Free of Me


It’s not about you.

And how often do I make EVERYTHING about me?

“What about me?”  “Why didn’t I get…?” “Do they not like me?”  “Are they talking about me?”

So much of our insecurity is rooted in self-focus, in holding a mirror up to ourselves and trying to measure our circumstances around us in that light.

But what if it weren’t about you….

This book is about so much more than insecurity, though for me, that’s a big takeaway.  The idea that so much of my own insecurity could evaporate by focusing on God, and God’s plan in any given situation, is both comforting and incredibly challenging all at once.  I haven’t fully digested it yet, as I just finished the book, however, I’m sure there’s life application in it somewhere!

Sharon Hodde Miller talks about seven mirrors we use to reflect our lives, when we shouldn’t be using mirrors at all.  I promise the analogy will make piles of sense if you read the book for yourself, and for now you’ll just have to trust me.  But I was convicted and challenged about making church about me, making my friendships about me, making my appearance about me… and more.

Culminating in how loving God sets us free, and why we were designed to love and serve others… this book was so refreshing.

It’s no wonder Ann Voskamp has said that this book “may be one of the most important truths of our time.” (according to the front cover of the book… I don’t know Ann personally, though I wish I did, and I don’t think we live too terribly far from each other……. but I am not a stalker lol.)

I digress.  A lot, actually…. back on track here.

Our me-centered culture affects every area of our lives–our relationships, calling, self-image, even our faith–and it negatively impacts each one. The self-focused life robs our joy, shrinks our souls, and is the reason we get stuck in insecurity.

In Free of Me, Sharon Hodde Miller invites us into a bigger, Jesus-centered vision–one that restores our freedom and inspires us to live for more. Drawing from personal experience and Scriptural insight, Sharon helps readers

· understand how self-focus sabotages seven areas of our lives
· learn four practical steps for focusing on God and others
· experience freedom from the burden of self-focus

If you’ve been yearning for more than a self-help faith, then this paradigm-shifting message of true fulfillment is for you.

 

What others say about Free of Me:

“One of the best things for a healthy marriage, workplace, parent situation, or any calling is to realize the world is not orbiting around our axis. True joy is found when we realize there is a bigger story to tell. In Free of Me, Sharon paints this picture more beautifully than anyone I know.”–Jefferson Bethke, author of Love That Lasts

“Sharon spotlights the crippling disease of self-focus and shows us how to break free from its entanglements. If you want to walk in God’s life-giving truth, this book will help you do just that!”–Lysa TerKeurstNew York Times bestselling author; president of Proverbs 31 Ministries

“In a culture captivated by self, this book is a must-read.”–Christine Caine, founder of A21 and Propel Women

Sources:  All quotes came from the covers of the book.

Book was provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. and Baker Publishing Group.

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2018 — An obligatory New Year’s Day post


It is 2018.  It is January 1st.  Actually, in the time zone I inhabit, by the time I’ve hit publish on this post, it’ll likely be January 2nd.  Thankfully, I’m currently chilling in the Rockies and Mountain Standard Time has gifted me with two whole extra hours — something I’m thankful for tonight, but was annoyed by at this time last night as I set myself a reminder alarm to remember to text my Ontario peeps at 10 pm to wish THEM a Happy New Year!

Anyway, I digress.  Where was I?  Yes; it’s 2018.  Nothing really feels like it’s changed from yesterday.  But yet, so much has, hasn’t it?  We do this yearly.  We wait til January 1st to start things.  We spend the last week of December eating all the junk food in our houses in hopes to start fresh January 1st.  I was a day late with this silly plan and made my last bag of chips my personal mission for today.

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But it doesn’t have to be like this.  Futility doesn’t have to be our best friend as we launch into every single new year.  New Year’s Resolutions don’t have to be a to-do list that extends no further than the first week of January.

In the fall of 2016, my dear friend Rachel sent me a link to this thing she’d heard of called Power Sheets.  Lara Casey and her team make them over at Cultivate What Matters.  It’s designed for intentional life planning.  Intentional goal setting.  Progress.  Not perfection.  Rachel and I dove right in.  We each ordered a set and split the shipping (since it has to come from the States and the shipping is steep), and we dug in.  (This year 6 of us ordered and split shipping — highly recommend this if you’re Canadian and want your hands on a set!)  We did the prep work while discussing all of our goals together, and we were ready over the course of about a month of intentional thinking, planning, and praying to meet 2017 head on.  For me, it felt like 2017 was going to be the year I finally got my act together and stopped making resolutions I couldn’t keep.  Resolutions I knew even as I made them I wouldn’t keep.  But it’s what we do, right?

