Redeeming Love

I do not typically read Christian fiction. Honestly, I’ve found a lot of Christian fiction to be chUnknown.jpegeesy, and I am a hard-core realist. Before I pick up a book, I usually have a preconceived idea as to whether I will actually enjoy the read, or find it dull. But every once in a while, a book completely surprises me. Redeeming Love was exquisite, but it took me THREE YEARS to turn to the first page.

I finally picked up Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers because it had been recommended to me by over ten people. I was tired of people telling me what to read. I was determined to prove everyone wrong, and find some flaw with this book that I had been avoiding for years. I thought it would be boring. I thought the “Christianse” would make me roll my eyes and laugh out loud.

But by the end of the Introduction, I was hooked. The story is set in the mid-1800s and details the life of the stubborn and headstrong prostitute Angel. It is (loosely) based on the story of Hosea and his wife in the Bible. I was pleasantly surprised at the way the story itself helped me read the familiar Biblical passage with new eyes.

By the second half of the book, I was straight up obsessed with the characters. I could not put it down. I ate dinner with the book cracked open in front of me, I took the book to the movies, I snuck passages at any break in my day. And then I stayed up until 4:00 in the morning to finish it. The plot was on my mind at all hours of the day, and I found myself in tears over Angel’s plight.

Then the story ended, and the sheer genius of the novel hit me like a punch in the gut. Francine Rivers has managed to tug on the heartstrings of readers for over thirty years, and this is by far her most beloved book. The setting of this novel is far removed from modern society, yet still manages to feel distinctly relatable to readers in the 21st century. It is gold.

If you are looking for a good fiction novel, read this book.

If you are biased against Christian fiction (guilty) read this book.

If you are in love with the concept of love, read this book.

If you have eyes, read this book.

It might seem long at first, but I promise it will pick up pace. Whatever you do, just keep reading. Allow the beautiful words to wash over you, and let the reality of God’s love for us inspire you.

PS: if you’re already one of the millions of fans of this novel, you’ll understand this: images.jpeg

Gaining What I Never Knew I Needed

I’typorama.jpgve been thinking a lot about the Lord’s faithfulness. In the Christian bubble, it is common to hear phrases like “the Lord answers prayers”  or “His plan is best.” But when you’re in the mire, trudging through a difficult season, these encouraging messages start to feel more like salt in the (many) wounds.

Those who know me best, know that the past year has been both pain splattered and tear stained. Last March, so many aspects of my life felt fragile. A relationship I thought was marriage focused had ended and the college I had chosen didn’t seem to fit. A period of depression covered me like a wave. I cried a lot. I prayed a lot. And I began to learn how to be open with God. Instead of hiding my anger and frustration, I told him how broken and battered I felt.

After choosing to leave school and come home, my world felt rocked. I still cried a lot. I still prayed with a vengeance. For months, I felt bitter at the loss of my relationship, and anger at the cards that I had been dealt.

What I couldn’t see, what I couldn’t even imagine, was the beautiful way God was leading me into His arms. Eventually the tears stopped rolling down my face. The autumn leaves began to fall, and I was a new student once again.

In the midst of my depression, I felt led to volunteer at a women’s ministry. I had no idea which one to choose, but when I stumbled upon the PRC website, I knew God was leading me in their direction. My first thought was: “Well if God wants me here, He’s going to have to make it work because I’m definitely too young to be accepted as a volunteer.” He probably chucked at that, because I received a phone call a few days after I submitted my application.

When I started volunteering at the Pregnancy Resource Center, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. In my eyes, I was broken and hoped to find some sort of healing by pouring myself out to others. After being stuck in a selfish state of “why me?” for months, I craved service. The Lord led me to the center, and I found myself wide-eyed at the beauty of the ministry.

The center became the highlight of my week. When I was serving Jesus alongside the other women there, I felt His peace and His presence beckoning me closer to Him. I had been praying for community for months, and found it as I crossed the threshold at the center.

One day it dawned on me that I hadn’t thought about my relationship ending for months. Instead of feeling empty all the time, I felt full. I felt more on fire for the Lord than ever before. My season of singleness had strengthened my relationship with the Lord in countless ways.

And when I was hired on staff at the center, tears rushed down my face as I remembered asking God so many questions a year ago: “Why are you moving me back to Charlotte?” “Why is everything falling apart?” In that moment, it became evident that the Lord was answering all of my questions. Why Charlotte? For this. Why now? Because I have called you.

Tonight, as I was driving home from work, I was mediating on the way the Lord has been faithful to me throughout this season of growth. He took a difficult, heart breaking season of despair and used it for His glory and for my good.

Because He is so rich in mercy, he allowed me to stumble upon the PRC website, and fill out a volunteer application with a shaking hand. Because he is abounding in love, he gave me Christ-centered community and fellowship with my co-workers. Because he is wonderful, He allowed me to lose everything I thought I ever wanted, to gain what He knew I truly needed. 

If you find yourself in a season of despair, my friend, hold onto the hope that the Lord is so faithful in the midst of our circumstances. It may feel like you’re alone, but the Lord has never left your side. When the clouds shift, and the sun comes out, you’ll be able to see His plan was mightier than you could ever imagine. Hold on tightly. Keep coming back to the cross. Jesus is the only constant we’ve got in this world.

“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16

Sunday Review: Steadfast Love

I just finished meditating over the truths written in Lauren Chandler’s Steadfast Love.img_3890-2

I’m usually wary of reading new releases, because I like to read reviews on books before I commit to one. But I entered a giveaway, and received a free copy in the mail. So I had no excuse to avoid cracking open the text.

With virtually no expectations, I started reading a beautiful commentary on Psalm 107. Chandler’s honest heart-cries are so inspiring. I loved that her insights were sprinkled with quotes from various leaders of the Christian faith (John Piper and Tim Keller to name a few.) She unpacks the Bible in a wise way, using references from both the New and Old Testament to further her commentary on Psalm 107. I found myself gaining new perspective on Bible stories and finding hope in the Lord’s steadfast love.

The most impressive aspect of the book, in my opinion, was the layout. The chapters were weighty, but never left me feeling bogged down. The words were written in blue ink. The cover is beautiful. And each chapter begins with the verses from Psalm 107, so that readers stay consistent with the material.

I used the book as part of my daily Bible study, because her chapters were so Biblically sound and full of nuggets of wisdom. In reading this book, give yourself some time to really mull over what Chandler is beautifully saying. This is not a speed read. It is meant to be enjoyed, but also savored. I’m so thankful I gave it a chance! I will be coming back to it for years to come.

Favorite quotes:

“You may find yourself in the desert because God loved you too much to let you live as a slave to your own Egypt and your own wells. He has drawn you into the wilderness because of his lovingkindness to expose Egypt and the wells for what they are-false anchors. What did you receive in return? Freedom.”

“The beginning of wisdom is coming to the end of ourselves.”

“Humans were not meant to shoulder stardom. As the moon reflects the light of the sun, so we are meant to reflect the glory of God.”