Boondock Ramblings

I think maybe we all need this reminder right now – this week – in the midst of some very crazy things unfolding.

Boondock Ramblings

Many of us are running to our phones or computers every morning, looking for some good news.

“God, just let there be some good news out there right now,” I find myself saying.

Yes, I’m asking God to make the national news media give me good news.

How backward is that? Very it turns out.

One thing I have learned is that I can not receive the peace of God if I am filling my mind and my thoughts with other voices.

I can’t run to the national media, looking for their reassurance and their peace because they don’t have it for me. They don’t want me to have it. Their business thrives on turmoil and fear. Tragedy and anger and fear and scandal sells. Period. It’s sad, but it’s true.

Don’t look to entertainers, to television personalities or news channels or even pastors to bring you comfort or to…

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He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Happy Easter everyone!

Enjoy some Resurrection Sunday music and videos today in place of my usual Sunday Bookends post.

The first one is my favorite Easter Song and it’s called … yes, Easter song.

(Originally sung by Dan Francisco)

Special Fiction Saturday: The Farmers’ Sons Chapter 3

I totally forgot I was going to post Chapter 3 of The Farmers’ Sons earlier today. So here it is, although late. For those who followed Jason’s story when I originally posted it with Molly’s story some of this will be a bit of a repeat, but it has been reworked some.

To catch up on the rest of story, click HERE or find it under the Fiction Friday header at the top of the page.

You can read Molly’s story on Amazon in ebook form.


Chapter 3

Jason loaded another set of weights on the barbells and laid back on the bench, gripping the bar tightly.

Why did I let her think I was going to propose that night?

He grunted under the weight, pushing up until his arms were straight, then slowly lowering the bar again, counting under his breath. His muscles strained under the weight.

I should have never waited so long to talk to her.

He pushed up again.

And when she assumed I had actually intended to propose, I went along with it like a complete idiot.

Down, breathing hard.

Ellie had every right to be angry at him. Not only for his non-proposal but for the secret he’d held on to for so long.

He straightened his arms, set the bar back in its place and lay there on the bench breathing hard.

He came to the gym a few times a week to work off some stress. Lately, though he’d only been finding more stress as his mind raced not only with thoughts of Ellie, but also of keeping the farm running.

When he focused on Ellie, his mind always walked him back to the night he had planned to tell her what he’d should have told her when they’d first started dating again, the night that they got engaged instead.

***

Seven months earlier

His heart had been racing, his palms damp with sweat. His stomach was tight and nausea spun in his stomach.  What had he been thinking? Was he really going to do this tonight? Was he really going to tell his longtime girlfriend about his past and let the chips fall where they may?

He had taken a deep breath and tightened his hands on the steering wheel until his knuckles faded white. Yes, he was. He was doing this because he needed the burden off his shoulders, and he needed to know how Ellie would feel about him after he told her. He couldn’t keep waiting, torturing himself with worry of what might be.

He and Ellie had gone to school together since junior high, but it wasn’t until his junior year he really noticed her, or she had noticed him, or he guess he would say they noticed each other. It was in history class and Mr. Prawley had placed them in a group together to work on a project. Before that they’d seen each other at 4H meetings or when Robert took Jason with him to pick up equipment he’d borrowed from Ellie’s dad Jerry.

Late one night after working on their project about Pennsylvanian history they found themselves laughing about their shared interest in old movies.

“Cary Grant is the epitome of old fashioned suave and charm,” she’d said, pretending to swoon, her hand against her forehead when they watched North by Northwest together at his parents.

He grinned, a teasing glint in his eye. “I agree, but I’m the epitome of modern suave and charm, right?”

She’d tipped her head back and laughed and he wasn’t sure if she was enjoying his humor or mocking him.

“Ginger Rogers was a very underrated actress,” he’d announced after they watched Vivacious Lady at her parents’ house.

“I agree,” she had said and smiled.

Wow. That smile.

That smile that was for him and only him.

It took his breath away.

That smile and her soft, long black hair against that pale skin, those large dark eyes and her sweet round face — what a knockout combination.

He’d taken her to the movies twice, dinner once, lunch three times and attended youth group with her every Wednesday for four months before he’d finally worked up the courage to kiss her. And now, here he was working up the courage to ask her to marry him, but first he had to tell her about what had happened during the break they’d taken when they’d both been in college – at two different colleges.

Those two years in college when he’d been without her, when she had decided they should take a break from dating and see “how things developed” as she had said, were the loneliest and most confusing two years of his life. He’d felt like a ship out at sea without a compass. Returning home from college, to the farm and to her had anchored him again. He couldn’t even imagine losing that anchor again.

God, please don’t let me lose her.

 He caught sight of movement out of the corner of his eye and turned his head to see her stepping off the front porch, down the steps, watching him as she walked. Her smile was broad, captivating.  His breath caught in his throat, his eyes followed the length of her body as she walked, and he chewed his lower lip hungerly. Even after all these years her beauty still took his breath away.

His voice fell into a whisper; he barely realized he was talking out loud. “Oh God, I can’t —”

“Hey.” She slid into the truck seat and had her arms around his neck and her mouth on his before he could finish asking God for strength. Once she was in his arms, his mind was clouded by her kiss. She smelled of lilac and vanilla scented shampoo. She curled her fingers in his hair and held his head down to hers.

“We should probably head out to the restaurant,” she said breathlessly a few moments later. She tipped her head to one side, her hand against his chest, and winked. “Before we go too far.”

Jason cleared his throat and nodded. “Right. Of course.”

He grinned as he turned back to the steering wheel and she hooked her seatbelt. “But it wasn’t as if things were going to get too far with us parked outside your parent’s house. Not before your dad shot me.”

Ellie laughed. “Jason, Daddy wouldn’t shoot you.”

He pulled the truck out of the driveway, onto the dirt road. “I beg to differ.”

Ellie shook her head. “He loves you. You know that.”

“But he wouldn’t like me making out with you in my truck.”

“No, probably not.” She shrugged, folded her hands in her lap, and looked out the windshield. “Unless we were married, of course.”

Jason swallowed hard.

Married.

There it was.

The one word hovering in his mind 24/7, waking him up at night, giving him near panic attacks daily. And she’d just said it. Because it was probably on her mind too.

“Right.” He pushed his foot on the accelerator, willing his truck to move them faster toward the restaurant where they could talk about the food, the weather, the farm, anything but marriage.

The drove in silence for a few moments, farmland and trees and open fields blurring into green and yellow out the window.

