Storied Past – 19

“What’s that supposed to mean, sir? Here you are right now telling me something I know nothing about and asking me to own up. I’m not owning up to anything until I talk to that girl—your daughter I guess, and find out what’s going on.”

Mr. Beckett backed off for a minute. Realizing his confrontational approach was making Paul mad and wouldn’t get the information he wanted, he figured he would try a different tack.

“OK, I guess I came off a little intense, Paul. Suppose I start over.” Beckett breathed out slowly. “Ramona’s mother and I raised her to be a Christian, to go to church. We were very careful to make sure her friends were church friends. She wasn’t allowed to go to movies or wear pants and makeup. But she started rebelling against our rules and several months ago she quit coming to church.”

“Her mother, Sarah, passed away a couple years before and she must have blamed God or something. She started hanging out with kids I didn’t know and she got to dancing and partying and . . . and I’m guessing that’s when she met you.”

Paul thought for a moment before he spoke.

“I’m sorry but that sounds kinda weird to me, Mr. Beckett. I mean, you told her what to wear and stuff? Sounds a bit strong. It’s no wonder she kicked at that. I would have, too.” He started to say something about being glad his parents weren’t like that but thought better of it. After all, they weren’t really model parents anyway.

“Well, Paul, I know you’ll be talking to her very soon. I’m sure she has a lot to say to you. And, you can be sure the law will be involved at some point soon.”

Paul groaned.

 

Ramona walked toward the hospital very slowly after her chat with Becky. So much was going through her mind. Maybe she was wrong about church. Well, no, maybe not so much about church but about her understanding and experience with church.

Could it be that in walking away from the church she also walked away from God, throwing both in the same wastebasket.

Becky’s story intrigued her. She tried to imagine what it might be like to have faith in God without being forced to experience Him only through the eyes of a church and its demands on her. What did God demand? What did He really want from her? If what He wanted was to look like everyone else, sing the same kind of music, marry whoever the Pastor okayed and not enjoy life, then that would never work for her.

IF, however, and this was a big IF. If God could love her for the way she was created, the way she seemed to be wired; if God was more concerned about people simply loving Him and loving other people and doing the right things for the right reasons, then . . . then she was in.

 

The afternoon was cool but sunny. Spring was coming. She thought again about the baby’s due date. October seemed so far away. In Maple Valley, that time of year would start bringing the rainy, cold, blustery winter days. Brrrrrr! Summer would be a really different life this year. No stylish swimsuits for her.

She thought as she approached the front doors that she should stop at the desk and get a referral for a pediatrician. Now that she had mostly decided to keep the baby it was time to get that piece in place.

She also told herself that she wanted to come see her dad. But she hoped Paul would be awake. Now this might be awkward with her dad in the next bed but she figured he would be on her side and in spite of the situation, he would protect her.

 

The two men had conversed little since Beckett’s threat about bringing the Law around. Paul’s depression was not improved with the conversation anyway. He considered the morphine drip again.

“Hello Dad, how are you feeling this afternoon?”

Ramona tried to be cheerful, thinking she needed to contrast her attitude with her dad with the one she intended to use with Paul.

“Hi, pumpkin. Your day going alright?

“Ok so far, I think.”

Paul groaned again. Now, he figured; now he would face the music and he didn’t know what kind of tune Ramona would play. He braced himself.

“Looks like you are awake, too, Paul. Guess what? You are a father.”

“Ramona, I . . . I am so sorry I . . . I’m really embarrassed. I had no idea that . . .”

His voice trailed off.

“Do you know what kind of trouble you are in, mister? Do you know? Did you realize how long you could go to jail if you got caught in your little con game?”

Her voice had become strong and she clenched her teeth so that it caused her to literally quiver with anger.

“Did you even think about it before you . . . before you raped me? Before you charmed me and drugged me and raped me? Did you even think with your brain instead of . . . instead of . . .

She stopped abruptly, remembering her dad was in the room.

“. . . instead of thinking about your victim? Huh? Speak up, I can’t hear you.”

“No; no I didn’t. Is that what you want me to say? I totally was thinking about myself; about what I wanted. I have always thought that; what I want in life. I never cared about anyone else but myself.”

Paul’s voice broke.

“Ramona, this, this baby is just way over the edge for me. I actually think I may know how you feel because I have had so much crap happen to me I think this must just be some kind of payback for the life I have lived. I have always been able to control my life and other people but now . . . now I think I’m in over my head. I don’t know what to do.

