Shine A Light On Slavery

Today – February 25 – is Shine a Light on Slavery Day.

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The red X is confirmation of my desire to do my part to End It.

You can learn about the End It Movement here.

Bringing attention to modern day slavery won’t necessarily put an end to human trafficking, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. As more people become aware of the warning signs of sexual exploitation and begin to demand products made without forced or bonded labor, more of those held captive will be set free.

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Psalm 10:16-18.

For more information about some of the growing number of organizations currently fighting human trafficking, check out these sites:

The Polaris Project – www.polarisproject.org

International Justice Mission – www.ijm.org

R3 The Movement – www.r3themovement.org

51 South Foundation – www.51south.org

Called2rescue – www.called2rescue.org

Express Missions International – www.expressmissions.com

Advocates for Freedom – www.advocatesforfreedom.org

 

To learn more about human trafficking, start with these sites:

2015 Trafficking in Persons Report (US State Department)

Recognize the Signs of Trafficking (Polaris Project)

Training for Medical and Dental Professionals (CMDA)

Tennessee Human Trafficking Report (Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)

End It

I’m in it to END IT.

Will you join me?

The Christmas Story

In honor of the Reason for the Christmas Season, tonight’s blog post will tell the age-old story, which is better by far than any story I could tell. The crime story will continue on Saturday.

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In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.

(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)

And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.

He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

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While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,

and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them at the inn.

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And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.

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An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

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But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

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This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

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“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

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When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,

and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

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Luke 2:1-20 New International Version (©1984)

In Memory

Tonight I was going to post chapter two of the story, but it seems more appropriate to pay tribute to my friend who went to meet Jesus face to face today. Brenda Hughes was a gracious lady who had a great sense of humor and a ready smile. She made us laugh. She will be missed. I haven’t always known her well, and I think I missed out on a gem of a friend by not knowing her better.

My favorite story involving Brenda was from 2009. I went on a girls’ get-away cruise with Brenda and five other friends.

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As we were going through security to get on board the ship, about half of us went on through without any problems. We realized there was a problem behind us, but we were forced on through the line and had to wait at the end to find out what happened.

It turned out that somehow a steak knife from the set in Brenda’s kitchen had ended up in her knitting bag.

She had no idea how it got there.

But security took it.

It was supposedly a dangerous weapon that was not allowed on the ship.

The delay was caused by them searching her bag, incredulous that there could possibly be something as random as a steak knife in a bag full of yarn and knitting needles. She had told them she had no weapons, which made it worse. They finally seemed to concede that she really was clueless about the knife’s presence.

So…we finally all get on board the ship, sans Brenda’s knife, and decide to get some dinner.

Brenda ordered steak.

They brought her a steak knife.

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For some reason, our server couldn’t figure out why we found that to be so funny.

We laughed until we cried.

Brenda had that effect on us.

So, tonight my heart is sad. My prayers are lifting for her family and dearest of friends. I know they can hardly imagine life without her. God sees them and He will comfort them. I’m very thankful that Brenda knew Jesus and had accepted Him as Savior. Her family can look forward to a joyful reunion in heaven one day.

For now, I’ll just look forward to seeing Brenda again one day in God’s kingdom. I can imagine her there skipping down the streets of gold, laughing and making others laugh, too.

Heaven became a little bit brighter today.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Psalm 116:15 (NIV84)

Rest in peace, Brenda.

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My Brother

I have one brother. No sisters. David might strangle me, but this post is all about him.

Why? It’s his birthday.birthday

For the record, and I know you’re wondering . . .                                                             David is almost exactly 4 years older than me.

So yeah. If you haven’t done the math already, I just turned 47.

Since it’s getting late in the Eastern time zone and his birthday is already over where he lives, I’ll go ahead and just leave you with some pictures. Where I come from in the Central time zone, he still has roughly a half hour, but whatever.

Here he is as a little thing.

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And here’s a few family pictures. (Sorry, Mom and Dad.)

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I know, we were rockin’ some of those hairstyles!

But the main thing about my brother?

He has an amazing talent for art. He did these for me a few years ago, all by computer.

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Breathtaking, aren’t they? Can you imagine drawing this sort of thing with a computer mouse? I can’t. This was when he first started doing computer animations, too. He’s gotten even better at it over the years, but these are still my favorites.

Happy birthday, bro! I hope it’s been a great one. It was good to see you on your birthday for once. Let’s try that again next year.

