Category Archives: Life

The Chase by Kyle & Kelsey Kupecky

the_chaseI stepped out of my box a bit to review this book. I’ve been married for over six years now, so I don’t usually pick up books written for single girls. But since that’s all I used to read, I thought it couldn’t hurt to give this one a try and see if it might be useful for someone else.

The Chase encourages teenage girls to chase after God rather than guys. The authors, Kyle and Kelsey Kupecky, have been married since 2012. They take turns sharing bits of their own love story as they present some important truths about dating.

I really wanted to like it, but I just didn’t. The writing was mediocre and voice-less, the stories weren’t that interesting, and I could tell they hadn’t been married for very long when they wrote it. (That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the depth that comes with years of marriage just wasn’t there. To be fair, I’m a 28-year-old married woman, not the single teenage girl the book is written for, so maybe that doesn’t matter.) Just a few chapters in, I felt like their platform—Kelsey is the daughter of well-known author Karen Kingsbury and Kyle is a Christian recording artist—is what got the book published, not their skills or experience.

A few worldview things parents may want to know . . . 1) The Kupeckys seem to believe that if God calls you to be married, He has one person chosen for you, as opposed to believing there’s no such thing as a soulmate—that there are multiple people you could build a happy and successful life with. 2) The Kupeckys tell several stories of people they dated before they met. So if you’re opposed to dating, this book may not be a good choice for your kids.

Bottom line: it wasn’t terrible, but there are better books out there for single teenage girls who need a godly perspective on relationships. My favorite is Boy Meets Girl by Joshua Harris.

2 stars—It was okay and I probably won’t recommend it.
(Read more about my rating system here.)

I received a copy of this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review. The opinions are my own and were not influenced by the publisher or author.

I Don’t Follow the Rules

My boss’ gentle reminder to love people was just the start of many, many indications that I have a problem. After that conversation, symptoms started showing up everywhere—other people would talk about their struggles with the same issue, a pastor would preach about it, someone even sent me a book about it (more about that in my next post!).

I’ve learned that when God wants me to work on something, this is exactly how He gets my attention—He sends me the same message a thousand different ways until I notice the pattern and start to do something about it.

When I was praying about it, I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me to read what Romans says about grace and the law. I’ve read it a million times in hopes that I might figure out the mysterious and complicated relationship between God’s law and grace. I even took an entire class on the book of Romans in college.

Here are a few things I wrote in my journal after that reading:

“God, You’re challenging me to value people more than rules. You love them whether they follow the rules or not, and I should too. Why is it so hard to do? I like it when people follow the rules. I know what to expect. It gives me some control over the situation.”

Yikes. There’s that word: control. That’s another thing I struggle with.

“How do I love them? How do You?”

I really wanted God to tell me. I obviously had no clue.

“You love me even when I’m mean and manipulative. Even when I’m lazy and controlling and micromanaging. When I’m forgetful. When I’m petty. When I’m selfish. When I’m judgmental. When I’m wrong. Even when I’m ugly. Even when I’m fat.”

(Ugly and fat have more to do with my self-esteem issues, but that’s anther discussion entirely.)

“The law is useful for many things, but it’s not where my salvation comes from. And that’s how I’m supposed to love other people, too.

“It’s like Jesus’ death and resurrection and my salvation are God’s way of saying, ‘Hey, she’s not perfect, but I want her here anyway. I love working with her and she adds value to our team. I don’t expect her to get it right every time, but I trust her. I know who she is and what she stands for because she’s Mine. And that covers a multitude of mistakes.'”

When I realized God gives me the same kind of grace I try to give my coworkers, it became a lot easier to understand why and how to love people who don’t follow the rules.

Because I don’t follow the rules.

Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin (Romans 4:7–8).

Even if we’re smart, even if we’re hard workers, even if we do everything right, we have God’s favor because of our relationship with Him. Following the rules is just icing on the cake. And it makes it a whole lot easier for Him to use us and convince others to work with us.

We don’t get God’s blessings because we follow the rules. We get them because He loves us.

People Matter (more than rules)

At my last job review, my boss reminded me that my job is ministry and I need to remember that when dealing with people. He was absolutely right. It’s something I forget, especially with the behind-the-scenes nature of my job.

