A Life Contrary

living a life out of the ordinary

Archive for the tag “Mental”

Books, man…

Books. There are so many ways that books can affect us. For the better or worse. Some can transport us to distant worlds and teach us about the ideas of courage, bravery, and perseverance. Some teach us about people who display those characteristics and more. Some books educate us on facts and figures and concepts. And some books are just for nothing else than good, ol’ entertainment – giving us an escape from whatever is going on at the moment.

It’s for this reason that I love books. From my childhood, I can remember being read Little Golden books by my mother and when I got older, I can remember my sister reading me Little Women and A Tale of Two Cities. Reading has always been a big thing in my family. I can remember reading Great Expectations in school and my mom joining in so we could discuss it. I remember reading I am the Cheese and being so shocked that I took it straight to her room and insisted she read it too. I remember my sister and dad reading Stephen King and Les Miserables and discussing it even though I had no clue what they were talking about.

So it’s no surprise to me that a book would have such an impact and change my life in such a way.

Two years ago, I heard about something called a launch team and never one to turn down a good author or a free book, I applied. It was for Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love and little did I know I was one of 5,000 applicants. Greater still, I found out that I was one of the 500 who were picked for the team. Can you believe that?  I couldn’t.  Next came a secret Facebook group and 499 new friends that I couldn’t have ever dreamed up.

What’s more?  After two years, we are still going strong and getting ready to launch another book.  I’ve been on a few more launch teams since then (10 or so), but nothing will ever come close to my first – that original group.  My friends.  My people.  My church, especially at a time when I’ve become disillusioned with so much, these women have provided a constant and a safe place to land.

Thank you, Jen Hatmaker.  Thank you, my FTL sisters.  Thank you, Jesus, for this phenomenal opportunity that I thought was once in a lifetime, but turns out I get to do again!  Keep an eye out for Jen’s latest book, Of Mess and Moxie.


In Which We Discuss All The Books

Well, I didn’t exactly get a book report done for March.  There’s a good reason for that.  I didn’t read anything other than Scripture in March.  One of my Lenten goals was to read through the gospels.  I decided to take that and read nothing but the gospels for most of Lent.

So, since I don’t have much to report of what I have read, I thought I’d give a quick update of what I’ve been reading.

I know that I should be reading things off my 2016 book list, but there are just so many books and so little time!  I5 Habits have decided to give audiobooks a try for more than just long distance trips.  I’m currently listening to 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit by Nicki Koziarz.  It was picked to be a bit of an experiment and see how well I would retain the information with only listening in bits and pieces.

I’ve learned two things:  I retain more than I thought and I find myself listening more often that just when I’m commuting or in the car.  It may only work for certain books, but I am definitely going to try to keep up on the audiobook thing and see if I can double my reading.  I’ve even started a list on Hoopla of books that I want to listen to.

Loving My Actual Life

I’ve been picked for two new launch teams and I can’t wait to share more about each of those books.  The first is Loving my Actual Life by Alexandra Kuykendall.  I’ve just downloaded it and hope to get it done soon.  The second I’ll be writing about soon.

Love DoesWhen I Don't Desire GodI also bought Love Does by Bob Goff and When I Don’t Desire God by John Piper.  I haven’t gotten started on these yet (see above), but we’re going to have Chas start Love Does soon and I’ll probably read it with him.


I also picked up a copy of Looking for Lovely by Annie Downs at work the other Present Over PerfectLooking for Lovelyday and started to thumb through it.  I got through the introduction and realized that I must read this soon.  Shauna Neiquist’s Present Over Perfect will also be released soon, so chances are, I’ll be grabbing a copy of that, too.

None of the books above were on my 2016 list, but if you’ll remember my list was pretty light for just this reason.  I don’t know that I’ll get to all of these or even those on my list soon, but a girl can dream, right?

So, what are you reading?  What have you read this year that has really stuck with you?  What must I add to my ever growing list?

Nobody Puts Baby in the Corner, but Sometimes She’s There Anyway

We’ve all heard that birth order can, and most often does, affect personality, but I hadn’t realized how far reaching this can be.  I’ve always heard friends talk about their kids and how, “she’s definitely a middle child,” or “somehow, I got two first-borns.”

I’ve always been the baby of my family.   Youngest of all the cousins and in my class at school, too!  I hadn’t really thought about how that affected me until the other day when I was standing in the sanctuary after church and my husband, our pastor, and a deacon were talking.  I tried to put my thoughts out there and add to the discussion, but every time I began, it fell on deaf ears.

Later the same day, Nathan and Chas were talking… passionately, in the car and I was trying to interject and be the voice of reason, but in the car with two loud boys, I was just overpowered.

