reading

5 Books That Helped Me Heal

As spring warms my skin, I am transported in my mind to last summer. I feel myself gently swing back and forth in my hammock while I think, aren’t hammocks supposed to be relaxing?

I was in my head a lot last summer. I was seeking anything that would heal my anxiety after finally admitting that it was more than a temporary problem.

Many things were helpful in getting to a healthier place: therapy, journaling, new boundaries, confronting my codependent tendencies, medication, and much needed changes. The thing that made all of these things more effective was reading books that helped me process these changes.

You may have different mental health concerns for yourself or a family member than I did, but all of these books will have good lessons for you on your journey.

Christian mental health books.jpg

1. All is Grace by Brennan Manning

 

Why?

This book isn’t a “self-help” type of book like the rest of the books on my list. It’s an autobiography of a deeply broken man. I cried tears more than once because of the incredible redemptive, redeeming, reckless love of our God. His trauma from disfunction was familiar even as it was far from my life experience. His tendency towards self-destruction and self-deception was familiar even though it was also very far from my life experience.

Quote:

My message, unchanged for more than fifty years, is this: God loves you unconditionally, as you are and not as you should be, because nobody is as they should be. It is the message of grace…A grace that pays the eager beaver who works all day long the same wages as the grinning drunk who shows up at ten till five…A grace that hikes up the robe and runs breakneck toward the prodigal reeking of sin and wraps him up and decides to throw a party no ifs, ands, or buts…This grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without asking anything of us…Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try to find something or someone it cannot cover. Grace is enough…Jesus is enough.
— Brennan Manning, All is Grace

Other healing books by Manning:

Abba’s Child

Ruthless Trust

2. How People Heal by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

 

Why?

This book broke down how the ideas of Bible intersect mental health care in the simplest to understand way possible in chapter one. Even if you can only read chapter one, you’ll be better for it.

Quote:

I believed in the power of the Bible and knew that God’s truth could change any life. And I knew that if I could just teach others the same things and encourage them to know the truth as I was learning it, they would find the same kind of growth I discovered. Yet, at the medical center I saw people who had walked with God for years and many who knew more about God’s truth than I did. These people, laypeople and pastors alike, had been very diligent about prayer, Bible study, and other spiritual disciplines. Nevertheless, they were hurting, and for one reason or another, they had been unable to walk through their valley. The woman in the pink bathrobe was a missionary who had been called off the field because she was out of touch with reality — out of touch with who she really was and where she was in time. Although the realization I had had with this particular woman came in response to an extreme situation, I had the same realization over and over with hundreds of other more normal clients. To deal with marital, parenting, emotional, and work struggles, people had tried the things they had been taught, and they felt as though these spiritual answers had let them down. And I began to feel the same way. Again the realization hit me: This is going to be harder than I thought.
— Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, How People Grow

Other healing books by Cloud & Townsend:

Boundaries

Necessary Endings (Cloud)

3. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero

 

Why?

Peter, a veteran pastor in New York City, is so vulnerable with his own journey to becoming emotionally healthy, and he points out how damaging emotionally unhealthy people are in the local church. If every local church was proactive in making sure that discipleship that included emotional health was a priority, the body would be so much healthier and more whole.

Quote:

The problem, however, is that you inevitably find, as I did, something still missing. In fact, the spirituality of most current discipleship models often only adds an additional protective layer against people growing up emotionally. When people have authentic spiritual experiences — such as worship, prayer, Bible studies, and fellowship — they mistakenly believe they are doing fine, even if their relational life is fractured and their interior world is disordered. Their apparent ‘progress’ then provides a spiritual reason for not doing the hard work of maturing. They are deceived. I know. I lived that way for almost seventeen years. Because of the spiritual growth in certain areas of my life and in those around me, I ignored the glaring signs of emotional immaturity that were everywhere in and around me.
— Peter Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

4. The Wisdom of You Heart by Marc Schelske

 

Why?

I met Marc at a writer’s conference in Portland when this book was just a seed. He was honest about his struggles with perfectionism and insecurities. Several years later, I read his book and it freed me from a lot of shame about my emotions. I’m an enneagram 3. If you’re an enneagram 3, 7, or 8, you are in the active triad that suppresses feelings by focusing your energy on other things. Becoming in touch with my feelings has been a process, and this book was integral in that process.

With emotions, God gave us a gift, not a curse, a small reflection of God’s own experience.
— Marc Schelske, The Wisdom of Your Heart

5. The Gift Of Being Yourself by David Benner

 

Why?

Knowing God is not something you can integrate into your life and actions fully until you know yourself. This book was full of “ah ha” moments about how the self relates to God. I flagged a third of the pages because it held an important truth.

Quote:

Self-deception occurs automatically. This is part of what psychologists mean when they say that the defense mechanisms operate in the unconscious. It is also part of what theologians mean when they speak of original sin. We don’t really have to choose self-deception. It is — to use contemporary computer jargon — the default option.
— David Benner, The Gift of Being Yourself

I listened to this a bunch last summer in the hammock. Still is a fav.

Unfamiliar Changes Are Harder Than Time-Consuming, Familiar Changes (Why Taking A Walk Is Hard)


March is here, and I am still thinking about my goals for the year. That’s not an unusual thing for me, but if sticking close to your goals is hard for you, may I recommend Powersheets?

I won’t list out all my goals for you, but I want to tell you what I’ve learned from two of my goals for this year. I decided I wanted to take more walks and read more books this year so I came up with this cute goal. It’s Instagramable and Tweetable.

200 books

200 walks

200 Books 200 Walks.jpg

Isn’t it adorable?

So how I am doing two months in?

I’m right on track on my reading goal.

200 books divides out to 17 books a month. I read 17 in January and 17 in February. I’m right at 34 books read.

200 walks divides out to 17 walks a month.

Ummmmm.

I didn’t take 17 walks in January or February.

I didn’t take zero walks though.

So there’s that.

I took 5 walks in January. (Single digits, y’all.) I took 8 walks in February. (The tiniest bit better.)

So I am not on track with my walking goal. I’ve done 13 out of 200. That means I still have 187 walks left in 2019.

187!

Here’s the puzzling thing about these two goals. I am not demanding about these walks. A 30 to 45-minute walk is great. I’m not speed-walking these things. A stroll counts.

This is my favorite street around the corner from my house because of all the TREES. It’s hard to believe this fall I will be in North Carolina where trying to find trees won’t be hard.

This is my favorite street around the corner from my house because of all the TREES. It’s hard to believe this fall I will be in North Carolina where trying to find trees won’t be hard.

On the other hand, it takes hours to finish a decent book.

HOURS!

