Review of Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley

I became a Simplified Planner user in 2016 and have never looked back.  This planner is my heart beat, my saving grace, and one of my most treasured possessions each year thanks to the craft, talent, and intentionality of Emily Ley.

I was late to the Grace Not Perfection party, but so thankful I picked it up.  Emily Ley openly shares her story of battling to be perfect and in the midst of striving, finding grace.  Within each chapter she shares practical tips for organization and cleanliness in your home, work place, and daily life.

Ley’s word pictures of her story battling perfectionism, infertility, and health issues, invited me into her home to sit down and have coffee.  Each chapter felt like sitting across the coffee table from a wise friend and rather than feeling tasked with another creative organization plan, I felt accompanied by a friend saying, “me too, girl.”

The good life is rich, slow, real, and flawed.

In those moments when we give ourselves the grace to let everything else fade away, we find our most sincere happiness.

Emily’s battle to be the perfect daughter, woman, wife, mother, leader, business owner and designer ran her life, just as many of us find ourselves slaves to perfectionism- or at least perceived perfectionism (guilty).  But she decided to no longer be paralyzed by perfectionism and striving, missing out on the life she always wanted for a life she felt she was meant to continue striving to perfect.

Someone told you you had to do it all and to do it all by yourself.

Chasing perfection had been my way of searching for joy.

But in losing the battle, she found grace.  And in grace, her real and truest self.

You are enough.  You deserve simple, slow, and sweet.

It was time to give myself permission to be a priority again.

Don’t sacrifice the good in chase of the perfect.

When we create fantasy images in our heads, we slay the beauty of life.

I loved Grace Not Perfection and found myself in a bit of a book rut upon completing it, because I felt nothing could compare as it offers the sweet embrace of a friend and practical insights to simplification and organization, woven amidst a story of grace.


Thanks for stopping by!

profMy name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

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Review of Rediscovering Church: The Story and Vision of Willow Creek Community Church

Lynne and Bill Hybles share their story in detail of building Willow Creek Community Church from only a vision and dream.  The first half of Rediscovering Church: The Story and Vision of Willow Creek Community Church is composed by Lynne who begins with Bill and her first engagement that she broke off.  She shares of the two of them beginning their ministry together and Billy learning the gifts God had given him of teaching and leadership.  Lynne describes their journey of stepping out in faith to plant a church while both of them were only twenty-three years old.  She honestly shares the difficulties of this season of men coming to Bill stating they were about to lose all the collateral they had put on the line for the church, Bill trying to get out of debt by selling tomatoes door to door, a scandal in the church that split it in half, and the Lord protecting them from purchasing a condemned property.

Bill’s half of this work takes on less of a narrative form, but rather conveys his passion and zeal to see irreligious people become saints.  Bill also shares about times of incredible joy in watching the congregation of Willow Creek grow, make disciples, reach out to others, and give so generously.  He furthermore shares of difficult times and decisions as a leader, yet amidst every struggle and time of questioning of seeing God’s faithfulness.  Hybles consistently focuses on the importance of continuing to reach out to unbelievers and charging members of the congregation to do the same in order to see growth.

A key helpful feature of Rediscvoering Church: The Story and Vision of Willow Creek Community Church is Lynne and Bill’s honestly.  Lynne shared honestly and openly of times when Bill was “married to the ministry” and she had to seek companionship with fellow staff member’s wives in the loneliness.  They share honestly about the difficulty of stewarding such a large congregation with such a small budget to begin with and such big decisions to be made with a team of only three elders.  The Hybles are open and honest about their mistakes and point so consistently to God’s faithfulness to their obedience.  A limiting feature of the Hybles’ work is the stark difference in Lynne and Bill’s writing styles as Lynne provides a narrative and seems to set Bill up to tell the rest of the story in the second half.  Bill, instead, seems to passionately teach a sermon on continuing to reach beyond the walls of the church and tells stories of radical conversion.


Thanks for stopping by!

profMy name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

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Review of “Freefall to Fly” by Rebekah Lyons

Rebekah Lyons is a gifted speaker whose teaching I’ve enjoyed sitting under a couple times.  I have admired her authenticity, ferocity to proclaim who Jesus is and how He has worked in her life, and if I’m honest her taste in shoes.

