Books, What I'm Reading Wednesday

Counting Every Blessing {What I’m Reading Wednesday}

I’m not really a “new year’s resolutions” girl. Despite that, there is something about switching from December to January that stirs up some specific things in my soul, mainly a desire for the new.

I love a new day, a new journal, a new month, a new school year, a new pair of socks. I long for newness and delight in a clean slate.

Until this year I must admit that I got annoyed at the social media posts that seem to surface around the year end where people bashed the year before, saying they “can’t wait” for a year to be over and to start a new one. I may have rolled my eyes once or twice… until this year where that was me.

2018 had so many great things but also was one of the hardest years of my life so far. I desperately longed for it to be over, desperately longed for newness.

But here’s the thing: just because the clock hits midnight on a certain December date doesn’t mean everything instantly changes. It works in Disney movies but not real life. I think that’s why I found myself rolling my eyes at post in the past (and at myself this year.) It’s just another day, like any other day.

January 1 might not change things, but I don’t have to stay where I was… I can change things and that’s really what I was feeling heading into 2019… that I needed to change. Whether the circumstances that made 2018 challenging continued or not, I HAD to find new ways in this new year to look at them.

In preparing for a trip last week, I skimmed through the books on my shelf and those available for digital checkout from the library to take along and came across Ann Voskamp’s “One Thousand Gifts”. I’ve read this before, shortly after I came out. I loved it then, I’m loving it now. The lessons are nothing new, but the reminders so necessarily in this season.

“Joy is the realist reality, the fullest life, and joy is always given, never grasped. God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: joy.”

Joy. Yes, that’s what I want in 2019. That’s what’s been missing lately. Life. I was a full life.

“Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world.”

Rejecting joy. As strange as it sound, I know that. But choosing joy is the better way… a smack-in-the-face to the hard of life to say, “You can’t steal my joy.” Oh and light… that feels right too. In a dark, dark world we all need light. And so, as the author Ann does, I start counting the gifts.

1. hope

Yes, this is the greatest gift in this new year, a gift that comes from counting the other gifts.

2. Clouds, white and fluffy, a blanket in the sky

14. Sunshine

17. Chick-Fil-a waffle fries

21. Seeing young adults studying the Bible unprompted

36. a little girl in a wheelchair dancing with her daddy

And as the January days tick by and the list grows longer, hope grows, joy renews, light breaks in…

58. the fact that I got paid today to spend the day in Florida with a group of awesome young women playing mini golf, swimming in the pool, and dressing up as giant gift in a Christmas parade

59. Friends who check in and truly care

66. Banana with peanut butter

And I list the hard gifts too, the things we don’t want to be thankful for but can see God in, the gifts that come alongside the hard…

78. Grace to cry

79. Vulnerability and honesty in safe places

91. Scrapping plates in the dish room (not the glamorous job, but joy is found in humility too)

144. Access to health care (even if I see the gift in a week of too many medical appointments and being sick in the first place)

164. People who hold out hope for you when you can’t and honestly can say “I know what it feels like…”

And as I count the gifts, these words from another favorite book jump off the page confirming this challenge, this dare:

“We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.” Colossians‬ ‭1:11-14‬ ‭

Power.

Endurance.

Patience.

Joy that comes in thanking the Father.

An inheritance that’s secure.

Rescue from darkness.

Living in light.

Yes, I’ll count the gifts. The hard ones too. For the Giver is a a good one and he loves me, his dear daughter. And I guess this no-resolution girl has a resolution after all… to keep counting the blessings this year… maybe even two thousand and nineteen of them… maybe even more.

Because in counting the gifts, I find glimmers of joy.

In counting the gifts, I discover light for myself and light for the world.

In counting the gifts, I fight for hope.

Books, Uncategorized, What I'm Reading Wednesday

Best Books I Read in 2018

I read a lot this year. In addition to reading through all 66 books of the Bible I managed to make my way through 51 other books. It’s hard to decide which were the best, but here are a few that definitely rose to the top:

Daring to Hope by Katie Davis Majors
This was actually a re-read from 2017, but so worth it! I love the authentic and honest way in which Katie writes and even more so the way in which she lives. In a year where hope was at times hard to come by, this challenge to DARE to hope was a great reminder!

