Finding Peace & Purpose in a World of Crazy

The irony is not lost on me. I have post-it notes all around my computer monitor, lists of deadlines and checklists to keep me on task. I eat at my desk. I stay in my office until late at night, trying to squeeze in one more project, one more email, one more blog post, one ...

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The irony is not lost on me.

I have post-it notes all around my computer monitor, lists of deadlines and checklists to keep me on task. I eat at my desk. I stay in my office until late at night, trying to squeeze in one more project, one more email, one more blog post, one more cog in my social media platform. Then I get an email asking for help—can I read this book and post a review THIS WEEK in exchange for some free books? Of course, I say. Because, if you know me at all, you know I always think I can do one more thing. On Monday, I was a superhero designer, accomplishing massive, voluminous feats without breaking a sweat.

Tuesday was a whole other thing. A crappy day. Dreary, dark, blustery weather to match my mood. Work was making me crazy. Such a huge list of deadlines and not enough information. I sat at my desk and cried, but only for a sec, because who has time for this? I had piles of things to put away, galleys of my own second book to proof and return, and a son to pick up from school. I sent emails, checked the proofs, ran to the store, answered the phone, begged my husband to drive through someplace and bring back dinner because I had so much to do. Finished proofing while watching Downton Abbey. Power-watched two episodes of a brainless Netflix series (to escape reality and relax), and then I realized it was only 10:15. I could squeeze in a few chapters of my new book (the one whose review is due in three days) before bed.

I’ll be honest. I planned to skim it and get the review done quickly. But I immediately discovered that would not be possible. I underlined something on nearly every page. Marked almost every word on others. Drew clouds and thunderbolts and stars and boxes around things.

Breaking Busy Book. Alli Worthington. If it doesn't add to your life, it doesn't belong in your lifeAnd all the while, everything that I’ve been so frantically juggling decided to crash down around me.

I already knew my life was out of control, unbalanced. I knew I wasn’t handling things well. I’ve felt God nudging me, whispering to me, suggesting changes. But this wasn’t a still, small voice anymore. God was shouting. Not in anger, but it had to be loud to make me sit up and take notice. It had to be strong to get me to respond.

Earlier that same day, God spoke into my soul—hours and hours before I opened the pages of this little turquoise book—and said I need to make changes. I need to trust Him. I need to stick up for myself. Live the way I know I need to. Quit setting myself up for spiritual failure—spiritual, emotional, physical overload.

It needs to stop.

But it’s never quite as easy as that, is it? Because I feel like I have some kind of responsibility to do more, to do everything I’m capable of doing. Because I evaluate myself with such twisted measures of success. Because I need to earn money. That’s often what it comes down to for me. Quality of life I want schedule-wise, or quality of living money-wise?

Breaking Busy spells out the havoc of a life lived the way I have been living mine. It shows why we can’t and shouldn’t try to define ourselves by how busy we are. It spells out the dangers. Asks the right questions. Discusses warning signs and danger zones. And kindly, gently, with a good sense of humor, the author prodded me until I could see—no, admit—the problems I’ve avoided.

unspecifiedYou probably wish I’d talk more about the book and less about myself. But like all the best books, Breaking Busy spoke to me deeply. Books like this spark inner debate, stir up passions, and inspire—to such an extent that the change seems disproportionate to the actual words that started the spark and in a way that makes it impossible to separate the resultant change in me from the content of the book itself. But after sleeping on it, and getting up and reading more, I’ve prayed and prayed, talked to friends, and already taken some steps towards the changes God is showing me. I don’t know what it will all look like in the end because I’m still processing, still trying to ask for and hear what God is telling me. All I can say for sure is that this book has changed me, and I absolutely believe I will come out better in the long run, even if the process is hard.

If you don’t live the kind of crazy, always-striving life I do—if you do things like find quiet time for yourself, take the occasional nap, and let yourself fully engage with your family whenever you can—then this book probably won’t speak to you like it did to me. But it might, because it’s full of wisdom—new insights from scripture and old stories told in new ways. If you feel like there’s always more you should do, then grab some kleenex and a journal and sit down and know it won’t be a quick, easy read. It might, however, be just what you needed to hear. It will definitely be worth it to contain the “busy” and find the calm that comes when we live as the people God made us to be. No more, no less. But just exactly right.


Just say no to unnecessary crazy. BreakingBusy.com #BreakingBusy


I received a copy of this book plus a book bundle from Zondervan in exchange for my honest review of Breaking Busy.

Are you jaded?

My friend Marcia, talking about why she loves writers and books and the writing process so much, said, “Books change me.” And they do. Or they should, if they do their job well. I’m possibly the worst book reviewer there is. Really. Because I always take the book and make it all about me. All ...

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GRAPHIC God can soften

My friend Marcia, talking about why she loves writers and books and the writing process so much, said, “Books change me.” And they do. Or they should, if they do their job well.

I’m possibly the worst book reviewer there is. Really. Because I always take the book and make it all about me. All Kelly, all the time. I’m so sorry about that.

But when I read, I want my thoughts to be engaged. I want to come to a new understanding. I want to puzzle through motivations and emotions, and I want the people (whether fiction or non) to become real to me. Therefore, when I review a book, I tend to talk about where it took my thinking more than the actual book itself. It’s the best endorsement I can offer, really. When a friend recommends a book to me, I want to know what my potential take-away is. So that’s how I review.

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 10.23.16 AMIn Jaded by Varina Denman, Ruthie and her mom were shunned—completely ostracized—years earlier by their church. Ruthie’s wounds ran deep and she was brittle and bitter. She didn’t want any part of their religion, and all she really wanted was to run from all of God’s people and go far, far away. The story is complex and real, engaging and moving, and immediately after finishing this book I downloaded the next one.

Know what I loved? That in spite of it all, Ruthie still believed in God. Although she felt that He had let her down, she couldn’t let go of that connection entirely. Ruthie understood what I think so many people do not: that God and church are not necessarily the same thing. And Ruthie wanted God. She wanted people to behave like they were supposed to, and she’d witnessed firsthand the cruelty that can be perpetrated in the name of religion. And in the story, she faced countless people who were willing to unquestionably believe lies proferred by a “Godly” man.

It’s a danger we in the church face, and we need to be wary. To turn to God, to beg Him, for discernment and wisdom in all situations. To stay in touch so we can see Him, hear from Him, respond like He would. I also think we need to remember that although churches should be the places where we see God most clearly, the two are not interchangeable. And God doesn’t live only within the church. I know that genuine faith can exist outside of that framework, and it often does. And that only serves to deepen my faith in the sustaining power of a relationship with God.

But sometimes the church itself is the thing pushing people away from God. Because God’s people don’t always behave as God would have them behave. In their passion and fervor, throughout time, men have used their belief in God as a trump card, twisting their religion to line up with their personal agendas. I don’t have to tell you this. We see it almost daily in the news.

But here’s the important thing to remember: God is the ultimate and final judge.

I can’t imagine how my faith would suffer if I didn’t have a body of people with whom to share my stories. People who pray with me, stand behind me, teach me, inspire me, and help guide and direct me. I’m fortunate. I know that everyone does not have this kind of support in their churches. And if you do not, can I encourage you today? Maybe you can initiate that—reach out to someone at your church. Intentionally develop friendships. Pray for one another. Try to create what you long for.

If you’ve been hurt by a church, pray about how to find reconciliation. Take the first steps if you can. Or if the wounds run too deep, take that leap of faith and walk through the doors of another church. Remember that people there—anywhere, everywhere—will be flawed. We all make mistakes, no matter how well-intentioned our motivations. It doesn’t excuse the wrong-doing, and I am not belittling the very real things you may have experienced. When we focus our attention on man, though, we miss out on seeing One who is so much bigger than all of that.

Because there is One who never makes a mistake. One who can bear the weight of the pain you’ve been carrying. One who will meet you wherever you are, whenever you reach out. One who longs to heal you, comfort you, reveal Himself to you. One who really can mend. Who can soften hardened hearts and open closed minds.

Dear Lord, help us to see You. Help us to represent You in truth and generosity, in love and kindness. Continue Your healing of all those who have been hurt, and strengthen our faith. Help us understand that You are worth whatever we have to go through in order to find You. And give us the resolve to keep searching. Surround us with bodies of people who are also seeking to find authenticity in their faith. Help us to find You. In the sweet, sweet name of Jesus I pray, Amen.


