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Author Topic: 18, No Time to Waste  (Read 5676 times)
Soldier4Christ
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« on: September 26, 2006, 10:47:07 PM »

From the Back Cover of the Book . . .

"Kathi taught me most about being a mother, about being a Christian, about being a witness, about being a friend."

   Since its publication in 1971, Margaret Johnson's Eighteen, No Time to Waste has become something of a classic.

   It is the true story of Kathi, a strong-willed, vivacious teen-ager who wants "everyone, everywhere to know the love of Jesus." It is also the story of her mother, Margaret, who struggles with her own urge to control her daughter's life. After Kathi's tragic death at age eighteen, Margaret comes face to face with the reality of God's sacrificial love for all His children.

   Eighteen, No Time to Waste is a mother's tribute to a beloved daughter. It is heartwarming, real, and boldly witnesses to the truth that "to live is Christ, to die is gain."

   In this edition, Margaret Johnson includes a special epilogue that tells how Kathi's story has touched the lives of countless people since it was first published sixteen years ago.

Margaret Johnson is the author of several books, including The Very Private Matter of Anorexia Nervosa (with Shanon Christian) and an inspirational romance novel, After the Storm.


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« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2006, 10:48:12 PM »

Prologue

   Tears will always fill my eyes when I think of the skinny, dark-haired girl who flew in and out of our home, who filled our lives with havoc, fun, some heartbreak, lots of noise, and finally with a great sense of pride and joy. I will always anticipate that great moment when the curtain goes down on this life and lifts for a brighter and more glorious one -- when we shall be reunited with her.

   Coming years will bring other pleasures, other heartaches, and other losses, and as the years pass, the memory of Kathi will fade a little, as it must. But whatever the future holds, Kathi will always have been the one who taught me the most about being a mother, about being a Christian, about being a witness -- about being a friend.

   "Thank you, Kathi."



Chapter One

   "MOM, THERE'S SOMETHING I want to talk to you about. Now don't say 'no' until you hear me out."

   I watched Kathi, now almost eighteen years old, as she made meaningless patterns on the tablecloth with her fork, her eyes downcast. A feeling of fear rose in my throat and caused me to stiffen.

   "It's this, mom; Felicia and I want to get an apartment together for the summer --

   "-- just for the summer," she added hastily, as she lifted her head and saw my face.

   "You know the answer to that; it's no. I won't even discuss it," I said with fierce finality.

   I got up from the table and walked away, hoping to close the subject once and for all. Kathi didn't move.

   "You've got to see it my way, mom. It's something I want to do, just for the summer. I promise I'll be back in the fall -- please, just listen to me!"

   All of the "How to rear your children" advice came back to me and bounced off my brain with a painful thud. Tears were threatening to break through at any moment, and I hardly dared trust my voice to answer. I stood there looking at my second daughter, her usually happy face now stricken. I knew that I could change that by one sentence, "Yes, go Kathi, with my blessing." But I couldn't say words I didn't mean.

   Kathi, at seventeen, was a slender girl with raven-colored hair that fell long and loose about her face. Just under her bangs were dark, luminous eyes, quick to reveal her every mood. She vibrated with life and energy, her vivacity drawing people to her. She was like a magnet to the teen-agers who were constantly around her. She seemed to give so much of herself that her friends were seeking her out for the sheer pleasure of her company. It had always been like this. I don't know why I hadn't gotten accustomed to it by this time, but it still irritated me to have to always vie for her time. But Kathi was Kathi! Her friends were numerous.

   But Felicia was a special friend!

   And I didn't like Felicia!

   As Kathi and I stood there facing each other, what I really felt was anger: Anger built up in me toward Felicia who had taken Kathi from me; anger toward her friends who had more of her than I did.

   And I was angry at the wall that had built up between us. Everyone always told me Kathi was different, Kathi was special, and yet I, her mother, was having the hardest time understanding her. I was angry that she would even want to leave home. Most of all, I was angry that that magic age of eighteen was soon to be hers -- and I was helpless to stop her.

   "No, no, no!" I heard my own voice saying and could hardly believe it was mine. "You can't leave, and if you do, you can't come back. No."

   I brushed past her before the tears erupted into a fountain of grief, ran into the bedroom, and flung myself on the bed.

   Kathi stood at my door, struggling to control herself.

   "Why? Why do you want me to stay then?" she was asking. "Is it because I'm the only daughter left at home, or because you want me to run errands for you? Why? You have the boys -- you don't need me!"

   She started to walk away, and I said the only thing I could think to say. I called after her through a voice choked with emotion.

   "Because, Kathi -- because I love you!"

   Kathi was out the front door, and the house was quiet. I lay back on the bed with a heavy heart.

   It was early March, and the California breezes were whispering that spring would soon be here. It was nearly dusk, and soon it would be time to prepare dinner for Vern and the boys.

   Kathi, my heart cried out, where did you go?

   When did we build this barrier between us?

   Was it long ago when you were just a little girl and I was having baby after baby and you were made to grow up so fast?

   Was it when your older sister Cindy became a teenager and she and I shared so many secrets together?

   Was it when Cindy was married and you felt that "second daughter" jealousy?

   Was it resentment that you had now become big sister to a brood of noisy brothers?

   What had happened to the chubby little five-year-old who took my hand and gently asked me to help her pray "for Jesus to come into my heart"?

   I sobbed quietly, praying between sobs that God would help me know how to bridge the gap between us. I was sure that Kathi was driving off to Sharon's or Felicia's to share this new confrontation with them. Kathi, Sharon, and Felicia had become an inseparable threesome, silly and irresponsible. I suppose Kathi shared the attitude of most teens -- "leave me alone."

   But I was determined to slow her down, to force her to understand her responsibilities, and in the process, I had met a personality as strong as my own.

   And now she was coming of age, and I was heartsick. It seemed only yesterday I had held her in my arms, welcoming my second daughter with real joy.

   Vern and I had so wanted to train and teach our children to love and live for God. But somewhere along the way, I had become rigid and unbending in my views.

   "Lord," I prayed, "teach me patience and love and understanding with Kathi."

   It was with this resolve that I helped Kathi plan the slumber party for her eighteenth birthday. She was so excited, scrubbing and cleaning the house, running to the store for last-minute items. Her enthusiasm never failed to buoy my own spirits.

   As the girls began to arrive and I watched Kathi greeting them at the door, I had to smile. It's no wonder that everyone loves her so, I thought. She greets every girl as if she were the only one in the world.

   I had always loved Kathi's slumber parties, but this night was one I would always remember. The house was soon full of giggling girls, huddling together in the living room, with wall-to-wall sleeping bags, huge rollers sticking out of their hair in every direction. They laughed and screamed long into the night, drinking Cokes, munching potato chips and doughnuts, and capturing their most awkward moments with flash cameras.

   And there was Kathi -- always the center of attraction, the last one to sleep and the first one up -- the perfect little hostess running back and forth with food trailing behind her.

   The stereo blasted all the "now" music, and though Vern and I could hardly sleep, we were intoxicated with our daughter's happiness. As I listened to the gaiety that filled the house, I thought, maybe after graduation Felicia will go with her parents to Texas and the girls will forget their plans for leaving home. I smiled smugly, comforting myself, but there was a nagging uncertainty deep within me.

   The next morning there was the usual aftermath and clean-up. I found Coke bottles under chairs and on tables; empty potato chip bags were scattered about the room, with remnants of chips littering the carpet; doughnut boxes, emptied to the last crumb, were everywhere.

   And Kathi was upstairs -- sleeping soundly.

   As I cleaned the house, I thought, this is probably the last slumber party Kathi will ever have.

   I was right. It was to be her last slumber party -- and her last birthday!
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« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2006, 10:48:37 PM »

Chapter Two

   KATHLEEN ANNE WAS BORN on a blustery cold March morning in Michigan in 1951. I held her tightly to me, unwrapping the blanket carefully. I had wanted another girl and was delighted when the nurse told me we had a daughter. Two girls are perfect, I thought, contentedly, that morning. I had always wished for a sister but had grown up in a houseful of boys. It would be fun to buy dolls for them, to dress them alike, to experiment with hair styles, to buy pretty hair ribbons and barrettes -- and tiny patent leather shoes.

   Suburban Grand Rapids was a quiet, peaceful place to raise children. We had just purchased our first new home, and we settled down with our two girls to a contented sort of life.

   Although my daughters were extremely different, they were both precious to me. Cindy was tiny, with long curly hair that fell into ringlets -- a real charmer. Kathi grew chubby and vivacious, always on the go. She was a match for Sheba, the dog who raced around the house with her when she visited Grandma and Grandpa Johnson. She loved to catch the dog by the tail to make him "stop."

   From the time she could talk, Kathi chattered with everyone she met. She loved to go visiting, and when she was only four, she delighted to hear of a trip to California to visit my parents.

   "Girls," I told Cindy and Kathi one day in the spring, "we are going way out to California to visit grandpa and grandma, and when we come back, after a little while, you will have a little brother or sister." They danced out of the room, chuckling and giggling.

   "Of course, it will be a boy," I told Vern seriously. "That's what we ordered." We were both anxious for a son.

   We spent two delightful months with my parents near the ocean in beautiful Pacific Palisades, becoming more and more addicted to the soft sea breezes, the towering mountains, and the temperate climate. Finally, just one month before our son Richard was born, we reluctantly said goodby and took a train back home to the Midwest. Cindy and I sat quietly reading for most of the trip, while Kathi bounced up and down the aisle, meeting and greeting strangers, chattering constantly in her four-year-old gibberish. She was doing what came most naturally to her -- making people love her.

   From the time Cindy and Kathi were babies, Vern and I had taught them about Jesus and prayed with them. Kathi loved to sing. Always the "ham," she would stand before adult groups and lisp out her songs. One that she loved especially was:

My desire to be like Jesus
My desire to be like Him.
His spirit leads me,
His love overwhelms me;
In word and deed, to be like Him.

   Kathi was still and thoughtful when she heard the Bible stories and when she prayed. She seemed to understand at an early age what trusting the Lord Jesus meant.

   It was late one Sunday afternoon when Kathi was nearing her fifth birthday that she came to me, took my hand, and said clearly, "Mommy, make Cindy leave the room."

   "Why, honey?" I asked.

   She pulled me down to her and whispered, "Because I want to ask Jesus into my heart."

   I motioned for Cindy to leave the room, and Kathi and I knelt by the sofa.

   "Dear Jesus," Kathi prayed in her childish voice, "please come into my heart today."

   Tears formed quickly in my eyes as I hugged her to me. "Now remember, Kathi, when we ask Jesus into our hearts, He will never leave. He promised to be with us always."

   She nodded, and her dancing dark eyes were still and serious. Kathi had made her first commitment to her Lord. It was the first stepping stone on her own private path that would lead her to future commitments and to that very last step.
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« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2006, 10:49:03 PM »

Chapter Three

   MICHIGAN WAS NEVER THE SAME for us after that trip to California. We had become completely dazzled by the beauty of the coastal town of Pacific Palisades. Going to the beach in April, mowing the lawn in December, and saying good-by to boots and mittens just seemed too good to be true.

   So when Vern was offered a job, we left immediately. We bought a tiny house just a few blocks from my parents and settled down to a new way of life.

   When Christmas rolled around that year, we all swallowed a lump in our throats, thinking of snowmen, tobogganing, and cozy nights by the fireplace. It took us time to become acclimated to the new "life style" that was California living -- but not too long.

   Soon we were learning how to "live outdoors," barbecuing in the backyard, and shopping for Christmas presents in summer clothes. Sunglasses were as necessary as the car keys -- it seemed a land of perpetual sunshine.

   It didn't take us long to accustom ourselves to the bustling, traffic-packed freeways, either. A place was never miles away; it was minutes or hours. We had Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, and occasionally a glimpse of a famous personality.

   Our fourth child, David, was born the same year we made our home in California, and our prayer for a brother for Richard was answered.

   "Just what we ordered." Vern and I were elated. "Two girls and two boys."

   I was a little premature in my smugness, however, for David was only nine months old when I felt the old familiar nausea. Rushing to the doctor, I heard the, by now, routine words. "Why yes, Mrs. Johnson, you are going to have a baby."

   It was too much, too soon, I thought angrily as I drove home. How in the world would we ever care for five children. Our house was small, our finances smaller, and my strength even smaller.

   "I can't believe it," I said for nine months. And even on the way to the hospital, I felt the tiniest resentment that this baby had ruined our best-laid plans.

   But when they laid Danny in my arms, all resentment vanished. He was a beautiful, perfect boy. I was sure God had sent him for a special purpose.

   However, the "fun" days with the girls were over. Life became a constant routine of baby bottles, diapers, heads to wash, hair to comb, shoes to polish, and endless nights with crying babies. And always I seemed to be saying, "No, no, don't touch . . . don't spill your milk . . . take your nap . . ."

   "These are the best years of your life," people would tell me, and I would nod wearily, never believing it. With three boys just under three, every ounce of energy seemed drained from my body.

   The girls were rushed out of the door to school in the morning, their questions left unanswered. In the afternoon after school Cindy found solace in curling up with a book, but Kathi spent more and more time with her friends at their homes. The lines of communication to her were already becoming shaky.

   I wanted with all of my heart to keep Kathi close to me, but there seemed to be no time or way. She was independent and found compensation with friends outside our home, which was bulging at the seams with children.

   "Let's face it, mom," she told me once, "you had too many kids."

   I didn't answer her, but a heavy depression settled on me. Prosperity was everywhere in Pacific Palisades, except at our house. We were badly needing more room for our growing children.

   Los Angeles, with its many suburbs, was sprawling over a large area of Southern California, and places which were once filled with productive orange groves now gave way to tracts of homes or apartment houses. Ranch areas were converted into self-sufficient communities centered around large, complete shopping centers.

   Away from the ocean and over the hills lay the San Fernando Valley, one of the fastest growing suburban areas adjacent to Los Angeles. On Sunday afternoons we would take the children for a drive through Topanga Canyon out to the valley, in search of a more adequate house for our family, but within our means.

   As we topped the mountain road and headed down into the valley, it was like gazing down upon a vast ocean of houses. We drove through tract after tract, street after street. After looking at many of them, we stepped into one ranch-type house and both said, "This is it." We moved in late summer with our little brood.

   It was a long, hot summer in the San Fernando Valley. Crisis after crisis faced our family. I went into the hospital for a routine operation, complications set in, and I found myself back in the hospital for the better part of the summer.

   An enormous hospital bill came as a result of that illness. There seemed to be only one solution. I would have to go to work as soon as I regained my strength.

   Spring found Cindy seriously ill and in the hospital. Then under doctors' orders she was put to bed for six months. Cindy and I shared a unique closeness because of her illness, and Kathi was beginning to feel left out of things.

   We often teased Kathi that she was always the one to hold open the front door while we rushed one of the other children to the doctor.

   To me, Kathi seemed indestructible.

   I felt that we must make it up to her some way because I had to spend so much time with Cindy and the boys, so Vern and I decided to buy her a puppy she had longed to own.

   "I'll take care of her; I'll feed her; I'll clean up after her." Kathi was so excited.

   And so Queenie came to live with us -- a little black and white bundle of sheer energy that matched Kathi's. They chased each other in the backyard. Queenie snuggled up next to Kathi in the evening, and all the love and affection she had bottled up, she lavished on that little puppy.

   Wherever Kathi was, Queenie would be. Often at night I would find Queenie cuddled up in bed with her, hiding under the blankets at the foot of the bed.

   One day when a truck turned recklessly down our street and hit the helpless Queenie, killing her instantly, Kathi could not be comforted.

   "Do puppies go to heaven, mommy," she asked me, the tears streaming down her face.

   I cried with her as we put away Queenie's things. And though I promised to buy her a puppy real soon, Kathi, so sensitive, so tender, was deeply hurt when she lost Queenie. 
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« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2006, 10:49:29 PM »

Chapter Four

   "NOW, KIDS," VERN TOLD the children the same day I had found an office job near home, "mom is going to have to work, and you will all have to share in responsibilities."

   Cindy, in high school, was a responsible teen-ager, and I knew she would do exactly as she was told. Kathi was twelve, and we felt she could help with the care of the boys. Danny would be staying with my mother while I worked. It seemed the only answer for a difficult financial problem.

   Kathi had so many friends on the block now and so many things to do, it was increasingly difficult for her to remember all the home chores. I found myself wishing that she could be a little more like Cindy, who was gracious, obedient, and quiet. Kathi was a tomboy who loved to wear her daddy's T-shirts and her blue jeans. Her hair grew long and her bangs seemed permanently embedded in her eyes. Oh, the battles that we fought over hair styles. Pleading, scolding, threatening -- nothing worked.

   "Mom," Kathi approached me one day, "Aileen takes piano lessons, and we could go the same night. Could I?"

   "There's nothing I would like better, honey," I told her, "if you promise to practice."

   I had always found a deep satisfaction in music -- sometimes it seemed my only oasis. Nothing would please me more than to have my children learn to play the piano. I also thought that perhaps we could bridge the gap between us at the piano.

   I was wrong! Piano lessons were not for Kathi. She loved to play and sing and make her own arrangements, but practicing was quite another thing. Scales and exercises were a bore. I would sit on the bench to help her and we would both end up in tears.

   "That isn't right, Kathi," I'd insist. "Now play it over." She would play it over with the same mistake.

