Bookworm: Books that change and challenge me

I love books that make me dig deeper into my faith and get closer to Jesus. I could probably stand to read more fiction and biographies, but I am just naturally drawn to books that dig deeper into other people’s stories and how they met Jesus along the way. Here are six books I’ve read in the last 6-9 months, a brief synopsis and why they were important to me…

  1. The Magnolia Story, Chip and Joanna Gaines – We’ve loved Fixer Upper, since we discovered the HGTV show a couple years ago. I like to tease Troy that he’s a bit like Chip. This book is a back-and-forth between Chip and Jo, telling the unlikely story of how they met, how they got into flipping houses, their early years as parents and shop owners, and how they’ve stumbled into fame. I love that they don’t mince words about their faith. It’s inspiring because they didn’t go out looking for ‘fame and glory’. They just pursued what they loved, alongside their growing family, and impact and financial blessing found them. An easy read for sure!
  2. Galatians for You, Timothy Keller – Can I say “I heart Timothy Keller”….? Troy and I read a lot by him, as he’s helped unpack years of gospel teaching that we’ve both had, into language that makes sense. And convicts. And challenges. This one is more of a study guide to the book of Galatians. The church in Galatia were trying to live out their faith in their own works, so Galatians’ six chapter book is letters to the church about what Christ has already accomplished and how to live out your faith leaning into the work of the Holy Spirit. As a new mamma, this book has been a good guide to still get some “Word” into me and have some direction when time is a little unpredictable now! I know Timothy Keller has other study guides on books of the Bible, so I’d love to find more!
  3. Heart Made Whole, Christa Black Gifford – This book is Christa’s journey from abuse as a little girl, to working in Christian music industry, to one day losing their baby girl at birth to anencephaly (no skull). She walks through how her heart found years of healing by facing the pain as she allowed God (LOVE) to take residence. It’ll make you cry. It’ll make you look at your own heart, and where there are hurts you haven’t faced. It’ll make you want to just sit and talk to God as a Father, more and more.
  4. Sit, Walk, Stand, Watchman Nee – This was a book a friend recommended a couple years ago; an old classic. Originally published in 1957, this book walks through Ephesians and how Paul admonishes the church in the process of Christian maturity: that we cannot walk out our faith or stand against the enemy if we are not first SEATED positionally and know who we are in Christ. Sitting is an attitude of ‘rest’ – a word that God has had on my heart, over and over. Learning to REST in Him and His already finished work. In his words, “And here is the gospel: that God has gone one stage further and has completed also the work of redemption, and that we need do nothing whatever to merit it, but can enter by faith directly into the values of His finished work.”
  5. Practicing His PresenceBrother Lawrence & Frank Laubach – This is the testimony of two different gentlemen and their journey to experiencing how to be aware of Christ’s presence moment by moment. Brother Lawrence lived in the 1600’s, and Frank Laubach was born in 1884. The back says, “Other than Pilgrim’s Progress, there is probably no other piece of Christian literature that has stood the test of the centuries so well.”
  6. A Shepherd’s Look at Psalm 23, Phillip Keller – This was recently given to our mom’s group leadership team, and looked like an easy read, so I read it over the last month (that’s quick for me!). Written by a shepherd, the man talks about the symbolism between humans and sheep, and why Christ is called our Shepherd. It brings light to every line of Psalm 23 from the biblical meaning of wool, to the need for a ‘rod and a staff’. It brought great comfort to me in a way that I feel I can see Jesus’ devotion to me in a deeper way.

Can you see a trend? Heart work. Digging deeper into knowing God’s presence, just for Him. That’s what I want, so that is what I am reading right now! Pick one up today! 🙂


Monday Minute: More than you thought

A few years ago I was doing a Monday Minute – a quick thought for the week. It’s baaa-ack. Partially for accountability to keep writing, and also because who doesn’t like starting their week with a quick thought or challenge for the week that you can read in one minute?

A couple months ago my mother-in-law challenged me and my sister-in-law to a 30-day plank challenge. As I looked aghast at the tag she posted on Facebook, I knew I couldn’t exactly say ‘No, I don’t feel like it.’ I told Troy about the challenge and he said, “Yeah, good luck with that.”


Okay, challenge accepted 😉

For me, accountability works. If I know I’m doing something with someone else, or someone else is going to ask about a goal, I stick to it far better than without the accountability.

So. 30-days. I’d barely done a 30 SECOND plank let alone do it every day for 30 days! I’ve not ever been one to push myself physically, mostly because I’ve been blessed with a good metabolism and some general walking and light exercise is enough for me to feel good. But this. This was telling me that in 30 days I must go from a 20 second plank to FIVE MINUTES!!

I’ll get bored! Or crash!

Well, we started on the first of the month, and as each day passed I found myself panting, grunting, and nearly collapsing on the carpet every time. Troy counted for me one night and made me go 20 seconds longer than that day’s requirement and something clicked in me. Hey, you can do more than you think you can! As each day passed, I began to realize the challenge was so good, not just for my body, but for my mind. With challenge and determination, I can do more for me than I realized and I needed to challenge myself like this more often!

I am happy to say that I did planks the whole month (with a day off here and there), and made it up to three minutes, which I am super happy with. That is FAR more than I’d ever done or thought I could do! I found that determination actually spills out into other areas of life. One good habit or challenge actually breeds more good habits. I’ve actually continued to do planks about three times a week now!

So, this week, what one thing can you push yourself to do that you’ve never tried before? Prove to yourself that you can actually do more than you thought you could 😉 Try it consistently for a week, and who knows, it may turn into a new habit!