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I can’t say that my Power Sheets were overwhelmingly life-changing in 2017.  Though maybe I can — it’s hard to achieve perspective since I don’t have a 2017 without Power Sheets to compare it to.  I don’t know.  It certainly wasn’t the productive year I’d hoped it to be.  The entire point to Power Sheets is to set goals, track your tending lists, make progress, and cover yourself in grace when you fall short of your own expectations.  After all, we don’t keep pushing into what we want to change when we feel defeated and like it’s hopeless, do we?  Progress.  Not perfection.  But I know they made some difference.  I was able to measure growth in some areas.  Some were more stubborn than others, and I’ve had to re-evaluate what I really wanted to see change in this year to make sure that I was choosing the right goals.  But more importantly, I’ve had to evaluate the why for my goals.  Why am I choosing this?  Am I choosing “be healthier” because I think people will like me more?  Or am I choosing it because I actually want health and I want to be able to do things I’ve only ever dreamed of — like learn to surf.  The prep work at the beginning of the planner for each year asks big questions and makes you look deep into the whys, and I know I got to the root of some of my wishes for 2018.

I don’t have my 2017 book with me.  I don’t have the list of goals I chose for 2017 with me because they’re in my book, and they’re in Ontario, and I am not.  But I do have the goals I’ve chosen for 2018, and I’d like to share them with you.  I’d like to be a little bit vulnerable and put them out into the air for the blogosphere to read.  This year, I’ve chosen bigger, over-arching goals.  There’s a Facebook group dedicated to Power Sheets users where a couple people have referred to them as “umbrella goals.”  They’re more like a topic where I want to do some work in my life this year, and then the more specific goals (which I have a lot of for 2018) will work their way into my monthly, weekly, and daily check-lists for each month.

Without further ado, here are my umbrella goals for 2018:

  1. Finances ~ Saving and not spending needlessly.  Obviously each month will have specific targets for this.  I’d been working on it throughout 2017 as well, and with some careful planning and some good timing, I managed to pay off a pile of debt in May, and have been relishing in the freedom of that ever since.  Can I recommend You Need A Budget (YNAB) to you?  Seriously, it changed my life in March of 2016.  Jesse Mecham, the creator, has written a book and it just released last week.  It’s on my list of things to do in January.
  2. Spiritual Growth ~ Depth.  I want a relationship with Jesus that is marked by reliance, listening, and trust.  That doesn’t come from just thinking about it and hoping it comes.
  3. Fun ~ Responsible Fun; Not running to fun to escape uncomfortable emotions.  This felt like a funny goal, but through a lot of introspection this year I’ve discovered something I don’t really love about myself.  Where I’d perpetually thought I just liked to have fun, it dawned on me that I’m prone to running to fun as soon as I don’t want to deal with something that doesn’t seem fun.  Awkward relationship situation?  I run away.  Work sucks?  I want to switch jobs — it isn’t fun!  Pain?  No fun.  Let’s go on vacation instead.  Where I want to goal-set around fun this year is to make sure it’s not my escape, as much as it is something that is just necessary to live.
  4. Mental Health — This is something I began to take very seriously in 2017, as I battled some anxiety that it turned out had been simmering just beneath my surface for a long time, and I’d never dealt with it.  I’ve started seeing a counselor, and I honestly can’t recommend a professional therapist enough — seriously.  You get to talk about yourself for an hour, and you don’t have to do anyone the social courtesy of listening back to them.  My goals here revolve around leaning into stress and anxiety and the situations that cause them so that I continue to get better at managing and reducing both of these things.
  5. Leadership — I am a leader.  For better or for worse, I’m in leadership positions in my church and at work.  I’m not sure how this happened.  I’m honestly not sure how I got here.  But people see potential in me, and I’d like to harness it for good!
  6. Health — this one is so common.  How many of us set healthy lifestyle New Year’s resolutions?  This one could be a whole post for me, but it’s a very raw spot at the moment, so… nope!  That doesn’t sound fun!
  7. Creativity — Brene Brown once said in a podcast interview I was listening to her on (For the Love with Jen Hatmaker) that “Unused creativity is not benign.”  It hit me to my core.  For a long time, I’ve wanted to write but have been too afraid people wouldn’t buy it.  I’ve wanted to paint but have been self-conscious because I’m not as good as someone else.  I’ve wanted to be a better musician but again, compare myself to others and always fall short.  But if unused creativity is harmful to me, then this needs intentional work as well.
  8. Bravery.  It has occurred to me that I am not that brave.  I’m a pretty big chicken, actually.  So 2018 needs to hone in on some of those areas where I could use some bravery the most.  I read Annie F. Downs’ book “Let’s All Be Brave” (buy it on Amazon here) in November, and I cried through parts of it.  I’m so ready to be brave.  So ready.  I highly recommend the book, but if you’re determined to stay seated in. your comfort zone, it may not be for you.  I’m doing her 100 Days to Brave devotional starting as soon as I get home (as it’s arrived in Ontario before I have).
  9. Adventure — I thrive on this.  It’s linked to my fun, and it’s linked to my finances.  I found a lot of my goals are linked to each other — I actually created a very messy flow chart that reflects that!  But I will have adventure based goals.  Where will I travel next?  Europe is calling — Scandinavia?  The South of France?  Switzerland (the land of my ancestral people)?  Who knows?
  10. Relationships — This is not just the romantic kind — though that’s pretty intrinsically linked to bravery.  I want to be intentional.  I want to be present.  I want to be brave.  In all of my relationships.