After lots of thinking and praying about that conversation, I’ve realized something about myself: I love people . . . but only when they follow the rules.

I’ve been a rule-follower my whole life. Maybe it’s because I’m a first-born. Maybe it’s my personality. Maybe it’s because I don’t like conflict. Whatever the reasons, I’ve always been afraid of breaking the rules. So I’m excellent at following directions. And I’m great at doing everything someone asks for and more. But when other people don’t do that, I just can’t handle it.

Not long ago, a few people from our church needed my help to put an event together. It was on short notice and they had a lot of requests for things that should have been taken care of much, much sooner. It meant that I had to ask other departments for favors and apologize for lateness that wasn’t my fault. I didn’t like how it was making me look; I’d worked so hard to redeem the reputation of the youth department! Rather than suck it up and do everything I could to help, I got angry. I was less than helpful, complained a ton, and let everyone within earshot know that it was not my fault. I even sent an email to the organizers outlining every “rule” they were breaking and why I was having so much trouble pulling things together for them. Now, it wasn’t worded quite that harshly, but it’s not an email I’m proud of. (This ordeal may or may not have been the reason I got that bit of constructive criticism in my job review.)

Unfortunately, this is not the only example. I get irritated with people who don’t follow the rules of the road, grammar, and etiquette. And at the bowling alley . . . if I’m in the lane next to you and you throw your ball while I’m standing on the approach, you can bet I’m going to be super irritated. (Perhaps this is just me–my high school bowling team days were serious business.)

I’m not usually loud about my anger and frustration. In fact, I tend to be pretty passive aggressive about it—I’ll tell everyone but you that I’m annoyed. My heart is SO in the wrong place.

But God seems to be putting in overtime to teach me what seems like such a simple lesson: People matter (more than rules).

Check back later this week—I’m going to post some of the ways God has been teaching me that lesson.

Coping with Anxious Days

uivwdk2ifrg-andrej-chudyI’m having one of those anxious days, one of those days when I feel unsettled, like I can’t relax, like I can’t be left alone with my own thoughts.

I haven’t been feeling quite right this week and it’s causing me to jump to horrible conclusions like I usually do. Maybe I have lung cancer. Maybe it’s a blood clot. Maybe I need to have my gallbladder removed. Or maybe my appendix. No, definitely my gallbladder. Unless it is a bloodclot…

And Jonathan’s not home, so I’m resorting to my best coping mechanism: binge watching television shows. Right now it’s Mr. Selfridge. I’m not sure it’s the healthiest thing to do, but it sure beats sitting around thinking I’m dying. Because if I am dying, and no one’s here to take me to the hospital, well, things are pretty hopeless, aren’t they? Much easier to just watch my favorite show and forget about everything else.

Do you ever have days like that? How do you cope?

Taming the To-Do List by Glynnis Whitwer

tamingtodolistThis book is going to change my life. 

That’s what I was thinking just a few chapters into Glynnis Whitwer’s Taming the To-Do List. It was like she was in my head. It went way beyond quick tips for checking more items off your list. It’s actually a book about procrastination—what it is, why we do it, and how to stop. Whitwer didn’t just attribute it to busyness and leave it at that. She dove right into the heart issues, covering things like fear, perfectionism, and willpower.

Each  chapter ended with a practical application section that asks tough questions and provides a framework for tackling some of those tasks you just never seem to cross off your list. By the time I finished reading, I had identified action steps to accomplish two things that have been on my list forever—maintaining a regular blogging schedule and making a dentist appointment.

I chose to review this book because, well, what woman doesn’t think she’s too busy and unorganized at some point in her life? It was so much more than I was expecting. I didn’t even know I had a procrastination issue, but I’ve already made dozens of changes that have improved my day-to-day life. It hasn’t even been two weeks since I finished the book!

I can easily say this is one of the most important books I’ve read this year—and maybe even in my life so far. If you struggle with people-pleasing, perfectionism, self-confidence, or laziness, or even if you KNOW you’re a procrastinator, please read this book. It’s written for women, but I know men who can get past that will benefit from it as well. My husband suggested he’d be interested in reading it after hearing me rave about it.

