In Search of Eden Online - Linda Nichols

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank all my friends, both writerly and not, who have held my hand and encouraged me during the writing process and who have upheld me with their prayers. Readers and friends I’ve never met have prayed for me regularly, making me realize again what an incredible bond we have in Christ, whether we meet on this earth or later in our Father’s home.

Debbie Macomber, Susan Plunkett and Krysteen Seelen have been wonderful, as have Sherrie Holmes, Sherry Maiura, Bob Moffat, JoAnn Jensen, and MaeLou Larson, the Thursday night scribes. My agent, Theresa Park, has seen me through this journey as she has the others. I would also like to thank Sharon Asmus and Carol Johnson for their wonderful editing as well the entire Bethany House staff—pros one and all.

The book would not have been written without the testimony of Lloyd and Joan Brown, two of my heroes.

As always, my devotional life spills over into my writing. To that end, I want to thank all the teachers of grace. Billy Sarno, pastor of Tacoma Foursquare Church, and three other wonderful Christian pastors and writers have blessed me incredibly: John Eldredge, David Seamands, and Steve McVey. I would also like to thank the people at Tacoma Foursquare who have loved me and prayed for me and my family.

Finally, I would like to thank my cousin, Lane Perry, who gave me the inspiration to visit Abingdon and set my story there. I have taken certain liberties with Abingdon’s geography and places. Its charm and history are true.

“He will make her wilderness

like Eden,

and her desert like the garden

of the Lord.”

ISAIAH 51:3 AMP

Prologue

Eden’s hands trembled as she opened the heavy box. She had waited ten years to look at its contents—until the conditions in the instructions had been met. Wait until you don’t need to know what’s inside the box to know who you are inside your heart, the tag had said. So each year on her birthday she had asked herself if the time was right. And each year something inside her had hesitated, and so she had put it away. This year, on her twenty-first, with college and Christmas and applying to police academy, she had almost forgotten about the box. Mom had reminded her, looking at her with a steady, settled smile. So she knew the time was right.

She lifted off the lid and carefully folded back the sheets of tissue paper. She gave a half smile of puzzlement when she saw the contents. It wasn’t what she’d been expecting.

It was an artist’s spiral sketch pad—a huge one—and with so many things glued to and stuck between the pages that it bowed out into an arc of papery waves. A scrapbook of sorts, but raw and lively, not polished and cleanly edged. The front was covered with a collage of glue-bubbled images: a country road heading off into the woods, babies and mothers, an iceberg. She fanned the pages and saw sketches and tiny watercolors, handwritten and typed entries, and more magazine pictures. She didn’t understand. But she would, and she was finally ready. She opened the front cover, and there inside was an envelope addressed to her. Her heart began to beat faster. She opened the flap and slid out the solitary piece of stationery.

Dearest Eden, she read.

Today is your birthday. I don’t know if I will see you, or even if I’m a part of your life. But I want you to know that you are in my heart, as you always have been. I think of you every day. I pray for you every day. I pray that your life will be happy and blessed. I pray I did the right thing.

My friend says the luckiest people are the ones who don’t walk away. Those words have settled in, and I carry them around with me because, for most of my life, I was what you would call unreliable. It’s not that I wanted to be that way. It’s just who I became. I have walked away from almost everything in my life at least once. When things became marred, I always thought they were ruined. I was the kind of person my friend would say was unlucky because I floated away from things like dandelion fluff drifts off in the breeze. Almost before I realized it, I let go of people and jobs and promises and just slipped away, the wind lofting me off to someplace new. But I am getting ahead of myself—another one