“The mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom.”

— Henry Ward Beecher

Happy Mother’s Day to each of the moms reading this today. And you know what? That’s every woman out there who who has Christ in her heart! Because I believe being a mom is not just biological, but spiritual as well. Rudyard Kipling once said, “God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers,” and I’m inclined to agree, even though my relationship with my own mother was awful up until the time that she died when I was sixteen.

But God sent me a spiritual mother in her place, and trust me when I tell you, I would not be here today — a Christian author or even alive — if not for my spiritual mother, Joy Bollinger. It was her heart for Christ that was my schoolroom and her example that saved my life. She was not my biological mother, no, but a Godly woman who nurtured me with the love of Christ, filling in the cracks of my own dysfunctional upbringing.

And guess what? As women who love God, that is our calling as well, so HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to each of you who reach out to others to encourage, bless, uplift, teach, and pray for them.

For years I used to beat myself up about the type of mother I was because I didn’t think I was very loving. Oh, I was fun and did crazy things they loved, of course, from telling spook stories with candles or driving them down scary roads, to converting the entire family room into a fort with pillows and sheets or driving them around cul-de-sac circle ten times till they were dizzy with laughter. But I was a no-nonsense drill sarge type of mom rather than the sweet, nurturing type like my sister Katie. Think Charity vs. Lizzie, and you get my drift.

So I spent many years browbeating myself until I realized the greatest truth about mothers — biological or not. And that is, the greatest thing we can give our children — spiritual or otherwise — is a Godly example to follow. And if I did nothing else, I did try to do that.

Praying over their cribs constantly for the right mate, the right friends, for them to have a heart for God, etc. Praying at the drop of hat (like the picture my husband took to the right, when Amy and I were praying over something while on a boat ride), making prayer the first resort to problems instead of the last, no matter where we were. Trying desperately to keep my heart clean (which was and is a VERY big job. Teaching them how to live via application of God’s precepts (repenting/apologizing when I was was wrong, which was and is a VERY big job) so that my heart — their schoolroom — would be clean and full of the wisdom they would need to live their own lives.

To me, that is what a true mother — a true nurturer, a true teacher — is, which is what I tried to show in Marcy O’Connor, the mother of the O’Connor clan. To me, Marcy is everything I aspired to be as a loving mom, but mostly she is what I aspired to be as a spiritual mom. A woman who works hard to keep her heart aligned with God’s for the sake of her marriage and the sake of her children.

So, in honor of Mother’s Day today, I’ve chosen one of my favorite Marcy scenes where she forgives Patrick after he has spent over a month rejecting her (after a horrendous fight) by sleeping at the Herald instead of with her at home, unbeknownst to their children . She and Patrick had just become grandparents for the first time at the beginning of this scene, so she thought that would soften his heart towards her, bringing him back to her bed instead of the hard couch at the Herald. But it didn’t, and it’s in this scene that her marriage, her family, and her faith hang in the balance, waiting for her to be the “mother” God had called her to be.

I hope you enjoy it, and I wish each and every one of you a blessed Mother’s Day!


A Scene from

A Passion Denied, by Julie Lessman

Marcy shut her daughters’ bedroom door and paused, her fingers hovering on the knob. Was that a light on downstairs? Her stomach tightened. No … please, Patrick wasn’t planning on leaving again, was he? Not after what they experienced tonight …

Her throat constricted as she moved to the landing, and her eyes spanned wide at the light streaming from the parlor. In a catch of her heart, she skittered down the steps like a little girl at Christmas, hands shaking when she finally reached the door. She bit her lip, suddenly shy. “It’s almost midnight, Patrick. You must be exhausted. Are you … will you … come to bed?”

He looked up from his paper, eyes limp pools of exhaustion. In fact, everything about him bespoke fatigue—heavy lids, sagging cheeks, drooping shoulders. As if he hadn’t slept in days. Or weeks. A mere husk of a man, except for one thing: the hard line of his jaw, now shadowed with a day’s growth of beard. He continued reading. “Not for a while. You’ll probably be asleep when I come up for my things.”

