November 19, 2016

Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist - Book Review

Do you ever find books in your hands that as you turn the pages, you chuckle to yourself and think "God, you are a sneaky one?" Because it is as if the author has been sneaking into your quit time and listening to your prayers or reading you journal that hides itself safely in your nightstand drawer?

This was one of those books. They all seem to be those kinds of books these days. {:I am currently reading "How's Your Soul" by Judah Smith and it too seems to be one of those books.:}

I picked up this book because my best friend said she had started reading it. When I saw it and read the title, I quickly sent her a message to ask what she thought about it before I fully committed to who knows how many hours and late nights reading it. She said it made her want to slow down and enjoy life more.

Slow down? Enjoy life more? Um, yes. I'll take that, please.

This is the first book I have read by Shauna Niequist, daughter of Bill Hybels. 

As I read the title, "Present Over Perfect", it spoke to something my heart longed for - to be present and in the moment instead of obsessing over perfection. Perfection in my work, my appearance, my social media posts. My wardrobe choices. My coma placement in my blog posts. You get the point. 

Reviewing this book almost seems wrong. That is exactly what this book is proposing we lay down. In "Present Over Perfect" Shauna challenges her readers to stop being motivated by perfectionism and start being motivated by love. Through her personal journey of learning this she shares how it is she got to a breaking point of basically wanting to throw her hands up and say "I give up". And who hasn't felt like that before? 

Shauna's writing wasn't my favorite. Her chapters are short which I did enjoy because I could easily read a chapter while waiting in the car for a friend or as I am sitting patiently for my next class to begin. 

Though her writing style may not be my cup of tea, I found myself constantly highlighting throughout the book. There is no doubt she has some profound wisdom from this journey she has traveled on and is generously sharing it with the world through this book. As I read through these pages my heart definitely sighed a big "me too" as I read about her own struggle of wanting to live up to expectations and exceed them while trying to balance the jobs of daughter, wife, mother, and basically human being. 

I am with Shauna. I want to stop the whirlwind of living according to to-do lists, living up to the expectations of what others think I should be, and the perceptions of how big my capacity is as a leader. I want to be ruled by love and not perfectionism. I want to live an imperfect life and be okay with it. 

So three stars for this book style, but five stars on being the message I needed to hear most in my season. 

What are you currently reading? I'm about to be on school break for two months and totally okay with devouring some good reads!

**All opinions in this post are mine alone and are not reflective of the publisher or author. This is a post written in conjunction with BookLook Bloggers in order to create an authentic review of the above text.**

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November 14, 2016

When Discipline brings Shame in this Control Freak's Heart

Creating discipline in your life, serves you...until it doesn't.

A practical statement, but one that, I believe, has hidden layers of complexity within it.

If you don't know me well, allow me to enlighten you. I am an introverted, self-reflective, internal processor. Basically, I like to pick myself apart in quiet solitude - and no, I don't want to talk about it.

Don't let the vulnerability I show {:at least I hope I do because who needs another unrelatable writer in blogosphere?:} in my blog post fool you. Yes, I enjoy being vulnerable here because I believe it is how other people relate to you and in some way breathe a deep sigh of "you too? I thought I was the only one." And, thats what I desire. It's what we need. However, my vulnerability only comes after a lot of digging around in this head and heart of mine. I rarely share the things I am sorting through at the moment. I wait a a good week before pressing the "publish" button...

The other day I was neck deep in my inner world. I was thinking about one of my strengths: discipline.

My discipline serves me well. My world is pretty ordered. I like it that way. I like discipline. I like structure. Basically, I like control. For the most part, my discipline, structure, and controlled life serves me well. I go to church when I don't feel like it. I eat the kale instead of the french fries. I hit the pavement with my running shoes instead of hitting snooze most mornings. I can find all of my files easily because they are perfectly organized in files on my USB and I can juggle several plates all at one time. All these traits, and even dare I say strengths, serve my life well. Until, they don't.

What I found as I was rooting around in my inner world is that some of my greatest strengths have created some of my most significant and debilitating weaknesses. As they usually do.

I pride myself on being in control, disciplined, and structured. This means I have little time for chaos, slip ups, or the interruptions in my already very scheduled life. And wouldn't you know that life just happens to be filled with the whirlwind of chaos, the plethora of slip ups, and the frequent interruption.