Here’s some suggestions to try for one week:

*no complaining
*cut out social media
*exercise more than usual (set your own goal that challenges you)
*cut out sugar (or whatever your vice is)
*find someone every day to speak life into. Genuinely.
*choose thankfulness in every challenging situation

*For me this week, I am going to write a minimum of 500 words for 5 of the 7 days. I’m not going to try and figure out the end from the beginning, but just let creativity flow.

Come back and let me know what you try and how it goes! I would love to hear 🙂




Divergent – shut you down or wake you up?

divergent-trailerTo this day, it is probably one of the most satisfying jobs I have ever had. The long days challenged and fulfilled me.  I cried. I felt insecure. And I felt like I was doing what I was born to do, and yet wanted to retreat back from ever doing it again.

For three summers in my early 20’s I was a Chaplain at an air cadet base in Alberta. It was a 10-week summer position with the Department of National Defence that worked superbly with my schooling and other job at the time. The pay was great and my expenses were low since we lived on the base. It was a world I had never known since I had never been through cadet training.  As Chaplains, we taught classes, counselled, brought kids to a variety of churches in the city, and were the overall ‘morale builders’ of the base.

I had the opportunity to teach Life Skills classes to kids who were, many of them, away from home for the first time. Basic Cadets was their ‘class’. As I stood at the front of my classroom I was confronted with with sweaty ADD ridden 12-year-olds and I was on fire with both fear and exhilaration. Did they even hear what I just said?

There were four of us in the chaplain role, and we would pass off the pager so that someone was available 24/7. I recall getting called into counselling sessions where I would talk to young girls who were cutting themselves, and young boys who were convinced they had seen a ‘face’ in the toe of their polished boot. I learned SO much in those three summers.

In that role, the fear of the unknown and the sense that I was so unqualified for what I was called upon to do – woke me up. It didn’t paralyze me even though it scared me. I realized the state of what youth were dealing with. I realized that I could rise to the challenge of creating a curriculum for 30 youth that would inspire and challenge them. I realized I did have something to say to an Officer who had been in the military for years, but needed a friend to listen to.

I truly felt alive.

This past weekend Troy and I went to the movie Divergent with some family. Well written and captivating, the movie has a Hunger Games vibe to it. The main character, Triss, is called upon to choose which ‘faction’ (a societal classing system) she belonged to. She chose the one that was full of action and adventure, who were called upon to protect the fallen city – Dauntless.  She had to fight and challenge herself in ways she never had before.

You see Triss didn’t fit in any of the class systems that had been created. She was unique and thought differently. She was a divergent. In one scene, the man who is training her (whom she of course falls in love with!) says to her when she asks him why she is different, “Fear doesn’t shut you down, it wakes you up.”

Fear doesn’t shut you down, it wakes you up.

It’s made me think how in every situation we have two options when we face difficulty: it can either shut us down, or wake us up.

What challenge are you facing right now that seems bigger than you? I know the thrill of being awoken by challenge. I also know the feeling of shrinking back and regretting my retreat later on.

2 Timothy 1:7 says that, “God has NOT given you a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.”

God never created us to be people that retreat. He actually created us to face challenge, and overcome it. He created within us the ability to meet something that is scary and bigger than us and say, “I can rise to meet this.” Through Him and His strength, we can actually be woken up in every situation. And find a deeper, more fulfilling life in the meantime.

So I ask you…

What will you say to the next challenge that comes – shut me down, or wake me up?


When red lips speak loudly

One of my aunties used to call me the family “Snow White” because I had dark hair and fair skin. Well, this past week I embodied that. The only thing missing was seven handy men to sing along with me throughout the week 😉  Snow White was the positive side of my new found character. It was either that or I looked like I had enjoyed a bit too much Koolaid.  Regardless, it was an interesting experiment!  …

Red Lips Lesson #1:
Since I rarely (as in maybe 10 of 365 days of the year) wear lipstick, it was a new habit for me to check my teeth before leaving the car and reapply frequently.   At the end of one of my photo shoots this weekend, I hopped into my car and saw my lips glaring back at me in a sweet imperfect state. The red apple shine had nicely worn off to make it seem as though my lips had been bleeding. Nice one.

Risk is messy and rarely perfect the first time. Somehow the imperfection says, “I’ve done something, been somewhere, and am here to tell the story.”

Red Lips Lesson #2:  I felt like people could see my mouth before they knew who it was coming. From work, to Starbucks, to church, to the hospital to visit my friend’s new baby girl, HELLO lips!

Trying new things makes you stand out. People will stare. Dare it anyway.

Red Lips Lesson #3: I received very few comments on my lips. Perhaps it really wasn’t ‘my thing’, but I found myself really wanting affirmation from other people! “Oh I LOVE your new lipstick! Where’d you get it? It suits you!” Ya know, those kinds of words. But little did I get of that.

You can’t wait for people’s affirmation before you step out. You’ll never try anything new if you do. When you boldly go where you haven’t gone before….own it, embrace it.

Red Lips Lesson #4: If I had given up on my challenge after the first day, I never would’ve realized that actually, to be honest, I don’t mind a bit of red lip.  One of the guys at work did comment that it “suited a dimension of my personality”. I THINK that was a compliment. But, had I given up after the first day, I wouldn’t have discovered that red, in all its bold vibrancy, actually does share a part of who I am.

Anything new takes time to adjust. After initial fright fades, you realize a new part of yourself you wouldn’t of known had you fled.

Red Lips Lesson #5:  I found that since I knew my lips would be glaring red every day, I had to pay more attention to what I chose to wear. I love fashion, but the red lips became another accessory.

You never know what you already have that given the right ‘accentuation’ could complete your personal look!

My Revlon “Really Red” will be staying in my make-up case and will remind me now and again to be bold, try something new, and once in a while, it’s ok to be uncomfortable.

Inspired to find your own red lipstick?

Disclaimer: this feels like a bit too much of “me”, but here goes… publish.