Restorations and Reconciliations: Stories of Finding God’s Love and Forgiveness

Everyone messes up from time to time, probably more often than we care to admit.  I try to make a joke at lunch and end up hurting someone’s feeling.  The prank you play on your friend goes awry and she winds up needing stitches.  I fail to give my full attention to driving and cause a fender bender. 

Mistakes make us feel foolish, and they cost us something.  We may have to humble ourselves and apologize or make restitution.  We may be assaulted with thoughts such as “I’m the world’s biggest idiot” and “How could I have been so stupid?”  However, we typically forgive ourselves for our blunders quickly and move on.  Unless…

Unless the mistake has larger consequences.  Unless the mistake results not in embarrassment or damage that is easily repaired, but rather in broken lives and broken relationships.  Such as the mistake Karen Harper made. 

Restorations is the story of Karen Harper’s journey to find forgiveness and a second chance at love after turning her back on God and damaging her most important relationships.  It’s been two years since her husband’s death. Karen knows that he would still be alive if she hadn’t…well it’s just too painful to think about.  Karen knew her actions were wrong but she never imagined the pain they would cause.  Hoping to escape her past, Karen moves to Fredericksburg with her three sons.

She has a new job that she loves and she’s dating Kevin, a man she met on the Internet.  Although Karen thinks Kevin may be “the one,” her oldest son, Trevor, hates him.  Of course, Trevor hates everything these days and he barely speaks to Karen.  He blames her for everything that’s wrong in his life.

When the nightmares start, she realizes she will have to deal with her past and forgive herself for her mistakes before she can hope to move forward with her life.  As Karen allows God back into her life, she finds the forgiveness she desperately needs.  Then God begins the work of restoring the broken relationships in her life.

In contrast to Karen Harper, Kevin Peterson hasn’t made any big mistakes in his life.  He knows he’s not perfect, but by almost anyone’s standards, he’s a pretty good guy. He’s an honest car salesman, a loving son, and a loyal friend.  Kevin is doing just fine without religion or God in his life.

In Reconciliations, God shakes up Kevin’s life to show him his need for a Savior.  Kevin has to learn that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” and that no one can ever be “good enough” on their own.

Kevin’s life is going along pretty well except that he’s been unlucky in love.  Christine, his ex-wife, left him three years ago after he caught her with another man in his bed.  He dated Karen Harper for a while until she got religious.  Religion might have helped Karen deal with her past, but Kevin wanted no part of it.  He’s glad to have both women out of his life.

With a single phone call, God brings both women back into Kevin’s life.  This is more than Kevin can handle.  He needs help. It arrives in the form of Pastor Mark Vinson.  As Kevin spends time with Mark, and members of his congregation, he begins to see himself in a new light.  And he doesn’t like what he sees. 

When Kevin admits that he, too, is a sinner, he is finally ready to be reconciled with God.

Karen and Kevin acknowledged their errors and confessed them to God, and they accepted His forgiveness of their sins.  When they did, they found peace and hope.

You’ve made mistakes, too.  We all have.  Perhaps, like Kevin, you’ve been able to brush your mistakes aside and convince yourself that you are one of the good guys, but you know deep inside that you can never be good enough.  Or maybe, like Karen, you cannot escape your mistakes; they haunt you day by day and make you feel worthless.

It doesn’t have to be like this. You don’t have to ignore your mistakes or be troubled by them. Remember there is hope.  You have another option.  You can confess your sins to God and accept His forgiveness.  Then you, too, can have true peace and the hope that God has great plans for your life.

A Sudden Goodbye

Upon my arrival at work on Wednesday, I was informed that a coworker, Larry, had died during the night.  I was stunned!  I spoke with Larry on Tuesday and nothing seemed to be amiss.  He was smiling and friendly, as he always.  Yet Larry, at 54 years of age, had suffered a massive heart attack and passed away without any warning.

Larry was a “salt-of-the-earth” guy.  The kind of man the world could use more of.  Larry did everything with a smile.  In fact, Larry received an award in May entitled, “We couldn’t do it without you.”  His nominator wrote that Larry was “flexible support with a smile.” 

Outside of work, Larry was supportive and helpful to those around him.  He donated time to tutor at-risk children and volunteered with hospice.  He taught Sunday school and VBS at his church, where he also served as chairman of the deacon board.

