Saturday, January 27, 2024

January Book Reviews

For the past two Christmases I have created a system for an easy Christmas list. All year long as I'm listening to podcasts or reading other books, if there is a book mentioned that sounds even remotely intriguing I will find it on Amazon, stick it in my cart, and then move it to the "save for later" section,. This becomes my Christmas list at the end of the year. I ask for the cheapest, most marked up and used book available so that I can get as many books as possible. So by the time Christmas comes around and I open my 20-ish books I sometimes have no idea who I heard about the book from or why I thought it was interesting over the course of the previous year, but it's here now and I'm gonna read it!

My reading always ebbs and flows with life. This month found me sick for no less than a week, and also  the fact that we were coming off the holidays, so this gave me more chunks of time for reading so I'm actually on my 6th book this month! This is NOT typical but true none-the-less.

I already posted about my new-found love for Fredrik Backman on Instagram, but I decided to bring the other reviews over here so I could say a few words about each without taking over my instagram account all at once. Who knows, maybe I'll recap over here at the end of each month now!

First up, Drama Free, by Nedra Glover Tawwab. This was for sure a good read. Not biblically based by any means, but any book that helps communicate and practically implement boundaries I am ALL ABOUT!

I must begin with a caveat though. I hesitated publicly reviewing this book because I think it could be a trigger for people who are in the midst of uncovering some deep-seated familial dysfunction and I am a HUGE proponent of not doing that alone. Yes, searching yourself and digging deep into family trauma has become very trendy these days, but done without the grounding and root-system of Christ coupled with a trusted counselor or wise friend, I believe, can do so much more harm than good. And here is why I say that...we become so much more prone to believe our own story than truth.

Here's what I mean. Do you remember Brene Brown's famous phrase, "the story I'm telling myself" from her book Rising Strong? It basically helps to validate FEELINGS but places the feelings in their right place. Sometimes you can FEEL something, and while those feelings are valid, and should be validated, they may not actually be true. For example, I may FEEL like my friend no longer likes me because we never hang out anymore. So the story I am telling myself is that my friend doesn't like me. And that can spiral into my deep insecurities about feeling like I'm not needed, or important, or less than, or extra, fill in the blank. So yes, I FEEL this way and those feelings are REAL. But the TRUTH is that my friend actually has a super overpacked schedule. She'd love to hang out but her to-do list is completely overwhelming and her unread messages are paralyzing and never even saw my text come in. Do you see where I am going with this?  Using this phrase has been instrumental for our family!

This book also didn't leave much room for the conversation to ever look inward to any personal things that might need to shift and change. Which would in turn help the family dynamics as a whole.

While reading this book I was reading it through several different lenses and perspectives. I thought it was super beneficial and helpful from one perspective, but because of the lack of leaving room for personal interpretation into history, pasts and family dynamics I felt like it could be a bit dangerous and lead to more finger pointing than reflection on independent choices and lifestyles.

That being said, Nedra Tawaab, being the queen of boundaries that she is, has written a fabulous book. So read with caution and an open mind to what the Lord might be saying to you through it.

This book felt so intimate and close. During our time in Uganda, Katie actually lived just down the street from us (no I don't know her but her first book was just getting popular so I'd heard of her) and I'd see her in town with some of her kids sometimes. Because her stories are rooted in Jinja, which is like another home to me and so familiar, I felt like I was reading words from an actual friend who I understood so deeply. Safe All Along is a beautiful story. Katie allows us glimpses into her life as she learns to loosen her grip of control and release it to her Heavenly Father. Even when life looks so different than expected.

"Control is our addiction."

"We make time for Jesus with such a full life because our peace depends on it. Our very lives depend on it."

"It's okay to be sad, it's okay to lament, but it's not okay to stay there forever."

"Our work will never end, and so we must learn to trust God with the things left undone."

Next up, The Life Council, by Laura Tremaine. The whole idea of this book is to look up and see the various people you are surrounded with. There are actually some helpful categories you could place these people in, not for label-sake, but to see the support system you have.

I liked this book but there were some things I just simply didn't agree with. She has a whole (firm) section about how your husband is NOT your best friend and CAN'T be your best friend. And I'm like, "You have 10 categories for 'best friends' and not one of them is allowed to be a slot for a husband?" Josh is absolutely my bestest of best friends. When we are good, I know everything will be alright. But I know Josh can't be my savior. But neither can ANY friend I see in any of these categories. My God is my steadfast anchor, my north star. My husband is my life-mate who knows every good and bad thing about me. And the other categories in this book are added bonuses when the Lord allows their spaces to be filled. 

