Threads of Grace—Chapter 12 Continued

Chapter 12, continued

     Peter lifted SueAnna from the floor and followed Lorna to the room she’d prepared. What happened? One minute he was like a child—too excited to keep his presence hidden—the next he witnessed his wife fall into the arms of a man he didn’t know. Why was his sister in the company of this person? Where was Lily? This was not at all the homecoming he’d envisioned. 
     “I’m sorry, Peter.” Lorna touched his shoulder. “I’m not eager to send you back out there, but I do need some privacy to get this girl settled. I’ll let you know as soon as Doc Thayer is through examining her.”
     “Mrs. Nelson, who—”
     She flicked her wrist toward him. “Later, Peter. Tell Doc he can come in any time. And you tell that young man where he can find his wife.”
     “Wife? SueAnna is married? To that—”
     “Later, I said. There will be plenty of time later to try to make sense out of what’s happened. For now, it’s SueAnna we need to worry about.”
     Doc moved away from the wall when Peter left the room. “She ready for me in there?”
     He nodded. “Anything she needs, Doc. I’ll take care of anything she needs. Just help her.”
     “I’ve a feeling what she needs is standing in the middle of the mercantile holding your wife. Don’t envy you none, son. But reckon you’re man enough to take care of it.”
     The man was right. The scene hadn’t changed. Claire was still in the arms of the stranger, and they seemed oblivious to their surroundings. It seemed like an eternity before Claire lifted her head from the man’s chest and looked his direction.
     “I’m sorry, Peter. I…this is…this is an old friend I never expected to see again.” She didn’t move from the man’s arms while she spoke.
     He would take this up with his wife later. For now he hoped he could get a message to the man without causing a scene. “The doctor just went in to tend to your wife, sir. I’d think you’d want to do the same.”

     SueAnna’s questions roared through Trey’s mind with a vengeance. What would you do if you were to find Claire again? Where would that leave us? Where would that leave me?
     His arms were around Claire, and it was like she’d always been there. She was as beautiful as the day he rode away from her. But she was Peter’s wife—SueAnna’s brother’s wife. 
     What was he doing? Where was SueAnna? She was standing right here. Oh, dear God. Did he say Doc was with his wife? He pulled from Claire’s arms. “Where is she? Where did they take her?”
     “You brought her in here cold, wet and so ill she could hardly stand on her own. That was fifteen minutes ago, and you just now ask her whereabouts?”
     “Don’t shush me, Claire. Not now.”
     Trey fisted his hands. “Never mind. I’ll find her myself.” He deserved the man’s anger—deserved a good thrashing—but for now he needed to find SueAnna. 
     “Yes, you do that. But if that girl dies, so help me—”
     Die? He stumbled through the curtain and followed the voices he heard until he found the room. He gasped. Even from the doorway he could hear SueAnna’s labored breathing. Her face was flushed, and she clawed at the air with, oh, dear Lord, the palms of her hands were raw and bloody. Experience told him they were rope burns. What had he done? She’d hadn’t complained. Not one word during that cold, wet ride into Prairie View. “Will…is she—”
     Doc shook his head. “Will she live? Is that what you want to know?” He shrugged. “I’m a doctor, Trey. Not God. Don’t know what ever possessed you to bring her here in the first place, as fragile as she’s been.”
     “I…she insisted. Said she needed to talk to another woman. I didn’t know—”
     Lorna gripped SueAnna’s wrists and brought her hands to the bed, palms-up.”
    “You let her stand there, Trey Martin—wet, cold and sick. Your arms were full of Claire when this sweet girl fell to the floor, and even then you didn’t notice. It was Peter who had to pick her up and bring her in here—while you were holding his wife.”
    “Lorna, please. Let me explain.”
     “You needn’t explain to me, young man, but you will certainly need to do some fancy talking to Peter. And if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll get a chance to make things right with the young woman lying here fighting for her life. For now, I don’t care what kind of storm you have to ride through, and I don’t care if you have to walk, but you hightail it back to the KIM and let Adam know what’s happened.” She pointed toward the door with her chin, her hands still gripping SueAnna’s wrists. “Get”
     Trey stepped to the bed and brushed his lips across SueAnna’s forehead. “I know I’ll have to prove this, but I love you.”  


