Since the day he left prison, Michael Carson sought a second chance. Helping troubled teens in a church youth group seemed a good place to start. Working alongside youth leader Maggie Simmons, Michael could see his new life before him--a life he hoped would include smart, pretty Maggie. But because of her painful past, she was wary of trusting anyone, least of all an ex-con. When circumstances beyond his control threatened to pull him away from Maggie and the kids, Michael prayed he could resist old temptations and keep God--and Maggie--close to his heart.
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August 01, 2007
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Excerpt from Trusting Him by Brenda Minton
Afternoon sunlight filtered through the living-room windows of the trailer, dispelling the gloom but not the tight feeling of dread in Maggie Simmons's stomach. She felt it to the very core, twisting and wrenching--a six-year-old ache that had healed but left scars. She didn't want to be here, not alone, not when shadows drifted into the corners and every noise, even the slightest creak, sounded ominous.
Something scurried across the floor, taking cover under the couch. Maggie shrieked and jumped back, feeling silly little dance she had done when it ran past her.
The new tenant would have to deal with the old tenant, the one who probably lived somewhere inside the used plaid sofa the church had bought for the trailer some years ago, back when the place served as a parsonage for their pastor. The way Maggie saw it, the mouse had squatter's rights. The trailer had been empty for six months.
She walked to the back bedroom armed with a dust rag, broom and furniture polish. ing of him as a tenant renting from the church. He planned on being more than that. She bristled when she thought back on the conversation with Pastor Banks, the one where he had told her that Michael Carson would be attending their church, and that eventually he would like to help with the after-school project.
"What are you snarling about?"
Maggie jerked back from the dresser she was dusting and turned. She didn't have to guess how her friend, Faith, had found her. Maggie's grandmother would have told her, and probably would have even asked Faith to check on her.
"I'm not snarling. I'm cleaning. It never makes me happy. And you shouldn't sneak in and scare a person like that."
"You're a clean freak. Of course cleaning makes you happy.You like to send those dust bunnies on the run. I think you're snarling because your granny has some awesome fried chicken on the stove, and she invited me to eat with the two of you. And you know I can eat more than you."
"Yes, that's it. I'm snarling because my best friend is a bottomless pit with a stinkingly fast metabolism."
"All part of my charm." Faith grabbed the broom and started to sweep the hallway. "And you're upset because you are going to have an uninvited guest in your life. He's suspect, I'm telling you that much. I wouldn't trust him at all."
Maggie shook her head and walked away. Faith followed. "It isn't that I don't trust him." Maggie dusted the ceiling light in the living room, sending dust and cobwebs floating to the floor to be swept up later. She brushed a strand of web off her cheek and blew at the dust floating in front of her face. "I just want the best thing for the after-school program. We've managed to get the neighborhood kids off the street. We're teaching them to care about others, and to have goals."
Kids could come to the church after school, knowing that someone would be there for them. They were given snacks, homework help and roles in community projects so that they could learn to help others. In the summer she planned boating, hiking and other activities to keep them out of trouble.
Members of the church had even volunteered to mentor and teach the kids different skills that they might not learn at home. One taught sewing, another cooking, one gentleman taught the boys about cars and another taught gardening.
It was about more than going to church. It showed them the importance of fellowship and helping others. They were growing.
Years ago Maggie had been one of these kids, she knew what they needed. She wanted to be the person who was there for them.
Faith walked up behind her, resting her chin on Maggie's shoulder. "It'll work out, Mags. I know this is hard for you, letting this guy in--not just into your ministry, but into your life. But even you've said that you needed help. Maybe this is God's--"
"Plan? Yeah, maybe so. Don't worry, I'm not going to run him off. I'll give him the chance he deserves."
"You're a strong woman, Maggie.You'll get through this." Maggie nodded and walked to the door. She expected to see them driving up at any moment. Pastor Banks had driven the few hours to the state prison in central Missouri to pick up Michael because he had asked his family for one day to get settled before seeing them. It was nearly five o'clock. It wouldn't be much longer. "I'll be back in a sec. I have a cooler of bottled water in my car. I thought maybe you'd need something to drink, and I figured you forgot to bring something." Faith slid past her and out the front door.
Maggie watched Faith leave. Faith had asked her the same question as Pastor Banks. What bothered her about this? Michael Carson's past didn't upset her. Most people had a past. Not everyone had made mistakes as big as his, but hadn't they all made mistakes?
It wasn't his past. It was hers that made this so difficult. Her memories of a mother who could never seem to quit using drugs, followed by Maggie's own years of rebellion, were the real problem. Choices she had made, wrong decisions--those things haunted her. A night that she couldn't reclaim added to the heap. A dark road, a guy she had trusted, pushing her to go where she hadn't wanted to go.