Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Twelve

**

The bus from North Adams to Virginia took about ten hours. I tried to take a nap, but all I could think about was that I was moving to New York in less than a month. Mr. Steve kept his distance even though I knew Momma was trying her hardest for him to get closer to me. I personally thought some distance between us was a good thing.

Ms. O’Donnell had gone down to Virginia a week early so she could get everything put together. I wondered how the people down there were putting up with her.

Once word got out that the ‘world’ famous Jessie-Maria Sean would be performing at the Christmas in July show tickets were sold faster than you could count to ten.

“Jessie-Maria, you are an angel!” Is what Aunt Jane said when she found out how much money we had already made.

“Natalie?” Virginia asked as we got closer to her hometown.

“Yeah?” I asked.

“You’re the best friend a girl could ever ask for. Thank you for everything. You’ve done a lot to help out my family and neighbors. I’m going to miss you more than you could ever imagine,” Virginia said with tears in her eyes.

“You’re an awesome friend too,” I said trying not to cry. I had done a lot of crying lately.

“When are you leaving?” Virginia asked.

“Mr. Steve hasn’t gotten the exact date from his job yet,” I said.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose,” Virginia said quoting Romans 8:28. “Pretty hard to believe, huh?”

She could say that again.

**

It was almost nine-thirty P.M. The day had been hectic. The show had just finished, and thankfully nothing major had gone wrong. I hadn’t been able to go on the rides or spend any time with Darcy, but it was ok. I was helping the victims of the fire and that’s what I came here to do.

“You look tired,” Darcy said to me.

He had no idea how tired.

“You were great,” Darcy said.

“Thanks,” I said. “It was tiring and hard, but we’ve made a lot of money and its really going to help the victims.”

“I used most of my coins,” Darcy said sheepishly.

“Oh and you want mine?” I asked digging into my pocket. “Here, I haven’t used a single one.”

“Keep your coins,” Darcy said. “I was wondering if you’d take me on one of the rides or something since we didn’t get to spend the day together.”

“Sure,” I said. “But I want to go in the photo both first.”

“Sure,” Darcy shrugged.

There wasn’t a line at the photo both and I didn’t expect there to be. I just wanted one last picture. One final memory.

“Say ‘Christmas’!” I shouted.

“Christmas!” Darcy and I shouted.

The pictures we took were totally goofy, but they were special (at least to me. I have no clue to this day what Darcy did with our pictures). Every time I looked at those photos I couldn’t help but smile. For three minutes I forgot about not being able to go to sleep at night, I forgot about waking up in strange places, I forgot about Mr. Steve, I even forgot about moving to New York! For three minutes it was just about Darcy, me, and making silly faces.

**

“Call 911!”

It was thirty minutes later and after going on the Ferris wheel, bumper cars, and watching Darcy win me a bear I was more tired than I ever thought I’d been. The time I had found myself outside was the only time I had gone to sleep in two weeks.

“What’s wrong?” Darcy asked. I shrugged.

We walked towards to the scream, and found Mr. Rivers running around like an idiot and Mrs. Rivers screaming for someone to call 911.

“Calm down, Joan,” Momma coaxed. “The pain is natural.”

Mrs. Rivers breathed.

“I..I..I..can’t find my car keys,” Mr. Rivers said with his car keys behind his ears.

“Um, Dad,” Jessie-Maria said. “They’re behind your ears.”

Mr. Rivers looked at Jessie-Maria with pure amazement.

“Behind your ears!” Jessie-Maria shouted just in case he couldn’t hear her.

“Oh, yeah,” Mr. Rivers said taking the keys from behind his ears. “Where’s the bag?”

“Forget the bag! Get me to a hospital!” Mrs. Rivers cried.

“Here,” Jessie-Maria said handing me a box. “Can you, Virginia, and Darcy count the names and see which one is the winner? I have a feeling we’re gonna need the names real soon!”

It took us two hours to count up all the names. When we were finished I could barely keep my eyes open but sleep just wasn’t coming.

“Let’s see,” Virginia said looking at the sheet of paper. “Addison and Austin won for a boy and a girl, James and John won for two boys, and Faith and Hope if it’s two girls.”

“I wonder if Mrs. Rivers has had the twins yet,” I wondered out loud.

“I remember when my mom went into labor with Caroline. It took eighteen hours,” Virginia groaned.

“Have you figured out the names yet?” Momma asked walking where we were sitting.

“Yeah,” I said rubbing my eyes.

“Good, because Mr. Rivers just called and asked what names he should put on the birth certificates,” Momma smiled.

**

“Addison and Austin,” Jessie-Maria cooed. We were back in Florida and this was our first real chance to see the twins.

“I guess it’s good to have a boy and a girl,” Virginia said. “Even though I think it would be cool to have an identical twin.”

“I think it would be cool to have any kind of twin,” I said. Virginia nodded.

“Get ready for nonstop crying,” Virginia said to Jessie-Maria.

“I’m going to help Mom and Dad out,” Jessie-Maria said. “Dad already owns me three diaper changes.”

We burst out laughing.

“Can..I..,” Emily started. “Hold a baby?”

“Sure,” Mrs. Rivers smiled. She showed Emily how to hold a baby and then put Austin in her arms.

“I’ve always wanted to be a big sister,” Emily said with tears in her voice. “Maybe it’s because I’m good at bossing people around.”

Mrs. Rivers gave Emily a sad smile.

I never thought that Emily would want to be an older sister. She was more of the baby type if you asked me.

“You can have Megan if you want,” I joked.

That put a smile on her face, and Megan gave me a dirty look. She was smart for two.

Posted in Verse of the Day

Verse of the Day (March 30)

Matthew 28

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day. Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Eleven

**

I woke up feeling cold and to the sound of birds. I was not in my room. I opened my eyes and saw that I was outside of the B&B. What time was it? The sun wasn’t up yet. I had to get back to the B&B, or I would get into a lot of trouble.

Maybe I shouldn’t go back. Who knows what Mr. Steve is going to do to me? So, what if I was good at the piano. That’s not what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to pursue that part of me. That part of me had come from my father, and it would be too painful to rip off the bandages that had been there ever since I was five.

But what about Momma? If I ran away she would be heartbroken. I sighed. I didn’t want to run away. All I wanted to do was get under my nice warm sheets, snuggle up, and have pleasant dreams.

I knew where I was at so it wasn’t hard for me to get back to the B&B. I looked at the clock on my way in. Ugh, it was six A.M. I sneaked back into my room and got under the covers. I stayed in there until ten A.M. and not once did I go to sleep.

**

“Here,” Momma said handing me a note.

“Somebody left me a note?” I asked taking it. “Who?”

“Your father,” Momma said walking away.

I thought maybe it was another letter from my father but instead it turned out to be from Mr. Steve.

  Dear Natalie,

  Something has come up and I had to go to New York City this morning. I would rather do this person to person, but you weren’t up yet. Maybe it’s for the best. I’ll probably be gone two or three days. When I get back, we WILL talk about last night and we WILL start looking for a piano teacher.

Sincerely,

Your father

“He doesn’t have the decency to sign ‘love’,” I whispered. I tore the note and threw it in the trash.

“Natalie?” Momma asked as I walked towards the steps.

“Natalie, what did the note say, honey?” Momma asked. “What’s wrong?”

Everything I thought as I closed my bedroom door.

**

“Your father sure sounded excited over the phone,” Momma said. I sighed as I put her salad on the table. I really wished Mr. Steve would be staying that extra day in New York City. I didn’t feel like talking to him. I really didn’t feel like talking to anyone. But as a waitress I gotta put on a nice face for everyone. Expect my face was tired and worn. It had a pretty smile on it, and all you would think was that I was growing and needed more sleep. You wouldn’t imagine that sweet little Natalie was battling with insomnia and sleepwalking. You would never know that she had such a dislike for her stepfather that when she found herself outside of the B&B that she thought of never going back. Yup, that was the Natalie nobody but I knew.

“He didn’t even tell us why he was going to New York City,” Abby said.

“New York City,” Jaci said. “I wouldn’t want to live there, but it’s probably a very nice place to visit.”

“I’ve been,” Momma said. “It’s loud and noisy, but the shopping is amazing and Central Park is fabulous.”

Mr. Steve burst through the restaurant door with the biggest grin on his face. He looked like he hadn’t gotten any sleep last night, but my eyes still had more circles around them than his.

“Mr. Stewart,” Mr. Steve said walking up to him. “thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” Mr. Stewart said. “I meant everything that I said, and you deserve everything that’s coming.”

“What’s going on?” Momma asked with fear in her voice.

“I got the job!” Mr. Steve smiled. He hugged Momma.

“What job?” Momma asked. She stole a glance at Mr. Stewart. Mr. Stewart was smirking. Oh, no. If Mr. Stewart was involved in this it couldn’t be good.

“I went to New York to apply for an accounting job for one of the business,” Mr. Steve said. “They were looking for a new accountant and Mr. Stewart recommended me, a math teacher, for the job. I was interviewed yesterday and they hired me today.”

“Wait…so if you got a job in New York City,” Abby started. “That means you’re moving!”

“WHAT!” I shouted. Jaci didn’t say anything. She got up from her seat and ran out the door. Timmy ran after her.

“Moving? What no!” I shouted. I couldn’t leave Florida. No. Never. Florida was HOME. It was MY home.

“Well, um,” Mr. Steve said looking down. He had to know that this wasn’t good for our ‘relationship’.

“Moving?” Momma asked. “Couldn’t we have talked about this first?”

Momma walked away, and I looked at Mr. Steve.

“You are unbelievable!” I screamed. “Do you have to destroy everything?!”

Everyone in the restaurant was looking at me, but I didn’t care. This was the Natalie I had become now. They were shocked by this new Natalie. Most of them looked shocked to see me talking to Mr. Steve like this. To them Mr. Steve was my father. To me he was a destroyer of my life.