Love ya!

Thanksgiving

As I type this, I am riding along in the car as Rich drives us from Memphis to Chattanooga. I am sitting in the back seat because the car is kind of small, and have you seen my son’s long legs? There’s no way Mark could comfortably squeeze his almost 6’3” frame back here.

But I don’t mind. I’m not even being a backseat driver.

Rich has a book on tape playing so I’m free to daydream and reminisce. I’ve been thinking about past Thanksgivings. Most of my childhood years we went to my grandparent’s house. I had to sit at the kid’s table in the kitchen. I remember one year when I was not content to be sitting at a table with my brother and cousin. I thought boys were sooo boring, so I sat there, wishing that I could sit at the grown-up table so I could hear the adult conversations. You could ask my parents, but I’m pretty sure that I freely shared my not-so-thankful attitude.

Now, as I look out into the passing darkness and gaze up at a gorgeous full moon, my heart overflows with thankfulness. I cannot help but count my blessings.

My family will be together this year, with all of my kids in one place. I feel compelled to whisper a prayer for friends whose children will not be coming home this year, some due to job commitments, others due to family rifts or even death. My heart breaks for them. I pray that God meets them where they are and wraps His arms around them.

I will also get to visit with my parents this year. I have friends who have said goodbye to parents this year. I pray that God wraps His arms around them, too, and comforts them as a Father.

Then there is the high school classmate who just lost her husband. And the friends who have lost siblings. I have friends who have recently gotten bad news about their health.

As wonderful as the season is between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it is a lonely and painful time for way too many people. So as we usher in another Thanksgiving tomorrow and begin the countdown until Christmas, I hope that you are one of the ones who can enter the season joyfully surrounded by loved ones, and that you can join me in praying for those not as fortunate.

If you are one who is hurting, and sorrow crowds in close to you this year, please know that I am praying for you. I may not know your need. God does. He sees your tears. He knows your pain. I cannot pretend to know the journey you must walk. I will not attempt to placate your hurt with further words. Just know that I’m praying for you.

Accountable? ME? You can help.

A friend of mine recently recalled a memory of receiving “laughing gas” at the dentist when she was a little girl. She said she remembers wondering how the dentist and his assistant could possibly work on her teeth.

“How can they reach me when I’m way up here at the ceiling?”

If you’ve ever had laughing gas, you can relate.

Today, I was listening to praise music as I exercised. In the middle of a song the thoughts rattling around in my head unexpectedly collided into one glorifying, freeing concept that literally brought me to a halt as I considered it.

“How can Satan reach me when I’m way up here like an eagle?”

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Nothing formed against me will stand.

Satan is the prince of the world and he is seeking to destroy me. He’s seeking to destroy you, too. But, God invites us to wait on Him, renew our strength, and soar like an eagle, high above the world and its troubles. Closer to Him. Not so close to the enemy.

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Life is good when I’m soaring. But, I have a problem with staying there. I get lazy. I get complacent. As crazy as it sounds, I all-too-readily give up living in victory because taking the easy yoke God places on me seems…hard.

That’s where you come in.

I need accountability.

See, God has asked me to write a blog. It’s not easy to write on a regular basis, particularly since graduate school has tied up so much of my time lately. In case you didn’t know, I’ve been taking two classes at a time in order to earn my Master of Science in Criminal Justice. I started classes right about the time that I wrote my last blog in April. Now, I’m down to less than 10 weeks left before I finish the last of my course work in January, plus I’m only taking one class at a time.

Despite my time being freed up somewhat, I still have my little friends Lazy and Complacent begging for attention. They make me want to be more like my cat, who happens to be snoozing in my lap as I type. Did you know that cats usually sleep 15-16 hours a day? I think she needs to wake up now.

Trouble Wake

That’s better. She just needed a little motivation.

Anyway.

I need motivation, too. So can you help motivate me?

It may be dangerous, but I made a deal with God. I told Him that if he brought me a certain number of new subscribers, then I would commit to blogging every Wednesday and Saturday unless He prevents me from doing so. I’m confident that I can get this number of subscribers . . . so much so that I’ve already come up with topics for every blog until the end of February.

If you’re willing to subscribe and help be the wind beneath my wings so that I can soar, there’s a place to submit an email address on the right hand side of the page. Even if you don’t get around to reading every post, or even if you relegate me to your spam filter, I won’t know. I’ll be encouraged to keep on keepin’ on.

Now, if I get this number of subscribers and start to blog twice a week, not every post will be about law enforcement. I mean, most of the time it’s just not that exciting. Plus, it’s not practical to write about specific calls and cases due to privacy issues. I do have a number of things on my topic list that are related to criminal justice, but my life is more than that.

I’m thinking posts will be roughly divided into four basic categories:

My God. God is important to me. I won’t lie about that or try to sugar coat it. This category of posts will share things that God is teaching me or that I want to share with others.

My Life. These posts are going to include some of the crazy antics I get into, along with details about my family and random musings from my mixed-up, ordinary life.

My Journey. These posts are for those who have asked to hear my “whole story.” There won’t be many of them, but I plan to go w-a-a-a-a-y back to when I was little. As in, “once upon a time” days.

My Great Adventure. This is where the law enforcement comes in. It’ll also include updates about my future steps toward fighting human trafficking. That’s the great adventure I never thought I’d be doing.

So who’s with me? Did you read this far?

Thank you in advance for your step towards encouraging me by subscribing to the blog. I hope to encourage you along the way as well. Feel free to leave comments about topics you might want to have me cover in the coming months. You can do that by clicking the little word bubble at the right side of the post, or by commenting below, depending on where you are in the blog. If there’s a problem with the subscription page or comments section, please let me know by some other viable means so I can fix it.

I look forward to many happy blogging deadlines. Let’s do this thing.

Prom Season Again??

This doesn’t have anything to do with law enforcement, but I need a break. I have other things on my mind. I’ll get back to the halls of justice next week. Maybe. But for now…

It’s prom season. A quick peek at Facebook shows girls pampering for the big event, doing their hair and makeup before dressing up in fancy gowns. It was a simpler time when I went to prom. We just posed for a few pictures at the event. Now, they seem to have an entire photo shoot before they go to dinner!

I’ll do my kids a favor and not show THEIR prom pictures. But mine? Well, these two guys will have to get over it. They probably aren’t reading anyway.

This is Junior year prom.

Junior Prom

And here’s Senior year prom.

Senior Prom

Guess I liked pink back then. The second dress, ironically enough, was bought on my one and only trip to Memphis on a college visit to Memphis State. The same trip where I told my mom that if I never saw Memphis again, it would be too soon.

God sure has a sense of humor, doesn’t He?

But all that thinking about prom made me think about the lie that Satan tells us about having to be pretty. (Or “handsome” for those guys who may be reading and don’t want to feel left out.) The world plays along, buying into and promoting the myth. And our kids are especially under attack. Daily they are under pressure to look the way society tells them to look. And they shouldn’t have to be.

I’m reminded of an incident that happened in high school.

I was sixteen years old. My boyfriend and I had been dating for almost a year. (That guy in the Junior year picture above.) We were going on a date, and as I settled into the car I asked what every guy dreads:

“Do you think I look good in this outfit?”

He drove for a moment, then stopped at a traffic light, looked me in the eye and answered:

“It doesn’t matter how pretty you are,

there will always be someone prettier.

So quit worrying about it.”

I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to think. I just looked at him in disbelief. But once my brain started working again, the questions came fast and furious, chasing each other. Does he not think I’m pretty? Does he like someone else? Is he trying to tell me some hidden message? Does this outfit really make me look hideous? How dare he tell me that there will always be someone prettier than me? He’s my boyfriend! I camped on that last thought for the rest of the evening. I’m sure I wasn’t very good company.

We dated for two more years after that, but I never really forgave him for his comment until many years later. I never asked him what he meant by it, either. I just tucked it away in a safe place in my memory where I could easily dust it off and fume over it when I was looking for a reason to feel sorry for myself.

Like many teenage girls, I was caught up in my appearance and what other people thought of me. Looks were important to me. I wanted to feel pretty. I wanted to be pretty. I longed to be the most beautiful person in someone’s eyes. I felt like my boyfriend had let me down. In my twisted way of thinking, it was his responsibility to put me on a pedestal and tell me I was the most beautiful girl he knew. I bought into the lie of thinking beauty was the most important thing.

Am I pretty? Will anyone ever think me to be beautiful? For years after we broke up, on into college, I would regularly stare in the mirror and wonder if I were pretty enough, good enough, to find my place in the world. I lost weight to look even better, briefly cutting down from a size 8 to a drastic size 2.