This has always been an issue for me.  I’ve always felt unheard and often that my words don’t matter because of it.  When I am talked over or just plain ignored, it brings back old fears and hurts.  I tend to clam up and it is a major confidence hit.  For years, I would never try to jump into conversations because of that fear.

Not having a voice can be paralyzing.  Even more so when that lack of voice is merely perceived and not real.  It is a tool of the Adversary and shuts up more people, especially women, than we can even imagine.  There are many reasons why we may feel that our voice is silenced.  Most often it is due to hurt or trauma.  I am not one of those.

No, my muteness is of my own making.  This makes it difficult to overcome because there’s really nothing concrete to overcome.  It’s all an abstract idea in my head that makes me believe that my voice isn’t good enough; I’m not good enough.  I’m still working through this.

This blog is one of the main ways that I try to beat this.  Putting my words out there in a medium where they can be heard and my voice is out there.  I still fear having others read them.  I still worry every time I hit publish, but I’m doing it anyway.  I’m trying to push through one blog post at a time.

Whether anyone reads these words or they are just for me, I see triumph each time one is posted.  A sense of accomplishment every time I know that I overcame and pushed through that fear.  Victory at each post that gets published.

And in a world where it is he, who talks loudest, that is heard, I’m learning to value quiet and to truly discern when it is time to speak up and when it is okay to be silent.

Find your voice

How do you use your voice?  What do you do to speak out?

Embarking on a Journey to Find my Passions

I’ve never been one to talk about my passions.  Part of that is the puritanical way in which I was raised (the very word – passion – was definitely NOT part of my vocabulary).  And part of it is the fact that there was literally never much that I was passionate about.

I have always loved to write.  Crafting fictions and poems from my youth, but it was never something that I felt a yearning to do.  It was just something that I always did.

I have always loved music.  I played flute in junior high and whereas I never excelled there was always something great about seeing a piece of music come together.  I’ve also loved listening to music.  Not tied to genre, I definitely like to explore.

Likewise, there are things that I have adamantly avoided, like public speaking or the plague.  I’m not one to get up in front of groups and speak.  I’ve also never really fancied myself a good teacher, which is ironic considering that we now homeschool (more on that in a moment).

I’ve found things that I would describe as my jam (like music) or my happy place (like cooking), but I’ve never really had something that was my thing.  This thing that is mine and that I do and if I don’t do it then I just don’t function.  I’ve never really had a passion before.  Even when going to college, I couldn’t decide on a major or “What I wanted to do when I grew up.”

But the Lord has been bringing me on a journey.  Late last year, He gave me the word ‘Joy’ as my #oneword for 2016.  I hadn’t thought about how all that would play out, but I have been truly trying to seek out joy and learn more about what brings me joy and how to seek it out.

By way of this, I came up with three goals that I want to work on for the year:  Focusing/Meditating on Joy, Running, and Writing/Blogging.  As I set these goals, I realized that writing was part of joy for me.  I realized that writing was more than just something that I liked or enjoyed.  It brought me joy.  It really was a passion!

I’ve since discerned that I have a true passion for women’s ministry.  God broke through my public speaking/teaching barriers when I was at a chapel that needed teachers and I was pretty much it.  I’m still not super confident, but I’ve learned the value of women studying and learning about God and His Word and have submitted myself to doing what needs to be done to accomplish that.

It is still a learning process, but at 35 I’d say that it is about time for me to figure out my passions and actually do something about it.  I’ve got two goals (one is this blog) that I’m actively working toward achieving that coincide with my passions.  Hopefully, I will share these along the way and how God has set these passions in ways that will honor and glorify Him.

Pursuing Passions

What about you?  What are your passions and how are you using those to achieve goals or glorify God?

February Book Report

Unfortunately my reading has been slow as of late.  I only finished one book in February and I’ve decided to take a little break from my list during Lent (I’m reading through the gospels).  However, the one that I finished was phenomenal.

Help my Unbelief

I read Barnabas Piper’s Help My Unbelief:  Why Doubt is Not the Enemy of Faith.  This is the first book of Piper’s that I have read, but I have enjoyed several of his articles and listen to his podcast, The Happy Rant, regularly.

This book deals with doubt in an open and honest way.  As the subtitle suggests, it proposes that doubt is natural and not the enemy of faith, but rather a tool to be used to deepen and grow your faith.  Doubt can be a healthy thing and if properly interpreted can be a great help rather than a hindrance.

The premise of the book is set upon the idea that our faith isn’t mean to be blind.  We aren’t called into an ignorant faith that is weak and fragile.  Our faith isn’t baseless.  We are called to a reasoned faith in God, one that is founded in who He is and what He does, both in our lives, those around us, and those that we learn about in God’s Word.

Most of the time, the word translated as “belief” in Scripture is more accurately “trust.”  So, as we are called to believe, we are actually to trust.  Faith can be defined as belief and trust.

I love that Mr. Piper tears down the ideas that we must have explanations and answers for everything.  We often fail to see the beauty in the mystery and forget that “I don’t know” doesn’t mean that we are idiots or that we are mindlessly following a myth.  Through his work, Piper shows that if we knew all of the answers about God, He wouldn’t be much of a god.  Resting in this mystery doesn’t make us dim or fearful of knowledge, but rather shows our maturity in that we understand that we cannot always explain everything.

As I shared after reading Rachel Held Evans’ book Searching for Sunday, doubt is a major factor in the life of the believer.  We have to wrestle with this and if we do it open and honestly then we are much more likely to have success and grow as believers rather than to continue on in darkness where the smallest stone can fracture our faith.

Unlike Evans who approaches the topic in a very personal way with literary flourish, Piper approaches doubt and faith in a very practical way.  Though he does still use his personal story as a backdrop, it is more of a “proof text” rather than a major plot point.  Piper looks at belief, and conversely doubt, in the broad sense and then brings it down to the level of how it should look in our everyday life.  If Evans asked the important questions, then Piper took it a step further and answered them.

Though some may not like where he ends up, you cannot deny its validity.  There is a very real sense in which we, as Christians, must rest in the unknown and embrace that which we cannot see.  We must be able to settle into those places that don’t have the clear  lines drawn so that we may better understand when we do arrive at the answers we seek.

We are not the first to doubt.  Even John the Baptist questioned whether Jesus was actually the Messiah (Luke 7).  He sent his disciples to ask Jesus.  What better an example for when we doubt?  Go and ask Jesus.  We will have doubts; this is a given.  But what are we to do when those doubts arise?  Go and seek the answers from the one who has them.

Even though this book does get a little academic at times discussing belief and doubt in the abstract (and is missing a bit of the snark that I’ve come to associate with Piper), I would definitely recommend this to anyone who is struggling with unbelief but also to new believers so that they can arm themselves when the doubt comes.

January Book Report

Searching for Sunday

Rachel Held Evans is divisive.  She’s a blogger and writer.  And she’s made a career out of doubting her faith, asking tough questions, and writing about them.  It’s a nice gig, if you can get it.

To date, I’ve read two of her books.  This doesn’t mean I’m a fan of hers or that I agree with her positions.  I do agree that she’s bold enough to speak her mind and not shy away from admitting that she doubts and has questions.  Just like the rest of us.

In Searching for Sunday, Evans uses a beautiful literary device transposing the traditional sacraments of the Church with her own struggles and journey of faith.  While discussing Baptism, Confession, Holy Orders, Communion, Confirmation, Anointing the Sick, and Marriage, she navigates the journey she’s been on for the past several years.

Her story isn’t new and it isn’t revelatory, but it is necessary.  I don’t always agree with her conclusions and I rarely agree with her theology, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy this book.  Like with most of her writing, you don’t have to agree with where she ends up, you just have to understand the journey.

And I do.

I often struggle with doubt.  Mine may not be in the same ways or on the same scale as Evans, but that doesn’t mean I can’t relate.  In addition to the beauty of her writing, Evans is a master of bringing forth conversations that need to be had, sometimes unapologetic and sometimes overly apologetic.

Evans writes what she knows and this book is no different.  It is largely personal and covers what she’s gone through over the past several years struggling with Evangelicalism, a foray into the Emergent, and landing in a small Episcopalian church.  It deals largely with her hurts and her pains and how God has healed and helped her, as well as the areas where she’s still hurting.

In the end, even though I enjoyed this book, I don’t know that I would recommend this book to just the average reader or faith doubter.  You have to be on a certain foundation, I think, to get the most out of Ms. Evans’ writing.  However, for those who have the basics down, but still question would be as enamored with this book as I was.

Mental Wholeness

Like the Westminster Catechism, I believe that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  However, to do this, I think we have to be holy, healthy, and whole.  We have 4 “pillars” of health:  mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical.  I believe that these correspond to Jesus’ command for us to love God with all our mind (mental), heart (emotional), soul (spiritual), and strength (physical), in Luke 10:27.

To this end, I strive to health and wholeness in each area.  Mental is one that is both easy and difficult to maintain.  There are a million apps and games out there that help with memory and cognition.  However, I’m not sure that just that is all you need for brain health.  I’ve used Brain Age and Luminosity and a couple others and they work well, but I think you need a bit more.

