‘Oh honey, let me tell you something that I learned years ago,’ her mother chimed in. ‘It doesn’t matter how much you think you love PJ, if you can have feelings for another man you can be sure that he is not the one you are supposed to marry. When God puts the right one in your life, you will never, ever have a desire or even a pull towards another man.’
‘She is right,’ replied Josh, ‘Even I can vouch for that. When I was dating, I always got tired of the relationships after a few months and began looking for something more, or something better in another, but when I met Andrea, that changed. I can honestly tell you that the empty place in my heart that I had been trying to fill was intended for her all along. It is almost like God made her just for me. I am complete, I have no need and no desire for anything more. That is how you know it is a God thing.’ Andrea blushed with those words, and smiled at Josh.
‘Well, I have been waiting for PJ to show some interest in God. He always says that he is not religious. I tried to tell him over and over again that it was not about being religious, it was about accepting Jesus in his heart, but he was never ready to do that. That was the main reason that I felt he may not be the one for me, but I always held out hope that he would become a Christian and change his life. I really didn’t think I could have feelings for another man. But this morning blew that idea right out of the water. My world has been rocked, and Grayson doesn’t even know it!’ Sierra laughed.
‘So, PJ is going to call me back tonight at eleven-thirty tonight. Should I just tell him it’s over since I have feelings for another man?’ Sierra asked with anticipation. ‘I feel crazy even saying that since Grayson may never even talk to me again. What if this morning was just a passing obsession that threw my head in the clouds, what if I am imagining things?’ Stan put in his two cents, ‘Honesty is the best policy, it is going to be hard for him to understand how you can be home for only a week and have feelings for another man already, but you have to tell PJ that it is a God thing.’ ‘Whether or not anything comes out of your encounter with Grayson this morning, you know that your heart is not completely filled by the relationship with PJ. That is enough for you to understand that no matter what God’s plan is for you and Grayson, the future is not planned out for you to be with PJ. God is telling you to move on,’ he insisted.
Sierra’s head felt like it was spinning, she could not even begin to eat her lunch. ‘Ok, I know you guys are right, I just have to try to stop thinking about it. Go ahead and eat, I am just going to go lay down for a little while, if that’s alright, all of this has worn me out. I feel weak.’ ‘Okay honey, don’t worry about us, we will get the kitchen cleaned up, you just rest for a while,’ Judith said with an encouraging tone.
Grant interjected, ‘But when you wake up, we want to hear all about military life.’ ‘Sure thing Grant, that’s a promise,’ Sierra said as she headed to the back bedroom where she could already feel the pillow-top mattress against her back.
Refusing to think, Sierra forced herself to curl up under the covers and close her eyes. It didn’t take long before she was sound asleep.
‘I never felt good about that PJ guy anyway,’ Stan grumbled as he buttered his French bread. ‘Anyone too good to meet our family is not good enough for Sierra anyway,’ he continued.
‘I am just thankful God is directing her away from him, I was afraid she would end up marrying him and moving to Timbuktu. Then we would never see her again,’ Judith confessed.
‘So; Andrea, how have you been feeling lately?’ Alisa said in an effort to change the subject. ’I feel good; I am just tired a lot. I have not really been sick, so that is a good thing, Andrea proudly announced. She had about another month before she could find out if the baby was a boy or a girl. She and Josh are keeping the names they have chosen a secret, and it is driving Stan crazy. ‘Well, if it’s a boy you should call him Eli, that’s a good strong name,’ he insisted. ‘And if it’s a girl, call her Emma. I had a mule named Emmer when I was a boy, and it was the best worker on our whole farm. Emma is a good female name, and maybe she would be a hard worker like Emmer if you gave her that name,’ Stan was really good at giving his opinion. Josh and Andrea just laughed, ‘We will keep those names in mind Mr. Stan,’ Andrea respectfully replied, knowing that neither would be their choice.
‘The food was great mom,’ Grant complimented as he carried his plate to the sink. ‘Go on in there and watch the football game Grant, I will help your mom clean the kitchen,’ Alisa insisted. ‘Andrea, you sit down and talk to us while we get things cleaned up, you don’t need to be on your feet,’ Judith demanded. ‘No, I will not sit down yet, the least I can do is clean off the table,’ Andrea averred. ‘Okay then, the table… then you have a seat, and that’s an order,’ Judith exacted. Everyone laughed.