FIVE STARS
(Learn about my star system here.)

Buy it on Amazon.

I received a copy of this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review. The opinions are my own and were not influenced by the publisher or author.

Girl Meets Change by Kristen Strong

I was so, so excited to review this book. I’m in the middle of a hectic season of change at work (our lead pastor just retired in August and I’m switching positions), and I was looking for something that would shine some light onto what feels like a hopeless and overwhelming situation. Just a few weeks ago, I broke down in sobs in the middle of a pretty important meeting. I’ve never lost it like that at work before. But I just couldn’t hold it in anymore. I needed this book to meet me where I was and help me dig through all the gunk to get to the root of the issue.

Unfortunately, Girl Meets Change just didn’t do that for me. It wasn’t what I was expecting. I needed practical ways to cope and assurance that I’d come out stronger on the other side. I needed a book that would force me to face the real issue, not just say “Yes, change is hard, but God has a plan and you’re going to be okay.” That’s what my husband is for. I needed someone to problem solve with me. Someone to gently probe and figure out what heart issues I need to be working through right now.

The author, Kristen Strong, did offer a few strategies (I can’t find my copy of the book to give examples), but they weren’t anything new, and they just weren’t enough. I felt like the book just barely skimmed the surface of change and how to grow through it instead of going deep into the things you wrestle with when you’re in the thick of it. Maybe it’s a good read for people who aren’t in a season of change right now, but not for people in the thick of it?

All that said, the book has gotten some pretty positive reviews from other people, so maybe I’m crazy. Every once in a while I come down so hard on a book that I wonder if I missed something while I was reading, like maybe the author did something brilliant and I was too stupid to catch it. That’s how I’ve been feeling about this one. So read it for yourself, I guess, and let me know if you think I’m crazy.

(And in case you’re wondering, God is faithful. He’s helped me dig through all of the stuff that has surfaced in my heart in the midst of this season of change. I’m not out yet, but I’m headed in the right direction.)

One Star
(Learn about my star system here.)

I received a copy of this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review. The opinions are my own and were not influenced by the publisher or author.

Six

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Photo Credit: Ed Gostomski

Once upon a time, six years ago, when I was a lot skinnier and Jonathan was a lot geekier, we got married. We became officially the Youngs, Mr. and Mrs., husband and wife—us.

Maybe it’s selfish, but I’m not just celebrating my husband this year (though he is pretty awesome!). I’m celebrating who we are together—how we sharpen each other, how we inspire and encourage each other, how we challenge each other, how we love and respect each other. How we live together, laugh together, cry together (well, actually, that’s usually just me), and love Jesus together.

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I’ll pick being together over just about anything else. (Unless it’s time to watch The Bachelor. On those nights, I’d prefer Jonathan take his snarky comments in the other room!)

I think one of the biggest “marriage events” we’ve had this year was investing in kayaks and a car rack to transport them. We’d been thinking about it for a while, and when we started looking around, the prices were discouraging. After a whole day of looking, we returned home, defeated and resigned to the fact that we just couldn’t afford it. It was one of the most depressing days of our relationship. But then we decided to forgo our summer vacation to get them and it became a lot more doable. The car rack ended up costing more than the kayaks, but we will both tell you it was a worthy investment. Finding active things we both enjoy has been a struggle, but kayaking is our solution to that problem.

I don’t know what our next year of marriage will bring, but I’m glad we get to do it together.

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Jamberry Birthday Bash

20150422_212702_editedYesterday was my birthday (I was going to get this posted then, but I threw my back out—happy birthday to me!) and my friend Dana O’Brien is throwing me a Jamberry party to celebrate!

Intro to Jamberry

Chances are you’ve at least heard about Jamberry Nails. It’s a newer company (they just celebrated four years of business last week) that sells long-lasting vinyl nail wraps in over 300 designs, as well as salon-quality nail lacquers and other nail and hand care products.

