Stories of faith, life, and love

Category: Devotion (Page 1 of 4)

What I’m Reading: Wrestling for My Life

Ever have one of those times when you find challenge or encouragement in a completely unexpected place? I found both as I read Wrestling for My Life by Shawn Michaels. For those scratching their heads, wondering if they should be familiar with the authors name, let me help you out. You probably aren’t.

For starters, the book is nonfiction. The nonfiction reviews I post are few and far between. I really have to get something from the book to include it. I tend to stick with fiction.

Plus, the author is a professional wrestler. Yes, you read that correctly. No, you do not need to read it again. Shawn Michaels is a well-known professional wrestler. But please don’t let that fact deter you from reading this review.

You now know something about me that I rarely, if ever, talk about in my writing/reading circles. I like watching professional wrestling. But before you start with the typical list, let me clarify some things.

I know the matches are predetermined. That’s why it’s called sports entertainment.

There are characters and story lines I do not like and cannot support. I generally fast forward through those or check my social media pages when they come up.

I’m not a fan of the scantily clad wrestlers either. But, in a lot of ways, I’m kind of immune to that. My son was a competitive swimmer for several years, and there’s a lot of scantily clad in that sport as well. If they’re scantily clad and overly sexual, well, I simply don’t watch.

I like wrestling for the story and the athleticism. I’m amazed that some of these huge people can move the way they do. I know I can’t do the things they do. And, as a writer, I’m intrigued by the wrestler in the ring and the person outside the ring. In fact, it was this dichotomy that inspired a new book I’m writing. And the writing of the book led me to Wrestling for My Life.

Another thing you may not know about wrestling is that there are Christians in the wrestling world, just as there are Christians in Hollywood and nearly every other profession. In the interest of writing my story to accurately portray what it means to be a faith-living Christian in the wrestling world, I bought Shawn Michaels’ book. I wanted to hear it straight from someone who was known for living it.

What I found was not only a lot of ways to develop my character, but also encouragement and challenge in my own faith walk. Shawn Michaels wrote a very down to earth book about what it means for him to live his faith in a profession where faith isn’t part of the plot. He wrote honestly about the path that brought him to see his need for God, the struggles he has faced since embracing faith, and the joy he receives from keeping God a priority in his life.

Where some celebrity Christians seem to gravitate to a fad version of faith, Shawn Michaels seems completely grounded in the Word. The passion with which he speaks of taking time in God’s Word each day challenged me to look at my own Bible reading habits. The openness with which he tells of what comes after the newness of faith wears off was an encouragement that we all face these times. The humbleness I saw when he acknowledged his past mistakes and even the ones that came after his conversion are a clear reminder of the hope we have as believers.

In the end, the story of Shawn Michaels holds up a mirror to my own life. He works in a profession where faith isn’t prominent. In many ways, the job may even work against faith. Still, he navigates it with his faith intact and shines a light where other people wouldn’t be able to. He’s making a difference for God in the arena where God has placed him.

My job and the groups I’m part of are not antagonistic towards God. We’re everyday people in everyday circumstances. Those I work with know of my faith. They know there are things I won’t do, places I won’t go, and things I won’t say because of my faith. But after reading Wrestling for My Life I have to take a long hard look at my life and ask myself if I’m living out my faith with as much consistency and shining that light as brightly as this down-to-earth wrestler does in a professional world that’s designed to lift up the man instead of his God.

Where have you found unexpected challenge or encouragement in your faith?

Just Passing Time

I’ll admit it. I like to play games. Monopoly, Clue, Catan. It doesn’t matter. And it isn’t just board games. Those I can only play with friends or family. I loved playing the Legend of Zelda games and Mario Kart with my kids when they were little. When I bought them Webkinz, I usually bought myself one too. Not only did they feed my love of stuffed animals, they allowed me to play games with them on the computer.

And now that we have phones and tablets with us wherever we go, I have games at my finger tips. This is great when I’m waiting for the doctor, but not so great when I have things I need to do at home. I used to have several games loaded on my phone, but in recent years I’ve limited myself to one. I play Farmville 2. It doesn’t take any thought, and it allows me to interact with other players. It’s perfect for when I’m bored and want something that doesn’t take any energy to do.

But it’s a hazard when it comes to getting work done. It’s not that it’s this super fun, can’t ignore it game. It’s not a challenge. It doesn’t bring some big reward into my life for completing it. It’s not giving me a way to connect with my loved ones like a board game does. There’s nothing special about it, but it draws me to it every time.

It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but left unchecked it can suck away great chunks of time I could and should be using to do other things. I work a full-time job. In addition to that, I write. My writing includes actual writing, blogging, making videos, reading books on craft, interacting on social media, and creating marketing graphics and promotions. It’s a full time job on top of my full time job! I don’t have time to waste.

But there have been times I’ve done exactly that. I’ll be waiting for something to upload, and I pull out my phone while I wait. I tell myself it will be a quick check of the farm, and I’ll be back to work before the upload is complete. Wrong. Ten minutes after the video or whatever has loaded, I’m still planting corn and feeding my sheep. It’s time I’ve wasted that I’m not getting back.

I think, it’s only two more minutes until the new market comes up and I can try to get that lantern I need. What’s two minutes going to hurt? Before I know it, twenty minutes have passed. I never feel like it’s going to be that long, but then it is. I’ve wasted valuable time, and I never saw it coming.

We’re like that in our spiritual lives as well. We know what we should be doing and what we should avoid. But we make little compromises we justify as harmless and start down a path we didn’t intend to take.

We know lying is wrong. Something happens and we omit a detail or two as we explain it. Or maybe we simply exaggerate it for effect. We’ve not lied, really. But then someone questions us about it, and we go a step further. It’s not hurting anyone, and it keeps us out of trouble or keeps us from hurting someone else’s feelings. That makes it okay. Soon, we’re backed into a corner where it’s either lie big or face the music. Each little step along the way has prepped us to follow through with the lie we never thought we’d tell. We’re at sin’s door before we even realize we’ve been walking that direction.

And it’s not only lying. The enemy knows what he’s doing. He knows to hit us in the face with blatant temptation to sin isn’t going to work a lot of the time. But if he can ease us along the path, he has a chance at getting us to fall.

We have to be on guard. We have to watch for the little things and not only the big ones. First Peter 5:8 instructs us to be vigilant about watching out for sin. Our enemy is seeking to devour us. We have to stop seeing the compromises as little and unimportant. They’re the first steps to a big fall.

In my writing life, wasting time with a game isn’t usually a huge problem. I simply have to try harder to make the time up later. It’s an inconvenience that I create. But with the compromises in life, it’s not the same. There’s no making up for the sin we commit. There’s forgiveness, always. But the lasting result of sin is damage done to ourselves, our witness, and our relationship with God. And it starts with one little step when we’re not watching for it.

What activities are time wasters for you?

What I’m Reading: London Tides

Sometimes our past choices leave us wishing we could do it all over again. Maybe it’s the way we treated someone when we were young and impulsive. Or it could have been a chance we didn’t take because of fear. It might even be a path we took against our better judgment that causes us to wonder what life would have looked like had we listened more to those who warned us to go in a different direction.

Even if we don’t wallow in regret, I think we all face those “what if” thoughts on occasion. Second chances don’t come along for every situation, but sometimes life brings us back around to familiar places and faces. This can be a second chance to get it right, or it can be what tempts us back into old patterns.

Grace Brennan, the main character in Carla Laureano’s London Tides, finds this out the hard way. Years ago she walked out on the man she loved to prove herself as a photojournalist. In honor of her brother, she wanted to change the world through showing the devastation and need of people in high conflict areas. And she succeeded, until she was faced with one loss too many.

Knowing she can’t face the horrors any more, she seeks out the one place and person that feels like home, London and Ian MacDonald. She knows it’s a long shot. Ian gave up his Olympic dreams to make a life with her, a life she rejected without reason or warning. But she has to try.

