The Complicated Heart – Book Review

Let me start off by saying I am in no way gaining anything financially, nor required to say anything positive or negative about this book.
This review is completely honest, as reviews should be!

The title and cover artwork gives a great preview into what this story, this testimony rather, is about. It’s complicated. Just as life is, relationships are, because of one thing: Sin. The main theme Sarah Mae presents is the concept that we, even as Christians, do not always do what we want to do, what we “ought” to do. We sin, and sin complicates everything.

Sarah Mae presents in this book a very raw, painful, retelling of her relationship with her mother, and particularly the decisions she made because of the dysfunction between herself and her mother. At pride of place, the climax of the story, is glory of God’s grace, redeeming her life, her mother’s life, and miraculously, their broken relationship. The restoration of their relationship is just beautiful, and truly a work of God.

Now is the part of the review that I talk about what I didn’t like.

  • The timeline.
    It was often all over the place, very confusing to follow what happened when. I’m a sequence and timeline person, I love being able to follow the dates of one event to the next, to the next, to the next. In this book, the drama and events were emphasized over the timing. I understand why, but order is important too, and this was lacking.
  • Persons and Setting.
    Some people’s names were changed, which is fine, but there was no consistency with what their changed names were, whose names were changed. It was very challenging to keep track of who all these people were, which is important in a testimony-type story. Some people were given descriptive names (like Mr. Baldman), which made them feel insignificant, when actually they were more significant than those given names.
  • Lack of Scripture.
    While Sarah Mae spent time to explain psychological terms, there was little mention of the Bible. She says God was central to the change, but so much is based on feeling and psychology, it was hard to find grounds for God having anything to do with it. Perhaps this is why she included so many prayers? There is a problem here too, however, because the prayers mention personal feelings and struggle (which is good), but still no follow up with what the Bible says in answer to these struggles.

Here was my biggest issue with the book.
Sin does happen, and God can use and redeem people, situations, and relationships despite our failings.

Sarah Mae did a great job pointing this out, but there is a deep lack of truth to replace the lies and sin that fill so much of the book. The message of the Gospel is not clearly stated until the last fourth of the book.
Perhaps when she was going through these experiences she did not think of scriptures that spoke to the heart of these struggles, but if this book is to grow and encourage the reader, then appropriate corresponding scriptures should be there, in my opinion.

The very few places where she quoted scripture were so rich and refreshing! I simply wish she had done that as much as she had dug up all the details of past sin.

So, to sum this all up…

I enjoyed the book, the redemption story of Sarah and her mother is truly beautiful. It did lack in many ways however, and I don’t think I will read it again, nor recommend it to a friend.

If you have a challenging familial relationship, you may be pulled to this book because of the similar struggles. I would warn against that for this reason:

The result of the relationship she presents is completely situation based, because of the lack of scripture references to tie in Sarah Mae’s experience to biblical truth it makes this a nice story, but hard to apply to or encourage one’s own heart.

Read with discernment, friends!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Body image and eternity

Scars, stretch marks, freckles, moles, acne, crooked teeth, flabby places, tummy pooch, and a birth mark. I have all of these and more. My body is far from perfect. My post-partem body keeps changing, and I keep finding things I could handle before that now, post birthing children, I just can’t.

This is me about 4 months a long with my first child, about 5 years ago.
Here I am just hours after the birth of my third child.

No amount of self improvement will change many of the most defeating of these changes. Like becoming lactose intolerant. I can loose flabby parts, but I can never have ice cream again.

That one seems kind of silly, but there are other, more personal ones that really get me down more than not having my fill of moose tracks with peanut butter cups. Personal things that make that one week a month a literal pain, things that make loving my husband difficult, things that keep me from leaving my house because I want to cling to the baby sleeping in my arms a few minutes longer.

