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GUEST POST: Broken is in the Hands of the Beholder by Engraved on the Heart author Tara Johnson

Engraved on the Heart by Tara Johnson

Reluctant debutante Keziah Montgomery lives beneath the weighty expectations of her staunch Confederate family, forced to keep her epilepsy secret for fear of a scandal. As the tensions of the Civil War arrive on their doorstep in Savannah, Keziah sees little cause for balls and courting. Despite her discomfort, she cannot imagine an escape from her familial confines—until her old schoolmate Micah shows her a life-changing truth that sets her feet on a new path . . . as a conductor in the Underground Railroad.

Dr. Micah Greyson never hesitates to answer the call of duty, no matter how dangerous, until the enchanting Keziah walks back into his life and turns his well-ordered plans upside down. Torn between the life he has always known in Savannah and the fight for abolition, Micah struggles to discern God’s plan amid such turbulent times.

Battling an angry fiancé, a war-tattered brother, bounty hunters, and their own personal demons, Keziah and Micah must decide if true love is worth the price . . . and if they are strong enough to survive the unyielding pain of war.

 

Author Tara Johnson

A passionate lover of stories, Tara Johnson uses fiction, nonfiction, song, and laughter to share her testimony of how God led her into freedom after spending years living shackled to the expectations of others. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and makes her home in Arkansas with her husband and three children.

 

 

GUEST POST: Broken is in the Hands of the Beholder

“Great musicians should have only the finest instruments in their homes.”

This caustic comment from the piano tuner who had curled up his nose at my old spinet piano has bothered me for fourteen years, though I’ve had a hard time figuring out why.

I had been desperately searching for a tuner willing to take on my pawnshop find, but from the moment he laid eyes on it, his annoyed smirk told me the piano didn’t meet his criteria. Maybe it was the chipped places around its edges. Or perhaps the slightly yellowed keys. But before he even sat down to play, he judged it and found it lacking.

Looking over the rim of his glasses, he shot me a scolding glare. “You are a musician, aren’t you?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You should be asking me to tune a baby grand then. Or least a piano with some kind of merit. But this—” he shook his head sadly—“this piano is not fit for a musician.”

He then launched into a sales pitch about the wonderful pianos he had for sale in his store and grew agitated when I wouldn’t bite.

Great musicians should have only the finest instruments in their homes. . . .

That particular piano is long gone, and I haven’t seen that tuner since the day of his barbed comment, yet the comment still nags me. Why?

It wasn’t until I penned my debut novel that I understood.

In Engraved on the Heart, the heroine, Keziah, battles epilepsy during the 1860s, a time when such a condition relegated most to the asylum. Keziah longs to help those trapped in slavery by working with the Underground Railroad, but her uncontrollable condition keeps her wrapped in fear and shame. Just like Keziah, for years I fell for the lie that “broken means worthless.”
I, too, battled epilepsy as a child. I’ll never forget the shame that accompanied those moments in elementary school when I would find two dozen pairs of eyes staring at me in horror because I’d had a seizure. I remember how frustrating it was to find a chunk of time yawning like a black hole in my memory. And I remember the helplessness of having no control over my own body.
We all deal with tough stuff: poor health, children with special needs, the slicing pain of divorce, rejection, depleted bank accounts, or angry coworkers. Some of us are mopping up the mess from our own poor decisions and just need a little grace from people unwilling to give it. Whatever the situation, we’re far from perfect. Messy. Broken. We wonder, How can God possibly use me now?
Our culture has glamorized what the world defines as “perfect.” From the airbrushed models gracing the latest covers of Vogue to the highlight reels inundating social media, we are constantly told we must be flawless to be accepted. The flip side of that lie is that anything broken must be rejected.

If we build our identity on something other than Christ—whether it’s our appearance, “goodness,” social reputation, prestige, or approval from others—our pain will be great when that identity crumbles.

Approval and love are not the same thing. Neither are brokenness and worthlessness.

As Vance Havner wrote, “God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.”
All my life, I’ve heard it said that broken things are special because the cracks allow the light to come in. I don’t believe that’s true. As a child of God, brokenness allows the Light to shine out.
When we put on a mask of perfection, we’re only allowing people to see a plastic version of who we really are. Brokenness allows the masks to be stripped away. Pretense is gone. All that is left is honesty, humility, and fractures of space where self has been stripped away so others can see Jesus shining through.
Keziah learns the beauty of a life surrendered to God, despite her flaws. She finds her worth in the nail-scarred hands of Jesus. I did too.

Bestselling author Bob Goff says it best. “It has always seemed to me that broken things, just like broken people, get used more; it’s probably because God has more pieces to work with.”
A friend recently sent me an email about a little boy who escaped from his mother at a prestigious concert hall. The rambunctious child crawled up on stage, plunking himself right next to a world-renowned pianist as the man was beginning his concert. The little tyke clumsily tapped around on the keys before grinning at the famous performer. The poor mother was horrified and jumped out of her seat, preparing to retrieve her wayward son, but the pianist only smiled down at the little boy and begin to imitate the toddler’s finger strikes. Then something amazing happened.
As the little boy squealed with delight and pounded the keys, the pianist improvised melodies over the boy’s tapped notes. The entire audience was spellbound. When the little boy finally tired of the game and hopped down, the pianist stood and applauded him, causing the entire crowd to cheer.

I love that story. Upon hearing it, I finally understood why that tuner’s comment bothered me.

Great musicians are not great because they have the finest instruments in their homes. They aren’t great because their fingers and ears are only trained for the best the world has to offer, or because they have sold X number of CDs, or because they fill up concert halls. A real musician can make music out of the hardest situation. It doesn’t matter if the keys are chipped, if it’s a B?sendorfer grand or a dusty spinet, if the action is smooth like honey or stilted, or even if their Rachmaninoff solo is interrupted by a curious toddler.

The sign of a great musician is not owning the finest instruments, but the ability to make the most broken instruments sing once more.

God does the same thing with us. He takes our broken strings and chipped edges, places His hands on those battered keys, and coaxes out a song. A melody. An unspoken story. And the more broken the instrument, the more amazing His ability to make it sing.

Do you feel broken, chipped, or used up? Don’t let the enemy’s lies discourage you. You are valuable and treasured. God doesn’t have a room full of glistening new grand pianos. He prefers the spinets.

Under his touch, they make the sweetest melodies.