Chasing sunsets, p.1
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       Chasing Sunsets, p.1

           Karen Kingsbury
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Chasing Sunsets


  What Readers Are Saying About Karen Kingsbury’s Books

  “I have read many of Karen’s books, and I cry with every one. I feel like I actually know the people in the story, and my heart goes out to all of them when something happens!”

  —Kathy N.

  “Novels are mini-vacations, and Karen’s are my favorite destination.”

  —Rachel S.

  “The best author in the country.”

  —Mary H.

  “Karen’s books remind me that God is real. I need that reminder.”

  —Carrie F.

  “The stories are fiction; their impact is real.”

  —Debbie L. R.

  “Every time I read one of Karen’s books I think, It’s the best one yet. Then the next one comes out and I think, No, this is the best one.”

  —April B. M.

  “Whenever I pick up a new KK book, two things are consistent: tissues and finishing the whole book in one day.”

  —Nel L.

  “Karen Kingsbury is changing the world—one reader at a time.”

  —Lauren W.

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  To Donald:

  Well, my love, the nest isn’t empty just yet, but it’s getting there. The years have picked up speed and now most of our boys are out of the house and caught up in the wonder of college at Liberty University. Kelsey has been married to her wonderful Kyle for nearly three years and Tyler is about to graduate from college. Where in the world has the time gone? Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were taking the kids to the zoo for a Super Surprise Saturday? Or bringing home three wide-eyed orphans from Haiti? So much laughter, so much fun, and always you at the center, leading the way. I remember once writing down the ages the kids would be as the years ahead unfolded. The years sounded almost futuristic—2014, 2015, 2016. A million miles away from my comfortable place at the turn of the century. I would try to imagine life without the noise and homework and music and childlike laughter. Life without six sports and theater and dance schedules to somehow balance. I couldn’t picture it. But now that we’re here I can see something I didn’t see back then. I see you, my love, ever so much more clearly. You and me, holding hands and having more and more time together, the two of us rejoicing over the goodness of God, the faithfulness of Him. The lesson we’re learning is this: It’s all wonderful. Every amazing season back then and now and yet to come. It’s been said the best is yet to be. And so it is, especially with you by my side. Let’s play and laugh and sing and dance, and together we’ll watch our children take wing. The ride is breathtakingly wondrous. I pray it lasts far into our twilight years. Until then, I’ll enjoy not always knowing where I end and you begin. I love you always and forever.

  To Kyle:

  Kyle, our newest son, who so beautifully leads and loves our only daughter. I think of Don and me, standing on the beach in Mexico on the last day of our honeymoon, praying for the next generation—kids that God might bless us with and their future spouses. That day as we prayed on the beach, thousands of miles away, you were born. While we were praying. Amazing how God works out His plan and how faithful He is to answer prayers. Kyle, your heart is beautiful in every way. You cherish simple moments and are kind beyond words. You see the good in people and situations and you find a way to give God glory always. Your music is taking wing and now everyone knows about Kyle Kupecky and your gift of singing for Jesus. God is doing such great things with you and Kelsey and your ministries, your love for people. I thank God for you and look forward to the beautiful seasons ahead. Love you always!

  To Kelsey:

  My precious daughter, how wonderful that our dream of making a mother-daughter card and gift line has come true. Possibilities by DaySpring/Hallmark is now in stores everywhere . . . and we are hearing such beautiful things about how this line is bringing people closer. It’s all just a dream come true—something I couldn’t have seen coming. But God did . . . and He continues to surprise us, doesn’t He? Also, I’m so happy for you and Kyle. Your first book comes out soon and girls everywhere will want to read The Chase: When God Writes Your Fairytale. I pray it will change the hearts of this generation. I’ve never known you to be so happy, and time and again I point to you and Kyle as proof of God’s faithfulness. Now, as you two move into the future God has for you, as you follow your dreams and shine brightly for Him in all you do, we will be here for you both, praying for you, believing in you, and supporting you however we best can. In the meantime, you’ll be in my heart every moment. I love you, sweetheart.

  To Tyler:

  It’s hard to believe you’re so close to college graduation. The time has moved along faster every year and now here we are . . . knocking on the door of all that is ahead. All that God is still revealing to you. I’m so proud of the lead roles you’ve had in your college musicals. To think your papa told you he could see you as Tony from West Side Story one day . . . and that this past year you were Tony—it’s further proof of God’s love. But most of all I am proud of the example you have been to your friends—day in, day out. People around you are stronger because of you, and they are closer to God because of your example. I love that most of all about you, Ty. I’m so excited about your future. You are such a talented screenwriter, songwriter, director. One day the whole world will know! However your dreams unfold, we’ll be in the front row cheering. Hold on to Jesus, son. Keep shining for Him! I love you.

  To Sean:

  You’re finishing your first year at Liberty University with the dream of playing football. No one has worked for it harder than you, and we’re so proud of your effort. But more than that, we are proud you want to be at a school that puts God first. In every sense of the word. He has such great plans for you. Sean, you’ve always had the best attitude, and now—even when there are hard days—you’ve kept that great attitude. Be joyful, God tells us. Be honest. Be a man of character. Keep working, keep pushing, keep believing. Go to bed every night knowing you did all you could to prepare yourself for the doors God will open in the days ahead. You’re a precious gift, son. I love you. Keep smiling and keep seeking God’s best.

  To Josh:

  What changes you’ve gone through in the last year. You’re at Liberty University now, working on becoming a champion for Christ! Whether on the football field or soccer field, you play with everything in you, leaving everything you have in the moments between the whistles. I’m so proud of you! This we know: there remains a very real possibility that you’ll play competitive sports at the next level. God is going to use you for great things, and I believe He will put you on a public platform to do it. Stay strong in Him, and listen to His quiet whispers so you’ll know which direction to turn. I’m so proud of you, son. I’ll forever be cheering on the sidelines. Keep God first in your life. I love you always.

  To EJ:

  EJ, it’s hard to believe you’re finishing up your first year at Liberty University! As you continue to walk into this new season, I’m so glad you know just how much we love you and how deeply we believe in the great plans God has for you. With new opportunities spread out before you, keep your eyes on Jesus and you’ll always be as full of possibility as you are today. I expect great things from you, and I know the Lord expects that, too. I’m so glad you’re in our family—always and forever. Thanks for your giving heart, EJ. I
love you more than you know.

  To Austin:

  Austin, what changes God has brought about in your life this past year. First the devastating blow that you could no longer play football, that you would never suit up for your junior year or ever again, for that matter. The heart defect you were born with finally caught up with you in ways we didn’t see coming. And though you are so very healthy, as the doctor told you that very sad day, his job is to keep you alive. And so we have watched you cry and call out to God, but also we have watched you embrace this next stage of life like a quarterback, fourth and twelve. Like everything about tomorrow depends on it. We’ve always known there’s no quit in you, and now we can see that happening. God has great plans for you still, son. What they are? Well, that’s still taking shape and it has all of us more excited than ever! God saved you at birth and again when you gave your life to Jesus. Now He has saved you a third time by taking you off that field before the unthinkable might’ve happened. Whatever He has ahead, I pray you will change the world for the better. I am completely convinced. But through it all I pray you remember you are only as strong as your dependence on Jesus. Only as brave as your tenacious grip on His truth. Your story is a series of miracles and this next chapter will be more of the same. Along the way, your dad and I will be in the front row cheering you on—whatever you play. Whatever you do. Sky’s the limit, Aus. The dream is yours to take. I thank God for you, for the miracle of your life. I love you, Austin.

  And to God Almighty, the Author of Life, who has—for now—blessed me with these.

  Prologue

  Town Meeting—Heaven

  JAG WAS GOING TO volunteer.

  He had decided long before he walked into the meeting. It had only been a matter of convincing his still-broken heart. He moved into the room as the others took their seats. A spot at the back was still open. He slipped in and waited.

  At the front, Orlon rose to face them. “You know why we’re here.” His voice sounded somber. “It’s time for the next part of our mission.” He set his shoulders back, strong, determined. “This time the task ahead is very serious. Life or death.”

  Jag closed his eyes. The feel of the moment, the electricity and sense of expectation—all of it was familiar. Just like last time. Am I wrong? Wrong to think I can make this journey when I failed last time?

  No answer whispered to him, but Jag knew what God would say. The Father had already told him after his last Angels Walking mission. What had happened, the tragedy of it all—it wasn’t Jag’s fault. Earth belonged to the ruler of the kingdom of the air. Darkness would often prevail among men.

  Until the trumpets sounded. And the Father would defeat evil for all eternity.

  But that truth didn’t lessen the weight of Jag’s decision this time around. He had been told he would work again, that the day would come when another Angels Walking mission would require his skills. The time was now. Jag was convinced.

  He opened his eyes.

  Orlon was explaining the situation. “This time our mission involves Marcus Dillinger, the pro baseball pitcher.”

  Around the room the angels nodded. They had all shared a window to the work of the last Angels Walking team. The way Marcus Dillinger was used by God to bring his childhood friend Tyler Ames to Los Angeles.

  “Marcus was MVP for the World Series win a few months ago.” Orlon smiled. “On earth this is a big deal.” His smile faded. “But now more than ever, Marcus is searching for meaning. Not only in life, but in love.”

  Of course he is, Jag thought. Man’s trophies and titles, his fortune and fame, could never satisfy. Deep in the depths of any human heart that much was understood. Chasing after such meaningless things resulted in emptiness every time.

  Orlon went on. “Marcus is a good man. He will not let darkness satisfy the longing in his soul. He wants the plans of God. This will work in our favor.” His voice fell. “Even when everything else in Marcus Dillinger’s world will seem to work against us.”