“Jason?”

Hurry up, truck.

“Yeah?”

“Are you ever going to ask me to marry you?”

Jason’s hand jerked on the steering wheel. The truck swerved over the center line and then back  into the right lane. Ellie gasped and clutched her hand around Jason’s bicep as he regained control of the truck.

Her voice trembled when she spoke. “Oh gosh. Sorry. I just — I shouldn’t have blurted it out like that, but I knew if I didn’t say something now, I would lose my courage.”

Jason slowed the truck down and pulled off into an empty parking lot in front of an abandoned convenience store. He slid the gear into park and turned to look at Ellie.

Was she reading his mind? They’d been together so long he wouldn’t be surprised.

His eyebrows knit together. “What would make you ask that right now?”

“I — I don’t know. I just —” Tears rimmed her eyes. “I’m sorry, Jason. Are you angry?”

Jason shook his head. “No. Not at all. I’m sorry.” He reached over and took her hand in his. The frightened expression on her face sent stabbing guilt shuddering through him. He let go of her hand and cupped his palm against her face.

“It’s not that at all. It’s just that I was actually going to talk to you about that tonight and I was surprised that it was on your mind too.”

A tear slipped down Ellie’s cheek and his heart ached even more. He swiped at it with the palm of his thumb.

“Of course, it’s on my mind, Jason. I’ve wanted to marry you since high school. I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want to have your children. But sometimes I feel like you don’t want any of that at all.”

“No, El, that’s not true. I do want that. All of it.”

“Then why aren’t you asking me to marry you?”

“I — well, I was going to —”

Ellie’s eyes grew wide, and her eyebrows shot up. “Oh! Were you going to ask me tonight and I totally ruined your plans?”

“Well, I —”

“Oh, Jason! I’m so sorry! I ruined your plan.”

“No, that’s okay. It’s just —”

Her mouth was on his again before he could explain. The expression of sheer delight on her face when she pulled back, her arms still around his neck, sent warmth bursting through his chest.

“You know I don’t need a big fancy proposal. All I want is you. Of course, I’d say ‘yes’ no matter how you asked.”

She was kissing him again and he was forgetting what he’d been going to say. Her body was so warm and solid against his and her lips so soft. Her hands were in his hair again; he couldn’t focus. Slowly his thoughts began to clear and that’s when the panic set in.

Wait a minute. Did she think he had just proposed, and she was saying yes?

She peppered his cheek and neck with kisses. “Oh, Jason! I’m so excited! I’ve been waiting for this moment for years!”

 Yes, she did think he’d just proposed, and she was saying ‘yes’.

“I know. I have been too, but I —”

She cut his sentence short again. “Are you okay? I’m so sorry I ruined the surprise.”

“No, it’s okay, I mean — It’s just that I —”

Her large brown eyes were watching him with hopeful expectation, with joy, with complete and utter adoration. There was no way he could tell her about his past now; ruin her night completely.

“I don’t have a ring,” he blurted.

She tipped her head back and laughed. “I don’t care about a ring, silly! We can worry about that later, or not at all. You know I don’t care about stuff like that.”

“But it’s a symbol and it’s important, El. I should get you a ring.”

Ellie kissed him gently and shook her head. “Later. I just want us to enjoy this moment together for now.”

Jason swallowed hard. He wanted to enjoy the moment too, but he knew he couldn’t keep his secret forever. Ellie needed to know sooner rather than later. He wouldn’t tell her tonight, though. He’d already made his mind up about that. They would go to dinner, celebrate their engagement and then later, another day, he’d tell her what she needed to know and let her make up her own mind about whether she still wanted to spend the rest of her life with him.

Only, that had never happened. She’d overheard him talking to Alex and that’s when the manure, so to speak, had hit the fan.

***

A deep voice startled Jason from his thoughts and he recognized it immediately as belonging to Cody Bracken— Spencer’s fire chief.

“Jason. Bud. You okay?”

Jason sat up, barely missing smacking his forehead on the metal bar. “Yeah. Sorry. Have you been standing there long?”

Cody laughed, tossed his duffle bag on the floor next to the wall. “A few seconds. Saying your name. You were totally gone, though. Got a lot on your mind?”

Jason guzzled the rest of the water from his sports bottle and shoved it in his bag. “Yeah. You could say that.”

Pulling off his sweatshirt, Cody unloaded a couple of the weights off the barbells Jason had been using. “I don’t have the muscle mass you do.” He winked. “Need to talk about anything?”

Jason shook his head. “Nah, but thanks.”

He stood and Cody wiped the bench with a towel. “Don’t want your sweaty germs.” He elbowed Jason playfully in the ribs. “Seriously, you got a minute?”

Jason wasn’t in any hurry to get back to the farm and talking to Cody would take his mind off Ellie for a few minutes at least. “Sure.”

“I don’t want to add anything else to your plate, but we had a meeting of the fire company the other night and we were talking about the need for more volunteers. Your name came up, along with some other men around town.” Cody sat on the bench and leaned forward, propping his elbows on his knees. “As you know, we are an all-volunteer company, other than my position. It’s been tough the last couple of years to find volunteers and we’re in need of some younger, strong men to at least be trained in case we need some additional hands in an emergency. I told the board I see you at the gym sometimes, so I’d ask you if you’d be interested.” He grinned. “So, would you?”

Jason leaned back against the wall and pushed his hand back through his hair. “I am interested but things have been pretty busy with the business lately, so I don’t know if I would really be available much.”

Cody nodded. “I understand. This wouldn’t have to be a full-time commitment by any means. We’d just like some guys to be trained in case they’re needed. At the most you’d be committing to, well, 100 hours of training, but it’s broken up into a few week nights and a couple of weekends over the next few months. Once your training is complete you can hold on to the certification and we’d call you only when we are short men. You’d only respond when you’re able to.”

Jason rubbed his hand along the scruff growing along his chin and jawline. Shoving training into his regular chores on the farm and work at the farm store would be tough, but it would also be the perfect way to distract himself from constantly focusing on the situation with Ellie.

“Think about it,” Cody said. “You can let me know later if it —”

“I’ll give it a try.”

Cody raised his eyebrows. “You’re sure? I don’t want to add more to your plate. I know how tough the farms around here have had it.”

Jason shook his head. “No. It will be fine. If I start and it gets to be too much, I’ll let you know, but I’d love to be able to help out my community. My uncle had a fire on his farm a couple years back and you guys were a big help. Consider this my way of paying you back.”

