It’s finally happening! The day I have dreamt about for years is finally just a month a way. For those not on social media, Worthy of Redemption, the book I’ve been working on for over five years, is releasing on October 5, 2021.
The past few weeks have been spent finalizing edits, cover design, book formatting, registering on various distribution sites, setting up promotions, and trying to get the word out. I’m exhausted but so exhilarated. I had to re-read Heath and Ashlynn’s story many times, and I cannot wait for you guys to (hopefully) fall in love with them as much I have. I’ll probably update more around or on release date (possibly with a giveaway!) so keep an eye out both here and social media. Until then, enjoy this blurb for the book, and make sure to check out the pre-order links below!
Ashlynn Wilson left the small town of White Lake, Texas after tragedy struck on graduation night, taking the life of her best friend Victoria. Now, ten years later, she returns to help her parents after her father is diagnosed with cancer. When she arrives she finds herself having to face more than just memories after she discovers that the doctor treating her father is Victoria’s former boyfriend Heath Lancaster, the man Ashlynn holds responsible for her death. Even more surprising is that she is beginning to see him as a compassionate man of faith caring for her ill father; not the teenage boy who made poor decisions.
Heath Lancaster has never really forgiven himself for his girlfriend’s death so he isn’t surprised that his former classmate hasn’t either. Now that Ashlynn is back in town, he hopes their interactions can be minimal. However, when a situation arises that she is uniquely qualified for, he realizes they are going to be spending far more time together than either one of them had planned. What’s more, he realizes he enjoys her company. As old hurts turn into friendship, and maybe even love, can Heath prove to them both that he’s a man worthy of redemption?
It’s no surprise to anyone that the year 2020 has been, well, unusual. If you’ve been following me for awhile, or know me in real life, you know that I feel everything, and I feel it deeply. So let’s just say that 2020 has been an exhausting year. A couple weeks ago, I was feeling overwhelmed by everything when my amazing friend and roommate, Megan, pointed out that I hadn’t really taken a vacation this year. The only time I had really taken off was to get dental work done (and let’s just say that’s not a vacation), and that I needed a break. So I took a few days off for a “staycation” and planned absolutely nothing. I knew I needed rest, so I would listen to my body, and trust the Lord’s prompting on anything else. Around the same time I was planning this, I got word from one of my favorite authors, Melissa Tagg, that she was releasing her latest novel, Some Bright Someday, and needed reviewers. So I signed up and got the book about a week before my vacation but decided to wait to read it until I could just sit and read. If I’m honest, I’ve had a hard time reading lately because I feel guilty that I’m reading someone else’s book when I should be working on editing my own. But this felt right. I spent the first couple days of my vacation mostly just sleeping and watching Netflix, and honestly it felt amazing. So Friday evening I started the book, and read most of it on Saturday and Sunday. It was the first time in a long time that I allowed myself to just sit and read. And it was glorious. So here’s the review. It will pretty general so as not to reveal any spoilers. I’ll post the back cover description first.
He’s torn between love and honor.
Lucas Danby has always regretted the decisions that caused his dishonorable discharge from the military—and he’s never stopped trying to redeem his honor. He's spent the past decade taking on dangerous short-term missions as an elite private soldier—the only part of his life that's ever gone right. But the high-risk work never cures his shame. Now he’s stuck stateside, mentoring a new recruit. Worse, he's sick of lying to the people he cares about most—including the woman he’s secretly loved for years.
She can’t escape her house of memories.
Jenessa Belville should be happy. She's the hometown girl everyone loves, after all. But she’s also the last Belville left—and if she had her way, she'd leave the name and all its painful memories behind. Which is exactly what she hopes to do once she sells Belville Park, the massive estate she inherited from her parents. First, though, she needs to restore the property’s once-glorious gardens. But on the same day she puts up the “For Sale” sign, she discovers three children hiding in the caretaker's cottage, thrusting her into the unexpected role of temporary guardian.
Fighting for their future means healing from the past.
Struggling to mentor a young man with scars nearly as piercing as his own, Lucas offers to help Jenessa restore the Belville grounds. Though drawn together by a trio of kids who tug on their hearts and the sparks they can’t deny, past secrets and current sorrows threaten to pull them apart. Only the brightest love and hardest sacrifice can turn the house Jenessa never wanted into the home she and Lucas have always longed for.
Some Bright Someday takes place in the fictional town of Maple Valley, Iowa. Those familiar with Melissa Tagg will recognize the town from several of her other books and let me tell you, I wish this place was real. From it’s random festivals, to his coffee shop literally just named Coffee Coffee, Maple Valley has a charm about it that makes you wish you escape there for real. Also featured from previous books are several people from the town, including a few of the Walkers, and a group of friends turned family that we first met in previous book Now and Then and Always. Most you know how much I love books that feature strong friendships, and this book definitely fit that bill. It also demonstrated how hard friendship as adults can be. That even with people you trust, sometimes it’s still hard to open up to them. We see this in both Jenessa and Lucas. As much as their friends mean to them, they have to get past their own hesitations to truly let people in. Through many twists and turns, Lucas and Jenessa have to learn to trust not only each other, but the other people in their lives.
I think what I most appreciated and enjoyed about this book was how relatable it felt. Without revealing too much, both Jenessa and Lucas are broken people. People who aren’t always sure what to do with their faith, people who struggle with the emotions that come not only from past baggage, but just from everyday life. People who have doubts and fears but try to trust God anyway. One of my favorite quotes from the book is “I happen to think a weathered faith is a good faith. It means you’ve been through a storm and back. Or maybe you’re still in it-still fighting. Maybe your belief is battered and weak. But that just means you’re in a prime place for a rescue. For a miracle.” I’ve talked before about how God often reveals things to me through fiction. Through not only the fiction I write, but also the fiction I read. And this is what God showed me through this story. That even when I have big feelings, even when the world feels like too much, I can trust Him. That even if that trust feels flimsy and my faith feels battered, He’s still there to rescue me. That sometimes the “little things” can still be overwhelming, but they aren’t too much for Him. I’m not too much for Him.
If I’m honest, 2020 has been hard in a lot of ways. I’ve had it easier than some; I still have a job, I don’t live alone so social distancing hasn’t been as difficult. I’m a natural homebody so not being able to go places hasn’t been a huge deal. But it’s still been emotionally draining. And thus working on my book, on the one big goal I had for 2020 has felt overwhelming. When I sit down to work on it, I feel overwhelmed and unable to focus on it, especially with everything else going on in the world. But this staycation, this period of rest, this amazing book I got the chance to read, all of those things have shown me that it’s okay. It’s okay if my book doesn’t come out until 2021. It’s okay if I take longer than most people would. It’s okay if I feel likes deeper and harder than most other people. It’s reminded me that God’s timing is perfect. I think that one of the reasons that Melissa Tagg’s book always resonate with me is because she allows God to dictate what she writes. She allows Him to use her words to touch people. And that’s what I desire. So I can’t let myself get too discouraged when it doesn’t go how I think it should, or how I imagine someone else would get it done. I have to listen to His promptings. And you know what? It’s made me feel creative again. It’s given me new insight on Worthy of Redemption. In fact I think when I’m done with this review, I’m going to work on some more editing.
So, this review may have turned a little bit more into personal reflections, but, hey isn’t that what great art does? It causes us to think, to reflect. And Some Bright Someday did exactly that. If you’re looking for a fun read, but also one that feels real and honest, pre-order this TODAY! It’s only $2.99 for the e-book (which is a STEAL). I’ll link the pre-order Amazon link below.
Hello! Yes, it’s been a year since I last updated. And yes, that was about my book, which I am still working on. I hope to have a book update for you all soon, but today I wanted to share about a special anniversary I’m celebrating. It’s a little long, but I hope worth it and encouraging to you. Here we go!
For some background, when I was in college, I started having some issues with vertigo, and ringing in my ears, especially my left ear. There was no real determining cause and at the time, it didn’t happen very often so I wasn’t super concerned. As the years went on, however, it continued to get worse and more frequent, and was later accompanied by intermittent hearing loss in my left ear as well. This went on for probably close to ten years. Eventually it was harder to hear out of my left ear all the time, and at times would feel almost like it needed to pop and was hard to hear anything out of it at all. I had seen a couple of doctors and no one could really tell me the root cause without going to see a specialist. To be honest, seeing a specialist was expensive, and a lot the issues it could be didn’t have much of a treatment anyway, so it seemed kind of pointless.