But, that being said, I did appreciate this book. It was a catalyst to helping me see specific roles people play in my life. Quite honestly, just from listening to the podcast of this book before I had even received it, was enough for me to release some of the closest people in my life from the position I was trying to fit them into, a category that they weren't made to be in. It helped me "release" them to be who they are! Which made me see them as the friend for me they were really meant to be in this season.

Not all of my seats are filled. Actually, in this present moment, many of these seats are vacant, but I feel full with the people I have been surrounded with, even if I don't physically see some of them nearly as much as life permits.

So I do recommend, but don't feel guilty when you don't see all your life council seats filled in every season of your life. This isn't supposed to be a book that brings on a guilt trip. It is a great book about overall relationships.

"There is really only one important requirement in our friendships...presence."

"Deeming other people 'toxic' has become so common that we're now applying the term to people we disagree with or with whom we have a conflict."

Last, but certainly not least: A Non-Anxious Presence, by Mark Sayers. This book has been SO very refreshing! Over the past couple of years I have tried to be a "peaceful presence" when I come upon a tense or stressful scene. So this book is giving words to the very person I am trying to become in this very chaotic world we live in. The author is speaking to the current cultural moment we see ourselves in and is bold enough to say we aren't ever going back to the world we once knew. This "gray zone" we find ourselves in doesn't need a leader because of their "charisma, drive, intelligence, training or achievements", but rather a non-anxious presence that is grounded in God's peace.

"Our gray zone will not be a fleeting moment but rather an indefinite period of ongoing disruption and instability as the patterns that have defined the world for the last half-century are radically reshaped."

"A networked world lunges us into a new social situation in which 'identity is becoming the main, and sometimes the only, source of  meaning.'"

"screens disciple"

"To the emotionally immature everything becomes at best a slight, at worst a direct assault. Feelings become all-powerful and fragile all at the same time."

"Waiting for the Lord, seeking His voice, is an act of revolutionary stillness."

"In the shepherd we find a biblical model of leadership, a non-anxious presence, which is not dependent on reserves of personal power but on the presence of God-encountered in the wild places."

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

In The Sickness. In The Waiting. In The Stillness of the House.

We've been passing something around our family because we like to share, even if it's germs. And as much as I HATE seeing my family sick, and as much as I hate being sick myself (I'm not trying to sound like this has been fun and I'm just sitting here counting my blessings through it all, lol) we've had a lot of time to just sit and be. Sickness does that to you. It demands that you come face-to-face with your limits. To acknowledge that you really don't have as much control as you wish you had. It insists on making life stop (at least your own life) and on bringing to light the things that really matter. And often times the things that just don't. 

It's good to be reminded of these things. 

It brings a healthy sense of perspective.

I'm on day five of whatever this is. The first two days there wasn't much reflecting. Just sleeping. Lots of sleeping. And then I started coming back to life. Slowly. Ever so slowly. I still don't have any energy to do much of anything "productive" or do I?

As I sat in some solitude before the changing of the year I looked back over the past year as I always do. Reflecting on the things that worked, some things that didn't, and used my memories, like a viewfinder, highlighting the highs and lows of the year. One question I ask during this process is, "What fills me up?". And my answer came quicker than normal this year. I love to write. Most of the time it's just in my journal and actually, even that has been scarce over the past couple of years. I want to get back to this blog. To writing my days, my thoughts, my questions, our moments. 

So over the past couple of days, as I've sat here in the sickness, in the waiting, in the stillness of the house (that is finally starting to come back to life) I have caught back up on the memories of our lives. Mostly just in pictures simply to get me caught up, so words can start flowing again. If not for anyone else, for me. And I'm ok with that.

I know, I have Instagram, but there is something about feeling as though I'm a competing voice in the masses over there. Here I can just be me. You can come and go as you please, or not even come at all, but I can be here and show up in my little corner of the internet with no strings attached.

When I first began the blog, oh back in 2007!!!!, I had 2 littles, we traveled full-time as musicians, I posted about cloth diapering, couponing, product reviews and life as a young mom in the trenches. I can't even believe how much time I spent on here. Our lives look so very different now. We have a house full of teenagers that stay up 3 hours after Josh and I have gone to bed, eat all the food from my grocery run as I'm literally unloading it out of the bags and we have been faithful in our ministry for the past 14 years. The Lord has taught us so much. We have been through a heck-of-a-lot in our ministry, marriage, parenting, faith, relationships, health...but one thing remains. God and his faithfulness through it all. 

So welcome to the unpolished, no-agenda meanderings of my current life.