Repaired By Love — Chapters 13 & 14

The next couple weeks are pretty busy, so I’ve decided to post 2 chapters at a time, instead of just one. That way, if I have to skip a day or two of posting, I won’t feel guilty. :

If you need to read previous chapters, click on Repaired By Love in the navigation bar.

Also: Don’t forget that Book # 1 of this series, SET FREE TO LOVE, is available in digital format for free download through September 9 only. If you don’t own a Kindle, you’ll find a free app on the book detail page.  CLICK HERE to get your free copy.

© 2004 Sandra Pavloff Conner

Chapter Thirteen

When Kana walked out of the meeting the next morning, she knew she really wanted to accept the position they had offered her. She didn’t understand all of the reasons, especially since it would mean a slight reduction in salary and benefits, although for a private school, they did offer quite a bit. But in her heart, she knew that this was something that she’d been wanting to do for some time.

She had held back from saying as much to the two men she’d met with, though, because she still wanted to be absolutely sure that she wasn’t being swayed by Gram’s feelings – or more importantly – her own feelings concerning Lionel. She had resolved to pray some more about it, at least until Sunday, and to talk to Vallie first. She knew that since Vallie didn’t want her to leave Nashville, she would most likely come up with all of the arguments against taking this new position that Kana might not have thought of on her own.

She didn’t want to be influenced by other people in the congregation who might know about the job opening, so she told Gram that she was going to skip church that evening. “I don’t want to talk to anyone else about the situation right now, except Vallie,” she said. “I can think of most of the reasons why I’d like to take the job, but I need to look squarely at the other side of the picture, and she will definitely help me do that. I hope you understand, Gram.”

“Of course I do, Honey. You do what you feel you need to in order to be able to hear the Lord clearly. If anyone asks about you, I’ll just tell them you had some other obligations to fulfill tonight. You don’t have to be there every time the doors are open anyway, you know.”

Kana laughed. “I know, but I learned from the best … you. And you are there every time the doors are open. So I guess that’s why I almost feel guilty for not going. But thanks for understanding, Gram,” she said hugging her tightly. “I love you very much, you know.”

Gram gave Kana a little swat on her behind. “Yes, Missy, I do know that, and it gives your old granny a big lift every time I think about it.”

Kana laughed out loud. “Old! Gram you’ll never be old, so don’t even try to get my sympathy. You’ll be going strong for the Lord right up until the very minute you leave this earth to go be in His presence.” She kissed her grandmother on the cheek. “Now, I’ll help you get supper, and then while you’re at church, I’ll call Val.”

When Kana picked up the phone to make that call, her heart was beating rapidly. She knew part of the cause was that she almost dreaded to tell her friend that she was seriously considering not coming back to Nashville to stay. But another part of it was that she was a little afraid that Vallie might come up with some legitimate reasons why Kana should turn down this position at Prince of Peace School. But she had to talk it over with her.

“I knew it! … I just knew it!” Vallie almost shouted.

“What do you mean you knew it?”

Vallie let out a long sigh before she answered. “Oh … Kana … after we talked the last time, I began to pray in earnest about your desire to teach in a Christian school. And the more I prayed, the more I felt in my heart that the Lord’s been causing you to feel that way because He’s been preparing you for something He wants you to do. I just had this knowing inside that you would be teaching somewhere else next year. Only I had at least hoped it would be here in Nashville.”

“Vallie, are you serious? Is that what you really felt?”

“Listen, girl, would I say something like that if it weren’t true? Do you think it’s easy for me to even consider giving up the very best friend I’ve ever had in my whole life? I’ve cried and cried about it ever since the Lord showed me all of that.”

“Oh, Val …” Tears sprang to Kana’s eyes now. “I can hardly bear to think of our not being able to do almost everything together either. I’m so torn about what to do.”

Vallie sniffed loudly on her end of the phone. “I told Mom about all of it, and cried on her shoulder too, but she gave me a lecture. I can recall every word, and I think I ought to tell you what she said.”

“Absolutely. Tell me.”

“Her exact words were, ‘Now, Honey, in the first place, you don’t know for sure that this is going to happen. But if it does, you just think about David and Jonathan in the Bible. They were the closest of friends that ever lived, and they had to go their separate ways after a time, but they never stopped loving each other, and God made a way for them to still bless each other. David even did some special things for Jonathan’s family after Jonathan himself had died. Now you buck up and think of this from Kana’s point of view. If God’s leading her to make this big a change, it’s because He has something really good in store for her.’”

“Is that what you believe too, Vallie?”

Her friend sighed heavily again. “As much as I don’t want to have to say the words … yes, I do. And … although I’d like to come up with a bunch of reasons why you shouldn’t … I can’t come up with any except my own need of your friendship.”

“Well, you know that’s not a little thing to me, Val.”

“I know, and I feel the same way, but that doesn’t change the fact that God is looking at a much bigger picture than just our personal friendship here, Kana. And … I guess what I’m trying to say is that I truly want you to do what you believe in your heart is the right thing to do when you look at the bigger picture.”

It was Kana’s turn to sigh. “Boy … I was prepared for you to come up with all kinds of arguments that would help me see the negative side to taking this job, but here you’ve practically laid it in my lap!”

“Don’t remind me!”

There was a long pause while both of them tried to sort out their feelings. Joy and expectation and disappointment all vied for first place in both of them, and finally Kana spoke again. “Vallie … do you think we’ll still remain best friends? Nashville and Gatlinburg aren’t all that far apart.”

“No … they aren’t … and if we’re determined to keep our friendship strong, I think we’ll find a way, dear. … That is … if you decide that you’re sure this job is what you’re supposed to be doing.”

“Well, I have to be honest and say that I’m not sure right now. I’m leaning toward it. I liked everything they told me in the meeting today, and I’ve worked with quite a few of the staff, because they were on the staff of the camp too. I like all of them, and I think they feel the same. We certainly worked well together. But … at the same time … I need to be sure that my feelings about Lee Butler aren’t entering into my decision.”

“Is anything else happening in that relationship yet?”

“No … and I’m not sure it’s supposed to. And I guess that’s my main reason for holding back on saying I’ll take this job.” Kana gasped at what she’d just said.

Vallie did too and then asked, “Did you hear what you just said, Kana?”

“Ye … yes. I did. I said that my concern about my feelings for Lee was the only real reason I’m not sure about this job. Vallie … I hadn’t realized it until I spoke those words, but except for that one question, I feel with everything in me that I’m supposed to be the first grade teacher here next year.” There was awe in her voice as she realized that her decision had already been made in her heart. Even her friendship with Valentina hadn’t been enough to dilute that strong pull inside of her to accept the position.

“I think the Lord’s given you the decision, dear, and I think you’re going to just have to let Him take care of everything concerning Lee Butler too. Don’t let that friendship – or whatever it might become – or not become – be a deciding factor.”

Kana had tears trickling down her cheeks now. “Oh, Vallie, what would I ever do without you? You’ve helped me so much.”

“Well, you’re not going to have to do without me. We’ve already decided that, remember?” She sighed again, resignedly. “Well, I guess there won’t be any need to read your journal at the end of the summer.”

“No, you’re helping me write it almost day by day,” Kana said, laughing now.

“You are coming back at the end of July to at least get sorted out and packed up, aren’t you?”

“Oh, yes, and … if I do decide to take this job, I’ll probably come up and talk to the principal personally as soon as possible.”

“Okay … at least we can spend some time together then.” Kana could hear the sadness in her friend’s voice. Her heart ached at the idea of moving away from her too. But she knew that Vallie had spoken what the Lord Himself had put into her heart, and she felt so grateful for such a friend.

“Thank you for being so honest with me, Vallie. It’s made all the difference.”

“I’m glad it’s helped a little at least. Why don’t we pray before we hang up.”

“That’s a good idea,” Kana said, and they each took a turn praying for the Lord to get His perfect will done in both of their lives. As always, they both felt much better when they had finished, and in spite of their hesitancy to be separated from each other, they both felt a sense of expectancy and hope for the future too – enough so that they were laughing again by the time they ended the call.

By Sunday, Kana knew that she was supposed to take the job at Prince of Peace School. She told Gram at breakfast that morning, and planned to tell Cameron and the principal after the evening service. There were always so many people for the pastor to talk to after the morning service, she thought that would be a confusing time to talk about something so important.

She would make plans to travel back to Nashville and talk to the principal there in the next day or two. That would still give them about five weeks to hire somebody else. She knew there were plenty of applications on file in the office. There was never a shortage of people wanting to teach there, so they wouldn’t have a hard time filling her place. There was something especially humbling about realizing that truth; it helped her to keep things in perspective and not feel as if the world would stand still because of any of her decisions. Her only responsibility was to be sure she was being obedient to the Lord for herself.

Just before they left for the evening service, Gram asked Kana’s permission to tell the Butlers about her decision. “Delly will be so excited to know that you’re going to be her teacher,” she said, beaming at the thought of how happy the child would be.

Kana chuckled. “Oh, Gram, you don’t need my permission. Everybody will know about it soon. But I think I’d better get a bag packed tomorrow and head up to Nashville bright and early Tuesday morning, so that I can talk to my own principal and give him as much notice as possible.”

“Yes, that’s the only right thing to do, although I hate for you to have to leave so quickly. Will you try to stay and do some other things while you’re there?”

“Yes, I think that would be the best. If I get everything sorted out and packed up, and make arrangements for movers or whatever I’ll need, then when I come back, I can spend the rest of the summer getting myself and my materials organized for the start of school .”

“Will Vallie be coming back soon?”

“She’ll be back to town next week, and I thought if I had most of the work done, that would give the two of us more time to spend together.” She sighed. “That’s the only really sad part of this decision, Gram. I’ve never had a truer friend than Vallie. The Lord just knitted our hearts together from the beginning of our acquaintance. We’ve actually been much more like sisters.”

“I know dear,” Gram said, hugging Kana. “But your friendship is strong enough to hold up even at a distance. Those God-created friendships last a whole lifetime, you know. I have one or two like that, and distance hasn’t changed our love or trust in each other over many years now.”

Kana smiled, although there were unshed tears in her eyes. “That helps, Gram. I’ll hold on to that.”

“And … Kana … I want you to know that my happiness at your making this decision isn’t just a selfish happiness.”

“Oh, I know that, Gram!” Kana interrupted her.

“Well, what I mean is, I really do believe that this is a brand new season in your life, and that the Lord has brought you here for a specific purpose. I believe He has some good plans that He wants to carry out in your life, and He needs you to be here in order for Him to do it.”