I will miss seeing Larry’s smiling face at work each day and our frequent chats.  However, I take great comfort in knowing that Larry is in Heaven.  Larry did not make it to Heaven because he was a wonderful man, although he was.  And Larry isn’t in Heaven because he was kind to those in need or faithful in church attendance.  Rather, Larry is in Heaven because Jesus Christ loved Larry (and you and me) so much that He died on a wooden cross to pay the penalty for our sins.  Larry believed that and invited Jesus Christ into his heart.  Larry accepted Jesus’s free gift of salvation. This gift is available to all who will call on the name of Jesus.

When Larry left work on Tuesday evening, he had every intention of coming back to work Wednesday morning.  He was looking forward to many years left on earth.  I don’t think Larry had any thought that Tuesday would be his last day on earth.  Fortunately, Larry was prepared for death when it came. 

If today turns out to be your last day on earth, are you prepared to enter eternity?  If not, I urge you to accept Jesus’s free gift of salvation today.  None of us are promised tomorrow.

There’s Nothing Shallow About Having Standards

I just read Kat Richter’s blog “Are Standards Shallow?”  (After I Quit My Day Job) She was responding to being accused of “getting shallow” for refusing to date any man who is not taller than she is when she’s wearing heels.  Kat will probably miss out on dating some pretty terrific guys because of her preference for tall men.  That’s her loss, and it’s her choice.

Having standards is not shallow.  Physical attributes are not standards, however. They are merely preferences.  Any woman seeking a date or a husband needs to have standards.  When I was dating I had absolute standards—my line in the sand that I would not cross.  In my thirty-plus years of ministering to teen-age girls I have encouraged them to decide what their standards are before they begin dating.

For me the absolute most important standard was to date only godly Christian men.  Paul admonishes us in 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.” It was important that my future husband share my Christian beliefs and values.  I was not willing to risk falling in love with the wrong man, so I avoided dating non-believers.  I met my future husband in high school. I knew he was nice, but I didn’t know if he was a Christian until I saw him at my church one Sunday.  Of course, church attendance doesn’t equate to salvation, but seeing him at church gave me an opening to ask him about his beliefs.  My interest increased greatly as I realized how similar his beliefs were to my own.

Family values were next in importance.  I love children, and I wanted a man who also loves children.  As the second of nine children, my youngest siblings are considerably younger than me.  I was able to witness how a potential future husband would treat and respond to children simply by taking him home to meet my family.  From his first visit, Steve was comfortable with my younger siblings.  He spent many a Saturday afternoon taking them fishing in the summer and building snowmen in the winter. During our senior year of college, Steve and I took my four youngest siblings to a movie. They kids ranged from 10 to 18 years younger than us.  The next day one of his professors asked him about his children.  I guess he thought we got a very early start on our family.

Another standard was that a future husband prioritize family over income.  I can still vividly remember sitting in traffic on the Falmouth Bridge and Steve telling me that he wanted his future wife to stay home and raise their children. Those words were music to my ears.  Although I was in college and planned to continue my education afterward, I still desired greatly to be home with my children when they were young.  Steve added that being home when they were in high school was even more important. 

We were fortunate to be able to make that happen.  Steve worked hard, and I got to stay home. When the boys went to school, I went with them.  For the next thirteen years, they were either enrolled in a Christian school where I taught or I was home schooling them.  I cried on the twins’ last day of school (as seniors they finished up a few weeks earlier than the rest of the students) wondering how I would be able to come to school without them the next day.  I am so thankful for the time I had with my boys.

Beyond those three standards, everything else was icing on the cake. It didn’t hurt that Steve is tall—a full 9 inches taller than me—and very handsome.  But, I would have loved him no matter what he looked like. 

I maintained my standards and married the love of my life.  And there’s nothing shallow about that.

