By the Book

where a love of God and good books meet

Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 26)

What I’m Reading: The Year in Review

The last month has been a struggle for me as a writer and blogger. I guess it started in earnest about seven months ago. Then, about a week before Thanksgiving, life changed drastically again, and I’ll be honest, with the adjustments and holidays colliding together, I don’t feel I’ve found my footing yet.

Even with the ups and downs of my chaotic life over the last several months, I’ve not been completely stagnant. My third book, the final one in Katie’s story, is with the publisher and due to come out in June. I finished writing another book in November and look forward to finding an agent for that one. And this year brought opportunity to read some great books by several others authors, most of them new to me.

While I won’t do a “Top Ten” post, I do want to share a few of the books that stand out as I review the list of books I’ve read. For more information on any of the books I mention, look back through my “What I’m Reading” posts. You should be able to find each of them there. Keep in mind, the books I mention are in no particular order.

Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock – This one is an emotional and heartwarming story set at Christmas. There’s no intrigue or suspense usually associated with Blackstock, but the story draws you in with just the right balance of humor and drama and realistic characters.

The Great River Romance Series by Kari Trumbo – In the spirit of full disclosure, I should let you know I bought my first two in the series because of the covers. Whole Latte love is only available in a set if you want ebook, but you can get it individually in paperback too. Want Ad Wonder is my favorite of the covers. But Check Out Crush and Central Park Paradise are great too. Each book has needed conflict, but overall they are sweet, quick romances.

Holy in the Moment by Ginger Harrington – I met Ginger at a writer’s conference. I enjoyed getting to meet her, and her book stayed true to the tone and personality I was introduced to at the conference. This one is nonfiction and full of great reminders of what it means to live out holiness in our daily lives.

Blue Columbine and Red Rose Bouquet by Jennifer Rodewald – These stories heavier themes, but the stories were as well-crafted as any of the others on the list. Dealing with real world issues, the author challenges readers to step outside their comfort zones and consider themes that are quickly becoming commonplace in our society from different angles.

A Bound Heart by Laura Frantz – Beautiful. That single word encompasses not only the story the author lays out for readers but also the way in which she writes it. In days when there is a push for less description and scene setting, I found the author’s attention to detail well used and artistic.

Tainted and Awakened by Morgan Busse – I’ve always read historical fiction and contemporary fiction, but until I won a copy of Tainted I’d never really considered Christian fantasy. I’m so glad I did. I bought the second book as soon as I reached the last page of the first one. I’m looking forward to reading the two new ones I downloaded in 2020 and sharing my thoughts on them as well.

There they are, a sampling of the books I read in 2019. It isn’t even close to a comprehensive list of the great books I read this year, but you can always revisit my “What I’m Reading” posts to find out more. And if you missed any of the ones I mention above, you still have time to get your own copies and start off 2020 with a few great reads!

What I’m Watching: Countdown to Christmas

Hallmark Christmas ornament

I know. This is a book blog. It’s always been a book blog. It will always be a book blog. But today, I’m switching things up because one of my favorite Christmas traditions (much to the dismay of my male dominated household) is watching the new Hallmark Christmas movies.

I’m a little behind this year. I have four new ones to catch up on, but it can’t be helped. I will catch up. There are rare times I will pass over a movie due to casting choices, but for the most part, if it airs I will watch it. And before all you naysayers start in, yes, I realize how the plots are going to play out. I don’t care. I’m not in this for a big surprise at the end. I’m in it for entertainment, nostalgia, a spirit of love and joy, on screen chemistry, and a happy ending. That’s what I get from the best of what Hallmark has to offer and the criteria for rating the three movies below.

Sense, Sensibility & Snowmen: 3 1/2 Hallmark Ornaments

I love watching Erin Krakow and Kimberly Sustad. I watch every movie Hallmark puts out starring either of them. I also enjoy watching movies with Luke Macfarlane as the male lead. Using this trio as the lead characters gives this movie a star before it ever starts. To be honest, I enjoyed this one more than I thought I would. I’m over the remakes of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. It made me hesitant to watch this one, but I tuned in because of the three reasons above. I’m glad I did.