I realized that these same strengths that have gotten me to where I am now in life, can no longer sustain me where I am going. My world is getting bigger and what I feel God is calling me into can hardly fit into a box, be scheduled into my iCalendar, or something even the best intended disciplines will allow me to control. But I want to go! I want to go on this adventure with God forward...but it dawned on me that shame is holding me back.

I had to dig around a bit deeper in my head and heart to see where this shame was coming from. Holy Spirit showed me that it was tied to my desires for discipline, structure, and control. So, I feel shame when I am less than disciplined with my habits. I feel shame when I cannot control a situation and find myself attempting to control other things, or worse, other people. I feel shame when I fail to miss this etherial "mark" I have set for myself of what a woman living in the center of God's will looks like. I feel shame because I love being the "have it all together girl" that I am actually not - no one is. But I like to be that girl. I want you to think I am even though I know I am not. I experience shame when I feel like I don't live up to God's expectations.

This is a misunderstanding of who God is though. He knows me. He knows my struggles and even on my least disciplined, unstructured day, when everything seems to be out of control - He still chooses me.

I came to the realization that day that the only thing shame does is breed fear - fear of other people's opinions, fear of how I will be perceived: Will they think I am a high capacity woman? Am I good enough? Do I live up to your expectation of what you think I should be? And it blocks me from Love {:aka God:}. The perfect love that casts out all fear. And here is the beauty of it, when discipline, structure, and control are in perfect harmony with Love they fulfill their purpose in my life and calling. They bring organization to chaos. They bring bring you to the safe center when the hurricane is swirling around you. They see a way forward when the weight of obligation and expectation press in. They serve me when they are centered in Love.

Our strengths only serve us, until they don't.
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November 8, 2016

And Sometimes, You Need to Eat the Chocolate - The Single Girl Diaries


A few years ago, in October of 2009 I decided I was going to give up chocolate. This was a massive deal for the girl who ate chocolate after every meal! I was an undiagnosed, non-meeting-attending choc-aholic. 

At the age of 22, I decided that I was going to give up chocolate in order to pray for my husband. 

This all sounds very spiritual and oh so "good Christian girl" of me. Except for the fact that it started a series of events in my life, that until late, I didn't realize was unhealthy. In theory this was a great idea - - as many of my ideas always are - - but it had a repercussion. 

I believe in the power of prayer and fasting. I believe what it says in John 9:29 {:this kind can only come out through prayer and fasting:}. I believe that there are times when the discipline of fasting unleashes things in the heavenlies when prayer alone will not. 

This is how this started off. But somewhere along the line it became less about a pure act of fasting and praying and more about pressing the pause button on my life until Mr. Put-A-Ring-On-It shows up.

To an outsider, the only thing I had given up was chocolate. And to most PMSing girls this is an act of sainthood. Unfortunately, it began a chain of events that caused me to put my life on hold until I dawned the white gown and sported a sparkly thing on my left ring finger. 

I realized that while I up and left my world in West Virginia to come to Australia and pursue the call of God on my life, it never crossed my mind that I would have to think about what came after Bible College. Why? Because I was going to be engaged or married and submitting to my man's decisions. 

There's also the Bible that sits on my nightstand {:well, did, until this revelation:}. It was a Bible I had been given as a gift from Colour Conference back in 2015. It was a man's Bible. I decided I was going to put it on my nightstand and pray over it each time I looked at it for my husband. Again, good thought but the problem is...What if God asked me to give it to someone else? Would I obey? Well, honestly, probably not. I was holding out again.

It started with chocolate, but unconsciously, it ended with a life of holding out on God to make sure that His plans for me were in line with his {:Mr. Hunka Hunka Manhood:} plans for us.

So on Friday, after this massive revelation I typed this into my phone...

"Today is a stake in the ground. If I am going to be 30 and single; I am going to do it well. No more putting my life on hold for a husband. No more living on an 'island' because I refuse to let anyone see how hard it can be for me to be single sometimes. The Church needs leaders in every sphere - and at least for right now, this is my sphere. So I will eat the chocolate. I will publish the book. And I will choose my own adventure. Without a man's hand to hold, but as a woman of God, on a God mission, holding hands with the Lover of My Soul. I'll be honest about the struggles, but I will not be the needy 'single woman'. I give myself permission to be a strong woman. Today, I eat the chocolate."

and ate this...

If you're going to go...I say go all in - - and the best part is, they were healthy...ish.

