It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and her book:
Howard Books (February 3, 2009)
Ginger Kolbaba is editor of the award-winning Marriage Partnership magazine. An experienced columnist and public speaker, she lives in Chicago with her husband.
Christy Scannell is a college instructor, freelance editor and accomplished writer who lives with her husband in San Diego.
(ISBN#9781416543893, 320pp, $13.99)
Lisa Barton is an at-home mom with two kids: Callie, sixteen, and Ricky, fourteen. Her husband, Joel, has pastored Red River Assembly of God for nearly five years. Lisaâ€™s parents pastor the Assembly of God in nearby Cloverdale.
Felicia Lopez-Morrisonâ€™s husband, Dave, pastors the First Baptist Church. They have one child, Nicholas, who is five and in kindergarten. Once a high-powered public relations executive with a top national firm, Felicia now works from home for the companyâ€™s Midwestern clients. The Morrisons came to Red River three years ago from Los Angeles.
Mimi Plaisance is a former teacher who now stays home with her four children: Michaela, eleven; Mark, Jr. (MJ), nine; Megan, six; and Milo, fifteen months. Mark, her husband, is senior pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church.
Jennifer Shores is married to Sam, pastor of Red River Community Church, where she is the church secretary part-time. They have been married twelve years and have one adopted daughter, Carys, who is eleven months old.
Tuesday, March 18
â€œI canâ€™t believe it!â€ Felicia Lopez-Morrison waved as she ricocheted through the tables, heading toward her three friends seated in their usual booth in the back right-hand corner of Luluâ€™s.
â€œDid you hear the news?â€ she asked breathlessly, sliding into the seat next to Jennifer, who pushed her leather purse against the wall and scooched over to give Felicia room.
Mimi laughed. â€œYou mean about the scandal?â€
â€œWho hasnâ€™t heard?â€ Jennifer leaned over and gave Felicia a side hug.
â€œWhen Dave told me, I thought he was kidding,â€ Felicia said. â€œKitty hasnâ€™t even been in the ground a year.â€
Lisa nodded. â€œWell, Norm was probably just lonely. He needed the companionship.â€
â€œThen buy a dog,â€ Jennifer suggested. â€œOf course,â€ she said, getting tickled, â€œthen people would talk about dogs and a Katt living together!â€
The women groaned.
â€œIt would have to be for companionship.â€ Felicia shouldered Jennifer playfully. â€œHe just met the woman. He couldnâ€™t love her, could he?â€
â€œFrom what I heard,â€ Mimi said matter-of-factly, â€œsheâ€™s more like a girl.â€
â€œLadies!â€ Lisa smiled but looked a little uncomfortable.
Jennifer knew Lisa was construing this turn as gossipy. Sweet Lisa, Jennifer thought, looking at her friend, seated across the table from her. Always taking the high road. Youâ€™d think after four years of us all being friends, we would have picked up some of her good traits.
â€œWell, well.â€ A loud, brassy voice interrupted Jenniferâ€™s thoughts. Their plump, gruff-sounding waitress, Gracie, was standing over their table, pulling out the order pad from thewhite apron strapped around her ample thighs. â€œGlad to see little Miss SeÃ±ora made it today.â€
Felicia pulled back in mock offense. â€œHey, Iâ€™m only five minutes late!â€
â€œYeah, yeah.â€ A slight smile crossed Gracieâ€™s face. She jutted her chin out toward Felicia. â€œIâ€™m likinâ€™ you without all the high-and-mighty outfits and shoes and whatnot.â€
Everyone at the table laughed. Felicia spread her arms in show and bowed her head, as if accepting a standing ovation. Gracie threw back her head and guffawed.
Felicia certainly had changed in the last year sheâ€™d been working from home, Jennifer recognized. Her silky black hair, once curled and neatly laying across the top of her shoulders, was now pulled back in a ponytail. And her high-powered business suits and designer shoes had been replaced by a black pair of jeans and a mauve hoodie sweater. Jennifer glanced under the tableâ€”Well, her boots are still designer, she thought good-naturedly.
â€œI like you girls.â€ Gracie pulled a pencil from behind her ear. â€œYouâ€™re always the highlight of my every-other-Tuesday.â€
â€œWell, thank you, Gracie,â€ Mimi said. â€œAnd youâ€™re ours.â€
â€œAll right, enough with the chitchat,â€ Gracie said. â€œAre we all having the regulars?â€
â€œYes, maâ€™am,â€ Jennifer and the others chimed in.