 

And there you have it.  My over-arching umbrella goals.

Do you set goals?  Do you make resolutions?  Do you keep them?  If you’ve been a successful Power Sheets user, I’d love to hear from you!  I really want them to help me make big changes this year!

Even if you don’t use Power Sheets, I highly recommend both of Lara Casey’s books.  They’re less intensive than using Power Sheets, but still give you lots of great tips and encouragement for living a more intentional life.  Get Make It Happen on Amazon here, and get Cultivate on Amazon here.

A Dangerous Legacy


My last Elizabeth Camden book pulled me in thoroughly, so I was quick to get a hold of this one as well.  A Dangerous Legacy is first in a series Camden has named “Empire State.”  The characters drew me in right away.  I finished the book in two days.  I actually had even planned to spend New Year’s Eve reading it, but…. that would have been anti-social so I opted to be a decent human being instead 🙂

Like I said, I loved the characters.  Siblings Lucy and Nick Drake are endearing, hard-working, and brave.  I loved that about them!  Sir Colin Beckwith appears to be arrogant, but he’ll grow on you so quickly!  There are sinister characters at play too, though, and Lucy and Nick have to fight hard against a dangerous family fight waged before they were even born.

Telegraph operator Lucy Drake is a master of Morse code and has made herself a valuable asset to the Associated Press news agency. But the sudden arrival of Sir Colin Beckwith at rival British news agency Reuters puts her hard-earned livelihood at risk. Colin is talented, handsome, insufferably charming–and keeping a secret that jeopardizes his reputation.

Despite their rivalry, Lucy can’t deny that Colin has the connections she needs to give her family an edge in the long legal battle they’ve been waging over their rightful inheritance. But when she negotiates an unlikely alliance with him, the web of treachery they dive into proves to be far more dangerous than they ever could have known.

I loved seeing the inner workings of Reuters and the Associated Press agencies in their earlier years, and the part of me that always wanted to be a writer/journalist growing up wistfully imagined a life where I got to send transmissions into one of the agencies that I’d picked up from somewhere around the world.  I love the life I have, so I quickly put the thoughts to bed, however, it didn’t stop my love of this plot line in any way.  I also loved the historical details put into the early years of indoor plumbing.  I found it fascinating, especially having just finished another book set in Chicago in the 1890s (ten years prior to this one) where tenement housing was a reality for a couple of the characters.  Tenement housing (I had to look it up) was housing complexes built where multiple families shared tiny spaces, and there was no running water.  Families often had to walk good distances and up or down many flights of stairs for access to pumps to get water, and it was often unclean and the source of sickness and death.  This story involves pressurized valves that allow hot and cold water alike to flow up multiple stories in a building, and it was fascinating.

If you have a love of historical fiction as I do, please check out this book.  It’ll be a quick, short read if you give it a go.  I love love loved it!  Stay tuned in 2018 for Empire State # 2, which switches its focus to be more about Nick than Lucy.