Let me just say, I should never be THAT skinny. It wasn’t a good look for me. But at the time, I was desperate to be beautiful.

I even entered a beauty pageant: the Miss Tennessee USA 1989.

Here’s proof of my insanity, taken at the pageant. I was proud of the giant “flower.” Go ahead and laugh. Sarah did when my mom made her try it on once. Definitely dated.

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Y’all, let’s face it. I’m not beauty pageant material!

And don’t try to tell me otherwise. I’m okay with it.

(And – for the record – the winner of that pageant was a gal I knew from my Communications class at UTC: Kim Payne. We both skipped class to go to the pageant. After she competed in the Miss USA pageant, she went on to sing backup for the Beach Boys, after which she met and married Lee Greenwood. Wow.)

But now I know the truth.

That boyfriend was right. There will always be someone prettier than me.

And you know what? I really am okay with that now.

I was looking for acceptance based solely on my appearance. God, however, looks not at the outward appearance. He looks at the heart.

And all those gals who dressed up this year for prom? Some of them will go to bed after prom thinking that they fell short of beautiful. That they weren’t pretty enough. I pray that they escape the lie sooner than I did. That they realize just how beautiful they are to God.

If you know one of those girls, do me a favor. Give them a hug for me.

UPDATE: I should probably mention that the former boyfriend and I have since “talked.” His comment way back then was simply meant to encourage me to focus on lasting inner beauty over outer beauty. To his credit, he told me more than once I was pretty. In my teenage angst I just chose to focus on the one time that he didn’t.

The Next Step

It’s official.

I’m going back to school.

It’s been 24 years since I got out of college, 28 years since I graduated high school.IMG_1890

And now, after much prayer and consideration of my options, I’m going to grad school to get my Master of Science in Criminal Justice. I don’t know yet how God plans to use this in my future, but I’m very curious to see how it will all play out.

You’d think I’d be used to stepping out blindly into my future by now. I’m not. It’s scary.

And I didn’t see this one coming any more than I saw becoming a Reserve Sheriff Deputy. Or developing a passion to fight human trafficking. I think God knows that if I knew all that He had in mind for my future, I’d take off running in the opposite direction!

Bethel

I chose Bethel University for several reasons.

  • They have a College of Public Service that has my desired degree.
  • They are a Christian university.
  • They sent info to the Sheriff Office Training Academy while I was there.
  • They have a completely online program.
  • I can finish by Christmas.
  • They sent me this cool Chromebook.

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Okay, so maybe the Chromebook wasn’t a real reason to pick Bethel. I’m sure I’ll find a use for it, anyway. Such a tiny little thing.

Sooo…I don’t know where it’s going from here, but here I go.

I signed all the paperwork, and turned in all the forms.

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I paid for my first two online classes.

It’s time for the next step in my Great Adventure. Here I go on wobbly feet and shaky knees, very thankful for my ROCK of a foundation.

Classes begin April 13.

Fear

DSC_0043What do you do with irrational fear?

I know, I know. Not every fear is irrational.

But some of them are.

Ask anyone who has sung in the church choir for a number of years, and they will tell you. I used to have an irrational fear of heights. If I ended up on anything but the bottom row of the choir, I totally felt like I was going to topple right out of the choir loft and into the orchestra pit! I had women who would scramble to find a place for me on that front row, giving up their own seat for me if it came to that.

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Once, on a Sunday morning, I wound up just one row shy of being at the very top. I had a panic attack and couldn’t sing. I couldn’t move to run away. I mostly froze. I think I ended up moving my mouth somewhat so that it wasn’t evident except to those near me what was happening. I sure was thankful when we finally got to sit down!

And that was my life.

I didn’t like ladders, hated balconies, avoided looking down on stairwells.

Then one day, I told God that it was an irrational fear, and asked Him to take it away.

He did.

Completely.

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I had proof of that over Spring Break last week when my family went to Gatlinburg. For the first time ever, I actually completed a zip line course AND a tree-top ropes course. There was no way I was going to let my family have fun without me!DSC_0132

So here’s my question. Do you have any irrational fears?

I dare you to ask God to take them away.

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Slave No Longer

Here’s a sneak preview of my latest novel about slavery. It follows the stories of three modern-day slaves: Malaya, Javin and Santino.

I’ll have an announcement about the book tomorrow. Let me know if you’d like to read more.

