She learned it was better to keep silent than to tell others what she feels until she met him. Now, how can she embrace her Godsent husband and her new voice?
“The LORD said to him, “Who made man’s mouth? Or who makes one mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Isn’t it I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” Exodus 4:11
Esther is a scarred young girl who suffered a tragic accident. After an ungodly event, she gets married to Paul, a secluded rancher close to the ranch she grew up in. Getting over the trauma of her affliction and looking after the ranch are the most challenging tasks she has ever faced. Paul is a mesmerizing man but very isolated and she cannot reach him. How can she trust in Lord’s will and dedicate her soul to Paul’s?
Paul is a young rancher who has forsaken God after the loss of his family. Getting married to Esther was the only way to re-establish his family’s honour. Falling in love with her, though, wasn’t part of his plans. When he realizes that Esther’s condition is misinterpreted by the whole town, his heart unlocks to God’s plan. How can he overcome his fear of being left behind and love his bride once and for all?
Esther and Paul must move mountains to overcome their trauma. Each tends to their own but only if they stand together against those that wish them evil can they really be together as husband and wife. Will they succeed though?
Springford Montana – 1878
Esther Larson glanced at her parents busy with customers in the small mercantile that they owned. She had helped Bernice, her mother, weigh out portions of beans and sugar, package them, and stack them on the shelves and had been given an apple as a reward. She wanted to take it outdoors and find a nice spot in the woods where she could watch the birds while nibbling on her apple.
Esther knew that her mother wouldn’t be happy about her going off anywhere on her own, so she looked for an opportunity when she could slip away unnoticed. The moment came when her father, Arnold, called out to Bernice to look at some rolls of fabric that had just come in.
Smiling to herself, Esther ran outside and headed for the woods. She felt a sense of freedom. Aware her parents’ displeasure in her going off on her own was only because of their concern over her safety, she knew exactly what to do. She would indulge in her favorite pastime without their knowledge and hurry back before her absence stirred up too much anxiety.
Esther was an obedient child, and she strived hard to remain so. But neither her mother nor father appeared to share her love of the woods, so she felt she had no choice other than to take matters into her own hands. She had asked them on several occasions to take her to admire nature’s beauty and pick wildflowers, but they had been less than enthusiastic.
In fact, Esther felt, she was probably causing them less stress by wandering off to the woods without their knowledge than by constantly chivvying them to take her there.
She took a deep breath of the fragrant air as she walked, delighting in God’s beautiful creation as she looked up at the sky and stopped to admire a goldfinch on a rock. Esther loved summer. Spring was a favorite too, especially when she spied the first blooms emerging through the snow.
But summer was the time when she loved to stroll through the woods—only occasionally with her fingers interlaced with her mother’s, but mostly alone.
It was safe there in the woods. Esther knew it because she felt it. From a very young age, she had been aware of God’s protective presence in her life and all around her. That was why she was drawn to places where nature’s beauty abounded, where she could experience creation in its purest form: in the wild undergrowth and the countless varieties of wildflowers that carpeted the forest floor.
These she picked and filled her skirt with, sitting down to enjoy a bite of her apple while arranging the flowers into a colorful posy, which she imagined would beautify her sparsely furnished home.
The words of Psalms 111:2 filled the air as she recited them aloud. “‘Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.’” Then she wandered out of the woods to reluctantly find her way back to her parents’ store before her absence was discovered.
It was while she was returning, chewing on the last of her apple, that her attention was diverted by a goldfinch that hopped off a rock. Torn between the urgency to return to her parents’ store and the urge to delay the moment for as long as she legitimately could, she decided to follow the bird and thus, in doing so, changed the course of her life.
So intent was Esther upon the pursuit of the bird that she was unaware some time had elapsed since she had slipped out of her parents’ store and they were looking for her, calling out to each other anxiously as they wondered where she had gone.
The goldfinch had taken Esther into a lane she’d been told never to enter because the weaponry store was located there, but she was oblivious to everything save the bird hopping along before her.
The elusive goldfinch had flown onto the windowsill of the weaponry store, and Esther reached out to get to it, hoping that it would hop onto her fingers and allow her to take it home. Her thoughts were wholly on the bird, and all her attention was on it when a tiny ripple of sound assailed her ears.
The ripple turned into a rumble, which grew in intensity so quickly that Esther found herself unable to run and instead stood rooted to the ground, trying desperately to reach the goldfinch. It almost seemed like the rumble had ceased, until Esther realized that it hadn’t—instead, it had gathered momentum.
When it tore into the atmosphere with an ear-splitting roar, Esther’s eyes widened with terror. And even as the deafening explosion rent the air, her ears began to buzz and hum.
She saw people running helter-skelter. Their mouths opened and shut, but all she heard was a ringing in her ears. The weaponry store was wreathed in smoke, and Esther saw the goldfinch drop to the ground. Her own mouth opened in a scream, which fell soundlessly into her ears.
