The following is an excerpt from our book, “In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God.” The story is about an unremarkable couple pursued by God at every turn. It’s written in two points of view – his and hers – bi-chapterly. Here’s a few things you need to know to set the stage: New Author Chapter Preview
It takes place several months after their shaky blind date in that nearly comfortable stage. They’re forty-somethings who’ve just graduated college, about to start lives meant for twenty somethings. They stand on the relationship hearth, laden with old baggage.
She is not interested in God… any God. To her, sobriety has no benefits. It’s rather like slaughtering a Led Zeppelin tune to make it playable in elevators. She’s been hurt, and if some guy thinks it’s going to happen again… well, he better be ready because this time guns are loaded. The question is this: Is she attracted to the soft-hearted, God-loving recovering alcoholic bent on becoming a better man, or the selfish, egotistical, biker bad-boy he used to be? New Author Chapter Preview
He is three years sober and not going back to the party. He loves God… a God of his own design, picking what he likes and dislikes like a child forking through a salad. He sees the red flags she slaps him upside the head with, but hey, she’s not a convict, an improvement over past relationships. The question is this: Is he attracted to the kind, loving, woman underneath her facade, or the mouthy, arrogant bad-girl he sees as a challenge? New Author Chapter Preview
The big question is this: New Author Chapter Preview
Have they exasperated all patience or can God clean up their messy lives?
Oh… did I mention my husband and I are the couple, and this is our true story of God’s perpetual grace?
The sample chapter below is written in Sandy’s (my husband) point of view. It’s one of the more light-hearted chapters, when he meets my colorful parents. It begins amid the current family drama, the murder of my mother’s cousin, Virginia.
Read the warning and take the risk if you dare. We hope the taste of our story leaves you wanting more.
Bet he’s never seen anything like it.
After tedious hours of prep and quizzing by professor Deb, I’m ready to meet the parents. The door opens, I’m drawn into the land of the McFarland’s, a place I believed existed mostly in Deb’s exaggerated imagination. Dema greets us at the door with a hearty, genuine hug. I’m confused because she’s dressed like we’re going to a black tie event and my only instructions were to wear a real shirt with no funny saying on it. She’s all sparkly, with sequins and jewels, the infamous auburn hair and makeup done to perfection. I feel better seeing Mac stretched out on his recliner, dressed like a 1950’s cowpoke.
The 12 by 12 foot living room is furnished for a room three times its size, so you have to cross the room walking sideways. Greetings barely obliged, Dema presses start on a VHS tape she’s had paused and ready for us since we left Yakima. The 60-inch projection television can only be seen from the two recliners placed directly in front, where Mac and Dema sit, both armed with a stack of remotes. Deb and I sit on the orange velvet love seat, our knees sideways so we don’t knock over the glass table in front.
For the next hour we watch news clips recorded from all three major television networks. Deb warned me this might happen, to which my reply was, “No, they wouldn’t do that.” After this, I will not question Deb’s facts. The newscasts escalate from a missing person to murder, while Mac and Dema insert background information, sometimes pausing to make sure we are keeping up.
Hindered by the sideways view and the interruptions, this is my best translation of the drama: Virginia is Dema’s cousin. No one agrees whether she was on husband six, seven or eight. She has a son named Lynn, a sailor who visited once and made homemade pizza from a box. Virginia had lots of money because of her husbands, that she spent on diamonds and high heels. Dema says Virginia was spoiled as a child. She should know since they took baths together. Virginia was missing four days, with her car mysteriously parked in the driveway. Husband number six, seven or eight, claimed she vanished. Lynn, the pizza making son, flew to Spokane, hoping to help find his mother. Suspicions grew. The police brought search dogs, finding poor Virginia buried in the garden along with the carrots and potatoes. The last news clip shows the husband in handcuffs being carted off in a police car. An autopsy revealed she had been shot. Everyone is relieved that Aunt Myrt, Virginia’s mom, is not around to see this.
I’m exhausted and we’ve just begun. Again, Deb was right, insisting my intro to the McFarland’s be brief, without Haley and Jay, who might blab something we don’t want known.
“I don’t want them to know we’re living together,” said Deb. “If we stay overnight we have two choices – separate rooms, pretending what we all know not to be true – or same room knowing the rest of the family is pow-wowing outside the door, chanting tsk – tsk – tsk.”
