A Free Indeed Book Flight

A book flight is a curated sampling of reading material that shares some defining quality: theme, setting, time frame, subject matter, etc. Like a beverage flight, the samples are selected with care and presented together intentionally with the purpose of expanding the sampler’s horizons, developing literary discernment, and encouraging reflection and analysis as she considers, compares, and contrasts each book.

Ever year, MOPS International puts out a theme that guides the content for individual groups around the world who are working to encourage and equip moms of young children to realize their potential as women, mothers, and leaders. The last two years have brought themes I found to be very in touch with the heartbeat and struggles of women in general, not just moms. This year’s theme – Free Indeed – is no different.

And because I’m a total nerd, my mind goes to all the books that speak directly to the theme and three focuses for the year – Let Love Be The Loudest Voice, Be Gutsy, and Go First. Even if you’re not a mom, we all want to experience freedom and love. These books will point you in the right direction.

Just to be clear – this post is not endorsed or sponsored by MOPS International. I’m just a MOPS participant who thinks in books. :)

FREEDOM

What do you long for? What is the thing that your heart craves? Is it possible that your deepest desire is to be free? Free from worry. Free from feeling stuck. Free from hustling to be loved. Free from a heaviness you can’t put your finger on. Free from thinking you should be someone other than exactly who you are. At the core, maybe what we are all longing for is to be Free Indeed.

Wild and Free: A Hope-Filled Anthem for the Woman Who Feels She Is Both Too Much and Not Enough by Haley Morgan and Jess Connolly

Two very different women have united to share their belief that God calls us to be both wild, “walking in who God created us to be,” and free, “resting in what Jesus has done for us.” In alternating perspectives, Jess and Hayley talk about the hurts, insecurities and fears that cause us to feel like too much or not enough and the grace that covers them all. Maybe my favorite part of the book is a short, 14 line anthem to being wild and free.

Mom Set Free: Find Relief from the Pressure to Get It All Right by Jeannie Cunnion

This newer release (August 2017) seemed tailor made for Free Indeed (even the feather on the cover fits with the bird graphics MOPS is using this year) so I pre-ordered it and found myself acting like a bobblehead, nodding along to all Jeannie’s words. The desire (and resulting struggle) to be a perfect mom is real. With that desire comes fear – fear that you’r not doing it right, that you’ll ruin your kids, that you’re just not good enough. Mom Set Free addresses these fears and struggles with freedom and Truth. Jeannie is also the author of Parenting The Wholehearted Child.

Deeper Waters: Immersed in The Life-Changing Truth of God’s Word by Denise J. Hughes

“This book is about determining in our hearts to study God’s Word and obey God’s voice because, when we do, we’re set free from the brokenness that binds us and the sinful patterns that permeate our choices” (126). I might contend that this book is about more than that, but it’s hard to argue that God’s Word holds the key (Jesus!) to freedom.

Deeper Waters is a well crafted memoir interspersed with a teacher’s (Denise is an adjunct professor at a SoCal university) heart to share her knowledge about how to study and connect with the Bible. Even though her story has been punctured with a lot of heartache, Denise’s stories are permeated with a gentleness that is so enticing. I love her simple method of studying the Bible (I’ve done one of her Word Writers studies) and have enjoyed incorporating it into my own time with God.

LET LOVE BE THE LOUDEST VOICE

We will bask in the freedom of living loved by understanding who God is, and who we are because of it. We will be free from the need to hustle for our worth, and we will live in the truth that we are already loved and loveable, without all the striving. We will parent with fresh perspective and will treat ourselves with tenderness, because love is the loudest voice we hear, and it is proclaiming freedom and favor.

Love Does by Bob Goff

If you follow Bob Goff at all, you’ll notice he has a certain joie de vivre that lingers around himself and his work. How could you not when you’re office is at Disneyland? He puts hands and feet on love in a way that is contagious and confusing (because who sends flowers to the person who rammed their vehicle so hard it made them airborne?). Love Does is the kind of book you almost wish you hadn’t read because it will cause you to reevaluate life and how you live it.

Jesus Prom: Life Gets Fun When You Love People Like God Does by Jon Weece 

“He [Jon Weece] talks about the power of being present in people’s lives and the beauty of living a life of availability and inconvenience,” says Bob Goff in the introduction. Jon is a pastor of a large church in Kentucky and a darn good story teller. He uses that skill to champion the importance of love in the life and ministry of believers in Christ. Bonus: the book has a grammar theme (makes more sense when you read it, but think verbs, nouns, adverbs in relation to love). I cried and underlined my way through the stories and recommend it all the time. It’s another one of those books you almost wish you hadn’t read because it will prompt change and action.

Speak Love by Annie F. Downs

I’ve always enjoyed words and been pretty good at manipulating them to communicate. I like the creativity inherent in choosing words and witnessing them connect to others. But it wasn’t until I became a mom that I truly saw how powerfully words can effect others, both negatively and positively. It’s always gut-wrenching to watch my kiddos crumple under the weight of my words when I lose my temper and it’s a delight to see them snuggle into the security of gentle, kind speech. Not matter what age or stage we are, we have the ability to speak love, as well as do love (like Bob!). With her trademark humor and honesty, Annie Downs takes on the power of words in Speak Love.

BE GUTSY

Sometimes we don’t take responsibility for our lives. We carry the weight of expectations, feeling out of control over the pace and trajectory of our days. Being gutsy is about realizing that you get to decide how busy you are, what you say yes to, what is best for your family and what you make a priority in your mothering. The truth is, we have more authority to shape our daily lives than we think we do. Your life can match your values and your passions, it will just take some guts to make it happen.

Daring Greatly: How The Courage To Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead by Brené Brown 

Brené Brown’s entire body of work would fit nicely in the Free Indeed theme so it was hard to choose one book. No one can describe this book better than Brené: “Daring Greatly is about what it takes to bust through the fear of not being good enough and not being perfect enough and not being bullet-proof enough, the fear of failing. Instead of asking yourself what would you do if you couldn’t fail, ask yourself what’s worth doing even if I fail?”

Reading People: How Seeing The World Through The Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel

A book about personality may not be an obvious pick for this category, but I’ve found that having a deeper understanding of who I am and how I relate to others helps me make wiser, more gutsy, choices in life and parenting. Anne, of Modern Mrs. Darcy, gives and engaging, clear overview of 8 personality frameworks and does a great job of illustrating how you use this information to not only learn about yourself, but also understand how you interact with others. I’ve already returned to the chapters on cognitive functions and the Enneagram multiple times.

You still have time to pre-order and get good bonuses (like the audiobook, read byAnne, free and access to her Reading Personality class). This gem releases 9/19.

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist

I will read anything Shauna writes. Present Over Perfect, her fifth book, is a bit more prescriptive than the descriptive narrative running throughout her other books, but my soul will always resonate with simplicity and slow-living. While the entire book fits right in with the idea of being gutsy, I keep returning to one of the first chapters entitled You Put Up The Chairs. Shauna starts with a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald that perfectly describes what it means to be gusty in the context of Free Indeed: “I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you are not, I hope you have the strength to start all over.”

GO FIRST

It is a fact that freedom is contagious. That is why we are choosing to go first in order to spark a revolution of women who are choosing freedom over fear. Going first is about being courageous enough to take steps before you are ready, to share the details of your journey, to extend invitations and conquer fears, and lead the way for friends and kids and family. In fact, one of the best ways to advocate for others’ freedom is to go first ourselves, and then we can share with courage and honesty because we have found the keys of freedom. We will go first so that we can set other captives free.

