Kelly

It Is What It Is…

Well, the results are in, and my book, The Crimson Purpose, which was a finalist in the “Dante Rosetti’s Best in New Young Adult Fiction,” did not win the number one spot.  Sigh…

 

I was disappointed, but I had to smile when I discovered that the winner in my book’s category, Christian Fiction, is a book about a young woman who bravely faces an alien invasion.  There were other categories which, in my mind, seem to fit this type of story better, but it nonetheless won in the Christian Fiction category, and so I’m sure it must be a fascinating read.  Congratulations to the winner, and to the winners in all the categories highlighted!

 

Thank you to everyone out there who encouraged me during the wait, and I look forward to sharing further news regarding the series very soon!

 

God Bless!

 

Finalist!!

Hello, friends!

 

I just wanted to share a piece of exciting information–I was recently named a finalist in the Chanticleer Book Reviews’ Dante Rossetti “Best in New Young Adult Fiction” with my book, The Crimson Purpose!!  This means that of all the books reviewed by literary agents and publishers (the judges), mine is among those which has passed three rounds of eliminations!  The results of the finals rounds will be announced at the end of February!

 

God is so good!  This is a huge accomplishment for a new author, and it’s my humble privilege to share this news with you!  Thank you for your encouragement along the way!  I’ll keep you posted!

Out With the Old…

In the spirit of saying goodbye to 2013 and welcoming in a new year, we ponder possible resolutions and tentative intentions.  We consider all that was positive about our past, and all that needs addressing in order to improve upon our present and future.  In short, we plan.

 

When it comes to new years’ resolutions, it seems that many of us allow our best intentions to fade to anonymity by the end of January.  And so, we may wonder whether there is a point in making any commitments at all.

 

I would suggest that there is indeed a benefit to making resolutions.  The key, however, is keeping the resolution truly achievable and worthwhile.

 

In the past, I’ve committed to losing weight; a fairly common resolution.  My mistake, though, was to commit without really being committed.  The goal was a worthy one.  Achieving the goal would have improved my health and my self-confidence.  But, it was such a big goal that it wasn’t long before discouragement won the day, and I sort of forgot about the idea.  Instead, I should have committed to a smaller “first step” goal, with the overall goal set in proper perspective.  And so, this year, one of my resolutions is indeed to lose some weight, but I’m framing it differently.  Instead of a large and daunting number for which to shoot, I’m shooting to weigh less at the end of January than I did at the end of December; whether it’s a half a pound or five pounds, it’ll be progress.  From there, I’ll shoot to weigh less by the end of February than I did at the end of January.  You get the idea.

 

Now that you know my strategy, you may wonder why I’m posting it on a writer’s blog.  It’s simple.  I’m resolving to implement this approach to my professional life, so that 2014 might be even better than was 2013.  My book, The Crimson Purpose, has done well, but I want to see it do even better.  I want to see the demand for the second installment grow, so that I might be able to move up its publication.  An exciting and daunting goal, but again, I’ll approach it month by month.  Baby steps.  I’m hoping to sell more books in January than I did last month, and so on.  With a little hard work, a lot of opportunity, and God’s will, it’ll be a wonderful 2014!

 

A huge thank you to everyone out there who has encouraged me in this exciting venture, and I appreciate your willingness to stick with me as I follow my God-given passion to write fiction for God’s glory.  And, I wish you well as you focus on your own resolutions!  God Bless!

Perspective…

We all have preferences and passions.  We all have callings in addition to the purpose outlined for every believer–the purpose of glorifying God and reaching souls with the Truth of the saving power of Jesus Christ.

 

For me, I believe my second most important calling (second to the aforementioned purpose shared with every believer) is to be a godly wife and mother.  This is no small calling, as I have learned.  Nor it is an easy calling.  But, it is my calling.

 

Which brings me to my third calling.  Obviously I’m speaking in rather generic terms, for, as a lover of words, I could make this list quite extensive.  But, so that I might get my intentions across, I am making an effort at speaking concisely.  My third calling is to write.

 

I’ve received a lot of encouragement along the way, but I’ll admit that there are days when I wonder whether my efforts are worth it.  After all, I haven’t yet reached tens of thousands of readers as I had dreamed I would.  I haven’t yet made any “top tens.”  At this point, I’d be largely encouraged by a “top hundred.”  Some days…

 

But then, God will remind me–whether gently or rather harshly–that my ways are not His ways.  He has placed the passion to write for His glory within my heart.  He has given me this passion; this calling.  My responsibility is not to track the numbers.  My responsibility is to respond to His calling.