Ian knows there are things Grace isn’t telling him, but he’s drawn to the woman he never stopped loving despite the risks. He gives Grace a second chance, but he’s also forced to deal with his own choices from the past. He stopped living after she left him, and he’s never really started again. Until her return.

Grace has returned to faith, and she’s determined this time with Ian will be different. Neither let faith enter into their relationship decisions in their previous time together, and they ended up going places they shouldn’t have. Grace is also aware some of her coping mechanisms out in the field were not healthy, and she has decided to leave all of that behind. She is a different person now, and she won’t do the things she’s done before.

When a deep tragedy occurs, Grace falls into old patterns. Has she really changed at all? Is her faith real or just something she’s pretending? Can she be a new person with the weight of the past she’s refused to deal with clinging to her? If she can’t, is there any hope for her and Ian to have a future? She’s been given a second chance, but is it only going to end like it did the first time?

As I read about the sinful choices Grace fell back on, I was tempted to be disappointed with her. But God reminded me of the times I’ve also resorted to old behaviors. While they may not have been the same struggles, they were just as wrong.

Second chances are tricky, for Grace and for us. London Tides reminded me of that. It also reminded me how thankful I am that there’s no limit to God’s forgiveness when I fail to be the new me and fall back into the behaviors of the old me.

Have you ever gotten a second chance? Did it turn out the way you expected?

What I’m Reading: Before I Called You Mine

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost

We understand actions have consequences. We teach young children not to touch the hot stove because they will get burned. We show them how to look both ways before crossing the street. We explain that a failure to do so could get them hit by a car. Every day we have choices to make, and intellectually we understand each of those choices will come with a consequence.

I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a writer. I also knew I needed to have a “real” job to pay the bills until I became an award-winning, best-selling author in the Christian market earning a salary that would allow me to live comfortably without any other income. I’m still waiting for that to happen!

Honestly, I could probably spend time writing full-time, if not for one choice my husband and I have made. We sent our children to a Christian school for their education. Some years, we paid tuition for four children at a time. Now, we are down to one. He has another year left, and he wants to finish up at the school where he started.

Our choice to give our children this education brought with it the consequence of me having to work until tuition is paid off. It is a choice I would make again, but it doesn’t mean I don’t wish I could have both my child in Christian school and a full-time writing career. I serve a God who can make it happen, but most times He lets us live with the consequences of our choices. Sometimes it’s about giving us the choice of whether or not we will follow what He has put into our hearts to do.

It’s this kind of decision Lauren Bailey faces in Before I Called You Mine by Nicole Deese. Lauren feels God has called her to adoption. The rules in adopting from China are simple. She can adopt as a single woman, or she can wait until she’s been married for a specific amount of time and adopt as a couple. Since her previous boyfriend ended their relationship, that doesn’t seem like a viable option. She starts the process to adopt as a single woman.

Keeping with her plan to avoid romantic attachment and possible derailing of what she knows God wants her to do is easy, until she meets the sub across the hall. Joshua is everything she ever dreamed of finding in a man, and he’s completely into her. The timing couldn’t be worse.

Lauren is determined to keep on her path to adopt and keep her growing friendship with Joshua. But as they grow closer, she is forced to a hard look at what she’s giving up and what waits for her in return. Being a mother to a child in need has fueled her decisions for so long she’s almost forgotten the time when her heart wanted more. Now that her dream of love has reawakened, Lauren fears whatever decision is made, her heart will break in the process. Only God can make both her dreams come true. But will He? Or will He allow her to live with the consequences of her choice?

Whether you’ve been in Lauren’s shoes or not, you’ll find yourself crying with her in the hard times and hoping with her for God’s best in her life. You’ll cheer her on as she learns some important truths about herself. And you’ll walk away from the story with a greater understanding of the heartaches and joys those who choose adoption face as they become family to those who have none.

