Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Books I'm reading this Winter and Spring 2015

Here are the books* I am currently reading or have read this Winter/Spring. I will let you know my thoughts on them when I finish reading them! I will add my "reviews" in the order that I finish them. :) 

Non-fiction Books:

1.  Breathing Room by Leeana Tankersley: 

I love love LOVED this book! Breathing Room is about what it says; finding a place within our selves to breathe. It's a place that is free from criticism and self-contempt. Rather it's about advocating for yourself, being on your own time and learning to be gentle. We can reject the frantic and the toxic voices in our lives.  

Honestly I liked every chapter. When I read this book in January I was in a place where I resonated with so much of what she said. I was so relieved someone was writing about how I was feeling inside. I felt normal like the raging and chaotic emotions I had inside of me weren't all that crazy and if they were I was getting closer and closer to the moment where I too, one day, would try to pay for lunch with a baby wipe instead of a credit card. There's just too much good in here for me to fully share. You just have to read it. Leanna writes in a way that makes you feel safe to feel and safe to breathe. She writes in a way that helped me put my armor down and listen. It's scary to talk about certain things, especially things that have labels and a stigma. But she didn't make it scary. It felt more like a warm blanket that teaches you to exhale. 

Favorite quote:

"Sometimes I'm scared to let you see me and love me. But when I do, I am always anchored and winged"

2.  Scary Close by Donald Miller

Ahhh! I am such a fan of Donald Miller and his authenticity as well as his mad story-telling skills. I read this book with my book club which was fantastic because every week we could discuss what we learned, had questions about or what we were processing. This book is like Donald Miller's other books in that it's an easy-read. (you want to read it all at once) It's very engaging and has stories that connect you immediately. Donald's tone and voice is approachable. This book is about his journey and process into deeper intimacy. He talks about having a crisis of identity and how lonely and isolated he felt. He shares his "shame stories" and talks openly about his faith, his therapy and his relationship to Betsy. I am so endeared to this book. I could relate to so much of this book regarding performance anxiety, areas of shame, and wondering if people won't love me if I'm not impressive enough (or at least normal enough).

Favorite quote: 
"Sometimes the story we're telling the world isn't half as endearing as the one that lives inside of us"

3.  Bread and Wine by Shauna Niquest

I read this book for the second time this winter because it's amazing.  It makes me want to host fancy dinner parties always and celebrate life. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. I don't cook very often and I loved the book. I even tried a recipe, granted it was homemade salad vinaigrette, but it was good! The book is collection of stories and recipes about  life around your table. She talks about the ways "God nourishes us as we nourish others"  as the book cover so simply and profoundly puts it. I need to remind myself over and over again that God cares about my nourishment and that all these "physical" things like food, our bodies and sleep are really important. She talks about being "present over perfect" and about what it means to courageous in our daily lives.

Favorites quote:
One thing's for sure: if you decided to be courageous and sane, if you decide not to overspend or overcommit or overschedule, the healthy people in your life will respect those choices. And the unhealthy people will freak out, because you're making a healthy choice they're not currently free to make. Don't for one second let that stop you. 

4.  Savor by Shauna Niquest

This is a 365 day devotional about savoring each aspect of our life and learning how to live abundantly in this great big beautiful world God created. I am pretty picky about devotionals and generally end up feeling like they are overly clique and spiritual without really saying anything at all. This one I LOVE. I even wake up EARLIER to read it in the mornings with coffee. That really says something. They are short and each include a scripture and some questions to ponder. I have really savored my mornings reading these little gems daily. :)

5.  The ZimZum Of Love by Rob and Kristen Bell

I feel bad saying this but I have only made it through the first couple chapters. I keep putting it down and forgetting about it. This isn't a good sign...

6.  Bittersweet by Shauna Niquest

Currently reading this one before bed and it is fabulous. If you liked Cold Tangerines this book is similar in it's story-telling/memoir style. The way Shauna sees life and talks about God is really inspirational and a breath of fresh air always. 