Kana was silent for a moment, just looking into her grandmother’s eyes. “You know, as I left Nashville to make this trip, I couldn’t help but feel that there was something special about it – that it was more than just a great vacation or a long awaited visit with you.”

Gram nodded her head. She was sure of that fact. And unless she had missed her guess, she was almost positive that those special plans involved a certain young man who had just given his heart to the Lord – partly as a result of knowing Kana. She smiled widely to herself now as they went out the front door. Yes, she did believe in love at first sight, and even though there were hurdles to get over, love always found a way with the Lord’s help.

When service was over, Kana made her way to the principal, Mr. Jeffreys, to tell him of her decision. His face was wreathed in smiles as he shook her hand and welcomed her to the school family. Cameron came up to them about that time, smiling in expectation. “Do I see what I think I see?” He said. “Have you accepted the position, Kana?”

Grinning herself, Kana answered. “Yes, I have. You two were very persuasive at our meeting the other day, and I really do believe this is the Lord’s leading. Even my very best friend, who is in tears … as I am … about our being separated … told me that the Lord had prepared her for this turn of events.”

“Say, that is good news. It’s always nice to have those kinds of confirmations, isn’t it?” Cameron said.

Kana nodded her head. “It helped a lot.”

Mr. Jeffreys spoke again now. “Well, I’ll make myself available to you whenever you want to come in and start going over the materials and making plans, Kana. Just let me know.”

“Thank you. I’m planning on going back to Nashville on Tuesday to give them my notice personally and try to get things moving on that end, so I’ll probably wait until I’m back at the end of the month to start working on this end.”

“That makes sense. Then you won’t have to go back and forth trying to finish one thing and start another at the same time.”

Kana laughed. “That’s what I thought. I’m running it a little close on time as it is, but that’s probably best, under the circumstances. If I had a lot more time, I might get back home and start second guessing myself and lose my courage to make this change.”

Mr. Jeffreys was gray-headed, but his eyes still twinkled a bright blue, and they twinkled at her in kindness now. “I truly do believe that you’ve made the decision the Lord wants you to make, Kana. I believe we’ll all be blessed with the outcome.”

“Thank you, Sir,” she said, her eyes meeting his seriously. She reached out to shake his hand again. “I’ll give you a call as soon as I get back from Nashville.”

She turned then and started over to where Gram was standing with the Butlers, all of them wreathed in smiles. They looked up and saw that she was coming toward them, and Delly sprang from the group and ran to meet her, throwing her arms around her waist.

“Kana, is it really true? Are you going to be my teacher?”

“Yes, dear, I think I am.”

“Oh boy!” she said, bouncing up and down. “And don’t worry. I know I have to call you Miss Wallace at school, like we did in camp.” Then her face took on a concerned look. “But is it all right if I call you Kana when we’re not at school?”

“I think that would be fine as long as we’re not on some kind of school business, like a field trip or something. When we’re just with the family, you can still call me Kana.”

By that time they had joined the rest of the family, and Darrin announced that they had taken Gram up on her offer to buy ice cream for everybody as a way of celebrating. So once again, Kana found herself seated beside Lee Butler at a table, their arms touching lightly from time to time. It sent a little shiver through her when they touched, and involuntarily, she remembered the kiss again. Was it going to be like this every time they were together, she wondered?

“I was surprised to hear your news, but very happy about it,” Lee said now. “It will be quite a move for you.”

“Yes, it will. I’m going up Tuesday to start getting things ready. I don’t know for sure how much I’ll bring with me, but I need to make some pretty quick decisions and notify the movers.”

“Listen, if you’re not bringing a whole house-full of furniture, why don’t you let me come up and load it into a U-haul and bring it down for you? I’ll bring a friend to help, and Darrin can handle the garage on his own for two days. It won’t take more than that.”

“Oh, Lee, I couldn’t let you do that!”

“Why not! What are friends for?”

“Well … I … I don’t know …”

“Look, Kana, I feel that you’ve helped me so much, and I’d really like to do something to help make this move easier for you if I can. Let me do this.”

“Well, maybe. But let me see first how much I want to bring down. I’ll let you know. I promise.”

“Good. How long will you be gone this trip?”

“I’m not too sure. There’s a lot to do, and I’d like to get most of it taken care of before my best friend gets back to Nashville next week, because I want us to spend as much time together as possible before I leave for good.”

“She’ll be sorry to see you go, I’m sure.”

“Well, yes and no,” she answered smiling wryly.

“Yes and no?”

Kana chuckled now. “She wants me to do exactly what the Lord wants me to do, and she believes that involves moving down here and taking this job, but, of course, she doesn’t want us to be separated by so much distance.”

“Tell me about her; is she a teacher too?”

“Yes. Our classrooms are next door to each other, and we’ve both always taught at that same school. Her name’s Valentina Rosswell. She’s African-American and quite beautiful. She’s a year younger than I am, but we like all the same things and think the same way about so much that we’ve been more like sisters than friends ever since we met.”

“Sounds like one of those rare relationships that you want to keep for life.”

“It is. And I’m sure we will.”

“Well, I have to say that I’m really glad you decided to move down here. You already brighten the lives of so many people here, and I’m sure that can only increase when you’re here to live.”

Kana had been avoiding looking directly at Lee, but now she did. As soon as their eyes met, they held as if magnetized. She recognized a new warmth in their depths, but she tried to tell herself that it had nothing to do with her personally. Finally, she picked up the conversation again. “Thank you, Lee. That’s quite a compliment.”

He looked at her even more intently. “And you know it’s true.”

Kana still hadn’t been able to break eye contact with him when Delly interrupted their conversation. “Kana, can – I mean may I help you get your room at school ready when it’s time?”

Kana wasn’t sure how to answer that, but before she had much chance, Eve spoke up. “No, Delly, honey, Kana doesn’t need somebody bouncing around, asking a bunch of questions every few minutes. She needs some time alone in her room to think things out. Besides, if you get to go in and help, it might make the other children feel bad if they find out on the first day of school, since they wouldn’t have had a chance to do the same.”

“Oh … I didn’t think about that,” Delly said, her lower lip drooping and her head hanging down.

“I’ll tell you what,” Kana said cheerily. “I’ll try to save something that everyone can help with on the first day, how’s that?”

That wasn’t quite what Delly had been hoping for, but it was better than nothing, so she agreed readily, in case hesitating might cause that offer to be withdrawn too.

“I think it’s somebody’s bedtime,” Darrin spoke now, winking at Delly.

“But, Daddy, it’s summertime. There’s no school yet, so I ought to be able to stay up a long time.”

“Don’t give me that, Squirt. 9:30 is late enough unless something really special is going on.”

“Well something special is going on. It’s Kana’s celebration party.”

“Actually,” Kana spoke up now, “I’m tired enough myself to be ready for bed too. What about you, Gram?”

“Yes, I think I can call it a day – a very happy day,” she said, rising from her chair.

“Don’t forget, now, Kana,” Lee said as they all walked to their cars, “I’ll be waiting to hear from you about bringing your things down.”

“Oh, are you going to help with that, Lee?” Eve asked.

“Yeah, I told her I’d go up and load everything in a U-haul and bring it down. It’s a lot less expensive, and she won’t have to be concerned about anything possibly getting lost.”

“That’s a great idea, but you’ll need a little help, won’t you?” Darrin asked.

“I thought I’d ask Jimmy if he’d like to go along and help. We’ve been trying to think of something we could hire him to do, and this should fit the bill nicely.”

“Well, I can’t let you pay someone to come and move my furniture!” Kana said, sounding a little distraught. “I’ll gladly pay whatever you think’s fair.”

“No, you don’t understand,” Lionel answered. “Darrin and I have been thinking about hiring Jimmy on part time, just to do odd jobs, because he helps support his family, but what he earns several hours a week at the corner grocery, just isn’t enough. This would be a way of working him into some hours with us without making him feel like it’s a handout.”

“Well … if you’re sure …” Kana still sounded unconvinced.

Lionel reached out and laid his hand gently on her shoulder. “Trust me, Kana; I know what I’m doing.” Instantly, she felt a warm current flow through her from where his hand lay, and she felt that magnetic pull toward him again. Fortunately for her peace of mind, as soon as he’d finished speaking, he removed his hand, but then she felt cold without that connection.

She just nodded her agreement and turned to get into the car. Darrin was holding the door for Gram, and Lionel did the same for Kana, leaning in, partly across her, to wish Gram a goodnight. As they drove home, she and Gram were both quiet. Kana was thinking about Lionel. What she didn’t know was that Gram was doing the same – and smiling to herself again.


Chapter Fourteen

The next day, as Kana packed for her trip back to Nashville, Gram wandered in and out of the bedroom, making one or two suggestions, but mostly just being there. Kana kept feeling that her grandmother wanted to talk about something particular, but she didn’t know whether to just come out and ask her or wait for her to decide to bring it up.

Finally, about 3:00, Gram suggested they stop for tea and the cake she had baked that morning, and as they ate, she finally got to what was on her mind. “Kana, dear, I’d like to ask you something, but in order for me to feel free to do so, I need you to promise me that you will answer me totally truthfully, and not worry that you’ll hurt my feelings. I assure you, my feelings won’t be hurt, no matter what your answer, but I figure unless I bring it up, there’s no way you can make a decision about it.”

“What is it, Gram?.”

“Do I have your promise?”

Kana held up her right hand as if making a pledge. “I promise.”

“Well, I know you’ve been quite independent for several years, and I’m sure there are a lot of things you like about having your own apartment. But this house is so large, and we seem to get along so well together, I was just wondering if … well … if you might consider moving in with me, at least for your first year. I think I can promise that I’ll be keeping busy enough myself that I won’t smother you or interfere in your social life much.” She was grinning widely as she made the last statement, but Kana could see that there was a seriousness in her eyes.

“Well … to tell you the truth, Gram, I hadn’t given much thought yet to my living arrangements. I guess I just assumed in the back of my mind that I’d get an apartment, but … now that you’ve brought up this idea … I think maybe it’s something I should consider.” She grinned at her grandmother now. “And I think we have a good enough relationship that I would never feel smothered by you.”

“You could feel free to come and go as you please, and there are enough rooms in this house that you could entertain friends anytime you wanted with privacy. There’s even the two extra bedrooms, besides the ones you and I would use, so if Vallie or someone else wanted to come for an extended visit, that would cause no problem.”