Considering our options, a short day trip seemed best. When murder and mayhem conversation dies off we move to the next dramatic scene.
“Have you shown Sandy the bar?” Mac asks, knowing we’ve not left the front room. “Bet he’s never seen anything like it.”
“You haven’t… come on,” Deb says, motioning for me to follow. She side-winds through her childhood habitat, like a snake crossing the desert, while I, new to the obstacle course, bump knees and elbows, unskilled at walking sideways. Mac and Dema follow. She carries a 16-ounce tumbler of scotch and water, room to room, like a portable oxygen tank. The story from Deb is that her mom confesses to the doctor a two drink habit, omitting the constant refreshing and topping off.
I’ve spent time in bars, all types… redneck, biker, highbrow… dives to swanky black tie joints… home bars, makeshift bars, tailgate specials. Yet none prepared me for the, “McFarland’s Bar.”
Deb’s eyes are begging me for words, but I don’t know what to say. When words fail me, she involuntarily covers for me, chattering nervously, cooing and fidgeting like a cross between a dove and a quail.
“We had the bar built. It’s regulation. So are the dozen stools,” Mac says.
There’s a mirrored back bar with shelves stocked and ready to fill any drink order. And… Elvis is in the room… rows of gold and silver Elvis bottles peering down from shelves installed around the ceiling. There’s a black light, 20 beer signs, a booth style table and a life size poster of Mac dressed as a woman… an extremely ugly toothless woman with a huge nose… just imagine if Popeye had a sister. What comment am I to make? Deb is trying to cover for my silence.
“Did you see the disco ball? Cool, huh? Did you know the poster is Dad? The ceiling is painted black for the strobe lights. You should really see what it looks like at night…”
Any moment Deb’s going to shove me on her lap, cram her arm up my butt and move my jaw up and down, like Edgar Bergan and his Charlie McCarthy doll. I open my own mouth to comment, but not fast enough to delay what’s coming next.
Deb’s classy, attractive, soft spoken mom calls me over to the bar. She’s lined up a collection of ceramic figurines. I obey her call, nearing the harmless looking monks and frogs. Then she hands me a monk.
“Turn it around,” she says. “Isn’t that awful?”
As I turn the monk around, he transforms into a ceramic penis. Why is this happening? Dema keeps saying how awful it is… I want to agree. Then she hands me a frog, asking me to turn it over. Do I have to? Deb gives me a “just do it” look.
“Isn’t that awful?” Dema asks again.
I manage a laugh at the anatomically enhanced frog. It’s not that I can’t handle the joke. I feel like I’ve been captured and thrown into someone’s really bad X-rated home movie. Finally, I speak.
“Deb, where’s the bathroom?”
The conversation turns from ceramic phallic symbols to towels as I follow Deb’s finger pointing down the hall.
“I copied your idea to roll towels on the shelves. I really like it.” I hear Dema say to Deb.
I try to open the door to the bathroom, but something is behind it. I slide through sideways, finding a huge hook on the back of the door holding a stack of robes. The door’s heavy and hard to close on the carpet, but I manage. Standing at the toilet staring at a tall shelf above it, I count 56 hand towels, 49 bath towels and 62 wash cloths, neatly rolled and stacked like cord wood stored for the winter. If a bus load of people needing a bath arrive at the McFarland’s, they’re covered for towels.
“There are 56 hand towels,” I say to Deb as I squeeze back through the door. She shushes me while peeking in.
“Oh, that looks great Mom. Rolling the towels saves a lot of space.”
Dinner, however late, is worth it. I’d been told to expect greatness and my hopes were not denied. The table was set with U.S. Navy flatware and individual platters, not plates, crowded with heaping plates of southern fried chicken, mash potatoes, country gravy, biscuits and corn. Seated in unspoken assigned seats, with Mac at the head of the table, I remember one of Deb’s warnings – “Whatever you do, don’t pass the food in the wrong direction, it drives Dad crazy.”
He passes the procession of steaming bowls ceremoniously clockwise. I try, but curiosity wins, forcing my hand to pass the corn upstream, against the current. Dema accepts the bowl with a nervous grin… Deb and Mac place their forks on the table, staring me down as if I’m the one who buried Virginia under the carrots. Not wanting to delay indulging in this feast any longer, I retrieve the corn, sending it clockwise. I know what we’ll be discussing on the ride home to Yakima.