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    Undaunted + How God Used These Words In My Life

    I’ve given myself a huge undertaking. With my desires for diving back into a life of reading, I’ve given myself 29 books to read this year. When I set out to make my 2017 Reading List, I didn’t venture to add so many books. It just happened. The sheer number of it, kind of scares me as it begs that I won’t be able to finish. In fact, to date, I’ve only read three of those in their entirety.

    When I saw that Christine Caine was starting a book club for those reading Undaunted: Daring to do what God calls you to do, I figured I’d sign up. It was on my list anyway. Y’all, this book wasn’t on my list. The author isn’t even on there with a different book that I planned to read this year. This has to be God’s timing. The words I have read this past week and over the weekend have cut deep into places that I know He spoke directly into using Christine’s words.

    The words ‘rallying cry’ are evident and were placed on my heart as a summation of her words. With every chapter, Christine pleas for our generation to step up and step outside of ourselves. For us to know who we are in Him and to throw our fears aside to follow Him. To live undaunted.

    Her Stories

    Australia has long been a fascinating place for me and more recently, Greece has captured my interest. It’s funny that Christine Caine, a Grecian girl who is from Sydney, Australia would write words that would land in my hands and even more so into my heart. She’s filled with wit, draws from personal moments from getting lost in a rainforest to the very moments God placed A21 on her heart in the most unlikely of places.

    Christine’s tales suck you in as she shows you how God’s hand has been evident in her life. Her gentle yet fierce words beckon the reader to look at where God has been evident in their own life and where their relationship with Him is currently. She speaks of the fears, disappointments, and unknowns she has grappled with and yet overcome. Her ability to overcome with God at her side invites and imagines for us to have the same in our lives.

    Undaunted. That’s a word that escapes me. It’s a word that I’m not sure if I’ve ever had roll off my tongue. I know what the feeling of being daunted is – full of fear, unknowns looming in the future, a general yucky atmosphere up ahead. What about undaunted though? Undaunted is a word brimming with courage, an unstoppable force as it faces challenges head on with the confidence and faith that God will help you overcome them.

    That’s the way I’d like to live. What about you? So often though, it’s a life we’re wishing for rather than the confidence we are living in.

    Her Use of Scripture

    Christine laces her words with scripture in a beautiful, captivating way that makes you want to read more, to read deeper. It’s a way that is uniquely her own. I read a lot of Christian Living books. While I absolutely adore this genre, sometimes I feel that God’s words are standalone next to the author’s own. They flow in and out, yet keep their words separate as they relate them back to the scriptures. As a fellow writer, it’s hard to not admire Christine’s gift for writing. Her use of bringing the scripture so vividly in front of her readers not just in a way to reference but in a way that it dances on the page in front of you and leaps into your heart. It’s like reading it for the very first time even if it’s the millionth.

    Words I Needed + Maybe You Do Too

    Rick and I decided to spend some time in our hammocks this weekend. We spent hours relaxing, reading and just resting in two different parks over the weekend. The most surprising this to me was God choosing that time to meet with me. I’m not sure if you’ve ever had intentional time with God in a hammock, but I’m now convinced there may be no other way. In a world where distractions are constant and loud, there’s something about a hammock that seems to block them all out.

    Christine Caine’s words are so God breathed, I want you to read them for yourself. These are words that hit my heart in the best of ways over this weekend:

    “If you allow those labels to loom larger in your heart and mind than the promises of God, they can fool you into missing God’s truth about who you are, into not pursuing the purpose God has had in mind for you from the beginning of time… You need to return to the truth of God’s Word that will last forever, not meditate on circumstances that will change and fade.”

     

    “If we allow other people to tell us what we are and are not qualified to do, we will limit what God wants to do with us.”

     

    “When you let fear run your life, you close yourself off from anything that might hurt or cost or make you uncomfortable – including opportunities to serve God and claim his promises.”

     

    “When Jesus asks, Do you love me? he is also saying: Then keep your eyes on me. Keep believing in what I have created you to do. Turn over to me your fear, and hold fast to faith in me. Replace that fear – fear that I did not give you – with the love, power, and sound mind that I have given you. Know that my presence is your antidote to fear.”

