A couple weeks ago, I read a beautiful story from an author Ive never read before. Lisa Wingates The Prayer Box captured the essence of a lifelong faith in one character (Iola Anne Poole) and the seedling of hope in another (Tandi Jo Reese). There were times I wanted to wring Tandis neck for the choices she was making. But other times I wanted to wrap her in a hug and tell her everything would turn out right in the end. And Im pretty sure I would love hanging out with the Seashell Shop gals! All in all, Lisa crafted a charming story that seemed timeless and real. I didnt want to set the book down to proofread another, and Im already enjoying the next Wingate book on my list (which happens to be The Story Keeper; Im sure a review of it will be appearing on Writing to Inspire soon).
In The Prayer Box, Tandi Jo Reese learns a thing or two about faith and family when she becomes responsible for cleaning out the large Victorian house of her recently deceased landlady, Iola Anne Poole. One day, while cleaning, Tandi discovers a closet full of mysterious boxes, but its whats inside the boxes that holds the power to change her life if she chooses to grab on to the opportunity. But her past has a stranglehold on her and threatens to keep her chained to the pages of the history shed rather thrust aside. What will this struggling young mother decide to do: step toward an unknown future with a God she doesnt understand or remain dependent on the bad habits she learned from her undependable mother?
One of my favorite lines in this book came in chapter seventeen. The trouble with drowning in the mess of your own life is that youre not in any shape to save anyone else. It reminds me of the verse in the Bible that says (Im paraphrasing) to take care of the plank in your own eye before attempting to remove the dust from your neighbors (Matthew 7:3-5).
Have you ever looked in the mirror and seen your mistakes staring back at you? I have. Its not easy to admit when youre wrong. Nor is it always simple to correct your mistakes. The way I approach this challenge is: Once I realize what my mistake is, I take it to God. While on my knees, I pour out my heart at the foot of the cross. I admit my mistake, ask for forgiveness, and ask God to help me learn how to make better choices (or whatever it takes to fix the mistake or avoid it next time it tries to crop up).
Do I hear back every time? Not always right away. And not always in the way I expect. But God is faithful to answer my prayers when I come to Him with a humble heart.
With Gods forgiveness washing me clean and a new determination to improve my character and fix the area(s) of my life that were messy with sin, I then thank God for His blessings and for helping me during the weak moments in which I make mistakes. From there, its about maintenance, the continuous work to improve my character (with Gods help and guidance, which sometimes comes in phases) and to upkeep my relationship with God.
Being part of Gods family means learning from your mistakes and trying your best every day. It means working at gaining characteristics that will be useful and pleasing to God in the work He has planned for you to accomplish. And then, of course, doing the work He sends you to do.
Tandi Jo Reese has fled her abusive husband in Texas with her 2 children to settle in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, a town of her childhood. She is very low on funds and rents a guesthouse from an elderly lady. Her landlady, Iola Anne Poole, passes away and leaves her home to the church. A gentleman from the church asks Tandi to clean out Iola's home. While cleaning out the house, Tandi finds out a lot about Iola. The generousity Iola had toward others and her prayers that were written down and kept in boxes. Tandi has not always made the best decisions and it affects her children. Tandi and her daughter are both involved with guys who are not good for them, and her son is often left to himself. Through reading Iola's prayers and meeting people through her son and her new job, she changes into a more responsible adult.
The first part of the book was slow moving, I very rarely stop reading a book. And I am glad I kept reading this one. Once the story line was established and and characters introduced, it became a good book to read. Had it not been for the Iola's part in this book, I would not have enjoyed it. Her devotion to God and her anonymous gifts to those in need it heartwarming.
I read this book as part of the book club at my church. This book was very well written and believable. The main character's life is transformed by people from the past and the present in a small town on the N.C. Outer Banks. Everyone in my book club really liked it!
The Prayer Box is a unique story. Tandi is trying to start over after a series of disasters. Upon arriving in the Outer Banks and discovering treasures in Iola Anne Poole's house, the Lord begins to work in Tandi's life showing her the power of prayer.
I was intrigued by the premise of the story, but found it difficult to connect with Tandi's character. I think that probably contributed to the slowness of the book for me. However, the overarching message was beautiful. And about halfway through, I got really interested in seeing how the book would conclude. [3 stars]