The culture around us would say things like:

  • Love your body the way it is
  • Change your body to what you want it to be
  • Raise your self esteem by doing what feels good
  • You have the power to “wash your face” and “stop saying sorry” and just change

The truth is… This body isn’t mine. I have been bought by the blood of Jesus, body and soul. My soul is intricately, and inexplicably intertwined with my body. Some Christians believe that they will receive new bodies in eternity, that this one will be gone. But that’s not what the Bible says. Our bodies, the ones we have on this earth, right now, will be raised, and made new.

Another truth that is often overlooked is the description of Christ’s resurrected, physical, very touchable, body. It bore the scars from the cross. If our Lord has scars, what makes us think we won’t?

There’s nothing that says we will or will not have scars. What’s is for sure, is that it will not matter. In eternity, believers will be free from the bondage of sin. We simply won’t struggle with insecurities, pride, selfishness, anxiety, etc. None of it! Body image will not be an issue, no matter if we have scars, like Jesus, or are flawless. It will not matter to us.

How freeing is that?! This reality of eternity really helps my perspective on my body now. This body has a greater purpose, an eternal purpose. I am to take care of my body, but not so that I look good or feel good, but so that I can serve the eternal purposes of the Kingdom.

Now that is freeing.

Soli Deo Gloria!

My story, God’s story

A lot happened this weekend.

Went away with my hubby Thursday night to celebrate our 5th anniversary, Dodger game Friday night (which they won!) with fireworks commemorating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, my niece’s 1st birthday party on Saturday, then I got baptized on Sunday.

Like I said, big weekend. Very fun and very full. Has made for a very sleepy Monday, which I am totally fine with.

Many people from my church came up to me after service saying how encouraged they were by my testimony. I always feel awkward when people thank me, but especially then because I didn’t really do anything. God did it all, I just showed up.

Here’s what I shared:

My Story – God’s Story

I was baptized once before, when I was 11, but I was not a believer at the time. It took a long time for me to admit that the testimony I thought I had wasn’t true. I believed my own lie.

The truth was, I was a really good Pharisee. I grew up in a Christian home, was taught about God, heard the gospel, and mentally assented to the truth about God. I told others about God, I behaved well, I sought to be “the good girl”, and prided myself in all these things. There was one problem, and that was me. I didn’t believe I needed Jesus. I didn’t believe I was that bad. I didn’t believe I was a sinner. 

It wasn’t until high school that this deadly belief in my own goodness, grew into something more serious: pride. I loved myself more than anyone. I wanted others to love me too. I sought favor from my peers, and affection from boys. I despised my church, my parents, and especially my siblings who knew the real me and all my flaws. I attacked or cut off anyone who confronted me, who tried to show me my sin, or who stood in my way of what I wanted.

By God’s grace, I was accepted to and received scholarships that enabled me to attend The Master’s College. In the first three months of being at college, I ignored all the warnings of my parents, and got in too deep with a boyfriend. I almost got myself kicked out of the school. I was then confronted with my sin, and I couldn’t escape it, or reason it away. I was confronted with the reality that God’s standard for my life is not Goodness, but Holiness. I can fake Goodness, but I cannot do Holiness. It broke me. 

I remember collapsing on the emergency stairwell of my dorm, where no one could find me, and just crying. Crying over my sin. I remember that being the very first time I prayed to God. I prayed, fully expecting to hear nothing, “God I can’t. I’m awful. I’m gross. I’m not holy.” In my heart an answer came, “And I love you anyway”.

That was the part about God that I didn’t understand for 18 years. That He is holy, and I am not. And He chose to love me anyways. This is where my faith in the Lord began, in repentance. Repenting of my pride, my selfishness, my self-righteousness, my godless goodness, all that mattered to me, because now none of it mattered to me without Christ. I was, and still am by God’s grace, like Paul in Philippians 3:7-9 

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the flesh, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-” 

God tested my faith at that time too. I came back to school after the Christmas break with no friends, and in a new department because I had switched majors. I spent the next year in complete dependence on God. I had lost it all for His sake, and He slowly revealed to me that blessed truth that He is worth it. 