Why am I flying through this time-consuming reading goal while the walking goal that demands so little of my time gets pretty much ignored?

I think it’s because I was already reading a lot last year, and bumping up to reading a little more wasn’t as big of a change.

I was not exercising with any amount of regularity last year. Even though taking a walk has a literal phrase that means easy — “walk in the park” — I can’t seem to get it done.

It’s a bigger change, not because it takes more time, money (it’s free to walk), or equipment (I have legs, headphones, and shoes.) It is a bigger change because it hasn’t been a habit in my life.

Reading takes lots of time, some money (God bless the library and Ben Franklin for suggesting it), and I think it may be ruining my eyes (ain’t gonna stop me though.)

Googling “how long does it take to form neural pathways,” tells me this:

Now 66 days is the average and there are always variances. Some people can form deeply ingrained habits in as little as 18 days while others can take well over 200 days to form a habit. The ease and convenience of the habit also has a large part of how long it takes to form a habit.

So basically, it may take all 200 of my walks this year to change my brain to make walking a habit.

What does this mean? Give up? No!

It means I have to celebrate my progress. I have to be proud of my 13 walks in two months. It might be more walks than I took in the whole of 2018. I wasn’t counting.

People often ask me how I stay so motivated and energized. I could tell you I try to eat healthy foods and sleep well at night, but the real answer is grace.
— Lara Casey, Cultivate

It means I have to push myself to do something that doesn’t feel natural.

It means I have to stop listening to my excuses.

I never make excuses not to read, but I can think of 15 excuses why I can’t take a walk right now, the first one being I would have to put real pants and shoes on. Ugh. Who can be bothered?

But when I realize I’m not just taking a walk, I’m changing my brain, I can tell myself I am doing a hard thing that needs extra babying and celebration. I can pep talk myself into creating pathways that think walks are a normal part of a healthy day. I can tell myself that 2020 Jennifer will find walks easy peasy.

What about you?

What changes have you found hard to make because they were new and unfamiliar to your life?

What small numbers do you need to celebrate?

4 Books You'll Love

I shared a list like this at the beginning of 2016, and it was fun.  When things are fun, sometimes you do them again.

The hero of this list is the Amarillo Public Library.  Of my four books, 3 of them were checked out from that wonderful place.  In fact, of the 54 books I read last year, 30 of them were loaned to me, physically or virtually, from the best-we-spend-taxpayer-money-on-in-my-opinion, the public library!

I said virtually in that sentence because, miracle of all technological miracles, I can check out e-books AND audio books on my iPhone.  Thank you Uncle Sam AND Steve Jobs!

The other hero of this list is the webpage Goodreads.  I love my little Goodreads app where I can keep track of what I read, because I know I wouldn't have remember all 54 of those books.  It helped tremendously in making this list.

I love me some goals, and Goodreads has an annual reading challenge.  Last year I set my sights on the goal of reading 52 books, and I crushed reading in December and surpassed my goal by 2.  Go me!

Here's 4 books that really got me in the gut, mind, or heart.  These books changed me a little, and I think they are well worth your time.

1.  Unashamed by Lecrae

 

I was touched by Lecrae sharing the truth about his childhood. I've been working in inner-city ministry for about 20 years. When you've had a middle class upbringing, you might read Lecrae's story and assume that he is the exception or unique. I think most of the kids I've encountered in our ministry would relate to Lecrae's early years, the physical abuse, the sexual abuse, being handed off to grandparents for months, the hurt of being fatherless, and/or the pressure to find your place in a violent culture. There are kids just like Lecrae in your cities and towns, with just as much potential!

I also admired Lecrae's honesty about his early Christian years, becoming very legalistic. I recognize myself in that struggle. It just took me longer to figure out I couldn't be good enough, because I am such a good girl. 

I had made the same mistake a lot of Christians make: I saw my connection with God as a contractual relationship, rather than a covenantal relationship. All contracts have terms, but covenants don’t. They last forever. In a contractual relationship, you’re always worried about breaking the rules. In a covenantal relationship, you’re only concerned with loving the other party as much as you can.
— Lecrae Moore, Unashamed

I think the reason Lecrae has found an audience is because we all feel like an anomaly, we all don't fit in on this Earth. I look forward to Heaven, when we will all be fully ourselves and fully the Bride of Christ. On that day, I'll be happy to stand beside brothers like Lecrae as well as brothers and sisters from every nation and worship The Lord as one. Until then, we can learn so much from audio-biographies like this one that help us understand cultures different from our own. If you had a childhood similar to Lecrae, this story can help you process your own grief, but if you didn't it can bring you understanding. Either way, this book can lead us to be a better version of His Church while we are here on Earth.

2.  Falling Free by Shannan Martin

 

I thought I knew what to expect from this book because I had read quite a bit of Shannan's blog and listened to interviews from Shannan, but this book surprised me in all the best ways.  I didn't expect to be so challenged.  I had to rethink some ideas that I thought I had already pushed so close to Jesus, they had to be right.  Shannan's stories draw me even closer to that every pressing goal of thinking, talking, acting, and living more Christlike.  She shows the grey, the not easy, in the pressing on and pressing in.  All of this idea-wrestling is done with lovely, kind, poetic, beautiful words. Her book is a friend that isn't afraid of the hard days.

Shannan's writing is relatable, kind, interesting, inspiring, and down-right challenging.  If you read it, like I did, I know you will love it.  My copy is getting a good re-read, as currently I am going through this book with a group of ladies who are meeting monthly to discuss it.  In re-reading this, the Lord has already used Shannan's words to push me farther into freedom and trusting Him.  

The chapter that has really was a lifeline for me during this crazy time of trying to climb the mountain of international adoption is chapter four, Unplan.  Listen to this quote.

He (God) chooses discomfort, challenges common sense, and promises pain in exchange for our very lives and all they harbor - our dollars, our hours, our homes, our families, our closely held dreams of a rosy future. This is the God we say we love. This is the God we signed up for. He kept nothing from us, made no false claims, hid zero agendas, and we said yes. We said we wanted the life he had to offer, and that we would follow wherever he led in order to find it. And yet we often feel all baited-and-switched when those dusty roads don’t lead us back to ourselves as planned.
— Shannan Martin, Falling Free

Yep.  That's truth right there.  And thank the Lord that he doesn't just lead me back to myself.  I would make an awful, horrible, no-good god.

3.  The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

 

This book pushed me WAY out of my comfort zone, but I will never look at this country of ours the same again.  I thought the constitution protected our citizens.  Now I know it doesn't.  I know that sounds dramatic, but there is great misuse of the 4th amendment and abuse of the 13th amendment in our country right now.

I think stories speak louder than political debates, so I will share this quote with you.  It is a long one.

Imagine you are Emma Faye Stewart, a thirty-year-old, single African American mother of two who was arrested as part of a drug sweep in Hearne, Texas. All but one of the people arrested were African American. You are innocent. After a week in jail, you have no one to care for your two small children and are eager to get home. Your court-appointed attorney urges you to plead guilty to a drug distribution charge, saying the prosecutor has offered probation. You refuse, steadfastly proclaiming your innocence. Finally, after almost a month in jail, you decide to plead guilty so you can return home to your children. Unwilling to risk a trial and years of imprisonment, you are sentenced to ten years probation and ordered to pay $1,000 in fines, as well as court and probation costs. You are also now branded a drug felon. You are no longer eligible for food stamps; you may be discriminated against in employment; you cannot vote for at least twelve years; and you are about to be evicted from public housing. Once homeless, your children will be taken from you and put into foster care. A judge eventually dismisses all cases against the defendants who did not plead guilty. At trial, the judge finds that the entire sweep was based on the testimony of a single informant who lied to the prosecution. You, however, are still a drug felon, homeless, and desperate to regain custody of your children. Now place yourself in the shoes of Cliffard Runoalds, another African-American victim of the Hearne drug bust. You returned home to Bryan, Texas, to attend the funeral of your eighteen-month-old daughter. Before the funeral services begin, the police show up and handcuff you. You beg the officers to let you take one last look at your daughter before she is buried. The police refuse. You are told by prosecutors that you are needed to testify against one of the defendants in a recent drug bust. You deny witnessing any drug transaction; you don’t know what they are talking about. Because of your refusal to cooperate, you are indicted on felony charges. After a month of being held in jail, the charges against you are dropped. You are technically free, but as a result of your arrest and period of incarceration, you lose your job, your apartment, your furniture, and your car. Not to mention the chance to say good-bye to your baby girl. This is the War on Drugs. The brutal stories described above are not isolated incidents, nor are the racial identities of Emma Faye Stewart and Clifford Runoalds random or accidental. In every state across our nation, African Americans - particularly in the poorest neighborhoods - are subjected to tactics and practices that would result in public outrage and scandal if committed in middle-class white neighborhoods.
— Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow

If these heartbreaking injustices don't hit close enough to home, I was not surprised to see that the Tulia drug bust debacle was mentioned on the first few pages of The New Jim Crow.

I know the idea that our wonderful, glorious country could have such a huge flaw in our justice system is extremely uncomfortable.  I know as a white girl, I have the luxury of ignoring the problem or believing the criminalization of people with brown skin is warranted by bad decisions and actual criminal activity.  It isn't always true.

I pray that our justice system becomes more just.  I pray we all will get past our preconceived ideas and just try to understand the ideas in this book. 

4.  The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

 

Ok.  That last book was intense.  Here's some fun, easy, enjoyable fiction.  I had way too much fun reading this.  I especially loved that the author cashed in on the nordic obsession starting to find its way into our culture (Ikea, hygee, biking, danish food becoming more mainstream.)

To be honest, this wasn't the best fiction book I read last year, but it was the most fun.  Sometimes when the world is a little dark, fun is just what we need.

I love ports. I love the smell of tar and sea air, and the scream of the gulls. Maybe it’s years of taking the ferry to France for summer holidays, but a harbor gives me a feeling of freedom in a way that an airport never does. Airports say work and security checks and delays. Ports say... I don’t know. Something completely different. Escape, maybe.
— Ruth Ware, The Woman in Cabin 10

I hope you found a book you want to add to your "to-read" list from my list.

If not, I'm on Goodreads updating what I'm reading all year long.  I'd love for you to be my friend on Goodreads.  Click here to view my profile, and click "add as a friend."


My favorite band had just released a new album when I did my "4 Books I Loved in 2015," and now one year later, they have another new album.  It feels like the happiest of accidents or just a mid-level band with incredible work ethic.

Review of Falling Free by Shannan Martin

Shannan Martin has the kind of personality that makes you feel like a friend instead of a reader.  

Just look at this photo she posted on Instagram this morning, the day her book Falling Free: Rescued From the Life I Always Wanted released.  She doesn’t have a pretentious bone in her body.  She’s going to set you down with a cup of tea and an fun, interesting conversation.

By reading Shannan’s blog and following her on social media, especially her dreamy Instagram feed, I keep finding these random things about her that make me say, “ME TOO!”

Number one is her infatuation with making salsa and late-night salsa binging.  Me too!  Number two is her love of vintage: dresses from decades past, the sweetly aged items that decorate her home.  Me too!  Number three is her addiction to gingham.  Gingham makes my heart feel warm.  Number four is her heart for adoption and her Jesus-fueled love for people.  Me too!  I could go on, but I don’t want to encourage a restraining order.

There is one important thing that I should mention that I feel I have in common with Shannan.  That is our life not lead.

Shannon begins her book with this phrase,

I’m suppose to be a farm girl. Right now I should be wearing a prairie skirt, traipsing barefoot to my gardens, staking my delphinium with vintage ribbon, catching raspberries in the bowl of my apron. That’s how I always saw myself. It was my secret dream, and I knew if I ever got there, I would have made it.
— Shannan Martin, Falling Free

It makes sense that the sub-tile of her book is “Rescued From the Life I Always Wanted.

That sub-tile has weight in my soul.  I feel it.  In high school I only dreamed of a big career.  I wanted a job that had a big paycheck.  I even dreamed of stressful deadlines, and knew that they would fill me with a sense of importance that nothing else could.  I watched shows set in offices and big cities and thought of all the professional clothing I would wear, lady suits and flowing blouses.  I picked the college major of accounting and set my sights on a big six firm.

As I was beginning school, God was writing another story.  My sophomore year of college, boyfriend’s dad, who would become my father-in-law, had a life-saving   liver transplant.  He had been a pastor for 25 years, and after coming so close to losing his life, he didn’t want to go back to usual ministry or normal church.  He moved into an old building in downtown Amarillo and started Citychurch, an inner-city ministry to children.

By the time I earned my accounting degree, God had changed my heart and called me to that ministry.  I never got to see what that life I thought I wanted looked like.

Shannan did.