Cody reached out his hand and Jason took it. “Thanks, Jason. We appreciate it. I’ll give you a call when we have the first training session scheduled. Probably about two weeks.”

Climbing into his truck, Jason wasn’t sure he truly wanted to split his time between farming and fire fighter training, but again, the more he could shove into his days, the less time he had to think about Ellie.

Fiction Friday: Fully Alive Excerpt, The Day Yeshua Died.

I do have a chapter for The Farmers’ Sons ready to go but today I wanted to share this excerpt from Fully Alive, the Biblical fiction story I shared a bit from last year (maybe the year before, actually) in honor of Good Friday.

I haven’t completed that story but hope to continue to work on it this year.

I will be back with a chapter from The Farmers’ Sons tomorrow.


Josefa woke with a start, cold sweat beading across her forehead. She tried to remember where she was, the only sound her rapid, pulsating heartbeat . She looked around and slowly her room began to take shape in the moonlight. She’d had the nightmare again. The one she’d had night after night. The nightmare of that day in Jerusalem, when her family had been there for Passover.

The day Yeshua died.

The day five years ago when Yeshua had been murdered on Golgotha.

She remembered it like it had been yesterday.

Voices full of rage echoed within the city walls.

“Crucify him!”

Her father had trembled next to her with shock, anger, confusion. He pulled and her younger brother close. “Keep walking. Don’t stop.”

Her mother followed, tears streaking her face, sobs shaking her body.

“Father, why would they do this?” Tears soaked Josefa’s face as the crowd enveloped her, jostled her into other people.

She didn’t understand. Why were the priests of this city demanding the death of the man who had brought her back from the dead? What had he done that deserved death?

She screamed in protest, but no one could hear her and if they could, they weren’t listening.

“It’s not true! He saved me! He brought me back from the dead!” She tried again, her throat raw, her voice hoarse. “He gave me back my life!”

A man shoved her hard to the ground.

“Shut your mouth, you blaspheming liar!”

Saliva dripped down his chin as he screamed. A tremor of fear rushed through Josefa and she looked away quickly. It was as if he was possessed. Maybe he was.

Jairus stooped to protect her and swung around toward the man, anger clouding his vision. “Never touch my daughter!”

The man was screaming again, standing over her and her father. “You are nothing, Jew!”

“I am a leader in the synagogue, I am a holy —”

More people were shouting at Jairus and Josefa now, shouting at anyone they felt were followers of Yeshua.

“You are nothing!”

“Blaspheming scum, go back to whatever city you came from.”

“Do you follow this man? Then you should be put to death with him.”

Jairus jerked his head toward an open area near the city wall.

“Myriam, Ephra, Josefa, come. We must leave.”

Josefa turned to follow her family but paused, looking over her shoulder at the yelling crowd, at the sudden appearance of Yeshua through the crowd, struggling to walk under the weight of what looked like a large piece of wood. She watched in horror as he fell onto the stones, the wood on top of him. Blood dropped onto the dirt from his face, his hands, everywhere. Josefa couldn’t see any of Yeshua’ skin that wasn’t bleeding.

She broke from her father’s arms and stood along the edge of the crowd as Yeshua walked by, reaching out, her fingertips touching Yeshua’ bloody garment, hanging in rags off his shoulder. She jerked her hand away and held it to her mouth as she began to sob.

“Yeshua. Yeshua,” Josefa choked out. “I believe in you, Yeshua.”

Yeshua looked at the ground as he fell again, and she wondered if he even knew she was there. A Roman soldier dragged a man from the crowd and tossed him to the ground in front of Yeshua.

“Help him! Pick up the cross!”

As the man helped lift what the soldier had called a cross, another soldier lifted Yeshua to his feet. Josefa’s heart raced as Yeshua stood slowly, raised his eyes toward the crowd and found her gaze.

His eyelids were swollen, blood running in rivulets from what appeared to be thorns bent into the shape of a crown on his head. He looked at her with an unfocused gaze as he hooked one arm around the man and the other around the wood. Hot tears stung Josefa’s eyes, rushed down her cheeks as Yeshua moved his gaze from her and looked back to the ground, shuffling his feet forward in step with the other man.

A strong hand gripped her wrist and pulled her backward, through the crowd. She looked up into deep blue eyes, a smooth face stained with dirt under a Roman helmet. The soldier’s face was young, but his eyes were old. She expected a rebuke but instead his voice was gentle, filled with compassion.

“You must leave this area. It’s not safe for young girls like you.”

She could hear her father calling for her, but Josefa couldn’t pull her eyes from the soldier’s.

“Come, Josefa!” Jairus said sharply, prying the soldier’s fingers from his daughter’s wrist. “Let’s get away from here.”

Her father’s voice broke with emotion and when she looked up at him, he was rubbing the back of his hand across his face.

“I can take no more,” he whispered hoarsely.

She looked up and the soldier had turned and was following the crowd, to where she didn’t know.

She followed her father and they found the rest of their family waiting for them by the city gates.

“We must leave, Jairus. It’s no longer safe,” Myriam whispered, trembling.

Jairus pulled her close and nodded. “We will go and collect our things from Lieber’s and begin our journey this evening. I will see if I can convince him and his family to come with us. The Romans are thirsty for blood this day.”

“What are they going to do to Yeshua, father?” Josefa asked, fear shivering through her.

Jairus shook his head. “I don’t know, Josefa. Keep walking.”

Jairus’ brother declined traveling away from Jerusalem, begging Jairus to remain for Passover.

“Traveling on Passover is forbidden. We will be safe here on this side of the city. The Romans are only taking care of a troublemaker, a man who called himself the Son of God.”

“But Uncle Leiber —”

Jairus scowled at his daughter. “Josefa. Be silent. Go prepare the afternoon meal with the women.”

All these years later, Josefa still remembered how darkness fell later that day, how the ground shook and she fell to the dirt courtyard outside her aunt and uncle’s home in fear.

She screamed, reaching out for something to hold onto but finding nothing. As the ground rose up beneath her, the sun darkened, and she couldn’t see her parents or anyone else.

“Yeshua! Yeshua! Help me!”

Bricks fell from stone structures around her, striking her and then blackness settled over her and all was still.

“Josefa!”

She woke to her mother’s voice that day and again, five years later, she heard her mother call to her.  And again, her mother took her in arms and again she told her everything would be okay and prayed over her, asking for Adonai’s protection.

