Friends! What do you do when you hear Christmas music playing in Walgreen’s while you’re buying Halloween candy? Would you happily hum along, or become more than irked?
I’m not tellin’ what my reaction was. You can take a wild guess.
I battle daily with “the glass is half empty” vs. “half full” outlook in addition to a crammed calendar. Sigh…
My friend Lisa gifted me with a timely book recently over lunch. She’d been so moved by it, she figured I could use a dose of it as well.
If you’re in the midst of barely coming up for air, juggling a full calendar, feeling like you’re about to implode, this book is for you. (Never mind Christmas is right around the corner! I know…)
The book? Present Over Perfect—Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist.
Shauna confesses her life was like she “was pulling a little red wagon, and as I pulled it along, I filled it so full that I could hardly keep pulling. That red wagon was my life, and the weight of pulling it was destroying me.”
(Now I know Shauna’s talking about things and too many activities, not a load of puppies, but I couldn’t resist this picture. However, three puppies at once could be stressful!)
Shauna tells us, “This book is an account of my winding, messy journey from…
Exhaustion to peace,
From isolation to connection,
From hustling and multitasking to sacred presence.”
She invites us, the reader, to join her from a bird’s-eye view.
She is, “Calling you to leave behind the heavy weight of
Exhaustion, and to
Re-craft a life marked by
Sign me up! The book is a collection of stories, divided into six parts. Because she’s been on this journey to get off the “drug of efficiency”, she speaks with authority, sharing what she’s learned, encouraging us to take her challenge of being present over being perfect.
I wish I’d learned these lessons while raising our boys! Gracious! Shauna is very convincing, tho’, and I’m a big believer in “it’s never too late.”
Listen to this: “If you believe people can’t change, I’m here to tell you we can. If you think you could never turn down the volume or lay down your armor or climb into the silence, I’m here to tell you that if I can, you can. If I can, anyone can.”
“I’m a hardened case, a tough nut to crack, a lifelong connoisseur of noise and motion and excessiveness of any kind. If I can climb into silence and simplicity, anyone on earth can join me there, I promise.”
See how persuasive she is? Don’t you want to climb into silence and simplicity? She really draws the reader in. It’s like sitting down in a café having a cup of coffee with her. A real-live therapy session.
Shauna’s honesty is refreshing and many times, comical. Just as one story is funny, the next one brings tears. Many tugged at my heart, being a mother of boys like her. I’d love to give her a huge hug and say, “Shauna, dear girl, you’re doing the best job and I’m so very proud of you for taking this wake up call and encouraging us to do the same.”
She shares words she’s choosing to focus on during this new season:
She reminds us we cannot hear from God when we’re on the hamster wheel. We must slow down and be still, quiet, non-moving.
She says, “Let silence be your anchor, your sacred space, your dwelling place.”
Shauna blasts the word “perfect”, while embracing and giving examples of how to be “present”. She’s blessed by friends who literally come alongside of her and rescue her.
One “aha!” moment happened in their home one night when they had a Jesuit priest over along with some friends. They were studying the story of Peter walking on water (See Matthew 14:22-33.).
Shauna said they saw for the first time that Jesus rescued Peter first before ever saying a word. She suggests we remember and recognize Jesus is for us, all about us, and nothing surprises Him, or rattles Him. He’s on our side and will do everything in His power to rescue us every time.
My friend Liz frequently reminds me of this same scenario. It’s as if God says, “It’s okay. I’ve got this.”
Finally, let’s close with a couple of eye-opening questions that will help us all push pause before filling something else in on our calendars….
1 – “What do you need to leave behind in order to recover that essential self that God created?”
2 – “What do you need to walk away from in order to reclaim those parts of you that God designed, unique to you and for His purposes?”
This reminds me of what I heard John Piper say, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”
Before the holiday season hits, grab Present Over Perfect—Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living to read slowly. You’ll save your soul a lot of unnecessary strife and stress if you do.
Choose to be present over being perfect.
Purposefully push pause to do so.
Take a deep breath and smile.
‘Til next time!
P.S. You can learn more about Shauna via her website: www.shaunaniequist.com She’s married to Aaron and they’re blessed with two boys, Henry and Mac. She’s written a number of books, two of which are my favorites:
One is Savor – Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are (Great devotional. I’ve given it to all our daughters-in-love.) I blogged about it last year: “Every. Single. Day”
The other one is Bread and Wine – A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes.