Engage in Hope
Why can't growing up be easy?
I should have known, when I was eight and had triplet sisters, a crazy old neighbor in a big, spooky house, and a wild red-haired girl as a best friend, that my childhood might be less than normal.
It started with Bud, the old man next door. He introduced me to gardening, showed me how to be a gentleman, and talked about God. Then came Molly, the girl. Yes, say it with emphasis: The Girl. She brought me to life, called forth my inner hero, and occasionally crushed my soul. Nobody in the world could mess with my heart like Molly.
And family, the final prong of my adolescence. Sisters and more sisters. A birth injury that made my mother—and everyone else—keep a distance, and a whole lot of angst. They drove me to garden during most daylight hours, because dirt and plants were quiet and calm, and nothing else around me was either.
Time passed. I didn’t realize I’d become the glue in my relationships, the knight to slay everyone’s dragons, and the sounding board for their problems. I only knew I was the one person they forgot to see when they went through hardships. When they went down, I dragged them back to the surface. If I went down, I figured nobody would notice.
I sure never suspected that, if I went down, I could take the whole lot of them with me.
If she can save his life, maybe he can heal her heart.
Leo: Meg moved across the street when we were eight—pink, sunshine, and boldness. While I hid family secrets, she told me everything, and her world was my sanctuary, everything childhood should be. Then her dad had to move for a two-year job, except two years became four, and during those years, my life fell apart.
She came back in high school thinking she would just jump back in like we were kids again. She scared me to death, because if one person could dig in and ruin my world, it was Meg and her crazy nice family and their stupid magical garden. I had to avoid her to protect my brother, the only thing I had left, the only person I loved. But keeping Meg out… That was going to be a trick, but I had to keep her out of my life, whatever the cost.
Meg: I saw the new Leo on the first day of school. He’d turned into a thug, and he was mean, and seeing him destroyed me. I hadn’t had a friend like him in four years, and I honestly thought he might be waiting. Instead… Well, he sure wasn’t waiting. The guy was into every adult vice available, making lousy decisions left and right. He pushed me out, but I was going to stick. Some stupid part of my heart was certain the old Leo was still in there, and I was going to find him even if it killed me.
It never occurred to me that he kept secrets that could kill him, and I wasn’t helping by being in his face all the time. But maybe… Well, maybe I could rescue his life, and if I did, some tiny part of me hoped he could rescue my heart.
Finn isn't broken...
Finn: I’m not broken. Yes, I lost my mom. Yes, my dad and brother have some issues. But I’m good—athletic, popular, okay in school. My brother is the broken one. The one who thinks it’s me is my best friend’s sister. She’s always looking at me, and because she’s the smartest kid in school—even though she’s a year younger than everyone there—she seems to see me. Truth? She scares me. I know I’m not a good person. I carry darkness that would kill my brother if he knew. But Piper—she might know. She’s just that smart. I hope she never tells anyone what I’m really like.
Piper: Finn Jansen is broken. I don’t know why nobody else sees that. The guy is sinking fast, and not one soul cares. He tells them he’s fine, and all his fans believe him. But then, what do I know? I’m terrible at making friends. I’m too young, too smart, and not very brave. Mostly I watch him and pray for him and hope he’s okay.
But he isn’t okay. He’s going down a path that can only end in disaster. It’s scary what God has planned to rescue Finn’s life and his heart. And the role I get to play? Well, this time God isn’t playing fair. Except maybe it has to be this way. The wall around Finn’s heart and the lies he believes about himself—it will take a miracle to get through. I just hope both of us are strong enough to survive it.
They lived summer to summer, and then one winter took them down.
After my parents split, I spent summers with my dad, who lived next door to this huge family. Savannah was the first to find me. She was my age, and she was sunny and happy and never let me get sad about my family. She made adventures, and her yard was magical, and summers became the best part of my year.
Nobody knew what my winters were like, and I didn’t plan to tell them. Why would I want Savvy to stop smiling? And Dad tried, but there wasn’t much he could do. Mom was a little crazy, and school was awful, but I could handle it because I knew summer would roll around again. I lived for summer, which fed my entire year.
Then Dad got married. There was a new baby on the way, and I had a new brother, a year older. I wished more than ever that I could live in my summer world with my good family, with Savvy next door, with magic all the time. Then Mom… Well, Mom did a few good things, and then she followed it up with a few bad, and winters got even darker. Lately I don’t know if summer is enough to carry me. Winters get longer every year, and summers aren’t long enough to warm up the ice they leave in my life.
But if I disappear in this world, Savvy will stop smiling. How can I live in my life and still keep Savvy smiling? Sometimes it all just feels impossible…
Sometimes Colt gets lost in the chaos...