Over the course of my time attending Bridgeway Church, I have really embraced their passionate pursuit of both Word and Spirit. Part of that is believing that God heals so I would ask for healing for my ear and vertigo often. Nothing ever seemed to happen. Now, I’m not one that believes that just because we pray, or have enough faith, or do the right things means God will automatically heal us. We don’t know when or why God chooses to heal some people and not others, but it doesn’t mean we should stop praying for it. But to be transparent, after several years of praying and nothing happening, I was getting weary of praying. Sam Storms, my pastor, says that we only stop praying for healing in three instances: we hear a distinct prompting from The Lord to stop praying for that particular ailment, we are healed, or we die. And even though I knew these things, at times I still didn’t want to continue to pray and feel disappointed. Until two years ago.
Two years ago today, I was at my friend Callie’s house with my best friend Megan for our Dgroup meeting. The three of us met up twice a month to get share about life, challenges, pray for each other, and support each other. That week was a really rough one for my hearing and vertigo. I had a couple of instances where I couldn’t hear anything at all in my left ear, my vertigo would last for hours and make me nauseous when I was at work, and the ringing seemed almost constant. I was frustrated and worn out by it. I shared this with them, and to be honest, I wasn’t wanting or asking for prayer at that moment. Truth be told, I was just complaining. But they said “Let’s pray for this right now” and in the back of my head I had Sam’s voice saying “You’re not healed, and you’re not dead”, so I agreed, not expecting anything to happen. Megan put her hand over my left ear and they started praying. And all of a sudden I heard what sounded like a gust of wind in that left ear. They finished praying and I told them what I heard. Megan exclaimed “That’s the Holy Spirit!”, while Callie suggested we pray again for total healing. This time I almost felt a pop in my ear and everything was so much clearer.
The next day at church, the music seemed super loud. I asked several people if the music was louder than usual, and everyone said it seemed pretty normal. I serve in a children’s class and we had been watching this same Veggies Tales video for several weeks. It had a scene in it with a piano playing and suddenly I realized there were these high pitched notes that I hadn’t realized were there. All week I started noticing things I hadn’t even realized I hadn’t been hearing, especially higher frequency sounds. I didn’t have a vertigo episode that entire week, and my ears didn’t ring at all either. I was healed!
It’s been two years, and I haven’t had a vertigo episode since that day. My ears don’t ring, and my hearing is almost annoyingly the best it’s ever been (I mean sometimes you don’t want to hear everything right? 😉). What I hope you get from this story is that this was ALL GOD. He deserves all the Glory for this. Nothing I did made me earn it. And I also hope this encourages you to have faith not only for yourself in these situations, but for others too. Without Callie and Megan, I wouldn’t have prayed for healing that day. God used their faith when mine was weak. And it’s helped me in wanting to pray for others when they feel weak too.
Well hello there! After a very long time, I am finally back to the blog, and this time with an update! I apologize that it's taken so long but the last year has been one that was exhausting. Honestly, I started a post several times, but just never really knew what to write. But I'm back and with some exciting news! A warning though, this could get long. So buckle-up and enjoy the crazy ride!
About a year and a half ago, several things all sort of happened at once that made me stop and re-examine my plans to self-publish my novel, Worthy of Redemption. I decided to take a pause, and pray about what the next step looked like. So for the next few months, I researched several other options for publishing, including submitting to smaller publishing companies on my own, or trying to secure an agent to submit to larger publishing companies. I decided to submit to the smaller companies and researched several, finding a couple that I wanted to submit to. Now let me tell you, submitting proposals is completely different than writing the novel itself and for me, it was a lot harder. Every company wanted a different length synopsis, and other things they required. But earlier this year, I submitted a completed proposal to my top choice. I had given myself a deadline to choose a back-up as well and was planning to submit to my back up if I didn't get a contract from the first choice.
In February, I heard back from the first company that they were not interested at this time. They didn't give me any real reason why, just that it wasn't a good fit. I had already selected my back-up and started to work on that proposal when an unexpected opportunity presented itself: one of the largest Christian romance publishers in the world was doing a contest for unpublished authors without an agent to submit to their line. What was even more exciting was the fact that even if you were not selected to move along in the process, they would give you feedback on your writing and give you specific reasons as to why they were not interested. They announced the contest a month before the deadline, but I saw it four days before the first proposal was due! I worked every evening and on lunch breaks for the next few days and put together a proposal I was actually really proud of. And then I waited. Finally, I heard back. Once again, I was met with the news that they were not interested; and as excited as I was for feedback, it felt a little less than helpful. They felt my writing was strong, the story-line was intriguing, and the character development good. But certain elements of the story they just didn't feel fit with their particular line. If I'm honest, I was disappointed. The elements of the story that they didn't feel fit, were things I wasn't willing to compromise on. I still had one more publishing company on my list (my original back-up) but suddenly I wasn't sure if that's what I wanted to do anymore. So I spent the next few days in prayer over what the next step should be.
