Fridays with Friends Guestblog by Nicole Odell

Is it possible to reinvent a reputation? Is it ever impossible?

Sixteen-year-old Carmen Castillo desperately wants her parents to restore their marriage so she can return to her once-lavish life. But when her dad lets his new girlfriend turn Carmen’s bedroom into a dressing room, her last bit of faith in her parents, and in God, shatters. Her only hope is to create a family of her own with Nate—no matter that his political family finds her ethnicity distasteful. When that plan fails, Carmen packs up her resentment and anger, and heads to Diamond Estates seeking healing for her embittered soul. Concluding there is no such thing as ruby slippers, Carmen wonders if she’ll ever find happiness and wholeness.

As I’ve been promoting the release of the Diamond Estates series, starting with The Wishing Pearl in October and now The Embittered Ruby, the topic of reinvention has been on my mind. During this exploration, I added a new column to the Choose NOW Ministries website to be written by Stephanie Morrill called On Reinventing Yourself where we’re digging in to find out how that works. I’ve also had readers write to me and ask if and how people can make a ton of mistakes and then reinvent themselves in the eyes of those around them. The underlying fear is that they’d find forgiveness through Jesus Christ, only to bear the scars of a bad reputation forever.

That’s a huge theme in each of the books of the Diamond Estates series . . .because it’s a huge theme in my own life. Maybe in yours, too.

What about when someone does really bad things? Even worse when that person had claimed to be a Christian. Do those choices completely void any witness for Christ? What if regret sets in and she repents of those choices and wants to get back on track? This is especially difficult for a teenager—reputations are very difficult to rebuild in high school!

I made a lot of bad choices when I was a teenager, just like the girls in these books. My choices were driven by a search for something—love, acceptance, fulfillment . . .something. Eventually, as my searching turned up empty, I moved into a Teen Challenge center, much like the Diamond Estates program in my books, and hunkered down, committed to staying put until I met God for real. It didn’t take long until I discovered there’s only one way to fill that cavernous void, and that’s with Jesus.

In The Embittered Ruby, Carmen Castillo struggles through her parents’ divorce and a forced relocation from a mansion in upstate New York to an apartment in Hackensack, New Jersey. Desperate for a real family like the one she’d lost, Carmen decides she’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen for herself since she could no longer trust her parents to provide security and a loving home.

She battles, like many of us, the whispers of the enemy that tell her she has to look out for herself and can’t depend on anyone. Those whispers watered her emptiness until it grew into something she couldn’t manage any longer. As readers, we have the privilege of a bird’s-eye view from which we can see what drives her, but Carmen doesn’t have that level of understanding of her own motivations.

Isn’t it that way for all of us? People who know us well and understand what drives us can see why we might do what we do or say what we say, but we rarely know ourselves that well. If we truly did grasp all of the intricacies going on in our hearts and minds, wouldn’t it be easier to make wise choices?

It’s like identifying a cancer. If you can’t pinpoint what’s happening in your body, it just grows and grows until it takes over and devourers your flesh. If you know what it is and where it is, you can eradicate it.

In light of Carmen’s story and my own, there are three things I pray for myself, my kids, my readers, and you:

I pray that the motivation for sin would be illuminated by God’s spotlight so we can identify it, deal with it, and kick it out. Next I pray for the strength to embrace change and disappointment as part of God’s refining fire. Finally, I pray for the power to rise above pain and poor choices, reinventing the person shaped by lies into an embodiment of truth.

“…He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6, NIV)

Bio: Nicole O’Dell, founder of Choose NOW Ministries and host of Choose NOW Radio: Parent Talk and Teen Talk, is a youth culture expert who writes and speaks to preteens, teenagers, and parents about how to prepare for life’s tough choices. She’s author of YA fiction, including the popular Scenarios for Girls interactive fiction series and the Diamond Estates Series, and non-fiction for teens including Girl Talk, 2/1/12, which she wrote with her two daughters based on their popular advice column. Hot Buttons, O’Dell’s non-fiction series for parents helps pre-empt peer pressure by tackling tough issues. Visit for more info.

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