There is a creative and imaginative aspect to mental health, too.  I’m not much of a crafter, but I do like to think of myself as a big of a creative soul.  I’ve just gotten into the grown up coloring books that are all the rage now days.  I’ve also started Bible Journaling.

Scripture memorization is also a wonderful tactic.  You get the benefit of stretching your mental muscles with memorization and you also get the added bonus of having a wealth of scripture at your mental disposal.

These are all well and good and wonderful tools to use.  But the most fun tool for building mental health and wholeness?  Reading!  I love to read, so this may not be the same for everyone.  I like to read broadly, but I will say that my focus lately has been nonfiction and theology.  I’m trying to mix it up a bit this year with my 2016 reading list.

My usual goal is reading two books a month, but I’ll admit that I’m a bit behind schedule this month.  I’ve already finished one book and have two more started that I’m reading concurrently.  I’ve not made the time to read in the past couple weeks, but I hope to get back in the routine.

Check back in on Wednesday for my first monthly “Book Report” on the book I’ve completed.

On Being a Grownup

I’m not sure when it happened.  And to be honest, on some days, I wonder if it actually has happened.  But then I get a bill , my son needs fed, or I have to go to work and then I realize that, Yes, I am actually a grown up human being.

Yet, there are a several good things about being a grown up.  For instance, last night we were invited over to our friends’ house.  They are a lovely couple roughly the same age as us with two beautiful children.  We try to get together at least once a month, sometimes more.  R makes a beautiful meal, or we order Papa Murphy’s with some strange concoction that he assures us tastes great, and it usually does.

Then, L makes dessert and coffee, their littles go to bed, and we watch Survivor (or a movie, if it’s not on).  We giggle like children and the inane babble, poor gameplay, and random tomfoolery.  We guess what’s going to happen next and armchair quarterback.  We make jokes and laugh so hard that R has to pause the TV.  Several seasons of this tradition and there are still jokes that are made on a regular basis.  Perhaps we aren’t as grown-up as we think.

We have another couple, just a few years younger than us, that we get together with, too.  It runs about the same.  We go over. A makes a delicious meal. We do laundry.  The littles go to bed.  Then NGD and M start with the theological debates or random discussions and before you know it, its 3am, I’m contemplating the Doctrines of Grace, and Chas is asking if we can go home so he can go to bed.  (I may have forgotten to mention that M is our pastor now)

Just before Christmas, we got together with new friends.  Well, somewhat new.  NGD and AC had been friends for a while and I knew his wife, but we’d never really hung out before.  She made a great meal and we spent the entire night (all their littles and Chas were absent) laughing, sharing, and figuring out the mysteries of the universe.  It was a great night and I really hope that we’re able to do it again soon.

I never thought that I’d be the type of adult who has other adult friends that you get together with on a regular basis.  My parents never really had friends when I was growing up.  They worked too much (now that they are retired, they are ALWAYS out with their friends).  Not to mention being in the military doesn’t exactly lend itself well to that sort of thing.

However, here I am.  I have friends.  I have community.  I have people that I can call if the truck breaks down or if I need a place to do laundry.  I am an adult and I kind of like it.

It’s All About the Books

2016 books


Reading is one of my favorite pastimes.  I’m pretty passionate about it.  So, without further ado, I will post my reading goals for 2016.

Help My Unbelief by Barnabas Piper

Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans

The Jesus I Never Knew by Phillip Yancey

Housewife Theologian by Aimee Byrd

The Making of an Ordinary Saint by Nathan Foster

Something by Wendell Berry (I’ve yet to decide on a title)

The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung

The Abolition of Man by CS Lewis

The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst

Simply Jesus by NT Wright

Notes from a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider

Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton

Hipster Christianity by Brett McCracken

The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight

Father Brown Mystery by GK Chesterton

Recovering Redemption by Matt Chandler

The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken

Heretics by GK Chesterton

I only have 18 books on my list this year.  I will explain a little more of the reasoning behind that soon.  I also usually like to leave a couple spots open for recommendations.  Otherwise, this is pretty much it.

I do realize that this list is a little unbalanced.  There’s a lot of Chesterton and not a lot of fiction.  Those kind of go hand-in-hand.  I actually added Father Brown to compensate for the lack of fiction.  A good portion of this list is actually heavy on books that I already own.  Other than that, I will see how it goes.  I have a lot of books that I’d like to read, but this list is pretty skewed.  I may either learn a lot or it could backfire and I may get bored with the same topics.

So, there it is.  What are you reading this year?

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