Permission To Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession and Grace by Anne Jackson

One of my best friends has the spiritual gift of being vulnerable (I totally made that spiritual gift up but I do think it’s a legit gift). We’ve been friends since childhood and she’s always been willing to go first in sharing her struggles with me and those around her. Anne Jackson would call this “going first” as giving the gift of seconds. It’s always easier to do something when someone else has gone before you, paving the way. Ten plus years after reading Permission To Speak Freely, I’m still thinking about this book.

People of The Second Chance: A Guide To Bringing Life-Saving Love To The World by Mike Foster

People of The Second Chance is an ode to grace and love and the freedom that is inherent in our identity as one beloved by God. It could have easily been in the Let Love Be The Loudest Voice category, but Mike goes first by sharing details about his own life that squeezed my heart, making me reflect on the parts of my own life that are equally broken and in need of the second chance we have in Christ. I particularly resonated with Chapter Six about changing our inner dialogue.

Many of these fit within multiple categories and there are so many books I haven’t read that would be keeping with the Free Indeed theme. Have you read any these or have suggestions for this book flight? 

My Valentine From God

I was a Valentine’s Day hater. Growing up, I never had a sweetheart/boyfriend/date and I developed quite the callused skin towards this holiday that celebrated what I lacked. Valentine’s Day wasn’t devoid of joy – my mom always made a red dinner, which meant we got to have Cherry 7-Up – but I sorely missed those lovey dovey feelings associated with February 14th.

I quickly overlooked the eternal source of everlasting love in favor of pining after an earthly relationship. If only someone would ask me out or bring me flowers or write me a sweet note. My if only’s distracted me from someone who was wanting and willing to profess his undying love and adoration.

Tim and I are celebrating our first married Valentine’s Day this year. It’s full of love, but I still ache to remember the years past. I’m still learning to find value in Christ not in other people. I’m still learning to feel like a beautiful, handcrafted woman. I’m still learning to accept God’s unswerving love.

In an effort to remind myself of the primitive road my love life has been and the hope I have in Christ for the future of my love life with Tim, I wrote a valentine. It’s from God to me. It’s from God to you.

Like me, you may have passed the life stage found in this love note, but may the sentiment be an encouragement to you, right where you are. Maybe this will prompt prayers for others on the journey. Maybe this will elicit prayers for yourself. Either way, let God’s love deeply penetrate your heart and may His love fill your cup tomorrow.

The valentine is published on Kindred Grace. Read it here.

What Jane Austen Taught Me About Community

This.  This is one of the multitudinous reasons why I love my husband.  Tim is kicking off January’s Community series with a post involving Jane Austen.  I’m so proud!

Community Series

What Jane Austen Taught Me About Community

Little did I know that when I started to delve into the world of Jane Austen as part of a Christmas present for my wife, I was going to run in to an important theological concept, one that is at the cornerstone of human relationships with God and others.  In the movie Mansfield Park, Henry Crawford tries to woo Fanny Price using this profound truth: “There is only one happiness in life: to love and be loved.”

This profound statement rings true in fictional stories of far off lands and in the hearts and minds of every individual who ever lived.  Humans have an instinctive desire to love and be loved, to know and be known – to be in community.  And this stems back to, well, before Adam and Eve.

ToLoveAndBeLoved

It starts with who God is.  We worship a God who exists in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, we worship a God who is in community.  And humans were created in the image of God – in community.

Genesis 1:26 states, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness’” (NASB).

Through most of human history, many thought that being created in the image of God meant that we looked like God; that this referred to some physical quality.  However, within the last few centuries, theologians have found that being created in the image of God most likely refers to the relational aspect of our beings: our capacity to be in relationship with God and with others.

Consider Jesus’ response to the lawyer when he asked about the greatest commandment of the Law:

“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments’” (Matthew 22:37-40, NIV).

We are called to love and community because our identity is tied up within our need for relationship.  Therefore, right from the beginning of time, we were made to be in community: to know others and be known by others, to love and be loved.

We find purpose in community.  We find love in community.  We find God in community.

