Holiday Help Wanted!

christmasThe only thing better than getting cozy and watching the newest Hallmark Christmas movie is getting cozy and reading a great Christian Fiction Christmas book. I’d like to use my review days this month to highlight some great holiday reads.

Here’s where my “Holiday Help Wanted” comes in. Maybe you’re an author with a book that fits this description. Or maybe you’re just a person who loves to read as much as I do, and you’ve read the best CF Christmas book on the market. It doesn’t matter how you found this book. I want to know about it. It doesn’t mean I’ll be able to read them all before Christmas, but it will give me a place to start. So, think about your Christmas favorites and let me know the title and author in the comments. Thank you for your help!

In It Together

Today I had the opportunity to share in a special celebration. This morning I spent time at a local library with an author friend of mine who was launching her first book with a reading and signing. Nine months ago, it was her sharing in my book launch. It was an honor to share in her day as she did in mine.

Over the last couple of years she and I, along with the other members of our local writers’ group, have stood beside each other in the ups and downs of the writing process. We’re all in different stages, and we each have our own goals and focus. It doesn’t matter. Each member of the group has their own writing strengths and weaknesses. We’re there for each other to encourage each other when the writing gets tough or we find ourselves frustrated and discouraged. We energize each other for the next step. We learn together. And on days like today, we cheer each other on and share in the joys of success.

Writing tends to be a fairly solitary endeavor. It is made much sweeter knowing there’s a group of people in my corner cheering me on and picking me up when I fall.

gates2This feeling is something Anna Marie, the main character in Anna’s Song by Brenda Gates, hasn’t known since her mother and father disappeared without a trace. When her twin sister goes missing too, Anna Marie feels more alone than ever before. Refusing to give up on her sister and confused by mysterious and seemingly impossible clues to her sister’s whereabouts, Anna Marie begins to find people in her corner though she is unsure how she feels about their involvement.

When Anna Marie slips into the past her hopes of finding her sister grow, but the road to finding her isn’t a guaranteed success. And it definitely isn’t easy. Plunged into the middle of the Civil War, she faces dangers and obstacles she is not prepared for. But in these times, Anna Marie also finds what she’s missed in life. She finds people taking the journey by her side. They encourage her to be her best self. They hurt with her when she’s in pain. They teach her about herself and faith through their examples and words.

If she never makes it home and even if she never finds her sister, Anna Marie finds something that makes the sweet things sweeter and the tough things easier. She finds what friendship and family should be, and it makes all the difference.

That’s how it’s supposed to be. Not just for Anna Marie in Brenda’s book. Not just for writers and the writers’ groups they belong to. It’s supposed to be this way for believers too. Actually, it’s supposed to be this way especially for believers. 1 Corinthians 12:26 encourages us with these words. “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”  This is just one of several instructions followers of Jesus are given in how we should interact with one another, and each scripture comes back to loving each other the way God loves us.

When we find this in our churches and with the believers in all areas of our lives, we experience one more amazing gift from God. Allowing God to use us to be this for others makes us the gift to them. Both work in our lives to ease the burden of hard times and increase the joy in the good. And it makes all the difference in the journey of our faith.

 

Full of Character with Erin Howard

Author PictureToday’s Full of Character Author Interview guest is Erin Howard. Erin is the author of The Seer, a great Christian fantasy story that takes you into the spiritual battle raging that only a select few characters can see. Welcome, Erin. Let’s get to it.

What character from the books you’ve read has impacted you more than all the others?

You know how to ask some tough questions! I’ve read so many wonderful books, that it’s almost impossible me to narrow it down to just one. That’s one reason why I think reading is so wonderful, we can take something away from every book we read, and it’s always different depending on what we may be going through at that particular time in our lives.

I’ve not received that answer before, but I like it. What character you created was the easiest to write? The hardest?

The easiest character for me to write was Viktor. I think that’s because I was able to show the conflict that Viktor has raging inside of him. Who he was and what he’s done is the core of who he is, but he also has this desire to have peace, to leave those ways.

I think the hardest for me was Matthias. I love his character, and I’ve always been fascinated by angels, so I wanted to make sure that his character was just right.