Gracie harrumphed. â€œI donâ€™t know why I keep taking out my order pad and pen for you all. OK, PWs, Iâ€™ll be back with your drinks.â€
Jennifer watched Gracie plod off to her next table of customers several booths toward the front of the cafÃ©. Jennifer really liked their waitressâ€”and knew her three friends did too. Underneath all Gracieâ€™s gruffness lay a heart as big as an ocean. And it was Gracie who had given the women their official group nicknameâ€”the PWs.
When Jennifer, Mimi, Lisa, and Felicia had started secretly meeting at Luluâ€™s nearly three years before, Gracie had been their waitress. Sheâ€™d overheard them talking about God and their churches, figured out that they were all pastorsâ€™ wives, and nicknamed them. Sheâ€™d gotten a big kick out of the fact that the womenâ€”all hailing from the southwest Ohio town of Red Riverâ€”would drive forty miles out of their way every other Tuesday to nosh and chat in this little nothing-special dive. Although the PWs never had explained to Gracie that they met that far from home to avoid nosy townsfolk and church members overhearing their business, their now-seventy-year-old waitress hadnâ€™t taken too long to figure out what was going on.
Now Gracie ambled slowly behind the front counter to the rectangular opening between the restaurant and the kitchen. She pounded a bell sitting on the ledge and yelled, â€œOrder in!â€
Felicia unfolded her paper napkin and laid it on her lap. â€œI just canâ€™t believe it,â€ she mused, shaking her head. â€œNorm Katt remarried. To a woman half his age.â€
â€œWhom he just met,â€ Mimi reminded everyone.
Jennifer pulled her eyes from watching the cook grab their order ticket and start to read it. Gracie had interrupted a very important news-sharing moment, and Jennifer didnâ€™t want to miss any of it.
â€œAnd did you hear her name?â€ Mimi asked.
â€œAllison.â€ Lisa shook her head, looking as if she were trying to suppress a laugh. â€œAlly.â€
As if in chorus, the women said, â€œAlly Katt.â€
â€œDoes the man never learn?â€ Felicia laughed. â€œFirst, he marries Kitty. And now Ally.â€
â€œOh, if they have children!â€ Jennifer said. â€œThey could name one Fraidy.â€
Felicia nodded. â€œTwins, of course, would be named Siamese and Tiger.â€
â€œOf course.â€ Jennifer smiled.
â€œYou all are so terrible!â€ Lisa pushed back her thick, reddish-brown-highlighted hair and fluffed it.
Mimi sighed and patted Lisa on the arm. â€œOh, we all know itâ€™s just in fun. We really donâ€™t mean anything by it, do we, ladies? But you do have to admit, it is funny.â€
Lisa rolled her eyes and shook her head as if to say, You silly kids. â€œHas anybody seen her?â€
â€œNot that I know ofâ€”I mean, except for their church,â€ Jennifer said. â€œI guess Norm and his new bride only came back to town a couple weeks ago.â€
â€œWell,â€ Mimi said, â€œthat kidâ€™s got a tough act to follow. As much as Kitty drove us all crazy, her church adored her. Wonder how theyâ€™ll take to a new pastorâ€™s wife?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ Lisa said. â€œBut theyâ€™ll definitely talk. I hope she knows what sheâ€™s gotten herself into.â€
â€œDid any of us know that when we married pastors?â€ Mimi asked.
Lisa smiled. â€œI guess not.â€
â€œI sure didnâ€™t!â€ Jennifer said, thinking back to when she and Sam married twelve years ago. She had been attending the church as a relatively new Christian when Sam arrived on the scene as pastor. â€œBeing a church member and being a pastorâ€™s wife are two entirely different things.â€
â€œI didnâ€™t marry a pastor,â€ Felicia said. â€œIf you recall, I married a businessman, who decided several years into his career that he was called to be a pastor. I didnâ€™t get that vote.â€
Gracie walked toward them, carrying a tray of drinks. She set it down on the edge of their table. â€œIâ€™m getting too old for this. Can you believe they still make me carry my own trays? And my shoulder all messed up from that fall back in December?â€
Gracie had taken a tumble on some ice outside Luluâ€™s one evening after work several months back and hurt her shoulder and hip.
â€œIs that still bothering you, Gracie?â€ Felicia asked.
â€œI still go to therapy for it, but you know those doctors. You canâ€™t trust â€™em.â€ She handed Mimi a glass of milk and passed Lisa an iced tea. Felicia grabbed the remaining two glasses, each filled with Diet Coke, and handed one to Jennifer.
