My Stubborn Heart

By: Becky Wade

prologue


There once was a girl who’d been praying for a husband since the fourth grade. Over the years she’d prayed for his health, his happiness, his protection, and—okay—sometimes for his good looks. She’d prayed that she would meet him when she was meant to.

Except that she hadn’t.

She’d been avidly expecting and watching for him all this time, from the fourth grade straight up to the age of thirty-one. And though she tried hard to be positive, the truth was that she’d grown tired of waiting. Tired of dating. Tired of breaking off just two bananas from the bunch at the grocery store. Tired of the singles group at church. Tired of living alone.

Worse, she was beginning to doubt that her nameless, faceless husband existed at all. Maybe, late at night in her kid bed, her college bed, her adult single woman bed, she’d been praying for someone who wasn’t coming. Ever.

Perhaps her husband had run in front of a bus as a child. What did God do in that situation? Swap in an understudy? Or maybe she’d missed her husband during the bustle of her college years, never knowing that the shy guy from physics class was the one. Or perhaps, right from the start, God had never intended for her to marry.

Or maybe, just maybe—and this was the hope she still clung to despite the evidence to the contrary—her husband was still on his way.





There once was a mother who’d been praying double hard for her son ever since he’d stopped praying for himself.

From earliest childhood, he’d been extraordinary—a perfect, miraculous blend of athletic ability and focused determination. She and her husband had supported and loved him, but never expected of him what he’d made of himself. How could it even have entered her mind to dream a dream that big? She’d watched with a mixture of sentimental pride and stunned surprise as he’d climbed up every level of the sport of hockey.

By the age of eighteen he was playing professionally. From there, at what she’d thought would be the pinnacle, his star had only continued to rise. He’d been photographed for grocery store magazines. He’d moved into a house surrounded by a wall of security. He’d married a beautiful girl in a grand wedding ceremony filled with the flashes of cameras, wedding planners, and peach-colored roses.

Her son had accomplished it all. The height of success in his career. National fame. Wealth. Personal happiness with his wife.

And then it had all come apart, crashing and rolling out of reach like a handful of spilled marbles. His wife had been diagnosed with cancer and nothing—not money, not the best doctors—had been able to save her. When she’d died, he’d walked away from his sport, from the big house with the wall, from the fame.

In the years since, he’d retreated inside himself to a place where none of his family or friends could reach him. So his mother prayed. She prayed that God wouldn’t forget about him, this son of hers, who’d gained and lost the world in just a third of his lifetime. She prayed that God would send someone who could find him and save him from his prison of grief. And she prayed that maybe, somehow, in time, his heart would soften and he’d find love again.





Funny thing about prayers. God hears them. But you just never know if, when, or how He’s going to answer them.





chapter one


Kate Donovan entered the town of Redbud, Pennsylvania, for the first time driving a car packed with her seventy-six-year-old grandmother, a comprehensive set of encyclopedias on American antiques, three sacks of nonperishable groceries, and enough pink luggage to give Mary Kay fits of jealousy. It was the end of their three-day car trip from Dallas but only the beginning of their big adventure together.

“Look at this town.” Gran lowered the passenger window. “Look at it! Just try to tell me this isn’t the sweetest town you’ve ever seen.” The afternoon breeze blew into the car, mussing Gran’s stylishly short white hair and sending Kate’s long red ponytail flying. “Didn’t I tell you it was sweet?”

“You did. And it is.” Quaint brick buildings holding shops and restaurants lined Main Street. Kate spotted one adorable B&B and then a painted wooden sign advertising another. The trees dotting the edge of the sidewalk grew above and across the street, forming a tunnel of branches. Gran pointed left and right, telling Kate who’d owned this building when she’d been young, how that one had been a candy store in 1940, and how so-and-so had burned this one to the ground with a cigarette butt.

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