Review of EVERYTHING IS JUST BEGINNING by Erin Bartels

About the Book:

Product Details
Publisher: Revell
Language: English
Publication Date: 01/17/2023
Pages: 352
ISBN-10: 080074165X
ISBN-13: 9780800741655
SKU: 9780800741655

Synopsis:

On the night of December 31, 1989–as the Berlin Wall is coming down, the Soviet Union is inching toward democracy, and anything seems possible–a down-on-his luck musician crashes a party and crosses paths with the accomplished and enigmatic young heir to a fading musical dynasty, forever altering both of their futures.

My Review and Rating:

This book is amazing! The prose is like lyrical poetry and the song lyrics come alive and make the story so touchingly realistic. The entire plot just flowed from the page into my heart. The story of Michael Sullivan, a lyricist who has been kicked out of his band, and Natalie Wheeler, a blind musician who is extraordinarily gifted, is one that should be read and appreciated by all who need a story to make them think and feel good about life. It is the story of daring to reach out for a better future and of forgiving those who have held you back in your past so that you can achieve your dreams. I loved getting to know each of the characters, even the seemingly unredeemable Uncle Mike who drinks and gambles to forget his tragic past. I found myself wanting Michael to forgive his father Steve completely and find a new relationship with him. I was totally invested in the stories of the characters because they became like real people to me. The plot was moderately paced, not too fast which I think would ruin it and not too slow which would make it drag. It was perfectly paced for the story that was being told, the story of young love, exploration into new beginnings and support from those who had forged a path in the past. I think my very favorite character was Deb Wheeler, a talented musician who gave up her promising career for personal reasons. She elicited sympathy from me but also a great deal of respect because of her compassion and wisdom that she showed to all whose lives she touched. This is one of the most beautifully written tales I have ever read and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It’s refreshingly original and totally engaging.
Disclaimer
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell Books via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, “Guidelines Concerning the Use of Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.”

Five plus stars for this clean Christian read.

About the Author:

ERIN BARTELS is the award-winning author of We Hope for Better Things, The Words between Us, All That We Carried, The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water, and Everything Is Just Beginning. She lives in the capital city of a state that is 40% water, nestled somewhere between angry protesters on the Capitol lawn and couch-burning frat boys at Michigan State University. And yet, she claims it is really quite peaceful.
Find her on Facebook @ErinBartelsAuthor and on Instagram @erinbartelswrites. Information and photo are from the author’s website at http://erinbartels.com

Available NOW! Purchase Links:

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Many thanks to Revell for introducing me to this fabulous author! I have read and enjoyed each of her books and this one is my favorite!

A Hard Heart

I don’t know if I am the only one, but I admit that I am having difficulty talking to people about the Lord these days. It’s not because I’m not talking, but it seems to be that they are turning a deaf ear to whatever I am saying. I feel like the problem lies not in my speech or in their hearing but in their hearts. People just want to sin, believing either that there is no such thing as judgment or believing that they still have time to change should they want to or believing that they are just fine as they are. Of course, there is scripture about this condition of the heart.

God knew when He sent Moses and Aaron to talk to Pharaoh that he would not listen. Yet, God offered the truth to him anyway, and a chance to change along with it. But Pharaoh continued to harden his heart even to the end and his ultimate destruction. I am convinced that there are people today who won’t listen to anyone God sends to them because they have hard hearts. They are determined to go to eternity without God and I am afraid that God will allow them to perish in their sins because they refuse to acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior. I cannot change other people’s free choices, but I can and will continue to testify about God’s power, greatness and gift of salvation. It is up to the individuals whether they choose to listen and change or not. I can only do what God has told me to do and then leave the decisions up to the person, praying that God will soften their hearts to really hear and accept the truth.

May you never give up telling the truth and may God bless you with fruitfulness, listening ears and a soft heart in each one you speak with. Have a blessed day!

What We Leave Behind

Many today are concerned about leaving an inheritance for their children and grandchildren. My husband and I have never had a lot, but we have had enough. Unfortunately, our children will not be rich when we die, but we hope to leave them riches that cannot be counted. The inheritance we hope to leave is that we pray that the lives that they continue to lead after we leave this earth will be one that is filled with the Word of God, His Spirit, His truth, His peace and His mercy and grace. We are counting on the promise that when we train children in the way that they should go, as they age, the knowledge of God will come back to them. Of course, they still have a free will, but I am believing that the inheritance that I leave behind will be one of eternal value.

