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TRUST JESUS TODAY
Sam had been awake since six. Rising before the sun was a habit he couldn’t break. He had gone outside to get the Sunday paper. March had indeed come in like a lion. The winds whipped the trees in their neighborhood, but Sam didn’t mind; he loved the promise of spring. Soon he had showered, fixed a cup of coffee, and lay back in bed watching Maddie sleep. He often did this, and she would groan when she woke up and saw his face staring at her. She couldn’t believe he liked watching her sleep. True, like she pointed out, she wasn’t an angelic sleeper. Maddie was restless, tossing and turning during the night. Her hair was in knots, the imprint of a pillow on her face and her mouth even hung slightly open. But to Sam, watching her raucous slumber was the gift he gave to himself every morning. He often wondered how their routine would change once the baby came. He honestly could not wait to meet their child; it’s as if he had waited his whole life for the moment that was quickly approaching. As the phone began its second ring, Sam rushed for the portable phone and quietly left the room so as not to disturb Maddie.
“Sam?” The gruff voice of his Dad answered.
“Good morning, Dad.”
“Good morning. How are you all this morning?”
“We’re fine Dad. In fact, Maddie is still sleeping. I was just finishing up my first cup of coffee.”
William Grant let out a hearty laugh. “Nothing like that first cup, is there son?”
Sam could picture his dad standing at the sink with his own cup of freshly ground coffee in hand. “Nope. Nothing like the first cup. How are you and mom this morning?”
“We’re fine. Getting ready for church. I guess you figured that’s why I called.” Sam shook his head in slight amusement. Of course it was why he called. Ever since Sam’s parents moved to Augusta the year before, they had given Maddie and Sam a standing invitation to church. Sam and Maddie had gone a couple of times, but neither of them felt the pull to attend every Sunday. They preferred the quiet solace of their own home.
“Yeah, Dad. And thanks for the invitation. I’ll ask Maddie when she gets up, but don’t look for us, ok?” Sam hated disappointing his parents, but he wasn’t willing to fake something he didn’t feel either.
A slight pause responded on the other end of the phone. But Sam’s dad cleared his throat, and continued without skipping another beat. “No problem, son. Maybe next week. We’ll call you tonight or tomorrow and set up a brunch. We’d love to see you both.”
“Ok, Dad. Sounds like fun. Maybe we can get together at the lake.” Sam, Maddie and his parents shared a much enjoyed lake house a short ten miles away.
“Ok, son. Love you.”
“Love you too, Dad.”
Sam reentered the bedroom to place the phone on the receiver as Maddie swung her silk clad legs over the side of the bed. Sam placed the phone on the nightstand and kissed his wife good morning.
Her barely audible, somewhat grumpy voice amused him. “Hmmm, thanks. Was that Dad?”
Maddie peeked through one eye and gave his cup of coffee an evil eye. Sam laughed to himself, but dared not do so aloud. Prior to getting pregnant, Maddie was a self-professed caffeine-aholic. She swore off the stuff when the results showed she was expecting; but she wasn’t happy about it. She had tried to substitute hot tea but the whole idea still greatly annoyed her.
“Do you want your tea before you get in the shower?”
Maddie threw herself back in the bed and pulled the white down comforter over her head. Her muffled voice floated from outside her fluffy tent. “Who said I was showering?”
Sam placed his half-empty cup on the dresser and moved into the bed beside her. He got under the covers and pulled Maddie to the familiar crook in his neck. She threw one leg over his and hooked her foot behind his ankle. It was their cuddle, and he loved it. As far as he was concerned, it was a perfect morning. The first light from the sun was pouring through the expansive window that faced the backyard. It warmed his face and bathed the room in a contented glow. He sighed with pleasure, bent his head down and began kissing the side of Maddie’s face. He playfully whispered. “Fine by me. Don’t shower. Don’t brush your teeth either. I’ll take you as is any day.” And he would.
Maddie playfully punched him in the side, but then he felt the steadiness of her breathing. She had fallen back asleep. Sam stroked her hair and felt his whole body relax. He closed his eyes, wishing time would stand still, if only for a moment.
Maddie got up from behind her dark cherry wood desk and stretched her legs. She stared out the massive picture window in her office and admired the well-kept gardens below. The grounds of the courthouse were popping with reds, purples, and yellows. Although it was hotter than normal for spring in Augusta, the city was full of exuberant energy in preparing for The Masters golf tournament. Maddie smiled as she thought of the historical event bringing the bustling town to a complete standstill while the world watched to see who would be the recipient of the coveted green jacket. The schools even took their Spring Break during the same week, which meant Maddie could take a much needed vacation.
