Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life by Jen Hatmaker [Book Review]

Absolutely loved this book! The way Jen writes, it’s almost as if you’re there with her. Whether it’s sitting on her front porch or at her dinner table, she communicates the highs and lows of being a woman so honestly. It’s messy work but after reading Of Mess and Moxie, Jen made being woman more bearable.

I’m not a wife or mother so there were parts of Jen’s life I couldn’t relate to.  Overall though, there were a lot of points throughout her stories that I’ll carry with me. There’s no better comfort than knowing there’s a woman out there that totally “gets you.

Discouragement, heartbreak, failure, and suffering. We’ve all experienced these at some points in our life. Yet, we’re the same people who can experience victory, perseverance, joy, and rebirth. This is moxie. Jen is our cheerleader. 

Ladies, we got this. As hard as it is sometimes, we’re in this together.

Of Mess and Moxie will make you “LOL”, literally.

Highly recommended!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255  : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Most Dangerous Narcissist

Narcissism is a word that’s been thrown around a lot in my circle this year. Whether it’s close friends with their own experiences with narcissists or my own, I’ve given this a lot of thought.  Narcissists are abusive, manipulative, and deceptive. There’s nothing worse then a person who is all three and claims to be a Christian.

The most dangerous narcissist is a Christian one.

Before I begin, I want to clarify this post isn’t directed at any one person but a culmination of my own or other’s experiences. However, if you’re reading this and think it may be written about you, then reexamine your life and behavior. And if you feel brave enough, contact me and we’ll talk about it.

These five characteristics are all things I witness daily by people who attend Church regularly.

  1. Christian narcissists twist the Bible. Instead of using the Bible as a weapon against spiritual warfare, they use it to call out other people.  Churches, religious groups, pastors, even their own family. No one is safe. They claim they’re speaking truth, but really they’re airing their own opinions and puffing themselves up. There’s no way of understanding in their hearts, only a need to be right.  Proverbs 18:2, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Honestly, I don’t know everything about the Bible. I haven’t read scripture cover to cover but I know the Word of God should never be manipulated by man. We all interpret it in our own way but we should always ask God to give us His wisdom to understand before we go out and try to preach it. Our actions speak louder than quoting scripture ever will.
  2.  The silent treatment is a Christian narcissist’s “love” language. This is the preferred weapon of a narcissist. Pretty much, you’re invisible to this person. The silent treatment is emotional abuse and control. We deserve healthy relationships where both persons involved deal with their issues maturely. Narcissists don’t deal with their issues or any issues at all.
  3. There is no forgiveness in a Christian narcissist’s heart. They can quote scripture about grace and forgiveness but don’t extend either.
  4.  They have a history and pattern of broken relationships. Red flag, enough said.
  5.  They avoid confrontation. Accountability is healthy but Christian narcissists hardly ever allow themselves to be held accountable. And God help you if you try to confront and correct them in an area of their life where they’re not being Christ-like or hurtful. Ultimately, we’re all accountable to God, but Christian narcissists never take responsibility or own up to their own part of the conflict. They’re always justified in their own eyes.

It’s taken me about six months to examine my own life and actions. Earlier in the year, I was probably all five of the above at different times in a month’s span. Thankfully, God has done some hard work in me and my heart.  We’re all narcissistic in some way, but recognizing it and changing are two different things.

So, how do we protect ourselves against Christian Narcissists? I’ve given the below some thought and both have been confirmed. When God shows you something repeatedly, it’s not a coincidence and needs to be addressed.

The most important thing to protect yourself against Christian Narcissists is to create boundaries. Without boundaries we give the narcissists in our life permission to treat us how they want to. What isn’t told to stop will continue.

God wants us in relationships with safe people. Safe people are people we can connect with on a deeper level. In their presence, there’s no fear of rejection. We can speak truth in love to each other, confronting each other when needed. These are the keys to safe relationships and only work when guided by the work of the Holy Spirit.

