Merry Christmas! It’s Fiction Friday

Merry Christmas! I’ll help you celebrate with this excerpt from my first published book.

It’s the time of year when people read holiday tales and binge all the silly romances on the Hallmark Channel.

If you prefer a visit to the Nativity, this month’s excerpt comes from A Pondering Heart. It’s the story of Mary of Nazareth.

This peak inside the covers of the book is the second half of the first chapter. Imagine you’re a teenage girl telling her father about an unexpected pregnancy. And you’re a virgin. But an angel told you you would become pregnant before you’re married.

This is how I imagined the scene:

Anna huffed, arms crossed over her chest, when she shuffled
down into the small room she shared with Father. Father
and I had spent time together in the evenings since before my
mother died. He taught me to read, write, and do sums. Some
might accuse him of defying tradition (only men need these
skills). However, teaching his daughter—who in turn taught
her sisters—was a necessity. With all the labor required to
keep the farm going, he didn’t have energy for the record

I scanned the largest room in my father’s house rather
than looking him in the eye. I recalled all the hours of sitting
here to eat with my family. I recalled sitting around the fire
listening to Father’s deep voice teach us the stories from the
Torah. Now, the silence pressed against me like a weight. If I
listened closely, I could hear my brothers whispering in their
bed behind a hanging goatskin less than twelve spans away.

My father’s hand patted my shoulder, and I turned my
gaze toward him. Black eyes dwarfed the portion of his face
not covered by his mostly gray beard. Heli bar Matthat, my
father, concealed a host of emotions behind those dark eyes. I
blinked to keep the tears stinging my own eyes from betraying
how weak I really felt.

I knelt like a common servant at his feet, my hands
clenched together. My heart felt lower than the hardened
earth beneath my aching knees. He was sending me away to
Elisabeth. I hadn’t seen her in seven years. She came to care
for Jesse after Mother died giving birth to him. Elisabeth, wife
to a priest, had no children of her own and could be spared to
spend several months with a widower and his three children
until a more permanent caregiver could be found.

“I will arrange for you to travel with a merchant.” Father’s
voice, low and gravelly, revealed what his face did not: disappointment,
a hint of despair.

“Abba, I swear I’m telling the truth.” I sounded like my
youngest brother, Caleb, tattling on Jacob, who was closest to
him in age.

Father’s warm, calloused finger tilted my chin upward.
The waning candlelight reflected off moisture in his eyes.
“I have always known you were special, Mary.”

My lips trembled, smiling at his words. The tension gripping
my heart loosened, making it easier to breathe. He
believed in me. Warmth swelled my heart.

“You must not tell others,” he said.

A knot twisted my stomach. Not tell others? But once my
condition became evident, they would believe the worst about
me. Did Father expect me to bear their judgments silently?

Heat flooded my face as if I stood before an open flame.

“They will believe what they want,” he said. “It is the
nature of people to believe the worst. If you tell them . . .”
I watched his throat wobble beneath his whiskers. My
shame would be his shame.

“Abba, no,” I said, unable to keep a tear from streaking
down my upturned face. “People will speak ill of you. I can’t
bear it.”

“If I can bear their scorn, you can bear it.” His harsh tone
startled me. “We know the truth. Nothing anyone says will
change it.”

“But Joseph . . .”

Tears choked me. The thought of seeing pain in his gentle
eyes raked across my soul. His opinion of me mattered almost
as much as my father’s. Joseph was older, but he had pursued
me specifically, even though other girls had more appealing
dowries. He would know we hadn’t been together. He would
think I had . . .

More heat flooded through my face and spread down my
chest until I thought I might burst into flame.

“We will meet with him together,” Father said. “I will
explain your situation to him. Just the three of us.”

“I’m sorry.”

How could calloused hands be so gentle? He pulled me
up, holding me on his lap as he often did with the young ones.
I couldn’t remember the last time I was held this way. Safe,
for the moment, in his arms.

“Never be sorry when Jehovah’s plans are not your own.”
His warm breath, smelling of wine and thyme, tickled my
cheek. “His ways are not our ways, daughter. They are
higher. We can’t understand, but we can obey.”

My chin shivered, making answering him difficult. “Yes,

My father’s reputation would soon lie in ruins. And it was
all my fault. No man would ever marry me. I was sullied. I
tried to imagine sharing this house with Father and Anna and
the young ones, carrying my own child bound to my chest.
Anna would dislike me even more. It would be worse than a
death sentence.

And so I sobbed late into the night. Did I even weep this
much when my mother died? My pillow muffled the
anguished sounds, so my siblings slept undisturbed
around me.

I spilled so many tears that night I doubted the straw
inside the linen cover would ever be dry again.

If you want to keep reading, the ebook of this story is only $1.99 through the end of the year. Grab it here.

Or contact me and order an autographed paperback as the perfect gift for your mother, grandmother, or sister.

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