The event planning business Ella and Marianne own is going well, but there’s tension between the sisters because of very different personalities and styles. As Ella creates the perfect party for Edward while also sanding off his grinchy edges with her enthusiasm for all things Christmas, she faces various set backs. The dynamic between the sisters increases the tension but also adds to the satisfaction of a well planned party and joy at family discord being smoothed over. Add to that a man with reawakened Christmas spirit and new love, and you have a movie you’ll watch again when it airs again.

Christmas in Evergreen: Tidings of Joy – 4 Hallmark Ornaments

Is Christmas in Evergreen too good to be true? Is the snowglobe really magical? And where is the legendary time capsule that has intrigued Evergreen’s inhabitants for years?

This is Christmas in Evergreen’s third installment, and it’s full of everything you’ve come to expect to find at Christmas in Evergreen. The skeptical newcomer, Katie, is played by Maggie Lawson who can’t believe the hype about Evergreen. From her first encounter with Paul Greene’s Ben, her doubt is challenged. As she’s drawn into a quest to find the time capsule left by the town’s inhabitants years ago during a blizzard, she meets the characters who live in Evergreen and starts to see they are exactly who they’re rumored to be and the town really is that full of Christmas spirit.

I’m not sure how I feel about Hallmark revisiting so many of their previous movies. Evergreen, Father Christmas, and A Gift to Remember all have two or thee installments at this point. But I’ll forgive Hallmark because I really enjoyed this movie. I love the pairing of Maggie Lawson and Paul Greene. It doesn’t hurt that Paul Greene is my all-time favorite male lead in any Hallmark movie. I even modeled one of the characters in my third book after him. I’ll watch his movies every time, and I guarantee I’ll be watching more than once. That includes Christmas in Evergreen: Tidings of Joy

Picture a Perfect Christmas – 5 Hallmark Ornaments

Who doesn’t like Christmas surprises? This movie is definitely a Christmas surprise, a really glad it happened kind of surprise. I thought it might be enjoyable, but I never expected it to land in the top spot for favorite Hallmark movie of the season. And while it is true that the season isn’t over yet, I don’t expect the rest of the lineup to topple this one from Santa’s sleigh.

I’ve watched other Hallmark movies with Merritt Patterson in them. And while she’s not on my “must watch this movie” list, I enjoy her work. I especially liked Forever in My Heart and The Christmas Cottage. She does a good job as world travelling photographer Sophie in Picture a Perfect Christmas as well. She brings a little humor and a lot of caring to the character who comes home to spend Christmas with her injured grandma and finds herself volunteering to care for the neighbor’s nephew. With the boy leading the way and the grandma playing matchmaker, Sophie joins Troy and his uncle David on their family Christmas adventures and finds herself falling in love during this unexpected Christmas at home.

David is played with near perfection by Jon Cor. I’ve only seen him in one other Hallmark movie, Love on Safari, and in one episode of Supernatural. (Please don’t kick me out of the Hallmark watching club for admitting I watch and enjoy Supernatural too!) In my defense, I didn’t realize I’d seen him in Supernatural until recently, but that’s beside the point. He was everything a Hallmark casting director should be looking for in this movie and ultimately the reason this movie earned its fifth ornament.

There are times when the emotions playing across a character’s face can bring back that feeling of newly discovered attraction we may not have felt for a while or break a viewer’s heart with the vulnerability we see in their eyes. And while I know on-screen chemistry, the director’s vision, and the script itself play roles in this happening, it is ultimately the actor who puts the bow on that beautiful present and places it under the tree. That is exactly what Jon Cor does in Picture a Perfect Christmas, and I have to admit I’ve already watched this one twice since it aired.

What I’m Reading: Spring of Thanksgiving

My family is experiencing first-hand how God works in what our very limited human perceptions label as good and bad events. Dealing with dementia, strokes, and a gradual decline leading to what we hope is soon to be my grandmother’s heavenly homecoming we are swimming in a sea of what feels like bad events. But God has given us so many good gifts during this time.

Through the years of dealing with her dementia, God has grown us and provided for us in ways we never expected. He’s brought beautiful things out of the experience and taken care of details we didn’t know would be necessary. Some of the good has been spiritual in nature, but He’s worked out just as many of our physical needs.

I gave up my job to help my mother care for my grandmother. I didn’t hesitate when she asked for help though I knew my position as a full-time caregiver could end at any time, and I have one large bill that my salary pays for each month. When my grandmother went into the memory care facility, I was left without a job. Within a week, I gained employment at my previous job. It’s very part-time, but it’s enough to pay my bill each month. As an added bonus, the limited hours leave me more room for writing and learning about the business side of writing. God provided when I couldn’t. I had to wait and trust until He did.

Waiting when the answer isn’t readily seen is hard. Ivy Cooke, the main character in Liz Tolsma’s book Spring of Thanksgiving, knows that from experience. Ivy and her father are facing tough times on their Texas ranch. A seemingly endless drought and the need to fence their land to protect their property and others due to the railroad has put them in a hard place. Deeply in debt, Ivy has no idea how they will come up with the money to get caught up on their loan.

Facing the loss of their property to the bank is hard enough, but problems seem to pile on. New neighbors claim the spring necessary for getting Ivy’s ranch through the drought is on their property, and there’s nothing they won’t do to prevent Ivy and her father from using it.

Dell Watson is determined to show his father his worth, and the spring in question is his way to do it. Dell’s plan to secure the rights means he has to entice his beautiful neighbor to marry him. Circumstances change when Dell discovers Ivy is far more to him than a tool to get what his family desires. But his family still needs the spring, and the only way he sees to get it is through Ivy.

Dell and Ivy both face difficult circumstances without easy answers. As with most people, their minds work to find solutions to their problems. With their minds and hearts giving conflicting answers, they have to choose whether or not they can trust God with their problems and wait for His solution.

Dell and Ivy may get what they want, or God could give them something entirely unexpected. No matter what the circumstances, they have the choice to trust God’s goodness no matter what happens. Like us, they can choose to let trust lead to praise for His work in the hard and unexpected situations of life. But you’ll have to read Spring of Thanksgiving to find out if they do and if the path God gives them leads them closer or further apart.

Right Stuff Wednesday: Tea Anyone?

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” – C.S. Lewis

I know the current trend is toward coffee. And I have nothing against coffee, except that it makes me sick to my stomach when I drink it. Come to think of it, that’s a pretty important thing to have against it. My own digestive issues aside, I understand people’s love of coffee. It smells wonderful. But it’s not what’s in my mug on a cool autumn evening.

Hot tea frequently makes the list, but my absolute favorite cold weather drink is hot chocolate. I like the variety of flavors available in mixes, but nothing beats the flavor of homemade hot chocolate. It’s rich and creamy with the slight bitterness cocoa brings. But I’m not here to talk about the drink. I’m more interested in the container.

I love mugs, and I just received a trio of them from my awesome cousin and mom. They might seem like normal mugs, but they were chosen with a purpose. Faith, hope, and love adorn these mugs. They were given to me in honor of completing my first series of novels. Faith’s Journey and Grasping Hope are currently available. Relentless Love will wrap up Katie’s story in June 2020. Every time I look at these mugs, the joy of reaching my first goal as an author will come back to me.

While they don’t all relate to my writing, each mug I own has it’s own story to tell about me. I got my hedgehog mug from the gift shop at the hospital where I worked. I passed it several times before giving in. It must have been fate. I thought the hedgehog was adorable. He’s also the studious type, and the background is a dictionary page. It’s all very writer-like. But the best part? Look closely at the background and you’ll find heather is one of the words. It comes right after heathen, but still, I think it was meant to be otherwise my name wouldn’t be on it.

My Inigo Montoya mug was a gift from my niece. Apparently, makers of pop culture mugs don’t realize not everyone loves coffee. She knew that but bought it anyway because she knew my love for The Princess Bride would outweigh my dislike of coffee. It’s no secret to those who know me that The Princess Bride is my favorite movie of all time.

I bought the exploding Tardis mug for myself. I have fond memories of my sons, husband, and I watching Doctor Who together. It’s one of the few shows we all enjoyed. The Van Gogh episode was a favorite. When I saw the mug, I couldn’t help myself. Every time I use it, I’m reminded of those evenings watching a favorite television show together.

