Please welcome my guest blogger, Liz Johnson.
When I sat down to write my newest book, A Promise to Protect, I had no idea that my heroine, Ashley, would struggle with the same thing that I’d so recently dealt with. I discovered that while our backgrounds were very different, we both had misconception about being strong.
We live in a world where we’re told that we have to be tough, pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, and survive on our own. At least that’s the world I was living in about two years ago. I had just moved to a new city, started a new job, and left everything familiar 2,000 miles away. I’ve always been the independent type, so I figured I’d have no trouble setting up a new home for myself and finding new friends.
But things didn’t go exactly like I planned. The weekend that I moved to Nashville, it was hit with the worst flooding the city had ever seen. They call it a 500-year flood. I call one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. There aren’t words to describe what it’s like to sit utterly alone while rain pours down and the flood waters reach ever closer. To be afraid of going to sleep for fear that the water in my backyard would reach inside while I slept. I watched the news, trying to decipher what part of the city I actually lived in. Was I close to Bellevue, one of the hardest hit areas? How close was I to Pennington Bend or the rivers? The images on the television of flooded homes and fires only fueled my fear of this new life I was starting.
I don’t know why this move was different from the ones before, why I reacted so strongly, but somehow my fears and weaknesses were magnified and rushed through me like the raging waters that had devastated my new hometown. I promptly landed in the ER with a panic attack. Over and over my heart raced, my head spun, and I couldn’t breathe. The doctor assured me I was healthy and the symptoms were all from my mind.
So I could to be strong. Right? I could to hold it all together. I had to push down that fear and work through it. At least that’s what I told myself. And well-meaning friends told me that I’d be just fine. That I would make it through. That I was strong and capable of handling this. I’d started new jobs in new cities before, so how was this one different?
Ashley’s need for strength came from once being what she perceived as truly weak. When her college boyfriend beat her, she was unable to free herself from the abusive relationship. And her inability to escape put her brother in danger. Since then, she refused to let herself be weak or to rely on someone stronger for help.
Both Ashley and I were living in a “God helps those who help themselves” world. But that’s not what the Bible says. Paul said we should boast in our own weakness so that God's strength can be revealed all the more. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV) Boasting in my own weakness doesn’t come naturally for me—or for most people, I’d bet. In a world that says “Be strong,” God says, “You be weak, and I’ll be strong.”
I didn’t really want to hear this truth in the midst of panic attacks and my own fear. I wanted to know that I could pull myself out of the pain that filled my life. But I couldn’t. And God sent wonderful friends into my life to speak this truth to me when I needed it most.
Trusting in God’s strength, not my own, is an ongoing process. It’s regularly releasing that desire for control and boasting in my own weaknesses. It wasn’t until I gave up and asked God to show off His strength that he took away my fears and healed my body. And because I’d come to that truth, I was able to help Ashley boast in her own weakness so that God could come to the rescue.
Navy SEAL Matt Waterstone knows about keeping people safe. When his best friend’s sister is attacked, Matt promises no harm will come to Ashley Sawyer–not on his watch. But Matt’s not the only protective one. Ashley will do anything to safeguard the residents of the battered women’s shelter she runs. She’s sure she can handle the threats she gets in return. What she can’t handle is the way Matt scales the walls around her heart. Yet when she falls prey to a crime web more sinister than she’d realized, trusting Matt could be the only way to survive.
“Tristan is the closest thing I have to a brother. He’s worried about you, and so am I. Let me help.”
Fear flickered through Ashley’s eyes as she whispered, “Someone almost ran me over.”
“Tristan said something about a letter,” Matt pressed.
Ashley nodded. “When I got home that day, there was an anonymous note saying that someone wanted his property back.”
His gut clenched. What kind of jerk threatened a battered women’s shelter? “Listen, I’m in town for a few days. Let me look into things.”
She smiled up at him. “Thanks, but I got the note more than a week ago. If there was any danger, something else would have happened by now.”
As they reached her car, her smile died. He didn’t have to ask if she still thought the threat had passed as she took in the smashed windshield of her coupe. Tucked under a wiper blade, the person responsible for the mess had left a clear message.
If I don’t get what’s mine, you’ll get what’s yours.
Excerpted from A Promise to Protect © 2012 by Elizabeth Johnson. Published by Love Inspired Books.
About the Author:
Liz Johnson graduated from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff with a degree in public relations and set out to work in Christian publishing. In 2006 she got her wish when she accepted a publicity position at a major trade book publisher. While working in the industry, she decided to pursue her other dream—becoming an author. She is now a two-time ACFW Carol Award finalist, and A Promise to Protect is her fourth novel with Love Inspired Suspense. Liz makes her home in Nashville, TN, where she enjoys theater, exploring the local music scene, and making frequent trips to Arizona to dote on her two nephews and three nieces. She loves stories of true love with happy endings. Keep up with Liz's adventures in writing at www.lizjohnsonbooks.com, or follow her on twitter @LizJohnsonBooks or Facebook.com/lizjohnsonbooks.