    Words for the Weary

    Lately in our home, we’ve been discussing work versus play. Mental health and self-care are frequent topics. This weekend our hammock time served to be a complete separation for us. After so much talk between us over the past week, I thought it was interesting that Christine discussed it. In the midst of a book calling us to live undaunted in our faith for ourselves and to reach others, she devotes time and words to slowing down, recharging and rest.

    We can get worn down by the needs in this world, and wearied by them, God knows. We need sleep, rest, restoration, recuperation. That’s why God gives us the end of a day, and he doesn’t begrudge us our rest. He doesn’t want us to come to the end of ourselves and be defeated and enslaved in a spiritual Auschwitz, tormented, thinking it is the work we do that sets us free, so that we have to get back up on the treadmill and do more, be more. No, he doesn’t want us to burn the candle at both ends so that we end up lethargic, fatigue, burned up, and burnt out. To do that is to walk into the lie that was wrought in iron over the arched entrance of Auschwitz – to be held captive by the idea that work sets us free. This is not what God meant when he said in Isaiah 1:12: “Why this frenzy of sacrifices?” (MSG).

     

    Working ourselves into a frenzy of tormenting others by working them to death is not freedom. It is enslavement. But we are not slaves; we are free. And we have been freed for a purpose: to share what we’ve been given. The Bible tells us, “he has shown you, oh man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8 NKVJ). 

    It’s easy to work, work, work. Even now, in a season where I have slowed and am working on different projects than traditional ‘work’, I find myself working a lot. I research, I stay current, I do housework. (Although, I just realized that I started laundry several hours ago and now have wet clothes in the washer. Oops!) It’s tough to pause and separate from what we’re doing but it’s so very necessary.

    The Story That Stuck Out The Most

    I tend to overwork. In fact, the other night I literally had a dream where I was working to prove my worth to work. I fell in love with the story that Christine breaks down for us in It’s Not Business – It’s Personal.  She reframes a story from Luke – the man on the side of the road and the good Samaritan.

    Nowhere in Jesus’ story does it say that the priest or the Levite were bad people. But they were busy people, religious people. They were so consumed with keeping their schedules, appointments, and commitments that they ended up walking past someone they should have helped. The man lying on the side of the road was an interruption to their ministry, rather than the object of it. 

    These are words that having been in ministry, just kind of shakes me up. It begs me to wonder what could have happened if, “x program had happened”, if “x told her idea”, if “x really embraced God’s leading instead of brushing it off”, if “x truly cared and went out of their way”. The what-ifs don’t have to be what-ifs. So much of that is buried in busyness, personal agendas and fear.

    If you’re reading this, I pray that you don’t allow the interruptions to throw you off. I hope you choose to submit and embrace them. I know that I will be more consciously on the lookout for those God-given interruptions in my life. Moments where He has plans and a purpose greater than myself.

    Worth it?

    Oh my goodness, yes! Even though this wasn’t on my Reading List, I am so glad I worship a God that intervenes in the smallest of ways for my good. I know He set this book club in my path this past week. I needed to read these very words this weekend. This is a book that I would definitely recommend. In fact, I’m passing it off later this week to one of my best friends.

    I’d strongly urge you to read this, especially if you’re struggling with disappointments, past labels, knowing who you are in Christ and who you could be. Even if you’re not struggling with those very things, I recommend you read it. You can find Christine Caine’s Undaunted here. Order it today, her words are so worth it. You will not be disappointed. Especially, if God is leading you to hear these words!

    The Language of Flowers: A Book Review

    I just finished The Language of Flowers a few days ago. I am so sad that I’ve already finished it. This is easily one of the best books that I’ve read in years. The language and diction that Vanessa Diffenbaugh uses are mesmerizing. She completely enveloped me into the world of foster child Victoria and had me captivated from the very first chapter.

    The craziest thing that has happened since reading this book is that I am currently obsessed with flowers. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve perused the floral section at HEB or dreamt of buying a flower farm. This is a story that changes the way you view flowers. Each bloom is now a manner of communication in itself and that is so incredibly cool to me.

    The ending is satisfying but has left with me with the smallest of questions of life after the book has ended. The way she has chosen to end it does leave one with a certain level of contentment though that can leave the story where it has ended.