I received a copy of Jaded in exchange for an honest review. You can purchase it anywhere books are sold (including here). But don’t stop there: Justified, the next book in the series is also now available!

 

What a tangled mess

Carey Scott is a lovely, vivacious woman who responded graciously when I posted a cry for help in my agent’s Facebook group. I don’t know her well, but I was grateful for all of the encouragement and ideas she’d offered regarding marketing and growing my blog, so I jumped at the chance to get an ...

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GRAPHIC God's voice louder

Carey Scott is a lovely, vivacious woman who responded graciously when I posted a cry for help in my agent’s Facebook group. I don’t know her well, but I was grateful for all of the encouragement and ideas she’d offered regarding marketing and growing my blog, so I jumped at the chance to get an early copy of her new book. Untangled is about “letting God loosen the knots of insecurity in your life.”

And, really, is there any one of us who isn’t insecure?

OK, I’ll confess. When I struggle, it’s more often with pride than with insecurity. And deep down, I didn’t think this book would really apply to me, but I was happy to read it anyway.

One of the great things about God is that He doesn’t shout to the corners of the earth “You are WRONG!” every time that we are wrong. Thank goodness. Because, like usual, well, I was wrong. And like usual, God gave me the opportunity to see what I needed to understand about myself—and the grace to face it.

In the intro, she says this: “But in my midthirties God’s voice became louder than my brokenness.” And I thought, wow, what a perfect way to say what I’ve learned to be true. Then she shares with complete openness the most vulnerable parts of her story and her inner self, and she walks through the different “I’m not good enough” messages that I think we’ve all experienced—even though our circumstances and situations may be very different, at their core, our doubts and fears are very similar.

As I mentioned, I don’t feel like I struggle much with insecurity. Somehow I’ve always believed the fact that in spite of all of my failings and inadequacies, God wants me. Yes, I’m overweight; no, I don’t care enough to say no to that donut or get up early to go work out. Yes, I know I’ve messed up plenty. But I don’t have the emotional energy to beat myself up for it, so I usually let it go. In many ways, I’ve grasped the message Carey offers to all of us: that the only way to see ourselves is with the generosity and grace that God gives us.

But along the way, I have certainly had my moments. She writes,

“[these lies about not measuring up] become bricks in the wall we build around our hearts to keep people from seeing the real us—the us we’re certain isn’t good enough… If you’re breathing air today, you have walls. We all do. We’re all guilty of partitioning off our hearts so we don’t get hurt anymore. Walls shouldn’t be confused with boundaries, because establishing healthy limits with toxic people and beliefs is smart. Boundaries are proactive, but walls are protective. Boundaries help us live within community, but walls keep us from it. Boundaries are put in place for healing, while walls are built to hide our hurting. Walls are boundaries gone bad, and their bricks are made from feelings of rejection and inadequacy. But that’s not how God wants us to live.”

In Praying Upside Down, I wrote about the walls I built to protect myself when Mom died. I still find myself building walls to keep from risking being hurt. I struggle with jealousy and comparison, particularly since entering the publishing world—how many people read my post? Clicked Like? Retweeted? Why does she have so many more subscribers than I do? How can I get a post to go viral like that one of hers? Why is she so popular? It’s not fair…

The voiceover track in my mind sounds like that of a whiny teenager.

And I thought I wasn’t insecure.

Recently, I’ve been going back and forth between reading Untangled and part of a Bible study called Seamless by Angie Smith, and I’ve been thinking a lot about shame. About the Garden of Eden, and the way that Satan planted doubt in Eve’s mind. I’ve always hated that story—it doesn’t seem fair to me that there should be eternal consequences for mankind forevermore, banished from Eden and a close walk with God, simply because one couple messed up. It doesn’t seem right that women should always suffer with pain and childbirth because of their actions. Before long, I started wandering down a thorny theological path—if God is perfect, why did He make an imperfect creation? Why does He require a method for mankind to be reconciled to Him? If He’s God, why can’t He change the rules?

