‘Proverbs 16: 9: A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps and makes them sure, Proverbs 16: 9.’ Sierra pondered the words of that verse in her heart as she approached Grant and Alisa’s driveway. ‘Thank you Lord for arresting me and making sure I did not go the wrong way. If I never believed your Words before, I do now. I can’t deny the truth in the Words you spoke because I suddenly see them coming to light in my life before my very eyes.’ Sierra prayed.
She felt almost like God had reached down into a world full of people and picked her for his miracle work. ‘What did I do to deserve to be chosen God?’ she asked out loud as she parked her car and sat in the driveway in silence. ’Your word says that if we delight ourselves in you – then you will give us the desire of our heart. God – you know I was not delighting myself in you, yet you have given me the desire of my heart anyway – and I didn’t even know it was there!
Help me to walk in your way. Help me to be what you are calling me to be, because Lord –I don’t know how. All I know is that you instantly changed me from the inside out. You have blessed me with the possibility of a future far different from anything I could have ever imagined, or hoped for, and you have placed a man in my life that I could never have found in my own futile search. I feel humbled and blessed, but I am scared at the same time. I know in my own strength I will mess everything up. I need you to be my strength God. I need you to finish this work that you have started in me.’ She petitioned.
Sierra inhaled deeply and let it out to the count of five before going inside. ‘Hey guys,’ she said as she peeked through the front door. ‘Hey – Sierra, come on in,’ Grant said as he walked toward the table with a hot dish in his hands. ‘You are just in time – the chicken casserole just came out of the oven. Alisa is in the kitchen getting the drinks. Go tell her what you want,’ he directed. Alisa gave Sierra a welcoming hug as she entered the kitchen. ‘I poured you sweet tea. Is that alright?’ Alisa asked. ‘With no lemon, you know me. Thanks Alisa.’ She replied.
Over dinner Sierra brought Grant and Alisa up-to-date. ‘Boy, it seems like it has been a year since we talked. So much has happened in the past few days that I don’t even know where to start,’ she divulged. ‘I went to New Orleans with Rachael and Trish on Tuesday. Mom arranged for Pastor Allen to call Grayson and tell him we were going to be there just in case he wanted to try to catch up with us. Well – he did. He showed up at the fountain on the River Walk and we got some beignets. Rachael and Trish asked him a bunch of questions and he answered them all. You won’t believe this, but he almost went to the Olympics,’ she boasted.
That tidbit of information captured Grant’s interest above everything else. ’Wait, did you say the Olympics? What was he going to compete in and why almost?’ he asked inquisitively. Sierra explained to Grant that Grayson was a power lifter. She gave him the whole spill about Mr. Tennessee and the incident at the National Championships that gave Grayson fourth place rather than the title. She then explained that God told Grayson he was finished competing and he had a choice to make. She told them about the sponsorships with huge corporations and all of the fame and fortune that was right at his fingertips. ‘God gave Grayson a choice,’ she explained. He basically told him that he could go his own way, or he could walk in the way that God had for him. ‘This is the way, walk ye in it,’ she quoted.
He chose to give all of that up and follow God. That’s why he is at the seminary and working at Flowing Creek Church rather than living in San Francisco training for the Olympics.
‘Wow, that’s quite a story,’ Grant answered in astonishment. ‘So, anyway, he told us a lot about himself. The next day I went over to the Allen’s house for dinner before the Wednesday night services. Grayson and I talked for long time after church that night. He focused on me and asked questions in an effort to get to know me better. He said that it was obvious there was something going on between us and he was not in a position to run from God again. He asked me if he could have a picture of me because he wanted to show it to his friends at the seminary. Then, he invited me to go to his cousin’s wedding with him next week in Tennessee. He wants his parents to meet me,’ Sierra looked to Alisa for reassurance.
‘Well, you don’t waste time – do you,’ Grant said with a grin. ‘No – really, it sounds like it is truly God doing a work in your life and I am really happy for you. So, when can we meet this guy?’ Grant said with authority. ’Well – he is picking me up tomorrow morning at mom and dad’s house to go to a carwash. I don’t know, why don’t you guys come to Flowing Creek Church on Sunday morning, I know he will be there,’ she said with a chuckle. ‘We may just do that,’ Grant said as he looked over at Alisa and nodded. ‘I am so excited! I love it when a plan comes together,’ Alisa said as she clapped her hands enthusiastically.
