A Space to Share Your Story {Tool 27}

God is in the business of healing lives. God cares about our broken state. He redeems and restores. When Jesus walked on earth, he healed so many from their sicknesses and their demons. He had these simple words for those he healed: “Go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for you.” It’s become the theme of my own life: this is how God heals me from my brokenness.

None of us are alone in this. We are not all broken in the same way, but none of us is whole without Jesus. And in him, we are made complete. God looks at us and sees us as flawless because of Jesus. What an incredible story we have!

I really believe that this is God’s great commission to us: to tell others our story of how Jesus has saved us. When I tell my story, some will resonate with it and others will not. That’s why it’s imperative that you tell your story as well. That person I could not reach will be drawn to God’s heart from hearing your journey.

We are each unique. Hand-crafted by God. We each have our part in his great story. I will share my story in a way that reflects my design. If I were to copy anyone else’s voice, I’d be robbing the world of my own.

IMG_9466.JPGSo I journal through the depths of my heart and sometimes I share those words for the world to see. I blog. I post online, publicly, for anyone to read. I share a good deal of my life vulnerably with others. But that is not for everyone.

So where is your space? How are you sharing your story of the great things Jesus has done for you? Maybe it is online as well, but in a private space, where only a handful of people read it. There is no shame in sharing with small numbers. Maybe you don’t use technology to share, but rather your kitchen table, or the lunch room at work. Maybe it’s in a letter or email. Perhaps it’s in the way you parent your children, telling the hard parts of your story that have led you to Jesus.

We are all tempted to feel inferior. Like our story doesn’t matter. Maybe we feel too broken. Not perfect enough yet. Our voice feels inadequate. We fear rejection or being laughed at. Maybe we simply feel we don’t have the words to tell our story.

But Jesus is calling us to speak up. To share with one or ten or a hundred people, online, in person, on the phone, with our words, everything God has done for us.

Find your space. Share your story. Even if the world does not admit it, it is longing to hear the good things God has done for you. Your healing matters. God will use it to show us all more of his love.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

I have decided I’m going to close this series a few days early. Thank you so much for joining me in it. My heart is full of things I want to share on the blog so I plan to continue to write this winter. Your support means so much to me. More than anything, I know this is the space God has called me to share my own story with whoever wants to read about God’s kind and generous work. Praise him for his goodness and his wonderful works for all of us!Day 27

Growing Roots in Your Community {Tool 26}

Coming from a girl who grew up on the outskirts of a farm town boasting a population of 180 people, this may not surprise you. I love community. However, finding community is sometimes a challenge. Especially when you’re not in Kansas anymore, so to speak.

I’ve lived in Dubuque, Iowa for 10 years now and it’s finally become home for me. I thought it never would be, but God has been growing contentment in me as I’ve committed to cultivating joy where he’s placed me.

As I’ve let my roots grow down into Iowa soil, I’ve started to discover the gems of my community. Coffee shops I loved, our incredible library, shops that offer delightful gatherings like book signings or knitting clubs. 
IMG_6906Charlotte’s Coffee House I love for its beautiful redesign of an old building. I feel cozy and comfortable just as I step in. They have a lovely deck and everything about the shop is welcoming. Inspire Cafe brings me inspiration (so aptly named!) and a real sense of community. Those are values they live by and it shows in what they do and how they run their business. Jitterz, right on Main Street, is busy and bustling. A favorite spot for my husband and I to grab a chai latte on spontaneous afternoon dates.

River Lights Bookstore hosts book signings and readings, holiday parties and such, all with fun treats and drinks. We have a local Herb Society with free meetings full of amazing food creations. Our public library is always growing in their programming and services and I feel so blessed to have them as a resource nearby. 

To grow in your community, you have to invest part of yourself. Maybe your money, maybe just time, but always your trust. You have to be brave and go by yourself sometimes. You have to sacrifice time you could be doing housework and go to those gatherings. You have to spend an extra few dollars on that locally made salad instead of a burger from the drive through. You have to ask people behind the counter questions beyond surface level.

I’ve been learning the value of repetition. Trying a coffee shop multiple times to see how it grows on you. Putting yourself out there again and again to connect with others. As you give others a chance, you start to see deeper and start to appreciate what they are doing with their lives.

IMG_6599So try a new coffee shop. Look into your local library programs. Get on those email lists from the local Leisure Services or other community organizations and check out different gatherings or activities. Don’t be afraid of what others will think. If we give our communities a chance, we’ll gain room to grow and find a home in what may otherwise be a lonely world. Appreciate your community and find your small (or large) way to be involved.

We are given this world as a gift. A place to belong in our earthly bodies. It’s not just a place to get by in until we reach heaven. God said it was good when he created it. So let’s find more ways to settle in and enjoy the gifts he gives in places like our local communities.

Evaluating Social Media {Tool 25}

I could title this blog post: Preaching to the Choir. Only I’m not going to preach. I’m just going to share my struggle and what I’ve learned and hope it encourages you, while reminding me what is true.

One of the worst things keeping me in survival mode is the desire to escape reality. It feels so good to zone out of life. Pretend the pile of dishes on the counter or the three screeching children don’t exist, just for the next 5 minutes while I scroll through Facebook.

But escaping reality traps us in a world that doesn’t really matter, where nothing phenomenal is accomplished. And it truly only hurts us. I’ve tried numbing my feelings by escaping for a long time. I still do it. But when we numb the hard, and when we give in to self-indulgence, we lose the joy of accomplishment and ultimately numb the joyful emotions as well.

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself for your “why” behind your social media usage? Honestly asked yourself what your purpose in using social media is? Maybe it’s not an escape for you, but it’s because you like to compare yourself to others. Or maybe you feel like you’re missing out if you don’t get on.

For me, I stay on Facebook because I genuinely do like connecting with people. So when I’m tempted to just aimlessly scroll through, I remind myself of my purpose, and try to actually interact with others. At least in a perfect world, I’d do this. But having this as a goal helps me do better at times.

IMG_2130I’ve tried so many different methods of breaking my addiction to social media. I sometimes delete the apps off my phone. This I find works for me if I have a set time that I plan to reinstall them. Otherwise I find myself reinstalling them before I’ve actually had much of a break. Currently I’ve unfollowed everyone from Instagram except for people I know in person and a handful of others. That was 400+ authors, designers, public personalities, etc, I unfollowed to give me less options for long stretches of scrolling. I stay on Instagram to share my heart and have an online presence but also because I genuinely love seeing into other people’s lives and stories.

There are ways to cut back. There are ways to help you remember what is important. I heard once that you get a surge of dopamine to your brain when you view social media. The person saying it mentioned that she’d rather get dopamine from things that matter, like watching her children’s faces, holding her spouse’s hand, feeling the fresh sunshine on her face. And I agree.

So what’s our purpose on social media? It is taking up more time than it should be? Is it distracting us from reality? How can we reign it in? How can we focus on what matters most? Is it helping or hurting our journey to freedom? How can we let it go?

Resources:
Book – Hands Free Life  by Rachel Macy Stafford
Blog post – How to have a Social Media Free Weekend Cultivate What Matters

Build Your Team {Tool 24}

We can go this life alone. But it’s a lot longer and harder. American culture has done humanity a disservice in telling us that we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and make things happen on our own. We’ve learned that somehow asking for help makes us weak, and deeper still, that weakness is a problem.

But God expects us to be weak. And he wants us to even – dare I say it this way – celebrate our weakness. In weakness we are drawn toward humility. When I feel strong, I don’t think I need God or others to support me. But when I am lost and have nowhere to turn, the only way out is to let go of my pride and admit my need. That is humility.

Can we be humble when we are doing well? Yes. But not unless we are cultivating a spirit of gratitude and dependence on others and a willingness to serve.

A valuable gift that’s come out of the seasons of weakness I’ve walked through has been the realization that although Satan wants to isolate me, I am never truly alone. I’ve learned to build my team and then when I feel that loneliness creeping up on me, to call my people and connect.

not alone working together love community elizabeth cravillionIn weakness we learn to lean on God and somehow other people see that, even when we don’t say much about it. I’m always amazed at what people see in my life when I thought I was struggling in silence. God shows himself off when we are trusting in him.

But we do have to actually work to build a team of people around us. Simply showing up at church or play group doesn’t ensure we’ll make connections. There have been seasons where I have been more alone than I am now. And I hated it so much that I chose to start the work. Every person’s team will look different. An introvert will have fewer close friends. An extrovert may need more people to reach out to, both deep and surface level friendships. Someone in relatively good health won’t need many practitioners to rely on. Someone on a healing journey, like myself, may need a variety of them.

What kind of people make up these teams? All kinds.

Friends, I’ve found, meet different needs in different seasons. We need friends with a variety of spiritual gifts. We should connect with people who are similar to us and can understand us but also people who are different from us and can sharpen or smooth us as we need it. Some of my friends are generous servants who I call when I need help with my dishes or my children. Some are full of spiritual wisdom and I call them when I am inwardly struggling. My mom friends relate to my parenting struggles but I appreciate friends who aren’t moms, too, to remind me of other valuable aspects of life. And there’s the friend or two who bring out the fun and sarcastic side of me.

Health practitioners are another valuable team. I am so thankful to be living in a city where I can find a variety of people and services, but with today’s online community, long distance services are more available than we may realize. I haven’t written extensively about my health journey as of yet but on my team I have a good nutritionist, chiropractor, holistic nurse practitioner, massage therapist, mental health counselor, and friends who are physical therapists and trainers. I’ve tried a lot of different avenues to move toward full physical health and so appreciate each person on this team that helps me when I’m physically or mentally struggling. Some of them are Christ-followers as well and that is a double blessing.

It’s not impossible to find people to help you. It can be hard. I’ve been praying and looking for people over the past five years to help fill some of the places I’ve needed filled. God has provided each friend, doctor, therapist, etc, just at the right time and way. Sometimes I’ve had to be bold and ask for help, or offer things like trading babysitting, to start connecting deeply. Sometimes we’ve had to ask for discounts on services and found practitioners to be generous and willing to help. God provides, in one way or another, in his time.

We are not alone. When we do feel alone, we need to run to God and sit in his presence, whether he feels close or not. And we need to turn to the people, the physical hands and feet and faces he’s given us, who can remind us of what really matters.

Resources for Highly Sensitive People {Tool 23}

One day, I was feeling very overwhelmed in parenting my oldest, and Google searched something to the effect of “How to parent a highly emotional child.” The discovery I made that day has changed everything about the way I view the world. I discovered not just something about my son, but about myself.

We are highly sensitive people. Okay, this made me laugh at first because growing in sensitivity toward others has been (and no doubt will be) a lifelong journey for me. I’m the one who made my little sister cry…and then she came to apologize to me for making me mad…and then I yelled at her again.

The basic definition of a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) is one who “has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment” (Source). It’s not a diagnosis. It’s just a physical trait that about 15-20% of the population has.

It makes a person much more in tune with their senses, which lends itself beautifully to creativity and observation and understanding emotions. However, it comes with a lot of challenges that can be summed up in one basic word: overwhelm. I’ve heard it described this way: everyone has a bucket that gets filled up by the stimulation of the world around them. Average people can filter out what goes into that bucket and it doesn’t get full quite so quickly. Highly Sensitive People experience that sensory stimulation at a much higher level and so have a much more challenging time filtering what goes into that bucket, making it easily overflow.

Day 23Knowing this about myself and my family (I believe all 5 of us have this trait) has changed how I pay attention to our needs. It’s led me to start creating pockets of space to unwind. I began taking two hours a week on my husband’s day off just to go be alone and unwind my senses. Every person needs to figure out exactly what they need to do for this.

I am including this as one of the 31 Tools because it’s changed my life and if it can help others care for themselves or their children more compassionately, it’s worth devoting a blog entry to.

Helpful Links
List of highly sensitive traits (Website)
Find out if you are a HSP here. (Self Test and Children’s Test)
Parenting as a Highly Sensitive Person (Blog)
Raising Highly Sensitive children (Blog)
10 Things You Should Know About Being Highly Sensitive When You Are Not Highly Sensitive (Article)
Survival Tips for HSPs (Article)
Spiritual Growth as a Highly Sensitive Woman (Blog)

The Gifts of Imperfection, Book Review {Tool 22}

In my last counseling session, my counselor told me, “You’re not really afraid of not being perfect. You’re afraid of shame.” Then she recommended “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brené Brown and told me if I journaled through that book slowly, soaking in its wise words, I could save myself lots of money on counseling.

So I grabbed the book and settled in. Yes. Brené Brown digs so deep into the issues underlying our need to please people, be perfect and perform. She talks about the cycle of our need for belonging that can lead us into the fear of shame and being left out and how that drives us to seek perfection to protect ourselves.

Day 22She writes,

“Perfectionism is addictive because when we invariably do experience shame, judgement, and blame, we often believe it’s because we weren’t perfect enough. So rather than questioning the faulty logic of perfectionism, we become ever more entrenched in our quest to live, look, and do everything just right.”

I know that I personally resonate with this exact thought. I realized this summer that I have always believed that by being as perfect as possible, I could prevent pain in my life and others’ lives. So when I wasn’t able to prevent that pain I felt shame and beat myself up about my failure.

I’m learning to sort out the truth from the “faulty logic” I’ve believed most of my life.

Day 22Brené discusses solutions to these deep-rooted issues, like being kind to ourselves, asking ourselves critical questions, cultivating rest, and having a right perspective on our responsibilities.

She closes her book with these words:

“Wholehearted living is…going to bed at night thinking, ‘Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.’”

Brené is a qualified researcher, author and speaker who has many years of experience fighting the battles she writes about. You can also find many videos of her teaching on YouTube and various other books she’s written about vulnerable struggles we face.

Professional Counseling {Tool 21}

When my church leaders offered me the position of Children’s Ministry Director, I stepped back in wonder at God’s timing. And not in an overjoyed way. God had been making a way and preparing both me and my church for this. It was very obvious to me and others that he was opening the door and asking me to walk through it.

But I knew I wasn’t where I wanted to be in so many ways before accepting this kind of leadership position. I felt snowed under in every area of life, barely hanging on, in many ways. I’d had to say no to many things I loved, even my writing, just to survive daily life. So the timing seemed bizarre.

That was in August. I took the position. Suddenly I felt immense pressure to perform perfectly and be this phenomenal leader who never missed anything and always arrived to church at exactly the right time. Yet I still had 3 toddlers and my physical health was worse than I realized. My anxiety was through the roof.

By November, my nutritionist and my pastor had both recommended I see a Christian counselor about my anxiety. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into, but I decided to try it and see. God’s timing in the leadership position turned into the catalyst I needed to grow in much deeper ways.

Before that experience, I’d heard leaders advocate for seeing a counselor, and I honestly had an open mind about it but didn’t realize the deep value of it.

But it has been such a helpful tool in my recovery and growth as a person. Having a trained outside source walk us through our struggles and help us see what we can’t makes a huge difference. Counselors can help us understand the science of our brains and how hurtful patterns form in our thinking. If they are Christ-followers, they can help sort through the lies contrary to God’s word that are shaping our thoughts and fears and point us to the truth.

My counselor pointed me to a handful of resources I’ve been using this year (and blogging about in this series) that have helped me grow, as well. Some of the statements she’s made have been life-altering for me. One thing she’s helped me identify have been patterns I see in myself that I don’t want to continue. Parenting patterns. Leadership patterns. Inner fears. People pleasing struggles.

A couple of notes…
If the therapist you’ve seen hasn’t helped, it’s probably a matter of personalities or worldview not matching yours. Do not feel guilty about switching counselors. And seeing a counselor is a normal thing. Mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, while we sometimes need to medicate them physically, often have a deeper root that can be addressed to help us deal with the physical symptoms. I’m currently on a vitamin B supplement that is crucial to managing my anxiety, but sorting through the harmful thought patterns I’d developed has been just as important as the physical treatment.

We visit a physical doctor when our bodies are ill. It makes sense to visit a therapist when our minds are weighed down and our hearts broken. Jesus came to heal and restore what is broken, and the Bible speaks of loving God with all our minds and taking every thought captive and being renewed in our minds. Sometimes we need someone who is trained to help us walk through that process of healing.

Discovering Your Strengths {Tool 20}

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
How precious are your thoughts about me,[b] O God.
They cannot be numbered!
Psalm 139:13-17

God designed each of us, inside and out, before we were born. Into us he crafted a personality, strengths and weaknesses, and the ability to reflect him in our own unique way.

A valuable part of understanding and appreciating how he designed me has been using tools created to discover what those unique aspects about me are. Today I want to highlight some because there’s nothing like reading a description of a personality and saying, “Oh my word, that’s me!” to make you feel seen and give you confidence to follow the calling God has given you.

Myers-Briggs Personality Test 
This is a 16-personality type test that focuses on four different elements of personality. You can read about it here. I find that understanding who I am as a personality gives me permission to be that person and not someone else. I have been able to recognize my tendencies (for good or bad!) and not blame myself for areas I’m not gifted in. It has helped me a lot with my interpersonal relationships, showing me the reasons why I conflict with certain people and connect with others. It is sometimes as simple as personality differences.

