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What the Hatmaker Said When She Interrupted Me

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God keeps interrupting me.

It started with this appetizer last week. On top of that, having just moved to a new place and flexing my “get acquainted” muscles, I’m looking for the places to plug into my community where I can have an impact for Christ. Then, I was chosen to be one of 250 bloggers to receive an advanced review copy of Jen Hatmaker’s updated book, Interrupted. I was primed for Jen’s book, pondering and praying about God’s next move in my life.

For the next few weeks here on Predatory Lies, I’m going to plow through Jen’s book with you. By the time we’re done, you’re going to have to read it just to see if you agree with my revelations from it. (But that’s okay because through July 31, you can get a 20% discount on the book here. Oh, and I’ll be giving away a copy on Predatory Lies, too!)

I’m only a few chapters in right now, but let me tell you, Jen Hatmaker kept me up last night. No, not reading. I’m pretty good about turning the lights out at a reasonable hour even when I’m reading a great book. But she got under my skin; she kept me awake pondering whether or not I’ve totally missed God, if all my attempts to follow Him, to work out my salvation, to hone my vocation and use my little life for His glory—whether I’d gotten it all wrong.

Here’s Jen’s first epiphany: “And from the heights of heaven, this is what I heard: ‘You do feed souls, but twenty-four thousand of my sheep will die to day because no one fed their bellies; eighteen thousand of them are my youngest lambs, starving today in a world with plenty of food to go around.’”

Gut punch.

Jen follows that excerpt from her conversation with Christ with dozens of statistics. It’s heart-rending. Honestly, the statistics have always been available, but most of us have learned to scan over them when we see them in print, or change the channel when the Compassion International commercial comes on, or squirm in our seats when they take a special collection for missionaries in Uganda.

Before you squirm now and bail on me, take heart, I’m going to take a different spin on Jen’s message. Yes, she kept me awake, but it wasn’t God leaning into my heart saying, “You’re not doing enough.”

I wrestled all night, “God what do you want from me? Where am I supposed to go, what am I supposed to do? Is all my Christianity filthy to you because I’m not on my knees cleaning a leper’s sores in India?”

No.

(I know I’m kind of all over the board right now, but bear with me.)

Jen’s right and I’m not wrong. I’m not averting my gaze from her statistics and I’m not going to quit reading the book because it makes me uncomfortable. In fact, I’m going to change my prayer life, increase my financial giving and take brutal inventory of my excess. I’m making a commitment today not to buy anything else this year that is not consumable—no new clothes, dishes or decorations. I am committing before God not to live in blissful ignorance of the needs of God’s global, precious image-bearers.

But God hasn’t called everyone to take up Jen Hatmaker’s mission. God hasn’t called every Christian to march under her banner.

A couple years ago, God wouldn’t let me out from under James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

About that time, He opened doors from Brave and I to become a certified pet therapy team and we’ve been visiting the sick, elderly and lonely. I am passionate about this. It’s not easy. Sometimes it’s boring or frustrating trying to carry on an encouraging conversation with someone on the brink of senility or trying to appear interested when a lonely child won’t stop talking, or pretending I don’t notice a disfigurement, an ugly wound or the dirty hand gripping mine. But I know that I know this is what God has given me to do—and He’s given me a passion for it as well.

Additionally, God has opened doors wider than I ever thought imaginable to speak hope and healing into the lives of several girls pinned down under the weighty lies of an eating disorder. This is brings me joy, challenges me and affects my heart. This too keeps me on my knees asking God for wisdom, words and grace.

Summation? Jen’s book is going to cost me some sleep. She’s awaking my heart to a deeper level of need that I’ve either been unaware of or not wanted to acknowledge. However, her clarion call will press me deeper into my own calling to serve the least of these, dig my hands deeper into the soil of my own mission field and follow the Servant-Savior wherever He leads.

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The Long Awaited…A Review of “Who Am I?”

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My dearest friends and readers, allow me to introduce to you one of the most amazing women I have had the privilege of meeting virtually.

Megan Cyruleski was one of the first to review my book. She also interviewed me here, and then honored me with the favor of her presence here on Predatory Lies. You can read my interview with Megan here. 

And finally, what we’ve all been waiting for (me more than others–on pins and needles to read the Advance Review Copy of her book) a review of Megan’s soon to debut book, Who Am I?

So, without further adieu…

There are two things that make a book mesmerizing: either I find myself in the story or, I am captured by a narrative so far from my own reality that it’s simply hard to believe.

The second phenomena is something like being a deer caught in the headlights. Life demands that I get up and do something “productive”, (or finally put the book down and go to sleep as the case may be). Reason insists that the book will be there later but I am somewhat in a stupor, living in someone else’s world, stunned into staring at pages as the words get blurry and my eyelids droop.

