Have you ever felt alone in your faith? Have you ever struggled with forgiveness, fear, grief or patience? Onward is a rallying cry for people who know or want to know Jesus. A walk of faith is a long, hard journey but the good news is that we aren’t alone in our struggles! In the twelve relatable, funny and sometimes painful stories in this book, the author shares how God has moved in her life, teaching her valuable lessons that have transformed the way she lives and ushered in a renewed sense of peace and joy.You will see your own faith journey reflected back at you and be reminded that though you may not always see it, God is working in your life as well. Onward will encourage and challenge you on your journey. You will laugh. You will cry. Maybe you’ll even get a little pep in your step as you continue onward in your faith.
Targeted Age Group:: 18+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
God has brought me from being a doubter to a daughter and along the way, He's taught me many lessons. I wanted to share those lessons with others so that they can feel encouraged as they walk in their own journeys of faith.
We have a pit bull named Cocoa, and she is an absolute joy. Cocoa loves to give kisses and will pledge her undying love to you in exchange for a butt scratch. Even though she has the pudgy figure of an overstuffed sausage, she can catch tennis balls midair and run at lightning speed.
Carter named her Cocoa because of her chocolate brown coloring. She also has a streak of white that runs down her forehead and gathers around her snout as if someone poured melted marshmallow over her face. She’s sweet but she has a stubborn streak and refuses to let us cut her nails.
Once, we tried taking her to a pet store for grooming. When I picked her up and paid the bill, the young woman at the counter handed me the receipt and asked me to never bring her back. She suggested we bring her to the vet instead on account of Cocoa being “out of control.”
I made an appointment for Cocoa at our vet, and they recommended mild relaxation medication to ease her nervousness. The doctor prescribed her the same anxiety meds I take, except her prescription was four times stronger! When I take a quarter of the dose, I find it hard to lift my eyelids and my feet feel like they are filled with wet sand, but after taking her meds, Cocoa fought me, a doctor, and three technicians at the same time.
After our battle, the doctor said, “We will need to put her under to cut her nails. This is the safest bet for everyone.” From then on, Cocoa received a regular mani-pedi under anesthesia. Every time I gave her leash over to the vet assistant, Cocoa looked back at me like I had handed her over for lethal injection.
Then one month, when I took her in for her spa treatment, we met Dr. Malek. Dr. Malek is a tall African man who speaks with a gentle, soothing accent. I shook his hand and introduced myself. We exchanged a few pleasantries, and then he gazed down and smiled at Cocoa. “And who is this?” He pointed downward at an unamused Cocoa. Doctor Malek stroked her head and ears and added a little butt scratch for good measure. She immediately fell in love with him.
“This is Cocoa.” I handed her a treat, and she inhaled it in half a second.
Dr. Malek rubbed antibacterial gel onto his hands. “What can I do for you ladies today?”
“She needs shots and her nails clipped. Her regular doctor always sedates her to do this kind of stuff because she can be, er, difficult.”
Dr. Malek tisked. “That is unnecessary. Nurse! Bring me a muzzle.”
Before I had the chance to explain Cocoa’s uncompromising ways, he placed the muzzle over her snout and lifted her onto the exam table. “But . . .” I whispered. He ignored me and gave his assistant orders to clip her nails as he held her down.
Cocoa lost her mind. She thrashed and foamed at the mouth. Her tenacity surprised Dr. Malek, but he persevered. Cocoa grunted and whined. He drew a sample for routine blood work and gave her booster shots. When she jerked, Dr. Malek shouted, “No! You’re not the boss, Missy!” I stood motionless except for the trembling in my hands. The whole event lasted less than two minutes. Then he plopped her onto the floor and removed the muzzle. “You’re an ornery one!” He reached down to pet her. Cocoa shook her body and wagged her tail as he scratched her butt again. She forgave him instantly.