I have to say, I loved Viktor. I’m anxious to see where he goes in the next book. Scripture is full of real people who had character to spare. Which one do you most relate to orenjoy reading about?

I think Paul is one of my favorites because before he had an encounter with Jesus, he was the worst of the worst. He has a fantastic redeeming story.

Do you plan your characters and their backstories before you begin writing or are youas surprised by them as your readers?

I think it’s a little of both. I have a general idea when I start writing, but then they surprise me. I love digging deep into their backstory, and see how they respond to what is going on around them.

If someone wrote a movie about you, who would you like to play your character? Why?

Oh my goodness, what a hard question! I would have to say, Melissa McCarthy. I loved her playing Sookie on Gilmore Girls. She was so funny and clumsy in that role. I like to joke around with my family and friends, and I’m definitely clumsy!

Thanks for having me, Heather!

Keep reading to find out more about Erin Howard and The Seer. Then, head over to Facebook on November 26th for A Literary Feast. This event is an online book party. You’ll be introduced to new authors, have an opportunity to chat with them, get great ideas for books to add to your Christmas list or to give to others, and have a chance to win great prizes. You can sign up to attend the party using this link https://www.facebook.com/events/283923535583862/.

Author Bio

Erin R. Howard is a Developmental Editor, Fantasy/Speculative Author and has earned a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing/English from Southern New Hampshire University.

When she’s not writing, Erin enjoys spending time with her family, being a youth leader, and teaching crochet and cake decorating classes. Erin resides in Western Kentucky with her husband, three children, and a cantankerous tabby cat named Jack-Jack.

Erin is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the KenTen Writers Group.

Social Media Links

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/E.R.H.Fiction/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ErinRHoward

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/erinrhoward/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/erinrhoward/

Blog/Wordpress:  https://erinrhoward.wordpress.com/

Website: https://erinrhoward.com/

FC-The-Seer---LargerMore about The Seer:

Viktor has one order to follow:
Kill the girl before her eyes are opened.

For thousands of years, his job has been to torment and kill seers: humans that have the gift of seeing the spiritual realm. So it was no surprise when his brother Matthias was once again sent to stop him and protect the girl.

Now the last of the seers’ bloodline hangs in the balance, as the estranged demon and angel brothers are forced to work together to save a girl’s life and escape to the sanctuary city of Bethesda.

Join the Parties!

Instead of reviewing a single book today, I’d like to invite you to a couple Facebook Book parties coming up. These are a great way to learn about new authors and get to know more about some of the authors you may already read. In addition to great grand prize giveaways, some of the individual authors are doing some giveaways. For my part, I’ll be giving away signed copies of Faith’s Journey and some handmade Christmas ornaments that were inspired by those in my book.

The first one is the Christian Fiction Lovers Women’s Fiction Party on November 16th. Here’s a little about that party:

4 Featured Authors with 4 Christian Women’s Fiction Novels
Grand Prize: $50 Amazon Card
Runner Up Prize: 4 featured books (Prizes could be eBook or print – author’s choice)

HOW TO ENTER:
• Click you will attend the party.
• Share the party on your timeline.
• Comment on a post by any 2 authors during the party.

Authors may give additional prizes. Winners of all prizes will be announced at the end of the party. Individual authors will post requirements for each individual prize.

You can use this link to find and join the party: https://www.facebook.com/events/1787789031343732/

The second party is happening on November 26th in honor of Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday. Here are some details about that one:

Join us during this come and go event as fifteen different authors discuss books, Christmas, and yummy recipes. Each author will be doing an individual giveaway during his/her scheduled time, and we’ll be doing a grand prize giveaway of an Amazon Kindle to one individual at the end of the party. To be entered to win the grand prize giveaway, please mark “going” on the party and comment on at least three different posts.

Links to both events can be found on my author Facebook page. So, if you are in the United States (because I’m pretty certain those are the rules to be eligible to win the prizes), you can sign up to “go” to the parties from there. Find me on Facebook by searching @AuthorHeatherGreer.

