Makin miracles, p.15

Makin' Miracles, page 15


Makin' Miracles

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  “I came to this trail later and I got real excited then, thinking it would lead back to our shelter, but it didn’t. Uphill led me to a campsite and the end of the trail, so I started back down the trail then, hoping I would find someone. I was really glad to get out of the woods and all that underbrush and stuff.” He brushed at scratches on his arms and face.

  Spencer started cleaning up the scratches with water and a clean cloth. He handed Zola a tube of ointment to spread over them.

  “I was doing all right, I guess, for a kid, until it got dark. Then I couldn’t see and it was really creepy and scary.” He made a face.

  “I kept going but then I tripped and fell in this hole or something. Man, my ankle hurt when I tried to walk. I managed to get down the trail a little more using a stick and I found this campsite area.”

  His voice broke. “I knew I couldn’t go on.” He pointed. “I slept over there under that rock overhang. And I put leaves all over me to stay warm.”

  “That was smart,” Spencer commented.

  Eddie grinned. “I saw it on this TV show once.” Less cocky now, he added, “I thought maybe wild stuff wouldn’t find me hidden under the leaves, either.”

  “Seeing the bear sign probably didn’t give you a lot of comfort.”

  Eddie’s eyes widened. “I didn’t see that until this morning. I was real glad I didn’t see it last night.”

  Spencer laughed, in spite of himself. “Are you hungry, Eddie? Zola and I brought lunch. You can eat a little with us and then I’m going to piggyback you out of here.” He looked at Zola. “Do you think you could carry my pack and camera tripod if I carry Eddie?”

  “Sure.” She smiled at him.

  “I’m really glad you came,” Eddie said. “How’d you know my name and where to find me?”

  “Weren’t you praying?” Zola laid a hand over his.

  Eddie dropped his eyes. “Yeah. Big time.”

  “Well, God heard and He sent us.”

  Eddie looked amazed. “No kidding? How’d He do that?”

  “I saw a picture of you in my mind, and Spencer helped me know where the picture was from the times he’s hiked in the mountains around here taking photographs.”

  “Cool.” Eddie looked from Zola to Spencer with an awed expression. “Did God tell you my name, too?”

  “He did. He was really concerned about you.”

  “Wow. I’m going to tell my granddad that. He’s our minister as well as my granddad. He always told me God answers prayer and to never forget to pray. He was, like, really right, wasn’t he?”

  Zola smiled. “Yes, he was really right.” She handed him a half sandwich. “Here, eat this. There are some chips and sugar cookies, too.”

  Eddie gobbled down lunch, and Spencer, after eating some of his own, took photos of Eddie before they started back down the mountain.

  It was a three-and-a-half-mile hike down from the campsite, but, fortunately, they ran into some other hikers at the Huskey Gap Trail intersection. The two men took turns piggybacking Eddie down to the trailhead. One of the men carried a cell phone with him, and as soon as they got in range of the campground, he was able to call in to let the ranger station know Eddie had been found.

  “What’s your last name?” one of the men asked.

  “DeLozier,” he said. “Eddie DeLozier. I’m with Scout Troop 284 out of Knoxville, and our leader’s name is Mr. Warren.” He bit his lip. “It’s not Mr. Warren’s fault I got lost. You tell them that.”

  Spencer smiled at Zola over this comment.

  Shortly before they got to the end of the trail, Zola laid a hand on Eddie’s cheek. “I’m real glad you’re all right, Eddie. But I’d appreciate it if you only told the rangers Spencer and I found you when hiking up the Little River Trail taking photographs.”

  She smiled at him. “Of course, you can tell your granddad and your family about God hearing your prayers, but I think it might be good if you didn’t tell the rangers and the people from the press all of that. I’m sure there will be photographers and reporters from the newspapers when we get to the end of the trail—all glad to report to the media that you’re okay. Everyone has been worried, you know.”

  The child nodded wisely. “Newspapers sometimes make God-stuff sound dumb. I’ve heard my granddad and my dad say that. My dad told me it’s because God-stuff isn’t very factual. He says newspapers like factual stuff.”

