Charlie Cannon, Part 1

“And He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ And they immediately left the nets, and followed Him.”  Matthew 4:19-20

 

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Lindy Mitchell leaned out the Jeep window for a kiss. “I’ll be back in an hour. Don’t get lost, or we might have to send a search party in after you.”

Mace Mitchell grinned. How well my wife knows me, he thought.

“Don’t worry–I have a list.” He pulled his wrinkled, yellow piece of paper from his jeans and waved it. “Just call me when you’re leaving the grocery, Lins, and I’ll be ready. Love you, Choo-Choo.”

“Ditto, Kiddo.”

He watched her blond head blip around the corner out of the parking lot, then he grabbed a buggy.

Smoothing out the paper, he raked a hand through his curly hair. Picture hangers. Doormat. Interior paint, #2891 Ocean Breezes. Okay, he’d head on over to Paint first.

On his way there, he envisioned the pastel blue-green color Lindy picked for their bedroom.  Once they decided to paint, it’d taken Lindy several tries to find the right color.  No black, no purple, was all he asked. So last night when she held up her tiny paint chip against their stark white walls, he heartily agreed.

Yeah, he’d try his best to get in and out of here today, and not aimlessly float down the aisles to play with the newest and coolest the store had in their displays. It was his plan to get the bedroom taped and completely knocked out by noon, then buzz on over to the church to tweak the sound and graphics for tomorrow’s worship service.

At Paint, the young guy behind the counter was mixing another order. He wiped his hands on a paint-splattered apron and approached. “Kyle” said his nametag. “May I help you, sir?”

Mace pointed to the list. “I certainly hope so, Kyle. I need two gallons of this in your best interior flat.”

Kyle nodded. “Be right back.”

Kyle went about gathering cans of base paint, cracking the lids, and sticking them under the color machine. Mace watched as several codes were punched on the keypad and long and short dribbles of color slid into his paint. Opposite them, the paint agitator stopped its monumental shaking. Kyle strode to the monster of a machine, removed another customer’s can from its bowels, scooped out a paint daub on his finger. Mace chuckled as Kyle had to rummage under the counters for a decidedly low-tech hand-held hair dryer to dry the paint color he’d swiped on the lid.

Mace went back to his list. While the paint’s getting mixed, I should head on over to hardware for those wall hangers to put up those pictures Lindy’s been dogging me about. Then over to flooring to get a replacement doormat, thanks to Ranger, who’d gotten bored last week and decided to chew up the old one.

Mace started forward, almost bumping his cart into a guy who’d since appeared at the paint counter. Surprise shot into the other man’s full-bearded face. “Hey, sorry about that,” apologized Mace. “Hope I didn’t get you.”

“Naw, not a problem.” The man met Mace’s eyes. A flicker of recognition lit the gray eyes, then receded.

I know him too, thought Mace, but where do I know him from?

Kyle walked up with the finished can of paint, set it on the counter. “Here you go, Mr. Cannon. Will there be anything else for you today?”

Cannon. Charlie Cannon? Could it be—?

6 Reasons to Love the ACFW Conference

Having arrived home a few days ago from an action- and information-packed American Christian Fiction Writers’ Conference in St. Louis, I’m still sorting through my myriad impressions.  Here’s a brief list of take-aways for me, as a fledging writer:

1) PEOPLE! On the macro level. . .

So many wonderful Christians who are there to teach, to learn.  There’s something wonderful about the body of Christ gathering in one spot together. . including the sheep who might be a little different from us.  . .  Yet the mass effect of Holy-Spirit cancels out differences and gels us together like nothing else can.

2) PEOPLE! On the micro level. . .

The delightful, lovely folks I bumped into all day long, wherever I went. . .God put each of them in my path for reasons only He knows, but we are “knit together in Him” (Colossians 2:2) like I’ve known them forever. . .I will continue to bounce ideas off of them in the future. . .and get their advice.

I don’t have a picture of one sweet friend, Julie, who prayed for me right before my editor appointments. But two other of my newest friends, Connie (in pink) and Elizabeth (pictured with me) are below:

3) Favorite authors I’ve read. . .

Going to the bookstore and actually seeing Terri Blackstock signing her books. .  Picking up a Karen Kingsbury novel off the table and finding it already signed. . .seeing and hearing Colleen Coble introduce a speaker at our general assembly. . . listening to Brandilyn Collins wonderfully emcee all conference long. . .

No, there are no pics of them; I didn’t stalk the more famous among us. I figured they just wanted to attend the conference like normal folks. (Although, I did manage a picture of Brandilyn from a distance, up above.)

4) Exciting new authors. . .

Attending an Erin Healy workshop on “Breaking the Rules in Christian Fiction”. . .taking notes on Jenny B. Jones’ “Dialogue Do’s and Don’ts”. .  . being steered to a new women’s fiction author, Gina Holmes, whom I now have downloaded on my Kindle, ready to read (thanks, Sabrina!). . .

5) New trends in writing. . .

How Young Adult fiction is picking up steam, targeting the vast market of young folks who gobble up anything supernatural/vampire/werewolf, etc, but presenting it with a Christian worldview. . . . and similarly the area of what’s called “speculative fic”, written for fantasy-seekers. . .I can’t write it, but I certainly appreciate the effort that goes into creating these genres. And don’t even get started on a topic foremost in a lot of  minds–that of e-pubbing–

5) Editors and Agents. . .

Getting to pitch my book baby to lots of different people in the industry of Christian publishing. . . treasuring their helpful and affirming feedback. . .where eating and sitting next to these movers and shakers helps me realize that yes, they are human, and as a new writer friend told me, “Realize these people wear underwear just like you and me!”. . .

6) Encouragement, hands down. . .

Writing is a lonely activity, yet ACFW was one big opportunity for me to mix it up with others who create books. I have come away with lots of craft instruction on HOW to write, sure, but the most valuable are the contacts He’s given me that I pray He will use to His glory.

If writing in God’s Name for the sake of God’s Kingdom doesn’t result in glorifying the Lord Jesus, then we should all hang up our pens/computers right now and find something else to do.

Yet we do.  Our hope, our mission, is that with stories we will continue to touch those readers who DO know Him. . .and reach those who don’t YET.

May Jesus be praised!

Lookin’ up,

Sislyn

Ariel

You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” Jer. 29:13


            “The visitor’s card says ‘801 Great Stone Way,’ Mace,” said Lindy Mitchell, her eyes shifting between the card in her hand and mailboxes on the street.

Her husband, Mace Mitchell, slowed the car until they found a shiny black mailbox with brass numbers of 801. “This is it,” Mace said, turning in. They rambled through a natural wooded area into a clearing with a large house built in it, well-hidden from the road.

At the end of the circular drive loomed a white-bricked mansion. Clusters of bright flowers, shrubs, and small trees tastefully graced the grounds.  A small fountain gurgled.

Lindy exited the car.  “Wow,” was all she could whisper. “Really nice.”  She read the card. Ariel and Derek Farmer, with twin girls Sadie and Maddie. They moved here a month ago and have attended Beal Street Church for the past three Sundays.”  Lindy glanced at her husband. “Our church must have something they like.”

Mace joined her, staring up.  “Yeah. I might get a raise if the Farmers keep on finding things to like,” he said, a playful grin crooking his mouth.

She jabbed him, hoping no one saw through the myriad windows.  “Ixnay on the itchay-atchay,” she said in a low voice

Mace rang the doorbell, took a step back.

An attractive red-headed woman in a white sleeveless blouse and khaki capris swung open the door, a smile on her heart-shaped face. Heavy gold earrings glittered at her ears, bringing out the professionally-done highlights in her layered bob.  “Hello!  You’re the music pastor from Beal Street, aren’t you?”   From her rapid-fire accent, Ariel must have been raised up north somewhere.

