Unconditional, p.15

Unconditional, page 15



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It was interesting, how much different it was to play with She Likes the Weather at a venue—for example, a restaurant—and ministering to the Lord and His people in His house.

  When she played with the band, she could be transported by the music. No matter what kind of day she’d had, no matter what had happened to her, she could shut everything out and just play her violin, putting all else aside.

  Yet when it came to playing for the Lord’s glory, which in reality, she did at all times, but more at a time like this, sometimes circumstances got in the way. Suddenly, it was time to come down on herself for every little thought, every little word she shouldn’t have said, every negative emotion.

  And it was happening now, there in Lakeside Church. How quiet it was, not a peep out of anyone, in those seats lined up in the church’s banquet hall. Valerie sat on the stool, took a deep breath, and tucked the violin under her chin, getting the bow in position. Her gaze found Josh, seated there to the left in the front row beside his father. He was smiling tenderly at her, his work-calloused hands folded in between his knees.

  Possession and armed robbery. That night, no matter what she did, those words would just not stop taunting her. She was supposed to be ministering, not dwelling on those things.

  Valerie closed her eyes. She guessed everyone must have thought she was just such a serious virtuoso! Closing her eyes and letting the music flow from her soul to that instrument. Instead, she was praying.

  Father, my Lord, help me to understand what’s going on with Josh. Help me and protect me. I don’t want to be hurt again. I’m so disappointed, Lord. Why can’t he just be the person I thought he was? I’m so, so disappointed…

  Even if she was to stay with him, could she ever tell those closest to her about Josh’s past? How would Mom take that, especially, knowing her daughter’s boyfriend had gone to prison? Knowing Kylie, she had taken a liking to Josh, but that would be a deal breaker.

  People in her own church. Pastor. Her other friends. What would people think?

  The only one you ever have to worry about is Me. What do I think about someone in your life? Don’t be concerned about what others think. Just keep in mind how your Savior feels about it.

  Was that the Lord speaking to her heart? Or her own thoughts? She was confused, lost as to what to do with this new information.

  And she had heard it from Zed. He hadn’t exactly endeared himself to her by divulging that secret.

  That…piece of gossip. Because that was what it was. Obviously, someone had gone about telling others confidential information, the construction company that had hired Josh. The boss had given him a chance by giving him a job, but now someone had shared that information about Josh having served time to others. Morgan, Zed’s cousin—who knows who else he’d told, who else in town now knew.

  Valerie didn’t appreciate Zed telling her. He hadn’t done it to protect her. A small part of his reasoning might have been with that purpose in mind, but the major reason was to cast Josh in the worst light possible, to make him look badly, like some criminal.

  And he had been a criminal. Once.

  Possession and armed robbery.

  And he still hadn’t said one word about it, either.

  Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found; was blind but now I see…

  Though she was playing an instrumental cover of that song, she knew that what followed were original lyrics written and sung by Chris Tomlin. Words that spoke about being set free from chains, from the imprisonment of sin, and a God whose love was deeper and more powerful than any ocean or any force on earth. Or, for that matter, any shameful past in a person’s life.

  If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation. Christ came to call the sinner, not the righteous, to repentance.

  Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.

  Halfway through her song, people rose to their feet in worship. They lifted their hands and uttered quiet, loving words of praise. Two of those people were Josh and his father.

  Lord, forgive me for judging him. I was a wretch when You found me, too. I would still be a wretch without You. And forgive me for being disappointed. Josh is Yours. He belongs to You. He is a new creation. But I want the truth, Lord, to come from him. Not from Zed or April or anyone else.

  People applauded and directed their praise to the Lord when she was done ministering through music. As the associate pastor, a man named Wayne, came up to thank her and give a brief teaching, she took her violin and bow with her back to her seat beside Josh.

  “That was so good, baby,” he whispered and squeezed her hand. “It was a real blessing. Real blessing.”

  “Oh…I’m glad.” She set her violin and its bow beside her. Rather than interrupt the teaching, she could put it back in its case afterwards.

  “So proud of you, baby,” he added. “I love seeing you with the band, but playing for the Lord, even better. Proud of you.”

  Valerie only nodded and dropped her gaze. What could she say? Minutes earlier, she’d confided to God that she was disappointed in Josh. Now here he was, lavishing praise on her, telling her how proud he was of her. Guilt jabbed sharply at her.

  Leaning forward slightly, his father grinned and gave her a nod, mouthing the words, Very nice.