 

And when my perspective is a little better, God invariably reminds me of those who have read my book, and who have been encouraged or ministered to as a result of reading it.  God reminds me that it isn’t really about me at all.  It’s about Him.

 

And so it is with this in mind that I share a prayer request.  The second installment of the series is currently being considered for publication.  Will you please join me in praying that, if God wills it, then this company will offer a fair contract regarding this endeavor?  If God has something else in mind, then pray that I might discern it in faith, and press on.  And finally, please pray that this series will reach those whom it needs to reach, regardless of how many or how few that may be.

 

Blessings!

 

Discussion Guide

Some of you have requested it, so here it is!  (If you haven’t yet read the book, don’t read these questions until you have done so.  Consider this your “spoiler alert!”)

 

For small groups, book clubs, or personal consideration, please feel free to draw from this list of questions as you discuss or reflect on truths and lessons in The Crimson Purpose as they may apply to you or your circumstances.  As always, I appreciate any feedback, so if you have any recommendations regarding amendments or additional questions, let me know!  God bless!

 

 

1.  At the beginning of the book, Dan and Casey seem like a fairly typical teenage dating couple. If you were in Casey’s place, do you believe you would have discerned Dan’s true character early on? What obstacles or forms of bondage prevented Casey from doing so?       

 

2.  Professor Ponde is a “devout atheist.”  Such is the claim of many in higher levels of academia. How did Casey refute the professor’s admonitions and dismissive mindset?  Was Casey especially eloquent in her rebuttals, or would there need to be a higher element at work in order to stir consideration of God?  Of course this story is a work of fiction, but can you imagine it happening in real life?  If so, how much of being a witness—a light—is contingent upon our abilities, and how much depends upon mere willingness to be used. As a follow-up, does God’s sovereignty negate a responsibility on our part to be ready to be vessel?  

 

3.  There were several moments in the story when it seemed that Casey had truly repented of her handling of things regarding her relationship with Dan, only to find that she was succumbing to those same types of bondage a few pages later.  Did this make Casey unusually pathetic as a character, or did it make her more real and easier with whom to identify?  Do you ever find yourself being reminded of the same biblical truths over and over again, before you truly begin to embrace those truths?

 

4.  Christian guilt is a very real form of bondage.  Many believers are so afraid of projecting a lack of forgiveness and understanding that they misapply God’s admonitions regarding those same attributes.  Can you think of or find any verses or passages of Scripture which address this issue?  What do you think is the correct response to a person who has sinned against you and asked forgiveness?  And, does this response necessitate that you turn a blind eye to existing or possible implications?

 

5.  Garrett is a young and wealthy single man embarking upon a promising career. He seems to have everything going for him, and yet he is bereft of peace.  He feels somehow abandoned by his step-father’s side of the family, and the emptiness adds to the already existent void in his life.  Have you ever been at a place in your life when you, like Garrett, relied on your own efforts to fill that void?  If you are a believer, what triggered the change for you?  If you are not a believer, can you currently identify with Garrett and his efforts?

 

6.  Jacklyn is a young woman who wants everything her way, and wants no convicting souls around her to mar her plans.  She comes across as selfish at times, but is she really any different than many of us when it comes to wanting to avoid conviction?  She doesn’t know Christ, so is it any wonder that any drawings toward Christ would be met with resistance, especially considering that things are going so well for her, overall?  How can we as believers reach the Jacklyns of our world?

 

7.  Walter and Pearl Rivadell are prayer warriors.  What lessons can we learn from them?  What lessons can we learn from older saints in our congregations?

 

8.  Zeke is the friend Casey needs at a critical time in her life, but, for a long time, Zeke is not a believer.  Can God use unbelievers to minister to His children?  Have you ever seen this happen?  And, if so, did the circumstance, in turn, serve to witness to or draw the unbeliever to a consideration of Christ?  What does this teach us about God’s sovereignty?

 

9.  When Casey is being assaulted in the cave, she feels helpless and frightened, but she also feels ashamed and guilty.  She determines to keep Dan’s treatment of her a closely guarded secret, certain that everything will work out in time.  This feeling of self-blame is a common one among victims of abuse.  Have you ever felt guilt for something which was not your fault?  Have you given that false guilt to God and allowed Him to heal you as only He can?  If you are currently living under this kind of bondage, please understand that your circumstances are not your fault, and there is no shame in seeking help.  Find a trusted minister, friend, or agency, and begin the journey to physical and spiritual healing.  If the offender is a loved one, then initiate their journey toward possible rehabilitation.  It will not be an easy step, but it is a vital one. If your situation happened in your past and you are still dealing with the repercussions, know that through God true healing can be found.  There are Christian counselors and ministers available to facilitate your recovery.