My farming friend Mark Bradley was one of the inspirations behind The Farmer’s Daughter (the farming part of it) and one of the reason I have a soft spot for farmers in general. He’s one of the good ones, the backbone of our country, salt of the earth, you might say. He’s worked hard all his life and works even harder now in a economy that hasn’t been very friendly to farmers the past decade or so. He posted this beautiful status update a couple of years ago on Facebook that helped launch me into a documentary photo project to capture the life of farmer’s in my area. The project fell apart over time, but I’d love to start it back up again and keep capturing the real people behind the industry that puts food on our tables, telling their stories.

Mark wrote another one of those emotional posts this week. I’m not on Facebook anymore but my dad showed me and I emailed Mark and told him how much I enjoyed it, and asked if I could share it here on the blog. Luckily he said that would be fine.

I also once wrote about his son and the amazing work ethic is instilled in farm kids by their parents.




I watched him as he made his way around the empty barn taking it all in. I could see the sadness on his face and hear it in his voice in all the questions he asked. “Why did they sell their cows?” “Why are they just letting the barn fall down?” I watched him peer up through the hole in the ceiling toward the hay mow that once would have been stocked full of enough hay to feed the cows all winter. Now all it held was the roof that had collapsed into it this winter and the melting snow that had accumulated. This was once someone’s dream, their livelihood, their everything. Now it is a thing of the past. Soon to be demolished the rest of the way and be gone forever.

It is hard to explain what it feels like to walk through an empty barn. For me, it’s very emotional and I could see that in Parker as well. I can stand there and picture what it would have looked like full of cows. It’s kind of like the scenes in the movie Titanic where they are exploring the underwater shipwreck and keep flashing back to a time when the ship was full of people in all her glory. I can picture little kids growing up in this barn, learning life lessons. I can see them in my mind petting cows, watching calves be born, carrying around their favorite kitties. I can see it full of light, life, and warmth on the coldest winter day. I can smell the feed, hear the cows contently eating and the radio softly playing… then I come back to what it is now. Cold. Dark. Wet. Musty. Empty…. it is a heartbreaking scene that is played out in tens of thousands of barns all across this country. Our industry has evolved over the years, and in its wake lies empty barns like this one in ruin.

After awhile of silence as Parker and I wandered around, he turns to me and says “Well, at least our barn will never look like this.” With a giant lump in my throat, all I could muster up was “I hope you are right.”

I don’t know what the future holds. I know farms like ours are becoming fewer and further between every day.

When we got home I headed straight to the barn. I walked in the door to be greeted by the familiar sights and sounds of my cows contently eating their hay and lounging in their stalls. I walk up and down the aisles of the barn with a smile on my face taking it all in, stopping to pet and snuggle some of girls.

There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t thank God for giving me this life. It’s a life that has its shares of ups and downs and constant challenges. A life that is definitely not the easy road. I can’t picture myself doing anything else. I can’t imagine raising my kids any other way than on this farm.

The passion I have for what I do is unexplainable, but is driven by my love of this land, my love for my cows, and most of all, my love for my two little farmers. Everything that I do, I do for them in hopes that they may one day be able to take over this farm if they choose to.

Socially Thinking: Let Men Be Men

Many people don’t believe this, but there is a war on men in our world today. Maybe you have to be the mother of a boy to really see it.

Anything that is inherently male is being referred to these days as “toxic masculinity” when in fact much of what men do was biologically wired into them by a creator who purposely made men to be strong protectors.

If that above sentence offends you, then I’m sorry, but it’s true and I’m going to hit you with a few more truths.

Men are biologically physically stronger.

Men are biologically hard-wired to provide for their families (even if some don’t do it).

Men are biologically visually wired, and their eyes often wander where they shouldn’t.

Men are biologically “emotionally shut” off at times. (They’re not really shut off, but that’s how it can see because they process emotion differently than women.)

Men are biologically wired to protect and take care of women and children.

Men do not multi-task as well as women, which does not mean women are smarter, it means God made men to focus on (mainly) one task at a time and that task is usually centered on providing for his wife and family.

I’m not sure what has made some in society decide that men wanting to provide for their families and wanting to protect women and children as a bad thing.

Why in the world women are yelling at men for holding doors for them or holding their hand when they step down from a bus or out of a car? To me that shows a man is polite, not trying to show a woman he is superior. It’s not that he doesn’t think you can’t open a door or walk down a flight of stairs without killing yourself, it’s that something deep in him says, “I should respect this woman and hold the door for her and help her balance as she descends these stairs.”

Toxic masculinity to me is when a man stands over a woman and tells her he is superior. A man acting on what God has built in him to do is not toxic.

I recently watched an episode of The Andy Griffith Show where Opie becomes upset when a young girl he befriends is better than him at everything. The girl is Andy’s girlfriend’s (Helen’s) niece. When Opie stops talking to the girl, she can’t figure out why. Helen tells her niece that she knows why. Earlier in the episode Andy got upset when he found out Helen was better than him at bowling. At first Helen tells Andy that he shouldn’t be upset that she’s better than him at something, but during the conversation with her niece she realizes that men are biologically built to want to protect a woman and that’s why they feel threatened by smarter or more accomplished women. If a man feels he can’t do something better than a woman, then he feels he isn’t strong enough to protect her. I am, of course, summarizing what Helen says.

Does that sound a little silly to us women? Sure it does. It even sounds silly to men when it’s said out loud, but subconsciously that’s most likely where the awkwardness comes when a woman succeeds in something that men traditionally are dominate in. Most men eventually get over that inferior feeling and realize that they aren’t less of a man because a woman is better than them at sports or lifting heavy things or . . . thinking (*wink* I’m kidding about the thinking part! Only a few of us women are way better than men at thinking. Totally. *hee* *hee* Allow me a little teasing while I defend men.)

Helen tells her niece that sometimes a woman should let the man be strong. She should let him “be the winner”, so to speak, to help them feel strong again. She wasn’t saying that a woman should subjugate herself to a man or pretend to be dumb, but that it isn’t necessary to flaunt her superiority in front him every chance she gets either.

Helen has come to realize that one way to respect a man  (because yes, even with all the chants of ‘respect women’ we should also ‘respect men’), women should also respect how men are built, which is to be the protector of a woman.

Again, this idea totally goes against the modern day of feminism because we are told that if a woman lets a man be strong, she’s letting him rule over her. That’s not what I’m suggesting. If a man is abusive toward a woman in any way, then that is toxic masculinity and he shouldn’t be respected.

