When you lose everything you have... you might just gain the world.
In Book 1 of the Road Trip Revival Series, Former Things, Jean finds herself just a bit lost after the death of her husband. Suddenly alone--and lonely--she doesn't quite know where her place in the world is. But when she hears a pastor talk about a revival, something changes.
Now she's on a mission from God.
Friends say she's crazy. Her daughter is worried and her sister thinks she needs to be on medications. But Jean knows better. And yeah, she is crazy--crazy for Jesus!
And she wants to tell everyone about Him.
Determined to be that pebble in the pond starting a revival tidal wave that will engulf the globe, Jean sets out in her little blue Beetle with her not-so-trusty sidekick, an arrogant cat named King Louie, ready to make the big splash and flood the world with God's love.
But will the enemy first drown her in self-doubt and fear?
If you like stories about slightly sarcastic "well-seasoned" ladies, then Road Trip Revival series is for you! Biblically truthful and Christian-based, the series is safe for the entire family.
Former Things #1
JEAN, I’M SO SORRY.” The tired and overused sentiment she’d heard so many times over the course of the past week meant nothing. It was a meaningless platitude, just something people said when they had no idea what to say. But no words, regardless of how well-meaning, were going to make things right.
Nothing could take away the pain.
Jean fought not to scream at the woman in front of her who dabbed at her cheeks with a well-used tissue. She still had her husband, was still blessed to fall asleep beside him at night, to wake up to him in the morning. She probably complained about his snoring, or about how he left the toilet seat up, or dropped his dirty socks on the floor.
If only she knew how blessed she was…
Swallowing down the bitter resentment, Jean forced a smile. “Thank you, Cheryl,” she murmured, offering a wobbling smile to the woman she only knew from church who was handing out the worthless words as if they were the solution to all of Jean’s troubles.
With a sad smile, Cheryl moved on, and the next person stepped up to lay their sentiments at Jean’s feet.
It was exhausting.
On and on it went, the mostly faceless and nameless murmuring words meant to help, but which only served to make Jean grit her teeth. Her jaw ached from the effort it took not to scream at the people shaking her hand or patting her arm. Logically, she knew they didn’t mean harm; most were truly sympathetic, a few empathetic. But no one knew what she was feeling. What she was thinking.
Or how much she wanted to follow after her husband.
After what seemed like an eternity the last person finally left, and the atmosphere cleared a bit from the stench of sympathetic monotony. The last non-family member, anyway. Jean’s daughter was still in the kitchen, transferring the multitude of casseroles that had been brought into plastic containers that could be frozen.
Her church family had certainly come through in providing for the reception. Jean had no idea what she was going to do with so much food.
It was almost humorous to think that she hadn’t had as much food at her wedding reception forty-five years before. She and Lars had been broke, their parents in even more dire straits. There hadn’t been money for a fancy wedding. Jean had worn her best dress, the one the with the fewest mended spots and the one least faded. Lars had borrowed a suit from his older brother.
Flowers were an unaffordable luxury. Instead, Jean had gone to the neighborhood funeral home and asked the director if she could borrow some of the flowers that had been delivered for an upcoming funeral. Thankfully, lilies were used for both uniting and for burying.
They hadn’t even had enough money for a professionally made cake. Jean had made one herself, though she was certainly no baker. The three tiers had leaned precariously, and she had worried it was going to topple onto the floor before they’d made the first cut. At the first bite, she’d realized it was at least edible… though just barely.
None of it had mattered. The wedding may not have been what dreams were made of, but their marriage certainly had been. Jean knew it wasn’t perfect; there was no such thing. But she had loved her husband fiercely, and she knew that he had loved her just as much in return.
And now that love was gone, buried six feet below the earth in a plot of land Lars had bought without her knowledge.
“Hey, mom,” Evelyn said as Jean walked into the kitchen. “How are you holding up?”
Jean sighed. She really had no answer for that. How do you say, “I’m alive, but only because my heart still beats and my lungs still fill. It’s not by choice, though.”
