Good morning and Happy Valentine’s Day! This past week I’ve been knee deep in paint, but thankfully I’ve been able to keep my hands and laptop above the mess and was able to write this short little story for you all. Whether or not you are celebrating alone or with a valentine, I hope you will remember God’s love for you! Maybe this story can be an encouragement for you 💗
(I’m not literally knee deep in paint, in case you were worried, but we’ve been painting the living room and kitchen – trim, ceiling, walls, doors, everything! First, we had to scrub everything (falls to the ground in exhaustion), but we finally got to the painting part, and we finished the living room (and it looks so lovely and fresh, and now we are on to the kitchen – hopefully we can paint the walls or ceiling today!)
Also stick around after the story for a cover reveal!!!
Love is an Action
“Here Zal, grab this side for me would you?”
Azalea nodded silently and reached down from her perch on a wobbly bar stool to take the greenery her friend held out to her.
“Santo cielo! Goodness gracious!” Valerie, owner of Val’s Coffee Corner, hurried out from the back, rubbing her hands on her dusty apron. She paused and threw her hands into the air, spinning in a circle to take in the whole decorated cafe.
“I love it!” Valerie’s beautiful olive face lit up with a brilliant smile. “Perfection!”
Azalea pinned the final rose on the greenery above the front counter and hopped down from the bar stool, relieved to have finished her job without any broken bones.
“The last of the cornettos and cinnamon rolls, for those who don’t appreciate true Italian cooking, are in the oven. All my girls are scheduled to be here at 4:30 sharp, and this place.” She gave another spin. “Is simply gorgeous.”
She clasped her hands together and gave a girlish squeal that was quite uncharacteristic for her grandmotherly age, but not an uncommon occurrence.
Azalea and her friend shared a grin as they watched their over-enthusiastic boss.
“And you two girls. Just sit yourself down over in that corner right there by the window and I’ll bring you some coffee and fresh cornettos.”
Val shooed them toward the table and returned to her kitchen.
Dahlia laughed and slid into the chair closest to the wall.
Azalea sank into the chair across from her with a sigh and pulled out her phone. Nearly ten o’ clock.
“Zal, are you okay?”
Azalea glanced up into her friends’ concerned blue eyes and gave a strained smile. “Yeah, just tired.”
But Dahlia’s searching eyes didn’t leave her. “I don’t believe you.”
Azalea lifted her cap and pushed back locks of her blonde hair that had fallen from their rightful place. “You don’t believe I’m tired?”
Dahlia grinned. “Oh, I believe you’re tired.” Here she grew serious again. “But I don’t believe that’s all of it. There’s something else.”
“Here you are, cari.” Val placed a steaming mug of coffee in front of each and set a plate of two sugar dusted cornettos in between them. “Eat slowly and enjoy. I’ll be in the back waiting for the last batch. Just pop in with your dishes before you leave. You two are wonderful. Thank you so much for spending your Sunday evening helping me. It means alot.”
“Thank you, Zia.” Dahlia’s eyes lit up at the sight of her favorite pastry.
Valerie insisted all her baristas call her Zia, the Italian word for aunt.
Azalea nodded her thanks as she bit into the warm delicacy.
“Aren’t you so excited for tomorrow?” Dahlia’s eyes glowed. “Valentine’s Day is always so fun. I just love how Zia decorates her shop. It’s so cute and lovely and I just adore watching all the cute couples that come in here.”
Azalea set her coffee back down on the table. “That’s what’s wrong,” she groaned.
Dahlia’s forehead wrinkled and she cocked her head. “What do you mean?”
“I hate Valentine’s Day and I hate watching all the cute couples.” Azalea stared into the cream heart that decorated the top of her coffee. “It makes me feel so lonely.”
Dahlia’s eyes softened. “Ahh, I see. I used to be the same way.”
Azalea snorted. “Really? What’s the magic cure?”