I’m also not suggesting lying to a man. If you’re better than bowling at him, well, he’s going to figure it out eventually but there is no need to rub it in his face and make him feel inferior, the same way it would be wrong for him to do the same to you. (I’m not opposed to a little gloating, of course.)

Deep down, all men want to be the protector. If they can’t be the protector, they feel like a woman doesn’t need him, which creates a whole other host of issues for a relationship. Many men like an independent woman too, but if, once in a while, she shows she’s vulnerable, well, they really like that too.

Now, if a man is arrogant or abusive about his strength, feels he can overpower a woman or he acts like women are beneath him intellectually and otherwise, then yes, women should stand up and say something. That is “toxic masculinity”. For the most part, though, let the man be a man.

The bottom line is that women need to step back, take a breath, and have some patience with the men in our lives. Many times, a man will figure out on his own he was being rude or making the woman in his life feel less than. The Bible calls for us to pray for our husbands, and that doesn’t mean praying God “fixes” them.

In case anyone reads this and believes I believe women should just shut up and let their husbands walk all over them, believe me, I do not believe that at all. Just ask my husband.

 I believe a husband and wife should be equal in their marriage. Many pastors have taken Ephesians 5: 19-33 out of context over the years by suggesting wives should “submit” to their husbands when the verse actually trying to say that a man and wife submit to and love each other.

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[a] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[b32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

There are biological differences between males and females. That’s a fact. Those differences are natural and something to be recognized, embraced and accepted.

No amount of hormone injections will change those physiological and psychological differences. Each sex is born with their own set of differences engrained in their DNA. It is grafted into them. A person can inject themselves with all the hormones of the opposite sex they want, place the genitalia of the other sex on themselves, and declare themselves a different sex, but the differences between men and women go deeper than sexual organs or hormones.

God created those differences, and in order for the two sexes to get along, we should start recognizing that and accepting it as reality.

Sunday Bookends: Spiritual Suspense Thrillers, All Agatha Raisened out, and ‘guy films’

Welcome to my weekly post where I recap my week by writing about what I’ve been reading, watching, writing, doing, and sometimes what I’ve been listening to.

This week was even less eventful than last week, and I’m fine with that. The weather was nice most of the week, but we are supposed to have cooler weather again next week, which we are not looking forward to.

I am planning a small spring break for the kids starting on Good Friday until the Tuesday after Easter. I could have made it longer, but it’s going to be cold next week and the fewer breaks we have, the quicker we can finish our school year. In Pennsylvania we have to teach 180 days, the same amount of days children in public schools attend.

What I’m Reading

I finished Dark of Night by Carrie Cotton this weekend and really enjoyed it. I posted a review of it last night. It is a fast-paced Christian fantasy/suspense novel with a powerful message. Check out the review for a description and my thoughts on it. It took me a while to finish it because I had reading assignments to finish with The Boy.

I am continuing to read To Kill A Mockingbird, which my son and I are reading for his English class. I am thoroughly enjoying it and breezing through it. I read it in eighth grade and have always listed it as my favorite book but, honestly, there is so much about it I forgot. Scout is awesome and reminds me so much of my daughter it’s scary.

Little Miss and I are reading White Stallion of Lipizza at night before bed.

What I’m Watching

I’m giving up on Agatha Raisin because, well, the storylines and characters have gone a bit stale for me. Plus, they kept removing characters and not explaining where they went, and I found that annoying. It didn’t help that I tried to read one of the books and was very disappointed.

For Saturday’s family movie night we watched something a little different for us, Fast and Furious Presents Hobbs and Shaw. It was . . . well, fairly good, but more of a “guy film” in some ways. I was going to write that at least I got to see Dwayne Johnson with his shirt off, but honestly he’s too muscular for me. Yes, there is such a thing as “too muscular.”

I haven’t really picked anything else to watch at this point. Maybe this week when we are stuck inside in the cold weather again.

What I’m Writing

I’ve been working on The Farmers’ Sons this week. I shared Chapter 2 on Friday.

I also shared some Random Thoughts on Thursday.

I also re-edited and re-released A Story To Tell on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited this past week.

It was nice of Erin at Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs to post a review for The Farmer’s Daughter on her blog this week. I also received a couple of nice reviews on Amazon.

So that’s my (short) week in review this week. How about you? What have you been reading, watching, listening to, or doing this week? Let me know in the comments.

Insomnia is something I have dealt with a lot over the years so the recent bouts I’ve had off and on for a few weeks (and steady for about a week) is not unusual for me. Since I just finished another round of the dreaded insomnia, I had found myself reading more about sleep patterns and realizing that being up for a couple hours, after 3-4 hours of sleep and going back to sleep for a couple more, as I have been doing,is not actually that unusual, or at least it wasn’t back in the “old days.”

Apparently, in the days of no electricity, people would go to bed when the sun set, sleep a few hours, and then get up in the middle of the night to engage in various activities, such as reading (if they could afford candles), tender — ahem — moments with their spouses, taking a moonlit walk, smoking tobacco, visiting neighbors (can you imagine that? Bob and Mary show up at your door at 2 a.m. and they’re not drunk looking for weed like they might be today if they stop at your house?), and praying for about an hour or two. Then they laid back down and slept for another 2 to 4 hours until sunrise.

There is even a name for this type of sleep. It is called biphasic, segmented, bimodal, or diphasic sleep and some people still sleep this way today. It is popular in Greece, from what I have read.

According to Medical News Today, “Those who practice biphasic sleep typically sleep for a long duration at night, for 5-6 hours, and have a shorter period of sleep or siesta during the day. The shorter period of rest typically lasts 30 minutes and gives an energy boost to finish the day. However, a siesta can last for longer, perhaps 90 minutes. An extended siesta of 90 minutes allows a person to have one complete cycle of sleep.”

There are many books or historical documents that refer to the two sleep periods, according to an article I read on the BBC.

  • He knew this, even in the horror with which he started from his first sleep, and threw up the window to dispel it by the presence of some object, beyond the room, which had not been, as it were, the witness of his dream.” Charles Dickens, Barnaby Rudge (1840)
  • “Don Quixote followed nature, and being satisfied with his first sleep, did not solicit more. As for Sancho, he never wanted a second, for the first lasted him from night to morning.” Miguel Cervantes, Don Quixote (1615)
  • “And at the wakening of your first sleepe You shall have a hott drinke made, And at the wakening of your next sleepe Your sorrowes will have a slake.” Early English ballad, Old Robin of Portingale

Some medical journals back in the 1600 to 1700s even suggested that if a couple wanted to conceive a child they — ahem — come together after the first sleep when they would be more rested, according to Roger Ekirch of Virginia Tech who published a paper about biphasic sleep.

