Isobel is on the hunt for her missing muse. What she finds instead is an abandoned toddler who is sunburned and close to death. Dr Liam Brigham keeps little Mia alive, but needs Isobel to save the girl from a far greater danger--a killer with an agenda for kidnapping.
With Mia's life next in line, Isobel and Liam have to put aside their differences, face their past and throw their trust at the only One able to save.
Awards & Other Kudos
Winner of the June releases Clash - 2015
Isobel bit her paintbrush in frustration. The sea before her sparkled in shades of turquoise as it stretched up to kiss the rays of the sun. The beach was deserted. A slight breeze tiptoed across the tops of the waves and threaded through stately palm fronds. The entire scene screamed, paint me.
She put down her paintbrush, knuckling the small of her back. This place was perfect. If there were any inspiration left in the world for her, surely it would be here. But her canvas remained stubbornly blank. It mocked her in its sheer whiteness. If it were a kid, it would be sticking out its tongue and blowing raspberries.
She glared back at it for a moment. “Fine. Whatever.” Ten years of this had taken its toll on her. A decade of jammed-up talent. She reached up to tie back her brown hair. It was just that—brown. Not russet or tan or chocolate. Just brown. She caught sight of a stain on her shorts. What on earth? She picked at it with her nail and ran it across her tongue. Ice cream. Isobel frowned; it was from that kid in the park. Now she was doomed to be sticky all day. There were a few reasons she wasn’t keen on kids—sticky stains joined the list.
“This is all your fault, you daft canvas. If you’d just stop sulking and let me paint something, I wouldn’t have been in that park. Aaar—” Her frustrated growl was cut short by soft whimpering.
Isobel froze, listening.
She waited, hardly breathing.
There it was again, the faintest moan. It was coming from up the beach to the right.
Not stopping to think, she followed the sound.
Across a blinding expanse of white sand, a man-size piece of landlocked driftwood sat brooding, vulture-like. The noise came from the other side. She could hear it clearly now. It grew fainter as she got closer. Instinct kicked in. Isobel stepped out of her shoes and ran. The driftwood snagged her shorts as she climbed between two branches and she pulled hard, ripping a hole in the fabric and sending her headfirst into the sand on the other side. She spat grains out of her mouth and looked around.
There! Baking in the scorching sun, a little bundle in pink. What kind of flotsam comes in pink? She rubbed her eyes to make sure she was seeing right.
It was a child, no more than two years old, a girl with wispy blonde hair. She lay still on the burning sand, no hint that she was alive.
Time turned to treacle as Isobel rushed closer, fearing the worst.
The child was tied to the wood with a scarlet silk scarf. Isobel slipped the knot free and gingerly picked up the toddler who hung limp in her arms. Her skin was hot against Isobel’s. She was a mess of tearstains and angry sunburn. “Oh, you poor baby. How long have you been out here? Where’s your mum?”
Isobel scanned the beach. No one. Just a pair of sandals midway to the water and her own farther from the water line. The little girl in her arms drew a shuddery breath, sending twin jolts of hope and fear through Isobel. No time to look for family. She needed help now.
Isobel struggled through the soft sand, though her burden was feather-light. Hers was the only car in the parking lot. She placed her charge on the back seat and drove the unfamiliar streets, fighting rising panic. An old man was waiting by a postbox for his collie to finish sniffing. She skidded to a stop.
“Excuse me. I need a doctor. Can you help?”
“Sorry, what?” He leaned in close.
Her heart sank. “A doctor! I need a doctor.”
“Aaah. Turn left at the end of this road. Make your way to the t-junction and head right. Can’t miss it.”
Left, then right. She drove off, scared to go too fast and scared to go too slow.
Nothing. She must have gone wrong.
No, wait. There was the sign. She swung into the parking lot and stopped. Gently scooping up her small charge, she half-walked, half-ran through the sliding doors. The little girl had been so quiet in the car. Isobel shied away from the thoughts that hounded her. Too late. You are too late. A ragged breath—she was still alive. “Stay with me, OK? Life is not done with you yet, little Flotsam.”
Professionalism vaguely masked the disapproval on the receptionist’s face. “Can we help you?”