In Freefall to Fly, Lyons shares her story wrestling with severe anxiety as her family transitioned from Georgia to the hustle and bustle of New York City.  Painted with beautiful word choice, the author lets readers into her innermost wrestlings and questions with God as she struggled to face each and every day, fighting to believe each day would be the end of this relentless battle.

She shares of finding small glimmers of peace and hope in her son Cade’s honesty, friends she sat across the table with, and her husband’s steadfastness.  Rebekah eventually experienced radical healing from her anxiety.  As someone who has prayed for a miracle very close to my heart that I didn’t receive, I at times have a hard time with these reads of prayers being answered so abundantly.  And I felt so thankful for Rebekah’s honesty that as she shared her experience with her friends some of them had the same response.

Only those in our midst- our physical lives- can accurately assess when we’re embracing our true selves.

Lyons furthermore so bravely addressed a phenomenon faced by many women who overlook or abandon unique callings on their lives to pick up the reigns of motherhood.  While not diminishing the sacredness of this call, Rebekah Lyons begs the question if maybe we are limiting ourselves and the work of God in us, when we push down these gifts and callings God has planted deeply within us for a specific purpose.

Once we know what we’re good at, we must match those things with a deep need in this world.  This need is what makes your heart break.  That memory that makes you weep on quiet nights, that creeps up on you when no one else is around.  When you discover this, you will know your deepest burden.  It’s tricky to find a suitable match in a world that’s broken in so many places.

She shares openly about so much of her “hard stuff” and the difficult situations she’s walked through with friends, demonstrating the theme that God meets us at the very end of our rope.

I think of more stories- so many women walking from a place of bravery.  I think of marriages imploding after years of infidelity and watching as grace rushes in.  Of families suffering financial ruin and finding provision to rebuild.  I’m in awe that I get to befriend these battle-wounded women of beauty.  While time and space separates these stories, they are sewn together by a common thread.  As I consider these women’s lives, a consistent theme surfaces:

Survivors make the most beautiful people.

Our bruises don’t have to make us ugly.  They make us who we are.  They add texture and color to our lives.  They strengthen bonds that might otherwise break.

Freefall to Fly is bold, honest, and brave.  Rebekah Lyons story is extremely relatable and her writing style, beautiful.


Thanks for stopping by!

My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch. dalton-31

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Review of “Nothing to Prove” by Jennie Allen

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If you follow me on Twitter, you know all too well that I absolutely loved reading through Nothing to Prove.  I am such a believer in Jennie Allen and behind the ministry of IF seeking to multiply disciple-makers.

Jennie’s story of feeling so unworthy and incapable facing a growing ministry refreshed my soul.  As she named fears and lies, I was able to name many of my own, both in ministry and as an individual.  That nagging, stabbing lie that knows precisely when to whisper and when to shout beneath all of our performance, “You are not enough.”

“If I were your enemy, I would intoxicate you with the mission of God rather than God himself.”


“Fear speaks a dark lie over our lives, over who we think we are.”

I listened to Nothing to Prove on Audible, treasuring hearing Jennie read her words aloud with her own inflection and tone.  As a southern girl, I felt so comfortable hearing Jennie’s southern accent come through.  Listening to her read each page felt like having coffee with a friend or mentor.

In the pages of Nothing to Prove, Jennie Allen reframes stories of Scripture, telling them as personal accounts.  She tells the story of Jesus turning water to wine through the eyes of the bride and groom.  She tells the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper through the eyes of Peter.  Each and every first person narrative she created moved me to chills and tears.  Each story transitioned in my heart and mind from stories I had heard and taught on to stories that took on humanity, frailty, and so much similarity to my own fears and struggles.

“Jesus wasn’t there for Mary and Martha to prove their faith to Him.  He was there to prove His love for them.”

Nothing to Prove is an incredible read that I put off finishing because I really never wanted it to end.  Each chapter ends with discussion questions that would be great for a small group or Bible Study to walk through together.