She was mocking but she did long for a cure.
Dahlia looked out towards the bright city lights with a faraway look in her eyes.
“I realized I don’t need a man’s love when I have God’s love.”
Here, Azalea actually laughed. “I’m not sure what I believe about that.”
“About God’s love?” Dahlia questioned. “You’ve been going to church with me nearly every Sunday since Christmas, have you learned anything about His love?”
Azalea shrugged. “Well your pastor sure talks about it alot, but that doesn’t mean I understand it.”
Dahlia smiled. “Yeah, I don’t fully understand it either. His love is so full.” She shook her head. “There’s just no way to describe it.”
Azalea took another sip of coffee and toyed with the cup in her hands.
“You do know that couples are more likely to break up in the week before or after Valentine’s Day than any other time of the year.” Dahlia finished her cornetto and licked off her fingers with a satisfied smile.
“Yeah, I’ve heard that.”
“It’s because their love is based on feelings and expectations. If your boyfriend doesn’t meet your expectations with a special Valentine’s gift or date, then he must not love you. So many expectations are left unmet on Valentine’s day, so people just choose to dump their better half. That’s how shallow their love is.”
Dahlia was bringing up her worst fears. She’d seen that shallow love firsthand in her parent’s marriage. And she’d caught a glimpse of the divorce papers in Mom’s hand before she could hide them.
She knew everything Dahlia said was right and she hated it.
“So what’s the point?” Azalea picked at her peeling nail polish. “Why celebrate love?”
Dahlia smiled. “Because there is real love. A kind of love that sacrifices and loves unconditionally – always, forever, no matter what.”
“I know where you’re going with this.” Azalea leaned back and rolled her eyes.
Dahlia’s eyes filled with tears. She laid a hand on her friend’s arm. “You may not understand God’s love. You may even scoff at it, but it’s real. It may seem cliche but it’s true! He loved you so much He was willing to die for you. Imagine someone pointing a gun at your head. And Jesus steps between you and the gun and says, ‘Shoot me.’ Azalea, only someone who truly loves you would die for you. True love is an action. Love isn’t about what you can get, it’s about what you can give.”
Dahlia’s face glowed as she spoke. Azalea felt like there was a treasure she didn’t have that Dahlia was trying to share with her.
Azalea downed the last of her coffee and shook her head. Dahlia could try all night, but that wouldn’t make her understand anymore.
“Let’s go home, Lia.”
Dahlia’s face fell slightly but she nodded and gathered up their plates and cups.
Azalea followed Dahlia to the back and tossed her apron on a hook.
Valerie stood with her arms plunged deep into a sink full of soap suds.
Dahlia set her armful on the counter. “We’re heading out now.”
Valerie gave an award winning smile. “Thank you, dearie. You two were lifesavers. Oh, Azalea, dear, can you pull those out?” She added as the oven timer beeped.
With a nod, Azalea grabbed a nearby hot pad and slid the fresh cornettos out of the oven, basking in the lovely smell that wafted over her. She tossed a towel over the pan so they wouldn’t lose their freshness and transferred them to counter with the warming light.
“Thank you much.” Valerie nodded. “You two get out of here and get some sleep. I expect to see you bright and early tomorrow!”
“Thanks, Stay warm!” Azalea closed the car door and headed up the walk toward her house, stepping carefully to avoid patches of ice. A light was still on in the kitchen, and she paused before pulling open the door. She could faintly hear her parents’ voices and they didn’t sound happy.
Azalea looked up toward the night sky where a few stars burst through the city fog and twinkled down at her.
“Love is an action.” She watched her breath puff in the winter air and furrowed her brow as she tried to understand what Dahlia had meant. “An action?”
She yanked open the door.
Her mother sat on a bar stool at the island, watching angrily as her father paced back and forth across the kitchen, voice raised in frustration.
