One of my favorite things to do is to read, and when I find a book that I love, I want to tell others about it. So, below are some of my favorite non-fiction books that I’ve read this past year. What’s a book that you’d recommend?
At the beginning of 2016, I started this blog because I felt led to share more of my story with others. As an introvert, sharing personal information about myself does not come naturally to me, but God continued to prompt me to write and share. So I did.
Forty-three blogs later, I've come to the end of 2016, and I realized something pretty amazing. My hope and prayer has always been that God would use these blogs to encourage others, and while that may have happened, He has actually used these blogs to encourage me.
Re-reading my blogs has reminded me that I can trust God in the present and with my future, because He has always been faithful and loving in the past.
I have been reminded that joy and pain can co-exist and that we weren’t meant to experience either alone.
Looking back, here are my top 10 (most read) blogs of 2016. I hope they encourage you, and I look forward to writing more in 2017.
I recently finished reading Jenny Simmons' latest book, Made Well: Finding Wholeness in the Everyday Sacred Moments.
Made Well is full of stories – stories that will make you laugh and stories that will probably cause you to shed a few tears. All of the stories remind me that healing is possible but often comes in unexpected ways.
What I admire most about Jenny Simmons is her willingness to be vulnerable. She shares stories from the lives of friends and family members, but also honestly shares struggles she has faced in her own life. Through those experiences, Jenny has learned:
“Healing happens all the time, even if a cure doesn’t. I am invited to be made well even when the broken things don’t get put perfectly back together. Healing happens.”
This quote resonates so much with me. The truth is, God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we would like. For 9 years, I watched my mom battle breast cancer, and I prayed that God would heal her. I wanted that healing to take place here on Earth, but instead my mom was healed when she met Jesus.
What does healing look like for those left behind after a devastating loss? God often reveals His love to us through others. Many times it’s through simple acts: someone brings us food or runs errands for us, we receive a card or text/e-mail, someone asks us to share memories of our loved one, or they are willing to simply sit with us in our pain. Being “made well” doesn’t mean our grief disappears. Instead, it’s love displayed in ordinary moments. Moments that give us hope in the midst of our grief.
One of my favorite chapters of Made Well was Chapter 6 – “Psychiatrist, Therapist, Pills – Oh My!” First of all, the title made me laugh. Then, I thought, “Is she really going to write about this?” The answer is yes! I’m especially thankful for this chapter because of the words of truth that are shared:
“Naming our broken bits is the first step to finding healing for them. Inviting someone else into your journey might be your bravest decision.”
Jenny invites us into her journey of seeking help for anxiety, OCD, and ADHD. She reminds us that God does amazing work through counselors, doctors, and sometimes He even uses medication to bring healing.
It was so refreshing to read this, as many people think it’s a sign of weakness to ask for help. I used to be one of those people. Now, I see asking for help as a sign of strength.
Like Jenny, God brought healing to my life through a Christian counselor. Sitting in her office that first session and naming my “broken bits” was scary, but it was a huge step on my healing journey.
Part of my brokenness has been the result of experiencing childhood sexual abuse. It was something that I kept a secret for most of my life. Breaking the silence allowed the healing process to begin. While I won’t be completely restored until I meet Jesus, I am currently in the process of being “made well.”
Healing has come through the love and support of family and friends, learning healthy ways to deal with my emotions (writing, exercising, music), connecting with other survivors of abuse, and reading books, articles, and blogs by people who honestly share their experiences. Realizing I'm not alone has brought comfort and hope.
Healing has come through words of truth spoken by pastors and friends at my church. While I still struggle at times with feelings of shame, guilt, and unworthiness, they have reminded me of who I am in God’s eyes.
Do you desire healing? If so, allow others to walk with you on the journey.
God still performs miracles, but many times healing happens in the small everyday moments of life. It may even happen while reading the words and stories of Made Well.
“Healing in this life is but a foretaste of what is to come.”
I’m always looking for new books to read, and I recently came across a book by Jenny Simmons called The Road to Becoming: Rediscovering Your Life in the Not-How-I-Planned It Moments. Jenny was the lead singer of the Christian pop/rock band Addison Road. Even though their band had their final performance in 2012, I still love their music. Their song, “Hope Now” continues to be one of my favorite songs.
Jenny’s book was actually part of a package deal – I would receive an autograph copy of the book, Jenny’s solo album, and a handwritten note from her. I was planning on buying the book anyways, so this was an easy decision. Sold!
I must admit, I was expecting the handwritten note to simply read, “Thank you” or maybe, “Thank you. I hope you enjoy the book and CD.” I mean, what author/singer has time to write personalized notes of encouragement to her fans? So, imagine my surprise when I opened my package and saw the above note. Jenny also included my name when she autographed the inside cover of the book. I was impressed by these personal touches, and it reminded me that God knows us by name and cares about all the little details.
In The Road to Becoming, Jenny Simmons shares personal stories from seasons of her life that she refers to as: The Dreaming and Destruction, The Burying, The Lostness, The Waiting, and The Becoming.
“The death of a dream, plan, or person we love dearly is not the end of the story. It is, however, the starting point on our road to becoming. That place where eventually, somehow, someway new life is birthed.” Jenny Simmons
Jenny talks about the importance of acknowledging and grieving the losses in our lives, but also shares how God can bring something good out of something we might never expect. You'll have to read the book to learn how God did this in Jenny's life.
While my life experiences are very different from Jenny’s (I have never traveled the country on a tour bus, performed for thousands, or had a song on the radio), I could relate to the fact that my life now is very different than how I imagined it to be years ago.
Growing up, I envisioned a life full of happiness. I dreamed of getting married, having a house full of kids and pets, living close to my family, and becoming a teacher.
What does my life actually look like? While I have experienced lots of happiness, I’ve also experienced quite a bit of heartache. I’ve never been married, I don’t have any kids, I’m allergic to cats and dogs, I had to drastically change my diet when I discovered I have a gluten sensitivity, and I live hundreds of miles away from my family. The only thing that worked out as I had planned is that I’m a teacher.
When life doesn’t go as planned, I remember these verses:
Isaiah 55:9 - “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Jeremiah 29:11 – “ For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
How has God brought something good out of my unplanned moments? He took my heartache and used it to give me a passion to help those who have experienced abuse and motherloss. Being single has allowed me more time to volunteer and serve in various areas. Going gluten-free helped me gain back my health. While I live far away from my biological family, God has blessed me with amazing friends from work and church who have become like another family to me. If my life would have gone as I had initially planned, I would have missed out on all of these things.
We won’t always understand God’s ways and that’s ok. It’s in those unplanned moments of life that we often learn how to trust God the most. We may be caught off guard by what’s happening, but nothing catches God by surprise. He can use those unexpected moments to help prepare us for a future He has lovingly planned out for us.
Is your life different than how you imagined it would be? What might God want to do through your unplanned moments?
“Looking back, it is evident that God’s love is written across the pages of my life, but it didn’t always seem like that…”
I grew up in a Christian home and had amazing parents who loved God and showed me unconditional love and support. I went to church, Sunday School, and youth group every week. I knew all about God from an early age. I read the Bible. I sang hymns and listened to Christian music. I even memorized scriptures. You would think that my relationship with God was always strong. You would think that it has been easy for me to trust Him. You would be wrong.
The truth is, while it appeared on the outside that I had the “perfect” Christian life, on the inside I was constantly questioning God.
I lived most of my life being weighed down by shame and guilt and pretending that everything was “ok.” I lived most of my life doubting God’s goodness. I lived most of my life overachieving and chasing perfectionism, because it distracted me from dealing with reality. I learned at an early age that betrayal takes seconds, but the effects can last a lifetime.
I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, and it was a secret that I kept for most of my life. When a close friend shared her story with me, it gave me the courage to break the silence and share mine for the first time. It was then that I learned the power of our stories - the power of realizing that we’re not alone in our brokenness. Breaking the silence was the first step of my healing journey, and it’s a journey that I am still on.
The abuse caused me to question my faith more than anything else in my life. For so long, I couldn’t understand how a loving God could allow someone to experience abuse. If He truly loved me, why didn’t He protect me? I knew in the Bible it said that God would never leave us or forsake us, but I felt abandoned by Him. Where was He when I needed Him most?
Not only did the abuse make it hard for me to trust God, but I had a hard time trusting others. I also struggled for a season with self-injury. I was using pain to cope with pain, and just like the abuse, I hid it from those around me. I didn’t want to be a burden or cause anyone sadness, so I thought by keeping my struggles to myself I was protecting others. Pain tells us to stay silent. Eventually, God gave me the courage to speak. He helped me bring into the light everything I had been hiding, and that is when the healing began.
Through support groups and counseling, God revealed many things to me. I learned that His heart breaks when we experience pain, but the fact is we live in a fallen world where people have free-will. Where was God when I was being abused? He was in the room with me, and His heart was breaking. He did protect me, but in a different way than I initially thought. He protected my heart. Despite the abuse, He has allowed me to give and receive love. He created me with a desire to help others, and that desire still remains. In fact, it’s stronger than ever now. God gave me resilience, strength, and hope.
Life definitely still has its challenges. The abuse I experienced as a child forever changed me, but so has God’s love. Through all my years of questioning, anger, and doubt, God remained. He didn’t just stay. He pursued me. He placed others along my path to reveal truth and love when I needed it most. I lost my innocence, but I found that the one thing I could never lose is God’s love.
The pages of my story which initially caused me to question God the most are now the exact pages He wants me to share. Why? Because God doesn’t want us to deal with pain alone. He has placed specific people in our lives for a reason. When we honestly share our stories, we begin to see all the connections, and we can better support and encourage one another.
I initially shared my secret because someone else had the courage to share theirs. Chances are, someone in your close circle of friends or family has experienced some type of abuse. Maybe you have. Maybe you’re struggling with something else. Pain will tell you to stay silent. Hope and healing are possible. Break the silence. Share your story. It may help someone else.
I'm an ordinary introvert who loves an extraordinary God.