Maddie rubbed her swollen stomach as she felt the baby move inside her. Today marked her thirty second week. She and Sam had decided to keep the gender of the baby a secret; but she knew in her heart that it was a little boy. Maddie hadn’t peaked at the results, nor had she asked the doctor. She just knew. Maddie couldn’t wait to see this very special little person. The millions of questions going through her mind occupied her very few down moments such as this one. Maddie had poured over renowned books on pregnancy and what to expect during the nine months of gestation and the year after. A rush of hormones overtook her and Maddie blinked back tears. As much as the emotional torrents annoyed her, Maddie knew it was more than that. She desperately missed her mother and would give anything for just five more minutes to ask her mom about how to love a child. Her mom was always good at showing love; especially after her dad was gone. Even though her childhood was marked by some very sad events, Maddie always felt safe and cherished. And it was more than the little things; although Ellie was really good at making cookies, or sewing a special dress, or even making homemade birthday dinners. But, most of all, it was Ellie’s presence that had made the difference. Her mother never ‘checked out’ for selfish reasons. She lived her life, her faith, but also put her daughters at the top of her priority list. How would she ever replicate her mother’s love? Maddie’s thoughts were interrupted by a gentle rapping on her office door. Curt, her assistant, popped his head in.
“Sorry to interrupt, Maddie. But is it ok if I take off? I’ve got an appointment I need to keep.”
“Of course, Curt.”
He smiled and winked, “Thanks, Maddie. Have a good weekend.”
“You too.” She had been lucky to find Curt. He was young, probably around twenty four, but very smart and efficient, and Maddie never had to think a step ahead because Curt was already there. She had often thought about setting him up with one of the Bryant girls, but then thought better of it. First, it was better not to mix work with her personal life. Second, Curt certainly didn’t need her help in finding a date. He was one of those guys who was understated in his appearance, kind of a Clark Kent type, but very attractive. She knew he wasn’t involved with anyone, he had stated that fact a few times through casual conversation. But, Curt was not a religious person and had made that abundantly clear to Maddie on more than one occasion. She certainly didn’t mind because neither was she, but she also knew that Amy and Philip’s faith was extremely important to them. They never beat anyone over the head with it; none of her friends did. But, they didn’t hide it either. Overall, she thought she should leave well enough alone.
Maddie looked at her watch and noted it was 4:50. If she didn’t get going, she would be late for dinner with the beach crew. Maddie loved the group of people she and Sam had befriended only four years before. It seemed like she had known this tight knit bunch forever. It was such a blessing to have friends you could count on; friends that would be there no matter what. Maddie always thought friendships were so vital to being happy; after all, one got to choose their friends, they were born with their family. Maddie grabbed her briefcase and walked out to the government parking lot. She unlocked her hunter green Honda and started towards the Bryant’s house.
Amy Bryant was enjoying the few moments of peace and quiet she had been given that afternoon. The girls, home from college, were visiting friends. Chase was helping Philip get ready for a group of clients coming in for the golf tournament. For the first time in weeks, Amy was at her house—alone. She needed this time, especially since their house would soon undergo a friendly invasion. Amy smiled, in spite of the preparation going into the barbeque they were hosting tonight. She loved their friends, truly and looked forward to all of their frequent “get togethers” throughout the year. Amy fixed herself a cup of tea and began wandering through the house she had called home for the last fifteen years. She often did this, trying to see all of the décor and pictures through fresh eyes, so as not to take any of it for granted. She paused in the hallway and looked at the expansive wall of framed photographs. Each of the girls and Chase were chronicled from infancy to the present. Every week she would have a prayer walk, walking down the path of memories, touching the pictures, and praying fervently for each of her children. Sometimes, the Lord would lay one of them on her heart heavier than the rest; lately, that one had been Mary. Amy reached up and touched the family portrait that had been taken at the beach two years before. They all looked so happy and carefree. If only she could stop time and live in the serenity of that one moment. But she couldn’t, and she knew it. Suddenly, emotion overwhelmed her and tears started to flow down her face. When was she going to tell her family about the doctor visit? It had been three months since the diagnosis—Parkinson ’s disease. For months she had experienced clumsiness and dizziness, but she chalked it up to menopause. Amy would never forget the day she had to sit down in the middle of a department store until the room stopped spinning. No one ever knew about it; but the experience had been enough to drive her to the doctor. After a lot of tests, the truth came to light. She covered her mouth with the back of her hand, and moved away from the memories. She needed to busy her mind with something else, but she couldn’t. Instead, she felt paralyzed and simply sat on the chocolate colored leather couch with a thud of finality. Amy couldn’t even say the name of the disease aloud, much less divulge the information to the people she loved more than life itself. She closed her eyes and prayed for wisdom—and for peace.
