The darkness of the second heavens pervaded, but a wry smile brightened up the mood of the otherwise dismal surroundings. At the throne-room where he sat, in the bowels of the land devoid of light and life, Lucifer watched the proceedings with keen interest. This turn of events interested him very much indeed. Not since Lord Jehovah banished him from Heaven were he and his minions so glad to see another angel leave Heaven. He made a visit to the First Heavens, and approached the throne of the Holy One who had once been his master. “I demand words with Lord Jehovah,” he intoned, coolly.
“Let him in,” came a deep, resonant voice from a much different throne room than Lucifer had just left. A condescending smile greeted all around him, while his eyes looked down at them with thinly veiled contempt.
“Very well. Say what is on your mind.” Lord Jehovah spoke solemnly.
“I have tested the faith of some of your followers on earth, and they managed to come through for you, but only after I put them through extreme torment. I have noticed one of your own wants to learn of salvation. Well, I say, when she feels the pain of emotional abandonment, she will curse you. I will see to it that she fails miserably.”
Lord Jehovah replied, “You only are allowed to do what I allow, and you have permission to test Evie. But I assure you, she will find her way.”
Lord Jehovah’s eyes bored holes into his, but his arrogance ignored the warning. “Hah!” he began, “Your angel will find that she cannot overcome a formidable opponent like me. I always win against flesh—”
Lord Jehovah held up his hands and Lucifer’s boasting mouth was shut. The holy power of Lord Jehovah greatly overshadowed his bravado, and challenging Him proved futile. His ultimate lot was eternal torment, but he wasn’t stupid enough to tempt his fate and have it start earlier; and the Lord of Heaven and Earth was capable. Curses! I know He has authority over me…I just wish he would at least once acknowledge my strength.
“Your thoughts are selfish and arrogant, per usual, Lucifer.”
Nothing else could be done but to slink away, involuntarily holding his tongue and his thoughts.
Lucifer called for the Prince of the D.C area, one of the senior deceiver demons named Politically Correct.
“You called, Lord?” asked Politically Correct, feigning obsequiousness. He bowed, showing respect for the executive demon.
“I have a special mission for you. It seems that a certain angel of light has voluntarily decided to become part of our realm on earth. We must put forth a concerted effort into this case, and make an example of any angel stupid enough to want to find out about salvation. She must fail. See to it that she does. I want to be sure we ruin this angel.”
Gabriel hadn’t done a mission like this since the announcement to Mary of the birth of the Savior. He had been told by the Holy Spirit to announce the arrival of Evie to an Asian American family in the Washington, D.C area named the Chens. Lord Jehovah treated this with equally high priority, so he obeyed. Scratching his head, the implications of this undertaking astounded him. “I’ve never done anything quite like this, before. I’ve seen Adam and Eve at The Fall; I’ve spoken to Daniel in the time of Nebuchadnezzar, and I’ve seen many battles in the Heavens and on Earth. But I’ve never seen an angel sent to the earth to become one of them.”
His shoulders shrugged. “You always know what you’re doing, my Lord. Questioning your actions and motives is futile. Far be it from me to question what you do.”
Gracie pushed herself back from the table after finishing the Sunday dinner at her parents’ house in Bethesda, a family tradition observed since she and her brother were children. Her father, Frank, her mother Sue, and her brother sat at the table with her. “Kind of miss Peter,” she said, sighing, “but it’s only fair to let him spend some time with his family tonight.”
Her eyes wandered towards the living room. “Mom; are we done in here? We can do the dishes later, can’t we?”
“Sure, honey, we can go to the living room to relax now,” Sue said.
“I’m all for that,” Tony said.
The entire family congregated in the living room, and made comfortable conversation while the fire crackled in the fireplace and soft lights provided a warm, gently glowing ambience. A bright light in the early evening sky caught her attention. At first glance, it appeared to be a sparkling star, shining through the living room window. However, it came closer, right for their house. “Mom! Dad! Tony! Look at this!”
She pointed out the living room window. “Do you see what I’m seeing?”
“Yes, honey, I do. It looks like a star is moving right toward us,” her mother said.
“I’m glad you see it too. I was worried I was seeing things.”
A few moments later, a very tall, blindingly luminous being entered their living room. His presence unnerved the entire Chen family: all shook visibly and could do nothing but stare at this brilliant creature in awe, mouths agape.
“Greetings. I am Gabriel,” the angel said. “Do not be afraid. I have come to bring you good news: you are to have a new daughter and sister, not a baby born to you as a member of the Chen family, but, as you say among yourselves, ‘adopted.’ She will appear to you in a few minutes, after your dinner. She has always been an angel, but you will have the gracious privilege of helping her to understand humanity. She wants to understand what it means to know redemption through the Lamb of God, whom you know as Jesus the Christ. You will call her Evelyn Anne Chen, the family name being yours. Welcome her into your family.”
Gracie shook harder as he looked directly at her. “She will live with you as your roommate, so you will be primarily responsible for teaching her to be a woman who lives a life of grace and favor among human-kind.” Her mother and father just stood there, mouths agape, making no sound, still shaking and holding onto each other. Her excitement grew as she acclimated to the angel’s presence. Getting up the nerve to speak, she said, “I know angels have appeared to people before, but these days, it rarely happens. This is awesome.” Curiosity getting the better of her, she rattled off questions machine-gun style. “When will she arrive? How old is she? What does she look like? And—”
Gabriel held up his hand, smiling, and said, “Peace child. All will be revealed in good time.” He immediately left.
The appearance of the unusual visitor and his surprising news gave her pause, as she sat down hard on the couch and digested the preceding events for a few moments, while her mother and father held her close. “Wow, what do you make of that?” she asked. Her mom and dad just looked at each other, then her, and then shrugged. “I’m sure there is more to this wonderful revelation, but God will make known His purposes at the appropriate moment,” her father said.
“Tony said “Dude! Check it out: not only are we going to have a new sister, an angel announced it. Now, that’s wassup!”
Thoughts turned to having a new sister made her smile. “This is awesome! I’ve always wanted a sister, but have had to put up with my brother all these years.” She looked at Tony and smirked. “It will be nice to finally have the Chen women outnumber the Chen men.”
“Hey. Don’t be a hater. You know I’ve always got your back.”
She hugged her brother and smiled. “Don’t worry. You know I’ll always love you.”
Her rational self told her that she and her new sister were going to have a great time, and that she would feel very protective of her sister. Her emotional self finally understood the answer to a long unfulfilled longing in her heart, and the happiness overwhelmed her. Not able to hold back her emotions any longer, tears of joy started to run down her face.
“What’s wrong honey?” her father asked.
Memories of all those times in her life when he had comforted her before rushed into her mind: when she fell off her bike at six; when she lost her favorite pet hamster at ten; and when she got her heart broken by her first crush at thirteen by a stuck-up boy.
“I don’t know, daddy. That was an extraordinary announcement: maybe it just overwhelmed me. I guess I just realized how much I’ve always wanted a sister…” Her chin quivered but she forced herself to stop crying. “I’m very happy; it’s like a big hole in me has been filled.”
Her mother hugged her. “Honey, I know you’re excited. You told me when you were just a little girl that you wanted a sister. Now you have something to hope for. In fact, we all do. This is a very exciting turn of events in our lives.” A special bond that only a mother and daughter knew flowed between them: one that her father and brother would never experience, at least not with the same depth.
Evie arrived with Michael in a government building where the CIA kept their fleet of cars. Michael had changed to human form. Before her now stood a young “agent” in his early thirties with a serious ‘all business’ demeanor. He wore a dark suit, and stood about 6’4” tall, his curly golden locks combed back. Dark designer sunglasses wrapped around his eyes, concealing them from view. The requisite earpiece protruded from his ear; a weapon required of any operative assigned to a dignitary, or in her case, a person under government protection, rested firmly in the holster that hung around his shoulders.
They went to the dispatch office at the end of a long hall on the first floor.
Michael spoke to the agent in a curt, efficient manner. “Agent Angelo, processing out the witness protection case.”
The dispatch officer looked up briefly, acknowledging the request of a Senior Agent, the turned back to his computer, and issued a command to print the orders for her release.
Michael carefully perused the bank of mailboxes behind the dispatch officer’s desk. “I have an envelope in 1421.”
The dispatcher got up, moved slowly but with practiced precision, retrieved his envelope from the box, and handed it to him.
“Okay, these are the papers I told you you’d need to sign.”
He handed them to her. “Just sign next to the red ‘X’s’ I have marked.”
She signed the papers, put them back in the envelope, and handed it back to him.
“Thanks. I’ll get these taken care of.”
She blushed, as Michael looked at her, sizing her up as though she were one of those pretty, human women that human men ogled. Then she blushed even harder, when she realized that this was her big brother about whom she had just thought such things.
“Well, apparently you are a young woman of Asian descent. You have the requisite jet-black hair and almond-shaped eyes. The only thing unusual is that they are blue-green, instead of the normal brown, and that at 6’2”, you’re much taller than most Asian women. But that’s alright: you’re an unusual woman.” A small smile appeared as his eyes twinkled.
She wore a very business-like dark blue skirt suit, with matching navy pumps, heels and all, looking like one conducting government business. “Thanks for the nice suit, Michael. At least I look smart and very businesslike.” Sunglasses adorned her eyes, not only to make her appear a CIA agent, but more importantly to hide her still-red eyes from the tears she had cried; not to mention the distinct possibility she might break into tears again. Calling upon her military training, her back went ramrod straight, her throat cleared, and she walked tall next to Michael, not allowing her emotions to get the better of her again.
Michael walked up to the dispatch desk. The dispatcher shoved the papers in front of Michael. “Just sign here and you’re clear to go,” he said, not looking up from his work. Michael made short work of signing all the papers where his signature was needed.
Evie followed Michael into the garage. They walked down a long row of Government Issue black cars of several makes. Eventually Michael stopped in front of an unmarked, black Ford Crown Victoria, and perused the license plate. “Yes. This would be the one. Let’s get your belongings put in and be on our way.” Her luggage stowed in the trunk, she climbed into the back seat, as Michael drove out of the garage, took a left at 17th street and headed north, eventually ending up on Wisconsin Avenue.
Being human felt...well, rather finite, for lack of a better word. Although she had seen and touched before as an angel, her five senses now perceived in an entirely different way. Earthly smells were distinctly different from anything one might experience in heaven: rustic and heavy, but not altogether bad. Even through her tinted windows, the late afternoon sunlight felt bright and warm through the car windows. She rolled down the windows to get some fresh air in the car and counter the car’s suffocating stuffiness.
November in D.C. produced cool, crisp days and even cooler evenings. She could feel the chill in the breeze, even under the overcoat. Although she had seen many different places on the earth, including Washington, she experienced everything with a newfound wonder; like a child, she took in all the sights around her with awe.
Almost immediately, the once nearby presence of the Holy Trinity seemed far away. The feeling was barely perceptible, like a small hole in her heart, as though she just lost all who were dear to her, like an abandoned orphan. Heaven had just left her on someone else’s doorstep.
Evie continued to take in the world from human eyes as Michael proceeded up Wisconsin Avenue. After travelling through a few neighborhood streets, they arrived at Frank and Susan Chen’s house in Bethesda. Maryland. Evie got out, took a deep breath, fought back her nervousness and walked to the door. Michael followed behind her with her bags. Arriving at the front steps, Michael put the bags down and waited by the car. Walking up to the front door, she knocked, waiting for someone to answer. A few seconds later, a young woman opened the door, smiled at her, and put her out her hand in greeting.
“Hi, Evelyn,” she said. “Welcome to our family. It’s great to meet you in person. I’m Gracie Chen. Let me take you into the house while Tony gets your luggage.”
“I guess Tony’s your brother?” she asked.
“Yes, he is. But don’t let that discourage you.” Gracie grinned, while her eyes wandered in the direction of Michael. “Who is he?” An approving stare, and a friendly wave were proferred in the direction of Evie’s angel commander, followed by a whisper in Evie’s ear. ’He’s hot!”
Gracie’s expression puzzled her. “I’m sorry. I’m not sure I understand what you mean. I’m not sure how someone can be hot on a cold November day.”
“He’s cute.” Gracie spoke so as not to be overheard.
As Gracie’s face turned red, she turned her glance in Michael’s direction, not understanding why Gracie found him attractive. “Michael?” She smiled, soon understanding Gracie’s interest. “I guess I’ve never thought of him that way. He’s like a brother to me, and his job was to bring me here – oh, and call me Evie.”
“Michael?” Gracie said, questioning. “I do remember an angel appearing to us a couple of days ago named Gabriel. He blew me away; angels like him don’t show up at your doorstep every day. Wait...He’s not...the Michael...you know, the archangel Michael?”
No answer came from Evie; instead, Gracie got a knowing smile, eyes twinkling. She chuckled softly as she watched Gracie trying desperately to save face in front of the archangel she had just met. Michael waved amiably at Gracie. Gracie waved back and muttered under her breath. “Oh my gracious; this is embarrassing on a cosmic scale; literally.”
Michael turned to leave. “It was nice meeting you, Gracie. Give my regards to your family. I don’t mean to be rude, but I have pressing business.”
As the enormity of what she was about to undergo hit her, Evie ran to Michael and held onto him. “Michael,” she sobbed, “please take me back home…this is all a terrible mistake.” Convulsions of sadness and fear made her cry, shaking, shoulders heaving. Michael continued holding her until her emotions subsided.
“Take courage, my intrepid human sister. You’ll do fine. Just buck up and attack this as you would have attacked any mission set before you.” He gave Evie a brotherly kiss on the forehead. “The Lord be with you!”
Evie summoned all her strength and, determined not to cry again, managed a smile. “...and with you as well!” Michael drove away in the Crown Vic, and disappeared around a corner. All her suitcases firmly in hand, Tony brought up the rear following her as she and her new brother and sister walked up to the house, enormous by angelic standards. It and all the other residences on the street in this neighborhood were far larger than any abode in New Jerusalem.
Sue Chen, Gracie’s mother walked towards her and held her. “Sweetheart, I know this must be difficult for you: I can’t even imagine what I’d do if I were in your shoes. But just know that we love you and are always here for you.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Chen. I need comforting right now.”
“You have it,” said Sue. “And call me Mom.” Smiling, Sue walked back into the house.
From the corner of her eye, Gracie approached. “Mom, Dad and Tony are cleaning up after our Sunday dinner. I was elected to be your tour guide.”
“Thank you, Gracie. I wanted to look around, anyway. Do you mind?”
“Not at all. Follow me, and I’ll give you the fifty cent tour.”
“Sure: I’d like it if you showed me around.”
’Now, I haven’t lived here in a while, but lots of my childhood belongings are still here.” Grace led her to a bedroom. “This is my old bedroom.” Gracie looked thoughtful. “This brings back memories. I’ve spent many of my twenty-seven years in this room. Boy does time fly!”
Pictures on the walls of the bedroom showed Gracie and her family over the span of several years. As she looked at Gracie’s old bed, what looked like a small animal, only lifeless, lay there. “What’s that?” she said, pointing to the toy.
“Oh, that’s my old stuffed animal, ‘Bertie’ the bear. I’ve had him since I was a little girl. It’s sort of a sentimental keepsake. I guess you don’t have any such things in Heaven, do you?”
“No, I don’t.” Evie thought it rather unusual, even odd – but interesting to keep a small, anthropomorphism of a bear as a keepsake. She had never really had a childhood, so Gracie’s human-like bear seemed something only a child could appreciate. “When I was a new angel, I had to learn the protocol of angelic duty: regular worship of Lord Jehovah, and since I’m...err, was a warrior, combat tactics. But nothing like what human children do.” She felt wistfully sad as she realized that she was never young and full of innocent wonder. “Were you happy as a child?”
“Yes, for the most part. I certainly was when I first got old Bertie here.” Gracie picked up the toy, and held it, smiling happily. Playfully maniputlationg the bear, she held it in her hands, pretending to make it walk. “This brings back many happy childhood memories, Evie. I sort of miss those days…” Her voice trailed off.
“I imagine it must have been nice to be a child with no worries or stress, and imaginary friends like your Bertie.” A forlorn expression darkened her features.
“Are you all right?” Gracie asked.