“You will watch God do incredible miracles if you stop looking side to side.  In quietness and trust shall be your strength.”

Jennie shared so bravely about many painful parts of her story, facing an eating disorder, wrestling with showing up as a pastor’s wife, walking with her sister through a divorce, and I was so thankful to be met by her humanity, authenticity, and struggle, rather than another read of why I should be more and do more.  I walked away from this book feeling less challenged and more like I had gained a new friend, while reframing my view of Jesus and all that He’s called me to.


Thanks for stopping by! H8ULakjvMGHuOo5uritQ9Lrm0KZkxT0ncqFEIMOVNU0

My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

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Review of “Liturgy of the Ordinary” by Tish Harrison Warren

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I was first drawn to this book when my Bible study leader read an excerpt to my small group (Thanks for being you, Lisa).  In this book, Warren highlights various aspects of normal, routine, and sometimes monotonous day to day life, like washing dishes and getting enough sleep at night.  She exposes how we in Western Christianity have often teased apart the boring aspects of our lives from our Spiritual lives, interjecting that the two- the boring and the intentional are critically interwoven to form our holistic beings.

God says this is my beloved Son in who I am well pleased before Jesus had done anything but lived an ordinary life.

Warren emphasizes the ways in which Jesus, too, took part in the normalcies of our earthly life, like eating dinner with friends and learning a trade.  Jesus cleaned up after his siblings, felt thirsty, and needed to use the restroom.

In her own journey of seeing the sacred in the ordinary, Warren began to see the presence of God infiltrated in her every day life.  She began making her bed every morning as a practice of His presence.  A normal chore that is routine for many was the means by which she was reminded of her call in the Kingdom to create order, imaging God in a fallen and disordered world.

Ever so refreshingly for my Millennial soul, the author writes of how each and every one of us want to change the world, but what we are first called to is the ordinary, rote, and mundane in front of us.

Everyone wants a revolution.  No one wants to do the dishes

God has yet to bless anyone except where they actually are.

As we are in the season of Lent, I enjoyed her anecdote of struggling to identify what to give up for Lent one year.  She was raising a newborn child while shepherding her own church congregation.  She spoke with a mentor who encouraged her that all of her life was sacrificing, nudging her to practice pleasure and enjoyment of the goodness of God.  Through this practice she came to see and know God in beautiful ways through a weekly trip to a coffee shop.

Warren highlights the sacredness of soup, sleep, and slowly sipping a cup of coffee, demonstrating that these facets of our lives no mater how ordinary or plain are integrally shaping as as spiritual beings nonetheless.


After reading Liturgy of the Ordinary, I decided to share a little bit of my ordinary by sharing one of my most ordinary recipes.

Click here to learn how to make my Southwest Chicken Quinoa Bowl. (Gluten Free)


dalton-31

Thanks for stopping by!
My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

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Review of And Still She Laughs by Kate Merrick

still she laughs

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I tend to find out about books to read through other author’s recommendations via Instagram or Twitter, but I found this read quite nostalgically.  I was in a strange period of time in my life when I was between books without a queue.  That feels strange to even describe as I now have a stack of at least 20 (no joke).  I channelled my inner Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail and went into a bookstore.  I walked down the aisle and this book caught my eye.  Though familiar with the publisher, I had not heard of the book or its author.  It felt strange to hold a book in my hands rather than read reviews on Amazon.  I remembered lessons from my elementary school librarian and read the back cover and flipped through a few pages.  I was sold and I’m so glad I was.


We all have a story.  We all have tragedies and losses and heartaches and miracles and real life, and while so much of life is glorious, sometimes it gets ugly.  No one is exempt.  We share in this thing called humanity, and I want us to feel– really face head-on– the reality of life with all its pimples and less attractive bits.  I believe it makes the joy more vibrant, the laughter louder and stronger.  So bear with me, cry with me, but please, please, laugh with me.

In this work, Kate Merrick shares about the difficult journey her family faced through her daughter Daisy’s cancer, ultimately ending in Daisy passing away.  She describes the ups and downs of Daisy’s cancer, when she and her husband felt hopeful and hopeless, when she was angry that these were the cards they had been dealt, and when she would lay in bed and hold every precious minute she had with Daisy.

