I had just finished a walking tour through Oxford, a city rife with memories of people like Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis, Tokien, William Tyndale and countless others. Ornate college buildings rose up on every side. People of all nationalities clogged the sidewalks as they scurried from store to store, their sacks bulging with brand name apparel and souvenirs.
I had just passed “The Eagle and Child” pub and was admiring the spiraling cathedrals when a steady rain began to fall. I pulled out my umbrella when I saw him.
A homeless man sat huddled under a blanket in the pouring rain.
His shoulders were hunched. An open duffel bag rested near his knees. Its contents boasted a folded tarp, a few paltry coins and an empty soda can. Nothing else.
As I passed his slight form, I heard his soft plea.
“Could you spare a coin, me love?”
I dug through my wallet and handed him a few pounds. His dirt-crusted fingers reached for the coins. “God bless ye.”
“God bless you too.”
I walked away but my heart twisted. The sights I wanted to see paled in comparison to the emaciated form sitting in the deluge. Whirling back, I walked up to his hunkered body. After long moments, he blinked up at me. His eyes were incredibly blue.
“May I ask you something, sir?”
“What’s your name?”
“Angeles, me love.”
“Hi, Angeles. My name is Tara.”
I smiled at him then and he returned it slowly. I eased down next to him on the wet pavement as we shared an umbrella.
“Angeles, do you mind telling me how you came to be in this condition?”
A rattling cough shook his chest. “I’ve no one to blame but meself. I’m a recovering alcoholic. I’ve made some bad choices, but now,” he shook his silver head, “I have pneumonia. No one wants to take a chance on someone who looks and sounds like this.” He gestured to his filthy clothes. Then he smiled before I could respond. “I know what you’re going to say next. Yes, I believe in God. I know Him.”
I returned his smile. “I’m glad. He loves you so much.”
We swapped a few more stories and I took care of as many of his physical needs as I could. After we prayed together, I bid Angeles goodbye.
“Thank you for chatting with me, love. The people here,” he waved his hand, “they don’t see me. They don’t care. Their focus is only on the new thing they want to buy.”
I blinked back thick tears. “God sees you, Angeles. Always.”
As our tour group departed, underneath the haughty eyes of the stone faces staring down from the lofty cathedrals with their carved inscriptions declaring “To the glory of God”, a homeless man sat coughing in the cold.
Angeles became the inspiration for the hero Joshua Ivy in my new release All Through the Night. Growing up as a child on the streets, Joshua has been told all his life he is nothing more than gutter trash. Everything changes when a kind man and his family take him in and give him purpose.
As Joshua grows into adulthood and becomes a surgeon for the Union, the plight of the little ones living in Washington’s back alleys continually call to him. Burdened by their need, and the needs of children escaping slavery from the south, Joshua makes it his mission to save as many as possible through any means necessary…until one stubborn nurse stumbles across his well-laid plans.
Just like Angeles, Joshua completely stole my heart. He’s reckless and stubborn but his brash ways help those seeking freedom. As he struggles through his calling, the turbulent emotions stirred by Cadence, and the fear of losing all he loves, he battles against the lie he has believed since he was little. I’m worthless.
I think there’s a little boy or girl yet trapped in all of us. I pray, like Joshua, we would all know there is a God Who sees us, even in the darkest night.
With her stammering tongue and quiet ways, Cadence Piper has always struggled to be accepted. After the death of her mother, Cadence sets her heart on becoming a nurse, both to erase the stain her brother has left on the family’s honor and to find long-sought approval in the eyes of her father. When Dorothea Dix turns her away due to her young age and pretty face, Cadence finds another way to serve . . . singing to the soldiers in Judiciary Square Hospital. Only one stubborn doctor stands in her way.
Joshua Ivy is an intense man with a compassionate heart for the hurting and downtrodden. The one thing he can’t have is an idealistic woman destroying the plans he’s so carefully laid. When the chaos of war thrusts Cadence into the middle of his clandestine activities, he must decide if the lives at stake, and his own heart, are worth the risk of letting Cadence inside.
Everything changes when Joshua and Cadence unearth the workings of a secret society so vile, the course of their lives, and the war, could be altered forever. If they fight an enemy they cannot see, will the One who sees all show them the way in the darkest night?
Historical [Tyndale House Publishers, On Sale: January 5, 2021, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 978149642839 / eISBN: 9781496428417]
About Tara Johnson
Tara Johnson is an author and speaker, and loves to write stories that help people break free from the lies they believe about themselves.
Tara’s debut novel Engraved on the Heart (Tyndale) earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and finaled in the Carol and Christy awards. In addition to be published in a variety of digital and print magazines, she has been a featured guest on Voice of Truth radio, Enduring Word radio, television, and podcasts. She is a history nerd, especially the Civil War, and adores making people laugh. She, her husband, and her children live in Arkansas.