I, on the other hand, had my doubts. Unsure of whether to be furious or thankful, I said nothing. Dr. Malek had manhandled my poor baby in what looked like an abusive way. He’d restrained her with great force and yelled at her. But Cocoa seemed fine, pleased with her butt rub. I stared at Dr. Malek with eyes the size of tire rims.
The doctor offered me his hand and said, “So wonderful to meet you. See you next time, Cocoa!” He waved at us as he walked out of the exam room. I couldn’t move. My brain swirled with a million thoughts, and I lost track of time. Cocoa barked at the door as if to say, “Let’s go, woman!”
I only owed thirty dollars instead of the usual hundred. Cocoa got to go home with me instead of being led away and caged for the day. When I opened the door, she jumped into the car, propped herself on the passenger side door, and stuck her head out the window. Her tongue hung from the side of her mouth the whole ride home.
Instead of two full days of grogginess and nausea, she played ball, ate a hearty dinner, and slept like a champ. What Dr. Malek did looked mean. But really, he did what was necessary for Cocoa to avoid the nasty side effects of medication. It was a great kindness.
It got me to thinking about the difference between niceness and kindness. I realized that kindness doesn’t always look the way I thought. Niceness tells us what we want to hear and makes us feel good. Nice words are like chocolate. They go down well and are comforting. But kind words don’t nourish us because often they are rooted in fear- of saying the wrong thing or of someone not liking us. In contrast, kindness is useful and life-giving. But it doesn’t go down without an effort. Kindness can be tough and chewy. It gets stuck between our teeth. Kindness shows mercy and empathy but may be disguised as brutality. We often fail to recognize it because our feelings get in the way.
So, what reflects God, niceness or kindness? I mistakenly thought that in order to be more like Jesus I needed to be nicer because I associated Him with nice things. After all, He is love. But can you imagine wanting to kill a nice guy?
And yet, people killed Jesus. You might say they killed Him despite His niceness, but what if that wasn’t the case? Perhaps they killed Him because He wasn’t a nice guy after all. If He were, chances are the Jews and the Romans wouldn’t have been so compelled to nail Him to a tree.
Most of us define a nice person as someone who treats others well, someone who cares about others’ thoughts and feelings. But the origin of the word means something much different.
The Latin root of the word nice means “ignorant” or “unaware.” Originally, people used it as a derogatory term to describe others as fools. Over time, the definition evolved. In the fourteenth century, the word morphed into meaning “persnickety” or “demanding.” Nowadays, dictionaries often define it as “pleasing” or “agreeable.” By definition, nice describes someone who is harmless, a people pleaser who doesn’t ruffle feathers.
A nice person doesn’t disagree much, and when they do, it’s complimentary. We kind of expect a nice guy to let us have our way. And based on that definition, I am certain we can’t describe Jesus as nice because He behaved exactly the opposite of nice.
People-pleasing? Not even close. Jesus offended religious leaders and challenged the status quo. Quiet? Nope! He knocked over tables, called Peter “Satan,” and when His friend Lazarus neared death, He didn’t show up to heal him. Why did He do these things? Because Jesus didn’t come to bring niceness into the world. He came to glorify God and offer salvation. And measured by that standard, my cheap religion of niceness fell short. People won’t come to experience the love of Jesus through niceness. I learned this lesson in, of all places, a veterinary hospital.
Kindness is someone shoving us to the ground so we can avoid getting hit by a car. When I was two years old, my mom and I lived in Las Animas, Colorado. Our house stood about a block from Highway 50, the main artery that cuts through town. The highway runs parallel to the Arkansas River and is a busy road often traveled by tractor trailers on their way to Pueblo. One laundry day, my mom loaded our car with baskets of dirty clothes. She strapped me in and ducked back into the house to grab the detergent.
I unhooked myself from the safety restraint, crawled out of the car, and walked down the street. My mom returned within a minute, but I had already made headway. When she called for me, I thought she was playing a game of “catch me if you can.” I stopped to glance at her. Then I smiled and ran straight for the highway up the block. She became frantic and chased after me, calling my name. I continued running and laughing with no idea of the danger ahead.