Mundane Matters

Ruts…or a path?

For many years I’ve tried to practice the presence of God. I don’t always do well. Some days I fall into an all-too-familiar pattern of 
seeing only the


But this past weekend I had two back-to-back meetings some 4+ hours away, and I stayed with a friend who lives on this little slice of heaven. And I was reminded, again, of the choices that face us daily—our focus, if you will. 

The above picture is that of ruts—indeed. Ruts made from the same everyday routine. 

Yet, when I was able to turn, just one-quarter of a turn, and feast on the destination of those everyday ruts, they took on a whole new meaning. 


Oh, that I might see the ‘ruts’ of my life only as a well-worn path to the still waters whereby HE leads me…daily. And may those same ruts represent my obedience to follow. 

He ALWAYS goes before me. And—

That Matters!! 

Threads of Grace–Chapter 12

Chapter 12

Prairie View, Kansas

     Lorna Nelson ran her feather duster over the top of her husband’s head. “Move that mail sack, James, so I can finish dusting these shelves before Martha Jean Larson comes in.”
     James sneezed. “Martha Jean never has dust? And slow that thing down. You got more dust stirred up than what was there in the first place.” He sneezed again.
     She smacked him on the head with her duster.
     “Quit—now my head will be dirty and what will Martha Jean have to say about that?”
     Lorna laughed. “It was shining in my eyes. I swan, I do believe you used lard again this morning. I bet that fringe around your ears couldn’t move even if a Kansas whirlwind came storming through.”
     “You go ahead and laugh, woman. I know you like my shiny head.” He pinched her cheek. “Here,” he handed her a letter, “see who might be writing a letter to the mercantile.”
     Lorna sat down on a cracker box by the stove. “Wonder why they addressed it to Nelson’s Mercantile? Hmm.” She took the missive from the envelope and leaned against a stack of flour sacks. “Well…my, oh my…well, what do you think about that…who would have thought—”
     “I’ll never understand why you read snippets and make comments aloud before you let me know what it’s saying. Now, does that letter say anything I should be hearing, too?”
     “Why yes, it does. And you’ll never believe…come sit down and listen to this.”
     James wiggled himself into a chair next to her. “Okay, read. I’m listening.”
     “Dear James and Lorna Nelson: You might not remember me, but you helped me and my sisters after our pa died. I know I promised to come back for the girls, but I found a job in Illinois before I made it all the way back to Ohio. I’ve been feeling real bad about not keeping my promise to them and was wondering if it might be okay if me and my wife came for Thanksgiving and Christmas. If we could stay with you, it would be much appreciated. We’d surely like for it to be a surprise and was hoping you might think of a way we could get the Bittman’s to bring the girls to your place. We’ll be glad to pay for anything that is needed if you would be so kind as to make me a ticket. I do thank you and will be there for Thanksgiving unless we hear we aren’t welcome.
Peter K. Morrow
    James scratched his head. “Well, what do you make of that, Lorna?”
     “What I make of it is we better get busy. Thanksgiving is next week. There’s not time to get a note back even if it weren’t okay. And he doesn’t know the Bittmans have left, or that SueAnn is married and has Lily out on the ranch. Guess more than one person will be surprised, won’t they? But how’re we going to get the girls in here? They won’t just come without a reason, will they?”
     He shrugged. “If we could get a note to Adam, and let him in on this surprise, I reckon he might consider bringing them here for Thanksgiving dinner.”
     “And how are we going to do that. Trey and SueAnna took supplies for the winter with them when they left. I doubt we’ll see anyone from the KIM until spring.”
     James plucked a feather from her duster. “Suppose we could hook a note on one of these and hope the wind would carry it.”
     “Pfft. I think that lard has soaked into your brain. We’d have a whole lot better chance of them getting a message if we was to pray.”

