Choosing to continue …

I have decided to continue with this blog and to publish the writing I am currently doing on it in a serialized fashion. I am going to resume writing my story that is currently called The Babylonian Adventure – Dinner with the Queen. I had gotten to a point with it where I was stuck. The actual story of Esther takes place over a period of years and wasn’t something I could throw the kids into and get them out of quickly with any sort of continuity. I figured a way out of that and will be working on that. In the meantime, I will repost the beginning of the story again. I am more hopeful of moving forward with it because I was able to add another 1100+ words to it today in about an hour.  So, here we go!

The Babylonian Adventure – Dinner with the Queen

Chapter One

Babylon – 480 BC

“Is there enough food and wine for everyone?” The queen asked of no one in particular.

A tall, muscular young man behind her stepped forward and answered quickly, “Yes, your majesty. All is as you requested. Everyone is being given whatever they ask for. No request is denied.” He then bowed low and assumed his previous position.

The sun-splashed walls of the queen’s pavilion, decorated with the same white cotton curtains and blue wall hangings the queen had chosen for the king’s pavilion, echoed with conversation and laughter. Queen Vashti paused, golden goblet in hand and listened to the laughter and conversation and watched her many guests. Very proud of what she saw, Vashti smiled. Surely this will make King Xerxes proud of me. I am his equal in every way.

The entire kingdom of the Medes and Persians had been celebrating for one hundred and eighty days and were now in the final day of seven days of feasting. All men were welcome at the king’s feast and all women were welcome at the queen’s feast where the food and wine flowed abundantly and freely.

In the hallway, six men jostled each other and joked as they walked down the hall approaching the queen’s pavilion. They stopped at the doorway, formed a line and assumed a more serious demeanor. The two on the outer ends stepped forward and opened the massive double doors and standing erect, held them open while the other four stepped forward.

The room grew quiet as the six tall, lean and muscular men dressed in the style of the eunuchs of the royal household, entered. Several of the women whispered quietly, a few giggled.

Harbona, the tallest, stepped forward and announced loudly, “His Royal Majesty, King Xerxes of the mighty empire of the Medes and Persians, sends his greetings and requests the presence of  Queen Vashti at the king’s feast, wearing her royal crown.” He then bowed and stepped back into line with his companions.

Queen Vashti rose but kept her back to the eunuchs, “Why does the king request the queen’s presence wearing her royal crown?”

Harbona stepped forward again and replied, “The king wishes for the nobles and all of the other men to see your great beauty, your majesty.”

Queen Vashti turned to face Harbona, her cheeks flushed. “Please tell the king that I am busy with my own guests and will not be put on display to be leered at by his drunken guests. That is all, you may leave.”

Harbona bowed. “As you wish, your majesty.”

The six did an about face and left the room, closing the doors behind them.

The queen slowly returned to her seat and attempted to resume conversation; the room quickly filled with murmuring.

No one had ever defied the King before.

 

Harbona and the others entered the king’s banquet room discreetly and quietly. With a slight quaver in his voice he said, “Your Majesty?”

King Xerxes, turned slowly. Behind him, Harbona and the other five eunuchs stood stiff at attention, in a straight line.

“Where is the queen?”

“Um, may the king live forever…”

“Come on, out with it, Harbona!”

“Your majesty. The queen sends her regrets that she will be unable to join you this evening.”

Xerxes leaned forward.

“Were those her exact words?”

Harbona flushed and looked at the marble floor.

“No, your majesty. They were not.”

“Then tell me exactly what she said!”

Harbona repeated her words exactly.

Xerxes lept up, his face turning bright red.

“Say that again, louder, for all to hear!”

“Queen Vashti said, ‘Please tell the king that I am busy with my own guests and will not be put on display to be leered at by his drunken guests.’”

Xerxes eyes began to bulge out. He sputtered and then shouted, “How dare she defy her King?”

The room fell silent.

No one had ever defied the King before.

The King immediately departed the banquet hall and called a meeting of his seven most trusted advisors, men who knew the law better than anyone in the kingdom, the most powerful men in the empire.

“What can I do about this supreme embarrassment? No one has ever defied me — or any king — before. And to have the queen be the first? Something must be done. Tell me, what does the law say?”