SHANNAN MARTIN HAD THE PERFECT LIFE: A CUTE FARMHOUSE ON SIX RAMBLING ACRES, A LOVING HUSBAND, THREE ADORABLE KIDS, MONEY, FRIENDS, A CLOSE-KNIT CHURCH—A SAFE, HAPPY EXISTENCE.
But when the bottom dropped out through a series of shocking changes and ordinary inconveniences, the Martins followed God’s call to something radically different: a small house on the other side of the urban tracks, a shoestring income, a challenged public school, and the harshness of a county jail (where her husband is now chaplain). And yet the family’s plunge from “safety” was the best thing that could have happened to them.
— Nelson Books

Since I had already be rescued from the life I thought I wanted, I supposed that I had already learned all the lesson Shannan would share in her book.  As I read through the table of contents, I saw “Get Risky,” “Have Less,” “Unplan,” “Live Small,” ”Open the Door,” and other topics definitely related to.

I was wrong.  I may have lived through risky and small, learning heart-changing lessons as I transitioned from an ambitious college kid to a home school mom in urban children’s ministry, but Shannon had new insights.  She made me rethink things I had already wrestled through.

Shannan's stories draw me even closer to that every pressing goal of thinking, talking, acting, and living more Christlike. She shows the grey, the not easy, in the pressing on and pressing in. All of this idea-wrestling is done with lovely, kind, poetic, beautiful words. Her book is a friend that isn't afraid of the hard days.

Shannan's writing is relatable, kind, interesting, inspiring, and down-right challenging.  I know you will love it.

I have a sneaking suspicion that we all have lives that we thought we wanted that don’t line up with the better life that God has graciously planned for us.  God has a deeper, richer, more fulfilling life planned for you, and all you have to do is fall free.

God offers a better way: have less and do more. He inverts our plans, extending the option of total surrender like a May bouquet of decadent, gutsy, full-bloom peonies. It’s not some dreary prison sentence, meant for the poor souls commissioned to overseas ministry, or monks or nuns. It’s a hold-on-to-your-hat promise that life is actually far too long to risk squandering it on the wrong things. We’re offered the gift of becoming laser-focused on doing more for his kingdom.
— Shannan Martin, Falling Free

I’m recommending this book to you today, and I can’t imagine a day when this book will not be on my top 5 list of recommended books.  So either click this link to order it it or get in your car and head to the bookstore.  If you don’t, you’ll never hear the end of it.

Review of A Mile Wide by Brandon Hatmaker

I love to read.  I’ve set my goal high this year, one a book a week, and I’m on track to meet that goal.  I almost always enjoy the book I’ve read (I did pick it, why wouldn’t I.)  But rarely do I not only love the book, but also feel jealous that I didn’t get to write the book I’m reading.  That is how I felt about Brandon Hatmaker’s new book that released this past Tuesday, A Mile Wide:  Trading A Shallow Religion For a Deeper Faith.  I wish I had wrote it.  It is just so good.  God forgive me of my covetousness.

The book is divided into two parts: The Gospel In Us and The Gospel Through Us.  Brandon encourages us to take our small view of the gospel and make it bigger.  As we grow our view of Christian life we can take that gospel and pour it out with a truer mission, seeking justice for our communities, full of grace and truth.

There is an idea in Brandon’s new book that I’ve been discussing with anyone who will verbally process with me, and that is the idea that discipleship happens during outreach.  (I even wrote a whole blog series on it called #servetogrow over the summer.)  Brandon illustrates this idea beautifully.

My favorite part of the whole book is in the chapter discussing discipleship called A Deeper Discipleship.  Brandon tells about an experience he had volunteering one Tuesday night with an organization called Mobile Loaves & Fishes (MLF) with his friend Alan Graham.  After spending the evening handing out groceries, blankets, and clothing to homeless and working poor families, Alan fills Brandon in on his mission at MLF.

‘I’m making disciples,” he [Alan] said. ‘You see, we’re doing a lot of good here. But my job, and yours as a church leader, is to make disciples. My job is to get as many people out of the pews and onto the streets of our city as I can, because I know it’ll change them.’

This was paradigm-shifting for me. I’d served people before. I’d been on multiple mission trips and served in different environments. But this was different. This was in my hometown on a Tuesday night. It was something profound wrapped in something seemingly simple. Somehow what we had just done shifted my thinking from handing out a sandwich to learning a name, hearing a story, and connecting at the soul level.

And I heard the Spirit whisper, Remember what you’re experiencing. Capture how this feels, and help others feel the same. This is going to change you. It’ll change them too.

I’ve thought about that night a thousand times since then. It’s the moment when I realized for the first time that something was happening all around me that wasn’t about me but was changing my heart. After years of checking boxes and hoping for transformation, I could physically feel my heart being reshaped.

Everyday experiences become discipleship experience when we have the right attitude and perspective.
— Brandon Hatmaker, A Mile Wide

I’ve only given you a piece of the story.  You absolutely have to get this book and hear more.

There are other stories that are very touching.  When I first picked up the book to read, I found myself quickly in chapter two blinded by tears.  Brandon tells a poignant story of his encounter with an Ethiopian woman on his very first flight to Ethiopia.  I won’t retell it here, but I will tell you that you will be shocked at the reason for that this woman on Brandon’s flight spontaneously praises the Lord on that airplane.

All of these stories are so stirring to me and you as a reader because it is so evident on the page that these stories are not just cute antidotes to Brandon.  You can feel how life-changing these moments were in the writer’s sensitive-to-the-Spirit heart.

This book isn’t just about moving stories.  One of the things I love about A Mile Wide is how well thought out it is.  Every point has been considered and tested.  Every chapter has lists of helpful ways to proceed or recommendations for moving forward.  This isn’t a book that ends in head scratching and warm feelings.  This is a book that ends with action.  Each subject covered has so many layers for every Christian.

I hope I have convinced you how well your time would be spent on reading A Mile Wide.  I don’t over exaggerate when I say that you will be affected by this book.  Grab a copy and let Brandon lead you deeper into a faith that not only changes you, but leads you to change others.

Broken Bond, a book review of Love Embraced

One of the joys of finding community online with other Christian writers, is that you form such unlikely, precious friendships.  One such friendship is with the tenderhearted and kind Anna Smit, who makes a home with her family of four in the Netherlands.  Anna is actually not Dutch, but a transplanted, self-proclaimed “kiwi,” hailing from the beautiful country of New Zealand.

Our online friendship began as we both attempted our first blogging challenge, Write 31 Days, this last October.  Anna agreed to read my compilation of the challenge turned book.  Her encouragement was paramount to me as I turned my month of writing into a full-fledged book.

When Anna decided to compile a book herself, I knew I wanted to read her words and encourage her in her writing in way possible.

I finished reading her new book Love Embraced back in March.  I had set out to encourage Anna, but instead, her writing encouraged me.

My favorite idea from the book is an idea that is closely related to our adoption.  We have been waiting to adopt from Ethiopia for almost three years now.  During our waiting, I have read books and listened to seminars about attachment, trauma, and other adoption parenting topics.