â€œHey!â€ Gracie said. â€œYou trying to deprive me of my hard-earned tip?â€
â€œSorry!â€ Felicia joked. â€œBut you know Iâ€™m working from home now. I need all the money I can get.â€
â€œWell, youâ€™d better find a better table. These girls are tighter than a duckâ€™s behind with their money.â€ She pulled four straws out of her right apron pocket and plopped them in the center of the table.
â€œIâ€™ll be back.â€ She winked, then pulled up the tray against her chest and trudged away.
â€œCan you believe itâ€™s been a year since Kitty died?â€ Lisa tore the paper off her straw and crumpled it before dipping the straw into her drink.
â€œI know,â€ Jennifer said. â€œI kind of miss her. All the snarky comments about how insignificant our churches were compared to hers. The patronizing tone. The condescending looks.â€
â€œIâ€™m serious!â€ Lisa said. â€œIt was tragic.â€
â€œI know.â€ Jennifer sipped her soda. â€œBelieve me, I wish she hadnâ€™t died. It wasnâ€™t a piece of cake for meâ€”going through that miscarriage and being considered a murder suspect in her deathâ€”all in the same weekend.â€ There I go again, making everything about me, she told herself and inwardly winced.
Felicia rubbed Jenniferâ€™s back. That was sweet, Jennifer thought, realizing her friends remembered how difficult that time in her life had been. Sheâ€™d wanted that baby so badly. And to suffer a miscarriage, have an all-out argument with Kitty, threaten her, then have her up and fall down a ravine and break her neckâ€¦. It had been devastating.
â€œLetâ€™s be honest.â€ Mimi dabbed at a trace of milk at the corner of her mouth. â€œWe didnâ€™t like her. She didnâ€™t deserve what happened to her. But life has been calmer and more sane and relaxing since sheâ€™s beenâ€”â€
â€œIt was a year ago yesterday,â€ Felicia said. â€œSt. Patrickâ€™s Day weekend. At the pastorsâ€™ wivesâ€™ retreat.â€
â€œThat reminds me!â€ Mimi brightened and reached under the table. She pulled up her large purse/diaper-bag and dug into its depths. In her hands appeared two shamrock-and-cross-covered eggs that were the brightest kelly green Jennifer had ever seen. She laid them on the table and reached back in, producing one more. â€œFrom Megan. She wanted me to make sure to give these to you. We combined two holidays in oneâ€”St. Patrickâ€™s Day and Easter, since thatâ€™s this weekend.â€
â€œCarys will like this.â€ Jennifer picked one up and set it on top of her purse.
â€œI wonder what she looks like?â€ Felicia took another of the eggs and placed it by her drink.
â€œWho?â€ Lisa asked.
â€œNormâ€™s new wife.â€
â€œI wonder if sheâ€™ll come to the next pastorsâ€™ wivesâ€™ meeting at New Life next month?â€
â€œI already called and invited her. Sheâ€™s coming.â€ Lisa tore into a packet of sugar and dumped it into her tea.
The table fell silent as Jennifer, Mimi, and Felicia all stared open-mouthed at their friend.
â€œWhat?â€ Lisa asked.
She really doesnâ€™t know, Jennifer realized.
â€œYouâ€™ve been holding out on us, girlfriend!â€ Mimi said.
â€œSpill it,â€ Felicia said.
â€œWhat? Thereâ€™s nothing to tell, really.â€ Lisa fidgeted a little in her seat. â€œI called her last Friday. We didnâ€™t talk that long. I just congratulated her on her wedding, welcomed her to Red River and to being a pastorâ€™s wife, then invited her to next monthâ€™s meeting.â€ She looked around the table. â€œOK. She did sound young . . . and very perky. And . . . she giggled a lot.â€
Jennifer, Felicia, and Mimi eyed each other knowingly. Yep, this is going to be a fun meeting next month. How in the world did Norm go from hard-edged, superior Kitty to an early twenties cheerleader?
â€œWonder what Kitty would think?â€ Felicia asked.
Lisa shrugged. â€œIâ€™d hope sheâ€™d be glad that Norm found someone who loves him and is going to take care of him.â€
Before Jennifer could say anything, Gracie arrived with their food.
â€œAll right, PWs, quit your yakking and help me unload this thing.â€ Gracie pulled the first plate off the tray and handed it to Mimi. Mimi looked at the tuna melt and strip of cantaloupe and passed it on to Lisa. Jenniferâ€™s was next with her chicken strips and fries. Then Felicia took her Caesar salad. Last was Mimiâ€™s hamburger.
They got their food situated, passing the ketchup and salt, then Felicia offered grace.
