Welcome back, Marianne! And what a lovely story! I just love stories that involve music - and toss a child into the mix with a God given gift and it just sounds like a story from heaven! And this one surely is!
Escaping the black residue of her past, Callie Phillips finds sanctuary at Queen of Angels Church. The reformed rebel is a middle-school choir teacher by day, and music director on the weekends, mingling with parish members over breakfast at her favorite after-church haunt, Sal’s Place.
Luke West embraces a devout belief in the sacredness of human life. An EMT, he takes charge of life-and-death situations and acts as guardian for his ten-year-old niece, Dawn West who has a child’s zest for life and a God-given gift for music.
When Callie takes the little girl under her wing and becomes a mentor and surrogate mother to Dawn, Callie and Luke are thrown together. She’s drawn to the dynamic and handsome EMT, but her sullied past threatens any future she and Luke might share.
Despite Callie’s former life, can Luke’s love teach her there’s nothing God’s mercy can’t wipe clean? Will Luke forgive even the bleakest form of sin and desperation in order to embrace the love of an extraordinary woman?
Should she unburden to this man? What did she have to lose, really? She'd never come back here again. Maybe talking would help. There was certainly no one else to listen.
So, for the first time, she opted to give voice to her moment of truth. "I'm pregnant, and I'm getting an abortion. I have no other choice."
A long silence moved past, in a passage of time marked only by the pounding of her heart against her ribs.
"You must be terrified." He showed no anger. No hailstorm of fire and brimstone fell from the sky. Instead, her compassionate clergyman leaned back comfortably against the pew and his eyes radiated tenderness.
"I need to...get rid of it. I...I have to get an abortion." From there she rushed onto the ice rink that was her life and pushed forward in spite of the danger, wanting to attempt an explanation, wanting to justify a choice this holy man would never condone, or accept.
She was such an awful person.
"I'm getting the abortion." Her tone bordered on defiance—and defensiveness. "I called the clinic on the way here. Women's Care United. I guess I'm here because I just want God to forgive me, and I want Him to know it's for the best that I not try to bring this poor little baby into the world." Repressed tears and emotion burst; her nose ran and she let out a desperate, keening sound, wiping her nose, ducking her head.
"What's your name?" He leaned forward on his knees, tilting his head, and he smiled at her. "I'm Father Craig O'Hara, by the way."
Callie fingered back a slice of hair. He wasn't yelling at her. He wasn't condemning her. Yet. "Callie. I'm Callie." No last name...no matter how nice he was. "You don't hate me?"
"Far from it, but I'm hoping you might open yourself just far enough to hear a different point of view."
Callie nibbled the corner of her lip and nodded.
"The way I see it, the circumstances that led to your pregnancy might make you heartsick. The life choices you've made up to now might leave you feeling lost, but nothing...and I do mean nothing...stops you from starting over, and creating the most beautiful things from the most terrifying situations."
"I know." He stopped there for a moment, long enough to deliver a pointed look. "Take very seriously the fact that you're not alone. You're not alone right now, and the life that's growing inside of you right now is one you need to take into consideration. The baby you carry is counting on you."
"Father, that's exactly what I am doing. I'm doing what's best. I'd louse everything up, and—"
"No. The being inside of you, the life you carry, is a creation of God...even if the circumstances surrounding it aren't. You feel you can't be a suitable mother right now. That's nothing to be ashamed of. Instead, consider the option of carrying your baby to term. Consider the blessing you'd give to a childless couple whom you would gift with the opportunity to raise it, and love it, and give it the life God ordained when your son or daughter was conceived."
For the first time during the course of their conversation, his tone went firm and sternly resolute. That, along with his use of the words son—daughter—captured her attention, and she could form no ready response for a moment.
"You don't understand. My parents will be so ashamed. I'm in so much trouble with them as it is. They'd finally have cause to just shut me out. They'd finally, justifiably, just wash their hands of me. Know what? I can't find it in myself to blame them anymore. I've made a gigantic a mess of my life, and it hasn't even started yet."
When she dissolved into sobs once more, Father Craig rested a stilling hand against her shoulder and waited, allowing her to empty and crumble.
Once Callie calmed, he looked into her eyes. "Do me a favor. Tell me what your life would be like if you could begin it fresh today, with nothing holding you back."
Callie drew up short. No one had ever asked her that question before. Certainly, her parents cared about her, but they centered themselves on providing for their family in what had become difficult and unstable employment and financial times. They didn't tend to dive deep, emotionally speaking. Meanwhile, Callie's older sister, Penny, was the golden child—the one dedicated to everything that was right. While Callie searched and fumbled, Penny made her way toward a better life, step by perfect step.
Ever since graduating high school, Callie had floundered, lost in a world of loneliness and emotional needs she had filled in any way she could, with any number of temptations that seemed so good and appealing at the time...
She shoved that noise aside so she could answer his question. "I love music."
Those three small words poured from her soul, wrapped in a blanket of longing and timid futility.
"I admire people who can create, or play music. I'm an artist myself. I love to swirl oil colors onto canvas, but put me near a keyboard and I'm helpless."
Callie gave him a wobbly smile. "Music fills me up. It makes me feel good. Connected. When I play the piano, I don't think about"—she went flush—"I don't think about mistakes and problems. I float with the music, and it carries me away, to a place that's beautiful."
"That's a gift, Callie. A grace. God gave you that talent and the need to fulfill it."
"Oh...I wouldn't go that far. It's just how I am, that's all."
"But, Callie, you're missing the finer point. You're the way God made you. You possess the characteristics and gifts God gave you. You're unique, and special, and He loves you—He treasures you, no matter what your past, no matter what you've done before. He loves your unborn child as well."
Tears built in her eyes once more, blurring Father Craig's kind face, melding holy statues, stained glass, and church columns into a murky haze. "But why would He allow me to become pregnant? He's omniscient. He's wise and all-knowing, right? Why me? Why this?" The tears spilled. "It makes no sense at all."
This story is a perfect example of why I love to read inspirational romances! These people are dealing with real problems, past hurts and failures, but hearts in the right place - wanting to please God. It's a beautiful demonstration of God's never ending grace and His open arms when we come back to Him.
I loved Callie, who keeps her heart hidden, trying to protect herself from ever making a mistake again. And Luke has a heart of gold, and love to share. And then there's Dawn...what a sweet child.
What a precious story! Keep the tissues handy!