Has your world ever felt like it has turned completely upside down? Hope Atwood can relate. Join me and continue reading her journey in Chapter 1, of Renewing Hope! [If you haven’t read the prologue, hop on over to the Renewing Hope story page. ;)]
This story is for all the overcomers. God holds your hand, dear Warrior.
Five years Later
She’s like the wind. She can fly wherever she wants. She can soar. She escapes danger with a sword by her side. She is fearless, brave, confident, courageous…
“Hope, it’s time for dinner!”
Mom’s voice jerked me out of my thoughts. I stared down at my drawing of a woman and looked deep into her eyes. They were filled with determination and resolve. “She is everything that I’m not,” I whispered in despair.
Sighing, I closed my sketchpad with a bang. I rose from my chair and walked to my bed, shoving it underneath the pillow- into its hiding place. My legs were stiff as I came down the wooden stairs.
The aroma of spaghetti and Italian sausage filled the air. Reaching the dining room, my pace slowed.
What’s this? Mom’s fine china, a vase of daisies, and a blue checkered tablecloth graced the table. I hadn’t seen that tablecloth in ages and flowers…flowers were never in the house. When’s the last time we “set” the table?
Mom halted in her tracks as she came out of the pantry. “Oh.” She stammered, then brightened. I didn’t hear you come down the stairs, honey.” She smiled and gestured to the table. “Come and eat while the food is hot.”
Okay. I followed Mom’s lead and took my place at the table. She offered me her hand, and bowed her head. I took it with reluctance.
“Dear Lord, thank you for this day. Thank you for this time together. I pray that you will bless this food to our bodies. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.”
Mom squeezed my hand then let go.
I stared at her while she unfolded a napkin onto her lap. A napkin? When did we ever use cloth napkins?
Her straight blonde hair was pulled back in a high ponytail. Stains shown underneath her fingernails and a dark mark on her shirt seemed to scowl. That wasn’t normal.
“Mom, were you gardening?”
Her head came up. “Yes, I was. I raked out those old flower beds in the front yard and planted sunflowers. It was in dire need of some love. I’m excited to watch the flowers bloom! Such beauty.” She flashed me a bright smile.
“Hmm.” My eyebrow quirked upwards. Picking up my fork, I twirled the spaghetti noodles around and around.
“I hope it tastes good,” Mom said. “I know it’s your favorite.”
I gave her a nod. “It smells heavenly.” Taking a bite, my eyes closed as the yumminess filled my senses.
Oh. Mom was staring at me. Why did she have to stare?
“Yeah, it’s delicious.” I took another bite, and glanced anywhere but at her.
She smiled and seemed pleased.
“I got an email from your Dad today,” she said with the most matter-of-fact tone.
“What?” I choked, reaching for my glass of lemonade and clearing my throat. “What did you say?”
Mom looked me in the eye. “I got an email from your Dad today. He is moving here, to Oregon…and he wants to see you.”
“What?” I practically squeaked. “Why?”
“He found a job that pays better. Still as a mechanic, just for a dealership now.” She took a bite of cheesy bread.
I let my fork clank on the tabletop. My voice rose. “But why now? I don’t get it.” Heat climbed up my neck.
Mom placed her slender hand on mine. “He is not out to ruin your life, honey. He cares for you, you can’t fault him for that.”
“Mom, he doesn’t care for me.” I pulled my hand away and shook my head. “He stopped caring when he abandoned me. Us.”
Mom hesitated. “I know that you were so hurt and still are, when your dad left. I’m sorry for how I’ve failed you. I never helped you grieve or forgive or feel normal as much as I should have. My own problems and grief took up all my energy and time.” Her eyes welled up with tears. “But let me help you now. Tell me anything. Talk to me. There were some counseling videos at the very beginning of the divorce that helped me…”
After all this time, she wanted to really help me? It was years too late.“I can’t handle this.” I pushed back my chair and bolted.
Tears blurred my vision as I ran. Mom shouted after me.
Run. That’s all I could do.
I slammed my bedroom door closed behind me. My body went limp against it and slid to the floor.
Why does this have to happen now? We finally moved to a place that doesn’t remind me of Dad and now he’s here?
I was 17. It had been five years since the divorce. Why did it affect me so much? I buried my head in my hands as the memories came crashing down. Voices replayed in my head like a recording.
“What are you so concerned about, Hannah?”
“I’m concerned about our daughter Mark! She has noticed how distant you’ve become, and she’s hurt. She can feel it. You hardly pay any attention to her! You act as if work is your child and wife”
“What about you, huh? Last time I checked you just fill your time with menial tasks. All you care about is how things look!”
“Now Mark, that’s not true and you know it! Open your eyes. I purposely make things nice when you get home after a long day. It’s not for possible company coming over or that everything must be clean. I do it for you!”
“Well maybe I’m just tired of this. All of this! Everything’s the same…”
“Mark, I’ve said over and over, we can move to a new house! We don’t have to stay here.”
“That’s the problem, Hannah. It’s not the house. It’s the people.”
There was silence for a few seconds.
“This isn’t working for me, Hannah. I can’t take it anymore.”
“Take it?” Mom’s voice broke on a sob. “What are you saying, Mark?”
“I’m saying that I’m leaving. For good.” His voice raged.
Lifting my head, I took several deep breaths. That wasn’t happening. My bedroom surrounded me–not a dark hallway where I had held my breath with silent tears. Eavesdropping had become my super power the month before Dad had left.
However, right now, no yelling or arguments filled the house. I’m fine. I’m fine.
I rose, knees shaking. Everything’s okay. I snatched a clean shirt from my bed and started smoothing out the creases. Life is peaceful. But no matter how many times I ressured myself, it remained a lie. And no one looking in would believe my lies, including myself.
Turning towards my mirrored closet, I caught my reflection. Seeing my dirty-brown hair and green eyes, made Dad’s face appear fresh in my mind. Oh, Dad.
The shirt crumpled in my hands. The desk beckoned me to place everything in order. What I couldn’t fix in my life, I could always fix on my desk.
Then my gaze unwillingly moved towards my secret hiding place. Should I?
Retrieving the sketchpad, I sat, flipped it open and came to my latest sketch of the woman.
She emanated beauty.
She had sparkling blue eyes, dark brown hair, and strength. Her strength seemed to come off the page.
Everything about her appealed to me.
For years, the people I sketched were always perfect. Not one single flaw. Now it was time for a change.
On the next page, I started a much different sketch. This sketch was of a man. A man who had thousands of flaws.
[End of Chapter 1]
Have you ever gone through something that changed everything? Can you relate to Hope’s struggle? Have you ever fled at the sight of heartache and fooled yourself into believing you are fine?
If you feel this way right now, I pray the Lord stirs something within your heart. And you finally let His healing hand begin working.
Please, please feel free to comment with your thoughts!