Anna shared in her book, Love Embraced, about her adopted brother who was added to their missionary family at 15-months-old from an orphanage in Romania.

When I read this portion of Anna’s story, I was deeply moved.

Only He truly understood the hurt, the broken shards that pushed this little soul to rebel, to repel the arms that sought to love him. My little brother, suffering from the severed bond with his birth mother, fought against those closest to him, just like all of us who are traumatized by our severed bond with God through sin do. But His Saving Grace has the power, through transformational love of restoring and healing us through a reunion with Him. And so, only our Heavenly Father could have taught my parents to see beyond the rebellion to find the little soul crying out for love, perfect love: a love that is patient, kind, not dishonoring, not self-seeking, that doesn’t keep track of wrongs, doesn’t rejoice in evil but in the truth, always protects, always hopes, always trusts, never gives up, never fails (1 Corinthians 13: 4- 8).
— Anna Louise Smit, Love Embraced, chapter 17

The idea that we have trauma separating us with our bond with God is something I have never considered.

This is a beautiful example of the universal human experience.  We are suffering from a trauma that we try to deny, because we have been torn apart by sin from our Loving Father.

Anna shares so genuinely about her family, but also her experience with loss, rejection, suffering, PTSD, and grief.

She takes these hard places and shows us how God has faithfully replaced her peace, given her comfort, filled her with hope, and deeply embraced her with love.

And so, in those moments I feel His Peace being stolen from me, He has the Power to restore it to me. All He asks is that I lean into Him, that I believe Him at His Word. And even then, He tells me that where I struggle to trust, He will not abandon me, yet patiently teach me because “saving” me is all His idea and He will bring it to completion (John 6: 35-40). And in teaching me He is, ever so patiently, yet also firmly, reminding me of the Hope I have in Him that can never be shaken. A Hope overflowing into an abundant peace.
— Anna Lousie Smit, Love Embraced, chapter 38

Love Embraced will be released on Mother's Day, May 8th, as a dedication to Anna's mother.  You will be able to find it on Amazon and CreateSpace for purchase.  I hope you will add it to your "to read" list, and let it be an encouragement to you this Mother's Day.

More about Love Embraced:  A Journey In and Through Suffering -

Not one of us is immune to suffering. So many of us have experienced loss, rejection, trauma and/or deep hurt. But often we decide to keep working, to keep going and to keep numbing that which we are terribly scared will break us into tiny little pieces. Love Embraced records the author’s own journey through such suffering, in: caring for her mother dying of cancer, grieving her mother’s death, her diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and working through repressed childhood memories. 

But, it also reveals how in starting to face that which she was too frightened to face, she began to embrace and be embraced by a mighty God into:  freedom, hope, comfort, peace, strength and deep joy.

More about Anna Lousie Smit -

Anna Smit is a Kiwi-Dutch Mum currently living in the Netherlands with her Dutch husband and two girls. Since losing her mother to cancer in April, 2014, Anna has used her gift of writing to lean into God’s Great Love through grief, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, recovering perfectionism and repressed childhood memories. She shares her journey of faith with others to encourage, embolden and inspire them in Christ.

4 Books I Loved in 2015

I know it’s already February, and this really is more of a January thing to do, but I want to tell you about a few books I really enjoyed reading in 2015.

Part of becoming a better writer is making sure I am challenging myself to read.  That may not be something you feel like you need in your life, if not, that’s ok.  No pressure.  Move on.  

I loved reading as a kid.  I begged my mom for books at the store.  I begged to go to the library.  As I came into adulthood and parenthood, I didn’t think I had time for reading that was just fun, just for me.  I read stuff that I needed to read as a mom, as a home school mom, as a Sunday school teacher, but anything else was spotty.  Sometimes in the summer I would try to get through 5 fun books, stuff like fiction or biographies of famous people.  Even that didn’t happen every summer.

I’m reading more, and it feels like self-care.  If reading doesn’t feel like self-care to you, let it go.  Do something that speaks to you as a person.

But if you’re like me, and you love books, here’s some I can recommend.

I’ve picked 4 books I loved in 2015.  Only one of them was released in 2015, because like I explained before, I’m playing catch up.

Here we go:


1.  Accidental Pharisees by Larry Osborne

Oh my, how I need this message.  I can be so judgmental, you don’t even know.  I get on high horses all the time.  If you don’t know that about me, then I’ve done a great job hiding that part of my personality from you.  Let me just pull back the curtain and tell you, I’m a crappy person sometimes.  I’m working on it.  This book was SO good for me.  I have to give credit to my husband.  He bought this book.  (Not for me.  That would be jerky.)  He bought it for himself because apparently being prideful and pharisaical is probably a universal struggle.  He thought he needed it.  My husband read it, and from his thoughts about the book, I knew I needed to read it.

I am honestly putting this book on my list because I’ve been thinking I might need to reread it.  It was that impactful.  There is a section of the book called “Gift Projection: When My Calling Becomes Everyone Else’s Calling.”  If you don’t think that’s a struggle for me, just read a few of my blog posts.  My toes are still red and swollen from that section of the book.

No one starts out with the desire to become a Pharisee. They’re the bad guys. We all know that... But the truth is that accidental Pharisees are made up of people just like you and me, people who love God, love the Scriptures, and are trying their best to live by them. The thing to note about accidental Pharisees is just that. They’re accidental. They’re like dinner at Denny’s. No one plans to go there. You just end up there. So how does it happen?
— Larry Osborne, Accidental Pharisees

 

 

2.  Aloof by Tony Kriz

I absolutely love this book.  It is honest and full of spiritual incite.  There are things about God that I now treasure because I began pondering them after things Tony shared in this book.  I know that’s a tall order, but it is true.  He brought up several ideas that sent me back to Scripture to search out and understand God a little deeper.  That might be the ironic thing.  The book is all about how aloof God is, and I feel like I know Him a little better for it.

Let me give you one example.  Chapter 19, The Ten Virgins, talks about how our relationship with God is explained with the marriage metaphor.  We all know that the church is the bride of Christ.  Tony asks the question, if it would be more truthful to explain it as a betrothal metaphor.  Our wedding feast hasn’t come.  Our wedding feast is described in Revelation 19.  Reading this, going back and rereading parables, I am convinced he is right.  I don’t know God like I know my husband James.  We aren’t to that stage of our relationship.  I will know God with that intimacy someday, but not before Heaven.

That’s just one example of the thoughtful examination Tony puts into this beautiful book.

