September 30, 2019

Clarification on My Last Communication

Friends, thank you for your eagerness to follow me away from my blog and to my newsletter. I have unfortunately caused some confusion. Let me clarify: if you receive my blog posts (like this one) by email, you are also already subscribed to my newsletter. So you don't need to do anything further.

If you receive my blog posts in some sort of RSS feed, such as through Bloglovin or Feedly, you need to subscribe by email to my newsletter, as you will no longer hear from me otherwise.

If you have any questions, let me know. I'm happy to help.

Thank you.

I'm Moving!

I started blogging in 2005, which at that time meant posting pictures of my babies for family.

In 2008, I started writing in secret, afraid to post anything non-kid oriented on the internet for all the world to see.

In 2009, I started testing the waters, putting thoughts in blog posts, sharing some lessons I was learning that no one ever read, except for perhaps my parents.

From 2009-2012, I found out that I loved writing, that I felt as if I were worshiping God when I put words together. I learned I only know what God’s really doing in me when I put it to words. Even as no one was reading my blog, I kept writing, learning and honing my craft.

In 2013, I published a book, and it was so scary and wonderful, and I’ve been writing and publishing ever since.

Some of you have been with me as readers for ten years now, and I want to say thank you. At times, I sit back and marvel, knowing I'm so privileged to do what I do, and you've helped make that possible.

I started that blog in 2005 on Blogger and, although I’ve updated the look a few times, I've never had a true website. I’ve basically been living in the writer dark ages. And is anyone even reading blogs anymore?!? (Are you? I’m genuinely interested.) 

Today, my friend, I've finally moved into the modern age and have launched a new website!

I will no longer be writing at gracecoversme.com. In fact, I will not be regularly blogging. I will, however, whether by website or stone tablet, continue writing. Coming in 2020: a new book! Of course, you'll need to head to my new website to find out all about it. 😉I'll also continue hosting my podcast, By Faith, and am currently working on a Bible study on the book of Matthew. I have also started releasing a monthly e-newsletter, which you can subscribe to here, and that's the best way to keep up with me from now on.

Will you come visit me? You can now find me at Christinehoover.net, which sounds so author-ly and official, does it not?

So to summarize:
I won't be blogging, so I will no longer show up in your blog feeds.
Instead, you can hear from me once a month through my newsletter.
You can also follow along with my podcast.
And of course, I'm on Instagram and Facebook.

Thank you for being a faithful reader!

July 2, 2019

A Must-Read Book (and a Few of My Recent Favorites)

In our family, summer means more trips to the local library and bigger stacks on our bedside tables. In the past, I've forced reading on two of my boys, but finally--finally--this year, they've each happily settled into genres they love, they're constantly asking me if the books they've requested at the library are ready, and if the house has grown quiet, I eventually find them tucked away somewhere, reading.

One of my boys is currently reading The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, and I couldn't be happier. The Hiding Place has been instrumental in my life, so I've loved talking with my son about Corrie's experiences. In fact, The Gospel Coalition recently asked me to write about this beloved book and why every Christian should read it. I've included the article below, in hopes that if you haven't read this classic, you'll add it to the top of your to-read list. 

Following the post, I've listed some of my recent favorites, as well as a link to my all-time favorites. (Note: all links are affiliate links.) I hope you too have opportunities to be discovered tucked away somewhere this summer, reading. Here, friends, is my post about one of my favorite books:

The fleas.

When I glimpse the well-worn spine of The Hiding Place on my bookshelf, I always think first of the fleas and the horror of human beings forced to sleep in flea-infested straw bedding in a concentration camp. And then I remember with amazement and deep conviction the prayer whispered on that straw by Betsie ten Boom and recalled by her sister Corrie: “Thank you, God, for the fleas.”

The first time I read The Hiding Place, I was in my mid-20s and, after a lifetime of assigned reading, was rediscovering the joy of reading for pleasure. Drawn to biographies of faithful Christians, I couldn’t devour them fast enough. I went to these books in search of worlds and experiences outside my own from which to mine wisdom. I gobbled up books such as Peace Child, Evidence Not SeenA Chance to DieShadow of the Almighty, Surprised byJoy, Living Sacrifice, and Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God, but I returned over and over again to Corrie ten Boom and the Beje in Holland, her jail cell, and the flea-ridden bunk she shared with her sister in Ravensbruck, deep in the cold, darkened heart of Nazi Germany.