Mimi shoved a fry in her mouth and savored it. â€œI love Milo, but I gotta tell you, itâ€™s nice to eat a full meal without messy little fingers showing up, grabbing something on my plate.â€
Felicia poured the dressing over her salad. â€œI know what thatâ€™s like. Oh, the peace and quietâ€”and adult conversation!â€
Jennifer smiled as she thought of eleven-month-old Carys doing that same thing. But her thoughts drifted back to Kitty and the week following her death. Jennifer had been consideredâ€”although not officiallyâ€”a murder suspect and had had to endure the detectives following her around, treating her like a criminal, until they determined Kittyâ€™s death had been an accident.
â€œRemember last year when those detectives were following me around?â€ Jennifer asked, trying to sound nonchalant.
With their mouths all full, the others could only nod and say, â€œMmm-hmmm.â€
â€œWell, itâ€™s happening again. At least I think it is.â€
â€œWhat?â€ Mimi half-choked and plopped her burger onto her plate. She pounded on her chest with her fist as if trying to move the meat down her esophagus. â€œDetectives are following you around?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know who it is. But I keep seeing this black town car everywhere I go. Just glimpses of it, really. But . . .â€ Jennifer knew the whole thing sounded crazy. And verbalizing it made it sound even more outlandish. Maybe Iâ€™m just making this up. â€œNever mind. Itâ€™s . . . probably nothing.â€ She tried to laugh it off. â€œJust my overactive imagination. You know, with all the sleep deprivation and everything.â€
â€œOh, yeah, I can relate,â€ Mimi said. But she tilted her head toward Jennifer. â€œYou OK? I mean, if somebody is following you . . .â€
â€œWhy would somebody follow you?â€ Felicia asked.
â€œThatâ€™s just it.â€ Jennifer swirled her chicken strip in a sea of barbecue sauce. â€œI donâ€™t know. I canâ€™t think of one plausible explanation.â€
â€œMaybe itâ€™s a church member trying to dig up dirt on you.â€ Felicia smiled and patted Jenniferâ€™s arm.
Jennifer laughed. â€œNo, that would be Lisa with that problem.â€
Lisa lifted her napkin to hide her face, then let it droop just below her eyes. Wide-eyed, she looked around the diner frantically. They all laughed, but Jennifer knew Lisa was trying to put up a good front. Lisa had lost fifteen pounds in the last six months, and the sparkle in her hazel eyes had lost its shine. Poor Lisa. God, take care of this situation at her church. They donâ€™t deserve this. Theyâ€™re good people.
â€œWhatâ€™s going on with your church?â€ Jennifer asked, partly to take the focus from her, and partly because she hadnâ€™t heard the update in a while.
Lisa dropped the napkin back to her lap and shrugged. â€œSame old, same old. At least Joel is still the pastorâ€”though I donâ€™t know for how much longer. Heâ€™s meeting with the head troublemaker next week to confront him.â€
Thatâ€™s not going to be easy. Although Jennifer and Sam had had their share of church member issues, theyâ€™d never gone through major conflict, as Lisa and her husband, Joel, were now. She ached for them.
Lisa continued. â€œI just wish . . . you know, if these people are so upset, why do they cause such trouble? Why not just leave? Why make it into a huge power struggle?â€
â€œBecauseâ€”â€ Mimi leaned over until her shoulder was touching Lisaâ€™sâ€”â€œand you should know this better than any of us, Miss Assemblies of God, this is called spiritual warfare. The enemy doesnâ€™t want the church to be vibrant and powerful in the community. Heâ€™d rather take down a church from the inside out than have it succeed.â€
â€œOh, sure, look at it from a spiritual perspective, why donâ€™t you?â€ Felicia smiled gently.
â€œItâ€™s hard to do that, though, isnâ€™t it?â€ Jennifer asked. â€œEspecially when the hurt is so physical and emotional.â€
â€œWell, sweetie, you know youâ€™re in our prayers.â€ Mimi wrapped her arm around Lisa and squeezed.
Lisa just nodded and looked down. Jennifer could tell her friend was embarrassed, because sheâ€™d quickly wiped at her eyes.
â€œHow are things in your life?â€ Jennifer asked Felicia, trying to take off some of the pressure from Lisa.
â€œActually, canâ€™t complain right now.â€ Felicia swirled around some more dressing in her salad but didnâ€™t look anyone in the eyes. â€œMy clients are happy. I mean, there are challenges working at home. Mostly because everybody thinks that since Iâ€™m home, Iâ€™m, you know, sitting around watching Dr. Phil and just waiting for someone to put me to good use.â€
â€œOh, yes.â€ Mimi laughed. â€œBeen there. Everybody thinks that we live to serve, huh? OK, well, we do, actuallyâ€”at least thatâ€™s what my kids tell meâ€”but still!â€ She laughed again.