Over the next few days, it became evident to me that a lot of these publishing companies have very specific things they are looking for and if I wanted to publish with them, I may need to tailor my story to their particular line. And if I was honest with myself, that wasn't what I wanted. I want to tell the stories I feel like God has placed on my heart to tell, in the way I feel best equipped to tell them. So I started praying about self-publishing again. I felt like the year or so I spent researching publishing companies, writing proposals, and dealing with rejections had better prepared me this time for independent publishing. So I found an editor to work with, picked a cover designer, and decided to go for it!
Now, this is going to be a financial investment, so I decided to do crowd-funding to help pay for it. I've participated in several crowd-funding campaigns myself and I love feeling like I'm a part of the final product. If this is something that interests you, stay tuned to my social media pages where I'll be updating once the fundraiser is live sometime tomorrow. You can also contact me directly through my blog for more information. More than anything, I ask for prayers. This is a great undertaking but is truly a dream coming true!
I'm back! After way too long, I'm finally back to the blog. I'm surviving the crazy Oklahoma weather so far and even this storm and rain loving girl is hoping we are about done with it all. Our poor state can't handle much more. I'm hoping to have an update for you all on publishing soon (it's been a crazy ride, ya'll) but for now, I'm here with a book review!
Those of you who know me, or have been following me for awhile, have undoubtedly heard me talk about Melissa Tagg, one of my all time favorite authors. I wrote a blog post about finding her and her books at a time when I really needed them a couple of years ago. (You can read that here if you want a-fake-snow-day.html). Her previous Walker Family series was one of my favorites and I fell in love with the fictional town they took place in, Maple Valley. So I was delighted to learn this brand new series was also going to take place there and even more excited to receive an early copy of the first book Now and Then and Always for review before it releases tomorrow. Here's the back cover description:
“It was just a house. Just a weathered old house in a hidden grove, shuttered and still . . . ”
Last year, after traumatic circumstances forced her from her job as a nanny, Mara Bristol finally found a place to belong—the winsome Everwood Bed & Breakfast at the edge of Maple Valley, Iowa. For months, she’s helped its owner, Lenora, maintain the ramshackle property despite their shortage of guests. But when Lenora fails to return from a month-long trip and the bank threatens foreclosure, Mara worries she’s once again alone . . . abandoned . . . about to lose the only true home she’s ever known.
Detective Marshall Hawkins is no closer to whole today than he was two years ago . . . the day his daughter died. Between his divorce, debilitating migraines, and a dependence on medication, his life is falling apart. And when a reckless decision on the job propels him into administrative leave, he has no other plan but to get in his truck and drive. A one-night stay at the Everwood was supposed to be just that. But there’s something about the old house—or maybe its intriguing caretaker—that pulls him in.
Together, Mara and Marshall set out to save the Everwood. But its secrets run deeper than they could’ve imagined. As they renovate the house and search for its missing owner, they’ll each confront the pain that brought them to the Everwood in the first place . . . and just maybe discover a faith and love to help them carry on.
This description drew me in immediately and once I started reading, I was even more enthralled. Both Mara and Marshall's stories were tragic and heartbreaking but were so true to life and made me want to root for them all the more. What I also loved was a small group of friends who were included as secondary characters. All of them were characters that had appeared previously in other books, but their roles were more predominant in this one and the depiction of a close-knit group of friends, a chosen family of sorts, was amazing to see. The group folded Mara and Marshall into their group and it reflected what true friendship and community is supposed to look like.
Another element that was a little different than Melissa's previous books was the inclusion of a mystery (which turned into multiple mysteries!). The mystery was intriguing and added the perfect amount of suspense that had me at the edge of my seat. I kept wondering how it was all going to play out, and just when I thought I'd had it figured out, she would add a twist or turn that had me perplexed all over again.
