As I jumped into Parts 2 & 3 this week, I was almost scared to pick this book back up because Part 1 had such a profound effect on me! I could physically feel God stirring things inside me and to be honest I wasn’t sure I wanted any more stirring… but alas I picked it up and read on. As painful and beautiful as it was, I’m so glad I did and I hope you were glad you read it too!

Here’s the video of the live discussion of Parts 2 & 3:


Below are some thoughts & reflection questions to process from Parts Two & Three of this book.


Part Two: Tunnels

This chapter has Shauna diving deep into what was truly going on in her heart & mind. She says, “my mind is my only tool, and at the same time, it’s my greatest challenge.” How often do we get caught up in our own minds? I know I do. It can paralyze us and keep us totally stuck. As Shauna was moving to a life filled with more connection, she sensed that an “inner darkness” remained… I often describe this feeling myself as a dark cloud hanging over my head. She said as she slowed down, it became more visible and suggested that perhaps that’s why she was running in the first place. She was having a hard time pushing back the voice of self hatred and it was invading everything… even the sweet moment in the ocean with her son that she describes. Maybe not everyone can relate to what she was feeling, but I sure could. In my past as I battled crippling anxiety, I fought this inner struggle EVERY MOMENT of EVERY DAY,  that voice controlled everything I DID and DIDN’T do. All my thoughts and actions ran through that self deprecating filter and it was not pretty. She came to that same point that I did and realized that something deep inside was going to have to change. So as she put it, she began the “daily, unglamourous work of rebuilding that strong inner core – replacing that sludgy hatred with love.” In that season of my life, I found myself doing the exact same thing and reading Shauna’s journey has encouraged me to dig in even deeper and fill those lies with God’s truth. Freedom comes in digging deep to discover who God made YOU to be and not looking around at everyone else. Ladies, we have to stop the competition game… run your race!

Present over Perfect quote 3

Reflections from this chapter:

  • Do you find yourself “outrunning” or “drowning out” the voice of self hatred or feeling of deep inadequacy in your own life?
  • Get out your calendar right now and schedule times of silence this week to be quiet before the Lord and let Him pour His love over you. Replace those lies with His truth.

 

 

Vinegar and Oil

In this chapter, Shauna unpacks a prayer concept that I know will stick with me forever! It’s the idea from her friend Geri that when we pray we should picture a bottle of oil and vinegar. The oil settles to the bottom and the vinegar sits ever so delicately on the top. The challenge is when we pray that we should pour out the vinegar first, “the acid, whatever’s troubling you, whatever hurt you, whatever is harsh and jangling your nerves or spirit.” The key she says is to pour the vinegar out until it’s gone and then we get to the “rich and flavorful” oil. This oil represents the “grounding truth” that God is good and we aren’t alone.

As I read about the oil, I kept thinking about the time my husband and I went on a tour of a olive mill. We were very surprised to learn what a true labor of love it was to get that olive oil from the olive on the tree to the finished product in the jar. The extraordinary amount of dedication, patience and time it takes to produce that precious golden liquid is something that we take for granted. How often is that the case with God’s love… we take for granted the unseen labors of love He lavishes upon us and the extraordinary amount of patience He has with us, He always proves Himself faithful.

She reminds us that true connection with God begins when we quit trying to hide the vinegar. We have to be willing to admit EVERYTHING, even with what we think we can “fix” ourselves or messes we got ourselves into… He wants it ALL! Then he can lavish us with the oil filled with His love and faithfulness.

Reflections from this chapter:

  • Evaluate your prayer life. Are you hiding your vinegar? Do you relate to the idea Shauna shared of attaching “cognitively to the idea of God” but not allowing yourself to be seen “vinegar and all”? If so, start today by just simply pouring it all out so you can get to the precious oil underneath it all!

 

 

A Wide and Holy Space

In this chapter, Shauna discusses her church background and how the traditions she grew up with play out in her adult life. She describes it in this way, “we all grow up with half a pie, and part of being an adult person of faith is finding the rest of your pie.” When I read this a lightbulb went off for me… this statement is so true and it’s why we find ourselves in our middle years searching so hard to find the “perfect church” that by the way…. doesn’t exist! I love how she challenges us to learn from others and not be bound by only what we know or have experienced. I have found this to be so powerful in my own faith journey. I grew up in a church that was much more focused on traditions than true authentic community and what a true relationship with Jesus looks like. I like Shauna have many things to be thankful for in the way I was raised, and the fact that my parents gave me a wonderful loving church to grow up in, but as I became a college student I began to be exposed to other ways of “doing” church. It opened my eyes to see that there might be more to this “church” thing than I thought. Since then I have had many different church experiences and our family is now at a church that we helped plant over 10 years ago. It is not a perfect church and it has been through tough times as many churches have. But at the heart of it, it is the place where we experience the goodness of Jesus through the good and the bad!  It is the place that my family has a home. We are surrounded by a community of believers that love us in a way that I never could have dreamed of, partially because we have pressed through in the tough times to find “our people” and I encourage you to do the same wherever you are.

Many quit attending church at all because it all seems like TOO MUCH! Too many rules, too much hypocrisy, too much change, too much judgement, too much commitment….  every church can’t be good at all the things… they will each have their strengths and weaknesses, because each church is made up of humans just like you! We are made for community with other believers, find your place and dig in… we all need to fill our pie!

Shauna says that “many of us rail against what we didn’t get. Or we rail against what’s being offered here or there…” but she says, “the best you can hope for is that each church experience you gather up throughout your life fills that pie a little bit.”  

I love how she closes this chapter, “our God is so big, bigger than one church or one way or one tradition, and he uses such a wide and holy variety of people and voices and practices, and for that I’m profoundly thankful.” To that I say a loud, “Amen” and I’m profoundly thankful for that too!

 

Reflections from this chapter:

  • Have you found your “wide and holy” space to worship the Lord? I encourage you to find a place that you can gather with other believers to grow, learn and experience God in a life changing way, a place that feeds your soul and encourages you to go out and serve others with your life. If you are looking for the “perfect church”, stop looking & just pick one, invest in it, you won’t find a perfect church, but look for “your people”.

 

Daughter, Yellow Sky, On Stillness & Stars

These last 4 chapters in Part 2 build around the same idea so we’ll discuss them together. Shauna opens by saying that as Christians we should be living a “courageous rhythm of rest, prayer, service and work.” She reminds us that Christians “ought to be free in meaningful and radical ways to bow out of the culture’s insistence on proving and competing”  This opening paragraph just felt very freeing on so many levels… we can put all this striving down my friends and rest! Rest and abide in Him!

Although like I said before, I believe attending a local church is incredibly important for many reasons. For me I have begun to realize that going to a church building is never going to do for me what reclaiming my “daughter-ness” will. I have to own that piece of my faith by BEING with the Lord on my own through regular time in His word and prayer. Our faith is built on “feasts, holidays, Sabbath and evening prayers – a rhythmic, beautiful life with God.”  Somehow we have made our faith into something it was never intended to be. As Shauna puts it, “We do for him, instead of being with him.” 

As she moves to the Yellow Sky chapter, she continues this thought as she evaluates her own prayer life. She realizes that although she was connecting with God on many levels, she wasn’t sure she was connecting with the person of Christ much at all. I could totally relate, again I grew up in a background where a relationship with Jesus was not really talked about much. Shauna said, “I didn’t know how to let myself be taken care of by God” and even that phrase made her uncomfortable. I love how as she embarked on this journey she found her prayers more life-changing and it has allowed her to truly know Jesus in a deeper way! That’s what I want… thanks Shauna for the reminder!

In the On Stillness chapter, she presses in even more on that idea of being still and quiet. Shauna shares that she is finding healing in the silence and that she doesn’t want this to be true, she even admits that she spent her whole life avoiding silence. This is SO me!  One of the things I am learning as someone who battles anxiety is that the silence can be a scary place and that’s why I run from it! In my past, the silence would allow my mind to go all kinds of places and the anxiety would take over. I have now learned that it is important what I do with the silence. I love how Shauna says, “I practice allowing myself to be seen and loved by the God who created me from dust.” 

From personal experience, this takes time and discipline to begin to see yourself the way God sees you. It takes faithfully going into the silence and letting Him fill it with His truth. Shauna says it so beautifully, “When you begin to carry God’s love and true peace deep within your actual soul like a treasure chest, you realize that you don’t have to fling yourself around the planet searching for those things outside yourself.”

In the Stars chapter, Shauna challenges us in the silence to have all the thoughts and all the feelings, not to run from them or insulate ourselves from things that seem like too much. We tend to do this… stuff it all down and bury ourselves in the everydayness of life’s tasks. But Shauna says, “if you insulate yourself from some of it, you insulate yourself from all of it.”  Here she references her friend Glennon, who is a wonderful writer in her own right and in her book Carry On Warrior, she talks of the importance of letting yourself truly feel the hurt and pain of life “unarmed.” Often I think we move through life “armed” with all our weapons of defense mechanisms, coping skills, noise and busyness… this leaves us disconnected and exhausted! Shauna shares that once she laid all that down, she could see the stars and the stars were beautiful!

 

Reflections from this chapter:

  • Take a breath, sit in silence and just abide in Him… reclaim your place as His beautiful, loved, genuinely cared for Daughter!
  • Once you’ve taken the time to just “BE”, pour all the contents of your heart out to Him, even when it feels awkward, let Him in to do that life-changing work of shaping and molding you into something new from the inside out!
  • What do you need to lay down so that you can enjoy the “stars”?

 

Part 3: Legacy

 

Agency 

This chapter revolves around the idea that we need to own our life, who we are and who we are not. I find as I approach 40, this is easier to do in some ways because we begin to be comfortable in our own skin and stop trying so hard to pretend… maybe because it’s just too exhausting. In other ways, it’s harder as you get older, because people know you to be one way and if you go making drastic changes, you are left to wonder if those people will still like you.

Shauna challenges that to truly do this, “you have to stop doing a whole lot of things to learn what it is you really love, who it is that you really are.” She also reminds us that we don’t have to answer to all “those good people with good opinions”. We have to answer to the God who made us who we are and who planted those loves, dreams and desires deep inside of us! Wow, take a moment and let that sink in… the scary part comes as she says, “if you ignore them long enough, they will go silent, and that’s a real tragedy.”

As you begin processing what things in your life need to change, Shauna cautions us from seeking all the wisdom from our friends and family, some of the searching will have to be done alone in the silence before the Lord. Remember her encouragement that “when you arrive on the other side, the people you love most will be there to meet you.” 

Does the thought that you can “remake” your life sound exciting or terrifying to you? I know for me it sounds like both at the same time… but I also feel so much freedom in it as well!

Reflections from this chapter:

  • Do you know what it is that you really love? What are those things that God has placed deep in you? Are there some things you need to quit doing so you can find the things you really love?
  • Whose opinions in your life speak the loudest? Who do you allow to shape what your life looks like?
  • As you seek out the silence to listen, what is God revealing to you about what needs to be “remade” in your life?

 

Legacy, It’s All Right Here, The Man in the Tuxedo & The Spring of the Basketball Hoop

I have to admit the Legacy chapter was the hardest for me to read this week…. it’s been a week of tragic loss in our community. Two families lost loved ones to cancer, a young mom left behind a beautiful baby girl and a father left behind a young son and daughter… gone too soon, but both leave an incredible legacy of faith! In times like that we can’t help but think, “What kind of legacy am I leaving”?

I was shaken as I read Shauna’s words, “The legacy I care most about is the one I’m creating with the people who know me best – my children, my husband, my best friends. And I have to make a change.”  She continued by saying, “I’ve been better from a distance than I have been in my own home…I come home weary and self-protective, pulled into a shell of exhaustion and depleted emotions.”

I could totally relate… if I’m being honest, her words could have been mine just a few months ago. I was at this breaking point myself last fall, something had to change. I made a tough decision to leave a job and team of coworkers that I truly LOVED, it was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made and one that still haunts me to this day, but I know that it was what God was calling me to! Even on the days when it still doesn’t make sense, He gently shows me His healing work in my home and in my relationships.

Maybe you have a hard time relating to her particular example, but I bet you can see glimpses of this in your own life. The stay at home mom who has nothing left for her husband at the end of the day, the homeschool mom who struggles to separate teacher from mom, the working mom who can’t leave her job to be home and struggles to balance work life with home life, whatever it is, I think the bigger question is how to manage your time and energy in a way that those closest to you don’t get your leftovers at the end of the day?

In It’s All Right Here, she addresses this deeper as she talks about the distance we create in our relationships. We avoid situations and relationships that feel hard and focus on the ones we can control like our job, housework or checking off a to do list. This distance is usually created between us and those that we love most. As Shauna says, “the people out there are easier than the ones in here”.

In The Man in the Tuxedo, she drives this legacy point a little further with the story of a man who was dying yet was spending his last moments being intentional with his time. Shauna talks about how she felt she “should” do certain things and it would be “responsible” of her to do them… but she was realizing that those things were not leading her to a life of wholeness. She talks about how we will always disappoint someone with the choices we make, but that too often it was her husband and children. She vowed to change that and it gives us all hope that we can do the same!

As she moved to the Spring of the Basketball Hoop chapter, she offers a beautiful reminder to slow down and savor the moment. It’s ok to tell the world no and tell your family yes… we can reestablish family routines that focus on quality time. I loved this chapter as I myself am learning this in my own home. I find myself stopping more to go into our own driveway to shoot hoops and play four square with my little family! It may not make sense to everyone, but it make sense to me.

Reflections from this section:

  • If you are being honest with yourself, does your life right now truly reflect the legacy that you want to leave?
  • How can you be sure that those that mean the most to you don’t get the worst version of you?
  • Are you creating distance in your home by not focusing on the relationships that really matter? Do you find it easier to invest in people outside your home?
  • What are some ways you could slow down and savor moments with your family?

 

When Brave Looks Boring

Reading this chapter, I am reminded how often we characterize brave as doing something big and hard, which is true… but I think the question is how do we decide what’s “big and hard”? In this chapter, Shauna gives a ton of examples about what her new definition of brave is…

“staying when you want to leave”, “telling the truth when all you want to do is change the subject”, “staying put when you’re addicted to rushing”, “listening instead of talking”, “articulating my feelings when they are sad or scared or fragile”  and finally…

“Being brave is getting off the drug of performance.” 

This stuff is big and hard… and it matters. She reminds us that brave sometimes looks boring to the world and they won’t understand, but that’s ok, be brave anyway!

Present over Perfect

Reflections from this chapter:

  • What is something big and hard that you need to be brave about in your life right now?
  • With this “new” definition of brave in mind, make a list of brave things that you have done already in your life.

 

Present over Perfect

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” – John Steinbeck

I love the quote at the beginning of the chapter because I am a recovering perfectionist… and this quote is very freeing to me! Shauna brings these sections together in this chapter by defining what “Present over Perfect” looks like. I love that she reminds us that it will look different for different people because each of us are crafted by God differently. This is where we have to be careful not to judge what we see others do to connect and be present in their lives, just because it might look differently then the way we choose to do it. Here’s how Shauna describes it, “It’s about rejecting the myth that every day is a new opportunity to prove our worth.” and embracing the “truth that our worth is inherent, given by God, not earned by our hustling.”  

We have to get to the point that what is meaningful to us is how we connect with the people in our lives and how we interact with the world around us in a way that points them to Jesus. Doing life this way can be messy and it doesn’t fit into a perfect little box. Being truly seen for who you are and allowing others to drop their guard and be seen is refreshing, but also terrifying. I think I am beginning to understand that to live as present over perfect means to let go and just be who God made you to be and that is beautiful!

Present over Perfect quote 4

Reflections from this chapter:

  • Do you see patterns in your life of trying to prove your worth to others? How can you begin to stop those and move toward finding your worth in the Lord?
  • What intrigues you the most about this “present over perfect” living that Shauna is leading us towards?


What are you learning through this book? Share in the comments below.


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