Paul looked at Ramona with a face that revealed he had met his match. “Can we just talk about stuff? Maybe; maybe you can help me, if you wanted to.”

That last comment disarmed her and partially diffused her anger. Why would he ask her for help? Did he mean it? What kind of help?

She turned so her back faced Paul.

“I . . . I have to think, Paul. I don’t know. I don’t know what to do with that. I need to think.”

Walking past her dad, who was also taken aback by Paul’s request, she went out into the hall. This was not how she imagined the conversation would go. She intended to exert emotional pressure on him and demand some answers, but this . . . this idea of helping him get straightened out; this she didn’t expect.

“Oh God,” she prayed, “I don’t want to be manipulated. Please help me wrap my brain around this. I don’t want to help this man. He hurt me so badly.”

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Storied Past – 11

This is a continuation of a fictional story I started several months ago. All episodes are available on this blog in the archives. The characters are fictional but certain events are in my own history and perhaps yours. Thank you for reading.

Ramona hurried back into the small town bus station with her suitcase and the small flowered bag that Edith had been carrying. The contents, a soft blue blanket and a box containing a baby pacifier, still left Ramona with a cautious hopefulness that somehow, some way this horrible experience could be rectified.

It was dark outside by now and the station was quiet with only a few main lights on. She checked for the next bus north and groaned when she read that no more buses were scheduled that night. What would she do? Sleep on one of these hard benches, she concluded. That didn’t sound fun at all but after finding a corner with some privacy she settled down for the long night ahead.

Wednesday night prayer meeting was well underway. Three hymns had been sung (in their entirety, except for omitting the third verse) when Pastor Marlowe got up to read the prayer requests to everyone.

“Sister Jacobs called in and requested prayer for herself. She has extreme pain in her left shoulder and really wants to be here on Sunday. Her grandson has been on her heart for weeks, too, as his parents seem to be going farther away from God. Please pray for them.”

“And don’t forget Ramona Beckett. You all know she has left the Lord and is careening down a path that will take her to certain disaster. I saw her father this week and he is so broken up over it. Pray that God will sustain him in his resolve to keep the faith. Pray that he will recover quickly from this heart attack.”

Everyone nodded with a knowing affirmation of the serious nature of Ramona’s recent failure. Several other requests were listed and then they all knelt down for the requisite time of petition and thanksgiving.

Near the back a tall, good-looking young man sat awkwardly, wondering how he could gracefully exit without drawing attention or conversation. “This is so weird,” he thought. “I sure made a mistake coming here!” No one had greeted him yet, although several young people glanced his way when they entered at the start of the service.

When he realized now that everyone had their faces buried in the pew he decided he could slip out relatively unnoticed. It did seem that they had some kind of ritualistic agenda that he didn’t understand and they weren’t about to include him anyway.

Outside on the sidewalk, Paul decided this church thing was a bad idea. Lately he had felt some strange feeling of . . . regret or something. Not guilt, mind you, just a strange uneasiness that something was missing, so he thought maybe it was church.

He couldn’t put his finger on it. Since he started high school, he had always lived life as he wanted and at full speed. A basketball star since tenth grade, he went on to lead the team as point guard, captain and then to the regional playoffs. Of course, the perks were there; keg parties, grateful adoring fans, and girls. Always girls. His charming personality seemed to get him anything he wanted, with whomever he wanted. Life was sweet; until just recently.

He ambled down the sidewalk, deep in thought. There was an empty, unfilled place somewhere inside that craved attention. For all the women he “conquered,” he should feel self-satisfied and in control. After all, didn’t he actually live the life most men can only fantasize about?

Suddenly, without warning, his consciousness snapped back to acute awareness. But it was too late! The law of physics will not allow two material bodies to occupy the same space at the same time; the truck settled any question about that.

Becky answered her phone. It was 9:30, Wednesday evening. Marcy was hysterical.

“Becky, Becky! Are you there Becky? Sumpin’ turrible bad, Becky. Come quick, sumpin’ turrible.”

“Marcy, what is it? Where are you? Are you OK?” Becky was alarmed now.

“Yeah, Becky, I’m OK but he isn’t!”

“Who isn’t? Is Jeremy OK?”

“Not Jeremy, Becky, him, some other guy. I don’t know who but he might-a got dead, Becky.”

“Well where are you, Marcy?”

