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  Chapter 17: Danny's Decision
  It was a crisp, sunny autumn Sunday. Under a brilliant blue sky, the dogwoods were already a rich maroon, and here and there, other trees sported a branch of scarlet or gold as they began to change into their vivid fall garb. 

With an exhilarating sense of well-being, Kate hummed along with the Strauss waltz on the radio as she drove away from the nursery. Back home, she parked her car under the elm tree. She opened the trunk and carefully lifted out three round orange pumpkins of graduated size and carried them to the porch. Then she returned to get several big pots of bronze and white chrysanthemums and a bunch of Indian corn. When she had them arranged to her satisfaction, she stepped back to admire her fall display. 

It was warm in the sun, and Kate needed a drink. The phone was ringing as she opened the front door, and she hurried to answer it. 

"Hi, Mom!" 

"Oh, hi, Danny!" Kate said animatedly. "What have you been doing today?" 

For a while, they caught up on important and not-so-important news in each other's lives. But after a slight pause in the conversation, Danny's voice became more serious as he said, "I think maybe this is the time for me to tell you something, Mom. Two things, actually. One thing, I think-know, I'm sure-will make you deliriously happy. The other thing, I hope you will be happy about." 

"Well, you've certainly gotten my curiosity aroused," Kate chuckled, although Danny's words made her brace herself. 

"Let's see," Danny began. "Maybe I need to lead up to this. I think I told you once that one of my college teachers, Pat Walker, had 'blessed' me with what she called 'the gift of doubt.' It was a gift that was both good and bad. Going way back to the year I stayed home and went to college back there, I had questions about God and religion that needed answers. 

"I remember that back then, I talked to Jesus one time and told Him that I was beginning a spiritual quest. I told Him that I knew I might come to the place where I would no longer believe in Him, but I said that, while I still did believe, I wanted to ask Him to stay with me on my journey and bring me through to a stronger faith." 

Kate listened quietly as Danny talked, but her heart thrilled with anticipation. 

"It hasn't been an easy journey, Mom. You have had glimpses of it from time to time. I did get to the place where I didn't believe in God any more. I didn't believe in anything. It was terrible. I got to where I couldn't even articulate the questions I had; I didn't know what they were any more. It was like my mind was in a fog. But God didn't leave me, Mom. I feel like He honored my integrity, because through it all I was searching for the truth. 

"And here's the part that I know is going to make you very happy. About six weeks or so ago, I made a decision. A number of different things entered into it, but at any rate, I have decided I want to try celibacy. I've bought a futon, and that's where I sleep now --a by myself." 

A deep feeling of joy and gratitude filled Kate, but, at the same time, it was tempered by a premonition of what was still to come. 

"It's really interesting. I didn't know how Steve would take it, but he was ready for it too. It turned out to be a relief for both of us. I haven't made a final decision, and I've slipped up a few times, but so far I'm really happy about it. 

"And, Mom, here's the other part I hope you'll be happy about. When I started attending St. Andrew's, it was just because of Steve and the choir. But right away, I felt a sense of belonging and being needed. I began to hear God talking to me again. Mom, God has given me back the faith of my childhood-something I thought was gone forever! 

"There just isn't a place for me in our church anymore. So, Mom .... I have decided to take studies, and I am thinking seriously about joining St. Andrew's.... I wanted to let you know that's where I'm headed right now." 

Kate drew a deep breath. "Well, you're right, buddy. I did have a feeling this was coming. Oh, Danny, I know God has been leading you. And as long as you keep praying for His guidance, I'm very, very happy. I certainly don't think that only members of our church are going to be saved. 

"I'm willing to leave your spiritual future in God's hands, Danny. I just pray that you will keep an open mind and ask God to help you not to be deceived. You know, I believe Satan is very real, and, as the Bible says, he is like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." 

"I believe that too, Mom," Danny concurred. 

"Well, buddy, I want you to know that I believe what you've told me is an answer to prayer, both yours and ours. And I'll keep on praying that God will continue to show you what He wants you to do with your life." 

"Mom, I have felt your prayers following me through this wilderness. I'm glad you understand and are happy. I feel so much happier and more at peace now than I used to." 

After she hung up, Kate sat quietly, processing feelings of joy and gratitude, as well as feelings of disappointment that Danny had regained his faith through another church. 

Oh, Father, she prayed, that's an unworthy thought. I know that all heaven is rejoicing because a lost sheep has been found! And I am rejoicing too, Father! On that black day when I first teamed about Danny's homosexuality, I could never have imagined that I would someday feel joy like this. 

Continued evidence of the change in Danny's life brought new hope to Kate and Michael. A letter from him arrived in their mailbox a month or so after his phone call. He wrote: 

I wish I could be there to talk with you about what has happened to me. Three things are coinciding in my spiritual life at this time, and two of them, I'm sure, you're very glad of. First, I've become obedient to our Lord again. This can only have made you glad. Second, because of this, I am embracing celibacy. Again, shouts of joy and thanksgiving. But third, I am joining another church. 

