High Hope in a Turquoise Sky by xiuliliaofz

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									Turquoise Sky
 by Linda K. Anderson
Turquoise Sky                                                                                   2




                                         Chapter 1

       Luke turned the pickup off the highway onto an unpaved road. The children were
napping in the crowded seat of the truck, bouncing along toward their new home. Ellie was
brooding, deep in thought as they drove through the late afternoon sun of the Wyoming
summer. The dusty, sage-lined road stretched before them in shimmering golden mirages.

        Ellie shifted in the seat and stared out the window at the red and gold high desert,
ablaze with the setting sun. She closed her eyes against the scene, trying to squeeze out the
dust coming in through the vents of the old pickup; a few unbidden tears slid down her
cheeks.

        “There it is!” Luke startled her with his outburst. His enthusiasm grated her, again.
She only nodded to acknowledge that the ranch was in sight. The children were also
startled awake and peered into the dusk for the gateway leading to their new adventure,
because to young minds and hearts, any new experience is exciting.

        The high arched gateway announced proudly that they were now entering the
Morgan Double H Ranch. Sean Morgan, Luke’s cousin, named it the Double H for High
Hope. Ellie frowned. And Luke has high hopes I’ll be happy here, but he better think twice.
Ellie glared at Luke as they drove through the gate under the gently swinging sign.

        Even before the motor stopped, Ellie could see two people rush out the door of the
large ranch house and down the steps. Luke jumped from the pickup and ran to bear hug
Sean, with Michael right behind him and Simon fussing to be freed from his seatbelt. Ellie
unfastened him, and he slid out the driver’s side to join in the excitement.

        Ellie wearily opened her door and stepped out into the cooling evening. Rubbing
her pounding head, she slowly straightened, wiping her face and shaking the dust from her
red hair. Anger churned in her stomach. She tried to be polite as she shook hands with
Sean, who then introduced them to his wife, Susan Morgan. Susan reached out a slender
bronzed hand to warmly shake Ellie’s. She then welcomed them and invited everyone into
the house for supper.

        They stayed the first night at Sean's before moving into their new home the next
day. Ellie woke very early in the morning, her head still pounding and unable to get back to
sleep. She quietly slipped down the stairs toward the kitchen, but she stopped when she
heard someone speaking softly. Then she realized it was Susan’s voice. Ellie stepped
forward and looked around the corner. Susan was kneeling, hands outstretched. “Who am I
that You called me for this, Father? Help me understand Your ways. If it costs my whole
being, it is a small sacrifice compared to the cross. I’m Yours.”
Turquoise Sky                                                                                      3




          A cool draft caught Ellie by surprise. Sean came in the side door. “Good morning,
Ellie!”

       He seemed pleased to see her as he motioned for her to follow him into the kitchen.
“Coffee?”

          “Yes, please.”

          Susan looked up and smiled warmly as she stood to get cups.

        Ellie sat at the table across from Sean and Susan and smiled as she took the hot cup.
Ellie sipped the coffee and glanced at Susan. “Thanks for letting us stay last night.”

       “Oh, you’re welcome. Sean and I are thrilled that you’ve come out to help with the
work, aren’t we?”

        Susan smiled brightly at her husband. She wrapped her hands around her steaming
coffee cup and listened to Sean as he told her what he needed to do. As he stretched his
long frame up out of the chair, he kissed Susan and said, “Before we head over to Carver
Lodge, be sure to pack lunch and supper. We’ll all be hungry!”

          Sean took his empty cup to the sink and grabbed his hat, heading out the door.

          “Carver Lodge?” Ellie questioned.

        “Yes, Carvers built the lodge in the early 30s but never lived in it. Josiah Carver fell
to his death that winter on a hunting trip and Mrs. Carver moved in with her son or
daughter, can’t remember which, but they lived back east somewhere.”

        Susan leafed through a few pages before finding what she was looking for. They sat
in silence a few more minutes until they heard noise from upstairs. “The kids must be
waking up. I’ll go get them dressed and be back to help get breakfast.”

          “That’s not necessary. It will be ready by the time you get back.”

        Driving the short distance to their new home took only a few minutes along the
single-lane road, rough from years of neglect. As Sean got out of the Jeep, he bent in an
exaggerated limp, holding his back. "We'll definitely have to fix those holes!" he chuckled
as he straightened up and lifted Simon from his seat, swinging him into the air.

        The log house was two stories with a large entryway that went either into the big
living room or into the kitchen. A stone chimney nearly filled the area next to the door,
with windows on either side.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                   4




        Ellie's mouth dropped open in surprise when they unlocked the door and walked
into the kitchen. A mouse scurried along one wall, and Ellie quickly picked up Simon from
the floor, fearing the curious three-year old would run after the mouse. Cobwebs hung from
the ceiling and the windows were filmy. Their voices echoed in the emptiness against the
high walls.

        Sean looked embarrassed, “Guess I should’ve checked it before you came. I’m
sorry for the mess…”

         "Looks like we have our work cut out for us," Luke said. He was bringing in a load
from the pickup. Ellie continued standing with Simon in her arms, unable to believe what
was happening, and unable to move. How can we ever make this place home, and how can
I live in this huge house? And how in the world can Luke think this is just a big game? I
just want to leave; I want my headache to go away; I just want to go home!

        They scrubbed and cleaned the kitchen and bathrooms, the stairway and one
bedroom before lunch. Then after eating, they set up beds for the boys and started putting
the kitchen in order. Ellie again rubbed her pounding temples, then looked down at her
hands, broken nails, chapped skin. She caught a glimpse of her reflection in the bathroom
mirror when bringing in towels. “Ugh! What a sight!”

        Shortly before dark, Gilly drove over from the ranch. Ron "Gilly" Gilmore was
Sean's foreman. He was a good looking man in his mid-40s who had moved to Sean's ranch
two years ago. He kept his curly black hair cut short and told Michael his cowboy hat
would spring right off his head if he lets his hair grow! His dark beard held a hint of gray.

       Gilly needed to let Sean know he and Ezra found the steers that wandered off. "That
'bonehead' Ezra left the gate open."

      "Well, Gilly, Ezra's a good man. He just forgot." Sean wanted to keep peace
between his hired men.

       Gilly winked at Michael, then turned to Sean, "He's still a bonehead!" He chuckled
on his way out the door.

         Susan’s laughter filled the room with music, and the others repeated the chorus,
except Ellie. She was surveying the work they had finished and decided, since I have to live
here for a while, I guess I can enjoy the kitchen. The table was placed in front of the big
bank of windows on the south wall. The view was of the small stream that trickled out of
the mountains and meandered through the pasture and yard, edged by the only green grass
in the yard. Mountains formed the backdrop -- high and majestic, full of mystery. She saw
that Susan was lost in thought, staring at the darkening mountains. Ellie noticed Susan’s
full lips and long lashes. She has to be tired. How can she still look so beautiful?
Turquoise Sky                                                                                      5




       Susan turned from the windows, smiled at Ellie and said, “I love these mountains.”

        After supper, Sean said he needed to get home for evening chores and would expect
to see Luke at 6:30 the next morning. “You know, Luke, I can’t tell you how much I
appreciate your coming here. The pay may not be there yet, but the rewards will be worth
the sacrifice. And I believe God is paving the way for someone to step forward with the
funding we’ll need.”

        With that, Sean and Susan left Luke and Ellie to get ready for their first night in
their new home.

       “And NO pay? What else have you forgotten to tell me?” Ellie’s voice cracked and
her blue eyes flashed with anger as she turned away and went up the stairs to get ready for
bed. Luke followed.

       “You’ll see, El, it’ll be great. I know I’m supposed to be part of this.”

       “How? How do you know?” she demanded. Her frustration was mounting.

        “I feel it in my gut! I think about it and dream about it. Everywhere I turn, I see it –
in the faces of our children especially. I don’t want them to grow up in hatred and
prejudice. I just know it, Ellie. I want to see changes in the way people think about Native
Americans, about… ”

       “But there’s always been hatred. Prejudice and jealousy have been here since time
began. Look at Cain and Abel! You just can’t change human nature, and you can’t make a
decision just because you feel it in your gut! What about us? What about the dreams we
had when we first got married? How can you decide something like this? I just don’t
understand – and frankly, I don’t want to! I just want to go home!”

        “Oh, Ellie, this is more than just a decision! We were just going through the
motions! You didn’t hear me when I spoke about this. You always changed the subject But
our dreams have always been for a happy family, a home, and to do something good with
our lives. God has given us all that right here, and He wants us to enjoy the doing of it –
together! I can’t force you to understand, and I can’t force you to be happy, but at least
try!”

        Ellie turned away, surrendering to tears of frustration and uncertainty. Luke pulled
her back to him, wiped her tears, smoothed her long hair and smiled down at her. “You’ll
see. You’ll be amazed! When God puts His desires in our hearts, we have to respond or
that part of His plan disappears. Last summer, after I returned from my trip here, I told you
God had spoken to my heart. He hears the cries of the poor and neglected; He knows the
child sleeping with an empty stomach; He sees the mother crying for her lost teenager, and
He tells His servants to go!”
Turquoise Sky                                                                                   6




                                         Chapter 2

        Joyce Troyer still couldn’t accept the death of her husband Jerry. When the St.
Louis police captain came to her door that bleak February afternoon to tell her of the
accident, she crumpled to the floor. To learn that the man she loved more than life itself
was killed when his car slid off an icy bridge proved to be too much for Joyce to handle.

        Their marriage of fifteen years had its ups and downs, but their love kept them
afloat. The biggest disagreements were over each other’s children. They both understood
how second marriages with children carried a lot of extra baggage. When they married,
Jerry’s three children - Lora, 12; Adam, 13; and Joanne, 15, - watched in silence. Joyce’s
own son, Wade, at 12, never knew his own dad and was indifferent toward Jerry, who
eventually adopted him. The children all bickered and caused more than one night of
discussions and disagreements between her and Jerry. She simply didn’t know how to
handle the situation when Jerry was at work.

       I knew it did no good to tell ‘em their dad would handle the problem when he got
home from work! It was silly to even say that to them. They knew I’d likely forget by then. I
was such a failure at bein’ a mom! I couldn’t even keep peace in my own home. Why
should life be any different now?

        Before her marriage to Jerry, television was all Wade seemed interested in, much to
Joyce’s dismay. But she was sure she could handle the problem once they were settled in
their new home with Jerry, so she avoided confronting her son. However, after the families
were joined, Wade grew rebellious, and when Joyce finally tried to discourage his
attachment to the TV, he became belligerent. Along with the rivalry running rampant
through their home, Joyce and Jerry were nearing the end of their ropes. Eventually,
Wade’s rebellion affected his schoolwork. At 16, he quit school and ran away from home.
He came back twice, staying only long enough to steal what he could. I never dreamed this
could happen to me. Joyce was crushed by her son’s behavior.

        The next few years were made more difficult on Joyce’s emotions by all the
graduation celebrations for Jerry’s children. It made her acutely lonesome for her son when
she saw the successes of her stepchildren. Tears often washed her pillow at night as she
ached for him, not knowing where he was, and Jerry seemed indifferent to her feelings
about the situation. He just couldn’t see what was happening, so she felt that her emotions
had to be kept in check.

        When Wade’s birthday arrived one year later, Joyce baked a birthday cake, sang
“Happy Birthday,” then threw the cake in the garbage. She sat down and cried for over an
hour. I remember the pain and the fear the day you were born. Today, I have a different
pain and fear, and it’s worse than childbirth. My arms ache to embrace you and whisper
Turquoise Sky                                                                                  7




my love to you. I can’t even call to wish you a happy day. Shelves line the walls of your
room filled with ball caps, dust-covered model cars and airplanes, soda bottles collected in
the ditch behind the grocer, and photos taped to the wall of friends and pets. The miles
keep you silent and the distance is a bridge you have decided not to cross.

       Now that the children were all grown and gone, Jerry and Joyce planned a trip to
Alaska. It was to be a month spent touring the depths of that huge state and was to be the
prelude to retirement for them. Jerry retired one month before his death. They were
scheduled to leave the day they held Jerry’s funeral.

        That dark day was the hardest of Joyce’s life. She sat alone with no one to support
her, no one to hold her hand through the service, no one to offer love and sympathy.
Wade’s absence was felt keenly. Jerry’s children sat on the opposite side of the room with
their grandmother and other family members.

       Why are they so bitter towards me? Where have I failed? Joyce asked herself
repeatedly.

       The feeling of failure washed over her broken heart like the tears washing down her
face. With Jerry, I was able to pull through times like these. He was with me when Mother
died and he sat close beside me at my sister’s funeral. Now, I’m alone. What am I gonna
do? I don’t think I can go on.

        The day finally ended, and the weeks following were long, lonely ones. She could
not bring herself to clean out Jerry’s belongings.

        A month after Jerry’s death, a letter arrived from her stepchildren that shocked
Joyce beyond belief. “Why?” was all she could manage to say as tears coursed down her
cheeks.

        She sat at the kitchen table in the house she shared with Jerry and their children
since the day they married. Her hands trembled as she put the letter back into the envelope.
She surveyed the kitchen from her chair. Whatever would she do if Lora and her brother
and sister did what they proposed to do in that letter?

        Joyce wondered why they chose such an attack on her during her grief? Was it their
own grief that caused them to lash out? Joyce stared at Jerry’s photo, her deep red curls
framing her freckled face. She looked down at her hands wrapped around her cup of tea,
grown cold from sitting too long. The cup was her special one, given to her for their first
Christmas together. A small chip reminded her of the time Wade bumped it onto the tile
floor and his sad eyes when he saw the small chip. “It will always remind me of your love
for me, Wade, because I see how sorry ya are. And if it had broken, I would never be mad
at you.”
Turquoise Sky                                                                                    8




       Whatever happened to that love? Why did it die? Why did I fail to keep it alive for
you, Wade?

       Her throat tightened with a sob threatening to undermine her resolve to think this
through. “I should be cried dry by now,” she thought to herself. Since the accident that
claimed her husband’s life, crying had become a way of life. She crumpled the letter and
shoved it into her jacket pocket as she stood to leave the house for a walk to clear her mind.

       By morning, Joyce felt as if she’d wrestled all night. She decided to call Lora as
soon as she thought she was at work. “Maybe she’ll explain what’s going on, help me
understand.”

       But Lora refused to talk to her. “Our lawyer said we shouldn’t talk at this point.”
With that, she quietly hung up the phone, leaving Joyce more confused than ever.

       She pulled the letter from her jacket pocket and read it again.

                      We must advise you that the house will be sold as soon as possible.
               We have decided to give you three months to find someplace else and ask
               that you leave all of Dad’s things for us to go through when you are gone.
               Of course, anything that was our Mother’s should remain in the house as
               well. We have enclosed an inventory of what we expect to be left.

                      We are also prepared to accept an offer from you for the purchase of
               the house, should you decide to do so.

                       Our lawyers will be in touch with you on Tuesday, the third. Thank
               you.

       “Well, it’s Tuesday. Maybe I’ll get some answers,” she said out loud.

        By mid-afternoon, Joyce did have her answers, hard, hurtful, and angry answers.
Lora, Adam, and Joanne had decided to sell the house. They claimed it held nothing but
sad memories now – the long dying process of their mother after she was diagnosed with
cancer; and now their father’s death in a car accident. Since nothing had been in her name,
Joyce had no course of action except to do as the courts instructed.

        She now had more questions and knew she may never get the answers. The kids
knew she could never afford to buy the house. And why should she have to, surely it was
paid for. And why didn’t they come and talk with her face-to-face? Why did they resort to
hiring a lawyer?

       Little did the children know the grief it caused her, not because of the money or the
house, but because she knew she had no place to go, no money and no skills. Joyce felt she
had no hope.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                   9




                                         Chapter 3

       Ellie listened intently as Pastor Edward Lelland spoke fervently. "How many souls
have perished? How many lives disrupted because of greed for gold, power, and for land?”
He glanced around at the faces before him.

        He stepped away from the lectern and walked into the congregation. Ellie noted
how tall, blonde, and broad shouldered he was in his navy blue suit. Pastor Edward
confidently spoke with a passion one could respect and hope to imitate. Stopping beside
one of the older men, he rested his hand on the thin shoulder and looked into the face of the
white-haired gentleman.

        "Hunger and sickness, once alien to the Indian, became common and spread as the
West became settled. Smallpox became a silent weapon of destruction, sweeping through
villages as deadly as any gun or cannon.” He looked around the room once more. “And the
pain lingers.”

       Walking on through the auditorium, he continued, "'Pray or be shot!'”

        Ellie jumped at the loud cry from the Pastor. “A drastic method of 'conversion?'
They lost their right to live the way they knew how, ultimately losing their very spirit. How
did the Christians become so blind and err so badly?” He paused. “And the pain lingers."

        Pastor Edward looked serious, intent. "When I approached the West for the first
time ten years ago, I felt awed by the blue expanse of sky. I was amazed at the vast
landscape stretching before me with the sage floors reaching to pine-studded heights," he
swept his arm toward the bank of windows to the left of the baptismal. "It was those same
wonders that prompted the white man’s desire for this land, for this wide open vastness,
and that deep desire must have blinded them to the ones already on the land -- the
American Indians.” Pastor Edward was animated.

       Ellie glanced around the sanctuary. Faces of several cultures were watching the tall
preacher, hanging on every word. Her attention immediately went back to the sermon.

        "The soldiers came, blindly wielding their guns and swords, with the ultimate goal
to destroy the 'savages,' to open the land for the white people, and to rid the country of
those in the way of expansion.” He lowered his voice, almost to a whisper. “And we
continue today removing those inconveniently in our way -- to Hitler, it was the Jews, and
today our nation is moving ever closer to that day when the baby beneath a mother’s breast
will no longer be safe. And the pain lingers and cries silently.

       “Jesus came to heal the pain – if only we allow Him into our hearts.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                     10




        "I believe some of us here are called to be the conscience for this generation, to
teach the truth about what happened in the past in order to help us all understand and
prevent the same mistakes from happening again. God knows who you are. It’s time to
build bridges, to equip the original Americans with the gospel of healing and
reconciliation."

        After church, Sean invited Pastor Edward and his wife to join them for dinner,
along with Ellie and Luke. Ellie was quiet during the ride home. The children bounced on
the seat of the pickup, but all Ellie could think about were the words she’d heard during
church. What does it all mean? That happened so long ago. Indians are free today! Why
should I feel like a guest on their land?

        Over elk pot roast and a delicious corn dish, the conversation was light. Then Sean
finally spoke about the message. "I believe Susan and I are to be that voice you spoke
about, Pastor. We'd like to meet with you next week to get your thoughts on something
we've been talking about."

        Ellie listened closely, but was disappointed when the talk turned away from the
subject and back to the ranch, the weather, and the new City Park in town. She hoped to
hear more from the pastor. She suddenly had so many questions, and again she asked
herself, What does all this mean, and what am I supposed to do about it? The table
conversation became a blur as her thoughts whirled through her mind. How can I
understand something I am so unfamiliar with? I never did any of those things. I never
harmed anyone. Why do I need to make apologies?

        The children begged to go outside after dinner, so Ellie was glad to excuse herself
to take them to explore the yard and barns. Horses nickered as they approached the fence
and cattle could be seen in the distance grazing on the hillside above the ranch. It all looked
beautiful, but Ellie could not see the cloudless sky overhead because tears blurred her
vision as her thoughts flew back to Illinois, and Sunday afternoons with her parents. The
boys climbed up on the fence, but Ellie held them from scrambling over the top.

       “We’ll see the horses later,” she promised as they squirmed under her hold.

       She soon coaxed them into the barn to look for kittens. She found an upturned
bucket to sit on while she watched the boys explore. They can find something good
everywhere. Why can’t I have a childlike heart too? Perhaps this wouldn’t be so hard if I
could see it from their eyes.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                      11




        That evening she wrote to her parents. “I can’t get the thoughts out of my head.
This is so frustrating for me and I can’t understand why I’m here. I want to be a good wife,
a good mother, and a good Christian. I want to do what’s right, but I’m so completely
miserable. I want to be so content that the words I speak or write and the things I do are
exactly what God inspires in me, what He urges me to do or say. My emotions are on a
roller-coaster ride. Why can’t I count it all joy, like Paul says in the Bible? I feel so empty,
so joyless, almost like a robot. I don’t want to just go through the motions of being me – I
want to whoop it up and live like life is great and full and wonderful. But I have no energy
for that – only this empty gray cloud I seem to be hugging closely.”
Turquoise Sky                                                                                   12




                                         Chapter 4


         The stars were shining brightly by the time Joyce returned to the house from a brisk
walk the next evening. She was hoping the night air would soothe her emotions and help
her sort things out in her mind. As she unlocked the door, she could hear the phone ringing,
but it fell silent before she could get to it. She was growing tired of the calls – insurance
people, the bank, lawyers, and post office workers wondering if they should continue
sending Jerry’s mail. “How stupid!” she said out loud to no one, again angered by the fact
her stepchildren were on the warpath!

        When she finally closed her eyes, Joyce had made some notes about what needed to
be done, especially about cleaning out the house. Why hadn’t Jerry changed things to
protect me? She wondered as she tried to get to sleep. Once again tears dampened her
pillow, and once again, Joyce found sleep elusive.

        Awakened by thunder early the next morning, Joyce decided to get up, shower, and
get started on her sorting process. Fear and frustration mounted as the day went by. She had
three months to clean out the house before the children placed it on the market. How would
she manage by herself?

        One bright sunny day the following month, as she was taking things to the garage,
she sat in one of the lawn chairs, staring at the unkempt lawn, wondering where to go,
angry everything turned out the way it had.

       “We never dreamed anything like this would happen. And why is it happening?
Why did life have to change so tragically?” She wanted to scream. Instead, she picked up a
broken stick and flung it into the weeds.

       At 45, Joyce never held a full-time job, only a few part-time positions. All her life
she had been cared for either by her mother, her first husband, and then Jerry. Now she was
faced with not knowing what to do and where to go.

         She started the process of cleaning out her file drawer in the kitchen, putting
important papers into her black leather book bag. As she sorted through the documents in
the files, she opened an envelope and gasped with amazement, “I forgot the cabin!”

        Six years earlier, Jerry took Joyce to the mountains in Wyoming. He loved the
exhilaration of being on top of the world and wanted to share that feeling with Joyce. She’d
never been West of the Missouri River, so it was fun for her to explore new territory. She
was able to put her wounded emotions on hold during that two-week trip, taking in the
breathtaking vistas. It was a time for Jerry and Joyce to grow closer to one another and
watch their dreams take flight.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                   13




         While in Wyoming, they bought the small, run-down cabin. Wanting to keep it a
surprise until they could fix it up, they boarded up the windows before leaving, vowing to
return the following summer to work on it, which they never did. They planned to use it for
family vacations. It could also be a place the children could take their own children away
from the city, and away from the stress of work; and it was to be a place to enjoy once Jerry
retired.

        I remember thinkin’ how foolish it was to purchase this cabin, even though it was
in a beautiful setting. I remember all the trees snuggling up against the side of a mountain
behind the cabin. Now she hugged the papers while thoughts and plans started tumbling
through her weary mind. She read the papers once more to be sure her name was indeed on
the paperwork proving ownership. Now she would have a place to live. She grabbed a
notebook and began writing out what she would need and what she could sell.

        Her thoughts raced as she walked through the house, scribbling down each antique
item she and Jerry collected over the years of their marriage. Surely I can get a good price
for these!

        After nearly begging her stepchildren for more time to close the house, by late July
she started planning her journey from St. Louis to the mountains of Wyoming. It was
becoming a reality, and this scared her. The night after she found out the house sold, she
lay wide-awake, her heart pounding in her ears.

       “Breathe,” she told herself. “Calm down. Just take some deep, slow breaths.”

        She sat up and turned on the light. It was 2:45 a.m. She tried putting all the pieces
of the last few months into perspective, but the more she tried, the more her heart
thundered inside her chest.

       “I can’t move to Wyoming all by myself! What am I thinking? I can’t, I just can’t!”

        She looked around the familiar room, all pictures and other items were gone, boxes
were stacked in corners, and clothes were piled in baskets and boxes, sorted for various
distributions.

       “But what else can I do? What’s keeping me here?”

       Joyce was surprised when she realized it was now after 4 a.m. She got back under
the covers and turned out the light.

       “Oh, just let me sleep!”

       By early September, with her old car packed and the cash she was able to collect
from the sale of her antiques, appliances, and books, Joyce closed the door to the home she
Turquoise Sky                                                                                    14




never wanted to leave. She crawled into her crowded car and started the engine. A light
mist hung in the air as she pulled out of the driveway, pausing at the end of the drive to
glance one last time at the only home she’d ever been able to call her own. Her view of the
house was blurred, not only by the mist on the windshield, but from the tears streaming
down her face.

       Fearing the road ahead almost as much as the future kept Joyce alert and thinking.
She carefully locked her car at each stop and tried not to look like a lonely widow woman.

        Joyce stopped along the way to visit her best friend from college, Gayle, in Lincoln,
Nebraska. Gayle’s husband was out of town on business, but Gayle was excited about
having Joyce stay with her. They’d lost touch long ago and it had been years since the two
women had seen each other. After supper, Gayle made some tea and they went into the
living room to visit.

        Joyce suddenly broke down and all the floodgates of grief came pouring forth, and
for the next hour and a half, she shared her story with Gayle. It was the first time since
Jerry’s death that she was able to talk to anyone about her problems.

        “So, that’s how I got here.” She wiped the tears away with a tissue. “I’m on my way
to Wyoming to our cabin, the only thing I have left. And I’m scared and angry and just
plain depressed!”

       “Oh, Joyce, I didn’t know all this was going on. I wish you’d called earlier, I would
have come out to be with you. It’s so important to realize you are not alone! Maybe this is
why I’ve been thinking about you so much lately. Maybe God kept bringing you to my
mind so I’d pray for you, because I have been doing a lot of that.”

        “Thanks, but I don’t think God heard ‘cause I’m still so confused.”

        “But you’re here, Joyce! You made it to Lincoln and maybe that’s where you’re
suppose to be right now so you can hear the words God wants you to hear! He loves you,
Joyce, and He really does hear our prayers!”

        While Gayle took a phone call, Joyce wandered around the living room. Such a
simple beauty, and so like Gayle. I wish I could believe the way she seems to about God. I
just don’t know. So many things have happened in my life, I don’t think he does care.

        The fireplace was just starting to blaze, taking the chill out of the room, filling it
with a mild pine fragrance. One wall held shelves filled with books and another held a
large bay window overlooking a large lake. Joyce could see lights reflected on the black
watery surface. This is probably a lovely view in the daylight.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                       15




       Joyce ran her hand along the books; some were very old. She stopped at a small
volume, pulling it from a snug place among the larger books. She thumbed through it and
smiled, Robert Frost. He’d been her favorite poet while in college, and Gayle shared the
sentiment.

       “I see you found Robert’s rose among the thorns!”

       “What?” Joyce jumped slightly and turned.

       “Robert Frost’s lovely little book among all those heavy texts!”

        “Oh, yes. Remember how we would read to each other? We’d get so excited and
stay up most of the night talking! When did I lose that enthusiasm for life? Even when
Jerry was alive, I felt so stagnant, so dry and empty. It’s really not about Jerry’s death or his
children now; it’s not even about Wade’s absence from my life. It’s about this emptiness in
me. I have no drive, no enthusiasm for anything at all. I’m just going through the motions
of living, and you know, I haven’t written anything in years. I just don’t seem to care.”

       Once again, tears slid down Joyce’s cheeks. When she wiped them away, she sat
down and took more of the tea Gayle offered. They went to the kitchen and sat at the table
a few more minutes while Gayle cleaned off the counter. Joyce noticed how homey and
simple the kitchen was. The counter is so clean and empty, like it’s waiting for work to be
done on it. She also noticed a Bible open on the table along with a notebook and several
other books.

        Joyce stood and stretched. “Thanks for the tea. And for lettin’ me stop for the night.
I’m just really bushed!”

        “Of course you are. Let me show you to your room. And, Joyce, you can stay just as
long as you’d like. I’d love to have you meet Jeff. He’s the best thing this side of Heaven!
That was him on the phone. He gets so homesick when he has a business trip.”

       “Thanks, but, no, I’ll be leavin’ tomorrow. I really want to get settled in before the
snow flies! Who knows how early that happens in the mountains.”

        Joyce was soon snuggled into a warm bed. Gayle’s guestroom was cozy and
inviting with large pillows on the bed and lace curtains at the window. A warm glow filled
the room from the little bedside lamp that had been turned on earlier, soft music was
playing over the intercom. Joyce thought about how sweet it would be to fall asleep
listening to classical music. Gayle has a way of warming me all the way through! She even
remembered the music we enjoyed listening to!
Turquoise Sky                                                                                  16




       The next morning, Joyce woke to the sound of pouring rain. She went to the
window and was upset by the deluge. I can’t drive in this! I hate driving in the rain; it
scares me. Maybe I will stay another day after all, if the offer is still good.

        The day spent with Gayle was one of the happiest she’d had in months. They
looked at old photos from college, baked cookies like they used to bake together, and went
shopping at the little book store where Gayle works one day a week. Joyce was surprised
by her own laughter and delighted at the emotion of it. She had not laughed in months. In
fact, she could not remember the last time!

        By early evening, the clouds broke just in time to provide a breathtaking sunset
across the lake. “I knew it would be a lovely view from this window.”

        Morning came with occasional light rain once again, but not enough to delay her
trip any longer.

        Gayle handed her a large basket on her way to the car. “Here are some things I
thought you could use. I put in the rest of the muffins I baked for breakfast and some other
things. I wish you would stay, but I want you to be happy. Please keep in touch.” Gayle
hugged Joyce warmly and opened the door.

      “Oh, Joyce, I’m so glad you stopped. And glad we have reconnected. It’s been such
a wonderful time. Please call me when you get settled in Wyoming.”

        The windshield wipers smacked hard against the bottom of the windshield, leaving
uneven streaks in an effort to clear her view of the road ahead. The radio scratched through
broken speakers with country music coming from the only station she could tune in. Gayle
had tried to get her to stay one more day, but Joyce was determined to get going. The
unusual cold snap made her nervous about getting to her cabin before it snowed.

        Joyce reached under the cloth covering the basket to see if she could snag one of
those delicious muffins. Breakfast had been hours ago and her stomach was reminding her
it was time to eat.

       As she drove, she thought of her breakfast conversation with Gayle. “God has a
purpose for your life, and it will be exciting to see what wonders He has in store for you.”
Turquoise Sky                                                                                     17




                                           Chapter 5



      Chills. Ellie felt as if a bucket of ice had been thrown over her. Aching, head
pounding.

          “Is that Simon crying?”

          Cool water. Yes! So good, so quenching.

          “I have to get up…I can’t. I simply have to stay as I am – don’t move.”

          “The boys – where are they? It’s so quiet.”

        “It’s so bright! Luke, please pull the shade. And can you run to Mom’s for some
ginger ale?”

        Cold again – so cold. More covers pulled under her chin. Ellie tossed and turned
through the night, through the next day and into that evening. The sickness kept her down,
but at 7:00 p.m. she carefully took each step slowly, testing for stability in her swirling
head.

          “Mommy! Mommy’s all better!” Simon ran to Ellie, Luke and Michael right
behind.

          “No, Simon, Mommy still needs to rest. Help her to the couch, okay, Simon?”

        Michael took charge – handing out orders. “Dad, Mom needs some tea and toast
like she fixed me last week when I was sick. Is Simon going to get sick too? Simon! Don’t
sit on her!”

          Michael ran to pull the 3-year-old off his mother.

          “It’s okay, Michael. He’s not hurting me.” Ellie said hoarsely.

        They all sat quietly listening to Luke read stories. Then it was time for baths and
bed for the boys. Luke herded them upstairs. Ellie stretched out on the couch and groaned,
listening to squeals and water splashing, giggles and then quiet again.

        What a waste of, how many days? I hate being sick! I hate the misery and the
inability to do what I need to do.

        Ellie woke up, still on the couch, Luke in the big wing chair reading in the soft light
of the small lamp next to him. He glanced up and smiled. “Any better?”

          The look in his eyes made her sorry for every negative thing she’d said.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                  18




       “Some…” Then the tears. “I really do want to be good. I really do want to be a good
wife and mother…”

       Luke was at her side then, holding her hand.

       “Oh, Ellie, I know. Just rest and get better.”

       “I will, and Luke, I’ll try hard to change my attitude.”

         The next morning, Ellie was up before everyone. She knelt in prayer, “Oh, Father,
forgive me for being so self-centered. How I waste time and energy whining about my life!
You pour such rich blessings on us and yet I complain because it’s not what I want! How
like a little child to expect more than just bread and water! I want, no, I demand chocolate
and soda and peanut butter when a simple slice of bread and pure water is all I need.”

       “Being sick like this has made me realize how whiny I truly have been and I want to
change, Father. Give me wisdom, give me Your peace and Your guidance so I don’t forget
my good resolve. I do want to make a difference. Your love is more than I could ever
imagine – just help me walk in that love. Amen”
Turquoise Sky                                                                                   19




                                         Chapter 6

        Joyce stepped into her darkened cabin and turned on a flashlight. The boarded
windows blocked the late afternoon sun. Smaller than she remembered, but it was snug
against the chilly wind blowing outside. The meager wood supply by the door would heat
the room for the evening, but tomorrow she would have to see to some basic needs.

        She set about cleaning the small living space, sweeping dirt and debris into the
corner. After making a quick venture to the creek for water to use for cleaning, she began
bringing in things from her car. She stopped and listened to the wind howling and the fire
snapping in the stove. It’s so quiet, and so lonely.

       Later, as she lay in her sleeping bag on the musty bed, she made some mental notes
about what needed to be done. This was to be a fun time and here I am all alone.

       She tossed awhile before sitting up, uneasy about the little noises she was hearing. I
sure hope that’s not a mouse! Turning on her flashlight, she shone it around the cabin,
sighing.

         She remembered something Gayle said during their visit. “It’s sad what happened,
in fact, it’s tragic, but don’t let it kill you, too. You have a purpose and I know you will
discover what it is.”

       Joyce turned the flashlight off and lay back down. “What purpose?” she said aloud.

        The next weeks were busy adjusting to her new life in a mountain cabin. She’d
never had to heat water to do dishes, but she was managing. Her supplies were dwindling
and she’d gleaned as much dry wood as could be found within walking distance of the
cabin. She knew it was time to get in a winter’s supply of wood. But how?

        Her car rattled into town one morning. She felt conspicuous, like the new kid on the
block, she thought as she walked the board sidewalks.

       She found two letters from Gayle waiting for her at the post office. They were
marked “General Delivery.” The letters had been there a full two weeks before Joyce
decided to go to town. She sat on a bench to read the letters, she was so hungry for word
from her friend.

       Gayle ended both with the same question: “Have you said yes to God yet?”

        Joyce purchased a few things at the market, looking forward to a salad for a change
in her diet. She picked up coffee and sugar and some eggs, then put the coffee back. With
her few purchases, and her letters, she drove back to the cabin.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                  20




        When Joyce failed to respond to her letters, Gayle and her husband drove all night
and all the next morning to find Joyce’s small cabin, hidden by a long winding lane and tall
spruce trees.

         When they knocked at the door, Joyce was overwhelmed by their arrival, and a little
embarrassed. “I’m sorry things are such a mess...” she started to say, but Gayle marched
right in carrying a large box, followed by Jeff carrying two bags, while Joyce watched by
the still-open door. When she found her voice again, she said, “Why are you doing this?
How can you care so much about me? No one else does!”

      “You’re wrong, Joyce. God cares and sent us to you. And this is my wonderful
husband. I had to make sure you got to meet him!”

       By the time they left that evening, Joyce was well stocked with homemade goodies
from Gayle’s kitchen, paper goods, a Bible and several small books. The small Robert
Frost volume was among them.

        Gayle prayed for Joyce just before leaving. Joyce was uncomfortable about it, but
during the prayer, felt something inside she’d never felt before, something that made her
tremble slightly, but also made her smile. “Is God real?” she wondered.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                    21




                                           Chapter 7

       One afternoon, Ellie stopped by the ranch on her way back from town, hoping to
catch Luke. She found Susan sitting on the floor surrounded by books, notepads and
clippings. Susan made tea after coaxing Ellie to stay for a few minutes. While Michael and
Simon played with toys Ellie brought in from the car, Susan told Ellie about her
grandmother, who had not spoken to her since she married Sean.

        “I don’t understand why she won’t even talk to you.” Ellie couldn’t imagine her
dear grandmother turning her back on Ellie and her family.

         "Well, Sean’s being a rancher and being white was a lot of it. To Grandmother, land
is not to be owned, but protected and worshipped. She says you just as well sell the air and
the rivers, since the Great Spirit made them and us, she believes ownership of land causes
disharmony with the spirits and with nature.” Susan poured more tea.

       “Pastor Edward said last week that greed has taken much from the Indians. But
rocks and trees and soil will never pay the price for sin, like Jesus did."

        Susan was silent for awhile as they sipped their tea. Ellie began to fidget in Susan's
silence. She gazed around the room at the simple decor and soon asked her, "When did you
become a Christian, Susan?"

        "'Bout eight years ago. One evening I attended a meeting I thought was going to
address American Indian culture and belief systems, but found myself in a church service
surrounded by Christians - and mostly white at that!” she chuckled. “But during that
service I began to feel a hunger, a need for something outside myself to give my life
meaning; I knew I needed something more.

        "I met Sean there. He came up to me with a smile and outstretched hand. He wasn't
awkward about my being an Indian, and he didn't patronize me. He wasn't pushy either, just
friendly and interested.

       "It took a while, but I finally asked Christ into my heart."

         "Well, did you start dating Sean then?" Ellie asked, hoping to keep the conversation
going. She was uncomfortable with Susan’s silent moments. I wonder why she suddenly
falls silent like she does.

       "I tried to resist it for a while, but had to admit I was deeply attracted to Sean. It
bothered me that he was white. I'd been on a path spiritually designed to lead me away
from God; there were strongholds inside me that needed to be torn down, and only God
could do that. So only He knew who it was that I needed in my life.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                       22




        "As a teenager, I felt abandoned and rejected, angry that my mother left me, even
angrier at my father for being white and making me a half-blood. I felt I was not really an
Indian, nor was I really white, so I felt inferior, worthless. It was also difficult being Lakota
with Navajo cousins, surrounded by Arapaho and Shoshone. The Arapaho and Shoshone
historically were enemies. My grandmother moved to this reservation when she married an
Arapaho after my grandfather died. Behind Grandmother’s back, he was mean to me
because I was half-blood. He only hit me a few times, but he’d call me names. Of course, I
sure could give him some lip!”

       “That must have been hard for you.” Ellie was curious.

        "In high school, I started hanging out with some of the more radical students, the
ones who would get fired up easily and caught up in the cause of the Indians. I tried to fit
in, to be a full blood, refusing to admit I was half white. I even promised myself I would
never interact with the whites.” Susan looked down at her hands; her cup was nearly
empty.

       Still sitting on the floor, Ellie grew stiff and shifted, waiting for Susan to continue.
Then she asked, “What did you study in college?”

        "Psychology and ethnic studies. I guess I was hoping for answers. I began seeing a
void in what I'd been taught all my life, seeing hopelessness instead of hope. Those
traditions I was raised with never seemed to make any difference in anyone’s life. They
never bring lasting peace and happiness; young people still take their own lives, and old
people still die unhappy.” Susan paused and sighed deeply.

       "Then I went to that meeting."

        Silence again. Ellie stood up to leave. Susan looked down at the floor at a picture
she had there, gently stroking the image. "Her skin was the color of sunset in autumn.
When she was younger her hair was like raven feathers and her eyes were dark pools of
laughter. She still calls the Earth her grandmother, the sun her grandfather, and the moon
her brother. She will go to a devil's hell if she dies today."

        Ellie sat back down and looked at Susan. “I don’t know what I can do, Susan.
You’re the only Indian I’ve ever met. I can’t pretend to feel what you do about your
mission. I have to be honest – I don’t really want to be here. I want my own home back, to
be close to my parents and brother. My dream was always to live close to them, to raise my
children knowing their grandparents and going to the church where I grew up. I’m used to
having a store close by and being near a doctor for my kids, not living out here in the sticks
away from those things! I just don’t understand all this.” And I am tired of these stupid
tears all the time!
Turquoise Sky                                                                                      23




        “But that’s perfect, Ellie, because you don’t have your own agenda. Come with me
to the class I teach. Come with me to the day-care. Come with me to the Res. Let me show
you!”

       Ellie scooped Simon up from the couch and told Michael to get in the car. She
rushed out, letting the door slam behind her. Susan stood there as Ellie backed out of the
driveway.

       Ellie thought about Susan's words all the way home, trying to recall their
conversation in order to understand. I do have an agenda, to convince Luke to take me
home.

        Early the next morning, Ellie slipped from bed, unable to sleep. She’d tossed most
of the night, fears and doubts rolling around in her mind. How can I be part of something I
don’t even understand?

        She quietly went down to the kitchen, made coffee, pulled her robe around her
against the chill, and sat down at the table. She picked up her Bible and it fell open to the
second chapter of Galatians. Ellie’s eyes rested immediately on verse 20. “I have been
crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I
now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave Himself for
me.”

         She prayed, “No, I can’t do this, not even with Luke’s help. It will have to be You,
Father, doing what I can’t do! I don’t want to be here, but I don’t want to let You down
either.”
Turquoise Sky                                                                                  24




                                           Chapter 8

          “May I help you, Miss?” The young store clerk grinned broadly at Joyce.

      “Well, I need an ax, something very sharp, but not too heavy. I need to cut some
wood for my stove.”

       “You need a chain saw to cut wood! But, for small stuff, this ax would do ya. But,
boy, be careful; it is sharp!” he warned.

      “Be more than careful, Little Lady.” Gilly stepped into the conversation in his
comfortable way, tipping his hat at Joyce. “Why would you be needin’ an ax, anyway?”

          “To cut wood,” Joyce replied curtly and turned away.

        Gilly would not be silenced that easily and proceeded to explain the hazards of
trying to use an ax. “Besides, can’t your husband cut it?” Gilly came right to the point.

          “My husband was killed in a car accident in February.”

        Embarrassed, Gilly apologized, then offered, “I’d be honored to help you get in
your wood. My name’s Ron Gilmore or ‘Gilly’ for short.” He rolled his wide-brimmed hat
in his hands, waiting for Joyce’s reply.

          After a long moment, Joyce said, “Thank you, Mr. Gilmore…”

          “Gilly,” he corrected.

          “Gilly, then. Thank you for your offer, but that’s not necessary. And my name is
Joyce.”

       “Well, Joyce, it may not be necessary, but around here we help each other, and I’d
be mighty guilty of neglect and held accountable by God should I hear you was laid up in
the hospital with a foot cut off.”

       That brought a loud laugh from Joyce, and she soon accepted Gilly’s offer. “But I
want to pay you.”

          “Won’t hear of it. Payment of a nice lady’s company for lunch will be sufficient.”

       After paying the clerk, Joyce and Gilly walked out the door to Joyce’s car. Gilly
opened the door for her, looked into her deep green eyes, but didn’t press her further about
lunch. He got directions to her cabin and promised to be there the next afternoon. Then he
stood and watched her drive away. He put his hat back on and walked over to his pickup, a
smile playing on his lips.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                 25




        Mid-October in the mountains brought chilly nights, and Joyce saw once again the
dwindling wood supply as her headlights revealed the small pile when she pulled up the
lane. Suddenly, she was glad Mr. Gilmore offered to help her.

        After supper she put away the supplies she bought in town, wrote a note to Gayle,
telling her about Gilly. She ended her note, which by then was a three page letter, by
saying, “Gayle, people just don’t automatically step in to help someone else. I think Gilly
loves God the way you do.”

         When she folded her letter to Gayle, she crawled into bed, weary and hoping to
sleep. The moon shone through the lacy pines outside the cabin window. A lone coyote
cried its ache to the sleeping world, and the pine scratched at the decaying roof overhead.
Joyce thought about Gayle’s last letter, which she reread before writing hers in response.
Gayle wrote, “Look for God in the things you know and don’t try to make it complicated!
He loves you!”

       Joyce never attended church. Weddings and funerals were the only times she
entered those doors. Now, in her loneliness and fear, she wondered, Could there be a God
who loves me like Gayle told me? She thought about her friend and Gayle’s happiness.
“But of course she’d be happy. She has a great husband and everything she wants. Look at
her lovely home and look at my rotting shack!”

        The coyote cried one more time, a little closer this time, and it caused Joyce to
shiver. She wasn’t afraid, but the thick walls of her cabin couldn’t keep out the fear and
doubts that made her feel vulnerable. Again, she asked the darkness her questions.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                       26




                                          Chapter 9

        The sky was dark, snow was threatening. Frost coated every needle of the pine
trees, every branch and twig, every blade of grass and sage bush of the winter landscape.
Ellie was carrying in laundry when she saw Susan’s Jeep pull up. She groaned, then
scolded herself. They walked into the house as the first flakes of snow started falling.
Michael was exuberant about the possibility of deep snow. “We might not have school
tomorrow!” He ran upstairs to play. Simon was busy with his own play and cared little
about the snow.

      After making tea and putting supper in the oven, Ellie and Susan sat at the table.
“You asked me the other day about my father,” Susan stirred honey into her tea.

        Ellie nodded, then listened as Susan started talking. “I didn't know him, only that he
was considered wasichu, greedy, one who only takes. My brother's father died in the
Korean War when John was a baby. Our mother, Miriam, was an alcoholic. She died
shortly after I was born.”

       A tear washed over the edge of Susan’s eye; she stirred her tea absentmindedly.

        “My grandmother’s name is Jewel Cloud Barlow. She loved us and believed she
could raise us in her culture. I think she wanted to protect us, to instill in us what she called
our spiritual destiny. Grandmother taught us silence. She would say to breathe silence into
our spirits and we’d have peace inside. But she also wanted us to remain wild and free, like
the spirits - untamed, Ikce Wicasa, natural people.”

       “John is ten years older and has embraced our grandmother’s teachings. He loves
me, but he always found my questions annoying, mainly because he never had the answers.
He feared I would be led astray and guarded me closely. But when I married Sean, it was
more than John could bear. He destroyed all remembrances of me. To John and
Grandmother, I had deserted and turned my back on those who gave me life.”

        Susan stopped to look softly at Ellie. She smiled sadly and continued, “I was
absolutely grief-stricken by their rejection. I nearly ran back to them several times. It took
all my strength, my faith and all of my will to stay with Sean and to overcome the sorrow
that threatened for months to shipwreck my newfound faith. They can be such a blind
people. I didn’t want to ride along on their coat tails any longer. I only wanted to come
away and be separate, like the Bible says!”

       Susan helped Ellie set the table for supper before leaving to get supper for Sean.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                     27




       “The grant finally arrived. It comes with a lot of conditions, like abiding by the
Indian Health Care Improvement Act and the Native language teaching agreement. Do you
have time to look this over? Sean and I value your opinion.”

       Ellie agreed and took the folder from Susan.

       “I know you have questions Ellie. Be patient for the answers. They will come.”

       I do have questions, but I still don’t have the heart for all of this. And I am not sure
what I’m doing with this paperwork, but I’ll try, I will try.

        During Simon’s nap the next day, while Michael was at school, Ellie took out her
Bible and read the entire chapter of Isaiah 58. The words in verse 12 jumped out at her:
“Those from among you shall build the old waste places; you shall raise up the foundations
of many generations; and you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, the Restorer of
Streets to Dwell In.”

       A glimmer of light brought Ellie freshness and peace. She prayed, “That’s what
Susan and Sean are trying to do, isn’t it, Father? Is that what You want me to do too? Is
this where You want me serving? Help me, Father, to have peace about it.”

       When Luke came home that evening, Michael was clearly excited about something.
“I wanna tell ‘em, Dad!” he looked at Luke with his big brown eyes.

       “Okay,” Luke smiled at his son.

        “Susan’s horse, Joy, had a baby! An’ I got to see it born (that was the yucky part)
and, ya know what?” he took a deep breath and continued, “It’s already running around! I
never knew animals could walk soon as they was born! And run too! And it ran into the
fence and fell down! It was so funny! Susan laughed, and we all laughed, and ya know
what?” another deep breath, “Susan says when he’s bigger I can ride him! Course she says
he has to be two years old first!” With that, Michael looked at his mom; “I like it here.”

        Her stubborn heart melted with her tears and Ellie grinned at the young cowboy
standing before her. His hands were planted on his hips, dirty jeans, scuffed cowboy boots,
flannel shirt buttoned wrong; he declared his love for the ranch. She reached out and pulled
him to her, messing his sandy hair. “I’m glad you like it, Michael. I suddenly think I do
too!” She hugged her squirming son and looked up at Luke’s surprised face.

       “Mom, you’re squishin’ me!”

       Laughter finally filled the walls of Ellie’s new home – hearty and deep and real.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                  28




       When the boys were tucked in bed that evening, Luke built a fire in the fireplace.
Looking into her deep blue eyes sparkling in the flickering firelight, he pulled her close.
“Tell me what’s going on.”

        She told him about her Bible study and her time with the Lord earlier in the
afternoon. “Luke, I’m tired of fighting this. I’m just now beginning to understand what has
been burning in you. I saw only a glimmer of your fire today. I’ve been trying to live only
to please myself, not wanting to move here, not wanting to leave Mom and Dad. I'm sorry
I’ve been so self-centered. Will you forgive me and help me learn? I can’t change
overnight, but I really do feel like there’s been a change in my heart! I’m still not happy
about being here, but if this is indeed where God has called us, I will try.

        “This was just a glimpse, kind of like seeing something out of the corner of my eye.
It gives me hope that I will know completely and understand what’s been burning in you.

        “And you know what amazes me most? While I was praying, I was suddenly
surprised to realize how vast God is, and yet how personal! He reached into my heart today
– MY heart! He touched me personally, and that’s what’s so wonderful. Oh, how high and
deep and broad and long is His love. My wants, my petty complaints are nothing – I have
to come to the end of myself and open my mind to His hands molding and using me.”
Turquoise Sky                                                                                   29




                                        Chapter 10

         The roar of Gilly’s chain saw sounded through the crisp mountain air. The snowfall
wasn’t deep, and the sun was shining brightly while Gilly cut the wood as Joyce stacked it
in the back of Gilly’s pickup truck. She noticed the load was much bigger than she
expected. Had she known he was going to work so hard, she’d have packed a meal instead
of just cookies and tea.

       When the wood was finally stacked in a neat pile near Joyce’s cabin, clouds hid the
sun with fog slipping in silently from peak to peak, hiding the snow-covered trees. Gilly
was eager to get going. Joyce invited him for supper but Gilly answered, “No, I can’t, but
thanks anyway. I have to teach Bible study tonight. We have church every Wednesday
evening. This fog may slow me down as well. Hey, would you like to come?”

        “Oh, no, thanks. I’m a mess. Maybe some other time. And I don’t know how I can
ever repay you for this work. I really appreciate it. Thank you so much.” Joyce reached out
to shake Gilly’s hand.

        He looked at her, took her hand and shook it warmly, smiling. “It was my pleasure
to help you. I’ll check on you later.” With that he climbed into his muddy pickup and drove
off.

        Joyce leaned against her door as she watched the taillights disappear, then turned to
the woodpile, just barely visible in the twilight. She carried in a few armloads of wood and
closed the door against the cold. She smiled at the supply she had stacked by the door and
went to her stove to light a fire and get supper. I never thought I would find any pleasure
again, and here I am humming!

        During the night the wind switched, the clouds rolled in, and by morning Joyce
stepped into a real Wyoming snowstorm. She decided not to go to town after all when she
saw how the wind was whipping the snow. She marveled at the power of the storm as she
stood at her window and watched the trees along the lane bend and dance in the wind.

        All day she was fascinated by the progress of the storm. She was busy with
mending both a shirt and the pair of jeans she’d ripped while she chopped wood the day
before. Each trip to the window produced a view of more piling snow. By mid-afternoon
the frost was thick on the window, making it hard to see out. Joyce ventured out to get
several more loads of wood before bolting her door shut and hanging a blanket over it to
keep out the draft.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                 30




        In a letter to Gayle, she wrote about her day of woodcutting with Gilly. “He
couldn’t stay for supper because he had to go to church. I’m not sure what my feelings are,
but I feel comfortable with him. I’m also afraid, Gayle. I don’t think I want to give my
heart away. It’s been so wounded. Even my own son abandoned me.”

        An owl hooted outside Joyce’s window – a strange and lonely sound. She turned
down the wick on her oil lamp. The owl hooted a second time. I’ve never experienced such
silence, such unnerving, disturbing and eerie silence. Not even the traffic a quarter mile
from the cabin can be heard.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                       31




                                          Chapter 11

        Susan wrapped her hands around a warm cup of coffee, watching Ellie mend a
miniature pair of blue jeans. "You must have a lot of patience to mend something so
small."

       Ellie nodded and looked up. “Not unlike your patience, Susan. Will you forgive me
for my bad attitude when we first got here. I have a long way to go. I am far from being
excited with all of this, but I’m learning.”

        "Believe me, I understand. I told you about my stubborn heart, but with God, all
things are possible.”

        “How can you keep your focus? There are so many things to do, yet you seem to be
able to get things done and still have plenty of time to work on that mound of paperwork.”

        “Sean encourages me in my vision. He helps keep the fire burning in me. Have you
ever felt so helpless, yet you KNEW you had to do something? Sean listens patiently as I
cry out my hurts, and he helps me grow and learn about how God can use me to help the
American Indians.

        “Sean’s not perfect, but he lives the power of God's love. He proved to me that love
is the greatest power in the world. Those moments that seem the darkest, God always finds
a way to come in with His excruciating pureness, pruning away the crust of the world from
my heart. No person could ever do that! And with that pruning comes growth and fullness.”

        Ellie agreed, “Human affection can be empty, and I see how easy it is to look at
things the wrong way. Believe me, I’m a pro!”

        Susan chuckled, then continued. "Shortly after I met Sean, he invited me home with
him for a weekend to hear a special speaker at his church. That was when I finally gave my
heart to the Lord. And that’s made all the difference." She set aside her empty cup then
continued, "Before any Indian ever heard the truth about Jesus Christ, they searched for the
Great Spirit, and that search is the thread that’ll eventually tie it all together. The culture,
the arts, the dance, even the language are reflections of the Indian's respect for the spiritual.

        "Unfortunately, they say Jesus is the white man's god and the white man took our
land, along with our basic rights. Having our heritage ripped from us has left the Indian
people with a lot of bitterness that too often leads to a whole series of wrongs passed down
from one generation to another. And bitterness puts up barriers to forgiveness.”

       “Like my bitterness,” Ellie said softly.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                     32




        "Misunderstanding is pretty common, really, and fault-finding. Just like the fight
for water rights, hunting rights, land rights -- so much of what’s been stripped from us over
the years. Then we wake up and realize what we've lost, try to reclaim what is ours, and run
into opposition, usually from corporate and governmental leaders. People on both sides get
frustrated, anger grows, and reactions get out-of-hand -- more and more walls are built."

        Ellie picked up both cups and walked to the kitchen “I’ve built walls too – so much
I don’t understand and the task you propose seems so daunting.”

       Susan said, “I John 4:17 says, 'Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have
boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.'

        "That’s the love that took hold of me, threw out the fear and hatred, and set my feet
on the narrow road. I don't need to carry around the baggage of sin - I've been set free!" Her
smile spread across her face like a light.

       Ellie opened the folder of papers and spread them across the table. “Susan, I don’t
understand much of this. I really have tried! I marked some items to discuss. But why can’t
you just present the salvation story and hope for the best?”

        Susan munched a cookie and took a sip of the hot tea Ellie handed to her. “Because
too many have tried just that and failed. There has to be a way to utilize the spiritual aspect
of the Native culture without compromising the truth of the Gospel – some link, a way to
use the traditions and ancient beliefs as a springboard toward Christianity. You are right,
though; of utmost importance is salvation; there are too many rituals and superstitions
hindering the Truth. They need the revelation of the true Great Spirit -- Wakan Tanka -- the
Father God who is the only way out of darkness.”

        Michael and Simon came into the kitchen for a snack, then went to play in the
living room. Ellie watched her two sons through the doorway before rejoining Susan at the
table. "Susan, it's exciting to see how God moves in each life. He’s been showing me areas
I need to surrender to Him..." She paused, searching for the words.

       "Yes! I know what you mean!”

       “Right now, I have all these feelings, and I’ve been so full of self-pity, like a
naughty child.” Ellie took a cookie from the plate.

       “He created each of us uniquely, Ellie, and gave us such diverse heritages, not to
become a barrier between us, but to bring focus to His overall plan. We build fences and
walls we think will protect us, but they imprison us and make us captives in our own blind
narrowness. Instead of being hands reaching out, we stand with arms folded trying to be
brave and untouched. The world is full of lies and hurts.”
Turquoise Sky                                                                                     33




       Ellie was trying to take in all Susan was saying while keeping an eye on the boys.
She broke her cookie into little bites, and nibbled a few while Susan continued.

       "We can’t refuse to reach across color boundaries, extending hands of friendship
and reconciliation. Ellie, I feel that inside me personally. I sit on both sides of the road!"

       Her eyes closed and she quit speaking. Ellie shifted in her seat, still uncomfortable
with those moments of silence. She slowly added her own thoughts.

         "I admire your spirit, Susan, and your focus. To me, you’re a great example that
God sent for many of us. I’m encouraged by the very fact you are human with weaknesses,
yet you remain focused on your goal, true to the vision God’s placed in your heart. That's
what inspires me. I see a person who's been kicked around, who has struggles and deep
feelings, but you’ve taken hold of God's Hand, gone beyond your emotions. You’re
running with the vision. You’re not simply rushing madly into things, but dancing into
them! I do want to be like Jesus, but there are many things I have to lay down. There are a
lot of things cluttering my life right now – a lot of fears and doubts. But He’s working on
me, that’s all I can hope for, and that’s all I can promise anyone."

        Pulling a page from the stack of papers stating all the conditions for the grant, Ellie
pointed out one of the areas she questioned. “This says we must develop a curriculum that
recognizes the validity of traditional cultural knowledge, values and beliefs. How can we
do that while presenting a Christian focus? And there are several other areas I’ve marked
that you and Sean really need to discuss. And here on page 18, what is a summer
immersion experience? Then this part about designating and training a cultural liaison.
You’ll see what I marked. It sounds like the grant is more for a school than a
treatment/counseling center.”

        “I noticed that, Ellie, but when I called about it yesterday, they said the form is the
same. We’ll look this over closely. Thanks for helping. I hope you are going with me to my
class tomorrow.”
Turquoise Sky                                                                                    34




                                        Chapter 12

        The moon hung low in the west – a sliver of bright white gold with several stars
around it, like jewels on purple velvet. Joyce’s coffee grew cold as she sat, entranced by the
beauty and silence. She turned toward the east and realized a new day was beginning. The
view was breathtaking with the bluest sky she’d ever seen. Aspen trees along the road and
scattered through the forest above were stripped of their golden leaves. Snow covered the
high country now, deep and brilliant white.

        Joyce headed to town early to put in job applications. The money she had left from
her savings account was dwindling. She was almost to town when the engine started
smoking. “Oh, no! Now what?”

        She slowed the car and pulled over just before the engine died, giving a jolting
cough. When the smoke cleared, Joyce got her coat from the back seat and walked the rest
of the way to town.

        The library on the corner was the only place that offered her a job application.
Everyone else thanked her but had no openings. The library was going to need someone
before the holidays, since one of their employees would be out on maternity leave and
wasn’t sure she would be coming back. Joyce filled in all the blanks on the one-page
application, handed the form to an older woman in jeans, flannel shirt, and denim vest that
read, “World’s Best Grandma!”

       The grandma looked at Joyce and offered to buy her lunch. “There’s a great little
diner over a block, and I hate to eat alone.”

         Margaret started working in the library when she was just out of school. She was
the first full-time librarian. Her husband, the school principal, died of a heart attack 20
years ago and Margaret never remarried. They never had any children. “But your vest…”
Joyce started to say.

       “Yep, I have a whole town of kids that call me Grandma, and one of their moms
made this for me.” She smiled broadly.

       Their hour was over quickly. Joyce thanked Margaret, who then went back to work,
promising to let Joyce know next Thursday about the position. “We have our Board
meeting Wednesday and we want to get someone trained before Eve has her baby!”

        Joyce headed back to her car. At least it’s only three miles between home and town,
that’s not so bad, and I’m used to walking. She gathered what she could into her canvas
bag she kept in the car for groceries.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                    35




         With only a little money left, she couldn’t get the car fixed let alone pay a towing
bill, so she had no choice but to abandon the car. After locking the doors, she started her
long, cold walk home.

        When she finally got to her lane, her little cabin tucked into the trees looked mighty
good to her. Hunger was gnawing at her stomach, so her first order of duty was to build a
fire and get the stove heated. The crackle and snap of the fire soon filled the room with its
noise and Joyce started fixing her supper.

       On the other side of the mountain, Ezra and Gilly were cutting firewood from the
windfalls in the forest. Ezra Singer, an Indian from the Tule River tribe in California,
worked as a logger before coming to work for Sean last spring. A big, quiet man, one often
wondered what Ezra was thinking, but he was always there when he was needed.

       The crisp mornings and early snowfall made everyone realize winter was fast
approaching. Susan and Ellie were heading to Jackson. “I need to get some papers filed
before my class, and also buy supplies for the ranch. I want to stop at the res too. Have you
been there?” Susan asked Ellie.

        Ellie shook her head. She had reluctantly agreed to go, leaving the boys with Luke
for the day. As they drove through the mountains, Susan sang, “The mountains and the
hills shall break forth before thee.” She smiled, her fingers gently tapping the steering
wheel to the soft music playing on the radio.

        "It’s hard to believe all the beauty surrounding us, Ellie, will one day be gone,
either by man's neglect and greed, or by our own passing. As majestic and permanent as the
mountains seem, they’re not eternal, only the Creator will remain and so will His Word.
Just think, this beauty," Susan gestured to the view out the side window, "is only a glimpse
of what we’ll see when we finally arrive at that place God has prepared for us in Heaven.”

         "Ellie," Susan finally spoke after a few minutes. "Where will we find the sinners if
we don't go where Jesus tells us to go? He said the harvest is ready. Too many are being led
to eternal death through non-Christian traditions. My heart breaks when I think of it, and
when I think of the neglect and lack of compassion in many churches. I'm thankful for
Pastor Edward and our church. They’ve done a lot for the Indians. They heard the wake-up
call and are reaching out with a healing touch and a heart for reconciliation. Will you pray
that I’ll have the wisdom I need? I want to be obedient, bringing Him honor. Only God's
sovereign love can pierce our darkest fears with His eternal light."

       Ellie promised she would pray, then ventured, “I’ve never known an Indian except
for you. How is it I feel I should do something to make up for something I never did? I’m
so confused by this.”
Turquoise Sky                                                                                      36




        “The Bible says the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children and
grandchildren. You and I never took a life or abused anyone, but those sins committed
against others have come down from generation to generation, and we have to rise up and
stop the flow of them.”

        “I really need to seek God about all of this.” Ellie felt the old fears and frustrations
rising inside her heart.

        After filing the papers, Susan and Ellie ate lunch in the cafeteria with the talkative
students. Ellie noticed there was a feeling of excitement, anticipation she’d not known for a
long time. She smiled to herself while she walked with Susan to her classroom at the
community college.

        Susan taught her class with the simple words of purpose, trying to pull from each of
her students the ability to grasp their place in the world. Her slender arms always in
motion, as if choreographed. No movement was without purpose, yet this was not acting –
this was Susan.

        Ellie had never been to college, nor had she ever come across the term “ethnic
studies.” She found Susan’s class interesting. She could see her own presumptions and how
personal beliefs can shape us, but also restrict us, prevent us from understanding our
neighbor. Ellie realized she had indeed built walls she’d been unwilling to pull down, not
unlike Susan’s grandmother. And not unlike so many cultures that clash rather than mingle
and perhaps merge.

        Susan stood before her class. “Although every culture has their darker traditions,
understanding them reduces the fears and helps bring about a more successful multicultural
setting. Society forces so many cultural changes on us, rapidly changing the way things are
done. But to hide inside our walls and close our eyes brings more pain and suffering.

        “We don’t have to embrace the other mindset, but to effectively make inroads
toward change, it’s vital to understand that mindset, that belief. It is a diverse world and so
exciting to walk beside others rather than run them down – we can learn from each other.
We have the tools, skills and artistic talents to adapt, to change, to become who we are
meant to be.”

       Entering the Reservation on the way home, Ellie was shocked at some of the
homes, the abandoned buildings, and the cars with no wheels parked along some of the
roads.

        They pulled into a driveway next to a pile of burned furniture, a charred mattress,
and things from someone’s home. “My things – everything I called mine – burned because
they believed I betrayed them. Oh! The pain!”
Turquoise Sky                                                                                 37




        Susan got out of the car and knelt on the ground, tears flowing down her bronze
cheeks. She picked up a handful of dirt from the yard and sprinkled it over her head. Ellie
reached to stop her, but was frozen in place. How could a person not feel such deep and
devastating pain when her family – those she loved deeply all her life – reject her so
utterly?

       “Father, prepare my heart for what You want me to do. Keep me from that
prayerless place I’ve been in too often. Change my heart!” Ellie whispered her prayer with
tears.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                    38




                                           Chapter 13

       “When the wind blows in Wyoming, I think they must feel it in Nebraska!” Joyce
wrote in her letter to Gayle. Their letters were becoming more frequent, and Joyce looked
forward to her trips to the post office. But now she made fewer trips to get the mail,
because the three miles to town and three miles back would take a good part of her day.
She worried that she might not be able to get to the library if Margaret and the Board
approved her application.

        She continued in her letter, “This is the day I find out if I get the job. I will mail
these letters when I get to town,” she ended her letter without telling Gayle about her car.
She knew Gayle would send her money, and Joyce didn’t want charity.

        With the letter in her pocket, Joyce pulled the door shut and headed to town. The
wind was strong and cold with flurries biting into her cheeks. She pulled a scarf around her
face and then pulled her stocking cap down tighter over her ears, covering her short red
curls. Stuffing her hands deeper in her pockets, she struggled against the cold wind. It made
her eyes water, but she blinked and continued on.

       About half way to town a pickup pulled up alongside her and stopped. She looked
up and saw Gilly at the wheel with a big Indian in the passenger seat. “Need a ride?” he
asked through the open window.

          “Um, well,” she glanced in at Gilly, who was grinning at her. “Yeah, that’d be
great!”

        “Mighty cold day for a walk, Joyce,” Gilly turned the heater up and offered her his
coffee. “I haven’t even tasted it.” He handed her the steaming Styrofoam cup.

        “Thanks, it is cold out there. Do you think it’ll snow?” She didn’t want to mention
her car, but before she could figure out an excuse, they rounded the curve and there it sat.

          “How long ya’ been walkin’?” Gilly was not surprised to see her car.

       “Since last Thursday. It died on my way to town. I need to get to the library today to
see about a job I applied for.”

          “Well, I’ll drop you off, and Ezra and I will see about your car.”

          “No, that’s okay. I can’t expect you to come to my rescue again.”

       “Well, you may not expect me to, but I guess you can’t keep me from it,” Gilly
smiled down at his passenger, then over at Ezra. “And this is Ezra Singer. He’s my ornery
sidekick. We work together and share the bunkhouse on the Double H Ranch. Ya’ gotta
watch Ezra, he’ll talk yer leg off.”
Turquoise Sky                                                                                  39




       Gilly pulled up to the library and let Joyce out his side. He tipped his hat and
wished her luck, promising to pick her up in about an hour or so. “If you’ll give me your
keys, we’ll see what we can do with your car.”

       “Snow’s coming,” Ezra said as he pulled the toolbox from behind the seat after they
parked behind Joyce’s car. After looking under the hood, Ezra announced, “She hit
something and got a hole in the oil pan.”

       They climbed into the pickup and drove back to town for parts and more coffee.
Gilly walked into the library and saw Joyce and Margaret sitting in the office chuckling
about something. He took off his hat and walked in, rolling his hat in his hand.

         “Well, Gilly, what a pleasant surprise!” Margaret smiled. “Come to check out a
book?”

         “No, ma’am, came to pick up Joyce, here, if she’s ready.”

         “Yes, I’m ready, and thanks, Margaret. I’ll see you next week.”

        Gilly drove to the Farm & Ranch store on the edge of town. Ezra headed right for
the automotive section. He wanted to get the car running before the snow started. “Light
flurries today and tomorrow, but big snow by Saturday.” Ezra was usually right in his
predictions.

       At the Farm & Ranch, several ranchers were talking to the sales clerk, who was
leaning intently across the counter. “I never heard of ‘em,” Gilly overheard. “Must be from
Montana. They have more Indian gangs than Wyoming.”

         “Hey, Gil’, ever hear of the Red Arrows?” John Tellson wanted to know.

         “No, can’t say as I have, why?” Gilly was curious.

       “Mick here said they’re stirrin’ trouble around. Not sure what’s up with ‘em. Guess
we’ll have to keep our ears open. How’s Sean doing with his little project over at his
ranch?” There were a few quiet snickers, but John was polite. Many had heard what Sean
and Susan were trying to do and were skeptical.

        “Everyone’s doin’ great! You know, come to think of it, Pastor Edward got a letter
that mentioned those Red Arrows; almost forgot.” Gilly reached over the counter and
signed for the supplies. Then he turned back to the group still discussing the news and told
them proudly that things were great at the ranch and that he would keep his ears open about
the trouble they spoke of.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                40




       He then paid for Joyce’s oil pan and gasket, against her protests when she rejoined
them. He clearly enjoyed making a fuss over her, but Joyce wasn’t sure how to respond,
especially with the men at the counter watching closely.

        When Joyce drove into her driveway by nightfall, she was wondering what to make
of her good fortune. All in one day she got a job, and a nice cowboy and Indian fixed her
car. She smiled contentedly as she crawled into her bed that night.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                  41




                                        Chapter 14

        Ellie rode with Luke to the ranch after breakfast. Simon was eager to be out in the
snow and Michael had the day off from school, so they went over with Luke to spend the
morning with Susan. She was coming out the door as they drove up. The new snow
covered everything with white dust. Ellie joined Susan as they headed to the barn.
"Footprints," Susan stopped suddenly and pointed to the ground. Sure enough, there were
footprints all around the front of the barn.

       “Nobody’s been out this morning,” Susan moved toward the corral with Ellie close
behind her.

       "Oh, no! Joy!" Susan cried loudly.

       Ellie ran to catch up and was terrified at what she saw. Susan's horse lay dead, her
blood staining the snow. Susan looked up, tears streaming down her cheeks, a look of
sorrow and confusion on her face. Joy’s colt was gone. She searched the area with her eyes,
beckoning Ellie to be silent. She heard nothing but the wind.

        "What happened? Who did this...?" Ellie knelt down next to Susan. "What's this?"
she leaned past Susan and pointed at a shaft protruding from Joy's neck.

       "An arrow..." Susan jumped to her feet. “I’ve got to get Sean!”

       As Susan turned back toward the barn, she exclaimed, “Look!”

         Ellie turned and saw spray painted across the side of the barn, the words "RED
ARROW." The two women raced to the house where Luke and Sean were having coffee.
"I'll go call the sheriff," Luke said after he heard the story.

       "What's going on?" Gilly came into the kitchen. Sean told the whole story again,
echoing Luke's conversation in the other room, as he spoke over the phone.

         “I never heard a thing and I’m a light sleeper. And I never noticed anything when I
came in from the bunkhouse. I’ll ask Ezra if he heard anything.” Gilly turned to the door to
go find Ezra. Then he turned back. “You know yesterday at the Farm & Ranch, John
Tellson and Mick Law were talking about a gang of Native Americans called the ‘Red
Arrows.’ He asked if I’d heard of ‘em. Said they was stirring up trouble for some reason.
Isn’t this that group Pastor Edward talked about at church?”

       Ellie looked at the men, fear and confusion showing on her face. She remembered
what they heard at church and terror grabbed at her heart. She went to see what the boys
were doing and found Michael and Simon both crying. She sat and rocked with both boys,
holding them close.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                   42




        Luke was back in the kitchen, and they all sat down to some coffee. "The sheriff
said he would be out at first light in the morning. I tried to get him to come out today, but
he says he's working on something big in town and can't get away."

        Susan quietly said, "Snow will cover all the tracks and blanket the body of my little
mare. She will rest in the silence." Her head down slightly, looking at her hands around her
coffee cup. "Sean, was this just a vicious prank or is someone trying to scare us?"

        "I don't know, Babe." Sean put his arm around his wife, concern clearly showing on
his face.

       After several minutes Ellie carried Simon into the kitchen as Michael followed. She
poured each of the boys a glass of milk, then sat down with them.

        Susan said, “We must work harder – there are so many to reach! They have to be
set free from this darkness that causes such heartless acts!” She wiped her eyes with a
tissue Ellie handed her.

       Michael was quite shaken and was afraid about what might have happened to the
missing foal. “Why would somebody do this?” He looked at his dad.

       “People do bad things, Son, and it’s not always easy to figure out why. But we’re
sure going to try.”

       The next day, just as Susan predicted, fresh snow covered everything. The sheriff
determined it to be some kind of initiation and said he could do nothing without more
evidence. He took the arrow with him after he said, “I heard something about these ‘Red
Arrows.’" And with that, he drove away. Susan felt strongly that they would not hear from
him again.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                   43




                                         Chapter 15

       Gerald and Marion Miller were due to arrive for Thanksgiving. Ellie was excited
about her parents’ visit and scoured the house from top to bottom. A bed was set up for
them in the guestroom for the next ten days.

        The day of their arrival was bright and sunny. Ellie was pleased to have it be such a
beautiful day and hoped her parents would fall in love with Wyoming, helping them
understand her sudden enthusiasm. They knew about her fears and resentment at having to
leave Illinois. Her brother frequently joined them in prayer for Ellie.

        They were greeted with boisterous talk from ordinarily quiet Michael. Everyone
was so happy and wanted to speak at once. After several minutes of chatter, they finally got
into the house and were seated at the table for coffee and cake, ready to hear all the news.
Michael was itching to tell about Susan's horse being killed, but restrained himself as Ellie
asked him to. She wanted to tell them after Thanksgiving so as not to dampen their spirits.

       Thanksgiving came with tantalizing aromas wafting from the kitchen. Ellie wanted
to have the dinner at their house and happily spent all day preparing food with her mother’s
help. She was thrilled to have them there and couldn’t stop talking to them. The holidays
would be hard without them, but at least she had them for this one!

        Sean and Susan arrived around noon. Sean boomed through the steamy kitchen like
a child on Christmas Day and got Simon squealing with laughter. Susan shooed them into
the other room, so she could help get the meal on the table. She whispered, "Sean loves
children and will one day make a great dad!"

       Just as they were finishing their meal, the phone rang. Luke went to answer it and
reported, "It's Lonnie!"

        He spoke for several minutes, then came back to the table grinning from ear to ear.
"Lonnie's been discharged from the army, honorably no less!" He laughed as he told about
his brief conversation with his brother. “He plans to visit after the holidays.”

        After the delicious meal, Michael went to play a game with Grandfather while
Simon napped. Marion insisted on helping Ellie clean up so the others could visit over
coffee in the living room. It would give her a good chance to visit with her daughter as they
did dishes.

       “How are you, really?” Marion was concerned about her daughter.

        “Well, I think I’m doing better than I was. I still get very homesick, but I’m trying
hard to trust God.” Ellie picked up a towel to start drying the dishes Marion put in the
steamy rinse water. “Christmas should be fun – I’ve never had such a beautiful fireplace
Turquoise Sky                                                                                    44




and the bay window will be the perfect place for the Christmas tree! And I found some
pretty wrapping paper when I was in town last week.” She stopped and smiled at her
mother.

        Marion smiled back at Ellie. “Just don’t forget that decorations and gifts are not the
real reason for Christmas. Sometimes what’s inside a gift can delight or disappoint you.
The wrappings may be gorgeous, but the plastic trinket inside can be a real let-down.”

       Ellie reached her arm abound her mother’s waist and leaned her head on her
shoulder. “Oh, I so miss these talks. And I won’t forget – with Luke reminding me
constantly!”

        In the living room, Sean became very quiet for a while, then stood, setting his cup
on the end table beside his chair. Stretched to his full height, he walked to the window then
sat back in his chair, folded his hands over his knees, leaning toward Luke.

        "When I wrote you about our vision for the ranch, not just as a working ranch as it
is now, but as a shelter for troubled Indian kids, I mentioned we’d be working closely with
the Wyoming Indian Agency.” He picked up his coffee cup, then placed it back on the
coaster on the end table.

       Luke nodded.

         Sean continued, "High Hope is a difficult concept because it has to meet federal
guidelines in order to receive non-profit status, but it also has to meet with tribal approval
if there's going to be any sponsorship. And federal and tribal guidelines are frequently, if
not usually, at odds, and that could make negotiations difficult at the least. Political
collisions need to be avoided if at all possible. Both sides tend to make complex issues out
of simple requests, as we have already seen in the grant paperwork! We need to really
focus a lot of our attention on this so we don’t step on toes.

        "Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:39 to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus died for
all of us. Without Him we are all unrighteous and lost, but it’s only through faith in Him
that we can be saved and set free."

        "That's right, Sean." Gerald entered the room. "Sorry about eavesdropping. We had
a special speaker at our church early this fall. He was Cherokee from Oklahoma, and he
told what the history books never explained -- what he called the Trail of Tears. He said
his great, great grandfather, along with his family, all were forced from their home in
Florida and pushed westward into Oklahoma."

       Gerald sat down after Marion handed him a cup of coffee. "You probably know
more about this than I do, Susan, but that was quite a story. The American Indians really
Turquoise Sky                                                                                   45




are quite forgotten. Marion, do you remember that part where he compared the Jewish
holocaust with what happened to the Indians?"

        Marion was trying to remember. "Yes, he said when he first heard about the Jewish
holocaust during World War II, he wept for them. Then he got angry that no public outcry
was ever raised for his people and the 'holocaust' they went through. I remember him
saying the inhumane act of ripping people from their homeland soon will even go as far as
the womb."

        Gerald asked Susan for a short history lesson. Ellie leaned forward to hear what she
had to say.

        "Well, when white men began moving into the Indian's world, of course the
reaction was resistance, as the balance of power shifted downward, away from the Indian
way of life. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 gave Andrew Jackson power to relocate all
tribes on a 'voluntary' basis. I actually just read about this yesterday. The Cherokees who
refused either fled to the hills or were rounded up and marched 800 miles west through the
bitter cold winter along the Trail of Tears you just mentioned, Gerald. I believe that was
1838.” Susan poured more coffee into her cup, then sat back in her chair. Everyone’s eyes
were on her.

         “Devastating battles were fought; more and more land was claimed by white
settlers. After the battle of Little Big Horn in 1876, Indians were confined to a life of
poverty on reservations. Then, on a cold December morning in 1890, the spirit of the
Indian people took a final blow in the massacre every Indian knows about – the Battle of
Wounded Knee in South Dakota.

        "The fabric of Native life was further ripped away by a ban on most traditional
dances and celebrations. Combined with hunger, since supplies were being stolen before
reaching the reservations, hopelessness set in. By about 1945, termination of tribal
memberships was underway, and over two million more acres of land was lost.” Susan
paused and looked around. She loved sharing the story, just as her grandmother did. “But
Grandmother told it with such anger.” She remembered the hatred in her grandmother’s
eyes as she spoke.

        "The Indians were forced into idleness,” she continued. “No one gave them work,
so they came to depend on the very ones who took everything away in the first place. This
made everyone think the Indian was lazy and stupid, only able to stand in line for
commodities, those white containers from the white government. Indians were left with a
void and unfortunately for many, alcohol and drugs were used to fill that void and to help
escape poverty. They have lost their identity.” A hint of the old anger crept into her voice.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                      46




        "For years, there's been no place in society for the Indian. We lost our place in this
country and only recently American Indians have started speaking out, trying to right the
wrong. But only a heart turned to God can turn away from the alcohol, the drugs, and the
bitterness. There can be no profound changes until that heart finds identity in Christ.”

        Sean then interjected, "The American Indian was brought to the forefront with the
American Indian Movement, and thanks to national media, the plight of the American
Indian was made known. No longer is the Indian invisible. All these, combined with our
Father's command to love one another, give us the determination to make a difference. It's
our power dream, an Indian belief where a spirit appears to the dreamer. Susan and I sought
God long and hard and believe He instilled this dream in our hearts."

       No one spoke again for some time, each lost in his or her own thoughts. The only
sounds were the crackling of the fire in the fireplace and the wind against the window.

       “I believe there will be a time when Lakota, Navajo, Shosone, Cheyenne, Arapahoe,
when all tribes will come together dressed in their regalia, proclaiming Jesus Christ as the
Great Spirit, recognizing Him, not as a white man’s god, but as the true Son of God, the
Lord for all nations!” Susan looked around the quiet room.

        Gerald finally said, "Sean, Susan, your vision seems well-timed, and I would
encourage you by telling you to remember that God will equip you for what lies ahead. He
sees over the next hill, and He knows what each tomorrow will bring. He knows your
needs perfectly and will help you use whatever comes your way as opportunities to use
your faith and to walk in what you’ve learned."

        Luke quickly responded, "Yes, you can certainly count on us!"

        Sean held up his hand, "Now wait, Luke. I know you agreed to this, but Ellie needs
to be in on it, because it will involve the whole family. I don’t think you’ve been
completely open with her. There will be many hard things..."

       "Oh, Ellie's a trooper. You understand, don't you, El?" He put his arm around his
wife and squeezed tightly, but didn't give her time to respond. "Tell us more."

        Sean looked at Ellie. "You two talk it over and we'll get together later. Luke, it has
to be a united effort."

         That night, after the lights were out, Ellie quietly said, "Luke, I'm not sure I can do
this. I want to have the zeal Susan feels; I want to hold more tightly to God than I do my
natural loves and possessions. I’m just not very strong. I’m afraid. The horrible thing that
happened to Joy still haunts me. It’s just too fresh in my memory, Luke."
Turquoise Sky                                                                                     47




        Luke pulled his wife close and held her tightly, the clock ticking on the nightstand
the only noise in the darkness.

         After Luke left for the ranch a week later, Ellie walked out the door with her
parents. They had said goodbye to Michael and Simon the night before. Gerald looked up
at all the stars still shining overhead and exclaimed, "Breathtakingly beautiful!" His breath
could be seen in the air, momentarily hanging like a cloud before whisking away on a
sudden breeze.

       He pulled his daughter close and hugged her. "You have a special place here, Ellie,
and an important mission is set before you. You and Luke will be used mightily, you watch
and see!" He kissed her cheek before he got into the car and shut the door.

       Marion smiled softly and knew she would cry if she spoke. She reached over and
kissed Ellie gently on the forehead and then closed the car door, waving goodbye.

        Ellie stood and watched their taillights in the distance, until she could see them no
more. She stood silently a while longer, feeling the brisk breeze against her cheeks,
watching the red morning unfold over the silver-frosted sage. Her parents said little about
Susan’s horse. Gerald said he felt badly for Susan, then the subject was changed. Now, she
wondered what it all really meant. It wasn't something to take lightly. Taking a deep breath,
she turned and walked back into the warm house, wiping her tears on her sleeve.

        Before the boys were up, Ellie watched the colors in the sky change to deep blue.
She looked out the window at the mountains and thought about the meadow of wildflowers
she’d seen on her trip to Jackson with Susan. Isn't it just like God to create something so
beautiful and varied and keep them far removed from most human eyes? And so like Him
to create that same diversity and beauty in people, too. He loves our uniqueness, not based
on color or class, but based purely on love itself. If I would love just a little in the way He
loves us, I would even love the hateful ones, because I could see past their evil, into their
souls, and see their need. If I had that kind of love I might even be able to love those who
killed Joy.

       She prayed for safety for her parents as they drove home. She prayed for her
children and Luke, and her brother, for Sean and Susan. She heard the boys getting up and
smiled. “Life goes on – nothing stays the same.”
Turquoise Sky                                                                                    48




                                         Chapter 16

        Joyce was enjoying her work at the library. It was only three days a week, but she
found it fulfilling and challenging. She’d never really worked before and had to develop
the discipline of being on time, but the work wasn’t as hard as she thought it might be.

        Margaret seemed to like her, and they often had lunch together, though Margaret
usually paid, secretly feeling sorry for the lonely lady she’d hired. Margaret also knew she
had something Joyce needed -- faith in Jesus Christ. She understood how lonely and fearful
a thing it is to be left a widow. She knew Joyce had a lot to learn about life on her own, but
she knew that the peace of God she experienced daily was what Joyce needed in her own
life.

         Decorating the library for the holidays was in full swing. Christmas was just over
three weeks away. When Margaret brought out the manger scene, Joyce questioned, “Is that
legal, to display a religious depiction in a city-owned building?”

        “Well, this is a small town where most of us hold the Christian view of the holiday.
I guess as long as I can get by doing this, I will. No one ever came and made me take it
down! I’m not ashamed of my beliefs, and I guess if anyone wants to challenge me, they’ll
have heaven to answer to!” With that Margaret laughed. “I get pretty worked up about
things like that!”

         “Wow, I didn’t mean to challenge you!” Joyce said. “I just remember the stink that
was raised in St. Louis at the high school my step-kids attended. A few of the young people
tried to put up a manger scene next to the plastic Santa Claus. Boy, what a fight that was. I
was just glad I wasn’t involved with that!”

       “Are you a Christian?” Margaret looked Joyce straight in the eyes.

        “Well, I don’t know what I believe, Margaret. I have a lot of questions. I have a
friend, Gayle, who’s been asking me the same kind of questions. I just never talked
religion…”

       “Who’s talking religion?” Gilly walked in carrying the Christmas tree Margaret
asked him to get for the main room of the library.

       “Joyce and I were discussing Christmas decorations and different beliefs about
what decorations should be displayed.”

         “Well, no question! God sent His Son as a baby to die on a cross for all of us. That
settles it for me! No Santa Claus ever did that!” Gilly grinned. “And where do you want
this fine tree?”
Turquoise Sky                                                                                    49




        A gentle snow was falling when Joyce drove to her cabin. A deer bolted from the
trees along her lane and ran past the cabin, around the woodpile, and into the forest. Joyce
watched him disappear before getting out of her car. She smiled at the swiftness and beauty
of the animal she’d just seen. “What a wonder!” she said aloud.

        Loading her arms with firewood, Joyce paused one last time to peer into the
darkening woods. The snow falling in the quiet stillness of the early evening reminded her
of a time she spent with her grandfather when she was a child. She remembered he said
something similar to what Gilly did about Christmas. That was so long ago, I almost
forgot.

        Inside, the cold and dark of her cabin made Joyce shiver. She quickly lit a lamp and
went to the stove to get a fire started. Soon the crackling fire warmed the small room. A
hint of smoke tinged the air, and the smell of stew warming in a pan made Joyce hungrier.
It may be out of a can, but I’m starved.

        While she enjoyed her meal, she started a long overdue letter to Gayle. She told
about her discussion with Margaret and of Gilly’s remark. She told her about her
grandfather and expressed amazement that she would remember the comment now after all
these years. She wrote about her grandfather: “His face was embossed with wrinkles and
his laughing eyes will always be etched into my mind. His tanned face gave him a healthy,
robust look. I thought he would live forever. He always had time for me and when he died,
I thought I would die too. When I saw him in the casket, he looked like a sculpture to my
young mind. I refused to cry, because I somehow knew he was in a better place. As time
went on, I learned I wouldn’t die of a broken heart, but the tapestry of his memory is one of
my prized possessions.”

        Joyce took her dirty dishes to the counter and returned with a hot cup of tea. She sat
and wrote some more. “I wish you were here to answer some questions I have, Gayle. How
can I get the certainty that you and Margaret and Gilly seem to have about God? How do
you know He is real? And why do I even have these questions?”

        When Joyce went to mail her letter the following day, she looked at the Christmas
stamp she had placed in the corner. She suddenly wished she hadn’t purchased one with
Santa on it. She shrugged and dropped the envelope in the slot at the post office. When she
turned to leave, she nearly knocked Gilly off his feet.

       “Oh, I’m so sorry. I’m running late, as usual.”

       “No problem. It’s always good to see you, Joyce, even if you do try to knock me
over!” Gilly grinned in his usual comfortable manner.

       “How about having supper with me tonight?”
Turquoise Sky                                                                                  50




       Surprised by Gilly’s invitation, Joyce was suddenly shy and unsure of what to say.
“Well, I guess that would be okay. I work until 5:30.”

       “Great, I’ll pick you up then.” With that, Gilly turned and went into the post office
while Joyce headed for work.

        Gilly was early for their dinner date, so he found a book to thumb through and sat
back in a corner. He watched Joyce and wondered about her. She rarely spoke about herself
and he had some questions she seemed to keep from answering. He hoped their time
together that evening would set her at ease enough to open up and share about herself. He
really wanted to know all about her.

        Joyce nearly laughed as they pulled into a parking area for “Bob and Bob’s Famous
Italian Steakhouse.” It was located next to “Tanya’s Trim and Tint.” Why should these
names seem so funny?

       As the evening progressed at the cafe, the candlelight and big stone fireplace nearby
produced the soft effect he was looking for to give Joyce the cozy, comfortable feeling that
Gilly hoped would help her open up. Over coffee and pie, she told about her husband and
how devastated she was when he died. She told about Wade and about her stepchildren.

        “You seem so sure of God, Gilly. I just don’t understand why He lets such bad
things happen.”

        “Things happen, Joyce, and I can’t tell you why. I can only tell you that God does
not do bad things. He loves you and wants you to turn to Him for healing and strength to
bear the hurts that do come our way.”

       “But not knowin’ where my son is torments me – what if he’s dead? What if he’s
sick and can’t call me? What if he is in deep trouble?” She let the tears flow down her
cheeks unchecked.

     “That’s why you need Jesus in your life, Joyce. He is the burden-bearer, the One on
Whom to cast all your cares.”

       “So I can go my own jolly way and not care about my son?” Joyce’s voice had an
edge of anger, but her eyes were searching.

        “No, so you can care about him in a better way – by trusting his Creator to care
even more. You would help give God access into your son’s life and enable His perfect
will to be done there.”

       “How would I know what God’s will is?”
Turquoise Sky                                                                                   51




        “The Bible says that He wants ALL men to be saved and come to repentance.
That’s from Second Peter 3:9.”

        At 9:30, Karen, the owner of the café, apologized, but it was time to close. Joyce
was shocked at the time and laughed at herself for being so transparent with Gilly. “I can’t
believe I carried on so. I hope I didn’t bore you with my chatter,” she said as he helped her
into her coat.

        “Oh, not at all. In fact, I was hopin’ you would tell me those things! Sometimes I
feel like a three-legged horse in a race – a bit outdistanced when it comes to polite
conversation! I just like to come right to the point!” He grinned down at her as he opened
the door to her car.

       Joyce shivered on her way home. The cold was really setting in and she was a bit
nervous about keeping up with it at the cabin. Tomorrow was her day off, so she planned to
do some winterizing. She smiled to herself when she thought about her evening with Gilly.
She was both confused and delighted by the growing relationship.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                   52




                                         Chapter 17

         Monday morning dawned bright and crisp after a cold, damp weekend. Michael
didn't have school so Ellie let the boys sleep in. She was sure Michael was still tired after
his first Wyoming hunting trip. He talked about it continuously Sunday afternoon.

       Pulling on her hooded sweatshirt, Ellie pushed through the door with her basket of
laundry and headed out to the clothesline when she saw Susan bumping along in her Jeep
toward the house. She walked toward the drive, as Susan opened the door to get out.

        "They just called from the Agency and asked if I’d come to town to pick up a little
girl someone found two weeks ago. Apparently, she was abandoned along a deserted road.
Can you come with me? I'll send Gilly over to stay with the kids." Her eyes were big brown
pools of concern.

       "When do we leave?"

       "I told them we'd be there around ten, so we’ll have to leave soon."

       Ellie hurried through her work until Gilly arrived. He did his usual good-natured
grumbling as he entered the kitchen where Michael was helping his mother clean up from
breakfast. Simon was fussing about something, until he saw Gilly.

      "I'm not a baby-sitter...I’m a cow-poke. Ain't hired on to wipe noses and powder
bottoms." His grin denied his words when Michael looked up, worried.

      Michael asked questions about the little girl that Susan was going to bring home.
"Why don’t her mom and dad want her? Is she bad?"

       Ellie couldn't explain, but assured her son the little girl had not been bad, but a
victim of a lot of bad things. She was proud of his concern and knew he would be a lot of
help getting the child settled in.

         On the way to town, Ellie told Susan about Michael's questions. Susan glanced at
Ellie. " That’s good he’s questioning. Family relationships need to be nurtured, then
interwoven with the wider community. If our eyes are turned inward, our vision is narrow
and our world becomes small. But with our eyes turned outward, we can see a whole vast
world of opportunities to learn and grow. Michael will one day be full of compassion, with
vision and dreams, reaching out to others in order to help them become whole. I see
Michael doing this. I think you will be surprised how God will use your son."

       This statement made Ellie smile proudly.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                     53




        When they arrived, Janet Yazzie was sitting on a chair in the office. Ellie could
clearly see the pain the little child suffered. Small for a six-year-old, she looked
undernourished as well. Ellie thought, No one should abandon such an innocent little girl.

        After all the paperwork was completed, Janet walked to the car slowly, a look of
terror on her face -- a broken child who looked at the world through ancient eyes. She rode
in silence all the way to the ranch, clutching a small cloth bag. Susan was equally quiet,
praying for wisdom and strength for the rough road ahead. Ellie glanced back at the tiny
child in the big back seat. Janet was crying silently, pitifully. Ellie felt tears in her own
eyes.

       Back home, Ellie watched Susan drive away with the little girl, wondering what
would unfold later. She would learn the next day about the rough time they had that first
night.

        After refusing to sleep in a bed, Janet finally fell asleep in a corner on the floor.
Susan cried to Sean, "How can God forgive when parents abandon their children? This was
never the Indian way before. Children were treasured, even spoiled. Children meant a
future - of life going on in spite of hardships."