7.  I Though It Was Just Me by Brene Brown

I am reading this book with my book club now and it is dense and research heavy. It is all about shame, empathy, vulnerability and connection. It is so good but I'm guessing it will take me half a year to finish soooooo there's that. I have to at least try to finish it before Brene Brown's newest book comes out in August! Can't wait!!!

8.  Set-Apart Woman by Leslie Ludy

I am currently reading this book as well! 


1.  Annes House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery and Rainbow Valley by L.M. Montgomery

Starting last summer I began reading through the Anne of Green Gables series. They are so good! Montgomery uses such beautiful words and language to describe the settings and her characters are always unique and quirky. I'm sad I'm nearing the end of this charming series. 

 *I would also like to confess I have read 4 cheesy romantic old west novels (think 1870's, Texas). My mom sent me three and I devoured them. I ordered two more. I'm on my fifth.  I have really enjoyed reading ones by Karen Witemeyer and Robin Jones Gunn. Sometimes a good predictable "happily ever after" is just what I need. I also tried to ready Mansfield Park by Jane Austen for the second time and I literally just can't get through it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

10 Book Recommendations For The Fall

Books that I read in the fall that I would now like to recommend to you :)

1)   Marriage Rules by Harriet Lerner  This is an easy read, easy format book by a clinical psychologist.  You could read this book in a day but I don’t recommend it. Scott and I try to read a couple chapters and then stop (even though I always want to race to the end) The rules are simple and anything from avoding criticism, challenging gender traditions, how to connect more, listen better and how to forget about normal sex. They are simple but profound statements. However I really do reject her #56 so if you read the book, just remember to take that one with a grain of salt.

2)   *Carry On Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton THIS BOOK. If you READ anything from ANY books READ THIS BOOK!!!! Her writing is so authentic, sincere and tender. It is brave and unapologetic and delightfully irreverent.  Her ministry to women is truly unlike any other I’ve seen. I continue to re-read her memories and her unabashed stories of recovery, addiction and faith. AND she is witty and hilarious. I have had everyone I know read this book. How can you not love this woman?! She is friends with Brene Brown, Donald Miller and Shauna Niquest for crying out loud! Every Christmas all her bloggers find a way to help families and single mothers in desperate need of hope and encouragement. If I can be half as brave as this woman someday I will be floored.  

3)   Yes Please by Amy Poehler  What can I say except who doesn’t love Amy Poehler and her empowerment to women? Also if you are about to move into mourning since we are in the LAST season of Parks and Recreation read this book. However be aware that while this book is funny, it is also sincere and tender. It caught me off guard because I was still expecting a constant laugh at every line like in Jim Gaffagan’s book or Mindy Kaling’s book. She has some honest moments and even some life lessons in her book. It’s also funny. There are few lines I felt were possibly making light of something that is too serious but then again my tenderness and profession causes me to feel this way. I didn’t even read her chapter on her drug use because I’ve worked with too many clients who have struggled and can’t find it super humorous.   

4)   The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin I really liked this book. This is going to sound weird but I read it before bed every night and it was a great way for me to calm down before sleep. Sometimes I get too lost in psychology and theory that I forget to read something a bit more light. She had a ton of great suggestions on how to create more happiness in your life. Each month she had new goals for herself, thinking such as cleaning out your closet, starting a book club, or time management. Some of it was a bit too “fake it till you make it” cheese for me but then again I appreciated her optimistic attitude. 

5)   One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp Ann Voskamp is prolific writer and a tender soul. She talks about radical gratitude and her faith journey. I’ve been working on gratitude in my own life via a gratitude journal. Scott and I have also started listing off things are we thankful for each day before we go to sleep. However I should note her writing style takes some getting used to. It is almost like she is writing poetry. She tends to remove a lot of prepositions and articles and sometimes I can’t follow her. Truth be told, I like to read really fast and I can’t read fast with Ann. You have to kind of let the words "soak you" before you can move on. I’m pretty excited about reading her “The Greatest Gift” advent book next.