Mom rubbed her temples. Azalea knew Mom’s headache was a minor inconvenience compared to the heartache Dad had caused her over the years. Mom shook her head apologetically as her daughter dumped her coat and work cap on the island.
Supper? She mouthed.
Azalea shook her head and escaped to the stairs.
All she wanted to do was take a shower and collapse into bed. She pushed open her door and tossed her phone on her bed. Kneeling down, she rifled through her dresser drawers, searching for her favorite pjs.
“Jaz!” She growled.
She had no desire to spend the last of her energy getting her clothes back from her sister, but if that’s what it took, so be it.
Azalea jumped to her feet and turned to see her brother blocking the door.
“Alex, get out.” She gave him a shove but he didn’t move.
“Where were you tonight?”
Azalea stepped back and huffed. “Work, tomorrow’s our biggest day.”
“Yeah? Well you left all the chores to us.”
Azalea rolled her eyes.
A door slammed and her older sister appeared behind Alex, wearing Azalea’s pjs.
“Would you two be quiet, already? Zal, you’re doing my dishes tomorrow.”
“Jasmine!” Azalea pointed at her. “Those are mine.”
Jasmine rolled her eyes and turned to walk back toward her room. “Whatever.”
Azalea groaned and shoved past her brother, darting after Jasmine.
“Jaz, seriously, you always take my things.”
Jasmine tossed her golden locks over her shoulder hauntily. “That’s what big sisters are for.”
“That’s what big sisters are for.” Alex wined from the doorway. “Jaz, stop taking her stuff.”
Jasmine whirled on Alex. “Oh, so now you’re taking her side are you. How come I’m always the one who you both attack?”
“I don’t know.” Azalea jumped in. “Maybe because you’re the meanest?”
“I’m the!” Jasmine gaped. “You’re the one who’s causing all this mess. Dad never used to fight with Mom until you were born.”
Jasmine pointed an accusing finger. “It’s all your fault!”
Azalea stumbled back against the wall as Jasmine slammed her bedroom door. “My fault?” She whispered.
“She is right though.” Alex taunted. “The fighting started when you arrived.”
Azalea’s eyes flashed angrily, and she pushed past him. “Just shut up!” She slammed the door behind her and collapsed onto her bed sobbing.
“So you’ll do my chores tomorrow right?” Alex banged on the door.
Azalea sat up and tossed a shoe at the door, wishing it would go right through and knock him out. “Go away!”
“Good morning, bello!” Valerie smiled warmly as Azalea stepped into the warmth of the cafe kitchen.
“Morning.” She could smell the coffee and cornettos and a wave of happiness washed over her.
“Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!” Dahlia squealed as she stepped in behind Azalea.
A few of the other girls tossed her looks of exasperation over their full coffee mugs.
Valerie laughed. “You two just grab some coffee and wake yourselves up. We have a big day!!”
The girls poured themselves some fresh coffee and joined the group of baristas at a table in the dining area.
After a few moments of silent drinking, Valerie came out with a broad smile on her face.
“Alrighty, my cari!” She threw her hands into the air. “What a wonderful day to be alive, eh?”
Dahlia gave a cheer that faded as no one joined her. “Come on, people, wake up!”
Valerie laughed. “I know a lot of you are probably exhausted just thinking about all we have to do today, but this is our biggest day of the year, so let’s give it our best! We are all in this together and we make a great team!” Valerie winked. “And I’ve placed some special chocolate behind the counter, so munch while you work!”
This time everyone joined in Dahlia’s cheer.
The day was busier than Azalea expected. She manned the cash register, plastering a fake smile across her face. But with each, ‘Enjoy your coffee!’ her heart sank lower. While helping new customers she watched others out of the corner of her eye. Some couples were holding hands across the table, others were sitting close, with arms around each other. And all were smiling and laughing and looking at one another like they were the only person in the world.
Dahlia’s words drifted back to her. “I don’t need a man’s love when I have God’s love.”