What I’m Reading: Forever Music

We’ve all seen the saying admonishing us that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing while expecting different results. But I’m also pretty sure we’ve each found ourselves in a situation like that at some point in our lives.

It’s easy to do. And, honestly, it isn’t always as clear cut as the phrase would make us believe. What’ s that other saying? If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.

The funny thing about quotes and quips is that what works great in one situation could bring disaster in another. They’re usually more accurately described as principles, not laws of life. It’s important to recognize the difference.

Just ask Josie Daniels, the main character in Forever Music by Hope Toler Daugherty. When she meets Ches, it’s apparent he’s a successful, driven business type. Josie has been there, done that. Her former boyfriend, BJ, taught her the hyper focused, career driven type is not for her when he broke her heart.

But Ches is more than he first appears. Friendship develops, and Josie quickly realizes keeping her distance is going to be harder than she thought. Her daily monologue includes reminders that she’s traveled that road before, and it led no where good. He’s a lawyer with a girlfriend. There is no room for her in his life as anything more than a friend.

Josie knows their friendship is good for Ches. He knows it too. But will their friendship survive as their feelings for each other deepen? Will her heart’s refusal to accept the truth that she’s repeating history leave Josie with her newly healing heart shattered once more?

There are no easy answers for Josie and Ches, no matter what wise sayings might indicate. The answers aren’t always easy for us either. That’s why we need to anchor our thoughts and decisions in scripture, pray, and follow God’s leading even when it goes against common thought.

Throughout the story, Josie comes to a deeper understanding of this truth. She learns the answers she seeks aren’t always as black and white as she’d like. Pain does come when we cross lines we shouldn’t, but it can also come when we’re not making bad choices.

Forever Music is a great story with relatable characters that drew me in and kept my attention from the first page. I enjoyed the reminder that although situations may be similar, we need to rely on God’s wisdom instead of our own (or that of bumper sticker wisdom) to make our choices. It won’t make things easy or prevent hurt, but it will mean we can go through those times with grace and peace knowing we’re inside God’s plan for our lives.

Free Books and Feeling Frustrated

I’m essential. I’ve never seen that as a bad thing, but considering it in light of Corona virus, I’m beginning to wonder. Don’t get me wrong. I know how blessed I am. In a time when others are without their usual income, mine has stayed fairly steady. I’m beyond thankful for that.

But I’m an introverted author with another full-time job and a family. To me, staying home (which I do not get to do) sounds amazing. I have trouble understanding the issues for my more extroverted friends who take to Facebook to complain about their boredom. I’d love to be home working on my next book and keeping caught up on all the marketing and social networking aspects of writing without the countdown clock of the weekend ticking away in my ears.

Even without the added issues dealing with this virus brings to our lives, my week is busy. Because my hours are set at work, I feel like my writing life takes a back seat to my 8-5 work.

But we are dealing with the virus and social distancing and businesses being shut down and stores running out of essential items. Because of these things and the fear they often bring, my 8-5 job as a receptionist in a doctor’s office has become five days of hectic frustration a week. I’m sure it’s the same with any job dealing with people.

This makes my job as an author even more hectic and difficult. I have to take more downtime when I get home. I’ve had more migraines. I find myself trying to fit everything I have to do as an author into the two days I’m home for the weekend. Sometimes it feels like I’m an author who never gets to actually write!

But that’s okay for now. We’re all dealing with stuff. I’ve been blessed with the ability to work in a writing ministry that I love. I never want to forget that. Today, tomorrow, and maybe all of the month of April may be completely wonky. I may be able to write a little, or I may not be able to finish a paragraph on my next book. Whatever happens, it’s okay. I’m giving myself permission to take the time I need to keep myself strong physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I encourage you to do the same. If it’s crafting that sets you straight, then take that time. Dusting the mantle can wait. If you need to get out and take a walk, do it (maintaining social distancing as you do). The kitchen floor can be mopped tomorrow.