This isn’t close to all of my mug collection. (I didn’t even get shots of any of my Christmas ones. I love Christmas, and they make the perfect mugs for watching Hallmark movies.) But each one, even those I didn’t talk about, were chosen for me or someone who knows me. There was a reason for each one, and that makes them special whether they hold tea, hot chocolate, or even the dreaded coffee.

What’s in your mug?

By the Book: Never forget, you are chosen too. 1 Peter 2:9 reminds us that believers are a “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people”. We aren’t chosen on a whim. God chose us for a reason. He chose us to proclaim His praise, be examples of God’s love to the world, and to share the gospel with those who need it. God also chose us for specific ministries and spiritual gifts. These make up our own unique way to live out the purpose God has for us. You weren’t an accident. You are chosen. Do you live like it each day?

What I’m Reading: Just the Way You Are

I’m from small town southern Illinois. Though Carbondale has Southern Illinois University to make it more recognizable, the small village of Makanda can only boast of being one of the places where the 2017 eclipse could be seen for the longest amount of time and for Vulture Fest. Yes, Vulture Fest. No, I’ve never been. Though that’s really not surprising. Makanda is actually very large in area, and as most residents do, I end up in Carbondale more often than the tiny strip of eclectic stores making up Makanda’s business district.

Being from a small, rural town surrounded by other small, rural towns has its advantages. It also has drawbacks. One of these is the country drawl prevalent in the area. It’s not a pretty southern drawl or the twang of the southwest. It’s less refined. Hick is the term most often used.

As a kid I fought that way of speaking. I worked hard to make sure my pronunciation and vocabulary were not filled with the southern Illinois vernacular. I thought I was doing a great job, until I went to summer camp in Peoria, Illinois. Peoria is about 4 hours north of where I live. Kids came from all over Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, and other states for camp.

Imagine my surprise when all the work I’d done to distance myself from the southern Illinois sound was repeatedly met with, “Are you from the south?” Every northerner I met decided I was not just from the south, but from the deep south. Over and over I explained I was not from Mississippi or Alabama or any other southern state. I was from Illinois just like most of them. So much for my efforts to conceal my vocal heritage.

Adulthood has brought perspective. I’m more appreciative of the benefits of small town life, and the downsides don’t bother me as much. (I admit I still cringe when I hear myself say “fer” instead of for, but I’m working on it!) I love where I grew up, bad grammar and all. I try to bring that to my writing (the love, not the bad grammar!). That same attitude is part of the reason I enjoyed Pepper Basham’s Just the Way You Are.

Eisley Barrett grew up in the Appalachian region, but the story starts with a trip to England to find answers to a family mystery. In addition to meeting wonderful new friends,Eisley has a real life adventure on her quest to find answers her dying uncle needs to finish the book he’s writing.

Though initially drawn to her due to a cynical nature that insists Eisley is a gold digger out to take his family fortune or ruin their good name, Wes Harrison finds he’s drawn to her for other reasons as well. As their friendship progresses, Wes enjoys the opportunity to solve the mystery with Eisley.

As their relationship progresses, it’s time for Eisley to return home. She and Wes have enough emotional baggage from the past to make the distance between England and Virginia seem like child’s play. This baggage comes back to wreak havoc on their relationship and threatens to tear them apart.

This is the first book by Pepper Basham I’ve read. She does a wonderful job of telling an entertaining story. The differences in how Eisley and Wes were raised and currently live are explored and alternately provide helpings of drama and comedy for the reader.

Respect for both ways of life are easily seen. Pros and cons of each are laid out for the reader to enjoy. In the end, it’s a great reminder that our differences can bring us together or tear us apart. It’s all in how we want to look at them.

By the Book: We’re all different. Think of someone you’ve had trouble working or ministering with and pray for God to show you how to celebrate your differences to make the job/ministry stronger.

Praying for You

Prayer has always been an important part of my life as a believer. I wouldn’t necessarily classify myself as a prayer warrior. And I’m probably not going to be the one who stops to pray with you in the middle of Wal-mart when we run into each other, unless you ask. Then I will. Otherwise, I’ll take your concern home with me and include it in my daily times of prayer. But despite these shortcomings in my praying, I know how vital prayer can be in our lives.