She also kept an eye on the door. She’d told her Mom about the specials they had and how famous Val’s cornettos were, but when the last customer exited the door sometime after midnight, Azalea heaved a sigh. Her parents had not shown up. They had truly given up on their marriage.
Valerie marched from the prep area, a row of flour-coated and coffee-splashed girls behind her. She lifted a key above her head and then with a flourish pushed it into the door lock and twisted.
A weary cheer rose from the exhausted baristas.
Azalea powered off the tablet and turned from the register. The clock said 1:24am.
She glanced at the other two register girls and gave a triumphant smile.
“Leave the dishes, cari! Go home and get some sleep, I expect you fully revived and recovered by nine tomorrow!”
Valerie laid a hand on Azalea’s arm as she grabbed her coat off the hook. “You seem a little down and out, bello. And not from the long day. I noticed it when you came in this morning.”
Valerie’s grandmotherly face was creased with sympathy and loving concern.
Azalea smiled weakly. She wanted to brush it aside but even the newest employees at Val’s Coffee Corner knew nothing but complete honesty with Val would be accepted.
“I guess I’m just struggling to understand this whole love thing. All I see to love is flowers and coffee and chocolates and gushy feelings, and all that leads to is fighting and -” Her voice quieted and she pulled her coat closer. “Divorce.”
“Aww, child.” Valerie pulled Azalea into a hug and patted her back.
Valerie’s eyes glistened with tears when she stepped back, hands still on Azalea’s shoulders.
“Coraggio! Take heart, Azalea, someday you will understand real love. God’s love. A good place to start is by asking Him.”
Azalea nodded. “Thanks, Zia.”
Valerie smiled and pushed her toward the door. “You go home and get some sleep. Drive safe now, the roads may be icy.”
Azalea stepped into the dark night and drew a sharp breath as the cold hit her. She hurried to Dahlia’s car and slid into the warmth.
Dahlia lifted her head from the steering wheel and yawned. “Ready?”
“If you fall asleep and crash, my Mom’s gonna kill you.”
“Than I’ll just have to hope I’m killed in the crash so they don’t have to”
Azalea huffed. “Don’t talk like that.”
“You started it!” Dahlia protested with a smile. “Just keep me awake and we’ll be fine.”
Azalea pulled her coat closer and stared out the window.
Azalea grinned. “Sorry, I’m legitimately tired this time.”
“Did our talk last night help any?”
“It got me thinking. But I went home and had a nasty fight with Alex and Jasmine. Now they blame me for Dad and Mom.”
“That’s silly, you don’t believe them do you?” Dahlia glanced at her friend.
Azalea shrugged and watched the city lights rush past. “They said Dad and Mom never fought before I was born.”
Dahlia was quiet for a few minutes. “Even if that is true, that doesn’t make it your fault. These things often boil under the surface before exploding. And not to be insensitive or anything, but they’ve been fighting for sixteen years and are only now getting a divorce?”
Azalea shrugged. “It’s been on and off over the years. I think they’ve tried to make it work because of us kids. Counseling helped for a while, and for a few years things were fine.”
Azalea lifted her eyes to the bridge they were about to cross. “I miss those years.”
Dahlia nodded. “I’m sure it’s tough, dear.”
Her eyes went wide and Azalea felt the car slip.
“Ice!” Dahlia squeaked. “I can’t – steer!”
Azalea gripped the dash, everything in her screaming as the car spun toward the side of the bridge. But her scream caught in her throat and she stared silently as the car plunged toward the darkness.
Mom’s gonna murder me.
Time seemed to freeze and Dahlia’s cry was distant. Something jerked and shook and a hand grabbed hers. Azalea gripped the hand as a sob rose in her throat.
We’re dead. It’s over.
But the dreaded splash never came.
Azalea dared a glance at Dahlia and leaned back in her seat. The car shook and wobbled and she let out a squeak.
Dahlia stared frozen at the blackness below them. She started shaking.