There are so many references from past literature and documents to two sleeps that it is clear it “was common knowledge” and commonly practiced Ekirch says.

As I was reading various articles, I learned that some who study sleep today believe that humans are meant to sleep a few hours at a time, wake up and stay awake, and then sleep again for another few hours. The idea of sleeping eight straight hours is fairly new, some researchers say, and also not always realistic. In many countries the idea of sleeping eight hours straight isn’t the norm.

The industrial revolution helped phase out the idea of two sleeps, mainly because there wasn’t time for it anymore. People needed their sleep to be combined so they could spend the daylight hours working in places like factories. Improvements in street lighting, lighting in the home, and a surge in coffee houses that were open all night also phased out the idea of two sleeps. Nighttime was more active now and the time for when people could engage in two separate sleeps started to disappear.

What didn’t disappear, however, was the normal human physiology we were created with, so there seem to be some people who actually function better with sleeping less at night and then taking a long nap in the daytime or laying down in the morning for a couple more hours.

Sleep psychologist Gregg Jacobs told the BBC that the idea that a person must have eight straight hours of sleep has caused a myriad of mental health issues for many people, mainly anxiety that they can’t sleep the full, non-interrupted eight hours they think they’re supposed to have. That nighttime activity often extends into daytime anxiety.

Jacobs believes that it is possible that the time between the first and second sleeps could have been a time that allowed humans to regulate stress naturally. That time is now gone because most people spend the time laying awake panicking about the sleep they are not getting.

Not too mention we now live in a world where we work or entertain ourselves late into the night, barely giving ourselves enough time to relax and fall into natural sleep, let alone enough time to actually obtain eight uninterrupted hours of sleep. We squeeze every last drop of our days out, failing to give ourselves the time to relax and be patient if we do wake up and are unable to fall right back to sleep. We lay down at 11 and expect to be up at 7 after having perfect sleep. It’s just not plausible or realistic, say many sleep specialists.

I am one of the lucky insomniacs who doesn’t work outside the home, so if I don’t get enough rest at night, I am able to lay down for an hour or two more, having a type of “second sleep.” And luckily this insomnia thing only seems to happen around a high hormonal or stressful time and not every night. I wish I could say I always stay calm during those two hours or so I am sometimes awake in the middle of the night, but I can’t. I do what many articles say not to do — I panic and think about how negatively I’ll be effected the next day by not getting enough sleep.

But knowing that it isn’t that unusual for some people to sleep in two separate periods of sleep is comforting to me on those nights I wake up after a few hours and can’t fall back to sleep. “There isn’t necessarily something wrong with my sleep, I tell myself. “I’m simply harkening back to the days of my ancestors, channeling them so-to-speak, and stealing from them a practice that most of them saw as completely normal.”

Post Script: As I am writing this P.S., I have actually had two nights in a row without laying awake for two hours for no reason at 4 a.m. or 3 a.m. So far it is looking like the magnesium glycinate I was taking to help me sleep, which has been working for months, is now doing the opposite. It was making me more alert and actually giving me the insomnia.

After a search online, it appears that this happens with some people and it may be that they build up a tolerance to it or that they were so deficient in magnesium when they first started that it lulled them into sleep but now their body is processing it better and it is going where it needs to go to make them feel better. I appear to be in the second group because even though I wasn’t sleeping last week, I was feeling better and had a clearer head than I had in months. I’m actually wondering if I am one of those people who do a little better with less sleep. If I sleep more than eight hours I often feel groggy.

I’ve decided to try to take the magnesium during the day now and guess what? It will probably make me sleepy again. That’s how things work for me.

Fiction Friday: The Farmers’ Sons Chapter 1 (restart)

So, I have restarted The Farmers Sons (name subject to change). I mean trashed the other chapters and started all over. I have not, however, trashed the prologue. Not yet anyhow. I will most likely try to figure out how to add it to later to the story, but probably will not have Jason be a volunteer fire fighter. He won’t have time for that with trying to run the farm with his family, while Robert is recovering.

The previous draft was steering the story in a direction far away from how I imagined Jason and Ellie’s story going and it also needed tighter writing. This next draft will still include some of the elements of the previous versions.

For anyone who is new here, I share a chapter from the (almost) first draft of a novel I am working on each Friday. The chapter will most likely have typos, grammatical errors, missing comas, and even plot holes and it’s not the final version of the novel that I release at a later date.

I share the stories and publish the novels for fun so feel free to comment. The first book in this series is also available for sale on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords and various other sites. You can find more info about that HERE.


The sun cut across the barren field, slicing it in half, leaving one side to the darkness, the other to the light. A similar scene played out inside Jason Tanner. A metaphorical sun worked hard to push back the darkness, leaving him split in the middle, one part dark, one part light; one part hope, the other part hopeless.

Bitter coffee burned at the edges of his exhaustion but did nothing to clear the fog in his mind. How many days had it been? Nine? Maybe ten since he’d slept more than five hours a night, waking before dawn, stumbling to his pickup, driving to the barn, fingers numb from cold, watching his breath puff misty white around him.

This morning was no different, other than he’d actually remembered to brew himself a pot of coffee. He had poured half into his thermos and left the other half for Alex. They’d both need a few more pots to get through this week, this day even.

Alex stepped next to him on the farmhouse front porch, mug in hand. “This coffee is awful.”

Jason winced, not from the insult but in agreement as the sludge slid down his throat. “The worse it is, the more it will wake us up.”

Alex sipped coffee from his mug, scowling at Jason over the edge. “Is that like ‘what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger?’”

If there was any consolation to where Jason found himself it was that he wasn’t alone in the weariness that had seeped into his marrow in the last five months.

He looked at it in the eyes of each of them — his sister, his best friend, his mother, his uncle, and most of all his father, sitting helpless in a chair on the porch each morning, his eyes completing tasks his body couldn’t, not yet anyway.

He tightened the lid to the thermos, jerked his head behind him toward the kitchen. “Fill the other thermos and let’s get going. The cows don’t care how tired we are.”

Alex grunted. “I’m not sure I want to drink anymore of this. Maybe I can use it to clean the rust off that old tractor behind the barn instead.”

They climbed into separate pickups, pulling up to the barn, one behind the other. Molly stood in the doorway, leaning against the frame, waiting for one of them more than the other. She looked through Jason and he had a feeling she wouldn’t have even noticed if he hadn’t been there.

