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Laurel Shadrach Series 5 Finally Sure
By Stephanie Perry Moore, Kathy Ide
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2004 Stephanie Perry Moore
All rights reserved.
wanting only peace
It was such a joy being back in Conyers, Georgia, for the holidays. I loved college, but sometimes I missed being at home with my family.
"I am so in love with You, Lord," I said to the dimly lit sky as I leaped up off the frozen ground in front of my parents' home. It was Christmas Eve and I was going to be happy even though my life wasn't perfect.
I had just heard the news that my paternal grandfather had had a stroke. I didn't have a boyfriend. I knew I probably wouldn't make my college gymnastics team. But none of that really mattered.
I did want my grandfather to be OK, of course, especially since he wasn't saved. His salvation was really important to me, so I prayed that Granddad Shadrach would receive God into his heart.
It had taken eighteen and a half years, but I was finally getting to the place where I was comfortable with myself and satisfied with my relationship with the Lord.
As a cold breeze played with my long brown hair, I started dancing in the snow. Come what may I knew I didn't have to fear anything because I was a child of the King. I could practically hear God's voice in the wind, telling me He loved me.
"Yes, Lord," I shouted, letting the cold air kiss my face. "I love You too!"
Although I was by myself, I was not dancing alone. God was twirling me in His arms.
As the howling wind whisked me around, I felt the Lord saying to me, I'm so proud of you, Laurel. This last year and a half has been tough. But I'm here. I love you. I love all the people in the world. Make sure you share that with everyone you know.
My friends sure did need the Lord. All of them were going through some sort of drama. My best friend, Brittany, had been HIV positive for almost a year. She seemed to have the disease under control, though, and I hoped things would remain that way. Meagan, my other close high school buddy, had recently learned she was pregnant and decided to take a semester off to have the baby. Robyn, my African-American friend, was depressed about having had an abortion, and she wanted to change schools to be near Jackson Reid, her aborted baby's father. I thought her reason for changing colleges was a bad one, but I prayed her transition would be smooth.
My family was in chaos too. My dad, who was a pastor and a really cool guy, was upset about his father dying of cancer, especially since Granddad didn't know the Lord. My dad had been kinda taking things out on my mom, which really bothered me.
The older two of my three brothers, Liam and Lance, were still mad at each other over my friend Meagan, whom they had both dated for a while.
Liam, who was a year younger than me, was very talented. He loved music and led the church youth band. Liam's biggest problem was that he was judgmental. He thought he was almost as perfect as God. Not!
Lance, who was a year younger than Liam, was a ladies' man. Or so he wished. He was actually a sports jock and sort of a hothead, always starting brawls.
My youngest brother, Luke, had been a computer geek all his life. After he started high school a year ago, he became cooler. But that was leading to a whole different set of problems.
With all the difficulties of my friends and family weighing on my heart, I had decided to come outside to be alone with God, to let Him know how I felt and seek guidance from Him.
As I listened to His response in my spirit, I knew He was telling me that I had to trust Him. I needed to always be satisfied with Him. He wanted me to have peace in my heart, even if there wasn't peace in my circumstances.
That's what I longed for too. I didn't want to let the crazy world dictate my life. I could be peaceful if I kept my eyes on the Lord. I could be the calm center in a tornado, a light in darkness.
At that moment I felt so close to God, I wanted to remember this night with Him always.
Lord, I love You so much! And I know You love me. All I need is You. Please don't let me forget that. When the storms come, and I know they will, help me stay calm. Let me carry You with me always.
When I stepped back inside the house, I heard my three brothers arguing. I couldn't tell what they were upset about. But as soon as I walked into their room, their verbal disagreement turned into a physical fight.
Liam and Lance started rolling around on the floor like idiots. Luke just stood there watching.
"What's going on in here?" I asked my youngest brother.
"We were all talking about how none of us wants to go to Granddad and Grandma's house, and it turned into this." Luke stepped out of the way as our wrestling brothers came crashing toward us.
"Stop it, y'all," I hollered.
Lance and Liam acted like they hadn't even heard me. They just pulled each other up off the floor and started pounding on each other.
I turned to Luke. "Help me break this up." I tried to pry the fighters apart, but Lance shoved me to the side. I landed on my bottom with a thud.
Luke grabbed his brothers' shoulders and tried to push them apart. "They're like glue," he shouted over the racket.
Finally my parents marched into the room. Luke slipped out as quiet as a shadow. Liam and Lance stopped fighting as soon as they noticed Mom and Dad standing in the doorway, both with their arms crossed.
My mother demanded to know what was going on. Liam stared at the floor, his left eye all red and puffy. Lance tried to hold his ripped shirt closed. Obviously, neither one wanted to answer Mom's question.
I decided to spill the beans for them. "They don't want to go to Arkansas for Christmas."
I wished we didn't have to make the ten-hour drive, either, but we'd done it every year since we moved to Georgia five years ago. When we were younger, the trip had been fun. But now that we each had our own life, we all preferred spending our time hanging out with friends.