Day 20

Photo cred: Jenny Myers Photography

For those wondering, I am a classic ESFJ, Extroverted, Sensing, Feeling, Judging are my top ways of viewing the world. Again, you can learn more about this at the following websites.
Free Test and Descriptions
Free Test
Personality Descriptions

Strengths Finder Test

This test by Gallup has a fee to take it (currently $19.99), but I’ve found it to be worth it. Gallup created this test to help people discover their strengths in order to use them better. We as a society often focus on the areas we are weak, to try to improve those. God designed us with strengths, and intends for us to apply those and use them to serve him and others. Certainly we may need to develop in other areas, but to focus all our attention there isn’t helpful. When I learned that my top strengths were Harmony, Winning Others Over, Communication, Developer, and Empathy, I began to see why I’d been leading others the way I’ve been all my life. I could see why certain things frustrated me. And I could see the value of how I am uniquely able to help others.

One note about taking these tests: Answer the way you feel instinctively, not the way you wish you were. Go with your gut, so to speak. Answer quickly without overthinking. Otherwise you’re less likely to get accurate answers.

Strengths Finder Test 

Like Your Life eCourse
This last recommendation is an eCourse, Like Your Life, designed to help you find out who you are, what your specific purpose and calling is, and how to live that out in everyday life. Created by world traveler, author, mom and entrepreneur Tsh Oxenreider, who focuses her brand on simple living, this course is fun and creative and you can go as in depth or as light as you’d like with it.

From the beginning, Tsh walks you through journaling exercises like describing your perfect day, and then dissecting WHY that would be your perfect day and what that says about you. She recommends personality tests like the ones I described above. And she helps you define a life mission statement.