 

10.  The soon to be doctor, Glenn Gracyn, feels helpless in his efforts to get through to Casey.  Have you ever sensed that your efforts in reaching out to another were in vain?  Have you ever wondered whether God would truly use and answer your prayers?  Did you need proof of His answering of your petitions, or was it enough to simply believe that He heard?  Do you suppose that Glenn forgot all about Casey and her struggles the moment she left his care, or do you imagine that she became a part of his prayer life?  If you were in Glenn’s shoes, how would you have behaved?

 

11.  John and Lorraine love their daughters very much.  Their eldest daughter, Julie, is a single mother as a result of defying God’s boundaries regarding sexual purity, but is now living as a growing believer. Casey seems to be struggling with some intensely personal issues, but she too is a believer.  What lessons can we take from John and Lorraine’s lives; from their responses to their daughters’ failings; from their possible consideration that maybe, just maybe, they’ve missed something along the way—something which led to their daughters’ poor choices or struggles?  What promises can we glean from exposure to the lives of this fictitious family?  Can you identify with any of these family members?

 

12.  Casey had a church home both in Missouri and in Massachusetts.  How important is it to be a part of a well-grounded church?  Why or why not?  What does God say about this issue?

 

13.  Dan is confronted time and again with choices, and he consistently chooses that which be believes best serves himself and is rebellious toward God.  Is there any hope for such a person?  Is Casey wrong to hope for Dan’s repentance?

 

14.  The book ends with a realization by Casey that God does not want Dan to be a part of her future.  She also realizes the importance of pure forgiveness.  Given Casey’s history, do you believe that, if she were a real person, the struggles are over?  Why or why not?  In your life, do you feel that you are exactly where God wants you to be, or is God is constantly working to perfect you through trials and exposure of impurities?  If it is the latter, is the process something of which to be ashamed, or something to celebrate?  If Casey has indeed been freed from false Christian guilt and bondage resulting from emotional and physical abuse, then is it possible that other forms of bondage will eventually show themselves?  If so, is this judgment or mercy?  

 

15.  The book begins with Romans 8:28, which says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”  What does this verse mean to you?  Was your understanding of this verse expanded as a result of reading this book?  If so, in what ways?  Is God truly able to work all things—even the most painful parts—together for the good of His children?  Is anything wasted with God?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wicked Awesome!

I grew up in the Midwest, but I’ve been living just inside the city limits of Boston, Massachusetts, for about eight years, now.  It’s been nice, but of course I’ve long accepted that I’ll never blend in as a bonified “New Englander,” for my cover would be blown before I’d ever managed to complete a single sentence.  I simply don’t have a knack for placing the “r” sound in places for which it isn’t called, and removing the same sound from places in which it is slated to live.  I’ll never master the art of telling someone to “Pauk thei’ caw nea’ Hauvad Yawd” without it sounding forced.  No, in this one example among many, New England is a very different culture from that in which I grew up.

 

Another example of my inability to mesh with my surroundings is my staunch Conservatism.  I am a rarity here, so much so that it actually amazes me when I cross paths with another Conservative beyond the scope of my everyday environment.  It’s just that unlikely.

 

But, beyond such traits which serve to expose me as an outsider, I do mesh in other ways.  Like my New England neighbors, I absolutely love fresh seafood; I’ve learned that not all clam chowders are created equal.  Before coming here, I was told to prepare myself for the natural “rudeness” which is a part of the culture of the northeast.  But, I’ve found that this label is a misguided one, for people here are, as a whole, not rude at all.  Rather, they are just honest; honest at a level which seems oddly foreign to most of us who grew up elsewhere.  Of course there are a few exceptions–just as there are those in the Midwest who are not wholly “good ol’ boy” in demeanor.  But, by and large, I’ve learned that Bostonians are refreshingly straightforward.

 

But I’m not really writing this article to expound upon the virtues of any American subculture, for I’ve learned that, though there are differences, there is also a vast number of similarities.  We’re all human, after all.  And one of those similarities is the desire to achieve.

 

I think that, for whatever reason, this desire is manifested here in a more measurably materialistic way than in other regions.  Perhaps it’s because of the emphasis on academia.  Maybe it’s because of the city’s proud history.  It may simply be because of the high cost of living.  I don’t know.  I just know that it exists.  And, it’s far more contagious than I could have ever imagined.

 

When we moved here, it was our plan to be out of our “temporary” apartment and in a single-family house within three years.  Soon after arriving and assessing the cost of housing, we amended our plan to four years.  As time has unfolded, our address has remainded the same.