  “That’s it, Eddie.” She leaned over to give him a kiss on the cheek.

  The man carrying Eddie laughed then. “When all those media people get to heaven, they’re sure going to get a surprise about what’s really factual, aren’t they, lady?”

  “Yes, they are,” Zola said, laughing with him. “They certainly are.”

  Despite Eddie’s efforts at cover-up, Spencer and Zola still ended up in the newspaper for finding and rescuing Eddie. It made a good story, after all. Even the two men hikers ended up pictured in the newspaper for their part in helping to bring Eddie down the trail safely.

  A little over a week later, Spencer received a note in the mail from Eddie. He called Zola to tell her about it that evening.

  She laughed that warm, musical laugh of hers. “What did he say, Spencer? Read it to me.”

  “He said: ‘Dear Miss Zola and Mr. Spencer … Thanks for coming to find me when I was lost. I was scared and really glad you came. I’m glad you listened to God to know where I was. That was way cool…. Thanks for fixing my ankle, too. lt wasn’t broke, but I have a wrap for the sprain until it gets better. My scratches are all healed up, and I’ve only had one bad nightmare about a bear getting me… . My Granddad and my parents are going to bring me to see you when I get better. I hope that’s okay… . Your friend forever, Eddie.’ ”

  “Ahhh.” She sighed audibly. “Isn’t that the best? Thanks for calling to read that to me before I fell asleep. If you were here, I’d give you a big kiss, Spencer. That sweet letter made my day.”

  “You hold that kiss in thought until tomorrow. I’ll collect it when you come help me get ready for our houseful of friends coming for dinner.”

  She laughed. “Oh, I’d almost forgotten tomorrow night is when you’re having the potluck at your place.”

  “Yeah, and you promised to come early to help me before everyone arrives.”

  He heard her yawn. “Your place is beautiful, Spencer. I don’t know what you’re worried about. And it’s only friends that are coming—David and Rachel Lee, Aston and Carole, Clark and Stacy, and me.” She giggled. “You know, I still can’t figure out how Rachel Lee orchestrated getting Clark and Stacy together. She says they’ve actually had a date and really got along.”

  “I think Clark is a little smitten.”

  Spencer walked out onto the porch to check on Zeke, who was nosing around the bushes nearby. “Clark says Stacy likes Star Trek and Star Wars and that she has a cool collection of X-Men comics. He’s enchanted.”

  Zola’s laugh floated over the line once more. A warm happiness welled up in Spencer whenever he heard her laugh.

  “Eddie sent a picture,” Spencer told her, changing the subject.

  “He did?” Her voice rose in excitement.

  “Don’t get too excited. It’s one of those school photos, but it’s kind of cute. I have a better one that I took.”

  “But it’s sweet he sent one, isn’t it?”


  Her voice changed then, sounding suddenly tense. “Go get Zeke, Spencer. He’s nosing around under a tree where some yellow jackets have started building a nest. I don’t want him to get stung. Or you, either.”

  Spencer whistled for the shepherd while she was still talking. The dog reluctantly pulled away from the tree trunk, where he’d been nosing in the underbrush, to respond to his master’s call. Spencer could see a few yellow jackets flitting around even in the light from the porch.

  Zola was still talking. “After you put the dog up, Spencer, you go pump that hole full of wasp poison when it grows good a
nd dark—and after those yellow jackets settle down for the night. Put a plastic tarp over the nest, too, and then cover it with gravel and dirt to smother those wasps. It’s not a very big nest, yet, so it won’t be too dangerous to deal with it.”

  She paused. “You wait until the jackets settle down though, Spencer. Zeke stirred them up digging at their nest.”

  Spencer didn’t even ask anymore how Zola knew these things without being here or even seeing the insects starting to stir.

  “Promise you’ll be careful around those yellow jackets, you hear? They’re nasty when they get riled up.” He heard her sigh audibly. “You’ll need to call me a little later and let me know you’re all right after you deal with them. Will you do that? Otherwise, I’ll have trouble getting to sleep.”

  “I’ll call you,” he said, letting Zeke back into the house and heading for the kitchen to look for a can of wasp poison.

