A tragic flood and a prophetic dream bring her on his doorstep. A heartbroken letter and a secret arrangement get him married to her. How can these two lost souls find God’s gift for love in each other’s arms?
“And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.” KJV, Genesis 7:1
After the death of her beloved father, Birdie and her ailing mother suffer from poverty. When Birdie dreams of Noah and his Ark, she decides that it’s time she leaves with her kin out West and become a mail-order bride. Yet, God has put challenges on her way and taking care of a dying ranch and a rude cowboy are those she must overcome. How can she teach this broken man that it is through the Lord’s will that he’ll be truly happy?
Michael is called back to his family ranch after the death of his father. Little does he know that his dad has played matchmaker for him and has sent out an ad for a bride. He struggles to understand the reason God has cursed him with so many hurdles. Still, feisty Birdie and her adorable mother teach him the values of family warmth and compassion. Is he ready to commit to such a risky endeavor?
God has a plan for all souls and calls upon those that wander for long. Will Birdie and Michael listen to His words and find the key to each other’s hearts or will they let their miraculous love wash away?
New York City, New York, March 1862
Michael McCrea washed the blood off his hands under the hand pump in Dr. George Hedwig’s operating room. He took a deep breath and slowly let it out, allowing the rewarding sense of satisfaction in a job well done to flood through him. The patient would most likely sport a small scar to remind him he used to have a tumor in his neck, but at least he had escaped with his life.
“I dare say I couldn’t have done a better job myself!” The warm and generous tones of his mentor behind him further bolstered Michael’s spirits. “I declare I’ve yet to see an apprentice or a junior partner rise so quickly in the ranks. You’re quite talked about, you know.”
Michael laughed. “Thankfully for the right reasons,” he said, vaguely alluding to the fact that poor performance on the part of a doctor, even one still apprenticing, drew as much, if not more attention from the medical community of New York City, as excellence did.
“Are there any wrong reasons I should know about?” Dr. Hedwig raised an eyebrow in mock suspicion.
Michael laughed at the joke he had walked right into and shook his head. Then he changed the subject. “Has the patient come around yet?”
“Not yet, but he’ll surface soon enough. Nurse Everett will take care of him, don’t you fret yourself.” Dr. Hedwig took Michael’s arm and steered him from the surgery and out into the waiting room. Hetty, his secretary, was busy locking up for the evening.
Michael felt thankful for the privilege of working in such a well-run practice. Dr. Hedwig knew how to steward his resources, and his wife had impeccable taste in decorating.
Forest green drapes framed large sash windows. The Queen Anne-style chairs, upholstered in a dark-green brocade to match the curtains, lined up along walls covered in jade-and-white-patterned wallpaper. A bouquet of fresh flowers—imported arum lilies—stood on the mahogany coffee table in the middle, giving off their gentle perfume.
“It’s a good thing we have ether now, to knock the poor blighters out,” Dr. Hedwig said, continuing their conversation. “Back in my youth we didn’t have such luxuries, you know. It’s hellishly difficult to get sutures in straight when your patient is thrashing about and screaming obscenities at you, I’ll have you know.”
Michael laughed. “I’m truly grateful to Long, Morton, Colton, et al, for making my chosen profession a safer one for me as well as my patients.”
“Well, then, I’m sure you won’t object to a little celebratory drink with me down at the Gentleman’s Club? We have much to celebrate. Not only a successful operation, but also the possibility that soon I will be able to retire and let a younger, more energetic doctor take over as senior partner.” The senior doctor winked at Michael over his spectacles as the two men stepped between the elegant stained-glass doors and out onto the front porch of the practice. “Especially considering I’m finding it more and more difficult to thread a suture needle.”
Michael stared at the older man, suddenly realizing how age had crept up on his beloved mentor of the past four years. He knew Dr. Hedwig was hinting at Michael being his successor, and the honor was overwhelming. In fact, it left him quite speechless.
Dr. Hedwig smiled. He reached out and thumped the dumbfounded Michael affectionately on the back, opening his mouth to say something. Michael would never learn what it was.
“Doc Hedwig!” a breathless voice interrupted him. “Doctor McCrea!”
They both looked up to see Seth, the local postal delivery boy, running toward them waving a folded sheet of paper. His mouse brown hair was flopping in his face and beads of perspiration stood out on his freckled nose and forehead, thanks partly to the unexpected warmth of the March day in New York City. Michael thought the oversized, faded uniform Seth wore could do nothing but impede the boy’s progress, and yet he moved with admirable speed despite his handicap.
“Well, thank heavens I caught you both here!” Seth exclaimed as he reached the porch steps of the stately brick building. “There’s an urgent telegram for you, Doctor McCrea.”
Seth held out the piece of paper, and the thought crossed Michael’s mind that good luck came in threes. He took it eagerly, smiling and wondering what happy surprise waited for him within its folds.
“Thank you kindly, Seth,” he said, hoping the lad would go about his own business and leave him to read the telegram in peace. Seth beamed back at him and planted his ragged boots firmly on the cobblestones of the street, his hands behind his back and an expectant look on his face.
Michael shrugged and unfolded the telegram. The words printed on it seared into his brain like hot branding irons.
Your father not well. Come to Robertsville immediately. Do not delay. J. Regal.
Michael’s hand crumpled the telegram and dropped to his side without him even realizing it. He stared with unseeing eyes into the busy evening street beyond Seth’s querying gaze.
His father hadn’t been well for a long time, but he had got by. And never in his letters had he mentioned any significant deterioration in his health. But that was the way of his father, Theodore McCrea, just as understatement was the way of Mr. Jackie Regal, the family’s longtime lawyer and his father’s best friend.
“Everything all right, Michael?” Dr. Hedwig queried, concern filling his voice. Michael looked up into his mentor’s face, feeling flustered and resenting the feeling in the same moment.
“It’s my father. I have to go home,” Michael replied, feeling numb. The word, “home,” felt thick and out of place on his tongue. Home was the last place he wanted to go, and yet he knew he would be on the next train out of the city, anxious to know the exact state of his father’s health. The push and pull of opposing forces left him feeling disoriented and agitated.
“You mean Texas home? Right away?” Dr. Hedwig probed, doing the gentlemanly thing by not asking too many details. Michael appreciated the gesture.
“I’m afraid so. The family lawyer insists on it, and he isn’t given to exaggeration.” Michael nodded apologetically, suddenly aware of the tension in his voice and his posture.
“Well, then, our celebrations will have to wait,” Dr. Hedwig said with a comforting pat on Michael’s shoulder. He didn’t let on whether he had noticed that anything was out of kilter with his young protégé, but Michael knew better. That was abundantly clear in the good Doctor’s next phrase:
“Don’t worry yourself about the practice. The other lads and I will take care of your patients until you get back. And please don’t hesitate to call on me if you need anything. Anything at all. With the war on now, I fear you might have some difficulty with travel.”
Michael shoved the telegram into his pocket. He didn’t tell Dr. Hedwig that he almost wished the war was in full swing if that would prevent him from going back to Texas. At that thought he was immediately assailed by a bout of guilt. Those were not the kind of thoughts a good son should be having when his father needed him.
“I’m sure it’ll be all right,” Michael said, shaking his head. “I’ve heard the battles have been mostly political since the attack on Fort Sumter. I’m of the opinion, as are many, that the war will be over in a matter of months.”
“As long as you don’t let them make you a Confederate field doctor,” the older man said. “I want you back here in my practice as soon as you’ve taken care of business at home.”
Michael laughed humorlessly. “Never fear, Doc,” he said, grasping Dr. Hedwig’s hand. “I don’t intend to support any kind of war effort. Thank heavens they haven’t made enlistment mandatory.”
The senior partner nodded knowingly, and that was all the comment needed. Doc Hedwig shook Michael’s hand and drew him close in a fatherly bear hug. “Well, God speed, my young friend,” he said, and Michael had to swallow down the lump in his throat.
“I’ll let you know when I’ve arrived safely in Robertsville.”
With that, Michael stepped off the porch, down the steps, and out into the street where he hailed a horse and surrey waiting for clientele.
The ride to his comfortable, though lonely, rented room in Astor House was shrouded in a gamut of warring emotions. He had vowed he would never go home again, but he had obviously grossly overestimated his father’s immortality. He had known, of course, that his father would eventually go the way of all flesh, but he now grasped, for the first time, the reality of that concept.