“Uh . . . uh, on Main Street, just past that church what you said Ramona went to, just past.”

“Right! Wait right there; I’m going to come over. Is the ambulance there?”

“No, it just happened! It’s turrible bad, Becky. Please hurry. I’m gonna’ pray for him, OK?”

“Yes, Marcy. You pray and I’m on my way.”

Ramona drifted in and out of fitful sleep, if you could call it sleep. The bench was getting harder and less conformed to her body. She considered the possibility that even natural substances had conspired to insure that she would continue to be miserable.

Images of Edith kept floating by in her sub-consciousness coupled with sounds of snoring from some itinerant on the other side of the small station. Ramona pulled her coat more tightly around herself and over her ears to minimize the irritation.

“What” and “why” were the interrogatives that initiated her linear thinking. What did this bizarre experience mean and why had she experienced it. She had heard of visitations people have had from angels but mostly that happened to more deserving, spiritual people, not sinners like her. Edith drifted back into view, snoring with a pacifier perched precariously in her mouth, a blue blanket pulled up over her ears.

Becky ran all the way to where Marcy was. Red and blue lights flashed up the street behind her as she arrived on the scene. A light drizzle compounded the misery and drama of the late evening.

Marcy. Where was Marcy? Then she saw her; crouched on the ground next to a bloody heap, undistinguishable as a person at first glance.

Becky gasped. Surely this was the end for Mr. Whoever-he-was. As she quickly knelt down next to Marcy she could hear her simple prayers of intervention.

“Oh God, please let him live if he don’t know you. I know you so please listen right now. If he ain’t saved, don’t take him away ‘til we can get him saved. Amen!”

“Amen.” Becky echoed.

“Excuse me, folks, I need to get to him,” the paramedic interrupted.

“Oh, sure.” Becky pulled Marcy back from the near corpse. “Let’s stand back here, Marcy. We can still pray.”

“OK, Becky. He’s gonna be awright, though. God tole me. He’s gonna be OK. I don’t think he knows Jesus yet but he will ‘cause he’s gonna be OK, Becky.”

The paramedic team proved it’s proficiency by speedily and carefully loading Paul up on a field gurney and into the back of the ambulance. Minutes later he was rushed through the Emergency doors of the Hospital and into surgery.

Ramona jerked fully awake. What time was it anyway?

“Oh no, really?” she thought. It’s going to be a long night. Only 9:30! Her tummy felt really strange. No, it wasn’t the baby. She knew it would be too early for that: just a weird sensation. She would sure breathe a sigh of relief when some of this would start making sense!

Call for the Question

Dream with me a little. When you stand back and contemplate your life do you ever wonder if you have, or will make, a difference. An elementary and obvious query for folks who ponder about more than just the mundane “sleep . . . wake up . . . go to work . . . eat . . . back home . . . watch football . . . go to bed . . . (repeat)” kind of existence.

Most of our daily activity is arranged around patterns of repetition. We do and are what we have always done and been and don’t usually think about enlarging our life borders beyond these predictable boundaries and patterns. Only when some event or new relationship calls us awake and apart are we faced with a shaking of our self-centered homeostasis.

We long for significance. Significance is about identity and impact. So we hope that somehow when we pass on from this life we won’t be forgotten; that we will have made a difference; that we will have contributed to something much larger than we are. That we have made a difference in our social circles, a difference in our families, our faith communities, our legacies.

Why do we long to recast our lives in this way? Why are we aroused, or at least pause to muse, whether this life we relish (or tolerate) will have any import? Is there some inner insatiability that yearns for fulfillment? Why can’t the average human simply follow the mind-numbing script of day to day rhythms of “normal” life?

Lots of questions there. Personally, I am not satisfied with settling for the repetition of a pointless existence that generates no influence or impact on my fellow travelers. Are you? Did you ever wonder why you are here or if there is a purpose and significance to these few years you’ve been allotted on planet Earth.

I am increasingly convinced that not only is there an important reason for my presence here at this time but I am sure I have been called and outfitted for this time. No intent here to exhibit any ego issues, I just believe there is not only purpose, but call, gifts and power to accomplish my purpose.

How do I know? As I reminisce about the journey my family and I have been on, I see the hand of God in every event, every decision, every move, every relationship and every trial. Details are not necessary here but clearly we have been “set up” by God for the next season in our purpose-full life.