   "Now listen, this is the way it goes." And I would play the measure for her. "Try it."

   "I'm getting tired. I don't want to practice anymore."

   "But you have your lesson tonight."

   "I know. I'm going to ask if I can play something more popular," Kathi said, and she did.

   She brought home the little piece "Tammy," which was so popular at that time, and by the end of the evening was playing it with her own arrangement and flourishes. Poor Mrs. Rubin! She never could understand Kathi. She wanted to teach her how to play the piano, and all Kathi wanted to do was play.

   Kathi's adolescent years were punctuated with constant reminders by Vern and me about cleaning her room, trips to the dentist to fit her braces, music lessons, with stormy practice sessions, baby-sitting her younger brothers -- and those were only a few of the things she tried to avoid.

   Where she really wanted to be was at the corner baseball lot, or down the street shooting basketballs, or walking into town with Aileen or Candy, or spending the day in Candy's pool.

   We had, out of necessity, moved into a larger home the summer Kathi was thirteen, just a few blocks from her junior high school. All the boys were in school now, and we were depending on the girls for after-school baby-sitting.

   "Kathi," Vern would tell her again and again, "come right home after school and watch the boys."

   Her dark head nodded in accord. "Sure, daddy."

   But there were so many activities attracting her after school, so many places to explore, so many friends to stop and chat with, that often it took her until dinner time to come home.

   "I forgot," she would say, her dark eyes all innocence.

   By the time dinner was over, dishes done, and homework assignments finished, Kathi was on the phone talking to Sharon or Michele or Nancy about how or where they would meet in the morning, what they would wear, or the latest junior high news. And so it went until the last dregs of night were drawn and Kathi fell into bed.

   Kathi's vibrancy vanished in the morning, and getting up was an effort. She was definitely a nocturnal person. She walked through the getting-up process and ate breakfast in a daze, so instructions for the day never seemed to get through at that early hour.

   Kathi soon became the neighborhood pet on our new block. She was the baby-sitter and friend to the younger women on the street. They loved her. But it was more than disconcerting to me that her own chores went undone while she helped a neighbor clean up her house or mind her children.

   "Vern, you must speak to that girl." She became "that girl" soon after the advent of the television program of the same name. Not only did she resemble the star of the show, but she also had the same exuberant personality. Everyone began calling her "that girl."

   Vern had long talks with her in his gentle, understanding way, and she responded to him, promising to keep her room clean, comb her hair, wear her shoes, and come home right after school.

   During those stormy years, Vern was always a great help. He and Kathi had a beautiful understanding, and he could reason with her.

   "Just leave her alone," he would admonish me. "She'll be all right."

   Vern was a strong right arm for Kathi, too, when she began to question the foundations of the faith which she had accepted so fully as a child.

   "Dad, how do we know our religion is the right one?" she asked Vern after church one night. Vern took the Bible and sat down at the table with Kathi, patiently outlining verses for her to read and ponder.

   "You see," Vern explained, "there was a great gap between God and man because of sin, and there was nothing that could bridge that gap -- not being good, not trying harder -- nothing. So, God Himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, came to be that bridge. When we have faith in Him to be Lord of our lives, then God accepts us because of what Jesus did at Calvary for us."

   Kathi had more questions as she mingled with teen-agers of other faiths, but Vern, always patient, would help her. She began studying the word of God for herself, and I often found Living Letters next to her bed, with verses underlined in red. She was seeking God and seeking answers.

   "But what about all the people who have never heard, dad? What about my friends? Isn't being a good person good enough?"

   "That's an old question, Kathi, and a good one," Vern answered. "But we can trust God to do what's right and fair. And it's our responsibility to tell everyone, everywhere about Jesus. In other words, to do what He says -- to be His witnesses."

   One night as I passed Kathi's room, I heard her crying, I opened the door and went in and sat on the edge of her bed.

   "What's wrong, honey?"

   "It's about God. He just doesn't answer my prayers. I pray and pray and He doesn't answer."

   "Ah, but He will, honey." I brushed her long hair from her face and kissed her wet cheek. "Sometimes it takes awhile and we become impatient, but God always answers -- somehow, some way. I know that from experience."

   Kathi was going through the early teen syndrome of finding herself; she was questioning God and questioning herself. It was a phase, I knew, and I was grateful for the moments when she would open up to me and share her problems. She told me about troubles of her friends which weighed upon her. She was deeply concerned for her friends and shouldered their problems as if they were her own.

   "You're just too young to cope with everyone's problems, Kathi," I would tell her, but she paid no attention.

   Through her struggles, Kathi was finding answers and becoming strong in her faith. She was "tuned in" to God.

   Junior high days would soon be over; Kathi was becoming more and more involved with her school friends. For the past few summers she had gone to summer church camps and had been involved with youth activities and meetings in our church. Now that was over.

   "I'm not mad at God," she would say. "I just have to have time to think."

   The days of turmoil between us were just ahead.
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« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2006, 10:50:19 PM »

Chapter Five

   "BUT I DON'T WANT TO GO," Kathi was protesting loudly. "I can stay here with Cindy. It won't be any fun for me."

   We were planning our vacation at Yosemite that year and had decided to rough it. Vern bought a tent and sleeping bags and all the equipment we would need. I couldn't say it was exactly my idea of a relaxing vacation, but I knew the boys would love it. The hot summer days that always invaded the valley from June through October were upon us. It would be a relief to get out of the heat and smog and into clean mountain air.

   Now Kathi was pouting, but I was insistent that she go along with us. She was fifteen, and she didn't want to leave her friends for the summer.

   "You'll have fun once we get there," we encouraged her, and reluctantly she began packing.

   The long trip up into Yosemite mountains and the boys at their noisy, boisterous ages sent Kathi sinking further and further into the seat of the car.

   By the time we finally found a camping spot and had pitched the tent, it was dark.

   "Be careful of bears!" our camping neighbors called out.

   "Oh?" I said, glancing at Kathi who was afraid of a moth.

   We were up early, and Vern had the coffee on the cookstove while we were dressing. Oh -- it was cold. The boys hopping around in their sweatshirts thought this was the biggest adventure of all -- eating breakfast outdoors. Kathi was silent.

   I thought the week was going to be a complete wash-out for her. But late that afternoon a lovely big trailer pulled up beside us and two teen-age girls jumped out. We felt like veteran campers by now, and so we introduced ourselves and invited them to join us for a barbecue that night.

   Kathi started to bubble, effervescent as always. She was back on her own ground with friends her own age. The three of them took off for a hike the next day, and when Kathi came back to camp, she had a boy with her. They were barefoot and holding hands. Her two new girl friends each had a boy in tow also.

   "This is Mike, mom and dad," Kathi said casually, as though she had known him all her life.

   Kathi was her usual vivacious self. Swimming under the bridge, walking with Mike through wooded lanes, sipping Cokes on the benches, she was all smiles.

   "Can this be the same girl we brought up here?" Vern said in astonishment.

   We hardly saw her that week. After a hearty outdoor breakfast, off she would go with Mike, and the whole day would pass without a sight of her.

   "And I thought it would be different up here," I complained, but not too unhappily. I was glad she was having fun.

   Mike was puppy love. Kathi was fifteen, and she had found a boy who like the same things she did.

   "Can't we stay one more day, just one more day?" she begged, with her two girl friends hopping up and down and Mike standing shyly to the side.

   "Afraid not, honey," we told her. "We have to get back."

   The ride home was a repeat performance; Kathi was silent.

   Already she was sure she would never see Mike again.

   "He's going to write to me," she said. "And maybe come to see me sometime."

   It didn't take Kathi long after we were home before she was back into the swing of things with her old friends. She and Mike did write faithfully at first, but when he finally came to see her, she had almost forgotten who he was.

   Anyway, there were so many other things to think about. Kathi was getting ready for the biggest moment of her life -- she was getting ready for high school. All our thoughts and plans now were on that big day when she would start Cleveland High. Most of her junior high friends would be going there, too.

   So far I had approved and welcomed Kathi's friends, but soon I was to reverse that decision.

   I was about to meet Felicia!

   "Mom, this is Felicia," she said that November, and it was as though she were saying, "This is someone special."

   "She doesn't go to Cleveland," Kathi continued. "I met her at the Y-Club; she goes to St. Genevieve High School."

   It was sometime later that I found what Kathi had written about the beginning of her friendship with Felicia. It was a composition for her English class entitled "Some Important Thing That Happened to Me This Year."

       September, 1966, I entered high school with high goals and meaningful aims. By October, 1966, I hated school and by November I couldn't wait to graduate. During November I met a friend who asked me to join a Y-Club, and thinking this meant instant popularity, I joined. It turned out that at that time, it was the right thing to do.

