Chapter 29

Rod’s half-sister, Deana, lived in a yellow brick bungalow. Neglected bushes ran rampant across the stone pathway. Tattered flags served as curtains.

I approached the front door with caution, skirting old dog droppings. Ringing the bell, I backed away from the door but nothing happened; I heard no chime. I tried it again. Nothing. I knocked hard enough to scruff a knuckle. I heard a dog bark and could make out voices in the house. The front porch light came on, shining into cobwebbed corners. Expecting to be greeted by Caitlin, my smile faded when instead Deana pushed the door open and stepped out.

When she moved close and leaned in to talk I could smell an acetone odor on her breath. She wiped saliva from her lips.

I frowned at her.

“You women are all alike,” she spat. “All you want is money, and you’ll ruin your husbands just to get it! You think you’re so high and mighty? You think you can come in here and destroy my brother? Well forget it lady!”

Deana continued with her venomous assault. A strange sensation surrounded me. I could see her mouth moving and felt the spittle on my cheek as her anger rose and her cursing became more animated. I could hear her words and understood that they were directed at me. My senses were on hyper-alert and my body readied itself for flight. Yet her arrows of hatred were not penetrating.

I stood my ground without answering back. This confused Deana. Her words faltered and she stumbled backwards. Spent, she had nothing left to say. She cocked her head sideways at me, gave me one last puzzled look, then turned and silently entered the house.

A moment later the door creaked open just enough for someone to gently push Caitlin forward.

“Mommy!” Her smile and outstretched arms softened my heart.

“Hi, Caity-Cat.” I gathered her up and carried her to my Jeep.

Driving away, I let out a deep sigh and held tight to the steering wheel to steady my shaking arms. What was that all about?

I shook my head and turned my attention back to Caitlin. “How was your day with Daddy at Aunt Deana’s house?”

Caitlin sat forward, thrilled to tell me about the antics of “Sid” the dog. She talked about the dog all the way back to the apartment. When I asked her again about Rod, she shrugged her shoulders and repeated the silly tricks that the doggy did.

Later, after Caitlin settled down to sleep, the phone rang.


“Hi, Sissy. How’d it go?”

“Hey, Janice. It went okay. Caitlin seems fine. But…”

“But what?”

I tried to keep my voice steady. “Well, something very strange happened when I picked her up. Deana, in her usual pleasant manner, laid into me about what a rotten person I am.”

Janice laughed. “That’s not news. You and Deana never did see eye to eye.”

“Yeah, but that’s not the weird part. During Deana’s verbal attack, I heard her words, yet I didn’t absorb them. A protecting bubble enveloped me. In my mind’s eye, I imagined an invisible shield around me as her words hit and slid down this wall. The saying, ‘water off a duck’s back’ came to mind. It was as if I was protected from her attack.”

“Oh, I know what that was! I’ve been praying for a hedge of protection to surround you and Caitlin. You had the awesome opportunity to actually feel it.”

“What?” The hair on the back of my neck stood up.

“Well, since Mom told me that Deana would be supervising, I’ve been praying specifically for safety and protection for you both. God’s done just that.”

“You believe that?”

“You don’t? How could you not after actually experiencing it?”

“Yeah, I suppose.”

“It’s something to think, and pray, about. I’m glad everything turned out okay today. I’ll keep you guys in my prayers. Talk to you soon. Love ya.”

“Love you, too.”

Before retiring to bed, I looked in on Caitlin and found her sleeping soundly in bed with Blue-Casey sharing her pillow.


It felt different coming to this church on a Sunday morning instead of the usual Wednesday. I had never been to the sanctuary part. It was huge! It easily could seat one thousand people. However, many of the women’s faces were familiar and I found myself saying hello to lots of ladies on my way in. I scanned the crowd looking for Sarah and I spotted her carrying Tessa in her arms.

“Good morning!” Sarah said and passed Tessa to Steve so that she could give me a hug. “I’m so glad you could make it.”