“Please, won’t you come in?” she asked, whisking them inside.  The woman extended a French-manicured hand.  “I’m Ariel Farmer.”

Hiding behind their mother were the twins—about kindergarten age.  Their coppery hair was tied back with matching ribbons and was a shade lighter than their mother’s. The two stared out around their mama’s tanned legs with enormous eyes.  “This is Maddie, and this is Sadie, my twin girls.  I’m afraid my husband Derek is still at work.”

“I’m Mace Mitchell.”

“And I’m Lindy.”  She waggled a little wave to the girls, who both giggled at the same time.

“Come, sit down,” Ariel offered.  “Can I get you anything to drink? Tea, soda, or coffee?”

“No, don’t go to any trouble,” Mace said.  “We’re here to talk about the church, maybe answer any questions you might have about Beal Street.”

“Then I’ll try to come up with a few.” The corners of Ariel’s mouth swept up in a ready grin. “Girls, why don’t you bring some toys out here so Mommy can talk to Mace and Lindy?”

She and Mace were directed to a leather sectional, while Ariel kicked off her expensive-looking sandals, pulling her feet under her.  The girls retrieved a doll with a handful of doll clothes each and sat in the floor in front of her.

Mace settled into his seat.  “How’d you come to Beal Street Church?”

Ariel explained that their move from another state was a result of Derek’s new position in a Raleigh law firm.  As for Beal Street Church, they happened upon the picturesque house of worship during a family drive one evening and “liked the looks of it,” deciding right then and there to attend the next Sunday.

Ariel detailed for Lindy and Mace the rest of their history:  Married for seven years.   They bounced from location to location through the end of Derek’s college years, law school, his first law position, and finally here, “hopefully for a good long time,” Ariel said firmly.

“What about you, Ariel?  Do you work outside the home?”

“Not right now.  Until the twins came along, I managed retail in several high-end clothing stores, although—” she admitted, “—I almost spent more than I earned. That used to work Derek up into a full head of steam, it did.” Ariel twirled her hand like a game show hostess. “You see, I happen to like nice things.”

Lindy glimpsed the evidence. Overstuffed leather furniture, parsed into three conversation areas within the cavernous room.  Large canvases on the walls, splashed with bright amoebas of color. Fantastic fiberoptic chandeliers, works of art in themselves, hung from the ceiling. A billiard table on ornate carved legs manned the far end of the room.  Beyond the French doors, a gleaming blue pool beckoned.

Lindy shifted in her seat.  She’d probably never shopped any of the stores that Ariel worked in, never even bothered to glean the clearance racks.  Lindy didn’t know this woman well, but as she listened and observed her lifestyle, everything in Ariel’s life seemed big, larger than life.  She lived on a whole different plane of existence than she—simple, old Lindy Mitchell—did.

Mace sat forward.  “So, Ariel, can we answer any questions about Beal Street?”

“Everyone’s been so warm and welcoming at church, they really have.  The girls love going.  And I really, really love the music in the contemporary worship service.  Have you guys always had a  contemporary service?”

Lindy realized she’d stopped listening to the audible conversation around her, honing in on the one in her head instead.  She knew the still, small voice.   Ariel needs friends, Lindy.

Lindy scooted a bit closer to the armrest as Mace and Ariel continued their chat.  Lord, I understand that. They just moved to town. But I’m sure she’ll seek out those ladies at the country club, the wives of her husband’s law partners, the others who run in her circles.  I mean, look at this place.  Everything about her says “money.”

But she needs you to be her friend, Lindy.

Lindy glanced over.  Ariel laughed a high, tinkly laugh, her eyes lasered on Mace as he talked.  Her well-manicured fingers went to one of the small silky heads sitting at the couch’s edge.  She began to play with a loose strand of hair, extending a wisp, letting it go.  Picking another strand, letting it go.

Lindy eyed the ceiling.  Lord, look at this place.  What could Ariel and I possibly have in common?

