Friday, September 8, 2017

Reading List: September 2017

It’s been a busy season so I haven’t gotten to update and post this till now! (But hey, better than the year it was last time!)

Picture Perfect by Amy Baker
This is a book for people who struggle with perfectionism and those who want to help them. Maybe you just joke about having OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) but you’re anxious and/or frustrated… life isn’t going the way you want it to. Or maybe you call it exhaustion – because you’re wearing yourself out trying to please everyone. To many, it’s an actual diagnosis of anxiety or OCD. Whatever it is, you’re caught it a cycle of thinking that you can’t seem to get out of and it’s leaving you anxious, frustrated and sometimes in despair. How do you change? How can y ou help a friend or loved one who’s in this situation? This book gives us some case studies (examples) of individuals who have struggled with perfectionism in different ways. Is it wrong to want everything to be “just so”? Doesn’t God call us to be perfect? Yes… but no. God, being perfect, does demand perfection…. But we cannot deliver. It is only because of Christ that we receive perfect righteousness…. We cannot achieve this on our own. This book is full of practical examples and reminders of what it means to struggle with the tendency to want things “just so” and trusting in God when things don’t go the way you want. If you live your life seeking for things to go your way you’re going to dishonor Christ and hurt the people around you. Growth means trusting God with things that aren’t going the way you’d like and seeking to put others before your own desires and goals. True success is not meeting your goals (what you consider good enough), it’s honoring God and loving others.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi

This was a really powerful and educational book! Nabeel was born into a devout Muslim family in Virginia; a part of the Admadis sect of Islam which makes up a majority of western Muslims, but yet overall it is a very small minority within worldwide Islam (Shia and Sunni being by far the largest). Nabeel explains a lot of the theology and worldview of Islam and the different sects within it. He was well-trained to be devoted to Islam – he had much memorized from the Quran and from Islamic teaching and also some Christian Scriptures that are used to defend Islam. He many times shook the beliefs of Christians he came into contact with. Islam was his whole world and his journey to discovering Islam’s and the Quran’s true teaching shook his very being. If you want to understand Islam and/or why Muslims believe as they do, or why they love Islam and why it’s so difficult for them to see otherwise you need to read this book. If you have friends/neighbors/acquaintances who are Muslim and you want to know how to reach them – you MUST read this book. It was extremely enlightening as to why they are so devoted to their faith, and how western Muslims view the extremists in the Middle East and elsewhere. How do they reconcile history with Islam when so much contradicts? How do they not know the true history of Mohammed? Why is it so difficult for them to leave Islam? Even faced with all the evidence, Nabeel struggled for months and begged God/Allah for dreams to show him the truth. God graciously did and made it powerfully clear that Christianity was the truth, not Islam. It was only then that he had the courage to embrace Christianity.

This book also reveals the great importance of Apologetics in defending Christianity and how it can be a powerful tool in bringing people to Christ. If you do not know why you believe what you believe and be able to defend it – your faith can be shaken when tested. How grateful Nabeel and other converts are that there were Christians in their lives who were well trained in defending Christianity (and who also studied Islam enough to refute it).

Becoming More by Lysa Terkeurst
This was a good book, very practical. I’m very theologically-read so this was pretty basic (and not really very deep). But I so appreciate Lysa’s heart for God and how honest she is about her struggles. Again, very practical and filled with great reminders! A great one to recommend to others – especially women who are newer/younger Christians or who are struggling in their walk with God.

Currently Reading:
Sacred Marriage by Gary Chapmen.
Mike and I are also listening to The Lord of the Rings trilogy on audio, which has been fun!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Reading List (June 2017)

Wow it’s been awhile! I’ve been meaning to do this but it’s been busy. Life changed a whole lot for me 10 months ago. Got married, moved to another state and started a normal full-time job. So I haven’t read much. My husband and I have listened to a few audio books over the last several months so I’ll share those too. Enjoy!
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (complete audio book)
This is one I’ve wanted to read so it was fun listening together. It was really good, but very long. And by the way, the movie is SO off!

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (complete audio book)
I had read the book before so there were parts I didn’t listen to this time, but it was excellent. Great story of redemption, although I still think it’s really sad!

