Category Archives: Surrender

My Reading List – Spring 2017

I got excited about so many books in the spring months, that I ended up starting way too many, causing me to only finish a few. I’ve shared the rating and summary for the ones that I finished, but I look forward to sharing a much longer summer list in early October. You can also look back at my Fall/Winter list that had some of the best books that I’ve read in over a year.

My Rating Scale
5 – Simply Amazing: Loved the style and the content; added significant value to me, and will be one I re-read.
4 – Very Good: Engaged with most of the content and found some fantastic nuggets throughout.
3 – Good: Had a great chapter or two; overall was average.
2 – Ok: Had one or two things that I resonated with or found helpful; as a whole was just so-so.
1 – Pass: My time was better spent elsewhere.

4-Star Reads
And Still She Laughs by Kate Merrick
One of the most honest books I’ve ever read on grief is by Sonali Deraniyagala who lost her husband, two sons, and mother and father, while vacationing on the coast of Sri Lanka when the 2004 tsunami hit. Kate shares her own story of suffering, with the 3-year journey through childhood cancer and subsequent loss of her daughter. What I love about Kate’s book is that she didn’t shy away from showing her moments of despair, just as Sonali did, but Kate brought it back to finding hope and turning her suffering into joy. Kate’s book is a must-read for anyone who has ever experienced grief and loss.

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp
The profoundness of Ann’s book is found in a challenge to change our perspective about our “thorn in the flesh”. She shows us the benefits of embracing it, rather than looking at it as a curse, “we can be brokers of healing exactly where we have known the most brokenness.” This book needs to be read slowly, and in small bites, because her words hit deep. It is intense and beautiful. Her previous book, One Thousand Gifts, is definitely one of my top 10 favorite books.

2-Star Reads
The Harvey Girls by Lesley Poling-Kempes
This is an interesting historical read about the life of the women who worked at the restaurants and hotels along the first railroad lines in the western U.S. If you’ve ever been to Gallup or Raton, New Mexico, and wondered how or why in the world a town wound up there, this book will provide you with the answer. The testimonials were great, but the historical aspects were pretty dry. When it comes to looking at different women in history who have influenced how we work and live, The Girls of Atomic City, is one of my favorites.

My Next Review
Below are the books on my current reading list; my October review will include as many of them as possible, and maybe a few others:
Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss
Learning to Lead by Fred Smith
The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier
Business Boutique by Christy Wright
On the Clock by Tim Enochs
Mastering Leadership by Robert Anderson and Williams Adams
The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry
Do Over by Jon Acuff
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman

What was one of your 5-star books over the past few months?
What are you currently reading?

PS: Rather than doing affiliate links to Amazon and putting cash in my personal pocket if you purchase a book from my reading lists, my Amazon links provide a portion of the sale to be donated to one of my favorite non-profit organizations, The Cupcake Girls. I appreciate you making the purchase through my link to support the incredible work they are doing.

What Are You Expecting This Lent?


Last year, I wrote this post about my newfound discovery of the true meaning of Lent and how it is applicable to me as a normal average woman who believes in Jesus Christ.

Coming to learn the purpose of this season as being one of preparation added a depth of understanding of Lent that I had never had before.

Similar to last year, I am entering into this season with my focus being on how I can grow and be prepared for whatever God has planned in the coming season. This year I am joining author, teacher, and speaker, Margaret Feinberg’s #LentChallenge of reading through the Gospels (the New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). If you’d like to join in, this post from Margaret provides the reading plan for these next 40 days.

I am expectant for God to use this season to purify my motives, solidify my backbone, and clarify my calling.

What are your expectations for this Lent season?

How I Let Ugliness Into My Life

In December 2012, the owners of the company I was working for chose to replace the Chairman of the Board, the CEO, and the CFO. At the time I worked directly for the CEO as his Chief of Staff and right-hand woman. Because of that, when the CEO was let go, my position was eliminated. I was given the option of remaining with the company, but in a different role and capacity. Ultimately, I chose to leave. I felt it was a divinely orchestrated event and that it was time for me to move on.

I left the company with some resentment, particularly because of how I was treated by the owners. Truthfully, my feelings were hurt. I had devoted significant time, energy, and effort to help their company succeed and their response to my blood, sweat, and tears was nothing more than what they owed me; no handshake or pat on the back, not even a thank you.

The experience was a difficult one, but what was even more difficult was dealing with my own response to the situation and the ugliness that crept into my life.