That was not all that throbbed through his feverish brain, though, as the horse and carriage carried him past rows of stone and brick high rise buildings, some grander than others. Michael hardly noticed them. In his mind, he was hundreds of miles away. He could face his father, and that with grace, he knew it. What he couldn’t face was …
A vision of bouncing gold ringlets and laughing, dove innocent blue eyes danced torturously before his mind’s eye. It was swiftly replaced by the memory of rows of shocked, pitying faces seated in pew after pew and the desire that the earth would split open and swallow him up. The old ache rose up in his chest, unbidden, and it took a gargantuan effort to relegate it back to the darkest, deepest prison cell of his heart.
At last, the surrey stopped, and Michael stepped out onto the sidewalk in front of Astor House. It was a rather ugly structure from the outside, he thought, gazing up at the square, Greek Revival style exterior that now suddenly looked more to him like a prison than an upmarket hotel. It had been his home for the last five years, a fortuitous arrangement facilitated by Dr. Hedwig’s uncanny ability to unfailingly earn the love and respect of everyone he met. Michael took one last look around.
Across the street the fountain in the large round pond of City Hall Park splashed cheerily, but he felt more affinity to the drooping fronds of the weeping willow tree planted beside it. People passing by in the street seemed to be staring at him with the same distaste and disapproval they had levied at the then president elect, Abraham Lincoln, only a few months before when that esteemed gentleman had arrived on the steps of the very same hotel.
The chimes began tolling metallically in the tower of St Paul’s Chapel just beside the hotel, as if to let him know the clock was ticking. Michael turned quickly on his heel and marched up the steps to the grand entrance hall. The opulence around him had been a balm on his soul for the full three years of his apprenticeship, and the two years he had been a partner in Dr. Hedwig’s practice, but now he hardly saw the beautifully carved wooden staircase, the chandeliers, or the French furniture. All he could think of was a home he didn’t want to go to and the prospect of having to deal with past events he would rather not remember and people he would rather not see.
If only she hadn’t waited until we were in church, the lingering regret surfaced once again as it had so often in the past.
Church. Living next door to a chapel had been almost like a compromise, making up for the fact that he hadn’t set foot in one since that awful day. Michael wondered if God himself cared that he hadn’t bowed his knee in worship to him. A God who would allow so much heartache to devastate one man’s life could hardly expect anything more from him.
And now he was apparently taking Michael’s father. An act, no doubt, designed to force him to go back to a place he had so successfully fled from, in spirit, soul and body.
I suppose I couldn’t run away forever, he thought grimly while he packed his trunk with the most ranch-friendly attire he could find in his closet. He stood up and looked around his plush chamber. On the bright side, though, as soon as it’s all taken care of, I can come back to my real home.
It was a comforting thought. In fact, it was the only thought that could bring him any comfort at all.
Linn City, Oregon, January 1862
The roads of Linn City had never been particularly well drained, but they had also never before run like rivers past the houses and shopfronts of the booming settler town. Bernadette Spenser—or Birdie, as she preferred to be called—watched from her family’s humble ranch house as the water level climbed steadily up the wood and adobe walls of the town buildings in the valley below her at the rate of what Birdie guessed was easily a foot every hour.
Even after weeks of rain, thick, black clouds still blotted out the weak mid-winter sun and the blue sky. Birdie shivered. It was bitterly cold, even though any snow had been washed away by the deluge of unseasonal warm rains days ago.
Birdie could only imagine what her mother must be feeling. The cold always made her joints ache horribly. Birdie had often wished she could do something to stop it, but Mama had always insisted she was all right.
The roar of the river dragged Birdie’s thoughts back to their present situation. It was deafening and frightful, nothing like the gentle and soothing rumble of Willamette Falls that had serenaded Birdie to sleep all her young life. In fact, everything around her felt alien and ominous.
The great old oak tree by the kitchen door that had so often gently swayed over her while she lay in its lower branches had become a raging, flailing mess of flying twigs and leaves, too frightening to go anywhere near. The only comfort was the rocky outcrop behind the house that still gave some kind of protection from the wind.
Most residents in the towns near the river had evacuated their homes and fled to higher ground. Birdie thanked God silently that her father had built his family’s home far above the flood plain. It was the reason a few of those families fleeing the flood had found refuge in the Spensers’ small home. Still, they had had to turn many away, simply because they did not have enough room.
Birdie didn’t know all of the folks now sheltering under their roof, but she could tell from their dress that they were simple folk like herself and her mama. Their clothes were clearly hand sewn from hardwearing, rough woven cloth. Their hands were calloused, and their eyes honest. And fearful. As her gaze shifted from one face to the next, she hummed the tune of A Mighty Fortress Is Our God and prayed the words in her mind for each troubled soul huddled in her home.
Birdie joined a group of refugees staring out of her living room window at the carnage being wrought only a few miles down the hillside from the Spensers’ home. Across the raging brown waters, far over on the other side of the valley, she could see Oregon City was underwater, too. People were still trying to rescue treasured household items with boats, but the current was making things difficult.
“Oh!” a young boy’s voice cried out beside her at the window. “Look!” He pointed and Birdie averted her gaze from the distant Oregon City to their own little town in the valley far below them.
With a shudder and a surprisingly loud groan echoing even over the roar of the floodwaters, two houses’ walls gave way, crumbling beneath the onslaught of the still rising waters. More refugees rushed to the window, crowding round to see what was happening.
Birdie felt her heart contract painfully in her chest. Another two families had just lost everything they had. She prayed that the floodwaters would cease rising. How much more hammering could their little town stand?
“Well, will ya look at that!” a man’s voice cried out. “All our work of years and years, just washed away like coffee grounds out of my percolator!”
The comment might have drawn a few chuckles under other circumstances, but this was no laughing matter. Birdie watched with deepening sorrow as chairs and tables, baskets and chopping boards, beds and linen chests and mantle clocks and books; even drowned livestock and chickens were swept along down the valley below.
One by one, the houses and stores collapsed, their contents whisked cruelly out of sight of the watching owners. Floorboards, wooden doors, and roof shingles bobbed about on the swirling, angry current, and Birdie suddenly realized that salty tears were coursing down her cheeks and into the corners of her mouth. She wiped her face with the corner of her shawl and turned away from the window, unable to bear the sight any longer.
“I knew this would happen sometime or another,” Mrs. Abigail Howard, the self-appointed conscience of Linn City, snapped at nobody in particular. “I told Mrs. Ward as much when the menfolk started coming back from those godless gold mines, building casinos and such depravities. It was bound ta happen, I tell ya. Now we’re all suffering for their sins!”
“Oh, hush, Abigail,” Birdie’s mother said in a gentle but firm tone. “Even if you’re right, this isn’t the time.”
“Just like in the time of Noah,” Mrs. Howard went on as if nobody had said a word to her. “God will wash the earth clean of wickedness when our sins rise up to sully His nostrils!”
“And He promised He would never again destroy the earth with a flood, as I recall the Good Book saying,” Mama responded calmly as she cradled and shushed a crying little girl in her arms.
“Oh, you always were the one to preach grace and mercy, Caroline Spenser,” Mrs. Howard retorted. “But God is just, too, you know! And righteous! He will not tolerate evil for long!”
“Yes, He is,” Mama agreed. “Faithful and just to forgive us of our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
“So, you don’t think God is punishing us, then, Carrie?” Mrs. Howard shot back, clearly intent on winning the argument.
“No, I don’t. We’re all alive, aren’t we? Life is the greatest gift we have. Where there is life, there is always still hope.”
Mrs. Howard snorted a loud, “Humph!” but didn’t press the matter further.
Birdie smiled at her mother and fetched a cube of sugar for the little girl still whimpering in her lap. She recognized the child as the general storekeeper’s daughter, Millie. Her father, James March, and his wife, Andrea, stood forlornly at the window, watching their life’s work being swept into oblivion.
All at once, Birdie’s frowned to herself. Something was making her nerves jangle, but she wasn’t even sure what it was. It could have been a sound, like rocks rattling against each other, or old calico being ripped, but the roar of the river was so loud it drowned out almost everything else.