Colt: Fiona lost her dad to cancer. I didn’t know her well, but I felt this urge to help. Turned out her family owned a nearby B&B, and her dad’s dream had been to fix it up. Fiona and I decided we could do it. She needed to see her dad’s dream happen. I needed to get out of my life. Mom had a new husband, and he’s cool, but sometimes they forget me. He has another son, and they’re about to have a new baby, and I know how this story ends. The old son gets lost in the mess. Fortunately, Fiona is great. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than spend time outside with her fixing their huge property.
Fiona: Colt saved my life. When I was sinking in sadness, he showed up and offered to help me make my dad’s dream happen. He’s fun and easygoing, and at the farm I see a side of him nobody at school gets to see. He’s my best friend in the whole world.
Then tragedy hit Colt’s family. I understand that, since I had one in mine, but Colt keeps things to himself. He let me be selfish. He let his family get away with it, too. While all of us floundered, he held on and kept us afloat. We never noticed he was slowly going down. We didn’t realize just what a blessing Colt was in our lives until we risked losing him…
Neville can forget to close his eyes
Even in elementary school, Neville was an artistic prodigy. Nobody understood him. He vibrated with life and energy, and he saw the world in colors and lines. His fingers never stopped moving, either drawing or going through the motions of drawing. Not everyone could handle his way of processing the world, but I did. Even young, I saw him, and he was my best friend.
Unfortunately, my parents are strict. Like crazy strict. When they realized my best friend was a boy, they changed churches and schools just to keep me away. I missed him, and I secretly kept every drawing he’d ever made for me. Nobody meets two Nevilles in her life, so I cherished memories of mine.
God put a wrench in my parents’ plans, and I had to go back to public school in high school. And yes, he was still there. Calmer now, at least on the outside. Darker, wounded by a world that couldn’t understand him. He still remembered me and wanted me around. Except… If we’re going to stay friends, we have to hide the fact. That won’t be so hard, right? Surely Neville will be on board with that. I mean, what about lying to all our friends and families could possibly go wrong?
Read Emmie and Neville’s story in the sixth Terry’s Garden book.
Every time he thought it couldn't get worse, it did.
After losing my big brother in a car crash, my family moved to a small town to start over. As if grieving wasn’t enough, now I had to find new friends, and in true small town fashion, everyone knew about us and nobody wanted to get close. Loneliest summer ever.
The only good thing about the move was Justin, my first friend. Instead of treating me like a fragile flower, he trounced me at ping pong, sat with me in youth group, and dragged me to weed his uncle’s garden. The next good thing was Justin’s cousin Lauren, who moved in right before school started. She was my age, and she saw me and not just my dead brother. Her dad had moved them without warning, so she didn’t want to be here, but when we all got together, things clicked. Justin, Lauren, and Tag, best friends forever.
Unfortunately, friendship—deep, true friendship—is messy. We hurt each other. We let each other down. Justin and I were so different that sometimes we didn’t even like one another. And Lauren… Well, falling in love is messy, too, and that girl had my heart wrapped around her little finger long before I knew what it meant to love someone.
Long story short, it all fell apart. One day the whole planet and God himself turned on me. After that, what’s a guy supposed to do but keep his head down and tick days off until the end? And that, let me assure you, is a scary dangerous way to live—or not to live—a life.
After rescuing him for years, she came the closest to taking him down.
Jazz: I didn’t expect to get home one September day of eighth grade and discover my mom had bailed. Like, an empty closet and a note. Dad was out of town—like always—and taking care of my little sisters was now my job. Unfortunately, the stress of that landed me in the hospital, and the nightmare began—loss, asthma, and crazy food allergies. I felt like life was over. Strangely, besides Eli, my best friend, this weird girl from youth group, Violet Kenton, glommed onto me and decided to help. Except some days she liked me and some she avoided me, and she was as confusing as the rest of my life.
Violet: My siblings all fell in love early, and the dramas that followed were scary. I decided not to do that. No teen romance for me, thank you. Then this guy I knew, Jazz Fitzsimmons, fell on hard times, and I helped him. When I realized what I was doing, I ran from him. Except that made me a monster, so I helped him again. He helped me, too, when my best friend went through a scary event and I was considering a life of foreign ministry. Unfortunately, while my dad is great at God and faith, like this pillar of the community, I got a few things messed up and turned into the most dangerous person in the lives of my best friends. So much for avoiding drama…
Terry’s Garden, stories about a huge family, an enchanting garden, and a love story that touches generations. Christian coming-of-age/romance novels for teens and anyone who remembers what it’s like to take those first wobbling steps into adulthood.
Two books in one volume
Grab The Lion and the Ladybug and Follow the Firefly in one single paperback or hard cover volume.