faith, Family Fun & Fitness

30 Days of Forgiveness: Freedom from Hatred

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

(Colossians 3:13, NIV)

Samereh Alinejad lives in Iran. Her eighteen-year-old son was stabbed to death when he got into a street fight. She’d already lost one son, and losing another only added to her heartbreak.

Her son’s killer, Balal, spent seven years in prison, awaiting his death sentence. But, as the time for his execution drew near, Samereh said her son appeared to her in a dream, begging her to forgive his killer.

When family came to visit in the days before the execution, no one pressured Samereh to forgive. They showed up to offer support and condolences. Still, Samereh couldn’t sleep that night.

The next day, she showed up at the gallows with her husband. She watched as a noose was placed around Balal’s neck. This was the moment she had waited for, the one that she’d thought would bring her peace.

Instead, she found herself calling out to free the young man. The anger and hate she’d been holding vanished, and for the first time in years she felt free. 

Balal’s mom had also been present at the execution scene. When she saw the display of mercy, she knelt to kiss Samereh’s feet in gratitude. But Samereh lifted the woman up and embraced her, the two mothers united in the middle of their shared pain.

God, forgiveness is a struggle. But I want to show mercy and kindness to those who have hurt me. Give me the strength to release this burden and live free. In the name of Jesus the Messiah, I pray. Amen.

If you liked this story, you might also like the sweet second chance romance novella Believe in Me, by Mishael Austin Witty. Available now on Kindle for only 99 cents!

faith, Family Fun & Fitness

30 Days of Forgiveness in June: A Heavy Load

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”

(Matthew 5:23-24, NIV)

A seminary professor had a habit of starting each new semester the same way. He would pass out a bag to each of his students. At the front of the room, he had a large bin filled with hundreds of baseballs.

He would invite all of his students to come to the front of the classroom. Then he would hand out markers. He instructed each student to write down every wrong they’d ever suffered. 

When they were finished writing, they would put the baseball into their bag. After they were finished, the professor looked at the class. “Now, I want you to carry these bags everywhere you go until our next class. You take them everywhere, from your dorm to the cafeteria to your job. Keep it with you always.”

A week later, many of his students arrived with their bags. The professor pointed to a young man in the first row. “Tell us about your week…how do you feel?”

The young man sighed. “Tired. Lugging that thing around was exhausting. My neck ached from it.”

The professor nodded. “That heavy bag represents unforgiveness. Every time you hold onto a wrong, you add weight to your bag, and it’s a weight that God didn’t intend for you to carry.”

God, help me to put down the load I’ve been carrying. I don’t want to hold onto unforgiveness. Show me how to release this burden, so I can walk in freedom and healing. In the name of Jesus the Messiah, I pray. Amen.

If you enjoyed this post, I’d like to invite you to join my free private Facebook group where mothers can connect for support and encouragement in the Lord.

If you liked this story, you might also like the sweet second chance romance novella Believe in Me, by Mishael Austin Witty. Available now on Kindle for only 99 cents!

faith, Family Fun & Fitness

30 Days of Forgiveness in June: Building Bridges

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” –

(Psalm 133:1, NIV)

James and his brother William were close friends growing up. Whatever one did, the other was sure to follow. Their mother sometimes joked that the boys were actually twins she’d had two years apart.

When the brothers grew up, they decided to become farmers. They bought hundreds of acres and started planting their crops. They shared their tools and knowledge with each other freely. When one succeeded, he was quick to help the other.

Then one afternoon, a fight broke out between William’s hired hands and James’ helpers. Both were so convinced the other was wrong that they let their sweet bond sour. As the years passed, they both kept to their own farms.

When a handyman appeared at William’s farm begging for work, William brought him outside. He pointed to a muddy area. “A stream used to run through both our lands to water our livestock, but my brother has built a dam. It waters only his acreage now.” 

Then William showed the handyman a grove of trees and bushes. “I want you to make a fence there,” he explained. “Build a big privacy fence, so my brother will forever be a stranger to me.”

The handyman agreed, and William brought the man all the tools and lumber he would need. He left to go handle more business on his farm and finally returned that evening. 

He stopped in his tracks as soon as he saw the handyman’s work. Instead of a fence, there was a beautiful bridge. The work was intricate, and the details were breathtaking.

Before he could ask the handyman about it, William saw James running across the bridge. “You built a bridge to welcome me back! What a special day this is!” 

When someone hurts you, it’s natural to want to shut them out. But instead of ignoring them or sending them away, look to restore fellowship with your friend or loved one.

God, let me be a bridge builder, not a fence builder. Let me be quick to forgive others and warmly welcome them back into fellowship. In the name of Jesus the Messiah, I pray. Amen.

If you enjoyed this post, I’d like to invite you to join my free private Facebook group where m

If you liked this story, you might also like the sweet second chance romance novella Believe in Me, by Mishael Austin Witty. Available now on Kindle for only 99 cents!

Family Fun & Fitness

30 Days of Forgiveness in June: Love Is Kind

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”

(1 Corinthians 13:4, NIV)

Ellie lived with her grandmother, who regularly criticized her from the time she was small. 

“Nana always seemed to have a list of reasons why things didn’t work out for me. In junior high, she told me I didn’t make the cheerleading team because I wasn’t pretty enough. In high school, she said no one asked me to prom because I was too fat.” 

Ellie spent years accepting her grandmother’s painful words. Like many kids and teenagers, she simply believed that when an adult tells you something, it must be the truth. She never thought to question it.

Then she shared with a college friend the painful things her grandmother would say during their daily phone calls.  

“I still remember his face when I told him about it. He turned to look at me, and there was such compassion in his eyes. He said, ‘That’s abuse. Love is kind, Ellie, and you deserve love.’” 

For Ellie, it was the first time anyone had ever stood up for her. She’d never had that validation, and it made her think there could be people who loved her simply for being herself.

“I started working with a counselor not long after that. She helped me see myself as a precious child of God. It took years to work through all of the verbal abuse, but I eventually forgave my grandmother. I didn’t want to carry those wounds with me for the rest of my life.”

God, when the people in my life aren’t kind, help me to remember that You speak love over me. Let me feel the warm embrace of Your love every day. In the name of Jesus the Messiah, I pray. Amen.

If you enjoyed this post, I’d like to invite you to join my free private Facebook group where mothers can connect for support and encouragement in the Lord.

If you liked this story, you might also like the sweet second chance romance novella Believe in Me, by Mishael Austin Witty. Available now on Kindle for only 99 cents!

Family Fun & Fitness

30 Days of Forgiveness: Choose Compassion

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

(Ephesians 4:32, NIV)

Andy lived in a small farming community in Idaho. When he was fifteen, he took a gun to school. He showed it off to his friends, who crowded around him at the lunch table.

While he was handling the gun, Andy accidentally discharged the weapon. Another student, seventeen-year-old Larry, was shot. Paramedics were called, and Larry was taken to a local hospital.

After several days, Larry woke up to the news that he was paralyzed. Overnight, his baseball scholarships had disappeared, and his girlfriend dumped him. But he couldn’t stop thinking about Andy.

“I know most people would think I hated him. But I didn’t. All I could think about was my younger brother. He’s done some dumb stuff, and I couldn’t imagine how he’d feel if he seriously hurt somebody.”

When Andy was brought to trial, Larry was there. He testified on the other boy’s behalf and begged the jury to show mercy. “He’s already changed my life forever….he knows that, and I know it. I don’t want his life to be messed up, too.” Larry explained.

Because of Larry’s compassion, Andy was sentenced to only a year in a juvenile detention center, with a few years of probation following.

Just like Larry forgave Andy and showed him mercy when he didn’t deserve it, God does that for us … every time when He sin against Him … if only we ask (see 1 John 1:9). And, because of that, we are called to show that same kind of forgiveness and mercy to others.

God, thank You for loving and forgiving me. When someone else’s decisions impact my life, let me be forgiving and gracious. Not because of me and what I want, but because of Jesus and the forgiveness He’s granted me. In the name of Jesus the Messiah, I pray. Amen.

If you liked this story, you might also like the sweet second chance romance novella Believe in Me, by Mishael Austin Witty. Available now on Kindle for only 99 cents!

General Book Stuff, Writing

Some Questions and Answers About BELIEVE IN ME

some questions and answers about believe in me

I recently received a Facebook message from a reader about my second chance Christmas romance novella, BELIEVE IN ME. I thought the questions and answers might be of interest to other readers – or potential readers – so I wanted to include them in a blog post.

Now, I’m reintroducing you to BELIEVE IN ME.

Believe in Me by Mishael Austin Witty

Q: I’m still confused as to why Walt kissed Trina’s sister back if he had no feelings for her? 

A: Walt kissed Trina’s sister because he was scared and confused about their relationship at the time. Insecurity…and she kind of caught him unawares.

Q: Why did her sister not attempt to get through to Trina more? Why did she really kiss Walt?

Trina’s sister kissed Walt because of sibling rivalry/jealousy gone really, really wrong. She wanted what Trina had – that true, real commitment. She just made a mistake in thinking she could get that with Walt herself. As to why she didn’t try to get through to Trina more… Trina wouldn’t take her calls and basically shut her out. Also, she felt guilty for what she had done, and you don’t usually make a major effort to contact someone if you feel guilty for hurting them – at least not until you come to a point where you’re ready to restore the relationship with them and sense that they won’t totally reject you.

Q: Why was her family not more angry about the situation?

Now, regarding her family… they were upset about it at first, but Tammy’s their daughter too. They wanted to forgive her, and they didn’t have nearly as much trouble with it as Trina did. Also, they knew Walt was sincere in his love for Trina, so they wanted to help them try to make it all work out so they could get back together.

This led to some followup questions and answers.

Q: But if Walt felt nothing for the sister why would he return the kiss, and he know Trina loved him and that this would be unforgivable? If Trina had not caught them would it have gone further? 

Walt wasn’t sure of Trina’s love at that point, and people who feel unloved do weird things.