  “It’s under the kitchen sink,” she said, before clicking off the line.

  Spencer rolled his eyes before hanging up his own phone. “That woman was watching out for you, Zeke,” he told the dog.

  “But, mercy, her knowing things like she does gives me the creeps sometimes.”

  He wondered again if Zola was the sort of woman a man could be comfortable living with for a lifetime.


  Zola finished sprinkling the last of the coconut on her layer cake and checked the sausage-cheese balls in the oven. She was bringing dessert and appetizers to the potluck dinner at Spencer’s tonight.

  She looked at the list stuck on the refrigerator with a magnet. Spencer had ordered a baked ham and was providing the drinks. Rachel Lee and David were bringing fresh green beans and a potato salad, Stacy chocolate brownies for a second dessert item, and Clark nacho dip and tortilla chips. Aston was cooking a baked beans dish and Carole bringing spiced, cooked apples. They certainly wouldn’t have any lack of food.

  She heard a tap on the door and wiped her hands on a cloth before heading to answer it.

  To her surprise, it was Perry Ammons from the church.

  “Hi, Zola,” he said. “I was visiting Maude Gardner down the road and got an impulse to stop by. I hope it’s okay.”

  “It’s fine, Perry.” Zola opened the door to let him in. “Come on back to the kitchen. I’m getting ready to take something out of the oven. I can fix you a glass of iced tea and we can visit while I keep an eye on what I’m cooking.”

  “Mmmm, smells good.” He sniffed the air appreciatively as he followed her back to the kitchen.

  “It’s the sausage-cheese balls that smell so good. I’ll give you a few when they come out of the oven.” She gestured to a chair at the kitchen table. Then she took two glasses out of the cabinet to fill with cold tea already prepared in the refrigerator.

  Perry took a long sip of his iced tea after Zola sat it down beside him. “I hear I may have you to thank that I was asked to take the interim position as pastor at Highland.”

  Zola sat down at the table across from him. “Not really. I only planted a little seed idea with Reverend Madison one day. I’m sure he’d have asked you regardless of that. You’re a good minister, Perry.”

  “That’s Reverend Ammons to you now, Zola.” He grinned at her boyishly.

  She laughed. Zola had known Perry since they were kids. They’d gone to the same high school together.

  Perry toyed with a set of palm tree salt and pepper shakers on the kitchen table. “Actually, Vernon Madison told me he probably wouldn’t have thought to ask me to fill in when he moved if you hadn’t suggested it. He said he assumed I’d be too busy with the Creekside Wedding Chapel to carry a pastoral load.”

  “And are you?” Zola asked candidly.

  He smiled. “I might have been, except a retired minister, Henry Wheaton, moved in near Tracie and I a few months ago. Henry was already filling in for us at Creekside when we needed someone to do ceremonies. He’s handling most everything now that I’m at the church full-time. It’s working out great.”

  Zola remembered something Spencer asked her earlier. “What denomination are you ordained through, Perry? I don’t think you ever said.”

  “When I got converted back in high school and felt led to go into the ministry, the first person I told was the pastor at Highland Presbyterian then, Reverend Downey.”

  Zola couldn’t help interrupting. “I loved Reverend Downey. He was such a good, kind man.”

  “Well, I’d never gone to any church except for the times I visited with Tanner Cross at Highland, so Reverend Downey was the only minister I knew. He helped me get my scholarship to college, and, of course, all his ties were with the Cumberland Presbyterian College. So I went there.”

  She smiled. “So you do have the right degree!”

  He looked puzzled. “Is there a wrong degree, Zola?”

  “No, I mean you have the right degree—and the appropriate training—to take the position full-time at Highland if you’re asked.”

  “Ahhh. And are you seeing I should do that?” He grinned at Zola again.

  “Well, sure.” She got up to check the sausage balls and seeing they were ready pulled them out of the oven and set the second tray inside to bake. “You’d be perfect.”

  “Thanks for your confidence, Zola. But I still need to give a lot of prayer and thought to that, to see if I think it’s what God wants me to do. That’s important to me.”

