Their whole life together has been a series of miracles. Can they really hope for more?
After overcoming a crisis in their marriage, Abby and John Reynolds are experiencing a season of joy and restoration. For the first time in years they're making time to enjoy life and embrace each other. And John loves his coaching job . . . at least he did until high-school politics make him wonder if it's time to quit.
As they wrestle with that situation, something greater rocks their world. A car accident causes Abby and John to suddenly face a future they never imagined—all because of one teen's thoughtlessness. Fumbling for forgiveness and hoping for a miracle, they must remember what is important and cling to that above all else. God is moving mightily in their lives . . . if they can just hold on to Him and each other.
The second novel in Karen Kingsbury's celebrated series about the resiliency of love, the power of commitment, and the amazing faithfulness of God.
About the Author
Karen Kingsbury, #1 New York Times bestselling novelist, is America’s favorite inspirational storyteller, with more than twenty-five million copies of her award-winning books in print. Her last dozen titles have topped bestseller lists and many of her novels are under development as major motion pictures. Her Baxter Family books have been developed into a TV series now available everywhere. Karen is also an adjunct professor of writing at Liberty University. In 2001 she and her husband, Don, adopted three boys from Haiti, doubling their family in a matter of months. Today the couple has joined the ranks of empty nesters, living in Tennessee near four of their adult children.
Read an Excerpt
A Time to EmbraceA Story of Hope, Healing, and Abundant Life
By Karen Kingsbury
Thomas NelsonISBN: 978-1-59554-232-8
Chapter OneThe kid made Coach John Reynolds Nervous.
He was tall and gangly, and he'd been doodling on his notebook since sixth period health class began. Now the hour was almost up, and John could see what the boy was drawing.
A skull and crossbones.
The design was similar to the one stenciled on the kid's black T-shirt. Similar, also, to the patch sewn on his baggy dark jeans. His hair was dyed jet black, and he wore spiked black leather collars around his neck and wrists.
There was no question Nathan Pike was fascinated with darkness. He was a gothic, one of a handful of kids at Marion High School who followed a cultic adherence to the things of doom.
That wasn't what bothered John.
What bothered him was a little something the boy had scribbled beneath the dark symbolism. One of the words looked like it read death. John couldn't quite make it out from the front of the classroom, so he paced.
Like he did every Friday night along the stadium sidelines as the school's varsity football coach, John wandered up and down the rows of students checking their work, handing out bits of instruction or critique where it was needed.
As he made his way toward Nathan's desk, he glanced at the boy's notebook again. The words scribbled there made John's blood run cold. Was Nathan serious? These days John could do nothing but assume the student meant what he'd written. John squinted, just to make sure he'd read the words correctly.
Beneath the skull and crossbones, Nathan had written this sentiment: Death to jocks.
John was still staring when Nathan looked up and their eyes met. The boy's were icy and dead, unblinking. Intended to intimidate. Nathan was probably used to people taking one glance and looking away, but John had spent his career around kids like Nathan. Instead of turning, he hesitated, using his eyes to tell Nathan what he could not possibly say at that moment. That the boy was lost, that he was a follower, that the things he'd drawn and the words he'd written were not appropriate and would not be tolerated.
But most important, John hoped his eyes conveyed that he was there for Nathan Pike. The same way he had been there for others like him, the way he would always be there for his students.
Nathan looked away first, shifting his eyes back to his notebook.
John tried to still his racing heart. Doing his best to look unaffected, he returned to the front of the classroom. His students had another ten minutes of seatwork before he would resume his lecture.
He sat down at his desk, picked up a pen, and grabbed the closest notepad.
Death to jocks?
Obviously he would have to report what he'd seen to the administration, but as a teacher, what was he supposed to do with that? What if Nathan was serious?