When God Made Light by Matthew Paul Turner
Yes, even some children’s books made my reading list for this year, and for good reason. This one by Matthew Paul Turner (along with his first children’s book “When God Made You”) are wonderful reads for children and adults alike. These books are also wonderfully illustrated by David Catrow

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
I can’t encourage people enough to read this book. It was a hard read, but such a good one, and a helpful one too. It’s one I need to read again and again, and other books like it, to understand more of what I likely will never completely be able to understand.

Everybody, Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People by Bob Goff
While the title does a pretty good job of summing up the entire book, this makes the top reads list simply because it was a FUN book to read. I got the audio copy from the library and loved listening to Bob’s adventurous stories chapter after chapter.

The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazis by Neal Bascomb
This piece of historical fiction is probably the closest I’ll come to adventure/spy type novels. I enjoyed hearing about aspects of history I didn’t know much about before.

Leading on Empty: Refilling Your Tank and Renewing Your Passion by Wayne Cordeiro
This was probably the best work-related book I read this year at the recommendation of a friend who found it to be helpful. In a season of illness that kept me from being at 100% at work, it was some great encouragement to keep moving forward despite limitations while still creating spaces and routines of rest.

It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered by Lysa TerKuerst
This new release probably gets my #1 spot for this year. The prayers based on Scripture at the end of each chapter alone made it worth me buying my own copy after having first borrowed it from the library. The honest way in which Lysa shares about life’s disappointments without feeling the need to wrap it all up with a nice pretty bow was refreshing. Life is raw sometimes but as the subtitle promises, strength can be found even in the most disappointing places.

WHAT WERE YOUR FAVORITES FROM 2018 THAT I SHOULD ADD TO MY 2019 LIST?

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(All links in this post are Amazon affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

Bekah's Heart, What I'm Reading Wednesday

Yes, Please!

One of the books I recently finished was Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. I think it might have been a better fit in a different season of life, but I still enjoyed her spunky spirit, honesty, and vulnerability that came across so well in the audio-book version I listened too.

While I finished the book a couple weeks ago, suddenly a passage of it came to mind last Saturday night.

I was texting a friend about other stuff and mentioned how tired I was. It had been a good day, but a long one and body and brain were maxed out. She offered to drive over and do a simple task for me.

I turned her down.

It felt ridiculous. It felt dumb to let her stop what she was doing to come do something so simple for me. I couldn’t shake the thoughts of “Seriously, Bekah, just get up and do this task that literally will take less than a minute.”

She wanted to help. She wanted to serve me. She wanted to love me in this tangible way, even if it seemed silly to me.

But I said no.

Long story short, she came over anyway. (Because when you have friends that are like family, that’s just what you do for each other.) While I had already done the task, she showed up “just to give me a hug”. She lingered. She sat with me and simply was the friend I needed that night… the friend I almost missed out on because of my own stubbornness.

As she left, suddenly a section from that book popped into my mind. I didn’t process it too deeply the first time I heard it, having been framed in the context of motherhood. After this experience with my friend I realized that while I’m not a mother, the general concept still applies, especially in this current season I find myself in:

“Find a tribe of people who are in a similar walk of life as you are. Once you find them, be honest about where you are and what you’re struggling with. Learn to ask for help, and when someone offers help, accept it! Accept any and all help you can get and consider it a gift from God! I cannot tell you how many women ask me how I “do it all,” and when I tell them that I’ve learned to ask for help, they look at me as if I’m an alien.

“Like, help with what?”

For example, when your mother-in-law says she’ll come for the afternoon and entertain the kids, say, “Yes, please.” If your husband offers to fold the laundry (even when you don’t think he’s good at folding towels), say, “Yes, please.” If your girlfriend says she wants to bring you dinner but you feel bad that you’re putting her out, say, “Yes, please.” Or if your elementary school offers afternoon classes that will occupy your rambunctious boys for an additional hour and a half, say, “Yes, please.”

What can give you more time, more space, more freedom to find your center? Whatever it is, say, “Yes, please” to that!” – Rachel Hollis – Girl, Wash Your Face

When talking about self care and boundaries, we often talk about how the hardest but best thing to say is “no”. “No” to extra commitments. “No” to social engagements that aren’t fun for you. “No” to tasks and to-do list items.

Perhaps another favorite phrase should actually be: “Yes, please.”

I am WAY better at receiving help (and sometimes even asking for it!) than I used to be. I learned even more after my surgery in May when I had to depend on those around me for everything. However, it’s still easy for pride to slip in from time to time and I push away help in the process.

Just because I’m technically capable of doing something doesn’t mean help isn’t valuable. I may not NEED it, but perhaps help is a gift my friends (and ultimately, my God) want to give. So, my prayer is to be come more of a “Yes, please” person.

If someone volunteers to do something for me at work, I pray I will simply say, “Yes, please”.

If a friend offers to plan the details of an outing I initiated, I’ll ignore the nagging voice that nags: “You should be responsible for following through on this” and simply smile and say “Yes, please.”

If a family member or mentor or friend offers to spend time to talk and encourage me on a good day or a hard day or just any random day, I hope I’ll quickly say, “Yes, please.”

I’ve always found joy when others let me serve them. It baffles me that I can’t seem to remember the reverse is also true: maybe others find joy in serving me.

So, if my best friend wants to come put my groceries away or do my dishes or just stop by to give me a hug at 8:30 on a Saturday night because she loves me and wants to serve me… I pray next time I won’t turn her down, but instead will unlock the door and text back: “Yes, please!”

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Other Books I’m Reading or Finished Recently:

Books

Resurrection Year {What I’m Reading Wednesday}

A friend recommended the book “Resurrection Year” by Sheridan Voysey a while back and I finally got around to reading it last week. This is the story of Sheridan and his wife Merryn who tried for years and years to have children. They dreamed of welcoming children into their home whether that was through biological birth, foster care, adoption, or other means. They prayed. They waited. They wrestled with God. This book outlines their story along with a year they now call “Resurrection Year”, a year in which they began to find healing from the hurt they experienced through this journey.

While I finished the book over a week ago, I’m still not completely sure what my own thoughts and reflections are. I loved the book, but it also is forcing me to consider and process some things in my own life and faith.

I will say this: I appreciated reading a book that ended without “the bow”. So many stories try to make it all pretty by the time you flip the last page, Voysey didn’t try to do that here. Loose ends still remained. Questions still lingered. Hurt still needed healing.

And that’s how life works.

Reading this challenged me to consider some of my own dreams and how God works in them. It strengthened some things I already thought and made me question some other assumptions I had about life and faith. It pushed me to lean in and trust on a deeper level. Seems like perhaps it did just what the author hoped.

Other Books I’m Reading or Finished Recently:

Books

The Rest of God {What I’m Reading Wednesday}

This past week I finished reading “The Rest of God” by Mark Buchanan. A funny story about this book is that when I picked it up a couple months ago and started making my way through it, I thought I was re-reading it. I had posted quotes from this book and recommended it to others. I even bought a few extra copies of the ebook one day when it was on sale to give away. (Which, if you’re interested in a free copy, comment below!) I was so convinced this had been one of the best books I had read (especially on this topic) and was looking forward to revisiting it as I entered into a season of more intention rest following my surgery.

Then, I started reading and realized something crazy: I’ve never read this book before! I had definitely read parts of it, but there were whole other chapters I had never seen.

Thankfully, it didn’t disappoint! Not one bit. The truth it spoke as I’ve picked it up and put it down over the last few months has been timely, helpful, and encouraging.

One great thing about this book is that after each chapter it gives an idea for a “Sabbath Liturgy”. By the end of the book you’ve been equipped with 14 ideas for how to live in the rest of God (as in resting) and discover the rest of God (in the sense of there’s so much more still to discover). The chapters leading up to each liturgy are packed with humor and theology and stories from the author that not only point out our need for rest, but the amazing God who longs to give us this great gift. The book talks about Sabbath both as a day set apart and an attitude with which we walk through life. In the end, it points forward to a day where we will enjoy eternal rest forever. In a world where we seem to compete to be the busiest and then wonder why our lives are falling apart, Buchanan offers another option.