6)   Found Art by Leeana Tankersley This is a memoir of the year Leeana lived in the Middle East with her husband during the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. She tells of the unexpected beauty and art she collided with upon her adventures in the Middle East. I liked this book because it was good to think about where I can find beauty, hope and art in my own life in strange or foreign places. It made me want to travel more that’s for sure.    

7)   Seriously I’m Kidding by Ellen Degeneres It’s just so funny!!! You will laugh out out loud. I especially like that she has a chapter called "The Secret of Life". It only include one word. Go read it for yourself. 

8)   Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffagan So hilarious!!! I admire his humor his humor as he talks about  what it's like to be a dad for 5 young children and live in a two-bedroom apartment in New York City. His floor plan graphics are especially amusing in his chapter "How to Put Five Kids to Bed in a Two-Bedroom Apartment" In the drawings, the baby is moved to four different beds I think and also looks like a beetle. 

9)   Wonder by R.J. Palacio My mother-in-law gave me this book. I immediately fell in love with this novel about a boy named August who was born with a facial deformity that has prevented him from going to mainstream school. The book journeys his first year in school as a fifth grader. The author does a great job of writing from the perspective of a 5th grader, his friends, his sister and his parents. It is a sweet, tender book with great character development. I recommend this book if you are traveling and need a plane companion or want something to read on vacation that is meaningful but not overly “heavy.” 

10)  The Rescue by Nicholas Sparks Well I wanted to make 10 on this list. I can’t say I  HIGHLY recommend this book, however I have read and enjoyed a couple of Sparks books this past year. There is something so endearing about the predictable southern setting, the crazy thunderstorms, and the quaint towns.

*Indicates my favorite 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Party For The Needy

Speaking my needs is hauntingly terrifying.

Let me explain.

Somewhere along the road of my life I concluded that needs were these nasty little irritants that got in the way of me being an independent, strong and self-sufficient woman.

I abhor the word "needy". I once had a (ex) boyfriend who said "girls are just needy, that's just how they are" I bristled softly beneath this extreme stereotypical statement. I calmly challenged his line of thinking with as much grace I could tolerate. But what I really wanted to do was punch him in the face. 

I thought if I shared my needs I would be punished.

I’m not exactly talking about my need for coffee or my need to wash my car. I’m talking about deep emotional needs. (although let’s be honest, my need for coffee is about there but I have no issue asking for it)

I’m talking about ‘hey it’s 2am and I am terrified and I need to be held’ Or ‘I need to eat’ because I’m getting all shaky and spinny. Or ‘I honestly can’t afford this and I really think I need it’ Or ‘I can’t do this alone today, can you come?’  SOoooooooo SCarrrrrrryyyyyyyy

I hold my breath as I ask for my needs to be met. I expect shame to be an answer. I expect to be punished for having needs. My toxic thoughts have erupted into You’re a grown ass woman, keep it together, figure this out by yourself…

Thankfully I  am reminded of a parable Jesus told about a man who had great NEED. He spent all his money recklessly, lived a wild life, and suddenly found himself in such a rut he couldn’t pull himself out. There was no “pull yerself up by the boot straps” going on. There was only one last ray of hope and that was to get some help. Speak needs. The prodigal son stumbled his way home to his Father’s house.

How surprising it must have been for him to not even be able to get his needs off his chest when his father rushes toward him in an embrace! 

You have needs! Awesome! So glad you came! We will throw a party in honor of your needs and roast a fattened calf.

No punishment at all. The opposite. A party. A celebration.

How curious.

And yet in my own life every time I speak my needs, it’s like a freaking party rolls in. It’s like the red carpet rolls out. Expecting thorns of judgment, I get roses of acceptance. And the other crazy party is that when I share my needs others do it too! They start sharing their story about when they were in deep need and how those needs were met.

