A couple months ago, I noticed our daughter had shifted friends, so I asked her about it. A girl she used to speak of frequently was now rarely mentioned. She explained that although she was still friends with the other girl, she struggled connecting on a deeper level for spiritual reasons. Concerned, I pressed her further. Apparently, this girl claimed Christ but didn’t live it out, and many of her behaviors made our daughter uncomfortable.

She shared a few things with me, then I explained how we’re all at different stages in our faith, but her final comment got me thinking: “I’m not even sure if she’s a Christian. She never shares her faith.”

The wisdom of a teenager–but the more I thought about it, the more sense her statement made. Can we truly love and be close to Christ and not feel burdened for those who don’t know Him?

Here’s how I figure it: the closer we grow to Christ, the more His desires become our own–the more He aligns our heart with His and pours His love through us. Yes, He cares about the little details in our  lives and wants us to help one another, but what He’s most passionate about is seeing people made right with Him. The salvation of others isn’t a casual concern for Him. It was on the forefront of His mind when He knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane in anguish. It was on the forefront of His mind when He faced His accusers, and like a lamb before His shearers, silently endured. It was on the forefront of His mind as He walked that long, humiliating, treacherous road to His death. It was on the forefront of His mind as He hung on the cross and looked down upon His tormenters and said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

This week, I’ll be sharing stories of people who said yes to God and allowed Him to love others through them. As you read these accounts, ask yourself, “What if they’d said no? What if they’d been too shy, too busy, or perhaps just too distracted?”

Every day, God opens innumerable doors all around us. Each day, His prodigal sons and daughters are crying out to Him, asking some hard questions like, “Do you really love me? Are you really there? Can you hear me?” And each day, God wants to use you to provide the answer the human heart so desperately needs.

Today Connie Stevens, author of Leave Me Never (love that title!) shares a very touching story of how God used her in the check-out line to shine a tiny glimmer of hope on another woman’s day.

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One week before Christmas, I received a case of author copies of my debut novel, Leave Me Never, from Heartsong Presents. Giddy with excitement, I gave a few copies to friends and family. I remember, when attending a writer’s conference, someone said to always carry a few of your books with you because you never know when God will give you an opportunity to network with someone who can help you promote your book, or use the book to introduce someone to Christian fiction. So I stuck a book in my purse as I was heading out to run errands.

The week before Christmas every place was crowded, the lines were long, and patience seemed in short supply. My last stop was the grocery store. The girl who checked me out looked and sounded tired and discouraged, so I smiled at her. She tried to smile back but her effort appeared forced. I asked her if she was ready for Christmas. When all she did was lift her shoulders, something hit my heart and I knew this girl was going through a difficult time.

As she finished checking out my groceries, I asked her (a bit apprehensively) if she liked to read. She kind of half-shrugged and said, “When I have time.”

I sent a prayer heavenward and pulled the book out, handed it to her and said, “Merry Christmas. This is my debut novel.”

Again, the forced smile and a mumbled thank you. The bag boy tucked the last bag into my cart and turned it toward the door, waiting for me to join him. I saw the cashier out of the corner of my eye turn the book over and glance at the back. As the bag boy and I reached the door, the girl called out behind me. I turned. She had tears in her eyes as she held up the book. She tapped her finger on the back cover. “Is this what this book is about?”

I smiled (much bigger this time and not the least bit apprehensive) and said, “Yes.”

You know how sometimes you “lock eyes” with someone and unspoken communication zings back and forth? I saw hope in her eyes and this time her smile wasn’t forced when she said, “Thank you. Merry Christmas.”

The first line on the back cover of my book reads, “Does God keep His promises?”

I needed a tissue before I could drive home.

The image of this girl and the tears in her eyes has lingered in my memory. Since my book didn’t officially release until three weeks later, this cashier was among my first readers. My heart was arrested by that term—readers. As Christian authors, the reason we write goes beyond entertainment. Our writing is a ministry. We never know who will be impacted by a character or a plot that draws that reader in and points their heart in the direction of Jesus. Praying for my readers has become a new passion.

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Connie Stevens lives in north Georgia with her husband of thirty-seven years, John. One cantankerous kitty—misnamed Sweet Pea—allows them to live in her home. Some of Connie’s favorite pastimes include reading, browsing antique shops, collecting teddy bears, and gardening. She also enjoys making quilts to send to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Leave Me Never is Connie’s first published book, and is the first book of her Home To Willow Creek series. The second book of the series, Revealing Fire, releases in March, and the third book, Scars of Mercy, releases in July. Visit Connie’s website to find out more!

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And I leave you with this verse: Colossians 4:5-6 “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Be wise, be alert and full of grace. May everyone you come into contact with today be blessed because they crossed your path. And notice how closely this passage mirrors Ephesians 4:15 and 1 Peter 3:15. Truth and love go hand in hand. One without the other is devastating!