The friendship and eventual romance between Mara and Marshall was satisfying without being formulaic or predictable. Two people who have problems trusting anyone are forced to admit that they need each other and it left me wondering if they would ever get past their many obstacles and find their way to each other.
Overall, while this book was a little more serious than some of her previous novels, it is definitely among my favorite books not only written by Melissa Tagg, but in general. The seriousness of some of the storyline felt true not only to the characters but to life. So often life is messy and full of tragedy. We don't always get neat and tidy solutions to problems and things happen that leave scars we can't ignore. But God is right there in the midst of our sufferings and trials, if we allow him in. He also provides people to help shoulder our burdens. This book was such a sweet reminder of that.
Now and Then and Always releases tomorrow! You can pre-order it here: http://bit.ly/nowthenalways.
It's been over a year since I last posted anything. I wish I could say it's because I finally have a publishing deal and I've been working hard to get my book published. Unfortunately, that isn't the case. The past year or so has been a whirlwind of one thing after another for me and those closest to me. Deaths, births, major illnesses, job changes, new cars, graduations, new friendships/community changes, etc, etc. Usually at this time of year I spend time reflecting on the past year and looking forward to the next. But if I'm honest, I'm not feeling it this year. While there were a lot of good things, this year has probably been one of the hardest in recent memory, and quite frankly, I don't really want to reflect on it. Last year I really enjoyed reflecting on 2017 and was looking forward to all the things 2018 would bring. But nothing happened the way I expected. That's okay but if I'm honest, I don't really want to have a lot of expectations about 2019 for fear I'll just be disappointed again.
As I was thinking this morning about how it felt weird to not really want to reflect on the past year, I had the realization that I'm sure I'm not the only one. I know a lot of people for whom 2018 has been really hard. Maybe you're one of them. I saw this thing on Twitter that was asking people to list their top three accomplishments for the the year and when I saw it, my first thought was "I can only think of one. I survived the year." Maybe that sounds dramatic but it's how I truly felt. Friend, if that's how you feel too I want to be the first to tell that it's okay. It is okay to not have these big reflections on the past year. It's okay if you don't have a list of goals or dreams for 2019. Goals and dreams are great, but sometimes we don't reach our goals, or our dreams don't come true or get put on hold. It's in these times that I remember that God doesn't adhere to my schedule or my timeline or my goals. Yes, God cares about my dreams but He knows what He's doing. But that doesn't mean I'm not still allowed to feel disappointed and sad. God cares about those crushed dreams too. He wants to comfort us.
I'm glad that people use this time of year to reflect on the past and look forward to the future. I think it can be really good. But I also think it's okay if what you most want out of 2019 is a fresh start. If what you are most looking forward to is that 2018 will be over. If you don't want to post your "2018 top nine" pictures on Instagram, or show off your 2018 video on Facebook. It's okay if you want to sit on New year's Eve and just cry thinking about what's been lost over the year. No matter what your feelings are about the past year or the year to come, those feelings are valid. Those feelings don't change the fact that God is in control, but we can't always ignore them. We can't let them control us, but we also can't keep everything bottled up. Just because we know God is in control, it doesn't mean we aren't allowed to grieve, or be disappointed, or even frustrated.
So if this year you aren't feeling like reflecting, don't. And know that you aren't alone.
Some of you may know that November is known to a lot of writers as NaNoWriMo. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, NaNoWriMo is the shorthand for National Novel Writing Month. The idea is writers take the month of November and try to get a rough first draft of a 50,000 word novel. The idea isn't to write your best, but to write a lot. I first tried NaNoWriMo seven years ago and I failed miserably. I had moved back to OKC just a few months before, I was still really figuring out what kind of writer I wanted to be (I was in denial that I should be writing inspirational romance), and I had no idea what I was really doing. I quickly discovered that 50,000 words is A LOT and I was in a place that I wasn't ready for that kind of task. It wasn't a completely wasted experience though, it helped me discover a few things about myself in regards to my writing. The main one being that I don't necessarily do well writing really fast, especially without a plan. This year, I decided to give NaNoWriMo another shot, but with my own twist. My goal wasn't to write an entire novel, but more to simply focus on one particular story everyday for a month. I was (mostly) successful and once again, I learned a lot about myself as a writer, and also some tricks to help me in the balancing of a fairly full life (full-time job, part-time job, church commitments, ect) and my writing career. Here are my reflections after NaNoWriMo.