 

Don’t misunderstand–I feel blessed.  Our apartment has been a wonderful place, albeit a crowded one.  But my dream is to once again be in a house.  Somehow, it seems like that a house would be more of a home; less “temporary.”  This is where I find myself in good company.  This is where my goal of “achieving” becomes problematic.

 

But now, even though I would love to be in a house–a place which is wholly ours from front drive to back yard–I’m seeing God’s gentle hand in reminding me that any focus, any desire, which gains preeminence over God-given focuses and desires, is wrong.  And, in the spirit of straight-forward speak, it is sin.

 

Now, I understand that God doesn’t mind when we hope for things.  He doesn’t mind when we want things.  He doesn’t mind that I wish we could put an offer on the red house down the street.  But, such wishes need to be cloaked in a willingness to rest in God’s provisions.  Such wants need to be relegated to proper perspective.  Some things are simply more important.  I find it so amazing and beautiful that God used these incredible New Englanders–through both good and lesser examples–to remind me of that very thing.  And, in my best affected Bostonian, I have to say that it’s “Wicked Awesome!”

 

 

 

Update

To recap, this past book signing was a lot of fun!  Jeancarlos, at Radiocoffeehouse in Milton, MA, was fantastic!  And, he gave me a lot of great suggestions for future signings!

 

Well, it’s been a great winter and spring, and I’m thrilled to report that, upon last report, my publisher has sold an average of twenty books per month since the title’s release date.  That may not seem like a lot, by most standards, but, for me–a new and unknown author–it’s thrilling!  The Crimson Purpose still has a ways to go, but I’m still hearing from readers regularly.  And, so far, all of the feedback has been positive!

 

Many readers have even told me that they are using the book as a counseling tool!  The book wasn’t written with this end in mind, but I love the way our God works!  This ficticious story of a young woman who is breaking free of the bondage of false guilt and an abusive relationship is being used to minister to young women who may be dealing with similar realities.  Praise God!

 

Also, for those of you who have been so committed to praying for me and the success of this series (The Calling of Casey Evand series), I have some exciting news.  There have been inquiries from a couple of publishers regarding the second installment of the series!  No contracts officially on the table as yet, but the interest is very encouraging.  Please pray with me regarding this!  Thank you!

 

Blessings!

 

 

Another Book Signing!!

Great news!

 

I have another book signing scheduled for April 6, 2013!

 

It will be hosted by  Radio Coffeehouse in Milton, Massachusetts (24 Central Avenue, 02186), from 1-3pm.

 

If you can, I’d love for you to join me for the signing!  Even if you already own a copy of the book, come, have a frappe, and chat with me for awhile!

 

Also, if you know of any other venues which may be willing to host a signing, drop me a private message.  I’ll pass the possibilities on to my marketing representative!  Thanks so much!

 

God Bless!

-Kelly

Thank You!

It was another great book signing!  Thank you to the venue, and to everyone who has been so supportive of me in this endeavor!  The signing, held at Bean & Cream Cafe here at the edge of Boston, lasted for two hours, and I was blessed with guests with whom I could visit for the entire duration!  It was so much fun!

 

I also want to thank you for all the encouraging comments since this website was opened–over a thousand, so far!  Many of them are private, containing heart-touching testimonials of how this book has affected you.  Several are simply notes letting me know that you’re praying.  Additionally, many of you have sent me letters of encouragement.  For all of it, I feel humbled and blessed!

 

Many of you have been asking how long it might be until the second installment in The Calling of Casey Evand series will be available.  And the answer is, simply, as soon as I hit a target number of sales!  I’m doing well so far, but the wait isn’t easy for me.  The manuscript is ready to be sent off to my editor the moment I hit that sales mark!

 

As a first-time author, I don’t have the luxury of being able to put out a book the moment I’m ready to do so.  My publisher has invested a lot in me, and I have to prove myself in terms of sales before we can bring you the next book!  So, if you’ve enjoyed the book, tell your friends and family!  Tell your ladies’ ministry leaders and youth groups!  Tell your Pastor and his wife!  Buy more copies to give as gifts!  Request that your local library keep a copy of the book on their shelves.  Mention my title to anyone you know who might be interested in reading it, or in promoting it!  Tell people about my website!  Help me to hit that target sooner rather than later!

 

As I’ve said, it’s been a fun journey, so far!  And I look forward to continuing the trip with you!

 

God Bless!!

 

The Crimson Purpose–chapter one

This is the first chapter of the first book in the series, The Calling of Casey Evand.  The title of this first installment is The Crimson Purpose.  I hope you enjoy it!