Megan Cyrulewski’s book, Who Am I?, falls in the second category, and let me be clear—few books ever land in that category for me.

Megan’s story is truly her own, though at times it seems an impossibly difficult story. From the first line of the preface, it occurs to the reader that Megan’s life is not an enviable one. Tearful, in bed, crushed beneath the weight of postpartum depression, her mental mantra is, “Madelyn deserves better than me. I want to die.”

Megan then unfolds an ever more complicated drama. From rising out of the ashes of PPD, to protecting her daughter from her narcissistic ex-husband, to surviving domestic violence, Megan guides the reader with absolute precision. She provides dates, full text letters between attorneys and text messages between herself and Madelyn’s father. Megan’s wit carries the story with small doses of humor lifting the reader’s spirit and restoring optimism at just the right times.

I’ve fought my own battles, but none like those Megan faced. However, I believe that an untold number of women face similar issues. In Megan’s story they will find a seasoned companion. Megan’s story provides insight in a “been there-done that” format. Her humor will brighten the darkest days and allow them to search again for the light at the end of the tunnel. And perhaps, most importantly, as it concludes with resounding hope, Who Am I?, will allow many to see “themselves in Megan’s story and give them courage to reach out for help and find healing.

Dying to read it? Here’s the pre-buy link to Who Am I? 
Get it first!

Just the Appetizer…

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business-graphics-1428656-mFriends, bear with me–allow me to share a bit more borrowed wisdom. This piece by Desiring God ministries speaks precisely to some of our current conversation about dealing with unknowns, finances and even idolatry. I would love to hear your thoughts!

“Because of what the Bible warns about wealth, Christians quickly become some of the most vigilant about their incomes, investments, and donations — and that is a good and right trend as a whole.

 

Perhaps a love of money has less to do with its presence or absence, and more to do with its hold in our hearts. Maybe it has less to do with whether we have more or less money, and more to do with whether our thoughts, conversations, and budgets are excessively focused on it.

 

As an illustration, the same warning can be applied to people “stewarding their bodies” by being obsessive about counting calories and running miles. How easy it is to take “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19), and make the place for worship (your body) the prize of worship (your god). The body becomes god and God is forgotten.”

These are only delicious morsels of the full article my Marshall Segal. Please, go devour the whole thing!

 

From Riches to Reliance

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This is a guest post supplied by my precious sister, Kelsey Gunderson. Any questions will be directed to her and she will reply as quickly as possible.

Kelsey Gunderson is a wife and mother of two living in the Dallas, Texas area. Hesitant to consider herself a writer, she shares from a vulnerable place of obedience to the God who loves and leads her.

Budgets. Whether spreadsheets, cash envelopes, budget programs, or monthly allowance methods, we all try to obtain (or say we do) some kind of budget—some kind of organization for the few dollars that pass through our hands that supply our families with everything from toilet paper to tools, from groceries to gifts. But what happens when you don’t have enough income to budget, when budgeting no longer makes sense? When you don’t have the extra 5% to put into an emergency fund, or 10% into savings, or when you don’t have enough to purchase the bonus-size box of diapers even though it really is a better deal? Well, that’s is exactly where my husband and I have found ourselves the last 16 months.

The change was abrupt, which by no means was an accident. When God wants your attention you can be sure He knows how to rock your world and bring you to your knees in an instant. My husband had been gainfully employed by the same company for 4 years and had already been able to obtain a promotion that most thought was out of his league. The pay was great, the hours were good, and our little family of 3 ticked right along quite self sufficiently. Which, on a side note, I believe is the where the problem started. God doesn’t intend for us to live out our lives “self sufficient” with little reliance on him. He wants us to not only need Him but to want Him as well. In March of 2013 we had a huge wake-up when my husband, through a sequence of unfortunate events, lost his job. If that wasn’t enough to get our attention God also decided to expand our family. One month to the day of him losing his job, I found out I was pregnant with our second little miracle. By “miracle” I mean just that, I had been told on multiple occasions that a second baby wasn’t in our future, but nothing is impossible with our God. He will go to great measures to bring His children to him.

With my husband looking for a new job that would support our family and allow me to stay home with our not only one child but second that was rapidly headed to her debut, the walls seem to slowly start closing in. Fear and anxiety seem to be the only emotions I knew. I had never had to face financial instability quite like this before and at first it was down right terrifying. The smile covering up the panic wasn’t going to cover for long, but God will never give us more that we can handle and He always provides (1 Corinthians 10:13). It is’t until we reach a complete state of instability and uncertainty that we truly began to see God’s active hand in our lives. Over the course of the next several months, we saw God’s hand in so many undeniable ways, anonymous gifts, HSA contributions that shouldn’t have been, mortgage refunds, guilt free/unprompted family assistance, and tax reimbursements that came just in time.