        "God will only forgive them if they ask, Susan. He alone knows the intents of the
heart and if they ask forgiveness, only He knows if their cry is from a broken and contrite
heart. But YOU must forgive them! The Bible instructs Christians to let no root of
bitterness spring up within their hearts. God knows the damage bitterness does to us; it
closes the door on God. But forgiveness opens the door for His Hand to move toward the
person needin’ forgiveness, and it frees you to be used by God. Only He knows what the
parents have suffered and only He knows how Janet fits into His plan. She just might play
a major part in bring others to healing and reconciliation."

        "I know, I know. It's just so hard. Sometimes I feel like there’s a war raging inside
me -- the sins of my red fathers and the sins of my white fathers! I feel strongly that it's up
to me to seek forgiveness and make an effort to mend that breach. Bitterness has to stop
with me, Sean! God forgive me for hating Janet's parents!" She paused to wipe her tears.

        "There has to be a mending of the wall. It won't keep the enemy out if it's full of
holes. Help me find a way, Sean."

        At 2 a.m. Janet woke up screaming. Susan and Sean jumped from their bed and ran
into Janet's room. The little girl stood in the corner where she had been sleeping, eyes big
as saucers.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                      54




       "It's okay, Janet, I'm here to help you. No one is going to hurt you. You're safe, little
one," Susan spoke softly to the trembling child.

        After several minutes of screaming, Janet went limp, leaning against the wall.
Susan scooped her up in her arms and carried her over to the rocker. Sean went back to bed
while Susan sat with Janet the rest of the night, rocking and singing softly the Indian
lullabies she had learned -- singing and remembering her grandmother's scratchy voice, as
she sang songs to the child.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                   55




                                        Chapter 18

         Christmas was only a few days away. Joyce watched the lights twinkling on the tree
in the library’s main room. It was almost closing time, and Joyce dreaded returning to her
lonely, dark cabin. She thought of the holidays spent with Jerry and the kids, and it brought
tears to her eyes. Even though Jerry’s kids always resented her, the holidays were usually
fun. Even Wade seemed to enjoy himself. Now Jerry was dead, Wade had disappeared
from her life, and Lora, Adam, and Joanne didn’t care about her.

      Just then, the door opened with a gust of cold air. Joyce looked up to see Gilly
remove his hat and approach the desk, looking like a little boy ready to ask for the moon.

       “Hi, Gilly!” Joyce smiled warmly.

        “Joyce,” he nodded at her, then cleared his throat. “I was wondering if you would
care to have Christmas with us at the Morgan’s ranch. They are having dinner Christmas
Eve. It would be an honor if you would share it with us.”

       “Oh, Gilly, I don’t know…”

       “I know it would help you through this loneliness, Joyce. Please say you’ll come!”
He looked at her, almost pleading.

        Joyce only agreed to let him know the next day. She told him she had to think about
it. He smiled and promised to stop in late the next afternoon.

       That night her cabin seemed a little brighter, when she finished cleaning up from
supper. With the Wyoming wind singing her to sleep, she finally talked herself into
accepting Ron Gilmore’s invitation. A sense of excitement suddenly swept through her.
Why do I feel like such a kid? Do I have a right to feel this happy?

       When Gilly picked her up at the time they’d set, she was on pins and needles,
nervously waiting. “I hope your friends don’t mind an extra person at the table.”

        “Oh, one more sure won’t make much difference. And from the looks of ya, you eat
like a bird anyway!” Gilly teased.

       The smell of coffee brewing greeted them as they walked into the fragrant kitchen.
They were the first to arrive. Ellie was putting the finishing touches on the Christmas Eve
meal. Joyce walked in behind Gilly, almost unseen behind the tall cowboy. She shyly
shook Ellie’s hand when Gilly introduced her.

       “Gilly told us you are new to Wyoming. Welcome! I haven’t been here long
myself.”
Turquoise Sky                                                                                     56




        Ellie watched Gilly escort Joyce into the living room and smiled at Gilly’s
nervousness. He had asked if it was okay to bring a lady that he’d met. He almost jumped
for joy when Ellie said it would be fine with her if he brought a friend.

        Sean and Susan brought Janet for her first Christmas. They had also invited all the
other hired men that didn't have families to go home to: Steve Denby, Jerry Strauss, and
Ezra Singer, who warmly shook Joyce’s hand, saying, “We’ve had the pleasure of
meeting.”

         Michael was helping Luke start a fire in the fireplace. The tree sparkled in the bay
window, snow softly fell outside, and the fresh pine fragrance drifted in toward Ellie. She
thought about the fun they'd had driving the truck up the old logging road, bumping over
all the ruts, flurries flying in the windy air, searching for the perfect tree.

        Susan mentioned that she never had Christmas as a child and never celebrated it
until she met Sean. She now watched all Ellie's busy preparations with curiosity, eager to
understand her unending efforts. She told Ellie what her grandmother said about the
holiday. "They decorate their houses with pine and bright lights -- foolish! Don't they know
all those things they buy will wear out? But the land...these mountains and trees, they are
always going to be here!"

        Susan could still hear the echoes of her little grandmother's voice. "She was sort of
right, Ellie,” Susan spoke as she handed Ellie decorations one afternoon before Christmas,
“things don't last. Jesus even said to lay up treasures in heaven...but Grandmother doesn't
realize this world is not forever! The mountains and trees will one day be gone."

        Luke happened to come into the room at that moment and said, "Ellie and I were
talking about that very thing just the other day. Isaiah 54:10 says ‘For the mountains shall
depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall
the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.’

       "Susan, look at little Janet. Her world as she knew it came to an end, when the
people who gave her life failed her. But God saved her and gave her to you for healing and
hopefully to find the gift of eternal life. Ellie and I have been praying that you'd find favor
with the right people and be awarded custody.

        "But about Christmas, Susan. The bright lights and decorations are supposed to
remind us of the true light that came into this world, born to be our Savior. I'm glad we
have this season -- it's the one time during the year people hear about Him and are forced to
either keep Christmas as a spiritual celebration, or to use Christmas as a materialistic way
to buy favor from others."
Turquoise Sky                                                                                     57




       Ellie presented Susan with a basket of Christmas greens with a small wrapped gift
tucked inside. “I believe the wrapped gifts represent the Baby Jesus. Not only was He
wrapped in swaddling clothes, He came as God’s gift to us wrapped in humanity.”

        Now the day had almost arrived with it’s laughter, music, fragrance, and flavors.
Ellie heard more boots stomping in the porch and went to let her guests in.

       Everyone then came to the dining room, where the table almost sagged under the
bounty steaming from dishes and platters.

        During the meal, Janet left the table to stare at the Christmas tree; Susan had not as
yet given into Sean about bringing home a tree. The child’s eyes reflected the bright
twinkling lights, full of wonder at such a sight.

         While Janet was away from the table, Susan briefly explained Janet’s story to Joyce
who sat quietly next to Gilly. Joyce responded, “I kind of know how it must be for her. I
feel a little abandoned myself…” She caught herself, and wondered why she said that to
these people. She didn’t even know them, yet somehow felt comfortable and at ease.

       Gilly gave an abbreviated and somewhat edited history of how Joyce came to be in
Wyoming. Ellie reached in front of Gilly to put her hand on Joyce’s arm. “I’m glad you
decided to join us, Joyce.” She gently squeezed her arm then pulled her hand back.

       “We all are,” Sean spoke up. “You don’t ever have to feel alone again! You can
count on us for anything you may need. And I mean that, Joyce.”

       Joyce smiled and looked away just in time to see Janet coming back to the dining
room, a hand full of candy canes from the tree. She grinned from ear to ear for the first
time and everyone laughed! The sticky face and fingers were ignored as everyone
celebrated the sudden light in the little girl’s eyes.

        After dinner, they all went into the living room to hear Sean read the Christmas
story from his Bible. Jerry Strauss brought his guitar and softly strummed "Silent Night."
Ellie could hardly keep the tears from falling, as she looked around the room at all the
people who had become precious to her in the last few months and were sharing this
holiday with her, along with their new friend, Joyce. As they sang carols later, a little voice
suddenly became obvious. Janet was trying to sing even though she didn't know the words.
Her face was bright and Susan knelt down beside her, hugging the little girl tightly.

       "God can always break through barriers!" she said as Janet finally hugged her back.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                    58




                                         Chapter 19

        The heavy snow came on Christmas Night. Everyone was excited about the gently
falling snow until it started coming down fast and furious. Ellie was glad when she knew
everyone was home safe and sound. All afternoon, while Christmas music played on the
radio and the boys played with their new toys, Ellie and Luke sat watching the snow grow
deeper and deeper as the wind picked up.

       The lights went out on the Christmas tree and the radio suddenly went silent.

       “Hey, what happened to the lights?” Michael wanted to know.

      “I guess the power’s out. It’s okay; it should come back on soon.” Luke went to put
more wood on the fire and Ellie went to light the lantern they kept on the back porch.

       After setting the lantern on the table, Ellie and Luke resumed their storm-watching.

       Ellie sighed with contentment. Luke set down his coffee cup and put his arm
around her.

       “That was quite a sigh.” He grinned at his wife, her red hair shining in the light
from the fireplace.

       “Being here with you, watching our two precious sons play, the storm blowing
outside – I just feel safe and secure! Right now, the world is unable to touch us – not
through the radio or television, and not through visitors venturing out in the storm to bring
the world with them to our house! The storm is kind of a hedge around us.”

        “That’s a good picture of God’s protection, isn’t it?” Luke commented. “He holds
us in the palm of His hand.”

       The fire crackled in the fireplace and the snow scratched against the window. Ellie
snuggled against Luke and smiled. “How did I ever doubt your wisdom about coming
here? This must be a small taste of Peace on earth, good will toward men.”

         The power stayed out for two days and proved to be a challenge to Ellie, but Luke
was able to be home much of the time each day, so they shared the burden. In fact, Ellie
felt that it had been good for them. “We’ll sure appreciate the power when it DOES come
back on!”

        New Year's Eve arrived with heavy gray clouds. They went for a sleigh ride in
Sean's big bobsled, piled high with soft straw. The bells on the horses rang out through the
crisp air as they pulled the sleigh through the deep snow. They went into the tall pines Ellie
loved. The trees were bowed down with snow, which showered down on them as they sped
under the branches. Everyone laughed.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                   59




       After their ride, they all went into the house, laughing and brushing snow away
while Susan prepared hot cider and spice cake.

       Gilly once again brought Joyce, so she could be with them as they rang in the New
Year. Ellie enjoyed the quiet woman, feeling there was a lot of deep healing needed. She
hoped Joyce would learn to trust her.

        The sky grew darker all day and by early evening snow started falling steadily once
again. "This snow will keep us close to the fire again," Ezra predicted when he closed the
door after getting an armload of firewood.

        Ellie tucked the children in for the night in one of Susan’s guest bedrooms, across
the hall from Janet’s room. Janet was finally sleeping in her bed. Ellie read a short book to
the boys. She kissed them both as she pulled the blankets up under their chins. “Tomorrow
is a New Year, boys. Isn’t it fun to see what God has waiting for us?” she said as she
turned out the light.

        By the time the clock struck midnight, a second blizzard was in full force. They sat
by the fire and enjoyed the time together, hearing the snow blow against the window and
talking about all the New Year might hold in store for them. They’d been talking about the
shelter and their goals, while Joyce sat listening, unsure exactly what they were talking
about. She politely nodded from time to time.

        She suddenly said, “Can I ask what it is ya’ll are talkin’ about? I mean, ya’ll keep
talking about a shelter, and I’m not sure what you mean.” Her slight Southern accent was
more pronounced when she was tired.

       Sean said, “I’m sorry, Joyce. Of course you wouldn’t know. Let me explain.”

        He moved his chair so he could face her and started telling her about their vision.
“Susan and I believe we are supposed to open High Hope, a shelter in our home for abused,
neglected, and troubled Indian young people, like Janet. We feel God wants us to help
them find healing from the pain and suffering they’ve experienced, and to show them how
much He loves them. Susan is half-Indian, raised in the way of the Lakota. It’s her heart to
see these people, and all people really, be set free from the painful bondage of alcohol,
drugs, evil and dark beliefs, poverty, and neglect.”

       “How do ya’ll know God wants you to do this?” Joyce asked.

       “As Christians, we believe what the Bible says, and through a series of events and
discussions, and with much prayer, we have come to this conclusion. We don’t believe in
‘coincidence,’ only in God’s appointment. For instance, I was praying one morning and
kept coming back in my thoughts to Susan’s grandmother. I just kept praying for her. Later,
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Susan said she’d been praying for her grandmother, and when I told her I was too, we
joined hands and prayed again in agreement that God would become real to her. That was
not a coincidence that we both prayed in the same way, unknown to one another. In similar
ways, along with messages we’ve received from friends and our pastor, the direction God
wants us to go has become clear.”

       “Can you help me find God the way y’all have?” Joyce asked, her eyes full of
pleading.

        “We’d be honored to,” Gilly said, reaching to gently touch her shoulder, concern
showing on his bearded face, eyes reflecting the blaze in the fireplace, a deeper, more
intense blaze burning in his heart.

        The conversation carried them well past 1:30 a.m. Joyce finally said, “I have so
much to think about. I’ve never felt this way before, never really thought about God. My
friend Gayle’s been talkin’ about Him too. Is that one of God’s appointments, maybe?”

        “No doubt about it,” Luke said brightly as they stood up. They all joined hands and
prayed for Joyce, that her eyes would be enlightened. They prayed for the shelter and for
the blessings on the New Year. When they finished praying, Susan showed Joyce to one of
the other guestrooms after Gilly told everyone, “Good night,” and headed through the
blizzard to the bunkhouse, following Ezra’s long stride.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                   61




                                         Chapter 20

        One bright sunny day after the holidays, Ellie had the opportunity to visit with
Susan for a while. They went for a walk in the forest just south of the ranch. The sun was
bright on the sparkling snow.

        "I'm suddenly feeling so empty, Susan. All around me is life and beauty, but inside I
feel dry. I don't know if it's what happened to your horse that haunts me or something lying
ahead that plagues me, something I have no control over."

        Susan was silent for a long time. "This morning in my quiet time I read from Isaiah
50: 'Who walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely
upon his God.’" Susan stopped and looked at Ellie. "I watched your preparations for
Christmas, Ellie. Perhaps you put too much into them. Your expectations seemed out of
proportion in relation to the Nativity. Maybe your aim was off and you feel like you’ve
missed the mark, and now feel empty. Or it could be God is preparing you for something --
He wants your whole heart, Ellie. All of your questions will be answered. Just don't walk in
fear. Keep your vision clear and undistracted. Someone once said that distractions cause us
to forfeit God’s plan for our lives. We need to daily, moment by moment, purpose in our
hearts to do everything we can that will help us grow in Christ and follow Him.

        “One more thing to remember: we were not created to live on this earth forever; our
forever is with our Maker and Redeemer.”

        Birds were singing in the trees and snow fell off branches with the slightest breeze.
Ellie thought about what Susan said. She was good at telling what she saw; even if it was
hard to hear. Ellie felt she might be right.

         "When I experience times of darkness,” Susan continued. “I think how that
darkness reveals again my need for God. Sometimes I try to live off the sparks of my own
fire, like another verse says in Isaiah, but I'm sure He prefers us to wait on Him to give us
new light. And Ellie, He is faithful."

       She went on, "Trust Him, Ellie, when you finally come out of the wilderness, His
glory will seem brighter than ever. He has something special in store for you, but
remember, my friend, He expects obedience. In those days of darkness, when I trust Him,
He brings about something I am to obey." Susan's breath hung in crystals on the cold, crisp
air.

         They walked on and suddenly Susan stopped. "I have a special place I want you to
see, if you're up to a little climb through some deep snow."
Turquoise Sky                                                                                     62




       Ellie nodded, and Susan led the way up a steep path into a thick forest. Ellie huffed
and puffed her way to the top, the cold air stinging the inside of her nose and throat, but she
was glad for the exercise.

         "Look at that forest of lodge pole pine -- all the trees look pretty much alike from a
distance. As we get closer, we can see that little scrubby pine tree, twisted with a deep gash
near the bottom. Look closer still at the scar, how it’s created a beautifully unique shape to
the little tree. Deep inside you can see an animal has made a cozy little nest inside the
wound -- so it has served others well in the process of healing and growing. It’s become a
shelter. What a reflection of Jesus and an example of what we are to be like! Steady
endurance can create something of beauty out of a painful experience.”

       Susan kicked snow with the toe of her boot and bent to pick up a pinecone.
"Through the scars I've received, I want to become a shelter for others, so they can find
healing from the hurts this world’s caused. In healing they can become a beautifully unique
individual reaching out as a shelter to others. It will go on and on, as it should -- a never
ending cycle of love and caring.

        "Sadly, too many of us internalize our hurts and allow them to fester. When a
cancer forms, if it's not healed right away, the person dies. Emotional wounds can cause
spiritual death if we don't allow God to produce healing and restoration.” She handed the
perfectly formed pinecone to Ellie. “When we lose ourselves in the healing process, we
find our true selves, lives abundant and giving because we've been freed by the healing
Blood of Jesus Christ. When we're free, there's nothing holding us back, hindering our
growth. Then the hurt can become a beautiful scar, and we can start growing tall and
straight, like the rest of the forest!"

         They walked over to the little tree, the tall pines whispering overhead. Ellie looked
at the pinecone Susan gave her. "I'm going to put this on my kitchen window sill to remind
me of this truth, Susan. I think I have been trying to do it myself, forgetting the importance
of trusting God to do the work. Wow, that’s really helped!" She hugged Susan.

       Ellie returned to the house that day refreshed, and for the next several days, she
sensed the darkness finally rolling away in a steady stream of blessings. The walk with
Susan and her sharing were just what Ellie hoped for.

         Later in the week, Michael's teacher, Mrs. Jensen, called to let her know it was a
real pleasure having Michael in her class. She mentioned how difficult it had been those
first few weeks of school. Ellie knew he liked school in Illinois and was afraid this would
not be the same. Mrs. Jensen said he seemed to struggle over anxiety and homesickness,
Turquoise Sky                                                                                   63




but soon settled in to be a good participant, helpful and friendly toward the other students.
She said Michael seemed drawn to the students with problems of one kind or another and
was always patting someone on the back when they did well.

        That night Ellie slept better than ever in spite of a heavy thunderstorm. Winter
storms sometimes produce thunder and lightning and this one offered some powerful noise.
Ellie was surprised when the alarm clock beeped in the morning since she usually woke
before it sounded. She stretched and leaned over to give Luke a good morning kiss, but he
was already out of bed.

         Pulling on her robe, Ellie smelled coffee brewing mingled with a smoky smell,
probably from a downdraft in the fireplace. As she approached the stairway, smoke hung
heavier in the air and grew stronger as she went down the stairs. Ellie stopped short on the
last step, staring at the scene before her.

        Luke was sitting at the counter, coat and boots on over his long underwear, looking
as confused as she was. Both stared at the telephone and wall around it. The phone was a
melted mass of plastic hanging limply on a charred wall, blackened from the ceiling to the
floor. The curtain on one side of the French doors was burned halfway up and the carpeting
was gone in a semicircle around the area.

        "I checked the outside of the house and could see where lightning hit the roof,
found the telephone line and went inside. It's a miracle, Ellie! We should've had a major
fire here! It's like someone used a fire extinguisher to put it out!" Luke said calmly.

        Ellie joined Luke at the counter as they both continued to stare a minute longer.
Finally, Luke pulled her close and started praying, thanking and praising God for His
protection and asking for His blessings on their day. Then they prayed for all the family --
the folks back in Illinois, the hired men and their families, and for High Hope.

        Luke went to get the children out of bed while Ellie started breakfast. She was
pouring pancake batter onto the hot griddle, when she saw headlights coming down the
lane. Luke came back into the kitchen fully dressed. "Looks like Sean," he said as he pulled
on his coat and went out.

       The kids were starting to eat their breakfast when Sean and Gilly walked in the
door. "Have you guys had breakfast?" Ellie asked.

       "No, but thanks. We just came to check on you folks. Susan woke me up at 6:00.
She said she'd had a dream about your house burning. She insisted I call and when there
was no answer," he motioned toward the melted appliance, "I told her I would drive right
Turquoise Sky                                                                                    64




over. Gilly was filling the pickup with gas, so he came with me. Susan wants me to call her
right away, but obviously that's not possible. I'd better get right back or she'll be packing
Janet into the Jeep to come over herself.

       "Ellie, Susan said she woke up at 2:00 with the urge to pray for all of you. She went
down to the kitchen and paced back and forth, praying, until she felt released to go back to
bed. That must be when she had the dream. She was trembling all over when she woke up.
She said it was so real she had to wake me."

        Sean put his arm around Ellie. "Just seems to me someone's trying hard to
discourage you, but we're overcomers, right?" He gave her a squeeze and grinned down at
her. Gilly offered to help clean up the mess.

       That afternoon while Simon was napping, Ellie wrote to her parents:

              "Dear Ones, A wild storm in the night took revenge on our telephone and
       surrounding wall! It left us with a glimpse of the power and mercy of God. The
       damage was minimal when we think of what might have happened had not our
       loving Father intervened and extinguished the fire. I'll phone after the damage is
       repaired, and we can make calls again! Sean says it could take a week.

               "I must tell you about Simon -- he's grown so tall for a four-year-old, clearly
       a picture of his dad! He loves to wear the cowboy boots you sent him for Christmas,
       and he never leaves the house without his brown cowboy hat, the one Gilly gave
       him for his birthday in August -- I'm afraid it'll need replacing before his next
       birthday, he's growing so fast!

               "Michael is excelling in all his classes at school and his teacher called
       several times to let me know how well he is doing. I'm very proud of our young
       man. He loved the book you sent him for his birthday last month.

               "One test behind us, another looms ahead as Sean and Susan face a second
       custody hearing for Janet at the end of March. The first hearing awarded them
       temporary custody while her parents go through drug and alcohol treatment. The
       second hearing will also be the beginning of the process to legally form the shelter.
       Susan said she has never felt such apprehension before and is determined to get a
       grip on her emotions, before she approaches the courtroom.

             "She found a verse in Lamentations 3:22 and read it to me over the phone
       one morning, 'It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his
       compassions fail not.'
Turquoise Sky                                                                                  65




              "Susan also read from Isaiah 58. She told me her instructions were clear.
      'Loose the bonds of wickedness; to undo the bands of the yoke; to let the oppressed
      go free, and to break every yoke...to share your bread with the hungry and to take
      the outcast poor into your home; to clothe those you see unclad, and not to hide
      yourself from your own flesh... build the old wasteplaces; thou shalt raise up the
      foundations of many generations; and then shalt thou be called, the repairer of the
      Breach, the Restorer of Paths to Dwell in.'

             "Pray for Susan; these are mighty big shoes to fill! And I ask you, Mom,
      Dad, and Mark, to pray for all of us. Changes are happening so quickly it leaves my
      head spinning! It's exciting too, and I seem to be on the edge of my seat waiting for
      the next piece to fall into place.

              “Pastor Edward spoke last Sunday on obedience. Boy, I think he was
      preaching directly to me! He said we each need to step down from the throne,
      where only God is to sit. Once we die to selfishness and wanting things our own
      way, life grows full and beautiful. Blessings follow obedience. That seems to be the
      way it is for me, and I am a bit of a slow learner. I’m so thankful He will never give
      up on me!

              “Joyce has not been here since New Year’s, but I went to see her at the
      library when I was in town last week. She seemed a lot more rested and peaceful.
      Keep her in your prayers too.

             “Luke just drove in, so I will write again soon. I love you! Ellie.”
Turquoise Sky                                                                                   66




                                        Chapter 21

       The storm kept her awake all night and her head was pounding. If she had a phone,
Joyce would call Margaret and tell her she was staying home. But since there was no
phone, she dressed and headed for town.

        Joyce glanced from time to time at the old library clock, rubbing her temples. She
thought Gilly was going to stop by, but when he still hadn’t shown up at noon, she started
to get a little worried. She was starting to realize how much she looked forward to his
visits.

        When the anniversary of Jerry’s death came around, Gilly had been there. He
showed up at her cabin with a red rose carefully hidden in his jacket against the bitter cold
of the February morning. He also brought his own style of chili for them to have for lunch.
She wasn’t sure if that was a blessing or not!

        “Do I have the right to be happy again?” she had asked him. “Even with Jerry, I
can’t say we had a blissful marriage, because his children resented me – it was almost like
they felt I gave their mother cancer. I never even knew Jerry until almost two years after
she died! Why do they hate me so?” Tears were flowing unchecked, and for the first time,
Joyce allowed Gilly to reach out and hold her hand, something he’d been wanting to do for
a long time.

        He had the words she needed, “I wish I could take the hurt away, but there is only
One who can, and until you let Him, those wounds will never really heal. But I’m prayin’
for ya.” His warmth and sincerity softened her heart even more.

       The afternoon was unusually busy, and everyone talked about the winter
thunderstorm. One of the older women that came to drop off a book said, “I can’t ever
remember a storm like that one this time of year. My, what lightning!”

        Margaret offered to show her some new books and led her into the other room,
leaving Joyce alone, watching the clock. Her headache subsided by late afternoon, but she
felt very weak and tired.

        It was just about closing time when Gilly walked in, looking tired. He told about
the remarkable thing that happened at Luke’s. “Their house should’ve caught fire, instead
only one wall was damaged, with the curtain and rug, and the phone of course. Wow, what
a day!”

       “Steve Denby and I worked hard tearing out and fixin’ the damaged areas. The
phone company is to come out first thing Monday. Sean and Susan decided to have a
celebration supper. Will you come with me?”
Turquoise Sky                                                                                 67




       “Sure!” Joyce didn’t mean to sound so eager, but she couldn’t deny how relieved
she was when Gilly finally arrived at the library, and suddenly she wasn’t as tired as she
thought she was. And she also looked forward to getting to know the Morgan families even
more.

       The whole evening did have the feeling of celebration. Susan remarked that it was a
wonderful thing to celebrate God’s mercy. Joyce got caught up in the joy of the event,
laughing and singing to Jerry’s guitar with everyone else, even though she didn’t know all
the words.

        “You know, maybe we need to enlarge your kitchen, since we need to completely
tear out that damaged wall. Come spring, let’s just do that.” Sean looked at Luke. “More
kitchen space will be great when the Shelter finally is up and running. We could put that
big oven over here Susan’s been hoping for. Perfect for all the bread and meals that will
need baking.”

        “I could help with baking! That’s one thing I do indeed know how to do!” Joyce
volunteered. “I’ve kinda been wonderin’ what I can do to help you folks, and that’s one
thing I am good at!”

          They all laughed at everyone’s enthusiasm. Sean continued for a few minutes
longer talking about how to redo the kitchen for Ellie – and Joyce, now! Luke was
thumbing through his Bible. “That reminds me of something I read the other day. Oh, here
it is. Isaiah 54: 2 & 3 says, ‘Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the
curtains of your dwellings. Do not spare; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes.
For you shall expand to the right and to the left, and your descendants will inherit the
nations and make the desolate cities inhabited.’”

        Time to leave came all too soon. Joyce was beginning to feel like she belonged – a
strange feeling to one who usually stood off by herself, a little insecure. Maybe, if there
really is a God, He was just saving the best for when I needed it most! she thought to
herself as Gilly drove her home.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                    68




                                            Chapter 22

        One brief phone call can set the whole world out of balance. Ellie's stomach
tightened, making her feel sick as she listened to the voice on the other end of the line. Her
brother called to let her know of her father's grave illness. It was the day before the court
date. Luke was still at the ranch so Ellie rushed over with Simon tucked in the pickup. It
started snowing as she got to the ranch. Gilly and Luke were in the driveway when she
pulled up, Sean was coming out of the stable. They all went into the house.

        Susan was just coming down from the bedrooms when they all rushed in, Simon
crying loudly from bumping his head when he fell on the steps.

           "Come here, Simon." Susan bent down to hug the little boy and kiss away the hurt.

       "Ellie's dad is very sick and she needs to fly home as soon as possible," Sean said,
"but she thinks she should stay here."

           "I just don’t know what..." Ellie started to say, handing her coat to Susan.

       "I understand how you feel, Ellie, but you need to go to your father. We have this
hearing covered! I believe God has granted us favor. I feel confident it will go well." Susan
reached over and squeezed Ellie's hand. "You go."

           "Michael will want to go with me. Luke can drive us up to Jackson to catch a
flight."

       "Don't worry, Ellie, Simon can stay here when Luke comes over for work. He and
Janet get along great."

        The next day the flight was delayed a short time, but as the plane took off into the
whitewashed sky, Ellie finally let herself rest. It was chaos, arranging for flights, packing,
and making so many phone calls. She felt fortunate to get a flight to Denver then to
Chicago, where her brother Mark picked them up. The drive down to Hallmark was a quiet
one. Ellie had forgotten the pink smoke belching from the stacks close to her parents'
home, and the smell. It seemed more pungent today, as they drove in silence. Ellie was
acutely aware of the stench and sight of the pollution, but suddenly felt more pity than
condemnation.

        Ellie was alarmed when Mark said he was afraid they might not get to the hospital
in time. She hadn't realized the seriousness of her Dad's illness until Mark filled her in.

       Her father brightened some when he saw Michael, who shyly approached his
grandfather. "Don't be scared, son,” Gerald said to his grandson.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                    69




        He motioned Michael to move in close. "I'm so glad to see you. How's Wyoming?"
he whispered. Michael only stood and stared at the man he had fished with and laughed
with, the man he loved and respected more than anyone on earth, one whom he thought
invincible, now lying helpless.

       Gerald's eyes closed for a few moments, and they all held their breath until he
opened them again. He reached his hand toward his daughter. "Ellie, I may not live in this
body much longer, I don't know, but don't let this distract you from your course. You have
work ahead of you."

        Ellie looked over at Mark, who was seven years older. His broad shoulders drooped
slightly, as he watched his father slipping away. He glanced sadly at his sister.

        The nurse came in to give Gerald some medication. As she was checking his vital
signs, he suddenly reached past the nurse toward Marion, "I love you..."

        The monitors lit up and started blaring. The nurse quickly reacted, telling everyone
to step back. She called for help and immediately a medical crew was there, all working in
tune with one another. Ellie couldn't help but think of a concert or ballet, each having their
own part, but each in rhythm with the whole.

       "Grandpa!" Michael cried. Ellie took him out to the waiting room. Soon Mark, who
was shaking and white, joined them. Marion stayed in the room with her husband. No
words were needed. Ellie held Michael close, praying for her dad.

        About thirty minutes after they left the room, Marion joined them. Ellie searched
her mother's face and was relieved when her Mom smiled. "He's resting quietly. The doctor
thinks the crises has passed! Thank God!" She sank into a chair next to Mark and laid her
head on her son's shoulder. He put his arm around her, and they all wept with relief,
exhausted from the ordeal.

       "God said 'Yes' to my prayer!" Michael finally spoke quietly. He moved over by his
grandmother, took her hand in his and continued. "I asked Him to keep Grandpa alive,
because we all still need him here."

       Marion pulled the boy to her and hugged him tightly. "Thank you, Michael, for
doing that."

        The next evening, Luke phoned to see how Gerald was doing and to let Ellie know
they had not done well in the hearing. The court upheld the first decision regarding Janet.
Her parents were still in treatment. Ellie was concerned about Susan. "She's fine, Ellie. She
just kept saying this disappointment is simply an opportunity for growth. Before we even
headed back to the ranch, Susan had drawn up two petitions, one for Janet's custody and
Turquoise Sky                                                                                     70




the other to plead the case of the shelter before a panel from the Agency. The date is set for
May 1 regarding Janet, and an appointment before the Board of American Indian Mental
Health was arranged to be held June 14."