Oh, and while you’re there, look for my Thanksgiving pie post. If you follow my page and comment on which you think is my least favorite of the four pies, you could win an old-fashioned cook book. I’ll be doing more giveaways on my Facebook page between now and Christmas.

Full of Character with Amy C. Blake

Today’s author interview is with Amy C. Blake. I’ve enjoyed reading and reviewing her books, and I’m so happy she joined me for Full of Character. Keep reading after the interview to find out Amy’s books and how you can connect with her.

What character from the books you’ve read has impacted you more than all the others?

Honestly, Jesus is the most influential character from all the books I’ve ever read. As for fictional stories I’ve read, I’ve gleaned from characters in a number of genres. And as for characters I’ve written, Levi Prince from my YA Christian fantasy series has had the most impact on me. Since his is a four-book series about four consecutive summers in his young life, I’ve spent a good deal of time assessing his character growth. He’s also a kind of conglomeration of my own kids (homeschooled pastor’s kids), and so I’m very invested in how he turns out.

What character you created was the easiest to write? The hardest?

Patience from Whitewashed was the easiest because I can relate to her impatient tendencies and her strong desire to accomplish her goals. Christy from Colorblind was the hardest because she’s very sweet and yet, for most of the book, not a Christian because she’d believed her false-teacher daddy’s preaching.

I loved both Patience and Christy. All three of the girls in that series are very different but such good friends. Scripture is full of real people who had character to spare. Which one do you most relate to or enjoy reading about?

I enjoy reading about Peter because he said some of the most audacious and wrong-headed things and yet understood exactly who Jesus was when others still didn’t get it.

It always amazes me that we can get it wrong even when we get who Jesus us, but even more amazing is that He still uses us. Do you plan your characters and their backstories before you begin writing or are you as surprised by them as your readers?

I like to at least have a pretty good idea of their personalities and backstories before I write. However, they do sometimes surprise me with their behavior.

If someone wrote a movie about you, who would you like to play your character? Why?

My first thought is, why in the world would somebody write a movie about boring old me? If for some reason they did, I don’t honestly know who I’d like to play me. I can think of several actresses I admire, but none that I would really want to play my part.

I’d like to thank Amy, once again, for joining me today. If you haven’t read her Main Character Monday interview with Nat, check out last Monday’s post.

More about Amy C. Blake:

Amy C. Blake
Author, Homeschooler, Pastor’s Wife
amazon.com/author/amycblake
Now available: Whitewashed, my Christian suspense novel about 18-year-old homeschooler Patience McDonough (Book 1, On the Brink series)
Now available: Colorblind, my Christian suspense about 18-year-old homeschooler Christy Kane (Book 2, On the Brink series)
Now availableTie-Dyed, my Christian suspense about 19-year-old homeschooler Nat Montgomery (Book 3, On the Brink series)
Now available: The Trojan Horse Traitor, my YA fantasy novel about 13-year-old homeschooler Levi Prince and his adventures in Terracaelum (Book 1, Levi Prince series)
Now available: The Fall of Thor’s Hammer, my YA fantasy novel about Levi’s second summer in Terracaelum (Book 2, Levi Prince series)

Main Character Monday: Nat Montgomery

tieWelcome to Main Character Monday. Today’s guest is Nat Montgomery from Tie-Dyed by Amy C. Blake. Thank you for joining me Nat.

 

If you could choose only one thing to buy without money being an issue, what would you buy?

Before my grandmother Gigi left me enough money to cover tuition for my art history degrees, I would’ve said cash for college, because school is expensive! But now, I’d have to say a tour of the major art museums of the world.

That sounds like a lot of fun. Given your area of study, I’m sure it would be beneficial for you too.

The New Testament tells the story of two sisters who react to Jesus visiting in very different ways. Mary chooses to spend her time with him, while Martha chooses to see to the physical details of his visit. Are you more a Mary or Martha?

I’m a blend of the two. I’m willing to sit, read Scripture, and ponder God’s Word, but I do have to call my thoughts back from wandering to all the things I need to do.

Focus is a difficult thing to achieve when the world doesn’t slow down around you.  “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27 – Do you think this verse, lived out would have made a difference in your life? If so, how?

