War-Torn During The Holiday Season

Since I was a kid, I have always loved Christmas—not just the day, but the whole season. Even before I really knew God on a personal level, it was still about more for me than gifts and treats and a big dinner—it was family and fun and togetherness and laughter. For me, even now on a closer walk with God where I am intimately aware that we are celebrating the birth of the Savior, it’s still about those things. I really love the music, and the lights, and the excitement, and with four kids still at home, the magic. It is my very favorite time of the year.

But now, as with so many veterans, there is a darkness that can descend over the season if I let it. It wasn’t that long ago that Christmas, more than any other holiday, brought painful memories and images I’d worked hard to forget. For me, it brought thoughts of brothers I’ve lost, who aren’t home anymore with the wives and children they’ve left behind. I think of them every day, but I imagine the loss their families feel at this time of year and it tugs at me harder. For families still on active duty, it can be a very difficult time indeed. I say families, because it’s important to remember that it is not just the warfighter who sacrifices. In many ways it is so much harder a struggle to be the spouse or the children left behind during a deployment. Unlike other types of family separation, the family of a warfighter has the stress of worry and fear added to the loneliness and longing. While it is simple enough to pray about these fears, it is another thing all together to surrender them to God completely. And in the face of real tragedy and loss associated with wartime military service, it can be hard to find God in your situation at all. The horrors of war can bring questions hard to answer to warfighter and families alike. Where is God in all of this death and destruction? Why would He “let” this happen? Why can’t God bring us back together? How can God love me, after I’ve been asked to do the things I’ve done, and where was God in the horror I’ve witnessed?

Those were the feelings I was dealing with a few years ago when I decided that I felt called to write War Torn. I was already having much success with my writing, but I felt strongly that God was calling me to use the gift He has grown in me to serve Him and touch others. At the time, to be honest, I was still probably a long way from home myself. Writing this book was a journey of healing right along side my young protagonist Jake. And I later learned, my wife, Wendy, shared much in common with Rachel, his wife in the novel. Struggling with how to put it all together (in my mind I convinced myself I meant the book, not my own life) I approached Pastor Chris Bonham, the Senior Executive Pastor at Grace Family Church, where we had been attending for a few years by then. His friendship has proven to be such a blessing in my own journey, but his impact on the book was immeasurable. I’ve written before about the important message he shared with me in that meeting—about the loss of hope that occurred at the crucifixion and how those present with Jesus on the at day must have felt torn apart, full of hopelessness, perhaps even betrayed by God on that day. Because they didn’t have what we have now going into Easter—the knowledge that the resurrection was just around the corner and that through Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, we can now have a personal, intimate relationship with God—they felt only the pain and loss and horror of that day. That conversation with Pastor Chris changed me and it also changed the framework of War Torn. Instead of writing about unanswerable questions, I learned that it is about surrender of those questions, along with the hurt and loss, to God. It is about finding our way to family and to our faith. It’s about hope.

So, what is Christmas, if not a celebration of the birth of that hope? War Torn is about redemption, and true redemption—and the marvelous release of pain that comes with it—was born in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. When God decided to come to us in the flesh, to take our failures on himself and sacrifice himself on a cross so that we could be in relationship with Him, our redemption was born.

It still hurts to know that there is grief in this season for the families my brothers left behind. It turns out, unlike my naïve interpretation of the scripture early in my walk, Romans Eight does not promise us freedom from pain or suffering. But it does promise us that, through the hope brought by a relationship with Jesus Christ, we can surrender our suffering and burdens to God and he will ease them—that he will even bring good from them. That is the hope that was born in that manger.

Christmas presents a unique opportunity to share that hope with others—those in desperate need of the hope found in the message of Jesus’ birth and life as well as his death and resurrection. If there are service members and their families in your community, reach out to them this season with that hope. If there are veterans in your community—and with nearly eighteen years of continuous war fighting that is nearly every community in our nation—Celebrate Christmas by bringing the hope of the risen Christ to those who have served and live near you. If your church doesn’t have a support group for these warfighters and their families, ask why. Maybe even help get one launched. If you don’t know how to start, that’s okay. Find us at www.wartornnovel.com and let us help you.

It is a season for giving, so give what matters most.

Merry Christmas.

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Navy veteran and Wall Street Journal and Amazon bestselling thriller author Jeffrey Wilson is a vascular surgeon who was completing his training when terrorists attacked America on 9/11. Already having served, Jeff immediately rejoined the active duty Navy and served as a combat surgeon with the Marines and then with an East Coast–based SEAL team and a Joint Special Operations Task Force, making multiple deployments. His experiences there—seeing things that cannot be unseen—sent him on his own journey exploring, and at times questioning, his faith, and are the inspiration for this novel. Jeff has also worked as an actor, a firefighter, a paramedic, a jet pilot, and a diving instructor.

Together with fellow Navy veteran Brian Andrews, Jeff writes the Amazon #1 bestselling Tier One series of military thrillers and (under the pseudonym Alex Ryan) the Nick Foley thriller series. Jeff is also the author of three award-winning supernatural thrillers.

Jeff and his wife, Wendy, are Virginia natives who, with their four children, Ashley, Emma, Jack, and Connor, call southwest Florida home. When not writing his next novel, Jeff still practices medicine and leads the Men’s Military Ministry at his church, where Wendy leads the Beautiful Moms Ministry, Emma sings on the praise and worship team, Jack works on the AV team, and Connor has volunteered in the children’s ministry.

