There once was a girl named Liz. She spent her days trapped in a dungeon, dreaming and rebelling about how she would be set free one day.
Liz had been here since she was only nine months old. Her mom had abandoned her to pursue her dream of following the wild life. She had dropped Liz off at a church, and a nun had taken her home.
But her nun had gone crazed. One day Liz had found Father Peter in the bedroom, blood spewing from his throat. Liz had picked up the dagger and was about to scream for help when Jezebel walked in and saw Liz, with the dagger in her hand.
Overcome by grief, Jezebel was unforgiving, although it wasn't Liz's fault, and threw the child in the dungeon, unshackled, in hopes she'd starve during the winter.
But being a curious five-year old, like she was, Liz wandered into the open and vulnerable storeroom and found food. She had lived off crackers and salted meat until they ran out. That had been a month ago.
Now, Liz was seven, and she was ready to break free. She had decided she deserved a regular, happy life with a family. Two years had passed and Liz now recognized that when the church bells rang every week, Jezebel would leave the cottage. Recently, Liz had discovered a soft material. She found she could sow it together and make a dress. The clothes she had on were tattered and way too small for her developing body.
So, Liz had decided she would finish tailoring her dress, wait for the church bells to chime and Nun Jezebel to slam the door, and then Liz would break the window with some of the crumbling brick.
She spent the afternoon napping and dreaming about her escape. She would wander the streets of the village, asking for food and money. Hopefully, she would find a way home.
Something woke her during the night. Liz sat up, startled. In the pitch dark, she made out two yellow eyes. Liz jumped out of the blankets, shivering from fear and cold.
The boxes rustled twenty feet away from her. Liz whimpered, terrified the wolf would hurt her. "Dear God, please keep me safe." She picked up a carved, wooden stick and was prepared to strike.
"Elizabeth," the wolf howled. "Don't hurt me, I mean you no harm."
Liz smacked her faced. She was awake! A wolf had said her name. "Why are you here?"
"The woman is drunken on wine. She's going to come down here and hurt you. But don't fret, God is with you. That's why I am here. Climb on my back and I'll keep you safe," he whined with anticipation. "Come, child. I'm here to protect you."
Trusting the wolf was sent by God, Liz quickly climbed on his back and sat like she was riding a horse. "Okay," she whispered. "I'm ready."
"Snuggle up in my fur," the canine instructed. "It'll be a cold ride, little one." He made a beeline to the dungeon window, then veered slightly to Liz's blankets. He encased her little lamb, John, in his jaws and gave it to his little partner.
She smiled thankfully. "My lamb John! He's my best friend!"
The wolf licked the child's cheek. "I thought it might help to have something familiar." He lunged into a sprint. "Now, hold on tight!"
He sprinted toward the window, grabbed the ledge, and slipped through the window. The wolf ran through the pasture and Liz squealed with excitement.
The trees waved with triumph, the stars yelled their praises, and the Lord's wolf howled, "Hallelujah to our ever-reigning God! How he loves!"
After their run through the pasture, Liz and her rescuer finally got safely into the woods.
The wolf dropped and let Liz off his back. She was laughing, clutching John to her chest. "That was fun!"
"Shh, little one," he told her gently. "You need to rest." The wolf lay down and panted. He circled and rolled on his side to show his gray belly.
She flopped down obediently and snuggled into his fur, her eyelids heavy. Liz yawned. "What's your name?"
"You can call me Michael. I'm your protector, Elizabeth," he whined.
"I trust you. Good night, Michael," Liz told the wolf.
"Good night, child," Michael told her.
In the morning, Liz felt a cold nose nuzzle her cheek. Michael barked quietly. "Wake up, Elizabeth. It's time to find a home."
Liz turned one her back and squinted at the sunlight. "Good morning, Michael."
The wolf hugged her and swooped her up onto his back again. Just like last night, he gave Elizabeth her lamb, John, then began to trot away from the tree they were resting under. "I'm going to the creek. You wash up and I'll find breakfast," Michael said.
Liz ran into the creek and disappeared. He watched her protectively for a moment, then he turned to catch fish for breakfast.
Liz's head broke water within another moment. She flipped her long hair behind her and began to comb it with her fingers. Then she swam toward the bank.
The girl found Michael with a fish in between his jaws, clamped firmly. Liz cocked her head at him curiously. "What's that?" she chanted.
"It's called salmon. It's a very delicious, nutritious fish. It's a good thing to eat for breakfast," Michael told the child. "I'll cook it for you."
"Ooh! Let me help!" she squealed. "I used to love to make stew with Nun Jezebel!"
He growled gently. "No, Elizabeth. Stay away. Fire can harm you."
Liz backed away obediently and squatted beneath a tree, doodling in the sand with her finger. She watched her friend intently.
Michael lay down and put his paws together. "O Lord, my Shepherd, give me the strength to face the day. Now, send your innocent daughter fire to cook her daily bread."
Out of barren ground, a fire began to crackle. Michael held the fish over the fire until it turned warm. He set it down on the grass to cool then and started howling softly a tune Liz recognized.
She inched carefully toward the flames. " 'Great is Thy Faithfulness'? I love that song. You sing the melody please."
They both began to howl, "Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father, there is no shadow of turning with thee. All thy hath needed, thou hath provided. Great is thy faithfulness, O God unto me!"
Liz giggled. "Nun Jezebel must have sung that to me when I was a baby. Father Peter was doing laundry one day, humming that. I came up right along singing. He picked me up, swirled me around, and we sang together."
Michael bared a sly smile. He looked at the sun and saw it was ten in the morning. "Come now, Elizabeth. Let's eat and we'll head into the village. I want to find you a home today."
Liz took the fish, ate it quickly, then went to find John the stuffed lamb. Finally, she climbed onto the wolf's back and clung tightly. "Ready?" Michael asked. Liz answered and they were off.
Creation, this morning, seemed to be in quiet thanksgiving. Trees bowed, the creek, trickled a hymn, and the clouds rolled onto their white bellies, reflecting the sun very brightly.
Midday came, and Michael and his little girl approached a pasture of sheep. Michael dropped Liz behind a tree. He whispered to her, "Okay, little one. I'm going to bark at the sheep. They'll make a fuss. When they do, go around the gate and pet the sheep. A man will come out. Trust him, he's a righteous man. Loves Jesus, too, like you and me. He'll give you a good home. You're safe here, Elizabeth. Okay? I love you, sweet daughter of Yahweh."
Liz's face scrunched up and became red. Michael soon acknowledged she was crying. "Ach, Lizzy. God has good plans for you. You needn't to be afraid."
Liz hugged the canine. "I know," she sobbed. "I trust you, but you're my friend. I don't want you to leave me!"
The wolf's heart began to crumble. "Dear Elizabeth, you have John." He nuzzled her cheek. "And I'll let you in on a little secret. There's a boy named Joshua in there. He'll be your brother and your best friend. It will take you time to trust Stephen, but all with be well, child."
Liz still clung to the animal. Michael began to howl, "How great is our God! Sing with me, how great is our God! And all will see how great! How great! Is our God!"
The seven-year old dried her tears in Michael's fur. She nodded at the wolf and he barked at the sheep. Liz pet a particular sheep with gentle eyes and waited.
The next she looked up, she saw a man with a brown beard and flowing hair. He wore a mud-splattered tunic. Stephen held out his hand and said, "Welcome home. I'm Stephen. We've been expecting you, Elizabeth."
Trusting only God and her jelly muscles, Liz let the man who would become her daddy pick her up and carry her inside to meet her new family.
This was her new beginning...