    If you read only one book this year, I cannot recommend this one more. I loved absolutely every minute of reading it, whether it was in a hammock or at the doctor’s office. It would definitely be better to set aside some time with limited interruptions to fully enjoy it. Bonus if you can read it while surrounded with blooms!

    Go buy the book and some blooms!
    Ashley
    P.S. The protea flowers I used in my wedding mean courage. I absolutely love!

    My 2017 Reading List

    I’m on a journey right now to rediscover who I am. A journey to align myself with who I feel like I used to be that I’v lost upon the way. Reading is going to be a huge part of my journey. Not only do I love reading, but I fully believe it is a conduit to slow us down as our minds beg us to think and stretch in new ways. This year, my 2017 Reading List reflects these desires to stretch and grow.

    How Did I Choose these Books for 2017?

    I began by organizing my bookshelf. It seems simple, right? Kind of.  That made it evident that it was time to admit to myself that I have borrowed books with the intention of returning them but have ended up just stealing them instead. Also, all borrowed but not yet returned books automatically went on the list so that I can return them to their rightful owners. Now it was time to evaluate what should go on the list with a few questions.

    What on my shelf have I not yet read that excites me to read right now?
    Which book or books stands out as something I need to read in this season?
    What book has someone I know, love and trust recommended to me recently?
    Would I regret not reading one of these this year?
    Those books went on the list.

    The book choices that flow with the current longings of my heart rose to the top of the stack. The last few years that have changed me in so many ways. I’ve gone from deaths of those close to me to my diagnosis of Chron’s Disease and back around again.  (You can read more about that here.) Throughout that time, I’ve experienced amazing victories, huge tragedies and everything in between. It’s left me with so many conflicting emotions and lingering feelings of being burnt out. I am in need of healing. I’m in need of allowing myself and knowing how to give myself grace. I’m in need of a rediscovery and reconciliation of my own identity. These are books that have found themselves at the front lines of my list for this season because they’re what my heart needs.While not all fit this, there are a lot of books on my list deal with identity, grace and healing.

    My 2017 Reading List: A Year of Identity, Grace + Healing
    1. Looking for Lovely: Collecting the Moments that Matter by Annie Downs
    2. 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker
    3. Ditch the Baggage, Change Your Life: 7 Keys to Lasting Freedom by Nancy Alcorn
      This is the actual book, but the workbook I’m reading doesn’t seem to be available online anymore.
    4. When I Relax, I Feel Guilty by Tim Hansel
    5. EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches by Dave Ramsey
    6. Love Lives Here: Finding What You Need in a World Telling You What You Want by Maria Goff
    7. National Geographic: The Ultimate Guide to Photography
    8. Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist
    9. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
    10. Deep Wounds, Deep Healing by Charles H. Kraft
    11. Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption by Katie Davis
    12. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown
    13. Bread + Wine: A Love Letter to Life Arond The Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist
    14. Grace Not Perfection: Embracing Simplicity, Celebrating Joy by Emily Ley
    15. Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lysa Terkeurst
    16. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: It’s Impossible to Be Spritually Mature, While Remaining Emotionally Immature by Peter Scazzero
    17. For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker
    18. Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist
    19. Passages: How Reading the Bible in a Year Will Change Everything For You by Brian Hardin
    20. No More Christian Nice Girl: When Just Being Nice – Instead of Good – Hurts You, Your Family and Your Friends by Paul Coughlin + Jennifer D. Degley
    21. Fringe Hours: Making Time for You by Jessica N. Turner
    22. Restless: Because You Were Made for More by Jennie Allen
    23. Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and Everything In Between) by Lauren Graham
    24. Without Rival: Embrace Your Identity and Purpose in an Age of Confusion and Comparison by Lisa Bevere
    25. H3 Leadership: Be Humble. Stay Hungry. Always Hustle by Brad Lomenick
    26. The One and Only by Emily Griffin
    27. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
    28. The Girls Guide to Starting Your Own Business by Caitlin Friedman + Kimberly Yorio
    29. Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Real (Book #3) by Neta Jackson

    While that’s my reading list, I hope to not stop there. I do want to read these for me, but my plan is to also read them with you in mind so that I can share what I’ve learned for all of us. I’ll be discussing these themes of grace, healing and identity that are so prevalent on my 2017 Reading List while digging in with you. I really hope that you’ll pick a book and read with me. I also hope that even if you don’t have time to read any of these or that your list is always set in stone that you’d be willing to come and discuss certain ideas that come out of books with me. Because reading is better together, I’d love for us to have a book club of sorts.

