Authors: Melanie Wilber
by Melanie Wilber
© 2006 by Melanie L. Wilber
Revised and Updated, 2013
All Rights Reserved.
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author’s imagination. Except for well-known historical and contemporary figures, any resemblance to actual events or persons is entirely coincidental.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Scripture quotations are taken from the
, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
For anyone who has lost a loved one;
Grace and peace to you, from God our Father.
You will keep on guiding me with your counsel,
leading me to a glorious destiny.
“I love these new flowers,” Annika said, smiling broadly and looking over her shoulder at Joshua who had strolled into the kitchen. “How do You come up with these amazing new colors? What do You call that?”
Joshua smiled. “I think I’ll call that one, Annika’s Delight.”
She laughed. “You always say that.”
“Call it whatever you like. I made it just for you.”
Annika thought for a moment. Checking her Earth calendar, she saw it was the first day of October there. “How about October Joy?”
“Appropriate,” Joshua said.
“What’s that supposed to mean? Do you have some surprises for me this month?”
Annika finished watering the flowers she had planted two weeks ago in the windowsill of her cozy cottage overlooking the Crystal Sea. She had been here for five years, but she still wasn’t used to how fast a seed could turn into a beautiful bounty of flowers, nor the amazing shapes, patterns, and colors Joshua could come up with.
“Is the mail here yet?” she asked.
“I didn’t hear the doorbell, did you?”
“I know. I know. First things first. I’m coming, I just had to see if these were as amazing as when they started to bloom yesterday.”
Grabbing some fresh strawberries from the bowl on the counter and some warm bread Joshua had made before she’d gotten out of bed this morning, Annika took her plate to the parlor and sat down in the comfortable chair across from Joshua. He did have a bit of a twinkle in His eye this morning, and she wondered what He was up to, but He would tell her--all in due time.
“How were your Joy-Sightings yesterday?” Joshua asked.
“Joyful.” She smiled. “What else?”
He waited for her to get serious with Him. And she wanted to, but those flowers had already overloaded her joy quota for the day. What did He expect? She reminded herself Joshua had to bear the sorrow of those still living on Earth, and she knew hearing about her happiness would add to His, so she shared every detail.
“Ryan gave my sweet Tabitha a purity bracelet. It is beautiful, and her eyes were shining like I’ve never seen before, even more than when her daddy gave her that brand new flute for Christmas last year.”
Joshua smiled and nodded like He remembered both occasions well, from her perspective here and from His there among her precious loved ones.
“Is Tabby going to marry Ryan?” she asked, just in case Joshua was in the mood to tell her a secret. He had told Erika a secret once, so she always asked if it was something she really wanted to know.
Joshua smiled, and she knew she wasn’t getting that out of Him, at least not today. She would keep asking, but for now she moved on to her other Joy-Sightings--events happening on Earth of special interest to her, and also those she had been a part of here in Paradise.
On Earth, Andrew had been at her grave site, and she met him there. He looked well. At peace. He brought her pink roses. Maybe that’s why she had been so anxious to see her latest flower variety in full bloom. They were a shade of pink too. October Joy Pink. She couldn’t describe it any other way.
“I know I ask you this all the time, but Andrew’s going to be all right, isn’t he?”
“He’s fine, Annika,” Joshua said, but there was that twinkle in His eye again. Yes, He was definitely up to something.
She asked Joshua to take care of her family every day, and He always promised He would. She believed Him, but she also wondered how they were doing on any given day. She couldn’t always know that. Some things were not for her to see, Joshua said, but the happy-endings and victories following times of great sorrow or strife--she was always invited to observe those moments at the Great Window, her private view into the lives of her loved ones and anything else Joshua wanted her to see. The good stuff. The stuff that brought delight to her soul. And she went there at least once every single day, so it was impossible for her to dwell on anything negative. Joshua was too powerful and faithful for that.
When she finished restating the events Joshua had been beside her to see, she had a familiar feeling of being glad she had taken time to share them. For Him and the joy He received from her happiness, and for herself and the double joy of sharing things with Joshua. She never got tired of it.
He shared His thoughts with her then, and she was overtaken with the feeling of His infinite love for her. A love that had brought her into existence. A love that had blessed her with a wonderful earthly life. A love that made her aware of His constant presence, even when He had been invisible to her on the Other Side. And a love that brought her to this place of complete restoration, unhindered love, unstoppable peace, and unending joy.
