When readers open my new book, I invite them to open it up and flip it over. In the introduction, I wrote:
Look at the whole cover. Take in the beauty of the image: vibrant pink, glowing edges, green stem, white centre, light, droplets of rain, petals wide open.
This book differs from the first two in my Everyday Pilgrim series. In Stories of an Everyday Pilgrim and Seed Cracked Open, the beauty is all on the front cover. But, in this one, you don’t get the full impact until you open it up and turn it over.
A tulip this open is near the end of her life. Vulnerably, she surrenders to the One she is turned to now. Her Creator beams and emboldens her to blossom and bless the world with all she is, and will not forsake her in death.
Sylvia Sassen, who took this photograph, has given us a wonderful metaphor for what the stories in this book do. They open us up and turn us around to meet the eyes of our Beloved and see the beauty God sees in us. This image captures what it feels like to be in the heart of the Beloved.
I struggled for years to come up with a title for my first book. I’d get excited about one and then, a week later, it was in the trash. Eventually, my biggest supporter and husband, Fred, couldn’t coax up any enthusiasm when I announced a new candidate. So, he was surprised—we both were—when the title of this book came to me before I published Seed Cracked Open.
Nan Merrill’s paraphrase of Psalm 23 speaks of how I have often experienced the Beloved gently restoring my soul, walking with me through dark valleys, and helping me face my fears. The last verse declares:
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me
all the days of my life
and I shall dwell in the heart of the Beloved forever.
You can see why the title In the Heart of the Beloved stayed with me and never left.
The stories and poems in this book were written and published weekly on my blog, An Everyday Pilgrim (estherhizsa.com) from January 2015 to December 2016. They remain in chronological order.
As I read and revised these stories of my day-to-day experiences, I heard how often I was dogged by self-criticism and fear of rejection. Recently, friends who read my blog told me that I’ve changed. I’m much kinder to myself now. This caused some unease as I got reacquainted with the person that I was seven years ago. I winced at how often I felt the weight of my faults, mistakes, and sin. Yet, in every post, I was tenderly invited back into the heart of the Beloved.
God meeting me there in my shame has enabled me to live less disabled by it now. I can more easily join God in finding the part of me that feels disconnected and bring her back into wholeness.
So I hold that old me with deep gratitude and am pleased to honour her. In this book, she invites you to honour yourself and where you are on your pilgrimage.
Are you hounded by self-criticism? Ever feel like you don’t measure up or don’t belong? Do you wonder if you’re good enough or do enough? You are not alone.
This book is full of “me, too” stories. As you enter into the dark valley of your fears and insecurities, I hope you find God meeting you there with strength and comfort.
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Would you like to join me in some love mischief?
Take a moment and notice how my stories or poems have touched your life. As you stay present to what you’ve experienced, is there something in you that would like others to experience this as well? Perhaps you are drawn to gather friends and host a pop-up book reading (online or in-person) in your home, small group, book club, or church. If you would like me to join you in some love mischief, please contact me.