       Well to make a long story short, I met another friend who today is my best friend, and this story is about her. As I tell how we became friends, and what we've accomplished, I don't expect anyone to understand. I am writing this mainly because I think we are great.

       As I walked into that first club meeting, the first person I saw was Felicia, her big ears hanging out. You might wonder why I mention that fact, but that is actually how we became friends. I ran up to her and yelled, "You have big ears, too!" Well, when she saw mine, we both started laughing and haven't stopped since.

       It was instant friendship, and we began plotting and planning immediately. We were out to conquer the world and in our way of thinking we have. The first thing we did proved that we were going to get away with murder. Felicia spent the night with me and we decided to sneak out about midnight. (It was difficult as we have a two-story house, and my room is on the second floor.) We got out and went over to some new houses that were being built and looked around the rooms. This started our expeditions.

       We messed around all that semester until it was time for summer vacation. Summer '67 was the greatest time of my life. I learned a lot about people and life in general, and it didn't matter if I was popular. We both quit the club, which we felt wasn't for us, and started doing what we wanted to do. We went to the beach a lot and met new people.

 
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« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2006, 10:50:35 PM »

      As the summer passed and school began, we had to think of ways to cut classes; we use many methods, and they all worked. One day when we were at my house, Felicia's mother called and caught us, and that was the end of cutting classes for awhile.

       This is only a few things we've done, but after high school we plan to take a trip. And after that, who knows what?

   I don't know what grade Kathi got on her short essay, but I would give her an "A" for accuracy. She and Felicia were constantly thinking up new ways to be together, whether by car or by telephone.

   "I don't like Felicia," I told Vern one day. "I wish Kathi would find some friends from church."

   Felicia was a tall, rather sedate girl, lovely, really, with long, dark hair. She was an introvert who complemented Kathi's outgoing personality. I knew I was being hasty and unreasonable in my judgment of Felicia, but I had taken my stand and wouldn't back down.

   "I just don't like her, Kathi," I said over and over. "She seems -- well -- unhappy."

   "Felicia is my best friend, mom," Kathi countered.

   "I still don't like her," and I felt a tightening in my chest as Kathi walked away. The gap between us widened.

   "I don't understand Kathi," I complained to Vern that night. "She loves her friends more than she does us. She always has something going with them."

   "The storm will pass, honey," Vern assured me. "She'll grow out of it." But the clashes between us became more frequent . . . .

   "Kathi, you should have Christian friends from church."

   "You're wrong, mom," she contradicted in her direct manner. "If all my friends were believers in Christ, how could I win them to the Lord?"

   I couldn't argue with her logic, but I was afraid, thinking of all the possibilities of temptations that could confront her. I saw Kathi as impulsive and willing to try anything once. I didn't know that my strong-willed daughter was actually standing her ground for Christ, never backing down from her convictions.

   Kathi was dating Tom, a boy of another faith. Everyone in the family liked Tom, he was artistic, pleasant, and had a contagious sense of humor. But Tom was as adamant in his faith as Kathi was in hers, and often their dates would end in argument or debates about each other's faith, until Kathi brought a halt to their dating.

   "I could never marry a boy of another faith," she told me.

   Of all the friends, and especially boyfriends, who were drawn to Kathi, I believe it was John who really adored her. John had graduated from Kathi's high school and was attending U.C. Riverside on a football scholarship. He seemed to fit right in with our family, and we all admired him.

   There wasn't anything that Kathi would ask for that John didn't try his hardest to get for her. Once she mentioned that she would love to have a birthstone ring. Before the words were hardly out of her mouth, John presented her with a tiny blue birthstone ring. Kathi wore it constantly, even after she had broken off with John and was dating others.

   But Kathi couldn't date a boy for long without telling him her love for the Lord Jesus Christ and what her faith meant to her. Soon John was accompanying Kathi to our church services, wanting to find out for himself what she was talking about.

   I was at the piano on that special Sunday morning when John slipped past Kathi and walked down the aisle in response to Pastor Smith's invitation to receive Christ as Savior. Jim Wallis, a missionary home on furlough from Brazil, took John into the church study to talk with him. That day Kathi had led her first friend to Jesus Christ.

   Even Felicia, brought up strictly in another faith, listened to Kathi tell about Christ. And on a Sunday not too long after John's conversion, Felicia, too, walked down that aisle. She was the second of Kathi's friends who had a personal encounter with Christ because of her witness. 
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« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2006, 10:51:09 PM »

Chapter Six

   THE SPRING OF KATHI'S JUNIOR year we learned that my dad had leukemia and would probably live for six months, at the most. We were saddened as we sat at my parents' table on Mother's Day, for we all knew these were his last days with us. Dad sat at the head of the table, as always, full of conversation about his wonderful Lord. Dad was the head of the house in every sense, the glory in the home. It would be so empty without him.

   All of the family sat about him, my brother and his children and all our children -- except Kathi. When we had finished eating and were relaxing over dessert and coffee, in breezed Kathi and John behind her.

   "What's to eat, grandma?" she exclaimed, greeting her grandpa with a kiss. And John and Kathi sat down with "oh's" and "ah's" as grandma, always quick to serve her grandchildren, brought them delicious food.

   "I like that girl," dad said quietly to me. "She's not afraid of anything. She's my girl." His eyes were shining.

   And the feeling was mutual; Kathi loved her grandpa. A few weeks later as he lay dying in the hospital, she stood at the foot of his bed.

   "Grandpa," she said, with tears in her eyes, "I just led my two best friends to Christ."

   "That's wonderful, honey," he smiled weakly. "Keep up the good work."

   I stood there looking at them, thinking how alike they were -- both so dynamic in their witness for Christ.

   We buried dad in early June, and after the service I overheard Kathi talking to a weeping friend of the family.

   "Don't grieve for my grandpa; he's with the Lord." And then she proceeded to tell her how she could know for sure that she would go to heaven.

   Sometime later I read in Kathi's diary: "I want to be just like grandpa. I want to tell everyone, everywhere about Jesus."

   I have often heard that fathers have a special way with daughters, and this was certainly true in our case. Vern understood Kathi and always told her how proud he was of her, and she justified all of his pride.

   She was like "the first star you see at night," twinkling in an otherwise starless sky, making everyone aware of its brightness. She made you feel that she could scale any mountain, dare anything, do anything. She was voted by her high school friends as "the girl you'd most like to be on a desert island with."

   Kathi loved everyone -- old people, handicapped children, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmas and grandpas -- they were all quick to warm to her affection. The only people she couldn't tolerate were those she labeled "phonies, not real," and she bristled at the slightest hint of it.

   "I will do my own thing. I won't be a phony," she'd say. "Accept me for me. I'm not Cindy. I'm me!"

   When she helped teach the children in summer Bible school, the little tots, even the shyest ones, would clamor for Kathi. She had a way with children, as evidenced by the little ones knocking at the door calling for her. Out she'd go to take Dede or Kevin for a walk, or she'd run across the street to play with the new baby. I might as well have tried to hold a wisp of smoke in my hands as to hold Kathi back.

   But I was trying to shift gears and accept the whirlwind of activity, the flying feet, and the independent ways which surrounded her. 
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« Reply #8 on: September 26, 2006, 10:51:38 PM »

Chapter Seven

   "IT SOUNDS AS THOUGH the house is falling down." I stopped in the middle of the room and listened.

   "It's just Kathi," Vern said with a smile. "She's at it again."

   Upstairs she was practicing frantically for cheerleader tryouts, and her bedroom was directly over ours. Vern didn't seem to mind, but her endless jumping bothered me, and I knew the mess it was creating. I was tired of forever picking up those little bits of paper that flew in all directions from the pompons which she shook with frantic enthusiasm.

   Now Kathi was bounding down the stairs, two at a time. Her legs, long and slender, moved gracefully under her red and white cheerleading skirt.

   "Watch me, mom! Look --" She was breathless, and her dark eyes were bright with excitement. Then she twirled and swirled in every possible position, her tiny frame one continuous vibration.

   "Is it jerky? Is it smooth? Does it look good? Is it smooth enough do you think?" She looked at me hopefully, and without waiting for my answer, she was up in the air again, her dark hair flying in every direction. I smiled in spite of myself at my second daughter, putting her whole vivacious self into tryouts.

   "I'll never make it," she sat down, suddenly discouraged. "There are so many girls trying out."

   "You'll make it," I said, and Vern echoed my words.

   "Kathi, you'll not only make the cheerleading team; you'll be head of them all," Vern encouraged her.

   She smiled at us uncertainly and went on with her practicing.

   "She's doing what comes naturally for her," I told Vern later that night. "Jumping, bouncing, smiling, cheering . . . that's Kathi."

   "Then why can't you accept her for what she is?" There was a hint of rebuke in his words, and I quickly rose to my own defense.

