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The sun was warm on her face as she set her feet down on the white sidewalk in front of the state offices.  She looked at the list of charities Mr. Phelps had given her.

Wanting to hold onto the four dollars she had in her pocket, she decided to walk home.  He hip was feeling better now. Exercise seemed to ease the pain a bit, but she was already bracing for the low dull ache that would keep her up into the night.

She hobbled along at a leisurely pace.  A hot dog cart on the corner had a make shift sign on it.

“All dogs $1”

She fished two crumpled dollar bills out of her pocket.  One hot dog with the works and one plain for later back home.  Sharing a hot dog with Cat was not her idea of a hot date, but at least they would have something in their stomachs tonight when she got home.

She took a seat in the shade of a live oak tree where a cool Texas winter breeze had picked sending cold chills down her spine. She savored each bite of the hot dog with kraut, mustard, relish and ketchup oozing out the sides.  She licked every last smudge of sauce from her fingers before wiping them on the wax wrapper the hot dog vendor had given her.

She slipped the wrapper in her pocket hoping to find a trash can up the road.  Her eyes narrowed as the despair began to overwhelm her again. “Get a grip old girl.  You’ll make it.  You always do.”

A few more steps… That is all she needed to take. She stepped up with her good leg while pulling her aching left leg behind her.  The steps up to her condo seemed to be growing larger and higher with each passing second.  
Just then, a teenager that she recognized from her floor opened the large safety door to the refurbished warehouse.  He saw her hobbling up the steps and smiled.  “Let me help you up.”
He came along side and gripped her elbow before gently lifting her left side up the remaining steps to the landing of the front stoop. “Do you need help up to your apartment?”
“No, thank you.”  Martina felt the flush in her cheeks begin to creep down her neck.  “I think I can manage now.  Thank you.”
“No prob.  See you around.”  The boy hopped down the steps three at a time before jogging down the street to a waiting car of young men. 
As the freight elevator groaned to a stop on the third floor, Martina noticed a large box sitting in front of her door.  She walked slowly toward it waiting for something bad to happen. The tears she had been fighting for hours now fell free.  Huge wet puddles of relief pooled on the collar of her shirt. 
She reached down and plucked a business size envelope off the top.  
She pulled out four crisp one-hundred dollar bills wrapped in a note.  Her heart pounded wildly in her chest.  Maybe her dad had really been here this morning.  Could he really want to be a part of her life after all these years?
She unfolded the crisp white paper while cradling the fresh, new bills in her other hand.  She read the words printed there once, and then again.  She could hardly believe it.
Miss Duncan,
As you walked out of my office today I clearly heard the Lord say, ‘She’s at the end of her rope.’  My job may not be able to provide you the assistance you need, but I can help as much as I can.  I hope this will carry you through the next couple of weeks until I can get by with more supplies.  Please call the hospital social worker.  Deb is a great gal and she specializes in helping people like you through a rough patch.
I’d also like to invite you to my church tomorrow evening.  We’re having a night of prayer and encouragement.  If you’d like to come please call the number listed on the business card in this envelope.  My wife and I would be glad to stop by and pick you up.
Your brother in Christ,
Don Phelps
She crumpled the letter into her hand with the money he’d provided.  Pulling the envelope open wide she watched as his card slid out and fell to the floor.  She picked up the small piece of cardstock and stared at it in disbelief.
She stuffed the note, envelope and bills into her pocket before lodging the card between her teeth.  Kneeling down gingerly as a sharp pain shot up her side she began to sift through the items in the box.  Several cans of vegetables, some boxed casseroles and a small styrofoam cooler with meat were the bulk of the items inside.  He had also included two packages of toilet paper, two packages of paper towels and a variety of snacks and breakfast foods.  To her delight a mesh bag of apples and oranges were lodges beneath several bags of chips and three boxes of wet cat food was placed underneath the cooler. 
She laughed out loud recalling the portion of the application that called for dependents.  She had jokingly put Cat in the first blank.  After all, the little ball of fluff was dependent on her for his every need.
“Thank you, Mr. Phelps.”
She fished her key out of the small hand bag she was carrying and opened her front door.  She pushed the box through the opening with her good leg before stepping inside and shutting the door.  Cat came around the corner purring and mewing softly.  He pressed his warm, firm ribs up against Martina’s leg and began to rub and purr all the more.
Martina reached down and rubbed Cat’s soft gray fur. “How you doing old boy?”
She began plucking out the boxes and cans of groceries up to carry them to the cupboard. She felt the faintest hint of a smile creeping to her face.  “Look what Momma’s got, Cat.  Mr. Phelps bought us some vittles.”
She was winded by the time she finished pulling the styrofoam chest out of the box and deposited it’s treasures into the freezer.  When she returned to move the box outside for trash pick up she notices a small brown packages shoved into the corner of the box.  
She picked it up and deposited the box outside of her door.
Once she was back inside, she plugged in her heating pad and settled down in her recliner to open the package from the box.  
She carefully lifted the corner of the packaged noticing that a leather covered book was inside.  When she had removed all the paper she sat and stared at the most beautiful leather Bible she had ever seen.  It was etched with flowers and vines and had her name pressed into the corner with gold cursive letters. She ran her fingers along the edge wondering what had prompted this man to give her such an expensive gift.
“I told you I would never leave you or forsake you child.  Mr. Phelps is one of my boys.  He looks out for my kids. I told him to check on you today.”
Martina’s head jolted upright. A tinge of uncertainty played with her head.  “Who’s there?”
“It’s me Tina, your father.”
Tina pulled the Bible up from her lap and deposited with a thud onto the table beside her chair.  “Yeah, right.”
She ran her fingers through her hair and closed her eyes.  “My father doesn’t give a flip about me.  Why should you?”
“Tina, I’ve loved you with an everlasting love and I’m drawing you to myself.  I’m waiting for you.”
She looked at the Bible and realized that she used to love playing Sunday school as a little girl.  She would hold her one doll and read to her from the hard covered children’s Bible her mother had given her. She smiled for the first time in weeks.  “Is that really you, God?”
“Why don’t you open the cover and find out.”
Martina’s hand pulled the Bible back into her lap.  She pulled a pair of reading glasses from a case laying on the table.   After setting the glasses gingerly on her nose she gently pulled the cover open and flipped to the feather light page where an inscription was written in a lady’s handwriting.
 When Don called and told me your story, it broke my heart.  Your Father in heaven has been telling me about you.  He wants you to know how much He loves you and that He’s going to take care of you. He loves you, baby girl. He’s your Daddy and He wants to meet your every need.  He wants to heal you, too.  Don and I are praying for you sweet girl.  We love you, too. 
John 3:16
The words seemed to flitter up off the page and land in her heart.  That well of pain and sorrow she had tapped into earlier was slowly being drowned out by a deep and settling peace. “Thank you, God.”
Come back tomorrow to learn more about Tina’s story.
(c) 2010 Michelle Bentham, All Rights Reserved.  This story is fiction.  Any resemblance to persons living or dead is not intentional. 

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