Undeterred by the traffic, I made my way to the middle of the highway. My mom recalled that when she saw me, she froze. She expected a car to hit me at any moment. Everything played out in slow motion in her mind. The cars seemed to decelerate, the wind calmed to a whisper. Her heart thumped slower and slower. I stood in the middle of the road grinning at my mom as a semi-truck honked and barreled toward me.
A woman driving in the opposite lane turned her car into the middle of the road in front of the semi-truck. Without consideration for her own safety, she bolted out of her car, ran in front of the semi, grabbed me, and tossed my little body to the side of the road. I landed along the curb with a thud. The truck swerved and stopped, just missing the woman’s car. I bruised, but I lived. My mom recalled what happened next: “I grabbed you tight and kissed you all over your little face. I wanted to shake you for scaring me so badly! All I could do was cry.”
Mom thanked the woman, who returned to her car at once and drove away. I never met her or learned her name. I wish I could say, “Thank you! Thank you for being brave enough to put your life on the line for me. You understood that it’s better to hurt someone a little bit than let them get run over.” Her selfless actions saved my life.
As hard as it may be, true love and kindness are often accompanied by a few wounds. It’s better to bruise someone’s feelings rather than allow them to get run over by life. It’s a kind friend who tells us that the drinking, gambling, cheating or whatever mess we find ourselves in, has gone too far and is tearing our lives apart. They tell us to forgive our mothers for taking their pain out on us because if we don’t we will pass on a legacy of pain to our children. They recognize when we are projecting our garbage onto other people and call us out. Our kind friends challenge us to embrace our value and give vulnerability a whirl. They’ve seen the landmine of junk we’ve hoarded in our hearts and love us anyway. Regardless of the stench, good friends help us when we are brave enough to take out the garbage because they are invested in our success.
Hal is my best friend, and he still loves me when I thrash, growl, and get tangled in my feelings. He’s not afraid to tell me when I’ve gone too far and am being self-destructive, even if I foam at the mouth. If I’ve said too much and need to apologize for diving off the deep end, he hugs me and says, “You cute. But you crazy.”
Proverbs 27:6 (KJV) tells us that “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” It may be hard to hear the truth a friend offers, but it’s better than empty compliments. Jesus called His disciples friends and wasn’t afraid to correct them when necessary. Colossians 3:16 (NIV) says, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Admonishment has a negative connotation, but in reality, it means to counsel, urge, and remind. It’s free of judgment and done with compassion.
If I’m to live my life in the image of Christ, I must know him. Often, we mischaracterize Jesus. We place Him in a box and define Him by our own understanding. But Jesus is too big to fit into our meager perceptions. As God and I spent more time together, He began to reveal more and more about Himself. Seeing Him as a nice guy was a revealing indictment of how for so long I didn’t truly understand Him. If I did, I’d have noticed that Jesus lived in stark opposition to niceness.
Jesus desired to glorify God and love us. Our lives ought to mirror His life. Scripture doesn’t say we will be known for our niceness. Rather, Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34–35 NIV). In her essay “Nice is not the point,” Marilyn Chandler McEntyre describes how her husband characterized love. She writes:
One of my husband’s finer moments in parenting came one day when, after he had uttered an unwelcome word of correction to a disgruntled child, he leaned down, looked her in the eye, and said, “Honey, this is what love looks like.” Love, in that case, must have seemed to her a far cry from nice.
People who love us have our best interest at heart and aren’t willing to let us suffer just to save our feelings. They’ll be the bad guys if it means we are better off. Kind friends take a little heat because they consider us worth the burn.
I’m not the easiest person to confront. I feel certain I’m not alone in this. Most of us don’t enjoy correction. My gut reaction is to get defensive, argue, and make excuses. How dare someone find fault in me? It’s hard enough to acknowledge my imperfections let alone have someone point them out. I am reminded of this every summer when I go to the store and try on bathing suits in the unforgiving department store lighting. I’m convinced that the stores manipulate their full-length mirrors somehow to make me appear fatter than I remember. The yearly ritual is a wakeup call.
