What I’m Reading: Blue Columbine

blue columbine flowerWe try to teach our children that actions have consequences, but society tells them otherwise. Actions have consequences if you’re not rich or famous. Actions have consequences unless you choose to get rid of that consequence. Actions have consequences unless you’re willing to strike a deal to get out of them. We make decisions every day, and whether we like it or not the natural order of things is for our actions to lead to reactions.  Nothing can be done or said without leaving its mark on the people and things around it, no matter what we tell ourselves.

When those choices are fueled by addictions, the consequences created are often devastating for those closest to us.  Jamie Carson and Andrew Harris learn this painful lesson in Blue Columbine by Jennifer Rodewald. Similar circumstances in their teenage years forced these best friends apart until they are well into adulthood. Though their circumstances mirrored each other, their reactions to the events in their lives couldn’t have been more different.

Jamie’s faith is deeply rooted in her life when a chance meeting puts Andrew back into her life. Andrew’s faith has been discarded for pursuits that allowed him to rebel without the guilt. Though Jamie sees the spark of the boy she loved deep inside, the man he has become is a stranger to her. With patience and love, she hopes to point him back to the God he walked away from.

Andrew knows his life is a mess, but he can’t see his part in it. His choices have been perfectly fine, and he should not have to face consequences for them. They’ve led him to an addiction he denies. They’ve put a wall between him and his family. And he keeps disappointing and hurting the one person who still seems to believe in him. As Andrew comes to accept there are things in his life that need to change, he believes Jamie is who he needs to help him do it. When his actions bring consequences she can’t stomach, he may lose her and his reason to be a better man.

Jamie knows what Andrew needs is God’s redemption. She simply doesn’t know how to help him see it. Even when things seem to get better, Jamie can’t escape the fear his actions have caused in her heart. Redemption or no, Andrew may have to live with losing Jamie for good as a consequence of his behaviors.

My thoughts on the book: Jennifer Rodewald is a new author to me. I found Blue Columbine while scrolling through Kindle Unlimited’s Christian Romance selections. The cover and title peaked my interest, and I began reading it immediately. I didn’t want to put it down. The ups and downs in Jamie and Andrew’s relationship kept me turning the pages. The author handles addiction in a real way. The addict isn’t treated as a monster. The author does a wonderful job of showing the struggle, the failures, and the successes of one dealing with addiction. She also does a great job of showing how the addiction affects those who love the addict. Helping and enabling, trusting and being realistic, loving them through and leaving for their best are all subjects the story doesn’t turn away from.  Jennifer Rodewald is now on my “keep reading” list. In fact, I downloaded two more of her books as soon as I finished this one.

By the Book: No matter what society tells us, our actions do have consequences. And we become known by the actions we make part of our lives on a regular basis. That’s where our character comes from. Proverbs 20:11 tells us, “Even a child is known by his deeds, whether what he does is pure and right.” You can’t lie habitually without becoming untrustworthy. You can’t steal without being known as a thief. An attitude of entitlement will label us as lazy and arrogant.

This isn’t God’s plan for His children. He tells us we are to have the mind of Christ. Our actions and their consequences should point others to Him. What do your actions say about you? Are the consequences of your actions a world that knows more of God’s truth and love?

What I’m Reading: All Made Up

television.pngYou can keep Survivor, though I watched the earliest seasons. I have no desire to watch The Voice or American Idol and never have. And I will definitely pass on The Bachelor. Don’t even get me started on everything that’s wrong with that one! I will admit to a brief fling with King of the Nerds, The Mole, and Full Metal Jousting. I would probably still watch those if their ratings had been high enough to continue the shows.

They weren’t, and so my foray into the world of reality television runs along the lines of The Worst Cooks in America and the Great British Bake-off. Zumbo’s Just Desserts was a really fun one too. But my personal favorite, now only available in reruns, was Cupcake Wars.

I loved the set of Cupcake Wars. I loved the themes the contestants had to work with. The creativity and seeing the giant displays come together at the end were inspiring to this amateur cupcake baker. The unique flavors and even the failures caught my interest and inspired me. I loved everything about the show except that it had to end.