Setting boundaries and having a safe support system isn’t self-centered, it’s our responsibility.

In your own life, pay attention to the people in it. Examine whether they have deep, meaningful relationships with other people. Gut level relationships, not shallow ones. The people in our life at gut level should know our personal history. If there are parts of our life that are left out, it’s not a deep relationship but a shallow one. There is no side life, everything is out in the open. This is a level of intimacy narcissists are incapable of.

In closing, I’m learning to navigate the relationships (work and personal) in my life carefully. Even with my safe group, there are still boundaries in place. This is healthy. We can’t avoid narcissists completely, but we can educate ourselves.

There are a ton of resources out there about narcissism, but as a Christian, the Bible is always a good place to start. Seek God and His wisdom regarding the relationships in your life. Ask Him to show you any error in you. It’s easy to point the finger, more difficult to focus on the faults in ourselves.

Through God and His grace alone, He will heal and change you.

In Jesus and with love,

Julie

Slow Down

Yesterday, I was in a car accident. Got rear ended on the way to work. Thankfully, I walked away without a scratch and with minimal to no damage to my car. The impact of the hit felt far worse than it actually was. I’m thanking God for His hand of protection over me that day. It’s definitely undeserved.

Of course now, I’m in reflection mode because “Oh my Lord, I could have died!” has played in my head but for whatever reason, my life was spared and I still have purpose here. (Wow, can you be any more melodramatic, Julie?) It has me thinking about why God allowed it to happen along with other things that have happened in the past several months. As I look back, there’s been a pattern and it’s always involved my car. Then it hit me.

My car is an idol. 

I depend on my car to get me around. It’s my way of escape when things at home are almost unbearable. My Mom always tells me when things are rough at home and I can’t stand being here to go out. So, I’ve been following her advice for about a year now. Recently though, I’ve felt this pull inside me to slow down.

It must be God. 

I’m not going to say I’m perfect in this area, because I’m not. But I’m starting to scale back on a few things that were taking up my time and money. One of which became an idol too. I was blowing money on stuff and things and the only person benefiting from it was me. I love my freedom financially. I’m thankful God has always looked out for us and we’ve never gone without. Sometimes though we take His provision for granted and fail to remember everything on earth belongs to Him.

I love my car, but I love God more.

I know I’ve not acted like it for a while now, but I’m making the change to be different and do differently moving forward. With a lot of things, not just with money and my car, but with my relationship with God and other people. These are the keys to a richer life.

After my accident, the amount of love and support I received from friends close and far were appreciated and felt. You never really know how much you mean to people until something unexpected happens to you. It’s humbling and makes the bad days not feel so bad.

Sometimes the only way to get through the bad stuff is to confront them head on and to stop running. This is what we do though. We fill our lives with people and things instead of dealing with the hard work of figuring out who we really are. Why every relationship in our life is broken. Why we keep running into the same toxic people. Why we stay in the same broken cycle. Why we never really change, and the list goes on. These are all things I’ve had to confront in the past several months. Sometimes though it’s too much and getting in my car with the music loud is a lot easier than dealing with the junk.

My encouragement to you and myself is to slow down and be still. If you’re a believer, make God number one priority over everything else. Yes, even that.  You know what I’m talking about. Without Him, your plans will fail because apart from Him you can do nothing. That verse has carried me through a lot of decision making in my life and this time is no different.

The idols in our life don’t feel like idols at first. In our mind, we’re going about our life and business doing things that come naturally while claiming to give all the glory and praise to Him. And while God wants us to enjoy our life and live it to the fullest, everything always has to point back to Him. If there’s ever a moment when He’s put on the back burner, something has to change. We need to change.

We can’t do the things we love doing wholeheartedly without loving God first. Really loving Him. Not with our lips, but with our hearts. He is the source and strength of whatever we accomplish here. Change doesn’t happen in the hustle, it happens when we be still (slow down) and know.

