what others’ words do to my heart.

Due to a wonderful house guest and a few head colds, there was about a week or so this last month that I wasn’t reading much. I was surprised by how much I missed reading and how my heart needs it. I think my heart needs to read and hear from others.  I need to hear what others’ are learning and growing in. I need to remember that I’m not alone. I’m also realizing that others’ words tend to uncover things in my own heart. I’m so grateful for how Jesus uses other people’s words to teach me things.

Here’s what’s been sitting on my nightstand lately and a few lessons they’ve stirred up in my heart-

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Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity:

This book wrecked me in the best possible ways. Jen Hatmaker herself says that if you only read one of her books to read this one. She speaks candidly, with humor and painful vulnerability about what it looked like for her family to shift in their thinking from pursuing comfort to pursuing the things Jesus says he cares about, such as caring for the poor and needy. It felt like a timely book for my heart, in light of the current conversations and decisions regarding refugees being made, even this week.

This is what God taught me through Judas at Jesus’ table, eating the broken bread that was His body: We don’t get to opt out of living on mission because we might not be appreciated. We’re not allowed to neglect the oppressed because we have reservations about their discernment. We cannot deny love because it might be despised or misunderstood. We can’t withhold social relief because we’re not convinced it will be perfectly managed. We can’t project our advantaged perspective onto struggling people and expect results available only to the privileged. Must we be wise? Absolutely. But doing nothing is a blatant sin of omission. Turning a blind eye to the bottom of the grounds of “unworthiness” is the antithesis to Jesus’ entire mission. How dare we? Most of us know nothing, nothing of the struggles of the poor. We erroneously think ourselves superior, and it is a wonder God would use us at all to minister to his beloved. (62-63)

So often I do make judgment calls that aren’t mine to make. Jesus reminded my heart that he is the one to evaluate the human heart, not me. I am to open myself to him. I am not responsible for outcome, only obedience. One of the parts that spoke the most to me was Jen giving up the need to decide who deserves help. “We are only qualified to administer mercy, not judgment, because we will pull up many a beautiful stalk of wheat, imagining him a weed.” (64) I highly recommend this book. (As a side note, her husband Brandon has a few chapters throughout, outlining what his experience was like in the midst of Jen’s own journey. I loved getting both sides of the story!)

Brave Enough:

I was drawn to the title from the moment I heard it. I feel like so much of what Jesus is teaching me these days revolves around trust and courage for what it looks like to follow him. Nicole Unice shares countless stories, from her own life, dear friends and Scripture, that all point back to the same truth: “God’s love-not our own ability or goodness-is the source of our bravery and our strength.” (7) She jumps deep into tender topics of how hard it is to give and receive grace and the courage it takes to do that. She talks about the courage it takes to feel feelings and honestly talk to God about what we’re going through. She shares about her own challenges to have courage to set boundaries and know her own limits.  She speaks of the courage it takes to rest and live in such a way that there is space to hear from the Lord.

I was deeply encouraged by Nicole’s writing. She provides questions and prayers as tools for response, which I appreciated as I sat with some of her words. She writes to women, but the truth she shares is a universal one: “What God can do with hearts fully devoted to him! What God will do when we give him the very best of ourselves-when we abandon our wills to his way and when our full and honest hearts say, “Not my will, but yours be done.” This is the wellspring of our courage. This is what makes us brave.” (194)

* Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book, in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

Simply Tuesday:

My introverted heart breathed a sigh of relief as I sat with Emily Freeman, reading her words. She speaks of what it means to follow Jesus in the season you’re in, slowing down, stopping the hustle and believing truth. I fully resonated with her words on “being small.” So often being and seeming small sounds like a bad thing. But she offers the perspective that it isn’t always bad.

As I begin to slow, I see smallness is not a punishment but a gift. Rather than something to fear or run from, my smallness can be a celebration, an invitation for me to lie on my back on the wide, green earth, and let the world spin the sun right up above me. I can breathe a sigh of sweet relief as I realize I had nothing to do with it. The effort is in believing that’s true, not in controlling the outcome. I have to remember this. I must. When I don’t, when I try to live big, I get tired. (72)

She gives permission to be ordinary, to live well in the “small moments.” She speaks of taking moments to slow down and enjoy what is true today, not what she wishes were true. There is much grace and courage in between the lines of her writing. I found her vulnerability refreshing and sighed “me too” with her words on the loneliness of a new season, and the mess of figuring our relationships in light of change. I appreciated her invitation to see what Jesus has done in her own life to transform her. My heart felt full as I finished the last chapter.

Proverbs Prayers:

In my own time with the Lord, I’m trying to not merely jot down a verse or read a chapter. I’m trying to show up and ask what the Lord wants to show me about himself. I’m trying to ask how Jesus wants to change my heart.

I was excited to sit with this book that gives words to pray Scripture. I’ve often read through Proverbs for a month at a time, a chapter a day, but too often feel overwhelmed by the different directions some of the wisdom that is written side-by-side, can go. I think this book provides a way of grounding my feet and helping me apply these truths to my heart, as I say these words out loud in a prayer.