God faithfully showed me his love. By His grace the trust with my parents that I had broken was restored, and by restoring, and continually growing the relationship with my siblings, blessing me with deep friendships with my family members. Almost exactly a year after I repented and my faith became true and real, God brought Mike into my life. 

I became a born again Christian almost 10 years ago. I am now married to a man who strives to show me Christ daily. I have three kids, entrusted to me and my husband to teach the things of God and be faithful parents. I want them to know that there is a God, that He is holy, that they are sinners, and that they desperately need Jesus. That is why I want to get baptized: to be an example, and to obey my loving Father.

Soli Deo Gloria!

A godly friend, like Paul

The women’s bible study at my church is going through Philippians right now, using Melissa Kruger’s book In All Things. It’s been such a blessing to have this reminder to rejoice in the Lord Jesus no matter what.

Why? Because he is greater, he is worthy, he is worth it, he is with us, he is the reason and the end of all things, he is good.

Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry,
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky.

– “The Love of God is Greater Far” by Fredrick M. Lehman (1917)

I read though the entire book of Philippians just to refresh myself of the whole context of the book, even as we study it verse by verse. As I read, I was receiving texts from two girls. I pray for both these girls on a regular basis, and with their texts in my mind this verse of Philippians really popped out at me:

“Therefore. my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” 
Philippians 4:1

Do you have friends you think of like this? Do you have friends who think of you in this way? Through out this little letter, Paul’s language shows that he really loved and cared for these people. 

It’s so interesting to note what Paul’s love for these people calls him to do, because it is so different from what the world says a true friend does. Paul encourages this church to stand firm in what they have believed about Jesus (that he is the only way of salvation), love one another, and rejoices even in their suffering.

Do we do this for our friends? Do we spur them on? Or do we pander them when they grumble? Do we actually talk with our friends about Jesus, about good theology, even in a casual way? Or do we “save” those conversations for the formal church setting?

Are we investing in the spiritual growth of our brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we allowing others to invest in us?

These are tough questions! They require messiness, uncomfortable conversations, personal sacrifice, and more! That’s hard friend, but that is what Jesus did for us (and more!), and that is what we, as believers, are called to. 

Let us, in the confidence we have in our savior Jesus Christ, Rejoice! Standing firm, united in love, and growing ever more like Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria!

When the rain comes

These few months of “winter” here in southern California have proven to be a struggle for me and my kids. Between cold viruses and rainy days, we have been inside more than I would like.

Looking to Valentine’s day, I see more rain on the way, and I am super tempted to pout and complain.

Again? Really? Lord, do you know how hard it is to have three kids 3 and under in a two bedroom apartment? And now we can’t even go outside? I just know they are going to act out.

I’m tempted to not believe that God is good.
I’m tempted to not believe that God is sovereignly providing for me.
I’m tempted to not believe that God’s grace.
But! God is good. God is sovereignly providing. God is abundantly gracious!

Our Rainy/Valentine’s Day Plan:

1. “Mommy, let’s make a sheep.” My son has been asking this for a week, and I have been putting it off. He knows all the materials we need, I already checked, and we have all of them.

Sheep craft – materials:

  • Sheet of paper
  • Cotton balls
  • Elmer’s glue
  • Markers

2. I received an email from Education.com asking if I would be interested in sharing a Valentine’s day word tracer worksheet on my blog.

Here’s a note from those at Education.com :

Celebrate friendship all month long as you practice your writing skills with this Valentine word tracer. The fun can continue at Education.com with more learning activities.

Education.com has a ton of resources and ideas on Pinterest as well!

God provides! Usually in unexpected ways from unexpected sources.

When it rains or snows, even when we doubt, even when we disobey, God is still good, sovereign, gracious, and steadfastly faithful to love us.
God is the perfect Valentine.
Sounds a little cheesy, but it is in essence true!
God not only loves perfectly, God is love.