   "I just wish she were more like Cindy," I said with a sigh. "Cindy's so dependable and organized.. At least we know where she is all the time. Kathi's got so much going, I can't keep track of her."

   "She's just got a lot of energy, honey." Vern understood and adored our daughter, and I felt, fretfully, he was taking her side against me.

   "You can't compare them," he went on. "She is herself. And she'll not only make the cheerleading team, but she'll be head cheerleader. You'll see."

   Vern was right. Later that year Kathi was elected head cheerleader for Cleveland High, and we weren't surprised when she was voted the girl with the most school spirit. Whatever were the ingredients that made up enthusiasm, spirit, and excitement, Kathi had them all.

   Sixteen? Going on seventeen! Her friends said she was "real cool," and I knew she was popular with her peers. Her eyes, dark and shining under thick lashes, always held a ready smile for strangers as well as friends.

   "Kathi, did you make your bed?" I would call as she streaked down the stairs and out the door. It was too late, but I already knew the answer.

   "Kathi, why don't you clean your room?" Cindy, usually so even-tempered, would ask shortly.

   I'm sure we were all a puzzle to Kathi. She couldn't see what harm her own messy room could do to us. There was so much fun and excitement "out there," so much to do, so many places to go . . . no time to waste. But she would promise to really get busy and clean her room, "as soon as I get back."

   Her promises were short-lived!

   And the telephone! It became an insistent thing, especially during the dinner hour.

   "Kathi," I said finally, after I had gotten up from my dinner three times to answer it, "would you please ask your friends not to call between five and six?"

   Even Vern, who was long on patience, became agitated with her on occasion.

   "Kathi, did you park the car in the driveway like that -- right in the middle?"

   But our demands and our frustrations were lost on Kathi. We were all so "uptight," and she couldn't understand why. I think she chalked it up to old age and let it go in one ear and out the other.

   Friction increased and tension mounted during those teen years, caused partly, I'm afraid, by the constant comparison I made between her and Cindy. Cindy, always the balance, always the one able to adjust, accepting and performing her duties without question, was a mother's dream.

   "I forgot; honestly I did." And Kathi's huge dark eyes would be all innocence when I scolded her. "I know I was supposed to be home, but I just forgot." When I needed her, she had just run out the door. When I wanted to use the phone, she was on the upstairs extension. When I had a list of chores for her, she was sleeping. When I wanted her to run an errand, she would take the car and forget to come home for hours.

   Kathi had anxiously awaited her sixteenth birthday and the long-anticipated trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles for her driver's test. She had taken six months of driver's training, and now she was ready. And she passed the test with flying colors. As we left, she clutched the precious piece of paper in her hand.

   "Now keep it in your wallet," I warned her as we drove home. I knew her breezy manner with possessions.

   "I will -- I will," she assured me, but I noticed that very shortly it was placed carelessly on the dashboard of the car. That's where it stayed, and later that week when Kathi went out driving with Sharon and a few others, a little piece of paper "just flew" out of the open window of the car, to the screams and shrieks of the girls. It took five girls, on hands and knees, scrambling around in an open field for an hour, to retrieve the crumpled license.

   And that was not the only time she lost it.

   "Do you know how many times I've signed for your license?" I scolded her one day, two years later, when she brought home a form to be signed. "This is the third time you've lost it."

   "I know, mom," she said humbly. "This time, I'll keep it in my wallet."

   She did; however, the little green wallet was lost soon after that and was mailed back to us after she no longer needed it!

   Kathi simply didn't have time to keep things in order, for she was too busy with friends who were constantly calling or coming for her. After she had rushed out of the house, I would go to her room for a brief inspection tour. One look at her disorderly array of clothes, books, and cheerleading gear always left me furious. I couldn't believe that in spite of repeated warnings and scoldings she could leave things in such a mess.

   When she was home, there were phone calls constantly, some very late at night. Sometimes friends would come to see her when she should have been in bed. Like Jim, football star at Cleveland and Kathi's "buddy," who threw tiny stones at her bedroom window late at night to get her attention. When we questioned her about leaning out the window to hold midnight conversations, Kathi said, "But mom, it's Jim, and he wants to talk to me. He has to talk to someone."

   Jim was "special." Because he came from a broken home, he aroused all her understanding and sympathy.

   When the phone rang late at night, we asked, "Who is that calling so late?"

   "It's Glen. He's upset, mom, and wants to talk to somebody." Glen had just lost his sister in an automobile accident, and we found it difficult to forbid his late calls for Kathi's whispered words of comfort.

   And, of course, there were always the repeated calls from Felicia. A simmering anger was building up in me toward her because she always seemed to "be there" when I needed Kathi. Their friendship was deepening, and I was troubled by it.

   I was determined that Kathi would widen her circle of friends to exclude Felicia.
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« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2006, 10:52:04 PM »

Chapter Eight

   THE FALL OF 1968 was an important time for our family. Cindy and her fiancÚ Don were planning their November wedding, and Kathi was a senior -- the whirlwind of activities grew to mountainous proportions.

   Cindy and I had started planning the wedding in the summer. Every weekend was occupied with a search for just the right bridal gown and an appropriate maid-of-honor dress for Kathi. Finally Cindy settled on an old-fashioned lace dress with high Victorian collar and bell sleeves. And Kathi found hers -- a sapphire blue velvet with white lace cuffs.

   There was only one objection to the date of Cindy's wedding, and that came from Kathi. It was on the same night as the big football game at Cleveland High!

   "But, Kathi," I remonstrated, "this is Cindy's wedding -- it's her day."

   "Maybe I can leave right after the wedding," she thought aloud.

   "Oh, no! Cleveland will do just fine without you for one night."

   Two weeks before the wedding we faced another minor crisis with Kathi. She had been selected as one of the candidates for Homecoming Queen, and she begged to wear her maid-of-honor dress for the final selection night. Cindy and I objected violently; we could imagine Kathi coming home with it all wrinkled and bedraggled with mud. However, she won and wore the lovely blue gown.

   "Can you imagine our Kathi as queen?" Vern, our boys, and I sat in the bleachers watching the smiling candidates ride around the football field in open convertibles. Felicia was in front of us holding Kathi's photograph on a placard, which read, "Vote for Kathi Johnson. Kathi for Queen." The photo was one of Kathi standing under a tree, the sunlight catching her shining hair, her head tilted with a half-smile on her lips.

   "I wish Kathi had worn white like the other girls," I fretted.

   "She looks beautiful," Vern said with pride and conviction.

   Kathi was elected a princess, quite a change for our tomboy daughter. There was a lump in my throat as I watched her ascend gracefully to the rostrum. Her friend Sharon stood beside her they had been in school together since junior high and remained close, warm friends.

   After the game, Kathi was off to a party with her friends. As they were leaving, I heard a group of excited girls talking. One said, "Wasn't Kathi Johnson beautiful?" I knew she was popular, but I was beginning to find out how much Kathi was really loved by all her friends.

   Cindy's wedding day arrived -- a cool November day -- and the house was in turmoil. Cindy and Kathi hurried to the beauty parlor early in the morning, only to arrive home in tears at what the experts had "done" to their hair. They both brushed the curls out furiously until they had just the style they wanted.

   Cindy was radiantly beautiful as she walked down the aisle with her father, and my eyes filled with tears as I saw the look of love on Don's face.

   Kathi stood erect and ladylike beside Cindy, stunning in her blue velvet dress. At that moment it was hard for me to envision her enthusiastically leading a cheer at a football game. My girls were beautiful, shining, and happy.

   Cindy told me later that tears streamed down Kathi's cheeks throughout the ceremony; her love for her only sister became apparent as she stood next to her, realizing that things would never be quite the same again.

   After the reception at the church, we had a small reception at home for close friends and family. In the midst of the festivities, Kathi charged downstairs in her cheerleading outfit. It was the Homecoming Game and she still had time to make the last half. While the guests watched, amazed and amused, she kissed Cindy good-by and dashed out the door.

   "Typical," I sighed to myself.

   I had mixed emotions that night as I thought of losing my oldest daughter, yet I felt that now perhaps Kathi would draw closer to me. I resolved then to make it up to Kathi -- all my impatience, all my intolerance; somehow I knew that we would grow to understand and appreciate each other.   
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« Reply #10 on: September 26, 2006, 10:52:37 PM »

Chapter Nine

   FALL WAS IN THE AIR, the football game on television was the center of attraction in our family room, the table was set, and the turkey was ready to be served.

   Cindy and Don, radiant in their newlywed happiness, sat to my left. Vern's parents, who had come from Michigan for the wedding, and my mother were across from me, and Kathi and the boys were next to Vern.

   He began to pray, "Heavenly Father, thank You for this special day that has such meaning to us as believers in Your Son. Thank You for Jesus Christ and His finished work on Calvary. Thank You for our families, all well and strong and together this day. Thank You for this food so bountifully given. Thank You, Lord, for all Your unmeasured love and grace given to us, Your children."