“Natalie, I..I..I thought if anything you’d be happy about moving to such an exciting place as New York City,” Mr. Steve clearly shocked.

How could he think that? Did this guy even know me? I loved Florida. This was my home.

“Do you even know me?!” I screamed. “Happy? Happy!? I will have you know that I hate the idea! I hate it! I don’t want to move to the city! I want to stay here! How could you think for one second about moving us to the city?!”

“Natalie!” Aunt Jane scolded. I ran up the stairs but not before tears started to flow. When I got to my room and slammed the door and locked it.

An image of Mr. Steve’s hurt face came into my mind and I cried some more. Move? No way? Mr. Steve would come to his senses soon enough. If there was one place that was an exception to the heaven everywhere rule, it was New York City.

**

“Natalie, you had no right to talk to your father that way,” Momma said to me. I tried not to start crying again. I was sitting on Mr. Steve and Momma’s bed. Ms. Donna had given Mr. Steve the key to my room and he carried me in here.

“He’s not my father,” I mumbled. Momma ignored that. Mr. Steve winced.

“I know the idea of moving came as a shock to you,” Momma started, “but you don’t yell at your father. Do you understand me?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said trying not to cry. Momma hugged me.

“The thought of leaving scares me too,” Momma whispered. “We don’t particularly need the money but…”

I sighed. Of course this was about money. God, why couldn’t teachers make more?

There was a knock on the door.

“Come in,” Mr. Steve said. His voice was flat and shaky. He was probably still recovering from my screaming.

Jaci walked into the room and looked at me.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Jaci said. “Am interrupted anything?”

“Not if you’re here to talk about New York,” Mr. Steve said flopping on the bed. “I think I just became public enemy number one in this town.”

“Well, what I’m about to say has something to do with New York,” Jaci said closing the door and walking towards the bed.

“Let her rip!” Mr. Steve shouted tiredly. “Tell me I’m a monster! Tell me I’m a destroyer! Tell me that you hate me! Get it all off your chest.”

Jaci looked at me. Her look said, “What did you do?”

“Um, I think you should have asked us first. I mean with modern technology you could have at least called,” Jaci said calmly.

“That’s it?” Mr. Steve asked sounding surprised. “Natalie called me a destroyer. Abby called me the killer of all things good and said that I bring out the worst in people especially my family members. Your mother gave me a long talk about marriage and the importance of communication. And all you say is you should have called?”

“Yes,” Jaci said. “Now back to what I came back in here to say. Timmy asked me to marry him, and I said yes. And you can’t stop me.”

Jaci didn’t say, “And you can’t stop me” angrily or anything. She said it sweetly like she always said things.

“Why would I stop you? You have my blessing,” Mr. Steve shrugged. “You’re eighteen. You’ll be nineteen before the years over. You can do whatever you want. You can stay here in Florida. I’m sure somebody would be willing to let you stay with them.”

“No,” Jaci said. “I’m going with you. You haven’t given me away yet.”

Mr. Steve looked at me. The look on his face said, “Why couldn’t you be more like Jaci?”

“You just don’t stop do you?” I asked getting up. Mr. Steve stared blankly at me.

“I’m sorry if I’m not tactful like Jaci. I’m sorry if I’m not as smart and as ambitious as Abby. And I’m sorry if I’m not as sweet, innocent, and Steve worshiping as Megan. I’m me Natalie. The girl who doesn’t seem to have a place in your family. The girl who’s feelings you never think of!” I cried. I walked out the door.

“Steve, you are a fool,” I heard Momma said.

“What did I say?” Mr. Steve’s voice asked.

“Even I know what you did wrong,” Jaci’s voice said. She wasn’t critically. She was sweet and polite.

I wasn’t sweet or polite. I didn’t want to pursue my musical talent and that’s something Abby would totally do. I defiantly wasn’t like Megan. If there ever was an example of childlike faith she was one. She ‘respected’ people older than her (well most of the time). What was I then? Oh, yeah. The middle child.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Ten

 

**

I looked at the clock. Only one more minute.

Ms. O’Donnell stared us down. We had just been sitting here for fifteen minutes. We had finished out schoolwork early but she refused to let school go out early.

The bell rang and the room erupted.

SUMMER!

Ms. O’Donnell put her hands on her ears and walked out the room muttering something.

“Ms. O’Donnell!” I cried running out the room.

“Yes, Natalie?” Ms. O’Donnell asked. I pulled a box of chocolates out of my backpack.

“Happy summer,” I smiled. Ms. O’Donnell smiled back.

“I expect to see you at this weekend Christmas in July meeting/Erin’s dress making?” Ms. O’Donnell asked. I nodded.

“Everything’s almost set up and July 25th is a month away. All we need to do is get the word out,” I said.

“Don’t worry about that,” Ms. O’Donnell said. “I’ll handle the media.”

I smiled.

“Thank you, Ms. O’Donnell. I had my doubts about you but you really are a good teacher,” I said.