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chapter one

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You know, Casey, there are a lot of perfectly good schools around here. It’s crazy for you to even consider attending somewhere so far away.”

     “Yeah, maybe,” Casey Evand acknowledged reluctantly.  It was true, after all.  Several more local colleges and universities had also offered full academic scholarships.  And the money she would save by living at home would have been significant, to say the least. 

      She looked at her tall, athletic boyfriend as he stood leaning against the railing of her family’s honeysuckle-lined front porch.  She reclined in the old, squeaky porch swing—as far as it would allow her—and reached up to adjust her thick chestnut brown hair into a fresh pony tail.  She sighed.  “But, I don’t know, Dan.  I just don’t have a peace about any of those schools.  I feel like—for whatever reason—God wants me to go to Boston.”

      Dan grunted in disgust.  “Oh, please!  Admit it, Casey.  You like the prestige of going off to a big, hoity-toity, Ivy League school.”

      Hurt that Dan would reduce all her prayer and thoughtful consideration with such flippancy, Casey stood.  “It’s getting late, Dan.  We both have to work tomorrow.  You should go.”

      Exasperated, Dan pulled Casey to him.  “Casey Baby, please, just hear me out.” He waited until Casey’s emerald-green eyes met his own intensely blue ones.  “You know I want what’s best for you.”

      “Yeah. It sounds like it.”

      “But be reasonable for once.  Don’t get all tangled up in the romantic idea of gallivanting off to some distant, big city.  This is a major decision—huge—and it could mess up everything we have planned.”

      Casey sighed, and relaxed a little.  “I know this would have impacts and complications, Dan.  I get it, but you’re right; it’s my decision to make.  And whether you believe me or not, I am taking it seriously. I’m praying more than I’ve ever prayed about anything.  I’m really trying to seek God’s direction in this.”

      Dan hugged Casey.  “I know you are.  And I’m sorry if I sounded like I doubted that.  It’s just, well, you’re book smart, sure.  But—and don’t get me wrong, here—you’re not very…worldly.  You’re sweet and shy and honest, and, basically, a target.  I’m just not sure you could make it in a place like Boston.  Or any big city, for that matter.  I love you, and I want to protect you.” 

      Casey started to speak, but Dan silenced her with a quick kiss.  “And besides, this will be my junior year at the university.  My junior year, Casey.  I’ll be starting linebacker this season.  And this could be our year to go all the way—to the championship.  I can’t believe you’d even think of missing that.”

      “Dan, of course I’d hate not seeing you play this year, but you know, you were starting by the end of the season last year, too.  And even though we weren’t dating at the time, I came to every home game.  If I go away to school, you’d just have to keep me posted, that’s all. 

      “And as for your first concerns, yes, I am incredibly shy, and a move like that would be way out of my comfort zone.  But don’t you see?  That’s just further confirmation to me that this is God’s leading—and not my own silly ideas.” 

      Casey shrugged and added, “But you know what?  All these…these arguments about why I should stay here, or why I should go there—they’re irrelevant.  I want to do what God wants me to do. Period.”

      Before Dan could launch into further discussion, Casey reminded him again of the late hour.  He then kissed her good-night. 

      It was, at inception, a mechanical, detached touch of the lips.  But it quickly progressed to a deep, insatiable hunger that seemed to be marking so many of their parting moments lately.  And although Casey nearly always found the exchanges pleasurable, she also felt strangely bereft of any passion-filled response.  She felt pressured and irritated.  Eventually, Dan picked up on her lack of interest, and he sulkily ended their time together. 

      Waving absently, he walked off the porch, to his fiery-red, expensive pickup truck, and backed out of her family’s driveway.

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      Later, in her small upstairs bedroom, Casey read a few chapters in her Bible, and then pulled her journal out from under her mattress. 

      She began writing, trying to make sense of her mildly overwhelming, conflicting emotions.

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Lord, show me what to do. 

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 Dan wants me to stay.  He says that going would be selfish and thoughtless.  He says that if we’re really serious about getting married some day, then I should trust his leadership—his preference—in this.  But he hasn’t proposed, and if he did, I just don’t know what my answer would be.  I mean, I think it would be yes. I’ve dreamed of it often enough.  But I’m still a teenager, for crying out loud.  And lately, he just seems so much more—I don’t know—controlling than he used to be.  I know he’s not trying to be that way—at least I hope he’s not—but it’s like he’s afraid I might start thinking for myself more, or something.