All this need stuff has given me courage to listen to what my body and heart need. I've learned to listen instead of telling myself to suck it up. I have started using a tender voice with me, "Yes, you need to breathe, okay let's do that. You feel too tired to push through? Okay, let's take a break"

What would it look like for us to reward our minds and bodies and hearts for having needs? What if the next time you have a need, you are gentle with you? Maybe we can take the stance of Jesus a little more often. Maybe we can run towards each other when we are in desperate need. Maybe we can throw parties instead of shame fests for those who speak their needs. I'll bring the balloons, you bring the confetti alright?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Debunking the Marital Myths**

In honor of Valentine's Day I thought I would share a blog I wrote for a guest post at A Selfless Love this past fall. I figured today would be a good day to share some myths regarding love and marriage.

I recently watched a new movie called “They Came Together”. I wanted to see it because Amy Poehler stars in it and I think she is the best (think Parks and RecreationBaby Mamma) The whole movie is a parody of every rom com out there. (think When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail, Wedding Crashers) It mocks every chic flic that makes you think love happens because of “fate”, that when you have sex you naturally break all your vases and knock over all your books, and that New York City is the third party in your relationship. It was really funny. However I kept waiting for it to get real. But it never did. It continued on it’s parody the whole way through. I mean who doesn’t want a happily ever after, fairy tale type ending? I don’t want my entire relationship to be a cliché, alarmingly-happy, fake slap-stick-humor-type situation nor do I want it to be sad, realistic and dry. I think I want it to be exactly what it is which is beautiful and chaotic and ridiculous and surprising and life changing.

I have been married for just 18 months now. I am certainly no expert but I will share the myths we have encountered. I am so happy I took the risk to begin the adventure of marriage even with the misconceptions!

1.   We Will Be Rich
This is a myth my husband and I both bought into. I think we thought having two incomes would make us so much richer. WRONG. I didn’t stop to think about two phone bills or perhaps that both our cars should have insurance. I didn’t realize that he would want to blow all our money on food and I would want to blow it all on clothes.

2.   Being One Means Being The Same
Just because we are one does not mean we are the same. We still have different likes and dislikes. We are still individuals who are hopefully working towards being differentiated. It is okay that we experience God differently, that we clean differently and that we communicate differently.

3.   Where I Am Weak My Spouse Is Strong
My husband and I mistakenly had the notion that whatever chore we didn’t like doing, the other would probably love. For example, I hate taking out the trash and doing dishes. Scott loathes doing his laundry. Guess what we discovered according to our research findings? We both don’t like any of these chores. It’s okay. We don’t have to like them.

4.   We Will Memorize The Kama Sutra
We didn’t.

5.   All Decisions Are Easy
We had no idea that we would take an hour trying to pick out which movie to watch or that it would take us longer to decide on what to eat than the time spent actually eating.

6.   Every Night Is Date Night
This isn’t true. Just because we got married does not mean we retired from life as we know it. We still go to work and we still hang out with our friends and have obligations and commitments. We have learned we have to be intentional about pursing each other and it’s important to us to put a date night down on the calendar. I assume once we have kids we will have to become way more strategic!

7.   You Stop Caring
My husband and I care about each other more every day. I don’t know how this is possible but I’m so happy it is. With every passing day we become more securely attached to one another.

8.   My Spouse Knows All My Needs And Wants Because He Is An Undercover Psychic.
Neat thought. Not accurate.

9.   You Stop Falling In Love

My husband and I continue to fall in love with each other moment by moment, day by day, week by week and month by month. We love each other so much and I assume will continue to fall more madly in love with each other for the rest of our lives. This does not mean we don’t work at our marriage. It does not mean we just “let it happen” and hope for a mystical feeling to carry us away on a magical carpet ride into happily ever after. Every day we work at creating happily ever after. Our happily ever after doesn’t just appear in an out-of-control way. Rather we invest in it, we help it grow, and we are intentional with the way we nurture this stunning gift.

What about you? Did you have any misconceptions about how marriage would be before you said your vows?

** the above myths are taken from personal experience as well as from my clinical studies in Marriage and Family Therapy. This does not cover all the myths nor am I suggesting this was the reader’s experience verbatim