    What are you reading this year?

    Ashley

    A Few Words Written, A Few Words Read & A Cup of Clean Water

    The internet is a huge place. For my explorer’s heart, there’s a lot to discover. One of the best things that has come from the Start Experiment is a ton of new blogs, ideas, internet spaces that I can explore. I feel like over the past few weeks I have learned a great deal from people that just a few weeks ago I did not have any knowledge of them, their stories, their hurts, their causes, their fears, and what makes them come alive.

    It’s funny. I saw the simple tweet from Jon Acuff when I was sitting on a hotel bed pondering a life altering decision and decided ‘Why not?’. A simple tweet, a quick email back and a lifetime changed is how it has turned out. I’ve been reading his stuff for years now. It’s amazing to have seen a community connected just through his writings rally around each other to support each others’ dreams coming true.

    One of the fantastic things I’ve run across is Cause Pub which is a ‘for-profit crowd-book-publishing company that partners with nonprofits to help them achieve specific goals within specific causes’. For their latest venture, they have gathered 127 storytellers together to share the moments when they have been pushed outside of their comfort zones to experience the world around them.
    Read more

    Unpacking the Unpacked Adventure

    If you’ve been reading here at my little corner of the internet for awhile, you’ll see that things have changed stylistically (is that even a real word?) in the last 48 hours or so. I’ve decided to go undergo a new me, a new blog and become a new dream chasing girl – one that I’ve always wanted to be but what scared me so.

    You see, it all started back in the days of xanga when I would read my high school friends blogs and posted one of my own. The problem with high school xangas is they are very high school. I say this in love though, I’ve volunteered with teenagers for over five years now and adore the age group no matter how awkward and confusing it is. As I moved up to blogger and wordpress though, I began to see true writers that posted hours and hours of content – funny, engaging, brilliant, thought provoking, life affirming stories and encouragement all surrounded by great designs and beautiful photography.

    Well y’all, the comparison game is a thief of joy and I have been its’ captive way too long. 

    I’m at a definitive crossroads (I guess you really could say I have been at one since I graduated college) and it’s time to step up and be the true me here. I don’t know where it’s going to take me. I know that there’s a lot of adventures ahead. I’m currently on one now. Jon Acuff of Stuff Christians Like has been a writer of one of my favorite blogs for years now and he tweeted out the other day that he would like information sent to him about his followers. He wanted real information emailed to him to take us on an adventure that may include a machete and a passport. I don’t usually respond, but I did.

    He’s invited me and 2000ish other friends to go on an adventure to punch fear in the face and start what we have wanted to start all along but have been too afraid of. He’s named it the Start Experiment after his book I’m currently reading entitled, Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters, which I highly recommend (along with his other books – I’m a bit of a fan). Here goes my START!

    Unpacked Adventure. It’s a weird name. How do you unpack an adventure? Don’t you usually pack for an adventure? Unpacking isn’t the fun part – it’s the thrill of getting everything together before a journey, packing your necessities and heading off. I don’t know what the adventure looks like. I know what I hope it involves: transparency, a deeper level of writing, a consistent blog, some encouragement, a less fearful me, a few crafts, some reviews of some great restaurants, books and digs along the way, a few fashionable moments, a few thoughts and adventures, creative projects and photography.

    Here’s to dreaming!
    Here’s to hoping!
    & Here’s to STARTing!

    Quitting Church

    If you’re not aware, I’m drastically behind in reading and finishing my To Read List. I’m trying to play a bit of catch up, but it will be okay if I don’t make it. In fact, I know I’m not going to make it, but I’ve at least tried.

    One of the books on the list is Julia Duin’s Quitting Church. I have been reading this on and off for several years. It’s a tough read. I’m not sure if it’s tough because of the content that ranges from controlling pastors to house churches to gender roles within the church or that it is tough because it resonates in my heart so much.