Each of us who have chosen to be a Jesus follower (and I might add all who have not yet intentionally chosen) have dormant within us the gifts, call and power to live out that purpose. To release these “enablements,” our part is to resolve to open our minds, hearts and spirits to allow that empty space of unfulfilled destiny to be inhabited by the dream God intends us to live out.

Ok, Dr. Gary; what does that look like and how can that happen, you rightfully question. Well, it does look different for each of us but maybe there are some common indicators and divine events that call us to this most excellent life.

Let me pose some questions. (I know; too many questions and not enough answers! I believe the best way of self-discovery is self dis-cover-y. Other words, you know the events in your own life and can dis- or un- cover how God has been at work.) So, let’s begin.

Is there a history of God-consciousness and/or God-faithfulness in your past and present? Has your spirit been quickened by God-activity in such a way as to cause a craving for more God-connection to be present and witness what God is doing, to join Him there? Is there an awareness of destiny for that which you feel is beyond anything you could have orchestrated or have lived out?

Do you believe you have gifts you yearn to share with others in Kingdom efforts that have not yet been fully employed? Have you wanted to be a tool of influence in culture but you have not found a place of expression? Is there a fire within you, a pent up energy that bubbles and bulges and heart-burns to be released?

Are there strange, crazy events and opportunities that present themselves that defy logic and “rational” behavior? When you step through open doors do you look in the rear view and wonder how those steps could possibly fit within the paradigm of known God activity?

Conversely, is there a lack of confidence in the prompting and timing of unction (Holy Spirit empowering) that seems to bring timidity and a consequent quenching of that fire? Or, is there some guilt or sin that screams out its presence when you might be encouraged to step out and be bold, bringing shameful silence instead of confident Kingdom life or warfare? Do you wonder if you even know how to hear God? Did you miss His voice of direction?

If I am sure of anything, it is this. Contrary to much of the theology I was taught in my impressionable years, God has not given up on this human experiment. In fact, He holds all the cards of power and will not allow it to fail. I said; He will not fail! There will not be only 12 or 13 people in the Kingdom to come. If so, why would He promise to pour out His spirit on all flesh just to annihilate almost everybody in some lake of fire? (Sorry, another question.)

In keeping with that thought, we should ask a further question. How might something like that Spirit pouring/drenching be accomplished? Well, God is going to have to get a bunch of people turned around and start living into their destiny. How will that happen? By awakening those who are called by His name and empowering them with confident, spirit infused lives of excellence coupled with opportunities for influencing culture and government toward repentance.

Ok, that was a mouthful, but I believe an astonishing change is in the cards that God holds and has started to reveal all over this land. When those who are called by His name pull their collective heads out of the sands of traditional theological assumptions and walk in purity, truth and confidence, an amazing, life-giving, life-validating move of God will break out in the land.

Cultural and religious strongholds of idolatry will be smashed. Wickedness in governing structures that are covenantally connected with spiritual powers of darkness will be broken. Bondages of mind and spirit, wealth and heritage will be released as families become free to serve God and others.

A pipe dream? Don’t think so. This kind of spiritual earthquake could unleash the Third Great Awakening, setting the table to usher in His Kingdom.

The last question I have for us is this. Do we want to live into our God-created significance? Are you; am I ready to take the next step into our intended destinies? That step is our choice. Let us join Him.

Your Kingdom Come!

Feathers and Birdseed

I was sitting on an airplane looking over the shoulder of a guy across the aisle. He was perusing one of those SkyMall magazines that offer items for sale you didn’t even know you needed. A fully programmable, food dispensing pet feeder. A toaster that imprints the image of your favorite dog breed right on your morning slice. Or, get this, a skin colored shirt top with faux tattoos printed on it!

Having been a businessman, I certainly appreciate ingenuity and the ability to make a buck. But really, my morning toast needs to affirm my love for my favorite dachshund?

Consumerism, the drive to buy stuff and in so doing provide a certain level of happiness, is killing us. Advertising dollars are solicited and spent at a rate greater than ever. Competition from purveyors of every kind of good or service threatens our own success so we must up the ante to increase market share. Marketing itself has become a finely tuned science and focused to any niche consumer you demand.

The church has succumbed to the same consumeristic mentality reducing many, not all thankfully, to complex business operations to the exclusion, unfortunately, of the original call to make disciples.