     SueAnna laid her head against the back of the settee and stretched her feet to the warmth of the fireplace. Sage had returned for another church service, but she’d been too weak to attend and he’d not come to the ranch. 
     Trey was attentive and loving, but could she trust him? She was afraid to trust herself. Everyone she’d ever loved, except for Lily, had left her. Ma and Pa couldn’t help it. But Peter. Where was the brother who promised to return? Even now, every time Trey left the ranch her chest tightened and her head hurt until she’d hear him ride in again. Was it love or fear? If only she could talk to another woman. Someone who could tell her what to do, or explain how she felt. She wanted to go back to Nelson’s. She needed Lorna. 
    The tell-tale click of Trey’s boots in the hallway broke her reverie. She sat up and smoothed her skirt.
     “Mind if I come in?” 
      She smiled to herself. He would come in whether she answered or not. 
     He knelt beside her. “Hey, are you okay? Feel like coming down for awhile? I’ll help you?” He rubbed his thumb across her forehead. “Why the frown? Have I done something wrong? Do you hurt? I’ll do anything you ask. Just…just please be happy.”
     “Anything I ask? It’s not that I’m not happy, Trey. But—”
     “But what?”
     “I want to go back to the Nelson’s.” His face fell, and guilt looped around her shoulders. 
     “For good?”
     She shook her head. “No, at least I don’t think so. I…oh, Trey, I’m just so tired and mixed up. I think it would help if I could talk with Lorna. Please understand. I need to talk to Lorna.”
     He got to his feet. “I thought…was I wrong to think we could make this work?”
     She caught his hand. “I’m not saying we can’t. But I don’t think we can while I’m here. I know you want me to trust you…to love you. But I’m so afraid.”
     He plunked to the settee beside her. “Afraid of me? Why? I’d never hurt you.”
     “There are a lot of ways to hurt someone. I’m afraid you’re only feeling sorry for me. You’ve been so kind and loving to me now, but I know how quickly your mood can change. I’m afraid that Claire is still lurking in your heart, and I don’t have the strength to fight her. I can’t live knowing she might show up again, if only in your thoughts.” She pulled her hand from his. “I can’t compete with what I can’t see.”
     “But I’ve told you, over and over again, it’s you I love.”
     “Because I’m here. Don’t you see? You think you love me because I’m here. But what would you do if you saw Claire again? Where would that leave us? Could you make a choice? And would that choice be me? You said you loved her, too, but you never went back for her. Not until we were married did you make any effort to find her, then you blamed me when Mr. Covington wouldn’t allow you to leave. I need to know that I can go to the Nelson’s and you’ll ride across the prairie to come for me because you can’t stand for us to be apart. And you need to know that you would meet me walking toward you because I couldn’t wait for you to get there.”
     “And would you do that, SueAnna? Would you walk to meet me?” He kissed her fingers.
     She shrugged. “I don’t know. That’s what we need to find out. We don’t even know one another. I only know how you like your eggs because you threw them away when I didn’t do it right. I need to know that…that you would be proud to introduce me as your wife and not the housekeeper.”
     “What about Lily?”
     She patted his hand. “Don’t worry. I’ll not leave her for you to watch. I’ve been thinking. I don’t want to leave her, but I can’t have her around while I’m trying to work through all this. I’ve never been away from her since our ma died. She was one-year-old, and I was twelve. I know more about being a mama than I do about being a girl. I was thinking maybe Alice Rawlings would let her come there for awhile.”
    “How long is awhile?”
     “Only until after Christmas. Perhaps you could bring Lily to the Nelson’s for Christmas. That will give me time to think. I want to know what it feels like to get all dressed up and wait for a beau to come calling. Will he think I’m pretty? Will he whisper sweet words to me? Will he tell me he can’t sleep at night because he’s thinking of me?”
     Trey stood with his back against the stone wall surrounding the fireplace. “I haven’t given you any of that, have I? Here we are married, and I never even knew how much you needed to know them things. Are you saying you would go out with just any beau? Do you want to be free to do that?”
     She shook her head. “As long as we are still legally married, I would never consider going out with another man. But what if it’s you who decides you want to be free? What if you decide to go back for Claire and ask for our marriage to be annulled? What if you decide that riding across the prairie to me is too much…that I’m not worth it?”
     Trey turned his head away from her. 
     “You can’t answer that, can you? Don’t you see, Trey…that’s why I have to leave for awhile. You can’t see Claire, but she’s still there. What place will I occupy in your life when I’m no longer visible on a daily basis? This marriage should never have been. I know it, and you know  it. In truth it has never been a marriage at all. I’ll thank you until my dying day that you  helped me keep Lily. But I’ll be sorry ’til my dying day that you had to do it the way you did. It was wrong.” 
     He rubbed his forehead. “When would you go?”
     “As soon as we can make arrangements for Lily. I already have my bags packed. I’ll walk if I have to.”
     He shouldered away from the wall. “I’ll go talk to Alice this afternoon. You know she’ll have questions. What do I tell her?”
    “You’ve never had trouble explaining me before. I’m confident you will be able to come up with something. Maybe you should consider the truth. I don’t know Alice all that well, but I can’t imagine her being a gossip.”
     He dropped to his knees. “I’m afraid to let you go. I’m afraid  you won’t come back.” He squeezed her hands. 
     “I’m not really leaving you. My being here hasn’t meant we’re together. Staying here won’t change anything. We need time apart to know if we can spend the rest of our lives together.”
     His shoulders heaved with a sigh. “Okay, until Christmas.” He kissed her forehead then stood. “But only until Christmas.”
     She leaned back against the settee after he left. Her head hurt and she was so very, very tired.