Be reminded of this sweet truth, friends, as I remind my own heart.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Anxiety, the gospel, and potty training

Today is Day One of potty training for me and my son. He’s 3 and 1/2. He’s plenty ready, but I’m a nervous wreck.

Why am I so anxious about potty training? I have 3 kids: a 3-and-1/2-year-old, a 2-year-old, and a 2-month-old. All are (obviously) in diapers. You’d think I’d be ecstatic about getting one if them out of diapers!
But I’m not.
I’ve been dragging my feet.
I’m forcing myself to do this.

You wouldn’t guess it looking at me! (Unless you’re my mom, or my hubby, or my sister 😉) I grew up performing, so I know how to “fake it ’til you make it”! On the outside: I’m excited, motivated, encouraging, and confident. All for my son’s sake!

On the inside: I’m nervous that I’ll fail. I’m afraid my son will have a bad experience, and be upset with me. I’m sad my baby is growing up! I’m also excited my baby is growing up! (The inner turmoil of a mom, right?!)

He’s my only son (so far 😉). He’s my first born. He’s the spitting image of my husband. I’m in a constant struggle between wanting him to become a grown, godly man, just like his daddy, and wanting to hold him forever. 💜

I think he’s barely a year old in this, maybe not even a year yet! Oh, be still my heart!

Potty training is just bringing all my anxieties and fears to the surface, I think. They were there the whole time, but didn’t have a chance to really show themselves. The heat is bearing down now!

I see my heart’s tendency, to be anxious, so today I am clinging (with all my might) to God’s grace, because I need it!

These are the Truths I am holding fast to:

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action and being sober-minded, set your hope on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
1 Peter 1:13

This should be the theme verse for all of babyhood and toddlerhood. So much of parenting at this stage is preparing ourselves for intense action! Midnight feedings, continual diaper changes, tantrums, potty training… the list goes on. These are all activities that require immediate action and continual readiness to jump right in! I love that this verse points to the future, to what is ultimate: Christ’s return, when all things will be made right. I need this reminder when I’m in the thick of things with my little ones. Especially today with our new adventure in potty training.

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22-23

This is my go-to verse in my current stage of life. What a comfort this verse is! The promises here are so rich!

  • God’s love is steadfast.
  • God mercy is renewed for us each dawn.
  • God’s mercy is never ending.
  • God is always faithful.

These promises also highlight the reality that we are broken people and are none of these things.

  • Our love is fickle and short lived.
  • Our patience wears thin, and we are harsh rather than merciful.
  • Our mercy ends, or fails to even show up.
  • Our short term memory, and frail frame make us a faithless people.

BUT GOD!

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved-“
Ephesians 2:4-5

I am holding fast to the gospel!

Mommies need the gospel. We need it in our hearts and minds everyday. It’s incredibly practical! Because it puts every diaper change into perspective.

Let me say it again, not just for you, reader, but mostly for my own heart:

The Good News that we are sinners saved from punishment and death through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, paying an eternal debt to an eternal God that we cannot pay, and saved to life “together with Christ” as Ephesians puts it, now in this earthly life by the ministry of the Spirit, and forever for eternity in heaven through Jesus with God the Father, makes the mundane tasks of each day not just worth it, but I am also able to glorify God in them because his Spirit enables me to serve others and God rather than my sinful self.

Read that again. and again. and again.

Remind yourself (and myself) everyday of this reality, believer. This is your reality. This is your life. This is why you can say “no” to being anxious, and “yes” to trusting in God in all things.

But before you or I begin to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, or wash our face and put on the make-up of self-righteousness, let’s take a look at Scripture verses that tell us how we say “no” to anxiety, and “yes” to trusting God.