She listed against the door. “Y-you’re leaving?”

He glanced up. “You know that.”

“But I thought … the babies … you and I …”

He turned the page, his tone as steeled as his jaw. “Go to bed, Marcy. You need sleep.”

She blinked, unable to fathom the depth of his coldness. She had done as he asked, left him alone for weeks on end. To sort out his thoughts and give him time. She had cried out to God and dealt with his rejection, praying with Mrs. Gerson to let it all go. “Keep your heart free of bitterness,” Christa had warned. And she had. Obedient to a fault, weeping and forgiving until she thought she would die. And, now … he wanted her to go?

Something deep inside snapped, defying all reason. With a low groan, she raised her fist and flew across the room, bludgeoning him with her rage. He leapt to his feet to ward her off, but she only struck harder, too blinded by tears to see the look on his face. “You want to leave? Well, then, go! And don’t come back!”

He gripped her wrists and glanced at the door. “Stop it!” he hissed, “You’ll wake the children.”

“Pretense,” she screamed, thrashing against his hold, “That’s all you care about. Well, I won’t live with it anymore, do you hear?”

He forced her to the sofa and she bit his hand. He lunged away. His shock congealed into cold fury. “Really? Well, I’ve lived with it for twenty-six years.”

For endless seconds, she couldn’t breathe. She started to shake, but forced her chin up in cold defiance. “No,” she whispered, her voice as steely as his. “That would be the next twenty-six.” She rose and turned her back then—on him and their marriage—moving to the door like someone he couldn’t possibly know. A stranger with head high and back stiff, hardened by the very bitterness she’d fought so hard to avoid. With cold deliberation, she mounted the steps, making her way to the room they no longer shared. In an effort to purge herself of him altogether, she collapsed on her bed, seeking solace in tears. She slammed her fist to his pillow. “I hate you!” she sobbed.

If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.

“I don’t care!” She rose up on the bed, her face streaked with tears and her body shuddering with pain. “Over and over I’ve tried, and I can’t bear it anymore.”

Love … beareth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things …

“No! I have endured, for over a month now, and forgiven until I’m blue in the face. How many times can one person forgive?”

Silence pounded in her ears.

Seventy times seven.

Comprehension seared the air from her throat. Seventy times seven. God, no, please …

She tried to breathe, but the air was too thick, panting from her lips in a faint, feeble rasp. She pressed a hand to her chest, tight with the burden of decision. A choice. To lay down her pride and forgive. Or to embrace the hurt and strike back. Obedience or sin. She squeezed her eyes shut, torn by the prompting of his Spirit and the pull of her flesh. Oh, God, I can’t! Help me, please …

Thoughts pelted her brain. His cruelty. His indifference. His rejection.

She put her palms to her ears, desperate to shut them out. “No! I choose to forgive.” Gasping for air, she staggered from the bed, her mind set on a course that would cost her her pride. She groped for the light, then shielded her eyes from the glare, lips moving in silent prayer. Her pulse raced while she gathered his things, a clean shirt, pressed trousers and a favorite tie. She bundled them in her arms. The scent of him rose, sweet to her senses, and her heart flooded with hope, purging the grief he had caused. “Oh, God, help me …” she whispered. Her breathing became deeper, unrestricted as she moved to the bureau. By God, he would have clean socks and underwear.

And she would have a clean heart.

Her pulse beat steady and strong as she padded down the stairs, no longer afraid of the light in the hall or the stranger in the parlor. She drew in a deep breath.

Perfect love casts out fear.

He seemed so haggard as she entered the room, and her heart longed to hold him. Instead, she placed his things on the couch, grieved at the anger she still saw in his eyes. She looked away, unable to bear it. “Forgive me, Patrick, for losing my temper. I love you … and I will forever.” She moved to the door, suddenly spent, pausing only to speak over her shoulder. “Good night, my love. Please get some sleep.”

And without another word, she returned to their room and silently dressed for bed. When she laid her head on the pillow, it wasn’t to sleep. No, it was first to pray, and then to weep. Because she knew, all too well. The prayer of a righteous man availeth much.