As I read and studied, I was troubled by the power these thoughts had, by the tumultuous feeling of these questions battering my faith. And then I understood. When the serpent planted that doubt eons ago, he was introducing shame. Eve felt shame because she didn’t know something she thought she should. Because she’d obeyed when maybe she didn’t have to. I think she felt stupid. Ignorant. Weak. She bought into his lies that maybe she wasn’t enough—that maybe she could be more, more even than God Himself. And so she grabbed an apple. The big revelation for me was this: Those words of shame that Satan hissed that day in the garden have never stopped rippling across the ages, inhabiting generation after generation. How do I know? My own thoughts were proof that I bought into the same lies that Eve did. Just like Eve, I started questioning God—who He was, and whether He had the right to be God and make the rules.

Deep down I know the answers; of course I do. God is God. We can’t be reconciled to Him without a sacrifice because it’s like we’re opposing ends of a magnet. He is holy and perfect, and we are not, and without a supernatural intervention, we cannot come together. Holiness repels imperfection.

And yet. Yet He wants us. Yet He loves us. Yet He welcomes us in, allows us to nestle safely under His wing, warmed by His love, transformed by His power. As Carey wrote:

Even when you mess up, he sees who you are instead of what you’ve done. Those seasons where you made bad choice after bad choice mixed with bad choice (yeah, that one) didn’t scare him off. His perfect love for you never wavered. And even better, there is nothing you can do, more or less, to alter that truth in any way.

She’s right. Absolutely right. And I bet that you have struggled with some of the same feelings of self-worth described in her book. You don’t feel like you measure up against that supermom. In your marriage. In your career. In your friendships. In your gifts and in how they’re received. You wonder if you’ve done enough for your kids and how they will measure up against others. If your husband truly still finds you attractive. If you’d be prettier, or more desirable, or more successful if you could just lose that weight. If you will make enough money for the things you want. If someone else could do it—whatever it is—better.

You wonder if you’re enough.

The short answer: yes, you are. For the slightly longer answer, pick up a copy of Untangled. And while you’re at it, grab one for every other woman in your life, too.

I realize this review is all over the place, rambling right along with my thoughts, tumbling around as God unknots the insecurities that tangle me up. Right now, things may be a convoluted mess. But there is One who can sort out the string. Release the hold of the knots. Straighten out the fabric of which I am made. I’m trusting Him to do His thing with me. Again and again, always. And I know He will do the same for you. I think God has great plans for this book—because He has great plans for you. And reading this book will set you well along the way to discovering all that you are. Not who you will someday be, but who you already are: An amazing, unique woman, already adored, and infinitely lovable.

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For more quotes, a free download of the first chapter, and many other goodies, visit the Untangled Women website.

Giving it all away

I love reading what people have to say about Praying Upside Down. Granted, so far I’ve been lucky and just had a couple slightly negative comments (all within otherwise excellent reviews). When I get my first really bad one, one of you will need to show up with chocolate or invite me to join you for coffee. (Or a ...

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I love reading what people have to say about Praying Upside Down. Granted, so far I’ve been lucky and just had a couple slightly negative comments (all within otherwise excellent reviews). When I get my first really bad one, one of you will need to show up with chocolate or invite me to join you for coffee. (Or a jumbo top-shelf margarita.)

Right now I have 29 reviews on Amazon. I’d love to hit at least 50… and I need your help.

But I hate asking for help and not offering something in return. So if you will post a short review on Amazon or Goodreads, I’ll enter you in a drawing for the following prizes:

Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 9.35.13 PM

If you’ve already posted a review or entered my earlier Facebook giveaway, you can still enter this one! And you can enter twice if you post on both Amazon and Goodreads. To enter, just paste the link to your review(s) in the comments at the end of this post before June 15. I’ll email all the winners at the same time, and the first one to respond will get their first choice, and so forth.

As much as I hope you will say nice things, this isn’t about my ego. Having a large number of reviews helps the book get noticed by potential readers and the words you say can help someone who’s on the fence decide to click the “purchase” button. So this is a wonderful—and much appreciated—way to help. Thank you!

Review of Listen, Learn, Love by Susie Albert Miller

You guys are all probably tired of hearing me talk about my book (which, incidentally, releases in just three more days!). So I thought I’d try something dramatically different today… and talk about someone ELSE’s book! I know, I’m way out there. You should be used to my particular brand of crazy by now. But ...