Her daughter probably wouldn’t want to hear her thoughts.
“I’m alright,” she answered instead. “As good as can be expected, I guess.” She offered a small smile to her only child, thankful for her presence. It wasn’t enough comfort, but it was something at least.
Evelyn must have sensed Jean’s thoughts, because she set aside the green bean casserole she’d been spooning into a plastic bowl that once contained butter, a testament to Jean’s “never throw anything away” generation. She walked around the kitchen island to wrap her arms around her mother and they cried together. It wasn’t the first time they’d done so since the emergency room doctor had come into the waiting room with the hard chairs, stained carpet and worried loved ones to tell them that there had been nothing they could do.
“Fatal myocardial infarction,” was the term they’d used. Massive heart attack for the lay person. It didn’t matter what term was used; it still meant that her husband was gone.
Lars had been chopping wood, something he did every fall so that there would be enough firewood for the cheery fires Jean loved in the winter months. She’d begged the stubborn man to skip doing so that year, telling him they could buy wood from a local farmer, but her husband had insisted that he “was certainly capable of chopping a few trees.”
His pride and stubbornness caused his heart to stop… and Jean’s to shatter.
Evelyn clung to her as they allowed grief to pour from their eyes, rivulets of pain streaking down their cheeks. Jean found herself trying to offer comfort, rather than accepting it, a lifetime habit as a mother.
Though Evelyn wasn’t Lars’ daughter by genetics, she’d certainly been his daughter by choice. The result of a bad decision Jean had made—and, as a teenager who had been brought up in the church, she certainly knew better—Evelyn was never a regret.
Her strict parents had been horrified by the pregnancy and had turned their back on the pregnant teen. In order to survive, Jean had been forced to work long hours in a seedy diner, often returning to her tiny apartment in the slums to find a threat of eviction taped to her door. Not once had she ever considered giving up her child.
Evelyn been a joy from the first blink of her eyes as she entered the world and when Lars had come into her life four years later, the child had never considered the man anything else but “daddy.” To Lars, Evelyn was his “baby girl.”
Needing a tissue, Jean gently pushed back, then retrieved paper towels for them both. As they blew their noses, a giggle escaped Evelyn. Jean looked at her in question.
“We look like baboons,” Evelyn laughed. “All puffy.”
Jean smiled at her daughter. “Yeah, but which end? The backside of a baboon is red, so…” She waved her hand between their faces and cocked her eyebrow.
Evelyn’s lips twitched. “Guess that explains how ‘butt face’ became an insult.” They both burst out laughing. It wasn’t really that funny, but after the tension-filled past week, the silliness was a welcomed stress-reliever.
Jean gave her daughter another quick hug, then moved to the sink. She sighed when she saw the piles of dishes.
“Well, I guess no matter what happens in life,” she muttered, “there are always dishes needing washing.”
IT HAD BEEN too many weeks to count since Jean had left the house. It was just so much easier to hole up inside and pretend the world wasn’t still outside, passing by the windows that were in need of a good cleaning.
Thanks to restaurant and grocery delivery, there really wasn’t a reason to face life outside the sanctuary of her home. And without her husband, there wasn’t a desire to leave either.
Jean had made good use of her self-imposed isolation though. She now knew how to make a creamy bechamel, the best way to pull up old tile, what to plant to keep critters from invading your garden, and if the crime scene investigation shows were accurate, she knew how to effectively dispose of a body.
Television wasn’t her only companion, though. About two weeks into her self-imposed exile, a mangy-looking cat had shown up on her porch, meowing non-stop until she’d finally given in and yanked the door open to yell at him to go away. She was in no mood for any company, not even the four-legged kind, and Jean was not a big fan of cats on top of it. But once she opened the door, the Tom had strutted in like he was the king and she, the lowly servant.
Jean had named him King Louie.