In Jesus and with love,

Julie

Patient Endurance

I’ve been depressed the past week and have only confessed it to a few people. Outside I look fine, but inside tells a different story. This is the first time in a very long time when my emotions have gotten the best of me and I feel absolutely deflated.

Normally, I can bounce back no problem. Lately though, things are different. I remind myself of scripture, I remind myself of God’s faithfulness, and that it’s okay to not be okay all the time. I feel more human than I have in a while, yet still feel that my faith isn’t strong enough to endure.

And then, God gently reminds me like He always does that patient endurance isn’t for the faint-hearted and can only be developed  through hardship. Not by filling the emptiness and voids with people and things, but more of Him. 

People and things are temporary, He is forever.  

Emotions are only temporary, He is forever.

This too shall pass.

There are no absolutes or guarantees in this life and it can really suck the life right out of you. But I’m learning to get to a place where I welcome the very problems I dread. God wants us to bring every problem into His presence with gratitude. He wants us to thank Him for our trials. In the past few months, I’ve been reminded continuously of His sense of humor even in the face of hardship. In other words, if God allows it, there’s a purpose for it. Usually, a lesson or an area of our character we need to confront. For me, it’s always the latter.

We can’t shrink back in hardship, we must stand firm. Every hardship God allows in our life have already passed through His hands and He wants us to persevere ’til the end.

I’m still not okay but it’s getting easier to face each day with a new attitude and renewed mind. When I feel myself slipping into those dark places, I step into His presence instead. I remind myself of His Word and it illuminates everything.

If you’re in a similar place, turn to someone when you’re in pain. I’ve had to admit to a few of my closest friends that I’m depressed. The one who is the strong one, the one who spends a majority of her life carrying others’ burdens. Admitting I was the one struggling with depression shocked those close to me because I’m always so together. But everyone has their breaking point and I’ve reached mine.

God reminded me the other day He weaves bright, golden strands of His glory into the most heart-wrenching situations. It may take a long time before the pattern or purpose emerges but this waiting builds patience. He wants us to rejoice in the pain. 

Blessed are all those who wait for Him and the one who endures to the end will be saved.

In Jesus and with love,

Julie

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero [Book Review]

I’ve always believed whatever is inside you will spill out. If we’re okay emotionally and spiritually, then we’re healthy Christians. I believe we can appear to be okay outwardly but inwardly tells a different story. That’s why I’m thankful for Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Scazzero.

Majority of this book I agree with and it’s definitely a book I’ll revisit from time to time to do an internal check.

It’s impossible to be spiritually mature, while remaining emotionally immature.

Think about this statement for a minute. One can be spiritually mature (ie: Go to church weekly, read Scripture daily, pray often, etc) and still struggle inside. This is what Scazzero discusses in his book.

What defines someone who is emotionally healthy?

  • Naming, recognizing, and managing our own feelings
  • Identifying with and having active compassion for others
  • Initiating and maintaining close and meaningful relationships
  • Breaking free from self-destructive patterns
  • Being aware of how our past impacts our present
  • Developing the capacity to express our thoughts and feelings clearly
  • Respecting and loving others without having to change them
  • Asking for what we need, want, or prefer clearly, directly, and respectfully
  • Accurately self-assessing our strengths, limits, and weaknesses and freely sharing them with others
  • Learning the capacity to resolve conflict maturely and negotiate solutions that consider the perspectives of others
  • Integrating our spirituality with our sexuality in a healthy way
  • Grieving well

This year alone I’ve had to deal with all the above in different situations. Especially how easily our past can spill into areas it shouldn’t and how conflict when not dealt with quickly and maturely can be destructive spiritually. Other key points stood out to me including: practicing silence, solitude, unceasing prayer, learning to rest attentively in God’s presence, loving others out of a life of a love for God, and living in community that passionately loves Jesus above all else.

I had to think over these things carefully and do an assessment of how I’m doing in these areas. These areas are the missing ingredients in a life totally surrendered to the Holy Spirit. When a life is totally surrendered to the Spirit’s leading, every area of a person’s heart will be an honest reflection of who they are in Christ.  In other words, authentic.