‘Thanks for inviting me to come over tonight. You don’t know it yet, but I am not going back to mom and dad’s house after the movie. I am going to be the houseguest, who never goes away,’ she laughed. ‘Now – Sierra, you know you are welcome to stay here any time, for as long as you want to,’ Grand insisted. ‘Thanks! I appreciate that. Mom doesn’t like to sit up and worry about me when I am out late. It will calm her nerves to know I am not driving all the way back out there tonight,’ she said knowing Grand and Alisa knew full well how Judith felt.
‘Oh, and speaking of mom’s nerves, I have something to tell you guys that can’t go past this table,’ she revealed. ‘What? I love secrets,’ Alisa responded. ‘I talked to Travis today. He got orders to Germany.’ ‘Oh my goodness, mom is going to croak. When is he leaving?’ Grant asked with a worried look on his face. ’He has to finish up some project he is in the middle of in New Mexico, then he has a few training classes he has to go through before he flies out. He said it would be two or three months. He doesn’t have all of the details ironed out just yet. That is the reason he isn’t ready for mom and dad to find out. He said he wants to be well prepared for the game of twenty questions Stan-the-man is going to throw at him. They all laughed. ‘You’ve gotta love Mr. Stan,’ Alisa said with a smile.
’Well girls, we had better get a move on if we are going to get to the theater before all of the good movies start. I don’t even know what’s playing, so it will be good to get there a few minutes early to read up on our choices. ‘Yeah, I will agree, we had better go. Let’s just put these dishes in the sink and we can get to them when we get back,’ Alisa suggested.
Sierra enjoyed the evening with Grant and Alisa. They were always so understanding and supportive. Sierra could relax and be herself around them. She liked that. After the movie, they finished the dishes, then sat around and played a word game until it was time to go to bed. It was the most unstressed evening Sierra had all week, and she told them that.
The next morning Sierra woke up, took a shower, got dressed, gathered up her things, and was ready to go. ‘Thanks again guys!’ She said as she headed toward the door. ’The dinner was great – and I really enjoyed hanging out with you. Remember, ‘mums the word’ on Travis.’
‘Okay, Sierra – thanks for coming! We enjoyed it. Our lips are sealed!’ Grant shouted from the living room. Sierra wanted to get to her parent’s house early enough to be there when Grayson arrived to pick her up for the carwash.
To her surprise, she saw Grayson’s car sitting in her parent’s driveway when she pulled in. Looking at the clock on her dashboard she realized that it was only a few minutes past nine. ‘Grayson said he would be there at ten,’ she wondered why he had come early. One thing was certain, she was very glad she decided to get ready at Grant’s house before she went home. She would have hated to walk in the door looking like she just woke up.
‘Hey’ – she said as she walked in the door and saw Grayson sitting at the table with Stan in front of a huge platter of pancakes. ‘I called last night and your mom told me you weren’t home. When I told her I would be by at ten to pick you up, she insisted I come at nine for some pancakes with Stan. I couldn’t resist the offer,’ Grayson said as he heaped his plate with pancakes. ‘Come eat with us,’ her dad said as he almost emptied the syrup bottle onto his plate.
‘No thanks, dad, I am not really into breakfast. I would rather wait and eat a good lunch later on,’ she said as she pulled up a chair. ‘What time did you get here Grayson?’ she asked. ‘Actually; I had not been here very long when you came in,’ he said. Stan went on to question Grayson about how many cars they hoped to wash, how much money they were trying to raise, and how long they were going to work before calling it quits. ‘We have about fifteen-hundred dollars left to raise before we go to camp this summer, I hope to knock a decent sized chunk off of that total,’ he said hopefully. ‘We will start at ten-thirty, and we will wash cars until they quit coming or until we run out of soap, whichever happens first.’
‘Well, have fun,’ Stan said. ‘I am sure glad God didn’t call me to be a preacher. I would not want to do the things that you guys have to do,’ he joked. ‘Stan, the world is also glad that God didn’t call you to be a preacher,’ Judith said as she laughed aloud at the thought.
Grayson and Sierra went to the church to meet the youth group at a few minutes before ten. They loaded the youth into the church van and headed to the mall parking lot where Grayson had permission to set up and wash cars. Throughout the course of the day, the group retaliated on Sierra repeatedly for her resistance to the water hose last Sunday night. She was like a wet noodle by the end of the day.
’Ha! Ha! I love it, Grayson cackled as he threw her a towel. ‘One-hundred cars at three dollars a pop – plus whatever we got in the donation box. That should just about wind it up,’ he said.
Sierra enjoyed the day. There was no pressure to perform and no awkward ‘alone’ moments. The teenagers jeered all day long making remarks about Grayson flirting, or Sierra trying to impress him, but they were not bothered by them. ‘It is what it is,’ there is no since in acting like we aren’t drawn to each other,’ she thought.
