Spiritual Formation, Writing & Communication

Pierced and Embraced Releases Today!

We are a love-thirsty people.

We try so many ways to satiate those longings that we live with, but ultimately only one source—the living water—will satisfy.


A couple of years ago my husband Peter and I wrote a little book called 20 Things We’d Tell Our Twentysomething Selves. It started as a blog post, which became a Relevant magazine article, which then became a book.

Truth be told, I didn’t realize, when I rattled off the original post, what it was ultimately about. But God did. And as we dug into the content and prayed over each chapter, He revealed to us the “thesis statement” so to speak.  

Simply put, 20 Things is about THE greatest commandment of all: “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your mind, and with all of your strength.”

Moses delivered this command of God to His people Israel in Deuteronomy chapter 6.

Jesus reiterated its centrality in Matthew 22 when an expert in the law asked Him, “What is the greatest commandment of all?”

So our book 20 Things We’d Tell Our Twentysomething Selves offers a look at how we might do that on a daily basis. What does it look like to love God with our mind? And with our heart? How do we love Him with all of our strength on Tuesday at two o’clock?


I give you that 20 Things backstory because these two books (20 Things and Pierced and Embraced) are connected in a fundamental way. Here’s what I mean…

One of the 20 Things is to “Live Loved.”

Of all of the 20 Things that I wish I had understood better when I was younger, this is perhaps the most important one.

Live each day in the reality that you are perfectly and completely and unconditionally loved.

It’s a message I heard and cognitively accepted from the time I was a child. “Jesus loves me; this I know.” I sang it with gusto in children’s church. Maybe you did too.

But as children we look to the concrete examples—the people in our lives—to help us make sense of these abstract ideas.

Oh, my parents and my family loved me. I didn’t necessarily doubt that. But their love—like all parents’ love—was limited and flawed.

My church family loved me too. And they provided a strong sense of community in many beautiful ways.

But as a natural-born overachiever, growing up in a more legalistic Christian environment, I quickly came to believe that my life as a follower of Jesus was primarily about me obeying the rules and the long list of other commands—all of the thou-shalts and the thou-shalt-nots. My faith was mostly about serving and striving and seeking approval and praise. It was about ticking the boxes, observing the disciplines, and avoiding the sins. It was so much more about what I could and could not do for God, rather than what He has done for me.

And after almost three decades of being a Christ follower, that form of faith left me exhausted and stressed, addicted to busyness and performance. There was no peace and little joy. 

Then, the sledge hammer of tragedy took several swings at my faith structure built on a faulty foundation. In our 30s, Peter and I went through a six-year “Job season.” Painful experience after painful experience rocked our little world. All of my striving and my serving seemed for naught. Life was crashing down, and I was angry at Him. Sometimes on my darkest days, I even verbalized the question at the core of my pain, “Doesn’t He love me?”

And it has taken me quite some time to truly believe and to live in the reality that He does.

His love doesn’t always look like I want it to look. It doesn’t always feel like I think love should feel. But this—THIS—is the most important, the most foundational, the most life-changing truth that we could possible experience.

We are loved by God.

I John 4:9 tells us, “This is how God showed his love among us; He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.”

Jesus IS the concrete example that we need. 

So that is what my new book, Pierced and Embraced, lays out for us. It tells the story of eight women in the gospels and their life-changing encounters with the Jesus who loved them in very significant and sometimes surprising ways.

And through their stories, I pray that we can come to know and experience His love for us as well!  

Because it is only out of His love for us that we can truly love Him in return as He calls us to.


3 thoughts on “Pierced and Embraced Releases Today!

  1. Hi Kelli,

    I heard your story on Chris Fabry the other day. I sat in my car mesmerized because I felt like you were relating my story. I, too, have followed and obeyed God. My husband and I have been in ministry for 38 years. Yet, our valley has been deep and consistent. I will get angry and “throw my fits” then I realize who else can ultimately help me. Your story of performance really hit home. It hit me that maybe God is trying to communicate to me that it’s not about my performance. He loves me and my family regardless of how we perform or how it looks outwardly. I know that intellectually; however, it needs to connect with my heart. Thanks for sharing your story with genuineness. Perhaps I need to read your book. Gratefully, Jan Underwood

    1. Thank you, Jan, for listening and for taking the time to seek me out here. I am sorry that the valley has been so long and dark for you. The performance mentality is a hard one to shake–especially in our culture of production and comparison. So many sources send us the message that we are not doing enough. Praying right now for you! And I pray that Pierced and Embraced might bless your soul.

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