“You’re welcome, Natalie,” Ms. O’Donnell said with tears in her eyes. “That really means a lot to me.”

I smiled and walked back to the class.

Maybe Ms. O’Donnell had a little bit of heaven in here.

**

I looked out the window. A black limo pulled up and a short blonde girl got out of it.

“Don’t move,” Mrs. Stewart commanded. She poked me.

“Ow,” I said.

“We’ve been over this before, Natalie,” Mrs. Stewart said. “If you don’t stand still I’m bound to poke you with one of these pins!”

“Who is that girl?” Sean asked looking out the window.

“I think that’s one of Ned’s friends. I believe her name is Kristen. She’s from Hollywood and is married to Ned’s best friend from there,” Ms. Erin said looking out the window.

“I can tell,” Mrs. Stewart said looking out the window.

In less than two minutes Kristen walked into the room.

“You’re even prettier than Ned said,” Kristen said hugging Ms. Erin. “Omygosh!”

“What?” Ms. Erin asked.

“You got Jessie-Maria Sean for your wedding!” Kristen shouted looking at Sean. “No way! I tried to get her for mine but they said she had left the state and was no longer preforming! Leave it to Ned Davis to get what he wants!”

Wait, what? Sean was famous?

Mrs. Rivers looked at Sean. Sean looked like a deer in a car’s headlights. She tried to run away but as she ran Abby lost her grip on the pins and they pierced her skin and caused her to fall down. Blood dripped from her leg.

“I’m sorry, Jaci,” Sean cried. “I’ve bloody the dress.”

“It’s ok,” Jaci said grabbing a Band-Aid from the first aid kit. “We’ve got plenty of fabric if we can’t wash it out.”

“Honey, why did you tell Tom and me about this?” Mrs. Rivers asked.

“Most people once they find out I’m gifted use my gifts for…profit,” Sean cried.

“Oh, baby,” Mrs. Rivers said hugging Sean. “Sean, honey, Tom and I would never use the gift’s God’s given you for profit.”

“Sean?” Kristen asked. “Why do you call her by her last name?”

“Cause my first name is embarrassing,” Sean said. “My name means bitter gifted.”

“Let’s get the dictionary,” Mrs. Rivers said. Emily came back a minutes later with a dictionary.

“B…,” Mrs. Rivers said flipping through the dictionary. “Bitter!”

“See, it means something that is unpleasant, distasteful, and distressing,” Sean pouted.

“It also means being relentlessly determined,” Mrs. Rivers read.

“Determined?” Sean asked.

“Relentlessly,” Mrs. Rivers said hugging Sean.

“Sean, I have an idea but I don’t want you to think I’m trying to use your gifts,” Ms. O’Donnell said.

“What is it?” Sean asked.

“I think that we should not only have a little carnival thing but a Christmas show and nativity play! Sean could perform in the show and we could advertise it!” Ms. O’Donnell said. “What do you think? It would be for a good cause.”

“On one condition,” Sean smiled. “You call me Jessie-Maria.”

“Deal!” Everyone shouted.

“Oh, thank you!” Virginia shouted hugging Jessie-Maria. “I just know we’re going to help all my friends! Thank you. It means a lot to me.”

“My pleasure,” Jessie-Maria said. “We’re supposed to use or gifts to help others right?”

Everyone laughed.

**

“Oh, where is my camera?” Momma asked. “I had it at Abby’s wedding.”

“Mrs. Matthews! Abby and Jaci are on their way from North Adams,” Regina said. “Everything isn’t finished yet! Oh, this is going to be a disaster!”

“The baby shower isn’t going to be a disaster!” Momma shouted. “As long as I can find my camera.”

“Well at least the cake is finished,” I said looking up at it. Ms. Donna had made the cake, and Jaci made the icing. The cake was kinda silly. It was decorated with question marks and diapers.

“I brought the baby shower umbrella!” Mrs. Stewart shouted running into the house. “Where’s the rocking chair.”

“Can I get a little help here?” Ms. Donna asked from the steps. “Steve said he was going to help me carry it down from the attic. I don’t know where he is.”

“I’ll help,” Mrs. Stewart said dropping the umbrella and helping Ms. Donna.

“Ok,” Mrs. Stewart said setting the chair and umbrella up. “Now all we need is the mother-to-be or is she already a mother? She has Jessie-Maria.”

“Where is my camera?” Momma cried. “Oh, Natalie, can you go check upstairs in my room. Knock first. Oh and bring our gifts down too.”

I nodded and walked up the steps.

“Come in,” Mr. Steve’s voice said when I knocked.

“What are you doing?” I cried when I heard a familiar tune and saw Mr. Steve with my mom’s camera.

“You’re really good,” Mr. Steve said not taking his eyes from the camera. “When did you start playing the piano? You couldn’t have been but four or five in this video.”

“I was three when I learned the basics and how to read notes,” I said trying not to cry. What was Mr. Steve doing snooping on my mom’s camera card?

