Thursday, April 26, 2012

You Are A Writer (An eBook Review)

Less than a year ago, I stumbled on a wonderful resource for writers and bloggers called At the time, I was a little hesitant to call myself a writer and also a little curious about how to be consistent in blogging.

The words on were unlike anything I had found before about creativity and also the professional side of writing. Jeff Goins shares from his experience and also from a place of passion. He offers timely resources for those who are aspiring to turn a small inkling into a reality.

One of those resources is his latest e-Book titled You Are A Writer (So Start Acting Like One).

The first part of You Are A Writer was my favorite. Jeff encourages readers to stop asking for permission to create and start writing. Be your own boss and stop being afraid. Or you will only sabotage yourself. If you think you might want to be a writer “someday,” it’s time to step into who you are and call yourself one.

The author learned this from friends who urged him to do the same. He also discovered this way of living from professionals such as Steven Pressfield (author of The War of Art) and Michael Hyatt (former Chairman of Thomas Nelson).

In the next section of his e-book, Goins gives practical information about building a platform and getting your words out to readers. While this portion of the resource contains good information, I found it a bit overwhelming. It’s more factual than poetic so it might be good to read in several sittings in order to absorb the information and not feel overwhelmed.

It’s obvious Jeff writes from experience. He had an unsuccessful blog previously and so he tells how and why he made changes to his approach when he launched a new website. Establishing your own brand and a channel to send your work out to the world are necessary elements as well as making connections with people who will read and promote your content.

The final section in You Are A Writer offers insight into the publishing industry. Having been on both sides of publishing as a writer and an editor, I enjoyed the insight Jeff offers. Before you jump into writing a full book, he suggests submitting articles and guest posts on blogs to get your content out to readers. It will also help you establish relationships with publishing companies.

As an editor myself, I can tell you to follow Jeff’s instructions precisely. He knows what he’s talking about. As a writer, I can say you will need the thick skin he mentions because you will face the need for revisions or even rejection. I know this side too. I received an article rejection recently.

The last thing I want to mention is that Jeff Goins cares about writers and his own tribe of readers. I can attest to this. He has interacted with me on Twitter, via the comments section on his blog, and also through e-mail. I appreciate his heart for helping writers get started and also thrive.

I recommend this book if you're thinking of authoring a book of any kind or if you’ve ever said you'd like to get to writing one day. You will need to know all of this information before you rush into it and get discouraged. Goins makes you feel like you can do it. And you can.

You are a writer.

Update: You can order the eBook here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Allow Me to Introduce...Heather Ann

I didn't have a sister growing up but I had the next best thing--my cousin, Heather Ann! (That's what our Grandma Hall called her.)

For the first part of our lives, Heather and I lived in different states. We saw each other over Christmas and then some vacations in between. We fought like sisters sometimes, but we also had so much fun together. We made up dances to songs and visited the apple orchards in Nebraska City with our parents. We cried and cried when we had to leave one another.

Then, my aunt and uncle moved to Colorado just before my teen years. We were less than 2 hours from one another and have seen each other through graduations, getting married (we made a pact when we were kids to be one another's Maid of Honor, and we were!), having babies, and now raising those little munchkins.

Heather has two little girls, Miriam and Eve, and is married to Daniel. She is an avid lover of all things Disney! She is also a woman of faith, consistency, and sacrifice.

I am delighted to share her thoughts with you about her journey of motherhood. Her honesty is one of her best qualities, and I love her for all the times she's kept me in line but also given me the encouragement I need.

Heather blogs about her life and her family here. And now, it is my pleasure to introduce Heather Ann...


"Job Description"
by Heather Ann Milburn

To me, the word "motherhood" does not posses a sweet, candy flavored taste in my mouth.

I like it. I truly do. But, I don't feel the need to preface every frustration expressed with the words, "I love my kids, but...."

I often ask myself, "How can I complain so much about a job I wanted so badly?" But, complain I do. And, really....who am I kidding? I will probably always complain about it. It's my struggle.

Motherhood is hard!

It's messy.

It's demanding.

It's busy.

And for some reason it always smells like poop.

And the children are only PART of the job description.

There is also laundry, cleaning, dishes, cooking, shopping (not for cute purses like I would prefer), folding, basket emptying, bathroom scrubbing, trash get the picture.

I would like to think that even though my job is tough, I'm pretty good at it. 

 I like organization.

In my meal planning.....

In my children's activities......

In my laundry (this is the CLEAN pile, by the way)....

And I don't like clutter, so I absolutely refuse to let toys pile up like this......

or this.

And I never leave unsightly items on my porch like potting mix or a diaper pail that I was midway cleaning only to get sidetracked by my whiny 3 year old. And if I DID leave a half-cleaned diaper pail on my porch for all the world to see, I certainly wouldn't leave it out there for more than a month week day.

Seriously. Who has a wagon sitting sideways on their porch? Not me. 

And this? Oh this would never happen in my house. I wanted this job, remember? I'm good at it.

Are those chocolate milk stains? Nope. My kids don't drink chocolate milk. Only pure, whole, organic milk in the appropriate increments.

And when I throw my children's birthday parties, in which I do every cutesy Pinterest activity/food I find under the category of "first birthday party" without stressing out or losing sleep/money, I definitely make sure to take it all down before it starts losing its "stick" and falling down on its own 3 months later.......

I am sure to save every piece of art work my child does and proudly display it on my kitchen wall, never daring to throw a piece...or ten....out when they fall down.

Oh this is how my children's room looks everyday! Just in case someone stops by for an unexpected playdate. It's just waiting for some activity.

All of this causes me stress. I wish I could wake up every morning and be thrilled to have another day of play ahead of me

Or attend my small group in the evening in....wait for it....a good mood because " what a blessing motherhood is!"

Pew....smell that? I think it's poop again.

This is my struggle. Not everyday is happy.

But, a lot of them are.........

And all that clutter around my house? My kids really don't seem to mind.....

Although, Miriam does seem to say this phrase more often than not when the house actually is clean, "Wow, Mom! You worked hard at cleaning! Good job!" Seriously....what a sweetheart.

Sometimes I actually snap at my kids! *GASP*

The other day I said the following to Miriam, "You know what makes me so happy? When you are so loving to other kids. You have such a loving heart." And she replied, "You know what makes me happy, mama? When you don't scream at me." case you missed me...I'm the one that just shrunk about 2 feet.
Now, obviously I wouldn't say I "screamed" at my kids. But, in her little 3 year old brain.....I may as well have.

I am a regular mom. With regular kids. And regular complaints. I let my kids actually eat their Easter candy (in small increments). I let them watch TV (which Miriam is doing at this moment so I can finally finish writing this blog). And I try hard not to compare myself to every other mother who seems to do it better. Or at least gushes relentlessly about the gift that is "motherhood."

These negative feelings and urges to play the comparison games weren't in the job description.These feelings of inadequacy and defeat are not present in any other job on the planet. And you know what? They aren't of the Lord.

I was placed on this Earth to be the mother to these children. I may not be perfect at it, but I lean everyday on my Heavenly Father to help me do it better. Through Him, I find opportunities to humble myself and apologize to my children because sometimes mommy sins, too.

I pray that the Lord can help me "do everything with love" (1Cr 16:14), which is especially challenging during discipline.

Or even to "do everything without complaining" (Phl 2:14). It's my struggle, remember?

But most of all, I remember that "I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me." (Phl 4:13) 

It's not my job as mother to teach my children how to be perfect. None of us ever will be, even when we are walking with the Lord. No matter how much I seek Jesus, I will forever be wrestling with my human flesh; whether that be judging, complaining or simply not enjoying that gift that is motherhood.  

My job is to teach them how to run after the Lordhow to move to a kneeling position when they fall down and seek out the only one who can help them stand completely. And to teach them that over and over and over again.

Through doing that, they will find joy.

Even when it smells like poop.

It's all level ground at the foot of the cross; whether it be a child's sin or a mommy's. 

That's not in the job description either. But, it probably should be.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Coming Untied

“I’m in the mood where I come all untied.” –Wakey Wakey, War Sweater

I can feel myself unraveling, coming untied. Wrestling with more than one struggle at the same time. Monsters that won’t stop.

I write to work things out. I write to remember the Holy Spirit is there. I write because I can’t help it. I lie awake at night wondering what God has for our lives. I wonder why we went to seminary sometimes. I wonder if that decision was the result of some strange indigestion. Like the aftermath of bad Chinese food for three years straight.

I get up and ask what The Church needs and how I can live in to my gifts and why, oh why, can’t my passions just be within the realm of acceptable actions for someone who is a young mom? I wonder why the church has adopted marketing and consumerism. So similar to the rest of the way we live our lives that most people don’t even know it’s there when they enter the room with the pews.

I don’t want to be cynical, as so many are. I just want to be obedient.

Apparently that means not sitting still. Or rather sitting still in the mess?

I’m choosing to ask the questions and let them be there. The guilt and the shame are the results of not fitting in. But then, I guess I never really have. Because I’ve secretly felt these questions for a long, long time.

I’m exploring what it might mean to be a spiritual director. Maybe even an ordained deacon someday. I identify with women who are saying they think God made them wrong because they love to preach and that well-behaved women won’t change the church. They are saying what I’ve never felt I could.

My husband bought books about women and ministry for a school assignment. He chose the topic. I told him it was my issue to wrestle with but he’s choosing to wrestle with it too. And I love him for that. I love him for sitting in the unraveling mess with me.

I’m coming untied.

It’s okay.

I'm ready to be undone.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Dashboard Confessionals

For the last few weeks my mom has been getting phone calls from me while I sit in the carpool lane at Kyla’s school.

I call and cry about all the things in my life that are wrong and confusing and how the dentist says Kyla needs extensive work done on her teeth and I feel a weight of guilt about it, thinking it’s my fault we didn’t floss enough or remember to brush enough on the way out the door to school.

I have all these ideas for writing but then I log onto blogs and see people are already writing on the same topics with more panache than I could possibly muster up between the dental appointments and lack of sleep that follows my late-night thoughts about life as a pastor’s family.

I am trying to figure out what it means to be a mom still, eight years after Kyla was born. I don’t know how to mingle with the moms at the farmstead. That is after I got lost on my way there and called my friend crying. So much crying it’s ridiculous. Also, I ran over our stroller there.

I can’t seem to shake the guilt and the shame I have over my lack of abilities in the areas of hospitality and service. Women are expected to excel in these areas. But I serve with my words. I serve with my hugs. I do not serve with homemade cupcakes. In fact, I’m pretty sure you don’t want me to.

I know what I want to do out of who I am but everyone else seems to have a different idea. I get tired of the boundary pushing. I want to give up and crawl into my bed at home after I pull out of the carpool lane.

My mommy listens well. Sometimes she has to tell me to slow down because I’m speaking so fast about all of the insanity surrounding my days. She can hardly get a word in between the talking and the tears.

A few weeks ago, mom sent me a package with some articles she copied off. Some ideas for writing prompts. I finally opened them this morning.

One page had a section titled “Be Yourself” and the following was highlighted by my mom:

The poet E.E. Cummings once wrote...“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” We all want to hear from people who are original—with original thoughts, ideas, and style. You be that person.

The last line was underlined by mom and then below it she wrote:

You are that person! Love, Mom

I have no answers but I’m glad my mommy sees me. I’m going to post that page on my dashboard. Maybe it will help remind me of whom God knows and says I am as I cry and confess in the carpool lane.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Inspiration: My Weekend

From time to time, I like to write about what's inspiring me. Here are my thoughts from this last week.

My Girls on Easter Sunday….

Favorite words…

For some reason, I’m having a great time saying and writing two words: indeed and clever. The “clever” term started after I watched Season 1 of Downton Abbey where Mary declares that Cousin Matthew “is rather clever.” It’s just so fun to say, and I feel rather clever when I use it now.

(Speaking of Downton Abbey, did you catch Jimmy Fallon's hilarious spoof called Downton Sixbey?)