Birdie could never remember afterward who had cried out those two words, but she did remember the aftermath. Vividly.
She looked down at her feet and thought that one seemed a little higher than the other, as if the floor were tilting. With horror she realized that, in fact, it was.
“Everyone! Get out of the house, now! Get to higher ground!” she cried out, grasping Millie’s hand tightly in hers and heading for the door. The great live oak by the kitchen door was leaning drunkenly toward the river as she dragged the screaming little girl outside, her heart pounding in her chest. Men and children tumbled out of the windows of the small house while women fled, pale faced, through any door they could find.
The straggling gaggle of survivors fled, scrambling up to the rocky outcrop behind the house, as the earth gave way beneath them. The tearing sound Birdie had heard earlier grew louder as the live oak’s massive root system was ripped apart and the tree creaked and groaned in protest at the indignity of its foundations being laid bare.
Clinging to boulders, the little group silently watched the small house leaning helplessly forward onto its face as it was sucked down the mountainside, riding a wave of rubble and mud. The swollen, debris-gorged river swallowed it up in a greedy effort to quench its insatiable appetite for destruction.
Birdie felt numb. Her childhood home was bobbing away on a river of mud like a discarded doll’s house, and she could do nothing to stop it.
A babble of voices rose up around her; some angry, some lamenting, some filled with wonder and amazement. Birdie could only stare in mute heartache as Millie wrenched herself free from her arms and ran to her parents. The next moment Birdie felt her mother’s arm slip around her shoulders.
“Where there is life, there is hope,” Mama whispered.
Somehow—and Birdie had no idea how—Mama had managed to snatch the family Bible and their rifle from the house before the ground gave way completely beneath it. The rifle had belonged to her father. That and the Bible was all they had left of him. It was all they had left of anything.
Birdie leaned against her mother, feeling hot tears filling her eyes, but crying would not solve anything. She quickly dried her eyes and stood to her feet, looking around her. The babble had died down and only a few voices still spoke. The menfolk in the group were taking charge and insisting that everyone calm down and move higher.
Wearily, the little group rallied together and trudged further uphill. One of the men said he had heard earlier there was a refugee settlement being set up further upstream beyond the falls. The group scanned the grossly swollen river, trying to make out where the usually beautiful Willamette Falls might have been, but all they could see was a mass of brown, churning water filling almost the entire valley far below them.
“I’m sure it’s meant ta be there, somewheres,” one of the men said, pointing at a section of the gorged river that seemed to have a slight bend in it. A steamboat was chugging along, stopping every now and then. Each time it did, the men aboard, looking like tiny toy soldiers in the distance, would haul something out of the muddy water.
“I’ll wager it’s the first an’ last time the St Clair will ever run the falls, eh?” another man commented, his observation greeted by a smattering of affirmations.
Birdie couldn’t understand how they could speak so nonchalantly. She felt hollow and disoriented, almost the same as she had when her father had died. She had been only twelve years old when he was killed by the stray bullet of a drunken brawler in one of Linn City’s many saloons. Papa had been there for his weekly meeting with a young man, Frank Myers, who was fresh back from finding his fortune in the California goldfields. Mr. Myers had been leaning dangerously toward the wrong path, and Papa had hoped to dissuade him from it. But not in the way that he eventually did.
Papa had been sitting right in the path of the bullet that would otherwise have hit Frank Myers full in the face.
Mr. Myers always said that when that bullet hit Elliot Spenser, instead of him, it saved more than just his life. It shocked him to his core. Believing that God had given him a second chance, Mr. Myers had immediately repented of his sins and ended up becoming the town’s most ardent lay preacher. It was he who rushed to meet the band of weary, shivering refugees as they approached the tent settlement he was running. “Oh, my poor, dear friends!” he exclaimed. “Please do come into the main tent over here. We have hot soup and blankets and more on the way.”
Above them the sky rumbled, and a few fat drops fell, galvanizing everyone to greater efforts.
You just read the first chapters of "When God's Words Flow in their Marriage"!
Are you ready, for an emotional roller-coaster, filled with drama and excitement?
If yes, just click this button to find how the story ends!
Please log in again. The login page will open in a new tab. After logging in you can close it and return to this page.