“Why’d you stop?” Mr. Steve asked. “You’re really good. You should start taking lessons again.”

“No!” I cried. Mr. Steve looked up from the camera.

“What’s wrong?” Mr. Steve said. “With talent like that you really could become something.”

“What’s wrong? You’re wrong!” I cried.

“Excuse me?” Mr. Steve asked.

“How dare you snoop on my mother’s camera card?” I cried. “That card has special memories on it! Memories that you shouldn’t see!”

“And why shouldn’t I see them?” Mr. Steve asked folding his arms and getting angry.

“Because,” I said.

“Just because,” Mr. Steve said. I nodded.

“And what’s wrong with taking lessons? You have a gift and you should pursue such a talent with all you’ve got,” Mr. Steve said.

“Music was something I shared with my dad,” I shouted as calmly as I could. “When he died I stopped playing and Momma didn’t mind. So I haven’t touched a piano since I was five.”

“That’s not right,” Mr. Steve said shaking his head. “There aren’t any piano teachers in Florida. So we’ll have to try North Adams.”

“Don’t you understand?” I screamed. “I don’t want to take lessons! My father was my teacher! He understood how I learned music better than anybody else ever or could!”

“Natalie, this music teacher isn’t going to replace your father,” Mr. Steve said with disgust in his voice.

“Oh, but you can!” I screamed. I grabbed the gifts and walked out the door before Mr. Steve could say anything else.

“Did you find my camera?” Momma asked. “What’s wrong?”

If I looked how I felt, I was a mess. How could Mr. Steve force me to take piano lessons? So what if I had a talent? My father loved music, and introduced it to me. I couldn’t learn music with anyone else. I just know I couldn’t.

“Mr. Steve has your camera,” I said. “Tell him to stop snooping!”

“Snooping?” Momma asked.

“He was looking through your card,” I said.

“Um, ok,” Momma said not seeing the invasion of privacy.

“You just don’t understand!” I cried walking towards the bathroom. “Nobody understands.”

I understand.

What in the world was that? Is that you God?

“If it’s about those naked baby pictures of you…,” Momma started but I slammed the bathroom door.

By the time I finished crying the baby shower was underway. The shower might have been a lot of fun if Mr. Steve had destroyed it for me, but looking back I think I destroyed it for myself.

Posted in Verse of the Day

Verse of the Day

Romans 5

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and werejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned–for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law .Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Nine

**

“Let me get a picture,” Momma said.

It was the night of the dreaded Father-Daughter Dance. I was wearing a dress that matched Abby, Jaci, and Megan’s. Momma had come up with the idea. Jaci had been working nonstop for the past week (with a little help from Mrs. Stewart) making the dresses. The dresses were pretty, but I felt miserable in them. Not because my psoriasis was showing but because I was going to this dance. I ached to be with my father. I had just come from crying. I tried to make myself look happy but my eyes were still puffy.

“Smile,” Momma said. “Stinky feet!”

“Stinky feet!” Mr. Steve, Jaci, Abby, and Megan laughed. I just smiled.

“Are my girls ready?” Mr. Steve asked. We nodded and walked out the door.

My heart was beating so fast as we drove to the dance hall. When we arrived I almost threw up. I wished I had. I would have just told Mr. Steve that my strep throat was still lingering and he would have taken me home.

I saw that mostly everybody was already there. Emily was dancing with Zach, and Virginia and Mr. Hank were eating and laughing. Mr. Rivers and Sean were eating and making conversation.

Dinner was awful. The rest of the group talked and I of course said something every now and then but I couldn’t hide that there were tears in my voice.

After dinner Jaci and Mr. Steve started to dance. I knew tears were about to spill out of my eyes so I rushed off to the bathroom. I walked into a stall and started to cry my eyes out.

How dare my father ask me to make Mr. Steve my ‘father’. He would never be that to me. Virginia was dead wrong about him loving me. He was just doing this to make suffer. He didn’t care about me. He only cared about hurting me. He knew how much my heart was breaking at this moment and he did nothing to stop it.

I started to cry harder and stopped when I heard the bathroom door open.

“Natalie,” Abby’s voice said. “I know you’re in here.”

“Go away,” I cried. “I don’t want to talk to anyone.”

“What’s wrong?” Abby asked.

I might as well just tell her.

“My father was going to take me to a Father-Daughter Dance, but he died the day before,” I cried.

“Oh, Natalie,” Abby said. “I’m so sorry.”

I just cried.

“Does Dad know?” Abby asked.

“I don’t know,” I cried.

“Do you want me to tell him?” Abby asked.

“No!” I cried walking out of the stall. “What does he care?”

“Natalie, Dad loves you,” Abby said. “He knew that when he proposed to your mother that you were part of the deal. Mixing families is hard but love conquers all.”

“He doesn’t love me!” I cried. “He doesn’t care about me! If he really cared about me he wouldn’t have taken me to this dance!”

