Stories of faith, life, and love

Tag: Kristen Heitzmann

Be Like . . .

We’ve all seen them. They flash across our Facebook and Instagram feeds trying to lure us in with their cleverness. Their goal is making a sale based on our nostalgia for a particular television series. Love like this character. Be brave like that character. Remember to laugh like this character. On through the cast the list goes until each of the show’s characters is given a trait we remember them for most. It’s a way to announce our show loyalty to the rest of the television viewing world. Tonight I’m taking a page from their playbook.

While I could easily make a list of favorite movies or television characters, I’m a reader. Instead, I’m going to give you a list of the characters I love from my favorite author. Why? Because more than any television show or movie I’ve ever watched, these characters impacted me. They showed me parts of myself or things I wish were part of myself. I learned lessons beside them. I grew in my understanding of faith right with them. They have challenged me and encouraged me through the years, and I want to thank them (and Kristen Heitzmann, the author who created them) in this small way.

I want to . . .

be RESILIENT like Abbie Ferrel (Rocky Mountain Legacy series)

be PASSIONATE like Carina Maria DiGratia (Diamond of the Rockies series)

learn to “WANT THE WAY (THINGS) WORK OUT” even when it hurts like Morgan Spencer (A Rush of Wings series)

be a completely WILLING vessel God can use like Lance Michelli (Michelli Family series)

and finally,

be REAL like Grace Evangeline who messed up big time but owned it, repented, and kept letting God use her despite the fall-out. (Told You series)

What about you? Is there a character who has touched you in a major way? How do they inspire you?

 

Speaking God's Truth

While it’s the day for Main Character Monday, I have something else on my mind tonight. I had a hard weekend that didn’t leave its struggles behind as the work week started. It’s left me tired physically, mentally, and emotionally. Spiritually, it has sent me to my knees in prayer more focused and dedicated than my usual daily prayers. It is in these kinds of trials that submitting to the unknown of “Your will be done” becomes a true act of surrender.
Even though the exact nature of this situation is completely new and totally unexpected, it isn’t the first time my world has been rocked by a trial so life changing that I almost can’t wrap my mind around the idea that it is in fact my reality now. It isn’t the first time I’ve waited for the other shoe to drop or been forced to face the fact that I don’t know what comes next and fully realize that I might not like it when it comes.
The first time I faced the complete undoing of my perceptions of what my life was and was supposed to be, it broke me in ways I never thought possible. Even as I immersed myself in prayer and God’s word, I struggled with frequent panic attacks and depression. Even though I saw God working in my life and felt His strength getting me through each day, I hurt more deeply than I ever thought possible. I grew closer to God and learned to rely on Him as never before. The road to get there wasn’t easy, but God didn’t leave me on my own. In fact, a Facebook thread in one of the reading groups I’m in reminded me tonight that not only was I not left on my own, God went above and beyond to speak to me during that time in a way that was unexpected and user friendly.
When circumstances became too much, I’d read. My brain didn’t have to fight through the depressed exhaustion I felt in order to read. When I was immersed in the story, I could finally contain the thoughts running amok in my head. It was the perfect way for me to decompress for a small period of time. Little did I know that as I picked up The Still of Night by Kristen Heitzmann, that God would use it to challenge me to change my perspective on the painful hand I’d been dealt.
I’ll admit I bawled reading that book. So many points hit home. The specifics of the fictional circumstances were far from mine, but the truths about faith and life and pain were all too real. One of the moments when things clicked with me was in a quote that has stuck with me for the last fifteen years. “Things don’t always work out the way we want. The trick is to want the way they work out.” It’s simple and profound. It summed up “Thy will be done” perfectly, and it was wrapped in a story so well written that I had to finish it even though it was speaking hard truths to me.
I’ve enjoyed many well-written Christian fiction books through the years. I’ve been encouraged and challenged by them. But none have felt as much like God had it written especially for me, to help me accept where I was and encourage me on the path to healing.
Even God’s timing was perfect. I get Kristen Heitzmann’s books as soon as I know they’ve come out. If The Still of Night had come out years before, its message might not have resonated as deeply. I hadn’t been broken yet. Years later, and I would have already come through enough that the message would have merely been a reminder of a lesson learned. This one came out only a few short months before my storm hit, and I purchased it just after. Because the author chose to let God use her, my walk of faith was strengthened at a time when I needed it most.
I share this with you for two reasons. The first is as a reminder that God may choose to speak to us in unconventional ways. Scripture is of utmost importance, but He will use people, songs, and even fictional stories to open our hearts to His truth. Don’t shut Him out just because His message isn’t coming from your pastor or the 66 books of the Bible. Listen and accept His encouragements and challenges as the loving gifts they are.
The other reason I share my story is as an encouragement to let God use you. I’ve always been passionate about writing. But reading good Christian fiction sparked a desire in me to do for others what my favorite authors have done for me. I want what I write to communicate God’s truth to other believers. I want the stories I write to encourage and challenge people in their faith.  It’s my desire to let God use my stories to touch others. If God uses Faith’s Journey or any future books I write to speak to even one person the way He spoke to me through The Still of Night, I will count that as success.
By the Book: Maybe you write. Maybe not. Do you sing? Draw? Speak? Make cookies? I don’t care what talent you have or what you’re passionate about. Let God use it to speak to others.