  Luckily, Wayne’s teaching didn’t pertain to anything she was currently dealing with, rather centering on how making time for God every day—for prayer, for reading His Word—changed the tone of that same day.

  Following the message, there was a time of fellowship during which people talked and partook of refreshments, which that night included coffee, soda, pound cake and homemade brownies.

  “Oh—there she is! There’s my baby girl!”

  Typically, that announcement, boisterously delivered by her mother, would have made Valerie roll her eyes. Tonight she welcomed the interruption, that break from wondering how she would leave that night without Josh. She was seriously craving time to herself, time to think.

  “Is she not beautiful?” Mom gushed with an arm around Valerie’s shoulders and a cup of coffee in her other hand. “And—not because she’s my daughter, of course—but she’s so talented.”

  Mom, pleeeeeease! Valerie thought, holding fast to her smile.

  Who was that, beaming back at her? An attractive, tall man around her mother’s age stood, dressed in a dark denim jeans and a pressed white, short-sleeved shirt. He also held a cup of coffee in one hand.

  “You must be…” she began.

  “Drew Lingerfelt, honey. I could not wait for him to meet you. And Drew…” Linda paused, nodding at him. “This is my daughter, Valerie. I named her after a Monkee’s song. Is that not cute? Great song, loved it! I spelled her name differently, though. Anyway, she’s my only child. The apple of my eye.”

  “Yes. You really are the apple of her eye.” Drew offered his hand for her to shake. “I’m very happy to finally meet you.”

  “Same here.”

  How strange was that? A first: meeting her mother’s—what did she call him? Boyfriend? He was in his fifties. Gentleman friend?

  “We’ve known each other for a long time,” Linda explained. “I knew Drew before I met your father. Back when we were growing up in Weehawken. Oh, Drew, this is a friend of my daughter’s, Josh Coleman.”

  Her mother was adept at that. Hopping from one topic to another with aplomb. Valerie watched as Drew and Josh exchanged pleasantries, and then one more person was introduced.

  “This is my dad,” Josh said, drawing his father closer by the crook of his arm. “Walter Coleman. Dad, this is Linda, Valerie’s mom, and her friend, Drew.”

  The parents commandeered the conversation then, as casually as if they’d all known each other for years. They talked about Josh’s dad coming down to live soon in Hathaway, about what a hot and yet pleasant summer it was turning out to be, about Pastor Wayne’s message and Valerie’s performance.

  All the while, she and Josh
were exchanging glances and smiles. The end of that night couldn’t come soon enough for her. She wanted to get home, make herself a cup of Oolong tea, change into her pajamas and read the Word. Before bed, she was going to have a heart-to-heart talk with her Father.

  Then Josh took her by the arm and led her away from the parents’ circle.

  “I wonder…you got a little time tonight?” he asked.

  “Uh—a little. Why?”

  “Want to walk on the beach with me? There’s something I want to talk to you about.”

  Oh-kay. Here we go.

  All at once, she felt nervous. She hadn’t expected to have to deal with the subject that night. Yet maybe it was better to get it out of the way.

  “Okay. Sure,” she said.

  “Let me just give my dad my car keys. He can drive home. You mind driving to Wildwood?”

  “Not at all. Give me a second, too. I’ll meet you out front in a few minutes.”

  “Sure, Val. Take your time.”

  It didn’t have to take very long. She could have done it out in her car, but she wasn’t sure how fast Josh would get there after saying good night to his dad. After saying goodbye to her mother, Drew Lingerfelt and quite a few people who’d come up to greet her and thank her for coming to play, Valerie stepped out into the hallway. On her way into the dining hall she had passed a restroom right beside the choir room, which was locked because of the equipment inside. The small bathroom would be perfect for those moments, and no one would have noticed her.

  With her back to the door and a hand to her chest, she closed her eyes and prayed.

  “Lord, I wasn’t ready for this conversation tonight. You know I was just going to go home and talk to You. Well, to be honest…I was just going to disappear. Or try to, from Josh’s life. But I don’t really want to do that. All I want to say right now are two things. First, I trust You. I never really had an earthly father because he’s never been interested in me, Lord, but I was never without my Heavenly Father. Now, after coming to You, I know that You’ve always been there, with me and Mom. I know You’ll protect me and help me not to hurt Josh if I have to break this off…”

  Valerie pulled in a deep breath. “But, Lord, I don’t want to walk away if this is the one. If Josh is the one for me, I will always regret leaving him behind. I don’t feel that way about Zed, but you know Josh is—well, Lord, please, in Your Son’s name I pray, let me see Josh through Your eyes...”


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