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And then, there’s Mom.  She tells me that how I treat Dan’s wishes now reflects the kind of wife I’ll be one day.  Is that true?  Is it wrong for me not to give him that kind of authority over me?  Is it sinful?  And if so, why doesn’t that work two ways?  Why is it okay for Dan to show such contempt of my wishes?

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Dad agrees with me.  Or rather, I suppose it would be more accurate to say that I agree with Dad.  He says that if You want me to do something, then I’d better stop contemplating and just do it, and let You take care of the fallout.  That makes the most sense to me.  But am I only thinking that because it so closely mirrors my own ideas? My so-called agenda? 

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God, last year, You showed me what has since become my favorite verse of scripture.  Romans 8:28.  “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”

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Help me, God.  Help me to resist the urge to try to figure this out on my own.  And help me to line the input of others up against Your will. Help me to rest in the knowledge that, as long as I put my love for You before anything and anyone else, then You will indeed work it all together for Your good.  And mine.

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     Casey stopped, considering the words she’d just penned.  A tear trickled along her cheek and dropped onto the page.  She wiped it off, smudging the ink a little, and finished the entry. 

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I see now that my decision is clear.  Thank You for Your faithfulness.  Amen.

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Closing her journal, Casey felt an undeniable peace that had been fragile and, occasionally, wavering over the past several weeks.  She was choosing obedience over comfort—God’s will over hers—and the reassurance that infused her at the realization was nothing short of miraculous.  She placed the journal back in its special place, and went downstairs to speak with her parents.

      They were still sitting in front of the family’s only television set, watching the second airing of the late, local news.  “Mom?  Dad? May I talk to you for a second?”

      Pressing a button on the remote control to mute the sound, John Evand smiled. “Sure, honey.  We’re just passing the time, waiting for your sisters to get home.”

      “Okay.” Casey sat down on the rocking chair nearest them.  “Well, um, I just wanted to let you know that I’ve been praying and fasting—a lot—and, well, I finally know what I’m doing this fall.  For the next four years, really.”

      John’s smile deepened, and he nodded.  “Wonderful, honey.  So, you’re Boston-bound, then?”

      Casey grinned.  “How did you know?”

      “Honey, I’ve been praying, too,” he answered, eyes moist.

      Lorraine Evand was not quite so enthusiastic.  “Well, it sounds like your decision is made, then.  I don’t suppose there’s any point in my trying to throw good sense into the discussion.”

      Casey hugged each of them in turn.  “I know you don’t agree with this, Mom.  But I can’t tell you how much your support means to me.  I know you believe in me, and I appreciate that.”

      Her mother, not given to shows of emotion as her husband and daughter were, cleared her throat.  “Have you told Dan?”

      “No. I just decided.”

      “Well, then, perhaps you should call him.  The news is bound to be difficult for him, I daresay.  I suppose you’ve allowed him to have some input in your decision?”

      “Input, yes,” Casey answered vaguely, but honestly.  “And I don’t want to tell him over the phone.  I’ll talk to him tomorrow night.”

      “Good idea,” John interjected.  “I’m so proud of you, honey.” 

      Down the hall, the sound of a toddler crying began, faintly.  The crescendo only took a few seconds, and the lack of any immediate response was met with a full, screaming tantrum.

      John stood and stretched.  “Justin’s awake.  Again,” he laughed, heading for the source of the noise.  “Grandpa to the rescue!” he sang as he jogged away.

      “Wow,” Casey observed.  “It’s nearly midnight.  It’s not like Julie to be out this late.  Not on a weeknight, and definitely not since Justin came along.”

      “No.”

      Casey caught her mother’s tone.  “What is it, Mom?”

      “I suppose you may as well know.  She’s been seeing Justin’s father again.  He claims he wants to work things out.  You know, shoulder his responsibilities.

      “Hmm. That’s a switch.”

      “That’s what I thought.”

      Deciding to steer to what she hoped was a safer topic, she asked about her younger sister.  “Where’s Natalie?”

      “She started working at the fireworks tent just outside the town line today.  Tonight’s a late one, since they have to stock the tables before the tent opens for business in the morning.”

      “Oh, right.  I’d forgotten.”  Casey thought for a moment.  “You know, since the job is only through Independence Day, I might ask Nat if she’d be okay with my seeing whether they need any help in the evenings.  The extra cash would come in handy this fall.”

      “Good idea.  Then you could keep an eye on your sister, too.”

      “Why? Is something up?”