Judith and Stan’s doorbell had a catchy little ring to it. When Sierra and Travis were young, they would often ring it just to hear the tune, and to drive everyone else in the house nuts, ding, ding, ding, ding, bong, bong, bong, bong. Sometimes Sierra could hear that sound in her sleep. As she rolled over on the pillow-top mattress, she wondered if she was dreaming again, or if she had just heard that doorbell. As she sat up in an effort to acclimate herself to her environment, and to wake up, she heard it again, ding, ding, ding, ding, bong, bong, bong, bong. This time she knew it was not a dream. Someone was there. She jumped up, and ran to the bathroom to fix up her ponytail that had all but slipped out, thinking that someone was dropping by to welcome her home. She brushed her teeth to be on the safe side.
She thought, ‘How long have I been asleep?’ As she drug her feet down the hallway toward the living room, she could hear Josh and Stan yelling, ‘Go, Go, Go, – at the television.’ Their team was about to make a touchdown. Grant was intently watching as well, but holding his breath rather than yelling. The game was just about over, this touchdown would determine the winner of the game. With that thought, Sierra realized that she had been asleep for at least three hours.
‘We knew you must really be tired, so we didn’t want to bother you. Did you sleep well,’ Andrea asked. ‘Apparently I did, I only meant to lie down for a few minutes, someone should have gotten me up,’ Sierra said with a little embarrassment in her voice. ’No, you needed the rest, and we aren’t doing anything but sitting around listening to the guys act like idiots over a football game, so you are fine, Alisa retorted.
‘Who’s that at the door,’ yelled Stan. ‘It’s Pastor Allen,’ answered Judith. ‘He wanted to make sure we would be at church tonight,’ she said.
‘Yes Pastor Allen, we will be there, and we will be sure to have Sierra with us when we come, thank you for taking the time to stop by,’ Sierra overheard her mother saying at the front door.
‘You will make sure you have me with you when you do what,’ Sierra called out to her mom. ‘Oh, um – Pastor Allen was just coming by to see if you were going to be at church tonight. Apparently over their lunch, Grayson Raines mentioned that he hoped you would be back, so Pastor Allen thought he would drop by to make sure you were invited.’
‘I see, so now he too is playing match-maker,’ Sierra smirked. She was anxiously excited about the thought of seeing Grayson again, but even more taken aback that he had actually mentioned her name over lunch, and hoped to see her again that night.
‘Oh, what will I wear,’ Sierra’s mind began to whirl. What time was it, how much time did she have to get ready? She ran nervously around the kitchen trying to hide her excitement. It didn’t work. Andrea noticed immediately. ’Sierra, come over here and sit down, you need to get something to eat, you didn’t even have lunch and it is already four-thirty. ‘Oh, I don’t think I can eat, I can’t even breathe,’ Sierra responded without a pause. She was truly being swept off of her feet. She could barely think straight, but one thing was for sure, it was not PJ who was causing her to float around like she was in a cloud.
‘Okay, okay, I will get something to eat since I have time before church,’ Sierra agreed. ‘Oh, one more thing,’ Judith said as she stepped back and poked her head around the corner before joining Stan for the end of the game, ‘Grayson said that if you were going to be at church tonight, he would like for you to come in a talk to the youth about what it was like being in the Air Force. The youth meet separate from the adults on Sunday nights.’
‘Oh my goodness, this is really happening isn’t it,’ Sierra said as she fixed herself a hearty helping of Shrimp Etouffette. Alisa and Andrea gave each other confirming glances across the kitchen table behind Sierra’s back. They knew that something was happening that was out of Sierra’s control. They were anxiously excited as well. ‘I think maybe I will go to church tonight too,’ Alisa declared. ‘Do you want to come with me,’ she said to Andrea. ‘Yes, I think that would be great, I just need to get ready,’ Andrea replied.