While this read is heart wrenching at times, I was so blessed by Kate’s metaphors for grief.  She described the phenomenon so well and so honestly, even naming some facets of grief I had yet been able to put words to.  She talks honestly and openly about meeting God in the depths of doubt, hurt, pain and bitterness.

Nearness to God results in a banquet of peace beyond understanding, with a heaping side of joy.

Merrick connects her own story and struggle to many women in Scripture who were similarly handed unfortunate cards.  She bravely challenges her readers to move at their own pace, but to keep moving.  To keep pushing on and pushing away the barriers to return to the sweetness and intimacy of God.

If broken Bathsheba can say in Proverbs 31 that an excellent woman laughs at the future, so can I.  If Sarah laughs at the newborn manifestation of the promises of the Lord, then I will too.  Grief is real.  It is intense.  But what is more real, what is more intense, what is eternal is the hope of Christ, the drying of tears, the new heaven and new earth, the final conquering of death.

Through some of the most broken experiences of her life, Kate Merrick nudges readers of And Still She Laughs to shift their perspective from defining God through our circumstances to defining Him through His Word and proven character.  She holds the sacredness of grief and the depths of suffering she has faced, but walks with bravery and honesty into the truth of Scripture that provides the hope with which broken bones can rejoice.


Cwo_36H90YyZDh57ZRc3-wLpbFUXDKAFpDqTD3rIdhQThanks for stopping by!  My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

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17 Books I Read in 2017

I said it last year that I’m far too bold to make this an annual post, but here goes another year.

Things you should know:

  • Books are listed in alphabetical order by the title, not by any ranking because I’m bad at favorites.
  • I do not receive any endorsements, just occasionally free books that I review honestly.
  • If you would like to purchase the book described, click its picture and Amazon will open in a new tab.
  • Yes, I do have a life outside of reading books.

 


1.) Braving the Wilderness

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To read my review of Braving the Wilderness, click here.

2.) The Broken Way

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I enjoy Ann Voskamp and especially love to hear her in person.  This book includes some great nuggets and quotes about brokenness and identifying with the brokenness of Jesus.  If I’m honest, though, I find myself lost in her writing style and have a hard time seeing the forest for the trees.

3.) Christians in an Age of Wealth

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I would have never chosen to read this book on my own volition, but read it to meet a requirement for my Christian ethics class.  Blomberg presented some interesting information on how many Christians do not give, not because they are unable, but because they have chosen a lifestyle that does not allow them to give generously.  He offered some practical steps to saving money both for individuals and churches, presenting modern giving statistics and how global poverty statistics could be offered if they Church is faithful to give.  This is quite a dry read, but good information if you are looking to learn more about this topic.

4.) How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk

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This eye catching title provides precisely what it says, practical insights as to how to avoid falling in love with a jerk.  Dr. Van Epp works with the US Armed Forces providing seminars presenting his research in how relationships should healthily progress and signs of personality traits to avoid.  This is a very practical read that is based primarily on psychological research.

5.) Hurt

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This book provides good information and insight for all who work with or interact with teenagers.  Clark illuminates many of the hidden battles teenagers face.  While this book is beneficial, it is also 7 years old and the majority of the information presented is dated.

6.) The Inner Voice of Love

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This might be one of my favorite books I’ve ever read.  Nouwen, renowned theologian, faces the greatest challenge of his faith.  He journeys to a monastery where he openly and rawly journals his innermost thoughts in the pit of darkness, slowly inching back toward believing and accepting the love, grace, and friendship of God.  He never intended for this work to be published.  It is extremely honest and I wept through most of it.

7.) Love Lives Here

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To read my review of Love Lives Here, click here.

8.) Men, Women, and Worthiness

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I have yet to find this in print, only in audio.  Read my review here.