I’ve seen God work through prayer time and again in my own life and the lives of those around me. I’ve seen God change circumstances. I’ve seen God heal. I’ve seen God provide, lead, and strengthen through prayer. More often than not, I’ve experienced God changing my heart and mind about things through prayer. I’ve drawn close to Him through worshipful prayer. I’ve cried to Him in my darkest times. I’ve surrendered my dreams, my desires for my family, and my will to His many times through prayer. Prayer is powerful.

Prayer is also a gift. It’s our way to come to our heavenly Father with the good, the bad, and the ugly and watch what He does with it. And it’s a gift we’re meant to share with others. Scripture tells us to bear one another’s burdens and to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. One of the best ways we can do this is by taking one another to God in prayer. Consider how often Paul spoke of keeping fellow believers in prayer. It was important then, and it is important now.

Prayer isn’t like wishing on a star or rubbing the genie’s lamp. We don’t throw out everything we want and sit back and watch it fall from the sky. God’s hears and answers the prayers of those who follow Him. Scripture promises that. What it doesn’t promise is that our prayers will be answered exactly how we think it should be done. It says if we ask anything according to His will God hears us. That’s probably the hardest part of prayer. Telling God what our very human selves want out of a situation but accepting the attitude of “not my will but Yours be done” in our hearts. Those are some of the times when God’s answer might be a change of heart instead of a change of circumstance.

Another time we might require an attitude check is when God’s plan takes time. My mother and I have met daily for almost a year for prayer together. There was a family situation that came up that drove us to our knees. There was nothing we could do to change it, and the throne of God was the best place for it anyway. Like I said, it’s been almost a year. We’ve seen God moving in the situation through that time, but we’ve only recently seen more substantial change in what’s happening. We continue to pray trusting it to work out God’s will, God’s way. We’ve grown a lot through the year. So has our list of people and situations to pray for. Even when this situation is fully resolved, we will continue praying for the needs of our friends and family and praising God for what He has done, is doing, and will do in the future.

As a writer of faith, I covet your prayers for my writing ministry. I desire to do only what God would have me do in the way He would have me do it. But I also want to encourage and lift up my readers, both of my blog and my books. To do so, I’m going to ask for prayer requests during the last week of each month. I will use whatever prayer requests and praises you pass on in my prayer times during the next month. I will start with the month of August. You can put your requests and praises in the comments, or you can message me with them anytime. I look forward to praying for you!

Win Doughnuts, Coffee, and a Good Book

I’m hosting a contest, open to those in the United States, on my Facebook page. You can find me by searching Author Heather Greer. Follow the directions in the contest post and you’ll be entered to win one of six e-book and gift card prizes!

What I’m Reading: Courting Calla

The sun is shining and the blue sky is dotted with fluffy white clouds. After what seems like endless rain in southern Illinois, it is finally a beautiful summer day. Of course the sun brings heat, which I’ve never dealt well with. Maybe that’s why I favor autumn. There is one thing I enjoy about summer. It’s not the beach. I don’t go swimming very often. It’s not hiking. I’ll wait until cooler weather when stepping on a copperhead is less of a possibility. It’s not even grilling out. We don’t save that for summer in my house. We grill all year long.

In summer, the one perk that comes with the heat is that it’s the perfect weather to enjoy a tall glass of ice cold lemonade. There is nothing more refreshing on a hot summer day than the sweet, tanginess of lemonade. It doesn’t have to be fresh, but it does have to be good. No canned lemonade. If I’m not making it myself, I’ll spring for the good stuff. My absolute favorite is Simply Lemonade’s Raspberry Lemonade. One glass has the perfect balance of flavor for cooling off during the hot summer days.

There are days I need a lemonade type book to read. Long, tiring, stressful weeks cry out for a quick, refreshing dose of fiction with just the right amount of sweet and strife. As I’ve been trying to adjust to a new schedule and job, it’s definitely been one of those weeks. I wanted a refreshing story to help calm my mind and entertain me. God blessed me by bringing Courting Calla by Hallee Bridgeman to my attention.