Absolutely. If my mom had lived the “keep oneself unspotted from the world” bit rather than indulging in drugs and live-ins, my childhood would’ve been so much better. Thankfully, Gigi as much as adopted my virtually orphaned self and lived out the gospel before me.

It’s such a blessing when there are people in our lives to help make up for what we’re missing. Your Gigi sounds like a wonderful woman.

What scripture verse would you claim as a life verse?

Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Gigi always pressed this passage on me, and I learned the truth of it more deeply during the difficult events of the summer.

If there was one message you could give those reading this interview, what would that be?

Trust God and His great love, even when your life looks like an abysmal mess.

Just for Fun:

Indoors or outdoors: Outdoors—with my bow. I love archery, though I haven’t found a place to shoot yet in DC.

Reading or writing: Reading, definitely. It takes a lot less effort than writing.

Apples or pears: Pears are my favorite!

Early bird or night owl: Did you read the tactics my roommate sometimes has to use to wake me up in the morning?! Night owl, no question.

Nat, please describe Amy C. Blake in three words.

Tall because she’s 5’8, and I’m . . . far shorter than that.

Restrained because she doesn’t usually make the smart-alecky comments that often land me in the doghouse.

Blessed because, unlike me, she has a set of wonderful Christian parents who taught her the love of Jesus from a very young age.

I want to thank Nat for joining me today. And thank you to Amy Blake for sharing her with us. If you’d like to know the rest of Nat’s story, check out Tie-Dyed available now on Amazon.  And while you’re at it, keep reading to find out more about Amy and her books. 

amazon.com/author/amycblake
Now available: Whitewashed, my Christian suspense novel about 18-year-old homeschooler Patience McDonough (Book 1, On the Brink series)
Now available: Colorblind, my Christian suspense about 18-year-old homeschooler Christy Kane (Book 2, On the Brink series)
Now availableTie-Dyed, my Christian suspense about 19-year-old homeschooler Nat Montgomery (Book 3, On the Brink series)
Now available: The Trojan Horse Traitor, my YA fantasy novel about 13-year-old homeschooler Levi Prince and his adventures in Terracaelum (Book 1, Levi Prince series)
Now available: The Fall of Thor’s Hammer, my YA fantasy novel about Levi’s second summer in Terracaelum (Book 2, Levi Prince series)

 

Main Character Monday: Lucy Dixon

regina1Welcome to Main Character Monday. Today’s guest is Lucy Dixon from Carolina Mercy by Regina Rudd Merrick. Thank you for joining me.

If you could visit any place in the world, where would you go?

Oh my. I’ve been a lot of places already! Dad and I visited the British Isles a few years ago, so I can mark that one off the list! I was born in Atlanta, but my dad was a plant manager and we moved around a lot. Before we came to Kentucky, we had lived in Silicon Valley in California, and then in Chicago. We saw a lot of the US. Kentucky was home, though. It was where I went to high school, where I learned that being a Christian was more than just going to church, and where I met my BFF Sarah Jane Crawford! But if I could pick any place? Probably Australia. Mainly because it’s the farthest away, and the idea of visiting the Southern Hemisphere in our winter – their summer – is intriguing. While I’m there, can I go to New Zealand, too?

I don’t see why not. I’d love to visit New Zealand for purely geeky reasons. I’m a huge Lord of the Rings fan. But anyway, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Which of these traits do you find easiest to display in your life?  Which of them is the hardest to display?

You’re going to start meddling, now. Here are the ones I usually (can I underline that usually?) find easy to display: love, joy, kindness, and faithfulness. The harder ones? Peace, patience, goodness, gentleness and self-control. Not that I’m ANTI any of those things. They’re just the ones I have to work on. Especially, right now, patience. Have you MET Tom Livingston? He’s adorable, but let me tell ya, he’ll try a girl’s patience and self-control! I know he’s got a lot on him, but seriously? To not call me for EIGHT MONTHS? Okay, now I’m having trouble with peace and gentleness, too. Grrr.