Ever since the shooting tragedies at a handful of schools around the country, most districts had instituted a "redflag" plan of some sort. Marion High School was no exception. The plan had every teacher and employee keeping an eye on the classrooms in their care. If any student or situation seemed troublesome or unusual, the teacher or employee was supposed to make a report immediately. Meetings were held once a month to discuss which students might be slipping through the cracks. The telltale signs were obvious: a student bullied by others, despondent, dejected, outcast, angry, or fascinated with death. And particularly students who made threats of violence.
Nathan Pike qualified in every category.
But then, so did 5 percent of the school's enrollment. Without a specific bit of evidence, there wasn't much a teacher or administrator could do. The handbook on troubled kids advised teachers to ease the teasing or involve students in school life.
"Talk to them, find out more about them, ask about their hobbies and pastimes," the principal had told John and the other faculty when they discussed the handbook. "Perhaps even recommend them for counseling."
That was all fine and good. The problem was, boys like Nathan Pike didn't always advertise their plans. Nathan was a senior. John remembered when Nathan first came to Marion High. His freshman and sophomore years Nathan had worn conservative clothes and kept to himself.
The change in his image didn't happen until last year.
The same year the Marion High Eagles won their second state football championship.
John cast a quick glance at Nathan. The boy was doodling again. He doesn't know I saw the notebook. Otherwise wouldn't he have sat back in his chair, covered the skull and crossbones, and hidden the horrible words? This wasn't the first time John had suspected Nathan might be a problem. Given the boy's changed image, John had kept a close eye on him since the school year began. He strolled by Nathan's desk at least once each day and made a point of calling on him, talking to him, or locking eyes with him throughout the hour. John suspected a deep anger burned in the boy's heart, but today was the first time there'd ever been proof.
John remained still but allowed his gaze to rove around the room. What was different about today? Why would Nathan choose now to write something so hateful?
Then it hit him.
Jake Daniels wasn't in class.
Suddenly the entire scenario made sense. When Jake was there-no matter where he sat-he found a way to turn his classmates against Nathan.
Freak ... queer ... death doctor ... nerd ... loser.
All names whispered and loosely tossed in Nathan's direction. When the whispers carried to the front of the classroom, John would raise his eyebrows toward Jake and a handful of other football players in the class.
"That's enough." The warning was usually all John had to say. And for a little while, the teasing would stop. But always the careless taunting and cruel words hit their mark. John was sure of it.
Not that Nathan ever let Jake and the others see his pain. The boy ignored all jocks, treated them as though they didn't exist. Which was probably the best way to get back at the student athletes who picked on him. Nothing bothered John's current football players more than being looked over.
That was especially true for Jake Daniels.
No matter that this year's team hadn't earned the accolades that came their way. The fact that the team's record was worse than any season in recent history mattered little to Jake and his teammates. They believed they were special, and they intended to make everyone at school treat them accordingly.
John thought about this year's team. It was strange, really. They were talented, maybe more so than any other group of kids to come through Marion High. Talk around school was that they had even more going for them than last year's team when John's own son Kade led the Eagles to a state championship. But they were arrogant and cocky, with no care for protocol or character. In all his years of coaching, John had never had a more difficult group.
No wonder they weren't winning. Their talent was useless in light of their attitudes.
And many of the boys' parents were worse. Especially since Marion had lost two of its first four games.
Parents constantly complained about playing time, practice routines, and, of course, the losses. They were often rude and condescending, threatening to get John fired if his record didn't improve.
"What happened to Marion High's undefeated record?" they would ask him. "A good coach would've kept the streak going."
"Maybe Coach Reynolds doesn't know what he's doing," they would say. "Anyone could coach the talent at Marion High and come up with an undefeated season. But losses?"
They wondered out loud what type of colossal failure John Reynolds was to take a team of Eagles football players onto the field and actually lose. It was unthinkable to the Marion High parents. Unconscionable. How dare Coach Reynolds drop two games so early in the season!
And sometimes the wins were worse.
"That was a cream puff opponent last week, Reynolds," the parents would say. If they had a two-touchdown win, the parents would harp that it should have been four at least. And then John's favorite line of all: "Why, if my son had gotten more playing time ..."