Alex’s arms slid around her waist and pulled her close, a sight Jason still wasn’t comfortable with. He wasn’t sure he’d ever get used to his little sister and his best friend dating each other, but he’d been too tired since his father’s accident to let it bother him much more than sending a shudder of disgust through him from time to time.

“Save that for later.” His tone denoted a touch of teasing, spun together with genuine aggravation. “We’re behind schedule.”

They locked eyes, small smiles playing at the corners of their lips. It was obvious they were ignoring him. He’d have to start the milking without them. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Alex pull Molly closer and lower his mouth to hers. Revulsion tinged with jealousy swirled in his stomach. Revulsion over Alex kissing his little sister right there, outside the barn door where Jason had to see it; jealousy because he wished he was holding Ellie the same way. He didn’t know if she’d ever let him hold her that way again.

Several agonizing moments of listening to smooches and laughter later, Alex playfully bumped him in the arm on his way to gather the feed. “It’s never too late for a sweet kiss from your sister, buddy.”

His teasing did nothing to make Jason feel less uncomfortable. “Dude, seriously. Stop that. I don’t even want to know.”

There were moments he regretted convincing Alex to move up to the farm, like right now, bogged down with thoughts of Alex kissing Molly. Most days, though, Alex was like family, as much as a brother as he was a best friend.

His dad’s voice came from behind him. “Are we ready for the big release?”

He’d never get used to seeing his dad leaning on that cane and hoped soon he wouldn’t need it.

“Yep. Just finished up.”

It was an annual tradition for the family to release the cows into the pasture from the barn where they’d been sheltered from the cold weather of winter. It was also a tradition for them to do it together. Jason wasn’t surprised his dad didn’t plan to miss it, making his way to the barn with Jason’s mom beside him.  

Robert Tanner tipped his head toward his daughter. “Molly, do the honors.”

The cows were already standing at the gate, anxiously sniffing the cool spring air. They surged forward within seconds after Molly pulled back the gate and stepped aside.

She affectionally patted a couple on their rumps as they passed. “Get on out there, girls.”

Jason propped his arms across the top bar of the fence, watching the young heifers kicking up their legs, bumping into each other, mouths open, stretched into almost human looking smiles. It was his favorite time of year, letting them loose from their six months inside the barns, six months of being protected from wind and rain, cold and snow.

Robert leaned on the cane with both hands. “Now, that’s a sight I like to see.”

Jason nodded in silent agreement. “It was always Grandpa’s favorite time of year too, other than harvesting the sweet corn.”

Robert laughed softly. “Yeah, he did like his sweet corn.”

Annie Tanner propped a hand on her husband’s shoulder, watching the cows spread out across the hillside. “More like addicted to it.”

Jason pulled his eyes from the joyful scene in the pasture, leaning back against the fence, gesturing at his dad’s leg. “So, two weeks and that cast will be all the way off, huh, old man?”

Robert cocked an eyebrow, folding his arms across his chest. “What’s with you and Alex calling me old man? You both know I could kick your rear ends across this pasture even with a broken leg.”

A broken leg? More like a shattered leg when a tractor had tipped on it four months ago.

“We rarely have survivors when a tractor falls on a farmer.”

The words from the doctor had been chilling but accurate. Eerily accurate. Somehow Robert Tanner survived what so many other farmers hadn’t, thanks to the stump of an old maple tree left from when Ned Tanner cut it down five years before. Jason was grateful time had gotten away from them and they had never got around to pulling the stump from the ground.

Besides the shattered femur, Robert had also had a cracked pelvis, a puncture wound to his back, a collapsed lung, and internal bleeding. It was the bleeding that had led to a minor stroke during surgery and a six-week coma. The cracked pelvis was proving the most difficult to heal physically. Robert’s loss of independence had been the hardest to heal emotionally.

Jason grinned at his dad. “Looking forward to you pulling your weight around here again.” The smile broadened. “Old man.”

Robert lifted a hand from the cane and playfully punched his son in a muscular bicep. “Go clean those stalls out, little boy. Do it right or this old man will show you a thing or two about what it means to be a real man.”

Jason laughed and tapped his dad gently on the shoulder as he walked by.

You’ve already shown me what it means to be a real man, he wanted to say, but didn’t. He didn’t have time for sentimental pauses in his day. There was too much work to do, too many stalls to clean out, too many hours to spend distracting himself from the hole Ellie had carved in his heart two days earlier outside the church.

***

The sight of her standing outside the sanctuary talking to her friend Lucy had taken his breath away. She’d cut her hair short. Gone were the dark, straight strands that had fallen down her back in a long braid since he had known her. Her hair was still straight but hit just below her ears now. curved along the smooth, delicate line of her jaw..

He ached to reach out, trace that line with his fingertips, slide his hand behind her head and kiss away the distance between them.

The open laughter she’d been sharing with Lucy a few seconds earlier faded the moment her eyes met his. She looked away immediately, but in that brief moment he’d watched her face transform from cautious joy to closed down indifference.

He should have taken it as a sign to continue into the sanctuary and leave her alone. Unfortunately, he’d never been good at listening to others, or to his own intuition.

He slid his eyes from her to Lucy, now standing in awkward silence, her head tipped toward the floor. “Good morning, Lucy. Having a nice weekend?”

Lucy glanced up, flashed a tight smile. “Yes. I am. You?”

“It’s been okay.”

What was he going to say? It’s been torture, miserable, like being stranded in the middle of a raging sea during a storm without a lifeboat? It was true, but it wasn’t exactly the pre-church banter most people engaged in. Not to mention it was none of Lucy’s business how his weekend had really been. He had a feeling she was part of the problem, part of the reason Ellie had been ignoring his calls.

Lucy’s hazel eyes darted to Ellie, then back to Jason. She let out a quick, quiet breath, chasing it with, “Well, I’m going to go find a seat, so . . . yeah.” She leaned her head close to Ellie, her hand on her forearm, as if they were sharing a secret. It was futile. Jason still heard her, her whisper echoing in the now empty lobby. “You going to be okay?”

Ellie nodded, flashed a quick, obviously tense smile. “I’ll meet you inside.”

Lucy nodded back, looked at Jason, opened her mouth to say something, then closed it again. She looked away, turning her attention to Frank Troutman standing in the entryway with the bulletins. Frank smiled, handed Lucy a bulletin, and she cast one more look at Ellie over her shoulder before going inside.

Ellie bent her ankle back and forth, looked past him out into the parking lot, both hands hugging her Bible to her chest like a shield against him.