Eight months would try any girl’s patience! What is your favorite story from the Old Testament?

I have two, actually, and they are SO not surprising for a girl. Esther and Ruth. Esther, because she didn’t question what God had in mind for her, she just obeyed. I want to be more like that. Ruth? I love Ruth because she was loyal, and submitted herself to both God and her mother-in-law. I’d love to have a mother-in-law like Naomi. If a certain sheriff’s deputy would get in line, I could have that. Don’t get me started!

What is your favorite book in the New Testament?

Acts. For one thing, I’m a very active person, and the book of Acts is the story of how the church started. Reading about Pentecost, and Paul’s conversion and missionary trips are fascinating to me. I guess I love it because it tells me that we’re not supposed to just sit around and wait for someone else to share the love of God and the free gift of salvation that Jesus made possible, but we’re to be out there, in our daily lives, showing and telling what He did for us! There are so many ways to do that!

If you could leave us with one message, what would you want us to know?

After my dad died in an accident, and my best friend had moved away, I realized that home wasn’t a place, and that if I’m going to make major changes in my life, I need to seek God’s guidance. I need to be fully engaged in prayer and scripture, even when I’m a little angry with God. God is good, all the time, and guess what? He just wants me to do the next right thing and trust Him.

Just for fun:

Sunrise or sunset? When I’m visiting Sarah in Murrells Inlet, SC, I’m all about a sunrise. It’s gentle, and the colors are muted. The smell of sea and marsh are so alive, but in a comfortable way. I love it here.

Pie or Cake? Pie. Especially pecan. Maybe I could make that for an event coming up . . .

Tulip or Iris? Tulips are interesting because they are pretty exotic and don’t last long in the south, but I prefer Iris. They’re stately without being too fancy.

Chocolate or Vanilla? Ha! Did I just snort? Oh, sorry! Uh, Chocolate!! The darker the better, and if you want to pile chocolate on top of chocolate, that’s okay. When I get to pick sundae toppings, I’ll pick chocolate ice cream (or fro-yo, or custard), then top it with hot fudge sauce and Heath bits. Death by chocolate!

What three words would you use to describe Regina?

Loyal, Creative, and Unexpected.

Thank you to Lucy and Regina for agreeing to this interview. I’ve loved reading Lucy’s story in Carolina Mercy, and it was a pleasure getting to know her better through this interview. Keep reading to find out more about Carolina Mercy and author Regina Rudd Merrick.

Book Blurb:

She’s always gotten everything she’s wanted. He thinks he has to give up everything.

Her best friend’s wedding is foremost on Lucy Dixon’s radar. Her biggest concern is once again meeting Tom Livingston, who has ignored her since an idyllic date on the boardwalk of Myrtle Beach the previous summer.

At least, it is her biggest concern until tragedy strikes. Where is her loving, merciful God, now?

When Tom Livingston meets Lucy, the attraction is instant. Soon after, his mother is diagnosed with an untreatable illness and his personal life is pushed aside. His work with the sheriff’s department, his family – they are more important. He knows about the love of God, but circumstances make him feel as if God’s mercy is for everyone else, not him.

Can a wedding and a hurricane – blessing and tragedy – bring them together?

 Bio:

Regina Rudd Merrick is a writer, church musician, wife, mother, former librarian, and reggrateful follower of Jesus Christ. Having lived most of her life in Western Kentucky, she dreams of the sound of crashing waves and sandy beaches. Married to her husband of 35 years, she is the mother of two grown daughters, and the keeper of a 100-year-old house where she lives in the small town of Marion, KY. She is the author of three books: Carolina Dream (Apr. 2017), Carolina Mercy (July 2018), and coming in Feb. 2019, Carolina Grace in the Southern Breeze Series.

Write Stuff Wednesday: Guest Post

IMG_5853Each Wednesday I share a writing quote that either encourages or challenges me in my writing. Today, I’ve invited author Amy Anguish to share one of the quotes that means a lot to her. After you’ve read her quote, keep reading to find out more about Amy and her writing.

