Tag Archives: book review

Present Over Perfect :: The Year of Read

20170512_142819I’ve read everything by Shauna Niequist except her devotional “Savor,” and only because I’ve been busy doing other Bible studies. I learned long ago that while I would enjoy doing multiple studies at once, it simply just isn’t possible to dedicate the amount of devotion necessary to more than one.

The desire to study, learn, grow, push on is a good starting point for revealing how this book Present Over Perfect* has effected me.

Before this book, I would have never considered myself a workaholic. I don’t nearly have the amount of demands or deadlines that an author like Shauna does. I never thought of the verb “hustle” when thinking about the activities of my daily life. But what’s interesting to me is that I read this book back in February when I wasn’t trying to run a business in addition to home educating and keeping a home. Now that I am trying to add one more thing onto my plate, I can quickly and easily identify myself with her.

But I don’t think you have to be a working mother – at home or outside the home – to value what Shauna has to offer in the pages of this book.

I wrote back in February:

I learned things about myself that I never admitted before. Like Shauna, I did not honor my body or soul – I pushed to tackle someone else’s list, some expert’s method, some guru’s diet, and I believed that on the other side of all that pushing I would receive affirmation, security, and comfort in my own skin. I would frantically try to ride a seesaw alone. One side I would push with all my work, work, working to achieve someone else’s ideals. On the other side, I would plop my tired tush down in self-justified huff because the idol of work often comes with a twin – the idol of ease. I worshiped this idol with thoughts like “this shouldn’t be so hard,” “there has to be more short cuts to this,” I deserve a break,” and “since I meet everyone else’s needs, ________ is what will meet my needs…”

Having this dual idol confronted within these pages was a difficult but freeing experience. As I read, I related to Shauna. She isn’t trying to be a theologian. There isn’t a dogmatic 3-step guide for eliminating this idol from your life. She doesn’t point her finger out of the book and wag it at the reader.

She writes her story and invites you to reflect – no altar call, no burden of guilt, no message of superiority, no “I’ve got it all figured out now, and so should you.”

She stays human throughout every page.

I pulled out a number of quotes that resonated with my soul, and I hope that in sharing them you will be blessed by the reminder to be present in your right now life.

“I’ve always trusted things outside myself, believing that my own voice couldn’t be trusted, that my own preferences and desires would lead me astray, that it was far wiser and safer to listen to other people – other voices, the voices of the crowd.” – page 27

“It seems to me that Christians, even more than anyone else, ought to be deeply grounded, living a courageous rhythm of rest, prayer, service, and work. That rhythm is biblical, and it’s one that Jesus himself modeled. It seems to me that Christians ought to be free in meaningful and radical ways to bow out of culture’s insistence on proving and competing. Again, like Jesus. It seems to me that Christians ought to care more deeply about their souls than their bank accounts and pant sizes. But I am a Christian, and I am guilty of all these.” page 84

“It’s very hard to be loved and connected to the people in your home when you’re always bringing them your most exhausted self and resenting the fact that the scraps you’re giving them aren’t cutting it.” page 109

“There is a way of living that is so sweet, so full, so whole and beautiful you’ll never want to go back once you’ve tasted it.” page 161

“This is what our culture wants women to be: skinny and tired, from relentlessly shrinking and hustling. To be clear, I have nothing against people who are really skinny, whether that’s just how God made their bodies or because fitness and nutrition are central parts of their lives. You do you, skinny people. But I’m going to do me, and me is not skinny.” page 186

I think I might be pushing the limit on how many sentences I can quote without permission, so I better stop!

For me, the most important part of reading this book is living in the reality that my past operation – feeding the idol seesaw with more, more, more efforts – has to completely stop. I can’t close the cover of Shauna’s story and think – well that was nice for her, I hope some day I’ll be able to understand this in my own life.

In my life, reading Shauna’s story is a right now confrontation. It calls, tenderly, for a right now change. A right now stillness. A right now reflection. A right now filling because the “Present” part mean so much more than simply counting my attendance in life.

Present to me means: Spiritually awake, submissive to God’s sovereignty in the right now, open and surrendered in active prayer, conscious of the state of my soul, and patient and prayerful while stewarding my schedule – allowing for both work and rest, and learning the dance of being still within even while there is chaos around me.

Thank you, Shauna Niequest for sharing your story. Thank you for sharing your wrestlings and wonderings – the Spirit used them in my life to help me connect and correct.

I hope you are reading something that is feeding your soul! If you are – tell me about it in the comments! And check out what else I’ve been reading by clicking here.

*Afflink

Boundaries with Kids :: A Brief Book Review

Boundaries with Kids

Very few rules with very great follow-through.

That was my parenting motto before reading Boundaries with Kids by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. I felt like a pretty good parent with the exception of the occasional hormonal outburst when I felt like my brain and my mouth weren’t connecting very well.

I wasn’t sure how much I was really going to learn about parenting from this book, but I was given a copy and encouraged to read it. So, I did even though I usually avoid all parenting books.

Why?

Well, it definitely isn’t because I came naturally to motherhood or boundaries.  And I’m sure pride does play a major part in my previous avoidance of all books in the “parenting” category, but the bottom line for my aversion was fear. Fear of knowing more than I could do.

For me, consistency is huge. Follow-through is one of the foundational building blocks for trust, and I want my children to trust me almost more than I want them to love me (or maybe real trust is real love).

Selfishly then, I try to do my best on my own with what I already know so that I’m not over burdened by all the wonderful opinions and advice contained in all the popular parenting manuals. Because if I know better but can’t perform better then I’ll be too discouraged to even try.

Not to mention the confusion of conflicting messages contained within the top 5 books. Each book forms an “exclusive club” – spankers, praisers, behavior modifiers, etc. I didn’t want to feel conflicted by the pressure to be a purist in any single method.

But Boundaries with Kids by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend was a lot more than just a parenting method book. This resource contains a wealth of information on how to define healthy boundaries, how to unpack the principles of healthy boundaries, and how to execute the principles.

Often when we are speaking on the topic of kids and boundaries, a mom will ask for help with a problem: “I set the boundaries for behavior for my child. But she keeps crossing them. What do I do?” The answer is, “That’s what is supposed to happen. You are the parent. You have a job. You job is to set the limits and enforce the consequences in love. She is the child. She also has a job. Her job is to test the limits many times with her active aggression and thereby learn about reality, relationship, and responsibility. It’s the divinely ordered training system.”

This quote contains the main concept of the book. The authors did a thorough job of answering my top questions: Why do we need boundaries? How are boundaries different than “rules?” What does it look like to set and maintain boundaries? And will there be growth and fruit in the parent-child relationship because of boundaries?

I discovered that I over empathize with my children’s emotions. The scenario of a crying three-year old when mommy leaves the house really hit home with me, and I had to take a hard look at some of the ways I project my feelings (adult size) onto my child. Doing this isn’t fair to the child and it isn’t helpful for building reliable (and loving) limits.

Speaking of “loving limits” – this reminds me so much of the children’s program in BSF. If you want to find a Bible study that has child care, check out Bible Study Fellowship. Their children’s leaders follow such beautiful guidelines for working with and training children that I often felt like this book and their manual could be complimentary. (BSF children’s leaders are some of my very favorite people!)

The other major wake up call for me was in identifying that my children are often passive boundary crossers. Oh my, isn’t it so sneaky how our bent towards self and sin can be masked by being compliant? This section is contained later in the book and up until this point I was reading along with a (slight) chip on my shoulder, thinking we were doing pretty good. I don’t have the kid that throws a WWIII level tantrum in the grocery store – so I’m good!  

Ugh. Nope.

I now think that how my children behave (and how I’ve trained them to behave) is harder to correct than a child who needs to be redirected in their active boundary crossing.

{Groan.}

While this has created more work for me and has opened my eyes to see the change that needs to happen, it has birthed enough hope and desire for healthy relationships that I feel motivated to work on establishing healthy boundaries. Besides, this is the year of GROW, right? It all fits.

There were a few things that I didn’t love about the book though, and it took a lot of concerted effort to finish this book. (I was often tempted to put it down in favor of lighter, more entertaining reading.) But I want to FINISH what I start this year. I want to follow through on even the little things that I start. This is part of how I measure growth in my own life.

Here are the ways I feel like the book fell short of being the “perfect” parenting book:

  • There aren’t enough stories. The stories that are included mainly focus on working out boundaries and consequences with teenage kids. Some of the most powerful applications of consequences were dependent on the child having to stay home alone while the rest of the family enjoyed an outing.
  • The conversations included from their own younger children didn’t feel organic. I felt like I was reading “staged” material.
  • When scripture was included, it was used to support their principle without much context or explanation of the verses. I felt like they could have developed the connection using scripture as their starting point.
  • I was hoping for more practical ideas for consequences. I’m not creative enough to figure out a consequence that will really teach. A “time out” sometimes is exactly what my 9 year old introvert wants! Win win for her, she disobeyed and got alone time too! I was looking for ideas on how to correct without being too complacent or too strict.

I do recommend this book, especially for anyone struggling with discerning where their identity stops and where their child’s starts. It’s all too easy to get emotionally tangled up in doing our very best for our kids. But like it was pointed out in the book, my parenting is temporary. The goal is to raise an adult with healthy boundaries.

Check out Boundaries with Kids. And check out what I’m reading this year!