Stories of faith, life, and love

Tag: Second Chances

What I’m Reading: London Tides

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I’m Reading: Calm and Bright

We’ve all heard the phrase, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Though none of us can say who actually said it first (some say Will Rogers, Oscar Wilde, or an advertisement for a suit from the 1960s), we tend to be well acquainted with its meaning. We consider it as we choose clothes for a first date or job interview. We practice our presentation for the hundredth time even though we know it backwards and forwards. We do it because we know the importance of that first impression.

My DNA is made up of every possible hindrance to a good first impression. I’m an introvert who needs well defined parameters for social situations to function at my best. I’m the proud recipient of the unrefined grace gene rendering me incapable of getting through events without awkward moments of embarrassment. Add to those my tendency to answer questions off the cuff incorrectly. Someone tells me thanks for shopping at their store, and without missing a beat I say something like “you too”. And after any conversational train wreck, I, of course, spend hours thinking about what I could have done differently.

All this wonderfully embarrassing DNA leaves me uncomfortable in many situations, but it’s also taught me something the quote failed to do. I may not have a second chance to make a first impression, but I can redeem a first impression with what comes next.

Changing a first impression isn’t easy. Depending on the situation it can take dedication and hard work. For Brad Hughes, the male main character in Autumn Macarthur’s book Calm and Bright, it may even take a Christmas miracle.

Brad’s life changed after Maddie divorced him and returned to her small hometown in Idaho. When he’s invited to spend Christmas with Maddie for the sake of their four year old, he jumps at the chance. It may be his opportunity to change her mind about him and their marriage. But her impression of him and their time together is harder to overcome than he first imagines.

Even with a few good memories, a son they both love, and one of Maddie’s relatives in his corner, Brad realizes there are a lot of things separating them. He quickly learns the patterns of behavior he adopted during their marriage meant one thing to him and felt completely different to Maddie. Besides, Maddie seems to thrive in the small community she returned to while he has done well with big city life and the demands of a high profile job.

The impressions Brad left Maddie with when they divorced are ingrained in Maddie’s mind. They leave her questioning and fighting every good feeling Brad’s arrival tries to bring. Brad learns words are not enough to undo the past. He’s got to listen to Maddie and show her how much he’s changed if he hopes to turn her heart to him by the end of Christmas.

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