She’s seeking Me, Lindy.  And I want you to help her to find what she’s looking for.

Mace’s words filtered their way back into her consciousness. “You know, I love both kinds of worship, the traditional and the new,” he said.  “Both can be used to glorify God.  Anyway that, in a nutshell, is the story of how Lindy and I ended up at Beal Street.”

Ariel was hugging her legs underneath her, transfixed on Mace’s every word.  Past the highlighted hair, the nails, the creamy complexion, Lindy could see hunger for something in those eyes.

Okay, Lord, Lindy prayed, You win.  But You’ve gotta help me bridge the differences, Lord, because you know I’m not exactly Chatty Cathy.

She had a thought.  Julia’s Bible study, that’s it!  She cleared her throat and spoke up.  “Ariel,  do you know about the new women’s Bible study just beginning at Beal Street?”

She turned to Lindy with eager eyes.  “I think I heard Brother Bill mention it in the announcements.  Can you tell me more?”

“Julia Peters, Brother Bill’s wife, is heading it up as facilitator.  It will focus on a godly woman’s roles in the home, the church, and the world.”  Lindy picked at a thread on her jean skirt.   “You know, Julia’s hoping for a real mix of ages in the study, both young and old alike.  She says there’s a lot we can learn from each other as women.”

Ariel’s face crumpled, for a sliver of a second, into a microcosm of palpable wistfulness.  Then just as quickly, it smoothed into a veneer of poise.

“You know,” she said, “I could do that.”  She paused to stroke the other twin’s head. “The twins are in a preschool a couple of days a week.  If the study is scheduled for one of the days while they’re in school, there shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Oh, I forgot to mention there’ll be childcare at the church; Julia’s going to arrange for it.  You could bring the girls with you, if you want to.  Julia did that so anyone who wants to, can come and not have to look for a babysitter.”

“Great,” said Ariel smiling.  “I’ll keep my ears perked for the starting date and mark it on my calendar.”

Restless from playing, Sadie and Maddie moved from the floor to the couch, pressing themselves into their mother.

Mace took the hint and stood.  So did Lindy.  “Well, we’ll let you get back to taking care of these little girls.”  He touched their coppery heads.  “Sadie, Maddie, you keep on coming with Mom and Dad to Beal Street.  Now that I know who you are, I’ll be looking for you, okay?”

The twins shyly grinned at each other, at their mother, and then at them. “Okay,” they said in unison.

“They’re so quiet,” Mace marveled. “Are they always this quiet?”

Ariel stood also.  “Heavens, no. Just around people they don’t know very well. Wait till they get to know you better. They can be regular little chatterboxes!”

The adults made their way to the foyer. Lindy spoke first. “I’m sorry we didn’t get to meet Derek.”

“Me, too,” Mace agreed. “Maybe we’ll get the chance to speak to him at church.”

Ariel clamped her lips together, released them. “Maybe you will, I hope so.  Derek’s trying to make a good impression for his new bosses right now, so he’s working a lot of hours.”  A half-smile darted across her face.  “Sometimes he goes into the office on Sundays, too, though I tell him he shouldn’t do that.”

Mace sidled up next to Lindy.  “That’s okay.  We’ll catch him eventually, I’m sure.  It was very nice to meet you, Ariel.  Remember, Lindy and I’ll be glad to help you any way we can.”

“And I’ll be praying for you, that you can attend the Bible study,” Lindy said, taking her hand.

Ariel’s face lengthened with all seriousness as she gripped back.  “You would?  You’d pray for me?  I’d really, really appreciate that.”

“If you’d like, we’ll pray with you before we leave,” Mace suggested, pulling them into a circle.

In the car’s rearview, Lindy watched the white-washed bricks of the mansion become less distinct and then disappear behind a veil of woods.

I want you to be a friend, the Voice confirmed within her. Ariel’s seeking Me, Lindy. I want you to help her find what she’s looking for.

I will, Lord.  I’ll certainly try.