Memucan, the leader of the seven solemnly stood and said, “Queen Vashti has committed an act that not only wronged the King, she has set a precedent for all women everywhere in the empire. If she is not dealt with severely, the wives of every noble and citizen will begin to defy and despise their husbands once they hear of the Queen’s defiance.”

“We would like to suggest that the king issue a written decree, a law of the Persians and Medes which cannot be revoked. Order that Queen Vashti forever banished from your presence, King Xerxes. We also think it wise that the king should choose another to be his  queen, one more worthy than she. We will publish this decree throughout the empire.  Husbands everywhere, of every rank, will receive from their wives, their due and proper respect!”

The king sat and thought about this for several minutes. No one dared disturb him. Finally, he stood and said simply, “Do as you say.”

And so the decree was written, sealed with his royal ring by the king’s highest advisor  and sent to all corners of the empire. Queen Vashti was taken on a caravan to a place outside the empire which stretched across one hundred and twenty seven provinces, from India to Ethiopia and she was never heard from again.

After the King’s anger left him, he missed his queen. His personal advisors offered to search the empire far and wide for another queen. “Let us send envoys to each province to bring back only the most fair and beautiful young women to the royal harem. Then the king may choose, from among them, a new queen more worthy than Vashti.”

The king was very pleased by this idea and sent them forth to find a new queen.

The Story of Esther – Part 6 – Conclusion

King:                           Queen Esther we have eaten your excellent food for two days now, what is it that you request from me? I will give you anything that you request up to half of my kingdom!

Esther:                        (With her heart beating so loudly in her chest that she was afraid that the king might hear it.) If I have found favor with you, my king, and, if it pleases your majesty, please grant me my life. This is my request. Also, that you spare my people, this also is my request. For I and my people have been condemned to horrible punishment and…and…I can‘t even say it! If we had just been sold like fruits and vegetables in the market, I would have kept quiet and not disturbed the king. But, that is not the case . . .

King:                           Who is he, where is he that would do such a thing???

Esther:                        (Standing and pointing at Haman) Here he is, your majesty, the foul villain Haman!!

Esther accusing Haman

Mr. Mathisen:             Now Haman nearly choked on a bit of bread that he was eating and began to sputter food all over himself and the table. He was suddenly more frightened than he had ever been in his whole life. He did not know what to do. He did not know, nor would he have ever guessed that this lovely young queen was a Jew! How could he have known?

The king got up and walked quickly to a nearby garden to think. While he was gone, Haman went up to the queen and began groveling at her feet, pleading for his life. Just as he was doing that the king came back in and found him on the floor clutching at the queen’s feet whimpering for his life. The king thought that Haman was attacking the queen. The king called his servants and ordered Haman to be taken away. Another of the kings servants told the king that Haman had built a huge device in front of his home to punish Mordecai the Jew. The king then ordered that Haman be punished on the very device that he had prepared for Mordecai.

Haman being led to the gallows

Esther explained the whole story to the king. The king then sent for Mordecai and gave him his royal signet ring and appointed him to Haman’s old job. Esther and Mordecai then explained to the king about the proclamation and asked that the king issue a new proclamation saying that the Jews in the country could defend themselves from others that tried to harm them. He did so and on the day appointed the Jews all over the country assembled together to defend themselves. That day is remembered by Jews today as the feast of Purim.

So, always remember to be strong and very courageous and never be afraid to do the right thing.

Stanley:                       Boy! That was some story. Queen Esther sure was brave, even if she was a girl.

Mr. Mathisen:             Stanley, girls can be just as brave as boys. Remember it God who makes us really brave. We can’t be very brave at all without Him. Well, boys and girls, what do you think???

The Story of Esther – Part 6

That night the king could not sleep, so he had one of his servants read to  him the history of his kingdom. When the servant got to the part where Mordecai spoiled the plan of the bad men to kill the king, there was no record of Mordecai being rewarded. So the king decided to figure out how to honor the man who saved his life. By this time, it was early in the morning and Haman came to see the king early to ask for permission to punish Mordecai. The king decided to ask Haman what should be done to honor someone that the king wanted to reward.

King:            Haman, my faithful friend, there is a man in my kingdom that I want to honor. What should I do to honor him?

(Now Haman was so proud that he thought that the king was talking about him, so he said…)

Haman:       Your Majesty, you should dress this man in your own royal robes, let him ride on your own royal horse, let him wear your crown and have one of your most noble princes walk before the man as he rode through the whole city and shout out for all to hear “This is what is done for a man that the king delights to honor!”.