“Natalie,” Abby said getting angry. “Dad is not a mind reader. You just said that you don’t he knew about your father dying before the dance. How is he supposed to know what’s bothering you if you don’t tell him?”

I stared at her and cried.

“You don’t understand!” I cried.

“I understand perfectly!” Abby cried.

“No you don’t!” I cried.

“Yes, I do! You’re lying to yourself! You’re lying to yourself so you can keep one hurting Dad! Well, I thought you were more than that, Natalie!” Abby shouted. She walked out of the bathroom.

I looked in the mirror. I was a wreck. I just couldn’t believe Mr. Steve wasn’t trying to hurt me. Tears followed down. Why did my mom have to marry him?

“Natalie,” Mr. Steve said walking into the bathroom.

“What do you want?” I barked.

“Abby just told me…I’m sorry,” Mr. Steve said.

“No, you’re not!” I cried. Mr. Steve was taken aback.

“Natalie, I..I really am sorry,” Mr. Steve said.

“No, you aren’t!” I cried

“I know you’re upset right now,” Mr. Steve said. “But there is no doubt in my mind that you’re my daughter and that I’m your father.”

“You are not my father! And just because a piece of paper says that I am your daughter doesn’t make it so!” I cried. I walked into a stall and slammed the door.

“Natalie,” Mr. Steve said with tears in his voice.

“Go away,” I interrupted.

“Fine,” Mr. Steve said walking out of the bathroom.

I stayed in there for the rest of the night and just cried.

**

“Natalie,” Momma said the next day. She was helping me into my bridesmaids dress.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said knowing that she was going to say something about last night.

“We have to talk about it,” Momma said. “I know that this is been hard on you, but you can’t talk to your father like that.”

“Oh, what does he care?” I asked.

“A lot more than you could ever imagine,” Momma said. I shook my head.

“We have to do something about this,” Momma said.

“Can we talk about this some other day?” I asked. “It’s Abby’s wedding day.”

Momma sighed.

“Fine,” Momma said zipping up my dress.

I walked out of the room and down the steps.

“What happened to you last night?” Virginia asked.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said picking up a banana.

“Well if you ever want to talk about,” Virginia said. “You know that I’m here for you. Regina, Sean, and even Emily are here for you. If you ever want to talk to us, we’re here for you.”

I nodded and smiled. I had the best friends in the world. I gave Virginia a hug.

“Pretty!” Megan cried. I walked into the family room to find Abby in her wedding dress.

“Am I silly for getting married in the backyard?” Abby asked. I shook my head no.

“I’m so nervous,” Abby said. “What if I flub the vows?”

“Then it will be something funny to show your kids,” Ms. Donna said. Abby smiled.

“I’m ready,” Abby said.

“But Zach is not,” Mr. Steve said walking into the room. “He’s a mess. He sweated his shirt out!”

Abby laughed. Mr. Steve looked at me and then looked away.

“All the guest are here,” Jaci said walking into the house. “And Zach has changed his shirt.”

Jaci handed Abby her bouquet and Abby smiled.

“Here goes nothing,” Abby smiled.

The wedding party walked down the aisle and then Abby and Mr. Steve walked down the aisle. Zach beamed. Abby really did look pretty in the dress. Jaci smiled even though she was still just a tiny bit upset about not being able to make the dress.

I looked up and saw that Mr. Stewart was there. He wasn’t looking at Zach, but at Momma. I felt a little uneasy. Why in the world would he be looking at Momma?

“We are gathered here today to witness the union of Zach Stewart Davis and Abby Abigail Matthews. This town has watched the two of them grow up and this town is extremely proud of them both,” Pastor David said. “The couple has forgone the usually ‘I Do’s’ and they each have created a mash-up of vows.”

“Abby, I love you. Today is a very special day. Long ago you were just a dream and a prayer. This day like a dream come true the Lord Himself has answered that prayer. For today I promise to care for you, honor and protect you so long as we both shall live,” Zach promised.

“Zach, I love you. I am confident that God has chosen you to be my husband. Through the pressures of the present and the uncertainties of the future I promise to be faithful to you. I will love, serve, and obey you as long as we both are alive,” Abby promised.

“The rings,” Pastor David smiled.

Darcy walked up with a pillow in his hand. I tried not to laugh.

“Abby, I give you this ring, wear it with love and joy. God choose you to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward for better or for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish as long as we both shall live,” Zach said putting the ring on Abby’s figure.

“Zach, I give you this ring, wear it with love and joy. God choose you to be my husband: to have and to hold, from this day forward. For better, for worse, for richer for poorer; in sickness and in health; to have and to cherish, as long as we both shall live,” Abby said putting the ring on Zach’s finger.

“I know pronounce you man and wife,” Pastor David said. “Zach, you may kiss your bride.”

Zach removed Abby’s veil and kissed her.

Momma gave me the que to throw rose petals. Virginia, Regina, Emily, and I started to throw rose petals at Abby while Darcy, Timmy, Ned, and Nelson threw rice at Zach.