“I want to do something splendid… Something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead… I think I shall write books.” ~ Louisa May Alcott

As a girl just out of college with the dream of being an author, that quote resonated in my spirit. Over the last fourteen years, my goals have changed some, deepening along with my faith in God, becoming a bit more realistic in some areas, a little freer in others. But one thing remains. I love writing books.

I like to think I’m similar to her character Jo in Little Women, always a favorite of mine. Jo, when she starts writing, simply writes for the fun of it. It’s a thrill to see her name in print, to get those few dollars for each story published. But by the end of the novel, she has realized she can use her writing for so much more. She can use it to tell a beautiful story that will touch someone’s heart, and maybe even teach something.

I don’t know how much my stories reach people, but my goal with each one is to show that even though we as Christians have struggles in this life, God can help us through, and we’ll come out even better because of them. Life isn’t perfect. It’s messy and rough and sometimes painful. But God makes everything worth it. And if my books can show that to someone, as Louisa May Alcott said, that would be “splendid!”

An Unexpected Legacy tweakedMore About Amy’s Book:

“Smoothies brought them together, but would the past tear them apart?”

When Chad Manning introduces himself to Jessica Garcia at her favorite smoothie shop, it’s like he stepped out of one of her romance novels. But as she tentatively walks into a relationship with this man of her dreams, secrets from their past threaten to shatter their already fragile bond.  Chad and Jessica must struggle to figure out if their relationship has a chance or if there is nothing between them but a love of smoothies.

 

More About Amy:

Amy R Anguish

Author of An Unexpected Legacy

Amy R Anguish grew up a preacher’s kid, and in spite of having lived in seven different states that are all south of the Mason Dixon line, she is not a football fan. Currently, she resides in Tennessee with her husband, daughter, and son, and usually a bossy cat or two. Amy has an English degree from Freed-Hardeman University that she intends to use to glorify God, and she wants her stories to show that while Christians face real struggles, it can still work out for good.

 

Follow her at http://abitofanguish.weebly.com or http://www.facebook.com/amyanguishauthor

Trust Issues

tieAs a probation officer, my husband has to dissect his clients’ words in effort to find the truth in any given situation. Before that he spent years as an addictions counselor, another profession that requires carefully weighing what you hear someone say against what you see going on in their life. After over twenty years in these professions, this way of interacting with people has not filtered into his non-professional life. By nature he trusts. Optimism comes easily for him and with it a generally positive outlook on people and their motives.

I am my husband’s opposite. Well, almost. I would argue I’m not a pessimist but a realist. I see the negative outcomes as possibilities while still holding onto hope for and working towards the good. It’s a fine line, but that’s a discussion for another day. When it comes to people, I freely admit, I don’t trust easily. That task of weighing and dissecting words and their meanings that my spouse has had to learn comes all too naturally for me.

For some, like Nat Montgomery in Tie-Dyed by Amy C. Blake, experience teaches them not to trust. Nat’s grandma is the only stable thing in her life. Her mother is a functioning addict who has been in and out of her life since she was a child. Even when she was with Nat, her motives were often selfish. Nat doesn’t know her father. When her grandmother dies it feels like the only sure thing in her life other than faith has been taken from her. As she delves into a message her grandma left her, Nat if forced to question if she could even trust her beloved grandma.

Her grandma’s story plunges Nat into a dangerous quest for answers. Pains from the past mingle with the present pushing those around her to questionable and sometimes illegal acts. Nat’s lack of trust influences her to make poor decisions that could cost those she loves, and it keeps her in a state of confusion about those who seek to help her. When events seem darkest, Nat even questions the trustworthiness of God who has taken so much from her. For Nat learning to trust turns into a matter of life and death.

I doubt my instinct against trust will ever lead to a life or death situation. But there is another issue Nat faces that my own issues could lead me to if I’m not careful. When things go horribly wrong in her life, Nat doubts God’s ability to love and care for her. Is she worth God’s love and if not can she say for sure He does? For those who are a little less trusting, either by nature or because circumstances have taught them to be, the danger is in letting the storms of life erode your trust in the only One who is absolutely trustworthy.