God’s Goodness During Humanity’s Worst

Corrie’s memoir begins happily enough as she recalls her home, work, and family life in Holland. A cloud hangs over her telling, however, because as all students of history know, war looms on the horizon. When Nazi Germany invades and occupies in Holland, Corrie notes small and confounding changes around her: stars of David appearing on passersby, windows of Jewish businesses broken by rocks, ugly words appearing on synagogue walls. Eventually Corrie and her family notice Jewish neighbors disappearing—to where, they aren’t sure—so they begin hiding Jews in their home and working with an underground network to spirit them to safety.
Corrie, her father Casper, and her sister Betsie are eventually betrayed by a fellow Dutchman, arrested, and imprisoned. The two women are ultimately transferred to Ravensbruck, a German concentration camp. While in the camp, bedded down with the fleas, sickly Betsie shares a post-war vision with Corrie: She must tell what she’s seen—not merely the brutality but also how the love and forgiveness found in Christ surpasses the evil and hate of the world. Corrie must tell, Betsie implores, how God was there among them in their deepest suffering.
Betsie doesn’t live to see the reality of her vision, but Corrie does. She’s released from the concentration camp based, she’d later discover, on a clerical error. This divinely appointed clerical error set her on a trek all over the world to proclaim what she’d seen and experienced—a story of God’s faithfulness during some of the worst suffering humanity could invent.

Honest Faith Put into Practice

As a young woman, I was a grateful recipient of Corrie’s story. I needed her honesty as she attempted to reconcile faith with suffering. When Betsie thanked God for the fleas, I was almost repulsed. I resonated more with Corrie than Betsie when Corrie said, “Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.” When Betsie expressed compassion for the Nazi guards, earnestly praying for souls hardened by hate, I stood with Corrie on the opposite side, uncertain if forgiveness could ever come. But through certain circumstances that revealed God’s goodness, God did make Corrie grateful for the fleas. And when, after the war, a former guard in her barracks extended a hand, asking for forgiveness, Corrie chose to offer it despite her feelings.
As I grew older, I returned to these examples as I myself faced “fleas” and situations where I knew to obey God meant forgiving those who had hurt me, albeit in situations much less severe than what Corrie and millions of others endured in concentration camps during World War II. Because Corrie’s faith was accompanied by obedience, it was as if she came alongside me as one of the “great cloud of witnesses” mentioned in Hebrews 11 and said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” She showed me that the light of God could always be found, no matter the darkness.
I keep returning to the pages of The Hiding Place, each time amid different circumstances, and yet I find it as relevant for today as it was when it was published almost 50 years ago. In fact, this is a book for our time, because it reminds us that the truth of the gospel stretches far beyond our current generation (and today’s Twitter squabbles), far into the depths of our human darkness and need, and far into the practice of how we live among our neighbors.
We need Corrie’s and Betsie’s examples of actually living what we say we believe, remembering that faith without works is dead. And it seems what we most need now is courageous love―seeking to do for our neighbors what Christ has done for us: initiating, forgiving, and sacrificing. Corrie warns of what impedes us from what she herself experienced:
I saw that stony indifference to others was the most fatal disease of the concentration camp. I felt it spread to myself: how could one survive if one kept on feeling? . . . It was better to narrow the mind to one’s own need, not to see, not to think. (234)
We too must fight apathy by choosing to see our neighbors and think and look beyond ourselves.

Power of the Word

We also need to hear from a woman starved of freedom, food, and family that what kept her alive was a contraband Bible she miraculously kept hidden throughout her ordeal. Corrie describes “gulping” the entire Gospels in one sitting and “living” in the truths of the Word as if they were written for her exact situation. In a flea-ridden bunkhouse, so filthy that no guard would enter, she and Betsie would open the Bible and read it aloud, waiting as different voices translated the life-giving words into German, Polish, and French:
Like waifs clustered around a blazing fire, we gathered about it, holding out our hearts to its warmth and light. The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the word of God. . . . I would look about us as Betsie read, watching the light leap from face to face. More than conquerors. . . . It was not a wish. It was a fact. We knew it, we experienced it minute by minute—poor, hated, hungry. We are more than conquerors. Not “we shall be.” We are! (206)
If Scripture sustained these women in the darkest of places, surely it’s our sustenance as we wait for our own darkness to end. In our world full of ideas, may we cherish and “gulp” the life-giving words just as Corrie and Betsie did.
I certainly will keep returning to The Hiding Place again and again, learning from Corrie and Betsie, and remembering why I can thank God in any situation, even if it involves fleas.

Book Recommendations: My More Recent Favorites

If you love book recommendations, you can always follow along with what I'm reading on Goodreads. Currently I'm reading Teach Us To Want and The Color of Compromise, both of which I'm really enjoying. Here's what I've read lately that I'd recommend to you:

The Prodigal Prophet by Tim Keller (on the book of Jonah)
A Company of Heroes by Tim Kessee (stories of gospel work all across the world)
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (riveting fiction)
Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport (practical ways to minimize social media's priority)
Courage, Dear Heart: Letters to a Weary World by Rebecca Reynolds (a book of hope)
No One Ever Asked by Kate Ganshert (fiction that teaches in a non-preachy way)

I'm excited about the release of a few books coming out in the next year, including Lore Ferguson Wilbert's Handle With Care and Rachael Denhollander's What is a Girl Worth? And I have my own book coming out next March! I'll tell you more about it in time, but it's called With All Your Heart, and in true Amazon fashion, it's already available for pre-order--if you're so inclined to pre-order 8 months in advance. (Hey, I'll take it!)

Book Recommendations: My All-Time Favorites

Friends, I keep a running list of my favorite books here. What are your all-time favorites that you can't help but recommend and re-read?

June 11, 2019

We Need to Talk About Friendship. Here's How.

I tell people all the time: I wrote a book on friendship because it was a book I needed for most of my 20’s and 30’s. Through those desperate years, I hadn’t known how to think about friendship in a healthy, biblical way. I just knew I felt lonely and frustrated and insecure around other women—feelings that gathered like an avalanche and buried me in my own confused isolation. 

So I finally took a good long look at friendship. I searched Scripture. I talked with other women and observed those who seemed to do it well. I learned that I had an idealistic (read: unrealistic) idea of what friendship should be, so I chose to approach friendship in a different way—a way that left room for imperfection and missteps and the risk of vulnerability. A way that starved the idolatry of finding my security in a “tribe,” finally finding “my person,” or endlessly searching for effortless friendships.

I love talking about friendship. In fact, last weekend, I got to teach a group of women what nuggets of truth I’ve learned. But even as I drove to that event, I was wrestling in prayer over my real life friendships, uncertain and feeling needy. In other words, I’m still prone to seeking security in my relationships and being frustrated when they aren’t exactly as I’d like them to be.

And I’m finding that in each season of life, there are new friendship complexities to explore and work through. Here’s what I’m learning about friendship in my 40’s: women my age are carrying the most responsibility we ever have. As we swirl in activity, we must be extremely intentional about making time for face-to-face friendship. But also? By this point, I’ve been friends with folks long enough that we know each other well, faults and all. The command of Scripture that we should bear with one another and overlook offenses comes more and more into play. In other words, we must love each other intentionally and not give up on one another.

Friendship is so important to our sanctification and faith. Easy? No. But important, nonetheless. I wholeheartedly believe we need to be talking about friendship from a biblical perspective, so we can be intentional about our relationships and be willing to work through the hard stuff when the hard stuff comes along. Because it always does.

Summer is great time for this, and I want to help you have these conversations! I’ve put together a free 6-week Bible study and discussion guide that corresponds with my book, Messy Beautiful Friendship. So gather at the pool while your kids swim or on your porch in the evenings and dig into what the Bible says about friendship!

Download the Participant's Guide here.

You in? I can't wait to hear from you regarding what you're discussing this summer! Tag me on social media and use the hashtag #messybeautifulfriendship to share what you're learning. 

May 15, 2019

The Gift is Not the Greatest

Before I get to my blog post for today...
A few weeks ago, a friend asked if I was going to continue with my podcast after the season on friendship, and I was very confused by the question, because I did continue: I'm currently in the middle of a season on serving by faith. Then it dawned on me that she'd probably been listening to By Faith directly on my website rather than a podcast platform, she'd missed the announcement that I'd no longer be sharing the podcast episodes on my blog, and if she'd missed it, many others likely missed it as well. If that's you, I apologize! I'd loved to have you join me for the current season, where I've invited guests to help me explore what it means to know and use our spiritual gifts in our unique contexts and seasons of life.

The best way to receive new podcast seasons and episodes is by subscribing through a podcast platform like iTunesStitcherGoogle Play, or Spotify. Once you subscribe you'll receive notice through that platform when a new episode is available. (If you're technologically challenged, feel free to email me so I can send you instructions on how to subscribe.)

You can also listen on you computer directly on my website or on the podcast website, which is helpful if you'd also like links mentioned in the show.

Finally, if you're on social media, I post about new episodes when they release. Come find me on Facebook or Instagram and give me a follow.

Now, on to the blog post for today...

I played the flute in high school, both in marching band and in what we called symphonic band, which was basically non-marching season.

Every year, without fail, the guys that filled out the brass sections--the trumpets, trombones, baritones, and tubas--consistently poked fun at my section, reminding us that no one could really hear us from the stands. In other words, we didn't much matter during marching season. They were the most important, because they were loud and, more often than not, they carried the primary melody for whatever song we played.
In some ways they were right. Unless we flautists transitioned to piccolo, we couldn't be heard in the stands above the brass and the pounding bass drums, except for when the songs turned briefly dirge-like and our flutes could rise up in the quiet.

But did that mean we didn't matter? Is being heard what makes something matter? 

During symphonic season, everything changed. We played different kinds of music than we did during football season--no longer the rousing, crowd-pleasers, nor the fight songs we could high-step to. The snare drummers put away their rat-a-tat-ta drumsticks and picked up timpani mallets instead. Some of our clarinet players pulled out their oboes and bassoons. For large sections of some of our pieces, the brass players would just sit there, not playing a note, while the flutes and clarinets took center stage.

To be honest, I loved marching season far more than symphonic season. At times I wished I'd chosen an instrument vital to our marching season show, perhaps the snare drum or the trumpet. The brass sections were right: as flutes, we didn't much matter to the show. We only mattered in boring, old symphonic season that no one much cared about.

I've been thinking about this lately in relation to spiritual gifts. Because I'm passionate about each person using their gifts for the benefit of the greater good, I have a tendency to elevate gifts as if they are ultimate, as if they can be possessed and harnessed at will. I tend, in other words, to be a trumpeter, blasting loudly and secretly believing the music couldn't go on without me.

Until it did.

In the past year, God figuratively moved me from trumpet to flute, and I suddenly found myself indignant that I would be asked to play a part that didn't much matter to anyone but him. But God, I wanted to say, look what I can do at trumpet! Don't you see that I'm needed? How will the show go on without me?

That's when I began to see how I've elevated my supposed gifts above their appropriate place. It's as if I believe my one instrument is more important than the music on the page, the band as a whole, and the director's will. What's more, I didn't know it until I was handed the flute, but I've believed I was above a quiet, unseen part in the larger show.

When it comes to spiritual gifts, we don't possess them. We use them at the direction of God, according to his Spirit's power. Sometimes we sit quietly, waiting for that direction, while God uses others. Sometimes we're very visible. Sometimes we act in ways that are unseen or seemingly unimportant, but whether seen or unseen in their use, he wouldn't ask us to use them if it weren't contributing to the edification and building of his Church.

No one instrument is more important than the other.

The gift is not the greatest.

Being used or seen in our gifts is not the reason we use them.

God is the greatest. And the music he makes through us collectively is beautiful. That's the purpose of our gifts, and our very lives.

Don't miss the latest conversations I've had about serving on By Faith with:
Trillia Newbell on the Fears that Hold Us Back
Carolyn McCulley on Women, Work, and the Church
Anna Perez on Church Planting
Greg Gilbert on Living and Serving From Grace Rather Than Guilt