      “No. Not really.  I just….  She’s so much like Julie.  Popular. Beautiful.  I don’t want her following in her oldest sister’s footsteps.”  Lorraine looked up, apologetic.  “I don’t mean that I wish Justin hadn’t—”

      “I know, Mom.  And you’re right.  God’s timing would have been better—especially for little Justin.  And if I end up working there, I’d be happy to keep an eye on Natalie.  But, you know, she’s learned from Julie’s past choices.  Jules has been great about being totally upfront with both of us about the difficulties of single motherhood, not to mention the consequences of disobeying God’s boundaries.”

      Lorraine, relieved to see that there was no judgment from her middle daughter, smiled.  “You know, Casey, even though I wish you were staying in Missouri—or at least in the Midwest—for school, for your sake as well as Dan’s, I want you to know that, of the three of you girls, I have the most confidence in you.

      “You’ll make some mistakes, and I’m sure we’ll disagree often—we always have.”  She and Casey laughed lightly.  “But I know that your heart’s desire is to honor God.  And for that, I’m very proud of you.”

      So seldom did she have an intimate moment with her rather stern and serious mother, Casey found herself speechless.  Teary-eyed, she hugged her mother again, and managed, “Thanks, Mom.  And just because we don’t agree, don’t ever think I don’t appreciate your guidance.”

.

      Later, well after midnight, as Casey lay in bed, she thought about what the next few months might bring. She pulled out her journal once more and penned her musings as quickly as they came.

.

When will I have clarity here?  When will I learn the whys of God’s leading me to Boston?  Will I ever?  Is it merely for a better education?  And, if so, wouldn’t that be enough of a reason?  And yet, I feel like there’s more to it.

.

Is there someone specific that I’m supposed to be God’s light to?  Is there something that will happen there—something that will help me to become stronger in my faith?  Is His purpose a combination of several of these possibilities, and more? 

.

Or, is the reason something so different—a concept so far out of my ability to comprehend right now—that God is simply taking me out of my safe, familiar environment so that He can more easily shape me into what He wants me to be? 

.

And lastly, when His purpose for taking me there is fulfilled, will I know it?  And will Mom ever see it?  What about Dan?  Or will they always look back on this time in my life as one of my biggest mistakes?

.

     After stashing her journal once again, she lay back on her pillow and let her mind wander repeatedly over the possibilities she had just written of.

~

Dan drove home and parked in his family’s long cobblestone driveway.  He didn’t want to go inside.  He didn’t want to hear his mother ask him how he was doing.  He found their kindness—their constant concern and gushy joy—revolting and weak. 

      He ignored the fact that they’d given him just about every advantage a loving family could possibly give their only child.  He dismissed the way his father often tried to discuss spiritual things with him, in an effort to exhort him to God-honoring goodness.  Everything about them irked him, deeply and thoroughly.

      Dan grunted and threw the truck they had purchased for him upon his sixteenth birthday into reverse.  Piece of junk, he growled, irritated that he was still driving the same vehicle he’d had since his sophomore year of high school. 

      The old man could’ve bought me a new ride for my eighteenth.  Or my twentieth.  But no, they gave me lousy shares of stock, and a stupid gold watch.  Idiots.

      The porch light was on, and Dan spotted his mother peeking through the window.  He smiled, inexplicably and maliciously glad that she would be launched into further concern by his departure.  He set out and instinctively drove to his favorite place.  A place his parents had long forgotten, and his friends didn’t even know of.

~

Casey?”

      “Over here!”

      John looked around the expansive, gently sloped roof, and spotted his small-framed daughter at the ladder, hefting yet another bundle of shingles to George, his most reliable crewman.  “Oh, good.  I was looking for those,” he said. 

      George, large and solid, nimbly tossed the heavy load to his boss.  John looked at his daughter.  “Was that too heavy for you, honey?”

      “No, I’m fine.  Thanks, sweetie,” the big man replied, winking at Casey.

      Laughing, Casey shook her head at George.  She then looked at her father.  “No, Dad.  I can handle it.  How many more do you need?”

      “Uh, I guess three ought to do it for today.”

      “Got it,” Casey called as she descended the extension ladder.

.

      Later, John, George, and the two other crewmen finally made it back down to ground level, to find that Casey had already cleaned up their workspace on the paved driveway. 

      George gave a long, low whistle.  “Hey, I could get used to this.”  He then dropped to one knee in front of Casey, pulled the sweat-soaked bandana from his bald head, and gave an exaggerated clearing of the throat before begging, “Will you marry me?”

      The other men groaned, calling George’s latest proposal such things as “pathetic” and “real subtle.”  Then, laughing, they all thanked Casey for the chance to knock off a good half-hour early.

      When they were gone, John said, “I’m really gonna miss having you around to sweep up the shop, run errands, and, well, everything.”

