If you missed the first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth segments, you may find them here:
Eric backed his rickety Impala out of the driveway and I gave a final wave goodbye to him and Jenny, even though I'll be seeing them in a little while at evening service. There were Sundays when I could convince them to stay the whole afternoon, right up until it was time to leave for church. But today, as soon as they came back downstairs, Jenny's eyes red-rimmed, Eric said he thought it best if they went back to the parsonage to rest for awhile.
It was exactly what I thought he'd say.
So, before they'd come downstairs and right after Laura stormed out, I set the table for dessert. I even used Mom's good china. Sure enough, once Eric saw the cake and coffee spread out, he mumbled to Jenny that maybe they should stay since I went to so much trouble. I have to admit that Jenny didn't look too thrilled and barely said more than two words.
Once Eric's car was out of sight, I ambled back into the house and began to clean off the dining room table. All through dessert Eric kept hinting how the house was too big for just one person. I, on the other hand, tried to bring the conversation back to Laura and how insensitive she was, not to mention that what she wanted to do was beyond reason. When I admitted how she angered me so much that I ended up lightly smacking her across the cheek, Eric gave me the strangest look. He said, "You hit her?"
"Eric, she pushed me. She always manages to push me."
He scowled. "What do you mean, pushed you? Physically?"
"No. By what she said."
"What did she say?"
I cleared my throat. "Just things."
Eric wouldn't let it go, but acted as though I was at fault in some way. "What kind of things, Beth?"
"Well, I don't know, like how I studied the Bible so much."
"How you studied the Bible so much?" he said. "I'm missing something here."
My voice cracked, my mind scrambling. He wouldn't understand. Besides I couldn't really explain why I reacted the way I had. I waved my arm and said, "It doesn't matter, Eric! She just says things a certain way that makes us so furious."
"Mother and me."
"Mom's gone, Beth," he said. Thankfully, though, he didn't pressure me any further.
Still, I began to feel so lonely once again without her here.
After I put the dirty dishes in the sink, I went back into the living room and pulled out my favorite Bible, the King James Version, from the bookshelf and began leafing through it. The pages were so dog-eared they kept falling out. I lugged it to the couch and sat down, opening God's word to where the Old Testament ends and the New begins. Tucked between the pages was one of my favorite photos.
There she was, the woman who wanted nothing more than to get her three children through the gates of heaven. Where we're going will last a lot longer than where we are now. I closed my eyes and repeated one of mother's favorite verses from Corinthians: "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal: but the things which are not seen are eternal."
I looked around the room. Sure, it could use a fresh coat of paint and new carpet, but as far as I was concerned it would always be home to me until the Lord decides to take me home. The idea of Laura wanting me to move out shook me to the core.
Whenever I feel discouraged or afraid, I take out this picture and remind myself of all the things Mother taught me. How righteous she appears, her head held high, an arm around my waist. I was holding up a blue ribbon for the camera and looked to be about fifteen. I deserved it, too, the hours I stayed in my room memorizing all those verses until they rolled off my tongue easy as pie.
Neither of us is smiling and I wondered why we weren't encouraged to do so. Hold that ribbon high, Beth.
Just then, there is a popping sound and flash of the camera. I felt a sickness come over me. Not a stomachache, but something deeper than that--an uneasiness. I tucked the photograph back into the Bible and dropped to my knees. Using the couch for support, I tried to pray.
I asked the Lord to take away the gnawing feeling, but instead breathing became difficult and I broke out into a sweat.
Pray, Beth, pray, I told myself.
I tried, groping for phrases, words, anything that would form a prayer, but nothing connected. Images, hideous images, muddled my thoughts. And there is that pop and flash again. I begged for it to stop.
And once again, I tried. But the words came out garbled, hollow, so I stopped and rested my head on the cushion and sobbed.
Dear Readers, That concludes Chapter One. Please let me know if you're interested in knowing more about the Sumner family from Of Little Faith, a novel that asks the following questions:
- How does one reconcile their passions with what they've been told is wrong?
- Does God punish those who follow their heart?
- Who is warranted to be God's spokesperson?
- Can God be manipulated by one's prayers?