“I miss you.”

The words flew out of him before he even realized he was saying them out loud.

Something flashed in her eyes.

An emotion he couldn’t read.

He couldn’t read her. At all. He wasn’t used to that, to her closing herself off to him.

Her hands hugged the Bible closer against her.

“I miss you too.”

The words were what he’d wanted to hear, but not in the monotone, emotionless way she said it. Her voice was detached, a thousand miles away from meaning anything. Her gaze moved from side to side, focusing anywhere but on him.

She’d never talked to him in that tone, at least not before the afternoon she’d overheard him talking to Alex.

The memory of that moment had sent a chill straight through him. He felt the same heaviness as that day, the same all-consuming desire to pull her close; to tell her again how sorry he was, how wrong he was to wait so long to tell her the truth.

“The service is about to start.” Her voice silenced his internal dialogue. “We’ll talk later, okay?”

He grabbed on to her words. “When will we talk? I’ve been trying to talk to you for almost four months.”

A muscle in her jaw jumped. Her eyes met his, darkened emotion smoldering there. “I said I needed time, Jason.”

“I know what you said but — “

“We need a break, Jason, okay?”

“We’ve been taking a break.”

I need a break. A long break.”

He could hear the strain in her voice, the struggle to keep her tone low and even. The doors to the sanctuary closed as the worship team started the music. She gestured curtly toward the glass doors leading outside and darted past him, shoving the front doors open. He followed, taking a step back when she swiveled to face him, eyes flashing. There was no mistaking her emotion now.

It was pure rage.

Let her be angry. 

He wanted answers, and he wasn’t waiting anymore to get them.

“How long of a break? A few days? A couple of weeks? Months? Permanently?”

She raised her hand, palm out, against the assault of questions, peppering at her like bullets out of a howitzer.

“I don’t know. Stop asking me.” Each word snapped out of her like sharped-edge glass cutting at his skin.

 She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and let it out again. Her expression had softened when she met his gaze again.

“I don’t know who I am anymore, Jason. Who I ever was, really. I built my identity around you, around us, for so long and now . . .”

The wall was up again. Her tone flat as she lowered her gaze to the asphalt of the parking lot. “You’re not who I thought I was. Nothing feels the same. I don’t feel the same. I need to see what life is like without you for a while, decide if —”

He didn’t even try to hide his anger. “Decide what? Is this like college again? When you wanted a break? Whatever that meant.”

“I didn’t want a break. You wanted the break, Jason.”

Her recollection skills were clearly lacking. He scoffed, pointed his finger at her accusingly. “No. You said we should take a break and figure out if we were supposed to be together. That if we missed each other, that would tell us what we needed to know. I didn’t want a break, Ellie. You did. You were the one who couldn’t make up you mind. And now you can’t again. Apparently, I’m the only one of us that doesn’t have to ask if we’re meant to be together. I know we’re supposed to be together.”

Her cheeks flushed. “I only suggested the break, Jason.” She folded her arms tight across her chest. “You were the one who seemed thrilled with the idea. Obviously you didn’t miss me that much or you wouldn’t have — ”

“No.” The rumbling timbre of his protest echoed across the parking lot. “No way. That is not fair. I told you what happened. I told you how I thought you didn’t want me. How lonely and messed up I was in college. I told you how upset I was after that night, how I — .”

Her words spilled over his, drowning them out. She tossed her arms to the side. “You told me all that seven years after the fact. Seven years, Jason. I mean, if you hid that from me, what else did you hide from me? What else are you hiding from me now?”

Jason shook his head, hands on hips, looked at the black surface under his feet to calm the storm raging inside him. An ant climbed toward a crack in the asphalt, running along an uneven line of tar. He focused on it, on the freedom it had, and for a split second considered stomping the life out of it to keep it from having the freedom he couldn’t. He lifted his eyes back to hers, releasing the ant from his judgment, killing his own peace with what he said next.

“There’s nothing else, Ellie, but if you don’t feel you can trust me then fine.” His voice trembled under the effort to rein in the rage. “Take your break or whatever it is you’re calling it. Throw away everything we’ve had together for the last ten years. Walk away. If that’s what you want, do it.”

A breeze caught her hair, whipped a few strands across her face. She didn’t push them away. “Jason, don’t be a jerk. How did you think I was going to take all this? Finding out the man I thought saved himself for me was sleeping around in college behind my back?”

He tossed his arms up, slammed them down against his legs. “I wasn’t doing anything behind your back. You’d broke up with me. And I wasn’t sleeping around!” His voice thundered. He took two steps toward her and held up a shaking finger a few inches from her face. “It was one mistake. One stupid mistake. I told you that.”

She met his rage, gaze for gaze, harsh words for harsh words, slapping his hand away from her. “If it was so stupid, why didn’t you tell me when we started dating again? Why did you wait?”

He stepped back, laughed darkly. “What like how you told me about going out with my cousin? Oh wait. You didn’t tell me about that. I found that out from Brad.”

He didn’t miss the fleeting flash of surprise in her eyes before a facade of calm concealed it. She regarded him with a well-practiced poker face, saying nothing.

He didn’t back down. “Yeah. That’s right. You had secrets too, so maybe I should be worried about what you’re not telling me.”

She suddenly gulped back a sob, tears filling her eyes. When she stepped back from him she raised her arm in front of her face, as if to protect herself, as if he’d physically slapped her. In one quick move she pivoted, her back to him, walking swiftly across the parking lot toward her car. He chased after her, reached out, grasped her around her upper arm.

The growl in her voice when she wrenched free stunned him. “Don’t touch me.”

She sucked in a ragged breath, swiped the back of her hand across her tear soaked face, and worked at the key in the door of her car, her entire body trembling.

Panic curled up into his throat, threatening to choke the air out of him. His head felt like a hot-air balloon and the earth intangible around him. “Ellie, we can work this out. Don’t do this.”

She wouldn’t look at him. The lock clicked open, and she slid the key out, flung the door open. Her grief-stricken expression as she looked at him from the driver’s seat dissolved his anger into desolation.

“I don’t think we can, Jason. I really don’t. It’s like I don’t even know you, like everything you are, that we were, was a lie.”

The slam of the door reverberated in his ears long after she closed the door and sped away. He didn’t know how long he stood there, his mind numb from a conversation that had reeled out control.

When he turned toward the church, he saw Molly ashen faced, arms hugged around her as if to protect her from the truth she’d overheard, the truth of who her older brother really was.