Calla’s crush on Ian has gone unnoticed in the years they’ve worked for the same company. Though in the same business, one is high up the ladder of executive success while the other struggles to make ends meet with her clerical job.  It’s not hard to understand how she’s seen him but until her broken down car forces the issue, he’s not seen her.

Misunderstanding and embarrassment bring Ian and Calla together. Shared interests and easy conversation keep them coming back to each other. The dark clouds on the horizon of their summer sky are those that come from two ends of the social spectrum coming together and a secret shame Calla has shared only with her closest friend.

Calla’s own step-mother has been using her identity for years, piling up debt in Calla’s name. Grief and embarrassment have kept Calla from having the funds to pursue her culinary education while enslaved to bills she should never have been responsible for. Just as she’s ready to handle the situation, the truth comes out in a devastating way.  Her predicament is hard enough to face, but when it leaves Ian wondering if she thought he was her ticket out of trouble instead of the love of her life, things go from bad to worse.

You’ll have to read Courting Calla for yourself to find out if blue skies return for Ian and Calla. You won’t be disappointed. In fact, I think you should enjoy it this summer with a tall glass of ice-cold lemonade for a refreshing afternoon all around.

By the Book: Great stories and cool drinks are wonderful for refreshing yourself after a long week. But don’t forget you need times of spiritual refreshing too. While you may enjoy the ministries God has brought into your life, they still demand time, energy, and focus. Giving without taking time to recharge isn’t good for you or for those you’re ministering to. Find a quiet place to meditate on a favorite Psalm. Follow it up with your favorite praise music and a time of thankful prayer.

Check out Courting Calla for yourself:

What I'm Reading: Courting Calla

The sun is shining and the blue sky is dotted with fluffy white clouds. After what seems like endless rain in southern Illinois, it is finally a beautiful summer day. Of course the sun brings heat, which I’ve never dealt well with. Maybe that’s why I favor autumn. There is one thing I enjoy about summer. It’s not the beach. I don’t go swimming very often. It’s not hiking. I’ll wait until cooler weather when stepping on a copperhead is less of a possibility. It’s not even grilling out. We don’t save that for summer in my house. We grill all year long.
In summer, the one perk that comes with the heat is that it’s the perfect weather to enjoy a tall glass of ice cold lemonade. There is nothing more refreshing on a hot summer day than the sweet, tanginess of lemonade. It doesn’t have to be fresh, but it does have to be good. No canned lemonade. If I’m not making it myself, I’ll spring for the good stuff. My absolute favorite is Simply Lemonade’s Raspberry Lemonade. One glass has the perfect balance of flavor for cooling off during the hot summer days.
There are days I need a lemonade type book to read. Long, tiring, stressful weeks cry out for a quick, refreshing dose of fiction with just the right amount of sweet and strife. As I’ve been trying to adjust to a new schedule and job, it’s definitely been one of those weeks. I wanted a refreshing story to help calm my mind and entertain me. God blessed me by bringing Courting Calla by Hallee Bridgeman to my attention.
Calla’s crush on Ian has gone unnoticed in the years they’ve worked for the same company. Though in the same business, one is high up the ladder of executive success while the other struggles to make ends meet with her clerical job.  It’s not hard to understand how she’s seen him but until her broken down car forces the issue, he’s not seen her.
Misunderstanding and embarrassment bring Ian and Calla together. Shared interests and easy conversation keep them coming back to each other. The dark clouds on the horizon of their summer sky are those that come from two ends of the social spectrum coming together and a secret shame Calla has shared only with her closest friend.
Calla’s own step-mother has been using her identity for years, piling up debt in Calla’s name. Grief and embarrassment have kept Calla from having the funds to pursue her culinary education while enslaved to bills she should never have been responsible for. Just as she’s ready to handle the situation, the truth comes out in a devastating way.  Her predicament is hard enough to face, but when it leaves Ian wondering if she thought he was her ticket out of trouble instead of the love of her life, things go from bad to worse.
You’ll have to read Courting Calla for yourself to find out if blue skies return for Ian and Calla. You won’t be disappointed. In fact, I think you should enjoy it this summer with a tall glass of ice-cold lemonade for a refreshing afternoon all around.
By the Book: Great stories and cool drinks are wonderful for refreshing yourself after a long week. But don’t forget you need times of spiritual refreshing too. While you may enjoy the ministries God has brought into your life, they still demand time, energy, and focus. Giving without taking time to recharge isn’t good for you or for those you’re ministering to. Find a quiet place to meditate on a favorite Psalm. Follow it up with your favorite praise music and a time of thankful prayer.
Check out Courting Calla for yourself:

Write Stuff Wednesday: Love You Forever

child“I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.” – Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

I doubt any children’s book garners reactions as strong as those elicited by Love You Forever. Those reacting in the negative find it kind of creepy. The elderly mother pretty much drives across town, breaks into her son’s home, and holds him like a small child to sing him her song of love. I get the creepy vibe, but it is only a story meant to bring home a point. I can overlook that particular part of it.

For others, the book is a wonderful story of a parent’s unending, never changing love for her child. At each stage of his life, the mother never fails to remind her child that her love won’t fade away. When she is too weak to sing her song to him, the son responds to that constant love by singing the song back to her and then continuing the song by singing it to his newborn daughter.

Anyone who has spent time with children know there are less than lovable times. Whether it’s fits in the toddler years, questioning authority in the junior high years, out and out rebelling in the teen years, or knowing everything there is to know about life in early adulthood, a parent’s patience and child-rearing know-how is tested at various times throughout the process of raising their children.

Even if we remember to cherish each stage of development, we pray for strength to survive it and bring our child through it successfully. We hurt with them when they fail, even as we encourage them to get back up again knowing they’ve not learned yet and will fall again. We repeatedly face disappointment and frustration as we watch our children act against what we’ve taught them. At their worst times of disrespect and disregard, our patience wears thin.

But even when we’re pushed to our limits, our love remains strong. No matter what our children do, we love them. We may not agree with their choices. As they choose paths better left untraveled, we hurt for them. We pray for them and try to guide them as we see them head toward sin. The pain and frustration we feel runs deep as we watch our children choose lives that take them further from God instead of to Him. But even then, we love them.

It’s a stunning picture of God’s love for us. We have hurt, disappointed, and betrayed Him time and again. We’ve chosen to ignore Him to go our own way until the results of our choices send us crying to Him to fix the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. When He doesn’t fix it, we treat Him like He’s the one responsible for our pain.

We act this way even though He’s given us everything. In our sin, God is the one who provided the way for us to be reconciled to Him. He is the One who sent His Son to die on the cross in our place to take the punishment for sin that only we deserve. He is the One who promises to make us His children and heirs with Christ when we accept Him as our Lord and Savior. He gave us His Holy Spirit to live in our hearts so we can know and follow Him better in our earthly lives. He allows us to be part of reaching others with the gospel. And He promises one day we will spend eternity in His presence.

God hasn’t blessed us with these things because we deserve it. Our continued failure to turn to Him, seek Him out, learn from Him, and live the way He wants us to live is proof enough that we aren’t deserving. But God gives anyway. Though our continued sin and reluctance to follow after Him in everything we say and do has to sadden our Heavenly Father, He always forgives. Though He doesn’t always remove our consequences, He is always willing to bring something eternally beautiful from the chaos we find ourselves in. God does all this for one reason. Love.

Jeremiah 31:3 is God’s own Love You Forever to us. He tells us, “‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.'” Everlasting is forever. It isn’t contingent on us. It relies solely on God’s love, on God being love. 1 John 3:1 reminds us that it is God’s love lavished on us that allows us to be called children of God. His love isn’t dribbled down over us. It is poured in abundance over us.

God’s love is freely given to everyone. We don’t earn it through being good. God acted in love toward us while sin still made us His enemy. We can see what love is not because “we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins”.

Unlike our fallible love, limited by our weaknesses, God’s love for us will never fail to do what’s best for us. It will never let us down, no matter what our circumstances may try to tell us. It is forever, unchanging, and perfectly given. God will love us forever and for eternity His children we will be.

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