“I’m glad to be here, although I thought I may be late after waiting for Rod and Deana to pick up Caitlin.”

Steve held out his hand. He had tawny blonde hair and a smattering of freckles. “Nice to see you here, Heather.”

The music started and everyone rose to sing. I felt comfortable singing as I recognized many of the songs from the Women’s Coffee Break. They even had a large band with drums and a guitar. After singing, they made some announcements and took up an offering.

Pastor James started into his message; “I was catching up on the life of a friend over coffee the other day when he commented about how his life could be so much easier if only a certain co-worker would quit.” He talked in an animated voice. “This co-worker caused him problems every day on the job and my friend wished that he wouldn’t have to deal with it anymore. Then another friend shared with me her desire to change her phone number and even change apartments so that she wouldn’t have to deal with a certain neighbor. Another person told me just today that he wished a certain person was no longer living, just so he wouldn’t have to deal with him anymore.”
This minister sounded like he was sitting down to talk with a friend over coffee, not on stage preaching to a thousand people. I liked it.

He continued, “I could relate. There was a time when I thought my life would be easier if only a certain person didn’t exist. I’ve since repented of this, and now follow the Bible’s directive to pray for my enemies.”

It surprised me to hear the minister talking with such frankness.

“Is our society such that we think to remove a person removes the problem? This reminded me of a couple of Disney movies. Has anyone seen the movie, The Little Mermaid?” Many people put up their hands. “You know that the sea witch, Ursula, was killed by the Prince and he saved the mermaid’s kingdom, and the Prince and Ariel lived happily ever after. And in the movie Tarzan, the evil human that came to capture the gorillas was killed in a violent battle by Tarzan. Tarzan and Jane then lived happily ever after.” He laughed, a deep rolling laugh.

“Pastor James must have children,” I whispered to Sarah. She muffled a giggle.

“So my question is, are we conditioned to think that we will only be happy when we are rid of those in our life who cause us grief and pain?”

Pastor James continued, “Can I be totally transparent? Once I came to see the error in my thinking that life would be better if this individual was out of my life, I was able to deal with the reality that they were not going anywhere. So instead of living in a lie, I’ve embraced the truth and come to terms with it.” He gave a smile that showed every last one of his teeth.

“Easier said than done,” I overhead someone comment behind me.

“But I could not do this in my own strength; I needed God and the work of the Holy Spirit.” His voice grew louder. “Only through God’s help could I come to look upon this person with different eyes. Only through the power of the Holy Sprit was I able to begin to pray for this individual.”

Many people started to clap in agreement. “Today, I still pray for this person. I pray that this individual finds favor with me. I pray that this person gets into a right relationship with God. I pray that this person is saved. Living in reality and dealing with my situation with God’s help is a much better place to be.”

Some people shouted, “Amen!”

“Jesus Himself said, ‘You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’”

Something inside my spirit stirred. It was making sense to me. It felt very different from my childhood memories of church. The minister didn’t preach at us, but it felt more like he was talking with us.

Then Pastor James invited those who had never given their lives to Christ to come forward. My hands broke out in a sweat and my eyes began to water. I watched as people, young and old, started pouring into the aisles. In the deepest part of my spirit, I heard the words, “Come.” I wanted to go forward, but my heart thumped so loudly I didn’t think I could make it down the aisle. The thought “come” was so distinct. I choked back my tears and held my ground. Eventually, my heart returned to a steady beat. I watched as those who went forward prayed a prayer together and then the congregation applauded and cheered. After this, the minister said a short prayer and dismissed everyone.

Turning around to go, I thought I caught a glimpse of Bill. “Sarah, how did you find your dentist?”
Sarah cocked her head sideways. “What?”

“Dr. Mott. How did you hear about him?”

“Oh, he came recommended. I think he may even attend this church although I’ve never seen him at the morning service.”