How do you build trust that’s unshakeable? Know the one you’re trusting. God tells us everything we need to know about His nature. He gives us examples of times when He’s miraculously rescued people from circumstances, but He’s also shown us how He’s remained faithful to His children even when the situations remained the same. These examples and hundreds of promises have been given to us in His word. When we spend time in scripture finding out who God is and burying His promises deep in our hearts, we strengthen our trust. As hard times come we can hold onto the things we’ve learned. We can pray them back to God, and we can rest knowing He is the same God in our lives that He’s been throughout history. Each time He brings us through our faith is strengthened and our trust grows leaving it stronger for the next challenge of life.

By the Book: Try keeping a journal of God’s provision in your life. Detailing His work in your circumstances will provide a tangible reminder of who God has been to you for your next dark time.

Where’s your Hope?

sara 1Sometimes loving hurts.

As a mother I’ve watched my children make choices that are not only wrong but can also have devastating effects in their lives. My instincts may be to protect them from themselves, but this isn’t always the loving thing to do. There are occasions when mercy is called for, but there are also times when we try to dress up our enabling actions as the more godly characteristic of mercy. When our children are so enmeshed in patterns of poor choices, whether they are sinful or just not the best route to take, we reach the point that loving them means stepping back and letting them face hard consequences. At times like these, loving hurts.

As a friend I’ve had to respectfully and lovingly disagree with choices or beliefs held by those closest to me. When their beliefs are not in line with God’s word, the loving thing for me to do is approach them about it. It hurts to love them when they choose to continue in the wrong direction, especially when those choices are harmful to them beyond spiritually.

As a wife I’ve experienced disappointment with my spouse. We’re human, and we fail each other. At times, those failings can be devastating to our ways of life, our emotional connections, or our trust. If behaviors are repeated we can pray for our spouse but we can’t make them change. In any of these times loving someone can mean hurt for us.

If loving others can cause such pain, how can we even stand to choose love? It takes hope. Just ask Amy Dawson from Camp Hope by Sara Foust. Her childhood was marked by events that told her love wasn’t worth it. Due to a couple special people in her life, Amy was able to choose love anyway by dedicating her life to run a camp for foster children who need a safe haven and a lot of love. It isn’t always easy, especially given her own issues, but she does it every summer.  At the start of her story we also see Amy has chosen to give love to another needy child by becoming a foster mother. Balancing both takes effort, but Amy is determined.

When the unthinkable happens and her foster daughter is kidnapped, Amy once again faces the pain of loving. Her friends and the authorities blame the only man Amy ever loved, and at times she considers him a suspect as well. Due to the kidnapping, she faces losing her foster daughter forever even if she is found. Authorities think the search is pointless believing her little girl is dead.  Amy doesn’t believe them.

Making it her mission to find her foster daughter Amy takes off into the wilderness with meager supplies and the prayers of her friend to carry her through. The challenges of the terrain, the need to determine who she can trust, the pain of her past, and her fears for her foster daughter all push Amy further than she can handle on her own. She has to let go and find her hope in God despite the circumstances.  Learning where her hope comes from allows Amy to continue opening her heart to love even when loving hurts and the outcome is unsure.

We can find the same hope in the times when it’s difficult to love and we’re doubtful of how everything is going to turn out.  Scripture doesn’t say God will take away all the difficulties we face or smooth out all the wrinkles in our personal relationships. What He will do is change our hearts and attitudes if we let Him. He will give us strength and peace that doesn’t make sense to the world around us. When we come boldly before Him and lay our requests at His feet, He listens. When we draw near to God, He promises to draw near to us. When we focus on Him and open our hearts to what He wants to do in us through the things we face, the circumstances may still be painful but we also begin to see Him working. We see the truth that no matter how long the painful situation remains in our lives, we are not facing it alone and it is not in vain. God will bring beauty out of it, for us and for those we love when we let Him. This is our hope when loving hurts.

“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5

“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both secure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” – Hebrews 6:19-20

By the Book: Take time to learn God’s promises for us. Commit them to memory or write them on a notecard. Use them to draw near to Him and meditate on them during the painful times in your life. Let His words remind you of the hope you have.