Mom glared at Dad. "This is all your fault. I told you the kids didn't want to go to your parents' house this year, but you wouldn't listen to me."
"What are we supposed to do?" my dad said, raising his palms. "We obviously can't leave them here, not with the way they're acting."
Mom gently touched Dad's shoulder. "Dave," she said softly, "I don't see why the boys have to go if they don't want to."
"We're all going and that's final," my dad said. Then he stomped down the hall, with Mom right behind him.
My dad's stern voice sent shock waves through me. He usually referred to my mother with some term of affection like honey, sweetie, or baby. I almost never heard him yell at her.
"It's gonna be a great trip," I mumbled.
Liam stalked down the hall to the bathroom and slammed the door. Lance jumped on his bed and turned his back to me. Clearly there wasn't anything I could do at that moment to resolve this mess. So I went to my room and knelt by my bed.
Being light in darkness is really hard sometimes, Lord, I prayed. Please show me how to respond as You would.
* * *
That night, I dreamed about Charlie, my college library partner whom I'd grown fond of. In the dream, he and I were running away from a bunch of enormous dinosaurs. The T-Rex was gaining on us when an angry voice startled me awake.
"Why didn't you pack all that stuff last night?" my dad roared from his bedroom. "I guess I have to do everybody's job around here."
It was only two in the morning. What is going on with my father? I wondered.
I knew some ministers acted one way in church and a different way in the world, but with my dad, what you saw in church was always what you got.
I'd noticed a change in him lately, though. Something was wrong. I wondered if he was even more worried than I was about his father's physical and spiritual health.
Within a few moments, everyone in the house was rushing around getting ready to leave. My dad was yelling and pouting about his schedule being off. Personally, I didn't see why we had to leave so early. A few hours later wouldn't have made much difference, it seemed to me.
I could tell my mother was mad, as I saw her roll her eyes and bite her bottom lip. But she didn't disagree with him. She simply finished packing.
I wasn't sure I agreed with the way my mom just went along with whatever my dad wanted. If the Lord ever allowed me to be someone's wife, the whole submission thing would be a gray area for me. Where was my mom's backbone? Where was her strength?
When I got my own suitcase packed, I carried it downstairs and dropped it near the front door, then went into the kitchen, where Mom was packing a cooler with ice.
Remember, you're a light, my heart said. Be a light to your mom.
"Need help?" I asked.
She stopped and gave me a big hug. "The cooler's all filled," she said after our embrace. "Can you check on the boys, see if they're ready?"
As I went back upstairs, I said a silent prayer for my dad. He had never reacted to stress so crazily before. Then again, his father had never been severely ill before. If my dad ever had a stroke, who knew how I'd react. Since I wasn't walking in his shoes, I couldn't judge how he was wearing them.
An hour later, we were all in the van. Dad still looked mad, but he'd stopped yelling, so my brothers and I went back to sleep.
When I woke up, Liam was in the driver's seat. His swollen eye had turned black, red, and purple.
We pulled into McDonald's at our usual halfway point a little after 8 A.M. Unfortunately, we still had five more hours to go. After using the restroom and getting some breakfast, we continued to drive west.
When we finally arrived in Arkansas, we went straight to the hospital. My father had called ahead to see how Granddad was doing and what room he was in.
A nurse at the reception desk told us only three visitors at a time were allowed, and Grandma was already in there. So my brothers and I waited in the lobby while our parents took off down the hall.
I stared at the light blue walls, the magazines on the tables, and the small television in one corner near the ceiling. Lance and Liam sat in a couple of plastic chairs near the TV, and Luke sprawled out on a small couch in the opposite corner. Before I could decide where I wanted to sit, I heard my grandpa's voice.
"Why did you let them come out here? I'm fine, I tell you! Why do you always have to mess up everything?"
A nurse left her station and scurried down the hall. As she entered a room, I saw my grandma coming out. Her face was white and tears streamed down her cheeks. She fled down the hall, past the lobby, and continued along the corridor.
My brothers and I stared at one another. Then I took off in the direction Grandma had run. When I reached the end of the hall, I looked left and right. No sign of my grandmother. I went right for a while, but didn't see her, so I backtracked.
I finally found her in the chapel. She was sitting in the front pew facing the altar, her head in her hands. I tiptoed down the aisle and stood beside her, stroking her back. Her head remained bowed, and I heard her sniffling.
I sat beside her. Lord, what am I supposed to say?
The chapel door opened. We both turned around. My dad stood in the doorway. "Come on, Laurel," he said, his voice strained. "We're going to Grandma's. Granddad doesn't want us here."
I looked at my grandma and saw tears in her eyes.
"Mom, we'll see you back at the house," Dad muttered.
Hesitantly, I left my grandma's side. When I got to the door of the chapel, I turned around and saw my grandmother kneeling at the altar, praying softly.
It was Christmas Day. All I wanted was to give my grandfather a hug, make sure he knew Jesus, go to my grandparents' house, eat a big family meal, and thank God for sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for my sins. But it sure wasn't working out that way, and there was nothing I could do about it.