“Zal.” Her voice was barely audible. “We’re hanging on the side of the bridge.”
Azalea didn’t say anything. She was too afraid to move. To breathe.
Something creaked and the car slid forward another inch.
Tears were racing down Dahlia’s face. “Zal, we don’t have much time. Climb into the back. It’ll help balance out the weight.”
“But what if the movement -”
“Do it, Zal!”
Azalea stared at her friend for a moment and then unbuckled her seatbelt with shaking fingers.
“Jesus, help us.” Dahlia fumbled for her phone, which sat in the center console.
Azalea scrambled into the back seat and clamped her eyes shut in terror as the car rocked more and slid forward.
“I can’t.” Dahlia sobbed.
Azalea watched Dahlia try to dial 9-1-1 but with shaking hands.
The car groaned.
Tears rolled down her friend’s face. “Jesus, I’m so scared. But you have promised to be with me. If I die today.” She drew a shaking breath. “I’m ready.”
Dahlia punched the numbers into her phone and hit call.
Azalea half listened as Dahlia squeaked out their predicament through sobs.
God, I’m not ready to die.
She clawed at the seat, desperate.
The car moved.
Dahlia laid the phone down, still on. Looking straight ahead she spoke with a calm assurance.
“Zal, if you break the rear windshield, you can crawl out.”
“What?” Azalea stared at her friend. The car rocked. “Lia, if I do that, my weight won’t be there to balance anymore.” Her voice shook. “You-”
She couldn’t – wouldn’t – say it.
Dahlia was so calm. So peaceful.
“Azalea, we don’t have much time. Do it!”
“How?” Azalea looked at the window above her. “How do I break it?”
“The crowbar. At your feet. Hit it hard enough and the whole thing should shatter. Just be careful, it’ll shatter over you.”
Azalea fumbled for the crowbar. Her hands tightened around the cold metal.
“Do it, Zal!”
Azalea closed her eyes and slammed the crowbar into the windshield. The glass shattered and collapsed around her. A piercing wind tore into her face.
Azalea turned back to her friend. “Dahlia, please.”
Dahlia twisted slightly in her seat. “Listen, Zal, you are my friend and I love you. You’re not ready to die yet, and I’m not going to let you. Get out. For me.”
Her heart felt shattered, like the windshield.
“I love you, Lia.”
She stood to her feet and scrambled out onto the trunk. The car wobbled and shook. She stared at the icy bridge before her. All she had to do was jump. And when she did the car would completely give way. Dahlia would plunge to her death.
“No!” She screamed into the night. She couldn’t.
Dahlia’s voice came from inside, desperate. “Azalea, go! You have to!”
Azalea sobbed. The heartbreak was too much.
“God, this is awful. Do something please!”
The distant wail of a siren reached her ears.
“Dahlia, help is coming!”
The car slid and Azalea clutched the nearest handhold she could get to – a shard of glass still in the window. She yanked her hand back and pressed it against her coat, hiding the wound from the nipping wind.
“Azalea, please just jump. Leave me, I’ll be fine. Go!”
“But help is right there!”
A police car skidded to the stop just before the bridge and two men jumped out. An ambulance was right behind them.
Azalea waved her arms in the air. “Help!”
The officers saw her and ran across toward her, careful not to slip on the sheet of ice that coated the road.
The next few minutes were a blur to Azalea. Some men jumped on the back of the car, stopping it’s forward tilt. Azalea was pulled off the trunk and guided toward the ambulance.
She distantly remembered yelling for them to help Dahlia, to save her friend. A blanket was placed around her shoulders and someone bandaged her hand. Time seemed to freeze for her, but the people around her raced by at blurry speeds.
A distant splash brought her to her feet as a scream caught in her throat. Dahlia!
There she was – being led away from the edge of the bridge, an officer on either side of her, supporting her shaking form.
A wave of relief rushed over her, leaving her lightheaded.
