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REPAIRED BY LOVE
© 2004 Sandra Pavloff Conner
The rest of Sunday afternoon had passed happily enough, and now Monday morning brought a sense of excitement to Kana as she prepared to begin her first day as a teacher at the camp. She arrived early to find two other teachers already there, as well as Cameron and Howard, of course. The others began arriving rapidly, as did the students, and Kana realized everyone was feeling that same sense of excitement. It was something like the first day of school, but there was even more freedom than she would have felt there.
Delly was especially excited, because it was a new beginning for her. She was now in a real first grade class, and it gave her a sample of what she could expect when her school actually started in the fall. Of course, she would be going to Prince of Peace Christian School, so she would be taught about the Lord there too.
By Wednesday, the students, many of whom came from other churches, were all well acquainted, and their work and play was progressing nicely. During lunch break, Delly sat beside Kana and began to tell her about her exciting plans for the weekend.
“Mommy and Daddy are going on a trip on Friday,” she said, grinning broadly, “ and I get to stay with Uncle Lee!”
“You’ll enjoy that,” Kana answered. “Where are your mom and dad going?”
“Daddy has to go to Chattanooga for some supplies, and Uncle Lee said he and mommy needed a rest and some time together, so he would make some special plans with me, and they could stay as long as they wanted.”
“So what plans have you made?”
“Well, Uncle Lee’s going to close up early and pick me up from camp, and then we’re going to go ride on the sky lift. After that we’re going to eat corn dogs and caramel apples until they’re coming out our ears.” She couldn’t keep from giggling at what she had just said. “That’s what Uncle Lee says … and then we’re going to a movie.”
“I’d say that’s a full evening. What about Saturday?”
“Well, Uncle Lee said he would close this Saturday ‒ they don’t usually, you know ‒ they stay open in the morning ‒ but he said he would close this time just for me. And we’re going to sleep as long as we want and then go to the pancake house and eat a b-i-i-g breakfast.” By this time, Kana was clearing away their lunch mess, and they were walking back to their classroom. “And then we’re going to the stables and ride horses!”
“Delly, that sounds like a wonderful time.”
Delly nodded her head enthusiastically. “And we still have to think about what to do after that.”
“I see.” Kana couldn’t resist asking her next question. “And will Uncle Lee bring you to church, or will your mom and dad be back by then?”
“They’re not coming back until Sunday afternoon, so Uncle Lee will be bringing me to church.” She grinned from ear to ear. “I’m glad. I want him to come all the time.”
“I know you do. I’m praying for that too.”
Delly nodded her head again. “Gram Nora said you help her pray about everything. I pray with her about Uncle Lee. She says he’s going to get saved for sure.”
Kana just couldn’t resist hugging Delly to her. “I’m sure he will too, honey. You just keep praying.”
On Friday afternoon, Lionel was waiting for Delly right at 4:00. Kana walked out with her class, and naturally, Lionel stopped to speak to her. “How’s it going, Kana?”
“Really well. I’m so glad I decided to do this.”
“I think Delly enjoys every day better than the one before.”
“Uncle Lee,” Delly spoke as she tucked her hand in his. “Can Kana come with us to ride the sky lift and then to eat corn dogs?”
Lionel hadn’t considered the possibility of that question and was totally unprepared with an answer that would satisfy Delly without getting into too much detail. He would have been glad to have Kana along, but he knew she wouldn’t want to come. He gave her a helpless look.
Kana quickly knelt down to Delly’s height. “Oh, honey, I’m sorry, but I already have plans for this evening, but thank you anyway.”
“Okay … maybe some other time.”
“Maybe,” Kana said, rising and glancing briefly at Lee. She smiled at him and then at Delly again. “Have fun, you two.”
Lionel had recovered by then and smiled back. “We will, thank you.”
As they walked away to Lionel’s car, Kana sighed deeply, experiencing again the sadness she often felt when she thought of Lee Butler. Everything in her wanted to go with them ‒ everything, that is, except the part of her that knew it would only lead to more sadness than she felt now.
When Kana arrived home, Gram was all excited about some plans she had been considering. “Kana, ever since you told me last night about Lee babysitting this weekend, I’ve been thinking about inviting him and Delly to lunch after church on Sunday. Would you have any objections?”
How could she tell her grandmother that she was finding herself wanting to spend too much time with Lee Butler? She took a minute or two to answer, which caused Gram Nora to look at her a little curiously, but she didn’t say anything until Kana answered. “No, Gram, I think that would be a good idea.”
Gram looked relieved and said that she’d call right away and arrange it.
“I think I’ll shower and change into something nice and sloppy,” Kana said, and then I’ll call Vallie and have a nice long chat with her after we eat.”
“Good idea. The wedding’s just around the corner now, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, it’s getting close. It’ll be too late to change their minds soon.” Now why had she said that? She didn’t know her own mind sometimes these days. Well, at least Gram hadn’t looked at her funny, so she had probably taken it as a joke. “Oh, by the way have you heard any more about when Mom and Dad are coming up?”
“Oh, I forgot,” Gram said, reaching over to the table and picking up a small card which she handed to Kana. “We got a card today. They’ll try to come the first weekend in July. They’re pretty sure they can stay a week if they wait and come then.”
After they’d cleaned up the kitchen from supper, Kana carried the phone out to the back yard to make her call to Valentina. She didn’t like this despondency she kept slipping into lately, and she hoped talking with her best friend would help dispel that problem.
Vallie answered the phone herself.
“Hey girl!” Kana said, cheered already by Vallie’s bubbly voice. “It’s great to hear your voice. How’s it going?”
“I’m so glad you called! I’ve been thinking about you all week, but it’s been like a madhouse up here, and I never seemed to get time to call when I could talk a while. However, I think we’ve got everything back on track now.”
“No,” Vallie said, laughing. “At least not to me. I suppose the bride considered them serious, since she was in tears about a couple of arrangements that haven’t gone as planned, but really they were no big deal. And everything’s back under control now.”
“Good, I’m glad. Does Veronica still seem as happy about getting married as she did earlier?”
“Happy? … Happy? … I’m telling you, Kana, that girl is delirious, she’s so happy! I only hope I’ll be half as excited over the man I marry as she is over Steven.”
Kana laughed, her spirits lifting more by the minute. “I’m so glad. She’s a sweet girl, and she deserves to be that happy.”
“Well … I know another very sweet girl who deserves all the happiness she can find, and I’m wondering how she’s doing,” Vallie said with just a touch of seriousness in her voice.
“Well, for one thing, this first week of the children’s camp was great! And it was so much fun. Hardly like work at all. … And, you know, Vallie, for the first time since I started teaching, I’m wondering if I wouldn’t rather be teaching in a Christian school. It’s just wonderful to be able to talk freely to all of these kids about the Lord. And some of those who are coming aren’t actually Christians. It’s just that this camp has developed such a good reputation for the work with the kids that a lot of people who don’t even attend church anywhere send their kids to it.”
“You sure sound excited … but you’re not seriously thinking about deserting me and Nashville for one of the Christian schools down there are you?”
Kana had to laugh. “No … not really. I don’t even know if any of them have positions I’d be qualified for anyway. It was just a thought.”
“Well, thinking’s all right, as long as it doesn’t go too far.”
“I’ll remember that.”
“Now … let’s get down to serious business. What’s happening in the men’s department?”
“Vallie, you nut! You sound like you’re talking about a department store.”
“Stop stalling, Kana. Tell me what’s going on.”
“We-e-e-l-l … I had a date the other night with the photographer from the Gatlinburg Witness. I met him that day I went in to talk with the girls about their new children’s issue that I told you about. He’s a Christian, and he actually lives in Bryson City, North Carolina, but he stays over here several days at a time when he’s shooting for the magazine.”
“And … he’s very nice … .”
“ And he looks like … Come on, girl, you used to do better at this.”
Kana laughed out loud then, as did Vallie. “Okay, okay … he has brown hair that’s been streaked blond by the sun, so it looks almost caramel color. He has a gorgeous tan … eyes that look like copper when he gets excited about something he’s talking about … and he loves photographing children. How’s that?”
“Much better! Now we’re getting somewhere. So are you going out with him again?”
“I told him I would, but I don’t want to do anything much until after the last week of camp. And then Mom and Dad will be here for about a week, so I don’t really know how things will go.
“Are those the real reasons, or are you holding back because you’re still not sure what you feel about Lionel Butler?”
Kana sighed deeply, and Vallie thought that they were finally getting to the crux of the situation. “Oh, Vallie … I don’t know …” Vallie didn’t answer. She just waited, giving Kana time to decide what she needed to tell her. “I decided that I just needed to stay away from him as much as possible, but it seems like everything else is throwing us together. Even Gram has invited him and his niece for dinner Sunday. He’s taking care of Delly this weekend while her parents are in Chattanooga.”
“Hmmmmm … That does complicate things. … Have you had a chance to talk with him about spiritual things at all?”
“Not really. We did talk just a little about his dad not being a Christian, even though his mother was, and how it made her life very hard. I told him that’s common, and that’s why I made the commitments to the Lord that I did.”
“Did he seem to understand?”
“Yeah … as a matter of fact, I got the feeling that it might have caused him to start thinking about his mom and dad’s relationship a little differently … but I can’t say for sure.”
“Are you really attracted to him, Kana?”
Kana couldn’t hold back yet another sigh. “Yes … yes, Vallie … I’m very attracted to him. … And it isn’t just physical.”
“Well, I know you well enough to know that.”
“Oh, he’s very good looking – all over – but it’s something inside that I’m actually drawn to the most. There’s sweetness and an earnestness about him that I can’t ignore. And in spite of the fact that he isn’t a believer, he definitely has a code of honor that he lives by strictly. You can tell that in how he deals with people and circumstances in his life. I even know from some things Gram has told me about him that he’s almost always been that way.”
“In other words, if he were just a Christian, he’d be Mr. Right?”
“I don’t know. … I guess that’s probably true.”
“Well, there’s no question this is the most serious situation you’ve found yourself in since I’ve known you, dear. But you know you can trust God, Kana. Let’s just keep praying about it.”
“Thanks, Vallie. I can’t tell you how much it helps just to talk to you about it and know you’ll be praying.”
“Faithfully … every day.”
“Thanks. … Oh, I forgot … I meant to ask if you had taken up with any old flames since you’ve been home.”
“Well, at this point, no. I’ve just been too busy. And besides, all the men I’ve spent time with since I’ve been here are either married or engaged. But … who knows … there may be a pack of single guys at the wedding,” she said, laughing again. “I’m not in a big hurry, as you know … and … it’s kind of odd … but sometimes I wonder if I’m subconsciously comparing any guy I meet to Dr. McDaniels.”
“Oh, the music professor you had a crush on in college?”
“That’s the one,” Vallie said, laughing out loud. “And I didn’t leave college with a broken heart or anything because he didn’t return my feelings. But I just find it odd that a crush can have that much of a lasting effect.”
Kana laughed too. “Kind of like a crush hangover.”
Vallie roared with laughter on the other end of the phone now. “Exactly.”
“Hey! I just thought of something. Gram’s pastor is named McDaniels. Do you think they might be related?”
“Oh, it isn’t too likely. There must be a number of families with that name in the United States. Dr. McDaniels’ mother was Honduran, and his coloring is definitely from her Hispanic side. Is that what the pastor looks like?”
“No, he has blond hair and blue eyes. He’s darker skinned than most blond people, but that’s probably mostly a tan. Oh, well. I just thought maybe the Lord had a plan for your path to cross with your professor’s again in the future.”
“Kana, he isn’t my professor. He never was. He was out of my league, and I’m sure he would consider himself too sophisticated for someone like me anyway.”
“How old was he when you knew him?”
“Oh, somewhere in his mid thirties.”
“And what does that mean?”
“It just means that sounds like a good age to me. Of course, he’d be older now, but then so are you.”
“Will you stop, you nut! We’re supposed to be talking about your love life. Besides, as I said, I really don’t think about Dr. McDaniels much at all anymore. It’s just that when I meet a man I think I might be interested in, he just never seems to measure up to what I expect for some reason.”
“Yeah, but that could present a problem eventually.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well … if none of them measures up to your professor …”
“Kana! If you don’t stop this nonsense, I’m going to hang up! Besides, although mom’s truly happy for Veronica and Steve, she’s been sniffling through this whole week. I don’t think she’s going to be willing to consider giving up her only other daughter for quite some time.”
Kana laughed again. “I bet you’re right. But she’s not really upset, is she?”
“No. She knows it’s the Lord that brought them together … and the fact that they’re still going to live close by will help a lot.”
“That’s true. … Well, listen, I feel bad that I’ve tied you up for so long on the phone. I’d better let you get on to other things.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute, and you know it.”
“Me too. Give your mom and the rest of the family my love, will you?”
“I will, hon. It’s sure been good to hear from you. I’ll try to make the next call, and I promise to get back to you before the wedding.”
“Anytime’s fine. If I get desperate, I’ll call you back.”
“Okay. Say “hi” to Gram for me.”
“I’ll do that. I love you, Val.”
“I love you, hon. Take care of yourself now. Bye.”
“Bye.” Kana smiled as she clicked off the receiver. She leaned her head back on the lounger where she was sitting and looked up at the sky. The stars were just starting to show up well. She was quiet for some time and then uttered a short prayer. “Lord, You’ve always led me and guarded me. I don’t want to make a mess of my life at this point. Please show me what’s going on inside of me and what You want me to do about it. I belong to You, Lord, not myself. Please direct my steps perfectly. … I trust You, Father. Thank You. … Amen.”
Sunday morning, when Kana woke, she realized that she no longer felt a burden about the afternoon she’d be spending with Lee Butler. Somehow, the Lord had lifted the weight of it since Friday, and she went about getting ready for church with a light heart. During church, she couldn’t help but sneak a few peaks at Lee and Delly, who were sitting right across the aisle from them. Unless she was mistaken, Lee seemed a little more relaxed than he had the other times she’d seen him there. He and Delly were whispering and chuckling about something right up until the service started.
She watched as that little girl snuggled her hand into her uncles and even leaned her head over on his shoulder a time or two. If anybody could draw Lee Butler to the point of seeing his need for the Lord, surely it would be Delly.
When they all arrived back at Gram’s for lunch, it seemed like a festive occasion. Lee seemed right at home at her grandmother’s house, and certainly Delly considered it one of her homes away from home. They talked and laughed, and just really enjoyed their time around the table. Then Gram told Delly that she had rented a funny movie for them to watch as soon as the kitchen was cleaned up, so she and Delly went right to work on that job, shooing Kana and Lee into the living room until time for the movie.
After they were seated, in chairs facing each other, Kana decided to wait and see what Lionel would talk about. He looked just a little restless for a moment or two, but then looked directly at her and said, “Actually, Kana, I’m glad we have this time to talk a few minutes. There’s something I’ve been wanting to talk to you about.”
“What is it, Lee?’
He cleared his throat, and leaned forward in his chair. “Well, first of all, I hope you know that Friday when Delly invited you to come along with the two of us, my hesitancy wasn’t because I didn’t want you to come.”
“I didn’t really think that was the case.”
“I just didn’t want you to feel awkward after we had talked in the car the other day, and I quite frankly didn’t know what to tell Delly.”
“Please don’t feel bad about that, Lee. I understood perfectly.”
“Good. I was pretty sure you did. You’re an extremely sensitive and compassionate person, Kana. … And …” He cleared his throat again. “And that’s why I feel I can ask you about something else.”
“Anything you want.”
“The other day when we talked about my parents, you said you understood how their life could have been so bad, and you indicated that it might have been mainly because my mother was a Christian and my dad wasn’t. And you believe that’s why the Bible tells Christians not to marry anyone who isn’t a believer in Christ.” He looked directly into her eyes. “I did understand you correctly, didn’t I?”
“Yes, that is what I said.”
“I have to admit that I’ve always just blamed my dad for all of the horrible things he put my mom through, and then I blamed God for letting her have to live that way even though she supposedly belonged to Him.” He paused and cleared his throat again. “It just never occurred to me that maybe my mother had made a choice that had brought her to that place … and that she might actually have been disobeying God when she made that choice.”
Kana could see the pain in his eyes as he spoke. Her heart yearned to comfort him, but she didn’t quite know how. One thing she did know: this was part of the Lord’s working in answer to many prayers that had been prayed for this man.
“Those must be thoughts that are hard for you to have to deal with,” she finally said.
He nodded his head and looked down at the floor for a moment. When he looked back at her, she could see resolution in his eyes as he began to speak again.
“Darrin and I went to church some during most of our growing up years, and I’ve heard the Bible read again and again . … In fact, I used to read it myself every day … mainly because Mom wanted me to … but at that time I thought I believed it … at least a little.” He shook his head as if to clear it. “Anyway … the point I’m getting to is this. I know I’ve heard some of those scriptures read that talk about Christians being in relationships with non-Christians, but I don’t remember where they are, and I’d like to read them again – to see if maybe I can understand all of this a little more than I have up to now. And instead of having to hunt around until I find all of them, I wondered if you could direct me to where I need to read.”
Kana’s face lit up with her smile; so did her eyes. “Why, I’d be glad to, Lee.” She stood up. “Let me get a piece of paper and a pen and write them down right now for you.”
Just at that time, Gram and Delly came in to announce that they were putting the movie into the VCR in the den and wanted Kana and Lee to join them.
“I’m just going to get a pen and paper to write some information down for Lee, and then I’ll be there.” She turned to Lee. “You go on in; I’ll be right back with what you need.”
Lionel was a little surprised, and absolutely delighted, that his request had put that kind of light in Kana’s eyes. Maybe … just maybe … there really were some answers other than the ones he’d been believing all these years. Somehow, he felt that if anyone could help him find them … surely Kana could.