Isobel was suddenly aware of her bare, sandy feet, mussed-up ponytail, and ripped shorts. “Please. I found this little girl on the beach. She needs urgent medical attention.”
“Where are her parents?”
“I don’t know. She was alone. Please—”
The receptionist tapped her pen on the form. “I have to put something here. The liability—”
Isobel’s blood boiled. “But she needs help now!”
A cool hand grasped her elbow. It was the doctor. “I’ll take it from here, Angie. I’m Doctor Brigham. Come with me.”
She followed her rescuer, her knees weak from anger and gratitude. This baby dying in her arms? She swallowed hard. Her insides shook, pleading no. It wouldn’t have surprised Isobel to see wings sprouting from the doctor’s broad shoulders or a hovering halo to appear above his head.
He settled the little girl in a casualty booth. Assessing her vitals, he hooked up a drip and put monitoring equipment in place. Once his small patient was stable, he turned to Isobel. “OK… I think you got her here in time. She is suffering severe dehydration and sunburn. I’m not sure she would have survived another hour out there. We’ll be able to assess her condition more accurately once she comes around. I’ve given her something to ease the pain.” He sat on the bench next to Isobel. “What can you tell me?”
For the first time since her find, Isobel slammed back into reality. She cringed. “Not much to tell. I was on the beach and heard a strange moaning. I followed the sound and found her tied to a piece of driftwood like a bit of flotsam.” She shrugged, hit by crushing weariness.
“No sign of her parents?”
“Just a pair of sandals halfway between where I found her and the water. I didn’t want to waste time looking. I didn’t think she had much time to spare.”
“Good call. Tied to a piece of driftwood, you say? With what?”
“A silk scarf. Bright red.” A wave of nausea hit Isobel and she swallowed hard. “I need a bathroom.”
Doctor Brigham waved toward the passage and she ran.
For the second time that morning nausea hit. She made it just in time and lost the entire contents of her stomach to the Sunshine Coast sewage system. She knelt, leaning on the wall, feeling hollow inside and out. The sooner she left this all behind, the better. Flotsam—Flo as she’d begun to think of her—was safe. Isobel had done as much as any decent person would. For the sake of conscience, she’d pay the bill, then she’d be out of here. This was not something she was ready to face. Not at all. Taking courage from the thought that it was almost over, she pulled herself up, splashed water on her face and opened the restroom door.
Dr. Brigham was waiting for her in the passage. For the briefest flash, Isobel saw the man—not the doctor, and her heartbeat doubled. She shook her head, and he was back to being the doctor, albeit with her conjured-up wings and halo hovering over his red hair. He looked worried.
“Is everything OK? Is she…”
“She’s fine. As good as she can be under the circumstances. I’d like a word with you, if you don’t mind.”
“I was just going to settle the bill and be on my way. There is nothing more for me to do here.”
“Just walk with me first. Please.”
Isobel didn’t want to. She didn’t want to listen or feel. She just wanted to go home and stick her head under a pillow and pretend she was safely on the moon for a little while. Preferably alone. Yet she found her feet following him down a polished passage so shiny, it felt as if she were walking on the ceiling.
Those broad shoulders—with rapidly shrinking wings, she thought with a frown—nudged open a side door into a consulting room that had been left at the mercy of a colour-blind painter. Everything was green. His red hair blazed against the vivid emerald background. Her stomach was still queasy and the moon was sounding more attractive by the minute.
“I’m sorry, I never caught your name?” He waved her into a chair and sat down opposite her.
“Isobel. Isobel Carter.”
“Isobel, I need to ask you—”
There was a brief tap on the door and sour Angie poked her head in. “Doctor, you have a growing queue of patients waiting to see you.”
“Thank you, Angie. I’m nearly through.”
He shook his head apologetically as the door slammed shut behind her. “She’s good at what she does…” He shrugged, closed his mouth, and gave up trying to defend his untoward receptionist.
“You were saying?”
“Ah, yes. I need to ask if you’ll do something for me.”
No! “Sure.” Traitorous mouth. “What is it?” She felt the need to bang her head on the desk. She resisted.
“That little girl you brought in. She needs to be in hospital, at least overnight. I know you said you were keen to get out of here, but will you take her?”