“I...I’m fine,” Evie managed to get out. “It’s another thing that makes me sad: being human and starting at a later point in life. I regret what I’ve missed.” She stopped and smiled at Gracie. “I’m okay now. Let’s keep going. This is actually quite interesting.”
The family dinner dishes finished, Sue Chen led her to the living room, focusing her eyes on Evie. Well, Evelyn...or do you prefer ‘Evie’?”
“Evie will be just fine, seeing as how you are my family now.” She smiled graciously.
Sue returned her smile. “Oh good: I like ‘Evie;’ it sounds much friendlier. Anyway, another tradition in the Chen family, aside from our Sunday gatherings, is to give all family members a Chinese name. We need to come up with one for you.”
“I could help you with that,” she said, happy to contribute to her new family. “I am fluent in every language, Chinese being one of them.”
“My, that’s incredible. How’d you manage that?”
Evie tried to be matter-of-fact. “I’ve learned them over the course of human history. I can speak in any language that suits the purpose, and do it very well, including, of course, English.”
“It’ll come in handy, especially here in D.C. where there are many people from all over the world. Let me see, we need a name meaning ‘Blessed One.’ Ideas, anyone?”
Evie spoke up right away, almost out of reflex. “That would be ‘Tian Tang Zhi Ai”’ or ‘Tian Ai’ for short: they literally mean ‘Heavenly Loved.’ The significance of those words hit her almost as soon as the words had left her lips. Her throat tightened, and she fought back the sadness.
“Are you okay, Evie?” Gracie asked.
She fought to compose herself. “Yes…yes. Guess I was just feeling a little homesick.”
“I know, sweetie, I know. After what you have been through, I don’t blame you at all. But the name is lovely: very touching and appropriate.”
Evie appreciated Gracie’s understanding of her plight. However, she still couldn’t keep the doubts and fears she felt from showing on her face. Her new mother’s gentle smile consoled her somewhat.
“The next thing we need to do is get you settled in Gracie’s condominium in D.C. She needs a roommate and -- well, God has graciously sent you.”
Gracie enthusiastically added, “You’ll like living in the District: it’s right in the middle of the action, and you’re never far from something interesting to do. I have your room all set up. I think you’ll like it. ’Course, you can always change it if you have other preferences.”
“Oh, I think I’ll trust your good judgment.” She was unsure if she had any preferences. She certainly didn’t know what “good taste” was, exactly; at least not like humans perceived it. Her condominium in Heaven was typical of all angels’ abodes: lots of room to sit and talk with other angels and saints, and minimal decorations. Sure, it was beautiful, but in a simple way. The Father had made them from precious mineral and gems, yet they were uncluttered and functional, which suited her just fine.
The first evening with her new family ended well. The real adventure of living on earth would soon begin: she would live with her new adopted sister. Having always lived by herself, the thought made her a little claustrophobic, but she held her feelings inside, not wanting to offend Gracie on the first day they met. She followed Gracie with her suitcases, and they piled into Gracie’s new Honda Accord to head downtown to the condominium.
As the Metro View complex grew near, Gracie touched the remote on her visor and the gate to the garage opened up, leading them up to the second level, where the car came to rest in its designated spot. Her suitcases came swiftly out of Gracie’s trunk, and they took the elevator up the sixth floor. She followed Gracie down a long hallway, and they finally stopped in front of a door with ‘618’ on it.
“This is my apartment. Come on in.” Gracie beamed as she followed her inside.
She had to admit she had never seen such a layout. “Gracie, this is a really nice condo. I think I’ll enjoy living here.”
“I’m glad you like it. At least I’ve made a favorable first impression on you.”
“You have. I’m really impressed at your flair for decorating a house.”
“Well, it’s home, and I’m glad you’re my new roommate. This will be fun.”
The girls rounded up Evie’s things, and took them to her bedroom. Her very enthusiastic sister required a great deal of acclimation on her part. A bit overly enthusiastic, but she would learn how to cope with all the determination she could muster.
“Say, Gracie, do you have something for a headache?”
“Sure. Are you all right?”
“Yes. I think I’m in sensory overload. I’m experiencing many new things, and I’m trying to absorb them without my head exploding. Unfortunately, I’m not doing well in that department.”