1. God is, powerfully, at work in us

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Philippians 1:6

2. God has given us instructions

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, that the man [or woman] of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17

3. God has given us a family. Don’t go it alone.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Hebrews 10:24-26

Reading to his 2-month-old baby sister. He loves his sisters sooooo much!

Let me conclude with this:
I am anxious about potty training. It is a challenge!
Parenting is hard! Having three kids as young and as close in age as I do, IS HARD!
But! God is in control. God is good. God is faithful. And, God is with me.

Deep breath.

“The LORD is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults,
and with my song I give thanks to him.”
Psalm 28:7

Soli Deo Gloria

Persuasion – When it hit a little too close to home

I picked up (or rather downloaded it to my Kindle) Jane Austen’s book Persuasion because, although I have read it before, I couldn’t remember anything about it. I tell you anything about the book or even who the characters were or anything! I either didn’t finish it before, or I really didn’t like it. So, I decided to read it again.

Well, I just finished it, and now I know why I didn’t remember it from before. Before getting married, I identified a lot with the main character, Anne. I identified with her personality, and her heartbreak. This made this book painful to read, and it’s happy ending unfulfilling and unbelievable.

During this second reading of the book, I did the hard work I didn’t want to do the last time I read it. That is, examine my heart. Why did this book bother me so much? Why was it so painful to read? Why was I letting this pain bother me so many years later? Certainly I am “over it”! (Spoiler alert: I wasn’t really over it in my heart.)

Find this book on Amazon

A quick summary of the book (so we are all on the same page):

Anne is the middle daughter of a baron. Her father and elder sister are obsessed with rank and status. Her younger sister is married, but her husband has no rank, only money.
Anne had been “attached” (that’s Austen-ese for “courting”) a man eight years prior to the book’s opening. He had no rank or money, but was just a low ranking officer in the Navy. Due to her youth, and his uncertain ability to provide well for her, she was persuaded by a dear friend to essentially break up with him. The friend believed that Anne was not worthy of him, and that being so young, a better offer would be coming her way soon (i.e. someone with equal or better rank and fortune to her father).
Anne never gets over the break up. She truly loved the man, and he loved her. She never gets a better offer.
When the book opens, she is living normal life when low and behold! HE walks back into her life. Drama, and emotional turmoil ensues for the entire length of the book, ending in a happy ending of Anne and HE getting together, engaged, and wed.

The first time:

In my original reading of the book, the emotion turmoil Anne experienced and the way she internalized all her thoughts, feelings, and pain, resonated with me deeply. I had done this. My own heartbreak was very different, there was never any attachment in my situation, my HE never felt the same way towards me that I felt towards him. Like Anne, however, I let it sit in my heart, fester, and ruin all other “possible happiness” – as Austen would put it – for several years. Our situations were different, but reading Anne’s feelings brought my own feelings to the surface again.

The second time:

This second time reading it (I just finished it yesterday), instead of remembering the plot, but I remembered how I felt before. This time, I could see through the fog of those deeply rooted, nasty, painful feelings.

I was bitter.

I had let heartbreak – a real, painful, unfair situation – dig into my heart and rule me. I let my feeling of bitterness towards this person for not loving me, rob me of the joy of loving others, harden me so as to keep me from being compassionate toward others, and keep me so focused on me that I would forfeit my college education – which my parents were paying for – to feel loved.

Reflecting now:

After reading, and enjoying, Persuasion, I see my younger self, and I am so sad. I am sad I let my feelings rule me. I am sad I wasn’t trusting God with my situation. I am sad I hurt so many people because I was focusing on myself.
But, I am also amazed. I am amazed my husband kept dating me even when I revealed my hurting, bitter heart! I am amazed that he married me! I am amazed that I am not that girl anymore. I am amazed that I didn’t do anything to deserve the love that helped me change. I am amazed by God’s grace that changed my bitterness into forgiveness, love, and joy. What He has promised to do He will do!

Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”

I hope you are encouraged too!

Soli Deo Gloria!