“I’d really like to consider that, Gram. Are you sure it wouldn’t cause you to feel that you had someone here you had to take care of, though? I wouldn’t want you to feel that you had to wait on me or watch over me somehow.”

“No, I don’t believe I would. Of course, I’ve done a little of that these past few weeks, because you were on vacation, and I hardly ever get to spend time with you. But I don’t think I’d have any problem letting you do your share and act like the house was your responsibility too.”

“Well, if you really mean that, I think living here with you would be fun. That is – if you promise that after a while, if for some reason I feel the need to be out totally on my own again, you won’t be offended.”

“I can promise that. I do know what it is to need independence.”

“And do you promise that if I get to be a nuisance or a burden of any kind, you will be honest with me?”

“I promise, dear. I know you have the ability to earn a living and handle all of your own living expenses, so if I felt that I couldn’t handle the arrangement after a period of time, I’d tell you. But I seriously doubt that such a circumstance will arise.”

“And you’ll let me help with the expense and upkeep of the house?”

“Well …”

“That’s the only way I’ll do it, Gram.”

“All right. But since it’s my home, and everything I put into it is an investment that I will gain something from – and it won’t be that for you – let’s say that you can pay up to a third of the expenses, but not a penny more.”

“But …”

Gram held up her hand. “No arguments. If you won’t agree to that, we’ll just have to forget it. I won’t have you investing any more money than that in my property when you need to be saving for your own future. I want you to stay, but I draw the line at you paying for more than that.”

Kana grinned at her again. “Your some business woman, Gram. You know how to drive a hard bargain and get what you want. Maybe some of that will rub off on me, if I stay around on a regular basis.” She held our her right hand to shake. “It’s a deal, Mrs. Brighton.”

“Good. I thought if we could get that settled now it might help you decide what you want to move down here with you.”

“Oh, that’s right. That will make a difference in what I bring down.”

“If you want to change your bedroom and put in your own things, we can store the other stuff, and you can put some of your own things in the other rooms as well if you like. I thought you might especially want to add something to the study. It won’t bother me in the least to re-arrange things and do a little redecorating.”

“Well, I don’t have a whole lot, since it was just a one bedroom apartment, and all of the cabinets and bookcases were built-ins. The refrigerator and stove and washer and dryer all came with it, so they will stay there. And I suppose any other pieces that I didn’t want to move in here would be easy enough to store. And who knows, if we decide we like this arrangement well enough, I may even sell some of what I’m not using.”

“That makes sense, and if you aren’t particularly fond of some of the items, you might even want to sell them up there rather than move them.”

“Boy, I didn’t stop to think when I decided to take this job just how many hundreds of other decisions would need to be made as a result,” Kana said now, holding her head in her hands for a moment.

Gram chuckled at her. “Well, dear, at least the most important one has been made. You’ve taken the job. Then the second most important was about a place to live, and that’s been decided. So really, I’d say you’re over the worst of the hurdles already. And, at least you won’t have to search for a new church home, because you already fit in here like one of the family.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right, Gram. Considering what a big move I’m making, I really don’t have too many big problems left to solve, do I?”

Gram reached out and squeezed Kana’s hand. “I’m very excited about this, Kana. I’m expecting some very happy things to result from this move.”

“Thanks, Gram. I’m excited too.”

Kana left for Nashville at 9:00 the next morning, and by the middle of the afternoon, she was standing in the middle of her own living room still feeling some of that excitement. Only now it had to battle with the sadness and nostalgia that were naturally starting to crowd in.

But the job ahead of her was huge, so after she fixed herself a cup of tea and propped her feet up while she drank it, she started walking through the rooms and deciding what she wanted to move to Gatlinburg with her and what she felt she could part with easily. She wrote everything down in one column or the other, and she was pleasantly surprised at the end of the tour with how few items she felt she needed to keep.

She decided on fast food for her evening meal, because she could get more done if she didn’t stop to shop for groceries and cook. After eating, she did stop at a small neighborhood market to get only basic necessities for a couple more days, and planned to wait until the end of the week to do any serious shopping. She’d probably be here only one more week, and most of that time, she planned to spend with Vallie, which meant they’d probably eat out several times together.

The next morning, she went to the school and spent an hour with her principle. He seemed understanding and, surprisingly, even encouraging when she told him that she believed the Lord was leading her to make the change and that the move would put her in the same city as her grandmother and much closer to her parents. She knew he was sorry to lose her, but he didn’t even hint that she should feel bad about her decision or reconsider it. He told her to take whatever time she needed to gather her materials from her classroom, and when she left his office, she felt a real peace about leaving.

By late that afternoon, she had sorted all of her material, separating what was her own from what belonged to the school. She had made at least a half dozen trips to her car, carrying everything, and since she had put boxes in her trunk for that specific reason, she just filled them and decided to leave everything in the car until she got back to Gatlinburg. A good deal of extra-curricular material that she had used for second grade could also be used for first, so she didn’t want to leave much of it behind.

On Friday, she plowed through all of the correspondence, photographs, and books in her apartment, as well as her kitchen items, and by that evening, she had boxed everything she intended to take. She stood in the middle of her kitchen, her hands on her hips, and breathed a deep sigh of relief. The task was almost over. And for the first time, she thought seriously about taking Lionel up on his offer. She really didn’t want to take enough to pay a moving company, and she didn’t think anything she was moving would be more than they could handle loading themselves.

She didn’t know if she would be likely to find him at home on a Friday evening, but she’d try anyway. Gram had carefully written his home and business number on a page in Kana’s address book so that she could get in touch with him about the move when she was ready. Kana hadn’t told her that she wasn’t sure yet if she planned on letting him help. But now it seemed like a pretty good idea. And if she were really honest with herself, she wanted very much to talk with him.

He answered on the second ring, and Kana glanced at her watch just as he answered and realized that he might be having supper. “Lee, it’s Kana.”

“Yes, I recognize your voice. Hi.”

“Listen, I’ve been so busy I didn’t even look at a clock before I called. If you’re eating, I can call back later.”

“No. I’ve finished. I’m sitting here with my feet propped up, drinking a cup of coffee and watching Andy Griffith.”

“Really! I love that show! I have loads of those videos and DVDs.”

“So do I, and I knew you were a woman of good taste the first time I met you,” he said, laughing.

“As a matter of fact, I just finished packing a bunch of books and tapes this afternoon, and those shows were put in their own special box.”

“Good girl. I hope you’ll let me go through them and see if you have any I don’t have, and maybe we can share.”

“You bet. Anybody who’s a friend of Andy Griffith is a friend of mine.”

Lionel didn’t respond for a moment, and when he did, his tone was serious. “I hope you do consider me your friend, Kana.”

“Of course.”

He cleared his throat to rid it of the huskiness that had crept into his voice. “Well, are you ready for my moving services?”

“I called to ask you what you thought about the load I’m planning on bringing down there. I want you to tell me honestly if you think it’s more than we need to try to take ourselves, or if you think that would still be the best way.”

“Okay, read me your list.”

When she had read off everything she planned to take, he asked. “Are you sure that’s all you’ll want to bring?”

“Yes. Since I’ve decided to move in with Gram at least for the first year, I won’t need anything more than this, if this much.

“I didn’t realize that you had decided to live with her. My very next question was going to be whether you were coming back down to look for an apartment before we moved everything. But I think moving in with your grandmother sounds like a great idea. I’m sure she’s thrilled.”

“Yeah, we talked again last night, and she’s bending over backwards to make sure I know she won’t ‘cramp my style,’ as she puts it. But I told her to stop worrying. I’ll enjoy this set up more than she will.”

“I’m glad. She’s a wonderful woman, and with you making such a big move, it’s nice that you have someone of your own to move right in with. It will make you feel settled almost from the beginning.”

“You know, you’ve just put into words what I’ve been feeling ever since I decided to take Gram up on her offer. I hadn’t really been able to voice what I felt, but you’ve hit the nail on the head: I don’t feel the least bit unsettled even though I’m moving to a new town halfway across the state.”

“Well, great minds think alike; don’t you know that?” he answered, laughing.

“Thank you for including me in that category. To tell you the truth, I guess I must have a great mind because I’ve certainly put it through a rigorous work out this past week, and it’s still going strong.”

“So when do you want to come down?”

“You didn’t say what you thought about the load I’m bringing.”

“Oh, didn’t I? I thought I did. I couldn’t believe that was all you’re moving. I think the only sensible thing is to do what I suggested.”

“And you’re sure it won’t be a terrible imposition on you?”


“Okay, okay. I just wanted to double check,” she said laughing at the sternness in his voice.”

“What day?”

“Well, Vallie gets back tomorrow, and I know she’ll want us to spend at least a couple of days together before I leave, and since you’ve just gotten started at the Bible class and Wednesday night services, I don’t want you missing those on my account. How about Thursday?”

“Sounds good. What we’ll do is come up early that morning and load everything up, and then take off early the next morning, if that’s all right with you.”

“That’s perfect. I can stay that last night with Vallie, and if you and Jimmy want to bring a couple of sleeping bags, you can stay here in my apartment that night and not bother with a motel.”

“Hmmm, that’s an idea. I’ll think about it. Although, if we don’t stay, you can have everything locked up as soon as the furniture is loaded, and you’ll be done there. Besides, I think Jimmy will consider staying in a motel a real treat, so I think I’ll just stick with that plan. Do you think I ought to reserve something?”

“Oh, there are so many in this area, I don’t think it’s necessary, but if you’d like for me to reserve something at the one nearest Vallie’s apartment, I can do that.”

“That sounds like a good idea. Then we’ll be close by if we need to handle any last minutes details. Are you going to follow us down that morning?”

“I think I should. I need some time to prepare at the school after I get back, and if I stay another day or two, it’s just going to be that much harder leaving Vallie. So, as of right now, my plan is to go down when you and Jimmy do.”

“I think that’s best too. Okay, if I don’t hear anything different, we’ll be there with a big truck right around noon.”

“Good. I’ll bring something in for lunch, and I’m going to take Vallie and you and Jimmy all out for dinner that evening as a great big thank you to everybody at once.”

“There’s no need for that, Kana —”

“Don’t bother arguing, Lee. It’s that way or no way at all. I won’t let you and Jimmy come up here and do all that work unless you’ll let me treat you to dinner.”

“Okay, I guess you’re the boss on this job. Now give me some specific directions.”