With "indeed," I like breaking up sentences with this word instead of putting at the beginning. I’m a word nerd and, indeed, I don’t care.


After several years of wanting to read Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O'Donohue, I am finally getting to it. So, so good. I am in Chapter Three, and I feel like I’ve underlined about half of what I’ve read so far. A few favorite quotes:

Sometimes it is easy to be generous outward, to give and give and give and yet remain ungenerous to yourself. You lose the balance of your soul if you do not learn to take care of yourself. You need to be generous to yourself in order to receive the love that surrounds you.

Technology and media are not uniting the world. They pretend to provide a world that is internetted, but in reality all they deliver is a simulated world of shadows.

A friend is a loved one who awakens your life in order to free the wild possibilities within you.


Confession: I had this major thing for George Clooney when he was on ER many years ago. For my senior year poster about things I like, I put a giant picture of him on it. Swoon. Who didn’t love his salt and pepper hair and his deep voice that assured kids who came into the ER with broken limbs and whatnot?

Ahem. Anyway. Given that I am a sucker for a good independent movie, I was pretty excited to watch The Descendants. I didn’t love it but I did like seeing Clooney in this particular role of a husband and father. His character had to work through a lot of regret, and he played the part well. This movie centers on the theme of legacy. It takes place within a span of about a week, and most of the characters make a major change as a result of a difficult situation. Worth a watch if you’re looking for something different.


I have had the same dishes for seven years. I like them. Mostly because they are practical—white dishes match anything. But, the other day, I happened to spot a cute set of dishes on the clearance rack at Target for 50% off. (As Sarah Bessey says, “Dear Jesus, save us from it all but especially those of us that keep buying more picture frames. Merona clothes, Mossimo flip flops, coffee mugs and placemats.”)

I couldn’t resist the dishes, though, mainly because they are so cheerful. Each of us needs some beauty from time to time. So, here they are:


We moms all get tired, compare our skills to one another, beat ourselves up for not being present to every moment with our kids, and face the danger of making that role our entire life.

I spotted several motherhood posts back to back that I found helpful and full of grace. I hope they encourage you as well.

What's inspiring you these days? Please share.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Stepping into a Stone Chapel

Shove Chapel on Colorado College Campus

In many ways I was a fairly normal child with a fairly normal childhood.

I went to school, rode bikes with friends, had a dog, and loved my family. I also played with dolls. This is where I may have been a little bit different. While most little girls play house or school with their dolls, I played Sunday School. I lined my dolls up in rows and passed around an offering plate. Actually, I think it was a plastic replica of a church building with a slot in the top for change.

One year when my mom took my brother and I on a trip to Omaha, we visited the Grace Bible College (now Grace University) bookstore. My mom told me I could pick out anything I wanted. I picked a flannelgraph set with a story about a boy who stole a scarecrow. I took the set home, taped a flannel blanket on my wall with masking tape, and taught my dolls the Bible story.

I cannot remember a time when I didn’t love God with everything in me. I cannot remember a time in my childhood when I didn’t want to go to church.

Life happened, as it does for most of us, and I found myself disillusioned with the local church the year after my first daughter was born. I still wanted to go. I just wasn’t sure of my place in the larger body of believers anymore.

When Kyla was a year old, we moved to my hometown. Due to various reasons, I did not want to return to the church of my childhood. Jeff and I searched all over. Sometimes we stayed for an entire service. Sometimes we barely made it to the sermon before leaving and going out for breakfast.

Where did we fit? More importantly, where was God the focus over entertainment or relevancy? That was all we could find, it seemed.

One day, after a particular frustrating church event we attended, we got into our blue Ford Explorer, and I said, “I think we need to try something completely different. Let’s try something liturgical.” I think that, had his door still been open, Jeff would have fallen out of the car. He looked at me like someone had replaced his wife, and then agreed.

Turns out, one of Jeff’s professors was an Anglican priest. We started attending the church he was pastoring, and when he got transferred to a larger, Episcopal congregation, we went over there too.