To be continued—


And Then There Are Days…….

Grandma’s Awful, Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad Day
(actually, the week hasn’t gone so well, either.)

I finally made a long-overdue appointment (for Tuesday morning) to have a lesion on my arm removed. It was growing…fast…and while I was pretty sure what it was, it had become bothersome enough to be…well…bothersome.

We still doctor 1.5 hours away. I know, I know—you’re wondering why we don’t go local.  Change is hard. We are old. There, you have it.

Tuesday morning—hubby left before I did, to drive 3 hours in the opposite direction to watch granddaughter #2 play volleyball, so would be gone until late night. That’s fine. Son #2 lives six miles this side of where we doctor. Although he was on duty at the fire department, I was going to spend the afternoon and evening with DIL, granddaughter #2, and grandsons #1 and #2.  What fun!!

I get in car to leave…and battery is dead. It wouldn’t even crank. Really, really dead. Guess who forgot to turn the key to ‘off’ when she checked the mileage a day after returning home from a conference?  

Rescheduled appointment for Thursday morning, 10:15. Called DIL and sulked. Hubby didn’t get home until after 11:00

Thursday morning, 8:00 and all is well. Tried to get hubs to go with me, but he assured me the battery was charged and I’d have no trouble. It was foggy when I left, but I had no trouble. Car purred like a kitten all the way.

Arrived early, got in early, had three lesions removed, and was back in the car ready to head home by shortly after 10:30. UNTIL I turned the key and…nothing. 

At this point, my brain decides to join the battery. Son #2 is off duty today, but has gone with wife and granddaughter #3 for a college visit.  I text him anyway–with the whole story!  Misery loves company. 

I call hubby, and he reminds me we have AAA. However, he will start my direction and I should let him know if AAA can get there sooner than he is able to make the journey.

Now—I text, I tweet, I send emojis and emoticons. I check my emails, face book, and instagram.  I can do a lot of things with that little hand-held device—but do you think I can call AAA?  It’s all automated. Oh, the lady is nice enough, but by the time I listen to the instructions, find the keyboard, and punch in  numbers all I hear is “I’m, sorry—I didn’t get that. Would you please re-enter your 16 digit identification number again” I tried, lady, really I did.