Having done that, Kana wished him a good night and hung up. She felt excited about this move in her life, even more so after talking with Lionel. She still wasn’t positive what she felt for him personally, but she knew that he made her life more interesting and pleasant, and she was grateful for the fact that he was now a member of God’s family and she didn’t have to keep up a guard of some kind whenever she was with him.

The following Thursday morning, Vallie arrived at Kana’s apartment to help with any last minute packing. They had spent the last several days just running around together, visiting all of their favorite places and finally ending up moving Kana to Vallie’s apartment the previous night for an old fashioned pajama party. It was still hard to think about being separated, but both girls had resolved to make this a happy time for each other, knowing that the Lord was leading this way. So although a few tears were shed from time to time, they laughed through most of the days.

By noon on Thursday, they were watching out the window for the moving truck, and sure enough, just a few minutes past the hour, Lionel and Jimmy pulled up. Vallie had been looking forward to this meeting with Lionel for days now, and could hardly keep from hopping up and down with anticipation. She watched out the curtain as he locked the truck, and he and Jimmy started up the walk. “Oh, Kana, he is handsome! He has those loose-limbed movements that make him look relaxed and laid back, but those muscles look like they’re solid as a rock.”

Kana laughed out loud. “For pity’s sake, Vallie, the way you’re going on, I’m surprised your tongue isn’t hanging out.”

“Hey, girl, if it weren’t for the fact that I know your seriously interested, it just might have been.”

“What do you mean seriously interested?”

“Just what it sounds like I mean, and you know I’m right, so don’t bother arguing. Besides, there’s the bell. Let ‘em in; I want to meet this hunk.”

Kana was still laughing when she opened the door, and Lionel thought she had never looked lovelier. Her eyes were bright and her cheeks flushed. What he really wanted to do was grab her up and swing her around, but he managed to restrain himself and smile politely, giving a little salute. “Butler’s moving service at your command, madam. This is my partner, Jimmy Mitchell,” he added, putting his hand on Jimmy’s shoulder.

Jimmy grinned and held out his hand to Kana. “Pleased to meet you, ma’am.”

“Oh, please, Jimmy, call me Kana, and come on in,” she said, stepping back to let them enter the apartment.

As they did so, Valentina stepped toward them from across the room, her eyes bright and her voice welcoming. “Hi, I’m Valentina Rosswell,” she said, offering her hand to Lionel. “And I’m sure you’re Lee Butler. You’re as handsome as Kana said you were.”

Lionel blushed slightly, and Kana blushed a lot. Vallie just grinned and turned to Jimmy, offering him her hand also. “Hi, Jimmy. We’re sure glad you could come to help.”

Kana cleared her throat and spoke again. “Why don’t we have something to eat first, and you guys can have a few minutes to rest. Then we can get started. With all four of us, it shouldn’t take very long.”

“Sounds good,” Lionel said. “Where can we wash up?”

“Bathroom’s down the hall and to your left. For lunch I’ve got a selection of cold cuts, chips, and cookies. I hope that’s all right. I thought that was better than ordering something hot and trying to keep it that way until you got here.”

“That sounds great to me,” Jimmy said enthusiastically.

“Same here,” Lionel said. “And I think we’re both hungry enough to do it justice,” he added as he and Jimmy started down the hall.

They sat on the high stools around the kitchen counter as they ate, and Kana asked a few questions about the people she knew in Gatlinburg. Then Vallie told Lionel how excited she’d been when Kana had told her of his new commitment to the Lord, and she asked him to tell her about it. So that carried them most of the way through the meal, and by the time they were having coffee from a thermos, Lionel leaned back in his chair and just looked at Vallie for a long time.

“You have absolutely gorgeous eyes!” he said. “But I imagine you’ve been told that before.”

Vallie had been surprised at his comment. Although she was used to people commenting on her unusual aquamarine eyes, she hadn’t expected such an overt compliment from this friend of Kana’s.

“Why, thank you, Lee. I have had other people comment on them, just because the color is unusual in African-American people. But I’ve rarely had a nicer compliment than what you just said.”

Kana squirmed just slightly, although no one else noticed. She loved her best friend and had always been proud of how beautiful she was, but for some reason, she didn’t feel the least bit happy that Lionel had seemed so taken with that beauty today.

“Does anyone else in your family have the same color eyes?” he asked now.

“No. I’m the exception. Everybody else has brown eyes.”

“That’s interesting”

Kana felt that it was time to change the subject, so she cleared her throat a little and asked, “Well, do you guys want anything else to eat?”

“Not me,” Lionel said, patting his stomach. “I just about made a pig of myself as it is. How about you, Jimmy?”

“I’m taking this one more cookie, and then I’m done,” he answered, grinning and taking a bite at the same time.

“Well, I’ll clear the table them,” Kana said, rising. “You two rest a few minutes before you start hauling furniture out.”

“Why don’t you walk through the apartment with us and point out specifically which pieces go, and then we can get an idea what we want to start with,” Lionel said, getting up also.

“That’s a good idea,” Vallie said. “You do that, Kana, and I’ll clear up things in here. Then we’ll all be ready to carry stuff out at the same time.”

“Okay. Come on back to the bedroom and we’ll start there. I have it all written down,” she said, picking up a pad from the desk in the living room.

So by the time they had taken inventory, the boys were ready to carry out the heavy pieces first, and let the girls get the boxes of small things carried to the door.

It took about two hours to finish the job, and then Vallie suggested that everyone go back to her apartment until supper time.

“It might be a good idea to go ahead and make sure of our room at the motel first, and leave the truck there, if that’s all right with you girls. That means one of you will have to chauffeur us around, but that’s better than taking this truck back and forth.”

“Oh, absolutely,” said Kana. “Why don’t I lead you to the motel in my car, while Vallie goes on home, and then I’ll give you a ride.”

“Good,” Lionel said. “You ready, Jimmy?”

“Sure thing.”

“Okay. I’m leaving one key here for the landlord, and he told me to keep the other one for another week, just in case I needed to come back for some reason.” Kana said, laying a key on the counter and picking up the plastic garbage bag they had used for their soiled paper plates and cups. “Vallie, you’re taking the left over food, right?”

“Got it right here,” she said holding up a plastic sack as she started out the door. “I’ll see you at the apartment.”

Valentina had found herself trying to measure just how smitten these two people were with each other. She knew Kana better than anyone else except her own family, and she was pretty convinced that her best friend was on the verge of finding herself in love with this man. And from what she had seen so far, she couldn’t find any reason for her not to be. Moreover, she’d bet a month’s salary that Lionel felt the same as Kana. She smiled to herself from time to time, resolving to pray even more so that neither of them would make a mistake.

She knew that after they left the restaurant this evening, they would drop the guys off at their motel, and she wanted to give Kana a little time alone with Lionel before that, so when they had all gathered at her apartment, she asked Jimmy is he’d like to ride with her to do some errands and see a little more of Nashville. He was quick to take her up on it, since he usually didn’t get much farther away from Gatlinburg than Knoxville, and that was only to take his mom to the doctor.

So Kana found herself alone with Lionel and feeling almost as awkward as a girl on her first date. To cover her awkwardness, she suggested making a pitcher of tea. She put the teakettle on and then sat down in the living room with him while they waited for the water to boil. They were both quiet for a while, and finally Lionel spoke first. “The Bible class was especially interesting this Tuesday. You would have liked the discussion.”

“Oh … what was it about?”

“How Christians shouldn’t become linked with unbelievers,” he said, with a teasing twinkle in his eyes.”

Kana couldn’t hold back a chuckle. “What a coincidence,” she said. “Did you have much to say?”

“I had a lot to say, actually. I shared with them what you had told me early in our friendship, and how much influence it had on me over the next few weeks. I think it helped one or two people there who were evidently considering relationships with people who aren’t professing Christians.”

“That’s great.” Kana said, and then was silent for a few moments. Finally she spoke again. “You know, I was a little surprised that you seemed to have so many of the same ideas that I have about a lot of scriptures. I think we agree on almost everything that’s been brought up in that class so far.”

“Really?” he said, leaning forward eagerly in his chair.


“I’m glad to know that.”

“Oh, there’s the teakettle,” Kana said, getting up and starting toward the kitchen. Lionel followed her and stood leaning against the door, watching her fix the pitcher of tea. “Mmmm, that smells good. What flavor is that?”

“Blueberry,” she said, grinning widely. “My very favorite.”

“I’ll have to remember that,” he said, a serious tone in his voice.

Kana couldn’t resist looking directly at him when she heard his tone of voice change. “Why would you need to do that?” she asked.

Lionel walked across the room and stood right in front of her. His eyes capturing and holding hers. “I find myself wanting to remember so many things about you, Kana. … The soothing sound of your voice … the way the sun sparkles on your hair when the rays hit it just right … this scattering of freckles that looks like gold dust,” he said, lifting his hand and drifting his forefinger lightly across her cheeks and nose.

Kana held her breath. His eyes had glanced down at her cheeks briefly, but now held hers mesmerized again, and he continued speaking. “The way your eyes look like melted chocolate … so warm and inviting.”

Kana sucked in her breath lightly. The woman in her just couldn’t resist her next comment. “I thought it was Valentina’s eyes that you were so taken with.”

Lionel’s eyes widened briefly, and he grinned. Was she just a little jealous? Without conscious thought, he put both hands up and cupped her face, speaking more softly now. “Oh, Valentina’s eyes are ‘attention getters’ all right. But your eyes, Kana … your eyes …” His face drifted closer, his warm breath like a caress. “ … When a man looks into your eyes … warm and lit up from deep inside … he feels like he’s come home.”

His face had drifted closer to hers with every phrase, and now his lips hovered over her own, brushing them so lightly she couldn’t be sure they had touched. She was prepared for his kiss – wanted his kiss – when suddenly he lifted his head. He sighed deeply and slowly lowered his hands and took a step back. “I’m … sorry, Kana.”

She felt cold without his touch, and her confusion showed in her eyes.

He spoke again. “I let that happen once before. I mustn’t let it happen again.”

Kana felt that she had to reassure him that the only reason she had kept him at arm’s length before was because of their differences in faith, so she said, “But, Lee, you weren’t a believer then. That’s what made it a problem.”

“I know that was the biggest problem, Kana. And I certainly thank God that we’re no longer separated in that way. But that wasn’t … isn’t the only problem.” He stuck his hands into his pockets and leaned back against the cabinet with a sigh. “I have some issues to deal with … very personal issues … that make me a very unlikely candidate for a husband and father in the future … and I need to be careful that I don’t lead you and me both into something that I can’t be trusted to complete in the right way.”