Abby and Zach laughed as Abby’s side of the aisle threw rose petals and Zach’s side threw rice while they were walking towards the house.

When they walked into the house everyone got up out of their chairs and walked into the house for the reception.

**

It was around ten o’clock. Most of the wedding guests were still here, just hanging out. Abby had changed from her wedding dress into a more comfortable reception dress.

I walked towards the kitchen to get a fork for my third piece of cake but stopped when I heard voices.

“Why should I tell you? It’s kept your mouth shut for seventeen years well mostly. You know their next on the list. You wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to them?” Mr. Stewart’s voice asked.

“You would never hurt them,” Momma voice said. Her voice was fearful but tender.

“Ok, probably not. But what about Natalie? Steve? Abby? Jaci? Megan? You wouldn’t want anything to happen to them would you?” Mr. Stewart’s voice asked.

“They don’t have to know the full story,” Momma’s voice cried.

“As much as I hate to hear you cry, no, Riley, darling, it’s what’s best,” Mr. Stewart’s voice said.

“Don’t call me darling,” Momma’s voice snapped. Mr. Stewart laughed.

I walked into the kitchen just as Mr. Stewart was walking out.

Momma looked shaken up. There was a bruise on her arm and tears in her eyes.

“Are you all right?” I asked. “What did Mr. Stewart want?”

“Nothing, just a fork,” Momma lied. I bit my tongue.

“Did you fall?” I asked.

“Yes, I fell,” Momma said.

“I also came for a fork. There aren’t any on the refreshment table,” I said.

“Oh, here,” Momma said handing me a fork. “I better go put some on the table.”

Momma quickly walked out of the kitchen. I stood there wondering what that was all about. What had Mr. Stewart and Momma been talking about? Did he give her that bruise and why in the world did he call her darling?

Posted in Natalie

Natalie: Part 3- Heaven Everywhere Installment Eight

**

“I promise not to let go.”

I closed my eyes and started to pedal. My jeans were ruined. They had a bunch of holes in them and blood was splattered on my shirt. Who knew learning to ride a bike was so dangerous.

Mr. Steve was defiantly tired of trying to teach me how to ride a bike. His voice was starting to get impatient and I didn’t blame him.

“Natalie! Open your eyes!” Mr. Steve cried.

But he shouted too late. I slammed into the mailbox.

“You promised not to let go!” I cried as Mr. Steve helped me up.

“Honey, next time keep your eyes open,” Mr. Steve said ignoring what I said.

“There won’t be a next time!” I cried.

“Natalie, just because you crashed doesn’t mean you have to burn. Don’t give up just because you’re having a hard time,” Mr. Steve said picking the bike up. “Natalie, I um never grabbed the seat.”

“You didn’t?” I asked. Mr. Steve nodded.

“But I thought….,” I started.

“Natalie, you know how to ride a bike. You’re just afraid that you’re going to crash. Natalie, you can do this,” Mr. Steve  said. “So what are you going to do? You going to hop on this bike or go in the house?”

I took the bike and started to pedal. I fell down again, but by the end of the night I knew how to ride a bike.

**

“Get out of here. I have a huge knife in this bag and I’m not afraid to use it.”

I smiled as Mrs. Rivers pulled out a knife from her purse. Mr. Steve and Zach stared at her like she was crazy.

“We’ll go!” Zach shouted. “But don’t think I won’t take this up with the Chief and your husband. Mrs. Rivers, all you had to tell me is that you were going to be having finger sandwiches and I would have been out of here. You wouldn’t have to resort to murder.”

Mrs. Rivers laughed and then motioned for Sean to pull up a chair.

“Only two months to go,” Mrs. Rivers sighed.

“Do you have any names picked out?” I asked.

“Ugh,” Mrs. Rivers said. “We have five names picked out for each. If we have a boy and a girl either Addison and Austin, Zane and Zoey, Tristan and Trinity, Caleb and Chloe, or Michael and Michelle. If we have two girls either Olivia and Sophia, Faith and Hope, Addison and Avery, Arianna and Brianna, or Mia and Maya. If we have two boys either James and John, Logan and Luke, Ethan and Nathan, Caleb and Joshua, or Elijah and Elisha.”

“I came up with Addison and Austin,” Sean smiled. “And Addison and Avery, and Logan and Luke.”

“I’ve always wanted to name a girl Addison,” Mrs. Rivers said daydreaming.

Virginia and Aunt Jane walked into the restaurant with tears in their eyes.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. Virginia started to sob.

“There’s a bad fire down in Virginia. It’s already destroyed her parent’s old farm. Its inching close to my brother’s farm. He and his family have had to evacuate! And to think somebody set the Virginia forest on fire!” Aunt Jane shouted.

“Arson?” Momma asked. Sean looked at Virginia and then at me. She smiled.

“Why are you smiling?” Virginia asked.

“I just had the best idea!” Sean shouted. “We can have a Christmas in July fundraiser! We can have games, a baby naming contest, and a bunch of other stuff. And all the proceeds will go to the victims of the fire!”