We all piled back into the van. My father drove with an angry expression on his face. My mother sat in the passenger seat looking sad. My brothers acted as if they would rather be anywhere else in the world.
"We didn't have to leave the hospital," my mom said to my dad in a soft, concerned voice.
"With my father carrying on the way he was, I didn't see any point in staying," Dad said. "We drove all this way and he told us to get out. We just have to let him cool off. We'll be at the house when he's ready to talk to us."
"But your mother needed us," Mom persisted, "and we just left her there."
Dad sighed. "Laura, these are my parents, and I've got to handle this the way I see fit."
My mother's lips tightened and she stared out the window.
"I can't believe my father was fussing at my mom like that," Dad grumbled.
"Why not?" Lance rebutted angrily. "You're fussing at Mom."
Dad swerved the van to the side of the road, slammed on the brakes, and turned around. "I am tired of your smart mouth, young man, and I'm sick of your defiant behavior."
"Just following your lead, Dad," Lance said. "Look in the mirror before you come after me."
I leaned slightly left, figuring my father was going to take a swing at Lance and maybe get me on the way by. But he just sat there, staring at his son. After several deep breaths, Dad turned back around, put the car into drive, and took off down the road.
I reached over to hold my brother's hand, but he yanked it away.
With three generations of Shadrach men filled with rage, and no one sympathizing with one another, I knew somehow, some way, that cycle had to be broken. It was Christmas, after all. And this family definitely needed the Savior.
Lord, I wondered, how can this be fixed?
I wished I was back at college. I wanted to talk to Charlie, the sweet, mysterious guy I'd met in the library. He really seemed to understand me. Nothing romantic was going on between us, although I wondered if our friendship might turn into something more. I missed him and wished he was there beside me so I could tell him what was going on and he could give me some good Christian advice.
I didn't even know his real name, and he didn't know mine. The first time we met, we'd given each other pet names—Charlie and Lucy, after the Peanuts comic-strip characters—and the names had stuck.
I remembered dancing with the Lord the night before, confident that God was all I needed. I knew I had to have His help to get through this mess with my family.
I took the box of tissues off the seat beside me and handed it to my mother. She accepted it with a smile that let me know hope was around the corner. God had His eye on my family. I just had to stay calm in the midst of the storm. I needed to trust in Him.
* * *
My mom's parents lived a few miles away from my dad's folks, so Dad dropped us off at my maternal grandparents' house and then took off. We were welcomed with open arms and big hugs from my grandmother, my grandfather, and my Aunt Sara, Mom's only sister.
As I looked around my grandparents' house, I noticed my Aunt Sara's furniture mixed in with the things I was used to seeing there. The old rocking chair still stood in the usual corner of the living room, but cardboard boxes were scattered around it. My aunt's six-piece set of Gucci luggage sat near the doorway, and my cousin's CD collection was stacked up behind Grandma's antique couch.
I sat on the couch and grabbed the gray afghan off the back. As always, it gave me a cozy feeling inside.
After my brothers went to the back room to wash up for dinner, my grandmother sat beside me. "Laurel, dear," she said, patting my knee, "it's so good to see you."
"Why are Aunt Sara's things here?" I asked.
"She and the girls are staying with us." The seriousness in her voice made me think my aunt was there for more than just the holidays.
I had two cousins on my mom's side. Simone was seventeen, a year younger than me. She had big hazel eyes and long blonde hair. She was sarcastic and outspoken, could never keep a secret, and loved to start arguments.
Rebecca, on the other hand, was polite and sweet. She was nineteen, a year older than me, a sophomore at Arkansas. She was incredibly beautiful with long honey-blonde hair and bright blue eyes.
"I know you and Simone don't always get along," my grandmother said, "but I don't want you to fuss at her this visit. Their family is going through a tough time right now." She lowered her voice to a whisper. "Sara's getting a divorce."
My heart practically leaped out of my chest. I felt like part of my insides were sliding away.
Grandma gave me a hug and then went out to the kitchen to start getting dinner on the table. As I walked into the family room, I saw Becca and Simone sitting on a love seat watching TV I wanted to ask them about their parents' divorce. But I decided to keep my nose in my own business and went to the bathroom to wash my hands.
We all gathered around the dinner table, the parents and grandparents at one end and my brothers, cousins, and I at the other. Every person there seemed to have a sad look on his or her face. But the spread my grandmother had prepared smelled heavenly. I hoped the turkey and side dishes would brighten everyone's spirits.
The dinner conversation was light at first. Our grandparents got updates on how we all were doing. Not wanting to worry them, I only shared my high points. They were glad to hear my transition to college had been a smooth one.
While the conversation continued at the far end of the dining table, Becca whispered to me, "Where's your dad?"
"I'm not sure," I said, shrugging my shoulders. "He's been pretty moody lately. Hopefully he went somewhere to cool off."
Simone's lips curled into a smirk. "Hey maybe your parents will split up like ours."
Excerpted from Laurel Shadrach Series 5 Finally Sure by Stephanie Perry Moore, Kathy Ide. Copyright © 2004 Stephanie Perry Moore. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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