She realized she was also enveloped in smoke, black and suffocating. The goldfinch, she thought. She needed to save the goldfinch. She reached out toward the bird, but the ground appeared to be convulsing, and the impact rolled the dead bird away from her.
Esther tried to rise, but she fell back, her hand going up to explore the sharp pain in the sides of her head. She turned over, attempting to lift herself off the ground once again, but then she saw blood drip from her head, and she passed out.
Around her, the voices of the people merged in agonized cries for help, amongst them the screams of her parents when they found her lying inert in the street. But none of this penetrated Esther’s consciousness. Her hearing had been forever eclipsed by silence.
Springford, Montana – 1888
Esther looked out of her bedroom window with an ache in her heart. Below her, she saw her parents—Bernice and Arnold—walking her aunt, uncle, and cousins into the house. She stepped back into the shadows when one of her cousins glanced up briefly and hoped she hadn’t been noticed.
To be seen was to incur her parents’ wrath. She was an embarrassment to them, and therefore she was never to be seen by anyone who visited their home, especially their relatives.
Earlier that morning, Bernice had walked Esther to her room, speaking to her slowly and deliberately as she tried to explain that she desired her daughter keep out of sight, as they were about to have company. Esther had known instinctively what her mother tried to convey.
For one thing, she was slowly becoming accustomed to reading lips, but mostly, she just knew from her parents’ expressions what they wanted of her.
As she caught sight of herself in the dresser mirror, Esther paused and stared. She had turned eighteen a few days ago and was no longer the eight-year-old who had slipped out of her parents’ store to take a walk in the woods a decade before. She was now a full-figured young woman of medium height, with hair the color of autumn leaves—burnished brown with flecks of gold where the dappled sunlight fell on it like raindrops—and eyes like honey fresh from the honeycomb and just as sweet, if only someone would take the time to notice.
Her nose was tip-tilted, accentuated by the sheer arch of her eyebrows.
Her mother had insisted that Esther braid her hair, but now she shook out her luxurious locks, releasing her tresses from the tight plaits, and finger-combed her hair as it spilled over her shoulders.
Yes, she was beautiful, but nobody could see it, because all they saw was a deaf, mute young woman who appeared to be mentally challenged. She had seen the doctor’s report in which she had been termed “cognitively slow” and wondered why anyone, least of all her parents, would give credence to the opinion of a medic who was not esteemed very highly at all and whose very credentials had been called into question on more than one occasion.
She particularly recalled the time her father had experienced pain in his chest. The doctor had said that Arnold had a heart condition for certain. Then their pastor had visited with some herbal tea that sorted out the pain, because it was caused by indigestion and flatulence rather than a problem with her father’s heart.
Esther blinked her eyes as the tears, so long held in, flowed down her soft, flawless cheeks. She sat down on the edge of her bed, and as always, her thoughts went back to that day ten years ago.
She had been enjoying her few stolen moments of freedom, breaking out from the monotony of helping her parents mind the store, and was picking wildflowers and listening to the birdsong that filled the woods. That was when a goldfinch hopped off a rock, and Esther, mesmerized, pursued it.
Esther hadn’t been paying any attention to anything barring the bird. All she’d been doing was following the goldfinch. She’d been trying to catch it and had thought it might be good to tame it, perhaps have it live on her windowsill where she could scatter crumbs for it each day. Esther was a lonely only child.
Her mother, her womb never blessed again after Esther was born, had seemed more protective of her child than loving toward her. Her inability to have more children made her look upon Esther as something of a valuable commodity to be hovered over rather than a child to be cherished. Esther was barely ever allowed out of her parents’ sight and even denied the joy of going to school, so she was unable to cultivate friendships with other children. Thus, she had followed the goldfinch, hoping to make a long-term companion of it.
Bernice was not very demonstrative, but she had cared enough to teach Esther how to read when Arnold was reluctant to send her to school. Esther’s happiest moments were always the ones spent reading with Bernice.
Her favorite stories were “The Nightingale” and “The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen. She and Bernice would read in turns, and the stories would come alive in her ever-active and fertile imagination. During those moments, she had her mother all to herself, and they were special.
She missed them now, because Bernice hadn’t sat down even to look at a storybook with her since the day of the explosion. She was grateful to God her sight had been saved and her ability to read was still as strong as it ever was.
Esther dragged the back of her hand across her swollen eyes. Her attention drifted to the Bible that lay on her bedside table, and she reached for it. Her room had no adornments or accessories, just a bed, a bedside table, and a dresser. The only thing of value was her Bible, and she treasured it. In her moments of abject loneliness and rejection, this book contained the promise that God would never leave her nor forsake her, and the verse fell around her like a comforting blanket.
She drew it closer, repeating the words from Deuteronomy 31:6. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you.”
She felt humbled by the promise. That the Lord would look upon a sinner like her and still assure her of His abiding presence! How grateful she was that she had stopped looking at herself as irredeemable and had stopped blaming herself for the situation she was in. She had gone through long periods of self-recrimination when she had berated herself for ever giving in to the temptation of playing hooky and running away to the woods to experience some fresh summer air.
She would never have done that if she had been in school. Helping at the store was often tedious. School sounded like a dream. She had wanted to go, before the accident, but her father had dismissed the idea immediately. They simply could not afford to put her through school. Oh no, she was required to help at their store.
Esther knew that the Larsons weren’t wealthy in terms of having a lot of money or things. But she always felt rich because she had never thought of money as important. The flowers and birds made her feel like a queen.
Well, now she had all the time in the world to explore her beloved woods and even wander around the town like a ghost of her former self and, like a ghost, invisible. People saw her but looked through her. Some even feared her. She was not considered normal because she was thought to be “cognitively slow.”
One day, she prayed, they would perhaps see her as she truly was: a sensitive young woman with a love for the Lord and a great enjoyment of books. She read voraciously—fairy tales mostly, because they transported her far beyond her realm of unattractive reality. She also read the Bible with an almost desperate hunger.
That moment, as she asked herself how she could possibly be courageous even though she knew God was with her, she opened the Bible and read Matthew 19:26. “But Jesus beheld them and said unto them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Esther rose from her bed and stood by the window again, mentally repeating the verse and feeling the impact of it. All she had was this assurance, but it was enough for her. She had lost her ability to hear, and a careless diagnosis by an unfeeling doctor had cost her the love and regard of her parents.
She could see they pitied her but were not compassionate. If they were, they would have realized the daughter they thought rendered stupid by an explosion was actually still able to read and write. She had tried to speak to them to explain, but they turned their faces away from her, and because she couldn’t hear, she didn’t know her speech often emerged as a series of incoherent sounds and mumbles.
Esther retrieved her journal from the dresser drawer where she hid it.
I cannot tell you how sad I am today that I am not permitted to even say hello to my cousins Prudence and Katherine, whom I grew up with until that day of the explosion. I want to talk to someone my age, dear diary, and I just want someone to know the real me. Prudence and Katherine would know, I am certain, that I am not what they say I am. Even without being familiar with the term “cognitively slow,” I can sense that I have been bracketed with those of mean intelligence.
Looking out across the horizon, Esther prayed that God would deliver her from her prison and set her amongst people who would understand her and believe in her abilities. In her parents’ home, she was an outcast, banned from any task that involved the use of her agile brain and consigned to the ranks of, literally, a servant.
This wasn’t how she had anticipated her life would turn out, yet now that it was such, she was prepared to believe that things would change eventually. Her faith rested on the miracle Jesus performed in Mark 2:1-12, when four friends of a paralyzed man lowered him from the ceiling into a room where Jesus was laying hands on people and healing them.
She carefully copied the passage of scripture down in her diary and read it again. It was a beautiful story. She got up and began to act it out in silent eloquence, her expressive eyes bright with her burning faith in God.
“What are you up to now?” Bernice asked with a frown, storming in with a plate of food and seeing Esther waving her hands before the dresser mirror as she mimed the passage of Scripture.
Esther dropped her hands to her sides and turned her eyes downward the moment she felt the rush of cold air as her mother entered. Before she dropped her eyes, she glimpsed her mother’s face with its forehead dragged into a deep scowl, nostrils flared, and lips contorted by a sneer.
She gave her mother an apologetic look and shrugged.
“Stop behaving—lunatic!” Bernice whispered, lest their guests overhear the conversation.
Esther’s eyes filled with tears. She couldn’t read lips very well, but she sensed that Bernice was calling her mad. She quickly told herself she had read her mother’s lips wrong and she wasn’t referring to her as a lunatic.
She shook her head, began to mime an apology, and protest, through actions, that she wasn’t insane at all. Her hand was on the dresser when Bernice slammed the plate onto it, and the vibrations that Esther felt go through her sensitive fingers conveyed to her that her mother was displeased. Bernice turned rudely away, and Esther was left staring at her back as she rushed out of the room.
Esther picked up the plate and looked at it. She liked the pattern on it—red flowers on a white background. She traced the outline of the flowers delicately with the tip of her forefinger and imagined that she was in a sea of such flowers, drowning in their perfume. She turned her attention to the food and held the plate up to inhale the aromas of the steak and beans.
Steak was only served when they had company. The rest of the time they had potatoes and beans. Sometimes Bernice would make biscuits. Esther liked biscuits because when her mother made them, the whole house filled with their appetizing fragrance.
This sumptuous scent had permeated the air that day, before her cousins arrived, but Esther didn’t see any biscuits on her plate. She hoped there would be at least one left over after everyone had eaten and that Bernice would give it to her.
Bernice had not thought to give Esther a knife and fork to eat her meal with, so Esther picked the steak up with her hands and took a generous bite out of it. She chewed on it slowly, appreciatively, savoring the flavor of the meat and concentrating on it so she didn’t notice that she was eating alone in her bedroom, perched on the edge of her bed.
It was hard to eat the beans with her fingers. Esther picked up each bean individually and then drenched a piece of steak in the sauce.
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