Five Days…

We’re just FIVE days away from the release of  Home to You, my next full length novel!  I thought I’d post a chapter from the book I wrote for my girls, A Little Faith, as a preview of what’s to come.  Home to You is written from a grown up Faith’s perspective, while A Little Faith was written from her eight year old perspective.  (And the subject matter in this particular chapter?  Is SO going to play a part in this next book.) 

Enjoy… and just FIVE days!  September 1st!  Eeeee!!!

Our last Sunday at our church was sad.
Sad and busy. 
Most Sundays at our church are busy, though.  There are always lots of people coming up to talk to us, to ask us questions, to hug us, to laugh with us… LOTS of people.  Mommy can’t walk down the hall without at least twenty people stopping us.  And if Daddy meets us outside the church and walks with us, like he does some Sundays, kissing Mommy good morning and asking us how our morning has been?  It’s even worse. 

We’re almost always late for Sunday school, which means we usually miss getting donuts before our teachers start telling the Bible story.  Gracie gets especially peeved about this and has been known to stand in the hallway at church, hopping around in a circle, groaning, “donuts, donuts, donuts” all low in her throat until Mommy, who has been smiling pleasantly at church people, looks over to her and mouths, without any sound, “Stephanie Grace, I am going to snatch you completely bald-headed if you don’t stop that!”

We know that’s what she’s mouthing at us, because we’ve heard her say that so many times in her normal voice.  (And in a louder voice, sometimes.)  I don’t know what it means to snatch someone bald-headed, but it doesn’t sound good.  Besides, Gracie has nice hair, so she’d probably like to keep it.

Anyway, that’s what Sunday mornings are like for us.

Mommy’s friend, Mrs. Morales, tells me that this is normal when you’re the pastor’s daughter.  Her daddy was a pastor, too, a long time ago, and she said that she once walked these very same hallways, saying hi to people, getting hugs, and giving out handshakes.  She told me that one day I would like walking through the church, talking with all of the people like Mommy does.

Maybe so.  But that last Sunday at our church?  Wasn’t much fun at all.  Most of the people coming up to us were crying, so sad to see us leaving.  Mommy had spent most of the morning crying, too.

It only got harder during the service.  After Daddy preached, we were all called up to the front, to stand with him, as lots of people came and put their hands on us and prayed.  I was sad enough about leaving before, but after spending time with all those people who cared about us so much, I only felt worse.

The party, though, was nice.

Yes, they threw a party for us.  Every once in a while, we would have a party of some sort after church on Sundays to celebrate different things.  The teenagers would be raising money for camp and selling tickets to a lunch, the deacons would be serving lunch to all the widows in the church, we’d have a lunch to welcome a new person to the staff of the church – things like that.  And no matter what the celebration was, we’d have to be there, sitting beside an empty seat that we kept for Daddy, who usually never even got the chance to sit down and eat.

The party on our last Sunday was for us.  But Daddy was still on his feet the whole time, visiting from table to table, with Mommy right beside him. 

Gracie had run off with some of the other kids and the children’s minister to play games, but I had stayed behind at our empty table, picking at what was left of my food.  I wasn’t sure what it was that I had just eaten.  Some mysterious casserole thing.  That’s what we usually got at potlucks.  Mommy once told us to just eat it and smile… and figure out later what it was.

These casseroles were mysteries even I couldn’t solve most of the time.

I wondered if our new church would have mystery casseroles like this. 

As I was thinking about this, I heard someone say my name.

“Faith Hayes.” 

I knew exactly who he was, after just hearing his voice.

Sam. Sam Huntington.  Samuel Thomas Huntington.

Oh, Sam, I thought, as I looked up at him and saw him smile at me.  I will miss you most of all.

Sam is eighteen years old… which is old.  He has brown hair and hazel eyes and a really deep voice.  Like Daddy’s, almost.  He’s a lot taller than me, and he has a nice smile.  Our mommies are good friends and sit next to each other in church most Sundays.  And when they do?  I always sit next to Sam.  And he always gives me a piece of gum and helps me color a picture.

He is the most handsome boy in all the world.  I’m going to marry him one day.  He doesn’t know it yet, but that’s okay. 

He sat down next to me with a cookie in his hand.  He broke it in half and held out the bigger piece to me. 

See?  He’s wonderful.

I took the cookie and said, very quietly, “Thanks, Sam.”