â€œSo thatâ€™s been a bit of a challenge. But other than that, things are . . . good.â€ Felicia held up crossed fingers. â€œEnjoy the peace while I can, right?â€
Jennifer waited to see if Felicia would say any more. She got the sense something else was going on with Felicia but knew her friend would speak up when the time was right.
Lisa must have thought the same, because she turned to Mimi. â€œAnd how about you? Howâ€™s Dad doing?â€
â€œAwwk.â€ Mimi rolled her eyes. â€œAs ornery as ever. One of the conditions for Dad staying with us is that heâ€™s supposed to attend his AA meetings. Heâ€™s still attending, but heâ€™s also still drinking. He does it on the sly, like he thinks we donâ€™t notice. I donâ€™t know what to do, honestly. We canâ€™t kick him out; heâ€™s got no place else to go.â€
â€œWhereâ€™s your mom?â€ Felicia asked.
â€œSheâ€™s down in Kentucky, staying with her sister. Sheâ€™s definitely not interested in taking him back. And I donâ€™t blame her. Life with my father has never been easy. But when he ran off to California with that woman . . . I canâ€™t say Iâ€™d take him back either, if he were my husband.â€
â€œSo instead,â€ Jennifer said, feeling a little bitter, â€œyou, the daughter, have to take him in and parent him.â€
Mimi half-chuckled. â€œYep. My sister made it clear she wasnâ€™t interested. So Iâ€™m it.â€
â€œDoesnâ€™t that tick you off?â€ Jennifer said.
â€œSometimes, yes. But you know, Iâ€™m the responsible one.â€ She tucked her short, blond hair behind her earsâ€”something she did whenever she was stressed or frustrated about something. â€œPlus, Mark and I have been trying to look at it from a spiritual perspective. Heâ€™s my dadâ€”and he needs the Lord.â€
Just like my mother. Jennifer tried to push the thought aside.
â€œIs he going to church with you yet?â€ Felicia asked.
â€œNo, thatâ€™s one thing he refuses to do. But we keep working on him. Itâ€™s really cute to see Megan reprimanding him about not attending.â€
Jennifer could picture Mimiâ€™s precocious six-year-old giving her grandfather a lecture about loving Jesus and getting saved.
Gracie reappeared and dropped the check on the table. â€œHereâ€™s your parting gift, ladies. Hope you have a good week and those preacher husbands of yours treat you all right.â€
â€œHey, howâ€™s your sister doing, Gracie?â€ Lisa asked as Gracie started to turn away.
Gracie grimaced and a shadow crossed her face. Jennifer knew Gracieâ€™s sister had been diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago and had gone through surgery and chemo.
â€œNot good. She just went to the doc last week. Itâ€™s back and vicious.â€
â€œI thought she had it beat,â€ Jennifer said.
â€œWe thought so too, but when she went in for a checkup, they found it. Itâ€™s in her bones and I donâ€™t know where all.â€
â€œOh, Gracie, weâ€™re so sorry.â€ Mimi touched Gracieâ€™s hand. Gracie squeezed it and held on.
â€œOh, Gracie,â€ Jennifer murmured.
â€œThatâ€™s terrible,â€ said Lisa.
Felicia just shook her head, her face heavy.
â€œIâ€™m flying down there to Florida next week to be with her,â€ Gracie said. â€œSo I guess I wonâ€™t see you next time.â€
â€œWeâ€™ll be praying for your sisterâ€”and for you,â€ Lisa said.
Gracie nodded and let go of Mimiâ€™s hand. â€œI know you will. If God hears anybody, I know itâ€™s you four women. Pray hard, will ya? Maybe heâ€™ll take pity on an old, crotchety woman and her sister.â€ She winked, then turned and walked slowly away.
Jennifer and the others looked at one another but didnâ€™t say anything for a moment.
â€œI had no idea.â€ Feliciaâ€™s eyes followed Gracie as she tended to her other customers on the other side of the restaurant.
â€œShe didnâ€™t let on at all that something was up,â€ Mimi said, looking amazed at how well Gracie had covered up her pain.
â€œMaybe we should pray for her and her sister right now,â€ Lisa suggested.
Jennifer and the others agreed. There was no better time and place to pray.
Click the bookcover or title for more info or to purchase a copy. Look for other FIRST Wildcard member posts and opinions also. Don’t forget to click the authors’ names or photos to visit their websites. See my review in today’s posts.