May you wisely spend your time, money and effort where it really counts, on winning the souls of your loved one to the Lord. Earthly wealth soon disappears but the knowledge of God is forever. Have a blessed day!

How to Know the Truth

I have discovered through experience that this world is filled with liars. Many lie to save face. Others lie to make themselves appear better than they are. And some lie deliberately to deceive others for personal gain. So, how are we to discern who is telling the truth? God has the answer to our dilemma.

When Jesus ascended to the Father in Heaven, He left behind the promise of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2 (I encourage you to read this first encounter of a multitude of people with the Holy Spirit of God), the Holy Spirit is poured out, revealed, if you will, to a great crowd of people. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity and He is the One who leads us into truth. He helps us discern the truth of God’s Word and when others are lying about God and what His Word says, interpreting for their own benefit or gain. He is God, just as the Father is God and the Son is God, and He cannot and will not lie. Thus, He is totally dependable as a truth teller and is available to all who seek the truth. Many want to have their “ears tickled” and don’t want to know the truth, but for those of us who desire to know what God is saying to us today, the Holy Spirit is our conduit of communication that speaks clearly the words from the Father and opens our hearts and minds to understand.

May your hearts and minds be watchful for the truth that the Holy Spirit wants to reveal to you. And may you, in turn, share that truth with others who are ready and waiting to hear it. Have a blessed day, my friends!

Chosen

I have heard a great deal about a production called “The Chosen.” I haven’t seen it because we just recently got streaming services, but I do plan to do so someday. Supposedly, it is Biblically accurate, but I would like to check that out for myself.

In the meantime, I am one of “the chosen” of God. He chose me and then gave me a job to do for Him.

God chose me not so that I could sit around and bask in His glory or sit idly by while others do not know the truth about His Word and His way to salvation. He chose me and then He sent me to bear fruit. I think that my bearing fruit for the Lord goes hand in hand with my asking God for answers to prayers and He answers them. If my prayers are according to His will, which all has to do with leading others to Christ, then I can expect that God will answer. Maybe not the way I want or when I want, but He always answers. The fruit that we bear for Him remains eternally, just as we have eternal life with Him.

Have a blessed day and may you feel the call of being chosen to serve and lead others to the fruitful life of eternity with God.

Bless the Lord

In general, I have found that people are discontent with what they have, where they are living and how much they have accomplished. God has been speaking to me lately about being content and not always striving for more. After all, as He has told me repeatedly, “The only things that matter are the legacies of faith that you leave behind you.” I used to really want a nice home where I could make memories with our children. After twenty plus military moves, I felt that I somehow deserved a place to settle that was ours. When we bought our house in Pennsylvania, I was absolutely thrilled to have a home to call our own, one in which I could hang pictures, set the heat to the temperature I chose and even plant flowers if I wanted. Alas! We were only there for four years while I fruitlessly searched for a teaching job in the state that refused to hire me because I was too expensive for them. (I had experience and a master’s degree.) So, we moved to Maryland, spent a year in a rented apartment and then bought a modular home which is all that we could afford in the expensive economy there. In fact, when we chose to move to Virginia, we took that home with us, bought four acres of land and have settled into that as our new dwelling. No memories of children growing up there because they were mostly all grown when we moved there. But God is not calling me to reminisce bitterly about the past and dreams that didn’t unfold the way that I expected. He wants me to be content with what He has provided.

I have always had enough, maybe not all I wanted, but enough and I am delighted to say that I can truly bless the Lord for His provision. Moving to Virginia has been good for us in many ways. Our home isn’t all we want but it is all we need and that’s enough.

It is always a good time to praise the Lord and to let others know about how faithful He is on a daily basis. He has walked with me for over five decades, talked with me, cajoled me into taking steps into the unknown with a little faith and been with me through it all. He is a good God and He has been devoted to me even when I was whining about my circumstances.

May your day be blessed with reminders of His constant love and faithfulness to you.

Just As and Every Effort

It’s easy to be kind to people who are kind to us, but it’s a challenge sometimes to be kind to those who don’t treat us so well. But God’s Word tells us to treat all kindly and, more importantly, to forgive each other JUST AS Christ forgave each of us. It’s also easy to hold a grudge and then justify it because the other person’s actions were reprehensible. Fortunately, Jesus does not hold grudges, and we are to follow His example. “Just as” means in the exact same way as Jesus did. He even asked God to forgive His tormentors, even as He was undergoing excruciating torment on the cross. I have never been lead to a cross and nailed there, but Jesus was, for me and for you. If He can forgive in those circumstances, I am certain that I should be able to forgive the petty things that others do to irritate me. Even the things that I give great weight to and decide that I am justified in not forgiving, God tells me that I’m to forgive all because that is what Jesus did.

In another version, the “make every effort” is translated as “pursue.” In my youth, I pursued good grades, making every effort to get straight A’s on every report card. I was single-minded and totally focused on that goal. God exhorts us to make that kind of effort in living in peace with everyone. We are to show that we are holy, that is “set apart”, from what the world is doing and how they behave. Those who are pursuing peace should definitely be seen as different in this world of cultural wars.

Have a blessed day and remember to forgive “just as” Jesus did and to pursue peace with all. Your life will be better for it!

A Prayer

The Holy Bible is filled with prayers, of ordinary people talking to an extraordinary God. Probably the one prayer that is most well-known is the Lord’s Prayer, in which Jesus was asked to teach us to pray. It begins with praise, continues to petition and ends with praise. It is a model for us to follow as well as a prayer to say. I found another prayer today in my devotional and it spoke to my heart.

I hope that this simple prayer of declaring trust for God speaks to you, also. When I am discouraged or just not feeling as close to God as I should, this is a prayer I can come back to, again and again. My soul belongs to God and one day will return to His loving care. For now, it rests in my body and desires to commune with the One who breathed life into me to begin with. I am flawed but not forsaken. I trust God to bring me to the end of my journey, however long it may be, still serving and being taught by Him along the way.

May your day be blessed with fresh insight from the Lord and a walk with Him that instills you with peace, joy and love.

His Wonderful Deeds

I have been living in a very busy household for the last few weeks. The oldest child has an activity daily after school, and sometimes she has more than one. The youngest daughter had two activities this week. My only “activity” was to watch the toddler each time there was an activity that required the parents to be elsewhere. Meanwhile, about ten days ago, I got sick. It started with a sore throat, then nasal congestion and finally, the inevitable bronchial cough. I talked to my son about getting me to the doctor but there never seemed to be a good time to go. Well, yesterday was like a day planned by God. My son had to pick up groceries, so he dropped me at the clinic, went to do his errands and I called him when I was done. (Diagnosed with acute bronchitis and sinus, but I have meds now, so I hope to get better soon,) When I called my son to pick me up, he said that he was putting the groceries in the fridge and would be there soon. The baby had fallen asleep. The end of the matter is that I got to go to the doctor, get my meds and not totally upend the family’s schedule. I figure that’s one of the things that God does for me all the time, frequently without my noticing. He just works things out for me, even when I am discouraged or not as hopeful and filled with faith as I should be.

So, what wonderful deeds has God accomplished in your life? That is your testimony for others, so share and proclaim your thankfulness!

May the Lord who richly blesses His children bless you “real good” today and throughout the week!

Not Home Yet

I have been in Maryland for four weeks and have two more weeks to go. My heart yearns to be home among my familiar things, people and places. I was so homesick last night that my husband could hear it in my voice when we spoke and volunteered to drive the five hours one way just to come and be with me for a few days. I discouraged him from the long trip, promising him that today I would get my son to take me to the doctor and hopefully would start feeling better. I have been sick with a cold that has headed to my lungs as usual for the last ten days, so that has not helped my attitude. Being ill has also contributed to my desire to want to be home, with tea, heated throws and a husband who cuddles me close when I have difficulty breathing. Yes, I do desire to be home again and I know that day is coming soon.

In my devotional this morning, God reminded me that even when I go home to Virginia, I am still truly not home. My home is in Heaven and everything here is temporary. All of the comforts of home that I seek pale in comparison to what awaits me when I get to Heaven. So now my yearning has taken a new direction. I desire to be with the Lord, looking forward to seeing His face and praising the One who loves me best for all of eternity. Change has always been difficult for me. A different routine disturbs my peace because I am an introvert that needs to be alone at times. But God has spoken to me clearly that He is here with me, no matter my physical location or circumstances, and He, too, is looking forward to the day when I am with Him. Imagine that! God looks forward to my being with Him!

As for now, I am happy to serve and I will be happier to get home. But the home I will return to is temporary, also. I am there until God calls me to be with Him. Perspective is everything.

Have a blessed day and may you, like me, look forward to going to live with the Lord. It’s in His time, but it’s still coming and will be a great and glorious day!