Sierra turned around with a convinced grin on her face, ‘you guys don’t fool me. You just want to be nosey.’ ‘No, it is not just that. We want to see what this guy looks like. Our family is filled with beautiful people, we have to make sure we approve of whoever it is you may be pulling into it,’ Andrea said jokingly. ‘Goodness guys, I barely know his name, and you are already going for an approval visit,’ Sierra snapped with a shy smile on her face. ‘Yes, we are, now go ahead and eat before you blow away,’ Alisa demanded.
Sierra could not remember how long it had been since she had eaten Shrimp Etouffette, and no one could fix it like her mother could. Every bite was like heaven in her mouth. She was so happy to be home, and so encouraged by the family God had given her. Her focus had been distorted for so long. Whatever it was that had happened to her when she was singing this morning was real. She knew that now without a doubt. The whole world seemed brighter. The future had purpose, and the prayers Sierra had prayed for years all seemed like they were being answered at the same time. Amazingly, her desires were not even the same. What she had tossed around in her mind for years had diminished without any effort on her part, suddenly her only desire was of the heart. She didn’t even understand what that meant.
‘What time does church start tonight mom?’ Sierra asked. ‘It starts at 6:00 p.m. honey, so you had better go ahead and get ready, you don’t want to be late,’ Judith answered. Normally Sierra would not bother to take another shower, but she wanted to start over and be fresh tonight. She carried her plate to the sink, thanked her mother, told Andrea and Alisa she needed to hurry up and get ready, then she rushed off to the back bathroom. As she stepped into the shower, Sierra went through her mind thinking of every piece of clothing in her still unpacked suitcase. ‘What should I wear, what should I wear, I need to look neat, but modest at the same time, she thought.’
She knew Flowing Creek Church well, so as far as everyone else in the congregation was concerned, she could have gone just exactly as she was in the LSU sweats with her hair pulled back, but she wanted to make a better impression than that on this Grayson who inquired about her attendance.
‘I will fix my hair and make-up first,’ she thought to herself as she stepped out of the shower and rubbed her arms with the perfumed lotion that came with the bottle of cologne her mother had given her as a gift upon her return. Gorgeous, how appropriate, that is just the way she wanted to feel and look. Though she didn’t feel like she was really gorgeous, Sierra hoped Grayson would.
Her hair had grown long enough to fit hot rollers around it. So she decided that was what she would do to fix it for church. Once the rollers were in, she applied her make-up. Once that was done, and before she stepped out of the bathroom to pick out an outfit, she went ahead and took the rollers down from her hair. She ran her fingers through each curl, shook her head, and looked in the mirror, ‘Thank you, Lord! It looks exactly like I had hoped it would, now please just let it stay like this tonight,’ she prayed out loud.
‘What about those black pants, I could wear them with the orange top,’ she thought. ‘No, that would look too much like Halloween. I could wear the pink top, but maybe that looks too much like a kid.’ As she dug to the bottom of her suitcase, Sierra remembered the brown pants and thin, tan, sweater that was in the trunk of her car. She had put them there on her way home so that if she decided to change before she got to her parent’s house she would not have to dig in the luggage. ‘Yes, that is it. I will go get that outfit. Thank you God!!’
Sierra got the outfit, along with a pair of tan sandals out of her trunk, ran inside to put them on, and waited for Andrea. ‘It is about ten till six,’ Judith announced as she headed toward the door, ‘Anyone riding with me needs to be in the car before I put it in reverse.’ ‘Go ahead mom;’ Alisa called out, ‘Andrea is almost ready, she and Sierra can ride with me.’ ‘Okay, but don’t be late!’ Judith said as she closed the door behind her.
‘I’m ready mom,’ Sierra shouted, ’Andrea; I will just ride with mom. I will see you there!” Sierra didn’t want to take a chance on being late and having to interrupt the youth meeting when she arrived. She thought it would be best to go with her mother and get there on time.
Judith could see that Sierra was nervous with anticipation. ‘You look really pretty, I think Grayson will be glad you came,’ she said to her. ‘Thanks mother, you always know what to say to make me feel better about things. You know you got me into this mess don’t you,’ Sierra cast the blame on her mother. ‘No honey, this was not me, it was a God thing, and don’t you forget it!’ With that, Judith backed out of the driveway and headed to the church.