No matter how much I enjoyed it, I know Cupcake Wars, along with all the other reality shows are less than real. The outcomes may not be rigged from the start, but there are plenty of other scenarios played up for the viewers. Drama equals ratings and ratings equal sponsors. Every disaster, argument, and failure are highlighted for the cameras. Time is warped. Planning periods are non-existent making the feats of contestants seem next to impossible. All of it works to draw the audience in, but it should leave us questioning the moniker of “reality” television.

These issues become part if the drama in All Made Up by Kara Isaac. It’s challenging enough to give this contemporary Christian romance its needed conflict when producers of a romantic reality show cast a down-to-earth, faithful farmer as it’s bachelor looking for love. Caleb Murphy is a last minute replacement, and his morals and personality aren’t exactly the stuff of exciting television.

When make-up artist Katriona McLeod is drafted to stand-in for a sick contestant, the drama is raised a notch or two. Katriona’s past with Caleb creates equal part romantic sparks and tension on the set. It’s the only thing producers can consistently count on, and her walk-on appearance doesn’t walk-off after the first episode as originally planned.

Katriona and Caleb have enough confusion and hurt to work through on their own. But determining what’s real and what’s made for television isn’t easy with lights and cameras following your every move. The question is whether or not they can be real enough with each other to deal with their past and have a second chance at love once the cameras stop rolling.

The superficial setting of All Made Up doesn’t keep Kara Isaac from diving into heartfelt conversations between Katriona and Caleb. What results is a fun, encouraging story about being real and finding love.

By the Book: While entertaining, reality television is less than real. Every conversation and situation is engineered to create the perfect picture for the viewers. That’s fine or television, but it’s damaging when the same attitudes are adopted in our faith. We want to be examples of Christ-like living to those we come in contact with. That’s kind of the point of being labeled “Christian”. But we are also called to be real, honest, and humble. While we don’t want to flaunt our sins, failures, and struggles like a badge of honor, we also don’t want give an image of perfection in our walk. We aren’t perfect. We know it. Those around us know it. When we hide our flaws, even with the good intent of showing God’s love and power in our lives, we end up doing the opposite. Not only do people know we’re being less than honest, they also end up believing God is less than He says He is. If He wasn’t, why would His people have to protect Him in this way? I don’t know about you, but I connect more with the believers in my life who are honest with me about the things they’ve been through. Their testimonies of how God has worked in and through the circumstances of their lives speak to me and encourage me because I know I’m not the only one. Romans 12:15 instructs us to rejoice with those who are in a good place and weep with those who are hurting. God’s desire is for believers to be family for each other, helping each other. We can only do this when we put aside made for television Christianity and embrace Christianity in real life with all it’s ups and downs.

What I’m Reading: My Stubborn Heart

You know THOSE moments. You can’t tell me you don’t. They’re the moments when the guy, like Patrick in 10 Things I Hate About You, have opened themselves up to loving only to have the girl turn away because they did something stupid. You feel it deep in your being when he stands on the balcony, crushed as she runs away from him. It’s when the characters in your favorite Hallmark movies look at each other with longing, finally admitting to themselves that something bigger than friendship is going on, but they can’t admit it to each other yet. Your chest tightens with the tension of love that won’t be admitted. It’s that desperation that rises to the surface as you watch Jack walk away from Lucy in While You Were Sleeping because Lucy is in love with his brother.

With those feelings, in those moments, you react as if those characters are real, as if those characters were you. You can feel what they’re feeling. It’s scenes that evoke these kinds of feelings that Becky Wade peppers throughout her book, My Stubborn Heart.

The prologue sets the reader up for what is going to happen in the story. To those who would say she gives away the ending, I’d remind them the journey is half the fun. Everyone knows from the first five minutes who is going to end up together in a Hallmark movie, but it makes the movie no less enjoyable. Besides, the prologue reads like the beginning of a fantastic fairy tale. It reminded me of the opening scenes of the movie Ever After, not because of the content but because of the feeling it gives.

While the prologue drew me in, those special feeling moments in the story kept me engaged. There were moments of attraction, loss, and jealousy that rivaled any from the movies. I ached with the characters and felt the excitement of their growing attraction.

Kate is a caring and spirited woman who wants to heal the hurts of the world. Matt is a man with enough hurts for the entire world. As Matt works to renovate the home of Kate’s grandmother, friendship is slow to grow between them. It’s one step forward two steps back, but Kate is determined.

Even as friendship gives way to unwanted attraction, the path refuses to become easy. These two have a lot to work through, and it’s these challenges that provide the moments that reach deep into the heart of the reader. It’s these moments that keep the reader engaged from prologue until the end.

What I’m Reading – A Carol for Kent

Today as I scrolled through one of my social media accounts a post for A Carol for Kent by Hallee Bridgeman came up. On sale for less than a dollar, I couldn’t pass up the chance to get it. I read and reviewed A Melody for James, the first in her Song of Suspense series, a year ago. I’d enjoyed that one, and I was sure I’d like this one as well.

A Carol for Kent is the third in the series. I didn’t pay attention to that fact when I started the book. However, while there were events alluded to that I believe would have been made clear by reading books in the correct order, my lack of knowledge of the second book’s happenings in no way diminished this story. It left me, like every good story will, wanting to know what comes next and in this instance what came before. I don’t doubt books two and four will be added to my kindle account soon.

This story focuses on Carol Mabry, single mother and attorney. She is an expert at separating her home life and her work life which often takes her into gruesome crime scenes. It’s her job to help make sure those criminals end up behind bars for their crimes, but she knows taking home the residue of the cases she works would be detrimental to her daughter, Lisa. And considering Carol was told eight years ago Lisa’s father wanted nothing to do with her, she knows she can’t let her guard down for a minute. A mother’s love is all her daughter has.

That is until country music star Bobby Kent returns home unexpectedly to find he has a child he’s known nothing about. Lies have stolen the last eight years of parenthood from Bobby, and he’s ready to make things right for his little girl.

Carol and Bobby have a lot to overcome in their relationship. The lies that kept them apart, the lies that left Carol alone, ignite anger that runs deep. Distrust based on years of feeling abandoned are not easily overcome either. There is a lot to forgive, and both feel justified in a refusal to do so.  While they both want the best for their daughter, they don’t know if there can be a joined future for themselves.

If that isn’t enough drama for two lives, Carol’s current case is a race against a serial killer. It’s hard to leave this one at the office. The killer seems to obsess about one particular type and doesn’t make mistakes that could mean a break in the case. It’s a fascination that brings the danger right up to Carol’s front door.

I found the mystery element of the story intriguing. I honestly thought the perpetrator was a different character. The real killer surprised me. I’m happy for that. To me, good suspense will surprise  you in the end. Of course, it can’t be such a surprise that the reader feels it came completely out of left field.  Looking back there are subtle clues that gave hints into the killer’s identity, but my mind definitely went a different direction. And the reason for this particular killer’s actions is one that got my attention. I’ve always found the psychological aspects of life interesting, and this story tapped into that.

Just as important as the suspense of the story is the idea of anger and forgiveness. I may not know what it is to deal with serial killers in my life, and believe me, I’m more than grateful for that. But I can relate to anger and the struggle to forgive. When someone hurts you in a way that changes your life forever, letting go of that hurt and not giving in to the anger their actions bring is difficult. When their actions come from pure selfishness and sinfulness, forgiveness is even harder to achieve. It’s easy for the unchecked anger to spill over into other areas of life. And an unforgiving heart becomes bitter in a relatively short amount of time. Carol and Bobby’s story tap into those themes which I believe many of us can understand personally. It allows us to find ourselves in the story and gives us the desire to cheer them on in their growth if we’ve already been there. If we’re still there, it may serve as an encouragement to go through that growth with them.  Either way, these themes work together with the suspense element to create a story that will capture your attention and keep it until the last page.

Here’s where you can find A Carol for Kent.

What I’m Reading – The Wedding Dress

About a year ago, I had my first introduction to Rachel Hauck with the book The Writing Desk. I loved it. It’s one of those books I’ll keep and re-read in years to come. And that is why I didn’t hesitate to snatch The Wedding Dress off the shelf as I perused the shelf at a used bookstore just two days ago.

I began reading it that night, though I admit I didn’t get very far into it before I needed to put it down. Last night was a different story. After spending a lazy day with my husband, spending a lazy evening reading sounded just about perfect. At one a.m. when I finished the last page, I knew I had made the right choice. Even this morning, tired as I am from my late night, I’m not sorry I didn’t put the book down in favor of a good night’s sleep. Sometimes, you simply need to stay up late reading a good book.

That’s what The Wedding Dress is, a good book. Though the gown has been worn by four different brides over the span of around a hundred years, the book fleshes out the stories of the first and current owners of the dress, Emily and Charlotte.

Charlotte’s life is about wedding dresses. She pairs each bride who enters her shop with the perfect dress for them. Not content to make cookie cutter brides, she finds the unique dress to match the spirit of each bride. She considers this a gift God has given her to help each woman’s special day be as wonderful as it can be.

Her own life is a little messy though. Charlotte and her fiance seem a little off. Plans are not being made in a timely way for their wedding. Charlotte, the lover of wedding dresses, hasn’t even found her own. In what she believes is a desire to seek out answers, Charlotte goes to a special place from her childhood for solitude. What she finds is an auction, a mysterious man, and a battered trunk that she pays more money than she believes it’s worth to win.

As her engagement and relationship with her fiance fizzle, Charlotte opens the trunk to a beautiful, antique wedding dress that seems shrouded in mystery. In her current state she doesn’t believe the dress is for her, but she is driven to find out what she can about the history of the dress.

One hundred years earlier Emily is also engaged. In a time when racial tensions were high and women were pushing for the right to vote, Emily faces her own doubts about marriage to Phillip. On paper, he is her best choice. He’s from a good family that will raise her own family’s social standing. Everyone is in favor of the marriage. But something feels off.

When her first love comes back into her life, matters are complicated. Truth tries to come into the light, but Emily feels trapped. She’s made her choice, and she will honor it. She longs for freedom, but she can’t seem to find it even in something as simple as obtaining her wedding dress.

Emily’s mother and her fiance’s family have chosen the best wedding dress maker to create a gown suitable for a wedding of the highest social caliber. Emily finds the woman rude and conceited. Her design leaves Emily feeling constricted and weighted down, trapped.

Against social norms and possibly even laws she seeks out a woman of color to design her dress. Gifted in much the same way Charlotte feels gifted in the future, Taffy designs and sews the wedding dress Charlotte finds years later in the trunk. The dress is a perfect fit and style for Emily, but her mother insists it cannot be worn for her wedding to Phillip.

Emily and Charlotte, along with the other two owners, struggle to fully embrace what the dress means for their lives. For different reasons courage and faith are needed by these women to accept the dress as theirs and live with the events it brings into their lives.

Rachel Hauck does a wonderful job telling the story of Emily and Charlotte, but she doesn’t stop there. The gown is a character in it’s own right, and it’s story is rich with history and meaning as it weaves together the lives of these four women. The Wedding Dress is a beautiful story of love, betrayal, brokenness, and redemption that will be as timeless as the gown it’s named for.

What I’m Reading – Carolina Grace

book signingLast weekend I had the pleasure of attending a book signing celebrating the release of Regina Rudd Merrick’s newest book, Carolina Grace. Carolina Grace is the third, and sort-of final, installment in her Southern Breeze Series. It also happens to be what I’m reading, or more specifically what I read, this week.

If you’ve followed her series from book one, you will be delighted to find all the familiar characters return in this new book. If you haven’t, you’ll want to start with Carolina Dream and Carolina Mercy. It will make understanding what’s going on in Carolina Grace much easier and the story becomes richer when you can see all the loose ends coming together.

Set a few years in the future from the events of her second book, readers get to see how “happily ever after” is playing out for the previous main characters. And due to the added years, Carolina Grace is able to focus on a secondary character who was too young to be more than a supporting player in the previous stories.

Charly Livingston is all grown up in Carolina Grace. While the previous books’ events would have given her an up close view of faith and love lived out through the lives of her brother and family friends, this book is about her own journey.

Raised to embrace faith, Charly struggles to reconcile what she’s always believed about God with difficult circumstances in her life. Her family’s faith isn’t enough to keep her from growing resentful and her resentment puts distance between her and God.

Though she still believes, it’s when Charly is in this place of doubt that she meets Rance. He’s a man that’s got it all together. The only thing missing for him is faith, but does he really need it? When family secrets come out into the open, it challenges everything he’s believed.

God’s grace is the answer for both Charly and Rance. Charly has to learn to embrace grace as her strength for the hard times and move forward in a faith that is her own. Rance needs to experience God’s saving grace and allow God to work in his life.

As someone raised in a believing family, I could relate to Charly’s experience. I believe at some point, God brings every believer who embraced faith at an early age to a point where their faith must become their own. A lot of times that means a trial of the faith they have.

Like Charly, they may never completely walk away from their faith. Instead, they may feel like they’re going through the motions or like God is no longer close to them. They let the circumstances or sinful choices put space between them and God and then wonder why they don’t hear Him as they once did.

Carolina Grace serves as a great reminder that those who are struggling to keep the faith or find it for the first time are not alone. There is hope. There is an answer. And it is found in God’s grace.

carolina grace

 

Where to Belong

home-429571_1280My grandparents owned a farm. By the time I came along, the livestock was severely diminished. I remember chickens and maybe a few cows early on but not much other than that. My brother remembers a peacock or a turkey, not sure which. The only reason he remembers is it because the thing chased him around the barnyard. That’s traumatizing to a kid.

I don’t remember the animals, but I remember the house and the land. We spent Sunday afternoons there when I was little. My brothers and I would play with two of our cousins if they were there. If not, we would hike through the pasture and into the woods to explore.

There was a drawer in the kitchen by the sink that always had bubble gum in it. This was back when Hubba Bubba and Bubblicious contained only real sugar and made the best bubbles ever blown. My brothers preferred orange and grape. I loved the rare occasions when my grandma would stock the drawer with watermelon.

The house itself was nothing special, just your average old-fashioned farm house. But even though I’ve not stepped foot in it for thirty years, I can remember each room. I even made it the home Katie grew up in my book, Faith’s Journey. One day I would love to see it back in the family, but it wouldn’t be the same. The new owners renovated, updating the look and removing the memories. But it will always be the same in my mind.  It’s amazing what one can remember when fueled by pleasant memories.

That’s why I immediately felt connected to Where She Belongs by Johnnie Alexander. Shelby Kinkaid has similar feelings about the home her grandparents owned when she was a child. She made sweet memories there that helped her in the dark times. It’s a home that was ripped from her family by others who took advantage of her grandparents and left the home abandoned and in disrepair. The disappointments of her present make the pull of the past’s joys even stronger. Determined to give her daughters the same beautiful memories she treasures, Shelby arranges to buy her grandparent’s home and restore it to its former glory.

Though there is a lot of work to be done, it doesn’t deter Shelby from her plan.  But the descendants of the man who took her family’s home are working against her to regain the property for their own benefit. Add to that the mystery of the past that continues to haunt and hurt the current generations, and Shelby has to determine friends from foes all while trying to make the house her home once again.

Shelby’s story starts with a house and her memories, but it doesn’t end until she comes to understand where she belongs.  And I think that’s something we can all relate to.

The desire to belong starts young. Even on preschool playgrounds children want to be part of the group. It can tempt us into friendships we would be better off without. As we age, I’d like to say we outgrow this desire, but I don’t think that’s true. For those who never quite felt they measured up, it may be a life-long battle. Sometimes even our faith can leave us feeling like we don’t fit.

We’re called to have the mind of Christ. This means we strive to live the way Jesus lived, love the way He loved, and have the same standards and priorities. It’s a tall order that we fail to meet, but even if we only live it a small percentage of the time it’s enough to set us apart. We can see it at work, with our friends, and with those who aren’t believers in our families. Our language can set us apart. Our unwillingness to cut certain corners can make us stand out. Our refusal to participate in certain activities or watch certain things can leave us on the outside looking in.