King:           Excellent Haman!! Excellent!! Now go and do all of this for Mordecai the Jew who works at the King’s Gate. Do not forget to do anything that you have suggested.

Mr. Mathisen:   Now Haman was so surprised he could not even speak. He went and did as the king commanded, he put the king’s robe and crown on Mordecai, set him on the king’s horse and led him through the streets of the city shouting “This is what is done for a man that the king delights to honor!”. Haman nearly choked on the words at times, but, did as the king instructed.

He went home with his head covered in shame. He was telling his wife all about what happened when the king’s servants came to get him to take him to the banquet with the king and queen. He was not feeling good about his day. In fact, so far, it had been the worst day of his life. But he cheered up at the thought of the meal with the king and queen. They were honoring him be requesting his presence.

When he arrived at the palace, he was taken directly to the queen’s dining rooms where the feast was to be served. He noticed all of the rich tapestries that decorated the walls, the fine furniture. The table was set with the fanciest dishes and the food. The food! It was the finest and richest in all the land. He was about to enjoy the company of the king, his beautiful young queen and the best food he had ever eaten.

The king was in a happy mood and looked lovingly at his new queen much of the time. Haman told amusing stories about his services to the king. The queen ate slowly and did not raise her head during the meal. When the king and Haman were finished with the meal, the king leaned forward and asked the Queen:

King:           Queen Esther we have eaten your excellent food for two days now, what is it that you request from me? I will give you anything that you request up to half of my kingdom!

The Story of Esther – Part 5

Esther sent a message back to Mordecai to pray & fast for her for the next three days. She also told him that she and her ladies would do the same thing.

After the three days, Esther put on her best courage and her best royal robes and went confidently to the king’s hall. She stood just inside the entrance and waited for the king to notice her. As she stood there, she became frightened for just one little moment but, then she remembered what Mordecai had told her about being strong and courageous and that God may have made her queen “for just such a time as this”. Her courage returned stronger than ever, and she stood just a bit taller than before. The king did notice her, was very happy to see her and asked her to come to him. As she approached, she touched the tip of his royal scepter.

Esther waiting to see the king

Stanley:                       Scepter, what’s a scepter? Is that like a scimitar. That’s a sword isn’t it. I know it is. It’s big and long and curved and SHARP!

Mr. Mathisen:             No, Stanley, a scepter is not a sword it is a staff, a ceremonial staff, rod, or wand used as an emblem of a monarch’s authority. Here, have a picture of the king and his staff. (show slide of picture…)

Now, to continue the story, the king was very glad to see Esther and asked her what she want:

King:                           “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request?”

Esther:                        “If it pleases the king, let the king, together with Haman come today to a banquet I have prepared for the king.”

King:                           “Bring Haman at once, so that we may do what the Queen asks.”

Mr. Mathisen:             And so it was, that both the king and Haman went to dine with Queen Esther. She provided for them the best food and drink in the whole kingdom, and they were both very pleased. When it was all over, Esther had still not figured out exactly how to tell the king what Haman had done so she invited them both back to another banquet the next day.

Haman was filled with pride that he had been asked to dine with the king and queen. He headed straight home to tell his wife how proud he was. He couldn’t help but strut and swagger as he headed toward the King’s Gate. As usual, Mordecai was on duty at the gate and refused to bow to Haman as he passed. That made Haman madder than he had ever been in his life. While he had planned to go home to his wife and brag to her, he now paced back and forth in his home and shouted out his anger about Mordecai. His wife said since he was so mad, maybe he should so something about it. Build yourself a big machine to punish Mordecai. That will make you feel better. Ask permission from the king to punish Mordecai on it. That will make you happy when you go to the banquet tomorrow with the king and queen. Mordecai ordered the machine built right in front of his house. He wanted everyone to see Mordecai being punished for not bowing to him.

The Story of Esther – Part 4

Haman:                       Your most exalted majesty, are you aware that there is a certain group of people scattered throughout your lands that do not follow your laws? They only follow their own laws and their laws are contrary to your laws. This is not good for your kingdom. I think that you should declare a law (of the Medes & Persians that can never be broken) that these awful, terrible, despicable people should be punished and removed from your kingdom. (Now remember that Haman did not know that Queen Esther was Mordecai’s cousin and a Jew herself.)

haman talking to king

Stanley:                     That’s horrible! He didn’t get away with that did he?

