Book Review: “The Dream of You” by Jo Saxton

Book Review: The Dream of You by Jo Saxton

“What was the dream you had of yourself from the very beginning?
Before life interrupted, before anyone told you who you were allowed to be?”
— Jo Saxton, The Dream of You

IsisWhen I was a little girl, I wanted to be Isis. From time to time (usually after watching the “Shazam! Isis Power Hour” on Saturday mornings), I would suddenly strike a pose, speak the magical phrase, “Oh, Mighty Isis!” and transform myself—mentally, at least—into a superhero goddess ready to use all my powers to fight against evil!

I loved everything about this nerdy female archaeologist with huge glasses and a secret superhero identity. (I’ve included a video at the bottom of this review for your entertainment.)

Who did you want to be? Do you remember? If so, feel free to share it in the comments below. I’d love to know!

As a little girl growing up in London, author and speaker Jo Saxton had a dream: She wanted to be Wonder Woman. And I mean, she WANTED to BE Wonder Woman—red boots and all!

Jo Saxton
Jo Saxton

In case you are unfamiliar with this wonder of a woman, Jo is a Nigerian Londoner who currently resides in Minneapolis with her husband and two daughters.

Her new book, The Dream of You: Let Go of Broken Identities and Live the Life You Were Made For, traces Jo’s lifelong transition from childhood dreamer to adult achiever.

The Dream (and Struggle) of You

What I find so striking is the parallel between Jo’s struggles and my own—we are SO different!!! For example:

  • OppositesWe have completely different cultural backgrounds (immigrant vs. born citizen);
  • We were raised on two different continents (she in the UK; me in the US);
  • We have different personality types (she’s an ENTJ; I’m an INTJ);
  • We have different enneagrams (she’s an 8, and I’m a 1);
  • We have opposite body types (probably because she doesn’t like chocolate and I do!)

We are basically opposite, and yet our struggles were/are very much the same. How is this possible?

On her quest to explore the different things that held her back or kept her from moving forward in her own life, Jo dug deep and discovered that the root causes of her brokenness, although personal, were not unique to her. They were, in fact, quite common to the human experience—especially that of women.

And like any good Bible teacher, she found biblical examples for each struggle!

The Struggle Is Real

Weaving the story of her own life’s journey together with that of Joseph, Esther, David, Naomi, Hagar, Ezekiel, and others, the author reveals thread-by-thread that God is present with us through our most difficult experiences, and how they add color, dimension, and texture to our character.

Jo Saxton Live Video ChatOver the past few months, I’ve been privileged to interact with Jo as she discussed her new book and her thoughts behind the various stories she shares in it. Reflecting on the first few chapters, she said,

There are times when we have an earthquake in our souls, habits, the way we live. We don’t simply rise up and get over it…but we also don’t want to be defined by it the rest of our lives.”

The Dream of You was never intended to be  a survival manual. It’s about wholeness and redemption and purpose.

The first part of the book not only prompts us to reflect on what (or whom) we’ve allowed to define us but also challenges us to re-imagine what life could be like moving forward mended. Whole.

It’s powerful.

Jo explains the profound impact negative and destructive comments and experiences have on us—minimizing nothing. These experiences simply underscore the reason she wrote the book: to remind us that there is wholeness to be found in relationship with a redeeming God.

When the grit and guts of your broken identity meet the grace and goodness of God, it will reveal you, but He will transform you. You’re in Him now, with all His resources available to you. You have access to His power, mercy, and grace.” (p. 21, emphasis mine)

Each chapter in the The Dream of You begins with a short, heartfelt letter from the author to the reader. In it she offers words of encouragement while setting the stage for the theme of that particular section.

Jo expounds on each theme by sharing a formative experience from her own life as well as a similar story from the Bible, and you don’t have to be familiar with the Bible to benefit from this! Jo has provided quick summaries and backstories of each character so the reader will not be lost in the explanation.

Then, without the use of a Venn Diagram, the author focuses her attention on the intersection of the stories, exposing the root of the issue. She culls out transformative biblical truths and challenges the reader to face the facts in her (or his) own life. She concludes the chapter with suggested action steps geared towards fostering personal growth and spiritual maturity.