[I didn’t answer the second part of that question in my message because I wanted to focus on the remaining questions and answers. But, FTR, I do not think it would have gone further. I’m pretty sure Walt would have stopped it. In fact, he did push Tammy away. Trina just didn’t see him do it.]

Q: I just had no sympathy for Trina’s sister. If you love your sister you do not betray them that way. I disagree to an extent as well. When I feel guilty, even though I feel ashamed, if I really love someone I would try to get through to them. To be honest, I don’t know if Trina should have forgiven both of them.

Different people react to situations in different ways. And damaged people react out of their brokenness. Hurt begets hurt, but there is hope once you’re able to see past the hurt.

Q: Should Trina’s parents not have been more annoyed that Trina and Walt caused such pain in the family? Should they not have been wary of trusting Walt with their daughter’s heart after the betrayal?

I believe anyone can be forgiven for anything. That’s what I hoped to bring out in the story. One of my favorite quotes is this:

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

~Lewis B Smedes~

Unforgiveness doesn’t do anything to hurt the person who hurt you, but it does a lot to hurt you inside. Seeds of bitterness get sown, take root, and sprout into a nasty weed that chokes out everything good in your life.

I wanted BELIEVE IN ME to be a story about love, forgiveness, and freedom… not bondage to hatred and bitterness. That’s why I had my characters work everything out the way they did.

I really love hearing from readers, and I’m so glad that reader took the time out to express what was on her heart and mind. If always welcome interactions with readers.

If you read one of my books and have questions or comments, feel free to reach out to me. I can’t promise, though, that it won’t inspire a blog post – especially if I feel it might benefit other readers.

Book Reviews, General Book Stuff, Writing

BELIEVE IN ME: The Story Behind the Story

In recent weeks, following the amazing free Kindle download days for BELIEVE IN ME (June 1 and 2, 2013), I’ve gotten several new reviews on it, including two one-star reviews from people who seemed to not really get what I was trying to do with the story. I thought the story description – especially the tagline – said it all: Reconciliations can occur. Broken hearts can be mended. If you believe. But maybe I was wrong.

 

BELIEVE IN ME is, at its core, a story of RECONCILIATION. The dictionary definition of “reconciliation” is “the condition of being reconciled”…which is not very helpful unless you understand what “to reconcile” means. The Merriam-Webster definition is this: “to restore to friendship or harmony”.

 

Why would a friendship (or, in this case, a marriage) need to be restored? Because something’s broken. Something destroyed it, and now it needs to be repaired…or else abandoned altogether. People in today’s society are often way too eager to abandon a marriage (or, indeed, most ANY relationship) when it ceases to “work” for them.

 

The fact is that people are imperfect. Everyone makes mistakes. And when you put two imperfect people together in a close relationship like marriage, you’re going to have problems. Ultimately, it’s how you deal with those problems that dictates the success (or failure) of your marriage. You have to be completely committed to each other – and to the relationship – no matter what the personal cost.

 

Here’s what one of the one-star reviewers said (in part), “Everybody is basically self-centered and doesn’t do anything with any common sense. If my mother sided with my husband and sister and treated me like I was the bad guy, why would I go to her house for Christmas? Didn’t take too long to read but I stuck with it hoping for someone in the family to come to their senses; didn’t happen”.

 

I mean, maybe I didn’t do a good job (as the author) of explaining the obligation. In the opening scene, Trina didn’t want to go to her mother’s house, and she certainly didn’t want to meet with her sister. But she felt a certain sense of duty that pulled her into that situation. The family relationships were more important to Trina than her own desires…so I find it particularly interesting that this reviewer thought every character was being self-centered.

 

The other one-star review? I seemed to really touch a nerve with this person. “I am so pissed at this family that I am trying to see where the sweet romance is going to come in. Unlike Steve Harvey, I believe once a cheater always a cheater. Besides, the mother sets her up, has her drive 5 hrs for Christmas without telling her the soon to be ex-husband is also staying for the holidays! REALLY, you would do that to your own kid? That would be one ex-mother for me!” An ex-mother? Once a cheater, always a cheater? Seems like this person really doesn’t understand the meaning of the word forgiveness.

 

And that’s what BELIEVE IN ME really is. It’s a story of love – real, sacrificial love – and forgiveness. It’s a tale that shows the magic that occurs when two people realize that they both played a part in making a bad situation worse, but they can both change their attitudes and turn things around to make it right again.

 

This book is a romance story, but it’s not a romance in the traditional sense of the word. There’s very little sex (really, none at all), but there is a happy ending. Sort of like a fairy tale with no real heroes/heroines and a very Christian message (even though there is some mention of adultery and premarital sex – big “no no’s” in the Christian market).

 

As the author, I can honestly say that it hurts that these two individuals didn’t like the story, but I loved the fact that they hated it enough to share their thoughts on it. At least I elicited some emotion from them. Still, I can’t help wondering if I failed in some way by not getting the true message of the story across in a more completely.

 

Now that you know the story behind (and the true theme of) the story, maybe you’d like to view some excerpts of BELIEVE IN ME. Those can be viewed by clicking here. Thanks for reading, and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Just leave me a comment (or a review on Amazon, if you’ve already read the book).

Mishael Austin Witty