       Luke hesitated then added, "I don't want you to worry, but Sean found the words
'Red Arrow' painted on the garage door yesterday morning, when they returned from the
hearing. We still can't figure it out what’s going on with this gang and where they’re from."

        As Ellie hung up the phone she felt a new helplessness. She couldn't help her Dad,
nor could she help them back in Wyoming. Just as her feelings intensified, she instantly
knew she wasn't helpless. She could pray, and she knew her Father in Heaven was
listening.

       While she prayed, God’s peace washed over her and she felt His presence in a way
she’d never felt before. She wanted to put words to how she was feeling, but found her
mouth unable to form the words. Tears slid down her cheeks, but these were blissful and
healing.

        Ellie and Michael stayed a week before returning to Wyoming. Gerald was able to
go home four days after Ellie got there and went for a short walk with Michael the morning
before their flight. Mark and Ellie enjoyed their time together talking, laughing, and
remembering. Mark was going through a divorce, which was all but settled. It was tough to
have his son, Nathan, torn from him. "I wish you could move back, Ellie."

         "Mark, love tells me to do just what I'm doing. I'm learning to be the person God
created me to be. Luke heard His instructions first; it took me a lot longer, but once I heard,
love compels me to follow! It seems God's chosen us to touch certain people with His love
in this particular time and place, to give ourselves away for others, and to offer hope to
those in a tailspin of despair. God hears their cries and has sent us out as His hands and
feet!

        "This is 'the land of the free and the home of the brave,' yet this freedom isn't all-
inclusive -- it singles out certain groups and individuals and says, 'No, you can't be free if
you're different from me, if your color isn't the same as mine, or if you believe or act
differently than I do.'

        "But, true freedom comes from within, where your soul can fly with the eagles.
Susan's taught me so much. I never knew such prejudice existed toward the Indians. I won't
judge those who are prejudiced, ignorant, hateful. They need mercy, not judgment.
Walking in unforgiveness only adds to the problem and yokes me to the darkness I'm
fighting against."
Turquoise Sky                                                                                   71




        "I really do understand, Ellie," Mark said. "I just miss you and the talks we used to
have. I even considered coming out to join your work after Michelle left me, but as you
say, love compels me to stay here for Nathan. He's torn up by this divorce, and if I moved
away, I'm afraid it would destroy his fragile emotions right now. I guess this is how I lay
down my life right now -- living love through this devastating disappointment.

        "I never intended to doubt God about calling you guys to move there -- I was simply
seeing things through my eyes of hurt and loneliness!" Mark reached over to his sister and
grabbed her hand.

        "Mark, after Christmas I went through a time when I was depressed and anxious,
but I didn't know why. I couldn't understand myself, why I would feel that way. Susan and I
had a long talk. She said some things that really helped me through. One thing she said
might help you. She said when we lose ourselves in the healing process God sets in motion,
we can then find our true selves, giving and abundant and totally free, nothing holding us
back. Then, when we look at the scars, we are reminded not of the hurts, but of God's
faithfulness."

       Before Ellie and Michael left for home, Mark agreed to bring Nathan next summer
and spend a week on the ranch to see first hand what they were doing out West.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                     72




                                         Chapter 23

        Cold fingers of air wound their way under the door. It was hard to leave the warm
comfort of her spot next to Luke this morning, but the day was full of appointments. She
tiptoed downstairs, and as quietly as possible, built a fire in the small kitchen range to
chase the chill from the room. After making coffee, Ellie sat wrapped in a warm robe and
enjoyed the sound of the crackling stove. Smiling at her cozy feeling, she poured a cup of
coffee and took the steaming cup to the table to spread out her Bible and daily planner. She
was ready to come to God on behalf of her family and friends, and began preparing her
heart and mind for the day ahead.

       After Ellie’s return from Illinois, she poured herself into all the roles God had given
her – wife, mother, friend, and assistant administrator of High Hope. Her trip home brought
renewed strength to her at a time she so desperately needed it. Luke was pleased with the
changes he saw taking place in his wife. Her joy and peace reflected in everything she did.

        One of her appointments that day was to meet with Joyce, who wanted to bring out
a woman she met at the library in town. “I know she’s not in the ‘young people’
classification,” Joyce explained, “but her heart is breaking. She’s Indian and I’d like to help
her, but I just don’t know what to say. She and her husband, who’s white, just moved here
after their four children grew up and left home.”

        Ellie agreed to the visit, not sure what kind of help this lady needed. She prayed and
sensed Joyce’s sincere desire to help, and decided that if Joyce wanted to reach out to
someone, she’d be honored to help her. Ellie saw changes in her new friend and watched
the love growing between Joyce and Gilly.

        Teresa Corchran was a small woman whose dark eyes seemed to reflect the
darkness inside her soul. Her heavy spirit was evident without a word from her pursed lips.
Ellie and Susan met both women at the door, welcoming them in from the blustery cold.
After introductions were made, Susan excused herself, explaining simply, “The high school
called and asked me to visit with one of their students at 9:30.”

        Ellie offered coffee and rolls for the early morning guests, but Teresa declined,
asking instead for hot tea. Ellie soon returned from the kitchen bringing a carafe filled with
steaming hot water dispensed from the side of the ever-full large coffee urn. She set the
water, a cup and a tea bag beside Teresa, then took her place on the opposite side of the
table.

       “Oh, do you happen to have some honey? I prefer honey in my tea.”

       “Of course, I should have thought of that.” Ellie walked toward the door.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                     73




       “And maybe a bit of cream,” Teresa said.

       Ellie returned with honey and cream, then sat once again.

        “Teresa,” Ellie started, “I think we should first pray.” With that they all bowed their
heads. “Father, I invite the Holy Spirit to be present in our meeting to give wisdom and
guidance. Thank You for the light of Christ that shines upon our path so we may follow. I
place Teresa in Your care and ask that You fill her with Your peace and healing. In Christ’s
Name I pray. Amen.”

       “Joyce tells us you are new to the area,” Ellie looked at the pinched face and
graying hair and was deeply troubled at her expression.

        “My husband retired and wanted to move here. He always wanted to bring me back
to my home. I was raised on the reservation and met Jack when he worked for the Forest
Service in the area. He was transferred to Michigan a year after we married. It broke my
heart to move, but four babies in the next seven years kept me occupied. I loved my little
ones and tried so hard to teach them about Jesus. I became a Christian shortly after moving
to Michigan. Though my husband didn’t appreciate the change in lifestyle because I quit
drinking with him, but he said if it made me happy I could go to church on Sundays. I’m
thankful for my husband’s love, but I’m so weary now. None of my prayers have been
answered!” Teresa sipped her hot tea.

       “God always answers our prayers when we pray in faith, though often His answer
seems long in coming,” Ellie said warmly.

       “I’ve been asking the Lord for 28 years for Him to become real to my husband and
sons. But I’ve made so many mistakes! I even quit going to church for a year or so. When I
recommitted my life, I continued asking God for a miracle. One by one, my sons left home
and, suddenly, I found myself with an empty house.

        “I struggled with my faith during the time my sons left. I knew I’d made many
mistakes raising them, and as each left within a six-year period, I knew I hadn’t sufficiently
taught them about Christ. And I cried ‘cause I no longer heard their voices ringing through
the house and also ‘cause I didn’t feel needed anymore. I know God understands the
emotions we face; after all, He created mothers to love their children with a fierce love that
would willingly die to protect each child.” Tears swam in her eyes, then splashed down on
her folded hands.

       Ellie saw tears in Joyce’s eyes and knew this was hard for her too.

        Teresa continued, “These are hard days. My prayer has been, ‘Call my children to
return from the land of the enemy, to enter once again the land of light and hope and peace!
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        “I haven’t seen what I hoped to see as they went out into the world toward the
enemy’s camp. But I continue to pray for them. And I don’t even know where one of my
boys is.” Teresa wiped the tears from her eyes. “How will our missing son find us here in
Wyoming?”

        Ellie found a place in her Bible. “Jeremiah 31:15-17 says, ‘Thus says the Lord; a
voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her
children refusing to be comforted for her children, because they were not. Thus says the
Lord, refrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work shall be
rewarded says the Lord, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. There is
hope in your future, says the Lord, that your children shall come back to their own
border.’”

        Ellie turned to Isaiah 49:25 and read, "Thus saith the Lord, even the captives of the
mighty shall be taken away and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered, for I will contend
with him that contendeth with thee and I will save thy children." Setting her Bible back on
the table, she smiled tenderly at Teresa, then at Joyce. For the first time, Ellie knew without
a doubt why God placed her in this position, and she wanted to be used by Him to help
people fill their lives with God.

       Ellie continued, “You’ve invested something of value into your children. Though
they each try to run away, they can never run away from what you have instilled in them.
And when they are done running and decide to turn back, Jesus will be right there waiting.
He will never leave them nor forsake them, no matter how far your children may try to get
from God. Wherever they may be, our Father knows and cares. Let that be a hedge around
your heart, Teresa, keeping fear and doubt in check.

        “God’s love is bigger, and His drawing power more far-reaching than any mistakes
you might have made. Like Jeremiah 31:16 reminds us, the right things you instilled in
them will be rewarded. Your influence in their lives was great, but each of your children
must make the final choice! And when you see they’ve made wrong choices, what can you
do? Love them and pray for them and remember, God can take any negative and turn it to a
positive. Love them the way God loves them. He sees the person He created them to be.
The actions that may grieve your heart are the layers of the world that will be peeled away
as you pray.”

       Joyce also listened to Ellie. The words came to her like water to a thirsty plant.
Quietly thoughtful, she poured another cup of coffee and breathed in the rich fragrance
from the warm cup, leaning forward to hear what else Ellie had to say.

       “I believe there is a hedge of protection around your children; angels are sent to
prepare their way. The Blood of Jesus covers your sons and underneath them are the
Turquoise Sky                                                                                 75




everlasting Arms. Trust our Father to complete the work He started and to create open
doors of opportunity for them to hear His voice. He knows perfectly how to care for the
needs of your children. The same God that raised Christ from the dead is more than able to
satisfy the heart of a praying mom!”

       Little did Joyce know the miracle that was taking place at that very moment.

       In Lincoln, Nebraska, a young stranger knocked on the door of Joyce’s friends
Gayle and Jeff. Gayle opened and listened to what Wade Troyer had to say. “Oh, Wade,”
Gayle exclaimed, “I’m so glad you’re here!”

        For the next several days, Joyce’s son stayed with Gayle and Jeff as they talked
about their common faith in Christ. Wade had become a Christian while in California and
was now trying to find his mother. When he learned of Jerry’s death from his stepsister, he
was upset that no one knew where his mother was. His search brought him to his mother’s
friend. “It has to be God that led me here,” he said after their first evening together,
encouraged by Gayle’s faith and the news of his mother.

        “It just happened that I found your name in a box of books and papers she left
behind. Lora kept it, wondering if I’d ever show up. I’m sure glad she saved that old
tattered box!”

        “Your mother needs you tremendously, Wade. We’ll take you there this weekend.
She will be so excited to see you.” Gayle’s heart warmed as she imagined her friend’s
surprise.
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                                         Chapter 24

       Another fierce thunderstorm struck, and the first night of spring rain started.
Usually dry, Sublette County, Wyoming only gets a small amount of rain annually, so this
was out of the ordinary.

        On the sixth night of rain, Luke and Ellie stood in the kitchen watching the night
turn wild. Angry bolts of lightning struck the sky as thunder pounded with fury at the earth
causing the windows to rattle. Soon Michael came downstairs leading a sleepy and
undaunted Simon.

        They had never seen such a storm as this. Even the blizzard of New Year's Eve was
calm in comparison. When the wind picked up and sent sheets of rain against the window,
they retreated to the living room sofa where they could all sit close to one another and
watch the storm dance through the night.

        At three in the morning, Ellie woke stiff-necked to a silent world at about three in
the morning. She woke Luke and he carried Simon to his bed. They left Michael asleep on
the sofa. Ellie spread blankets over him before she turned off the light in the kitchen.

        When morning came, the earth was washed and fresh, the buds on the trees
sparkled in the bright sunlight and all the snow had melted. The blue sky was cloudless, as
they gathered in the kitchen for breakfast. Michael asked if he could read the Bible passage
and asked his dad to find Psalm 77:17 & 18. Slowly sounding out the words, he read from
the family Bible. “The clouds poured out water: the skies sent out a sound: thine arrows
also went abroad. The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the
world: the earth trembled and shook." His face was serious as he gently placed the book on
the table.

       "Last night I was a little scared. But in my heart I prayed and felt better. I kept
thinkin’ the lightning might get our phone again!" They laughed -- they all thought the
same thing.

       "Yes, Michael, I think we all thought about the phone. And I'm so proud of you for
finding that verse this morning." Luke put his arm around his son.

        "I remembered it from Sunday School last week. Mrs. Roberts told about how God
takes care of us in storms."

        Ellie brought the pancakes to the table, then they prayed together, joining hands to
thank God for His protection and for His blessings on the new day. Ellie quickly added a
plea for help and guidance for Susan as she prepared to speak before a study group for
women later in the morning.
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       When the breakfast dishes were done, Ruth Damiani came to stay with Simon. Ruth
was a neighbor about five miles east. With her children grown and gone, she volunteered to
help out whenever she could.

        Ruth followed Janet through the door. "What a storm last night! Did you watch that
fantastic lightning display?"

        "Yes, it was sure something! Good morning, Janet." Ellie reached down to help
Janet remove her hooded sweatshirt. Janet was eager to find Simon. "Thanks for picking
Janet up on your way. And I really appreciate all your help."

      Ellie hugged Ruth and headed for the community center where a group of eighteen
women gathered. Five Indian women arrived just as Susan started speaking. Joyce, who
came with Margaret, and Pastor Edward’s wife Elizabeth were also there.

        Susan was well prepared with her presentation, comparing Daniel's life in captivity
under a strange ruler to the life of the Indian. The morning sped by as everyone listened
intently to her words: "The Bible talks about four children of the tribe of Judah: Daniel,
Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. My grandmother taught me the sacredness of the number
four. In the Navajo Nation there are four sacred mountains, four seasons, four directions,
four sacred materials. These four young men were taken from their homeland and given
new names, taught a new language, and fed strange food. They were also told they could no
longer practice their own religion. In comparison, the Indians were also taken from their
homeland, taught a new language, lived under a new chief, and given new names.

        "Daniel and the other three men stood strong. They learned what they had to learn,
but they would not stop calling on their God, who heard them and blessed them. Daniel 1:7
says, 'As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and
wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.' Again, here are four
elements: knowledge, skill, wisdom, and understanding, all connected to the behavior of
the four young men and the result of their faithfulness to the Creator.”

        Susan glanced around the room; several more women entered after she started
speaking and she nodded to them, recognizing one from the church. She continued, "Before
white men ever set foot on these shores, the Indian faced the four winds, shaped the land,
and reverenced all creation. Daniel lived by the law of the Old Testament, but a better way
- the way of love - was opened through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the cross.

       "The way of the cross is not a white man's way, for God is not a white man's God,
but a God for all men. Second Corinthians 5, verse 17 says 'If any man be in Christ, he is a
new creation. Old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new.'
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        "When the white men brought what they considered their 'manifest destiny,'
pushing for a racially pure society, they built on the vast resources of the continent,
especially westward. Indians were forced onto barren and forsaken land while the sacred,
traditional lands, spiritually significant to the natives, were taken over by the whites.”

        In the back of the room, two teenaged Indian girls entered noisily, shoving chairs
aside and snickering. After they finally sat down, Susan continued, "Today, a great world
power has swallowed the nations of the American Indians - their homelands, once fertile
and abundant with game, lie under tons of concrete and steel and are trampled upon by
millions of people inherently foreign to this land. The rage, the silent cry of the Native
American, simmers in the hearts of an invaded and conquered people.”

       The two girls were whispering and giggling, but Susan went on.

        "Daniel didn't accept his lot in life and go on in misery and poverty, as conquered
people often do; he rose above his circumstances and became a great spokesman and leader
of his people.

        "Many an Indian is defeated by his circumstances, a fallen warrior, head hung low,
shoulders slumped. He can turn this defeat around, but he’s the only one who can make
that decision. One thing I've learned, change can only come when there is a desire to
change, and only God can help that desire grow.”

        Shortly before Susan finished speaking, the two teens abruptly left the hall,
laughing loudly. Many of the other women shifted uncomfortably in their seats, clearing
throats and whispering. Susan stood quietly with her eyes closed for a moment, then looked
out at her audience and smiled.

        "I close our session this morning by saying that God’s way is the only path toward
true liberty, the only way out of captivity, and the only truly sacred dance."

        Cleaning the hall after the meeting, Joyce was quiet, thinking about what Susan
said and about the two noisy girls. Ellie folded chairs and pushed the tables against the
wall. The three women were working in silence when a young girl came running in,
breathless from taking the stairs two at a time. She ran up to Susan and said, “They stabbed
your tires, come quick!”

       Susan followed the girl. “What are you talking about, Sarah?”

        The girl pulled Susan’s arm, “Come here and see!” She pulled harder as Susan
followed her down the stairs and out the door. Sure enough, all four of her tires were flat
and in the bright sunlight she could see red paint dripping from the hood of her Jeep. She
trembled slightly when she once again saw the words, “Red Arrow.”
Turquoise Sky                                                                                      79




                                         Chapter 25
        Jeff announced to Gayle early Friday he could get off work at noon and they could
head for Wyoming shortly after lunch. Wade was elated, wanting to get going so he could
see his mother. The long drive seemed even longer for one eager to arrive at a special
destination.
       Joyce wept tears of joy on her son’s shoulder when he surprised her late Saturday
afternoon. When Wade saw his mother, he was painfully aware of how much time had
passed. He remembered the day of their argument and again was ashamed he’d treated his
mom so disrespectfully. “Mom,” he said first thing. “I want to ask your forgiveness. I don’t
deserve it, I put you through so much, but I’m so sorry!” Tears soaked his bearded face.
       “You’re here now and that’s all that matters. The past is over and can’t be fixed, but
we can make a fresh start now and see bright tomorrows!”
        “Mom, I found Christ and His presence in my life has changed me and made all the
difference! I tried fitting world-shaped stuff into the hole in my heart that is shaped only for
God. All that ‘stuff’ blinded me to my need for a Savior, but someone heard God whisper
my name, and they prayed for me and I’ve been set free!”
        He looked at his mother with the hope that she understood what he was saying. Her
eyes reflected a longing he recognized and he silently vowed to lead her to his Lord.
       Gayle and Jeff went into town to find a place to stay the night, promising to take
them to church in the morning before heading back to Nebraska.
        When Ezra saw Joyce and her son Wade at church the next morning, he walked
over to the young man, embraced him, and said, “Your zeal is like a garment around you,
your works will become a crown. The enemy of God will find a great adversary in you, for
you will walk in God’s light all your days.”
        Joyce stared at the tall Indian as he looked deeply at her son. She was familiar with
his quiet nature, but was surprised by his statement, and troubled. She didn’t understand
what his words meant.
        She was distracted the entire service. I thought Gilly would be here. Her thoughts
kept her busy looking around, seeing a few familiar faces, but mostly excited to have Wade
with her. She kept looking up at her handsome son and kept wanting to pinch herself. Is
this a dream? Is God real? Did He work this miracle?
       After church, Gilly appeared from the children’s area, grinning ear to ear. “I heard
your son was here! I’m so happy for you!”
        He pumped Wade’s hand, then gave him the bear hug Joyce had seen him do
before. He shows his happiness like no one else I know! Joyce thought.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                   80




                                        Chapter 26

        The first day of May dawned frosty cold. The sky was gray with streaks of bright
pink slanting upwards from the horizon. In her quiet time that morning, Ellie thought about
the Light of the world. She’d been reading about this amazing Light in her devotional and
that morning read, “No matter how black the night, there is no doubt that the sun is shining
somewhere, and no doubt that there is a person someplace on this sphere going about their
day in full sunlight. That same assurance – that same understanding – bolsters the downcast
in the midst of darkness that cannot be seen. There is a light so pure and bright and
glorious that never fades, never loses its brilliance.”

        Ellie sipped her coffee and continued reading. “There are no words that can come
close to describing the fadeless light of God. Yet we try – we fall over phrases and stumble
on adjectives, looking for that perfect word that will stun all mankind into knowing without
a doubt that there is a God. But wait! There is a word – The Word – and it became flesh
and dwelt among us. Jesus – the perfect Word, the perfect fadeless image of the Father!”

        “Oh, let me build an altar here, Father,” Ellie prayed. “Such awesome words! How
can I not believe? And how can I not help others do the same? I know I can’t pin down this
feeling or tape it to the refrigerator, but my heart longs to grasp this moment and hold it
forever!”

        Ellie looked at the time and rushed around to get the boys dressed. She then hurried
over to Susan's to go to the hearing with them. She planned to sit with Janet in the hallway,
praying. It seemed like hours before the courtroom door finally opened. Susan and Sean
came out and one look at their faces told of their victory!

        The days following were full of work; everyone was delegated a duty in preparation
for the hearing before the Board of American Indian Mental Heath set for June 14, nearly
one year after Ellie and Luke moved to Wyoming. Even Michael was given a job to do and
he beamed with pride and was pleased that he was old enough to help!

        Meetings with the authorities at the reservation had been disheartening.
Councilman Lloyd Stone sat in cold silence, his dark eyes glaring at Susan as she pleaded
her cause before him and the tribal authorities. Opposition came from people Susan
thought would help; many resisted them at every step. The few who earlier offered help did
not step forward when needed, except for one who surprised them all, Nita Stone, the
councilman's wife. She slipped into one of the meetings quietly and stood before everyone
to declare her support of Susan's project. Whispers buzzed through the room like a hornet's
nest.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                    81




        Ellie could see Nita's husband was furious and silently prayed for this brave little
lady, who so valiantly stepped forward in spite of her husband's opposition. Ellie didn't
know then that the Stone's only son took his life several years ago, and their daughter was
trying to get herself off drugs. Nita could see the need for a shelter that was not run by the
government but by real people who cared. She didn't want to lose her daughter like she did
her son.

        It was a busy time. They rushed between the ranch and the reservation getting
signatures on documents and doing the work in the main house, making sure all the
specifications were in order for the bedrooms in the south end of the house. And work on
Ellie’s kitchen was nearly done. She was excited about all the extra space, but a little
apprehensive when they moved in the huge oven! It seemed to her a stainless steel
monster!

        Joyce volunteered her help whenever she could. She proved her skill as a cook the
first day the big oven was installed. Now that her job at the library was finished, she had
more free time than she liked. She missed Margaret and the people she had gotten to know
who regularly came in for books. She also missed the pay. She kept looking for a job, but
their town was small, and Jackson was too far to commute. She was glad she’d saved some
money and decided to trust God – after all, the Bible her son gave her said that God
supplies needs.

       Wade was working at the ranch part-time, thanks to Gilly. The three days he
worked, he stayed at the bunkhouse. The rest of the time he slept on the floor of his
mother’s cabin, never complaining, always grinning. Joyce couldn’t get over the change in
her son and marveled at how mature he was.

        One morning after breakfast, Wade helped Joyce do the dishes, then he poured two
more cups of coffee and took them to the table, inviting Joyce to sit with him a while.
“Mom, I need to know; have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior? You see, unless
you are born again, you won’t go to Heaven. And when you’re born again, God offers
untold benefits to His children. So, Mom, if you haven’t invited Him into your heart, let’s
take care of that right now!”

       He reached across the table and took his mother’s hands in his. She looked at him
and said, “You know I’ve been asking a lot of questions. Is it really that simple? No
questions asked?”

       “It’s that easy, Mom.”
Turquoise Sky                                                                                    82




        Joyce let her son lead her through the sinner’s prayer, then she thanked her Lord for
saving her and setting her free. “Mom,” Wade smiled, tears streaming down his face, “I
think I hear angels cheering! Listen!”

       Joyce laughed at her son as he sat with his hand cupped over his ear. She felt better
than she could ever remember.

        When Gilly heard the news about Joyce’s decision for Christ later that day, he was
elated. “Thank the Lord! Halleluiah! I’m so glad, Joyce!” He smiled down at her, moist
eyes revealing his joy. He hugged her warmly, grinning broadly, his cowboy hat sliding to
one side.

       As Gilly was hearing the happy news, another angel of mercy appeared at their
door. Lynn was a young black woman from Tulsa who read about the shelter in a
newspaper interview covering the custody hearing. She had been asking God where He
wanted her to go and when she learned about High Hope, she heard Him asking her to go.

         Ellie fidgeted nervously as they sat around Susan's kitchen table. Susan phoned to
tell her about Lynn and asked if she would come and assist in the interview. Ellie took a
deep breath when she saw Lynn was a black woman. All through her childhood, her best
friend Tracy spoke disrespectfully of black people, and Ellie could hear Tracy's voice in her
mind saying, "I hate black people; they're mean and dirty; they'd just as soon spit on ya as
look at ya."

        Ellie never questioned her friend's attitude; she didn't know any black people. Now
suddenly those thoughts flooded her mind. But when Lynn offered her hand in greeting,
Ellie shook the offered hand, then quickly put her hand in her pocket. Susan had already
learned a little about Lynn and was asking a few questions about why she was here and
what she felt she could offer.

        "There's many in this country -- in this world -- hatin' others 'cause of the color of
their skin, religious beliefs, nationality, even their sports team and political party. Hatred
and hostility never will bring about change. Tryin' to force one's prejudiced opinions will
never work toward healing what's wrong."

       Lynn looked at Ellie and continued, "I can't change another person, but love can.
Not a huggin', candy-sweet emotion, but a determined effort to love unconditionally, the
kind that brings me to my knees."

        Lynn’s enthusiasm didn’t fade when Susan told her the only pay for now would
merely be room and board. Lynn laughed, "Wherever God guides me, He provides for me!
I've done with a lot less!" So after a little more discussion, it was settled. Lynn would stay
Turquoise Sky                                                                                     83




and help on a trial basis for one month. Ellie’s mouth went dry and her stomach flip-
flopped.

        "When can you move in?" Sean asked. He'd heard the last few minutes of the
interview after coming in from chores.

       "I already have!" Lynn laughed again, glancing at her backpack and suitcase.

       It didn't take long for them to realize what an asset Lynn was, and her laughter
added life to their days, ringing from room to room. It took Ellie a little longer, however, to
come to the place where she could once and for all deny those thoughts of fear and
prejudice to be silent in her head. But when she was finally free of those unfounded
thoughts, Ellie and Lynn grew into friends.

       Lynn took on the least task with joyful diligence. They were delighted she proved to
do as well at bookkeeping as she did at singing.

       It also took Janet some time to get used to Lynn, but she loved music, and before
long, Lynn's singing won the little girl. Soon they were singing together and laughing over
some silly chorus Lynn made up.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                       84




                                          Chapter 27

        Wade was worried. Joyce had suddenly become ill. Gilly drove to Joyce’s cabin as
soon as Wade told him how sick his mom was. He knocked on the door, then rushed in
when there was no answer. Wade followed in his own car and came in shortly. Joyce was
lying so still in her bed it frightened Gilly. He reached toward her and his touch startled
her.

       “You’re burning with fever,” he said, noting also the stifling heat in the dark cabin.

       “It’s just the flu,” she whispered.

        Gilly was alarmed at her coloring and how drawn her face looked. He scooped her
up, blankets and all, and carried her to his pickup. Her head of red curls hung listlessly over
his shoulder. He was surprised how little she weighed. She didn’t protest as she would
have done ordinarily. Wade helped get his mom into the pickup, then climbed in next to
her, placing a protective arm around her.

        When they arrived at Dr. Whitney’s office they were told the doctor could see her
immediately. The nurse had known Gilly since they were in school together and showed
great care as she helped him get Joyce onto the examining table.

         The doctor’s face was thoughtful as he examined Joyce. He took some tests and
after a time came back into the exam room and sat down. “Where does she get her drinking
water?” he asked.

        Joyce heard the question and whispered, “From the creek, but I try to always boil
it.” She slumped back down.

       “Well, I think your trouble is from the water. The test won’t come back for a few
days, but I think it is giardia. This is a gastrointestinal disease caused by drinking water that
contains this nasty microbe. Some folks call it ‘Beaver Fever.’ Don’t drink anymore of that
water or use if for cooking or doing dishes. I’d like to put you in the hospital…”

       “No, I can’t,” Joyce rasped. “I don’t have the money for that. I can’t…”

       “Gilly,” the doctor interrupted. “Do you think she could stay at the ranch? This is
going to take time.”

       “I’m sure of it.”

         For the next several days, Joyce was the center of attention. After she started feeling
better, she objected to everyone’s concern. “The doctor said if you don’t rest, all this could
come back on you, so you have no choice,” Ellie announced as she escorted Joyce back to
her room. She and the boys came over with Luke in the mornings now so she could help.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                    85




Lynn entertained and taught many things to Janet and Simon. Michael joined them when he
wasn’t helping his dad.

       “Where does Lynn get her energy?” Joyce wanted to know after Lynn brought the
two youngsters into the room to sing a song for her.

       “It has to come from God! I sure wish He’d send some my way!” Susan chuckled as
she walked into the room with some clean towels.

        Ellie and Joyce were sharing many hours together and learning a lot about each
other. Although Joyce was older by nearly ten years, age proved to be no barrier to their
growing friendship.

       “Tell me about when you became a Christian, Ellie.”

       “My parents always made sure my brother and I went to church. But for years I
never understood what they were talking about. In fact, I was more or less turned off by the
Bible as a young teen, until someone offered me a little book based on the Book of John.
For some reason I accepted that book, and devoured it. I remember wanting to crawl into
the pages and stay there.

       “I was reassured of God’s love for me and recommitted my life to Christ soon after
reading that little book. I still have it – dog-eared and underlined! There are times I wonder
what may have happened had I not accepted that book. But I am so thankful for the person
who made herself available by handing me that message of God’s love.”

        When Wade and Gilly drove Joyce home more than a week later, she looked at her
sparkling cabin and at the two men standing in the center of the room, chests out and grins
on their faces. “Well, what do ya’ think?” Wade could wait no longer.

      Joyce surveyed her cabin one more time, then said, “It’s wonderful! You both
worked so hard!” she exclaimed, as her hand softly touched the new counter top and the
bookcase built along one wall. “Thank you, Wade. Thank you, Gilly.”

        “Now, here is your water,” Gilly announced as he pulled back a curtain to reveal
three shelves of bottled water in gallon jugs.

       Joyce laughed softly, then said, “Thanks for the water, too!”

      Gilly told her the power company had agreed to pull wire up to the cabin. It
wouldn’t cost as much as they thought since the power lines were running along the
highway. It wouldn’t be long, they let her know, and she’d have electricity!

       Two new windows were open, letting a fresh breeze blow into the bright cabin.
Joyce couldn’t believe the difference a coat of paint made. And the cheery curtains at the
Turquoise Sky                                                                                 86




windows and over the closet of water and supplies made her wonder if Ellie had done some
quick sewing.

       The ordeal left her weak, but she was feeling better, and after the men left she
napped. How long she slept she didn’t know. She thought she was dreaming when she
heard someone knocking at the door. When she realized it was not a dream, she rushed to
open the door not thinking about her ruffled appearance.

       When the gentleman introduced himself as an insurance agent, she thought he was
going to try to sell her insurance. She laughed and started to send him on his way. “No,
Mrs. Troyer, I’m here to have you sign for your check from the life insurance policy your
husband had. I’ve had quite a time locating you.”

          “A check? But my husband’s kids already got that. Why would you need me to sign
for it, I wasn’t even included in the policy.”

        “Well, you’re the only one listed on this policy, Ma’am. So, if I could get your
signature, I’ll be on my way,” he said as he handed her a clipboard. “The check is attached
to the copy of the policy.”

        Joyce looked at the form she was signing. “$50,000? My gosh!” She sat down. “Do
I have to pay taxes or anything?”

      “No, that’s all been deducted as part of the package we worked out with your
husband. And, Mrs. Troyer, I’m very sorry for your loss.”

        “Thanks,” she said as she gave the clipboard back and turned away from the
doorway while the insurance agent went to his car. After closing the door, she sat at the
table to look at what she just received, her head swimming with thoughts and emotions.
“Father God, what do you want me to do with this?” She closed her eyes, and prayed long
and hard for some answers.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                  87




                                        Chapter 28

        News that Janet's parents both left the treatment center and disappeared was met
with concern. Appeal to the Indian Claims Commission on Janet's behalf became the next
evident step, since her parents were out of the picture. Susan thought the process should be
simple since abandonment was again part of the case -- if the Commission would take all
claims into consideration and recognize Susan's credentials. The legal rights of the child
should be protected above all else in this case, but because Janet is Native American and
Susan is half-blood, she feared the picture might be distorted.

       “Please come with me.” Susan pleaded with Ellie.

       They drove to the reservation, pulling into the driveway of a small house. In the
yard was a pile of burned furniture and other unrecognizable objects. “My things, burned
because they said I betrayed them by marrying Sean.”

       Susan got out and walked to the pile. Ellie was startled by Susan’s sudden cries.
“Oh, the pain!” she wailed, dropping to her knees. She picked up a handful of dirt from the
yard and let it fall on her head.

       “There has to be an end to this pain, this prejudice, this hate!”

      Ellie could see a curtain move in the window of the house as they pulled away. She
wondered if Susan’s grandmother was watching.

       The commission agreed to be present at the June 14 appeal for beginning the
process of opening the doors to High Hope. Lynn was to take notes for them and Ruth said
she would stay with Janet, Michael and Simon.

       Ellie walked behind Susan, watching her walk proudly up the courthouse steps, her
long braid a shiny black rope down her back, silver combs holding her hair back. Suddenly,
a man rushed up from behind and grabbed Susan by the arm, wrenching her nearly off
balance as he pulled her toward him. "John!"

       Ellie recognized Susan's brother and was alarmed by the angry look on his face.

        "You chose to be white when you married a white man. Now you come and want to
impose your white ideas on us, to try to change us, and you think we should embrace this
without question? Why do you think you have all the answers? You want to steal our spirit
like the white man stole our land! Wasichu!" He spat out the words.

       "John, I don't have all the answers! I'm only trying to do something to help the
young ones..."
Turquoise Sky                                                                                      88




        John cut her off sharply, "By making them white and forcing them to accept your
white god? That's not help, that's brainwashing! Leave us alone!" he screamed. "Have you
forgotten Sand Creek? Have you forgotten Wounded Knee? Do you not remember about
the Trail of Tears, the Battle of the Rosebud? The whites have tried to rip our hearts out,
and you join in with them! Leave us alone, Susan!"

        "So you can live without hope, John? So you can go to a godless grave? God knows
about the injustices, the hatred, the prejudice. His Son felt the same whip we have felt. And
only God offers a way out of the darkness.

         "I won't trample on your sacred ground, John. Just as I won’t insult my own
integrity, I refuse to insult yours. I have not sought to stifle who you are. All my life I have
tried to honor you as an older brother is to be honored. And today I still will not allow any
thoughts and words to insult you even though you seek my defeat. I love you. Don't let the
past hold you back, John. Walk on! Yes, terrible things happened to our people, but we
can't let it ruin our lives today. Deal with the past, learn from it, and go on. We have to
learn to break the power of hatred."

        "Too many words!" John released his hold on his sister. “We will talk no more!” he
yelled over his shoulder. She watched John's proud form walk up the steps, long black hair
shining in the sunlight. Her heart beating wildly, she ached for her brother.

       Ellie was trembling when she realized she was gripping Lynn's arm. "Who's that?"
Lynn asked.

       Luke finally caught up with them after he and Sean parked the Jeep. They saw John
going into the courthouse.

        Susan finally spoke, "It was my brother trying to discourage me. If I listen to every
voice of discouragement, I'll never do anything! Let's go to battle!" She smiled weakly at
Ellie and Lynn and they walked arm in arm up the steps.

        Inside, Susan stood to present her petition. The panel of six men and two women
sat before her in silence. "I would like to first address my tribal leaders." She faced the two
men at the far end of the table. Her face was a picture of determination – her deep brown
eyes steady, her voice was confident.

        "Hatred and prejudice have done nothing but injure and subject people of all colors
to pain and suffering. Only love can bridge that gap and bring healing to those wounds..."

      "We're not here to have you preach to us, Susan Morgan. Please give us the facts --
why should this panel issue you and your husband the license you have applied for?"
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        Undaunted, Susan reached into her brief case. "In answer to your question, Sir, I
submit to the Board my qualifications. I have been awarded the Bachelor of Science degree
in Counseling, with an emphasis on Ethnic studies. I have also received a certificate of
merit from the same university for outstanding achievements in cultural affairs for my
work in setting up a home for unwed mothers and for the work I have done in helping to
establish three counseling and medical clinics for low income families."

        Susan reached out to place copies of her papers on the table before the panel.
Stepping back to her place, she continued. "I am also qualified to understand the emotional
fabric of the Indian people because my mother was Lakota and I was raised by her mother,
my grandmother, Jewel Cloud Yazzie on the reservation.

       "You can see by my credentials I received excellent marks and was honored several
times with scholarships and awards. I have also included the court decree awarding my
husband and me temporary custody of Janet Becenti, a six-year-old Arapaho who was
abandoned by her alcoholic parents."

       Susan outlined the goals for the shelter and answered a number of questions.
        "I would like to say one more thing. There is a voice crying in the turquoise sky. It
sounds like the wind, moaning, but it is the voice of my people, both red and white, crying
to be finished with hatred."
        Susan sat down and said no more. Sean was asked a few questions, and the Board
told them they would have their decision within a week. Councilman Stone added before
closing the meeting, "We will not see you at the reservation until a decision has been
made." His face was a fierce portrait of anger, and Susan's a picture of frustration, as the
councilman tossed her papers into a pile on the table.
        As they left the courtroom, Ellie noticed a young Indian man watching them
closely. He wore a white T-shirt showing a red fist clutching an arrow thrust into the air.
He quickly turned to go into the men's room, when he caught Ellie's eye.
       When they got to Susan’s Jeep, there was a paper fluttering from the windshield
wiper. Luke groaned, "A parking ticket?"
      When he pulled it from the wiper blade a black feather dropped to the ground as he
opened the folded page. All that was written on it were the words, "RED ARROW."
       "Just like we’ve been seeing," Ellie bent to pick up the feather. She handed it to
Susan. "I don't understand."
       "This is a raven's feather," Susan said softly, her brown eyes showing concern.
       Sean said quietly, "Someone's just trying to make us nervous."
Turquoise Sky                                                                                    90




       "He's doing a pretty good job." Ellie said as she climbed into the hot vehicle.
       "Should we go to the sheriff?" Luke asked.
        Susan started to speak, but Sean stepped forward next to Luke and said, "Let's drop
these off for him to check out. At least he should be made aware of what's happening."
       At the sheriff's office, Ellie told about the young man she had seen in the
courthouse. "It may just be coincidence," she offered, but felt it was more than that.
       "Could be, but I'll make a note of it." The sheriff was not in, but the deputy was
very kind and seemed much more interested in the matter than the sheriff had been the day
Susan's horse was killed.
       "I'll get back to you with any questions," the young man said as they left.
        The next morning, Susan asked Ellie over for breakfast. When she got there, Susan
had the table covered with papers; Indian flute music filled the kitchen. Lynn quickly took
Michael and Simon into the playroom with Janet to have their breakfast and to leave Susan
and Ellie undisturbed. Her look instantly told Ellie something must be wrong.

        "I'm thinking about filing a grievance against Councilman Stone for shutting us out
of the Rez,” Susan said, anger rising in her voice. “But I can't find anywhere in the Bible
that would condone an action like that. I guess I'm looking for loopholes. What do you
believe about this, Ellie? I want your honest opinion. I always feel like you just agree with
me, because you're not sure of your own feelings."

       Ellie stood silently for a while, searching her thoughts for something concrete to
hang onto, something that would help her understand why she just always goes along. She
seldom struck out on her own, even when she felt led to do something different.
       "I'm not sure, Susan, what I think," she started.
       "Pull your hands from your eyes and ears, Ellie!" Susan said harshly.
        Blinking back tears, Ellie looked at Susan and said, "I don't believe I have the right
to paint someone's character black, because I disagree with his standards and actions.
Councilman Stone is not a Christian, so he doesn’t see things the way we do, otherwise he
would understand your proposal and would not have shut the door to the reservation on us.
And yes, you're right, I sometimes do just agree because it's easier than confrontation.
        “I see the broken beer bottles littering the highway in the reservation. And I always
ask myself how they can rise above their environment. And the answer is always the same
– they can’t without God! No one can walk out of darkness without light. I know you are
called to shine that light, and I want to help! I'm just not as confident as you, Susan! I was
raised in a certain church, a certain way, and I’m afraid to trust any other way!"
Turquoise Sky                                                                                    91




        A few moments of silence hung in the room as the two women looked at one
another. Then Susan said, in a more subdued tone, "I'm sorry, Ellie, I don't mean to upset
you, but you need to let your beliefs be known. It's important to be confident in what you
believe so you have an answer when you really need one! Thank you for telling me what
you think, it really helps me. I'm looking at this from the wrong perspective because my
‘rights’ have been violated! I know now I just have to lay it all down and let God work."

         The two women finally sat down and started sorting through the papers Susan was
working on for the next presentation. Suddenly, Michael rushed in through the back door--
out of breath -- his sweaty face contorted with fear. Ellie was on her feet at once. "Snake
bite..." Michael wheezed. "Out by the barn, Simon...snake bite!"

        Ellie ran out the door followed closely by Michael and Susan. Panic rose with every
step as she raced to the scene before her. Lynn was on her knees holding Simon to the
ground. He was screaming, but Lynn was calmly telling him to lie very still. She said,
"Hold real still so all that bad poison won't get into your body."

         Ellie fell to her knees looking at Lynn for answers. "We were comin' out to see the
new baby horses when Simon went scootin' into the hay. Snake musta been in there." She
had tears in her eyes, but continued calmly, "I've been praying like it says in Mark 16:18
'They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they
shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.' I believe that!" She looked steadily at
Ellie, then turned back to Simon, who had quieted some with his mom there.

       Ellie started to pick up her little son, but Lynn stopped her and Susan pulled Ellie
back, "Lynn is right, Ellie, don't move him. He must stay motionless. I'll radio Sean."

         As she rose to run back to the house, Sean and Luke pulled into the lane, horse
trailer rattling behind the pickup. Gilly followed behind on one of the tractors. Susan ran
her hardest and told the men what happened. "I'll call Bert Jessup, he's got a chopper."

       Sean went to the house, and Luke ran toward his son. Only a few moments passed
when Sean joined them and reported Bert was on his way. They would have Simon to the
hospital within 30 minutes, much faster than the two-hour drive by car.

        Ellie smoothed back Simon's sweaty hair, looking up at Luke, pleading in her eyes.
“If we were home, this wouldn’t have happened.” Then she told Simon he was getting a
ride in a helicopter. He nodded, but was clearly having trouble holding still.

       "It hurts, Mom! Make Lynn let me go." He started to cry again, but Ellie told him
Lynn only wanted to help him hold very still. Just then they could hear the pounding of the
helicopter rotor blades and Michael shouted, "Here he comes, Simon!"
Turquoise Sky                                                                                   92




        Ellie watched the small group of people on the ground disappear from sight, as she
rode with Simon to St. John's Hospital in Jackson. Simon’s eyes were large and he wanted
to look out, but Ellie was firm about him holding still. She continued praying and thanking
God for good neighbors, modern technology that could transport them so quickly, and for
the peace of God she saw Lynn experiencing. “I need that peace, too, Father. I only want to
blame someone for this. I want to make Luke feel what I feel. Help me instead just rest in
you!”

        A doctor met them when they arrived. He worked on Simon, then appeared in the
waiting room to tell Ellie that Simon was going to be fine. "I've never seen so little
swelling from the size of bite your little boy suffered. We'll keep him to watch for reaction
to the medicine or for infection, but I'd say he'll be ready to go home in a couple of days."

       The doctor turned to leave, then stopped, turned back toward Ellie and said, "I don't
understand why he's doing so well..."

       "It's God! We prayed over him and believed God for Simon's healing," Ellie
answered. The doctor smiled, shrugged his shoulders, and left. A wave of emotion washed
over her, and a new appreciation for Lynn filled her heart. I’ll never wonder about her
again!

        Luke finally arrived at the hospital and was relieved with the report Ellie gave him.
"Ya' know, when I looked at Lynn and heard what she said about laying hands on the sick
and they shall recover, and watched her, I wanted that same peace, that same confidence.
Lynn looked me right in the eyes, and I could see a peace and calm in her. I know it came
from God." She rested her head on her husband's shoulder and watched people walk in and
out of the hospital.

        “Luke, I’m sorry for lashing out at you the way I did, about this not happening if
we’d been home. I know we are home, and I was scared. But in the helicopter, I kept
praying and asking God for His peace. And you know, I’ve never experienced what I did
up there! It was so real, Luke. I’m sure I felt the Lord’s Hand on my shoulder, because I
turned to see who was touching me!”

        Simon was ready to go home by 10:30 the next morning, but the doctor wanted him
to stay all day for observation. The bite still looked like it would hurt much worse than it
did, but there was no swelling left and no sign of infection. By 3 p.m., Luke had the pickup
out front and after an ice cream cone at Jackson Drug, they headed south to Highway 189,
then toward home.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                    93




                                         Chapter 29

        In a letter to her parents a week later, Ellie wrote: "We're waiting for word from the
hearing. They promised a decision in a week. It's been ten days and we're on pins and
needles.” Ellie looked out the window at the mountains, framing the picture she could see
of her two boys playing catch in the yard.

        "Simon is doing great since his ordeal,” she continued writing. “His leg is healing
beautifully and the doctor took him off the medication when we drove back up to Jackson
on Tuesday. I'll never cease to be thankful to God for His mercy! The love He pours out on
us through our neighbors and friends here is proof to me that we are right where we belong,
even though I have questioned that fact many times!

        "There was a big celebration in town in honor of National American Indian Week
held every August. A new monument now stands in the center of the new City Park, a
neatly kept green oasis amid the board sidewalks and dusty sage surrounding the town. The
celebration included speakers who were well versed in the efforts of the white pioneers to
establish a ‘peaceful co-existence’ with the local Indians. The monument was a large
bronze one portraying John Collier, who was Indian Commissioner to Franklin D.
Roosevelt. The bronze Collier is shaking hands with an Indian in full war regalia -
contradicting Collier's work for peace. It seemed to me a lot of money was spent on an
inaccurate portrayal.”

        She looked up again when she heard Simon squeal and smiled at her boys’ play.
Michael was chasing Simon, who was giggling and running for the shelter of the big rock
in the center of the yard. Ellie always disliked that rock, but now could see why the boys
enjoyed it. It was indented on one side, like steps going up, which made it into a ‘tower’ in
the play world of her children.

         She went back to her letter. "The inscription on the monument reads, 'His aim was
true -- restoration of American Indian Culture and Traditions.' I read about Collier in a
history book I borrowed from Susan, and although he worked hard for reform, his efforts
were somewhat foolish in that he hadn't thought of the repercussions his radical revisions
might have. He also seemed to have underlying political goals that really brought about
over-legislation with regard to Indian land. In my opinion, Collier used eloquent speeches
and persuasive methods to mask his true ideals. But the speakers were interesting, and I
was very impressed with the Native dance team of both young and older people.

       "The whole atmosphere was charged with excitement, maybe because it was a
beautiful day and everyone was in town for the special occasion. Unfortunately a beer tent
had been set up at the far end of town and I sadly noticed a large number of people working
their way in that direction. I decided not to let it distract me, so I just enjoyed the day
Turquoise Sky                                                                                      94




instead. There were games and treats for the children all around the park. Huge tanks of ice
water filled with watermelons seemed to be the favorite spots for the children. Black seeds
could be seen all over the ground and I laughed at all the sticky fingers and faces.

        "It was our first real community event, and I found myself enjoying the day
immensely. I told Luke I really feel like I belong here. The faces are becoming familiar; I
saw several of the ranch hands - Steve Denby and Jerry Strauss showed us around for a
while, and Ezra Singer was part of the dance team. We don't see much of Steve and Jerry
as they usually stay with the cattle in the summer. It was a nice break from the intensity of
the work we've been involved in, and I was glad for the distraction, although it was a bit
warm. Susan said it's been extra hot this year.

       "I was glad for your letter last week and to hear Dad is doing so well. I'm also
excited about Mark coming to visit us in Wyoming! September will be a perfect time for
him to come! I'll call you when we get word on the hearing. With love, Ellie."

        She folded the letter and placed it in the pile to be mailed.

        The following day, Ellie was hurrying to get the clothes on the line before heading
to the ranch. The Board agreed to most of their requests and was to come for an interview
and inspection of the facility. Lynn and Janet picked up the boys earlier to go with Ruth
and her seven-year-old niece on a picnic, a last outing before the beginning of school in
three weeks.

         Ellie was about to go back inside, when a flash of color in the distance caught her
eye. She could see someone on horseback riding fast, away from the ranch into the distant
forest. Something about the scene caused her heart to beat faster. She knew the men were
all at the cattle sale, having rounded up a load of fat calves before 6 a.m. Sean and Luke
wouldn't be back before 10:00, in time for the interview at 10:30. She picked up the basket
and rushed into the house to phone Susan. No answer! She let it ring several more times,
then grabbed her keys and ran to the pickup. Her thoughts raced ahead as she mentally
searched Susan’s house.

       It seemed like hours before Ellie finally reached the ranch. She rushed to the back
door, which was standing open. With trembling hands and knees, she walked through the
kitchen, her heart pounding in her ears. She called Susan's name with no response.

        When Ellie saw her, she was overcome...her dear friend lay in a pool of blood, a
bright red shaft protruding from the back of her plaid shirt. Ellie felt for signs of life, sure
she would find none. "NO!" she screamed into the air, “No, no!” She put Susan’s head in
her lap and a thousand memories came cascading down to mingle with her cries and to
flow in the river of blood at her knees. “My God! My God! No!”
Turquoise Sky                                                                                     95




       The day was one of weeping, anger, fear, and torment as Ellie did all she was
required to do. She answered questions, made phone calls, and sought answers of her own.

         By evening, Luke was pacing back and forth repeating the same thing, "I wish he'd
call!"

       Ellie wanted to keep busy -- bathing Simon, folding laundry. The thought of Susan
tormented her mind. Ruth and Lynn both insisted on staying with Ellie. They were all in
shock and needed one another. Grief was heavy in the air. No one was able to be at the
ranch because it was considered a crime scene. Law enforcement swarmed into the area
minutes after Ellie’s call.

       Janet lay silently on the couch, eyes staring straight ahead. Michael sat close to her,
holding her hand while Simon tried to get them to play with him, not understanding what
happened. Lynn sat down, pulled the little girl onto her lap and began to rock her. Simon
crawled into the big chair with them and cuddled next to Lynn.

       When it got dark, Luke finally came into the kitchen. He tried phoning Sean one
more time, then said, "I'm going over!"

         "I'll go with you..." Ellie looked toward Ruth and Lynn.

         "Go," Ruth said warmly.

        The house, cordoned off with yellow plastic ribbon, was dark and Sean's pickup
was not there. Ellie looked in the garage window and saw only Susan's Jeep, a silent
reminder. They got back into their pickup and headed into town. The moon was full and
turned the sage to silver. A yard light here and there stood vigil over the ranches that dotted
the land.

         "Where do you think he might be?" Ellie asked.

        "I don't know. Gilly said he left around 2:00. Who knows how any of us react to
things like this. I guess Ezra’s out looking too."

         "Do you think he went to the reservation?"

         "Ellie, I don't know!" There was angry frustration in his voice. Then immediately he
said, "I'm sorry, Baby, I'm so sorry. I just don't know..." He reached for her hand.

        The ache in Ellie's heart tightened even more. She didn't know if she could bear it if
something happened to Sean as well. They drove the rest of the way without talking. Ellie
prayed.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                   96




        Driving through town was like watching a movie. Lights everywhere -- the bars
identified by their neon beer signs, and pickups were pulled in close like an encampment.
People laughed and shouted as they walked the sidewalks.

        Luke drove slowly, watching for Sean's pickup. A dog barked from the back of an
old truck as a cowboy wobbled by. A little red headed lady tried to steady her companion.
The look on her face reminded Ellie of the times she had to help Luke. She glanced over at
her husband, but he hadn't noticed. He was scanning the vehicles for the familiar red and
silver.

        Then at the west edge of town, he spotted it. "There it is!" He was out of the pickup
almost before it stopped, and Ellie followed close behind. The bar was crowded, loud, and
smoky. Luke looked down at his wife sheepishly. "Why was I ever attracted to a place like
this?" It was the first he had ever commented about his old life when he would come home
drunk, before he gave his life to Christ. Then he said, "Do you want to wait outside?"

       "No, thanks, Hon, I'll stay with you." Ellie smiled weakly at her husband.

       They finally saw Sean talking to John, Susan's brother. John had obviously been
drinking. He was sitting at a table, hands around a tall brown bottle. Sean was leaning over
toward him, his face close to John’s.

       “Sean, I’ve been looking for you.” Luke spoke quietly into Sean’s ear.

       "Let's go for a walk," Luke said a little louder. He acknowledged John who nodded
back, but didn't move from his seat.

        Luke had trouble getting Sean to leave, until Ellie went over and put her arm
around him and whispered, "Susan wouldn't want it this way, Sean." He looked down at
Ellie and put his hand on the back of her head, pulling her toward him. "I don't know what
to do," he cried, tears streaming down his face.

        "Let's get out of here," she said. They moved toward the door as the crowd, now
quiet, parted for them, sorrow and sympathy showing on some of the faces. They passed
through the door and into the cool evening.

        "I'm sorry," he kept saying. "I'm so sorry to have worried you. I was just driving
around when I saw John go into the bar. I pulled up and waited. Then I decided to go in and
talk to him to see if he knew anything. He wouldn't talk to me. Luke, I almost lost it and
don't know what I was going to do. I'm so glad you came, both of you. I just can't go home.
Her blood is still on the floor. My God! What am I to do?" he sobbed.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                     97




         They all stood there on the curb beside the pickup, holding onto each other and
letting their grief cry itself into the cool evening air, unashamed of their tears as people
strolled by, staring.
         Suddenly, John was on them, nearly knocking Ellie to the ground as he pulled Sean
off his feet. Just as suddenly, he had a knife out and was kneeling over Sean, who just lay
there. Luke rushed forward, but Sean yelled, "No, Luke, stay back!"
       "You stole my sister once, are you to steal her memory as well? She was already
dead to me, man, and that by her own choice, and you accuse me of killing her?"
       "I didn't accuse you, John..."
       "Your heart did -- I heard it cry out for revenge, but your white blood lets your
words lie to your own heart."
       "I love your sister, and I love all her life stood for -- she loved you, John! She loved
her people and she loved her God, and only wanted to bring the two together."
       "What do you know of love, Morgan? Your people stole everything they could steal
from us; tried to steal our spirit and spit on us when they realized they couldn't get that
too."
        "John, I'm sorry for what happened in the past. You're right when you say that.”
Sean sobbed. “I never had struggles like you've had, and I didn't fully understand sorrow
until today! The most precious thing on earth has been stolen from me and, yes, I want to
fight back!"
       "Then why aren't you fighting me? I hold a knife over you and you just lay there."
      "Because I know my fight isn't with you..." Sean closed his eyes as tears slid to the
pavement. "I'm so sorry, John."
         John stood up still holding the knife tightly, then turned and walked away. Luke
helped Sean to his feet, and they walked to the pickup, leaving Sean's Dodge parked where
it sat. They drove home in silence, each lost in thought and grief.
         Finally alone, everything came down on Ellie. ‘I can’t breathe,” the words were
suddenly wrenched from her heart. “She can’t be dead!” She sobbed against Luke’s chest,
terrified of her own feelings.
        Sean spent that night with Luke and Ellie, though he didn't sleep much. Thursday
was a blur of activity. Lynn cleaned Sean's house and cooked all day for the company that
kept arriving. She was tireless in her efforts at making everyone comfortable. Sean's dad
arrived late that evening, and Lonny, Luke's brother, shortly after that. Ellie’s parents could
not make the long trip since her dad was still recovering from his illness.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                      98




                                          Chapter 30

         Joyce couldn’t sleep. She tossed all night unable to understand the horrible tragedy.
“Why, God?” she cried. Her newly found faith was being shaken. “What makes people so
full of hate? What makes them allow that hate to take control and consume others in its
path? Why did You allow this? Why?”

       Her mind raced and she wept. She was just starting to get to know Susan and Sean
and everyone else at High Hope. They’d taken care of her when she was sick, and they
showed her more love than anyone had ever done before. Now Joyce feared that would all
change.

       At first light Joyce heard a light tapping on her door. She opened it to see Ellie
standing there, a portrait of deep sorrow. At once, they reached toward one another and
embraced, both in tears.

       Joyce heated water for coffee, while Ellie softly voiced her grief to her new friend.
As Joyce handed Ellie a steaming cup and pulled out a chair, she asked the same questions
she’d pleaded with God earlier. Then she added, “Will High Hope go on? Will things
change so much the dream dies?”

        “No, Joyce! It wasn’t just a dream, it’s a vision. Susan was not the source of that
vision, God is, and He never changes. Love is greater than hate! The person or people
responsible for Susan’s death walk in darkness and fear. When God dwells in a heart, love
denies hate the right to exist. Love forces hate to retreat, like when a candle is lit in a dark
room, the light is greater than the darkness.”

        “But why did God allow this to happen, if love is greater?” Joyce asked, her green
eyes pleading for an answer.

        “We may never know in this lifetime why things happen as they do,” Ellie paused
to wipe the tears from her eyes. “I firmly believe Susan didn’t die in vain. God gave us
freedom to choose His way or our own. Unfortunately, some people use that freedom to do
evil; they make bad choices that hurt or destroy others. Since we are not puppets on a
string, our decisions must be made according to the standards we live by. If God held His
Hand out to force one person to conform to His image, that wouldn’t be love. He wants us
to choose Him, and it ultimately is indeed a choice,” Ellie struggled for words, tears still
spilling from her eyes.

        “There are things God keeps hidden from us until just the right time. I do know
Satan's prime objective is to 'kill, steal, and destroy.' Yes, Susan has been stolen from us.
Her physical body has been killed, but the focus of her life - her dreams, her vision - will
only be destroyed if we allow it to happen.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                      99




        “We cry at God and demand an answer to why He allowed something bad to
happen, but if He forced us to move at the tug of a string, we would whine that we had no
freedom! He knows us all so well! I know without a doubt His heart is grieved by the
actions that claimed Susan’s life.”

        After accepting another cup of coffee from Joyce, Ellie sighed and said, “The evil
actions of a person or group show just how dark a human soul can become, when we give
our lives over to something other than God.”

       Ellie talked Joyce into riding with her back to the ranch. They needed one another,
and the entire group needed them both.

        When the funeral began the next day, Ellie walked into the service carrying Janet
who was limp with grief. Simple notes of an Indian flute filled the church. Sean asked for
no other music, this was the music Susan loved. He asked Pastor Edward to read Isaiah
61:1-4 --Susan's roadmap – and to give an altar call. He also read Matthew 13:44: "The
kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man conceals after finding
it. Then out of sheer gladness, he goes out and sells everything he has and buys it."

         A single red rose stood tall in a silver vase on the altar, a tribute to Susan's simple
lifestyle of faith and love; and her eagle feather was suspended from the cross overhead, a
symbol of her strength and purpose. Sean requested no other flowers and asked that any
money that would be used for flowers be used to help the mission for which Susan gave her
life.

        A hush fell over the sanctuary when John walked in, pushing his grandmother in a
wheelchair. She held a white handkerchief to her face, her coal black eyes were pools of
tears. Ellie wanted to go to them, but the service had started.

         Pastor Edward began, "Susan saw treasure in the Lakota people. She loved them so
much she gave everything she had, even her life. We don't know who her killer was, we
only know it was someone wanting to silence her and to stop her work. But her voice will
still be heard, and her work will go on!"

        Sean stood tall, his black suit neatly pressed, a silver cross on his lapel. Through his
tears he spoke about his beautiful wife and her mission. He also talked about those left
behind who were dedicated to Susan's goal: reconciliation, restoration, to bring God to the
Indian community. They would continue to hold out the word of truth, the gospel of Jesus
Christ, and to shelter the hurting, the lost and the rejected ones!

      At the end of the service, Sean stood up again and spoke with tears, "The white
man has done much to wound the heart and spirit of the Indian. Today, I want to see that
wounding come to an end and to apologize to the Indian community for the offenses done
Turquoise Sky                                                                                      100




so long ago and still continue today. May God help us all work toward a future my wife
wanted so very much."

       That evening clouds moved in quietly unnoticed as Ellie sat on the front step. She
soon retreated to the living room. Lynn left after tucking the boys in and Luke was helping
Sean go through some papers.

        Ellie went to her little office and closed the door gently. I just want to go home to
Illinois! I can’t stay here. There is too much pain, too many fears. I can’t do this. I can’t be
strong.

        As she sat there in the dark watching the rain fall softly against the window, Ellie
suddenly thought about the day last winter when she and Susan walked to the forest and
saw the little wounded tree. "Am I to become a shelter when my wounds heal?" she prayed
into the night. “You will have to heal me first, Father!”

         The next day after a late breakfast, when the boys went outside, Ellie began a long,
tearful letter to her family.

         "Dear Mom and Dad, I've been praying for Janet. I don't know what will become of
this precious child. Will they allow Sean to keep her with Susan gone? And she still hasn't
spoken since it happened -- again, her silence loudly shouts ‘injustice’ to her young life. I
realize the world outside isn’t as much threat to me as this darkness in my heart. It’s as if
the fire within me almost burned out. But this morning I read something Susan wrote, and I
know we must continue the work she started, trusting God for the results. I am only one
person wanting to help among so many people with huge hurts and wounds. Can I make a
difference? Yes, I believe I can. No, I believe WE can!”

          Ellie sipped the coffee she brought into her little office by the kitchen. She liked
this little nook with its window looking out over the play area of the yard. After another
taste of her coffee, she continued. "As I cried and fretted, God showed me I am not alone in
this. Shortly after we arrived in Wyoming, Susan gave me an article she wrote for a
newsletter. The article was about the Christian's position in Christ. She wrote: 'If I allow
outside circumstances to dictate who I am and how I react, I walk in darkness and will
never move forward in Christ. Only God determines who I am, and what I do with that
knowledge determines my impact on the world around me.'

        "Resentment grows when hurt boils and festers inside -- I have to decide whose
voice I will follow! I have to decide to forgive. I died a little with Susan that day, not a
physical death, but a death to all the dreams and love and hope I’d found after we started
on this trail. Today, I need to die another death -- to the fears and uncertainties in life --
those questions and doubts I've been having, the confusion that holds me captive. They
Turquoise Sky                                                                                    101




must finally be poured out of my veins and washed away by the blood of Christ, like the
blood of my dear friend.”

       Ellie stopped to look out the window again and to dry her eyes. Then her thoughts
went back to the task at hand.