      “Thanks, Dad.  This job has been such a blessing for me.  I think I would have died if I had to actually interact with strangers all day like Julie does at the bank.”

      Laughing, John shook his head.  “Two years ago, when you started working for me, I might have agreed.  But when the time comes for you to break out of your shell, God will give you the strength to survive it.”

      Casey laughed with him, although a little nervously.  “Yeah.  I think this move to Boston is just the beginning of God’s plan to mold me into…well…a more self-confident person, at least.”

      “I think so, too.  So when He puts opportunity in front of you, rejoice. He loves His children too much to let us be content with who we are right now.” 

      They finished loading up the tools and materials, and drove back to their own house and the adjoining wood shop that served as the headquarters for John’s roofing business.  In his spare time, the space doubled as his hobby center, where he enjoyed building various reproductions of period furniture.

      “Are you doing any woodworking tonight?” Casey asked as she helped him to load the next day’s supplies into the truck.

      “A bit.  I’m trying my hand at punched tin.  You know, for that pie safe I’ve been working on.  Actually, you should give it a go.  I’m sure that, with your artistic flair, you’d be a natural.  Wanna hang out and chill?”

      Casey giggled, as she always did when her father tried to sound young and hip.  “Thanks.  That sounds fun.  But after a quick shower, I’m heading over to the fireworks stand.  Nat said she thought they could use the extra help.”

      “Good. You’re starting to crack that shell already,” he smiled.

      “Baby steps,” she agreed, drawing a deep breath to steady her suddenly quickened pulse.

      “Don’t overdo it with all the work, though,” John cautioned.  “Dan’s bound to have a hard time with your going off to school.  Make sure you leave a little time in your summer schedule for him.  Unless…”

      “What, Dad?”

      John closed the back of the truck securely before turning to look at his daughter.  “Well, unless maybe you’re thinking about breaking up, I guess.”

      “Why would I—”

      “Casey, a long-distance relationship would be difficult enough without all the added circumstances.”

      “Like what?”

      “Well, you’re still young, for one thing.  Sure, you two have been dating off and on for a long while, but Dan’s been hinting pretty steadily at marriage.  You never contradict him, but you never bring it up, either.”

      John’s tone was gentle.  He wasn’t judging or trying to make Casey’s decisions for her.  Rather, he was simply pointing out some things in an effort to stimulate Casey’s own ability to reason through the facts.  “Dan says he loves you.  Maybe he does.  But do you really love him?  Or do you just say the words because you think they’re expected of you?”

      Casey shrugged and looked down at the gravel drive, kicking one of the larger rocks.  “I…I guess I love him.  And, I’ve been thinking I was going to marry him for so long, I—”

      “You know, honey, it’s okay if you’re not sure.  And, it’s okay if you decide that he’s not the man God has for you.”

      Casey looked at her father, confused.  “Dad, you mean…don’t you think he’s the one?”

      John chuckled.  “I’m afraid that one’s off my radar, honey.  And, although your mother may disagree, it’s not on her radar, either.”

      They shared a laugh, and then he grew serious again.  “There’s something else, Casey.”  Her father turned and leaned one arm against the truck, considering his words carefully.  “Dan is a nice enough young man.  But he doesn’t seem—how shall I put this?—very strong in his faith.  Especially these past few months.”

      “But he is, Dad.  He co-leads his on-campus Bible study at his school. And, he helps out in the college and career class at church.  And—”

      “Casey, honey, being strong in your walk with the Lord isn’t just about what you do with your natural abilities.  That’s important, sure, but it’s more about letting God use all of you—your weaknesses as well as your talents—to accomplish His purpose.” 

      John smiled to diffuse any possible misunderstanding.  “Has Dan even offered to pray with you about your school decision or anything else?”

      Sighing, Casey agreed.  “You’re right.  And, as for the first part of what you said, I suppose that’s something I still struggle with—relying on my own ideas and works instead of God’s grace.”

      “It’s a process.  I’m just not convinced that Dan really wants to depend on God’s strength.  He may some day—and I pray for him.  But right now, I don’t think he’s seeking God’s direction, the way you’re trying to.  Okay?”

      Casey took another deep breath, not sure of how to compute all her father had just said.  She looked at him and smiled.  “Thanks, Dad. You’ve given me a lot to think about.” 

      They hugged, and John silently praised God for such an open, honest relationship with his daughter.  Casey then said good-bye, and John watched her disappear into the house. 

      Misty-eyed, he admitted freely that it wasn’t her sweeping and errand-running that he would miss when August came.  It was these moments.

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The Crimson Purpose: The Calling of Casey Evand The Crimson Purpose: The Calling of Casey Evand
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