Most authors fall into one of three categories: Plotter, Pantser, and In-Betweener. Stated simply, plotters plan everything out. They have an outline, a timeline, character profiles, and probably write their stories beginning to end. While it's still creative, their creativity has a plan that needs executed. Pantsers are the opposite. They "fly by the seat of their pants", writing as it comes, with usually no kind of outline, and maybe not in order. While they may jot down a timeline or a character profile, typically plotting makes them feel like they are hindering the creative process. The third type of writer, the in-betweener, is where I fall. Like it sounds, we fall somewhere in between plotting and pantsing, but usually with a lean toward one or the other. We may have a brief outline, but we don't follow it exactly. Or a character profile but the character may deviate from it. We may sit down one day and have no idea what we're writing and just write while another day we have everything worked out. I definitely lean toward pantsing. I have a basic outline, recently I've been exploring Myers-Briggs personality types for my characters, but I rarely write a story in chronological order, and a lot of times the story just takes over. After I finished edits on Worthy of Redemption and started on the next novel in that series, More than Enough, I was pretty much in full on pantser mode. Setting aside a time everyday to write gave me a chance to get back into more of a balance.
The area where I benefited the most, and where I succeeded the most, was in time management and writing consistently. The first day of November, I decided to write during my lunch break. We have a small break room with a computer and thanks to Office 365 and the Cloud, I can access my stories from anywhere with an internet connection. I didn't really set any goals, but I had about ten minutes left and I was at 460 words. I thought "I can totally get to 500, that's a good goal." I kept writing for the next ten minutes and ended up with 546! I decided this was a great time to write, and a good goal for the next month. I ended up writing on most of my lunch breaks (a couple of them I had to run errands) and hit my goal every day, exceeding it by a lot on several occasions. The highlight was on November 15 when I doubled my goal and hit 1,076 words during my lunch break! It was such a great feeling. I wrote other times during the month other than my lunch breaks, but these times were quickly my favorite. I posted some updates on my social media sites, and I had people asking me about my word counts. It was a ton of fun and felt like such a community effort.
I'm honestly not sure what my final NaNoWriMo word count was, but I realized as I was trying to figure it out that I don't really even care. It was never about the total amount of words, just about the drive to do this every day. I succeeded in writing every day and I exceeded my daily goals. More importantly, I feel like I made some discoveries in how to balance my time on this writing journey. I was talking with someone about it and I said it reminded me a little of a super strict diet like the Whole 30. You don't continue to eat nothing else after it's over, but you don't go back to eating a candy bar and drinking a ton of soda every day either. You've built a foundation. That's how this felt. I won't spend every lunch break from here on out writing at least 500 words, but I will probably do it at least two or three times a week. I built a foundation and I know I can do it.
So that's my experience. I may not have "won" NaNoWriMo in the sense that I got my novel done, but for me, it was one of the best things I've done creatively in a long time. Thank you to those that followed along on my journey and encouraged me along the way. (Especially my coworkers- you guys were awesome at keeping me accountable and being excited when I crushed my goals).
*If you want to keep following me along on this journey, I update most often on Instagram. The link is in the connect section of my website.
It's review time again! I once again had a chance to preview an upcoming book by Nicole Deese. This one, releasing TODAY is called A New Shade of Summer. It is a part of the Love In Lennox series and let me tell you, I love this charming little town in Oregon. I was so excited to come back to this fictional town and explore both characters I had previously encountered and new ones!
The main characters in the story are Callie and Davis. Davis was a side character in Love in Lennox book two, A Season to Love. I remember being compelled by his character in that story so I was excited to see him get his own story. He is a veterinarian and single father to twelve year-old Brandon. Davis is straightlaced and a rule follower. Callie is an artist who is always on the move. Her sister and niece and nephew have made Lennox their home and Callie is in town for the majority of the summer to spend time with her family and work on a mural at a local bakery. These two meet when Brandon is hanging out with Callie's nephew. Callie instantly sense an artist ability and creative soul in Brandon, one that completely alludes Davis.
Even with their vast differences, the chemistry between these two is evident early on. In fact, it is their differences that make them such an interesting match. I enjoyed seeing them figure out why the other one viewed something differently. The book alternates between both characters' points of view, told in first person, so it is fascinating to see how each one views the other's personality.
I've said it before, but I love how fiction speaks truth. This book is no different. We all have different personalities and sometimes the old cliche is true, opposites do attract. As someone who considers myself creative and more "go with the flow" I related to Callie's outlook on life, but I also understood Davis' point of view on life. When we understand that people view life differently, it helps us to appreciate them more. Nicole Deese did a great job of demonstrating that in this story.
This book was an easy read but one that made me think too. I highly recommend it! Order it in paperback or e-book from your local retailer or from Amazon:
This post is going to be a little different. Recently I joined a creative community called Resonate: Plus. It's a group of Christian creatives from all over the world, with all different forms of creativity encouraging each other and talking about a specific topic related to creativity as believers. This month the topic is perseverance, and we are doing a fun group project! Anyone who wanted to participate, sent in a haiku on the topic, then we each picked one the spoke to us, and did something within our creative outlet that goes with that haiku. Some people are writing songs, or doing hand lettering, or painting. I decided to do a short story. What it ended up being, was an extra or deleted scene from my current novel, Worthy of Redemption. It stands alone, but uses characters and themes from that story. It was challenging to write, but a lot of fun! I'll put the original haiku first, and then the story. I hope you enjoy it!
But I keep moving onwards
his hand holding mine
Courtney took a deep breath as she walked to the visitation room of the halfway house that had become her residence for the last two months. Maybe today they would show. She walked into the large room and scanned it briefly. No sign of anyone she knew. She saw her roommate Karen with her parents and three-year-old daughter and gave a wave, trying to be happy for her. As she looked around, she noticed that most of the women in the facility were there, utilizing the one time during the week when they can spend time with their family members. Some of them would even leave to get lunch, shop, or just enjoy the one time they were allowed to be someplace other than the house or work. She sighed, her family had made it very clear when she was arrested for driving under the influence, resulting in the death of Victoria, one of her best friends, and an intoxication manslaughter charge, that they were done with her. The death of the head cheerleader on graduation night had rocked the entire small community of White Lake, Texas and her family’s reputation had taken quite the hit. Her father paid for her to have a good lawyer who managed to get her a decent plea bargain, but she had not seen her parents or her brother since her sentencing over two years ago. Looking around at the happy faces was beginning to make her depressed. Maybe she should just go back to her room and read or something.
“Courtney!” She suddenly heard a familiar voice shout from across the room.
She gave a small smile as she walked over to the smiling woman. “Lori! What are you doing here?”
“I hadn’t seen you since we helped you move in and I thought maybe you could use an escape? I thought maybe we could go get pedicures?”
Courtney’s smile deepened. “That would be wonderful. Let me go grab my purse and change while you get me checked out." The house had a policy that an approved guest must check out a resident and take responsibility for making sure they followed the house rules of no drugs or alcohol, and then returned promptly.
“Sounds great, I’ll meet you up front.”
“So how’s the transition going?” Lori asked her as their feet sat soaking in the warm water.
“It’s going okay.”
Lori gave her a look. “Courtney, it’s me. You don’t have to put on a brave face, or tell me it’s fine if it isn’t. So how is it going really?”
Courtney gave a small smile. It was amazing how well Lori had gotten to know her in the last two years. When she had sent a letter to Victoria’s boyfriend, apologizing for everything that had happened, she never would have guessed his mother would have decided to show up at the prison. But that’s exactly what Lori did. Since then, they had formed a bond that Courtney had never experienced with even her own mother. “Honestly? One minute, I feel great. I’m accomplishing my goals, I’m realizing my triggers, and I feel ready to take on the real world after my time here is over. The next minute, I’m terrified. Sure, prison was awful but at least I was safe. I didn’t have the temptations of wanting to go out and party and drink; I’m scared I’ll fall right back into that lifestyle that took the life of my friend and changed mine forever.”
“The fact that you recognize those fears and desires is a huge step. Keep praying that you’ll resist temptation; you don’t have to do this alone.” Lori said, pointing to the color she wanted on her toes.
“I know. One thing I have now, that I didn’t have in high school, is my relationship with God. I didn’t have a reason to be a better person, I didn’t have anyone holding me accountable, or encouraging me to do better. Now, I still can’t believe sometimes that he’s forgiven me for everything I’ve ever done, even getting in that car after drinking and killing one of my best friends. Because of that, I don’t want to fall back into that life. I want to live the way he wants me to. But it’s still hard. It’s like I’m stumbling, faltering. But I keep moving onwards, his hand holding mine.”