He stared at the empty door, unable to comprehend the love he’d just seen. His pulse droned in his ears as he slumped in the chair, body buzzing and mind numb.

She’d forgiven in the face of her anger. He dropped his head in his hands.

In total obedience to God. Unlike him. And total love for the man who spurned her.

Wetness welled in his eyes and he choked on a sob. An aching realization stabbed within, but its pain was kind, unlike the agony of guilt. Conviction lifted the blindness from his eyes, and he knew he had failed. He’d turned his back on God as well as his wife. And for what? Wounded pride that had yielded nothing but his demise. And hers.

Two souls for the price of one sin.

He heaved with pain, barely able to breathe. His mind grappled for the verse Mitch had given him. He closed his eyes and it suddenly pierced his thoughts, allowing a sliver of light to shatter the darkness.

The law of Jehovah is perfect, restoring the soul.

Oh, God, the law. To forgive. Could he really do it?

He opened his eyes in shock, revelation prickling his spine.

The law is perfect. Like God’s love, Patrick thought, and hope surged in his chest.

He thought of Marcy, and for the first time in weeks, he could see her clearly, unscathed by his anger. A woman, pure of heart and strong of character, loving God while loving him. He thought of the damage he’d done, and his heart fisted in grief. Oh, God, forgive me—I don’t deserve her.

He leapt to his feet, sin no longer weighting him down, and bounded the steps, two at a time. The hall was dark, but his step was light, and he prayed for mercy as never before. He neared their room and could hear her weeping, muffled and wrenching his heart like it should. He stopped in the doorway, staggered by what he’d done, and watched as their bed shivered with her grief. She didn’t hear him until he knelt by her side, and when he spoke, she jerked in surprise. “Marcy …”

The hitch of her breath was harsh in the dark.

He pressed a hand to her wet cheek, sick inside at the pain he’d caused. “God knows I don’t deserve it, but can you … will you … forgive me for being a fool?”

His heart stopped when she didn’t move or blink, seconds of agony as she stared, motionless in the dark. And then with a pitiful cry, she lunged into his arms, landing them both on the floor. “Oh, Patrick,” she sobbed.

He crushed her to him, and his voice broke. “I love you, Marcy, and I swear, I will never hurt you like this again.”

He picked her up and laid her on their bed, desperate to cradle her in his arms. Neither spoke for a long while, but their silence whispered volumes. He breathed in the clean scent of her, and a rush of love overtook him. He held her face in his hands. “I don’t deserve you, Marceline, but as God is my witness, I will spend the rest of my life trying to come close.”

Wetness shimmered in her eyes. She kissed his mouth, softly, gently, stroking his face with the tips of her fingers. “I love you, Patrick, with all of my heart. And as God is my witness, you are the first man I have ever really loved, and you will be the last. I thought I loved Sam when I married you, it’s true, but I was wrong. You taught me what real love is—with your kindness, your caring … your commitment. From the day I became your wife, I have felt nothing but safe and whole and cherished.”

He groaned and pulled her close, his voice raspy with regret. “Until recently.”

He felt her smile in the crook of his neck. “Yes, until recently. But even this, my love, has served us well. Losing you, Patrick—if only for a month and a half—forced me into the arms of God in a way I’d forgotten. Sometimes, in the midst of my love for you, I tend to forget that he is my source, not you.” She pulled away to search his eyes. “I’ve missed you, Patrick. Life is not the same without you.” Her lips curved softly. “And I need my sleep.”

He kissed her again, his husky groan muffled against her mouth. “Explain to me what that is, will ya, darlin’? I seem to have a lapse of memory.”

She feathered his throat with soft, lingering kisses. “Really? I would have thought cold, cramped leather would have been the perfect bedding for a thick-skinned Irishman like you.”

He skimmed his hand down the curve of her hip until flannel gave way to skin. Her soft moan matched his as his kisses became urgent. “No, darlin’, not for sleeping … or otherwise.” The silky warmth of her skin against his lips caused him to shudder. “And God knows how I’ve missed you, Marceline. And ‘otherwise.’”