But He kept her guessing every day. What Joy-Sightings would she see today? What invitations would be handed to her when she opened the door this morning? Whom would she have bread and wine with here at her cottage? Whom would she be meeting at Starhaven or in the Meadow or on Jasper Island? She couldn’t wait to find out.
“Before you get your mail today, I have something to tell you,” Joshua said. His voice was neither mischievous nor overly serious. “You better get an early start because you have a lot of people to meet. It’s going to be a busy month.”
She smiled. “Does that mean I can get started?”
He laughed. “Yes, Annika. Have fun, but don’t try to figure everything out today. It will become clear in due time, I promise.”
She heard the doorbell ring. “Don’t say that,” she laughed. “Whenever you say, ‘I promise’, things get crazy!”
He laughed. “It will be all right, Annika. I promise.”
Joshua didn’t lie about the volume of mail, that’s for sure. Sorting through the messages delivered by the sweet little boy who had been her morning messenger for awhile now, Annika tried to decide where to go first. She had some definite times she needed to be at places here in New Jerusalem, but she could go to the Great Window at any time.
Often she went there first and then returned later in the day when she finished with her scheduled meetings, but she would be there until tomorrow if she did that. There were too many.
She would have to stop by on her way from Erika’s cottage to Starhaven, catch another Joy-Sighting on her way back to have lunch here with Grandma and Grandpa, and then another on her way to Jasper Island to meet someone she didn’t know, a gentleman named Levi. If Grandma and Grandpa didn’t stay too long, that is. And she hadn’t seen them for at least a week, so she wouldn’t be anxious to let them go. Of course, if she was having a busy month, maybe they were too. Unless all the activity involved another branch of the family tree.
No Pearly Gate invitations today, so that was a plus. Those always took forever. It was like trying to weave her way through a Fourth of July Parade, even with Joshua’s help. But she never wanted to miss one. Everyone had shown up for her Arrival: close family-members and friends who had gone on before her, and the hundreds she didn’t know but had somehow known her or Joshua wanted her to meet on her first day here. She had never imagined such a hullabaloo over her entrance into Paradise, but she would never forget that day.
Joshua had carried her from the mangled car by the side of the road she couldn’t remember crashing, through the bright light a few paces away, and straight through the most beautiful doorway she had ever seen, made of a single pearl just like Joshua’s Word said. And then she heard the music coming over the Crystal Sea, smelled the fragrant aroma of the New Earth Gardens, tasted the sweet grapes and strawberries a beautiful little girl offered her, and then turned to see Joshua, who had been right there the whole time, but she suddenly thought to look and see who had brought her to this glorious Place.
His Name had spilled easily from her lips. She didn’t know how she knew it was Him or to call Him that, but she did. And then she fainted right there in the Courtyard for all to see, but Joshua had brought her around soon enough, and His first words to her had been, “Don’t be afraid, Annika. It’s just Me. Welcome Home.”
Andrew Morgan drove into the long-term parking lot of San Francisco International Airport and found an empty space. Reaching for his phone that had alerted him to a text message a few minutes ago, he saw it was from Tabitha, and he smiled at her sweet words.
Have a nice trip, Dad. I love you. Miss you already.
He responded, saying he loved and missed her too, and he also sent a quick message to his oldest daughter, Grace. He hadn’t been up early enough to say good-bye to her this morning before she left for work, and he needed to remind her to pick up Tabby from school and take her for her driver’s test. Tabitha had begun her senior year of high school, was trying for her license today, and had started dating a boy late in the summer. From everything he could tell thus far, she was completely gone on him too. His youngest daughter was growing up.
Tabitha hadn’t dated until Ryan Sutherland finally got around to asking her in mid August, something Andrew had suspected would happen sooner or later. Ryan was a good kid. If Tabitha had to be dating anyone, he didn’t think he could make a better choice for her. Ryan was the oldest of the four Sutherland boys growing up from young grade-schoolers when he had first become the pastor of Sunrise Community Church nine years ago to the teenagers they were today. Mild mannered, good-looking, polite, and extremely talented, Ryan was one of the student-leaders within the youth program along with Tabitha, and they had been friends before Ryan made his move.