Parents gossiped behind his back and undermined the authority he had on the field. Never mind the fact that the Eagles were coming off a championship season. Never mind that John was one of the winningest coaches in the state. Never mind that more than half of last year's championship squad had graduated, placing John in what was obviously a rebuilding year.
The thing that mattered was whether the sons of John's detractors were being used at what they believed were the proper positions and for enough minutes each game. Whether their numbers were being called at the appropriate times for the big plays, and how strong their individual statistics appeared in the paper.
It was just a rotten break that the biggest controversy on the team had, in a roundabout way, made Nathan's life miserable. Two quarterbacks had come into summer practices, each ready for the starting position: Casey Parker and Jake Daniels.
Casey was the shoo-in, the senior, the one who had ridden the bench behind Kade up until last year. All his high-school football career had come down to this, his final season with the Eagles. He reported in August expecting to own the starting position.
What the boy hadn't expected was that Jake Daniels would show up with the same mind-set.
Jake was a junior, a usually good kid from a family who once lived down the street from John and his wife, Abby. But two years ago, the Danielses split up. Jake's mother took Jake and moved into an apartment. His father took a job in New Jersey hosting a sports radio program. The divorce was nasty.
Jake was one of the casualties.
John shuddered. How close had he and Abby come to doing the same thing? Those days were behind them, thank God. But they were still very real for Jake Daniels.
At first Jake had turned to John, a father figure who wasn't half a country away. John would never forget something Jake asked him.
"You think my dad still loves me?"
The kid was well over six feet tall, nearly a man. But in that instant he was seven years old again, desperate for some proof that the father he'd counted on all his life, the man who had moved away and left him, still cared.
John did everything he could to assure Jake, but as time passed, the boy grew quiet and sullen. He spent more hours alone in the weightroom and out on the field, honing his throwing skills.
When summer practices came around, there was no question who would be the starting quarterback. Jake won the contest easily. The moment that happened, Casey Parker's father, Chuck, called a meeting with John.
"Listen, Coach-" the veins on his temple popped out as he spoke-"I heard my son lost the starting position."
John had to stifle a sigh. "That's true."
The man spouted several expletives and demanded an explanation. John's answer was simple. Casey was a good quarterback with a bad attitude. Jake was younger, but more talented and coachable, and therefore the better choice.
"My son cannot be second string." Casey's father was loud, his face flushed. "We've been planning for this all his life! He's a senior and he will not be sitting the bench. If he has a bad attitude, that's only because of his intensity. Live with it."
Fortunately, John had brought one of his assistants to the meeting. The way accusations and hearsay were flying about, he'd figured he couldn't be too careful. So he and his assistant had sat there, waiting for Parker to continue.
"What I'm saying is-" Chuck Parker leaned forward, his eyes intent-"I've got three coaches breathing down my neck. We're thinking of transferring. Going where my kid'll get a fair shake."
John resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "Your son has an attitude problem, Chuck. A big one. If other high-school coaches in the area are recruiting him, it's because they haven't worked with him." John leveled his gaze at the man. "What exactly are your concerns?"
"I'll tell you my concern, Coach." Chuck pointed a rigid finger at John. "You're not loyal to your players. That's what. Loyalty is everything in sports."
This from a man whose son wanted to toss his letterman's jacket and transfer schools. As it turned out, Casey Parker stayed. He took snaps at running back and tight end and spelled Jake at quarterback. But the criticism from Casey's father had continued each week, embarrassing Casey and causing the boy to work harder to get along with Jake, his on-field rival. Jake seemed grateful to be accepted by a senior like Casey, and the two of them began spending most of their free time together. It didn't take long to see the changes in Jake. Gone was the shy, earnest kid who popped into John's classroom twice a week just to connect. Gone was the boy who had once been kind to Nathan Pike. Now Jake was no different from the majority of players who strutted across Marion High's campus.
