When trials surprise us

Out of the OrdinaryIt’s my turn at Out of the Ordinary today:

I was talking with a friend about various trials we sometimes encounter. “It’s the surprises that get me,” she said. “The things that come up when you assumed everything was fine, only to realize they weren’t.” I knew exactly what she meant. Such trials feel like a punch in the stomach, and I’m often sent reeling and gasping for breath.

Join me over there as I talk about When Life Leaves You Reeling.

More Than Just the Here and Now

Out of the OrdinaryIt’s my turn at Out of the Ordinary today.

But I am still far too invested in the here and now. Things like home repairs, college costs, and taxes loom large in my mind. So much so that I can even forget that our testimonies are not just stories for this world, but part of God’s eternal glory.

Join me over there!

Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl

BoyCrazyGirlHello. My name is Staci, and I used to be a boy-crazy girl. So was Paula Hendricks, but she has taken her story and done a great service to young Christian girls.

Part personal account and part gentle encouragement, Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl explores the struggle many single women have: how to desire the good gift of a husband without letting that desire rule you. Drawing often from her own journal entries, Paula tells of times when she thought she’d found The One, only to have her hopes dashed—and how she had to learn afresh to trust God in all things. Her story is honest and real, and I saw a lot of myself in it.

This is a hard subject to keep in balance, and you can fall off the fence on either side. Some writers, trying to communicate that Jesus is sufficient, wind up remaking Jesus in our image. Rather than depicting him as our Savior, he becomes an ideal, imaginary boyfriend (a subject my friend Persis recently tackled so well). This teaching borders on blasphemy, and it’s time to put it to rest. I am so glad Paula didn’t go there.

And while she emphasizes that God is sovereign—even over our love lives—she doesn’t verge off into stoicism. Marriage is a good gift, and women are not ungodly if they want this. Women are free to ask God to fulfill this desire; the struggle is not allowing it to consume them.

What I also appreciated about Paula’s story was how it doesn’t end with how she finally let go and God sent the perfect guy. She is, in fact still single (she might not appreciate that quite as much as me). Although it does sometimes happen that way, it can imply that Mr. Right will come if you just stop wanting him to. As a result, rather than encouraging honestly wrestling with God in prayer, it becomes a reverse psychology mind game. This leads to a low view of God and his goodness.

And that’s Paula’s story: turning back to God over and over again. Realizing afresh how easily her mind can dart ahead to an imagined future with a guy she’s only just met. It’s a common tendency among women, and one that men don’t seem to understand.

This book will mostly appeal to young women college age and younger. I also wouldn’t hesitate to hand it to younger teenagers, and I think it could trigger some great conversations between mothers and daughters. I would like to mention, though, that at one point in Paula’s story she had to explore her position on marriage after divorce. Her conclusions might differ from those of your church leadership. If your daughter is younger, you may want to be ready to have that discussion (which we should be doing anyway).

I highly recommend this book. There is a lot of bad teaching on this subject, and it’s a great joy to see it handled so well.

I also have a sign copy of Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl to give away. To be placed in the drawing, please enter your name and email address in the form below. I will draw the winner a week from today on February 21, 2014.

For more information about Paula and Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl, visit her webiste.

I received a copy of this book for review purposes. This review reflects my honest opinion.

Status Report: February

Status ReportSitting…at my desk.

Drinking…coffee. This won’t be my last cup today.

Debuting…my new blog look. What do you think? I still want to adjust some things, but I’ve looked at it so long I can’t make up my mind anymore. I’m going to let it simmer for a few days.

Trying…to wake up. Last Monday we got an inch or so of snow/sleet mix, with a layer of freezing rain to cement it all together. The result was a hard, icy shell. And then it stayed below freezing. Sheets of ice make the gravel roads in our rural school district too much for buses, so school was out all last week. It feels very much like the first day back after Christmas break.

Wondering…how the poor teachers are going to fare today. And what our eleven snow days (so far) will do to the school calendar.

Noticing…that more snow is on the way. I typically don’t mind winter. This year might be the exception.

Lamenting…that my productivity plummets during snow days. I seem to think the only thing to do when snow is on the ground is sit and sip coffee. Which works better when the snow melts in less than 48 hours.

Reading…Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl by Paula Hendricks. I wish that book had been around 25+ years ago. I’ll have a review and giveaway up tomorrow, Lord willing.

Excited…about Cruciform’s March release. I’ve liked them all, but this one, geared to women, is special. I hope Grace Is Free blesses other women as much as it’s blessed me.

Noticing…that it’s time to get up and get going. Happy Monday!

Links I’ve Liked

I Don’t Have to Read the Book or See the Movie to Know Heaven is Real by Nancy Guthrie – “Isn’t it interesting that Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, did not include details about what he saw in his personal guided tour of heaven and said, in fact, that it should not be talked about?”

Don’t Give My Husband Romance Lessons, Thank You by Kim Shay – “I am not an overly romantic person, and that’s good, because my husband isn’t the type, either. And that’s okay with us. If he was to sit down, at candlelight, look into my eyes, and recite poetry, we’d both end up laughing.”

7 Signs You’re Reading a Book by a Prosperity Preacher by Aaron Armstrong – “God is Not Mad at You, Reposition Yourself, Your Best Life Now, Become a Better You, It’s Your Time… I’m noticing a trend here. Someone’s a pretty big deal, and apparently that someone is me.”

The motivation for sound doctrine

DugDownDeep

For different reasons many Christians in my generation and older generations are leery of too much emphasis on doctrine. They have come to equate doctrine with church splits, hate mail, arrogance, and angry diatribes. They have seen how easy it is for life-giving truths to be reduced to empty formulas. No wonder that, for them, Christian doctrine can seem more hindrance than help when it comes to cultivating a vibrant relationship with Jesus.

I understand. If my heart is cold toward God, I can turn the most precious truth into an end in itself or a weapon to attack others. This is part of the reason I find the story of the wise builder so instructive. It reminds me that doctrine isn’t about me or my little tribe. Jesus said that the person who digs down to the rock is the one who comes to him. This has to be the first and final motivation. Pursuing orthodoxy and sound doctrine has to begin with a heart drawing close to Jesus—not to a theological system, denomination, or book.

– Joshua Harris, Dug Down Deep, page 30.

Links I’ve Liked

7 Crippling Parenting Behaviors That Keep Children From Growing Into Leaders – Yep.

Top 10 Ridiculous Responses Regarding My Third Pregnancy – Let me first admit that I was guilty of saying a few of these. Then people said them to me, and I realized how annoying they were.

I’m Thinking of Going to the Doctor for Depression Meds by David Murray – Solid, balanced advice from a wise man.

The Success Story of a Failed Novelist – If you would have told me 15 years ago I would end up writing nonfiction, I wouldn’t have believed you. I haven’t quite given up on fiction, but I’m thinking about it more and more.

Thankful Thursday

ThankfulLast night our church’s small groups resumed for the spring semester. We host the youth girls. Yesterday was a busy day. It began with an unplanned trip to the dentist and snowballed from there. By the time evening rolled around I was a few short steps away from raving lunatic (which is interesting, in light of yesterday’s post).

My husband is out of town and therefore not here help with the last minute tasks like moving our kitchen chairs downstairs. Our dogs, who usually go quite happily to their kennel to nap for the evening, were protesting their confinement. If you’re already feeling frazzled, two dogs barking does nothing to soothe your nerves. Trust me on this.

My daughter finished her piano practice, assured me that she was more than capable of seeing to the rest of the preparations, and sent me off to take my youngest to his program at the church. As we got in the car I was practicing in my head how I was going to tell our youth pastor I couldn’t host small group one more day. Then my son piped up from the passenger seat: “So apparently our house is a complete disaster.”

Between my daughter shooing me out the door so she could get on with readying the house and my son’s gentle sarcasm, I was able to laugh at myself. I got him to church on time and returned home to find the girls and my co-leaders happily munching the snacks my daughter had pulled out of the oven. The chairs were in place, the throws that had littered the floor were folded and put away, and the dogs were quiet in their kennels. And nobody (except for my daughter) knew how nuts I had been 30 minutes earlier.

So I’m thankful…

That my husband gets home today.

That my daughter stepped up and got the house ready.

That my kids are able to handle my crazy with a sense of humor. I hope it’s not a skill they’ll need to continue to hone.

That small group went well. The girls and the other leaders bless me to no end.