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listen-learn-love-big

You guys are all probably tired of hearing me talk about my book (which, incidentally, releases in just three more days!). So I thought I’d try something dramatically different today… and talk about someone ELSE’s book! I know, I’m way out there. You should be used to my particular brand of crazy by now. But I hope you’ll keep reading anyway.

I’ll be honest. I struggled with this for a little bit, long before I gave the book a chance. I want to only give honest reviews, but since I have a book releasing soon (I may have mentioned that once or twice before), I also only wanted to be careful to only put positive words out there. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do that. This is not the type of book I normally pick up. I tend to avoid anything that is remotely categorized as self-help, anything written by life coaches or anyone else who might end up being overly enthusiastic.

Now that I say this out loud, I’m realizing how badly I actually need this kind of help. A life coach might be rather beneficial.

But also, in my defense, I have lots of really good relationships. My family is close. My kids talk to me about things. My husband and I are happy. My business relationships tend to last for many years and end on good terms. And I have lots of really amazing friends. I am blessed. So fortunate. So grateful.

But, as it turns out, there’s always more to learn. And sometimes, the way you least expect to find help ends up being the best source. As it also happens, there was some really good advice in this book.

In a nutshell, here’s the idea: We all have relationships that are in need of improvement, and since relationships are the foundation of our lives, working to improve them will improve life in a bunch of different ways. To achieve this result, we just need to follow three basic steps: Listen, learn, and love. Sounds easy, right?

Sure. Except for the fact that, while I like to think I’m a pretty good listener, I’ve finally admitted to myself that I probably turn the conversation around to myself way too often. I think that my reason for doing this is because I’ve had a similar experience and want to share it to show that I understand what the other person is feeling. And maybe that’s true. Or maybe I need to be a little more self-aware and take the focus away from myself. That’s how I can be a better listener.

Learn? No problem. I love to pay attention to what makes someone tick, to figure out what they love and need and try to provide that. I think I’m pretty good at that. It’s why I love to buy gifts for people—because I like to surprise them by letting them see how well I understand them. But then I read about how learning someone also means allowing them to grow and change. I want others to allow me to evolve, to become something new, refined, better. But it made me wonder how accepting I actually am of other people who are making changes in their lives?

OK, maybe I fall short in those areas sometimes. But love? That’s an easy one.

Perhaps. But to love well? Not always our first instinct. Because it’s based on the ideas of listening to the people in our relationships and learning them deeply. Loving them well “requires short-term sacrifice for long-term gain” (p.95). Like being a mom. That makes sense to me. But how do I do this in business? In friendships?

I guess all of it comes down to one idea. We must be willing to make a conscious choice to shift the focus away from ourselves. Improving relationships is about doing the hard things—denying yourself in order to truly listen, coming out of your own interests and self to learn about others, and sacrificing your preferences, time, and pride in order to help the people in your life feel seen, heard and known.

Sounds a lot like the foundations of the faith I try to practice, the ways I want to live. Sounds a lot like the stories I hear of Jesus. Come to think of it, Jesus was all about relationships. He sacrificed everything to make us able to draw close to Him. And just as He wants to know us, we can apply these same ideas to our spiritual lives and relationships, too. Listen to Him. Learn Him. And love Him.

How do we do that best? By loving others.

If you want some practical ideas of ways to implement these concepts into your relationships, click here to pre-order Susie Albert Miller’s Listen, Learn, Love. It comes out on May 12. And because I adore getting to know each other better and want to interact with you all as friends, would you take a moment to comment below? Tell me one tip, suggestion or thing that you do to be a better friend. Or tell me about a time someone showed you how much you meant to them in a new or surprising way.

I know how I would answer that second one right now: all of the Facebook messages people have posted about my book, the pictures of people holding my book, and the gushing, enthusiastic responses to what I’ve written that have been coming in the past two weeks. I can’t tell you how much it means to me to know people are taking my words to heart. You’re listening to what I had to say. Learning about me. And loving me in the nicest possible way. And the book’s not even fully out yet. You guys are amazing.

And see? There, once again, proof that I don’t have this thing down yet: I somehow managed to bring this whole post about being selfless and others-centered right back around to myself. Sigh.