Book Flow & Themes

The chapter titles, though creative, are pretty vague if you haven’t read the book yet; therefore, I complied a list of themes (noted in parentheses) followed by one or more of my favorite quotes from that chapter to provide a more helpful overview of the text:

  • Introduction (Dreams)
    “What was the dream you had of yourself from the very beginning? Before life interrupted, before anyone told you who you were allowed to be?” (p. 3)
  • Chapter 1: Don’t Call Me “Pleasant” (Insecurity)
    “Insecurities, if left unaddressed, can grow from momentary emotions to a definitive worldview that determines how we feel, think, and act. Insecurity becomes our identity.” (p. 12)
  • Chapter 2: What’s in a Name? (Compromise/Hiding)
    “Throughout biblical history, God transformed people…God changed the names of people and in doing so changed their stories.” (p. 35)
  • Chapter 3: The Talk (Perfectionism)
    “Many of us know what it feels like to hide our identities in order to survive. We do what it takes to fit into our family, our workplace, our friendship group. We spend our energy trying to fit into our context, into society, into what is demanded of us according to someone else’s terms.” (p. 44)
    “God wants to redeem it all. Rather than your being transformed into a broken identity by the pressures of your world, He wants to transform you to recover who you fully are. Are you ready to be led toward redemptive wholeness, even when you might still fear for your survival?” (p. 56)
  • Chapter 4: The Day I Lost My Voice (Bullying)
    “At times, women apologize for who they are. They minimize their abilities as if they’re expecting someone to tell them they’re arrogant for having talent, ability, and dreams. Some women, particularly those who reach high levels of influence in their field, are plagued by what is known as Imposter Syndrome, or the impostor experience.” (p. 66)
    “When our voice has been taken, we redirect our lives toward ‘more acceptable’ interests. We excuse the damage caused by having been silenced…we make ourselves small.” (p. 68)
  • Chapter 5: God’s Child (Redemption)
    “If we are going to embrace our full identity, know our name, and live out our vocation as we speak with our true voice, if we are going to embrace who we are and what we’re living for, we need to know whose we are.” (p. 82)
    “The things that once defined you don’t have to shape you forever. He [God] transforms your entire life.” (p. 88)

  • Chapter 6: Known and Loved (Vulnerability)
    “You are fully known. He has seen it all and He knows it all. And still you are deeply, deeply loved.” (p. 108)
  • Chapter 7: Slay Your Giants (Courage)
    “It seems that when God redeems a person’s identity and leads her to her purpose, there’s a backdrop of battle and vulnerability.” (p. 112)
    “You will battle the giants that stand in your way, but when you do, don’t even try to fight in someone else’s armor.” (p. 122)
  • Chapter 8: The Wander Years (Refinement)
    “Even with abundant examples in Scripture, when the wilderness experience makes up part of our faith journey, we may not always understand when and why it’s happening.” (p. 132)
    “Wandering in the wilderness exposed the truth that in order to be fully free, the Israelites didn’t just need to get out of Egypt. They needed to get Egypt out of them.” (pp. 136-137)

  • Chapter 9: In the Valley (Doubt and Discouragement)
    “Had I been wrong when I felt called…Or worse, was it just some fantasy idea that I’d decided was a divine calling? Who did I think I was?” (p. 153)
    “We feel too crushed to feel known and loved; we are convinced we have nothing left to offer as a voice or purpose…We’re at the end of ourselves; we are forced to face what life has done to us. It’s tempting to mute our pain rather than face it.” (p. 155)

  • Chapter 10: Breaking up with Perfection (Authenticity)
    “Survival is not the same as being whole.” (p. 168)
    “Are you ready to confront your brokenness, rather than keep hiding it underneath greater efforts to prove yourself to others?” (p. 170)
  • Chapter 11: The Song in My Heart (Community)
    “You’ll need people who see you and know you, people unafraid to remind you of the fullness of who you are. They won’t be threatened by you because they are the kind of women who celebrate who you are. You need people who want to hear your voice and don’t mind how loud it gets. People who get excited about your dreams and your unfolding purpose.” (p. 173)
    “God provides people to help us. Sometimes they’re further along in the journey, and they’ve seen more…They’ll celebrate resurrection of your name over the things that have falsely renamed you, and they’ll keep encouraging you.” (p. 185)

  • Chapter 12: Practices (Disciplines)
    “We don’t adopt practices to prove ourselves or to perform for God’s approval. We already are seen, known, and loved. Instead, the practices make room in our overscheduled lives for God to meet with us. We find that by making time for God’s engagement with us, we are changed, transformed, redeemed.” (p. 192)
  • Chapter 13: Pick up Your Keys (Stepping into Your Purpose)
    “A healthy identity opens our life to abundant purpose…There is less of me—of my self-absorption and self-protection—and there is more room for others. There’s less energy spent striving, proving, and more room for dreaming.” (p. 210)
  • Epilogue (Action)
    “Let’s not allow a sense of inadequacy to tell us we’re not ready or not enough for the task.” (p. 219)
    “Maybe we’ll remember to be tender and nonjudgmental as we remember our own stories.” (p. 220) 

It’s EASY for me to recommend The Dream of You because it is well-written, organized, funny, engaging, well-researched, insightful, empowering, and theologically accurate.

But what I would like to add is this: On every level, the teachings contained herein resonated with me. Jo’s journey mirrors my own—not on the outside, but on the inside. 

