what i read in march.

This month, I continue my average from February of four books in four weeks and add my 2017 stack to a total number of eleven books! I hope that as I reach one of the busiest seasons of my life (I see you coming, May!), I will only continue making reading good, long, sharpening books a priority. (And what better way to procrastinate homework?) March held: Two memoirs, one novel, and one biography. There were two books out of this roundup that were winners for me – they are compelling, convicting, and stories that I personally connected to immediately. The other two held little substance for me. Let’s dig in!

  • The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines 

Go and find what it is that inspires you, go and find what it is that you love, and go do that until it hurts.

For those of you who may not know (who are you? where do you live??), Chip and Joanna Gaines are the TV hosts of Fixer Upper on HGTV. They are strong believers and hard workers. This book read as an easy-going dialogue between Chip and Joanna as they gave us glimpses into their childhood, dating years, newlywed adventures, and into the details of how they have built their career and family. I traveled to Waco over Spring Break and this book brought the details of everything I experienced (like driving by where Chip and Jo met, swinging at Magnolia Market…) to a new level of appreciation. On the other hand, it also spurred me on personally to tackle my God-given desires with boldness. If you love Chip and Jo, you’ll have more reasons why when you get your hands on this book. I am cheering you on Gaines’ and praying that you continue restoring dusty, beautiful things to bring God glory!

 

  • Chasing Slow: Courage To Journey Off The Beaten Path by Erin Loechner 

Perhaps we were never meant to change the pace. We were meant to surrender it.

Chasing Slow is about living an abundant life, saying no to the rat race and certain components of the American dream, simplifying, and also giving yourself grace in the mess. This book is SO aesthetically pleasing with beautiful typography and photography. I am tucking many ideas from this book in my pocket! I started cleaning out my closet (again). I took stock of my priorities. I prayed hard prayers about loving the poor and then did something about it. For this, I am so grateful! But, overall, I found Loechner’s voice to be condescending and life-draining. I found the extras in the book (recipes, added blurbs, a few misplaced stories in my opinion) to be good, but just not fitting. I’ll be recommending and furthering the ideas and a few quotes this book carries to friends for many days to come, but probably not the book itself.

 

  • Wise Blood by Flannery O’ Connor 

The black sky was underpinned with long silver streaks that looked like scaffolding and depth on depth behind it were thousands of stars that all seemed to be moving very slowly as if they were about some vast construction work that involved the whole order of the universe and would take all time to complete. No one was paying attention to the sky.

My girl Flannery disappointed me with this one. This novel was haunting. Unlike Flannery’s short stories, I missed the redemption song she usually, however subtly, ties into the narrative. There were many paragraphs that blew me away with her imagery and understanding of humanity. O’Connor is amazing at capturing heartbreaking human emotion and transforming that into tangible empathy for the reader to take away. That’s the best I can say about Wise Blood.  (Also, book cover goals. But that’s not the point. 😉 )

 

  • Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More — Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior 

More’s life shows that the facts and our wishes can produce great stories when serving things much grander than ourselves, and that the stories we tell ourselves and others matter.

I first heard about Hannah More when I was reading Seven Women by Eric Metaxas last May, and I was shocked about how quietly her story is being told in the 21st century. Hannah was, as the the book title describes, a poet, reformer, and abolitionist living from 1745 – 1833. She was known for her wit and her never-pausing pen. A pen that aided the abolition of slavery in England weeks before she died. More’s life proved the importance of friendships and hospitality, the balance between strong convictions and tolerance, and loving God with your whole heart. She pushed the boundaries, but stood tall in the lines she believed in. I hope to be like Hannah More as a writer, as a citizen, as a friend, and as a woman of God.  Hannah’s story needs to be told and rewritten in our lives today — start by learning about how Hannah glorified God in her life with Fierce Convictions!

Next Up…

You are Free: Be Who You Already Are by Rebekah Lyons

Ethics by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (I am making progress!)

What books have you put down this month and what books can you not put down?

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the broken way: a playlist of hope & remembering

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp has been a powerful catalyst in my life since I first opened one of my first launch team e-mails in September 2016 and started scrolling through chapter one, to highlighting on my Mac late into the night so that I could finish the book before I met Ann herself, to present day: rereading my physical copy as it is already showing signs of use and love. This book has shown me that I don’t have to afraid of my brokenness, because through my weakest places God can reveal His power to the world in a way that He couldn’t if I would live my days as a put-together-always-smiling-actress. That maybe the hurt I despise could lead to intimate communion. That I can give freely and confidently, because I am loved deeply. You can find my full review on the book here: daring to live the broken & cruciform way.  Visit TheBrokenWay.com for the moving trailer, free printables, all the best reviews, and a direct link to getting a copy all your own.