Listen to this snippet from the book, AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church, by authors Halter and Smay:

“A consumer is not a disciple and a disciple is not a consumer! Consumerism reflects what Jesus came to call people out of. . . if we look at the amount of time, money, and focus that is spent on providing services for people and the results don’t reflect a fading consumerism in the lives of our people, it’s time to take a walk in the woods and talk to the Head of the church.”

Let’s look at any number of followers of Jesus who we venerate as saints: Paul, any of the apostles, St Francis, Mother Teresa, dozens of un-named, unknown followers of Jesus who gave all and basically had no worldly goods, yet they had their needs provided for. These didn’t seek to accumulate stuff nor did they have stuff but they gave away stuff. They “lost their life;” and “died to self” so they might gain their lives in the Missional directive that Jesus gave when he left us.

Now look at us. Many of us, and the “successful” leaders we have today, have all kinds of resources both organizationally and personally. Many enjoy luxurious homes, recreational times and toys that rival the most affluent in society. Is that wrong? Maybe not. Is that our mission? Likely not. Does that portray our call to die to self in order to live out The Main Thing?

Ninety-nine percent of us are consumers. We want the stuff. We want to be successful in building churches, building our own kingdoms, finding the latest color co-ordinated feathers for our nests and accumulating a bigger flock of birds and more birdseed than the next flock.

Trouble is, Jesus reminded us that every bird has her nest but he didn’t even have a place to lay his head; no home to go to. If we claim to desire to live like Jesus how far are we willing to go? Do we want the power he had, the Spirit he had, the gifts he had but not the life he had? I don’t mean we should all be broke. God has called, blessed and gifted some to provide the means for others to go places and do things in the mission of making disciples, of course, but is that what our resources are primarily dedicated for? Are we mostly givers or consumers? No doubt, when Jesus went away to pray it was at an all-inclusive resort complete with 24 hour restaurant and massage services.

No, none of that is wrong. That is not the point. The question I am addressing is what is right, or what serves my call to the mission of “making disciples?” If I must die to self, as scripture insists, what does that truly look like? Must I never enjoy any comforts? Our affluent society has so enculturated us into consumerism that it is impossible for us to envision any other lifestyle. Are we then to be total, indigent itinerants? No possessions of any kind?

Truly we have been blessed in this country. Several key figures in scripture were wealthy, yes. There were those in the NT who were patrons for the apostles and Jesus who used their resources to fund the apostles and missionary travels. No, wealth is not wrong. The key is how we steward the posession and use of that wealth.

If we can understand that it is a gift from God that still belongs entirely to Him we are starting to grasp the purpose of that wealth. It is to enable us to make disciples, not be or make consumers. The two are incompatible.

Now maybe we can understand the statement quoted earlier in this post: “A consumer is not a disciple and a disciple is not a consumer.”

Storied Past – 10

The seat was empty! Ramona looked around. There was no way Edith could have slipped out. Ramona was on the aisle seat! Now she was really confused! What could have happened to her? She knew it was crazy but she even looked under the seats.

Then she noticed that the bag was still there. She grabbed it and stood up. Edging her way up the aisle to the rear she looked at every seat for Edith. Arriving at the onboard restroom she checked there, too. It was unoccupied. Puzzled, she returned to her seat.

Well, that was surely weird; almost creepy, that she had been sitting by someone who suddenly disappeared. What on earth was going on? She settled back into her seat not sure what to think now. Well, there must be an easy explanation, but what? One moment she was talking to this nice, sweet, grandmotherly lady and the next she had disappeared!

She drew a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Now really! Did all that just happen? No, she probably imagined it all. Surely it was brought on by the turmoil of the last several hours. At least she could chalk it up to a stressful day! Your mind can play tricks on you sometimes. She was just starting to believe this self-talk when a disturbing fact dawned on her. The bag!

She was still holding the bag Edith was carrying. Oh, God! It wasn’t her imagination, as she had tried to convince herself. The flowered bag was still in her hands. She slowly raised it up to look at it. It wasn’t very heavy for an overnight bag. She set it on the seat and laid her head back. Wasn’t this bizarre?

What did it all mean? And the way Edith had looked at her when she last spoke; her eyes seemed to penetrate into her very soul. How did she know how Ramona felt when she was little; that she loved Jesus so much? It was a bit spooky. Or, or maybe, just maybe . . . no, no that was too trippy.

She fell asleep. Grandma Beckett was holding her on her lap, shushing her while putting a Band-Aid on her scraped knee. Grandma kept saying, “It’s gonna be alright, just alright sweetheart,” her sobbing comforted by the elder woman’s gentle voice and she felt, no, she knew, that everything would be alright. Tomorrow always would be better than today.