Mr. Mathisen:             Actually, Stanley, he did. The king did not know who these people were and just believed whatever Haman told him (a very dangerous thing to do). He had no idea that it would mean that someone would kill his own queen and the man that had saved his life. So, the king signed the new law (of the Medes & Persians that could never be broken), and Haman left with the proclamation a very happy man. The new law said that on a certain day all of the Jews in the whole country were to be punished and their property taken. He sent copies of the new law that the local rulers in every area of the country.

Now, when Mordecai found out about this new law he did the same as the other Jews, he ripped his robes, put on sackcloth and poured ashes all over himself and went up and down the street moaning and wailing. (By the way so did Jews all over the country when the news became known. They ripped their clothes, put ashes on themselves, put on sackcloth and mourned loudly in the streets…oh, what a noise they made!)

Mordecai could not go through the King’s gate this way so, he didn‘t visit with Esther for several days. She  became concerned when she did not hear from or see him for several days. She did not know about the new law and was just worried about her cousin. Finally, a servant told her what Mordecai was doing, and she sent a servant to bring him new clothes and to find out what was bothering him. He sent the clothes back to Esther with a message telling her what was wrong and sent a copy of the new law. He also told the servant to ask Esther to go to the king about the new law.

Esther sent back a message saying that the king had not called to see her for several weeks and if she went to see the king without him asking to see her…the punishment was….well…it was too horrible to say.

Stanley:                       Now THAT girl was in a pickle! I’m glad it wasn’t me!!

Mr. Mathisen:              You’re sure right, Stanley. But listen up because here’s what happens next: Mordecai sent her a message back saying that the fate of all of her people and her own life as well was up to her. He said in the message: “Perhaps, just perhaps, God put you in this position just for such a time as this. Be strong and very courageous!”

The Story of Esther – Part 3

At the palace, she was given the finest clothing, the most expensive beauty treatments and the best food in all the land. She was soon kept so busy every day with new activities that she forgot that this was all designed to make her even more beautiful to the king. They must have worked because, as soon as the king saw Esther, he seemed to forget all the other young women and made her his queen. Queen Esther of Persia! Esther was excited, proud and frightened all at once, but remembered what Mordecai had told her about being strong and courageous. When she remembered that, she prayed to the Lord for strength and felt much better.

Now, Mordecai went on with his duties as the gatekeeper at the King’s Gate to the city. He thought about Esther every day and would often walk by the palace to see if he could catch a glimpse of her. Soon they discovered that they could send messages to each other by way of her servants, and Mordecai also would visit her window occasionally and continued to encourage Esther in her new life.

One day at the gate, Mordecai heard some men talking about a plan to kill the king…

Mordecai-at-the-Gate-overhearing-the-plot

Ali:                              We got the WORD Abdul! We got a dozen of the kings own guards in on it with us, and we’re gonna do it TONIGHT!

Abdul:                         Are you sure about everything, Ali? We don’t want no slip-ups. Are you sure we can count on them guards?

Ali:                              Yeah, it’s gonna be a cinch! The high prince that’s planning this thing has left nothing to chance. He’s got it all planned down to the last detail. We’re gonna be rollin’ in gold!

Abdul:                         Yeah, I can feel it in my hands already. HA HA HA HA…..

Mr. Mathisen:             Now Mordecai sent a hurried message to Esther and told her all about what he had heard. She sent a servant to the King saying that “Mordecai the Jew overheard a plot on the king’s life”. The king investigated the plot and stopped the plotters in their tracks. Mordecai had saved the life of the king. But…the king forgot…and the whole incident was soon forgotten. And, no one suspected the Queen Esther was Mordecai’s cousin or that she was herself a Jew.

Now one of the King’s highest advisors was an evil man named Haman. Haman was a very proud man and demanded that everyone bow to him whenever he walked by. He would go through the King’s Gate and demand that everyone bow to him as he went through it. Everyone did, that is, except for Mordecai. You see, as a Jew, Mordecai would bow to no one except God. Everyone else saw that and that made Haman really mad. And, because Mordecai would not bow to him, Haman began to try to think of a way to get back at Mordecai for embarrassing him. After thinking for awhile, Haman decided to not only get even with Mordecai but with all of the Jews in the whole land. One day he went to go see the king…

The Story of Esther – with Stanley – Part 2

Well, later that day the order came down from the palace for all of the most beautiful young women in the kingdom to come to the palace. The king would select one of them to be the new queen. Mordecai got a little worried because Esther was just the same age they were looking for and very beautiful. He hurried home that afternoon anxious to see and talk to her.