And now I am no longer fasting chocolate....I feel like fasting sex until mariage is enough. {:Did I just say type that??:}

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November 2, 2016

To Have and to Hold - Book Review (byBetsy St. Amant, Katie Ganshert and Becky Wade)

It has literally been two years since I picked up a fictional book. And probably almost five years since I chose to a read a sappy romance novel. I used to love me a good page turning chick flick. I couldn't put them down and I devoured them on a weekly basis. As I began to build a stronger relationship with Jesus, I knew that I needed to be more intentional in guarding my mind. This meant putting down the romance novels with scenes in that made me quietly blush.

I'm not really sure what led me to choose this particular novel, but I am coming out of a pretty full on season. I knew I needed a departure from the theology readings, the leadership books, and the soul searching texts that have consumed my mind for most of the past few weeks and months. I needed something mindless that wasn't going to leave me feeling guilty if one of my housemates picked up my iPad.

This book is a combination of three short stories. The first centers around a small town baker. The second story, a florist. And the third, a small town wedding planner and author from Texas. The stories do not interrelate but all follow their lives as they find love. Each story was sweet in its own way and left me smiling in my bed as I read rather than red faced. They even left me turning pages long after I should have been tucked into my bed with the lights off. It reminded me of a more pure version of Nora Robert's Wedding Quartet books.

Is it a life changing, you have to go buy the book right now type? No. Would I recommend it to the girl just looking for something mindless to read? You bet.
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November 1, 2016

The Hole Not Even Jesus Can Fill - The Single Girl Diaries

Well, if ever there was a controversial title to a blog post, this just might be it. It is not really meant to be controversial {:okay, maybe a little-sometimes I can't help myself:}, but it is more or less an ode to that thing we always get, as the single girlat the dinner table: "Jesus is enough to fill that empty void in your heart."

To that I say yes...and no.

If you are single, a Christian, and over the age of 27, I can almost guarantee you have been told something like this. It is the Christian verbal "band-aid" for singleness. I touched on it a little in my last post. It's the "God" answer when people don't know what else to say.

Is it true? Is Jesus enough? Yes.

Yes, He is the source of everything we need. Yes, He is enough to satisfy our longing heart. Yes, He is bigger than our lonely nights spent with Ben and Jerry. Yes, He is able to give us what we need. Yes, to all of that stuff that we know in our well saturated, church attending, small group sitting minds.

But what about when it isn't true?

In perfect theory, Jesus is enough. But that's just the thing. We are not perfect, and life is not a class in theory. What happens when what we are experiencing - our longing - doesn't line up with the theory we have been taught and pledged to believe?

We are human beings, living in a fallen world. So, in theory Jesus is enough, but in our human-ness, in our realities, in our singleness, sometimes He just isn't enough.

Is God mad about that? I don't think so. He knows us. He knows how he created us. He knows our limits. He knows our struggles. He knows our desires...because He put them there. Rather than fighting with us and fitting himself into a hole we long to have filled in a natural way, I believe He leverages what we have the ability to offer him.

As I started this post, God dropped Hannah in my heart. Hannah {:in 1 Sam. 1:} is clearly a woman of God. She loved God with all her heart. Yet she, like me and maybe like you, had a hole of longing within her heart. A hole that not even the immense love she had for her God could fill. See, Hannah was barren, and was crying out from a place of longing - longing to be a mother.

[Hannah] pulled herself together, slipped away quietly, and entered the sanctuary... Crushed in soul, Hannah prayed to God and cried and cried—inconsolably.
1 Samuel 1:9,10

As I reread this story in preparation to write this post ,I  realized that maybe God doesn't fill our heart holes of longing on purpose. 

Sure He can. He's God. He can do anything he wants. 

But maybe, just maybe, God instead uses the hole of a desire not yet met to beckon us to Him - like He did with Hannah. 

I am rather familiar with this hole. This hole has left me "pulling myself together" in public quit often. It is the thing that leaves me crying at my desk as I write these posts. It is the thing that leaves me questioning if God will be faithful in this area of my life. It is this hole, this empty space, that leaves me no choice but to live in utter surrender to my Jesus. 

The words of the old hymn come to mind: 

All to the, my precious savior. I surrender all.

So yes. Jesus can fill the hole, but He hasn't because it's still there. It's just up to me if I will let the hole of longing, the hole of a desire not yet met draw me to Him. To seek His face in the place of my longing. It is my opportunity to dethrone my longing and enthrone the only One who is able to fill those empty spaces just as he did with Hannah through Samuel.

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