Chapter 1

For Heaven Leigh, life is good. So why does she feel increasingly unhappy?

               Leigh gazed across the valley from behind her steaming mug. A light fog had settled in during the night, but Leigh knew it would soon dissipate.

               In her opinion, this was the best time of the year. Most of the trees were still bare, but new buds were forming. The grass was becoming a brighter shade of green. The songbirds would soon return from their yearly migration, their songs providing a pleasant accompaniment to these otherwise quiet moments.

                Leigh watched in wonder as the first streaks of sunlight bathed the distant hills in golden splendor. She had never tired of this morning ritual. To her, it was as natural as breathing. It was a practice her mother, Ruth, had instilled in her. Ruth had cherished her “Sunrise Sabbatical,” as she had called it. Even after giving birth to her only child, she continued the habit, bringing baby Leigh out on the porch with her. Now, at thirty-two, Leigh treasured this tradition, as well.

                As the sun continued its ascent, the deep orange slowly morphed into a bright yellow. The fog below began to dissolve as the morning air warmed. Watching the beauty unfold, Leigh sipped her coffee and let her mind wander.

                Life had been good, but it had delivered a few harsh blows, as well.

                When Leigh was nine, her mother, Ruth, died after battling cancer for two long years.  Leigh was crushed, but her father, Walt, was her rock. He was patient when she spewed her questions, fears, and anger.  When the emotions had been spent, however, he would wrap his arms around her, soothe her, and ask God to heal them both.

                Five short months later, Walt died in a car accident on his way home from work. Leigh was immediately taken to a girls’ orphanage while authorities scrambled to find any relatives who would be able to adopt her.

                Another three months passed, leaving even more changes in its wake. After a few weeks at the Hope House orphanage, Leigh met her Aunt Olivia, moved with her to Chicago, and started a new school. She settled in to her new life, and her heart slowly mended.

                Leigh graduated, attended a Christian college, and, finally, received a teaching degree.

                Olivia commemorated Leigh’s achievement with a surprise party, a new car, and an aged manila envelope. Intrigued, Leigh waited until the party was over, then, in the privacy of her room, opened the envelope. Inside, she found documents from a law firm in Virginia. She noticed the date on the letterhead was shortly after her father’s death. Reading the documents, she learned that her parents had bequeathed their Virginia home to her. The will stipulated that Leigh was not to inherit the property until she turned 25 or graduated college, whichever came first.

                Shocked, Leigh weighed her options. She didn’t care for the city life, but it did offer more opportunities in regards to her career. She didn’t remember much from her childhood, except gently rolling hills, and her mother’s Sunrise Sabbaticals. Moreover, moving to Virginia would mean leaving behind the only family she had. After careful consideration, Leigh decided to sell the home in Virginia. She contacted the law firm listed on the documents and told them of her decision. They agreed to make the necessary arrangements. In the days and weeks that followed, however, Leigh noticed a feeling of regret. Although she had no memories of the house itself, she felt like she was losing her parents all over again. Finally, she shared her concerns with Olivia. Together, they prayed for guidance and peace. Ultimately, Leigh informed the law firm that she would, indeed, keep the Virginia house.

                Within six months, Leigh had settled in to her new home, landed a teaching job at the local high school, found a church to attend, and familiarized herself with people who remembered her as a child, although she herself recollected little about those early years. She also began meeting new people, the two most dear to her heart being Miss Nellie and Matthew Brewer.

                Miss Nellie was the church pianist. She loved wearing bright colors, had a quick wit, and was adept at getting to the heart of the matter in any situation . Miss Nellie was in her late sixties; however, her point-blank wisdom made her seem older, while her sassy personality made her seem younger. Leigh quickly came to love this quirky widow, viewing her as a maternal figure and best friend.

                Leigh first met Matthew Brewer during the quarterly Fellowship Festival, a weekend gathering for all local churches.  They became colleagues the following year, when Leigh’s application was accepted at Grace Academy. Matthew was the dean, and Leigh became the professor of the school’s Contemporary Christianity class. The two quickly developed a close friendship. When the relationship became more serious, however, they took their time, waiting two years before finally marrying.

                Leigh was then struck with another blow. She learned that she was unable to have children. Leigh and Matthew had both wished for a large family. Consequently, they discussed their options. After lengthy debates, they decided they would adopt.

                After a few years of teaching at the Academy, Leigh decided to offer classes on the Internet, as well. After several months of praying, debating, and planning, she founded Mary’s Place, inspired by the Biblical story of a woman who desired to sit at Jesus’ feet and learn from Him. After designing her lesson plans for her Contemporary Christianity class, Leigh was typically able to offer the same curriculum for her Mary’s Place students.

                Presently, Leigh was pleased with life. Matthew was her strongest encourager and her gentlest critic. Their bond deepened with each passing year. Her career as a professor both fulfilled and challenged her. She deeply loved her students and had a strong rapport with many of them. Leigh and Matthew were blessed to have financial stability, good health, and a close-knit community of friends.

                “So why do I have this feeling of dissatisfaction, Lord?”, she thought. She had noticed just a twinge of discontent lately.

                Pulling herself from her reverie, Leigh cast another glance at the sky and sighed. Reluctant as always to end this early-morning tranquility, she rose. The day had begun, and if she didn’t hurry, it would leave her behind.

The End

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