After cleaning and loading the van, Grayson headed back to the church to drop the youth off. Most of them had a car, but Grayson and Sierra had to wait a few minutes for others to call for a ride. Pastor Allen drove up while they waited for the parents of the last two youth.
‘What are ya’ll doing tonight?’ he said to Grayson and Sierra. ‘I don’t know yet. We just got back – the first thing we need to do is get out of these wet clothes. Why, what did you have in mind?’ Grayson asked. ‘Sabrina and I are taking the boys to that big buffet they just opened in Baton Rouge over on the old highway, ya’ll are welcome to join us if you would like to.’
Grayson looked over at Sierra. He knew she had to be hungry since she didn’t eat breakfast and they had not stopped washing cars to get lunch. ‘What do you think?’ he said. ‘That’s fine with me,’ she replied timidly. About that time a car pulled into the driveway. ‘I’ll take both of those stragglers,’ Ted Roberts said as he hung his head out of the window of his truck. The last two teenagers climbed into the back of Ted’s truck and waved as he drove away.
‘I will run Sierra home so she can get ready. It’s about four-thirty now. What time do you want to leave?’ Grayson asked Pastor Allen. ’Well, Sabrina won’t be back until at least five, why don’t we shoot for six o’clock. ‘Okay, that sounds good,’ he agreed.
’Come on Sierra, hop in my car and I will take you home. He waited until they were in the car and said, ‘I really appreciate you for coming with me today. I was afraid I might have scared you off after our little talk Wednesday night,’ he said as he patted her on the knee.
‘Well, Grayson Raines, if you were trying to scare me off, your plans failed miserably. All I can think about is the next time I will get to see you,’ she acknowledged. ‘I am so excited about going to Tennessee with you,’ she said. Sierra told Grayson about her new job, and the fact that it would not begin until after the trip, so she was free to go. He was visibly thrilled. ‘I am so glad. That will give us the trip up there to talk and get to know each other better,’ he said as if he had already given that some thought beforehand. ‘I was going to leave out Monday morning very early, but since you are going to go, I may ask Pastor Allen if we can head out tomorrow afternoon after church is over. That way we won’t be in such a rush,’ his mind was running with ideas as he pulled in the Bradley’s driveway. ‘What should I pack for the trip?’ Sierra asked sincerely. ‘Well, the wedding is Friday night, so you will need to bring something nice to wear for that, but other than that – you can just bring whatever you want to wear. Believe me, you won’t have to worry about impressing anybody,’ he assured her.
‘Okay – I will see you after a while then. Are you going to drive, or will we ride with the Allen’s?’ she asked. Grayson winked at her just as the sun caught his left eye. It sparkled at the very moment he said, ‘I will drive; I don’t want to share you with the Allen boys.’ Sierra blushed, closed his door, and went on inside to get ready to go again.
‘Hey mom,’ she said as she walked in the door. ‘Hey! How did it go?’ Judith asked. ‘We raised three hundred dollars from washing the cars, then whatever is in the donation box, we didn’t count that yet,’ she said. ‘Well great – maybe just a few more and they will reach their goal,’ she said encouragingly.
‘Pastor Allen invited Grayson and me to go out to eat with his family tonight. Grayson is going to pick me up at around six. If Pastor Allen agrees, I think we are going to head to Tennessee after tomorrow morning’s service. Oh – by the way, I invited Grant and Alisa to come. They want to meet Grayson, and I thought that would be the best way,’ she said.
‘That will be good. Josh is going to be there too. Andrea finally went home from the hospital this morning. She is not on complete bed-rest, but almost. The doctor wants her to do as little as possible. So, if she is up to it she will come too. If not, Josh will bring her here while we go to church and they will stay for lunch afterwards. That’s why I am making cookies. I was trying to get ahead of the game. Will you and Grayson be able to eat with us before you head out?’ she asked. ‘I would think so, but we will not stay long afterwards. It is about a ten-hour drive to his parent’s house, so we don’t want to be driving all night long,’ she said.
‘Okay, that will be fine. I am glad everyone is going to get a chance to meet him. I know they will love him.’ Judith said with confidence. ‘I sure hope so,’ Sierra said. ’I enjoyed spending time with him today in a carefree environment. We were just able to be ourselves. The kids were picking at us all day long, and he never denied a thing. I think Grayson was enjoying the moment, making them speculate whether their assumptions about us were correct. ‘All I know is that I was enjoying watching him run around in that cut-off, soaking wet, t-shirt all day long. I think at least half of the cars we washed were there because the girls driving them wanted to get a closer look at him,’ she laughed. ‘Hey it works with pretty girls, why not Mr. America in a cut-off shirt,’ she laughed.
