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IS GOD SOVEREIGN OVER TRIUMPH AND TRAGEDY?

Bullies and family disasters have left eighteen-year-old Teeyana Sparks filled with anxiety and doubt. She feels pressured to believe in God, but as she embarks on her college journey in the hope of one day working at Google as a graphic designer, the only thing she believes in is controlling her own life. Things change when she meets Jayden Williams—the guy with a charming smile and kind heart. 

Struggling with grief and recovering from a season of depression, nineteen-year-old Jayden is determined to help Teeyana believe in God’s goodness again. But when yet another tragedy strikes close to home, Teeyana’s response exposes Jayden’s unhealed wounds and tips him into a mental health relapse. 

With the looming possibility of not getting her dream life, Teeyana is caught between holding on to her illusion of control and surrendering to a God she’s rejected. And as Jayden strives to break out of his despondency, he has to face that letting God in may involve him letting go of his friendship with Teeyana. Teeyana and Jayden must wrestle with uncomfortable truths, and the pride in their hearts, in order to face their biggest giant—God’s sovereignty over both triumph and tragedy.

The One Who Knows Me, book one in the Sovereign Love series, is a heart-warming standalone novel about hope and learning to take comfort in the sovereign goodness of a loving God who knows all things.

 Excerpt

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Chapter 1: Teeyana

 

I need to get out of this building before Olivia sees me. If I can escape her dirty looks, her taunting, and my usual daily dose of embarrassment, then today will mark the end of my bullying story.

Olivia Hastings is the most popular girl in Boston’s Coverton High; and unfortunately, myself, and my best friend—Amara, have been one of her bullying targets for the past two years. But even though my time in Coverton High has felt like an endless struggle to survive, I’ve always known the bullying would end someday. 

Today is that day. It’s the last day of high school, so once I get out of this building, Olivia will no longer exist to me. She’ll automatically become a memory buried deep inside my brain alongside all the other memories which keep me awake at night—the ones that make me wonder how my life turned out to be like this.

Today is not about Olivia, though. It’s about me finally taking control of my own life—without the watchful eyes of my parents. All I need to do now is graduate, do my summer internship, and I’ll be off to New York to start Graphic Design School in the fall.

I wince as the school bell rings above my head; the sound ricocheting off the white walls of the empty hallway. The former stillness vanishes and in its place, there’s loud chattering, thumping of bouncing balls, and banging of metal lockers. The hallways are now flooded with students who can taste freedom. 

As the classroom doors fling open and the crowd presses into the hallway, I take a step aside, dodging a bouncing basketball heading in my direction. I run my fingers against the long row of green lockers and my mouth curves into a broad smile. I, too, can taste the freedom. 

Placing my backpack on top of my feet, I glance over my shoulder to check for Olivia before putting in my locker combination. I pull out my denim jacket and empty my locker before taking one last look at my face in the mirror. Mom bought me her most talked about foundation in shade toffee caramel, and I love how it makes my skin glow today. Sometimes, Mom knows exactly what I need, and so does Amara. 

“Oh, shoot!!!” I press the home button on my phone to check the time. I had planned to meet Amara outside fifteen minutes ago.  

This is why I should stop using my phone while I’m on the toilet.

Slipping the gadget into the back pocket of my jeans, I put on my purple beanie and adjust my fish tail braid to sit on my shoulder. But as I slam my locker shut, I pause when I spot Olivia half a mile away. She has tied her perfectly brushed blonde hair up in a ponytail, making her flowy curls hard to miss—even in an enormous crowd like this.

 

Olivia struts past the crowd as she heads for the bathroom, and I breathe a sigh of relief. But my relief is short-lived when Olivia turns her head in my direction and locks eyes with me. I freeze in my spot, paralysed with fear as Olivia walks towards me. All the false confidence I had a few minutes ago quenches inside of me. 

Please, not today. Surely not today. A sweat breaks on my forehead and I gulp, my chest heaving as a slight wheeze escapes my lungs. Move, Teeyana. Move now. 

Turning my face away, I pick up my backpack and slide into the crowd. I clutch my notebooks tight against my chest and make my way towards the exit with one goal in mind—to get out of the building. 

With a tightened grip on my backpack, and shuddered breaths escaping my mouth, I channel all my energy into my walk, giving it everything I have. As I round the corner to get out through the double doors, I collide with someone. The impact is so strong; I lose my grip on my notebooks and they drop onto the smooth tiled floor. 

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.'' My hands tremble as I stoop to pick up my notebooks without looking at the person I bumped into. 

“No, I’m sorry.” A gruff voice replies from above my head, forcing me to look up. “I didn’t see you there. Are you okay?” 

Phew!!! For a moment there, I thought I’d bumped into Olivia. 

“Oh hey, Jimmy.” My shaky voice steadies as I shove my notebooks into my backpack.

“Are you okay?” Jimmy asks again, his head lowering to meet my gaze as I stand up.

I nod and glance around until I spot Olivia again. She’s now talking and laughing with her group of friends at the opposite end of the hallway. I breathe another deep sigh of relief.