My husband was able to land a local contracting job several weeks after being let go from his job. The contracting job was an answer to our prayers, but was hardly the end our journey. Contracting jobs by nature are flakey (at best) providing a paycheck but nothing more and very little promise of continued employment. So the search continued, and still continues to this day. We have had our hopes rise with phone calls, interviews and follow-ups only to drop with a rejection, job “fall-throughs”, and no callbacks. We’ve seen financial stability on the horizon only to have a storm blow in.

I’m not going to lie and say that it’s easy to trust God when what you need is something real and tangible and it feels like God is anything but tangible; however, I can tell you that this last year has been a year that I would never change. God has brought me to my knees worldly speaking but at the same time has picked me up and placed me in His lap. I have never felt that peace and confidence in Christ that I have felt this past year. Handing over finances to God is one the hardest, yet most rewarding, things we have ever done.

The past year plus has been hard, financially wearing, mentally exhausting and emotionally taxing. It has stretched our finances, our marriage, and our trust, but I wouldn’t change any of it. The thrill of seeing God at work and knowing it’s for the best out weighs everything. I even said at one point that even though I long so much for financial stability again I have also learned to love the instability because it allows me to see the active hand of God. As I look back on the past 16 months and remember the up and downs, the tight weeks and financial gifts that made things possible I realize that this whole situation never was about money or employment, it was about trusting God to provide. Every tight week feels worse than the last, but ever gift is sweeter. I have learned through these gifts that it’s not a coincidence or an obligation on someone else to help us; it’s the hand of God at work. Working through someone else to make sure he provides for his children. I often thought back to the Israelites and their escape from Egypt and how many times they doubted that God would provide, how each situation felt worse than the last, and how they missed out on beauty of trusting God. I don’t want miss out! Even this very day I look at our bank account and wonder how we will make it to the next paycheck and if I will be able to buy diapers before we run out; the problem may still there, but the fear is slowly diminishing. Fear is being replaced by fascination; the fascination of what God will do next.

 

Active Rest, Walking out the “Stuck”

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I’m really good at giving advice. And I’m pretty good at taking it from others. I start to struggle a bit when I know that I need to take my own advice. More accurately, when I need to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit as He tells me something I don’t want to hear.

There are a lot of things going on in my life that I don’t have much control over. Yet, I’m wearing myself out, tangling myself up in my mind trying to get a grip on them, force the proper outcome, demand the delayed response, see the future. But I’m hearing God say “rest”.

How does one rest? What does one do in the meantime? I mean, the world keeps spinning, expectations keep mounting, time marches on and: I still don’t have an answer God! I don’t know what to do about this circumstance, that situation or another relationship.

The One Word God gave me as a lens through which to view this year is walk. I sat with my Bible on my lap, staring out the window at a gloomy, spring morning and waited, as best I could, for God to give me something more. I didn’t know how to get up, or what to do next if He didn’t answer me. Finally, He spoke:

Abby, I want you to see the correlation between walking and rest. Do not charge ahead as if you’re in some race toward a marked finish line. There are no lanes, no finish lines, just a person-goal, Myself.

When I was deeply entrenched in my eating disorder, compulsive exercise was one of my greatest challenges and resting was very hard for me. In “workout vernacular” there’s a term active rest. It is those seconds between sets or days between workouts that capitalize on all your hard work. During those rest periods, the muscles and tissues grow and rebuild. Without them, the body’s ability to perform diminishes.

When those rest periods are used wisely, the body is able to lift more, run farther and perform more efficiently over time. In those periods, it is beneficial to drink water, consume nutrients, stretch—and walk. Stagnant rest is detrimental to muscles, but slow, constructive, mindful movement accelerates healing and increases longevity.

Walk, Abby. This is how you wait. One foot in front of the other; the next right thing.

The exercise analogy can be related to the importance of rest in my daily life and walk with God. So often throughout Scripture, God calls us to wait on Him. Usually, I spin my wheels in those spaces, wondering when He is going to act, or maybe I can just step in and do whatever it is for Him. But God calls me to wait, tells me to rest for my own good.

He knows that when I slow my movement, consume the nourishment of His word and walk mindfully through each day I’ll eventually come upon His answer. And after those seasons of slow movement, rest and recovery, I will be able to serve Him longer, in more difficult circumstances and with a stronger faith.

This was first published at http://www.FINDINGbalance.com