A couple weeks ago, I read a beautiful story from an author I’ve never read before. Lisa Wingate’s The Prayer Box captured the essence of a lifelong faith in one character (Iola Anne Poole) and the seedling of hope in another (Tandi Jo Reese). There were times I wanted to wring Tandi’s neck for the choices she was making. But other times I wanted to wrap her in a hug and tell her everything would turn out right in the end. And I’m pretty sure I would love hanging out with the Seashell Shop gals! All in all, Lisa crafted a charming story that seemed timeless and real. I didn’t want to set the book down to proofread another, and now that I\’ve finished both of those books, I’m already enjoying the next Wingate book on my list (which happens to be The Story Keeper; I’m sure a review of it will be appearing on Writing to Inspire soon).
In The Prayer Box, Tandi Jo Reese learns a thing or two about faith and family when she becomes responsible for cleaning out the large Victorian house of her recently deceased landlady, Iola Anne Poole. One day, while cleaning, Tandi discovers a closet full of mysterious boxes, but it’s what’s inside the boxes that holds the power to change her life … if she chooses to grab on to the opportunity. But her past has a stranglehold on her and threatens to keep her chained to the pages of the history she’d rather thrust aside. What will this struggling young mother decide to do: step toward an unknown future with a God she doesn’t understand or remain dependent on the bad habits she learned from her undependable mother?
When a book inspires me to ponder my spiritual life, I know it’s found a permanent spot on my bookshelf. The Prayer Box did just that.
One of my favorite lines in this book came in chapter seventeen. “The trouble with drowning in the mess of your own life is that you’re not in any shape to save anyone else.” It reminds me of the verse in the Bible that says (I’m paraphrasing) to take care of the plank in your own eye before attempting to remove the dust from your neighbor’s (Matthew 7:3-5).
Have you ever looked in the mirror and seen your mistakes staring back at you? I have. It’s not easy to admit when you’re wrong. Nor is it always simple to correct your mistakes. The way I approach this challenge is: Once I realize what my mistake is, I take it to God.
While on my knees, I pour out my heart at the foot of the cross. I admit my mistake, ask for forgiveness, and ask God to help me learn how to make better choices (or whatever it takes to fix the mistake or avoid it next time it tries to crop up).
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Do I hear back every time? Not always right away. And not always in the way I expect. But God is faithful to answer my prayers when I come to Him with a humble heart.
With God’s forgiveness washing me clean and a new determination to improve my character and fix the area(s) of my life that were messy with sin, I then thank God for His blessings and for helping me during the weak moments in which I make mistakes. From there, it’s about maintenance, the continuous work to improve my character (with God’s help and guidance, which sometimes comes in phases) and to upkeep my relationship with God.
Being part of God’s family means learning from your mistakes and trying your best every day. It means working at gaining characteristics that will be useful and pleasing to God in the work He has planned for you to accomplish. And then, of course, doing the work He sends you to do.
That’s my daily goal. What’s yours?
Readers, how has faith whispered into your life? How do you proactively seek it out? What book(s) have you read lately that got you thinking deeper about your spiritual life?
March 9 – Praying for Your Future Husband
March 16 – Be My Guest: Elizabeth Maddrey
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