He arrived home to a find a guard from the palace outside his door. He went in just in time to see Esther finish packing to go to the palace…

Mordecai:                   Esther, my child! Is it true? Have you been chosen to go to the palace to be one of those that may be selected as the new queen?

Esther:                        Yes, cousin Mordecai. I don’t want to go. But, I have to go. I have no choice. It is the King’s command. There is a guard waiting to take me. I am so frightened! How will I live away from you? Who will take care of you?

Mordecai:                   Oh, my child! I do not want to believe it, but, we must accept the will of the King. Sit down for a moment and we will pray before you go.

O Lord of the Heavens and the Earth! O Lord the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, watch over this child of yours, my young cousin Esther that has been as a daughter to me these many years. Please watch over her and guide her. Let her know that she will never be out of your sight and that you will protect her for I know that she has loved you from her youth.

Esther, my child, be strong and very courageous. That is what Joshua told his people when they were about to enter the land of Israel. You must also be strong and very courageous for I believe that, perhaps, you were created for such a time as this.

Do not tell the people in the palace that you are Jewish or that you are my cousin, for you know that Haman hates me and all of our people. Promise me, now…

Esther:                        I promise, my cousin. You have been like a father to me, and I will be strong and very courageous for I do know that the Lord is with us His children and I will obey your word. It is time for me to go now.

Mr. Mathisen:             So off she went to the palace, Mordecai did not know if he would ever see her again.

Stanley:                       (Sniffing & crying a bit) That’s so sad…was she ever heard from again??

Mr. Mathisen:             Yes, Stanley,  she was, that’s why we are telling her story!

Stanley:                       (Sniffing and sounding more cheerful) Oh, yeah, that’s right…ok, what’s next?

Mr. Mathisen:             Esther bravely went (well, she was trying to be brave anyway) to the palace to be prepared to meet the king. She wasn’t really sure how she felt about the possibility of becoming the queen of the mighty Persian empire.

PersianEmpire

She looked all around her street as she followed the palace guard. Tears began to well up in her eyes. So much so that, it became a little hard for her to  see as she walked slowly away from her home and the familiar street she had grown up on. Everything was just a little blurry…

The Story of Esther – with Stanley – Part 1

The Story of Esther

By: God

Adapted by: S.C. Mathisen

Mr. Mathisen:             A long time ago, far, far away, back during the time when the children of Israel were being held captive in a place called Persia. They were there because they had disobeyed the Lord by worshipping other gods and being very wicked. There lived in that land, at that time,  a young Jewish girl named Esther. Now, some of you have probably heard or read her story before, but, this story does not contain any unmade sandwiches, falling birthday cakes or songs about puppies.

Stanley:                       Boy, that‘s not going to be much fun!

Mr. Mathisen:             Stanley, lots of stories are fun just to listen to and to imagine in your mind what is being told. Can you do that?

Stanley:                       Well…

Mr. Mathisen:             Sure you can! Now sit still and be good and try to imagine yourself back in Persia about 2,450 years ago. I think that it might have been early on a Wednesday morning, and the sun was just beginning to warm the stones of the gate and Mordecai the Gatekeeper was about to go on duty. Now, Mordecai was a middle-aged man, slightly round, with a full graying beard and the hair on the top of his head was starting to get thin.

He was just thinking about his young cousin Esther. She was growing up quickly into a very beautiful young woman and how he ought to be thinking about finding her a husband soon. “How time has flown by” he thought to himself, “since her parents died, and she came to live with me.” “These days she takes more care of me than I do of her, hmm, what a girl she is!”

Well, Mordecai arrived at the King’s gate and took over the running of the gate from the man that had stood watch over the gate during the night. As the two men stood talking about the news of the day, the night man (his name was Ira, by the way). Ira was just telling Mordecai what had happened the night before in the palace. Let’s listen in a little:

Mordecai_in_king's_gate_BBL72-727

Ira:                              So, Mordecai, my friend there was such a scene last night that you would not believe.