Doing this eCourse last year helped me jumpstart my journey of finding myself again after half a decade of survival mode living. Tsh is a practical, no nonsense teacher who makes the process easy and enjoyable. I highly recommend it.

~~~~~~~~

There is so much value in discovering the unique pieces of who God made you to be. I’ve found freedom to be myself and let others be themselves. I’ve come to appreciate my strengths and abilities and understand much better how to thrive in life.

 

Personal Growth Podcast Review {Tool 19}

Earlier I focused on some motherhood podcasts that have been helpful to me. However, there are as many genres of podcast as there are ideas in the world, I think. The following are some personal growth podcasts I’ve found to be especially meaningful.

Day 19Lead Stories Podcast
So often we tend to think, “I’m not a leader,” just because we may not have a particular title. However, every person has influence, and the women who create this podcast, Lead Stories, define a leader as anyone who is intentional with their influence. Steph O’Brien is the pastor at Mill City Church in Minneapolis and Jo Saxton is a writer, speaker and influencer from Minneapolis as well. They speak as Christian leaders but they speak to leaders in any realm – work, school, family, church, etc. It’s a podcast done by women but definitely contains content just as relevant for men and the podcasters speak in a very gender-neutral way.

Lead Stories Podcast covers a lot of topics, from stigmas in the culture such as mental illness or race, to caring for your emotional health and preventing burnout, to looking at how Jesus and the leaders in the Bible addressed the issues of their day. They sometimes have very intentionally chosen guests on podcast episodes they call “Lead Voices,” that include a wide range of influence all over the nation. My scope has been broadened so much by listening to this podcast. I’ve especially learned a lot about racial justice and the challenges and rewards of reaching across racial lines within the church.

Day 26Revelation Wellness
The woman who records this podcast, Alisa Keeton, was a reluctant fitness ministry leader. She was afraid of being that cheesy Christian exercise lady. However, God called her to fitness ministry and made her a prophet. This woman speaks out the boldest truth about our physical bodies that I have heard from anyone in my life. Her goal is to preach Jesus and the freedom that he brings. She covers all the relevant health topics but does it with such grace and freeing truth. I rarely have to stop and take notes while listening to podcasts but find myself frequently doing so with her, and then journaling through the notes. I’ve learned so much about approaching my physical health with kindness and grace through this podcast.

Revelation Wellness has an extensive ministry (check out their website for their offerings!). This podcast has three main types of episodes. First, Alisa teaches or interviews guests, like a typical podcast. Second, they provide podcasts called RevWell that are for you to use while working out. They include music, Scripture and coaching to help you focus on God while moving your body. Very unique! Thirdly, they have Be Still and Be… episodes that are about 15 minutes long and are essentially a truth meditation podcast where Alisa leads you through breathing, resting in God, and speaking truth over yourself as you take a break from daily life.

If you’re needing more freedom in how you approach your physical self and well-being, or needing a breakthrough in how you view your body or exercise or eating, check out this podcast.

Day 26Grit n Grace Podcast
This final podcast, Grit n Grace, is one recorded by two authors, Cheri Gregory and Amy Carroll, who recognize themselves as recovering perfectionists, highly sensitive women who are “breaking bad rules” about people pleasing. They interview guests on different topics through the lens of perfectionism and legalism and then in the next episode they break down what they learned and how they are applying it.

The ladies are funny, they record concise shows and they honestly address the issues of people pleasing many of us struggle with. I highly recommend Cheri’s blog, Sensitive and Strong, as well. She writes about being a highly sensitive woman who follows Christ. God used her writing to break through some key lies I’d been believing. I enjoy listening to this podcast because it reminds me of the truths I constantly need to be remembering about myself.

If you haven’t started listening to podcasts yet, I strongly recommend it. You can listen from your smart phone or computer and most of these I’ve recommended will have links on their websites for you to find your preferred method. Good podcasts are a way to get truth into your heart and mind while doing the daily tasks of life like car pooling, folding laundry, commuting, showering, or exercising. Get those earbuds out today!

Long Days of Small Things, Book Review {Tool 18}

Anxiety as a mom is no joke. I used to be in this camp of people who thought, as long as you pray and trust God more, you shouldn’t have a problem with worry. But then I struggled with hormonal imbalance while simultaneously some deep-seated issues rose to the surface and I found that belief challenged.

Through treating my physical health with rest, breathing exercises and supplements, emotional health with counseling, and spiritual health through God’s word and some other resources, I finally began to feel at peace again. Life is complex. Trusting God with it is a crucial part of healing, but not the only piece to the puzzle.

Two of the roots of my anxiety were found in the belief that all the physical need-meeting I was doing as a mom didn’t matter spiritually, and that I by careful parenting could ultimately control my children’s destinies.

God used the book Long Days of Small Things by Catherine McNiel to radically change my view on both those beliefs and to help me let go of the gnawing anxiety that kept me from enjoying my children.

She writes,

The beckoning my heart heard is not to run off into seclusion, shrouding myself in prayers and candles until I find him – as much as I would enjoy that, and as true a calling as it is for some women. No, for mother and householders everywhere, the beckoning is to go back into the flesh-and-blood world of crumbs in the car seat and missed-nap tantrums – and find him there.

Right where he met us in the first place.

Catherine explores Christ’s humanity and how he came down into this messy world and lived fully human to show us who God is, right in the middle of our seemingly mundane lives. This practical life we lead is consecrated by his presence within it. I felt seen and heard as a mother in the most touching way. Jesus loves my messy life, where I’m covered in snot and applesauce and spend the afternoon folding yet more laundry. He’s not waiting for me to move on into another season before he can show up in my life. No, he’s in the now.

Day 18From her chapter on sacrifice and surrender:

We kick and scream against those things we hate and fear but cannot change – but God invites us to let go and find his presence in this moment.

Surrender is not a promise that our hands will always be open – it simply means granting God eternal permission to pry open our clenched fists.

This summer I soaked in this book during our family vacation – a week I hovered on the cliff of anxiety and fear over my children falling off the pontoon boat, bugging my in-laws while they tried to sleep, or slipping into the deep end of the pool. God spoke to me so clearly: If it’s my will that one of your children drowns in the swimming pool, there’s nothing you could do to stop that.

As crazy as that statement sounds, it’s what jolted me to the reality that I can’t control my children or their choices. I need to surrender to him.

Catherine lists 9 spiritual themes such as redemption, creation, service, perseverance, celebration, etc, and within those themes gives the reader practical disciplines to help her refocus on God in the middle of the long days and small things. Those disciplines include things like changing diapers, cooking for your family, breathing, disciplining, practicing routine, and noticing life around you.

This book blends the poetic, the spiritual and the practical in an incredibly beautiful way. It made me cry and underline and reread and journal all the way through it.

And PS, I bought it the moment I saw its cover. I’m pretty sure God is the one who organized my “Suggested Books” section on Amazon that day. Sensing a theme with my books of the year?

God is so kind and so wise. He knows just what we need.