The cat had been full of fleas and looked like he’d been in a dozen or more fights. Half of one ear was missing, he had a long scar from the top of his head to the top of his nose, and he had a skinned area on his tail where no hair grew. The thing had been half-starved and managed to devour Jean’s entire tuna stash in two days.
Thankfully, the grocery store that delivered also carried cat food.
After a bath—which led Jean to discover that cats do not like water and meant another order to the grocery store for more first-aid supplies—and a good brushing, Louie didn’t look half bad, though he apparently thought he looked awesome, because his cocky strut became a very haughty stroll.
Jean made an attempt to find the cat’s owner and went so far as to pay the house call fee so she could have the local vet come out and scan the cat for a microchip. Doc Rodgers had taken pictures of the cat for a lost pet website, then gave him shots and a bottle of vitamins.
Two months later, no one had claimed the cat, but Louie had certainly claimed Jean.
“Well, Louie,” she said to the cat as he lounged on the pillow she’d set in the sunny windowsill just for him, “what are we going to do today? There’s a show on the cooking channel for gourmet Thanksgiving recipes, though I don’t know what in the Sam-hill is ‘gourmet’ about a turkey.” She scrolled through the guide on the screen.
“Oh, look! That fella with the funny mustache that I like so much is building a pie safe today. Isn’t it fascinating how he can do all that without using electric tools?” Louie gave her a look, opening just one eye to stare at her.
“No? Okay, well, that Maury guy is doing another reveal today. We can find out who Lorena’s baby daddy is. Yeah, no, I don’t wanna see that either.” Jean scrolled through the channels, then finally turned off the television and tossed the remote onto the coffee table in disgust, crossing her arms over her stomach as she turned to stare out the window over the cat’s head.
Wincing as she felt the fat rolls under her hand, Jean wondered just how much weight she’d gained since Lars had… gone on. She refused to think of his passing in any other way. Since the day of the funeral, though, she’d sat on her duff and, other than basic house cleaning just to keep insects and rodents at bay, she had done very little.
It wasn’t like her. She’d always been one for the outdoors, preferring to spend her days in the sun. Lars had never been much for exercise, but Jean had usually been able to talk him into short hikes through the woods surrounding their northern California property. Of course, Jean knew that he only went along because he had been worried she’d come across a mountain lion or other some such nefarious creature. Regardless of the reason, she’d encouraged her husband to get as much exercise as possible.
I should have tried harder…
She shook the self-condemnation away, knowing logically that she couldn’t be blamed for how out of shape Lars had been. The man had stopped for a donut nearly every day on his way to the office, drank a pot of coffee—with cream and sugar—every day and insisted on getting fast food for lunch instead of the healthier choices she offered to pack for him.
But still… she wished she could have done more.
“And now look at me,” she murmured as she pulled her shirt out. The sweatshirt was a lot tighter than it had been last season.
Louie didn’t even bat an eye at her that time, though his whiskers twitched. “I doubt I could walk half the distance I used to.” A sigh escaped her as she stared at the cat.
“How ‘bout you and me take a walk?” No response, other than a flick of the tip of his tail where the hair was missing. Doc had said it looked like it had been burned at one time. Jean couldn’t imagine what all the poor cat had been through. She smiled slightly, watching as the afternoon sun streaked through the window, making his dark fur look much lighter. At least he had the chance at a good life now.
“You sure aren’t like a dog,” she said. The cat opened his eye again and gave her a look that said, “No kidding.” She laughed.
“Think I’m losing my mind,” Jean muttered as she pushed herself up off the sofa. “Talking to a cat, expecting an answer. Then thinking he’s giving me dirty looks.” She shook her head at herself and headed into the bedroom to change into something she could wear for a hike.
Surprisingly, by the time she was changed and ready to head out, Louie was sitting by the back door, like he knew exactly what Jean had said to him, and what she had in mind.
“Well, c’mon then,” she said to Louie as she held the back door open for him. She’d had a cat door put in once it became clear the cat wasn’t going anywhere, but the furry beast only used it when it was convenient to him—like when he decided he needed t