“Careful, there.” Someone held out a hand to steady her.
Azalea waited until Dahlia had been guided over the ambulance and then she stepped forward and engulfed her in a hug. Tears of relief flooded down both of their faces.
“Dahlia!” Was all she could choke out.
Dahlia’s arms tightened around her. “Oh, Zal, you’re okay. Thank you, Jesus.”
Something tugged at Azalea’s heart. She pulled back and gripped Dahlia’s hand. “Dahlia, you could have died!”
Dahlia nodded, the flashing red and blue lights lighting up her face. “I know. But I was ready.”
“But you- you were willing to give your life for me. Why?”
Dahlia smiled. “Love is an action, Azalea.”
Azalea looked toward the crumpled barrier where their car had torn through. “I think I’m beginning to understand.”
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
1 John 3:16
Let’s welcome a new book to the world of words – Romance’s Rest, the sixth and final book in Erika Mathew’s kingdom fiction series, Truth from Taerna!
For those who usually avoid romance novels, this may be the book for you!! Romance’s Rest follows big-hearted, animal-loving Kelton through his quest to know the true meaning of love—and covenant relationship with Adon Olam.
About the Book
Her love seems to have passed him by.
Little does he know that true covenant Love is knocking at his door.
Kethin Ellith’s life is brimful: a new town, his dream job working with people and animals, an active social life, and now a spunky, godly woman who has captured his heart. But how can he have any sort of relationship with her when she’s not even interested in a single conversation?
Faeth Dale delights in being an avid flower gardener and the middle sister of a lively, close-knit family. She has her own non-negotiable reasons for avoiding all male friendships, particularly with spiritually shallow men like Kethin. But would Adon Olam give her this apparently conflicted guidance?
When rejection, grief, and longing jolt Kethin’s reality, knowing love seems permanently beyond him. And what is this spiritual concept of covenant he keeps encountering? As his struggles in this new relationship with Adon Olam intertwine with the struggles of his heart, Kethin comes face to face with both the starkness and breathtaking gloriousness of divine love itself—and a decision that costs him everything.
About the Author
Erika Mathews writes Christian living books, both fiction and non-fiction, that demonstrate the power of the kingdom of God through ordinary people, transforming daily life into His resting life. She’s a homeschool graduate with a Bachelor’s in Communications, a Master’s in Biblical Ministries, and a passion for sharing Jesus Christ and His truth. Outside of writing, she spends time with her husband Josh, mothers her little ones, reads, edits, enjoys the great Minnesota outdoors, plays piano and violin, makes heroic ventures into minimalism, clean eating, and gardening, and uses the Oxford comma.
Yup (sorry, we’ll get to the cover soon), there’s a sale! This week you can get the WHOLE SERIES for under $10! Book one, Promises Prayer is free Thursday only (2/17), Victory’s Voice and Surrender’s Strength are 99 cents all week and Sustainer’s Smile and Memory’s Mind are only $1.99 all week! Plus, preorder Romance’s Rest for $3.99!
Alrighty let’s get to the cover! This lovely book will be published April 21, 2022, so mark your calendars!!
Drum roll please!
*Random crowd of people provide drum roll*
I love it! The designs for the whole series are just stunning, and this one is as well! All the red is so beautiful!! 🤩 And the puppy! 🥰
Memory’s Mind (book 5) launches Friday! Head on over to https://restinglife.com/blog/ to see the tour schedule and stop by tomorrow – Erika will be posting on my blog!!
You are loved!
3 thoughts on “Happy Valentine’s Day! Special Story and Cover Reveal – Romance’s Rest – Truth from Taerna Book Six!”
Wowww that was awesome😭😍
LikeLiked by 1 person
Aww I’m glad you enjoyed it! God’s love is totally awesome!!🤗
Pingback: Memory’s Mind Launch Tour Wrap-up & Giveaway Winner – Resting Life