Philip busied himself preparing the hunting cabin for the incoming guests. He was taking care of the house, while Chase walked the grounds and made sure nothing was amiss. This particular group loved the rustic setting of the hunting club when they came in for the golf tournament. His family owned the small cabin, so it was easy enough to stock it with food, towels, and anything else the group of businessmen could want. As far as Philip was concerned, the arrangements were convenient for everyone, so he was glad to oblige. His mind really wasn’t on his clients, though. They were on his Amy. Philip knew something was wrong with his wife. He didn’t know what, but he sensed it. She was keeping something from him. What was it? Amy had always been very open about her feelings; bless her heart, she had to be, otherwise they would never be known. But Philip had been married to her long enough to know when something wasn’t right and he had the uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach that his wife was not well; he prayed to God he was wrong.
Ann brushed Kimmie’s hair, and attempted to ease the little girl’s mind about the events of the night.
“Honey, daddy and I are going to The Bryant’s house for dinner; Ms. Amber is going to sit with you and Alex. You guys are going to have a great time.” Ann stopped a moment to let the information sink in. Then, after several seconds of silence, she added, “You can practice your piano as much as you like.”
Ann could see Kimmie’s hands repeatedly opening and closing, which was characteristic whenever an interruption in their daily routine came about. It was her ten year old daughter’s way of coping. When Ann brushed her daughter’s hair, it seemed to ease her anxiety. Ann glanced at her watch; she had been brushing for about fifteen minutes. Finally, Kimmie seemed to be getting restless and Ann stopped the rhythmic pattern of the brush. Kimmie turned to face her mother.
“When will you and daddy be home?”
“Around 9:00; in time to tuck you in for bed.”
“And Ms. Amber will let me play the piano?”
“As much as you want.”
Kimmie nodded her head, resembling an adult who was determined to get through a difficult task. “Ok, mommy. That will be fine.” She grabbed her favorite doll, along with its blanket, and headed up to her room, probably to read. Ann sighed. Ever since the pediatrician diagnosed Kimmie with AS, Ann fought the urge to pull her hair out and scream, insisting it wasn’t true. Her daughter looked perfectly normal, in fact she was striking. She had wavy, long blonde hair and dark brown eyes. She was tall for her age, and Ann could already tell she was going to have the physique most women envied, long and thin. She began taking piano lessons when she was five, and her instructor, a former concert pianist, insisted Kimmie was a prodigy. Ann and Ray thought she was exaggerating at first because neither of them had any musical talent, but then they heard their daughter play, and it was obvious Kimmie was a born natural. However, both Ann and Ray sensed something was wrong when Kimmie started second grade. Everything up to that point had been pretty normal; Kimmie reached every milestone on time. She was a bit shy, and hesitant to try new things, but some kids her age were shy. They didn’t think anything of it. But then, Kimmie started insisting on wearing earphones because the noise, the air conditioner, was too loud. She also became very picky about the texture of her clothes and other things in the environment. Then, Kimmie’s teacher reported emotional meltdowns during play time and the inability to go from one activity to another smoothly. She had a hard time relating to the other children and as a result, it was causing problems during group play time. Repeated referrals prompted some testing and only months before, had Asperger’s been discussed. At first, Ann and Ray were in total denial. But then, the more they studied the disorder, the more they saw their daughter. Finally, one long night, after many tears and a lot of prayer, they accepted it. It was probably the hardest situation either adult had ever faced.
Ann got up from her sitting position and looked at the brush in her hand. Deep down, Ann knew God would take care of their little girl, but in the secret places of her mother’s heart, Ann worried what little Kimmie would do one day when mommy wasn’t around to brush her hair.
Maddie pushed herself out of the car and waddled up to the front door of the Bryant’s house. Sam was supposed to meet her there later. She raised her hand to knock when Chase Bryant threw open the door.
“Hey! Look at you, blowing up by the millisecond.” He was shoving in a handful of peanuts, and talking with his mouth full.