Throughout history we Jesus-folk have been trying to close the gap between God’s revealed abilities and desires and our actual daily experience. The dissonance and disconnect is so strong that we will even believe in a tortilla just to quiet the loneliness.
— Tony Kriz, Aloof

 

3.  My First White Friend by Patricia Raybon

I bought this book from Patricia when she visited Amarillo, and she inscribed it to me “with love.”  But as she wrote these words, she gave a disclaimer, “This is my angry book.”  She maybe felt that I would become angry reading her words.  Well that didn’t happen.  I didn’t find her book angry at all.  The book was truthful, insightful, and full of hard-earned grace.  I was so grateful to get to see some of her life experience and perspective being a upper-class, black women in Colorado durning the 1950s through the 1990s.  We can’t fully step into her shoes, but this book allows us to dip a toe in.  I encourage you to do so.  I love true-life stories, and this book is full of completely interesting life stories, now vividly painted into my brain.

Love triumphs, Merton wrote, ‘at least in this life, not by eliminating evil once for all but by resisting and overcoming it anew every day.’ Because sin isn’t going away.
Racial sin will rise up every time. And racial ‘victims’ can vainly try to answer it with sin — its own punishment, as the Catholic saint Thomas Aquinas put it. Certainly, I have sinned in my life by hating white people, especially for their privilege, and hating myself for not having enough of the same thing. And I have been hated by them in return.
This sin must be answered, I see now — for my own sake surely — and answered best perhaps with the crushing weight of forgiveness, freeing, as Aquinas said, the ‘oppressed and the oppressor together.’
That is good colored stuff, no matter who says it. And it feels good to consider, even as I try it anew every day — and often fail at it. But I can try it again the next morning because of something curious:
Forgiveness just isn’t a one-time thing.
— Patricia Raybon, My First White Friend

4.  Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

I loved this book.  It was like reading a Wes Anderson movie.  It was, in my imagination, vividly stunning.  The details were so quirky and unique that I couldn’t help but fill my head with the described surroundings.  I have read news that they are making it into a film, and I know I will be disappointed because it could never be as I outrageously imagined it.  Although, Cate Blanchett would be a beautiful choice for Bernadette Fox.

This humorous book was so fun to read because so much of it is written in notes, emails, memos, and journal entries.

Monday, November 22 / Note from Ms. Goodyear sent home in the Monday Messenger / Dear parents, This is to clarify that Bernadette Fox, Bee Branch’s mother, was driving the vehicle that ran over the other parent’s foot. I hope you all had a wonderful weekend despite the rain. Kindly, Gwen Goodyear, Head of School.
— Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

That’s my list.  Enjoy!  Read on!

 

 

My favorite band, Dr. Dog, came out with a new album this week.  Of coarse I'm going to share.  And I'm a sucker for songs about listening to music.

Fighting for Gratitude, a book review of Raising Grateful Kids

I've been dying to tell you about this book.  I read it back during Thanksgiving, and I wanted to wait until it actually released to tell you and my friends about it.

Well, it released yesterday, and now you can go get yourself a copy.  And boy do we all need a copy!

I've got three kids (and one on the way --- the "non"-old-fashioned-way --- from Ethiopia.)  My three kids are easily pulled into the trappings of entitlement.  It is an uphill battle keeping our focus on Christ instead of stuff.

Kristen has written a book that has a deep layer of solid parenting suggestions topped with a full garnish of ideas that can give your family a widened, global, missional worldview.  If you know me, you'll know this is right up my alley!

Let me share my favorite quote with you.

Our family is at its best—our absolute best—when we are doing something for someone else. When our hands are busy serving others, we aren’t thinking about what we don’t have. Instead, we are thankful for what we do have.
— Kristen Welch, Raising Grateful Kids

All the yeses!

Since I was first introduced to Kristen because of her non-profit Fair Trade Friday, it isn't a surprise that it encourages hands-on serving of others as a family.  What was surprising and refreshing to find was that this book is chalk full of GRACE!  That isn't often the case with parenting books.

This book is as helpful as it is graceful.  The American culture is excessive, but that is really the opposite of what brings true happiness. This book really reminds you that helping your children to think of others is way more important than the quality or quantity of their physical possessions.

The truth is I'm a practical gal.  I love hands-on ideas way more that I love idealized theory.  Each chapter ends with ideas for "going against the flow," and those ideas are categorized by age range.  No matter what age your child, there will be suggestions to help focus your children on gratitude.

My favorite new idea from the book was rice and beans Monday.

We eat rice and beans every Monday so we can remember
how the rest of the world lives and eats. Sometimes the best
way to introduce a different perspective is by doing something
different. And then repeating it often.
Most of the world doesn’t have the luxury of having a
pantry and refrigerator full of food with dozens of options.
Meat is for the wealthy and fruit is a delicacy.
What better way to remind our kids how much we have than
through their bellies?
— Kristen Welch, Raising Grateful Kids

I love that!  We will be implementing rice and bean Monday at the Lane house.

Get your copy of Raising Grateful Kids, and find out what suggestion you can implement in your home that will change your children's perspective and focus your family on grateful!

Bonus:  Read more about this awesome book from the author Kristen Welch, and enter to win a copy of her new book on Kristen's blog We Are That Family here.



Simply Tuesday, Simply Yes!

I was introduced to Emily P. Freeman by my friend Kaylie Hodges.  She has been a fan of Emily’s books and blog for a while.  Kaylie and I went to the Faith and Culture Writers Conference in Portland this past April, Emily was one of the key speakers.  And now I am a fan too.

At the conference, Emily shared the idea of the bench.  In that moment, it was like a cup of cool water to my soul.  The majority of that weekend we had been listening to talks about blogging, social media, book proposals, and of course platform.

This is what Emily says about benches in her book.

In my work, when I see all the reasons why what they’re doing over there is more important, impactful, and effective than what I’m doing over here, I’m tempted to make the platform wider and put brighter lights in the bulbs because I have to dazzle, you know. I am determined to make my work the best, the most excellent. When I want to climb the ladder, what if instead I tore the ladder apart and used the wood to build a bench?
— Emily P. Freeman, Simply Tuesday

Emily’s changed the vocabulary for me, and it has changed my whole outlook as a writer.

This is what Emily shared in her talk at the conference.  When we have a bench instead of a platform, we are at eye level and we can share a conversation instead of yelling our message.  We can also practice generosity by writing like a hostess to those who join us on a bench.

After those graceful words from Emily, I was very excited to read her book Simply Tuesday when it came out in this summer.

When I found out that (in)courage was going to be hosting a book club that included Periscopes with Emily, I was so eager to join in.

