Sometimes the boundaries we set for ourselves become lines in the sand that we use not only to keep others out, but also to unintentionally keep ourselves locked within. Pain from the past continues to impact every aspect of our daily lives, as Tabitha Bouldin illustrates in Footprints on Her Heart, book 5 in the Hooper Island segment of the Independence Islands series. As the story opens, the two main characters embark on a ferry trip to the mainland that turns out to be only the beginning of a transformative journey for Trent Raines and Kara Parker, both steadfast singles. Trent owns Forever Pals, the animal shelter into which he pours his time and energy, and where Kara works as photographer and website designer.
Bouldin draws attention to several universal truths through the struggles of her characters, weaving in familiar faces from previous books in the series but still allowing this book to stand alone. Trent is a prodigal son still weighed down by the guilt of his past, particularly when it pays a visit to the current life he’s worked to build. His story echoes that of so many who unwittingly cling to past failures instead of laying aside that weight and focusing on what God is doing in their lives now and is calling them to do. His heart-to-heart conversation with his dad is so enlightening, and a timely reminder for all, as his dad counsels him: “Hard to move forward when you chain yourself to the past. But we know a God who breaks those chains and leaves the cell door wide open. If we never walk through it, well, then that’s our fault, isn’t it?” Fear holds us back until we realize that, as Kara reminds Trent, “You’re so much more than the sum of your mistakes.” Thanks to Jesus, we are washed clean and made new by His forgiveness.
Redemption indeed forms one of the main themes of Footprints on Her Heart, and the author makes evident the connection between receiving redemption from Christ and the need to forgive ourselves and others. A quiet introvert, Kara has learned that it’s easier to hide behind a camera and blend into the background, avoiding the spotlight. “You can’t get hurt if you never let people see your heart,” after all. Because she feels as though no one listens when she does speak, she has a fear of public speaking and of having to lead. However, the truth is that God always sees us and always cares, and He always walks with us, as the famous poem “Footprints in the Sand” reminds us. If we turn our concerns to Him, as 1 Peter 5:7 says to do, He will sustain us.
Footprints on Her Heart will appeal to readers who enjoy Christian romance, non-graphic animal rescue stories, and inspirational stories with a focus on worthiness and redemption.