And in that way, the quarterback controversy had only made Nathan's life more miserable. Whereas once Nathan was respected by at least one of the football players, now he didn't have a single ally on the team.
John had overheard two teachers talking recently.
"How many Marion football players does it take to screw in a light bulb?"
"I give up."
"One-he holds it while the world revolves around him."
There were nights when John wondered why he was wasting his time. Especially when his athletes' elitist attitudes divided the school campus and alienated students like Nathan Pike. Students who sometimes snapped and made an entire school pay for their low place in the social pecking order.
So what if John's athletes could throw a ball or run the length of a field? If they left the football program at Marion High without a breath of compassion or character, what was the point?
John drew a salary of $3,100 a season for coaching football. One year he'd figured it came out to less than two bucks an hour. Obviously he didn't do the job for the money.
He glanced at the clock. Three minutes of seatwork left.
Images from a dozen different seasons flashed in his mind. Why was he in it, then? It wasn't for his ego. He'd had more strokes in his days as a quarterback for the University of Michigan than most men received in a lifetime. No, he didn't coach for pride's sake.
It was, very simply, because there were two things he seemed born to do: play football ... and teach teens.
Coaching was the purest way he'd known to bring those two together. Season after season after season, it had worked. Until now. Now it didn't feel pure at all. It felt ridiculous. Like the whole sports world had gone haywire.
John drew a deep breath and stood, working the tendons in his bum knee-the one with the old football injury. He walked to the chalkboard where, for the next ten minutes, he diagramed a series of nutritional food values and meticulously explained them. Then he assigned homework.
But the whole time there was only one thing on his mind: Nathan Pike.
How had a clean-cut student like Nathan once was become so angry and hateful? Was it all because of Jake Daniels? Were Jake's and the other players' egos so inflated that they couldn't coexist with anyone different from them? And what about the words Nathan had scribbled on his notebook? Death to jocks. Did he mean it?
If so, what could be done?
Schools like Marion High grew from the safe soil of Middle America. Most did not have metal detectors or mesh backpacks or video cameras that might catch a disturbed student before he took action. Yes, they had the red-flag program. Nathan had already been red-flagged. Everyone who knew him was watching.
But what if that wasn't enough?
John's stomach tightened, and he swallowed hard. He had no answers. Only that today, in addition to grading papers, inputting student test results in the computer, holding afternoon practice, and meeting with a handful of irritated parents along the sidelines, he would also have to talk to the principal about Nathan Pike's scribbled declaration.
It was eight o'clock by the time he climbed into his car and opened an envelope he'd found in his school mailbox just before practice. (Continues...)
Excerpted from A Time to Embrace by Karen Kingsbury Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was a wonderful book. I read it in one night. I couldn't put it down. This is the second Novel I have read by her and she is such a wonderful writer.
I love this book - very predicitable that I couldn't put it down. Great book!! Great series!
Great reading. Two part story of faith, love and healing. Tear jerker.
I thought this was a good book, but I felt that it was just another Kingsbury predictable story. There's always some grand tragedy in all of her books, Things always resolve themselves in a good way. A character is given a 1% chance of living and always does. I'm a huge believer in trusting in God and following his plan, but most things in her novels are wrapped up in pretty little packages. I know God does work miracles. But I felt she was straining credibility just a little bit here! It annoys me sometimes when everything gets wrapped up in such a neat little perfect package: Two saved marriages. . . a saved preemie baby. . . an easy victory for a teenage son over a particular temptation. . . a saved job. . . Although the book and writing is solid, I am too much of a cynic to accept an ending with a bow tied upon it. Miracles occur, I agree. However, the journey is most often long and arduous. Prayers are answered but rarely the way I have specified. On the other hand, everybody's life plan is unique and different. My own miracles and answers seem to arrive in different sizes and colors than Kingsbury's protagonists. I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com <a href="http://BookSneeze.com">BookSneeze.com</a> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 <a href="http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html"target=blank">http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html</a>
I found some parts of the story a bit ¿long-winded¿. There were a few events in the story that did not need somewhat repetitive, long conversations. But despite that, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the whole book. It was a delightful and worthwhile read that I am sure many novel readers would enjoy. The overall plot was excellent, and many of the book¿s themes were very relevant as they dealt with issues that happens in many families. This book is the second book in the Timeless Love Series. I have never read the first book, but reading A Time to Embrace has made me want to read the first book, A Time to Dance.
Such a beautifully written book, which I know each of Karen Kingsley's stories will be. How I wish I had happened upon them years ago as they are guides for real life. I look forward to giving them to my grandchildren, and pray they will embrace them as I have, but at a much earlier age! I have had the great pleasure of providing a wide selection of Karen's books to a friend who is an extraordinary Young Life Leader on a rural island in Western Washington state. Thank you, Karen, and please continue writing!
The 2nd installment in Karen Kingsbury's Timeless Love Series. Definitely an "edge of your seat" book. Loved reading more about my favorite KK couple John and Abby Reynolds and the continuing spiritual growth in their marriage. Also love how KK included the issue of pornography in this book, a topic most Christian authors may shy away from. And KK details how the characters work through their issues. A great read for adults and young adults.
Another beautiful and thoughtful story by a gifted writer. I thank God for you, your talent, and family. The story made me cry a lot, but provides many opportunities for smiles and memories. I loved the scriptures and references throughout both of the books. I loved them!
I didn't read this book, but did read the first of this series. I hate to be picky, but I could not get past the total lack of punctuation. As I read, I wondered if a child had done the editing on this book. The first book also seemed to drag on forever, especially since I could see how the story would go.
A sweet second installment in the Timeless Love series.
A Time to Embrace by Karen Kingsbury John and Abby Reynolds are a "normal" loving couple that have experienced so much more than their own children and friends know. They decided to stick to their wedding vows and the Lord is blessing them because of this. In a turn of events, their faith and lives are totally shaken and altered. They must choose to trust the Lord despite all that life is throwing their way. It may seem impossible at times, but they choose to be faithful to the One that is so faithful to them. At first, I thought this book would only be so so, due to the brief summary of the book, but then I started reading it and getting to know the characters and I really enjoyed it. I found myself wondering how the characters were doing when I wasn't reading it! It's a hard one to put down, because you want to know what is going on with the Reynolds family! If you are like me, you'll find yourself putting yourself in Abby's shoes as she supports her husband and faces something she never thought she would. You'll feel like you are a part of the family and feel their joys, pains, excitement and fears. I really enjoyed reading about their deep faith in the Lord and remembering that no matter what happens in life, God has a plan for you (even it may be one that you did not imagine for yourself). Nicole, John and Abby's daughter, learns that God may not always answer our prayers like we want Him to - something that we need to remember when we pray. It was also encouraging to read about the various character growth throughout the book. This book is filled with people who have a change of heart as the story unravels. A Time to Embrace keeps you reading and guessing as to what will happen in the end. I was encouraged to read about their faith and was challenged as well to stay strong in my faith. I can definitely recommend this book! It's got a lot of depth to it and is not just a fluffy story. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did, if you read it! Thanks to Booksneeze for a great book!
All of the Karen Kingsbury novels I have read so far have touched me to the bottom of my heart. Each story is a demonstration of God's love and grace in our lives. A Time to Embrace is a story that can ultimately change lives. From teenagers who make bad choices, to struggling husbands and wives giving their broken lives a chance to heal, and the premature birth of a child. This book also takes a close look at the parents and players of a high school football team, who are totally obsessed with winning ... no matter what the cost. The message that I got from this book is that love is not easy. We will all have struggles and trials, but God is always there to give us the strength that we need. Overall, this book is a great story of love, second chances ... and some miracles! I received a complimentary copy of this book through the Book Sneeze book blogger reviewer program.