twisted French bun and took a last look in the mirror at her light makeup.
"All of our bad mornings this week."
"You can tell me in the car. I have an important meeting with Dr. James right after I take you to school. We can't be late." Wren should have been preparing for that meeting.
Charlie followed her down the hall. "Does the word important come from the word import? Maybe it comes from people importing ants. Get it? Import-ant?"
"How do you know a word like import?"
"Franklin's dad is in the import business. So what import-ant meeting do you have?"
Wren noticed the tag on the back of Charlie's shirt. "If you get your shirt turned right side out and get those teeth cleaned before they turn green, then I'll tell you about my meeting tonight over tacos."
"Deal." He stuck out his hand, and Wren shook it quickly.
"Now go. Teeth."
Charlie turned back down the hall, and Wren dashed to the kitchen where she gathered up her bag—checking to be sure the book she was reading was tucked inside for her lunch hour—along with Charlie's lunchbox and a cup of cream-less coffee.
"Charlie, let's go," she called.
Wren saw the flyer as she heard his quick footsteps coming toward the kitchen. Late or not, she had to ask. "I found this paper in your backpack."
Charlie rushed into the room, ending in an abrupt skid as he saw what she was holding. His face displayed his telltale guilty expression.
Before either could speak, the doorbell rang.
"Who's that?" Charlie asked, turning toward the door.
"Let me get it," Wren said, setting everything down on the counter. Who could it be? They were too far out for many visitors, especially for a Wednesday morning. Before Wren could reach the door, it creaked opened and a face peered inside.
"Oh, lovely, you're home! I was afraid you'd already gone for the day."
Grandma Ruth bustled into the entryway.
"Nana!" Charlie yelled, rushing past Wren and diving into Ruth's arms. "Look, Mom, Nana's here."
Wren stared at her grandmother, unable to process the sudden arrival.
"Are you staying with us?" Charlie asked.
"That I am Charles, that I am."
Through the front window, Wren saw a taxi turn around in the driveway.
"Grandma." Wren embraced her petite grandmother. "What a surprise."
"Not so much of a surprise. God sent me." Ruth produced a sweet Betty White smile.
"Really? I knew it!" Charlie said. "Woohoo! I knew God was listening."
What is going on? Wren tried to muster a sincere smile. "Did you try calling? I didn't know you were coming."
"Of course you didn't."
"Oh." Wren could think of nothing else to say. She wondered if this had something to do with Charlie's suspicious behavior or the flyer about Malta.
Charlie picked up one of Ruth's suitcases outside the open door and carried it awkwardly into the living room. "Nana already said it was God who sent her. Because I prayed, remember I prayed, Mom? That's why all these things are happening."
Charlie and Wren had been praying more regularly at bedtime. While she struggled to bring God into her daily life and the little worries of the day, Charlie's faith seemed to encompass him wholly. But Charlie's recent prayer had shaken her considerably.
"Yes, I remember, but I'm sorry, Grandma, we're late." She looked at Ruth. "I could ... take the day off?"
"Oh no, no, no, darling. I'll be just fine. It was a bit of a journey, as you can imagine. I took the train up and then the taxi—it's been a long night and morning. I'll enjoy resting up. Maybe I'll start dinner?"
Wren raised an eyebrow. Ruth was notorious for her lack of cooking skill.
"It's Taco Wednesday—you can come with us," Charlie said.
Wren carried in Ruth's second suitcase, surprised at how heavy it was, then she grabbed Charlie's violin case beside the door. "I'm really sorry to leave with you just arriving. Are you sure you'll be okay?"
"I take care of myself every day, don't worry. If I need something, I have your cell phone and you have mine."
"Okay, and please take my bedroom, though it's quite messy right now. I couldn't find anything to wear this morning. How about ... how about I come home for lunch?"
Ruth folded her hands and smiled. "That would be lovely. I'll make tea."
"Charlie, I have your violin case, you go get in the car ... right now," Wren said, emphasizing now as her growing tension leaked into her tone. She smiled at Charlie's quizzical expression. "We need to go, little man."
"Let me get my backpack." He raced back toward the kitchen.
"Sorry again to run, but love you, Grandma." Wren kissed her grandmother's cheek and caught the scent of White Shoulders perfume.
"See you at lunch," Ruth said. "I have a surprise to tell you both."
"A surprise? You know I'm not big on surprises," Wren said with a frown. She had rarely seen anything good come from a surprise.
"Then a little teaser. You're going to throw me a party!"
"Bye, Nana," Charlie called as he raced through the middle of them, ran down the drive, and jumped up toward the overhanging wisteria vine that grew over the front walkway.
"Yes! Nana's here," Charlie shouted as he opened the car.
"A party?" Wren asked, trying not to grimace.
"Well, not just you, but you, your sister, and brother."
"What?" Wren hadn't seen her siblings in years and only rarely spoke to them. They'd gone their separate ways and for good reasons, all stemming from their childhood here on this very land.
Ruth patted Wren's arm. "I'll tell you more at lunch. Stop worrying, dear. Now off to work."
As Wren scurried to the car, she wondered what her grandmother was up to. And how in one morning had Wren and Charlie's well-protected life started to seem so fragile and frayed?
Chapter Two"Did Nana say we're having a party?" Charlie asked when Wren slid behind the wheel of her faded Subaru.
"Something like that."
Wren turned on the engine; the clock made her groan.
"Uh-oh. Mrs. Bailey might make me write sentences," Charlie said with an exaggerated sigh.
"And I'm going to be late for my importing-ants meeting."
Charlie laughed and slapped his knee. "Good one, Mom."
Excerpted from Sweet Sanctuary by Sheila Walsh Cindy Martinusen Coloma Copyright © 2011 by Sheila Walsh and Cindy Martinusen Coloma. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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