 

Mr. Beckett woke up slowly. He laid there not wanting to open his eyes. His concentration was a bit groggy as he tried to recall the day’s events. His daughter had stopped by; he remembered that. How did their conversation go? He really hoped she would get back to church but then he started to grasp the content and reality of what he had said to her. That part about how hard it was to keep her obedient to God with rules. Had that been the right approach? Well, he just wanted the best for her and to make sure she was ready for heaven.

There definitely was a rift that had developed in their relationship these last several months since Sarah passed. He really missed Sarah. Her absence left such a hole in his purpose and enjoyment of life. He knew she was in a better place and was waiting for him there; in heaven. Pastor Marlowe had counseled him to be sure he was ready so he could see Sarah again. That had driven him to a renewed enthusiasm for the Bible and being faithful to its precepts more than ever! He continued to seek God and consecrate his life and behavior so that he would be more Christ-like and holy.

Now with Ramona pulling away and the added pain of her having a baby out of wedlock seemed to tear the hole even larger. What had gone wrong? He had tried to be more careful to direct her and instruct her in the ways of God. Whenever Pastor would bring something from the Word, he made sure Ramona followed the teaching. After all, he was responsible and his reputation as a Christian father was at stake.

 

Becky and Jeremy stood in the middle of the bus station. This late in the evening it was quiet. There was a faint smell of stale popcorn lingering in the air that stole your attention when by day the busy activity would have. As there was hardly anyone there it was easy to see that Ramona wasn’t either. Jeremy strode over to the ticket counter. The only window open revealed an older gentleman sitting on a worn metal stool dressed in a gray uniform with a nametag, Robert G., proudly prominent on his right pocket.

“Sir, may I ask if you have seen someone?” Jeremy proposed.

“Ask away,” the man answered.

“Well, I am wondering if a girl, about twenty, or so, just bought a ticket from you?”

“Maybe,” he said. “What did she look like?”

Jeremy described as best he could Ramona’s physical features. By now Becky had joined the conversation and added more detail.

“I just sold a ticket to someone like that about forty-five minutes ago. ‘First bus out,’ she wanted, so that’s what I gave her.”

“Where was it headed?” Jeremy inquired.

“Rancho Cucamonga,” he said. “Won’t get there till late tomorrow some time though.”

“Where is that?” Becky asked.

“Southern California, just east of Los Angeles area,” the man in gray answered with an obvious pride in his geographic knowledge.

“Oh no,” Becky and Jeremy answered together. “Thank you, sir.”

“Yup,” Mr. Robert G. said. “No problem!”

As they walked toward the exit, the seeming finality of Ramona’s decision settled in to Becky. It looked like she was going through with it and there was nothing Becky or Jeremy could really do right now. Becky stopped.

“Jeremy, it looks like it’s a done deal for Ramona but I still think there is hope. God can arrange her circumstances to help her make the right choice about this baby.”

“Yes, I believe that, too. I don’t want her to choose to end the baby’s life but even if she does, there is still hope for her to find a way to trust God for her future. He is such a loving and forgiving God, isn’t He?”

 

Ramona woke with a start. The bus lurched over the driveway apron and into the parking lot of a small town. The flickering sign over the station revealed it wasn’t her stop. Brownsdale, it announced, Home of Elkhorn Tractor.

She got up to go inside to the restroom, as this was a 20 minute stop, and took Edith’s bag with her. Well, whoever that was that sat with her for an hour and a half! As she waited her turn she became curious about the bag. It couldn’t have had much in there: maybe some clothes and toiletries. She guessed she may as well open the bag. There could be something to identify the owner.

Pulling the zipper she reached inside. There was something soft and a small box. She pulled out the softness: a smallish blue blanket, like a baby blanket. Well, maybe there was something that made sense about that! The woman obviously had mental issues. She opened the box. It contained a baby pacifier.

Ramona was suddenly taken aback as her mind connected some dots. This woman, Edith, was no mental case! Somehow, she knew that Ramona was pregnant. It had to be that. And, Edith had to be an angel of some sort. That was the only rational answer to her disappearance and the strange events the last few hours!

Ramona forgot she needed the restroom. Dashing out to the bus she begged the driver to retrieve her suitcase. She had to get back to Maple Valley!