Sometimes my heart and mouth get ahead of my brain. And sometimes what I thought was a great thing, a God-thing, leaves me scratching my head. And hitting my knees. Fast.
As I was writing my novel, When Dawn Breaks, I thought of one situation in particular, one where I encountered a mother similar, in many ways, to the one my heroine, Jacqueline Dunn encountered.
It was the spring of 2002. I was a new mom with a passion to change the world. Young and overwhelmed with the whole parenting thing, I joined a women’s Bible study. We met to discuss Scripture, parenting ideas and problems, and what God’s Word had to say on those matters. We shared out fears and our tears, along with steady doses of hugs and chocolate.
One morning, a new woman joined our group. She seemed so quiet, so meek, so… vulnerable. Broken. You see, her husband had left her and their three young boys, all under the age of six. Worse, she had no job and nowhere to go. Images of these precious children sleeping in her car rushed to my mind, expelling the words that rose from my heart before they had a chance to swirl through my brain. “You can stay with me.”
Most women talk with their husband before opening their home to a stranger. And I’m pretty sure, most Christian couples pray about such a thing.
Yeah, I did neither.
Long story short, the month that followed was one of the most difficult I’ve experienced in some time. The woman was abusive, filling our once peaceful home with screaming, shrieking, and hateful words no mother should ever say to her children. Worse, raised in abuse, her kids were equally violent, pounding each other with brooms, toys, whatever they could find. I did what I could to create positive change, but I felt like my words and prayers fell on deaf, hardened ears. Worse, I began to realize how incredibly harmful the environment was for our daughter.
Needless to say, by week two, I was spent and broken. And I mean broken. You can’t watch a mother destroy her children without having a part of your heart shattered.
I cried out to God, “Help me! Show me what to do.”
That day, I received a card from one of the women in our Bible study. In the card, she’d written a verse: “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31 NIV).
Those were the exact words I needed, and they did give me strength. And hope. With a simple card, this sweet woman who knew nothing of what I’d been enduring, raised my spirits and centered me in Christ, the only place where I could withstand the storm.
A card she might have put off writing, or maybe considered not writing at all. Because she took the time, I received the clear message from God, “I see you, I’m with you, and I’ll carry you through.” And that was enough.
Friends can offer such much-needed support. When facing seemingly insurmountable challenges, Jacqueline received strength and encouragement from a longtime bestie who lived far away and from a newly-made friend in Willow Valley. These women kept her grounded and continually pointed her to Christ, the only One truly able to help her navigate the confusing situations she found herself in.
Deep, authentic friendships are such gifts. Can you share a time when someone reached out to you at a time when you desperately needed encouragement?
A hurricane forces Jacqueline to evacuate, and her need for purpose and restitution propel her north to her estranged and embittered daughter and into the arms of a handsome new friend. However, he’s dealing with issues of his own, including a potential conspiracy at work that could cost him everything, and Jacqueline’s not sure she’ll be able to lean on him in the difficult days ahead. Then there are the three orphans to consider, especially Gavin. Must she relinquish her chance at having love to find restitution and embrace her purpose?
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Jennifer Slattery writes for New Hope Publishers contemporary fiction line; Christian living articles for Crosswalk.com; devotions for Internet Café Devotions, the group blog, Faith-filled Friends and her personal blog JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. She also does content editing for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas Firefly Imprint. When not writing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her teenage daughter and coffee dates with her handsome railroader husband.
Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.