   "What's it like being married?" Kathi, with a mouthful of food asked Cindy point-blank. "Does it get kind of boring?"

   Cindy and Don looked at each other, laughed, and assured her it didn't.

   Kathi still couldn't believe Cindy was married. She was sure this wouldn't happen to her for a long time; she had places to go and things to do.

   We spent the day as many families do on Thanksgiving: eating, taking pictures, watching football games from far-away snowy states, thankful for the warmth and sunshine that is our Golden State. We looked at proofs of Cindy's wedding pictures, hardly believing that that beautiful night was over.

   When Thanksgiving was past and the last bit of turkey had found its way into hungry mouths, we began our preparation for that most exciting season of the year -- Christmas. Vern's folks were staying for the holidays and the children were delighted, especially Kathi who adored her grandparents.

   As the season approached, the house became more and more festive; everyone was hiding presents -- secrecy was in the air.

   Kathi took her grandparents Christmas shopping, running from one shopping mall to another, wherever they wanted to go. Grandma tells how Kathi would walk slowly through the stores with her, helping her in and out of the car -- quite a feat for the fast-moving Kathi.

   We opened our gifts on Christmas Eve, lighting the fireplace in anticipation of the joy-packed evening. There were squeals of delight as everyone opened "just what I wanted." Kathi and Cindy giggled over their usual gift of slippers, which by now had become a tradition.

   We talked and reminisced about Grandpa Joe who was having his first Christmas in heaven.

   "I wonder what it's like," Kathi said dreamily, "to really see Jesus and all the people in the Bible." She thought a minute, "I hope it doesn't get boring. I wonder what you do all the time."

   But all sadness was dispelled as the opened packages mounted and the gaily colored wrapping paper created so much debris that our living room seemed to get smaller by the minute.

   In the background the stereo softly played Christmas carols. A buffet lunch was set out on the table, and Vern and I looked at each other with a quiet contentment. This was our twenty-first Christmas as husband and wife. They had all been meaningful and happy ones. Our blessings could never be counted.

   Spring came suddenly, and with it, Easter Sunday. That morning I was at the front of the church at the piano, arranging the music that I would play during the service, when I looked up and saw Kathi and her friend Hope directing nine tall husky fellows down the aisle. She had left home early that morning saying that she was picking someone up for church. But nine boys?

   At dinner we learned that they were the star football players at Cleveland High.

   "How did you manage to get them all to church?" Vern asked her.

   "I just told them to be ready and I'd pick them up," she said. "I told them it was Easter Sunday and they should be in church."

   Vern and I looked at each other in silent amazement. That was Kathi! When she felt something should be done, she did it.

   "And what did they think of the message?" Vern asked.

   "I don't know what they thought," she said, "but they heard the Gospel message, and that's what I wanted them to hear -- about Jesus going to the cross. And best of all, the Resurrection!"

   Later in the spring I began to hear of Kathi's plan to leave home and get an apartment with Felicia.

   Kathi had often mentioned, ever since childhood, her desire to be a missionary, "to really rough it in the jungles and tell everyone about Jesus." Now all of this was changing -- I thought. Because of Felicia, everything would be different. I was afraid of what might happen to my daughter, leaving home so young.

   "You're just going to get in with the wrong crowd, two girls living away from home like that," I said bitterly.

   "But, mom, Felicia's folks are moving to Texas right after graduation, and she doesn't want to go," Kathi explained.

   "It's out of the question! Besides, how can you afford it? You just don't realize the money involved."

   "We have jobs waiting for us at Norm's Coffee Shop. We can do it, mom, just give us a chance!" Kathi begged.

   "It's not God's will for you to leave home," I said firmly.

   "But what if it is? she questioned through her tears.

   I couldn't answer that. I was torn inside, and hurt. It's your pride, part of me whispered. What would your friends say? It would ruin your image of a perfect home.

   The full force of their plans for the move to the apartment struck me just a month before Kathi's graduation. I had to go to the hospital for minor surgery, and when I came home, I was still shaky. But Kathi brought up the subject fearlessly and defiantly. She was determined to go.

   "Then go!" Tears of anger and hurt pride were streaming down my face. "Take your clothes and leave."

   I threw myself on the bed and sobbed. I was taken back to the hospital that night in pain.

   I lay in the hospital bed, calling for Kathi and fighting my feelings and pride. I knew that I must let her go -- that in releasing her I would be at peace with my second daughter. I prayed and struggled as I lay there thinking of my little girl, now grown-up, and I came to a decision.

   When I returned home from the hospital, Kathi was playing the piano. She turned on the bench and faced me. I walked to her, hugged her to me, and began to cry, gently at first.

   "Kathi, I'm sorry." I held her face in my hands and looked into those luminous dark eyes that were beginning to spill tears. "Let's try, really try, to understand each other. As soon as you graduate, I'll help you find an apartment, if that's what you really want."

   And then the flood of tears broke loose.

   Graduation was only a few days away, and Kathi was running faster than ever, upstairs and down, in and out, greatly excited and very happy. Actually much of her attention was focused not upon graduation itself, but upon the all-night party at Disneyland, the annual treat given to high school graduates of the Los Angeles area. Every girl has a beautiful new dress for the occasion, and dates are made far in advance.

   "What are you wearing to Disneyland?" I asked Kathi about a week before the big event. Her answer was non-committal. Why bother about something a whole week away? There was so much to do now.

   On the day of graduation the phone rang in Vern's office.

   "Do you have a daughter, Kathi?" a voice asked. It was the May Company department store, asking if she could use our charge account for the purchase of a dress. Vern consented.

   At six-thirty that night, a half-hour before she was due to leave for the graduation ceremony and then Disneyland, I was frantically taking up the hem of what already seemed to me to be a micro-mini dress. My fingers were shaking and the usual furor pervaded the atmosphere.

   "Why couldn't you have done this sooner?" I scolded.

   No answer.

   "You're going to be late, Kathi! You drive me to distraction."

   But when Kathi put the dress on, my anger vanished. She looked like an angel in the black and white polka dot frock with huge sleeves. Since that day we have called it the "Angel Dress."

   As she hurried off, she said, "Felicia and I have dates with Brad and Jon -- she with Brad and I with Jon -- but we're going to switch."

   "You're going to switch?" I repeated, baffled.

   "Yeah, we decided Brad likes me better and Jon likes Felicia better, so we're going to switch!" Logical.

   "Oh," was all I could think to say as she flew out the door. "Have fun."

   She did. She slept all the next day, but when she woke up she recounted the fun of the evening with excitement still dancing in her eyes. The all-night party had been a big success for Kathi.
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« Reply #11 on: September 26, 2006, 10:53:24 PM »

Chapter Ten

   "WHEN ARE FELICIA'S FOLKS LEAVING?" I asked Kathi soon after graduation.

   "In July," she answered quietly. "But she's coming back, mom, and we're going to find an apartment."

   I didn't answer her, but I was praying silently, asking for wisdom to understand and to let her go.

   "Let her go in love," someone advised, "and she will return in love."

   One night in early summer I took Kathi apartment hunting. We drove all over the Valley, talking to apartment managers and giggling together. The door of communication was opening slowly, and I felt a sense of peace which I hadn't known for a long time.

   Secretly, I was hoping that she would never find an apartment and that Felicia's folks would insist that she stay in Texas -- anything to keep Kathi home.

   "What about college?" I asked her.

   "I'm going to college; I've already registered at Pierce. I'm going to work at Norm's Coffee Shop this summer. The girls there are making lots of money. Hope and I are going to train in Los Angeles and work in Westwood."

   "What about Felicia?" I ventured.

   She was quiet for a minute, then said sadly, "She has to go to Texas with her folks."

   "Good," I said too quickly, and Kathi bristled.

   "You don't understand! Felicia is my best friend. I love her."

   "She should be with her parents in Texas. And you should be here."

   We were on the verge of another explosion, so I walked away to let the tension subside.

   After Felicia left, Kathi was busy with her work in the evenings and trips to the beach during the day. Her little black Volkswagen, which Vern had helped her buy on her eighteenth birthday, in exchange for her working after school at his office, wound its way down the road of Topanga Canyon toward the beach almost every day -- packed with friends.

   Kathi loved the beach. She could run to the waves and scream with delight as they broke over her. While some of her more sedate friends were basking in the sun on the beach, she was body surfing or running up and down on the sand -- her long dark hair plastered down with sea water.

   But one hot July day Kathi's little black bug refused to climb the hill, homeward bound. She called a friend, who picked her and her friends up, and left the car at a service station at Malibu.

   "I don't know what's wrong with it," she told Vern that night. "It just won't go."

