Just Open the Door Book Review

I opened up this book because it drew me in. I have been looking for books on how to practice biblical hospitality for a long time, but most ended up being a how to guide for entertainment. I knew based on my upbringing and personality that entertaining was not for me. I am not the Pinterest perfect lady who can make a gloomy room sparkle. I am not gifted in this area. I can barely match my clothes, so when it comes to interior design or making things elegant, I am not your gal.

I have, though, experienced hospitality. The kind where you are welcomed into the less than perfect home. Eat off of chipped plates with mismatched forks and face no opposition when you offer to help wash the dishes in the sink. Given a couch, and invited to stay for as long as you need. This is the type of hosting that made me want to become a great host myself. Knowing this, God sent this book my way. From the second I began to dig in, Jen made it clear that Entertaining and Hospitality are not the same. I let out a huge sigh of relief.

We don’t need to have it all together. More times than not, we won’t. In fact, if we are waiting for the perfect time- impeccable home, elegant arrays of dishes, high energy levels, it will likely never come. But something beautiful happens when we invite people into our space, as is. With dishes still in the sink, with a let’s cook breakfast for dinner plan, after a long and tiring day for the host and guest. This is where the floor is opened up for true, real, and raw vulnerability.

In this book, Jen shares practical advice as well as personal stories that really got my creative juices flowing. I was inspired to be the neighbor I desire to be, the friend, the coworker, the servant. She made it seem possible to open my door regardless of the mess in my home or in my heart on any given day. I am convinced now that this is the heart of hospitality, the heart of Jesus.

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In Bloom Book Review

In Bloom by Kayla Aimee throws out every single run-of-the-mill Christian Woman’s piece of writing out there. For many of us, the out of context and quick fix notions have grown stale. Life is hard and none of us have arrived. We don’t want a sermon or a speech. We don’t want a self help book, either. As you read this book, you’ll find yourself nodding your head and saying “me too” more times than you can count. You will also say things like “wow, she just went there” and “YES!!!” many, many times. Her quick wit and numerous references from her teen years are endearing and keep any possibility of boredom far away. If you grew up in church, her honest descriptions of what youth group life was like, both inviting and messy, are everything you’ve ever looked back on and thought to yourself. She sheds a light on what it is like to have a past of sin and the shame that we are told should still cling to us by those in our own congregations and in leadership. She shares a list of vulnerabilities ranging from marriage struggles, to motherhood struggles, to friendship struggles and everything in between. If you’ve ever felt left out, unsure, or like “too much”, this is a book for you. Truthfully, it has something in it for every woman because we have all at some point compared ourselves and faced insecurity. You will feel as if you’re being encouraged by a friend who has not yet arrived either, so she is willing to walk through the mess alongside you. It isn’t preachy or neatly boxed. It’s real and raw and fun and by the end, you will feel like you just made a lifelong friend. I received a copy of this book from B&H/Lifeway for the purpose of this review. You can find In Bloomhere:https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/in-bloom-kayla-aimee/1126513386?ean=9781433686115

 

What Taking A Social Media Hiatus Taught Me

Before you read this, I want to have it on the record that I do not hate social media. In fact, I think it’s an amazing tool that God uses in our lives. A tool such as most technology, medicine, and transportation. But it is just that: a tool. And just like any other tool that adds value to our lives, when used in excess or used obsessively, it can be harmful to us. I needed this lesson more than anyone else. These are simply my thoughts and observations.
Though I want to limit my use, I won’t be deleting all my social media accounts and retreating into the woods to live as a nomad for the rest of my days. The intention of this post is to prompt you to stop and think. What are your reasons for having this thing that takes up so much of your precious time? What are some pros and cons? What are some ways to limit it (something most everyone I’ve talked to wants more of)?

I love social media for…
-Keeping up with and keeping updated friends who live in different places than me (literally every single friend I have)
-Networking
-Sharing things I’m passionate about and learning about things others are passionate about
-Encouraging and spotlighting the amazing people in my life
-Being inspired by those who are chasing and killing it at mutual dreams
-Keeping up with ministries and movements I love

Here are 21 things (one for each day away) that happened when I put away social media (including a few from friends who had some things to share on the subject):

1. Comparison is a killer, and when it comes to social media, it is an endless cycle of comparing. If you struggle with this as much as I know most of us do, taking a break may be exactly what you need to readjust and remember who your identity is found in. Then get back on it with the mindset of being INSPIRED instead of wishing you had a different life.

2. False community is a real thing on these apps, and we need to be aware of it. It is easy to neglect meeting together if you feel as if you are part of an online community. At times, specifically when we want a reason to hide, it gives us excuses to neglect in person, face to face fellowship that our hearts desperately need.

3. It is an addiction for most of us. The first three days I kept trying to click on my Instagram app every five minutes (sometimes it was about every three). I almost started timing myself but I was too ashamed of what the results may be. I literally had to take those days to detox in order to feel fully human again without my machine that I feel is an extension of myself.

4. I was much more intentional about answering my messages. I mean, MUCH more. All the excuses from before seemed to fade away. There was no distraction, no reading and forgetting. I responded to people much faster, in much more detail, and more intentionally than ever before.

5. I called people more often. When you aren’t connecting over social media constantly, need to hear all the details from your loved one’s mouths, creating real connection that is deeper than a simple “like”.

6. My mind was freed up of so much unnecessary chaos. I have always tried to be intentional with only following up-building accounts and keeping up with friends, but even the GOOD can be bad when it’s overloading us.

7. My creativity skyrocketed. I had so many thoughts and so many ideas that I actually paid extended amounts of attention to because there was no distraction. I executed goals because I seemed to think more clearly and focus more deeply.

8. I paid much more attention when I studied and read for pleasure. When you aren’t checking your phone every ten minutes, you’d be amazed how focused you can be.

9.  I did not feel as if I was out of the loop. When my friends posted something they wanted me to see, they sent it to me. I did not feel like I was missing out on much. 

10. I started looking for ways to stay current with news that did not include Facebook. Shame on me for only using Facebook as a news source, but that’s what it was. You find that even news social media sites are mostly opinion.

11. I finally did something about that “storage full” iCloud notification that always pops us because, well, there wasn’t much else to do on my phone!

12. Since pretty much the only things on my phone were my bank account app, waze, and google calendar, I ended up spending ridiculous amounts of time on the Bible app. Since this was a fast, that was the point. But I actually finished those 4 day devos I had started.

13. There is a genuine anxiety that overcomes us when we feel like we need to be aware of everything going on, and we can’t complete tasks until we’ve scrolled all the way through our feeds.

14. I was not able to network. Every time I wanted to post a blog or share my latest writing endeavor, I knew it was useless without the ability to post it with a link.

15. I looked people in the eye for the entire period of time I was with them. It was truly an incredible thing.

16. It sounds clique, but there really is a whole world to see and you only catch it in the periods of time in between scrolling through when you are glued to your phone.

17. I lacked a platform for encouragement that I truly enjoy using.

18. My procrastination was significantly cut down because there was nothing I could get on to distract me and give me the false sense of productivity. If I was going to procrastinate, it was usually with something else that needed to get done.

19. I lacked encouragement from other people’s journey’s that I typically got inspiration from.

20. I was able to account for every minute of time I spent and most of it served one purpose or another, even if it was resting. Time is our most valuable resource and social media can sometimes be the black hole it gets lost in. Where did that hour go? Oh, I spent it scrolling.

21. It forced me to form my own opinions without the interference of everyone else’s going through my mind before I’ve come to my own conclusion.

Here are some things that I will begin implementing in order to control my social media use that you may want to consider as well:

-I have decided to fast on my “Sabbath” every week. That day is usually Saturday or Sunday for me. I hope to have this as a less intense but very needed detox time. You may choose a different set time, but getting away at all is a great thing. The purpose for this is to remind myself of my dependence on God alone (shoutout to Jefferson Bethke for the idea).
-In all the research I did, I kept seeing this suggestion for condensing your checking and scrolling to specific times. So that may look like setting an alarm for a half hour twice a day and only going on your apps then. It may look like one mid-day check in and then closing it out until the next day. This is a way to connect while not being OVERLY connected.

-Here is a pretty basic one, but important all the same. Turning off your notifications. They really know how to get ya with those annoying red dots. Get rid of them Who needs updates for most of this stuff anyway?
-Last but not least, try condensing the accounts you have. Do you really need 10 different social media accounts that do pretty much the same thing? Or can you have less, meaning less to check and scroll through? My top and only three are Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. Anymore than that is overwhelming for me.
Over the past 21 days, I’ve had a lot of time to think about social media and it’s place in my life. I now know that I want it controlled by me, not in control of me.  

Hear me out: social media is the ultimate double-edged sword. Networking, using our voice, having a platform for what matters, keeping up with the ones we love, displaying our creativity and growing our businesses: social media is a TOOL and God has His hand in. it In this day and age, it is a necessary tool in all aspects of life. But as we know, anything used for good, when used apart from self-control and pure intent, can also be used for bad. And we see this all around us, even in us. 

I don’t have it all figured out, but I am on the journey to doing better. I want to be better. I want to use this tool better. And I want to challenge the people I love along the way.

A Light on the Hill Book Review

How many hidden and untold stories are between the pages of the Bible stories? How many beautiful lives that never got the spotlight, only seen as one collective people, actually have their own unrevealed narrative? There must be thousands, maybe even millions. In this story, Biblical fiction writer Connilyn Cossette tells us Moriyah’s tale. She brings to life the account that could have been, one that is surly similar to many true narratives. Biblical fiction brings out in us a desire to truly know the backstory of the stories we have read and heard hundreds of times. It sparks our interest in the Bible in a new and different way. It makes us think that maybe we aren’t too different than those who were present for some of the biggest events in history, and surly the biggest in our faith’s history.

One of the greatest things reading this novel did in me was crave the Bible in a way I never had before. As a result of reading this book, I also went through Joshua. In between the pages of Connilyn’s first book in her “Cities of Refuge” series, I felt a spark of interest in the old testament that I had never experienced before. I love how detailed her historical research was. Every reference made me crave to learn exactly where I could find more about it in the Word. You will not regret digging into this story of love, loss, and redemption. You will no doubt relate to Moriyah’s battle with feeling as if God has walked away from her because of the events in her life, as well as her struggle against guilt and longing for love and true acceptance. It is ultimately a story of the Father’s redemption that will bring out in you so many different and even foreign emotions. For any lover of historical, biblical, or romance fiction, this book is for you. For any lover of the Bible stories, the Israelites rich history, or the old testament, this is for you. This book truly has it all and I can’t think of a person who would not eat away at every single word.  I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers for the purpose of this review.Processed with VSCO with p5 preset

The Anxious Christian Book Review

The anxious Christian offers an honest in depth overview of what a life with anxiety looks like. Rhett takes us through the ups and down of struggling through anxiety all his life, the triggers, forms, and the history of it. He offers us hope through his story that we can use our anxiety for good and God glorifying purposes.
The anxious Christian changes the game. It is the book that shifts what we have been told about anxiety all our lives, what the church believes about it, and makes it a tool instead of a shame. This book will teach you how to use what most would say we are better off without as a catalyst to follow God to the fullest. As someone who struggles with anxiety on a daily basis, someone who has grown up in the church and knows the stigmas attached, this book was a breath of fresh air. It will open your mind and shift your views in order to look at something as difficult as anxiety as a way to follow Jesus more fully.

28575617_1851093568242518_33676810067770520_n I received a copy of this book from Moody Publishers for the purpose of this review.

The Formula for the Heavy Heart

I sat down at my laptop today without a plan. I usually have bullet points, notes, or unfinished writing to help me begin to write a piece that is well rounded and beautiful. Important and relevant. But today, as I scrolled through my writing prompts that I collect in the day to day, I decided I didn’t want a plan. I just want to share my heart.
Friendship multiples the good of life and divides the evil.

I called one of my best friends the other day with a very heavy heart. It is typically very hard for us to talk on the phone. We text daily, but we end up having to plan days in advance and even then sometimes end up cancelling and letting weeks go by with more phone call planning. But I felt like God put her on my heart in that moment for prayer, so I called. She stepped outside of the building she was serving in – already taking care of people – to talk. I asked her to pray for me, so she did. She didn’t push me for prayer prompts, or ask me to explain, she just prayed.
This is the height of community, fellowship, godly friendship, sisterhood. No matter what name you give it, this is what it looks like: the formula to fix a heavy heart.
That encounter was just one of many to follow. I decided to take my heavy heart and place it aside, so I made some more calls to other sisters. One’s I haven’t talked to in weeks, or months even. And I asked them about themselves. I laughed and I rejoiced with them. I advised where I was asked to. I shared all the good in my own life, since there is so much of it. And somehow, that made my heavy heart lighter. After that, it was a progression of more and more experiences where being in the presence of God-filled, pure-intentioned, and kind-hearted sisters began to lift my own heart. Not once did I feel the need to dive into my own heaviness or talk through my real or exaggerated pains, not then. There is a time for this, for advice and to share in order to let go, but sometimes what we really need most is to sit with those who love us and care for each other. Not in a fake way, but in a way that knows there is more than just our own pain. When we sit with others, we realize there is a whole world outside of our own. Our thoughts and views are challenged. We realize that in the grand scheme of things, nothing is that heavy because half of the weight can be carried by another.

There is more to you than what you are currently dealing with. There is more to you than what your pain looks or feels like right now. You may know this in your head, but your heart needs constant reminding. I know mine sure does. Discomfort, pain, frustration, and any other struggle we face can easily cause us to run. To run from community, to run from the comfort of fellowship, to run from those who love us most. Please don’t let it. Lean into those around you who desperately want to wrap their arms tight around all of you. Don’t let the thought that you’ll have to share everything keep you from others. Don’t let a hard place where you need people keep you isolated. Sit with your friends, sit with your mentors, sit with your loved ones, and learn to rest in those relationships. We will always be struggling in one way or another, but it does not define us and we cannot let it hold us back from people. Don’t give any struggle that power.

Saturday Night Supper Club *Book Review*

The Saturday Night Supper Club is a novel you’ll want to sink your teeth into. It is always interesting when an author is able to combine their passion and skill for writing with another love. In Carla’s case, this is the art of food making. The Christian themes are subtle and underlying in the lives of our characters, but they are very much there throughout the storyline. Once we get into the last chapters, we see just how intertwined God’s presence is in the lives of our characters. You are able to experience skilled character development and fall in love with main characters Rachel, Alex, and their loved ones on this journey. You will see what it looks like when the walls come down and vulnerability seeps through the cracks. The story will resonate with you and will give you plenty of moments where you stop and reevaluate your own motivation and direction. unpredictable and heart stirring, this is a hard one to put down. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of this review.Saturday Night Supper Club