If you reset with a good book, I’ve got some help for you. From April 4-8, Faith’s Journey is available as an eBook on Amazon for free. In addition, I’ve got a thread started on my Facebook author page that includes ads for other free Christian fiction books you can get at this time. Fill up your eBook library, and enjoy your You Time. You can find me on Facebook by searching @AuthorHeatherGreer. The post you want to follow begins with this ad. Happy Reading!

It’s Becoming Real

In the middle of all the uncertain, unwanted, and unlikable changes going on in our lives at the moment, there is a lot of good we can focus on.

While we may not be able to hang out with out friends, it’s still spring. We can take a walk outside to get some fresh air. We can enjoy the beautiful colors of the flowers and trees that are beginning to bloom. We can have sun on our faces for the first time in what seems like forever.

We live in an age of technology. We can’t sit in the room with our friends, but we can do much better than a simple phone call (though that’s good too). We can video chat with them. In fact, if we want, a whole group can get together and chat together. Maybe you can even work out a way to play games like Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, or Charades using a video chat app.

Technology has even allowed us to have church when we can’t be there in person. It gives an easy way for people who have a need to find the help they need. And it can give us a way to lift other’s spirits during this time if we will determine to spread only what is beneficial or uplifting to others at this time when we need a laugh or smile most.

In the middle of all this change, I’ve gotten a couple pieces of great news. I mentioned the first in a previous post. But I’ll share it again.

Grasping Hope is a finalist in the Selah awards! The Blue Ridge Christian Writer’s Conference where the awards take place is scheduled for the end of May. I hope and pray this is all over by then, and the conference and awards ceremony will proceed as planned. But if not, it won’t change the honor of being a finalist.

My second piece of good news is about the third book in Katie’s series. A few days ago, I received the final cover! Even having gone through this process twice before, seeing your cover for the first time makes the whole thing seem real. You know in your head the book has a release date. You finished the manuscript. You have the contract. But your first view of the cover elicits a breathless, “This is actually happening.”

And now I get to share my good news with you. I love this cover. As perfect as the first two were, I think this one may be my favorite!

Write Stuff Wednesday with Hope Toler Dougherty

Today’s guest post comes from Hope Toler Dougherty, author of three (soon to be four) contemporary Christian romances. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Hope, and the quote she shares today is very pertinent for the times we live in.

“Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.” Jane Austen

I saw that quotation painted on a bookstore wall in a Utah airport on my way to a mission trip in Montana. My fiction writing journey was in its infancy. My first novel consisted of several chapters in a word document, but I knew it was a love story. At the time, I didn’t admit to reading romance, and while only a handful of people knew I was writing a book, they didn’t know it was a love story.

 Not knowing where God was leading me, I wrote that quotation in my journal. It nudged me toward appreciating love stories. It suggested that everyone has different tastes—horror, science fiction, dystopian, fantasy, and, yes, romance—in reading and in writing.

At my first writing conference, I discovered I needed a tagline (I’m not sure that’s true now because about the only place I use mine is on my business cards.) Remembering Austen’s view, I considered it a bit before writing “Trading guilt and misery for God’s grace and mercy.”

The tagline is a good description of my stories to date. My main characters grow from a place of guilt or discontent or anger or fear and learn to enjoy God’s grace and mercy in new-found freedom of God’s love.

We can also adapt Austen’s quotation to our present age with the uncertainty and ever-changing status of the Coronavirus situation. I’m holding onto God’s peace because I’m sure He’s sovereign. I’m sure He isn’t in Heaven wringing His hands muttering, “Oh, no. What’s going to happen next?” He wasn’t surprised by this world-wide outbreak.

I’m not buying into the panic served up with every update flashing across my phone screen. I’m resting in the peace of my certain salvation.

Let other people dwell in misery and worry. I’ll hold on to God’s peace, and I’ll share it when I get the chance.

Hope’s bio: Hope Toler Dougherty holds a Master’s degree in English and taught at East Carolina University as well as York Technical College. She’s a member of ACFW and  RWA, and her novels are Irish EncounterMars…With Venus Rising, and Rescued Hearts. A native North Carolinian, she and her husband, Kevin, look forward to visits with their two daughters and twin sons. 