Emotional health is important to our spiritual lives.

This book is highly recommended if you struggle in any of the above areas.

How are you doing emotionally?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Hello, it’s me.

Sometimes you need to take a break, dust yourself off and reset. Over half of 2017 is over and what a mess this year’s been. I’ve learned a lot, grown, and paid attention. Life sure has shown me a lot.

About six months ago, I wrote a few posts after another failed friendship with the same person who’s caused a lot of pain in my waking life. At the time it seemed appropriate to write about it but as time’s passed, I realize even though it was how I felt, my feelings didn’t need a platform, they needed a Savior. When we use our platforms to call out offenses or those who’ve offended us, no one wins. All I  did was reopen the wound, over and over again. This is what offense does. It reopens wounds trying to heal. God wasn’t being glorified by calling out the person. God’s never glorified when we call out folks who’ve hurt, offended, or betrayed us. Any hurt done is between us and God. Healing is His responsibility, not the offender’s. Justice is His, not ours. I’ve learned this lesson too late and I’m making peace with my decisions. I’m not going to delete what’s been said and written, but I will do better with my feelings moving forward. Platforms are good when used for right purposes. Whether your platform is a blog, social media, or something else, ask yourself, “Who’s being glorified?” If it really is God, He will be glorified, not our offenses and opinions. The most powerful weapon against fleeting feelings is prayer not a platform.

Something I learned earlier in the year is the deeper relationship, the greater the offense. In April, a friend and I had a falling out that lasted for almost a month. Eventually, we talked, we both apologized and things are fine now. When there’s a fall out, always seek reconciliation. How’s your attitude towards people who’ve hurt you? If your mind still repeats the offense, release the person to God moment by moment because forgiveness is a permanent attitude. Forgiveness is instant, trust is earned and reconciliation is possible when we’re willing to resolve our differences. Pride keeps relationships broken and at a distance. 

The thought of having real friendships seems rare but there are people in our life so important they surpass everything else.  They’re must haves, the ones you can’t live without. About two weeks ago, I had one of the worst days in a really long time and one of my friends asked, “Need me?” Those words changed the way I view every relationship in my life. When it seems the walls are caving in and things seem to be falling a part, a real friend comes in willing to rescue you from the storm. They don’t leave you out there to drown.  At least one person should come to mind.

I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I use it mostly to share and connect. However, over recent months I’ve seen it divide more than unite. I don’t believe people should necessarily fast from Facebook but I think it’s important to do a daily inventory of where we invest our time and attention. Last week Friday, I spent some time off the grid and it was nice. Life is an adventure meant to be lived.  It’s okay to take a break sometimes from routine and responsibilities.

As messy as my relationship with God is, I’m thankful He always makes Himself known. About a week ago, for the first time in a while I went on my daily walk alone. Something told me to walk a certain stretch of campus, even though I had the slight thought to go a different route. Instead I went the way His voice told me to. This is what faith looks like. Sometimes you’ll go a different way than the one God directs and it’s okay to wander a while, but eventually, you’ll need to turn around. Faith is following His voice even when the way doesn’t feel right. I’m glad I listened to His voice that day.

Over  the past few months I’ve learned it’s okay not to be liked or accepted. No matter what we do, there will always be critics. Yeah, I come off hard sometimes and can be a “ball buster” as a friend put it, but I’ll never apologize for doing the right thing. When we do the right thing, the Christ-like thing, we don’t need to explain ourselves. Never entertain people who are critical, walk away from them and their ignorance. 

All that aside and said, I’m very thankful for this space. I’m thankful for the ups and downs and for the people who have supported me during hard times because there have been more than enough over the past few months. 2017 has been a bad year. It’s all perspective though. It hasn’t been all bad, some things could be better but I’m learning to take life as it comes.

God’s plan for our life will never happen in a straight line. There will be many twists and turns.  Just because something works, doesn’t mean it’s right in His eyes. I walked my own path and did things earlier in the year even with confirmation, but eventually those things fell apart. Never let someone use you or manipulate you to do God’s will for their life, their way. Without God anything that seems to be working won’t last.  What we do His way builds a foundation of integrity and this is far more important than doing things because they seem or feel right. Honesty and integrity are key to a life lived without regret and they don’t need to prove themselves. This is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned this year so far.

In closing, I’ve decided to write only when God leads it. Otherwise, there’s no point. It’s what we do when no one but Him sees us that truly reflects our heart and commitment to Him. Not our words, but by our actions are we truly His.

In Jesus and with love,

Julie

Radical Spirit: 12 Ways to Live a Free and Authentic Life by Joan Chittister [Book Review]

Radical Spirit: 12 Ways to Live a Free and Authentic Life by Joan Chittister is about humility and what it means to live a more humble and authentic life. The Benedictine spirituality is the foundation of this book. Some parts I had a difficult time relating to, but overall, the message was easy to understand, even convicting.

Humility is not our culture’s biggest asset or our most desired character quality.  A character of humility has to be cultivated in good soil and this allows other Christ-like characteristics to bear good fruit. We are known by our fruits after all.

Chittister explains the twelve steps of humility are an invitation to freedom. From these twelve steps we are finally authentic and fully free, totally authentic and driven by the Holy Spirit.

Recognize that God is God

Know that God’s will is best for you.

Seek direction from wisdom figures.

Endure the pains of development and do not give up.

Acknowledge faults and strip away the masks.

Be content with less than the best..

Let go of false sense of self.

Preserve tradition and learn from the community.

Listen

Never ridicule anyone or anything.

Speak kindly.

Be serene, stay calm.

Do these steps of humility define your life? The list feels exhausting, but this is the life we’re called to live.

Acknowledging faults and stripping away masks is the step that resonated with me most. Mostly because transparency and authenticity is very important to me, especially in my spiritual life. As a follower of Christ, everything is spiritual because He is everywhere!

I recommend Radical Spirit if you want to grow spiritually in the above areas.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

The Way of Letting Go by Wilma Derksen [Book Review]

The Way of Letting Go by Wilma Derksen was a timely read. I feel like most of my life has been spent learning to let go. While I’ll never understand the pain of losing a family member to unspeakable tragedy, I understand what it means to lose someone I love.

Forgiveness is a way of life, and with this book, Wilma shows you how to start.

The time between letting go and learning to forgive is a never ending process. Forgiveness isn’t a one time thing and then you’re free; forgiveness is a lifetime of learning to love other people, love those who hurt you, and ultimately, yourself. 

This wasn’t my favorite book of the year so far, mainly because it was hard to connect with her tragedy and my heart break. It felt silly at times to compare the two. But regardless, I believe any one who struggles with forgiveness or is still in the process of learning to forgive can relate to this book.

Forgiveness is a moment by moment decision to set the offender free. 

If you’re in a season of life where forgiveness is difficult, this book will help.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255  : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

Knocking down the old so the new can rebuild.

There is so much in my life and heart God is showing and reminding me of right now.The parts I haven’t liked or could do without are the ones I know where He loves me most.

When the old and familiar came knocking, it’s His gentle reminder to let the past go and rebuild.

Compared to how things were in December, I’m at peace now. I’m thankful for the different people in my life who make their love and presence known. They’ve had a tremendous impact on my life without words but with action.

Dragging my past into my present was a bad habit, but I knew going into 2017, God was going to do something new.  Though outwardly things haven’t changed, inside they have. We are new creations and God wants us to experience this truth daily. 

Rebuilding takes work and what sometimes feels like a lifetime. What I’m learning is having a strong support system is helpful. There are people in my life now with different personalities and gifts and I see how God is using them to help me rebuild my life.  I know I can’t change what happens but I can build new beginnings.

I won’t allow my faith to falter because of flaky people and fleeting feelings. 

My new beginning starts now.