“Hello?” Jimmy waves his hand in my face before lifting his skateboard up to his chest.

“Oh, I’m...sorry, Jimmy. What did you say?” I turn my head to face him.

“Are you sure everything’s alright?” His brow arches and he glances in Olivia’s direction.

“Yeah...of course.” I tuck loose hairs behind my ear. “I’m fine. What were you saying?” I huddle close to him as we walk outside the building. 

“I said I wanted to speak to you after class, but you left early. Are you still happy for me to DJ at your birthday party on Friday?” He rakes his fingers through his silky hair.

“Yeah, that would be great. I’m looking forward to it.” I smile at him.

“Sweet!!! I’ll see you and Amara on Friday then.” He jumps on his skateboard and glides away with no care in the world. Little does he know that he just saved me from my last torture at Coverton High. 

*****

I jog my way through the school courtyard to the front entrance, where Amara is waiting for me. As I near the parking lot, her silver braids come into full view. She’s sitting on the bench where we usually have lunch together, hunched over, and typing away on her phone. 

I place my backpack on the bench and plop down on the pavement next to her. “I’m such a coward.” I bury my face in my palms. 

“Whoa, slow down, girl. Who’s a coward?” Amara straightens and places her phone on the bench. 

“Me!!! I’m a big coward.” I groan. “I just saw Olivia and—”

“Whoa, you saw Olivia?” Amara jumps to her feet. “Girl, where is she? What did she do to you?” Amara adjusts her African print headband and hoop earrings, as if she’s getting ready for a fight. 

“I think she’s still inside or something.” I wave a dismissive hand towards the school building. “She did nothing to me. I saw her walking in my direction, and I assumed she was coming for me. I felt so petrified and defenseless. It was a good thing I bumped into Jimmy. I used him as an anchor to help me get out of there without looking as if I was being chased.” I look up at Amara. “It’s not fair. Why do we have to deal with this?” 

Amara flicks her braids to the side and sits down again. “Girl, I’m so sorry. I should have waited for you inside. I know we’ve always been stronger together.” She places her arm around my shoulder and leans her head on mine.

“No, it’s not your fault, Amara. This has nothing to do with you.” I sigh. “It just sucks that one person can make me feel so afraid, so insecure, and so weak.” I cross my arms against my chest. 

“Aww girl, we both know you’re not weak.” Amara straightens. “And you’re not a coward either.” She stands up and pulls me up with her. “Sitting here and complaining means we’re giving Olivia the victory.” 

Amara grabs hold of my face. “Listen to me, girl. We can’t let her have the victory. We’ve come too far, and we know better. Look on the bright side. God sent Jimmy to help you get out of that sticky situation, didn’t He? He’s always got our backs, remember?” Amara tilts her head and smiles, hope radiating from her voice.

Yeah, right! Just like He had our backs all the other times when Olivia got her way, huh?!

“I... guess so.” I return a half-hearted smile, looking so unconvinced, I know Amara can tell. She looks at me for a few seconds before opening her mouth to speak, but she closes it again and resumes her seat on the bench.

“Anyway, I have something for you.” Amara reaches into her navy blue bag lying next to her. She pulls out a wrapped present and hands it to me. “I know your birthday is in three days, but I wanted to be the first one. My best friend is special like that.” She winks at me and I squeeze in next to her.

“Please don’t let whatever happened with Olivia ruin your day. Your party is going to be amazing and girl, she ain’t gonna be there.” Amara waves a finger in my face.

I chuckle and start tearing off the wrapping paper when a car honks at us from the parking lot. We both snap our heads in the direction of the sound, and Amara springs to her feet.

“Ooh, come on. Our ride is here.” Amara nods in the car's direction and drags me up by my arms.

“Hello, Mrs. Ikezie.” I wave to Amara’s mom as we approach her grey Hyundai Sonata. Mrs. Ikezie closes her car door and walks towards us, the rhinestones on her matching African print blouse and headscarf sparkling in the sunlight. Mrs. Ikezie’s love for colour has never failed to speak volumes through her beautiful cultural outfits—a love she has certainly passed down to Amara.

“Hello, my dear.” Her heavy Nigerian accent comes through. “How are you and your parents?” She takes off her sunglasses and brushes the mole on the side of her chin.

“We’re doing great.” I smile at her.

Mrs. Ikezie turns to Amara and moves the silver braids covering a quarter of her daughter’s face to the side. “Adanma, my beautiful princess, how was your exam?” she asks, but doesn’t wait for Amara to respond before adding, “Ahn ahn!!! I always tell you not to wear your hair down if it is going to cover your entire face like this. Tie it up so the world can see your beautiful face.” She tilts her head and tries to sweep Amara’s braids away from her face.

“My exam was fine, Mom.” Amara moves her head away from her mother’s grip. “My braids are fine too.” She adjusts the braids herself. “Can we go now, please? Teeyana needs to open her gift and try it on.” Amara and I share a smile before she grabs my hand and pulls me toward her mom’s car.

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