“So… Florida,” he said to me, taking a bite of his half.  “Are you excited about moving to a new house?”

I wasn’t very excited at all.  I frowned up at him.  “Not really.”

He nudged my knee with his.  “Oh, come on, you’re going to get to go to Walt Disney World ALL the time, right?”

Gracie had already figured this out.  Ever since pancake day, she’d been begging Mommy and Daddy to make plans for us to visit Mickey Mouse as soon as we got to Florida.  I think Gracie would live at Walt Disney World if they would let her. 

Me?  I didn’t care as much.

“Yeah,” I sighed.  “Mice don’t really talk, though.”

He looked confused for a second, then smiled.  “Oh… Mickey Mouse, talking.  Got it.”

“Yeah,” I said, “they’re just people in costumes.  Like the Santa at the mall.”

He looked surprised… then grinned.  “Okay, so they are.  Didn’t figure you knew that, though.”

“I’m eight years old, Sam,” I said, frowning at him.  “I’m not a baby, you know.”

He nodded.  “Didn’t think you were, Faith.  But even big girls like princesses and roller coasters, right?”

“Maybe,” I said.  “But I like the beach better.  They have that in Florida, too.”

“I like the beach, too,” he smiled.

I thought about the beach.  And about Sam.  And about how if Sam and I ever went to the beach together, I could probably count on him to build a giant sandcastle, at least three stories tall, for me.  Or, if the sand wasn’t good for making castles, he would probably let me bury him in it instead. 

Best of all, he would probably buy me some ice cream.  And we would sit on the beach and watch the water come in.  And he would talk to me, just like he talked to me every Sunday at church.

Would I meet other people who talked to me like Sam did?  Would anyone at my new church want to talk to me at a party like this, or would I be sitting all by myself while Daddy worked, while Mommy talked, and while Gracie ran around like a hollering monkey?

“I’ll miss you, Sam,” I said, feeling tears in my eyes.

“Hey, Faith,” he said softly.  “You’re going to have a great time in Florida.”

“I don’t want to leave here, though,” I said, wiping my eyes with my hand. 

“I know the feeling,” he said, smiling over at me with his own sad eyes.

“What?,” I asked. 

“Well,” he sighed, “I’m leaving, too.”

My heart pounded at this.  Where was he going?  Was he moving to Florida, too?!

That seemed impossible.  But it would be the greatest news ever if Sam was moving with us!

“You are?,” I asked, hoping to hear that he wouldn’t be far away after all.

“Yeah,” he said.  “I leave for basic training for the Marines next week.” 

And there it was.  Another mystery. 

What were the Marines?  What was basic training?  And where was he going to be? 

Before I could ask about this, Mommy and Mrs. Huntington came over to the table where we sat.  Mommy smiled at Sam and held her arms out to him.  He stood, a smile on his face, and gave her a hug.

“Said goodbye to your brothers and Savannah already,” she said to him, as Mrs. Huntington wiped away her own tears with a Kleenex.  “We sure are going to miss all of you.”

“Me, too, Mrs. Hayes,” he said.  “I was just telling Faith that I leave next week.”

Mrs. Huntington started crying harder.  Mommy looked over at her, then turned back to Sam, and said, “Oh, I know, and it’s one of the worst parts of us leaving right now.  I was going to take your mother out for a lot of mindless girls’ night out excursions to get her mind off of…. but we ran out of time, didn’t we, Jess?”

“Snuck up on us,” she said.  “When he enlisted, it sure felt like we had all the time in the world.  But we didn’t, did we, Sam?”

“It’s not like I’m going away forever,” Sam said, still smiling.

Basic training, enlisted, going away forever… what were the Marines, and what were they going to do to Sam?! 

My mind raced as I tried to solve the mystery behind what was about to happen to Sam…

“You be careful,” Mommy said to him, pointing her finger right into his chest.  “And if they deploy you to some war zone, you let us know so we can keep you covered in prayer, Sam.  I’m serious when I say that.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he answered.

But I hardly heard him because the mystery had just been solved. 

War zone.  The Marines meant going to war.  Sam was going to war.  People were going to be shooting at Sam.  He was going away to some horrible place called basic training because he’d been enlisted, and people were going to be shooting at him!  He would probably die, no matter how hard we prayed.

How would he marry me if he was going to die?!