   Vern went to the beach and towed the car home. The mechanic at the Volkswagen garage told us that the engine was "through functioning" totally gone.

   Now Kathi was faced with the problem of transportation to her work.

   "What in the world are you going to do?" I asked her.

   "I'm not going to worry about it," she said.

   "But you still own money on the VW. How can you buy a new one?"

   "I will . . . I will." Kathi's usual resolve came to her rescue. But each day the phone would ring at the office and her half-apologetic voice would say, "Mom, what shall I do about getting to work?"

   It was then that Kathi began to realize what a family is all about. Vern and I, often at a great inconvenience to ourselves, would leave the car for her so that she could drive to work. She began to see our love and concern and responded to it. By the end of the second week of July, we noticed that something was happening to Kathi. Her attitude was different. She began to care more for her family, and the rebellious, independent spirit seemed to be more under the Lord's control.

   But there was still the old problem -- Felicia.

   Early in July we had taken a short vacation with the boys, visiting Cindy and Don in Garden Grove, Disneyland, and the San Diego Zoo. When we arrived home, there was a letter from Felicia's sister on Kathi's desk.

   My heart sank. Sure enough, Felicia had run away from home and was back in California. I called her mother and we talked -- both of us in tears. I promised as bravely as I could to look after Felicia.

   When Kathi came home that night, I confronted her with, "Have you heard from Felicia?"

   She avoided my eyes.

   "I know she is back in California. I talked to her mother today. She is worried sick. How could Felicia run away like that?"

   Kathi was torn, and I knew it. When Vern came home, we both tried to talk to her.

   "Kathi," Vern said, "you don't want to leave home, do you?" She shook her head without looking up.

   "It's because you promised Felicia, isn't it?"

   I swallowed hard. "How about if Felicia comes to live with us?" Kathi looked up quickly; she couldn't believe her ears.

   "We'll fix up your room for the two of you," we told her.

   I was sure this would be the answer, and that night Vern and I went to Norm's Coffee Shop for dinner. Kathi greeted us.

   "Guess what?" she was dancing with excitement. "I'm not leaving home. Felicia is coming to stay with us." My heart sank, but I promised myself I would be fair and give her a chance.

   I spent the next day fixing Kathi's room for two, adding an additional chest of drawers. When they came home, I welcomed Felicia as best I could to our family. Felicia was crestfallen; this was not what she wanted.

   It lasted one night, and Felicia again was after Kathi to get an apartment.

   The end of July was Vern's birthday, and we drove to my mother's house for a special dinner with the family. When we arrived, we found a beautiful package with a card for "Daddy." It was an expensive shirt from Kathi, who had made the long detour on her way to work to leave the gift for the celebration.

   After dinner we went -- all twelve of us -- to Norm's for dessert. Kathi was delighted when we walked in and gave us special service. We were proud of the tiny, smiling waitress, her dark hair piled high on her head, running around the coffee shop as if on air.

   "That smile never leaves her face," my sister-in-law said, nudging me. "Just look at her."

   It was true. She smiled at everybody and enjoyed waiting on people. No wonder that her tips were so high! She gave everyone personal, special treatment. I remembered one night when she had come home elated because a customer had given her a $2.00 tip "just for your smile." Now I could see why. Kathi's magnetism constantly drew people to her, for her love for them was open and genuine.

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« Reply #12 on: September 26, 2006, 10:53:40 PM »

   One night, on a previous occasion, I had been irked by her friendliness with three hippie-type boys who were talking to her as they left the restaurant. Kathi smiled, patted them on the back, and told them to be sure and return. She seemed to know them, and I was worried. I cringed at the sight of their long, unruly hair and their careless dress. But none of this bothered Kathi.

   "Who were they?" I had asked her later. "I hope you're not too friendly with them."

   "Mom," Kathi rebuked me, "how can I reach people if I'm not friendly? We are told to love one another."

   Of course she was right, my heart told me. Kathi had learned to love and accept people as they were.

   I was to learn later that not only the customers, but also her employers and fellow workers had seen the love of Christ shining through her life. If someone was "low" or "blue," Kathi had ready words of comfort. When a girl at work wanted a day off, it was Kathi she called on to work for her.

   "Kathi, it's your day off," I frowned. "You just let people use you."

   "It's okay, mom," she'd smile, and go off to fill in at Norm's -- endearing herself to another grateful friend.

   Now Kathi was serving us the birthday dessert of ice cream piled high with strawberries. My brother was teasing her about the tip he would leave, and she was running back and forth with the coffee pot, her dark eyes sparkling. Once I caught her eye and we both grinned.

   That evening marked a turning point in our relationship. After that, each night I would meet her at the door, even though it was close to midnight, to chat and laugh over the happenings of the day -- over a cup of coffee we shared a special closeness. She would stack her tip money in small piles and we would count it together.

   "I'll soon be able to buy a car," she said.

   One night I touched her hand and said, "Kathi, I never really understood you and I'm sorry."

   "That's all right, mom, nobody does. But I do. I understand myself."

   During Kathi's free time, she and Felicia continued their search for an apartment. Finally they found one close to our home. They moved the middle of August, one day before my birthday.

   The evening of the Saturday that Kathi moved out, she called to say, "Be sure to pick me up for church in the morning. And I'm going to grandma's with you for your birthday dinner."

   The next day she was excited as she carried a big package. After dessert, she placed it on the table in front of me. The card said simply, "Love, Kathi." And inside was a three-piece pants outfit, bright red, which fit perfectly.

   "It's darling, Kathi."

   "And it fits me, too," she giggled. "Now promise you won't take it back. I want you to have it for your vacation."

   Our son David, who had gone shopping with her, told us that she had sought out my own special dress shop and my favorite sales person and had paid for the pants suit in quarters -- her tips.

   Although living away from home, Kathi was actually with us more than she had ever been. Each night she would either call or come over to share her plans with me. And we tried to help her by sharing our car with her; she was visibly moved at our concern for her.

   One night as we sat chatting in the den, I mentioned a dream I had had recently. Kathi bolted up in her chair and looked at me intently.

   "Was I coming through the door?" she asked.

   I was surprised. "Of course not." Her question puzzled me. Then I realized she was referring to some "strange" dreams I had had in the past -- dreams where my father and my aunt were walking through a door -- dreams I had had just before we received news that they had gone to be with the Lord.

   The week after my birthday, Kathi and I made plans to meet for lunch and shop for clothes for our vacation. When she bounced into the office on Thursday, she looked lovely in a white mini dress, her long, dark hair held back with a band. I smiled to see how much she was trying to please me; she knew that it had irritated me in the past when she had dashed into the office with bare feet and flying hair.

   "I'm letting my bangs grow out. See?" she said -- and this, too, was something I had urged her to do previously. Soon she was walking around the office, greeting the men with, "Hi! I'm Kathi."

   In the restaurant she urged me to have anything I wanted; she was paying for it. We had a happy, relaxed time of conversation, and at one point Kathi said, rather timidly,

   "You know, mom, sometimes the people in the restaurant ask me why I have such a smile, and I tell them it's because I have Christ in my heart.

   "And now I know what I want to do with my life," she continued. "I want to be a missionary."

   "That's wonderful, honey." I touched her hand.

   As we were shopping, I felt a oneness with Kathi that had always eluded me. Instead of the usual debate over which clothes were right, we were in agreement over everything she bought.

   "Which blouse do you like best? The navy blue or the green?"

   "I like the green one, honey," I said, after some deliberation. And it was the green one she bought.

   When we walked back to the car, I handed her the keys. "Now drive carefully," I repeated the familiar phrase.

   "Thanks, mom." Kathi said those two words with more meaning than anything I had ever heard her say, and they echoed in my ears for a long time.
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« Reply #13 on: September 26, 2006, 10:54:11 PM »

Chapter Eleven

   "KATHI," I PHONED HER at her apartment, "we are invited to a farewell dinner for the pastor and the Wallis family, and they want you to come, too. It's Friday night; the Wallises are leaving for Brazil on Saturday."

   "I can't, mom. I have to work." Kathi was genuinely disappointed.

   I was too, for I wanted Kathi to get acquainted with the Wallis brothers, Dave and John, and I felt that they would really enjoy her. Kathi had seen John when she was cheering for the track team meets between Canoga Park High and Cleveland High and briefly at church.

   I had even teased her one day after church, "You know who would be a real good boy for you? John Wallis."

   Surprisingly, she met this statement with a smile; usually my choices were not hers.

   Jim and Ann Wallis were missionaries from our church to Sao Paulo, Brazil. They were also special friends. Now they would be leaving for their third term, and their three older children would remain in the States.

   Ethel, almost twenty-one, was finishing her last year at UCLA; Dave, nineteen, had just graduated from Canoga Park High, an honor student and track star. Tall and handsome, John was dynamic in his love for Christ and, like Kathi, in his positive expressions of his faith. It seemed inevitable that they should meet -- but when?