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Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Where We Belong


Oh my stars, this book.  This beautiful, wonderful book.  Historical fiction is my jam to begin with, so I knew I was going to like this book.  But I didn’t know I was going to adore and devour this book.

Where We Belong is the story of two sisters, Rebecca and Flora Hawes, who do not fit the mold of the 1890s Victorian era society they were born into in Chicago.  They’re well-read, they’re intelligent, and they’re adventurous; and they’re determined to find what God’s purpose for their lives might be.

The story, crafted wonderfully by Lynn Austin, details so much of the adventure, in pieces woven expertly together.  Just when you feel like you need more information in order to understand what’s about to happen, Austin goes back and delivers exactly the information you need to continue.  The story criss-crosses through the lives of the sisters, plus their butler, Soren, and their ladies’ maid, Kate, as the crew travels across the Sinai Desert to find a rumoured ancient biblical manuscript.

I can’t give you more information than that, but I can tell you that at times I was so enthralled by this book that I couldn’t imagine having done anything but read.  It’s a good thing it’s Christmas break, because I spent the majority of my last 3 days (including being up WAY too late last night finishing) reading it.  I related so deeply to the characters, especially to Rebecca, that I couldn’t stop.  If I’m being honest, I have a bit of a book hangover now that it’s finished and I blasted through 470 pages so quickly.  I’ve taken a break for most of today, though I may start the next adventure tonight.  Time will tell.

There wasn’t a lot of romance, though there was an element of that woven throughout the characters’ stories… but I appreciated the lack of romance in this one.  I really wanted the adventure and the history, and I sure got both.

This is my first Lynn Austin book, but if the rest of her historical fiction is as delightful as this was, I’ll certainly be back.

I was even more surprised and delighted to find that the story, while truly a work of fiction, is based on the lives of two real-life sisters.  I won’t give you any more detail than that, because to do so would give away important plot points, and I know you don’t want me to do that.  But I promise, when you get to the end of the book, you’ll want to read the very last page at the back that gives you the details of the real-life sisters that Lynn Austin based her work of fiction around.

“Join two incomparable sisters on adventures that span the decades and cross the globe.”

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Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

 

Dangerous Illusions


This book was full of twists and turns and I just did not see them coming.  I obviously can’t tell you any of them — it’ll ruin everything.  But know that it all flows together very well, and it will keep you turning page after page… after page… after page.  Especially toward the end, you will not want to stop reading.  I conveniently saved the end of the book for a 4.5 hour flight, so I had little to do BUT read, but nonetheless, it was a great read.

As usual, Irene Hannon crafts characters that will draw you in and make you care about them immediately.  She’s a master at her craft.  I think this is my third of her books?  But it’s my first of her suspense novels rather than just her contemporary romances.  I’ve read both of the books in the Hope Harbor series, and am looking forward to the third one coming out in 2018, but I digress.  This first book in the Code of Honor series has suspense, intrigue, and thrill galore.  I can’t wait now for the second one to come out in 2018.

Trish Bailey is on overload trying to deal with a demanding job, an ailing mother, and a healing heart. When a series of unsettling memory lapses leads to a tragic death–and puts Trish under police scrutiny–her world is once again thrown into turmoil.

Detective Colin Flynn isn’t certain what to think of the facts he uncovers during his investigation. Did Trish simply make a terrible mistake or is there more to the case than meets the eye? As he searches for answers, disturbing information begins to emerge–and if the forces at work are as evil as he suspects, the situation isn’t just dangerous . . . it’s deadly.

Bestselling and award-winning author Irene Hannon captures readers with a mind-bending story that will have them doubling back to retrace their steps–and figure out what they missed!

I highly recommend it, as I have with the other two books of Hannon’s that I’ve read.  I’m a bit in awe of a writer who can jump back and forth between two rather different fiction genres as she does as well.

Check it out, and please let me know what you think!

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Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Fierce Hearted


I listened to this book as an Audio Book using my Audible membership, because I can knock them off in 3 days in the car.  It was a real treat to do it this way, actually, because Holley Gerth narrated the audio book and when you listen to a book narrated by the author, you get a real sense of the passion they had for what they wanted to communicate.  I’d started to read it in real life before bed, but then I also started doing an Advent devotional and I was finding I’d fall asleep before I got a chance to keep reading Fierce Hearted, so I got it in Audio Book format.

It was delightful.  It was a mix of personal anecdotes and stories, blended with Biblical truth, and infused (a nod to the Tea chapter — chapter 18) with humour, all aimed at helping women be fierce, brave, and exactly who God designed you to be.

Every day we struggle to find more freedom, joy and purpose. What if the solution isn’t trying harder or being better but embracing the fiercehearted woman already inside us?

A fiercehearted woman looks life in the face and says, “You can’t beat me.” She lives fully and loves bravely. She never gives in, never gives up, and never lets go. She dares to be who she is—imperfect and beloved.

In her most powerful and personal book yet, bestselling author, counselor and life coach Holley Gerth empowers and encourages women not simply through “how to” but by life-changing, heart-freeing “me too.” Join Holley on this journey to becoming a fiercehearted woman and discover what she did: the freedom and courage to embrace life, love, and faith to the fullest because your struggles can no longer hold you back.

You can tell that Holley Gerth has been involved in counseling and life coaching by the way she writes, asks questions, and invites her readers to dig deeper into what’s holding us back from being fierce and brave.  Since that’s one of the things I’m delving into in 2018 — becoming fierce, becoming brave — I highly recommend this book.  It’s an easy read with the personal stories Holley infuses into the Biblical truth and sage advice.

Are you ready to live fully and love bravely?  Start 2018 off with this book and be inspired to make a plan to do so.

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Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Here I Raise My Ebenezer


What do you think of when you hear the word Ebenezer?  Scrooge?  Charles Dickens?  Yeah, me too.  A miserable, grouchy old man who won’t be charitable for anything…. until the end of the story, of course, but the image sticks.

But in the last few weeks, it’s been popping up  around me, and none of those times were in the context of A Christmas Carol.  When that happens, I tend to listen, because I tend to wonder if maybe somebody somewhere might be trying to teach me something.

The first place I heard it was at work, of all places.  I teach English as a Second Language, and my case load is populated mostly by low German speaking Mennonite students.  Because of the prevalence of these students in one of my schools, the Christmas program is still pretty much the way I remember Christmas programs being when I was in elementary schools — about Christmas.  Now, don’t misunderstand me — I work in public schools, and I’m not about to go preaching that Christ is being ripped out of Christmas just because public schools don’t typically sing songs about Jesus at Christmas pageants anymore.  But at this school, because of the climate of the school, the kids do — because it’s what mostly everyone thinks and believes.  One of the classes I’m working in is singing an old hymn in low German at the Christmas concert.  I recognized it to hear them practicing, but because they’re singing in German (which to my dismay I do not speak), I couldn’t place it.  Thankfully, one of the boys was familiar with its English counterpart and was able to tell me that it’s “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” which has this as one of the verses:

Here I raise my Ebenezer
Here there by Thy great help I’ve come
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wandering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood

First thought:  What does Ebenezer mean??  Being a person who loves words, I wouldn’t let that one go.  And even if I’d been tempted, the word kept coming back up anyway.

P.S. Fifteen middle schoolers singing Come Thou Fount in their first language?  Yeah, try not to choke up while they practice…. just try.

It came back again while listening to an Audio Book.  The thing with these schools is that they’re not really close at all to where I live in the city.  They’re quite rural, and they’re about an hour away from my house.  That means I spend two hours a day most days in my car.  That means I plow through Audio Books like nobody’s business.  Thank you, Audible!  So I was listening to Lara Casey’s “Cultivate What Matters” ahead of my PowerSheets prep for 2018 (this whole sentence will get a whole other post at the end of December…. wait for it……) and it came up again.  Lara Casey started talking about Ebenezer, and then she even sang that verse of Come Thou Fount in the audio book!  I just love it when audio books are read by their authors.  That brought the word slamming back to the forefront of my memory.  And if that didn’t solidify the need to look it up and figure this out, didn’t I drive past a church called Ebenezer Christian Reformed Church on my way to a Christmas party that night?

OK, I get it.  I have something to learn here.

If you read 1 Samuel 7, you read the story of the Israelites going out to do battle against the Phillistines while Samuel was making a burnt offering.  God sent them supernatural help — verses 10-12 say:

10 Just as Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines arrived to attack Israel. But the Lord spoke with a mighty voice of thunder from heaven that day, and the Philistines were thrown into such confusion that the Israelites defeated them. 11 The men of Israel chased them from Mizpah to a place below Beth-car, slaughtering them all along the way.

12 Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah.[a] He named it Ebenezer (which means “the stone of help”), for he said, “Up to this point the Lord has helped us!”

Now, I’m not into slaughtering people, and I definitely believe that Jesus came in part so that we no longer need to do physical battle against each other.  That said, it’s pretty clear that God helped Israel here, and the Israelites can see that.  Samuel named a stone “The Stone of Help” for a reason.

Lara Casey writes a book using the metaphor of gardening to help us cultivate what matters into our lives (again, more at the end of December), and in it she encourages readers to find a stone, and literally put it into your garden or somewhere in your home as an Ebenezer.  A stone of help.  A reminder that the Lord is a helper to us.  A visual reminder that God is good.

The Lord is my helper.  The Lord is my Ebenezer.  Now I need to go find an actual, physical stone to put somewhere in my house to remind myself of this when the big feelings roll in.

Ebenezer means “stone of help.” From then on, every time an Israelite saw the stone erected by Samuel, he would have a tangible reminder of the Lord’s power and protection. The “stone of help” marked the spot where the enemy had been routed and God’s promise to bless His repentant people had been honored. The Lord had helped them, all the way to Ebenezer.

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Deadly Proof


This was a great book!  For the most part, it kept me company on a train ride to and from Toronto (because who wants to DRIVE to Union Station!?  Not this girl!!), so I read the latter half of the book in one day.  Awesome!

Kate Sullivan is a lawyer who’s just been tapped to be lead counsel in a “corporate cover-up lawsuit against Mason Pharmaceutical.”  She knows this case could make or break her career, but as the case unfolds, what she didn’t expect was that it could also ruin friendships, and even put her in danger.

In the biggest case of her career, attorney Kate Sullivan is tapped as lead counsel to take on Mason Pharmaceutical because of a corporate cover-up related to its newest drug. After a whistleblower dies, Kate knows the stakes are much higher than her other lawsuits.

Former Army Ranger turned private investigator Landon James is still haunted by mistakes made while serving overseas. Trying to forget the past, he is hired by Kate to look into the whistleblower’s allegation and soon suspects that the company may be engaging in a dangerous game for profit. He also soon finds himself falling for this passionate and earnest young lawyer.

Determined not to make the same mistakes, he’s intent on keeping Kate safe, but as the case deepens, it appears someone is willing to risk everything–even murder–to keep the case from going to trial.

With characters that were well developed and engaging — some set up so you’d dislike them right from the start, and others that you just don’t see coming — Rachel Dylan crafts a story that “rivals a John Grisham novel,” or so says Dani Pettrey in a quote they used on the front of the book.  I’ve read Dani Pettrey’s books before and as a great suspense writer herself, if she sings high praises, I’m all in.  Another award-winning author is Lynette Eason, and her endorsement was printed on the back of the book.  How could I go wrong?

Well, I didn’t go wrong at all.  Pettrey and Eason weren’t kidding.  This book was fantastic from start to end.  It reminded me of the tv show “The Practice” that was on years ago, in the way things were described.  Granted, I haven’t seen it in years, but still — that’s the imagery it evoked.  I’ll absolutely be keeping my eye out for Rachel Dylan in the future, and with my new Amazon Audible subscription, maybe my books-to-read list can shrink faster and I can get there!

I highly recommend you give it a try!  And if you’re curious about the other authors I mentioned, check out Always Watching (Lynette Eason), book 1 in the Elite Guardian series (I haven’t read the others, though they’re on the 500-book-long list….), or Cold Shot (Dani Pettrey).

Have you read Deadly Proof?  What did you think?

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Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

 

Unused Creativity is not Benign…


I’ve been listening to podcasts lately.  A good friend of mine kept sending me recommendations on iTunes, and since I spend an insane amount of time in my car every week (an hour each direction to work), and I’ve been getting tired of just listening to music (not that music isn’t amaaaaazing)…..

A couple have really hit me.  Like… punched me in the gut, and knocked the wind out of my sails.  I was driving along and life was all good, and the following words came out of Brené Brown’s mouth:  (I can’t remember if this was from her appearance on Super Soul Sunday with Oprah Winfrey, or For the Love with Jen Hatmaker — I think it was For the Love, but listen to both anyway!)

Unused creativity is not benign. It metastasizes. It turns into grief, rage, judgment, sorrow, shame. We are creative beings. We are by nature creative. It gets lost along the way. It gets shamed out of us.

Shame has gotten in the way of so many things for me, as I’ve reflected on what that’s looked like over my years.  Some of them I am not ready to talk about yet.  I’m just not.