Gathered Waters by Cara Luecht

My agent has really good taste in authors (if I may say so myself!), and I’m so glad that I’ve had the chance to connect with so many of the people she represents. One lovely result is that once in a while I get the chance to read a book early, before it’s released. And ...

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71Y5500RULLMy agent has really good taste in authors (if I may say so myself!), and I’m so glad that I’ve had the chance to connect with so many of the people she represents. One lovely result is that once in a while I get the chance to read a book early, before it’s released. And since I adored the first book written by Cara Luecht, Soul Painter, I was thrilled when she offered me the chance to read this one, too.

Gathered Waters is based on the true story of the author’s family’s journey from Sweden to America. I always enjoy good historical fiction—I love learning details of daily life in a time or place I’m not familiar with, and this book provided that. But it also tells the story of a spiritual awakening. Brianna and her husband take a stand and ostracize themselves from the Lutheran Church, and this chronicles the resulting events. On its own, the story is good.

But what makes it great is that it really made me think.

My faith is so important to me, and it hasn’t always come easy, but I’ve found my way. I wouldn’t change the roads I’ve traveled for anything because each one of them has revealed a new aspect of God to me, and I’m so grateful. This version of modern-day Christianity many of us practice, well, I think we take it for granted. We forget that not everyone has this freedom. Not everyone gets to witness a personal kind of faith to model their own faith after.

And this book isn’t about persecution—well, not in the way I think of the word. Instead, it’s about that moment, that one shining moment when God reveals Himself and you can’t help but be changed. It’s about knowing, deep within your core, with a certainty no one else understands. Having that experience transforms you. You can’t go back. You can’t forget. Even when things fall apart—and from personal experience, I’ll say even when you find yourself desperate to hang on to the few flimsy shreds of faith you still have—even then, you can’t deny Him. You can’t let go. Because you know deep, deep down that God is real. And that you want more.

I’ve had those moments, and I give much of the credit to my friends and to many of the women and men at my church, because they modeled this faith life for me. They let me see them worship and pray. They answered my questions. I didn’t have to rely on just their words because I witnessed how God’s presence sustained them. And I wanted that for myself. Oh, how I wanted it.

But in Gathered Waters, when Brianna and Anders turn their back on the powerful, formal Church-with-a-capital-C, they hadn’t really seen this kind of spiritual relationship. They were stepping out in faith, feeling their way along, not sure where it would lead. And yet, what they experienced with God was too powerful to ignore. That’s what had me fascinated and made me think. Would I have found God in that way if I’d lived then and there? Would I have had the courage they did? Because it wasn’t easy. Then again, life rarely is, with or without God. The difference is, when we allow God to be beside us, it changes the way we experience it. For good.


Check out Cara’s blog if you get a chance. You can order Gathered Waters as a paperback or Kindle book on Amazon or at Barnes and Noble.

Philip Gulley

Philip Gulley was the keynote speaker at the first Midwest Writers Workshop I attended. In fact, he’s a large part of the reason I went. I was just starting to do some writing—short, 350-word essays in my church bulletin—and Mom read about the conference and saw that he was speaking. She and I both already ...

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IMG_2291a-200x300-Phil-GulleyPhilip Gulley was the keynote speaker at the first Midwest Writers Workshop I attended. In fact, he’s a large part of the reason I went. I was just starting to do some writing—short, 350-word essays in my church bulletin—and Mom read about the conference and saw that he was speaking. She and I both already loved his writing and had attended a reading near my hometown not long before. Also, my dad knew Phil, who had stopped at his studio a few times when he passed through the area. Anyway, Mom thought I should go to the workshop.

So I did. And, truly, it’s what launched me down this path towards writing a book. I don’t have time right now to go into all the wonderful things that came from that. But if you ever want to meet me for lunch, I’ll tell you all about it.

But in an indirect way, I feel like this great blurb is one of the many wonderful things to come from that experience. Here is what he wrote:

It requires no spiritual sensitivity to see God at work in a miracle, but to see God work in the everyday circumstances of our lives is another matter. Praying Upside Down gives us eyes to see and ears to hear the Divine Presence in the ordinariness of life. A spiritual primer on practicing the presence of God.