  He explained that Tyler Ames and his longtime love, Sami Dawson, would be part of this mission, as would Mary Catherine—Sami’s friend and roommate. “The success of this mission will come down to Mary Catherine.” Orlon narrowed his eyes, his shoulders set. “Our team will work in the inner city of Los Angeles, where survival is key. I’ll be clear with you. The enemy wants to cut short several lives—especially the lives of Marcus and Mary Catherine.”

  Orlon hesitated. “You remember the ultimate goal.” It wasn’t a question. Of course they remembered. All of heaven was mindful of the near-impossible goal for this angel team, the way each mission would require victory before the next could begin. How only at the end of these missions would they know if they were ultimately successful.

  That success would come with the birth of a baby named Dallas Garner.

  “As I’ve told you”—Orlon moved along the front of the room—“if the child is born, he will grow to be a very great evangelist, a teacher who will help turn the sons and daughters of Adam back to knowledge of truth and love. Back to a foundation of Scripture. Dallas will offer a revival, especially for the United States. A nation that once trusted and revered God.”

  Orlon had never looked more serious. “We have one successful mission behind us. We have several more ahead. But this one . . . this one will be dangerous for everyone involved. Even our team of Angels Walking.”

  The angels shifted in their places, as if the heaviness in the room had taken up residence on each of their shoulders. Jag felt it most of all. Angels were never in physical danger, of course. They were eternal. But they could lose a battle with man, and certainly they could be detained by the enemy. When Jacob of the Bible wrestled an angel, Jacob won. And when an angel was sent to Daniel in Babylon, the angel was prevented from his mission—blocked—by the prince of darkness.

  Orlon checked the notes on his mahogany podium. “Michael tells me the baby has only a two percent chance of being born. The enemy has orchestrated a number of very dangerous circumstances. Health issues, relationship struggles, discouragement.” He looked around the room again. “Our Angels Walking team will be very busy.”

  Jag ran his hand through his wavy blond hair and flexed his muscles. The tension in the room was building. It was time to choose the angels. Everyone could feel it.

  “I need experience on this Angels Walking team. Veterans.” Orlon searched their faces. “Who would like to go?”

  Jag didn’t hesitate. He rose to his full height. “I volunteer.”

  Orlon paused but only for a moment. His eyes spoke volumes, for he knew Jag’s history, his heartbreaking past. “Jag.” A smile tugged at Orlon’s lips. “I was hoping you would consider this. It’s time.”

  Once more Orlon looked around the room. “Who will take this Angels Walking mission with Jag?”

  From the front of the room a willowy black angel rose from her seat. Her eyes shone like emeralds as she looked back at Jag and then at Orlon. “I volunteer.”

  Aspyn.

  If Jag could’ve chosen any angel in the room, he would’ve chosen her. The two of them had succeeded at a dangerous Angels Walking mission a hundred years ago in Germany. Aspyn was skilled at intervening in battle, practiced at working with people who lived angry, violent lives.

  Orlon looked satisfied. He drew a deep breath. “Very well.” He motioned to the others. “Our job will be important also. We will watch and we will pray. Beginning now.”

  In a rush the other angels surrounded them. And with that their voices rose to the Father on behalf of the mission ahead.

  Never mind the danger. Jag had a decade of defeat to put to an end.

  He was practically desperate to begin.

  1

  THE JANUARY SUNSHINE CAST an array of shimmering diamonds across the Pacific Ocean that early morning as Mary Catherine kicked off her sandals and headed for the water.

 
“We’ll freeze. Even with our wetsuits.” Sami Dawson, her best friend and roommate, was right behind her, laughing at the insanity of their decision.

  “Only for a few minutes.” Mary Catherine’s long golden red hair was caught up in a ponytail and it flew behind her as she ran. She was laughing, too, but more because she loved starting her Saturday like this. “Once we’re in we won’t feel a thing.”

  They carried their boogie boards as they ran through the shallow surf and then jumped over the frigid foamy breakers. In no time they were in up to their shoulders, past the foam and ready to ride the next set of waves.

  Mary Catherine shook the water from her hair, breathless. “See? It isn’t terrible!”

  “Sure.” Sami shivered. She nodded to the wave headed their way. “Come on. Keep moving.”

  They caught the first one and rode it all the way to shore. The spray of cool seawater in their faces, the rush of the powerful ocean beneath them. Mary Catherine loved everything about this. She felt alive and whole and connected to God. A thrilling diversion from the news she’d received last week.

  The news that her heart didn’t have long.

  Sometime today she would tell Sami the truth about her health, come clean about the things she’d been hiding. But for now she would enjoy this moment. And she would remember what her mother told her years ago. Life could never be measured in the number of days a person lived, but only by the beautiful, brilliant life that had colored those days.

  Mary Catherine paddled back out alongside Sami. Her friend’s eyes were wide. “I think I saw a dolphin.” She pointed behind the waves. “Like fifteen feet that way.”

  Mary Catherine scanned the distant water. “I hope it wasn’t a shark.”

  “What?” Sami let out a quiet scream. “Don’t say that!”

  “I’m kidding.” Mary Catherine laughed again. “I saw it, too. A few of them. Definitely dolphins.”

 
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