lesson from a book sale

No one knows where Fox River Grove, Illinois is. I tell people I live in Chicagoland because if I tell someone, "I live in Fox River Grove," they usually say, "Oh, ok!" like they know exactly where it is, except I can tell they're lying by the extra-high eyebrows and the slight cock of the head, which is usually accompanied by a slow, indefinite nod. The fact that they don't usually say anything after that gives them away, too. Because people who live in Fox River Grove - maybe Cary, if I'm being generous - will ask you exactly which cross streets mark your part of the neighborhood. It's that small. We have a McDonald's, a Walgreen's, a United States post office and a Carpet Wholesale, all things you'll find in my grandma's small Texas town. (To be fair, we also have an amazing brunch cafe called - waaait for it - Brunch Cafe!, a Panera, and a Tuesday Morning. And a Sherwin-Williams paint store.)

Before I lived in Fox River Grove, though, I lived in the hip and happenin' downtown of Arlington Heights: two bars, a couple tapas restaurants, a tanning salon (never went), an amazing Mexican restaurant (shoutout to Mago!), a legit nail salon, a wine bar, a yoga studio, a grocery store within walking distance - need I proceed? Needless to say, I miss it. Surprisingly, I also miss the Arlington Heights library, a library that was not only pretty large, but stylish, too, as far as libraries are concerned. No musty book smell, no stuffy librarians covered in cat hair, just bright, clean rooms with shelves stocked with droves of books crisply covered in plastic. The best part? The used book sales. I'd go and spend hours on the couple of weekends during the year when the library would have tables upon tables of books up for grabs for $.50 or $1. I grabbed Agatha Christie murder mysteries, coffee table books, and fiction novels I'd always wanted to read, but never got around to purchasing for $15 or more. But to get a good five to ten gems wasn't easy. I'd have to sift through stuff like Barry Manilow's autobiography and Bass Fishing for Dummies to find the titles I wanted. And I always wondered: who gives this stuff away? Relocating families? Graduated college students? Generous and avid book lovers wanting to part with their favorites for a good cause?

This is all relevant because, finally, this past New Years Day, my husband and I decided we'd read more books this year. I'd finished a couple titles over the break and decided to pick up a book I'd passed on reading due to its sheer thickness. The book was The Case for Christ written by Lee Strobel, award-winning journalist and Atheist-turned-Christ-follower. I'm not exactly sure why I picked this book over the dozens of others waiting to be read, but I think it had something to do with my curiosity to know, at a deeper level, who Jesus really was the days he walked the earth. Even though I've known who Jesus is my whole life, there's always more to know. You never stop knowing Jesus. I opened the book, ready to dive right into the introduction, when a hand-written note in blue ink caught my eye:

I love you very much.
I ask that you read with an open mind and heart. 
Please know God loves you more
than I ever could, the best thing about knowing the Lord
is He never leaves you or forsakes you. 
Love always, 

All of a sudden I felt like I wasn't just diving into a thought-provoking read any more. I felt like I was entering into someone's story, a relationship, a risk someone took to reach out to her friend. A risk that may or may not have paid off, given the fact that I'd found this book at a used book sale in Arlington Heights. But in an instant, especially given the fact that it was January 1st and I was looking for Jesus, not just in Lee Strobel's interviews (which, so far, are very informative and engaging), I felt in a weird way like this note was for me. I read it again, but with a twist: 

I love you very much.
I ask that you read with an open mind and heart.
Please know that I love you more
than anyone ever could, the best thing about knowing Me
is I'll never leave you or forsake you. 
Love always, 

I'm learning a lot about Jesus, about the Gospels, about evidence of him in history through archaeology and other sciences in this book. But sometimes the thing about books is I read them as someone else's story, not my own. The note I found was Ellyn's note, and yet, for a few minutes, I was reminded that just like a girl browsing the rows of a used book sale, Jesus personally pursues us. He's patient and picks us up, even when life's circumstances dictate that we're lost in the crowd, we have nothing to offer, we're useless to someone else. And then, not only does he pick us, but like a tender and caring friend, He writes us love notes hoping that we'll get it, hoping that we'll know just how much He truly adores us if we'll just digest the pages He's inspired with an open mind and heart. 

Jesus pursues us with his love everywhere, all the time, if we'll just take time to notice: in the joy we feel while watching snow fall, in the smile of the cashier at the Panera in Fox River Grove, in the complimentary soup offered by the waiter at Mago in Arlington Heights - and even, sometimes, at used book sales.

Ashlee EilandComment