PHILIP GULLEY
Quaker pastor and author

He’s written too many books to list them all here (19, I think) but you can find them at any bookstore, in person or online. His newest Hope series book comes out in September. He writes essays filled with humor and life lessons, fiction about small-town living, and books of progressive Christian theology and faith. I love them all. And to tell you the truth, one of the reasons I treasure this endorsement is because he’s a Quaker pastor. I’ve always believed that Christians should look for common ground rather than paying attention to the practices and beliefs that are different, so it means the world to me to have someone from a very different faith tradition than mine find value in my book. I’m honored and humbled and grateful. He’s summed up my deepest desire: Eyes to see and ears to hear the Divine Presence in my life.

Oh, how I want that. And oh, how I pray that my words could—in some small way—help others find that too. Please, Lord. Amen.


PRAYING UPSIDE DOWN: A creative prayer experience to transform your time with God is coming from Tyndale Momentum in May 2015 and is currently available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million and CBD. Other sites will be available soon.

A blurb from Elizabeth Berg!

I finally have all of my endorsements for my book and can share them! Let me tell you, I felt tons of anxiety knowing that my words were being read by some really incredible authors. And I was blown away by the positive, kind responses. I’m going to share them with you, one at a ...

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I finally have all of my endorsements for my book and can share them! Let me tell you, I felt tons of anxiety knowing that my words were being read by some really incredible authors. And I was blown away by the positive, kind responses. I’m going to share them with you, one at a time, over the next few weeks (along with links or info about each author). I’d love for you to check out their work, if you’re not already familiar with it—spread the love!

So this is what the amazing, talented, and lovely Elizabeth Berg had to say…

Like the books of Anne Lamott, so full of honest and soulful searching, Kelly Stanley’s Praying Upside Down takes as its launch pad the precepts of the Christian faith. But what is offered here can apply to anyone, regardless of their faith—or lack thereof. What this book does is offer ways to learn and practice a humble kind of self-inventory, leading to forgiveness and generosity toward others as well as toward oneself. I found Kelly’s spiritual journey compelling and her voice clear, engaging, and irresistible.

ELIZABETH BERG
Author of The Handmaid and the Carpenter and The Dream Lover

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 1.23.23 PMAs if I didn’t already absolutely love and adore Elizabeth, she compared my book to the one person I’ve always thought of as my “if I could write like anybody who writes about faith” person. Elizabeth taught the writers workshop I attended in Positano, Italy, a couple years ago. In her intuitive, perceptive way, she helped me face head-on the grief I was feeling and encouraged me to let my writing come from that place. And she was so right. Someday I’ll write more on my blog about that experience, but you can read that essay here.

Elizabeth’s next book, The Dream Lover, is going to be amazing, according to all that I’ve heard so far—and the short excerpt I got to hear her read—and it comes out April 14. You can read about and pre-order here.

Where Am I Eating?: A pseudo book review

Here’s the thing. As American consumers, we are used to people catering to us. Sometimes we forget — or, in my case, don’t really know — how our products get to us. We don’t know, or maybe don’t care, that some of the workers on these farms are, literally, modern-day slaves. Or that the divers ...

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Eating-Cover1

Here’s the thing. As American consumers, we are used to people catering to us. Sometimes we forget — or, in my case, don’t really know — how our products get to us. We don’t know, or maybe don’t care, that some of the workers on these farms are, literally, modern-day slaves. Or that the divers in Nicaragua dive without proper equipment and suffer horrible physical pain to track down the lobsters we crave in too large a number. Or that the concentrate in our apple juice may come from 7 or 8 countries, some of which have outdated controls or no bans on chemicals we know are harmful. Or that if somehow the farm workers could get an extra half-cent per bag of coffee*, they could afford to feed and educate their families. Or that the chocolate spa in Hershey, Pennsylvania, has mysterious “codes” that prohibit men from indulging in chocolate baths.

Admittedly, some of these injustices are more tragic than others.

If you’re familiar with my pseudo book reviews, you’ll know I write about one thing that really stuck with me rather than summarize the plot or writing style. I won’t disappoint you today. Kelsey Timmerman (who happens to be a friend of mine, I say with pride, like that will make me look more important) is a natural storyteller. He manages to interject statistics and facts — objective information — in between stories that are so funny I had to read them out loud to my family, and observations so poignant and compassionate and hopeful that I had to stay near a box of Kleenex.