“I really can’t. I mus—”
“I’d take her myself, but I’ve got a waiting room full of people. Please?”
“Can’t you call ambulance?”
“None available, I tried. There was a pile-up on the N2.”
She wanted to scream. Hospital. She could feel the trembling in her hands at the thought. “To hospital and then I’m done. Sure.”
He reached across the desk and gently took hold of her wrist. “Stay with her until I do my rounds later. It’s important. Please.”
If he hadn’t been so kind, she would have told him to get lost. But his hand on her wrist was warm, he asked so sincerely, and he looked her straight in the eye as he said it. Snookered. “OK. I’ll take her and I’ll wait for you. You had better not be late.” His halo had slipped and she was tempted to strangle him with it.
“Good girl. I’ll send someone to help you get her into your car. Oh, take this,” he scribbled a note on a pad, tore it off, and handed it to her. “They won’t give you trouble admitting her. I’m footing the bill on this one.” He grinned at her, winked, and jogged off down the passage to fetch his next patient and appease the wrath of Angie.
Isobel leaned back on the chair and let her head drop. This could not be happening. Pull yourself together, girl. It’s just one afternoon. You can do this. She wasn’t really on speaking terms with God, but she looked up anyway.
Just don’t let her die on me. Anything but that.
Liam Brigham shut the door to his consulting room, picked up the phone, and dialled.
“Detective Nass speaking.”
“We’ve got another one.”
“No, intercepted. She’s en route to hospital as we speak. We’ve got to talk.”
Question 1: Isobel's creativity, particularly her ability to paint, had been jammed up by the trauma she'd experienced in her past. Explain why.
Answer 1: The underlying premise of Finding Mia is that the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus came so we can have abundant life. What Isobel experienced stole her ability to flow with her natural, God-given artistic talent. Being creative requires one to 'let go', but after being violated, Isobel was unable to let her walls down as subconsciously, she feared that she'd fall apart emotionally.
Question 2: Facing hospital was a huge issue for Isobel - first when Liam Brigham asked her to take Mia and later when Ben broke his arm. Hospitals filled her with dread. As Believers, do you think irrational fears like this should raise a red flag to be investigated? Why, or why not?
Answer 2: Irrational fear can almost always be traced to a root experience or event. Sometimes it is something small and insignificant, yet other times it is tied to a significant event or occurrence that, when confronted, could be dealt with. Jesus paid a dear price for our freedom. His desire is to see us free from anything that would hold us back from the abundant life that He has planned.
Question 3: At the exact time Isobel decided to pack up and leave town, Rochelle called asking her to come and teach a craft class. Would you describe this as good luck, pure chance or Divine intervention?
Answer 3: I wrote this as Divine intervention out of experiencing God break into my life and rearrange my circumstances in ways that turned out for the best (even though I didn't always see it that way at the time!) Rochelle is a naturally, supernatural Believer, flowing easily amongst people from all walks of life, yet completely Spirit-led. Imagine if we all lived simply tuned in to Holy Spirit? Soft to His promptings, obedient to His urging... many broken lives would be touched!
Question 4: In Art Class, Isobel struggled with drawing her shattered reflection in the broken mirror. She was confronted with her brokenness in a way she couldn't handle. Art, in all its forms, has the ability to touch and move the hardest heart. Do you agree? Why or why not?
Answer 4: There is something about creativity in all its forms that has the ability to bypass the logical processes of the brain and engage the emotions and heart of the audience. The arts communicate across languages barriers and cultural differences. God Himself is a Creator, with us made in His image - creative too. When we flow in creativity, He shines through in all His loving beauty - irresistible to a softened heart.
Question 5: The night that Isobel spent on the beach, God spoke to her through the sunrise with the promise that His Light had overcome the darkness. Isobel understood that to mean that the danger was past - that Liam was delusional in his conspiracy theory. Yet, there was still much pain and suffering ahead of her before the breakthrough. Do you think she misunderstood what God was saying to her? How can we avoid doing that?