Learn more at www.wartornnovel.com and www.andrews-wilson.com.

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT - In the Shadow of Croft Towers

Here at HBTB, we are super excited about an upcoming debut novel - In the Shadow of Croft Towers by Abigail Wilson - which releases January 15, 2019 from Thomas Nelson. We’re also super excited because we have an EXCLUSIVE early excerpt to share with you today!

About the book

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From debut author Abigail Wilson comes a shadowy Regency tale of secrets and spies, love and treachery. 

“Mysterious . . . Melodic . . . Thrilling and original . . . Abigail Wilson has crafted a debut that shines.”—Kristy Cambron, bestselling author of Castle on the Rise 

Croft Towers holds more than its share of secrets . . . and Sybil is determined to uncover them all.

When Sybil Delafield’s coach to Croft Towers was robbed by highwaymen, she should have realized that her new position as companion to old Mrs. Chalcroft would be no ordinary job. Upon Sybil’s arrival, Mrs. Chalcroft sneaks into her room in the dark of night, imploring her to relay messages to town that are to stay hidden from the rest of the family. Who exactly is she working for and what do the messages contain?

When fellow passengers of the robbed coach are later murdered, Sybil’s hunt for the truth takes on a new urgency. The only person she can rely on is Mr. Sinclair, Mrs. Chalcroft’s godson, but under all his charms he too leads a double life. Sybil must decide if he is the one honest voice she can trust, or if he is simply using her for his own advances.

With murderers, smugglers, and spies on the loose, nothing—and no one—in Regency England is what they claim. Can Sybil even trust what she knows about herself? 

What others are saying

“Abigail Wilson's In the Shadow of Croft Tower is the kind of novel I love to recommend. Well written, thoroughly engrossing, and perfectly inspiring. I honestly couldn't flip the pages fast enough.”—New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shelley Shepard Gray

"In the Shadow of Croft Tower is beautifully written, suspenseful, and satisfyingly romantic. Abigail Wilson paints a beautiful picture of pastoral Regency England. This book will keep you riveted to the end, and you'll be rooting for the feisty heroine to get her happily ever after."—Jennifer Beckstrand, author of Home on Huckleberry Hill

“Mysterious . . . Melodic . . . Thrilling and original . . . Abigail Wilson has crafted a debut that shines.”—Kristy Cambron, bestselling author of Castle on the Rise 

"Part mystery and part romance, Abigail Wilson's debut is an atmospheric period novel that will keep readers guessing to the very end."—Amanda Flower, USA Today bestselling author of Death and Daisies

watch for our review in the Launch Issue of HBTB, shipping out later this week!


The Chalcroft landau rattled to a halt. Beyond the rain-soaked window I saw little but an eerie sky. I told myself not to panic.

The carriage door screeched open to reveal a lanky footman, who stumbled backward at the sight of me. My shaky hand sought the remains of my drenched coiffure, and I forced a measured breath before grasping my reticule.

The wide-eyed young man seemed to recover and extended an umbrella over the carriage’s narrow opening. “Miss Delafield, is it?”

“Yes.” I forced a tepid smile before descending the steps, my wet frock clinging to my legs, the chill wind whipping at my skirt. I’d planned such a different arrival, one meant to impress. One I’d hoped would afford me the answers I’d come for.

The footman led me across a gravel drive and into the lurking shadow of my new home—Croft Towers. The aged structure rose up out of the misty twilight like an old king dressed in black, surveying his kingdom with a cautious eye. My chest tightened.

“This way, miss.” The footman shuffled forward then stopped. “We’d planned for you to come in the front, but considering your, uh, present state, perhaps it’s best—”

“Nonsense, James.” A tall man with a heavy build held the front door wide, his face weathered with age, his eyes shrewd. A smile appeared for a moment then vanished into a stern chin.

“You may address me as Hodge. I am butler here at the Towers.”

I nodded. “Pleased to meet you. Miss Delafield—Mrs. Chalcroft’s new companion.”

“I’m well aware why you are here. It was I who sent the carriage.”

He motioned me through the door. “Come inside, and I will figure out what is to be done with you.”

I crossed the threshold into a dim marble entryway. To the side, a small candelabrum winked in the wind. The wavering light did little to compete with the overwhelming gloom of thick crossbeams and paneled walls.

Hodge frowned. “Would you be so good as to wait here?”

I nodded, wrapping my arms around my middle, a terrible empty feeling settling into my stomach. Hodge ambled off at a brisk pace, and all too quickly I found myself alone. Alone with my thoughts and doubts.

Impostor. The voice whispered from the recesses of my mind, the same one I’d heard this many weeks or more. The voice was followed by the sound of a casement clock, which ticked to life from somewhere in the darkness. Wind gusts surged against the heavy door, clambering for a way in; but the air inside the house remained motionless, heavy with dust. Unable to move or sit, the nagging chill I’d endured throughout the journey returned in full force.

A door slammed in the distance. Uneven footsteps trailed down a far-off hall. I turned, but no one entered the front room, and the steps dissolved into the pervasive darkness around me. A shiver crept up my arms. Standing as still as possible, I inspected the shadows, fighting off the unnatural feeling of being watched.

Taken from “In the Shadow of Croft Towers” by Abigail Wilson. Copyright © 2018 by Abigail Wilson. Used by permission of http://www.thomasnelson.com/.