Kara squirmed. The pew was hard and rigid, but that wasn’t the main reason that she was uncomfortable. She glanced nervously around the sanctuary and tugged at the top of her shirt. It wasn’t that she disliked church. It was just the awkwardness that she didn’t enjoy. She had spent way too many Sunday afternoons trying to blend into the wall paper.
People were still filing into the pews around her. She took a deep breath and focused on the cross at the front of the church. Jesus loved everyone equally. He loved the unlovable. He was friend to the friendless. Why was it that his followers didn’t do the same? It seemed wrong, and almost comical, that she ignored by the very people who proclaimed love to the whole world and everyone in it. She sank deeper into the pew and pulled the hood of her sweatshirt lower over her eyes.
After a few hymns, the pastor stepped to the pulpit. He was a frail, old man with no hair and fiery eyes. Kara thought that a gust of wind would blow him away.
“Our passage today is on John 13:34 – 35. ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’”
Kara almost laughed. This was too good. Here she was wondering why the church didn’t care about her and this old guy was going to preach to her about how much everyone should love everyone. She rolled her eyes. If she was a gambler, she’d lay down some serious money that she would walk out of that church in an hour without a single person even glancing in her direction.
The sermon ended and Kara watched as her brothers darted off to find friends. She cringed as they dodged elderly women and grazed babies in their mad dash across the sanctuary.
She was ready to sit down and indulge in a little self-pity. After all, it wasn’t her fault that people didn’t care about her. She crossed her arms and glared at the back of the pew. She wanted to kick it down. Or get her nose pierced in three different places. Apparently it was against church moral to get facial piercings. She wanted to prove to everyone in this holier-than-thou place that she could be a fine Christian with little bits of metal stuck in her face.
A tap on her shoulder interrupted her train of thought. She half turned, expecting that it was one of her siblings. Her face registered surprise when she saw who it was.
“Miranda! What are you doing here?”
“This is my church. I’ve been going here since I was a week old.”
“Uh, that’s nice.” Awkward silence. Kara hated the silence. It was the worst part about all of the conversations that she had with people.
“What brought you to Hope Church?”
“My mom found it online. We just moved here, so we’re still narrowing down our options.”
“Hey, do you want me to introduce you to my friends here?”
Kara blinked in disbelief. “Wha? You want to introduce me to your friends? Why are you being so nice to me?”
Miranda laughed. “I just thought with you being new and all, maybe you’d need some friends.”
More than you know.
“Uh, yeah, that’d be great. Thanks.”
Kara grabbed a wad of napkins and threw them across the table to Miranda. Miranda caught them and quickly dabbed the ice cream that was soaking into her shorts.
“I guess I’m the one who spilled this time!”
Kara laughed. It felt good to laugh; to be happy. The shrill screams and loud shouts of her siblings filled the air. Mom was in the kitchen cooking. Dad was working on the faulty van yet again. Kara settled back into her chair and smiled at Miranda.
It hadn’t been easy leaving their old home. It never was. She still missed the beautiful sunsets, the little antique store and living close to her grandparents. But this new town…it had become home, too. As much as it could be for someone like Kara.
“Thank you, Jesus.” She whispered. “You gave me a friend, and you’ve given me my family to stick with me my whole life.”
The room around her began to spin and the colors faded until all she could see was grey. Sleep tugged at her eyes. She felt a hand on her shoulder, someone shaking her. When she opened her eyes again, she was lying on her own bed, staring at the cracked plaster. Mom was hovering above her.
“Are you okay, honey? I haven’t seen you since supper.”
Kara sat up and rubbed her forehead. She looked around and found herself in her own little room, in Missouri. She collapsed back on the bed and moaned. A dream. A silly, little dream. She should have known. She could never actually live something so beautiful as that. She could never really have –
“Kara?” Mom pushed a strand of hair out of her eyes. “I know this is hard for you. It’s hard for all of us. But we’re going to make it, okay? We’re all in this together.”
She smiled and left the room.
We’re all together. Kara thought silently. Together. Through all of these moves, I’ve had my family. They’ve never left. Never abandoned me.
“We’re getting close, kids!”
Dad had to shout to be heard over the racket in the minivan. Mark was crying for ice cream. Lily was playing with dolls. Very loud dolls. Jim and Suzie were arguing over a half piece of gum that they both desperately wanted to chew for five seconds and then swallow. Mom was cradling her head between her hands. Kara was trying to lose herself in a book. But when Dad shouted those four words, everyone perked up.
Kara gazed out of the windows at their new town. They passed a little store and her mouth fell open in shock.
It can’t be.
It was a tiny bookstore with big glass doors and a welcoming atmosphere. It also looked exactly like the one in her dream.
A tiny smile spread over Kara’s face and goosebumps ran up her arms.