But creativity?  That, I can talk about.

See, creativity is a muscle.  You have to develop it.  And there’s skill involved in it.  It’s not just talent.  It doesn’t just happen.  It’s not something you either have or don’t.  Everyone has something they like to do that flexes that creative muscle.  Some of us bake.  Some of us cook.  Some of us write.  Some of us paint.  We take pictures.  We design rooms.  We write music or we play music.  We landscape yards.  We build bookcases.  We just…. create.

But when we try to create and we don’t like the result that comes out of it, it gets really real.  It gets even more real when someone else calls us out on it.  Even if they didn’t mean to.  Our creativity gets stifled by others.  It happens when we create something, and others don’t see the value that we do.  Maybe we baked something and it didn’t turn out great, and it didn’t get eaten wherever we took it.  Maybe, like several of my Paint Nite endeavours, we’ve painted something and it did NOT turn out like the example.  Maybe we haven’t opened the case of our violin (or other, more generic, musical instrument….) since February because we feel like we’ll never be as good as ___________.  (Comparison is the thief of joy ~ Theodore Roosevelt)  Whatever the case…. I can’t help but wonder… who are we being creative FOR?

If I’m being creative because I want to impress others, I’m doing it for the wrong reason.  But if I’m being creative — if I’m designing, painting, baking, capturing, and creating…. and if I’m doing it because I know that if I don’t, I’ll wither and shrivel under the weight of judgment, grief, rage, sorrow, and shame, I will thrive.

So….. this is why I’m here.

I’m flexing my creative muscles.

I was listening to Luvvie Ajayi on Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love podcast, and she was talking about how she got started as a writer.  She said that she jumped into the blog world when it was still called web logging, and she felt like she had to do it, because it was how she processed the world.  And that hit me too, because there have been many times that I’ve expressed my need to write to process.  I’ve also thought about wanting to write a book, but I’ve even verbally admitted that I’m too afraid no one will like it, no one will read it, and it won’t be successful.  Luvvie Ajayi started me to thinking, and then Brené Brown hit it home.  Who am I writing for?  Why am I writing?  I love this!  I LOVE this!  So why am I hiding behind the fear that no one else will like it, if I should be doing it because my soul needs it, craves it, and begs me to get stuff off my chest by clacking my keyboard?

I don’t know the answer to that question.  I don’t know where the niggling voice of shame comes from that says no one will like it if I hit publish, and I should just sit on my deepest thoughts.  It’s likely that they don’t all belong on the internet, but some of them do – many of them do – and I am going to be brave.

I am going to write more than book reviews.

I am going to say no thank you to the voice that tells me I’m not good enough.  No, that’s not true.  I’m going to be much more forceful with that voice.  It has no place here.

Hi, my name is Laura.
I’m a writer.
I’m a painter.
I’m a photographer.
I’m an artist.
I’m designing my own basement renovation.
I’m a baker.
I’m a cook.
I’m a musician.
I will stop hiding from these things that I love.
I am creative.
I will create.

 

Gracelaced ~ a review


Ruth Chou Simons is an artist and author who has written a stunning devotional that takes you through different seasons of the heart.  The tag line is “Discovering timeless truths through seasons of the heart.”

I haven’t done any part of the devotional yet.  There’s a part of me that rebels against the idea that I could start with fall, when I got the book, since the devotional starts with winter, and I’m just particular that way.  I like to do things in order.  Who jumps around books out of order?  That’s madness!  (Apologies to those of you who’d have no problem with it.  I actually kind of admire you!  I just can’t live like that, haha.)  But I digress.  I am, however, planning to start it the day that fall gives way to winter, and enjoy every moment of it.  The artwork is spectacular, and there are plenty of places for reflection, deep thought, and responding.  There are also accompanying scripture references for you to be able to “delve deeper” into each topic — topics such as dwell, ask, broken, masterpiece, pruning, new, rejoice, forgive, held, light, and peace.  I’m very excited to go through this devotional.

I highly recommend that you also check out Ruth’s website — https://gracelaced.com/.  There you can find journals, note cards, and prints — all featuring this stunning artwork.  Some of it may or may not end up on my Christmas wish list…. I absolutely adore word art.

You can order the book here or on Amazon.  If you get it, I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I know I’m going to!  The art alone is worth the buy — paired with scripture to match each season?  I’m in!