In Celebration of Kristi

Yesterday I learned that Kristi DeVore Shores’ life on earth had ended. I was saddened by the news that this beautiful, vibrant thirty-nine year old woman had lost her brief battle with stomach cancer.  She was diagnosed with the illness less than three months ago.  As she fought her brave battle, family members and friends interceded with God on her behalf.  On Tuesday God healed Kristi.  It was not the healing we had hoped for, yet it was an answer to our prayers.  When Kristi’s eyes closed, her soul was transported into the presence of her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

My heart aches for the family she left behind:  her loving husband Ryan who dreamed of growing old with her, three precious children who are young enough to need a mother’s daily care, godly parents who set a wonderful example for their children in their marriage and their daily walk with Christ, and three siblings who have stayed close despite busy lives of their own.  From their Facebook posts, I know the family members are sad, but they are also happy that Kristi is pain-free and they are secure in the knowledge that they will see Kristi again when their time on Earth comes to an end.

There are hundreds of posts on Kristi’s Facebook page and web site.  Some friends share the many ways Kristi touched their lives, while others tell funny stories about her.  Most offer words of condolences to her family.  All loved her and were better off for having known her.

Those of us who knew Kristi have perfect assurance that Kristi is in Heaven.  Kristi is not in Heaven because she was kind or loving.  She didn’t earn her way into Heaven through generosity or good works.  She isn’t there because she was a loving wife, a caring mother, a dutiful daughter, and a precious sister.  Kristi was all those things and many more.  Yet, Kristi knew that she could never be good enough to get to Heaven on her own. Many years ago Kristi acknowledged what is true of all of us, that she was a sinner in need of a Savior.  Kristi believed that Jesus Christ died for her sins and she confessed Him as her Lord and Savior. And because she did, she is spending eternity in Heaven.

Perhaps you’ve been told that there are many roads to Heaven.  It sounds nice and many people believe that.  However, God’s Word teaches us that Jesus is the only way.  “There is no other name under Heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12.

Where will you spend eternity?  If you haven’t accepted Jesus’ free gift of salvation, I urge you to do so today.  The rest of your life on Earth will be better, and you will receive the promise of an eternity in Heaven.

Hopes for the New Year and Blessings of the Old One

Last night I watched on television the New Year’s celebration in Times Square.  It struck me as odd that we get so excited about what is essentially just another day.  When you think about it, it’s a bit crazy for grownups to gather in the streets on a cold winter’s night to watch a ball drop.  Of course, for many people, it’s simply an excuse to party.  For others of us, the New Year signals a new start.  It is fresh and unblemished; we are filled with hope that the coming year will be better than the one just ended. 

 In 2011, I hope and pray that the economy improves significantly, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan end, our troops come home and are reunited with their families, and the President and new Congress work together to find answers to the problems facing our nation. On a more personal note, I pray that my husband will find a job, preferably one that matches his skills and in which he finds fulfillment.

2010 was a rough year for our family as my husband’s period of joblessness extended to two years and his unemployment benefits were exhausted.  Despite those challenges, we were blessed in many ways.  I think it’s appropriate to begin the New Year by acknowledging some of the ways God blessed our family during the past year.

Our top ten blessings of 2010:  

  1. The birth of our grandson Daniel was the highlight of our year.  He is a delight and brings joy to our life.
  2. My first novel, Restorations, was finally published in October, three years after I finished it.  It took me 8 months to find a publisher, followed by 28 months of waiting for the book to be published.
  3. Our oldest child completed a Master’s Degree program in History at Villanova University. 
  4. In June, my husband and I took a Caribbean cruise.  The cruise was wonderfully relaxing. 
  5. A new, lasting friendship was formed on the cruise. A woman seated with us at dinner turned out to be the sister of one of our high school classmates.  We spent much of the week with her husband and her and found that we shared not only a common hometown but also a common faith. 
  6. I completed my second novel, Reconciliations, and started the third novel in my Restored Hearts series.
  7. All three of our sons are employed in jobs they enjoy.
  8. A new administrative assistant was hired for my office.  We had been without one for nearly two years due to a hiring freeze.  Our new co-worker has been a wonderful addition to the staff.
  9. Although there were no raises for state employees for the third year in a row, we did receive small Christmas bonuses. Mine went to pay for a root canal and crown.  I’m thankful God provided the money to pay for the necessary dental procedures.
  10. Despite my husband being unemployed, we ended the year with more savings and less debt than we started it with. 

We are truly thankful for the blessings God bestowed on our family in 2010. We look forward expectantly to 2011 knowing that God has great things planned for our family.

As you will look back on 2010, how has God blessed your family?