    I’d say check it out. It’s tough. It’s not a sit down and read through the whole thing kind of book. It’s written by a Christian journalists filled with statistics, interviews and personal anecdotes. You can see it on Amazon here as well as read some reviews. Whether you like it or would rather leave it, there is definitely a challenge for the church today and for the souls of us who are going. (Plus, right now it’s pretty cheap!)

    Reading is Ridiculous…

    One of my 12 for 12 goals is that I finish every book I’ve started in the last few years. I could think of a few book titles at the time when I wrote that down. I had no idea what I was about to find stashed away in plain sight on bookshelves waiting for me to rediscover them – all 24 books that I never finished. I’m not even sure that the number is capped there. I read a few excerpts from Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers but I think that’s going to be rain checked for next year after looking at this list.

    Okay y’all, here is the ridiculous amount of books I will try to read this year:

    One Month to Live – Kerry and Chris Shook
    I think I got to Day 2.

    Vintage Jesus – Mark Driscoll
    Read most of it, lacking a few chapters at the end.

    Get Uncomfortable – Todd Phillips
    I’m not even sure where I stopped…

    Enfrente a sus Gigantes – Max Lucado
    That’s Facing Your Giants for those who thought this blog was in English. Yes, I only own this book in Spanish.

    Wild at Heart – John Eldredge
    I got slightly past page 10…

    LiT – Dave Edwards
    I can not tell you how many times I’ve started this and stopped.

    Quitting Church – Julia Duin
    I actually got through over half of this if I remember correctly.

    A Call to Die – David Nassar
    I always end up switching to something else...

    Sacred Romance – Curtis & Eldredge
    I can tell you where I was when I started Chapter 1, which was the last time I ever read it.

    When I Relax, I Feel Guilty – Tim Hansel
    There’s a poem in the beginning of the book that I’ve read too many times to count. I at least finally started Chapter 1 this last semester…

    Breaking Free – Beth Moore
    I think I actually read about half of this one semester with ASC and stopped when we had to stop for Summer.

    So Long Insecurity – Beth Moore
    I actually haven’t started this book yet. I’m hoping to read it in its entirety this spring though.

    The Grand Sweep – J. Ellswoth Kalas
    My church is doing this as a read the whole Bible in the year plan together. I’m way behind. I did get the book in February and it was supposed to be started in January. Excuse? Oh, yes.

    Ragamuffin Gospel – Brennan Manning
    I read the first chapter in a car once. I proceeded to carry it everywhere with me for awhile and never opened it again.

    The Ultimate Field Guide to Photography – National Geographic
    I started this and never really got too far into the book. I need to. I think its owner is missing it…

    When God Writes Your Love Story – Eric Ludy
    I think I may have read three chapters in this? That is probably an overestimate though.

    Forgotten God – Francis Chan
    I can guarantee that I only read the first chapter.

    Scared, A Novel – Tom Davis
    I have no idea how far I got into reading this, but I know that I loved it!

    Dangerous Wonder – Mike Yaconelli
    First chapter. I’m pretty positive on that guess. There is a bookmark at least in it indicating that I would return. That’s a plus, right?

    Blue Like Jazz – Donald Miller
    I read a few chapters in the back of the book. I went back and read Chapter 1 the other day. I’m not so sure about finishing this one.

    Redeeming Love – Francine Rivers
    I read three chapters in this book! Then, I went to sleep and never went back to it again.


    The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Down, Book 2 – Neta Jackson
    I loved this book! I was reading the first book in the series at the very end of my study abroad in Costa Rica last summer. I started this book when I was in the hospital right when I got back. I got to page 123/422 which isn’t too bad.

    Confronting the Controversy – Adam Hamilton
    My kindle says I’m about 11% into this book. That’s not too bad, right? That may be the Chapter 2 start page, or not, that’s just how I feel…

    The Dating Blook – Matt Lantz
    I’ve actually gotten pretty far on this. I have been reading bits and pieces out of order, but with my reading history, what’s to be expected?

    I think I just proved that either:
    A) I’m a quitter when it comes to reading.
    B) I finished an extremely low number of books in college.
    C) I have a lot of reading to catch up on this year.
    D) I need help; AKA all of the above.