September 2021 Featured Article

Don’t run out of gas!

Do you remember running races as a kid? Eyes on the prize, heading for the finish line? Whether for fun or actual competition, parents often cheered us on. Do you remember wanting their approval?  Whether it’s sports, academics, music, drama, or anything else, I think we’ve all craved experiencing that puffed chest and shiny-faced grin endorsing our accomplishments. I did, and it was readily forthcoming as a child. But what about when we got older? Maybe we still seek it, even as adults, in our careers or homelife.

In Revived Hope, the prequel to previously released Shattered Guilt, Melanie Thompson is becoming an accomplished, goal-oriented businesswoman with the help of her parents, who mean the world to her. The problem is that she can’t seem to shake the remorse of her foolish choices in high school that resulted in estrangement from them. Although they’ve long since reconciled, Melanie still strives to win her parents’ approval and comes to realize that she’s had it all the time.

The character Melanie isn’t me, but her dad is loosely based on my father. I was fascinated with his life, and he inspired me with his dreams. Likewise, he was my biggest fan, and for me, it was in sports. In high school, I was on the swim team, and although neither of my parents made it to my meets, they’d wait patiently for my return in the evenings to see what ribbons or medals I brought home. Fortunately, Huntington Beach High School had a winning team, and I never returned home without a gold, silver, or bronze. Seeing Daddy and Mama’s faces when I walked in the door were all the accolades I needed. They were proud.

Melanie’s father in Revived Hope was also proud of her, and I had fun developing that theme. It took nine years to write Shattered Guilt, and I had so much backstory that I could have written another book. And I did. When my publisher asked for a short story for the Bay Town Series, it only made sense that I would write Melanie’s story. But the short story turned into a novella, and had I had more time, it probably could have been an entire novel. Still, you never know where all those deleted suspenseful themes and sub-plots might show up.

Although in Revived Hope, Melanie faces severe threats and unexpected trials, my favorite element is her relationship with her father, Rick. She seeks him for guidance and values his opinions. And yet holds back in areas that might not garner his approval or cause him distress, not realizing that she doesn’t have complete control over every situation. Still, she learns from him what it is to trust God in the darkest hour.

I have so many fond memories of my own dad. He did, in fact, make it to a swim meet once, my most extraordinary one that was held on a Saturday. We lived in Singapore at the time, and I was in the National School’s Swim Competition. Local, British, Australian, American (mine), and International Schools. There were three heats in the 50 Meter Freestyle event, and I finished high enough in mine to qualify for the final.

Singapore’s one Olympic swimmer was in that final. The joke was that she would finish her sprint and be out of the pool before the rest of us made it off the blocks. That was pretty accurate, and it was my only consolation for finishing dead last. Ironically, my kids got tired of me retelling that story this summer when we watched the Tokyo Olympics.

Following that race, I walked straight to my father, and he wore a smile, but it wasn’t a shiny-faced one. He chuckled and hugged me, all the same, but commented, “Kathy, you looked like you ran out of gas.”

Those words are quite different from the ones I hope to hear when I reach heaven one day, and I’m so thankful that God’s approval doesn’t depend on my own efforts. Knowing that He sees me through the eyes of Jesus is a huge relief. Whether I finish a race first or last, as long as I finish it for His glory, I can rest in that.

My parents inspired the virtues of Melanie’s mother and father. When I recall my father’s subtle lessons, I also remember his dreams and desires that bring sweet and sometimes bittersweet memories. They all helped shaped Rick in Revived Hope. But the thing I’d wished my father and I had shared was faith. Maybe that’s why I wrote the relationship between Melanie and her father, Rick, based heavily on their trust in God.

Although my father came to know Jesus in his old age as his Savior, he didn’t have the joy of knowing Jesus as Lord throughout his lifetime. But my father is now sharing in the glory of being a righteous child of God, in Christ Jesus. And that’s all that matters. Daddy finished the race, and he didn’t run out of gas!

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