Kana sighed gently, disappointed, but grateful to him for being a man of so much honor. “I’m not sure I understand, Lee, but I’ll pray that the Lord will help you resolve all of those issues. Can I help you in any way?”

He shook his head sadly. “I’m afraid not, dear. They’re things that are part of my inherited make-up, and I’m not even sure yet just how much difference God can make in that.”

Kana felt warmed by the fact that he’d called her “dear,” and she reached out and touched his arm. “Just remember, Lee. Nothing is impossible with the Lord. You have to believe that.”

Lionel only nodded his head in response, and at that moment, Vallie and Jimmy returned, so the conversation was brought to a close. But Kana could still see that sad look in Lionel’s eyes as she lay on Vallie’s sofa that night trying to get some sleep. “Lord, I just pray for Lee in the name of Jesus. Please help him to believe that You can change anything that needs to be changed. And help him turn it all over to You. He belongs to you now, Lord. Help him to remember that You’re truly his very own Father, and that there’s nothing You won’t do for him. Thank You, Father. Amen.” The last words were whispered on a sigh, and Kana finally felt some peace and drifted off to sleep.

Continued tomorrow



Free E-Book — today through September 9


Do you prefer reading books digitally? Well, then this offer is for you. SET FREE TO LOVE, which is Book # 1 in The Smoky Mountain Series, is available for the next four days absolutely free in digital format.

The book normally sells for $3.99, but since Amazon and I are focusing on The Smoky Mountain Series promotions this month, we’re offering the first book free — for the next 4 days only.

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Excited About My Newest Journal

My newest journal project is complete and available for purchase from Amazon. I’ll have a supply soon as well, if you live in my area and want to get them from me.

WORD-INSPIRED COVER - frontWORD-INSPIRED JOURNAL SAMPLE PG 2MY WORD-INSPIRED JOURNAL offers 108 lined pages for personal journaling, interspersed with 12 great pictures and scripture passages to inspire meditation and devotional thought.  This journal is perfect to use for personal devotion times or as a prayer journal — or to just record whatever is on your heart every day.

I’ve included a picture of the front cover and one sample of the inside pages as well.



Repaired By Love — Chapter 4

To access earlier chapters, click on “Repaired By Love” in the navigation bar.

© 2004 Sandra Pavloff Conner

Chapter Four

“Uncle Lee! Uncle Lee!” Delly came running into the living room, squealing his name, and leaped into his arms to be twirled around in their usual mode of greeting.

“How’s my favorite girl?” he asked, planting a big kiss on her cheek before putting her down.

“I’m great! It feels so good to finally be six!”

“I’m sure it does. I put your present on the coffee table.”

Delly looked behind her to the table, and her eyes grew enormous. Dwarfing the table itself was a huge gift, covered in what looked like a whole roll of wrapping paper. She looked at it for a moment and then back at her uncle, her eyes registering her excitement. “Can I open it now?’

“Now, Delly,” her father spoke up, “you know your mom wants you to wait and open all of your gifts after we eat.”

“Oh, yeah, I forgot,” she said, disappointment very obvious in her face. She sighed, and then looked up at Lee again. “But I’m going to open yours first of all,” she said, reaching out and taking his hand. “Come and see my cake,” she added, starting to pull him toward the kitchen just as the doorbell rang.

“That will be Grandma Nora if I’m not mistaken,” Darrin said as he headed for the door.

“Oh, boy!” Delly said jumping up and down and following Darrin. She looked back at her uncle. “Just a minute, Uncle Lee, and we’ll take Gram Nora with us to see the cake.”

Lionel nodded and leaned against the back of a chair to wait.

“Come in, come in,” Darrin said. “Oh, you must be Kana,” he added reaching out to shake hands as soon as Kana stepped through the door. “I’m so glad you could come. We were anxious to meet you.”

“Thank you for the invitation. I love parties,” Kana replied. As they moved into the living room, Delly ran to meet her. “And I bet this is the birthday girl,” Kana said.

“Delly,” Grandma Nora said, “I’d like you to meet my granddaughter, Kana. She teaches second grade in Nashville.”

Delly’s eyes lit up, and she grinned at Kana. “I’m going to be in the first grade next year. That’s ‘cause I’m six today.” She stepped toward Kana and held out her hand. “Thank you for coming to my party.”

Kana shook her hand and grinned back. “Thank you for having me. I love birthday parties.” She handed Delly the gift she’d been holding in her other hand. “I hope you’ll like this.”

“Oh, I will! I like all presents!”

Everyone laughed at that, and Grandma Nora leaned over to hug Delly and give her the gift she had brought. “Well, you deserve lots of presents, dear.”

“Mommy says I have to wait and open them after we eat, so I’ll put them over here close to Uncle Lee’s. Isn’t his present the biggest you’ve ever seen?”

Grandma Nora walked over to the coffee table and looked the present over carefully. “I’ll say it is! I wonder what it can be, Delly. Do you have any ideas?”

“We-e-l-l-l-l …” she looked over at her uncle, her eyes alight, and then back to Grandma Nora. “Well … I don’t know … but I know something I’ve been wanting that might be that big … something I’ve been wishing and wishing for.”

“Well, we’re just going to have to wait and see,” Darrin interrupted. “We need to make some more introductions,” he added turning to Lionel, who moved away from the chair and walked over to the two ladies.

“Well I already know this handsome young man,” Grandma Nora said, as she reached out and grabbed Lionel’s hand in a warm clasp.”

“How are you Grandma Nora?” he said, his broad, contagious smile spreading easily across his face. He then glanced at Kana and reached his hand out to her in turn. “I heard you introduced as Kana. That’s an unusual name.” He held her hand in a strong, gentle grip for a little longer than necessary, but neither of them seemed to notice.

“Yes, it seems unusual to some people, but, of course, I’m used to it,” she said with a grin.

At just that moment, Eve came into the room to greet their new guests.

She hugged Lee first. “Lee, you haven’t been coming often enough,” she said and shook her finger at him. “Let’s remedy that, Okay?”

“I promise, Evie,” he said, smiling at this perky, blond woman who had made his brother so happy.

She moved to hug Grandma Nora next. “I’m so glad you were able to make it Grandma,” she said.

“I wouldn’t have missed it, and I didn’t have to talk much to talk Kana into coming along too.”

Eve turned to take Kana’s hand in hers, smiling into her eyes. “I’m Eve, and I want you to know I appreciate your being willing to share your grandmother like this on the first day of your visit.”

“It’s very important to her to be sharing this with your family, and I’m going to enjoy it as much as she will. Thank you for inviting me.”

“Darrin and I have been wanting to meet you, and I hope we’ll have some time to really get acquainted this coming week.”

“I hope so too. It’s going to be great having two whole months here.”

Lionel was looking at her a little curiously. He was aware that she interested him more than the average young woman he’d met, but he didn’t know why. She was nice looking, but she wasn’t beautiful. Her eyes certainly held his attention though; they were large and gentle, but sparkled with life. And her voice gave him a comfortable feeling.

Suddenly, he jerked his wondering thoughts to attention. He knew better than to let himself get interested in any woman!

“Delly, honey,” he addressed his niece now, “weren’t you going to show me your cake?”

“Oh, yeah, and Gram Nora too.” She looked up at Kana a little questioningly. “Would you like to see my cake too?”

“Indeed I would!”

Delly took her uncle’s hand in one of hers and reached the other one out to Kana. This wasn’t what Lionel had intended. His plan had been to get a few minutes away from this cute woman and get a handle on his thoughts. Now here he was in closer proximity to her than before.

“Come on Gram Nora,” Delly called as she led her two captives out of the room. “You’ll really like my cake. It’s chocolate, and you said chocolate was your favorite too.”

Eve spoke up then: “Why don’t we all go into the dining room? Everything’s ready to go onto the table.”

“Oh, goody!” Delly shouted, jumping up and down between her two escorts. “Then … as soon as everybody’s done … I can open my presents.”

As soon as the adults were finished with the main course, Eve asked Delly if she wanted to have her cake before or after she opened gifts.

“After!” she answered without hesitation.

“All right, we can all go on into the living room for the unwrapping; then I’ll bring the cake and coffee in when we’re done.”

Delly led the way, running immediately to the coffee table and her uncle’s gift. She was squirming with anticipation while she waited for all of the adults to find a seat. Finally, her mother said, “All right, honey. You may start with which ever one you want.”

Without a word, Delly looked at her uncle, grinning from ear to ear, and then turned back to his gift and began to tear away the paper. As she did so the roof of an extravagant doll’s house slowly appeared, followed immediately by the second story, with a balcony that ran along one whole side. “Oh it is one! It is one!” she squealed, as she hurriedly ripped off the remaining paper. “Thank you, Uncle Lee! Thank you! Thank you!”

When the paper was all off, she stood there staring at it with wide eyes and an open mouth.

“Wow!” Darrin said, and Eve leaned over and laid her hand on Lee’s arm.

“It’s the most beautiful doll’s house I’ve ever seen, Lee. Where did you find it?”

“When I was in Chattanooga last week, I stopped in at a specialty toy store just to see what all they had. As soon as I spotted it, I knew she’d love it.”

Delly was throwing herself into his arms now, showering him with kisses. “Thank you, Uncle Lee. I love you,” she added, looking right into his eyes.

“I love you too, sweetheart … very much.”

“And you’ll come and play with me and my new house, won’t you?”

Everyone laughed, but Lionel took it all in stride. “You bet,” he said.

“Good.” Delly slipped from his arms and returned to her presents. “Now Mommy and Daddy’s.” She carefully unwrapped the square box, and when she lifted the lid, she pulled out a brightly colored swimsuit.

“Oh boy!” she said, holding it up for everyone to see.

“Now that’s just part of your gift, dear,” Eve said. “Daddy had to put the other part of it in the back yard, and you can see it after you’ve opened your other gifts.”

Delly stood still with her mouth open and her eyes alight with anticipation.

“It’s a portable swimming pool,” her mother added. Delly’s eyes opened even wider.

“It’s big enough for you and three or four friends to play in at the same time.”

Delly ran to hug her mom and dad. “Thank you sooooo much!” she said, giving them kisses.

“Whose gift next?” Darrin asked.

“Gram Nora’s,” said Delly, picking up the beautiful large package. It was a dress and matching hat to wear to church, and Kana had given her a necklace with a cross made of blue stones to match the dress.

“Can I try my dress on now, Mommy?” she asked hopefully.