         “Joyce has offered to help. Her faith is being tried right now. These are hard times
for all of us.

        "Susan's voice was not stilled, and her mission did not fail -- the person who killed
her tried to kill what could never die -- the valiant spirit of love. His well-placed shot may
have taken her physical life, but the Spirit she lived in will go on! Please pray for us. Your
hurting child, Ellie."
Turquoise Sky                                                                                     102




                                          Chapter 31

       Days and weeks passed. Still Ellie had no answers, and little relief from the fear and
dread of what lay ahead.

       Several weeks after the funeral, Ellie stopped at High Hope on her way home from
town. "I'm glad you stopped," Sean got up and walked over to Ellie and hugged her. "It's
good to see you. I was going to bring these over to you this afternoon." He reached into a
drawer and pulled out several spiral notebooks.

        "Luke said you were having a hard time. I think Susan would want you to have
these. They contain her journal, her vision, her life. She listed her goals and how she came
to the decisions she did. This is her mantle, and I now pass it on to you. No fanfare, no
applause, just three simple notebooks, but they are full of instruction and insight, full of
promises and hope. The torch is in your hand now, Ellie. I believe God is going to use you
as the rudder for our ship!"

        Ellie looked at the notebooks lying in her hands, then at Sean, and finally her eyes
rested on Lynn, who had joined them, Janet at her side. "I don't know if I can fill Susan's
shoes," she started to say.

        "Honey, you have your own shoes to fill and no one else's. It may not be my place
to say this, but it's time to either start the engine or get out of the car!" Lynn put her hand
on Ellie's arm. "And you're not alone! You’ll find your voice – you’ll find the words He
wants you to use as you go forward."

        Just then, Luke and the boys walked in. "I was hoping you were here," he said to his
wife. The boys went with Janet into the playroom and the rest of them sat at the table to
talk about what needed to be done. It was the first time they talked about High Hope since
the funeral, and Ellie knew it was good to start getting their focus back.

       Sean said, "The first thing we need to do is have a meeting in town and present
High Hope to the community. We need to get the slides organized you and Susan were
working on. They would be great to show while we share Susan’s vision and what we are
doing with it now."

      Sean handed Ellie a letter from a young man wanting to help. Chris Dunriver's letter
was impressive. "Have you spoken to him?" Ellie asked.

        "Yes, he wants to come the first of next month," Sean looked over at the calendar.
"That would be the second or third of October, so we should plan the meeting for next
week, say the 28th. Or should we wait until Chris comes? His cousin, Randy, wants to join
us too."
Turquoise Sky                                                                                  103




       Ellie looked at Luke questioningly. "I wonder what this young man will want in
payment. And I'm not sure what you think the meeting on the 28th will accomplish. We've
had so much negative response as it is. Do you really think people's hearts have changed?"

        Sean went into the office and came back with a large, obviously heavy, box. He
thumped it down on the floor next to Ellie. "Mail?" she asked. Reaching in to pull out a
few of the letters, she was surprised and excited. Two of them contained five dollar bills.
She looked up at Sean who smiled at her confusion.

        "I haven't counted all the money that's come in. Lynn is going to start receipting
them tomorrow and Joyce is putting together a letter of thanks to send out, and has some
ideas for brochures we should put together. Ellie, one check is for $1,000! He is supplying
our needs according to His riches in glory!"

        The meeting was set for the 28th, if they could use the community center for an
evening meeting. Lynn offered to make some posters and Joyce wrote up some invitations
to send out.

        Just as Luke and Ellie were getting ready to leave with the boys, Joyce drove up. “I
couldn’t wait any longer,” she said as she walked in. Gilly saw her car and rushed from the
barn, where he’d been stacking hay knocked down by some calves. He hugged Joyce
before they all went back into the house.

       Sean poured more coffee for everyone and offered Joyce a cup. “Thanks, Sean.
That’d be great. And I have something to discuss with ya’ll.”

       “Well, fire when ready,” Luke said after a pause.

        “Is Wade here?” she asked. “I’d like to have him here, although he already knows
all about it.”

       “I’ll call him,” Sean said. “He’s out in the shop welding on a broken wagon tongue.
Boy, can he weld!”

       When Wade finally sat down after pouring himself some coffee from the large
coffee maker, he grinned at his mother, who’d been waiting to speak.

        “The day I returned to my cabin after staying here during my sickness, I received an
insurance settlement from my husband’s death. It was for $50,000. I didn’t even know he
had this policy and the agent said he’d been lookin’ for me for a year!

       “Well, I’ve thought long and hard about this and talked it over with Wade. I’ve
decided to give this to High Hope! I took out what I needed, then got a check from the
bank.” She handed a somewhat wrinkled check to Sean.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                    104




       The silence was broken by a small voice laughing in the playroom. Then Sean said,
“Joyce, are you sure? This is a lot of money!”

       “Yes, I’m absolutely sure,” she said brightly. “After Susan’s death, I was afraid
things would change, that High Hope wouldn’t get going. At the funeral, the words you
spoke made me realize I want to be part of this mission. And what better way to start than
by giving this! I read James 1:17, and it says, ‘Every good gift and every perfect gift is
from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or
shadow of turning.’ I memorized that verse so I’d never forget.

       “Susan told me once that God never changes, and if He never changes, He doesn’t
want us to change directions when He’s pointed the way.”

        Sean, overcome with emotion, finally stood up and hugged her. “Thank you, Joyce.
I don’t know what else to say.” He wiped tears from his eyes.

         That evening, Ellie carried Susan's notebooks into the little office beside the
kitchen, eager to be alone with Susan’s written words. She sat trembling, the journals on
her lap, fear rising unwelcome in her heart. The vision of her friend lying in a pool of blood
could not be erased, the loss was still so fresh. Sweat formed on her forehead and her hands
clutched one another, knuckles turning white. Great sobs suddenly shook her shoulders as
she slid to her knees, the journals falling to the floor. As she cried her heart to God, she
noticed her Bible lying open to Psalm 91. She reached for the worn book and read, “He
who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the
Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him will I
trust.’ Surely He shall deliver you…”

        Ellie stopped reading and looked up at the small clock ticking on a shelf above her.
Then she turned to Psalm 64 and read the first four verses aloud, “Hear my voice, O God,
in my meditation; Preserve my life from fear of the enemy. Hide me from the secret plots
of the wicked, From the rebellion of the workers of iniquity, Who sharpen their tongue like
a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows – bitter words, That they may shoot in
secret at the blameless…” She sat back in her chair, dried her eyes, opened the first book
and began…

        “The path is narrow. Do not get distracted or allow anything or anyone to turn your
head and cause you to stumble. There is much work to be done and I am overwhelmed by
the task ahead of me. Please, Father God, send someone to help whose vision is clear and
whose heart is steadfast.”

        Ellie looked at her reflection in the window, and in the silence of the night prayed
for strength to do what Susan left behind in her death.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                105




        She continued reading, “I am in a battle and my prayer is that the breastplate of
righteousness will shield me from the blows of an unrighteous generation. May my feet be
beautiful and ready to walk through anything in order to promote peace and reconciliation.
May Your shield of faith protect me from all the fiery darts and abuse the accuser would
throw at me. Your word is my sword. May I keep Your Word locked in my heart, sharp and
ready to be used against the enemy. Guide my steps, my words, and the thoughts of my
heart.”

        Laying aside the book, Ellie prayed, “Lord God, this is my prayer. Help me walk
that path. Since you are moving me toward Your desired purpose, help me press on in faith.
Help me live what Susan lived. Guide me to become that place of shelter as my scars heal,
like the little tree Susan showed me in the winter woods.”
Turquoise Sky                                                                                   106




                                        Chapter 32

         Luke and Gilly stood at the back of the large hall at the community center, waiting
for everyone to arrive for the meeting. "I can't believe they say they have no leads; Susan
was killed by the same kind of arrow as her horse. Surely someone knows something..."
Gilly scratched his curly head. He’d been in town earlier in the day and stopped by the
sheriff's office. He grew quiet when he saw Sean walk into the room. Sean worked hard to
organize the meeting. He and Ellie finished the slide show presentation just the night
before.

        The room was packed with more people than they anticipated, both red and white.
Among them, and to everyone's amazement, was Councilman Lloyd Stone, his wife Nita
by his side. Ellie watched his face as he entered the room. He took everything in like a
child and when he caught Ellie's eye, he nodded and there was a warmth in his dark eyes
instead of the icy stares she’d seen at their first encounter.

        The meeting started with prayer and an invitation for the Holy Spirit to direct them.
Sean spoke confidently about their purpose and held up the poster Susan created for High
Hope the month before her death. She’d hoped to place them in schools and any location
that would allow them to be displayed. Several of the people who refused their request
before, now had their hands in the air asking for one to display in their establishment.

        Sean then showed the slides. The room was absolutely quiet, several people digging
in pockets and purses for tissues and handkerchiefs. The eyes of children gazed down from
the screen, wrinkled faces of old women standing in line for commodities, hard stares of
young Native men, and the frightened face of a mother holding her child, all poignant
pictures of need.

       The lights came back on and Sean once again spoke. "Who are these people and
what do they need? They need a bridge to reach the Creator -- He reaches down to us with
Hands of love and strength, nail-pierced Hands wounded by injustice, prejudice, ignorance,
and greed. And with those Hands, He gently pulls us into His Heart, where there is justice,
freedom, dignity, joy, knowledge, peace, and unconditional love.

        “High Hope will be that bridge – a bridge to freedom from drugs and alcohol, from
abuse, from hatred. Susan’s voice will not be silenced by the grave because it is God’s call
to reconciliation. Jesus paid the price for each of us. He and I are Blood brothers and have
‘vowed’ to work together, Jesus at God’s throne in Heaven on our behalf and me on earth
doing what He asks. And I ask you to join me in raising a war-cry against the enemy of our
souls who loves to keep God’s children away from His riches!”
Turquoise Sky                                                                                     107




        During the closing, Luke prayed for High Hope, and for all the workers and
volunteers who would come forward. "Father, I pray for restoration of American Indians to
a position of dignity and respect. Bring about understanding of the past in order to bring
healing for the future. Set people free from drugs and alcohol. Grant financial help to those
in need. I pray that the stronghold of poverty and everything associated with it be broken,
and Your abundant blessings be poured out upon my Native friends. I join my hands with
those in this room against the powers of darkness and ask you to guide us toward peace."

        The phone rang off the hook all the next day with people calling to offer help or
donations of food, furnishings, and money. One of the phone calls was from the lawyer
handling the custody case. Everyone was relieved when Sean reported he'd been awarded
full custody of Janet.

        One of the first young people to come for help was twenty-year-old Mina Stone.
Her mother drove her to the shelter the next day and sat by her side as Mina struggled
through the interview. Sean showed them to a small, cozy room. Mina threw her bag into
the corner and dropped onto the bed, glaring. Nita remarked that she could feel love in this
place. Her eyes filled with tears as she told about the suicide of her only son five years ago.
“If only he’d been able to find a place like this.”

       Mina would be their first resident – and their first challenge.

        The outpouring of volunteers and gifts was almost overwhelming. Chris Dunriver
arrived at the front door, his long dark hair in two even braids, Western shirt tucked neatly
into his jeans, “You must be Chris,” Ellie smiled and invited him in. She was working in
Sean’s office setting files in order.

       "Yes, Ma'am," he smiled back.

        They walked through the kitchen where Rose Damiani, Ruth's daughter, was
playing with Simon. Rose flew home after her mother called with the news that Susan was
killed. She'd been interested in what Ruth wrote in her letters and was hoping to join the
staff. She set to work with the same enthusiasm as her mother and without hesitation
offered her help to Ellie. Rose had been a wonderful co-worker ever since. She blushed
when Ellie introduced her to Chris before going into the living room to join Sean and Luke.

        The letter of introduction Chris wrote had intrigued them all and after meeting him
in person, they were even more impressed by his warm smile and sincere interest in High
Hope. His family background and experience in Arizona would be a tremendous asset.

        Rose brought in some iced tea and cookies she baked the evening before. She
quietly set the plate and pitcher of tea on the coffee table and slipped from the room. Ellie
noticed Chris following her movements as he spoke.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                    108




        "My mother and father are Navajo. When I heard about Susan Morgan's death, I
wanted to come to see if I could help. I met Susan at a seminar several years ago, when she
spoke about reaching Indians for Christ. My cousin Randy is hoping to be here next week
if you agree. Anyway, Susan is the one who led me to Jesus, and I will never forget her
words that evening about her vision for all Native people. I wept when I heard about her
murder; I grew angry and then I knew I had to come here.

         "Deep calls to deep, as the Psalms say, and the Spirit of Christ deep in my heart is
calling to the spirit of the Native people buried deep in the sins of the past. And it's the
young, hurting ones who will be reached and be the ones to lead the others. That's why this
mission's so vital! All mankind has a certain amount of difficulty in their lives, and only
faith in Jesus can cause us to rise above those hard places."

        Chris settled to work quickly and had the volunteers organized, the business plan in
order, and worked with Joyce on a mailing to send out to state and local organizations -- all
within the span of a week. Sean commented that Chris must run on a mixture of caffeine
and God! Ellie laughed at the comment as she prepared another pot of coffee after pouring
a cup for their new recruit.

        Randy arrived just over a week after Chris and won everyone’s heart with his
politeness and his willingness to do any task that needed to be done. He scrubbed toilets,
washed windows, and drove into town for supplies, all with a warm and friendly attitude.
“He’s almost too good to be true!” Sean laughed as he watched Randy carrying out the
trash, whistling as he went.

       It wasn’t long and Sean had him running errands, delivering mail to the post office,
and going to the bank. He never complained when he did the dirtiest jobs. He even
whistled while he cleaned up the broken glass from the mirror Mina threw at him.

        One morning during their daily meeting, Gilly came in carrying a black feather he'd
found while working on a sagging fence, readying the pasture to bring down the cattle from
the high country for the winter. "Is this the same kind of feather you found in that note?" he
asked as he sat next to Sean after grabbing a bottle of soda from the refrigerator.

        The conversation then turned to the symbols they'd found. Chris looked startled
when he heard "Red Arrow" mentioned. "I know about the Red Arrows," he stated.
"They’re a group of young Natives bent on bringing back the old tribal ways. They’re
against any form of white authority and have taken to living off the land, never in the same
place, always on the move. And they’re extremely anti-Christian and well armed. They
believe non-tribal people (they call them ‘hyphenated-Americans’) are living here as illegal
Turquoise Sky                                                                                       109




aliens. Red Arrows resist all who are not Indian, saying modern white society is a cancer
that must be cut out. They even infiltrate Christian groups to try to bring them down from
within, often stealing from them."

        Ellie told Chris about the man she'd seen in the courthouse before Susan's murder.
He left the table and came back carrying his briefcase. "I have an article about the pastor of
a church on a reservation in New Mexico. He'd been killed under similar circumstances --
he was trying to establish a homeless shelter in the basement of the small church. The
words "Red Arrow" were spray painted across the door of the church about a month before
the murder."

         He kept digging through papers until he finally found the article. "I’m going to take
this to the sheriff." Sean announced, rising from the table.

        "I think we should," Chris said as he went to refill his coffee cup. “I don’t
understand why this wasn’t mentioned in any of the news reports. The similarities are
blaring.”

         The article turned out to be of great interest to the sheriff. He got on the phone right
away to the authorities in New Mexico mentioned in the story and made a list of the
details. The investigation then took a new twist and everyone felt confident there would
soon be some results. Sean was especially relieved that maybe, after so many months,
something was being done about investigating his wife's murder. He’d been frustrated by
their lack of attention. Perhaps it was Chris and his confident attitude and the information
he had that moved the law officers to action.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                     110




                                         Chapter 33

         A chilly wind was blowing out on the mesa above town. Gilly and Joyce were
sitting on the tailgate of his pickup, watching a herd of antelope through field glasses. The
pleasant Sunday afternoon seemed perfect for a drive. When Gilly invited Joyce, she
readily accepted. They’d all been working hard for months. High Hope now sheltered eight
young people. There was always paperwork and laundry to tend to, and the kitchen was
always busy. The days were long with writing letters and helping Ellie in her kitchen with
baking, but Joyce loved her part in it more than she ever thought she could. She learned a
lot about herself in the process and recently realized how much God had healed her own
life.

       “Have you noticed Randy lately?” Joyce pondered.

       “What do you mean?”

       “I don’t know. He just seems distant, almost distracted. Oh, it’s probably just me!”
Joyce smiled up into Gilly’s warm eyes.

       “I really have had my mind on something else myself.” Gilly smiled.

       After putting the field glasses back in their case, Gilly pulled a small package from
the pocket of his denim jacket and handed it to Joyce. She looked at him, surprised. “I love
you, Joyce, and I want us to be married,” he said, simple and to the point.

        With tears in her eyes, Joyce opened the little box and Gilly took the ring, placing it
on her finger. “I love you too, Gil,” she cried as she flung her arms around his neck. “Yes!”

       He lifted her off her feet and swung her around. He let out a loud whoop and
laughed.

       “I don’t deserve you,” Joyce started to say, then she looked into his eyes and
continued, “But I’m so thankful to have found someone to love me! And someone who
shares my faith!”

      Congratulations rang through the ranch at the announcement of their engagement.
The women started putting their heads together, planning for the day.

        Throughout the winter, young people arrived and brought a new set of problems.
Sean worked on paperwork in the evenings after the group of residents settled down for the
night. Mina still caused headaches, but never attempted to run away like some. By
Christmas, Mina was ready to start helping in the kitchen. She wanted to begin making
changes. “If little Janet can be so happy, in spite of what she’s gone through, I guess I can
try. I want to do something to help around here!”
Turquoise Sky                                                                                   111




      In March, Mina left High Hope, but she left a changed young lady, excited to go
home and start a new life. She would come back weekly for evaluation.

        The springtime wedding was a welcome celebration after the busy winter. Sean
stood tall and proud as Gilly’s best man; Wade, Luke, and Ezra were beaming beside him.
Ellie was lovely as Joyce’s matron of honor. Her pale yellow dress complemented those
worn by Lynn, Ruth, and Rose, who also stood beside her.

        God seemed near as Gilly and Joyce were united, not only in marriage, but also in
His purpose. The service was short and private, but the party that followed in the
fellowship hall was one to rival any they’d ever seen. Friends and neighbors wished them
well, and Joyce and Gilly again knew the joy of family and community. “We’re so blessed
to have you all here,” Gilly spoke after the meal. “You mean so much to us! Thank you.”

       Wade spoke to the gathering, tears in his eyes, “And I’m so blessed to see my mom
happier than I’ve ever seen her.”

       Cheers and laughter filled the hall as the newlyweds got ready to leave for a visit to
Lincoln. They would see Gayle and Jeff, then drive up to Minneapolis to visit Gilly’s aunt.

       As the truck sped along through the greening landscape, Joyce felt as if her heart
would burst with joy. Three years ago she was alone in the world and away from God.
Today a man who’d helped her find her way up from despair loved her. She had her son
back and she was part of a community that loved and accepted her. And even more
wondrous, she knew God loved her. What more could a woman want?

       While Gilly and Joyce were gone, Wade took over Gilly’s work. Early one
morning, he was making his way through the early light to the path he used on the sage-
covered hillside to check the cattle. His flashlight shone on something blue as he walked
past. He rolled the rocks away and found a canvas bag hidden beneath. He pulled the bag
from the dirt and rocks and sat down on the trail. Wade turned his flashlight into the
opened pack. Inside was a plastic pouch of papers, flyers declaring “Red Power.” It said,
“Too many winters have seen us under the thumb of non-tribal people who exploit and fail
to honor the Earth. It is time to become strong arrows and take our place once again as
protectors of the land. Only through a shift in the balance from white power to red power
can we avoid global disaster.”

        He pulled out one of the flyers and folded it into his pocket. Also in the pack was a
cassette tape that had the tape pulled out of its case and a broken tape player. He carefully
put everything back, minus the one flyer, brushed the area with a branch of sage, hoping it
looked untouched. He stood there a moment in the growing daylight, flashlight still shining
at the area, then decided to continue on the trail.
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        Arriving at a sheltered spot high above the ranch, he surveyed the area, shivering
momentarily thinking someone may be watching him. He shook off the thought, judging
from the condition of the pack, he was certain its owner was long gone. Wade soon knelt
down on the cold earth asking for God’s wisdom about his discovery. He then turned his
attention to the needs of those involved with High Hope and those staying as guests. He
also prayed that he would display a Christ-like character as he interacted with Simon and
Michael, his ever-present shadows during those days they were at the ranch with Ellie or
Luke.

        After checking the cattle, Wade headed back down the hill. He was thinking of the
kids he knew. Janet and Simon get along so well, it’s almost unnatural! And Michael is so
tender toward the kids that come to High Hope. Another child, a 12 year-old boy, recently
became a guest. In the two weeks since his arrival, a definite change could be seen, but his
strongest feelings were about an angry 15-year-old girl who left last week. Sean consoled
him by saying that not every young person who stays at the shelter will accept their help.

       Steve Denby was coming out of the house when Wade got there. “Missed a good
breakfast,” he grinned, slapping Wade on the back as he headed through the door.

       “Sean inside?”

      “I’m right here!” Sean called from the kitchen where he was going over some
paperwork at the table. When he saw the flyer Wade produced from his pocket, he asked,
“Where did you find this?”

       Wade then told all about the blue canvas bag he found up on the mountain. “Wish I
knew what it was all about. But for now I’ll drop this off at the sheriff’s office when I go to
town this afternoon. Let’s not alarm anyone about this, just keep your eyes open, and I’ll
have Steve watch things during the night. He’s pretty much a night owl anyway, I don’t
think he’ll mind. I think we should have a staff meeting tomorrow morning.”

      Wade agreed, then went out to the shop to sharpen one of the chainsaws. Cutting
wood for three fireplaces kept him pretty busy.

        Their next meeting ended earlier than Sean thought it would so he decided to take
some of the extra time to share some of the prayer requests they had received. Just as he
started reading some of the notes he’d made, Lynn knocked at the door and quietly opened
it. “Chris, someone is here to see you. I think it’s really important,” she said.

       Puzzled, Chris stood and excused himself, following Lynn down the hallway. John
Yazzie was sitting on the sofa, ragged and weary looking. “This is Susan Morgan’s brother,
John,” Lynn introduced him and left the room, closing the door behind her.
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      Chris reached out his hand in greeting, and John clasped his hand in a firm
handshake. Then Chris sat in a chair opposite John and said, “How can I help you, John?”

        “I only hope you can help me. You see, when Susan was alive, I had a load of anger
that kept me going. She always could stir me up!” John looked away a moment. “As a
child, her constant questions would anger me. Now I understand that it was only because I
didn’t have the answers she needed to hear. I didn’t know how to love her enough to keep
her happy, to keep her from turning from the Lakota way.” Suddenly, his face saddened.
“Now, she is gone and I’m empty.”

       “John, the Lakota way you have been trusting is not the way of God, that is why
you feel empty now. And that is why you had no answers for your sister.

        “Before you were ever born, you were chosen for a special purpose that only you
can fulfill. When the white man’s government fenced in the Native Americans, they tried
to snuff out our potential, our purpose. But it can never be quenched as long as there is
breath. All you need to do is wake it up. You are a life full of potential. Inside you may lie
the cure for cancer or a great work of art or music. Inside you may be the best dad on the
rez, or a teacher. You can be anything you decide to be! Just don’t listen to the lies!

        “Your sister found the answer and offered it to so many others, to lead them out of
the darkness of the traditions of men into the marvelous and sustaining light of Jesus
Christ. It’s only through Him that there can be an end to emptiness.”

        Chris looked John in the eyes, “And John, it was your sister who led me to that
light! She is the one who introduced me to Jesus and offered me the free gift of salvation.
And that has made all the difference.”

        The room was quiet. John stood and walked to the window, folded his arms over
his chest, his long black hair caught under his collar. After several minutes of silence, he
sighed deeply and mournfully, then turned and said, “I think I need your Jesus.”

        When John left High Hope three hours later, his shoulders were straighter, his head
held higher, and his step lighter. Ellie and Lynn stood beside Chris as they watched him
drive away. “Miracle of miracles! Thanks be to God!” Ellie said softly. “I can’t wait to
share the news with Gilly and Joyce!”
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                                        Chapter 34
        When Sheila arrived at High Hope, she was full of despair, bruised and battered,
considering suicide but afraid of it at the same time. It was clear from the beginning she
had a drug problem. A doctor from town, who volunteered two evenings a week, was
called to examine the new guest. Through his help and Sean’s wisdom, the following
weeks brought radical healing to Sheila’s life.
        As her mind cleared and her resolve to change became apparent, she began to
reveal her connection to the Red Arrows. Through tears, she recounted the initiation
process her brother Brian had to experience as a member of the gang, which included
killing a mare and butchering her foal. Sheila sobbed as she confessed to helping her
brother locate such a horse and watched as he pulled the string of his compound bow and
saw the red shaft sink deep into the horse’s body. She said it all seemed like a movie in
slow motion because of the drugs, but the senseless act, the thrashing of the foal as Brian
applied his knife to the young animal’s neck, all combined in Sheila’s mind to cause
endless nightmares.
       Sean asked her calmly, “Was it a horse here?”
       “I think it was,” Sheila cried. “I’m so sorry!” Dark hands covered her eyes.
       “While Brian was preoccupied, I took his knapsack and hid it on the hillside after
breaking his tape player and pulling the tape out of the case. I suddenly hated everything he
did!” More tears slid down her cheeks.
      Sean wanted to ask her if she knew anything about Susan’s murder, questions
formed in his mind with rapid succession. But compassion and wisdom kept him from
demanding answers. This young girl needed his help and mercy, not his accusations.
        Sheila’s story continued to unfold over the next few days as Sean and Chris listened
to her pour out her heart. With growing confidence in her counselors, the girl allowed
herself to open her heart to the healing they offered. Her fear of threats from the Red
Arrows was held at bay in the safety of High Hope.
        “When I told Brian I was coming here, he pulled me into his truck and held my arm
tightly as we sped through the night to an old abandoned house where many of the Red
Arrows meet. They locked me in a room and argued for a long time about what they were
going to do to me. I know Brian loves me, but when I heard him slam the door and drive
away, leaving me behind, I felt betrayed beyond words. I cried and cried. Then a guy they
call “Black Wolf” came into the room, his face painted. He looked scary. I don’t remember
anything until I woke up in the snow along a road up in the mountains. I hurt head to toe; I
was wet and freezing and so alone, but somehow I made it here.”
       Almost a week after Sheila came to High Hope, her brother came to see her. He
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walked the three miles in from the highway. It happened to be the time Sheila was out for a
walk with Lynn. It was a beautiful afternoon. Brian watched them from behind the barn and
when Lynn went back to the house for something, he ran the 50 yards and pulled Sheila
into a small shed, checking to see that he hadn’t been spotted.
       Sheila protested, but grew quiet when Brian hugged her and whispered in her ear,
“You must come with me! They’re planning an attack on this place! We have inside
information about what is going on here. Let’s go!”
        She pulled back, terror filling her eyes. “No! This is a good place!” she exclaimed.
       “It is against the Indian way! You must leave with me!” He checked through the
small doorway again, clutching her arm tightly, ready to pull her out with him. But Sheila
managed to get her arm loose, then ran past him suddenly, yelling loudly for help.
        Gilly came from the porch where he’d been fixing the banister. He rounded the
house in time to see someone running down the lane, then he saw Sheila standing beside
the tack shed. “Are you okay?” He rushed over to her.
        The sheriff was called when she told what her brother said. It was obviously hard
for her to go against her brother. “It’s good here! I won’t stand by and let anything else
happen to hurt any of you. There has been enough bad, enough pain for you to bear. They
should not have killed Mrs. Morgan!” Sheila was now sobbing. “When they told me what
they had done, I didn’t care; now I do!”
        “Who did it, Sheila?” Sean tried to restrain himself. “Do you know why they did
it?” His questions needed to be asked.
        “They said she was trying to become white and to make everyone believe in the
white man’s God. They said she was spitting in the face of Mother Earth by owning land
and keeping cattle. She was against tribalism and had become a cancer to our people,”
Sheila said through her tears. “But if she was like you, she must have been wonderful…”
        “Sheila, who said those thing?” Sean looked her in the eyes.
        “The Red Arrows, but Black Wolf did the actual killing. He’s a really dangerous
man.”
        “Do you know where we might find them and could you identify this man?” The
sheriff asked.
         Sheila shook her head. “Like I said, his face was all painted. But he was pretty big.”
When she was finished telling all she knew, she said one last thing, “When I told Brian I
was coming here and he tried to stop me, he told me you were oppressive and unrighteous
because no one here is Indian. They don’t know anything about it. I’m so glad I told you
this. I feel free now!”
Turquoise Sky                                                                                       116




                                          Chapter 35

        Joyce was working on the newsletter, Highlights of Hope. Her thoughts were flying
as she wrote about some of the victories celebrated by many of their guests over the past
two years. One story shared a young man’s dream to finish school, go to college, then
return to help others. The newsletter was important – an outlet for the poetry and essays
written by some of the young people at High Hope, and to celebrate those who “graduate”
from the program.

        As Joyce worked, she thought back to her stepchildren, wondering for the first time
in months how they were doing. Wade said they seemed sincere when they wished him
luck finding his mom. Was that really almost three years ago? Her marriage to Jerry
seemed like years ago to Joyce. She quietly prayed, “Father God, send a believer into their
lives who can witness to them about Your saving grace and redeeming love.”

        She closed her eyes and sat in the quiet, a simple prayer of praise filled her heart to
overflowing for all God has done for her. And she was humbled by the fact He trusted her
to do things she never thought she could, like work on this newsletter and help with
cooking so many meals. How did He know to use her hands this way? She just smiled at
the thought of His awesome love for her.

        She worked a while longer on the newsletter, scanning in photos and typing names
for the address list.

       Looking up from the desk, she saw Sean drive in.

       Luke and Gilly just finished cleaning the barn, getting it ready for another winter.
Seeing Sean's red and silver pickup pull into the driveway, Luke hung up his pitch fork,
and with straw still clinging to his sweaty shirt, walked toward the approaching truck. He
could see Sean's smiling face through the windshield, and he wondered what was up.

       "You look like the cat that swallowed the canary! What's going on?" Luke asked as
Sean closed the door of his pickup.

         Sean reached into his shirt pocket for a letter. Unfolding the legal size page, he said,
"It's official! We are legally an 'institution recognized by the State of Wyoming to afford
shelter and counseling to those persons of American Indian decent, as described in the
bylaws of said institution.'" He handed the paper to Luke. "No fanfare, no congratulations,
but when I read those words, I heard skyrockets explode and all Heaven cheered!"
Turquoise Sky                                                                                       117




        Sean stepped up onto the porch and sat on the steps, motioning for Luke to take a
seat beside him. Sean gazed sadly at the mountains, “I'll never forget the love Susan and I
had, and I know she would want me to continue helping all those young hurting ones find
that same kind of love and joy in this life, which is so brief in comparison to eternity!"

        The two men stood up and Sean slapped Luke on the back, making the dust and
straw fly. "Go show this letter to Ellie! Then let's celebrate! Susan would want us to. I'll tell
the others!"

        Luke took the letter and drove down the still unimproved road to home, smiling. He
stopped midway, just where the house came into view. He sat there a moment taking in the
view that still held him captive -- the log house with mountains in the background --
mountains once again gilded with golden aspens. "Thank You, Father! You have carried us
so far. You have shown us such abundant love. Thank You!"
Turquoise Sky                                                                                   118




                                         Chapter 36

       Michael dropped his bags inside the door and quietly pulled it shut behind him.
Everyone was still asleep so he put the coffee on and wandered around the kitchen,
touching the counter, the stove, the curtains. It had been a long time. He took a cup from
the cupboard, then sat at the table to watch the new day start. He was startled by Ellie's
hand on his shoulder. "I didn't think you were up," he said.