   The swim-dinner party was lavish with food and fun; the teenagers swimming in the pool and playing volleyball at the far end of the yard were wholeheartedly enjoying themselves. I was wistful, wishing Kathi were there.

   Although it was a wonderful evening, we were sad that our beloved young pastor was leaving the church to go back East. And the Wallises, so dear to our hearts, would be sailing the next day for Sao Paulo.

   I thought back to Jim Wallis's message the previous Sunday evening when he had asked the congregation, in a broken voice, to "look after his precious children" while they were gone. How difficult it must have been for them to say good-by to part of their family.

   "I wish you could take Kathi with you," I told Jim. "She would make a good little missionary."

   As we said our good-bys, I hugged Ann Wallis and she said, "Well, we'll see you in four years."

   Something tugged at me and I thought, No, Ann, it won't be four years at all.

   The next day friends and family met at the pier in San Pedro to wish them well; it would take over thirty days to make the long trip to Brazil.

   Ann kissed her children, turned to give her tall son John an extra hug, and then broke down. John patted her shoulder gently. "Don't cry, mom. I'll save my money and come down at Christmas."

   Jim and Ann, with their younger sons Bobby and Jim Jr., walked up the long gangplank, waving bravely with set smiles.

   Among the group of friends that day were Joe and Veda Quatro with their five children. The Quatro boys, Steve, Jim, and Mike, were special friends of Dave and John. Mike, just seventeen, was planning on a medical missionary career. Strong in his faith, Mike was a real witness at Chatsworth High, a quiet boy with a quick sense of humor. He was active in our Senior High Department at church and, with John and Dave, would meet with Pastor Smith in his office before the Sunday morning service for prayer. Often as I was hurrying to choir practice, I would see the three boys entering the pastor's study with their Bibles in hand. It was an unusual sight; but then, Dave, John, and Mike were unusual boys.

   No sooner had the Wallis family set foot in Brazil when they received a letter from Mike:

    Dear Jim Wallis, Sr., father, Ann Wallis, mother, Bobby and Jim Jr., sons:

       This letter should arrive in Brazil about the time you get there. The Lord is working fantastically here. Ethel gave devotions at teen-time, and I thought Jesus would appear any minute. She told about getting and giving, so I gave a little the next day. I talked to a girl at school and she asked me why I wanted to be a missionary. Wow! One other fella asked if I had witnessed to him before. I had. He said it had influenced him to accept Christ. Next I got an assignment to do research on Israel, and I told the class how God said Israel would go back to the land and all about the Bible and what I said. Then I got to read from the Bible in class. Last Sunday, Pastor and us guys prayed for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Unbelievable -- people were pouring down the aisles.

   And the letters John sent his parents were filled with news of his busy life and of his love for Christ. John told them of a Missions Camp in Northern California to which the church was sending four young people.

   "Mike, Dave, Kathi Johnson, and I are going," he wrote.

   My intuition had been right; when John finally met Kathi, he liked what he saw. One Sunday morning I was wondering why she hadn't come down to sit by me, when I saw them sitting together, getting acquainted. Later, after church, John, Mike, and Kathi were grouped together in excited conversation.

   "Guess what I'm going to do!" she exclaimed when she came home for dinner that Sunday. "I'm going to Missions Camp with John and Dave Wallis and Mike Quatro."

   I was stunned. "You are?"

   "And I'm going to drive."

   "You are?" I repeated dumbly. But I became as excited as Kathi when she talked about it.

   "The church is sending four kids, and they asked me." Her face was aglow.

   Suddenly, "But I promised I'd drive," she remembered dejectedly.

   "What car did you plan on driving," Vern asked, half-smiling.

   "Well --" she didn't know.

   "Don't worry, we'll find you one."

   All of us were in high spirits at Kathi's decision to attend the camp. We would do anything to help her. For even though she had moved in with Felicia, Kathi had finally become "our girl."

   John Wallis brought a quiet, strong influence into Kathi's quicksilvery life. She became more stable and relaxed, yet her smile was even brighter, more radiant. She was experiencing answers to her lifetime prayer; she was learning to trust Christ completely.

   All the tugging and nagging I had thought necessary to bring my daughter into harmony with God's will had not been needed at all. It was the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit that had wooed and won Kathi; she heard His call and responded.

   I was ashamed that I had tried for so long to do the Holy Spirit's work. Never again would I be the spokesman for my children's thoughts. I would tenderly guide them and direct them into faith in Christ, but I would let God Himself do the work of convincing and convicting.

   I had learned a valuable lesson!
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« Reply #14 on: September 26, 2006, 10:54:38 PM »

Chapter Twelve

   "GUESS WHAT?" KATHI ANNOUNCED. "I asked for two weeks off at work and I can have it. I'm going to Lake Shasta with you and then the following week to Missions Camp."

   We had made reservations at beautiful Lake Shasta in Northern California for our vacation. Our friends, Roy and Betty Ramsey, ran Holiday Harbor there, and we were going to spend the last week of August at the lake.

   "There's only one thing," Kathi was thoughtful. "I have to be back Thursday night. It's the big East-West game and my last night to cheer."

   "But, Kathi, we weren't planning on coming back until Sunday. Lake Shasta is twelve hours away."

   "Then I'll take a bus back on Wednesday night. I want to go with you and dad. I want to sit under a tree and just study God's Word."

   I called the bus station and found it would take quite a bit of maneuvering to get her back home, but Kathi was sure. She was going to the lake with us, and she was going to cheer at the game. John Wallis and all her friends from Cleveland High School would be there. It was going to be a big night!

   Friday evening when I began to run a temperature, I knew our vacation would have to be rescheduled for the following week. I was disappointed, as I had looked forward to sharing the week with Kathi.

   "I'm so sorry I got sick, honey," I told her. She sat down on the couch with me and bit her lower lip.

   "What shall I do with a whole week off," she asked. Suddenly her face brightened. "I know. I'll take the boys camping on the beach."

   "Are you sure?" The thought of such an adventure for myself, at any age, would have been unthinkable. But not Kathi!

   "Why not?" she bounced up. "We'll leave right after church tomorrow and be back Thursday."

   I was apprehensive, but Kathi was sure. She could do it.

   "Well, all right then, but I'll keep Danny home. You and Rich and Dave and go, if you promise to call each day at four."

   "I will. I will," Kathi promised.

   All that Saturday Vern searched frantically for a car for Kathi to drive to camp the following week. Finally he found a red Mustang and made an offer.

   "He'll call me if he accepts," Vern told an anxious Kathi when he got home.

   He packed our Impala with all the tenting equipment, while Kathi and the boys ran excitedly up and down stairs carrying things -- ice chest, boxes of food, suitcases, and flashlights.

   Sunday off they went to rough it -- my do-anything, dare-anything daughter with her two younger brothers. That afternoon at four the phone rang.

   "We're all set up, mom," Kathi said, "Don't worry. There're millions of people here and we're having a blast."

   They swam all day, cooked outdoors -- with nothing coming out right -- and at night by the lantern light, Kathi would read to them from Living Letters.

   "Now do you guys get that? Do you understand? You're getting older, and you should know what it means to be a Christian."

   The boys would nod. Kathi had always been their pal when they were little, and now she was a little girl again -- playing Monopoly with them, giggling when they woke up all huddled together, running on the beach with them . . . . Those were days they would never forget.

   When the phone rang on Monday night and the owner of the red Mustang told Vern he would accept his offer, we were as excited as we knew Kathi would be. Vern spent the next day buying new tires, getting insurance, and financing it for her. I could hardly wait for four o'clock to roll around on Tuesday.

   "Guess what's in the driveway?"

   "Not the Mustang?" I was unprepared for the scream in my ear.

   "Yes, all yours."

   Needless to say, they didn't stay another day.

   That night as Vern, Danny, and I sat down to dinner, in walked three dirty, tired, sun-soaked kids.

   "I can't wait to turn that corner," Kathi had told her brothers, "and see that red car. Man, the folks are really cool."

   A heavy compliment from a teen-ager!

   Kathi ate her chicken, sitting on the edge of her chair. She just had to be off to show her friends her new car, pulling them out of their houses to "see what I got." Playing the stereo tapes as loud as they would go, she found Sharon and Felicia and off they went.

   We didn't see her again until Thursday when she dashed home to get her cheerleading gear, scrambling through her closet for her sweater. She pulled on her short red and white cheerleading skirt, grabbed her pompons, and started for the door.

   "Just a minute," I called, reaching for my Instamatic. "Stand right there and give me a good cheer. This is your last night as a cheerleader, and I want a good picture of you."

   She kicked her leg high into the air, lifted her pompon, gave me a broad smile -- I had a picture I shall always cherish!
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