said novels don’t affect
readers lied. Whoever thinks God won’t use fiction to speak to us is
Four years ago I pored over
every Amish book I could get my hands on. The stories reminded me of
simpler times, good people, and, especially, wholesome food.
A few months later my husband
approached me. “I want to see the ocean again before I die.”
I gulped. “Are you trying to
tell me something?”
My stomach pulled into a knot. God,
are you getting ready to take him home? You know I can’t live without
him. Wait, I’m sorry. You’re the most important person in my life, but
You know what I mean, don’t You? Of course You do. You’re God.
My mind shifted gears. “Hey, can
we drive through Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on the way?”
The morning of our trip, after
only three hours of sleep, my alarm clock nearly jolted me off the
I rolled out of bed, my stomach
churning. Even though we were going to Amish country, I still had
issues. I don’t like to travel far away from home, but because of my
husband’s desire, I had to. What if something terrible were to happen?
I couldn’t rob the man of his last request.
Besides, I had this feeling that
the Big Guy wanted me to travel halfway across the
country, that He had something to say to me once I reached our final
A few hours later, we tooled
down the highway. I felt like a cranky bobble head doll.
“Why don’t you take a nap,
honey?” my beloved said.
I forced my eyes open. “I’m
Reaching into the backseat, I
retrieved a notebook.
My husband glanced at me. “What
are you doing?”
“Well, others get ideas for
writing while traveling, so maybe the same thing will happen to me.” I
watched passing cars, road signs, and more, jotting down anything out
of the ordinary.
Hours later, and many miles down
the interstate, acid crept up the back of my throat. Did I mention that
my stomach assaults me when I don’t get enough sleep?
I sighed. “Can’t we just stop at
“We’re on the downhill side
Partially obliging me, he took
the next exit and pulled into a Hardees’s. I got a vanilla shake, and
he ordered dinner to go. We climbed back into the car. He wolfed down a
hamburger and fries as we cruised. I sipped my shake.
“Are you sure we can’t stop
“We’re almost there, Deb.”
telling that to my stomach.”
“Isn’t the shake helping? Sure
sounds like it from over here.”
A few hours before we reached
Lancaster, when I honestly thought I couldn’t take anymore, I caught
sight of a viaduct. The words Jesus Loves You were
painted in blue across the side. Lucky for my husband, calm swept over
me. Thank you, Lord.
We finally pulled into the
parking lot at the hotel. Visions of a soft bed with plump pillows
floated across my mind.
When we entered the lobby, an
offensive aroma invaded my senses. Body odor filled the small area.
I whispered to my husband. “Do
you smell that?”
He gave me one of those
After walking into the room, my
visions of a good night’s sleep vanished. Dirt stained the maroon
carpet, as well as the creamy bathroom tile. And the bed? Well, I was
afraid to crawl under the covers, worried something would crawl on me.
“I’m not sleeping there.”
“Look, Deb, I’ve been driving
for hours, and I’m tired. We’ll never get another room at this time of
night.” He rubbed his belly. Burp. “I don’t think
the hamburger agreed with me.”
slept in our clothes, on top
of the bedspread, and survived till the following morning. I couldn’t
wait to find another hotel.
After we had settled in at our
new place, we toured Amish country. I saw horses and buggies, young
Amish boys and girls sitting inside, just like in the novels. “How
awesome is this?”
We later stopped at a place
called Zooks. Handmade quilts lined a far wall. I fingered the fabric,
wanting to purchase them all. After seeing the price tags, though, I
settled on one. I think my husband got indigestion.
A few days later, we made our
way to Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. I liked the strange name for
the city. Who wouldn’t want to kill old Slewfoot?
When I walked in our room,
relief washed over me. A clean patchwork bedspread lay over the bed.
Plump pillows adorned the top. A table and chairs sat nestled in the
corner, where we could sit and eat the shoofly pie I toted from
Lancaster. We viewed the ocean right outside our window.
We strolled along the beach,
looked for seashells, and ate the best food. It was heaven, I tell you.
Only one thing bothered me. The Big Guy had been silent the whole time.
I felt His presence, especially when the waves slapped against the
shore, but I still sensed something missing.
After turning in for bed one
evening, some harsh realizations hit me. I’d taken care of others for
years, including my elderly mother, but didn’t realize how angry I’d
become in the process. I prayed, repenting of my testy old self. Pardon
my sins, Lord, for I know they are many.
On our last night there, we sat
on the beach after dinner. I still wondered why God had been silent. I
eyed the distant shore, wondering what kind of shells I could find down
there. “I’ll be back in a few, honey.”
I walked down the shoreline and
spotted a mound in the sand. A piece of a blonde-colored shell peeked
out, about the size of a nickel, and I pulled it free, brushing the
granules away to reveal my treasure.
When I flipped the shell over,
my jaw went slack. Written on the inside, were two little words in
blue. “Jesus Pardons.”
Whirling around, I combed the
area, wondering if someone had played a trick on me, but nobody else
was there, just my husband, who still sat at the other end of the
beach. Gooseflesh peppered my arms.
I sprinted up to him, tears in
my eyes. “Look what I found.”
Guarding my prized possession, I
brought it home and put it in my desk. It’s been there ever since. I
look at my seashell often. Who would have thought?
Like I said, whoever said novels
don’t affect us lied. Whoever thinks God won’t use fiction to speak to
us is wrong.