At 12:10, son #2 calls me. He’d just checked his phone—college visit—but they were eating lunch. He knew someone he could call to come give me a jump start. Where was Dad? I checked with Dad. He was two miles away. Might as well let him come to the rescue. 

My dear husband is SO very patient. Of course, I wanted to remind him that had he come along with me…but I didn’t. And when it was all said and done, I was rather pleased that I’d refrained.

He hooked up the charger…and it still wouldn’t start.  He stepped back…he always steps back and looks at a problem. It’s a part of him. You can almost see the wheels turning and most generally he finds a solution.

This time was no exception. There wasn’t a frown, or even a hint of annoyance either on his demeanor nor in his voice when he asked me to ‘turn off your lights and see if that helps.’.

Did I mention it had been foggy when I left home? 

He even bought me lunch and said I didn’t need to worry about supper. 

However, I’ll not be surprised if he takes my keys.

Tuesday’s Tale

Too Soon Old

At Vince’s funeral last week there was a special place designated for the retirees and their spouses to sit. Wives smiled at one another. The guys shook hands, clapped shoulders, and began to question (in whispers, of course)…”What are you up to now? What do you do to stay busy? You still live in…” 

And most would agree they no longer knew most of the now active, much younger firefighters from the department who filled the rows ahead of us. 

Even during the dinner afterwards, the retirees stretched along both sides of a long table. Wives played the ‘remember when’ game, while the men shook hands again, laughed at the same old stories, and grieved the loss of one so young. All wondering who among them would be missing the next time they had the opportunity to be together. 

To witness the changing of the honor guard, to hear the bagpipes, and to listen to the ‘last alarm’, tears the hearts of these men to pieces, with both extreme pride and deep, deep sorrow. 

Those rows of retirees represented a time when their jobs meant much more than a paycheck. It was even more than a career choice. 

Those wrinkled faces, and slower footsteps represented a commitment to one another, a pride for and loyalty to their jobs, and a way of life…
                              that is still evident in their lives today.


Mundane Matters

Where Did She Go?  What Did We Do?

She was an organized, get-er-done,whip-you-into-shape kind of gal. She was the one who insisted our Lori not leave to go shopping without some kind of identification. And she was one who came to stay with us—to help in any way she could—after our Lori was home from the hospital after her wreck. 

Thus began many years of relationship with her. I’ll not give her name. There’s no need. Those who know us will know, and for those who don’t it really doesn’t matter. 

This special person became a part of our family. She came for holidays. She called us mom and dad. Our sons looked to her as an older sister. She was with our Lori when she died so far from home. And to our Tammy she became the sister she lost. 

At one point, she lamented “Why can’t you just adopt me?”

So we did. Figuratively. We even had a special plaque made confirming the relationship. As far as we were concerned, she was a Hiebert. She’s even in the family pictures for both our boys’ weddings.

Then after our Tammy died, this very special person left, too. And I don’t suppose we’ll ever know why. She just stopped coming ‘home’. She didn’t acknowledge the birth of our sons’ children, and it finally reached the point we could no longer find her by phone. 

The last time we saw her was after 9/11. She called. She said she was married. They were on their way to NYC because he had a daughter they believed had been in the towers.

They came. They stayed. They even were recipients of an offering from our church to help them on their journey. And when they left, it was with a promise to keep in touch. Never to leave us again. 

So many things I wish I could tell her. Every time I think of what our daughters have missed, because of their deaths — nieces and nephews in all their growing stages, brothers advancing in their careers, etc., sisters-in-laws—I’m angry.  Angry that she CHOSE to leave us. Angry that for a few years she made us believe she wanted to be a part of us. Angry that we were so taken in.

And at the same time, I miss her. 

A mother’s heart has nothing to do with actual birthing. 

And I’m certainly not the first mom to have a prodigal, am I? 

Other parents are asking the same questions: Where are they? What did we do? Why?

Many words describe FAMILY.  

Mundane isn’t one of them.

If only she knew how much it matters.