As we attended the Episcopal church, we loved the language of the prayers. We started learning more about church history and came to appreciate the beauty of participating in worship, rather than being a spectator.

On the way to the Episcopal church each Sunday, we passed a sign next to Shove Chapel for a church called International Anglican Church. My brother was an interim worship pastor there for a bit and mentioned to Jeff that they wanted to hire a youth pastor. Jeff had done this kind of ministry previously and was looking for something part-time as he finished his Masters in Counseling. He planned to start a private practice after graduating.

Jeff met with the pastor, Ken, and agreed to visit the service the following Sunday. I, unfortunately, had to go out of town because my grandpa had heart surgery. Jeff called me that Sunday afternoon and told me that he wept during the service, and we would need to make the decision together but something was special about this church.

I went the following week, and I wept too. There was, indeed, something unique about this place and the people there. It felt like home.

We continued to attend. We found healing for our hearts, a healing we didn’t even know we needed. We found true community and people who loved Jesus to the core of their being. Now, this doesn’t just happen. But neither is there a magic formula. It was the Holy Spirit.

There was room for Him there, and He showed up every week. As we turned to face the cross in the middle of the platform and as we heard the good news preached week in and week out about who God is and what He has done for us, we couldn’t help but respond. Tying this all together was the love of a leadership from thousands of miles away—from Rwanda of all places.

The people of Rwanda considered us their kin. And us the same. Their story, as you may know, is marked with tragedy due to the genocide in 1994. But out of that tragedy came redemption and forgiveness. We cannot fathom all that they endured as country after country, turned their back on providing them aid, and they watched family members die in front of their eyes.

As Rwanda began to heal, they saw the need for missionaries to be sent to America. American churches pleaded with the Rwandan leadership to help establish and support churches that upheld right orthodoxy and right teaching. How could the Rwandans turn us away? They knew what it was like to have that done to them.

Jeff and I stepped into a chapel unaware of this group of believers half a world away. Yet, the relationships in our local church in Colorado Springs and the Anglican church of Rwanda have made all the difference in our lives, in our path, and in our calling.

We have much to learn. As Jeff nears the end of seminary, we find ourselves humbled at all there is to discover about the people of God across the world. (Yes, we are that crazy that he pursued a second master’s degree in Divinity!) We are the children, and the people of Rwanda are our parents. They know Christ and His love in a way we don’t quite understand here in the United States.

I am grateful for each step in my life that has revolved around the local church. The church of my childhood laid an important foundation, and later, through IAC, I learned that God is so much bigger than I imagined when I first entered that stone chapel. Now, I find myself in a new place, here in Kansas City. I can’t speculate all that will happen in this place and all that God will do with us in the future either.

I wish I knew all the details, but I don’t. That is for Him to work out, in His timing and in His way. For now, I wait, clinging to His promises and the spark of passion exhibited by a little girl playing with her dolls.

By the way, that bookstore at Grace University? I met my husband on the floor just above it several years later. We both majored in Christian Education at that college. God must smile at those things. I know I do.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Safe Spaces

"Somebody told me that this is the place, where everything’s better and everything’s safe.” –Toad the Wet Sprocket

“This is a safe space.” Believe it or not, I giggled when I read that sentence.

The consolation came from an article about my favorite television show ending last week, after nine years on the air. The words went on with, “Are you crying?…Then this is the place for you.” I didn’t cry during the finale. But I can say I wasn’t without any emotion over the loss of getting to journey with some beloved characters.

While the line about a safe space was intended as a joke, I started thinking about how comforting that picture is. Each of us needs safe spaces in our lives. People to commiserate with when we are feeling less than ourselves, and places where we can let down and just be.

For me, driving into the Colorado border causes me to breathe a sigh of relief. It is home, and I know what to expect when I’m there. (Well, almost. We Coloradans know how to layer for unpredictable weather patterns.)

I also have a few friends I call when life is overwhelming. I know that nothing is off-limits with them. They can handle me and my messes. Those moments, even though they often span through a set of cell phones, signal that I am in a safe space.