“Exactly. The most important thing to remember is that Jesus is with you every step of the way. And remember, while his hand is holding yours; mine is holding your other one. I’m with you through it all. If you’re feeling a great temptation, or extremely guilty about what happened, or just need to talk, I’m just a phone call away. Day or night. I mean that.”
Unable to give her a hug, Courtney reached over and squeezed Lori’s arm. She was glad that while she was persevering through this journey, she was not alone. Not only had God shown himself to her, he also placed Lori in her life to help her through her darkest time. The next few months may be scary, and full of pain, but with his hand holding hers, and the knowledge that Lori’s would be too, she would make it through.
Two posts in less than a month? Wow. After my last post, a good friend of mine encouraged me to keep writing on the topic of Christian friendship. I was still struggling a little bit to figure out how to articulate what I wanted to say. Then last weekend I went to a concert/worship night put on by Page CXVI and Loud Harp. Latifah Phillips, of Page CXVI, was talking about how when we go through hard times, other believers, our community, can pick us up and help us through our struggles. She said she was reminded of the story in the Bible about when four friends carried their friend who was paralyzed to Jesus to heal him. He could not get there himself, so his friends literally carried him, cut a hole in the roof, and lowered him to Jesus. (Found in Mark chapter 2). As she was talking about this, I just couldn't shake the image. As my best friend (a singer-songwriter and lover of imagery) said, "What an amazing metaphor!" When we are paralyzed by something, we can rely on our friends to put us on their shoulders and carry us to Jesus.
Verse 5 of the passage says "When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, 'Son, your sins are forgiven.'" Not his faith, their faith! Sometimes we don't have the faith that we want. Life is hard, and sometimes even when we know God is in control, we struggle to fully believe it. That is when our friends' faith can carry us. The paralytic man probably struggled with believing what his friends were doing mattered. Once they got to the house, they couldn't even get through the crowd. If I'm this man, laying on mat carried by my friends, and we can't even get through the door, I wouldn't have much faith that I would be healed. But his friends persisted. They cut a hole in the roof and lowered him down to Jesus. They had faith, and their friend benefited from it. We all go through seasons of life, seasons of varying levels of faith and trusting in God. I would like to say my faith never wavers, but then I would only be lying. It's at those times when we need our close friends to carry us.
The beautiful thing about this metaphor is that we take turns being in the different roles. At times, we're the friends carrying our suffering friend on our shoulders, reminding them that Jesus is the answer. At other times, in the midst of our own suffering, we're the paralyzed friend. My strongest spiritual gift is mercy. I feel things, deeply. Jesus' command to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice almost comes as second nature to me. The idea of carrying someone on my shoulders is not a hard one for me to grasp; I literally feel their pain and can't help but want to help them out, support them, weep with them. What is hard? Letting others help me. I take on other people's problems and emotions, but I try to do it all alone. I watch the news of the sufferings in our country, and all over the world, I see the hurt in my own community, and sometimes, it's too much. I try to carry the weight of the world by myself and all I do is crumble. I've been blessed, however, with some amazing friends. My best friend in particular will shut off the television, distract me, and make sure I know, that I'm not alone. I have a small group of close friends who will ask me regularly how I'm doing, make sure I'm not taking on the problems of the world alone. I've come up with this saying, it's become almost like my motto: "I weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice. Christian friendship means I don't have to do it alone."
I don't know what you're going through. Maybe it's a season of exciting things: a new relationship, a marriage, the birth of a child, an exciting trip planned, a career goal met, or a dream being discovered. Or maybe it's a season of hardship: broken relationships, the loss of a loved one, a milestone birthday that reminds you of what you haven't accomplished yet, the loss of a job, or being at a job that makes you miserable. Maybe the current political climate is just too much, and you feel scared to live your daily life based on your race, gender, or opinions. Whatever your season is right now, you aren't alone. Jesus promises he will never leave us nor forsake us. He is always with us. And the great thing? He doesn't stop there. He puts people in our lives who help us celebrate the exciting times and walk with us through the hard times. Sometimes, they even carry us.
Christ-Follower. Writer. Caffeine-addict.