Let me just explain that the book is organized extremely well.  It has 5 parts, each part with three chapters.  The accountant in me loves this little detail.  The 5 parts are:  discovering your Tuesday home, embracing your Tuesday work, finding our Tuesday people, accepting our Tuesday soul, and seeing beyond Tuesday.

For the Hustle-Free Periscope Book Club, Emily did 5 periscopes on five consecutive Tuesdays covering one part of the book each week.

I absolutely love the fact that Emily took the busiest, most distracting, form of social media, and she made it into a bench where she could share her ideas of small-moment living.

My favorite part of the periscope broadcast was on week 3, finding our Tuesday people.  She shared an idea about God that I had never thought about before.  She said this.

God Himself is community. He not just makes community easy. God in His very nature is a community. And He has placed his community within me. So what might it mean for me to move towards other people and allow them to be themselves as I am fully myself. Just a couple days ago, my husband John said something. He said, ‘When Christ in me stirs Christ in you, that’s a real connection. That’s community.’
— Emily P. Freeman, Hustle-Free Book Club

I love that idea.

Emily made a point in the book about ordinary that I love also.

Emily chose the title Simply Tuesday because Tuesday is really the least special of all the days, the most ordinary.

In chapter two, Emily pointed out that the word ordinary comes from the word ordinal, which means to count.  She then goes on to share some thoughts on how every Tuesday counts and how to live well on ordinary time so that your Tuesdays count for something more than ordinary.  She says this.

To live well in ordinary time is to believe within the deepest part of who I am that wherever I go, I don’t go alone.... Let’s gently poke our sleepy souls, refusing to wait for a big event to wake us up. Let’s stop running from ordinary time but begin to sit in the midst of it.
— Emily P. Freeman, Simply Tuesday

Emily’s writing is beautiful, profound, and calming.  If you relate to the words hustle, weary, busy, comparison, or pressure, or if you find yourself becoming resentful of the simple, ordinary life that you are in right now, I encourage you to read Simply Tuesday and drink in the wisdom of this book.

     Just look how many sections I've flagged.  It's full of good stuff.

     Just look how many sections I've flagged.  It's full of good stuff.

Also, if you are interested in watching the videos of Emily from each of the 5 parts of the book, they are still online on the (in)courage website.

What about you, did you read Simply Tuesday and have a favorite part?  Please comment below!  We can sit on this bench and discuss it together.

Cynicism is not a Spiritual Gift: How I shocked a 24 year old

Looking across the dinner table, 24 year old eyes the diameter of tea cups were staring back at me.  It was at that moment, I realized what I was saying was shocking.  I hadn’t thought it as unbelievable.

We were a table of five IF:Lead2015 women discussing life topics including everything from YouTube videos to politics, and we had even talked about having the sex conversation with your kids.  So how was I to know that books would be the topic that evoked that outlandish look of from someone 14 years my junior?

When I tell you what I said, considering a Christian book review was my last blog post and the fact that this actually is a Christian blog, you might be surprised too.

 

Almost all 26 years of my Christian life, I’ve been cynical about Christian produced writing.  I read almost no Christian books between high school and 2010.

I’m just getting home from a IF:Leadership Conference, and five years ago, I couldn’t have named one single Christian author I would have wanted to listen to, much less read a book by.

This is more shocking knowing that my husband and I have been in ministry for 19 years.  I helped start a church, taught countless Sunday school classes, brainstormed hundreds of crazy ministry ideas with my family, participated in lots of those crazy ideas, led lots of people to Jesus, had amazing church attendance, home schooled my kids, and lived a lifestyle LifeWay would have put a stamp of approval on.  God did all of this in my life.  Glory to God, not me!

You are probably asking, “You’re a Christian, and you’re definitely Beth Moore’s demographic.  Why wouldn’t you read Christian book?”

Well.  I didn’t think there was a Christian author that would “get me” or would be authentic enough to let me “get them.”

I valued action not words.  I wanted someone to put “the rubber to the road” for Christ, and couldn’t imagine someone actually being honest about the world we live in and living for Jesus beyond a “preaching/teaching people who are already Christians” sort of way.

I’d like to say I was one of those “all we need is the Bible” types.  Gosh.  That would actually make sense.

I was wrong.

When is cynicism ever right?

So what changed?

Two things.

One, I lost my little brother in 2010.  That probably made my heart a little softer.

Two, God shoved a book in my face.

Friends kept asking me if I had heard of Jen Hatmaker.  They said, “Her story in interrupted reminds me of the story of your church.”  I filed those references under “yeah, whatever.”

The “yeah, whatever file” also had the book name Radical filed in it.  (I know.  I know.  Forgive me.)  Let me just tell you.  When you are on a bicycle delivering lunches to inner-city children and telling them about Jesus, and some middle-aged white guy leans over and asks you if you’ve read Radical, thoughts go like this:  I helped think of this ministry.  I’m on my bike doing this.  This is my life.  It’s pretty radical.  I don’t need to read the book.  But to the man you just politely say, “No.  I haven’t” because that’s WJWD.

FullSizeRender.jpg

So back to the second thing that changed my reading habits.  My husband came home from a Christian conference with a free book for me.  I asked, “Is it Jen Hatmaker?”

Guess what?  It was.  What are the chances?

God obviously wanted me to read this book.  The book was Seven, and I read it.

Jen Hatmaker changed my mind about Christian authors.  Then she lead me to IF.

Because I’m radical, (Can I call myself that?  If I ever meet David Platt, I’ll ask him.) I hosted a IF:Local Gathering in my church in 2014 without knowing what it was or who anyone was.

There I was with my friends watching the IF live feed.  Everyone kept asking me, “Who is that?”  My answer, every time.  “I don’t know.”

I didn’t know anyone who wasn’t Jen Hatmaker.

I didn’t know who Ann Voskamp was.  Let that sink in.

(Other than Jen’s book) I hadn’t read any of their books.

Was this good?

No.

Why?

Because the Bible says this:

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 ESV

I was judging Christian community and quenching the Spirit.  I wasn’t testing anything.  How could I hold fast to what was good when I wasn’t letting anything in.

What about you?  Are you in the place I was, where I didn’t see a need for Christian input, cynical about what they could offer?  Are you at the opposite end of the spectrum, where you are reading every Christian book you can get your hands on, but you are not putting your faith into action. (James 2:17 says faith without works is dead.)

Let me encourage you to find your place in Christian community.  Allow input, test everything, and hold fast to what is good.  Allow those good things to give you strength as you venture out into the world and turn your strengthened faith into work.

I love music, and I like to share a song at the end of my blog posts.  This song was playing at the IF:Leadership Conference this week, so it has been stuck in my head.  Also, it starts out, "My cold hearted child."  I feel like that was what my heart was like when I wasn't open to what others had to share about Christ.

