Apart from being super-sweet and carrying that sweetness over into her novels, Janet Dean is also one of those people who always look classy. She’s quick to take time to encourage people, especially floundering author-wanna-bes, AND she’s one of the fabulous gals of Seekerville. (to the left is Janet with fellow Seekervillian, Myra Johnson)
I pleased as sweet tea to have Janet on today. Her excerpt is wonderful, but her devotional words are just as good.
Let’s see what she has to say:
I’ve attached Jake’s salvation scene from Wanted: A Family, Love Inspired Historical, March 2011. Months earlier Jake was released from prison after spending a year in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. Now he’s been arrested for another crime he didn’t commit and can’t handle reliving that nightmare. Since he’s met Callie, the young widow who believes in him, he’s been attending church and reading his Bible but wasn’t sure if God was real until he hears from God in his jail cell.
The door closed with a bang that ricocheted through the block of cells and echoed with a familiar finality that made his stomach heave.
Mere months before, he’d been in another prison where an innocent bump could send a man into a rage. And someone could end up dead. He’d learned to watch his back, always prepared for trouble. Trouble was a daily visitor in jail. Conditions made that inevitable. The bullpen, that dim, airless exercise room with inmates herded together like doomed cattle in the stockyards. The stench of unwashed bodies and urine invaded his nostrils. The slime of spit, slippery beneath his feet had him gulping for air. He couldn’t survive that again.
Shoving the memory aside, he dropped onto the cot in the dim cell, elbows on knees, hands dangling, focusing on the fibers on his frayed cuffs. Those frayed cuffs had been the reason he’d gone into the Mercantile. Odd something so trifling as wanting a new shirt determined a man’s fate. He plucked at the fibers, unraveling from the times he’d scraped against shingles, plaster, lumber—typical in his line of work.
Yet, far more than his cuffs was unraveling. His life was unraveling too.
That woman he’d seen in the Mercantile could’ve taken the money before she slipped away. Yet he had no way to prove it. Considering Callie’s anger at the will, she wouldn’t come to his defense.
Jake’s throat knotted. He’d lost everything that mattered. His mother. His woman. His freedom.
Once again, he was confined to a cell, no one to hear, no one to care. Swallowing against the bile pushing up his throat, Jake understood with clarity. He didn’t know how to handle his life. He didn’t know how to handle even one night in this cell.
Tears stung his eyes. All he’d ever wanted was a family. Was that too much to ask?
That yearning had brought him to Peaceful in search of his mother. In a way, he’d found her. His mother had lived in Callie’s house during its grander days. Both he and his mother had walked those floors, spent time under that roof, been sheltered by those walls. Not much of a connection but something. Something he’d cherish. All he had.
A sob tore from his lips. All those years he’d resented his mother for not coming she’d been dead. Irene Squier, still in her teens died giving him life.
Someone should care that she no longer lived. Someone should mourn her. He did. He cared, yet too late to tell her.
Too late to thank her.
He had nowhere to turn. No one in this town would help him. He hauled himself to his feet and walked to the window, staring at the star-studded night through the bars. Across the way, he spotted the silhouette of Callie’s church steeple, pointing toward the sky. The Heavens, people said, God’s home.
Did God exist? Were all those words in the Bible true?
He dropped to his knees in the striped moonbeam on the floor, gazing up at that scrap of sky, the only visible link to God, if He existed.
Jake had read the Bible stories. There’d be no burning bush for him. No parted waters. No water into wine.
All he knew for sure—he couldn’t go on alone. He couldn’t make another day under his own power. He’d prided himself on his skill with hammer and nails, on hard work, on his physical stamina. But he had nothing left. He was a hollow shell of a man.
A sob shoved up his throat. If You’re real, God, if You’re up there and You…care about…me, help me. Please. Help me accept the loss of a mother I never knew. Help me find my way. Please, be that arrow Callie talked about. Show me the way.
The arrows he’d been following had taken him to a dead end.
I’ve tried to live by my own strength, but I don’t have any strength left. I don’t have enough strength to spend the night in this cell. I don’t have enough strength to fight Commodore’s charge. I don’t have enough strength to convince Callie to love me.
I love you.
Jake swiveled on his knees. No one was there but he’d heard a voice. A voice that was crystal clear, real. The tone, gentle with the warmth a loving parent would use with a frightened child.
Some child. Him. A twenty-three-year old jailbird unable to handle his life.
He staggered to the window, peering into the night, searching for some change, some concrete evidence the voice in his head, dare he think, was the voice of…God.
No falling stars, no flashes of lightening, no howling wind. A regular night. But in that moment, a night like no other. A blessed sense of peace filled him.
God was real. God cared. God loved him.
Jake felt that love. Felt that forgiveness. Nothing about his new conviction made sense. Yet with bone deep certainty Jake knew God was there in that cell with him.
A man who’d walked this life alone. Or so he’d thought. Now he knew that choice had been his, not God’s. God had been there all along, waiting for him. At Jake’s first step of trust, at his first plea for help, God had answered.
Jake had read about Jesus in the Gardenof Gethsemane. How he’d cried out to God the night before he hung on that cross. If Jesus could handle that, Jake could easily handle this night.
Tomorrow he’d share his faith with the only woman whose opinion mattered. He had the promise of a fresh beginning. It seemed so simple. Yet, so complex. To a man like him who’d never been loved, the love of God was a mystery.
He had a father now. A Heavenly Father.
Thank You for loving me. Thank You for saving me. Thank You for never leaving me when I rejected You countless times. Help me be and do what You want.
Certain what he must do, Jake closed his eyes and gave his burdens to the One who controlled the Universe, even this small chunk of it in this cell. Let go of the anguish of those lonely years in the orphanage, the heartache of waiting for a mother who never came, of being framed by a friend for a crime he didn’t commit, of the months of degradation and fear in that other cell, of losing Callie’s regard. All that weight lifted from his shoulders.
He still remembered every moment of his past. How could he forget? But his past no longer dominated who he was. Not his todays. Nor his tomorrows. He felt reborn.
Hope spilled into every crevice of his being. With God’s help, he and Callie could be a family. He could be a good husband, a good father. He stretched out on the cot and slept.
(The picture to the right is of me, Janet, and another Seekervillian, Cara Lynn James)
Matthew 7:7–Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
When I’m doing what I believe is God’s will for me, this verse tells me to ask for what I need to accomplish that purpose. That God will give those things to me and will open doors. The promises of this verse are conditional. I must ask, seek and knock first. The verse doesn’t say how long I must ask, seek and knock, but when I do, he will answer in his perfect timing. I’ve seen the promises of this verse fulfilled in my life and specifically with my writing. Now that I’m published, I claim that promise when the words aren’t coming but my deadline is. I ask God for strength, wisdom and peace to create stories that will bring him glory. He’s never failed to answer. When I ask, seek and knock.
Thank YOU, Janet. What a great way to start this week! When we are seeking God’s will for us and we ask, seek, and knock for Him to answer our cries for direction, He is faithful. Beautiful excerpt and wonderful reminder!