I think that’s the most I’ve ever heard Sean say at one time.

“That’s not a bad idea,” Aunt Jane said. Momma and Mrs. Rivers nodded.

“But how are we going to plan it? We’re just kids,” Virginia said.

“We’ll help you,” Momma said.

“I’m a pretty good organizer,” Mrs. Rivers volunteered.

“I have an idea,” I said. I looked at Virginia. She would hate this idea but…

“I think we should as Ms. O’Donnell to help,” I said.

“WHAT!” Virginia shouted. “What does that woman know about organizing things?”

“She runs A Father’s Presence,” Mrs. Rivers said. “She’s defiantly the boss type.”

“What’s going on?” Abby asked walking into the restaurant.

“Honey, I think your wedding shower just turned into a fundraiser planning party,” Mrs. Rivers joked.

Abby looked at us weirdly.

**

I woke up on Monday and found myself in the closet I shared with Regina. Now that my foot was out of a cast and I didn’t have strep throat. I had moved into the room Regina slept in.

I peeked out of the closet and saw that Regina was still asleep. It was five A.M. Ugh. I’d only been asleep for two hours.

I walked out the room and into the bathroom. I saw myself in the mirror and screamed.

I heard a knock on the door.

“Who’s in here?” Mr. Steve’s voice said. I opened the door.

“Look at my arms!” I screamed. There were small pink dots on both of my arms.

“Natalie, what’s wrong?” Momma asked walking up to my. She looked at my dots and sighed.

“Let me handle this,” Momma said to Mr. Steve. Mr. Steve walked away looking relieved.

Momma closed the door and ordered me to pull up my pants.

“Agh!” I cried when I saw that they were also on my legs. My mom told me to pull up my shirt. When I did I saw these strange dots were also on my chest.

“Chicken poxes?” I asked baffled. Momma shook her head no.

“I’m going to call, Dr. Walters, but I’m ninety percent sure it’s not chicken poxes,” Momma said walking out of the bathroom. I collapsed on the floor. I didn’t feel sick but I really hoped this was chicken poxes.

I started to itch these dots.

“Don’t itch!” Momma shouted when she walked into the bathroom.

“But they itch,” I whined.

“Go but a change of clothes on. Dr. Walters wants you to see a dermatologist at the hospital,” Momma said.

“At five o’clock in the morning?” I asked.

“Yes, now go change,” Momma said walking out of the bathroom. “But on a tank top and shorts. Bring something to wear to school too.”

I cried for five minutes before getting up and changing.

**

“Psoriasis,” The dermatologist said when she walked into the room.

“That’s what I thought,” Momma said.

“Dr. Walters told me that she just had strep throat,” The dermatologist said. “Strep throat sometimes triggers Guttate Psoriasis. The outbreak can go away and never come back.”

“On her father’s side they have a history of Psoriasis,” Momma said. “Her father had Guttate Psoriasis but it turned into plaque psoriasis.”

“Well Psoriasis may be inherited. Some people carry genes that make them more likely to develop Psoriasis,” The dermatologist said. “Does anyone else in her family have Psoriasis?”

“Her father’s mother does,” Momma said. The dermatologist nodded.

“Don’t itch,” The dermatologist commanded. I stopped.

“I recommend lotions and sunlight,” The dermatologist said. “Let it run its course. It’s not too bad. It usually clears up within a few weeks but since she has a family history of Psoriasis it may be chronic or may turn into plaque psoriasis like her father.”

Momma nodded.

“So this might not go away?” I asked.

“Sometimes psoriasis can go away for a time but psoriasis is chronic so it will come back. Did her father have a remission time?” The dermatologist asked.

Momma shook her head no.

“He didn’t let psoriasis hinder his life. I personally didn’t care. It wasn’t too too bad but noticeable,” Momma said.

The dermatologist smiled.

“There is a Psoriasis kid group that meets in Pittsfield once a month. There’s about fifty kids from all over Berkshire County that go to the monthly meetings. Here, give this lady a call,” The dermatologist said.

Momma took the piece of paper and nodded.

“Honey, do you want to go to school today?” Momma asked. “I’m willing to take Ms. O’Donnell’s wrath if you don’t want to go today.”

“I want to stay home,” I cried.

Momma hugged me and the dermatologist walked towards the door.

“Natalie, some people in life will be mean. People will tease you something awful. If your friends go running when they see you or talk bad about you then they really aren’t your friends. People should accept you because of your personality not your skin. God doesn’t care about the outside. He sees the inside and that determines if you’re beautiful or not. I heard about what you’re doing to help the victims of the Virginia Fire. I heard about how you went out to save those Stewarts last Christmas. People should care about what you do, not what your skin looks like,” The dermatologist said walking out the door.

I stared at the door for a second. I never learned that lady’s name but she changed my life. My psoriasis didn’t go away, but I didn’t care. My friends acted like they didn’t even notice it. I learned who my real friends were and who weren’t. I knew God thought I was beautiful and that’s all that mattered.