Answer 5: When God speaks, we often receive it colored through our circumstances, hopes and desires. Isobel interpreted it to mean that the danger was past. The truth is - she still had a journey to walk, but God's promise to her was that the darkness would not prevail. Her only (very human!) failing, was to doubt what He'd spoken to her when things didn't work out as she was expecting them to. The Bible tells us that even when we are faithless, He is still faithful as He cannot deny Himself. Our challenge is to see Him in control and at work beyond our current circumstances, to believe in His inherent Goodness - no matter what is happening around us, because He will come through on every promise He makes.
Question 6: During the craft ladies' intervention, Isobel argued that she felt more 'together' than she had in years. The ladies saw it differently, saying that previously, in spite of the challenges, the pain that she was facing - she was gloriously alive, real and present. Do you think Isobel 'getting herself together' was a good thing or a bad thing? Why?
Answer 6: Isobel was getting her life 'in order' under Roric's direction. She began ignoring her motherly instincts when it came to Mia, relying on his rules to bring order. Mia's response to this harsh treatment was to shut down. Roric's motivation for the advice he offered was twisted, intending to rob Isobel of her confidence. Real life, lived in love, is messy but glorious in kindness and understanding, with lots of room for mistakes and learning. The craft ladies could see that the changes in Isobel were not healthy, but damaging. So while Isobel felt more in control, in reality she was shutting out her instincts and the gentle leading of the Holy Spirit that leads to peace, joy and righteousness. Relationships don't flourish under prescribed rules, but on connecting with each other in love and understanding.
Question 7: The craft ladies took it on themselves to shadow Isobel, Roric and Mia as they could see the negative effects that he was having on Isobel. Do you think they were out of line?
Answer 7: My feeling is that true friends will go out of their way - even to the point of offending you - to look after your best interests. It may not be welcome at the time, but it is genuine, authentic, real love.
Question 8: In this story, Mia was the key that unlocked Isobel's heart enough for the Holy Spirit to begin healing her from the past. Mia was also the one thing she was desperate to avoid. At the beginning of the book, she didn't like children and most certainly would never have considered taking one in. This was a setup planned in Heaven, why do you think God works like this - bringing us face to face with what we don't want?
Answer 8: Human hearts can only cope with so much before they shut down. Isobel had her first baby stolen from her. It left a gaping wound that consumed her. Her only means of coping with the pain and emotion was to shut down that desire. To lock it away so deeply that she convinced herself that she never wanted a baby in the first place, that there was no space in her heart or life for children at all. Jesus brought Mia along to take off that hard scab, allow all the pain and disappoint to come out so her healing could begin. He is an expert at working with our hearts!
Question 9: While waiting to see the social workers, Melindi confessed how concerned she was that Roric had deceived her so easily. Isobel used her handbag's broken zip to illustrate how being broken by circumstances allows things in and out of one's life that you never would have before. She said that Jesus doesn't replace the zip, but becomes the zip. What do you think she meant?
Answer 9 When you make the choice to believe in Jesus, you literally believe 'into' Jesus. Your life becomes hidden in Him. Therefore whatever comes your way is filtered through Him. If something is not meant to touch your life, it will not get past. He also allows the things that would be toxic for you (bitterness, unforgiveness, hatred...) to filter out to stop them festering inside causing long-term damage.
Question 10: Mia's name means Mine. The closing lines of the book unfold the newly discovered 'mines' in Isobel's life. Belonging. Why do you think belonging is such a fundamental need in all people?
Answer 10: We are created to be connected, to belong - it comes straight from the heart of a Father who longs to connect with us. He does not hold Himself aloof, watching from a distance. He delights in tackling challenges with us, coaching from the side or carrying us when we can't anymore. In times of heartbreak, He is closer than breathing, carefully holding our hearts, carrying the pain with us until we can smile again. He laughs with us through the fun, shares wisdom for each situation, lovingly wipes tears, puts us back on our feet when we fall. He is our fierce defender, strong deliverer, tender lover of our souls. In every way, His Life is entwined in ours. I can imagine Him leaning over to Gabriel, pointing down and saying, "You see that one? She's Mine!" In the same way, He places people in our lives for us to love deeply, defend fiercely and share life with. As we do that, live like He does, our lives will shine His Life bright and glorious - bringing the broken, lost and lonely into His family for Eternity.