Social media links:

http://hopetolerdougherty.com/

https://www.facebook.com/AUTHORHOPETOLERDOUGHERTY/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13941031.Hope_Doughertyhttps://www.pinterest.com/hopetdougherty/https://twitter.com/HopeTDougherty

https://www.instagram.com/hopetolerdougherty/

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=hope+toler+dougherty

Purchasing links;https://www.amazon.com/Irish-Encounter-Hope-Dougherty-ebook/dp/B00XD3NMI8/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=irish+encounter&qid=1585055339&s=digital-text&sr=1-1
https://www.amazon.com/Rescued-Hearts-Hope-Toler-Dougherty-ebook/dp/B074SXJLH4/ref=sr_1_11?dchild=1&keywords=rescued+hearts&qid=1585055383&s=digital-text&sr=1-11

Hope’s new novel, Forever Music, will release in May.  College professor Josie Daniels is good at nurturing. Attorney Ches Windham is good at keeping secrets. When their lives intersect, sparks fly, changing hearts and lives forever.

Full of Character Interview with Neena Gaynor

Today’s Full of Character author is Neena Gaynor.

Neena Gaynor is a former nurse who has spent much of the last decade traveling with her husband, Wade, a former professional baseball player. Throughout the 29 changes of address and the stresses of moving a young family, Neena learned to embrace the peace that only comes from the steady accompaniment of Christ in her heart.

Today, Neena is ecstatic to be back in her old Kentucky home, beekeeping, writing, and being Mom. But first, let’s get to know Neena a little more from her interview.

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

Atticus Finch. The rational, principled lawyer and father from To Kill a Mockingbird models virtue. He’s a steadfast example of prudence, humility, and charity—a fictional example worthy of our aspiration.

It’s been a long time since I last read that one. I may have to check it out again. What character you created was the easiest to write? The hardest?

The Bird and the Bees is written from a first-person point of view, so having a main character that was a female nurse from Appalachia wasn’t a stretch for me. Going into Larkin’s wounds, exposing what made her calloused to love and grace, proved to be more difficult. The hardest character to write was probably Larkin’s aunt, Aster. She was also the most fun. Aster also struggles with a past, one that has left her tight-lipped, antsy, and with a hint of humor.

The past does have a way of influencing who we are in the future. And isn’t it interesting how a past can move a person one direction while it may move others in a completely different way? We see that all the time, even in scripture. Scripture is full of real people who had character to spare. Which one do you most relate to or enjoy reading about?

Right now, I’m trying to relate more to Mary of Bethany. She’s the one who anointed Jesus with expensive perfume. Those who witnessed this were appalled at her actions, but Jesus praised her. “She has done a beautiful thing to me,” Jesus said. “She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body to prepare for my burial,” (Mark 14:6-8).

Those words, “she did what she could,” takes the weight of the world off of our shoulders. As a writer, sometimes we wonder if what we are doing is significant. We worry if typing words on a screen and imagining fictional scenarios is worth the effort or time. If we do it FOR HIM, then I believe He would praise us too. So, whether it is in the writing, the mothering, the beekeeping, or even in how I respond to others, I’m striving to do what I can… for Christ.

I don’t believe I’ve ever heard her story with that particular focus before, but that’s a powerful statement for all of us to strive for.

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

More than a backstory, I had a forward story in mind. I knew the place where I wanted the wounded nurse to get in her relationships with her family, friends, the world, and Jesus. Navigating the path with some glances in the rearview mirror was just a part of the journey.

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

Audrey Hepburn. She’d add some elegance and style to this Kentucky girl.

If you could only read from one genre for the rest of your life, which one would you choose (and it can’t be the genre you write in)?

Religious Nonfiction. I love learning about our faith and being inspired by other’s testimonies.

It’s amazing how one person’s journey put into writing can touch so many lives.