The hard truth? Sometimes I am so weak that I don’t feel like I could bear the weight of a page, my own or someone else’s. On other days, I am on the go either working at my computer or commuting several hours a day roundtrip. No matter where I find myself on that spectrum, I still always need to be reminding myself of the truth that Ann pens simply and poetically: “You’re guilty, but not condemned. You’re busted up, but believed in. You’re broken, but beloved.” That reminder could come in prayer, gift-blitzing, the ministry of presence, practically a thousand ways… but one way that I have found extremely healing for my soul is in music. Perhaps you need to remember the truth of who you are, too?

I am about to kick off The Broken Way study with over a dozen women in my community tomorrow night. I made a playlist brimmed full of melodies and lyrics that resound the message of The Broken Way for them, and for you. The lyrics hold stories of heartache and resurrection, redemption and true community from artists like Jason Gray, Kari Jobe, Lecrae, and Tenth Avenue North.

Take a scroll and listen while you kick off this brand new semester, do the dishes, drive to that presentation, or go pick up the kids from school. Exhale. Grab some hope and light. Bookmark it, tuck the words away in your heart, and save it for a rainy day. I’ll do the same.

 

your 365 step guide to a powerful new year

Glory, hallelujah for January 1! How does it feel to be settling into a new chapter?

We are reaching nine full days in 2017. I don’t know about you, but the first week of the new year I believe that almost anything is possible. I can write the book. I can shed the weight. I could fall in love. I can start brand new. 

I hope that I will serve you all better and love you well in 2017. There are literally thousands of internet homes you could be visiting instead, and I don’t take it lightly that for even a shred of time I hold a piece of your valuable time and your heart. I want to make this space inviting, beautiful, and challenging (in all the best ways) for you all year long. I might be more quiet some months more than others, because this year holds big changes for me as well as time dedicated to a few nameless-for-now-Kingdom-rooted goals. But, I promise, you never leave my mind and you are one of my favorite places to land, to reflect, to grow in Christ’s love and instruction.

This year, I didn’t hold back on my goals. Last year, I set some worthy ambitions but never broke them down into attainable, daily steps. The truth is this: you don’t get a renewed mind without being in the Presence of God, a new body without putting something different in your mouth, and you don’t get a cleaner house by googling “cleaning strategy”.  I looked into the face of the things I want in my own life that I have the power to control and said, “This. This is your year.” I threw my excuses in the garbage. I began. I’ve started a vision board. I’ve processed through the good, the bad, and the ugly of 2016. I’ve made a plan of how I want to steward my time. When I stumble on the way, I stop playing victim and continue chasing. But here is the thing: beginnings feel sexy. It is exciting to feel the burn after your first post-holiday workout. It is thrilling to see the first few pounds shed during your first week of clean eats. It doesn’t feel daunting to dig into a project, the study, the semester when you have a bright idea of how it will all turn out. We all know and have experienced that change doesn’t last all year long on adrenaline alone. I won’t succeed with my ambitions this year until they become actions in my daily routine. You don’t become an avid prayer warrior by talking about it, you don’t get the date without asking for it. You’re never truly loved until your heart is exposed. You don’t get vibrant, bigger faith by playing it safe.

Good intentions? Ideas? Pinterest boards? They are home base. They are wonderful tools to keep you going! We kickstart from those spaces, but we don’t succeed until we choose the same thing every day when we get up in the morning. Do you want to know how to get the year you really want? The one you start itching for the day after Christmas? Make a choice. Make another choice. And keep making those choices 365 times. 

This is my urge, my push, my call to you as we plunge wholeheartedly into the new year:

“…Fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” – 2 Timothy 1:6-7

FAN INTO FLAME THE GIFT OF GOD

You have a gift unlike any other. It won’t blossom by itself. Fan that baby into flame! Pray over it, exercise it, feed your heart with truth, weed through the lies, and repeat! Sure, this year won’t go like you plan. Life will throw you curveballs and you might wonder what is worth all the inconvenience. You’ll get discouraged. But you know what is bigger than our daily anguish and disappointments? God’s love and majesty, grace and joy. If we live like we believe in those things, He will readjust our hearts, shape our manmade goals into God dreams, and mold our year into something so beautiful only He could do it. 

NOT OF FEAR

I know the main way that people try to run out the back door on their new year resolutions on January 15th, April 2nd, July 4th is through fear. I’m not good enough, I don’t have time, why does it even matter? You have to believe that you’ll have the strength to not stay the person you were the year before. That means you’ll experience joy and discomfort, both of which can be terrifying. Don’t dwell in what didn’t get done in 2016. Push. Let go of the weight of your own expectations and let God use you. Run. You are worth it. You belong here. 