Sierra and Grayson met the Allen’s at the restaurant. As it turned out, it was a Mexican, all-you-can-eat buffet. Grayson loved that, he ate more chicken enchiladas than the pan could hold. ‘A big boy with a big appetite,’ Pastor Allen said. ‘That’s why we try to find buffets. When we agreed to feed him on the weekends as part of his pay package, we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into,’ he sniggered. Grayson just laughed.
After the meal the Pastor and his family were going bowling. Grayson and Sierra decided not to go with them because they still had to pack and get ready for their trip the following day.
‘You can hang out at my mom and dad’s house with me for a while if you want to,’ Sierra invited. You can talk to me while I get my suitcase packed. ‘That sounds like a plan,’ he said as they walked to his car. By this time the sun had gone down and full moon was shining overhead.
When they were almost halfway to the Bradley’s house, Grayson pulled the car over in a church parking lot. He cut off the engine, and turned on the interior light. Sierra wondered what he was going to do. For a long time he sat with his eyes turned toward her. ‘Just let me look at you. Please, don’t say a word,’ he implored. Sierra felt almost weird sitting in complete silence with Grayson just staring at her. She tried to make eye contact with him a time or two, but he did not waver, she wasn’t even sure he ever blinked his eyes. After waiting long enough that she felt uncomfortable, she said, ‘What are you looking at?’ Then finally he responded.
‘I think I am looking at the girl I am in love with.’ Sierra thought she would faint. Her head began spinning, and her heart was pounding so hard that she could feel it in her ears. ’I showed your picture to everyone I came in contact with at the seminary. I told them they needed to see what God was capable of doing when we are willing to wait on him and follow his leading. ‘I am not totally sure that you feel the same way, but I have to be honest with you before we go to Tennessee. I think you are the girl I am supposed to spend the rest of my life with. I think you are going to be my wife.’
Sierra felt a tear roll down her cheek and Grayson’s tender hand reach over to wipe it off. As he did, be tilted her chin towards him; giving Sierra no choice but to look into his amazing eyes as he continued. ‘I am going to do something right now that I have never done in my life,’ he said. ‘I am going to make a commitment to you. I don’t know what God has in store for our future, but until I find out, I will not date another person. I give you a promise that you have my undivided attention as we walk along this path that God has obviously laid out for us. I will be open and honest with you, so if there is anything you want to know, just ask. I would like to ask the same from you, but I will not push you. I know that this is really happening fast, believe me I feel like my head is spinning, but I know what God is telling me, and I have to obey,’ as he finished his sentence, he let go of her chin and took her hand.
Sierra was overwhelmed, but she felt exactly the same way. Every word Grayson spoke paralleled her own feelings and thoughts. Every nerve in her body felt a shiver, she welcomed the warmth of is hand in hers. ‘Well, I was not expecting this to come from you, at least not yet, but there is no denying what is real,’ Sierra said. ‘I am drawn to you like a magnet and I can’t imagine ever wanting to pursue another relationship. I will make a commitment you as well. Until we know what God is doing here, I will focus on what He wants for this relationship. I don’t have any problem making that promise. Right now I think it will be one of the easiest promises to keep that I have ever made,’ she said with a little smile.
‘Can I kiss you?’ Grayson asked nervously. He said that he didn’t want to mess things up. He didn’t want to move too fast. But he could not resist asking for just a small kiss on her lips to seal their agreement. ’Sierra knew this moment was going to come. She had nervously anticipated it since the first time she laid her eyes on Grayson. She thought to herself, ‘of course you can kiss me.’
Grayson reached across the seats and placed his warm hands against Sierra’s cheeks and pulled her close to him. As his tender lips met hers, she felt the same electrifying shock go through her body that she felt the first time he touched her when she walked into the fellowship hall that first morning after they met. It was as if he froze in that spot the moment his lips touched hers, and he didn’t ever want to let go. ‘A still, innocent kiss to seal their commitment, this guy is too much,’ she thought as she enjoyed the moment. Grayson tenderly pulled away, but only far enough to look directly into Sierra’s eyes, ‘Thank you!’ he said, ‘Thank you for allowing God to direct your steps.’
With that, Grayson turned off the interior light and drove Sierra home. He reached over and put his hand on top of hers as they pulled into her parent’s driveway. ‘I am honored that you will go with me to Tennessee tomorrow. I wouldn’t have wanted to go without you.’
Grayson parked the car, they got out and headed to the front door, but on the way there Grayson stopped Sierra. He wrapped his arms around her and hugged her with the most affectionate hug she had ever received in her life. She wanted to melt into his arms. She was blessed.