Winter Cowan felt the words thud in her heart like rocks. Of all the
topics to speak on, why had she chosen forgiveness?
Had she forgiven Ty?
It would be wrong of her to hold something against someone. She knew
that. So what was the problem?
A few minutes ago, she'd escaped to the motel lobby to find a quiet
spot away from her ministry traveling companions, to think and pray,
because something about her sermon notes didn't seem quite right.
But maybe it was her. Not her notes.
Could she even speak on forgiveness--with a pure heart--when a day
rarely passed that she didn't remember what Ty had done to their
marriage? To her? Even though she tried to forget?
She'd gone on with her life, free of wanting retribution. Or so she'd
I'm sure I forgave him,
just in case... Words she'd said a hundred times crossed her
mind. I forgive Ty for ruining our
marriage. For hurting me.
She waited for a comforting peace to soothe her. Instead, one word
pulsed through her heart, through every sensor in her brain.
But surely I--
Excuses were cut off as Neil Quinn, her ministry adviser, rushed across
the lobby, his face ashen.
She stood to meet him. "What's wrong?"
"The receptionist from First Community Church in Seattle called. The
pastor's wife went into cardiac arrest last night, and--she died."
"Due to the circumstances, the church board canceled next week's
A surge of compassion rushed through her. What pain the senior pastor
must be going through. How awful to lose a wife, a best friend, after
several decades of marriage.
Then there was Neil. He'd take this kind of news hard; six years ago,
he'd lost his wife to cancer. Added to that, he carried the weight of
the ministry's planning, and a week without services meant extra living
expenses for the team of five.
"Things will work out. They always do." She patted his arm, hoping to
ease his concern.
Neil's wounded expression lassoed her attention back to the news he'd
"Pastor Leslie will be terribly lonely without Katie," she said.
"I know." He stared at the floor, out the window, anywhere but at her
face. "Ever since I got the call, Molly's passing has been on my mind."
He swiped moisture from beneath his eyes as if batting away a bit of
dust, cleared his throat, collecting himself. Like she didn't know
exactly what was going on. She'd seen this look on his face dozens of
times. The man was like a brother to her, and she knew he still pined
for his wife.
All business again, he took a deep breath. "I was trying to figure out
what the team should do for the week, until I remembered my old college
roommate, David Michaels." His eyes brightened. "He's pastoring in
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. So I gave him a call, explained our situation,
and he's interested in hosting Passion's Prayer at his church next
week, even on such short notice."
His words hit her like a tennis racket across the face. Wait. Her eyes
bolted to his. "You didn't say--Coeur d'Alene. Did you?" A gulp of
cotton-like nothingness choked her.
"Yes, I did. It's about five hundred miles west of Billings, right off
She knew exactly where Coeur d'Alene was.
Lord, why this? Why now?
"I'll send David an e-mail attachment of our flier first thing in the
morning," he continued.
"Then everything will be settled." Despite the tragic news and the
unexpected turn of events, her co-leader for Passion's Prayer was
handling the team's next event with his usual diligence.
She didn't know what to say, what to think. A decade had passed since
she'd left Coeur d'Alene. And one thing was for certain--she had no
desire to revisit that city. Not now. Not ever. The chance of running
into Ty was too great.
"I'll pull the car around front," Neil said, and then pushed open the
glass door of the lobby.
"We're expected at the church in fifteen minutes." His shoulders looked
more relaxed as he walked away.
She, on the other hand, felt ill. Throwing up seemed likely.
Her heart raced, and she wanted to shout out nothing was settled.
Instead, she sank into the hardback chair with a groan as thoughts and
pictures of the past careened down on her.
Coeur d'Alene? She
her head. I can't go there.
Why hadn't she spoken up? Why didn't she tell Neil exactly what she
thought about his new scheduling plans? Couldn't they just take the
Glancing at the ceiling, her eyes followed a roaming crack line in the
paint, its abrupt zigzags reminding her of country roads they'd
traveled in Montana. Roads that seemed to lead nowhere, but always
ended up taking them right where they needed to go.
What if I haven't
She held her breath for a moment. I'm
sure I did.
She nibbled her lip between two teeth, pondering her dilemma, wishing
for a different outcome other than the one looming on the
horizon--going to Coeur d'Alene and possibly seeing Ty.
I'm being silly.
God's help, I can preach in any city, anywhere He leads. Coeur d'Alene
included. Besides, what's the real chance of me running into Ty in
church? One in a thousand? She grimaced. One in a million is more like it.
For several seconds she'd almost convinced herself before doubt-filled
questions ransacked her calm. How could she speak confidently at the
conference if she was worried about seeing Ty? How could she walk the
streets of the town where she fell in love without picturing the man's
face? And if he happened to show up at the meetings--which she dearly
prayed he would not--what would she say?
Another concern kicked the wind right out of her. How could she explain
him to her team?
She'd avoided that for five years, and she wasn't about to change now.
Somehow, she had to convince Neil to alter his plans. Of course, he
knew of her brief, disastrous marriage a decade ago, but what he didn't
realize was Coeur d'Alene happened to be the last place she'd seen Ty.
The place where she'd made a million memories with him. And a million
If she explained everything, would Neil decline his
invitation? Probably not. Neil would be the first one to tell her to
face her past. Not to hide from it.
She pressed the heels of her hands against her forehead and moaned. I
really don't want to go to Coeur d'Alene or see the places where I
spent those six months married to Ty. I don't want to relive all the
She bit her lip. Fought back tears.
Lord, I'm really
to do what's right. I want to follow You. She almost hated to ask, but
she had to. Is this…is this Your will?
In the answering silence, she remembered the word forgive she'd felt
the Lord speak to her earlier. Did preaching in Coeur d'Alene have
anything to do with that?
Standing, she paced across the tiny lobby, her red heels clicking a
rhythm against the patterned floor. She pictured Lake Coeur d'Alene.
The trails and beaches she and Ty had hiked. Their little apartment.
No, I can't think about those things.
Lord, please, help me.
With every step she cried out to God. She'd need His strength to get
through the days ahead.
Yes, it came back to that. And her dread of facing the past.
Lord, I give it to You.
past. My future. Lead me where You want me to go. Show me Your will. I
need You so much.
She continued praying and committing her life and the next week's
services in Idaho into the Lord's hands.
Pictures of her ministry team brushed through her thoughts. She could
see Deborah leading worship songs and glorifying God, Neil praying for
the sick like he'd been doing during the meetings in Billings, and
Jeremy, the newest member of their group, leading young people to the
Lord. As she envisioned each person, her thoughts focused more on their
journey, less on her past.
By the time Winter's team joined her in the lobby, she had a renewed
sense of peace. If God wanted to use her in a town she'd never imagined
stepping foot in again, so be it. She truly did want His will.
However, one question lingered to unbalance her recent calm. If going
to Coeur d'Alene was in God's plan for her life--and she was beginning
to think it likely was--what else might He have in store for her there?
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