Speaking God’s Truth

While it’s the day for Main Character Monday, I have something else on my mind tonight. I had a hard weekend that didn’t leave its struggles behind as the work week started. It’s left me tired physically, mentally, and emotionally. Spiritually, it has sent me to my knees in prayer more focused and dedicated than my usual daily prayers. It is in these kinds of trials that submitting to the unknown of “Your will be done” becomes a true act of surrender.

Even though the exact nature of this situation is completely new and totally unexpected, it isn’t the first time my world has been rocked by a trial so life changing that I almost can’t wrap my mind around the idea that it is in fact my reality now. It isn’t the first time I’ve waited for the other shoe to drop or been forced to face the fact that I don’t know what comes next and fully realize that I might not like it when it comes.

The first time I faced the complete undoing of my perceptions of what my life was and was supposed to be, it broke me in ways I never thought possible. Even as I immersed myself in prayer and God’s word, I struggled with frequent panic attacks and depression. Even though I saw God working in my life and felt His strength getting me through each day, I hurt more deeply than I ever thought possible. I grew closer to God and learned to rely on Him as never before. The road to get there wasn’t easy, but God didn’t leave me on my own. In fact, a Facebook thread in one of the reading groups I’m in reminded me tonight that not only was I not left on my own, God went above and beyond to speak to me during that time in a way that was unexpected and user friendly.

When circumstances became too much, I’d read. My brain didn’t have to fight through the depressed exhaustion I felt in order to read. When I was immersed in the story, I could finally contain the thoughts running amok in my head. It was the perfect way for me to decompress for a small period of time. Little did I know that as I picked up The Still of Night by Kristen Heitzmann, that God would use it to challenge me to change my perspective on the painful hand I’d been dealt.

I’ll admit I bawled reading that book. So many points hit home. The specifics of the fictional circumstances were far from mine, but the truths about faith and life and pain were all too real. One of the moments when things clicked with me was in a quote that has stuck with me for the last fifteen years. “Things don’t always work out the way we want. The trick is to want the way they work out.” It’s simple and profound. It summed up “Thy will be done” perfectly, and it was wrapped in a story so well written that I had to finish it even though it was speaking hard truths to me.

I’ve enjoyed many well-written Christian fiction books through the years. I’ve been encouraged and challenged by them. But none have felt as much like God had it written especially for me, to help me accept where I was and encourage me on the path to healing.

Even God’s timing was perfect. I get Kristen Heitzmann’s books as soon as I know they’ve come out. If The Still of Night had come out years before, its message might not have resonated as deeply. I hadn’t been broken yet. Years later, and I would have already come through enough that the message would have merely been a reminder of a lesson learned. This one came out only a few short months before my storm hit, and I purchased it just after. Because the author chose to let God use her, my walk of faith was strengthened at a time when I needed it most.

I share this with you for two reasons. The first is as a reminder that God may choose to speak to us in unconventional ways. Scripture is of utmost importance, but He will use people, songs, and even fictional stories to open our hearts to His truth. Don’t shut Him out just because His message isn’t coming from your pastor or the 66 books of the Bible. Listen and accept His encouragements and challenges as the loving gifts they are.

The other reason I share my story is as an encouragement to let God use you. I’ve always been passionate about writing. But reading good Christian fiction sparked a desire in me to do for others what my favorite authors have done for me. I want what I write to communicate God’s truth to other believers. I want the stories I write to encourage and challenge people in their faith.  It’s my desire to let God use my stories to touch others. If God uses Faith’s Journey or any future books I write to speak to even one person the way He spoke to me through The Still of Night, I will count that as success.

By the Book: Maybe you write. Maybe not. Do you sing? Draw? Speak? Make cookies? I don’t care what talent you have or what you’re passionate about. Let God use it to speak to others.

Less Than Blessed on Mother's Day

momAs I think about all the books I’ve read, one book immediately comes to mind when I think of moms. In the Rush of Wings series by Kristen Heitzmann, there is a secondary character who is the matriarch of her family. She’s everything a mother should be though certainly not perfect. She raises her children to love God, she prays for them, and she is protective of them. Celia teaches her children to work hard, value life, and love others. She is a shining example of what a Christian mother should be.
But there are other women that stand out as mothers without having given birth. In A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White, Rosemary has no children. Being an orphan herself, she’s not even had an example of what a mother should be since she was a small child. Yet when as an adult she finds herself in a makeshift family of orphans, Rosemary becomes like a mother to the younger ones. She cares for them and tries to teach them how to survive on the streets. Though her lessons are often how to get by with the illegal without getting caught, she is attempting to protect the children in the only way she knows how. And she does care for them. She would like to see the children have chances she never did. Everything she does is for the good of the family and the provision of food and shelter for the young ones in her care. Though they consider each other siblings, she acts as a loving mother to children who are of absolutely no relation to her.
It’s a better deal than Tess Spencer got in Guilt By Association by Heather Day Gilbert. Her mother was a drug dealer who ended up in prison. The life Tess remembers with her mother was one of lack and neglect. It’s left her with emotional scars. But even though her relationship with her mother is in desperate need of forgiveness and reconciliation, Tess isn’t without a woman in her life to help show her how to be the mother God intends her to be. Throughout the story, we’re shown that her mother-in-law has become the godly example her own mother never was. The relationship between them is full of encouragement, support, and love. Tess has been blessed.
And as I think about Mother’s Day tomorrow, I think knowing we’re blessed should be the main point. There are a lot of situations out there. There are women with healthy, happy children. There are those who have children but have suffered the loss of children as well. Many have had a child only to lose it later on. And there are those who have never been able to conceive though they desperately want to.
Children are a blessing. Scripture talks about it often enough. But that doesn’t mean those who haven’t yet had or may never have children are not equally blessed. God hasn’t looked at their lives and determined they are not good enough to be blessed. Children are simply one blessing from God. There are many other blessings God chooses to give. One blessing is not better than another. They are just different.
For the one who desires children they may never have and the one who has lost a child, my heart goes out to you. My own family has known the loss of one that was desperately wanted and would have been fiercely loved. Now, the baby we never got to meet is missed and still fiercely loved. And it’s that love that makes days like tomorrow hard for some. But, and I do not say this lightly, God has not overlooked you in the blessing department.  Yours may not be the ones you wanted, but you are still blessed. You are still loved. I pray He heals your hurt.
Having a godly mother is another blessing in this life. Just read about Timothy’s mother and grandmother, Lois and Eunice, in scripture. The way scripture speaks of their influence in Timothy’s life shows the impact a godly mother can have. Proverbs 31 is dedicated to highlighting the attributes of a godly woman, and caring for her children is included in the verses. If your mother was a godly example to you growing up, you are blessed. Thank her for that.
But if you didn’t, God has not forgotten you either. There are many in the world today that have known pain, neglect, disappointment, and abandonment at the hands of their biological mothers. Their mothers never did anything to care for them much less show them the love of God. But that doesn’t mean God has declared them unworthy of blessing. Their blessings are just different.
Maybe God gave them a neighbor, a friend’s parent, or an older sibling to mother them. Maybe it was a teacher who took special interest in them. Often, grandmothers step in where mothers fail and teach the children right from wrong. If you’ve had any of these people in your life, they are the mother of your heart and you are the child of their heart. That love can be as fierce and protective and giving and encouraging as the love for a child born of blood. I know. I have a child of my heart in addition to children by blood. She is my daughter, and no amount of missing DNA will ever change that. These women are a blessing in your life. Take the time to thank them for that.
But maybe you haven’t even had that. If you haven’t, I am sorry. I don’t have a good explanation for why it happened like that for you other than the fact that we live in a messed up, sinful world. But know this; you are still blessed by God. He has not called you unworthy. You are loved, though you may not have felt it from a mother or mother figure. I pray that God will heal your hurt and teach you how to be a godly person. I pray that if He hasn’t yet, He will send someone into your life to show you His love. And I pray that you will allow Him to use even this disappointment and hurt from your life to grow you into the type of person who can go out and be His blessing for someone else.
By the Book: Who and what are the blessings God has given you? As you celebrate tomorrow, take time to pray for those in your life who may struggle with feeling less than blessed. Ask God to show you how you can be the blessing for others.

Less Than Blessed on Mother’s Day

momAs I think about all the books I’ve read, one book immediately comes to mind when I think of moms. In the Rush of Wings series by Kristen Heitzmann, there is a secondary character who is the matriarch of her family. She’s everything a mother should be though certainly not perfect. She raises her children to love God, she prays for them, and she is protective of them. Celia teaches her children to work hard, value life, and love others. She is a shining example of what a Christian mother should be.

But there are other women that stand out as mothers without having given birth. In A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White, Rosemary has no children. Being an orphan herself, she’s not even had an example of what a mother should be since she was a small child. Yet when as an adult she finds herself in a makeshift family of orphans, Rosemary becomes like a mother to the younger ones. She cares for them and tries to teach them how to survive on the streets. Though her lessons are often how to get by with the illegal without getting caught, she is attempting to protect the children in the only way she knows how. And she does care for them. She would like to see the children have chances she never did. Everything she does is for the good of the family and the provision of food and shelter for the young ones in her care. Though they consider each other siblings, she acts as a loving mother to children who are of absolutely no relation to her.

It’s a better deal than Tess Spencer got in Guilt By Association by Heather Day Gilbert. Her mother was a drug dealer who ended up in prison. The life Tess remembers with her mother was one of lack and neglect. It’s left her with emotional scars. But even though her relationship with her mother is in desperate need of forgiveness and reconciliation, Tess isn’t without a woman in her life to help show her how to be the mother God intends her to be. Throughout the story, we’re shown that her mother-in-law has become the godly example her own mother never was. The relationship between them is full of encouragement, support, and love. Tess has been blessed.

And as I think about Mother’s Day tomorrow, I think knowing we’re blessed should be the main point. There are a lot of situations out there. There are women with healthy, happy children. There are those who have children but have suffered the loss of children as well. Many have had a child only to lose it later on. And there are those who have never been able to conceive though they desperately want to.

Children are a blessing. Scripture talks about it often enough. But that doesn’t mean those who haven’t yet had or may never have children are not equally blessed. God hasn’t looked at their lives and determined they are not good enough to be blessed. Children are simply one blessing from God. There are many other blessings God chooses to give. One blessing is not better than another. They are just different.

For the one who desires children they may never have and the one who has lost a child, my heart goes out to you. My own family has known the loss of one that was desperately wanted and would have been fiercely loved. Now, the baby we never got to meet is missed and still fiercely loved. And it’s that love that makes days like tomorrow hard for some. But, and I do not say this lightly, God has not overlooked you in the blessing department.  Yours may not be the ones you wanted, but you are still blessed. You are still loved. I pray He heals your hurt.

Having a godly mother is another blessing in this life. Just read about Timothy’s mother and grandmother, Lois and Eunice, in scripture. The way scripture speaks of their influence in Timothy’s life shows the impact a godly mother can have. Proverbs 31 is dedicated to highlighting the attributes of a godly woman, and caring for her children is included in the verses. If your mother was a godly example to you growing up, you are blessed. Thank her for that.

But if you didn’t, God has not forgotten you either. There are many in the world today that have known pain, neglect, disappointment, and abandonment at the hands of their biological mothers. Their mothers never did anything to care for them much less show them the love of God. But that doesn’t mean God has declared them unworthy of blessing. Their blessings are just different.

Maybe God gave them a neighbor, a friend’s parent, or an older sibling to mother them. Maybe it was a teacher who took special interest in them. Often, grandmothers step in where mothers fail and teach the children right from wrong. If you’ve had any of these people in your life, they are the mother of your heart and you are the child of their heart. That love can be as fierce and protective and giving and encouraging as the love for a child born of blood. I know. I have a child of my heart in addition to children by blood. She is my daughter, and no amount of missing DNA will ever change that. These women are a blessing in your life. Take the time to thank them for that.

But maybe you haven’t even had that. If you haven’t, I am sorry. I don’t have a good explanation for why it happened like that for you other than the fact that we live in a messed up, sinful world. But know this; you are still blessed by God. He has not called you unworthy. You are loved, though you may not have felt it from a mother or mother figure. I pray that God will heal your hurt and teach you how to be a godly person. I pray that if He hasn’t yet, He will send someone into your life to show you His love. And I pray that you will allow Him to use even this disappointment and hurt from your life to grow you into the type of person who can go out and be His blessing for someone else.

By the Book: Who and what are the blessings God has given you? As you celebrate tomorrow, take time to pray for those in your life who may struggle with feeling less than blessed. Ask God to show you how you can be the blessing for others.

MCM: Heroes and Villains Edition

Usually on Main Character Monday I feature the main protagonist, the hero, from one of the books I’ve reviewed. We love our main characters. They give us something to aspire to. They remind us of us. We connect to their stories, and we are firmly in their corners. We learn with them, hurt with them, and laugh with them. Their lives, the growth they go through during the time of the story, encourage and challenge us in our own lives.

But what would a main character be without their antagonist, their villain? These are the characters created to receive our dislike. They are the ones challenging the characters we love. Sometimes they act in deplorable ways. Even the less vile ones exhibit characteristics that simply rub us the wrong way. Their methods, their driving forces, are not things we aspire to. We don’t want to see ourselves in these characters. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t as necessary to the story, and it doesn’t mean there aren’t lessons we can take from them as well.

Often, the antagonist of a story isn’t what you would term a true villain. They aren’t pure evil. They aren’t psychopaths. These certainly exist in stories, but what about the others? Some of the most strongly written antagonists have stories that are just as compelling as their heroic counterparts. They are stories of hurt, pain, disillusionment, disappointment, and torment that twist the hearts and minds of the antagonist.

Kristen Heitzmann is an expert at creating this type of character. Her antagonists are so complex that to use them as an example would give away too much of the stories she’s written. I found only one of these characters that I feel I can share anything about in the novel The Edge of Recall. He is a young man with a more than troubled past. Hidden since childhood from a world that is less than understanding and far from kind, Donny knows to survive he has to stay invisible. However, when developers threaten to unearth the only home, the only safe place he has ever known, Donny realizes the only way to protect himself is to get rid of them. Donny has spent years honing the skills he needs to survive, including breaking into houses and stealing what he needs. He puts these skills to use as he terrorizes those he believes wants to rip his home away from him.

Donny is far from being the only antagonist in the story, but his part in the novel is equally terrible and heartbreaking. He does some horrible things in his attempts to keep himself safe. And we realize actions have consequences no matter their motivation. But at the same time, Heitzmann gives us a clear picture of the pain that molded him into the man he became. This is where we find our challenge.

Donny didn’t set out to be the bad guy. People rarely do. Hurt and fear can push people to things they never would have imagined possible. Again, I don’t say that as an excuse to justify wrong actions. There are plenty of people that find something to hold onto, to encourage them to rise above the sad tales of their pasts. Even for those who don’t there is still accountability. But there is a level of accountability for believers as well.

Scripture tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. The New Testament tells us in many different ways to bear with each other in patience and love. Our battle cry when we are faced with the topics of abortion or euthanasia is “God made us all. We’re all loved by Him. We all have a purpose and deserve a chance at life.” It may be right, but what about when we’re faced with someone different than us? Do we cringe and pass to the other side of the street when we see the literally dirty, smelly old man coming? Do we make a moment’s stilted conversation and excuse ourselves as quickly as possible when we come in contact with someone who has a mental challenge, physical defect, or is just plain socially awkward? What about that annoying person who always seems to want to be around us? How do we treat him?

How many have suffered mentally and emotionally at our own hands because we were too uncomfortable to deal with them in love and patience? How many have internalized the pain and poured it out on others, when a simple act of kindness could have given them something to hold onto, could have given them hope? Please understand, I am not saying we are responsible for their actions. Everyone has choices. But we are responsible for our actions, and those actions can cut deeper than we realize.

James 1:27 gives us the definition of pure religion according to God. In addition to living a life that is undefiled, he says it is “to visit widows and orphans in their distress”. How often are we guilty of brushing off the cranky old widow or needy little kid? Of looking only at our own needs and the needs of those in our immediate circle? Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” When we as believers start doing justly and loving mercy, when we act in patience and in love, we can become God’s hope for someone who’s hurting. We can’t make them choose the hero’s life over the villain’s life, but we can show them there is a better way. Isn’t it time we did our part to ease and heal the hurts of those God has brought into our lives?

Lining It Up

Lines are everywhere. We stand in checkout lines. I don’t like those. There are lines people shouldn’t cross but do. Not a fan of those either. Laugh lines sound good, until you realize it’s a fancy word for wrinkles. Then, not so much. But not all lines are bad. Some are enjoyable.

Movie lines are quoted. “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” (Ok, that one’s quoted a lot, but is there ever a situation where it actually fits? I don’t think so.) There are pick-up lines. Most are cheesy, but they can provide a little laughter when they aren’t directed at you. Personally, I don’t think there is anything better than a great first line to a book that draws you in immediately.

“Devin Bressard scarcely blinked when Grace tossed her sweet tea in his face.” That’s how Kristen Heitzmann’s book, Told You So, begins. It sets the stage for author Grace Evangeline, the story’s larger than life main character. It also clues fans of Heitzmann’s books into the fact that this story is a departure from her usual tone and style. At first, it seems like Grace is a bit of fluff. The predicaments she finds herself in are of her own making. She seems like a living caricature of her characters. But there is more to Grace than that, as Devin soon finds. As the story progresses and their relationship grows, readers find unexpected depth and realness in the characters and the story. We are left with the understanding that even for believers, life is messy and hard. We make mistakes, but God can take our failures and redeem them for His glory. And it all starts with a great first line.

I love a well-written first line, but stories also have a final line. Our life stories are no different, and the line at the end of our lives is important. Consider the kings of the Old Testament. At the end of their reigns, there is a line. A lot end with the decree “he did evil in the sight of the Lord”. But there are those who lived in ways that allowed the writer to say, “he did right in the sight of the Lord all his days”. We know they failed. Even David, a man who’s epithet is that he is a man after God’s own heart, failed miserably. But their hearts were loyal to God. Their desires were to be men of God. This allowed their final lines to focus on the fact that they did right in God’s sight.

We have only one story. It will take many twists and turns. We will make mistakes and sin, but that doesn’t have to define our lives. Hopefully, our faith continues to grow and develop. Every moment can teach us how to be people who will be remembered for doing right in the sight of the Lord all our days.

I want to hear “well done, good and faithful servant”. But when people look at my life, what will they see? Will they see someone who loved God with all her heart, mind and soul? Will they see someone who lived the command to love my neighbors as myself? I hope so. What about you? What do you want your life’s final line to say?

By the Book: Think about the things you want people to remember about you. Is your life showing these things? Do people see God through you? Write out a prayer asking God to show you how to be the type of person who does right in His sight.

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