Where Am I Eating? is so good. You need to read it, even if — at first glance — you’re not sure the topic is one that interests you. Because it will. Because we all eat. And because Kelsey has two beautiful children to support with his book sales and speaking engagements. But mainly because it’s just such a good book. It’s hard to pick just one thing to tell you. But I will, because that’s how I roll.

Near the end of chapter 2 (“The Grande Gringo Picks Coffee”), Kelsey is handed a coffee tree seedling to plant. And what he wrote about that moved me — maybe because I’d had the same thought, last year, as my sister and I visited the farmland we had recently inherited when my mom passed away. To me, it’s the perfect definition of hope. But since I didn’t actually put my experience into words, I’ll repeat his.

I stop at my plant on the way back and pull out my water bottle. I kneel down and pour half of it onto the waxy leaves that wave under the deluge. I take a moment to think about this plant and the people who will tend it. My thoughts turn into something more, something I don’t regularly do; I pray. Maybe it was the view, or the having survived this experience. There just seems to be something miraculous about putting a plant in the ground in a place like this and having faith that it will survive and thrive, and will, in turn, allow Felipe and his family to survive and thrive. Every farmer has to believe in a higher power.

It’s a novelty to think that someday you or I might drink coffee produced from my plant. It’s humbling to know that rain or shine, Felipe tends his plants on these slopes, just like his grandfather’s grandfather did, producing a product that we take for granted each morning. Coffee isn’t a right. It’s a livelihood and an Internet connection.

Their work is coffee — and their lives are each other.

Whether we know it or not, our lives are intertwined with theirs. We need to remember these people, understand their lives and sacrifices, and be intentional about choices and decisions we make that can affect them. Starting early in the morning, with your first cup of coffee.

Read about Kelsey’s travels (and his other book, Where Am I Wearing?) here , or order your own copy today on Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or others.

*I don’t always remember things accurately, and I’m too impatient to search for it in the book again, but it was an extra half-cent for something. Maybe not per bag. Maybe per bushel. Or maybe it was bananas instead of coffee. But you get the idea.

The Bait of Satan

a pseudo book review Not long ago, I wrote about my unlikely stumbling block. You may have met Him. His name is Jesus. In Luke chapter 7, after Jesus says, “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is ...

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a pseudo book review

Not long ago, I wrote about my unlikely stumbling block. You may have met Him. His name is Jesus. In Luke chapter 7, after Jesus says, “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor,” He finishes with this statement: “Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” 31t2+ZycnwL

Oh, how I stumbled. When Mom died and I didn’t much care for the way God had chosen to answer our prayers, I built walls to protect myself from being hurt again. I held my hand in the air at church — not to worship but to keep Him at a distance. Then one morning, shortly after writing that essay, I was reading The Bait of Satan: Living Free from the Deadly Trap of Offense by John Bevere. It’s about the spirit of offense, and how that can destroy friendships, marriages, churches — any kind of relationship. Sadly, I already knew that firsthand. John Bevere wrote about those walls I built to protect myself — and about how, in the end, these walls instead imprisoned me, holding me captive.

Later that day, I bowed my head for a quick prayer as I sat down to write, and I felt God’s presence all around me. I had no words, just silent tears and a sense that I was to sit and wait while He demolished those walls, stone by stone. I picked up my Bible, hoping He would nudge me towards a verse that was just for me, just right for that moment. I immediately thought of Jeremiah 29:12. I resisted the urge to turn there — I already knew that verse. Finally, in the absence of any other direction, I stopped fighting and opened my Bible. I figured I would start there and then move on to wherever God would take me.

Hey, guess what? I was wrong. The verse I thought I knew was verse 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.

Turns out, verse 12 was exactly where His message for me began:

“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Back from captivity. Back to the place from which I started. Now that I can seek Him again with all my heart, I will find Him. I did. I have. The human side of me feels shame for my lack of faith, my immature feelings, the way I turned from Him in my stubborn anger. But it’s that upside down thing again — I thank God for my lack of faith, immature feelings and the way I turned from Him, because nothing is sweeter than finding again something I thought was lost forever.

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