A foreword by Christopher West and a back cover blurb by Jason Evert: even if I hadn’t heard Sr. Miriam Heidland speak at a women’s conference last year, I probably still would have jumped at the chance to read new book, Loved as I Am: An Invitation to Conversion, Healing, and Freedom through Jesus (Ave Maria Press, 2014).

Heidland is the kind of speaker who holds her audience in the palm of her hand; I wasn’t so sure her book would do the same. I remember, vividly, live-tweeting with tears running down my face as she spoke about her life and her journey.

Though I’m not normally a big fan of reading conversion stories, what Heidland has crafted is as much an invitation to her readers as it is a chronicle of her journey to Christ.

It was often in the quiet moments, deep in the night, that bubbles of truth would well up to the surface of my heart. When coming home from some party or during the rare times when I was sitting in silence, a deep unhappiness would emerge. I had always thought that if I was successful enough and perfect enough, if enough people liked me and approved of me, I would be happy. But I wasn’t happy — I was shattered. In my heart, I wanted to live a life of truth and beauty; I wanted a life of freedom and joy. I was very hungry for a better life, but I didn’t know how to find one.

Heidland’s journey doesn’t end when she enters religious life, which might be why her story is so appealing to me. As a convert, I find that many people, especially those who were raised Catholic, seem to think that there’s some kind of “special power” I have — I’m better, smarter, and more Catholic because I chose the Church.

But the cradle is a gift, and Heidland shows how we are all called to conversion — and not just a one-time conversion but ongoing conversion. 

The lie that Satan seeks to implant in our hearts is that we are orphans; that we are fatherless and all alone. Does this sound familiar to you? Do you hear this lie anywhere in your own heart? We can see this thought and its consequence everywhere throughout history and to this present day. In our rejection of God as Father and our subsequent fall from grace, we are shattered and disordered. Our intellect is at war with our will, and our will is at war with our passions and emotions. We are dis-integrated, and we know this situation all too well. Sin has consequences, and we often find ourselves trying to escape or blaming God and others for our problems.

When we reject God, to whom we belong and in whose image and likeness we are made, we reject what it means to be truly human. We become blind, and in our blindness we disregard and discard the work of his hands. Rather than live in peace as children of God Most High, we try to become our own gods, deciding what is good and what is evil, and the results are disastrous.

I didn’t read this book all in one stretch, but I could have — it’s fast-paced and evocative. Heidland’s writing is compelling and raw in a way that I just didn’t expect from a religious sister. As I was reading, I couldn’t help but think, “She could be ME in so many ways!”

Heidland shares her ongoing conversion journey, yes, but she also points out many of the errors in society’s reasoning. She weaves in Church teaching and shows the efficacy of them, and, best of all, none of this is preachy. In fact, it’s a fast-paced read, one that will made me both smile and tear up.

Jesus sees us all. He always seeks to raise to life what seems to be dead and barren. It was through the dying and death of my father that my mother and I drew closer to one another in mutual understanding and love. When life is stripped of its masks and illusions only a very few things matter. Jesus did not come and touch my dad’s coffin and raise him to life on this earth, but Jesus did heal my dad. My dad was healed from the ultimate wound, that of sin and death. I pray to see him again on the hopeful day when I am healed from sin and death and rise to life eternal.

Loved As I Am is a powerful testimony and a compelling read. Highly recommended.