There are so many great things I could share from this book, but here are a few that have stuck out specifically to me:

“Sabbath is both a day and an attitude to nurture such stillness. It is both time on a calendar and a disposition of the heart. It is a day we enter, but just as much a way we see. Sabbath imparts the rest of God—actual physical, mental, spiritual rest, but also the rest of God—the things of God’s nature and presence we miss in our busyness.” (Page 2)

“It’s easy… to spend most of your life breaking Sabbath and never figure out that this is part of the reason your work’s unsatisfying, your friendships patchy, your leisure threadbare, your vacations exhausting. We simply haven’t taken time. We’ve not been still long enough, often enough, to know ourselves, our friends, our family. Our God.” (Page 61)

“Exodus grounds Sabbath in creation. Deuteronomy grounds it in liberation. Exodus remembers Eden, Deuteronomy Egypt. In Exodus, Sabbath-keeping is about imitating divine example and receiving divine blessing. In Deuteronomy, it is about taking hold of divine deliverance and observing divine command. Exodus looks up. Deuteronomy looks back. Exodus gives theological rationale for rest, and Deuteronomy historical justification for it. One evokes God’s character, the other his redemption. One calls us to holy mimicry—be like God; the other to holy defiance—never be slaves again…

Slaves don’t rest. Slaves can’t rest. Slaves, by definition, have no freedom to rest. Rest, it turns out, is a condition of liberty. God calls us to live in the freedom that he won for us with his own outstretched arm. Sabbath is a refusal to go back to Egypt..” (Pages 87-90)

And my very favorite… the one that drew me in to actually reading this book:

“…the truth is, the work’s never done, and never done quite right. It’s always more than you can finish and less than you had hoped for. So what? Get this straight: The rest of God—the rest God gladly gives so that we might discover that part of God we’re missing—is not a reward for finishing. It’s not a bonus for work well done. It’s sheer gift. It is a stop-work order in the midst of work that’s never complete, never polished. Sabbath is not the break we’re allotted at the tail end of completing all our tasks and chores, the fulfillment of all our obligations. It’s the rest we take smack-dab in the middle of them, without apology, without guilt, and for no better reason than God told us we could.” (Page 93)

Other Books I’m Currently Reading:

These two books came available as audiobooks through my local library around the same time. It’s been interesting to listen to them both alongside each other right now. They have such different writing styles and purposes but seem to be offering just the right balance of wisdom from two ends of a spectrum. Hope to write next week about these two!

And again, if you’d like a free Kindle version of “The Rest of God”, comment below! I have a few to give away!

Books

What I’m Reading Wednesdays {September 5, 2018}

Here are a few favorite quotes from two books I recently finished:

“Anyone who thinks it’s easy to get to the States as a refugee has no idea.”
“It was light out when we found them, the sun rising slowly in a pale blue sky, casting a warm glow over the fields of sorrow and grief. I remember thinking: How dare the sun rise, as if it were any other day, after such a gruesome night.”
As a child, I witnessed the unthinkable: I saw my sister murdered before my eyes because of discrimination and hate. But I have learned that if we want to change the world, we can’t harden our hearts and shut ourselves off from other cultures. … We must open up our hearts.
“I realized God never picked the wrong girl for ministry. The enemy picked the wrong girl to mess with!”
“If we want to be free, we have to move beyond confessing our need for healing. We also have to believe this truth: Christ came, walked this earth, paid the price, bought us, and set us free. He declares, You are free; be who you already are.”
“I don’t know why God answers some prayers immediately and not others. It’s a mystery. What I do know with full assurance is this: God has given us the freedom to ask him for anything–anything. Perhaps in God’s economy what’s most important is that we have the freedom and faith to ask. What if we lay aside our concern about the result of our prayers? What if we simply confess and declare what we have been given–the freedom to ask?”
“Paul asked God to remove his thorn, and God offered him a humble heart instead. Sometimes we ask for a healing we can see, and God offers instead a heart-healing we can’t see. So, yes, it sometimes seems God has a purpose for allowing our brokenness to continue. Still, we confess our need for healing and wholeness. We pray against the brokenness of the world.”
“Somehow, when I’m faithful to the grieving process, when I give in to mourning, I find great freedom on the other side. … Every time we express grief, we allow Jesus to absorb our pain.”
“One day I told Jesus I felt like my brokenness was too great. Maybe I’d thwart his plans for my life. Instantly I heard, What if your purpose is for me to love you?”
"God didn't pick the wrong girl for ministry. Satan picked the wrong girl to mess with!" ~ Rebekah Lyons Jeremiah 1
Books

What I’m Reading Wednesdays {August 29, 2018}

Over the past few years reading has become a favorite activity. As cliche as it may sound it really does open my mind and heart to worlds outside my own and I love it. I also have found it to open my eyes to myself.

Imperfect Courage by Jessica Honegger

Both of these are true in the book “Imperfect Courage” that I mentioned in last Wednesday’s post. Wow. This books is blowing me away as it speaks into my life. There are many things I could share, but perhaps the one that currently stands out most is this:

In this book about being courageous, taking risks, and making an impact in the world, Jessica shares that perhaps the most crucial element toward success is community. We are not designed to live in isolation, yet our hearts default to comparison, judgment, self-doubt, fear, and shame.

When I read this quote pictured above about vulnerability, suddenly it all made sense. God had been showing me the truth of these sentences time and time again over the past few years. What a joy to look back and see Him at work.

In my decision to become “mom” for 10 months to a 17-year old from another country, a group of incredible women created space for me to process life vulnerably. A Facebook message feed was filled with empathy, grace, and encouragement as I walked through the single-first-time-mom-of-a-teenager life, wrestled with doubts that came up, struggled with insecurity every step of the way, and did battle with the devil and all his lies.

When I waited for six months wondering if I had cancer, anticipating surgery, and still figure out how my body is adjusting to life missing half of a gland that impacts every major organ in my body, my family, friends, teammates, and even strangers rallied around, covered work tasks, sat in waiting rooms, showed up on tear-filled nights, celebrated good news, provided meals, and so much more.

When I get overwhelmed by ministry life, doubt if God has the right girl for the job, or feel as if the work I put in day after day after day might be in vain, God shows up in communities of fellow DCEs and campus ministry leaders and comments from students congregation members to encourage me to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

I am so, so thankful for spaces where vulnerability is not only welcomed but expected. In each of those situations though, I couldn’t have been shown the encouragement or empathy I needed if I didn’t take the courage to share. Met there with grace and Hope and love, I do see how God tears down the lies Satan uses to trap our hearts and replaces them with truth that launch us into the bold, crazy, awesome life He has for each of us.

I’m looking forward to continuing through this book and processing what it means for the next season of my life.

Other things I’m reading:

The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb

  • This is an audiobook I finished on 8/25. As someone who always claimed to not love history, I realized in listening to this book that that’s simply not true. I was not good and did not enjoy learning history the way in which it was often taught in schools, but if a teacher would have handed me a book like this I would have eaten up every fact!)
  • Single, Gay, Christian by Gregory Coles
    • I’ve had this one on my shelf at work for over a year at the recommendation of a friend. I’m thankful to finally get to read it and for books where people courageously share their stories.
  • You are Free by Rebekah Lyons
    • This is an ebook I’ve been coming back to here and there for a while. I love it each time I read a section, but find it’s one that takes some processing time, not one to sit down and get through in one shot.
  • How Dare the Sun Rise by Sandra Uwiringiyimana
    • I missed listening to audiobooks this summer. My default is to have one constantly on hand to listen to in the car or while doing dishes or housework. This summer my mind needed that space away from noise. I’m excited to get back into this habit that allows me to get through typically at least one book a week even if I don’t have time to sit down and read. Looking forward to hearing the brave story of this young woman, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo.