Ok here we are week three of our book club on Shauna Niequist’s “Present over Perfect”! This week I feel like Shauna is moving us into how this kind of living actually looks as we live it out. So these parts read a little more like her personal memoir and we get a further glimpse into the changes that she made in her own life.

Here’s the video discussion on these sections:

 

Part 4: Walking on Water

In this chapter, Shauna shares a revelation about the biblical account of Peter walking on water. As many times as she had heard the story, she had never realized that before Jesus scolded Peter, he rescued him! She talked of how so many times we twist words to tell our own stories rather than hearing what is truly there. She says, “what if shame actually isn’t in many of the places I think it is?” 

We often see things through a lens of hurt and pain. She pushes us to remember that we don’t need to be scared to be vulnerable with Jesus, he is not there just to scold us… he is there to also tenderly rescue and comfort us along the way! She closes this chapter with this. “How much more beautiful is our God when we free him from our own wounds and tired narratives.”

 

Reflections from this chapter:

  • Are there stories in scripture that you have twisted to tell your own story or that reflect your own wounds?
  • Do you carry this same idea into conversations with your spouse and children? Are you imposing things into the story that aren’t necessarily there?
  • As you read scripture this week, take some time to reshape the images of God that you may have formed based on your own pain.

Baptism

In this chapter, Shauna shares that as she pushed toward more silence, it brought fear that in the silence she would be weak and unable to face life, but what she found was the complete opposite, the silence made her strong.

During this season, Shauna talks about how she tried to get away for so long without “feeling or living deeply”. She shares that as she began to follow this path toward a less frantic pace that instead she felt brave and bold. When she took away all the noise, she began to “feel everything.”  She challenges us with the thought that once you slow down, you can see your relationships for what they really are, cracks and all. At that point you have two honest ways to deal with it… fix the cracks or let the relationship go.

From personal experience, when I came out of what I call my “anxiety fog period” of my life, I saw lots of cracks in relationships all around me. I definitely had to do some hard repair work and I had to let some relationships go. It was the most painful yet healing thing I’ve ever done!

Reflections from this chapter:

  • Do you think you are “feeling and living deeply”?
  • Can you truly see your relationships cracks and all? Are there some that need repairing and some that you need to let shatter?

Must Be Nice

In this chapter, Shauna pushes us to evaluate our jealousy of others. She points out that we tend to think of jealousy as bad and push it away quickly. Shauna learned that “envy can be an extremely useful tool” if we commit to learn from it, rather than run from it. She discovered she was “longing for a life that felt light, right-sized for my strengths and limitations”. I think it comes back to the idea that we are comparing our lives to everyone else’s and the key is what we do with that comparison. It’s almost impossible not to compare, so I think it’s helpful to be able to use those thoughts as something to learn from and reflect on.

As we move toward finding our true purpose and what God has designed for us, we become less concerned about what others are doing around us! May we be people who can cheer each other on and celebrate successes rather than be bitter and jealous!

Reflections from this chapter:

  • Do you find yourself jealous of something someone else has? If so, dig deeper to see what that jealousy can teach you.
  • Be brave enough to listen to where that jealousy is leading you, make the necessary changes and then push that envy away!

Your Mess Is Mine

The theme of this chapter is to invest in friendships that go deep. Friendships where you don’t hide your junk. Shauna says that “Friendship sees into us, into our secrets, into our elaborate games and excuses”. We need to seek out friends that can carry our mess. These kind of friendships do not just happen automatically, they take some time.

I have found in my own life that I have to be willing to be this kind of friend in order to have this kind of friend. I have to be willing to lay down my selfish agenda and truly carry my friend’s burdens as my own, celebrate their successes and care about their concerns. Shauna reminds us that “we’re all so much more similar than we are different.” Keep that in mind as you look around and assume that others are not like you or wouldn’t understand you. Often I think that people avoid friendships with certain people because they feel they are too different from them solely based on what they see on the outside. I have found that once I truly get to know people, we often have more in common then I ever imagined!

Reflections from this chapter:

  • Do you have friends that carry your mess and truly know your junk?
  • Do you isolate yourself from true friendships because you feel like no one is like you or will understand you?
  • Make a list of those in your circle that are or (that could be with a little investment) your “people”.

Present over Perfect

The Narrowing

Shauna opens this chapter with a little peek into how this slower pace looks in her everyday life. What struck me in this chapter is her move toward simplicity also included simplifying her STUFF! It inspired me to do a little purging myself as I thought of all the junk that accumulates. I would guess that simplifying your home actually might make you more productive in the long run. The beautiful thought she brings us in this chapter is that through this “narrowing” she let herself “be seen and loved, not for what I produce but for the fact that I have been created by the hands of a holy God, like every other thing on this earth, equally loved, equally seen.”

Reflections from this chapter:

  • Are there areas of your home that you need to simplify in order for it to feel more peaceful?
  • Do you feel loved just because of who you are in Christ rather than what you can produce?

Good Fruit

“Just because you have the capacity to do something doesn’t mean you have to do it.” Whoa… take a deep breath and let that one sink in! Shauna reminds us in this chapter that what we do in life is not JUST about the fruit we bring to the world, but also what fruit is being displayed in our own life and heart. That one is deep and requires some serious introspection, at least it does for me!

I love the honesty she reveals about an old doctrine that some of us have heard and maybe even held onto in our past… “if it hurts just awful, it must be God’s will for you” and “if it produces fruit, it must be God’s will for you.” She challenges that if we hold those up to scripture they are not necessarily true all the time! She even presses on the idea of “public fruit” and “private wreckage”, unfortunately I have seen this play out in my own life and in the lives of many other Christians I know!  We must not neglect ourselves & our families in the process of furthering God’s kingdom. If me and/or my family are not thriving then my “ministry” is not thriving, no matter how much “fruit” it seems to produce!

As we enjoy the “sweetness of working hard”, we have to remember to press pause on the hard work to tend to our body, mind and soul. She shares a beautiful picture of “offering Jesus a body, a mind, a spirit, a life, a voice, a table” and she urges us to “be careful that you are not giving yourself to a pale imitation of life WITH Christ – life ABOUT Christ or life generally NEAR to Christ.”  From a recovering workaholic… I say that all of this is good advice, thanks for the reminder, Shauna!

Reflections from this chapter:

  • Have you ever been at a place where to the world it seemed you were thriving, but in reality you were falling apart?
  • Do you know what it’s like to be truly rested & truly connected?
  • Take some time to evaluate your inner life vs. your outer life this week and see what God reveals.

On Jesus

This chapter centers around the idea of gratitude. On this journey, Shauna found herself noticing things more and enjoying even the littlest of things. Shauna share about finding her “unshakable core of love and passion and desire to make the world better.” I think this journey is largely about finding the inner strength that’s been there all along, but somehow got lost along the way. As Shauna drew closer to the actual person of Christ, she found she was able to love deeper, have more compassion, and ultimately have less fear, isn’t this what we all want! Our methods of doing this might look different, but she talks about the idea that maybe there isn’t a wrong way as long as your efforts are “yielding a God-ward heart”.

Reflections from this chapter:

  • What are you truly grateful for? List all the little and big things that come to mind, maybe even consider a gratitude journal this month.
  • Do you long to be more loving and compassionate? Do you think that your capacity to love and show compassion are directly related to your relationship with Jesus?

Part 5: Living in Time

Clearing Away

Of all the things that Shauna cleared from her life… this one I find the most freeing of all. Leaving behind the opinion of others! She reminds us that in our families and our friendships we don’t all have to agree. We need to move toward more diversity around our tables, in our neighborhoods and in our churches as well. We have to move past being people pleasers. Shauna shares her new healthier way to view “pleasing” others, she says, “I want to respect all people. I want to learn from all people, most especially people who are different from me and who disagree with me, but pleasing, for me, is OVER.”

She goes on to say that pleasing is “shallow and temporary” and not as “valuable or rich as seeing or connecting or listening” Shauna warns that over time “people pleasing” can quiet our own beliefs, values and the voice of the Holy Spirit calling until we lose ourselves in the process and the voices “out there” matter more to us than the voice of the Lord. As we learn to listen and trust the voice of the Holy Spirit within us, we stop giving the power to the “nameless, faceless swamp of opinions” of everyone else.

Reflections from this chapter:

  • Are you a people pleaser? How much power do you give to the opinion of others in your life?
  • When is the last time you felt the Holy Spirit prompt you to do something? Were you obedient and listen or did you brush the prompting aside?

Learning to Play

Often in this book, Shauna talks of bringing her “lake life” to her “real life” and it made me think of this idea of what we are like when we are on vacation. Carefree, laid back, rested and fully in fun mode, but when we get home from vacation, we instantly default to busy or what Shauna calls “hustle mode”. I’m all about intentionality and living life with purpose, but often we get caught up in these things at the expense of true connection and fun!

For me as a parent, I have learned that I cannot make every moment with my child a teachable moment. I have to set aside time to simply enjoy my children and have fun. This means turning off all Mom talk for that period of time.  These moments pave the way for true connection and genuine teaching moments down the road. Without the fun, it’s all about the rules and let me tell you that is no way to win your kid’s heart!  I love her idea of stopping for 5 minutes to “intentionally not be intentional about every second and have no purpose-on purpose.” There is lots of wisdom in finding a good rhythm of fun and play in your home.

Reflections from this chapter:

  • What are some ways you can bring “vacation life” into your everyday life?

Morning and Evening

This chapter is about what Shauna calls finding “sacred margin at the beginning and end of the day”. These sacred pockets of your day can bring such rest and quiet to your soul. I love her examples of REAL pajamas and a fancy night cream… it made me want to go shopping! Whatever that might look like for you, I do see the importance of setting ourselves up for success in our morning and evening routines. Again, we tend to do this when on vacation, right? We linger a little longer with our coffee in the morning and we gather around a table for dinner at night, why not bring a little of that to our everyday!

Reflections from this chapter:

  • What things could you introduce to your morning & evening routines that would make the transitions a little gentler and bring  “sacred margin” to your day?

Simplicity

I was definitely inspired by Shauna after reading this chapter to simplify my home… and all of the things… I found myself doing lots of decluttering this week. I filled multiple trash bags and filled many bins with items to give away. I even tagged lots of outgrown clothes and toys to sell at a local consignment sale to make a little cash.

After a serious downsizing of my stuff, I felt I began to understand what Shauna says about how having less choices & less clutter equals more time to breathe, connect, and be present! It does make life easier, less heavy and it leaves more room to focus my attention on the people and things that really matter to me! I also very much agree that exchanging gifts of experiences rather than exchanging more stuff is so fulfilling! Our family life and our marriage benefit greatly from us choosing experiences over material things, EVERY SINGLE TIME!

As Shauna says, “Let’s live lightly, freely, courageously, surrounded only by what brings joy, simplicity, and beauty.”

Reflections from this chapter:

  • What are some areas of your home that need simplifying? Take some time out this week to conquer at least one of these areas.
  • How could holidays and birthdays look different if we shifted the focus from more stuff to more experiences?

Happy Medium

Wow, this chapter wrecked me, I cried more than once reading these words! Shauna pinpoints what the world wants me to be: “really skinny and really tired” and unfortunately I all too often fall into the world’s trap! I can totally relate to the constant striving to be skinnier and healthier 6 months from now, only to fail over and over again! She encourages us to be content in the bodies that God gave us.

God wants to offer us grace and nourishment and instead we continually practice exhaustion and starvation. Now that doesn’t mean we go crazy and eat all the cake and all the cookies! But it does mean slow down and learn how to be a good steward of your body.

Shauna says that she doesn’t often expect her body to be perfect, but finds that she wants her outlook about her body to be perfect and positive. Don’t fool yourself into thinking this means that you have to be completely happy with your body at all times. It’s ok to feel that unhappiness, sit with those feelings and let that push you toward a healthy change. Just don’t LIVE in the unhappy as Shauna says, “there’s room here for good days and bad ones, for crying in the dressing room and dancing in the kitchen.”

Let’s give ourselves grace and space, “here’s to being medium”!

Reflections from this chapter:

  • Do you find yourself listening to the world when it comes to body image?
  • In what ways can you begin to practice hospitality to your body as Shauna describes?

On Snow

“God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth, ” and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.'” – Job 37:5-6

Friends, this is what the book boils down to… BE YOU, the you that God created you to be! The hard part is figuring out who that person is… but there is tremendous value in finding our God given loves, skills, & passions. He planted them there and He wants to see us live out that true version of ourselves. We have a unique voice in the world that He gave us… so dig deep and find out what that is for you.

You may have to ask your friends and family for help, often they can see your passions and gifts better than you can. A few years ago, I did a bible study written by Jennie Allen called Restless, which is a book as well. This was incredibly helpful as she takes you on a journey to connecting the dots from your whole life to discover the common threads that God has placed there. If you are struggling to figure out your calling, I encourage you to grab a copy!

Ultimately Shauna is pushing us to “peel back the layers of expectation and pressure” and protect what’s underneath it all, our essential selves, because that is where “the fullness of joy and meaning are found”!

Reflections from this chapter:

  • What do you do with ease that seems to be harder for others? What comes naturally to you?
  • What things in life bring you pure joy and make you truly happy?
  • Do the hard work of discovering your unique gifts and passions, it will pay off big!


What is God stirring in you through this book? Please join the conversation by commenting below:


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