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (complete audio book)
This book was SO good! The story of Louis Zamperini, Olympic runner who was captured by the Japenese during WWII, it’s an amazing story of human suffering and resilience, and also the amazing power of God’s grace. It was really sad the suffering that Louis went through, but it’s amazing what he endured and how God spared him and later dramatically converted him even though he was running away! The movie was good too (although you don’t get his struggle then conversion and change at the end which is unfortunate).

Catch Me If You Can by Frank Abagnale (complete audio book)
We watched the movie first (before we realized there was a book). It’s about a young man who stole millions was one the most wanted forgers in the world – all before he was 21! In this autobiography he tells his story, and it’s fascinating! (And the movie was a little different, but was still very good.) (Just a heads-up though: There's 2-3 spots in the book that any modest person will want to fast-forward through... TMI!)

Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden (complete audiobook)
This was a great historical narrative of the story of American forces carrying out and then trying to survive a mission in Somalia in 1992. It would have been a successful mission had not 2 black hawk helicopters been shot down and the rescue of these stranded men not been so complicated. It is a very realistic, and thus sad account of the horrors of war, but also incredibly inspiring of the men who were willing to give their lives for their country and comrades. There is quite a bit of language in the book which is the only reason I’d lower its rating, but it was very educational and inspiring so a great read overall!

Surprised by the Power of the Spirit by Jack Deere
This is a book that I’ve been wanting to read for about 5 years! For me, there wasn’t very much new, since it’s a topic I’ve read and studied for some time now, but still, it was really good and encouraging. Jack Deere shares his own journey of discovering what the Bible teachers about the Spirit and His gifts and discusses various arguments and cautions. Some great thoughts and personal experiences. My favorite chapter was 13 on “A Passion for God” which contained some great and important reminders about how to thrive in our relationship with God. If you want to be encouraged in how God is working today in amazing ways you should definitely read this book!

Currently Reading:
Mike and I are working through Lord of the Flies on audiobook. I’m also working through Picture Perfect by Amy Baker. 
I hope to do more reading this summer though! Here's the first two on my list: Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus & When Sinners Say I Do. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

I’m Not Enough For My Husband

Don’t let the title of this worry you… my relationship with my husband is great. Actually, it’s wonderful. He’s incredibly sweet and thoughtful and loves me to pieces. But I’ve realized more fully the truth of something I heard/read before I got married, and that is that your spouse can’t fully satisfy you. Not really.

Don’t get me wrong, I find a whole lot of satisfaction in my husband (and vice versa), but our hearts were not designed to be fully satisfied in another person, they were designed to be satisfied in God. When he’s feeling discouraged or anxious I can encourage him, I can speak truth to him and love him, but ultimately his heart can only be brought to peace through his relationship with God. The same goes with me. When I’m struggling he is an amazing gift of God to me in that he listens and encourages and loves on me, but again, I can only really find peace and lasting comfort when I seek it from God Himself. It reminds me of this quote from Elisabeth Elliot: “Our hearts are lonely till they rest in Him who made us for Himself.” (The Path of Loneliness, p. 90). How many of us have been standing in a group of people, friends even, and still felt lonely? How many husbands or wives have lain next to their spouse and still felt like something was missing? Our culture speaks about finding “the one” or the person that “completes” you. The problem is that our hearts were never made to be completed by another person. We need relationship and fellowship with others, it’s true. And God gave the gifts of friendship and marriage to bless and help us in so many ways. But as much of a blessing as my husband is, he can’t forgive the sin I’ve committed or give me the strength I need to endure the struggle sin often causes in our lives. As much as I love my husband, even he is not enough to motivate me towards holiness all the time. Only Jesus can do that. Only Jesus can forgive me of my sin and change me. Only He knows the deepest recesses of my heart and is able to redeem my struggles and failures.

Don’t look for something in the world or another person to complete you, to give you what you need to change or be happy. You’re seeking something only God can give you somewhere else… that’s idolatry. It’s been said that people are wonderful gifts, but terrible gods. They can’t deliver what we are looking for and you’re only going to be disappointed. My husband isn’t perfect. He’s hurt my feelings and disappointed me. He needs Jesus just as much as I do so how I can look to him to fix me? Jesus has redeemed me with His own blood… He is the One who loves me more than my husband ever could, and He is the One who completes me and fully satisfies my heart.

I’m not enough for my husband, and he’s not enough for me, but that’s OK. God is enough for both of us.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Newly-Married Girl’s Thoughts on Singleness & Contentment

I know.

If you’re single and reading this you are probably rolling your eyes and thinking “what does she know, she’s married now!”

I know, because I’ve totally thought that! I really do totally understand and in no way wish to minimize how you feel because I remember feeling a very similar way. And I hope this is encouraging!

I got married about 2 weeks ago at the age of 32. It was a pretty long wait. I say “long” because it was, (although I know other people who have gotten married a lot younger and say it was a long wait… seriously? I really don’t think you’re allowed to say it was long until you’re at least late 20’s, but I digress….) I also say “pretty long” because I have friends who are the same age as me or are older and are still hoping to be married. I greatly admire and respect them for how they’ve sought to wait on the Lord even in the most difficult moments.And I know many people who suffer in other ways that I haven't... how I admire they're faith and trust in God in the midst of so much difficulty!

Being married now and looking back, it’s true, singleness is really hard (and if you’ve read my blog you know just how hard it’s been for me personally). But, it also had a whole LOT of sweetness.

I love being married. I love being with my wonderful husband who’s my best friend. But in all honesty I do remember thinking at one point before we were married “do I really want to do this?” ‘cause when you get married, you’re not your own anymore. All my money, all my free time (all my time pretty much), things like how much I slept in, how clean I kept my room, what I wanted to eat for dinner or buy at the grocery store – all these decisions would no longer me mine to make as I pleased. There was someone else to consider, a living breathing person with feelings (and good sense) living with me to make decisions with and to submit my desires to.

Hello marriage. Goodbye independence.

Is it worth it? YES, absolutely. But I’m just saying that it IS a sacrifice. And I’m saying, if you’re single, don’t take it for granted. Elisabeth Elliot wrote a lot about how singleness is a gift… and she experienced the hardship and the joys of it. I struggled to believe this as a single person, but I re-read 1 Corinthians 7 (where Paul talks about how single people are free to serve the Lord) recently as a married woman and it struck me in a new way. Truly I was much more distracted now; I had a husband to focus on and please. Before I could devote myself to God and to His people and I realized in a deeper way what a great gift that is! To be free and unhindered to serve, give, love… as a single person, I was a great gift to the Church! There are so many ways that I was able to serve that at the time didn’t seem important, certainly not exciting. But looking back and seeing all that God’s done in and through me it’s pretty neat! In my 12+years being a single adult I got to do a lot of amazing things! I went to college, got training in Biblical counseling, traveled various places, I lived for 2 short periods in Germany, went to Bible School for a year, interned for an amazing ministry in Colorado, took seminary classes and then went to seminary. And that’s not to mention all the great family trips, road trips with friends, summers at a Christian camp (I couldn’t go this summer and it was sad!), and many opportunities to serve in my church in ways that other people couldn’t! There were so many things that I didn’t realize till later the great gift each experience was to me and to others involved. They have made me into the person that I am today. And they have helped to shape and bless others in more ways that I even know.

I’ve learned over the years that discontentment can come at you no matter where you are in life. Just watch “Mom’s Night Out” to see that (I could seriously identify with Allyson’s feelings even though I was single and didn’t have any kids). I certainly struggled with discontentment while I was single, and at times I gave in to it. As a result there were opportunities for me that I didn’t take advantage of. Moments where I could have served, loved, given and been a blessing but I was too distracted by what I didn’t have. In a recent sermon at my church we were reminded that that this sinful world is discouraging, but even in the midst of that we ought to be pursuing joy in God and living the life He’s called us to to the fullest. Singleness is hard at times, but so is marriage. LIFE is hard! But it’s also filled with so many wonderful gifts!

All this to say, don’t begrudge where God has you right now. Don't end up wasting your time focusing on what you don't have and miss opportunities. He has a great purpose for your life. You are a gift to those around you. He’s given you a life to live so go live it! Enjoy every moment you can and remember that lasting joy only comes from the Giver Himself. Put Him first and then enjoy life as much as you can!