What is your go-to snack and drink combination when you’re writing?

It’s coffee. With more coffee. Hot and black. I blame (thank) my mother.

I want to thank Neena for joining me today. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to learn a little more about her and her writing. Stay connected with Neena through the following social media links.

www.wordslikehoney.com

www.facebook.com/neenagaynor/

www.instagram.com/neenagaynor/

You can check out and preorder Neena’s book, The Birds and the Bees, at the link below. And don’t forget, the book releases on April 1st!

What I’m Reading: Lane Steen

I admit I shed a few tears the first time I listened to Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s rock opera, Beethoven’s Last Night. When Mephistopheles strikes a bargain with Beethoven to give up one piece of the music he’s created in exchange for his soul, Beethoven rants at Fate for having left him with this awful choice after the lifetime of hurts he’s already faced. She allows him to revisit scenes from his past and erase their pain from his life. But the hurts, disappointments, and losses sprinkled throughout his memories aren’t what moved me.

After reliving each painful experience, Beethoven makes his choice. As he sings “This is Who You Are”, it becomes clear. Beethoven can’t erase any of his past without erasing the beautiful music created from the things he experienced. One event changed in his past would change everything else about his life. He chose to keep the pain so the world would not lose the beauty drawn out of it. It’s a choice that probably hits close to home for many of us as we consider the mistakes and hurts of our own lives.

I imagine it’s a theme that played throughout Lane’s life in Lane Steen by Candace West.  Before she was out of her teenage years, Lane Steen’s life held enough hurts to fill ten people with the ache to erase the past. Raised in a shack on the outskirts of town was enough to make Lane feel like an outcast without adding in her tattered clothes and father’s bad reputation. Even those paled in comparison to the horror of living with an alcoholic father who didn’t need the addition of alcohol to make him physically and verbally abusive to his wife and daughter. With her own mother being emotionally disconnected from her, the only bright spots in her life are school and her friendships with Tabitha, Guy, and the new teacher who encourages Lane to find what she’s good at and pursue it.

Even these gifts in her life don’t lessen the hurt she feels or take away the hate Lane has for her father. Her only thoughts are to escape the town and her family and never look back. As opportunities open up small windows of hope into Lane’s life, Lane begins to wrestle with the possibility that God is there and, despite her awful circumstances, He may care about her.  

Lane takes a journey of self and faith discovery through the story. Each secret revealed about herself and her family’s past gives her more understanding. Lane learns what brings her joy and purpose. She finds out how healing God’s forgiveness and love can be to receive, and she is confronted with the need to extend that forgiveness and love to others. Lane’s eyes and heart are opened to what it really means to love someone and let them love in return. And she struggles to define what forgiveness should look like on a daily basis as she tries to move forward from the damage caused by others in her life. Lane had to learn how to let the past shape her without allowing it to trap her in a world of hate and retribution.

Whether it’s in the fictional world of Lane Steen or in our sometimes all too real lives, the past plays its part in who people become. Good and bad circumstances influence our outlooks, decisions, and emotions. Left on our own, we often turn to unhealthy ways of dealing with the past. We, like Lane, attach ourselves to ideas of retribution, hate, or despair.

It doesn’t have to be this way. God’s word offers hope that as we’ve been forgiven, we can forgive others whether they deserve it or not.  They don’t even have to accept it. We find freedom in ourselves to move into a better place when we choose forgiveness.

Scripture promises us that while the hurts may not fall away, God can grow good things in us despite and even through the pain. God assures us He will never leave us. When we feel we are all alone, we can cling to this promise and know that feeling is not from Him. He’s there to provide strength, encouragement, and direction in the middle of our hurts.

Navigating our pasts to become God’s best for us in the present and future isn’t an easy path. And it’s relevance in our lives is what makes Lane Steen’s fictional story resonate even if your pains are very different from hers. But coming to the places of acceptance of our pasts, forgiveness for those who hurt us, and allowing God to work in us will bring us to the place where we can be everything we were created to be.

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