Maddie rolled her eyes at Chase and threw the bread she had been asked to bring at his face. “Ha-Ha.”
“Whoa!” He put his hands up in mock surrender, dodging the loaf of bread. “No need to get violent, little mama. I always heard pregnant women could be hormonal.”
Philip came around the corner and smacked Chase on the head. He bent down to pick up the bread, making too big a deal out of getting around Maddie’s stomach to hand it to her. Laughing, he said, “Quit harassing her; can’t you see she’s barely making it as it is?”
Maddie playfully rolled her eyes, and walked into the living room. She was greeted by all the guys in the group, except for Sam. They were all making smart remarks, some even mooing like cows. She put her hands up in surrender. “All right, guys. It’s kind of early to be picking on me. I might just take my bread and leave.”
Amy hollered from the kitchen. “Oh no, you’re not! Come in here and help me with this salad.”
Maddie breathed a sigh of relief. “Finally, someone who really loves me! Coming, Amy.” She turned the corner, sticking her tongue out at the crowd who was already watching the football game again.
Maddie entered the kitchen and was greeted by hugs from Amy, Kate, Ann, Carly and Mary. She headed to the counter to help dress the salad. Amy shook her salad tongs at her and shooed her away, “No m’am that was just an excuse to rescue you from the barbarians in the other room. Sit down.”
Amy handed her a glass of lemonade and directed her to a chair. Secretly, Maddie did need to sit down. She would never tell any of the women, for fear of mass chaos, but she was feeling a little crampy. Maddie wasn’t concerned, she had experienced little twinges before, but it did feel good to get off her feet. Maddie enjoyed chatting with the women, answering questions from the girls about how it felt to be pregnant.
Mary’s eyes were wide as she came over and immediately placed her hand on Maddie’s belly. “When are you due, again?”
Maddie flicked her ear playfully. “Hey. What is that supposed to mean?”
Carly laughed as she joined her sister. “Seriously, what day in May, Maddie?”
“They tell me the 25th.”
Mary sat up and dug in to her plate of chips and dip. “Have you guys decided on a name yet?”
Maddie smiled mischievously. “Yeeeeesssss.”
Carly groaned. “Oh come on, Maddie. Just a clue.” Maddie was shaking her head. “A little, tiny clue??”
Maddie thought. “Ok, maybe a little one.”
Both girls sat up straight, waiting expectantly.
“Ezmerelda for a girl. Gargamel for a boy.”
Kate, Ann, and Amy started laughing as the girls’ faces changed from horror to disappointment.
Maddie loved teasing them. Carly and Mary were in that stage of life where the whole world seemed at their fingertips. Maddie always encouraged them to enjoy life and not to rush any relationships. But, secretly, she had to admit the last ten years married to Sam had been the best of her life.
After about fifteen minutes, Maddie heard Sam’s deep baritone drawl in the other room. The sound of his voice always set off a ball of warmth that started in her tummy and succeeded to create a glow that she could feel all over. He rounded the corner and was greeted by a barrage of hellos and hugs. When he made it over to Maddie, he bent down and kissed her soundly on the lips and then kissed the baby. Maddie could see Ann, Amy, and Kate exchange knowing glances; she could also see the girls start to swoon. Carly and Mary always told her Sam was the best looking man they had ever seen, and even after seeing him in his goofy beach hat and sandals year after year they still got a little googly eyed over him. Maddie didn’t mind though, she couldn’t blame them. He was truly wonderful and she could only wish they found someone like him one day.
When the hamburgers were ready and the counter was covered with the side dishes, glasses filled with ice, and dessert, John asked everyone to hold hands as he said grace. Maddie and Sam moved into the circle and closed their eyes as the food was blessed. Even though everyone else in the group went to church regularly, the subject of Maddie and Sam’s lack of attendance never hindered the friendship. They had talked about faith a few times and Maddie totally respected their beliefs, but neither she nor Sam ever felt pressured to join them. True, Maddie could see the way her friends lived out their lives, and she would be the first to admit each personified the goodness and selflessness that the church preached. But Maddie was still not convinced it was something either she or Sam needed. The idea of God made Maddie nervous. She didn’t understand the whole idea of a Creator who could watch His children suffer. After all, her mother and Jack also loved God very much. Yet, they both died horrible, painful deaths. If that was what faith in God brought, Maddie would continue to glide through life on her own. Besides, she and Sam seemed to have everything they needed; what could the church possibly give them that they didn’t already have or want?
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