Slave

Chapter 1

Malaya

Rural Countryside, The Philippines

 

“No! Mama, no! Don’t let the man take me!”

Malaya’s shrieks of panic pierced the quiet morning air and reverberated off the tin roofs of the surrounding shanties. “I don’t want to go with him! I want to stay with you! I want to stay with you and my brothers!” Her wails intensified as the man gripped her arm more tightly, pulling her upwards so that only the tips of her toes brushed the dirt path.

“Malaya, you must go with him.” Mama held her head high as quiet tears streamed down her gaunt cheeks. “It is best.”

“No, Mama, it can’t be best. Being with you is best.” Malaya choked on her tears. “I will work harder, I promise! I will spend all day in the cane fields, and I won’t complain. Please let me stay, Mama!”

“The man says that he will find work for you in Manila. You can work to make money. He says there is much money to be made for hard working little girls in Manila.” Mama reached for Malaya, grasping at her hand as the man turned to open the door to the dusty compact sedan that blocked the narrow street. “He promises that he will send us the money you make. Then we can buy food. Your brothers would no longer be hungry. Don’t you want that, Malaya? Don’t you want to do whatever you can so that they don’t go hungry?”

“Yes, Mama.” Malaya hung her head and sniffed loudly. “I want to make money for food. I will go with the man.” She raised her head to search her mother’s eyes imploringly. “Will you come see me in Manila? Will I get to visit you?”

“The man said he would send me your address as soon as you started work. We will do our best to visit you when your father returns home.” Mama released her hand and took a step back. “You go now. You work hard. Be a good girl.”

“It’s time to go.” The man, who had remained silent during the exchange, spoke abruptly as he shoved Malaya into the back seat of the car where two other girls already waited. Without another word, he closed the door on Malaya, climbed into the front seat, and drove away. Malaya twisted on the rough fabric seat to get one last look at her mother, who had already turned and was heading back into their tiny home, counting the dollars given to her in exchange for her small daughter. Malaya wondered if she would ever see her mother again. She began to sob.

“Don’t cry.” The girl beside her whispered close to her ear. “It won’t do any good. It will only make the man angry at you. You do not want the man angry at you.”

“It is true.” The other girl’s whisper held a sense of urgency that checked Malaya’s cries. “You do not want to make him angry. This will be the result if you do.” She leaned forward, revealing a swollen lip and bruised cheek.

Malaya swallowed her tears and clamped her hand over her mouth as she studied the older girl’s misshapen features, her eyes wide in sudden fear.

“He did that to her when she tried to run this morning.” The first girl supplied the information in a hushed voice, her lips again close to Malaya’s ear. “We went with the man yesterday when he came to our village. Over the night, he…did things. To both of us. Things that made us want to run. I was scared and did not resist, but Diwata tried to run. He caught her, and then he hit her. He did more things to her. Then we left and came to your village.”

“What kind of things?” Malaya whispered into the other girl’s ear. “What did the man do?”

“Bad things. You will find out tonight, I am sure.” Diwata looked out the window at the passing countryside, avoiding Malaya’s stare. “For now, we must be still and try to sleep. Nights do not mean much sleep. Perhaps the man will be nice to you, because you are young. But I do not think that he will. You will see.”

“But what will I see?” Malaya persisted, louder than she intended. The man turned to glare at her over the seat. She lowered her voice. “What does the man do? I thought he was to find us work to feed our families. Good work in Manila.”

Diwata laughed bitterly, a harsh sound muffled by her hand over her swollen mouth. “There is nothing good about this man. He will not find good work for us. Now be quiet.”

“What is your name?” Malaya tried another tactic, leaning close to the ear of the girl beside her.

“Lailani.” The girl eyed the man in the front seat warily. “Diwata is right. We should rest now. Be quiet. We can talk later.”

Malaya put her head back against the seat and tried to close her eyes, but the fear gripping her throat threatened to rob her of any air she could grasp in the stuffy car. Sweat broke out in tiny beads on her forehead, yet a chill rolled down her spine in spite of the heat. She popped her thumb in her mouth, a move that had comforted her since she was a baby.  Just as she was beginning to think she could no longer stand the silence, the fear, the unknown, she felt Lailani’s hand slip into her own. The gesture reassured her that no matter what was to come, at least she would not have to face it alone. She sighed deeply, and settled back to endure the bumpy ride.