  “I know that.” She handed him several sausage balls on a napkin. “It’s because I know how close your heart is to the Lord that I thought you’d be a good choice for Highland, Perry.”

  His eyes caught hers in question. “And was it your idea or God’s idea that I come in as interim, Zola?”

  Zola sat down across from him again. “Originally, it was God’s idea. It came to me when I was getting the word that Reverend Madison was moving. But when I thought about it later, I realized I agreed with the Lord wholeheartedly that you would be a good choice.” She grinned at Perry and wrinkled her nose in fun.

  Perry shook his head. “You carry an interesting gift, Zola. But I worry about how freely you use it sometimes—without thinking of the potential consequences. Like with this Aldo Toomey thing. You and Faith might have been hurt if he’d thrown a real bomb into the store. Also, I’m concerned about this talk that Ben Lee believes you’re going to find his daughter’s killer. This kind of thing could be dangerous for you, Zola.”

  She sat watching him. “Are you saying you think I shouldn’t give people the words God asks me to give them?”

  Perry reached across the table to put a hand on hers. “I think you know I’m not saying that, Zola. But I wanted you to know if you ever want to run your visions by someone else before you share them I’d be happy to be that person for you.”

  Zola squirmed in her chair. “It doesn’t work that way, Perry. The knowledge rises up at the moment it’s supposed to be given. It isn’t the sort of thing one can ponder and think about for a time before sharing. It’s a ‘right now’ kind of thing.”

  “Give me an example,” he said, popping a sausage-cheese ball into his mouth.

  She dropped her eyes—thinking—and then looked across at Perry. “Remember when that little boy was missing in the mountains a week or so ago?”

  He nodded.

  “I was in the mountains with Spencer Jackson on an early morning photo shoot when I saw that child, Perry. I could see where he sat, I could see what he looked like, and I could feel his pain and fear. I saw that he was praying for help and I knew Spencer and I were the ones to be used to rescue him.”

  She shook her head. “How could I have sat on that, Perry, and waited for a confirmation from someone before I acted? The child could have died. I was responsible to act then.”

  Zola watched him consider this.

  “I see. Is it always urgent in that way?”

  “Maybe not always as serious as that, but I always feel very strongly I am supposed to share what the Spirit is giving me
right then. Not later. It’s like an act of obedience to do it when the word is given to me.”

  Perry ate another sausage ball and drank some tea, thinking on this. “Your gift is like a mixture of word of wisdom and word of knowledge—both spoken about in Corinthians. It’s not common to many.”

  He looked thoughtful. “I know from growing up with you that your gift has always set you apart. Made you different. That must be hard sometimes, Zola.”

  Zola smiled at Perry. “I came to terms with being different a long time ago, Perry, when only a small girl. I was fortunate my family was accepting of my gift; it would have been hard for me if that hadn’t been so.”

  Zola reached a hand across to take Perry’s. “Thanks for wanting to help me, even for worrying about me. That’s kind of you.”

  She stood up to take the last of the sausage-cheese balls out of the oven.

  Perry cleared his throat. “I’m a longtime friend … but I’m also your pastor now, Zola. I want you to know I’m available to you if you ever need me for anything.”

  “Thanks,” she said, turning off the oven and sitting down again.

  Perry sat quietly for a few minutes, and Zola could tell he had something else on his mind.

  “You’ve been seeing Spencer Jackson,” he said at last, stating it as a fact, not a question. “How is he handling this aspect of you?”

  “It’s not easy for him,” Zola said candidly.

  “I’ll bet.” He bit into his last sausage ball.

  She laughed then. “I think he does better with the big things, like my seeing the lost child, than he does with the small, everyday things I sometimes see.”

  Kind eyes looked at hers. “Do you want me to talk to him about this?”

  “No. We’re not to that place yet, and, besides, Spencer has a whole set of peculiar issues I have to deal with, too.” She wrinkled her nose. “He has a bunch of trauma from his past he hasn’t gotten resolved yet. Our problems are not all one-sided.”

  Perry stood up to leave. “Well, I know better than to put my oar in too heavily with a dating couple. I’ll just pray the Lord will have His best will in your developing relationship.”

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