I’m not a consultant like Dana, but I’m a Jamberry enthusiast. I’ve always loved having pretty nails (it makes my desk job much more exciting!), and Jamberry has upped the ante. No dry time. No chips. No scraping polish off my skin in the shower the next day. And a ton of designs to choose from that I could never reproduce myself. And did I mention NO DRY TIME? I can apply them right before bed and fall asleep without having to worry about smudges or sheet marks. It’s pretty amazing. I typically get two manicures, three pedicures, and a few accent nails out of a sheet.

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Like nail polish, Jams aren’t completely fool proof, but the pros outweigh the tricky-ness of learning how to apply them. Now that I’m good at it, I can apply a set in about 20 minutes or less.

As much as I love using Jams on my hands, I especially love them for pedicures. They usually last me about six weeks and I only end up taking them off because the adhesive is wearing out, not because the design is!

Tips and Tricks

I’ve been using Jamberry long enough to have a few tips and tricks of my own. I used to only get about five days out of a set, but now that I’m using these techniques, I’m often able to get the two weeks that Jamberry advertises. I typically remove them when the end near my cuticle is lifting and getting caught in my hair (ouch!) because the adhesive is wearing out.

1. If you’re going to use Jamberry regularly, buy a mini heater. I got mine with a half-off coupon (I only paid $10!) and it’s a game changer. A hair dryer is just as effective, but the mini heater is SO MUCH easier.

2. When you’re heating your Jams before you apply them to your nails, be careful not to use too much heat. Most people will tell you the more heat, the better, but I kept going overboard and warping them. I couldn’t figure out why I was having problems with wrinkles, but when I started using less heat, the problem fixed itself.

20150512_193944_edited3. If you’re having lifting at the tips, don’t be afraid to clip them off. You’ll be able to tell, but no one else will. It’ll significantly increase the life of your jamicure.

4. If your nails are long enough and you’re at the point where your tips are looking really beat up, just clip your nails and re-file the jams. It’ll buy you a few more days, at least.

5. For pedicures, I use the smallest size. It fits all of my toes and is a great way to use up a size that’s too small for my fingernails. I also use it as a guide to cut down other pieces to pedicure size. If that size doesn’t work for you, use the tape trick. It’s a little more effort, but it works!

6. If you’re not sure you’ll like a specific design, look up pictures online so you can see it on someone else’s hands. My favorite way to do this is to search for the design’s hashtag on Instagram. (Did you know every design has one? Examples: #fizzygrapejn, #amorejn, #patriotjn. The formula is the same for every design: #designnameJN.)

20150616_091003_editedIf You’re Interested . . . 

Have I piqued your interest yet? Check out Dana’s website to see them for yourself and maybe place an order. (Any sales go toward my hostess rewards—my birthday gift for myself!) If you’re not convinced, let me know. I have a few samples and could send you one to try. And if you’re just too committed to your polish to try something different, check out Jamberry’s lacquers. My first Jamberry purchase was two lacquers and they’re AMAZING. They last at least 4–5 days without chipping and longer with a top coat. I’d compare them to Julep polishes, which are about the same price for less polish.

He is Risen Indeed

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Good Friday is a solemn celebration, a reminder of how bad things were—how bad things are. It’s a reminder of what life is like without Jesus. Most years it rains, or at least clouds over with darkness.

But Easter is bright and hopeful. A celebration of grace and love and life and mercy, a reminder that we’re loved by an all-knowing, all-powerful Creator who became flesh and died so we could spend eternity with Him.

Spring (at least in the Midwest) is the perfect time to celebrate the juxtaposition of life and death that holy week brings—bleakness and bright hope.

The seasons mirror the work God does in our lives, in our world. It’s a cycle of life and death. A reminder that good things come to an end, but for a reason. It’s not senseless. It’s not the last word. Death is required for new life to break forth. The leaves must turn crisp and fall, the peaceful white snow must cover the land, hiding that death and ushering in the new life that comes with spring. The birds start to sing again. The flowers send shoots up out of the soil. The air embraces you with a warm breeze. Summer is coming. Sunday is coming.

As I’m preparing my heart for Easter, I’m remembering just how bad it was before He came—how bad my life could have been without Jesus—and I’m praising God for the new life He brings.

He is risen. He is risen indeed.

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