Mordecai:                   What do you mean Ira? I know that the King has been holding a feast for his royal friends for the last week. I also know that the King tends to drink too much at his feasts and usually does something silly to show off. What did he do this time?

Ira:                              You’re not going to believe what he did, you’re just NOT going to believe it.

Mordecai:                   Alright! Enough already with “you’re not going to believe it”! What did he DO???

Ira:                              He got rid of Queen Vashti! She didn’t obey a royal command, and he just sent her away and she is NO LONGER QUEEN! Can you believe it??

Mr. Mathisen:             Needless to say, Mordecai was astonished at this. He didn’t know that a king could send his queen away! He especially didn’t think that King Ahasueres would do that, but, the king has done some strange things during these feasts of his. He was just glad that this had nothing to do with him or Esther. They and the rest of the Jews in Persia were leading quiet lives during their captivity even if some people did not seem to like them very much.

The Babylonian Adventure – Dinner with the Queen – Part Two

Here is the next installment in my updated story of Esther…remember this is still in draft form.

Seattle  – Present Day

The doorbell rang at the cozy three-bedroom craftsman home of the Johnson family.

“Stan, would you get the door? Please? It’s probably Jon and Andrea and I’m not ready yet!” A young female voice called from the upstairs bathroom.

Stan put down his cereal spoon, stood up and yelled back up the stairs, “I know, I know, Susie, I already figured that out. They always show up to walk to church with us on Sundays.”

“Stan! Call me Sue. I’m fourteen now and Susie is a kid’s name.”

“Oh yeah, right and I’m ten. So, it’s my job to annoy you, Susie!”

“Oh, thanks Stanley!”

“Ok, ok! I’m going, I’m going! Sue!”

Stan opened the front door. “Hi Jon, hi Andrea, come on in. Sue is still upstairs. I’m just finishing my breakfast.”

Jon put his hand on Stan’s shoulder. “Let’s go see what kind of goodies your mom left out in the kitchen, Stan.”

Andrea shouted up the stairs, “Ok if I come up? Jon and Stan are headed to the kitchen.”

“You bet! I’m in my room.”

Andrea bounded up the stairs, went straight to the first bedroom on the right, bounced onto the bed, fell flat on her back blew out some air and said, “Oh man!”

“What’s up, Andrea? You sound frustrated.”

“Oh, nothing. Just everything all at the same time.”

“Huh? If you’re trying to confuse me, it’s working.”

“It’s Jack, you know…”

“I know, you’ve been talking about him non-stop for the last few weeks. What’s the problem? Is he moving to the moon?

”Almost Sue, he’s moving to Vermont!”

“What?”

“His dad got a teaching job at a college in Burlington, Vermont and they have to be there in five days!”

“Wow! That’s fast, but you two never actually had a thing, right?”

“Well, no, not really. It’s just that…I wanted to. And now he is moving away.”

Sue turned to look at her friend and saw a tear welling up in her eye.

“You know.” Sue sat down on the bed beside Andrea. “Maybe God has someone or something better in mind for you.”

“Yeah? Well, I sure wish he would tell me what it is.”

“Andrea, I don’t think it works that way.”

“I’m just saying that a little clarity would be good. I don’t really need a big billboard or anything. I just want some kind of clear sign that this is ok and he has some other plan for me. All I know is that I feel cruddy.”

Sue leaned over and looked her friend in the eye. “Do you want to pray about it?”

“Nah, thanks though. I guess I just needed to get it off my chest. Thanks for listening, Sue.”

Sue stood up and picked up her purse and her Bible, “Well, if you don’t mind I’m going to pray for you anyway.”

“Cool! Thanks!” Andrea popped up off of the bed. “Hey, how about if I run ahead and get us some seats in the high school room. I might be able to see Jack and, and…say goodbye or something.”

“That’d be great! Thanks!”

“Ok, see ya!”

Andrea flew down the stairs and out the door in a flash,

Following, Sue walked down the stairs praying for her friend. She prayed that Andrea might see God’s hand at work in her life without needing big signs.

Sue concluded her prayer with. “Lord, please help me to be as firm in my belief as I hope I sounded to Andrea. Sometimes, I have trouble seeing it and believing it myself. Amen.”

# # #

Here is the link to the previous installment: http://wp.me/p19Ob2-6l