 

 

 

 

Talk Yourself Happy Transform Your Heart by Speaking God’s Promises by Kristi Watts [Book Review]

Talk Yourself Happy Transform Your Heart by Speaking God’s Promises was a timely read.  I think one of our biggest misconceptions is if we think happy, we will be happy.  In my own life, this isn’t always the case. One thing I loved about Kristi’s perspective is speaking God’s promises and Word over our life and circumstances. This has the power to change our perspective significantly.

Our thoughts and words have power, especially the ones directed at ourselves. I’m getting better in this area with God’s help. We have a powerful weapon available to us daily and that is God’s Word. Kristi reminds us speaking God’s promises out loud breaks the enemy’s hold over us. Using the Word of God and speaking His promises allows for spiritual breakthrough.

Speaking God’s promises over our life is not just a pep talk, but a way of life. 

I’m learning this a lot lately. Every time I get into a funk, I repeat scripture back to myself. Thankfully, I have friends in my life who remind me daily of God’s truth.  We need to believe daily the power of the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts and break through the lies of the enemy. This is the key to happiness. 

If you struggle in this area, Talk Yourself Happy is the book for you.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

How’s Your Soul? Why Everything that Matters Starts with the Inside You by Judah Smith [Book Review]

How’s Your Soul? by Judah Smith was a good book to start 2017 with.  The inside us is more important than the outside us and Judah explores this idea throughout this book. There were a lot of things I nodded in agreement with and this will more than likely be a book I revisit again throughout the year. I can’t say though this is in my Top 5 favorites but it’s still early.

At the end of 2016 and even now I wrestle with the inside me more than the outside. I think it’s important sometimes to ask ourselves what’s going on inside us and rather than ask people, “How are you?” we should instead ask them and ourselves, “How’s your/my soul?” This question will definitely change the way we connect with God and other people.

The chapter that really resonated with most with me was “Is Love God or Is God Love?” This is the only chapter I had to read more than once.  Judah explores one of my favorite scripture verses on love.

Roofs Without Skylights

Love is a roof and a cover. Love protects, shields, and conceals the weaknesses of others. This doesn’t mean we ignore sin; it means we don’t use people’s faults and failures to expose or shame them. We publicly cover them and privately restore them with the goal of bringing about health in their lives. 

Some people are roofs, but they have a lot of skylights. Skylight Christians have good hearts, but they are exposers, not coverers. They build skylights into every conversation because somehow the fact that they have the scoop makes them feel better about themselves. We don’t have to do that though. We can be so secure in God’s love and our identity that we don’t have to give people glimpses into other people’s business. We can be a safe place for hurting people, a place where they can find unconditional love and support – both public and private – while they get back on their feet.

This was by far the best chapter of How’s Your Soul? It made me evaluate my life, my friends, and how I talk of hurtful people and situations. Let me just say this is an area I’m not perfect with. When I’m hurting, I pray, I write, I vent. But I’m learning how to navigate and process my hurt without being bitter or resentful … or both.

I recommend this book if the inside you needs some repairing.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255  : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

 

 

Jesus Over Everything by Clayton Jennings [Book Review]

Jesus Over Everything by Clayton Jennings wasn’t my favorite read of 2016.  I first heard about Clayton Jennings earlier in the year so I was excited about his new book. I don’t follow Clayton on social media but some of my friends do. He’s very popular among the Christian community and he made that very obvious throughout his book. He talked about his many followers on social media quite often through each chapter which was my biggest annoyance with this read.

Apart from that, I had a very difficult time connecting with most of this book. There were a few parts I agreed with but most of it were hit and miss. I will say though, I admire and respect Clayton’s passion and heart for Jesus. To his credit, he’s young and attractive. Most of the attention throughout Jesus Over Everything was on Clayton, not Jesus.

Opinion aside, I think this book will resonate with the younger generation who are early in their walk with Christ. I read a lot of books this year and Jesus Over Everything didn’t have the depth I was looking for.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.