Hello from Northern Minnesota, where the leaves are crimson, the air smells of wood-burning ovens, and Friday night football is our favorite night of the week! I love to sit in the stands and cheer on my football players. It’s one of my greatest joys.
I am working on a Christmas novella for next fall. It will be a continuing tale of the Christiansen family, a collection of books about a family who runs a resort on the north shore of Minnesota. The first in the series came out last June—Take a Chance on Me.The next, It Had to Be You, hits the shelves just in time for Valentine’s Day. It’s a “Good Samaritan” story about two people—Jace Jacobsen, a hockey player, and Eden Christiansen, an obit writer—who find a John Doe and launch out on a quest to find his family. It will lead them into a discovery of who they truly are and the God who loves them all.
I thought you might enjoy a glimpse at the deeper questions this story raises.
Excerpted from It Had To Be You, Tyndale, 2014:
His [Jace's] Bible was thick, like a study version, with a frayed leather cover, as if this might not be his first time through. Bulletins parted a number of the pages. “What are you reading?”
He looked up at Eden. “Do you ever feel like you don’t really belong in the Kingdom of God? Like you’re loved, but not liked? Saved, but not favored?”
She sipped her coffee, thought for a minute. “I guess sometimes I feel like I’m not necessarily God’s favorite. I look at my family and wonder what happened. Everyone else got the talent, and I got . . .”
Obits. She sighed. “I don’t know what happened with my life, exactly. I always thought I’d be a great writer, a reporter. But I didn’t land the job of my dreams out of college, and since then, I can’t seem to find my footing. And yet, I don’t really have a reason to complain.”
“Yeah, that’s it. You feel like there should be something more waiting for you, but at the same time, you’re grateful for the life you do have.”
He seemed so unfamiliar to her, so normal, a man searching, authentic, honest. This wasn’t the Jace she’d seen on the glossy pages of Hockey Today.
Maybe, just maybe, she’d discovered the real Jace. The one she hoped might be behind all the headlines. “You know what, though? I wonder if most Christians feel this way. I mean, look at Peter. He saw Jesus, who He really was, and told Jesus to get away from him, called himself a sinful man. And Paul . . . he suffered so much that he wanted to die.”
“But Paul also said that he counted it all gain—everything—just to know salvation and the wonder of God’s love.” “Yeah. And that’s the hard part. When we’re struggling-when my car doesn’t start, or when you’re injured—”
“Or have a migraine.”
She frowned at him, but nodded. “Yeah. When life seems to go south, we feel like God doesn’t love us. But I keep going back to something my dad said to Owen. Maybe we have to start redefining how we understand God’s love. And start hoping. My dad says that hope is one part confidence in God’s love for us and one part our delight in Jesus. And that when we start to hope, it changes us, sets us apart. Makes us see life more clearly.”
“We look at our own problems and we say . . . why? Maybe we should look at our blessings and ask the same thing.”
She took a sip of her coffee. “I think I need to remember that, too. I do have enough. I have this wonderful family, and so what I’m not a reporter—”
“Yet.” She smiled. “This is enough. More than enough.” She raised an eyebrow. “However, you do have an amazing life.”
But his mouth fell into a grim line. “I beat people up for a living. How can God possibly like me? I feel like a cautionary tale—look, kids, don’t be like Jace Jacobsen, only skidding into heaven under the pads, or worse, due to a technicality.”
Her mouth opened, and he looked away fast, as if embarrassed.
He was serious. It was the first time she ever really saw it, the fact that his position as an enforcer dug into him, churned inside him. Made him something he didn’t want to be, yes, but also skewed him into believing a lie. The one that called him a monster.
Her voice softened. “For the record, I don’t think you like beating people up. I know you said that, but the truth is, it’s your job. And, frankly, you’re oversimplifying. But here’s the biggest part—” She reached for his Bible, turned over to 1 John 3 and read, “‘See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children.’”
She handed him back the Bible. “Children of God. Beloved by God. Zephaniah 3:17 says ‘He will delight over you with singing.’ That’s what we should be hearing, I think, the delight, the applause of heaven. If we could get that through our heads, it would change everything.”
I think this is one of the biggest truths we struggle with as Christians. Understanding that God loves us, hearing the applause of heaven in the face of our daily struggles.
It Had to Be You explores the reality that God picks us. He loves us. He is cheering us on. It is one of his greatest joys.
I hope you’ll pick the book up —(or reserve it!). But even more, I hope that this month God will show you in small, amazing ways how much He loves you.
May you hear Him cheering you on.
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