Monday, June 22, 2009

Excerpt - Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes by Robin Jones Gunn

Captain's Log, Stardate 06.22.2009:

Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes
by
Robin Jones Gunn


A multi-tasking mama, Summer Finley has found ways to handle whatever life throws at her with grace and a grin. Until now, that is. An “abnormal” medical test result sends Summer into an emotional tailspin and prompts her to fulfill a life-long dream of “meeting” her best friend and pen pal since fourth grade, Noelle Van Zandt, face-to-face.

Their blissful week together in the Netherlands finds Summer and Noelle floating down a canal in Amsterdam, visiting Corrie Ten Boom’s Hiding Place, sipping decadent Dutch cocoa in Delft, and bobbing merrily along through a sea of brilliant, spring-fresh tulips. Each day takes them further from midlife anxiety and closer to trusting God in deeper ways.

When Summer finally confides in Noelle about the abnormal test results, Summer’s honesty prompts Noelle to share a long-held heartache. The two friends find they both needed to be together more than either of them realized. Could it be this adventure was tucked away in God’s imagination long before Summer bought her ticket to fly to the land of merry tulips and kalomping wooden shoes?

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Excerpt of chapter one:

After booking my ticket to the Netherlands, I sat quietly in front of the computer, contemplating what to do next.
Outside the rain carried out its spring fling with gusto. Telling my husband seemed wise. Not on the phone,though. I didn’t want to say the words “abnormal mammogram,” “biopsy,” or “I’m leaving for a week” unless I could see his face.


So I decided to bake cookies. After padding my way to the kitchen, I pulled out a mixing bowl and turned the oven to 375 degrees.


I’m not the sort of woman who takes a long bath or a long walk to have time and space to think. For me, the best processing happens when I have my well-used mixing bowl balanced on my hip. No electric mixers for me. I beat the lumps out of my life challenges with a wooden spoon.


Then I line up all the solutions in my head while arranging the lumpy balls of dough on the cookie sheet. Soon the scent of all that lovely butter, brown sugar, and oatmeal wafts from the kitchen, and I start to feel better.



The fragrance fills the house with a standing invitation for my children to “come hither.” As they gather around the kitchen counter, I remember what really matters, and my problem is somehow quietly resolved.


Only this time I knew that when the enticing fragrance raced down the hall into each bedroom, it would find no takers. All our children were launched and flitting about in their own worlds.


Abnormal. Biopsy.


I went after the cookie dough with renewed mixing vigor. Taking a few steps closer to the refrigerator, I looked over the collection of off-kilter photos until I found the one of Noelle standing in a field of tulips with a windmill in the background.


You’re going there, Summer. It’s going to happen. You’re going to see Noelle. You really are. Believe it.


For many years a variety of photos and postcards have adorned our refrigerator. Every time I would stop mid–pot roast extraction or post–milk replenishment, the images I would look for were the ones of Noelle and her world.


How long had I dreamed of seeing those tilt-a-wheel windmills and picking those bursting-with-color tulips by the armful?


As I dropped the dough into agreeable rows and slid the cookie sheets into the oven, I made another decision. I would tell Wayne everything as soon as he came home. But I wouldn’t tell anyone else about the biopsy until I had received the results. Not even Noelle.


If everything worked out for me to see Noelle, I wanted to spend my time with her as unencumbered as possible. I would take the trip in a self-induced state of denial. Yes, complete denial. It was the only way I would be able to enjoy the visit.


I foraged around in the garage for a suitcase and went hunting through Wayne’s desk for my passport. The scent of warm cookies encircled me, and I thought about how one should never underestimate the power of comfort food when faced with monumental decisions. I’m convinced that the fragrance of cinnamon and sugar enlivens the heart and strengthens the senses when a woman is in want of a special measure of courage.


My courage lasted all afternoon and kept me company as I ran errands. Denial can be a wonderful thing.Why had I never called upon its fabulous powers before?


I was eager to reach home to see if Noelle had read my e-mail yet. In the rhythmof our online correspondence, I would write to her toward the close ofmy day, and she would read my post at the start of her new day.The time difference between our two lives was six hours. She was always six hours ahead of me. Maybe she had seen my e-mail before going to bed. Maybe she already had responded.


The rain stopped as I rounded the corner, returning home with a full tank of gas and a week’s worth of groceries. Wayne’s car was in the garage when I pulled in. I inched the old family minivan up to the hanging tennis ball to make sure the van was in far enough to close the garage door. As the tennis ball did its usual bounce-bounce against the windshield, anxiety surged in my stomach. Everything in me tightened. I sat in the car, waiting for the cinnamon-laced courage to come back.


I wasn’t afraid of what Wayne would say. He is a great husband. I didn’t always think that, but I do now. The longer we’ve been married, the better our relationship has become. The anxiety was connected to my logic in all this. How wise was it for me to leave the country right now?What would be the repercussions of staying in denial for another week or so?


Wayne stepped out into the garage.He peered at me through the windshield with a half-eaten cookie in his hand.

“You coming in?”


I nodded but didn’t move.


“Summer?”


I couldn’t quite get my body to open the door and exit the car.


“Honey, are you okay?” Wayne came over to the passenger side.He opened the door and climbed in.His current position at our church as one of the associate pastors includes most of the counseling load. Wayne is a careful listener. He is intuitive and empathetic in his approach, which was quite an adjustment from the “Wild Wayne” I had married when I was nineteen years old. Life, love, loss, and raising six children had had a marinating effect on his heart. He is a big softy now.


“Is it one of the kids?”Wayne reached over and wove his fingers through my nearly shoulder-length brown hair.With a steady hand hemassaged the back ofmy neck. “What is it?What’s wrong?”


I let out a long sigh and then exhaled all the details, starting with the phone call and rolling right into how I had put a flight to Amsterdamon hold and had e-mailed Noelle, asking if I could come see her for a week.


Then I sat very still, my hands clutching the lower rim of the steering wheel, waiting for his response, which I knew could go either way. The neighbor’s schnauzer barked. The car’s engine pinged. Wayne untangled his fingers from my hair and said the last thing I expected. “Good for you.”


I turned to take in his full expression. “Does that mean you think I should do this? I should go to the Netherlands?”


“Summer, for as long as I’ve known you, you’ve talked about meeting Noelle. Yes, I think you should do this, and, yes, I think now is the time to go. The biopsy can wait another week or so, can’t it?”


“I think so.”


Wayne took my hand in his. “Do you remember what you told the kids when they left the house?”


I nodded. My farewell line was the same for each of them, and after saying it six times, I was quite familiar with the utterance. I just hadn’t realized that Wayne had heard me say it. Or had remembered it.


“You told the kids, ‘Go make your own adventures, and come home often to tell us about them.’” He smiled. “I’d say it’s time for you to do the same. Go make your own adventure, honey. When you come home, I’ll want to hear all about it.”

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