“Sam,” I sobbed, suddenly sadder than I had ever been in all of my life.  Sadder than when Tasha died.  Sadder than when Gracie tore up my favorite book when I was in kindergarten.  Sadder than when I got in trouble for drawing on the fireplace when I was three years old.  Sadder than I had been at all that morning, as people cried on us and hugged us, and –

“Faith,” Mommy said, worried, tears in her own eyes.  “Why are you crying?”

“How is Sam going to marry me if he gets killed?,” I asked, still sobbing.

Mrs. Huntington seemed to cry harder at the mention of Sam dying.  I know!, I wanted to scream at her.  Sam will be dead.  DEAD!

“Oh,” Mommy managed, smiling and laughing a little, probably because I said I was going to marry Sam. 

She likes Sam.  And she likes Mrs. Huntington.  She’d be glad if Sam married me.  Which he would, of course.  If he didn’t die first in this horrible thing called basic training with these horrible people called the Marines, and –

“Hey, Faith,” Sam said, looking just a little embarrassed.  “I’m not going to get killed.”

“But people will be SHOOTING at you, Sam!,” I cried.  “The Marines are going to be shooting at you!”

“They won’t, Faith –“

“Don’t go,” I whispered, looking up at him.  “Please don’t go.  I don’t want you to get hurt.”

He looked over at our mothers, then sat down next to me again and put his arm around my shoulders.  I leaned against him and kept right on crying.

Maybe all of the sadness about leaving was making me cry harder about Sam.  Maybe I didn’t trust Jesus as much as I kept saying I did, because I was so, so sad and scared and upset and worried about everything.  Florida, the Marines, all of these changes –

“I’ll be okay, Faith,” Sam whispered.  “Everything will be okay.  For both of us.”

And I began to calm down, hearing him promise this.  “Really?,” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said.  “I’ll be really safe.  And you’ll be praying for me, right?”

“Every day,” I said.  And I meant it.  I’d pray for a different solution to this mystery, every day, until he came home to me.

But… home to me.  Sam would come home, here to Texas one day, and…

“Sam,” I said, crying harder, even as I leaned against him.  “I won’t be here anymore.”

And nothing anyone could say that afternoon could make me feel any better.

 

“He’s going to get SHOT?!,” Gracie yelled.

We were in our closet, which is where we always went when we had to talk after bedtime.  If we whispered in there, Mommy wouldn’t catch us up and out of bed.

IF we whispered.  Which Gracie most certainly was NOT doing.

“Shhh,” I said.  “Yes.  Shot.”

“Like the time I got four shots at the doctor?!,” she asked.

That had been an awful day.  Gracie, upon getting the booster shots, had cried and carried on like she’d really gotten shot, like Sam would get shot, going to war.

“No, Gracie,” I hissed at her.  “Like… with a gun!”

She gasped out loud.  “That’ll HURT him!  He’ll be so sad!”

“No, Gracie,” I said again.  “He’ll be dead.  DEAD, Gracie.”

“But, Faith,” she whined, “how will we have the wedding if that happens?  I won’t get to wear the pretty pink dress or flowers in my hair or shiny pink shoes!”

I had thought about this, too.  It was a shame.  Gracie would have looked so pretty.  I would have looked pretty, too, in my big, white, princess dress, and –

“Well,” Gracie said, deciding on it then and there, “we just have to pray.  We have to pray for Sam.  Every day, Faith.  And not just that he won’t get dead.  But we have to pray that he won’t be sad to be away from his mommy.”

I frowned at this.  “I don’t think Sam will be sad without his mommy.  He’s old, you know. Almost a grownup and all.”

She thought about this for a second.  “But… maybe he’ll be sad about being away from home.”  She bit her lip and looked down at the edge of her nightgown, twisting it back and forth in her hands.

“Gracie,” I said softly.  “Are you sad about leaving Texas?”

She looked up at me… and nodded.  “I’m excited about moving, but… what if we don’t like Florida?  What if the people there don’t like us?”

I had thought the same things so many times.  But if I know anything about being a big sister it’s that you have to be brave for your little sister.

Even when you don’t feel so brave.

“It’s going to be great,” I said.  “We just have to have a little faith that Jesus has it all worked out already.”

Gracie nodded and smiled at this, and I grabbed her hands, there in our closet, on our last night in our house in Texas, and prayed that Jesus would make us brave.

Want more?  You can find A Little Faith right here.  Happy reading, friends!

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