Sometimes we may wonder if it’s worth it when all we want to do is belong. In these times it’s important to remember we do belong, just not to this world or the things in this world. First and foremost we belong to God. We are His children, and our home with Him in eternity is the home we were created for. That is where we belong, and until we reach it, there will always be the feeling of not quite fitting in. We aren’t supposed to fit in with this world. We were made for more.

We also belong to the body of Christ. Believers aren’t meant to be on their own. We’re meant to encourage, teach, and challenge one another to walk in faith every day. We’re to celebrate each other’s victories and support each other through the hard times. Ministering to each other is why God blesses us with spiritual gifts. We need to seek out other believers to be in fellowship with. Shared faith experiences can strengthen us and give us a glimpse into what this world was supposed to be.

When the differences between our faith and the world we live in leave us feeling alone, we need to look to Jesus. With Him, we always have a place to belong.

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.

 

Change and Hope

hopefortomorrowI drove down the narrow tree-lined road and past the trio of houses from my childhood. They looked the same way they’ve looked for years. But they’re not.

I live in the same place I lived when I was a child. I don’t mean the same neighborhood or the same city. I mean I live within a couple miles of the home I lived in until I was five, and I live across the field from the home I lived in from the time I was six until I got married. I walk down the same road, past the same houses, that I used to ride my bike down when I rode to my grandma’s house. It looks the same. But it’s not.

The houses are still there. The flower gardens still bloom in the spring. The roads still rise and fall and twist and turn as they always have. But everything has changed. The houses on that narrow tree-lined road are filled with people I don’t know. My grandparents and aunts and uncles don’t call them home anymore.

At one time I knew everyone on the road by my house. My other grandparents, my great-grandmas, a slew of great-aunts and great-uncles, and family friends that had known each other for years filled ninety-five percent of the houses along the road. I trick-or-treated down that road without coming to the house of a stranger. There are still some I know. A few family members still live there. But I no longer know a majority of the families living there.

The changes wouldn’t be visible to someone who didn’t know the area personally. What’s outside is similar enough, but what’s housed inside is vastly different. Those are the changes that make a difference. Those are the ones that give the neighborhoods a completely different character.

Some changes are like that. They leave what’s on the outside untouched, but the internal changes affect everything. It’s a lesson Logan De Witt is confronted with when he returns to his childhood home in Hope for Tomorrow by Michelle De Bruin. With his father’s unexpected death and no other males in the household, the responsibility of keeping his family’s farm running for his mother and sister falls to him. It’s a duty he’s more than willing to accept even though it takes him away from the church he pastors.

Arriving home, Logan is greeted by the familiar. The farm, the work, and his home are all as he remembers. But the people are not left untouched by the same grief he faces. When the town’s new teacher arrives to board with Logan’s family the toll their father’s death has taken on his sister becomes glaringly apparent. Instead of finding solace and friendship with the new woman in the house as Logan expects she will, Tillie’s internal struggle is vented in her direction. The more the internal bitterness is given space in her life, the less she acts like the sister Logan remembers.

Logan finds himself in a life that looks like it used to on the outside while struggling to make sense of the truth that life will never be the same again. Financial struggles, discontent in his home, fear to love and possibly lose that love, and this new, unwelcome side of his hurting sister combine to make Logan’s transition to this new reality rocky at best. And even if the storms cease, the real substance of their lives will never be the same.

Change is inevitable. We can fight it, or we can grow through it. We are not meant to stay the same. God sent His Son so we can be different. He wants us to become a new creation. He wants the old, sinful things to pass away. God’s desire is for those who believe to develop the mind of Christ.

God doesn’t really care about our outer packaging. Just like with David, God looks at our heart. He wants us to seek Him first. Our priorities, beliefs, and actions should be shaped by His word. When these changes take place, they may not be noticeable just from a look, but it’s the inside that makes us who we are. What is in our hearts determines our character, and our character determines our actions. These are the changes God desires. These are the ones that will make all the difference.

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.