       "I smelled the coffee." She sat down beside her son and looked at his bearded face
and broad shoulders. "You look good," she said softly, reaching for his hand. He bent
forward and kissed hers.

        Michael spent the last four years back in Illinois attending college and working.
After his grandfather died, he stayed on to help his grandmother. After several months, she
decided to move in with her sister in Nebraska, hoping for more frequent visits from her
children and grandchildren. When she was settled in her new home, Michael headed West,
back to Wyoming.

        "I couldn't miss Simon's graduation, and I really need some time to think. Mom, I
just don't know what I want to do. I feel really frustrated working in an office. I'm good at
accounting, but I hate the city. I don't think that's where God wants me to be. Lately, I've
been thinking about seeing how I can help here..." he looked at Ellie who was surprised at
his words. "But, I'm just thinking!" he winked.

        "So, tell me about everyone. I was happy to hear Chris and Rose are expecting a
baby. I'll bet he strutted around like a rooster when he told everyone! When is Lynn
leaving? She's been with us since the beginning and will really be missed! I forget where
you said she's going?" Michael reached across the table for his mother’s hand again,
smiling at her.

       "She and Ezra are going to work out in California on the Tule River Rez. Several
people want to open a shelter much like High Hope. Ezra’s excited about going home. And
you know Ezra, usually pretty quiet. His granddaughter is the one who's working the
hardest out there

        “Lynn’s been busy the past few months teaching Randy all the ropes of the
accounts. He’s been helping her for the past couple of years anyway, so it’s a natural
transition. He seems pretty comfortable with the job.”

        “Michael,” Ellie paused to look at her son. “Simon is going to California with them.
I hope he won't mind my telling you."

       Michael looked at his mother's face and saw the pain, but also saw peace.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                     119




        "Wow, that’s great news! But kinda hard, too." Michael squeezed his mother's
hand, smiling. "I've really missed you," he said softly. "I'll never forget how hard it was for
me to leave, but it was something I just had to do. Then after Grandpa died, I nearly gave it
all up and came home. Grandma's the one who kept me going when I should have been
more of a support for her. And your letters have helped more than you'll ever know." He
saw tears in Ellie’s eyes, “So, how’s that ornery Gilly? I’ll bet he keeps Joyce hoppin’!”

         A loud rumbling vehicle was heard coming up the road. "Simon?" Michael looked
at Ellie, who nodded, grinning, "In the old Ford!"

       Michael ran out the door, letting it slam behind him, reminding Ellie of days when
the two would run in and out; long hot summer days or chilly days of autumn, always
running in and out of the house on one mission or another! She smiled to herself as she
went to join them, hearing the door slam one more time behind her.

        Luke joined her and they watched Simon crawl out of the old pickup. The boys
laughed and slapped each other on the back. "Out all night, huh?" Michael teased. Simon
spent the night with a friend in town after the graduation rehearsal.

       The day flew by, the boys getting in Ellie's way as she readied the house for the
graduation reception the following evening. Supper that night was a boisterous affair.
Luke, Ellie, Michael and Simon…the four of them sat at the small kitchen table as always,
bumping elbows and knees, but enjoying the closeness. Ellie hadn't invited anyone to share
their meal, but she was sure everyone understood; it was their first supper together in four
long years and would be among their last for another long time.

         They talked through the evening of cattle prices, Simon's graduation the next day,
of Grandma, Luke's broken collar bone when a horse threw him eight weeks ago and, of
course, High Hope. Before they knew it, it was time to go to bed. Ellie hugged them all and
wanted to hold them close for hours longer. "I feel selfish to have kept this evening to
myself, but I'm so glad to have it. Thank you for coming home, Michael, and for giving me
this special evening, all of you!" The soft gray around Ellie’s temples did not distract from
the still-youthful look in her eyes.

       The next morning they all met at the ranch so Michael could see everyone before
heading into town for graduation. He was bear-hugged by Gilly first thing, even before
going through the back door; patted hard on the back by Ezra; pinched and hugged by
Lynn; and generally welcomed back warmly by everyone. But when Janet came in from her
morning ride, Michael nearly fell over himself when she said, "So, you've come back to fly
with the eagles, Michael!"

       "Janet?" he stuttered.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                    120




       "Of course!" she said simply and gave him a warm hug before running upstairs to
change. "Welcome back!" she called over her shoulder from the second floor.
         Michael watched her long black hair flying behind her as she sprinted lightly up the
stairs. It was Ezra who couldn't resist the moment, as he handed Michael a handkerchief
from his pocket and held it to Michael's chin. "Lest you drool!"
      Laughter rang through the house the rest of the morning, as introductions were
made of the seven young people currently staying with them.
         Sean and Michael walked out to the barn shortly before leaving for town. Ellie
wondered if they were talking about Michael joining the team at High Hope. She prayed
that it would turn out that way. She was secretly pleased at her son's reaction to seeing
Janet and at the girl's unusual lightheartedness, since Janet was ordinarily quiet and
reserved, almost sulky. Ellie often felt Janet was too old for her years, but remembered her
first year with them and the six years with her alcoholic parents. Why wouldn't the child be
somber?
        Janet and Ellie formed a close bond after Susan's death. Ellie guarded the little girl
like a mother lion guards her cub. She wanted to keep Susan's vision alive in Janet's heart
and prayed fervently for her wounds to be healed. Ellie also prayed that the horrible
experiences of her young life would not cause her the bitterness and sense of separation
Susan experienced.
        She watched as the child grew and healed and became a compassionate young
woman of God. Ellie was amazed at the impact Janet had on many of the young people
who came to High Hope. Janet always suffered when someone left the program angry,
disillusioned, and still unhealed. Two of those who left ended their lives with drug
overdoses, and one young man rode his motorcycle off a cliff. But the dozens who grew,
changed and blossomed were the ones Ellie was sure would ultimately make a difference in
the lives of yet other hurting people.
       The afternoon of graduation was bittersweet as Simon received his diploma. The
thought of yet another separation tore at Ellie's heart, yet she was also grateful for his
decision to go to California to help Ezra. She remembered the day he told his parents of his
decision. "I really want to be used by God, to give until I'm used up. You have both been
the example of selfless living. I couldn't have had better parents than you. I love you and
hope you will give me your blessings."
       She was proud of her two sons and looked up at Luke’s face, his eyes were moist,
but he was smiling proudly.
        After the ceremony, Luke drove Ellie home so she could put the finishing touches
on the refreshments. She wiped away a tear as she set out the cake and mints for the guests
who soon started arriving to congratulate Simon. Joyce fixed the punch in the kitchen, and
Turquoise Sky                                                                                   121




Lynn carried the hot coffee maker into the dining room. Ellie was glad for the distraction
the work of the party gave her and joined in the laughter and hugs.
        Janet was there like a protective older sister. She and Simon were close friends.
Janet proudly supported Simon's activities. His small frame kept him from most sports, but
his love of music and drama proved to be his niche during high school. Janet faithfully
attended every event and kept a scrapbook of all his achievements.
        Ellie secretly wondered if the two were more than friends, and was surprised when
Simon started dating a girl from church. Janet was often invited along and seemed to enjoy
the "dates." Now Ellie watched the sparks flying between her older son and Janet, and kept
telling herself not to get too hopeful. Her bearded son often seemed too serious for the
frivolity of dating.
        Two nights before Simon left, the family had one last meal together and a long
evening talking. They laughed and cried, they hugged and shared their dreams. "Mom,
what did you feel when Susan died? I can't remember how I felt." Simon looked seriously
at his mother.
        Ellie took a deep breath and sighed heavily before responding to her son's question.
"I was angry with God. I had come to love Susan dearly in the short time we were together.
It was the one time in my life I felt I had a true friend, besides your dad. I went through a
hard time, questioning God and everyone else. I thought about Susan and how she would
want me to respond. I cried and realized it’s okay to grieve. We don’t have to be strong all
the time, especially when things happen beyond our control. The Bible says those are the
times to lean on God and let Him be strong for us. And I learned not to blame God!
        “I also had a deep, deep fear to overcome. What if that should happen to me? What
if I was killed and left you kids and Dad behind? A lot of ‘What Ifs’ filled my heart and
mind.
       “Joyce and I grew close after that, and I guess that was one of the answers God gave
me – love lives on." Ellie looked into her son’s soft blue eyes. His fair skin and sandy hair
were so like her Dad’s, as was his character – caring and giving, and strong.
        "I'm not sure what finally brought healing,” she continued. “I know it took a long
time, but I began to realize only God in His wisdom knows why it happened. I came to
understand bad things happen because we are not puppets on a string. God gave us a free
will and how we use that gift is our choice; either we use it for good or for evil. Sometimes
we become victims of the evil choices other people make out of the blackness of their own
souls."
        Michael suggested they all join in prayer for Simon, Ezra, and Lynn, and for the
work they will be doing, for their safety and success. Before they each went to bed, they
also prayed for Michael, for guidance for his future.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                       122




                                          Chapter 37

       Another hot, dry day dawned. Dust settled over the Wyoming landscape, then
whipped into swirling clouds of brown as the wind rose and fell. Joyce and Gilly helped
Ezra pack the trailer. Muscular from years of hard work, Gilly easily managed the heavier
boxes. “I guess I’m not as young as I used to be,” Ezra was rubbing his shoulder. His long
black hair showed streaks of gray.

        Joyce patted him on the back after she added two small boxes to the stack against
the side of the trailer. “None of us are, Ezra. Age happens to the best of us! I like the part in
the Bible that tells about gray hair. It says in Proverbs 20:29, ‘the beauty of old men is the
gray head!’” she smiled, stroking her graying curls.

       Lynn came out, arms loaded so high she could barely see over the top. She was
chuckling to herself. “I heard what you old folks were talkin’ about! All I can say is it’s a
good thing Simon’s going with us, ‘case we die along the road!” Everyone laughed.

        Joyce sat down, drawing a handkerchief across her forehead. “Sure warm today.”
She looked toward the sun. “Yes, it is a good thing Simon’s going, because he will be a
great witness. He’s a breath of fresh air! I love watching that young man help out wherever
there’s a need. He has the most willing spirit I’ve ever seen. Wade told me the other day
that Simon helped Ruth in her garden just for the joy of helping. Wade said he could see it
in his eyes. They’d been up checking cattle and were driving by Ruth’s. Simon saw her
struggling with her tiller and asked Wade to let him out so he could till the garden for her.
We’ll really miss him, but he’s doing what God wants him to do.”

      Lynn sighed as she sat down beside Joyce. “I’ll miss all of this too. It’s just so
amazin’ what’s happened here! God’s really brought us a long way.”

       They all started talking at once, chatting about the changes over the years. Then
Joyce stood and stretched. “I’d better get over and help Ellie with her preparations for the
big meal this evening. She’s been working hard, planning all the special dishes she knows
Simon loves. I guess all this work helps ease the ache she’s feeling.”

        As Ellie watched Simon leave the next day, she felt the emptiness of separation
again. “It seems I’m always saying goodbye to someone I love.” She leaned on Luke’s
shoulder, watching the small convoy of vehicles and trailers disappear down the road until
all she could see was a small cloud of dust.

         The summer passed quickly. Chris and Rose had their baby girl, Susan Blue Sky
Dunriver. Ellie was happy to be able to help out whenever Ruth would allow. Since it was
her first grandchild, she was not too willing to share. Randy was very proud of his new
Turquoise Sky                                                                                    123




cousin, always bringing some little gift for her. The small child helped fill a big gap for
Ellie. Having Michael home also helped soothe the ache she felt for Simon, although now
Michael was immersed in his job at High Hope.

        Ellie also noticed Michael was spending a lot of time with Janet, so she wasn't
surprised when he came home one evening, as she was putting supper on the table, and the
conversation turned to Janet.

         "Sometimes I don't know what to think, Mom. I'm twenty-four years old, but feel
like a schoolboy when I'm around her. I think I should get the "Stupid Sayings Award" for
all the dumb things I say! Still, she doesn't seem to mind, and she laughs! And Mom, that's
the one thing I don't remember Janet doing much of when we were kids." He stopped and
looked out the window.

       Ellie looked across at him. "I've noticed. I can't recall her being as happy as she
seems to be right now."

        Michael looked up as his dad walked in for supper. Luke sat at the table in his usual
place, asked the blessing on the food and over the remainder of the day, then started
passing the food.

          "Looks like we might get some rain." He glanced out the window at the gathering
clouds.

       "We could use some," Michael glanced out the same window. “Grasshoppers sure
are bad this year.”

       The meal progressed quietly, each lost in their own thoughts. Then Michael finally
spoke. "Dad, what would you think about me asking Janet to marry me?"

        Luke stopped, his fork in mid-air, and looked at Michael, surprise showing bluntly
on his face. "Uh, um, well, I guess you two have been spending a lot of time together this
summer. Um, have you talked this over with Janet?"

        "No, not yet, but I've kind of hinted at it. But believe me, I've prayed long and hard
about it."

        "We'll pray about it too, Son," Luke promised and reached out and gave Michael a
slap on the shoulder and continued eating, quietly.

       That night in bed, Luke confided in Ellie about his own concerns. "I love Janet like
my own. She’s a beautiful girl, but I’m not sure about this. I remember the struggle Susan
had being half-blood. Our grandchildren could have some of the same struggles."
Turquoise Sky                                                                                      124




        "But Susan didn't have people holding out the love and acceptance those children
will have, Luke. I understand your concern, but I also see their love. It's been pretty
obvious to me, and I know God can use that union."

        The next day, Janet and Michael came to visit Ellie. The weather had taken a
strange twist and the wind was blowing cold, the sky turned a deep slate, threatening rain.
Luke started a fire in the fireplace for Ellie before he left for the ranch. Ellie had a pile of
mending she wanted to get done, so she stayed home. She was thinking to herself how nice
it was to be home more. She had been stepping aside for a couple of months, letting Janet
do more of the administrative work. Ellie was compelled to be more in prayer, rather than
the hands-on work she'd been doing. As she sat there, her mending resting in her lap, she
realized it was time to pass the mantle on to Janet, as Sean had done for her years earlier.

       It's all for the children and grandchildren anyway. Everything High Hope
represents must be aimed at healing and teaching the young ones, and they must see the
healing in action, a living and breathing reality in the ones who have been healed. There is
so much out there to distract them, to pull them away from God's love.

       Being so lost in thought, she jumped when the door opened with a rush of cold
Wyoming wind following the kids into the house. After hot cocoa and some light
conversation, Ellie went into her office for Susan's notebooks.

       "Before I give these to you, Janet," Ellie took out the three notebooks that guided
and encouraged her over the years since Susan’s death. She’d also added one of her own. "I
want to read something Susan wrote." Janet sat down next to Michael, taking his hand
unconsciously.

       "There is a voice on the wind that blows through the turquoise sky of the Lakota, a
voice crying for freedom. Today I realize freedom is something only God can give through
Jesus Christ, and nothing can steal that freedom away from the one who takes hold of it,
not even death."

        Ellie looked at Janet with tender eyes. "This was written the day before Susan was
killed. Her voice was the one crying for freedom. She wanted to see her people set free,
like Moses in the Old Testament. When she died, I almost let that cry die with her because
of my own fears and doubts. But God…" she paused as she looked again at the two young
people before her. She stood and gazed past them out the window, into the mountains. "But
God touched me as He never had before as I read the words Susan wrote. He made me
realize that, no, I couldn't carry on -- not without Him and not without expecting Him to be
faithful. And not without the friends and family He’s given me, working shoulder to
shoulder. He surrounded me with so much love at that time."
Turquoise Sky                                                                                      125




        Ellie looked at the two young people she could tell were so full of love. "Let me
read something else Susan wrote." She took up one of the notebooks again and thumbed
back a few pages to find the spot she had marked. "Here it is, 'Will we ever really get
along? Haven't people always made war? These things happen because of greed and hatred,
but also to show us our desperate need for God.' Then Susan went on, 'I spent a summer
living in the mountains as our ancestral grandmothers did. There were twenty-three of us
seeking to return to our roots, living in harmony with nature, seeking a vision for our lives.
Our goal was to reclaim our destiny as Earth Mothers for future generations.

         “We were from several different tribes and thought we would prove it was possible
to live in peace with each other. But we failed to understand that only God offers peace.
We left at the end of August disillusioned and more frustrated than before.'"

        Ellie cleared her throat and glanced at Janet. "Susan continued: 'I write this because
I never want to lose sight of who I am. Many people look on the Indian lifestyle as a thing
of beauty, full of mystery. Yes, it can be, but it is also full of superstitions and fears and
perhaps always will be, but God has instructed me to carry His light into that darkness. Bad
things have happened, but it's time we shake the dust from our feet. It's time to get moving
out of bondage and despair and start taking back what is ours -- our freedom. I'm not
talking only about freedom from prejudice and injustice, but God’s freedom to live and
make a difference and show the way out of those wrongs.'"

       Ellie placed the notebooks into Janet's hands. "Let these guide you, instruct you,
and be a blessing to you as they have been to me, for now is the time for you to take the
place God has prepared for you."

        Tears stood in Janet's eyes, ready to fall. She looked at Ellie and softly said, "Please
pray that I would be as steadfast in this ministry, and in my life as I have witnessed in you."

        Just as Michael and Janet were getting ready to head back to the ranch, they heard
several cars come racing down the road past the house. Michael ran out and could see them
pull into the driveway at the ranch. He looked back at Ellie in confusion, then they all ran
for Michael’s truck.

        Bumping over the lane to the ranch house, Michael went as fast as he dared. “What
in the world is going on?” He pulled in next to Gilly’s pickup.

       They ran for the house in time to see the sheriff and several men running toward the
bunkhouse. Sean and Gilly came running out behind them, then Sean held up a hand for
Janet and Ellie to stay at the house. Michael caught up with them. “What’s happening? Is
someone hurt?”
Turquoise Sky                                                                                 126




       Before he could get an answer, they got to the bunkhouse and saw the sheriff
bringing Randy from the back room, in handcuffs.

        Michael looked at Sean. “What…”

        Sean held a hand up. The sheriff led Randy past them and to his car. Randy looked
straight ahead, silently refusing to look at Sean. They soon drove off, leaving everyone
stunned. Then Sean called them all into the house for a meeting.

       It took several minutes for everyone to arrive. Luke had been in town, arriving only
minutes after the sheriff left. Chris had to come from his house about 20 minutes away.

        “We have to wait for Chris!” Sean was pale, pacing the floor, hands stuffed deep
inside his pockets. “Let’s pray right now, while we wait for Chris.”

       Silence filled the room while they all prayed. Then Sean began to weep. His
shoulders heaved in mighty sobs. Janet went to her dad, “What is it, Dad?”

        “Wait.” He managed the single word. How am I going to tell Chris? Help me,
Lord!

        Finally, Chris walked in. Sean asked everyone to step into the other room while he
talked to Chris. Then in the privacy this afforded them, Sean began telling Chris what had
taken place.

      “Do you remember the girl Sheila, the one whose brother was a member of the Red
Arrows?”

        Chris nodded.

        “She went to the sheriff this morning with a box of documents she found hidden in
her brother’s apartment. They identified Black Wolf, Susan’s killer, as Randy Dunriver.”
Sean stopped when Chris stood up.

        “What?”

         “I guess Randy wrote a long letter to the Red Arrows, detailing why they must get
rid of Susan. He was upset that she got you involved in ‘the white man’s religion,’ the
letter said.”

      “I knew he was kind of upset, but he left for college and I never thought more of it.
He even went with me to a meeting where Susan was the speaker.”
Turquoise Sky                                                                                     127




        “Randy’s letter said he was angry that you refused to help fight for the Indian way.
He joined the Red Arrows and plotted Susan’s murder.” Chris sat back down, unable to
grasp all Sean was saying.

        “He’s been stealing money too, Chris. The sheriff called me this morning. I’m
really sorry about this, Chris.”

       With everyone back in the room, Sean told them that Randy had been arrested for
Susan’s murder. Shock echoed through the room; then disbelief, anger, and fear were all
evident in their voices. Then Sean continued.

      “Randy is also being charged with the murder of Pastor Arnold Shurrad in New
Mexico, at the homeless shelter Chris told us about a long time ago.”

       “But, Dad, he’s been here all this time! We trusted him, we loved him, and he
deceived us? How could we all be so blind?” Janet was weeping.

       Michael went to her and put his arm around her.

       “He’s also been skimming money from the accounts and supporting the Red
Arrows with money sent to High Hope to help bring healing to the young people here. And
none of us even had any clue this was happening! I just don’t understand how we could
miss this.”

        “Sean,” Chris stood up, placing his hand on Sean’s shoulder. “I feel so terrible! I
brought him here, into the heart of this ministry, into your trust, into the middle of the work
he tried to destroy. Oh, my friend, my brother, if he truly is the one who took the life of
your beloved, how can I ever show you how sorry I am!”

        “You never knew, Chris. There is no reason for you to be sorry.” He embraced
Chris, then turned to the group. “We have work to do, so first thing tomorrow, please be
here at 8:00 so we can get started. The books have to be gone through, letters have to be
written. Joyce, I’ll need your expertise here with words! And we have many calls to make.”

        Several days later, when Janet went for her daily ride up into the hills above the
ranch her thoughts were on Michael, on all that had unfolded with Randy the past week,
and on the work that lay ahead. Since Lynn left, Janet missed her intuition and the laughter
that would ring through the house. Lynn always had a way of cheering me up and guiding
me with her simple, down-to-earth wisdom. Now her work takes two people – Michael
taking over the bookkeeping since Randy’s arrest, and me doing the scheduling! Oh, how I
miss her! Her thoughts carried her to highs and lows as she wound her way along the trail.

       Stopping her horse, she looked down at the ranch. I still can’t believe what Randy
did! We trusted him with so much; I guess that’s why this is so painful.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                   128




        Everything down below was quiet for a change. Even the cattle seemed content in
their autumn location south of the buildings.

       She later rode into the corral, her horse kicking up dust as she went through the
open gate. She noticed a strange pickup truck parked next to her dad's, and she saw Ellie
and Luke just getting out of their new Bronco. They walked hand-in-hand into the house.

        She took the saddle off Jude and put it away. After rubbing him down and using the
curry comb on him, she gave him some oats. She closed the door to the stable, brushed off
her jeans and shirt, stomping the dust from her boots, and went to the house.

       As she pulled open the door, the fragrant aroma of coffee filled the air – an ever
present welcome to all. She poured herself a cup and sat at the table, not wanting to disturb
the people in the living room. Sean came out a moment later and was surprised to see her.

       "Hi, Dad," she smiled at him.

       "Janet, I'm glad you're here. I need to talk to you."

       "Sure," Janet looked up into his clear blue eyes, but she saw a troubled look.
"What's up?"

        Sean sat down next to his adopted daughter. "Janet, the people in the other room
have traveled a long and hard road to get here. They have come in humility and with a deep
need." He paused and looked at Janet. He took her hands in his. "They're your parents."

        Janet looked at Sean, tears instantly rimming her eyes and fear clutching at her
throat. When she finally found her voice she asked, "Do I have to face them?"

         "No, Janet. We will not force you to see them. But what I really want you to do is
search your heart and seek God to determine if you can allow the ministry of reconciliation
to take place in this situation. Take your time. They have come wanting forgiveness and
only you can offer that. And Janet, they are believers; two years ago they asked Jesus into
their lives and they’ve been searching for you ever since."

       Janet stood and started toward the entryway to the living room, but turned abruptly
and went back outside. Sean heard her little car start up and pull away. He knew she
needed time and prayed that her parents would understand.

        Her thoughts racing along with her car, Janet drove into the high desert, parked, got
out, and started walking. A gray chill was in the air as well as in her heart as she walked
through knee-high sage, leaving boot tracks in the dry, red soil. The sun was setting in a
Turquoise Sky                                                                                    129




blaze of orange under dark clouds, and the wind picked up debris and sent it into the air as
an offering. "My ancestors would think the soil was praying." She stared into the evening
sky, pulling her jacket tighter around her.

       "What would you have me do, Susan? What would God have me do? I know the
answer, but I'm not sure I can do it, and I’m not sure I’m willing to do it." Janet knelt down
and gave herself to tearful praying as she never had before.

         “Why now? Why now, in the middle of this upheaval over Randy? Why now when
I’m just starting to realize joy and peace and strength as never before? You know that I’m
falling in love with Michael, and now this! Is it because now You want me to trust You
even more?” She prayed longer into the growing darkness, then rose and walked back to
her car. She knew what she had to do.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                     130




                                         Chapter 38

        Michael paced from the window to the table and back again until he saw headlights
from a car turning at the gate. He ran out the door and caught Janet in his arms even before
she could close her car door. "I was so worried about you," he said into her ear as he held
her close.

        "I needed to deal with this,” she cried, tears falling onto Michael’s sleeve. “All that
hurt and rejection washed into me all over again. Michael, I was so scared. I didn't know if
I could forgive them, but then I realized that this is the ultimate opportunity to prove what
I've been preaching. I've been telling others to forgive those who hurt them, now it has
come to my doorstep and I have to walk in the trail I sent others to walk."

        Michael looked down at her smiling face. "I'm so proud of you." He released his
hold of her, stood back, then took her in his arms again. "Janet, will you marry me?"

         Without hesitation, Janet looked up into his deep brown eyes. "Yes, Michael, I
will."

       The next day, Janet told Sean about her decisions – to marry Michael and to meet
with her parents. "Dad, as I knelt in the desert last night, all kinds of thoughts came to me,
such as you not wanting me here anymore or not loving me, and I know how foolish I was
to even think that. It's time for me to trust as I've never trusted before. What my parents
brought me yesterday is an opportunity to walk in love and forgiveness, to show that what I
believe really works."

         "You've made some pretty important decisions in the last few hours. As much as I
love Michael, I want you to be sure this is right for you. I'm confident this wasn't an
impulsive thing for either of you, but you must be very sure. Marriage is not to be taken
lightly, even though the standards of this society seem to say otherwise."

        "I have thought about it; in fact, it's been pretty hard to concentrate on much else
recently!" Her smile was radiant as she leaned back on the couch and sighed.

         "So I've noticed," Sean agreed. "Have you set a date?"

         "Hopefully before much bad weather, maybe early November."

         "And what about meeting your parents; have you decided when to do that?"

         "Today! I have to do it right away, before I have second thoughts."

         "You can reach them at Pastor Edward's house, or do you just want to drive in?"

         "Will you call first for me? That way they can be there."
Turquoise Sky                                                                                    131




        "They'll be there, they're waiting for you." Sean looked down into Janet’s deep,
liquid eyes and saw her smile. He looked at her slender bronze hand resting gracefully in
his big rough one. He reached around her then and pulled her close, holding her for a few
seconds before saying, “I love you, my sweet daughter.”

       Janet’s drive to Pastor Edward’s seemed to take hours. She tried not visualizing
how this reunion would be. She didn’t know what to expect.

        Pastor met her at the door, a warm smile playing on his tanned face. His blonde hair
fell casually, parted on the left side of his head. He never seems to age, Janet thought as he
led her to the study where her parents waited.

       Janet’s voice trembled as she quietly spoke her forgiveness to her parents, who sat
with their heads down, hands wet with tears. A long period of silence followed, not an
uncomfortable silence, but one of deep thoughts and feelings.

       Peter was the first to speak. He looked at his daughter with love and respect. "The
people who taught us about Jesus had the same look I see in your eyes, Janet; so I know
your forgiveness is real.

        "Your mother almost died three years ago. That's when we started goin' to AA.
They kept sayin' to pray to God, but we didn't know God so we did some searching and
found a great church who helped us. Then we moved back here ‘bout a month ago and
found Pastor Edward. We both have suffered at our own hands and have caused others to
suffer too. You'll never know what pain we have in our hearts and how much your
forgiveness heals them."

        He stood up and walked over to Janet and placed a big, rough hand on her head. He
looked down at her as big tears fell from his eyes. He turned to his wife, Julia, and spoke to
her. Janet looked up at the Indian words he spoke, wondering why he didn't speak in
English.

       Peter saw the look in her eyes and said, "Your mother would never speak the white
man's words, so great was her hatred for them. She spent six months in jail and was beaten
many times. This was before you were born. The white jailers that mistreated her have
been forgiven in her heart, but she is having great difficulty learning the language."

       “Daughter, it is hard to give what we never had. Both of us were raised in Indian
boarding schools where they made us work hard, but never showed love, or even warmth.
Then when we were done with school, our lives were surrounded with apathy, alcohol, and
poverty.” Her father walked toward his wife, placing his big hand gently on her shoulder.
Turquoise Sky                                                                                      132




        Julia then stood and looked at her daughter, reaching for her, then drawing back.
Janet then wept openly before them and went to her mother. Her embrace was met with
eager arms and foreign words whispered into her ear.

       "She asks you to pray for her for it is hard to see what damage we have done to our
own lives, but it is good to see what good has come of yours!

       “We have a gift, made by your mother.” He handed her a silver cross with a
turquoise in the center. “The cross is for our hope in Jesus and the turquoise is an Indian
symbol of well-being. Please accept this small token, inadequate as it is, of our love for our
daughter.”

       With those words still echoing in her ears, Janet waved good-bye to her parents as
she drove out the driveway.

       The evening sun was setting behind the mountains. She drove in silence all the way
home, lost in thought. All these events the past few days – my parents finding me,
Michael’s proposal, and Randy’s deceitfulness exposed – so much to think about.

       Instead of going right home, Janet went to see Ellie. I have to talk to her.

        When Janet got there, the house was dark except for Ellie’s little office. She
knocked on the door before going in. The warm hug and smile assured Janet that Ellie was
glad to see her.

       “Ellie, I love you like a mother. You and Joyce have filled that vacancy in my life.
Now my natural mother has returned and I could see so much love in her eyes – so
swimming with tears the entire time we talked. It hurt terribly to see her pain and to see it
in my father’s eyes too. But, Ellie, it was also good to know they are believers.

       “Yesterday I wondered if my heart was big enough to include them in my circle of
love. Today, I’m positive that it is!

       “What confuses me is Randy. How could he live among us, be loved by us, and not
be changed?”

          “You know Lakota for ‘life’ – we-choo-nee. Jesus came to give life to all who seek
it, like it says in John 10:10, ‘The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but I am come that
they might have life, and that more abundantly.’” Ellie looked tenderly at Janet, who
nodded.

        “Randy allowed himself to play into the enemy’s hand. I am indeed sad it turned
out this way, but he was so blinded by hatred, evidently he couldn’t see our love. I believe
what the enemy meant for our harm, actually turned out for our good! For every dime
Turquoise Sky                                                                                133




Randy stole from us, God blessed us with abundance. When an eagle flies over the earth,
he never seems to notice the strong winds on the surface.

      “So many years ago, when I first met Susan, she had an eagle feather hanging from
a wooden cross…”

       “Yes! Dad still has it in his room!” Janet said brightly.

        “I didn’t understand the symbolism of that combination until one day, after I’d
struggled with emotional turbulence over not wanting to be in Wyoming, Susan took my
hand and prayed for me, saying those words about the eagle.

        “High Hope’s life really began when Susan’s ended. We have seen many victories
since that time, and I have confidence we will see many more. God will give you His grace,
mercy and wisdom so everyone will hear the Voice of the One crying in the turquoise sky,
offering hope and promise for a brighter future. Had Luke given in to my anger and
resistance, we would have missed so much. The path the Lord placed before us was indeed
paved with wonder and love, and with High Hope!”

								
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