9.) Of Mess and Moxie

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I love Jen Hatmaker both for her honesty and out of jealousy of her friendship with Brené Brown.  I admire her bravery to speak up for the marginalized and oppressed and was excited for this read.  I have so enjoyed certain parts of it.  I listened on Audible and was deeply touched to hear Jen weeping as she read certain chapters.  If I’m honest, though, I stopped listening sometimes because of exaggerated mom humor.  While I serve as a “bonus mom” for so many as this book describes, I found myself not thinking many Mom jokes were funny and maybe its my own “junk”, but joking about Mom’s needing to neglect their children just strikes a deep and painful chord.  This book has some great nuggets.  Great ones.  But I struggled through it.

10.) Out of Sorts

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To read my review of Out of Sorts, click here.

11.) Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child

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While I do raise many children, I am not biologically a parent; yet, took away some great insights from Dr. Gottman’s work.  He describes how parents can interact with their children when they are afraid or pitching a fit by “emotionally coaching” or helping them to name the emotion they are experiencing and walk them through an appropriate response.  I LOVE THIS!  I hear so many parents or grandparents in stores or restaurants just telling their child to “shut up” or “suck it up”, then none of those parents understand why we need counseling.  What I especially love about this book is while offering this incredible approach to raising littles, Dr. Gottman is practical about when behavior simply needs to be disciplined and how to respond when you’re in a hurry and don’t have the time to properly “coach”.  If you have little people in your life, read this.  Naming and appropriately responding to emotions is the absolute best way you can prepare your child for adulthood.

12.) The Road Back to You

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It seems 2017 was “the year of the enneagram” in contemporary Christian culture (by that I mean modern, not like Michael W. Smith).  As an enneagram junkie, I have loved every last minute of it.  This book by Ian Cron is my favorite resource on the Enneagram.  Cron does an incredible job of concisely describing each enneagram profile, but most importantly unpacks how the believer should use the enneagram as a tool.  This is what sets the enneagram apart from most other personality profiles.  Rather than describing you, the enneagram is a tool both for understanding others and for overcoming the “mask” you have worn to survive.  The Road Back to You hands its readers large paving stones to create the road to wake up and toward becoming your most real, unfiltered self.

13.) Sacred Marriage

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Sacred Marriage is a common resource provided to believers who are about to enter the covenant of marriage.  While this context makes total sense, I felt as a single person, Sacred Marriage also had a great deal of insight to offer.  Gary Thomas’ thesis of this work is “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”  This book debunks many false understandings of marriage and the purpose of marriage, many of which are created and perpetuated by Church culture.  He was honest about the difficulty of marriage, while also illuminating its sacredness.  I think this is a beneficial read in any stage of life.

14.) Soul Virginssoul virgins

I read Soul Virgins as a resource for a seminary class and went into it with great expectations.  Single sexuality for the believer is almost never touched, while the average number of years between the onset of puberty and marriage increase.  I was highly interested in this read, primarily as I work with college students.  This may be a good resource, but I think my expectations were too high.  I was thankful the authors addressed this topic, but stayed too broad to have any true impact or voice on the topic.  Also, this book is a little dated.  The alphabet worked highly in my favor because the book I would recommend over this one in this subject area is next.

15.) Swipe Right

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To read my review of Swipe Right, click here.

16.) Unseen

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My small group of post graduate girls studied this book together this Fall semester and I absolutely loved it.  Unseen reads very personally and intimately, like most Christian living and would be a great solo read, along with a read for a group.  I felt met and seen by Sara Hagerty in the most beautiful ways on these pages, have recommended it to many college students I mentor, and will be closely on the lookout for any reads from her in the future.  I would recommend this book for anyone who feels forgotten and overlooked, for anyone in a difficult season, or for anyone interested in meeting God more intimately.

17.) You are Free

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I know I fan girl over my Christian authors I love and I am not ashamed.  I am such a fan of Rebekah Lyons.  This girl is honest, fun, and when I saw her speak had incredible taste in shoes.  I loved You are Free and needed it in all of the best ways.  I greatly appreciated Rebekah’s honesty in talking about learning their precious first born would have Downs Syndrome.  Her word choice throughout the book challenged me to expand my vocabulary.  But most central, the message of this book empowered me to walk in the confidence of my Father in a season where every foundation beneath me felt shattered.  Read it, okay.


prof
Thanks for stopping by!  My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.