Tuesday, April 5

Book Reviews: For the Love and Breaking Busy

I often paraphrase one of my YA literature heroes, Sharon Draper, in saying that my job as a teacher is to get "the right book into the hands of the right kid at the right time." I'm not sure if BookLook Bloggers sees their goal as getting the right book into my hands at the right time, but they have definitely done just that lately. The end of 2015 was rough for me, mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This year, I've been making my own well-being a priority - I can't teach or serve others in any capacity if I'm broken by own perfectionism and business. Since this mission is at the center of my heart these days, I was drawn to read For the Love and Breaking Busy, and as I read these two books, I felt like Jen Hatmaker and Alli Worthington were writing them for me.

For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker

Jen Hatmaker's For the Love is a collection of essays about how Jen, and Christian women in general relate to themselves, their families, and their communities. As Jen points out in the first chapter, a lot of us feel like we're coming up short: bombarded with images of perfect birthday parties and dinners and outfits and workout routines, "We no longer assess our lives with any accuracy. We have lost the ability to declare a job well-done. We measure our performance against an invented standard and come up wanting, and it is destroying our joy." I was reminded of Amy Poehler's "Good for her! Not for me" mantra when Jen compares finding balance in her life to her daughter's gymnastics balance beam: things that give her life, like cooking (she includes recipes in the book!), sit down dinners, and writing, are "on the beam." Things that would drain her dry, like web management, being classroom mom, or scheduling every appointment she's invited to, get to be "off the beam." While the chapters about parenting weren't 100% relevant to my current season in life, I absolutely loved the essay in which Jen addresses each of her children one by one, exhorting their strengths and outlining her dreams for them.

Early in the book, Jen addresses "the difference between the gospel and the American evangelical version of the gospel." As she puts it, "sometimes my portrayal of God's ways sounds suspiciously like the American Dream and I had better check myself." Her new benchmark is, "If it isn't also true for a poor single Christian mom in Haiti, it isn't true." By applying this standard to familiar American evangelical topics like the prosperity gospel, complementarianism, and our focus on finding a "calling" in life, Jen shows how our focus needs to shift to living a worthy life - "loving as loved folks do, sharing the ridiculous mercy God spoiled us with first." As these essays, by turns serious and laugh-out-loud hilarious (leggings-as-pants and Netflix find their way to Jen's crosshairs), show, we are often so focused on a false ideal of perfection that we forget the importance of simply showing up.

Breaking Busy: How to Find Peace & Purpose in a World of Crazy by Alli Worthington

In the first chapter of Breaking Busy, Alli Worthington describes her breaking point - convinced she'd lost her iPhone in a taxi after a 2 a.m. wakeup call, she borrowed another person's phone in a busy airport only to be answered by her ringing bra. For Alli, that moment was a clear sign that she'd met her capacity in our crazy busy world. As she explains, many of us are serving at the altar of "busy" without really knowing why, all the while sacrificing our emotional control, self-care, mental, physical, and spiritual health, and important relationships. To begin "breaking busy," Alli encourages us to identify our season of life (something Jen Hatmaker also recommended in For the Love), our stress points, and why we're so driven to exceed our capacities - pride, guilt, perfectionism, or the drive to "get ahead."

Through her own experiences, Alli explains how to edit one's time and responsibilities and overcome the pressure to be "all things to all people." When God called on her to quit the conference she'd built through years of hard work, she resisted at first, then became angry when her next opportunity wasn't immediately clear. Her worries about the future and the pressure to be perfect kept her from enjoying the opportunities her obedience opened up. The book is full of practical action steps to help readers make decisions that will free us from the "altar of busy."

This year, I've been focused on slowing down and focusing on routines that make my life healthier and more peaceful. I think that's why I was drawn to For the Love and Breaking Busy. I've highlighted and starred this quote from Alli Worthington: "Just because we live in a world of seemingly endless expectations doesn't mean we have to live up to them." I think that quote perfectly sums up the message I took away from both of these books.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received these books free from the publishers through the BookLook Bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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