Good friends are like full-length mirrors. They don’t lie. My good friends won’t tell me I’m not fat. They say, “I love you, and you are beautiful. I want you to be healthy, so let’s go take a walk together and I’ll make you laugh so hard your abs will get a workout too.”
One summer, my friend Sally and I took our kids to the pool. I tugged at my new swimsuit and asked her to inspect my butt and confirm that it had widened significantly since the last summer. She said nothing and raised her eyebrows, which is Sally’s way of saying yes. She didn’t lie, but she didn’t leave me in a dark place, alone with the truth.
“Ya knoooow,” Sally said in her thick Mississippi drawl, “I’ve been watchin’ the Summer Olympics, and I’m mesmerized with the synchronized swimmers. We should totally make up a synchronized swimming routine!”
I was like, “Whaaaaat? That’s the best idea I’ve heard all day!” Much to the chagrin (and embarrassment) of our children, we both jumped into the pool with a splash.
The result was a ridiculous display of absurdity. Sally and I kicked our legs in the air and lifted our arms in unison. We pursed our lips as we turned our heads. We are not fit twenty-year-old athletes, but our routine was spectacular—that is, if spectacular means disturbing! I giggled so much my lungs ached. My whole body got a workout that day, and when we left the pool, Sally hugged me and said my butt already looked smaller.
She understood that I needed reassurance. Sally was honest and yet loving. She jumped into the deep end with me, and I emerged refreshed. Even though good friends tell us the truth, they are always there to hold our hands as we work on our flaws.
God calls us to be kind. It’s important to love others as ourselves. But God never called us to be nice. We live in a culture of political correctness. People are afraid to say something offensive. But as Christians, do we follow the rules of niceness or do we follow the laws of God?
Jesus challenged me to come to terms with whether I followed a religion of political correctness or invested in a relationship of pious consecration. Was I living for myself or for God? And were my motivations rooted in fear or in faith? I realized that I cannot be authentic when I share the gospel if I’m muzzled by niceness. I must be careful with my words, responsible and discerning. I must be kind and loving, but I cannot share the love of Jesus while worrying what others think of me. If I do, I will hold back and put God second.
Niceness is an epidemic, and it keeps us from growing. Sometimes, tough love is the greatest kindness. I wonder how differently we might approach one another if we were to rethink what it means to “love one another.” What if as Christians we loved each other in a tough-love kind of way, with a love that requires more so that we can grow strong in our faith? It would mean putting aside our desire to please and the comfort of having people like us. It would be like stepping out in front of a semi-truck. But oh, the lives that would be spared!
Confronting my devotion to niceness meant abandoning the worry that others might not like me. God speaks through each of us, but only if we open our mouths and dare to not be “nice.”
Onward I go, remembering that being nice is not the goal. Nice is lukewarm and is neither a yes or a no. Loving others the way God commanded requires me to be bold and honest-kind. I’ve learned to pray before I speak so that God guides my words.
I’m learning to speak truth in love. I open myself up to admonishment and set my feelings aside so that others can speak truth into my life. I walk through the fear of rejection in order to benefit my friends with compassionate counsel because following Jesus means putting aside my desire for approval of others and resting in the knowledge that I’m approved by God.
I practice the art of being a better friend, one who is invested in the growth and success of others. And I remember that living for the sake of niceness is worthless but living for the sake of glorifying God is worthwhile.
Links to Purchase Print Books
Buy Onward: A Funny, Heartbreaking, and Insightful Collection of Faith Lessons Print Edition at Amazon
Links to Purchase eBooks – Click links for book samples and reviews
Is this book in Kindle Unlimited? Yes
Have you read this book? Tell us what you thought! All information was provided by the author and not edited by us. This is so you get to know the author better.