OF POWER

If we are in Christ, we have the power of the living God who rose Jesus Christ from the bloody grave by his mighty grace inside of us.

The real question is, church, what can’t we do if we are battling on the side of the Father? Running after God dreams? Fighting the good fight of faith? Becoming a better temple for His Spirit to dwell? Seeking to glorify Him in all things?

OF LOVE

In our frailties and bitterness, the paradox of the human heart, God gives us the growth of lovingkindness. He gives us the love and we hand it right back to Him as a sacrifice when we reveal that kind of true love to the people under our roofs, in our circles, at our tables, across the street, and around the world. Because we have His power, we are able to minister His love with wider implications and a much deeper impact. What if love got a bigger name than chaos did in 2016? 

OF SELF-CONTROL

What do you need to say no to in order to say yes to the ministry God is awakening inside of you? A quiet, suffocating addiction? A relationship?  A responsibility that zaps life out of you? Brothers and sisters, He has given us the power to say no to things that don’t love us back, anything that keeps us from healthily furthering the gospel, and the love to make the tension of the decision worth it.

We’ve been commissioned to do shocking, tough, holy things. We weren’t given a spirit of laziness, of doubt, of unbelief. Power is yours. Love is yours. Self-control is yours.

What would you do if you were automatically promised a yes? Success? Being loved back? If you had never been burnt out? Start there and stay faithful.

In Jesus’ name, what will you accomplish?

 

 

daring to live the broken & cruciform way

Let love break into you and mess with you and loosen you up and make you laugh and cry and give and hurt because this is the only way to live.

Today is the release date of The Broken Way! Maybe you’ve seen my feeds fill up with hashtagTheBrokenWay over the past few weeks and maybe you’ve heard the hype and you’re thinking, “What is the big deal with Ann Voskamp?” Maybe you don’t feel like you have time to sit down long enough to finish a book. OR, maybe you love living life over at Ann’s blog and you’ve been waiting patiently for this day! No matter what camp you rest in above, I am here to tell you that this book is worth your time, it is worth your energy, it lives up to the hype. 

To be honest, I open most Christian women’s books these days and don’t last more than a few chapters before I am bored. It is not that the messages aren’t true or good – it is just that I cannot relate beyond the surface. Thankfully, though, I am beginning to see this change. I believe that Ann Voskamp is one of the frontrunners in this category running bravely into deeper, modern, theologically-sound literature. Ann has a voice unlike any other, but she tells stories where we can all whisper quietly in relief with the book laying open on our laps saying, “Wow, I thought it was just me.” 

In The Broken Way, Ann asks questions like: “Why are we afraid of broken things?” How do you give when you feel like you have nothing left? How do you find abundance in the present instead of waiting for life to gift you more mightily in a far-off someday? Am I enough? Is all this heartache and suffering doing anything but accomplishing pain? What is love, the ministry of presence, and real community worth? How do you become real, how do you let yourself be loved? How do you become like Esther and break a thousand gates? How do you walk around joyful in Jesus and give generously when your heart is aching?  She answers all these questions and more with humility, a breathtaking vulnerability, as an encouraging and empowering friend. In the best of ways, you can’t read over these words without looking in the mirror at your own junk and asking God to make it all new.

The Broken Way isn’t so much a book of self-help to cure all ills, as much as it at every turn points you to the only One who can truly satisfy and give you enough abundance to reach out like the arms of Christ to love those all around you.

Would you take a moment and hear from Ann herself?

What if you really want to live abundantly before it’s too late? What do you do if you really want to know abundant wholeness? This is the one begging question that’s behind every single aspect of our lives — and one that The Broken Way rises up to explore in the most unexpected ways.

This one’s for the lovers and the sufferers. For those whose hopes and dreams and love grew so large it broke their willing hearts. This one’s for the busted ones who are ready to bust free, the ones ready to break molds, break chains, break measuring sticks, and break all this bad brokenness with an unlikely good brokenness. You could be one of the Beloved who is broken — and still lets yourself be loved.

You could be one of them, one who believes freedom can be found not only beyond the fear and pain, but actually within it.

You could discover and trust this broken way — the way to not be afraid of broken things.

I could write longer, but there is only one thing to do, friends. Two things, really:

  1. Go to TheBrokenWay.com and get your hands on your own copy. I don’t write this as an ad, but prayerfully as an aid to your one, valuable life. 
  2. Open your heart – it will lead to shaking fists and brokenness, but it will also lead to real love and overflowing abundance. It is worth every ache, every step, every scar. Take the dare with me?