Jane Austen knew it.  And God created it.

Tim

Tim is living the newlywed life in Northern Idaho with his best friend, Emily.  He’s a triathlete, coffee connoisseur, and trumpet/guitar/piano player.  Seeing families connect with each other and with God is his passion.  He currently serves as the Youth Pastor at Coeur d’Alene Bible Church.

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Guest Posting & Crazy Connections

Turns out, I guest post for people who I have random connections with.  Last week it was Kayse Pratt {6 Things I Learned in 6 Months of Marriage}, who was my city-neighbor for a year, and today it’s Marie Osborne.

I connected with Marie on Twitter only to discover she is the daughter-in-law of my brother-in-law’s pastor (Pastor Larry Osborne at North Coast in Vista, CA). David, my brother-in-law, works at North Coast and knows all the Osbornes.

Crazy. Small. World.

So, I’m writing over on Marie’s blog as part of her new series called Living Out His Love:  

This world isn’t perfect. We are fallen creatures struggling to learn how to give and receive this love. How to live out His love.
 
It’s a lifelong goal for all of us. But we can stumble along together. This series, “Living out His Love,” will be a place where we can talk this out. Share about our struggles, what His word says, what we learn in prayer and practice, really trying to live out this love. How we’ve been encouraged and how we’ve been wounded by others attempting to live out His love in our lives. Our hopes, our aspirations, our past. What we thought love was and how we learned it was different. How we strive to apply this love, in loving Him, our family, friends, enemies, community, ourselves.

My take on Living Out His Love revolves around my love of based-on-a-true-story sports movies. Thank you, Rocky Balboa!

Beyond Gaps

Aside from a hefty dose of chick-flicks and Jane Austen films, my movie collection is dominated by inspirational sports dramas.  I’m a sucker for the underdog and can’t get enough of the comeback montages set to heart-moving music.

The likes of Remember The Titans, We Are Marshall, and Miracle make me cry without fail.  Maybe it was the boxing factor or the endless sequels, but my based-on-a-true-story, sports film fanaticism never touched the Rocky collection.

Little did I know that lurking beneath all the blood, sweat, and punching, there were real lessons to be learned about love from the unlikely boxer.  With a few short lines uttered in the company of his friend Paulie and a bunch of cold cows waiting to be butchered, Rocky perfectly illustrates the symbiotic nature of true love.

Read the rest over on… Marie’s Blog!

Dear Tim {31 Days of Letters}

My Love,

I had this letter all planned out.  I was going to watch our wedding video while you were at work yesterday and comment on what a great reminder it is of our beginnings and our journey and our promises.  But then, this week happened, with its ups and downs, its stress.  Yesterday did not go as planned – instead of writing about how wonderful you are, I got to witness more examples of your wonderfulness in real time.

Part of your wonderfulness stems from a vulnerability I don’t often see in men.  I love that you share your thoughts, fears, feelings, joys, and concerns so honestly with me.   Your transparency is contagious and is often the nudge I need to look beyond myself, to take down the blinders of self-focus.

Part of your wonderfulness comes from the passions I see God growing in your heart.  Your desire to see students follow after Christ is powerful.  I see your love and care for young people etched on your heart everyday as you engage in ministry.  You have stretched my own heart in this area as we serve and partner together.

Part of your wonderfulness is how you love me.  Your love makes me feel cherished, beautiful, desired, adored, and respected.  Your love makes me feel known.  You know me and you still love me.  Your love gives me a glimpse of God’s love.  If you love me despite my selfishness and sin, why do I doubt that God could love me in the same (and even greater) way?

Part of your wonderfulness is just YOU!  I can’t imagine spending the rest of my life with anyone else.

I am more proud of you everyday.  I am more in love with you everyday.  I am more grateful to God that you are my husband everyday.

Happy five monthiversary!

Love,

Your Em

You can find all my letters here.

For more information about the 31 Day Challenge, visit The Nester.