A few months ago, a friend of mine sent a proposal about turning her former website into a place where people could contribute theme-based expressions of themselves. At first, I doubted it would work. Would people really be honest in their expressions? Would readers respond appropriately? I wondered. But, after some prayer, I wrote to tell her that I thought she should go for it.

Even though many of us have a safe space or two to go to, I don’t think it’s enough. We need more places where it is enough to be and not do. To sit and not try to accomplish. To feel anything we need to feel. To let others pray when we have nothing to say.

In addition, safe spaces can never be about myself. They must be about the other person or they won’t work. That means not fixing another person by telling them, or even suggesting, what they need to do. It means listening without judgment or interruption.

So, I guess I’m challenging myself and challenging you, too, to think of ways we can create safe spaces. Here are a few questions to get us started thinking about it:

What are some safe spaces (or people) in your life? What makes that space safe?
Why are safe spaces necessary?
What is one way I can provide a safe space for someone else this week?

As you consider the final question, know this: you are you, and God has given you some unique gifts. Work from there and see what happens. Ask God for guidance. Start with an e-mail to a friend, or listen to someone who is having a bad day.

Maybe then our only safe spaces won’t be about television shows. Although, I must admit I’m grateful for those places too. After all, nine years is a long time.

A few related resources:
If you want to check out the honest reflections my friend is facilitating, you can find them here.
Sacred Companions by David G. Benner
Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O’Donohue

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Allow Me to Introduce...Amy

I'm pleased to continue introducing individuals who help shape my life in unique ways. Today, I'm offering you the opportunity to meet Amy, my best friend since I was three!

Amy and I grew up together in the same church. We roomed together at summer camp, spent endless hours talking on the phone as teenagers (I had my own line in my room. Trust me, it was cool 15 years ago!), and walked each other through some difficult times. I recently saw a sign online that said, "We will be friends until we're old and senile. Then we'll be new friends." I messaged Amy with those words right away because they are true for us!

Last summer, I had the privilege of standing next to Amy as she said "I do" to her husband, Joseph. She and Joseph are expecting their first child, a son, on Father's Day.

Amy is a woman of compassion. She has the ability to walk in a room and see who is hurting and who needs a kind word. Out of that gifting, she started her own missions organization called What is Love? Missions. I'm so proud of her. She has been talking about missions and sharing God's love with others since we were kids.

Amy is also a talented writer, especially in poetry. Her gifts to her wedding party were poems. I have mine on the wall above my work area. I'm pleased to offer you one of her new pieces. Her heart and her creativity are evident in this piece. May her words bless you today, just has her friendship has blessed me for nearly three decades.

Scared Sadness
by Amy Christina Torrans

I feel scared today. I feel my fear turning into sadness.  Because I feel that there is nothing I can do about situations in my life.

Fear comes like a magician pulling the carpet out from under me.

The room falling out of control is all that I can see.

Failure comes like a janitor pulling the carpet over my head.

The room of uncertainty is my bed.

I am too heavy with sorrow to get up myself.

So I reach for the Book that is close on the shelf.

I am hoping it tells me of Someone who cared.

So I read of others who were sad, who were scared.

Peace comes like a friend who just wants to sit for a while.

The room starts to look like it may someday see me smile.

I still feel scared and sad. But I know that I have a SAVIOR WHO can help me. And that HE is not only in control of life's situations.  HE is LIFE itself.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Jesus Life (A Book Review)

Last May I painted a group mural at a retreat. When it was dry, we each tore off a piece or two of it to take home. The piece I wanted disappeared quickly, so I grabbed a section with this word:

I wasn’t sure then why that word grabbed me, but I took that part anyway.

Around that same time, I received an update that Steve Smith, a personal acquaintance of mine, had finished the manuscript for his newest book about Jesus’ life. I remembered him mentioning to me that living life as Jesus did was an abundant life and that is exactly what He offers to us as well.

I started using the piece of the mural to pray more often for everything related to The Jesus Life, including the needed revisions, the final steps with the publishers, and the release. It released today, and I’m excited to offer you a review of this book!

The Jesus Life is about recovering our life, and not us alone. Jesus shows us how.

My first thought after the first paragraph of The Jesus life was, Dang, Steve. You aren’t messing around! And I’m so glad. So glad that the abundant life talked about in this book isn’t just about having our sins forgiven or creating a list of add-ons to Christianity.

Each of us can name what’s not working in our lives, and I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of the simple answers of “just read your Bible more” or “go to church” that are most often given when we look for help.

These responses are not adequate, and there’s a reason—it’s not what Jesus did. There is so much more to the way of transformation. This is what the author uncovers, specifically eight ways that Jesus lived that we can too.

In the pages of this book, we discover that Jesus lived His life with rhythms. He didn’t try to balance more or always be available to everyone. He lived an ordinary life, day to day and year to year. What would our lives be like if we stepped into similar rhythms?

The good thing is that the author offers some practical ways to do just that. At the end of nearly every chapter, there are ideas for experiencing life in the same that Jesus did. Rather than feeling a new set of tasks, I found that I am already doing some of these things, such as birthday celebrations to honor our family members and fostering good conversation with my kids around the dinner table. You may be already doing some of the ideas too!

On the flipside, I found there is also much to keep in mind as I move forward in my days. I felt a bit “undone” after each chapter. The authenticity and intentionality with which Jesus lived His life is beautiful. He lived this way because He knew firmly who He was.

Recovering our lives means staying tuned in to things like how our families spoke or didn’t speak, as the case may be, into our identities. Jesus knew all about that as well. His family included half-siblings and everyone in his hometown probably knew what happened with Mary and Joseph prior to his birth.

Jesus also knew about companionship. He chose twelve individuals in particular. We can’t do our days alone. We weren’t meant to, yet Steve reminds us that our abundance is found first in Jesus as we navigate relationships in our lives. He helps us dismantle our disillusions that others can live up to the expectations we create for them. I wonder what that means, not only for our one-on-one friendships, but also for our church groups?

The hardest chapter for me to read was “The Way of the Table.” I am not naturally gifted in hospitality. I love the relational aspect of getting together with friends or family, but then my heart sinks when I remember I should also feed them when we gather, a feat that many enjoy but sends me into anxiety. This chapter offers release to do something simple when we gather, such as setting out a pot of soup around a table. A multiple-course meal is not the point. A great quote:

…it’s never really about the food; it’s about the life around the table that matters. (page 144)

One of my other favorite chapters was “The Way of Suffering.” Not one of us can say we aren’t acquainted with suffering. Unfortunately, many of our Christian communities treat hard times as something to “get over” and move on from. At the beginning of this section, Steve states,

We’d prefer escape. We think a good life is a life immune from suffering. What’s striking to realize is that the very life of Jesus began in sorrow and suffering. (page 197)

Then, after sharing some examples from his own life, the author says these comforting words,

The God who is with us is also with us in our pain. God does not turn His head as we live in agony. It is inconceivable to think that God is indifferent in our suffering. We live in the assurance that God notices our tears. (pg 213)

What an amazing thought! This is the way of Jesus. This is the way we can choose to live, noticing that Jesus paved the way and that He stands ready to walk us through our own days and years.

I have to admit I had a hard time writing this review. Not because the book is lacking. In fact, I can’t think of a single criticism to offer. I had a hard time writing this review because there are so many good, truthful, and encouraging quotes I want to mention.

I can’t share them all, so I will simply have to urge you to get a copy of the book yourself. It’s a perfect thing to read as we move into Holy Week, a time when we ponder Jesus’ life, remember His death, and celebrate His resurrection.

The Jesus Life is a great way to discover and share His ways. Won’t you let Him show you what it means to live an abundant life?

Stephen Smith and his wife, Gwen, are the founders of Potter's Inn, an intentional ministry devoted to spiritual formation and the care of the soul. Steve has also written several other books, including Soul Custody: Choosing to Care for the One and Only You (another one of my favorites!), The Lazarus Life: Spiritual Formation for Ordinary People, and Soul Shaping: A Practical Guide to Transformation.