I think one of my favorite parts of the book is that the chapter the prayer comes from, is written out, preceding each prayer, clearly tying the prayers to their origins. I initially had a hard time with some of the statements made in the prayers. When I first read them they sounded overly confident, not acknowledging the doubt or difficulty present in believing the truths in Scripture. But as I’ve read this book as part of my own time with the Lord over the past few weeks, I’ve come to see those statements in a different light. I see them as an opportunity to say, in faith, what the desires of our heart are with the Lord. Even if it doesn’t feel like Scripture is the best thing in my life, I do want to get to a place where my heart can say that.  I deeply appreciated the questions that come out of the prayers written by John Mason, asking the Lord to search the heart for specific things. Here is a sample of Proverbs 7’s prayer:

“Lord, I want to keep Your words and capture Your commandments deep within my heart today. Doing this will free me to live a wonderful life. Your Word is the greatest thing I can imagine. It is the apple of my eye. It’s so incredibly precious that I eagerly receive it in the deepest part of me. I choose to see, know and understand everything from Your perspective. Are there any areas of my life that I am viewing strictly from a human perspective instead of from Your point of view, Lord? Teach me what Your Word says about those areas so I can acquire Your perspective today.” (38)

I think this book challenged me to claim Scripture for myself and to ask my heart the hard questions of whether or not I am actually believing or acting on what is true. It is a good and difficult thing to pray Scripture over your life. I’m grateful for the opportunity this book is giving my heart to sit with chapters of wisdom and invite the Lord into the mess of applying it to my life.

* Revell Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book, in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (or the Potato Peel Pie book  as I call it, because the title is a mouthful):

This is seriously one of the best fiction books I’ve read in a long time. I still can’t believe how much I loved it. It is written as letters between different individuals, giving depth to people and places of World War II and the days that followed. I typically I don’t connect with books written as letters very well. This is a grand exception. This book is funny and hauntingly beautiful and redemptive. I laughed out loud. I teared up. It is fabulous. Please do yourself a favor and read it.

Happy Cooking: Make Every Meal Count…Without Stressing Out:

I love to feed people. I’ve never had a very big appetite, but that doesn’t seem to impact how much I enjoy food. I love the process of creating something delicious out of things from the pantry and fridge. I love the smells and the textures. But most of all, I love sharing the beauty of something wonderful with people I love, especially my husband and daughter who both love to eat.

I don’t watch cooking shows, since we don’t have TV, so I honestly had never heard of Giada De Laurentiis. But I loved the title immediately, because that is how making food feels to me: happy.

Last night, I made her Skinny Chicken Parm, with my husband’s kind assistance, which bakes the dish instead of frying and eliminates the bread crumbs. He had gotten home early from work and it was extra special to bump elbows in the kitchen while we made dinner together. (And as a bonus, he dealt with the raw chicken, which is not my favorite!)

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This dish turned out to be flavorful, satisfying and fairly quick to make. As a gluten-free eater, I appreciated the Italian flavors that tend to be off limits for someone avoiding traditional pasta and bread dishes. This book is a wide compilation of recipes, ranging from healthy options for breakfast to what to serve for a holiday feast to pasta weeknight dinners. Each recipe is marked if it is Vegan, Vegetarian or Gluten Free, making it easy to scan for the recipes that would work for my family. (If you have allergies that are more extensive than gluten, such as dairy or nut allergies, this cookbook will be fairly limited for you. There are many salads and vegetable recipes listed, but many of her recipes include nuts or dairy.)

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this cookbook. Giada provides tips throughout the book, as she narrates what she does and seems to want the reader to be successful in their own cooking, as she has been in hers. The photos of the recipes are on every page and are absolutely beautiful. (Food photos are often what make a cookbook for me, and this one does not disappoint.) I will say that sometimes it felt a little staged to have Giada smiling at me with a turkey leg in one hand or poised with a taco, but I suppose that is just the nature of penning a cookbook after being on TV.

If nothing else, I found the book to be a “happy” one to peruse and cook from. As I sat around my dinner table last night, my heart felt happy and grateful to be eating steaming, good food with my favorites. Happy cooking, indeed.

*Blogging for Books has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book, in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

Bella Grace:

If you’re looking for a magazine that feels like self-care, instead of comparison or being sold a certain definition of beauty, this is it. Beautiful photos, vulnerable and whimsical articles, all from women who want to live a good life. It is a fairly new publication and only comes out four times a year, once per season. I’m still savoring their fifth issue, the autumn edition. Some of my favorite articles so far have included: “Small Things Worth Savoring,” “I Like In Betweens” and “Still.” This magazine makes me want to slow down and breath deep, grateful to be alive.

Library Lion (not pictured):

If you know anything about me, you probably have me talk about how much I love the library. So a book about the merits of the library, with darling illustrations and a dear story about a lion taking up residence at the library was a pure delight. Beyond that, I love what it says about welcoming people (or lions) that make us uncomfortable, but are worth including. This includer’s heart loved seeing a lion welcome at the library (although, I’ll admit, if this became a reality, I might not be quite such a fan.)

I also watched Fantastic Mr. Fox for the first time this past week with my husband. Silly and quirky, but very fun. The casting for the voices is superb. George Clooney is the perfect match for the main character. As a side note, I ’ve also taken to saying “cuss” as they do in the film, anytime I might otherwise say something worse (or really just because it is fun.) At one point in the film, there is a building that has “cuss” graffitied on the side of it. I don’t know why, but this really strikes me as funny. The film didn’t necessarily speak to my heart in a particular way, but it was good for my heart to sit and rest with my husband, with no agenda. It was a normal, uneventful Wednesday night that we curled up on the couch. I think my heart needed to remember that there is much joy in the normal, uneventful nights on the couch, if I’m willing to sit still and simply be. 

I’m continually amazed at how Jesus can use any medium to grab hold of my heart. What are you watching and reading? What is Jesus using to speak to your heart?

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