Casey slammed her breakfast plate down hard on the kitchen table. Bacon flew in different directions. Maple syrup sprayed her new blouse with sticky streaks.
“Casey, can’t you be more careful?” Her mother’s critical tone brought an instant grimace to Casey’s face. “Why must you be so …”
Casey’s mind completed the sentence, “…clumsy and dumpy, just like your father.” The words had been spoken or implied often. Her mother never spoke that way to Courtney.
“My hand slipped…” Casey’s voice trailed off as she realized that her mother wasn’t listening to her as usual.
Casey picked up the bacon and threw it back on her plate. She looked at the pancakes in disgust. Her mother seldom cooked, but when she did, it was always one of Courtney’s favorite meals.
Casey glanced around the table. Her third stepfather, Doug, sat in her father’s former chair, talking to his son, Brad. They had totally ignored the dropped plate episode. They were planning a game of golf for later in the day.
Brad was sitting in the chair that belonged to her brother. C.J. had chosen to move in with Casey’s real dad a year ago, on his thirteenth birthday.
Casey remembered what breakfast was like before her parents divorced. She had been six years old, Courtney was three and C.J. had just turned two. Her father’s funny faces always made her giggle. Her life changed forever when her mother announced her plan to marry her boss at work. Casey had never seen her father cry until that day.
Her father begged her mother to change her mind. “We can get counseling,” he pleaded.
But the same ears that now ignored Casey had been deaf to her father. Her father had slept on the couch until a court order forced him to leave the house. Not able to bear another man living in his home and raising his kids, her father had taken a job faraway. Her mother had been divorced twice since then.
Casey’s dark thoughts were interrupted by her sister’s bright entrance. At fifteen, Courtney was very popular and a varsity cheerleader. Her sister and her mother shared the same good looks and size four clothes. Casey grimaced again as she looked down at her XL shirt.
Casey put her plate in the sink. Her mother and sister were so absorbed in their plans for an afternoon shopping trip to the mall that they didn’t even notice when she left the room.
Casey went to her bedroom to change her blouse. She was the only member of her family who attended church. An aunt had introduced her to Jesus when she was a kid. Casey believed in Jesus with all of her heart, but her church experience hadn’t been any better than home or school. People were polite, but churches had their cliques, too. The cute and popular girls ruled there just like everywhere else. At least, that’s how Casey felt as she sat alone most Sundays.
So, Casey changed churches as often as her mother changed husbands. She was always hoping that someday, someway, someone in some church somewhere would take time to get to know her – to really care. Maybe, today…
Matthew moved easily around the church, greeting old and young alike. Church was his second home and he was popular with everyone.
“That Matthew is a nice boy,” people often remarked. “Just like his father.”
Matthew’s father was the official pastor, but his family actually worked together as a team. His parents wanted to make the church a place where each person felt the love of Jesus.
While some of his friends thought their parents were “hypocrites”, Matthew knew his own were the real deal. Life at his house wasn’t always perfect, but his parents tried diligently to “walk the talk”. From an early age, they had taught Mathew to be sensitive to the Lord’s leading and to the needs of others.
So, when Matthew sighted Casey sitting in the last pew, he looked beyond the wannabe cool clothes and weird hair. He saw someone close to his own age, who looked like she desperately needed a friend.
“Hi, I’m Matt,” he smiled as he shook her hand.
“Umm… I’m Casey,” was the sputtered reply.
“Casey, come over and meet my friends,” Matthew replied. “You can sit up front with us.”
Casey smiled shyly and followed Matthew over to a group of laughing young people.
Maybe, this is the day, she thought, hopefully.
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