As the days and months moved forward I found myself being in a place where I was wishing for their failure, not so much the failure of the people in the company, but the company as a whole. I wanted their failure because to me that would signify that they weren’t able to make it without me, that my contribution to the company was literally what made it successful. Now, I know that’s pretty grandiose thinking, especially considering that I was just one of 3,500 employees. But, I wanted to believe that my significance to the company was that great; that I was needed that much.

As I started to recognize and process this ugliness, I realized that it stemmed from my sense of belonging being founded on shaky ground, and it was creating insecurity in me. It donned on me that I had been looking to this company and its owners to meet my need for belonging; that a part of my identity had become rooted in who I was as a result of who I worked for and how much I was relied upon to keep the ship afloat.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that receiving satisfaction from a job well done is wrong, I’m simply saying that we shouldn’t place an expectation on other people to meet our basic needs, like belonging. John Maxwell says that it is God’s responsibility to provide for those needs, not another person’s responsibility.

In my reading today for the #LentChallenge, I saw what insecurity looks like when it’s out of control. Herod, King of Judea, was so threatened by the birth of Christ, the King of the Jews, that he had every male child under the age of two, in Bethlehem and its surrounding areas, put to death. Herod’s insecurity caused him to use his power to serve himself and to only be concerned with his image and his livelihood.

Though I’m sure I’ll continue to battle with insecurity from time to time, my experience taught me that true peace is found in relying on God and finding my worth through who I am, not what I do.

When have you faced insecurity?

The True Meaning Of Lent

The majority of my formative years were spent in a charismatic conservative Christian church. Palm Sunday and Good Friday were pretty big deals and definitely had attention given to them, but the majority of the attention was given to Easter. Overall it made sense, given that in evangelical circles the emphasis is on the celebration and the rejoicing, and the triumph of Christ rising from the dead, and the beautiful symbolism of His followers not having to face eternal death but being able to have eternal life. I am truly grateful for the truths laid in my heart because of my upbringing, but it was not until I was 34 years old that I actually encountered Lent and its true meaning.

I had heard of Lent and knew that it had some connection with Mardi Gras, and some connection to why people didn’t eat meat or gave up smoking, but there really wasn’t much that I knew beyond that. I know, call me sheltered and unaware, but I just didn’t know anyone for whom it was a part of his or her life.

Then, while I was in Oxford, England attending and speaking at a conference I had the opportunity to attend the Ash Wednesday service at Exeter College in their breathtaking Victorian Gothic chapel. As I sat in that room filled with its magnificent carved woodwork and stained glass, I listened to a message that brought me to an understanding of Lent beyond, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

I came face to face with a season intended for preparation.

The traditional focus of Lent, the forty days from Ash Wednesday to Maundy Thursday, is as a commemoration of the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the desert. And though that focus, of doing what Jesus did, is admirable, it seems as though why He did what He did has been lost in the tradition and ritual of it all.

As I sat listening to the readings from the books of Isaiah and Matthew, I was reminded that the purpose of Christ’s 40 days of prayer and fasting in the desert was to prepare Him for the days that were ahead of Him as He entered His time of ministry. John Maxwell refers to Jesus’ time in the desert as a “screening process,” a time to see if He had what it was going to take.

Since that awakening on Ash Wednesday four years ago, I have purposefully chosen to participate in the Lent season, but with a different focus than that of the traditional focus. For me it start on Ash Wednesday with a time of prayer and confession and posturing myself in a way that acknowledges my humanity and my need for forgiveness, and then moves into 40 days of specific focus on preparation, preparation for the next season that God is moving me into. John Maxwell says that it is during this season that “our motives get purified, our backbone solidifies, and our calling gets clarified.” Each year I have found myself truly prepared by God for what was around the next bend.

This Lent I have joined in with a group of people who are all seeking to be prepared by God through the 40-day season in a special way. Led by author, teacher, and speaker, Margaret Feinberg, we will be reading through the New Testament of the Bible, from Matthew through Revelation, as our #LentChallenge. I am ready and expectant for God to use this season to prepare me for whatever lies ahead, and am truly grateful that God showed me the true meaning of Lent.

Would you like to join us?

Why I Failed To Meet The 31-Day 500-Word Challenge

Last month I joined with a group of over 1,500 people who sought to meet a challenge, issued by author and entrepreneur, Jeff Goins, to write at least 500 words each of the 31 days of January. The first 22 days were a success, and then the 23rd of January arrived, and I didn’t write again for the rest of the month.

I was upset with myself and actually cried about not completing the challenge, which is an unusual response for me. My pride was wounded as I thought about not wanting to be labeled as a quitter or as someone who didn’t finish something she started. I thought about the excuses that I could give for why I didn’t finish and then I thought about ignoring it altogether and not even drawing attention to the fact that I had failed to meet the challenge. But, over the last two weeks I have come face to face with the real reason why I failed and realized that if I don’t share it, that I will not just be failing myself but I will be failing you as well.

In the Old Testament of the Bible we are introduced to Samson, who rules as a judge over Israel for over twenty years. We are told, even before he is conceived, that Samson will be used by God, that his life is committed unto God. Judges 13:24-25 tell us that Samson is blessed by God and that the Spirit of the Lord is moving on his life. Throughout his early adulthood years, we are shown several instances where the Spirit of the Lord comes upon Samson. It becomes clear, at least to us as the reader, that Samson’s strength comes from the Lord, that it is a gift from God to him. It is not until Samson tells Delilah his secret about his hair never having been cut, and she deceives him and has his hair cut and hands him over to the Philistines, that he too learns that his strength was really from the Lord and was not his own.

In not completing the 31-day writing challenge, I was brought face to face with my own strength and its source, just as Samson was. I’m in no way claiming that I have been blessed by God in the way that Samson was, but I have realized that when I tried to write through my own strength, through my own power, that I failed miserably.

During the writing challenge I started by committing each writing session to God and really seeking His direction and guidance as to what to write about. Then, somewhere in the process I started to try and write through my own strength based on my own thoughts, ideas, and observations, and on January 23rd I fell flat on my face. It took about a week for me to even be able to recognize that this was the real reason for my failure. I moved from a place of depending on God for strength and for the words to write, to depending on my own strength and writing based on what I felt like I wanted to write, and that is how I failed. I allowed pride and arrogance to drive me and failed to acknowledge God as my source.

I imagine (and hope) that I’m not the only one who has ever been the cause of her failure; how have you done so in your life?

How Is Your Footing?

A friend of mine made the decision to leave the company she works for, but she was struggling with the timing of giving her notice because she still had a number of commitments that she had made to the organization and didn’t know if she needed to wait to give her notice until she had completed the work for those commitments. Though she was ready to move on, she felt in her heart that the testimony and witness she would leave without completing those commitments would be a bad one and that it would likely damage or un-do any seeds that had been successfully planted during her tenure with the company. She felt that completing the commitments would prove her integrity and credibility and thus strengthen her witness of the love of God and the faithfulness of God’s people. She was fearful about the potential effects of the decision; she didn’t want the delay in giving her notice to interfere with interviews and other opportunities that might present themselves in the coming days. She knew that her fears had some legitimacy but she also knew that since it was a God-led decision to leave her company that she could trust God to orchestrate the timing perfectly with what He had as the next step for her.

Psalm 37:23 tells us that God is not only walking with us in our decisions but that we can trust Him to order and establish our footholds, “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him” (NIV).

The words from this scripture come from King David, who knew all too well a situation similar to my friend’s. When King David was just an adolescent, somewhere between 11-15 years old, he learned that he was to become king, but immediately after receiving that information he went back to being a shepherd for his father’s flock, and then he spent years in the king’s palace and was hunted by King Saul because Saul wanted to bring death upon the one who was to take over his throne. It was not until David was about 30 years old that he actually became king and fulfilled the anointing that was spoken of him at least 15 years prior.

A similar situation can be found in the life of Mary. Mary, a teenage young woman who had never known a man, accepted God’s call upon her life that she was to be the one woman chosen from all of womankind to give birth to, and raise, the Messiah. Certainly she accepted the charge as any of us hope that we would have, but think about all that she didn’t know at the time of her affirmative response. She didn’t know that her own family and community would not believe that Christ was who He claimed to be and would turn against Him. She didn’t know that He would be mocked and spat upon and that she would watch Him die a criminal’s death. Though scripture doesn’t say specifically, we can safely assume that during the 40 days that Jesus spent on earth between the resurrection and the ascension that Mary actually spent time with Jesus. When she told Gabriel, “May it be as you have said”, she probably never thought she would walk and talk with her son as the Risen and Living Son of God.

Just as Mary and David did, my friend chose to believe that God has a firm hold on her future, even if she can’t see the end result quite yet.

If you believed the words of Psalm 37:23 to be true for your own life, how might you live differently?

I Have Something Even Better In Mind For You

2013 was a year of changes and transition for me. The owners of the healthcare company I worked for decided it was time to change out the executive leadership team and let go of the Chairman of the Board, the CEO, and the CFO. And, since I worked directly for the CEO as his Chief of Staff, I was given the option of taking another position in the company or leaving altogether.

It was a difficult decision to make. There were loyalties to consider. There were bills to be paid. There were friendships that I knew would end; people I would never see again. There were projects still to be finished and work still to be done. There was a doctoral dissertation waiting to be worked on.

It took about a week to muster up the courage to make the decision, to do what I knew in my heart God was calling me to do, to move on.

I thought I had it all planned out, as to what would happen next, the timeline of when I would get my dissertation proposal finished and start working on actively seeking a new job, and keep everything moving forward.

The time came and multiple fantastic opportunities came my way, but with each one there just was something about them that wasn’t quite right, that despite my eagerness and my desperation, didn’t settle right in my spirit. In some situations the decision ended up being made for me and in other situations I’m the one who drew things to a close.

There were moments of panic. In one such moment a dear pastor friend of mine sent me a note that said, “Remember, you are on the potter’s wheel, and as you are turned on the wheel, the Master Potter is molding and shaping you into the image that He created you to be before the foundation of the world. There are people that your life is destined to help. A purpose your life has yet to fulfill. Though the direction you are to go right now may not be clear, trust that as one door closes that another better and more useful door will open. It is when we are boxed into a corner that we operate at the height of our creativity.”

His words really helped me to “turn a corner” in how I was viewing my situation. I was able to move into a place of greater peace, really believing that God could be trusted with my life, my whole life, every aspect of my life. I began to look at things through God’s eyes, with bigger vision and a deepened perspective.

Author Kristen Strong says that God looks at us in moments, like what I was going through last year and says, “You’re so important to me, I have something even better in mind for you.”

I am still on the potter’s wheel, but now I look upon that position through eyes of humble gratitude rather than eyes of fear.

I wonder…what has the potter’s wheel done to your heart?

Patient Endurance

We’ve all been there. That place of having a vision, having something that we feel compelled to do, called to do, and feeling like it all needs to come to fruition now, that there shouldn’t be any delay. There are certain things that we know have a timeline attached to them that we can’t really speed up no matter how hard we try, like getting a degree or having a baby. But then there are other things that we feel like we can make happen in our own prescribed and desired time, like finding our dream job or getting a promotion or starting our own company or building our clientele.

Sarah Young reminds us that sometimes we create more work and more stress for ourselves when we try to “make things happen before their times have come.” She says that one way we learn of God’s sovereignty is through the timing of events in our lives and that we are better off if we ask for God’s guidance in our lives on a moment-by-moment basis. There is a surrender involved in this that can be described as anything but easy.

Let’s think about the life of Joseph, from the Old Testament.

John Maxwell indicates that Joseph’s life is an illustration of the Law of Process, where time and experience were necessary, but ultimately led to the place where Joseph grew into “the leader God desired him to be.” But that process involved Joseph being put into a pit by his brothers, then being sold to traders, who then sold him to Potiphar, the Pharaoh’s captain of the guard. We learn that Joseph found favor with Potiphar and was put as overseer of Potiphar’s house and belongings. But while in this role, Potiphar’s wife made sexual advances toward Joseph and when he refused her she publicly accused him of trying to sleep with her. Potiphar believed his wife’s lie and had Joseph put in prison. While in prison, Joseph interpreted the dreams of two other prisoners, the Pharaoh’s Chief Butler and Chief Baker. As Joseph said would come to pass, the Chief Butler was let out of prison but the Chief Baker was executed. The Chief Butler forgot all about Joseph until the Pharaoh had a dream and needed an interpreter; the Chief Butler then remembered Joseph and his ability to accurately interpret dreams. The Pharaoh called for Joseph and Joseph told him the meaning of his dream and advised the Pharaoh concerning his dream. The Pharaoh saw Joseph’s advice as being good and brought Joseph in to be governor of the land of Egypt, to bring his kingdom through the seven years of famine that Joseph saw from the Pharaoh’s dream. During the famine, Egypt was the only area to have bread and it just so happened that Joseph’s brothers went to Egypt seeking bread. They came before Joseph, not knowing it was their brother, and Joseph tested them until he saw humility in them. He then revealed himself to them and vowed to care for them through the remainder of the famine and thereafter, because God had brought him to the place in the process where he was the leader that God desired for him to become.

If we think back to when Joseph was thrown into the pit by his brothers, he was surely thinking it was the worst thing that could have ever happened to him and that he would have given anything for the circumstances to be different.

Just as with Joseph, we usually don’t know where God is sending us or what the timing is for certain things in our lives, but as Hebrews 10:36 states, we are called to have patient endurance.

Where might God be calling you to have patient endurance?

Letting God In On Your Goals

I’ve never really been one to make New Year’s resolutions. I guess it always felt phony, like I was trying to reform, conform, or transform myself; attempting to make myself someone new, someone different, someone who I naturally wasn’t. I also didn’t want to be labeled as part of the crowd who gives up on their resolutions within two weeks, since statistics show that is what happens to most people.

I have, however, always been a goal-oriented person, or maybe just a downright stubborn person. When I’ve set my mind on something, I’ve always gotten it done, made it happen. But, I’ve struggled with this because while I like the feeling of achieving my goals, I don’t want to be so ambitious, so driven, so focused, so type-A, that I put blinders on and close myself off from what God has for me.

Desiring to remain a goal-oriented person, but also be inside of God’s will in my goals and endeavors, last year (2013) I decided to try something new for the goals that I set for myself. I wrote down my goals, as have done for the past several years, using the S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) format that many highly successful people attribute their success to, and recommend as the way that leads to the highest percentage of achievement. But, in setting my goals, I did something different that ended up bringing me more peace of mind and satisfaction than in years past; I set two goals for each goal, an attainable goal and a stretch goal. For example, I wanted to lose weight and I wanted to lose it in time for my 20th high school reunion. So, I set one number that I knew I would be excited to reach and that was definitely possible, and I set a second number that I knew I would be on cloud nine if I could reach, but wouldn’t be discouraged if I didn’t reach it. An additional example is that 2013 was the year of completing my doctorate degree; there was no way I was going to let the year come to a close without having defended my dissertation. In January when I started writing my dissertation I didn’t know all that God had in store for me for the year, so I set two timeframe goals, one that would bring me absolute delight if I could reach it, but that would definitely be a stretch, and one that was more easily attainable but would still have me reach my overall goal of completing my Ph.D. in 2013.

While I did not reach the stretch goal in either one, I did reach the attainable goal in both. I was victorious and could acknowledge and celebrate my successes in both goals, knowing that I had committed my goals to the Lord and released my hold on the reins, so that He could guide me through my goals from start to finish. The experiences allowed me to know that God cared about me and that He could be trusted to bring the desires of my heart to pass.

Be Nimble

Your life is not your own. You have been called to surrender your life, your desires, your agenda, your hopes, and ask God to implant in you the desires, agendas, and hopes that He has for your life. Not at all an easy thing. In fact, it’s actually quite mysterious. There is no road map, no GPS. It means setting out every day with no preconceived expectation of what the day will bring. This is hard to understand, especially for our Type A, ambitious, driven culture. We are planners. We see life as a chess game, knowing our strategy three or four moves ahead. Yet, God calls us to surrender in a way that allows us to be nimble, to be able to respond to an opportunity that we could not have seen coming.

Craig Groeschel, pastor of Lifechurch, the largest church in the U.S., talks about how he no longer does strategic planning for the church because he doesn’t want to be boxed in and miss an opportunity by limiting themselves to what is outlined in a planning document. The faith that is required in this approach is one that is not for the lazy. It is not a sit back and wait to see what happens type of posture. It is a faith that goes to God before anything else that morning and asks for God’s explicit guidance and God’s hand to be on that day and all that it entails. It is a faith that doesn’t ask God how something is to take place, but simply asks what one step you should take this morning to move toward what the Lord has for you today. Scary? Yes. Especially for people who want to have that 10-year plan. But, if you’re honest with yourself, doesn’t trying to create that 10-year plan actually bring more stress into your life than if you simply choose to live in the present, one day at a time. When you think about a 10-year plan you start to think about all of the “what-ifs”. What if you make the wrong decision about something? What if you pass up an opportunity? What if you don’t give 110% in that particular thing? You start to freak out that if you don’t do this and if you don’t do that, then you won’t attain the goals outlined in your 10-year plan and all will be lost. In reality, you are called to something much more simple. You are called to give up your agenda and ask God for His agenda for you. Craig Groeschel says, “When we show God our faith, he shows us His Faithfulness.”