“Sure. It won’t take long. I’ll go into the bedroom with you and help you.”

Lionel rose at the same time. “And I’ll go take care of the coffee and cake while you’re doing that.”

“Oh thanks, Lee. I think you’ll be able to find everything you need,” Eve said, while being dragged along at a fast pace by her daughter.

The dress was a great success, as was the cake and ice cream, and Delly announced that it was the best birthday party she could ever have. She insisted that everyone go outside to inspect the swimming pool, and afterwards, while she began to get acquainted with her doll house family, the grown ups had more coffee and began to visit between themselves.

Kana had ended up sitting beside Lionel when they came back inside, and she began to talk to him about his work. “Gram tells me that you and Darrin have a very successful auto repair business. She knows several people who come to you for their work.”

“I guess you’d say it’s successful. I think any time you can work at something you enjoy and have it make you a living at the same time, you’re a success,” he answered, his easy smile spreading across his face and lighting up his eyes.

That smile was what most people liked best and remembered most about Lionel Butler. It always gave them the feeling that he was really sharing a part of himself with them every time they talked. It was so genuine that most people who knew him only slightly were convinced that he must be happy all the time. And he did make it a point to find and concentrate on the good in people and situations, so that his outlook was optimistic in most things. It was only once in a while, in the lonely hours when he remembered the past, or felt the burden of that empty place deep inside, that he let himself give place to sadness.

But today, he was enjoying himself. He loved his brother and sister-in-law, and Delly was the light of his life. Adding to that the fact that he was sitting beside a vibrant young woman who seemed genuinely interested in what he had to say, he was finding the party very much to his liking.

“Did you always enjoy working on cars?” she asked him now.

“Oh yeah, and not just cars. Just about anything that had working parts that could be taken apart and put back together.” He shook his head a little at his thoughts, laughing. “When I was a kid, I tore apart almost every toy I had just so I could practice putting it back together again.”

Kana laughed and leaned a little closer so they could talk without disrupting other conversations in the room. “Were you always able to put them back together right?”

“Believe it or not, yes. I’m not sure why. I just always seemed to be able to figure out what to do.”

“It sounds like it must be a gift from God,” Kana said, smiling at him. “Something you were born with – that God put in you for the specific purpose of doing that kind of work, because there’s no doubt it’s important work. Everyone who drives a vehicle of any kind needs a talented and reliable auto mechanic.”

Lionel felt as if a door had closed on this new friendship when she mentioned God as if she were well acquainted with Him. He had no place in his life for those beliefs now, and he wasn’t sure how to respond to her statement without offending her, which he didn’t want to do since she was Grandma Nora’s relative. But he realized suddenly that he wouldn’t have to respond, because she was asking him something else already.

“Has Darrin always enjoyed that kind of work as much as you?”

“Oh, Darrin always wanted to do the body work. And that’s mostly what he does now.” He paused, remembering for a minute. “Yeah, by the time I was in high school, I was repairing all the bikes in the neighborhood, and Darrin was cleaning off rust spots and giving them a new coat of paint.”

“Did I hear my name in that conversation?” Darrin asked from across the room.

“You sure did,” Lionel said, laughing, “and it’s already too late to tell your side of things.”

Darrin got up and moved across the room, seating himself on a footstool close to Kana and his brother. “Don’t you believe everything he tells you, Kana,” he said now. “My big brother here used to keep all of us younger kids in the neighborhood spellbound with his stories. He told some real whoppers, so bear in mind that his imagination just might come into the picture when he’s talking about me.”

“He was sharing about how much you both enjoy your work and seemed almost to be born to it, and I was saying that I believe it must be a gift from the Lord for it to have just started working so naturally when you were that young.”

“I think you’re right. Lee has always had more talent for it than I do, but even I just seemed to pick it up naturally. Of course, we went on to get more schooling and hands-on training before we opened our own business, but it seems like the ability to figure out the problems and fix them has always been with us.”

“Well speaking for myself, and for my best friend at home, who’s also a single girl, there are so many problems that can come up with cars, or any other vehicle, that having a mechanic you can really trust is a necessity. Gram was telling me that she knows a lot of the people who bring their work to you.”

“Yes, several of them go to church with us,” Darrin said. “We get a lot of people from the neighborhood where the shop is also, and I think word of mouth advertising has actually brought us the biggest amount of business over the years. Wouldn’t you say so, Lee?’

“Yeah, I agree. But I think it’s like that in almost any business. A satisfied customer is still the best advertising there is.”

Grandma Nora walked over to the little group now. “I hate to interrupt your conversation, but I think it’s about time we got on our way, don’t you, Kana?”

Kana glanced at her watch. “Goodness, it’s after 9:00. I had no idea.”

Delly sidled up to Grandma Nora. “Will Kana be coming to church with you tomorrow, Gram Nora?” she asked.

“She sure will. Would you like to sit with us?”

Delly turned around to look at Eve. “Can I Mommy?”

“Do you mean may I?”

Delly put her hand over her mouth a second and then spoke again. “I mean, may I, Mommy.”

“Yes, you may,” Eve answered, laughing at her daughter’s reaction.

“Goody,” she said, taking Grandma Nora’s hand and squeezing it. Kana rose, and so did Lionel and Darrin.

“It’s been a great party, Delly,” Kana said, softly touching the little girl’s curls.

Eve joined them now and said, “Let’s make some plans for later this week to have a long visit. As soon as you two have some of your plans figured out, give us a call, Okay?”

“Sounds good, Eve,” Gram Nora said. “We’ll give you a call in a day or two.” She turned and started toward the door, followed by everyone else. At the door she hugged Delly once more. “See you all in the morning.”

“Not Uncle Lee, though,” Delly said, turning and looking at him. She got a hopeful gleam in her eyes. “Unless you come with us, Uncle Lee. Will you?”

“Not tomorrow, honey, but I’ll be there the next Sunday to hear you sing in the children’s choir, remember?”

“Oh yeah. Okay,” she said and turned back to Grandma Nora. “I’ll look for you, Gram Nora. If you get there first, save me a seat.”

“I’ll do that honey. Goodnight all. It’s been a lot of fun.”

“Goodnight,” they all chorused, and stood on the porch until Gram and Kana were in the car and backing out of the drive.

“Well, I’m off too,” Lionel said, putting his arm around Eve and giving her a gentle hug. “Thanks, Evie, for another great meal.”

“You know we’re always glad when you can come, Lee. You need to do it more often.”

Lee stooped down and picked up Delly, hugging her tight. “You know, I believe you’ve grown bigger since you turned six,” he said, grinning at her.

“Oh, Uncle Lee, I have not. … But I am more ma … ma … what’s the word, Daddy?”

“I think you’re trying to say mature.”

“Yeah, that’s it. I’m more mature!” she said looking at Lee with just a little pride.

“Before long, you’re going to be a teenager, going out with boys, and then you won’t have time for me.”

“Oh, yes I will! I’ll always have time for you. Besides, you don’t have any little girls or boys of your own, and you need me,” she said, grinning at him.

Lionel grinned back, but inside he felt a sharp pain and that terrible sense of emptiness that was starting to plague him more and more all the time now. He put Delly down, and reached out and patted Darrin on the shoulder. “See you Monday morning, Dare. You guys have a good day tomorrow.”

“You too, Lee,” his brother said, walking part way to his car with him. “Goodnight.”

Delly ran back into the house, but Darrin stood and watched his brother drive away. Then, with a sigh, he looked up at the stars and began to pray. “Please, Lord, help him find the love he needs … in You … and in a wonderful, Godly woman who’ll give him a family of his own. You know how good he’s always been to me … and to all of us. In fact, You know he’s always generous and good to everybody he knows … and even people he doesn’t know. Please … don’t let him have to spend the rest of his life alone. Help him open his heart to You, Lord. His heart’s already so tender, it surely won’t take much. Just help him understand Your love, Father.”

He sighed again. “Thank You, Lord. I trust You with my brother.” He turned then, and walked back into the house, confident in his heart that God had a good plan for Lee and that He was well able to carry it out.

Continued tomorrow 


Repaired By Love — Chapter 3

(If you’ve missed earlier chapters, click on “Repaired By Love” in the navigation bar to find all chapters that have been posted.)

© 2004 Sandra Pavloff Conner

Chapter Three

By 6:30 that evening, Kana was pulling into her grandmother’s driveway. She had stopped only one time to eat something, and a second time just to use the restroom and stretch her legs, but she hadn’t wasted any time. Unfortunately, traffic had been especially heavy, due to a lot of repair work on the highway, so she hadn’t made nearly as good time as she had hoped. Gram opened her front door now, having been listening for the car ever since Kana had called from her cell phone to say she was just driving through Pigeon Forge and would be with her in no time.

Kana jumped out of her car and ran up the three steps to the porch. She grabbed her grandmother, hugging her fiercely and laughing. “Oh, Gram, it’s so good to be here … and to know I can stay a while. I’m glad Mom and Dad agreed to come up here for a visit this time instead of us going to Atlanta. Not that I have anything against Atlanta, you understand,” she added, grinning, “but it doesn’t have the Smoky Mountains … or this wonderful old house that has so many memories for me.”

“I know, dear. I feel the same way, and I’m sure going to enjoy visiting with you right here for a change. I think it’s been four years since you got to spend any time here in Gatlinburg. I hope you’ll still enjoy it as much as you used to.”

“I’m sure I will,” she said giving Gram another squeeze. “Now just let me get my luggage carried in, and we’ll do some catching up.” She took two cases out of her trunk and carried them into the hallway, then returned for a gift-wrapped package from her back seat. “This is for you,” she said grandly as she handed her grandmother the package.

“Thank you, dear, but having you here for two months is gift enough you know.”

“But this is something I made myself, just for you.”

“Oh, well, that’s different then,” Gram said. “I can’t wait to open it.”

They walked into the house together and automatically moved into the living room with its overstuffed, comfy furniture. They sat together on the sofa as Gram opened the gift. “Oh, Kana!” she said as she lifted out six hand crocheted doilies each with an intricate flower in the center. “And they’re exactly the right colors to match this room.” She looked up at Kana, her eyes a little misty. “I never dreamed back when you were so small and wanting to learn to crochet – and making a mess of almost everything you tried to make – that you would be doing work of this caliber, and decorating my home with your handiwork.”

Her chuckle was contagious, and as Kana joined in, memories began to flood back to her from those younger days. “My stuff was pretty awful, wasn’t it?”

“But we had so much fun doing it together, and now we have those wonderful memories. And these are truly beautiful, Kana. I’m going to put them around the living room right now.” She put action to her words and began moving around the room, replacing table scarves with her new doilies, and even placing one of them on the back of her favorite chair.

“I’m glad you like them. I made a set for Vallie’s sister as a wedding gift too.”

“I guess they’re pretty excited up there in Philadelphia, getting ready for the wedding.”

“I think so. I know for sure Vallie is. She would have liked to come down to see you too, but she really felt she should be there to help as much as possible. Although I’m still hoping she can get away for a few days and spend some time with us.”

“That would be wonderful. Then she can fill us in on the wedding with a first-hand report.” Gram’s eyes started to twinkle, and she grinned at Kana. “Uh … I was wondering … is there any chance you’re getting close to thinking about a wedding of your own?”

“Now, Gram, you know I’d have told you if I were serious about anyone.”

“Well … I thought you would have … but I guess I was just hoping something had developed since the last time we’d had a chance for a long talk.”

Kana laughed. “You’re such a romantic, Gram. You really do believe in love at first sight, don’t you? I couldn’t have gotten serious about anyone in that short a time in any other way except that, you know.”

Gram shrugged her shoulders, smiling still. “Well, you know your grandpa and I didn’t have to think too long before we decided we were in love. It isn’t a bad thing. And, of course, I’ve told you about Maddison and Beth Holt and then Pastor Cameron McDaniels and Suzanne.” Kana nodded. “It took both couples some time to get things worked out enough to admit they were meant for each other, but most of us who were with them a lot had it figured out a lot sooner,” she said, laughing.

“Well, I’m really anxious to meet Pastor McDaniels. You’ve told me so much about him, I almost feel as if I know him … and Suzanne too. I made such a quick trip last summer, just picking you up and heading for Atlanta and then just dropping you off on the return trip, I didn’t even get to go to church with you at all.”

“Well, we’ll make up for it this time. Now, did you have supper or could you eat something?”

“You know good and well I can always eat, even when I’ve had supper, but no, I didn’t take time to stop for any meal but lunch.” She hopped up and started toward the kitchen. “I’ve actually been wondering if I should go on some kind of diet. I seem a little more plump than I did last summer.”

Grandma Nora stopped in her tracks and swung Kana around to face her, looking her over carefully as she did so. “Now you listen to me, young lady. You have a lovely shape. You’re five feet, seven inches tall, and if you were much thinner you’d just look skinny.” She looked her over once more. “No … your figure’s just generous enough to make you look like a woman should.”

“Generous huh? Now that’s a word I hadn’t thought of. It sure sounds a lot better than plump.”

“I don’t know where you get these ideas, Kana.” Gram pointed her finger in Kana’s face. “You leave well enough alone! A young man with any sense wants a woman who looks like a woman.”

Kana laughed and hugged her grandmother again. “Okay, Gram … to tell the truth, I don’t think I have what it takes to diet anyway. … So what are my choices tonight?”

Grandma Nora chuckled. “Well, I just couldn’t decide which of your favorites to make first, so I tried to get several of them done at once. There’s a big pasta salad in the refrigerator, stuffed green peppers just about ready to come out of the oven, key lime pie, and peanut butter, chocolate chip cookies. … How’s that for starters?

Kana couldn’t refrain from squeezing Gram’s shoulders again. “Gram, I love you so much. I wish you hadn’t worked so hard on my account, but I know you enjoy cooking, so I’m not going to feel guilty … I’m just going to indulge!” They laughed together and moved around the kitchen getting out plates and silverware and laying the food out on the table.

“Shall I take the peppers out of the oven?” Kana asked.

“Yes, if you would, dear. Do you want coffee?”

“Let’s have tea instead if that’s all right with you.”

“Sure. I’ll get the water started.”

They caught up on some of their news as they ate, and then shifted the conversation to what they would like to plan during Kana’s stay. “I hope it won’t be a problem for you, dear, but I feel obligated to attend a birthday dinner tomorrow night for a little girl in our congregation who’s very close to me … actually, her whole family is pretty special to me, and since she’s turning six, she feels like it’s a big thing for me to be there. They specifically asked that you’d come too, because they’d like to meet you, but if you feel like it’s an imposition, you don’t have to feel obligated.”

“Why, I’d be glad to go, Gram. If they’re important to you, I want to meet them, and as a teacher, I know how important those special occasions are to a child at that age. What’s her name?”



“MmHmm. Well actually it’s Delores. She was named after her father’s mother, but they’ve almost always called her Delly. She has coal black, curly hair, and the biggest blue eyes you’ve ever seen, and to be an only child, she has a surprisingly sweet, unselfish nature. I think you’ll fall in love with her.”

“I don’t doubt it. I feel that way about most of the ones that come through my room … even the troublemakers. … Or maybe I should say especially the troublemakers. Somehow it seems like those who are always causing trouble are the most in need of love, and my heart just goes out to them.”

“I know what you mean. I feel that way about several of the young people at church. This past year, Pastor McDaniels and Maddison Holt have been developing a whole new program for working with troubled teens, and some of the kids they’ve been working with would just break your heart.”

“Well, I”ll be glad to go to the party with you if you think they really want me to come.”

“I’m positive. I’ve been telling them about you, of course.”

Kana rolled her eyes and groaned. But then she got up to carry away their plates and move the desserts to the table. Gram refilled their tea cups as she answered.

“Well I have to talk about my only granddaughter, don’t I?”

“I guess so. Do you talk about your grandsons too?’

“Of course I do, but most of the people here know the boys, since they’re still young enough that they come with their parents to visit two or three times a year.”

“Well, just so you haven’t exaggerated about me.”

Grandma Nora snorted. “I don’t have to exaggerate. You’re such a wonderful young woman, the truth is all I need to tell.”

Kana laughed out loud. “Oh, Gram, you’re a case. I guess I might as well learn to live with it, and hope you at least haven’t told them any of the stupid things I did as a child.”

“Of course I haven’t.” Gram said. “I’m saving those to hold over your head in case I need some ammunition to convince you to do something you might not want to do.”

They both laughed at that.

“Will there be several people at the birthday dinner, do you think?”

“Well, Eve’s parents are in Ohio with their other daughter who’s having a baby this week, so I think the only other person invited besides us is Delly’s Uncle Lee. Well, his name’s really Lionel, but all of his friends and family call him Lee. … Now there’s a man you can help me pray for.”

“What’s the problem?”

“He just needs the Lord.”

“Oh, I see.”

Gram shook her head, a concerned look on her face. “And he’s such a kind and generous man too. It’s just a shame he can’t seem to connect with God.”

“But Delly’s parents know the Lord?”

“Yes, Darrin and his wife Eve have been Christians for several years, and Lee will come to church with them once in a while … especially if Delly’s in a program or something … but that’s as far as it goes. … Darrin hasn’t confided in me completely, but he did tell me the problem centers around their dad and the hard life he dragged their mother through. It seems Lee feels that he can’t believe in a God who would have let one of His children live the way their mom had to live.”

“What a shame. But at least if he comes to church some times, he must be a little bit open.”

“Actually, I think he’s more open than even he realizes. He’s become a real friend of the pastor, as well as having good relationships with several other members of the congregation. A lot of people in our church take their vehicles to the boys for servicing and repair – that’s the business they’re in – they have their own auto shop. Anyway, several of the people from church seem to have a good relationship with Lee Butler, and I’m sure they pray for him. … I know I pray for him all the time. In fact Delly and I pray for him every time we’re together, because she’s a strong little believer, and she’s very concerned about her uncle because she loves him so much. So I feel sure it’s just a matter of time before Lee finally gives his heart to the Lord.”

“Well, you can count on me to pray too. They sound like a nice family, and I’m looking forward to meeting them.” She suddenly yawned, and automatically glanced at her watch. “Gram! It’s 10:30! Can you believe that?”

“We had a lot of catching up to do.”

“Well, since I’m going to be here for two months, I think I’ll turn in early tonight; what about you?”

“Yes, that sounds good to me; it’s been a long, busy day for both of us.”

Kana stood and started clearing the table of dessert plates and covering left-overs to put into the fridge.  “Let’s save most of the clean up for tomorrow, huh?”

“Good plan,” Gram said. “I’ll take care of turning off lights and checking doors.”

Kana kissed her grandmother. “I sure love you, Gram. See you in the morning.”

“Goodnight, Sweetheart.”

Continued tomorrow


Repaired By Love — Chapter 2

(Click here if you missed Chapter 1.)


© 2004 by Sandra Pavloff Conner

Chapter Two

“Well, that looks like everything we need to have your mail forwarded, Miss Wallace,” the postal clerk said as she glanced up at the girl sanding on the other side of the counter. “The order should become effective tomorrow.”

“That’s great,” Kana Wallace replied. “Thanks a lot,” she added, smiling at the clerk before she turned to leave. That smile lit up her rather ordinary face and put a definite sparkle in her large, chocolate brown eyes. Those eyes couldn’t be ignored, and they did a good job of redeeming her face from plainness.

“I hope you enjoy your extended vacation,” the clerk said. Kana thanked her once more and smiled briefly at the elderly man who had stepped up to the counter to take her place. She hurried to her car and made a fast trip back to the elementary school where she taught second grade. It wasn’t easy trying to do something like this on her lunch hour, but tomorrow would be the end of the year picnic, and then the next day was the last day of school. If she didn’t get these arrangements made, she wouldn’t be able to take off as soon as the kids had left.

She wouldn’t have had to be in a hurry, of course, but she was. She was looking forward to seeing Gram again, and spending two wonderful months with her in her hometown of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Kana had often visited her there as a small child, and she had always loved the Great Smoky Mountains, as well as all of the fun things to do in a town that catered to tourists.

For someone who was a miniature golf nut, as she was, it was an especially good place to visit, even as an adult. But the view of the mountains and their quiet strength and restfulness were the biggest attraction for her now ‒ except for Gram herself, of course. She chuckled to herself now as she recalled that everyone in Gram’s church called her Grandma Nora, mostly because she virtually adopted most of the young people at one time or another, and was an active part of their growing up years. And Pastor McDaniels always called on her when he was counseling single ladies or young girls.

Kana was pretty proud of Gram. She was some special lady, and she definitely didn’t look or act seventy-six. Her faith was unshakable, and her devotion to prayer her first priority. Kana knew firsthand the effectiveness of Gram’s prayers. They had been prayed, and answered, for her personally a number of times in her twenty-nine years. And in her heart, she hoped that she would always be as faithful in her walk with God as Gram had been.

She swung into her parking spot now and almost ran into the school, hoping she would get to the classroom at least as soon as the students. And she just barely made it. She smiled at her young charges as they crowded in, their noise level especially high from the excitement of being at the end of another year.

“Miss Wallace,” Danny Hart ran up to her, shouting her name. “Miss Wallace can I show my map now … can I?”

“As soon as we’ve all settled into our seats, we’ll have our show and tell time, Danny.”

“Good,” he said, grinning and showing a missing tooth. “’Cause I want all the kids to see where I’m going for vacation.”

“I’m sure they’ll enjoy seeing your map, Danny. Now just sit down, and let’s get everyone quiet. … Children, settle down now, or we’ll have to give up our show and tell time in order to go over our classroom rules again.”

That little suggestion had the desired effect. Almost immediately, twenty rambunctious eight-year-olds scurried to their seats and started to lower their conversations to whispers.

“Good. … Now who all has something to show and tell about today?”

Two hours later, she saw her kids down the hall and out to their buses and their parents’ waiting cars. Then breathing a deep sigh of relief, she looked at the third-grade teacher, Valentina, who was also her best friend. “Do you think we’ll survive tomorrow?”

Valentina laughed. “It seems a little questionable, but I’m determined to survive. I don’t intend to bite the dust and miss my well-earned vacation.” She was an extremely pretty girl, a year younger than Kana. She had thick, sable hair that she wore in relaxed curls, and the smooth, dusky skin of her African-American lineage. But her eyes were a surprising aquamarine color. They twinkled now as she stood looking at her friend, one finger resting on her own face. Then she began walking slowly around Kana, studying her.

“You know I like your hair more all the time, don’t you?”

Kana had recently had her medium brown hair cut into a short cap that gave free reign to its tendency to curl naturally, and at Valentina’s suggestion, had let the beautician put a few golden highlights in it.

“Yeah, I have to admit, I feel like a new person. And I think I needed the lift it gives me. Thanks, Vallie, for talking me into it,” she said as she gave her friend a brief hug and turned to walk with her back into the building.

“Hey, what are friends for? You’d do the same for me. … And speaking of friends, I’m sure going to miss you, girl!”

“I’ll miss you too, Vallie. I wish you’d really pray about coming down. I know you want to spend most of the time with your family in Philadelphia, but you could spare a couple of weeks to come south, couldn’t you?”

“I’d like to say ‘yes,’ Kana, but with my sister’s wedding coming up that second week of July, and then all of the cleaning and getting things back in order after the other relatives leave, I just don’t know if I’ll feel good about leaving for any extended time. Mom tries to do too much most of the time, and I’d like to be sure that I’m taking the load off her for most of the summer.”

“Sure. I do understand. … I guess I am being a little selfish … but I’d like for you to get some rest and have some fun too.”

“Oh, I will have fun. You know my sister and I have always been close, and I’m going to enjoy every minute of planning her wedding and going through it with her. And then I’ll be able to spend time with my grandparents too, and I haven’t really had any time to be close to them for the last two years, with my staying here in Nashville to work on my master’s during the summers. So, actually, just being able to be at home instead of here working will be a treat.”

“Good. I’m glad. But if you do change your mind, you know Gram will welcome you with open arms.”

“Of course I know that, and you know how I feel about your Grandmother. I’d like to see her again too. … We’ll see what happens. I’m just going to play it by ear and not plan too far ahead. But we’ll be talking on the phone once in a while, so I’ll let you know if I can manage a trip down.”

“Okay.” Kana stepped into the doorway of her classroom. “Well, I guess we’d better get things straightened up for tomorrow. See you in the morning.”

“You bet,” Vallie replied and walked down the hall several feet to her own room.

Two days later, at 11:55 a.m. Kana locked the door to her classroom and walked down the hall to Valentina’s room to hug her friend goodbye and give her the gift she had brought her. Valentina was just lifting her briefcase from her desk, along with a wrapped package, which she had intended taking to Kana’s room.

“Oh, you’re here!” she said, as she looked up to see Kana coming through the door. “I was on my way down to give you this,” she added, holding out the package.

Both girls laughed as Kana handed Valentina a gift bag containing her gift, and then they set to opening their presents like two eager children. They couldn’t help but laugh when they realized they had given each other exactly the same thing, a beautifully bound journal.

“Well, I want you to record everything interesting and beautiful and … uh … handsome and broad-shouldered … that goes on in Gatlinburg,” Valentina said, in defense of her gift.

“That’s exactly the reason for my gift to you!” Kana answered.

“This is great!” Valentina said. “Now I can hardly wait to get back and compare journals and catch up.”

“Whoa, girl! Let’s not get carried away. Let’s enjoy our vacation before we have to come back, okay?”

“Deal!” Valentina said, hugging Kana tightly. “You take care of yourself, you hear? And if it starts to feel like you’re going to fall in love with anybody while you’re there, you be sure and carry this journal every minute, so you won’t fail to record one feeling.”

“All right, but the same goes for you.”

They threw away the wrapping paper and headed out of the room and down the hall. As they separated on the parking lot, they hugged each other again. “You’ve got my home number in Philadelphia?” Valentina asked.

“Sure do, and you’re sure you’ve got Gram’s with you?”

“Positively. If I don’t hear from you first, I’ll give you a call next weekend, and tell you how the wedding plans are going.”

“Okay. Have fun,” Kana said as she slipped into her car, and in another minute she was backing out of her parking space. A sense of joy and expectation surged through her as she made her way to the interstate. She could hardly wait to start putting some miles behind her, but she knew she’d need to stop at a fast food place and have some lunch before she turned onto I-40. She had been looking forward to this trip for weeks, but somehow, today she felt there was something even more exciting about it than she had planned ‒ almost as if there were something unexpected and wonderful waiting for her in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

“Whatever it is, Lord … I’m ready!” she said, and slid her favorite praise and worship CD into the player.

Continued Tomorrow


Inspirational Romance Goes To School

When there’s no textbook on love, romance can be a little tricky. But God, who’s the original Author of romance, has all the answers in His own book. And Professor Ephraim Kent is about to get an education with a higher degree than he’s ever earned before.
Purchase your own copy in paperback or digital:






It’s finally online and for sale — from Amazon. (Copies will also be available from me personally if you’re in the Southern Illinois area). I love this journal. I enjoyed creating it, and I’ll enjoy using it personally. I’m including a few pictures of the outside and inside — since the sample Amazon gives is too short to see what the journaling section actually looks like.


There are 31 delicious coffee pictures — each with its own appropriate caption and 3 lightly lined journaling pages. There are 93 lined journaling pages total. I hope coffee lovers all over the world will get one and enjoy it or give it as a gift to someone they love — who loves coffee.

The journal is $19.00 on Amazon. I’m selling them personally at a discount, but, of course, you’d have to live close enough for me to deliver one to you.

Anyway, check it out more thoroughly or purchase one HERE.





Why I Wrote ‘The Smoky Mountain Novel Series’


My love affair with the Smoky Mountains began when I was still a very young child. Except for a two-year stint in Fort Wayne, IN, my years between infancy and first grade were spent in Southern Illinois. And all of our family travels took us into the northeastern sections of the country. But when I was six, my family traveled south for the first time. On our way to South Carolina, we passed through Tennessee, and I came face to face with the homeland of my Cherokee ancestors: the Appalachian Mountains – and specifically the area known by that time as The Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

I remember two specific things about those mountains. In one sense they were a little frightening to a six-year old. Highways were not what they are now, and the less developed highways ran in among those mountains with a little more drama than they do today. The inclines were exceptionally steep in places, with warning signs everywhere about making sure autos were in lowest gear and with stories rampant about “runaway” semis going down those inclines. I remember coming around curves more than once where the road looked as though it would literally lead straight into the mountain. It was a little overwhelming in one way, but it was also tremendously exciting as well. The second thing that struck me was that within these mountains and their foothill regions dwelt people of a different culture and attitude toward life. It wasn’t just the Cherokee people who exhibited that difference. It was virtually all the people who called that place home.

That particular trip touched, not just me, but also my parents. They fell in love with Tennessee and decided that they wanted to live there. When an opportunity came to do so – through a job opening in Nashville, TN – my parents jumped at it. Nashville wasn’t in the mountains, of course, but it was a lot closer. I can honestly say that I have never lived any place that was so special to me as Nashville, Tennessee. I fell in love again – with the city of Nashville and the whole state of Tennessee.

In the years following, my family and I made many trips into the Smoky Mountains. We saw the Park and the surrounding towns change considerably during that time, but the area never lost its unique culture. And having a strong Cherokee heritage in my own life, the older I got the more I wanted to know and be known by the people who had given me my great grandmother. My immediate family and I eventually moved back to Illinois, but we have never stopped visiting the Smoky Mountains.

I’ve wondered sometimes if there’s something in my own blood that calls me home to the Smokies. I don’t recall ever visiting any other place –  or even living in any other place – that kept pulling me to come back to it the way the Smokies do — or where I felt so much as if I were “home” each time I visited. Over more recent decades, I’ve tried to maneuver some things in my live and work out a way to have my work and my everyday life in the midst of that area of the country. But the Lord has kept opening doors to the ministry He wants me to do in other areas instead. So those other areas remain my world of everyday life. And, alas, I am still relegated to making visits to my mountains.

But those visits, over the years, have gleaned me an entire family of wonderful characters who do get to live and love and work and play right in the midst of the Smokies. So I’ll have to settle for that. When writing the books in The Smoky Mountain Series, I’ve lived there with them and enjoyed being “home” for all those months. There’s one more book to come, so I’ll continue that enjoyment as I write Book 5: This Fire In My Heart.  I’m grateful that, through these books, I can truly live in two worlds at the same time.

My heart’s telling me that it’s time I worked things out in my schedule to make another trip to that place that’s the next best thing to Heaven. In fact, on my most recent trip to the Smokies, I picked up a little magnet for my refrigerator door that says, “Heaven’s a little closer in the mountains.”  Ahhh, YES, INDEED, IT IS!

If you’d like to read the series, you’ll find the first 4 books in paperback and digital HERE.




Let’s Talk Coffee – Day 2

POURING COFFEE - nathan-dumlao-607604-unsplash -- Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash



1.  Must love coffee

2.  Must be able to brew a great pot of coffee

3.  Who cares? If he’s nailed the first two, he’s bound to get everything else right.




photo courtesy of Nathan Dumlao at Unsplash