It's hard to discuss something that we disagree about and still be supportive of each other. I wish I could share with you the aspects of this faith that excite me, the discovered and rediscovered joys. This is the greatest and most exciting thing in my life right now, and I want you to share in my joy. 

God has had mercy on me, a sinner. He has heard my prayer and yours and the prayers of many others and has fixed in my heart lively sentiments of faith, hope, charity, true contrition for my sins, and a firm purpose of amendment. 

I will be joining St. Andrew's, God willing, before Christmas. I would like to have your blessing.

As happy as this made them, it was also very difficult for Kate and Michael. That they made an effort to reach out and share this experience with Danny was a measure of their new maturity and understanding. Michael answered Danny: 

Your letter was so much appreciated. It helped me know that you understand the promise of Jesus when He said, 'I will never leave you, nor forsake you.' I, too, have come to cherish that text during these last few years. Jesus is such a close friend. I love Him dearly, and I know you do too.

Danny, as I have learned to understand your situation, I have come to greatly admire you. First, because you have continued to love people even when they did not understand you. That's what Jesus did. Second, because you have had the courage to become celibate. Only your love for Jesus and your willingness to obey Him could have brought this about. 

Danny, Mom and I have one great wish for all of our children, and that is to meet them in heaven someday. Our prayers are with you every day. God is so good to answer our prayers in your behalf.

A few weeks later, they received a devotional book that Danny wanted to share with them, and accompanying it was the score of a new anthem he had written on the text, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." 

Tears filled Kate's eyes as she thought of the meaning of this verse in Danny's life. Anxious to hear the music, she made copies and persuaded the choir director to have the choir read through it at rehearsal the following week. 

She also read the book Danny had sent and shared with him some insights she had gained from it. 

"I'm glad you liked it, Mom," Danny said. "I wasn't sure if you'd be willing to read it. I'm really glad we can still communicate about something that's so important to both of us." 

As shorter days and frosty nights heralded the approach of winter, Kate spent every spare moment working on Danny's quilt. She wanted to have it finished in time for Christmas. 

It was going to be a Christmas to remember! The children were all coming home this year! Danny, Brenden and Melissa, and Alex and Stephanie, with Amy, Sara, and Samantha. 

Finally, the last stitch was taken. Kate hung the quilt over the banister so she could admire the fine gold quilting, the diagonal lines giving each bright triangle a jewel-like facet. Then she folded it carefully, wrapped it in tissue paper, and put it in a large coat box. 

Now she could turn her attention to Christmas baking and decorating. There were pecan pies and fancy braided Christmas breads, Danny's favorite French rolls, and nut-encrusted thumbprint cookies, their indentations filled with sparkling red and green jelly, to make. The house smelled heavenly. 

A cluster of pine cones, topped with a big red bow, decked the front door. The staircase banister was entwined with a pine garland and tiny white Christmas lights. Tall red candles in brass candlesticks stood among the pine boughs on the mantle, and a basket of red and pink poinsettias decorated the hearth. In the center of the dining table stood a crystal bowl holding a fat red candle nestled in a bed of greenery. A basket of gold-tipped pine cones, with a red bow on the handle, adorned the coffee table. 

To complete the house's festive air, Michael brought home a beautiful eight-foot-tall Christmas tree and set it up in the corner of the family room. Together, he and Kate wound strings of tiny white lights among the branches and hung most of the ornaments, saving out a few of the older ones for the children and grandchildren to hang when they arrived. 

"Oh, honey, look!" Kate exclaimed delightedly. Big snowflakes were gently hitting the windshield as she and Michael drove to the airport on the afternoon of Christmas Eve to pick up their California kids. "The perfect touch!" she said softly. 

Dusk was falling, and it was snowing harder by the time their merry group had stowed all the luggage in the trunk and packed themselves into the car for the ride home. Brenden and Melissa arrived from Virginia in time for supper. 

Later, they gathered around the tree to open presents. The big box for Danny was on the bottom of the heap. All eyes were on him as he began to unwrap it. 

"Bet I know what this is," he said, giving Kate a loving grin. 

"Hurry up, Uncle Danny!" Sara shouted impatiently. 

Slowly, Danny opened the box, pushed back the tissue paper, and lifted out the quilt. As it spilled over his lap and fell in folds to the floor, a thousand memories of all the tears that had been shed and prayers that had ascended flashed through Kate's mind. A long look passed between her and Danny, and then she stood up and went to him. 

"It's beautiful, Mom," he said as they hugged each other. 

Kate kissed him on the top of his head. "As beautiful as your life," she whispered softly. 


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