10 phrases Jen Hatmaker coined in her book For the Love & you need to know:

This post is part of Jen Hatmaker’s “For the Love” Blog Tour which I am delighted to be a part of along with many other inspiring bloggers.  To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE.

I’ve had Jen Hatmaker’s new book For the Love for a couple weeks now, and I love every grace drenched word of it.

The title For the Love is a pop-culture phrase of a title.  Although Jen can’t claim credit for coining it, there are a few words and phrases that just might become part of your conversations at core group or post-service sometime soon.

It was very apparent as I read that few new words and phrases just popped.  I started noticed that many of my social media friends were already using these new phrases in FaceBook posts, as hashtags, or even writing them across memes.

This week on NPR I heard Ilan Stavans, author of the new book Quixote: The Novel and the World, say “If a writer doesn't do anything but give a new word to his language and from there maybe to other languages, I think that writer redefines the world.”

Well, JH, you’re redefining my world for sure!

Here’s a little guide to get you caught up on your JH lingo.

 

  1. Off the beam - stuff that isn’t life giving, stuff that should be delegated or dropped.

How JH used it:

 

Well, here’s how I’m going to us this in my life:

Did see the mulit-colored heart shaped crayons on Pinterest?  I’m not making that kitchen mess. I’m off the beam.

Besides, Haven't you seen this picture on PinterestFail.com?

2.  Haitian mom true - a filter to weed out non-truths that should not be ascribed to God.

How JH used it:

Me: 

I’m not sure about that because that’s not Haitian mom true.

3.  LAP - the fashion tragedy known as Leggings-As-Pants

How JH used it:

Me: 

You can’t wear those LAPs to school with out a dress or long shirt.

 

4.  TAL / TAP - the crisis known as Tights-As-Leggings or Tights-As-Pants

How JH used it:

Me: 

Oh my, I just saw a woman at Wal-Mart wearing TAP.  I wouldn’t even wear TAL.

 

5.  Horsecrappery - The nonsense advertisers like to sell us with their clearly false advertising.

How JH used it:

Me: 

That air brush make up is horsecrappery.  I don’t want to SEE what our bathroom would look like after my daughter “erases away her imperfections.” 

 

6.  Spicy Family - loud families that love obnoxious humor and sarcasm and don’t do precious and gentle well.

How JH used it:

Me: 

Hide the breakables, that Spicy Family is bringing their kids to the party.

 

7.  WWAVD - What would Ann Voskamp do?

How JH used it:

Me: 

It’s Easter morning.  Why can’t we get just one sweet sibling photo?  WWAVD?  But we don't have a bunny.

 

8.  Headphones with No Music - A tool for introverts to let others know they are feeling an aversion to words.

How JH used it: 

Me: 

When I’ve home schooled my kids for half a day, and I need a quiet lunch break so that I can finish out the rest of the "talking at them" school day, I might put on Headphones with No Music.

 

9.  Sandwich dolphins - taking kids plates or bento boxes and making them into mini works of art, basically the damage Pinterest has done to lunch and our mom-esteem.

How JH used it:

Me: 

I know you’re hungry and it’s lunchtime.  No one is busting out the Sandwich Dolphins.  Just warm up those frozen chicken nuggets or put some P&J on a piece of bread.  Can’t you see I’ve got headphones on? (see #8)

 

10.  Supper Club - A fun thing for several couples to do one night a month, rotating houses, with serious food and no kids.

How JH used it: 

Me: 

Anyone want to start a Supper Club and invite me to join?  Email me the e-vite!

 

Now that you’ve had that JH Lingo lesson, put down your sandwich dolphin, take off those LAPs, and think about WWAVD.  She would get online and order herself a copy of Jen Hatmaker’s new book For the Love, because it definitely isn’t horsecrappery.  It’s Haitian mom true & good.

"For the Love" by Jen Hatmaker

I LOVE Jen Hatmaker.  Her book 7 had a huge impact on my life in ministry and was such an encouragement when we were feeling God call us to adoption from Ethiopia.  And her book Interrupted was full of truth about ministry and verified so many choices that our family made beginning Citychurch.  It was so interesting to read how God worked in some of the same ways in the Hatmaker's life as God had worked in our lives.

When Jen (I'm going to just refer to her as Jen - like we are buddies) put up that she was releasing a new book and needed 500 people to read it early and help promote it, I jumped at the chance.  I filled out a short application.

It turns out 5,000 people had jumped at the same chance.

Jen sent out an email that she would love to give a book to all 5,000 people, but her publisher couldn't do it.  They want to make money or something.  Imagine that.

What she could do is email out four chapters for the 4,500 people who didn't get their application in first, and she did.

I feel so cool that I got to read those 4 chapters before the release date in August.  Yay for Jen and being one of those 4,500.

Let me tell you how reading those 4 chapters went.  I laughed.  I laughed more.  I cried laughing tears.  I laughed more.  I took a bathroom break because I've had 3 kids, and I didn't want to pee my pants.  Then Jen got serious and talked about church.  And I said amen about a dozen times.

You're gonna want this book.

Then, because this is something I do to my husband, I read chunks of it to him.  Poor guy.  I've read him about a dozen books, including Jen Hatmaker's Interrupted.

Before you feel sorry for him, he knew what he was getting into.  Here's a picture of me subjecting him to a fiction book before we got married.  I was worried about him because all he liked to read was technical manuals from computers and software.

He had plenty of time to back out at this point.

He had plenty of time to back out at this point.

I honestly feel bad about doing this to him.

But I can't help myself.

So here's my advice to you.  Go ahead and pre-order Jen's book, that way you can fend me off when I try to start reading it to you.

What?  You haven't left to pre-order it.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Here's what my friend Jen said in her new book re: fashion.

"Leggings-As-Pants (LAP) is permissible if the following rule is obeyed:  Your privates are covered by a shirt, sweater, or dress.  Privates are heretofore understood as areas north of upper thigh and south of muffin top.  I don't want to see your hinterlands.  I don't want to know the shape of your underwear (or that you aren't wearing any).  I can't handle this knowledge.  I am just shopping at Target and I feel like I've gotten to second base with you."

OH MY.  My buddy Jen is funny.  And wise.  Check out what she said re: parenting.

"We should not cushion every blow.  This is life.  Learning to deal with struggle and to develop responsibility is crucial.  A good parent prepares the child for the path, not the path for the child.  We can still demonstrate gentle and attached parenting without raising children who melt on a warm day."

I #Love every bit of this.  I cannot wait to read the rest of #FortheLove!  And you better read it too - or I'll be there - reading it to you.