And I can testify that what Jo offers you in this book is the same thing I would offer you in my own book: Truth. God is faithful and ready to redeem the years the locusts have eaten (cf. Joel 2:25-27). He can take what was meant for evil and flip it for good. In fact, He does it all the time.

Are You Ready?

The question is, are you ready to recover the The Dream of You? If so, then you have found the right resource with which to start your journey. I highly recommend this to women of all ages, but especially those who have been waiting on God for what feels like a very long time.

Jo has also recorded an audio version which you will LOVE, if you’re into audio books. ?

With no further ado, meet my childhood superhero: Isis.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. 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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Book Review: Sharing Jesus {without freaking out} by Alvin L. Reid

Sharing Jesus without Freaking Out: Evangelism the Way You Were Born to Do It

I requested Sharing Jesus {without freaking out}: Evangelism the Way You Were Born to Do It for review as soon as I saw the title and read the description. Why? Because I carry a lot of “evangelism guilt.”  Do you know what that is? It’s that nagging feeling that I’m not a good enough witness, and I’m not doing enough to tell others about Jesus.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m eternally thankful for the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross—literally. I have loved the teachings of Jesus and embraced a lifestyle of faith since I was a little girl! In fact, when I was in kindergarten, I couldn’t not tell people about Jesus. I led my friends to the Lord by having them say the “sinner’s prayer,” repeating what I said phrase by phrase.

When I got older, I would accompany my father, a local pastor, on his “door-to-door” evangelism outings. I’m not exactly sure how many times I went out with him—honestly, it probably wasn’t that often—but I have distinct memories of it.

Our church was located in a depressed, residential area of the city, and we lived only a couple blocks away from it. On Saturday mornings, we’d walk to a nearby house; knock or ring the doorbell; and then patiently wait for someone to come to the door.

Once the door was open, I’d stand there in awe as my dad charismatically introduced himself, caringly invited total strangers to Sunday services, and routinely engaged many in deep conversations about Jesus and eternity.

The question he was hoping to ask went something like this: “If you were to die today, do you know beyond any shadow of a doubt where you would spend eternity?”

20th Century Evangelism

Some responded by ending the conversation and going back inside. Others responded by attending a Sunday service. Some explained why they hadn’t been to church in years. Others prayed and turned their lives around.

My dad helped a lot of people find what they were looking for with that method of evangelism. Some folks’ lives were truly and forever changed for the good—they got off drugs, cleaned up, and became who they were created to be (a couple guys I remember were Mike and Mondo). Others, though, never did completely recover from their addictions (Bob) and left as fast as they joined.

This evangelistic method (marketed as “Evangelism Explosion”) was taught and used all over the world during my childhood and young adult life. Many lives were changed and the experience was legit.

Sin = Hell. Jesus Saves. Fire Insurance.

Although the method was working and the numbers looked good in the short-term, the long-term results of this type of cookie-cutter evangelism were disappointing. 

The emphasis on discipleship was promoted years later, but it was too late for most of the fire insurance buyers—they didn’t like the “upsell” of discipleship and lordship, and many of them bailed out, OR worse, continued to call themselves “Christians” while living a lifestyle completely opposite of what Jesus taught.

Evangelism Shut Down

It probably comes as no surprise to learn that as I grew into adulthood, I pretty much shut down any type of “cold call” evangelism. I’m NOT remotely comfortable starting conversations with strangers anywhere at any time about any subject, but especially not about something as important to me as my personal relationship with Christ.

Completely shut down

I will admit that in today’s post-Christian culture—which is partially the result of fire insurance sales gone bad—I’ve not knocked on a door or had the eternity conversation with anyone in a very, very long time. This has resulted in my carrying around a lot of “evangelism guilt.”

And I think it’s because for so many years, the church has approached evangelism one way. Sure there are/were different methods (e.g., Ray Comfort, Kirk Cameron, Evangelism Explosion, etc.), but they all approach it from a place of power and superiority: “I know something you don’t know.”

What Did Jesus Do?

If this makes you ill, it should. That’s NOT how Jesus or the apostles or anyone in the early church did it. They never threatened an eternity in hell in exchange for a ticket to heaven. They never coerced or manipulated people into making a decision to follow Jesus. In fact, their approach was quite the opposite.

Although there were a few who traveled and shared the good news far and wide, the vast majority of Christ followers simply lived their lives according to His main teachings: Love God. Love People.

And this lifestyle was attractive. An aroma. A pleasant-smelling perfume.

These people shared resources, supported and encouraged each other, and when persecution showed up, they gave their lives for the sake of the gospel. They would rather die than renounce the relationship they had with God.

Back to Basics

Alvin L. Reid’s new book Sharing Jesus {without freaking out} was written “to help regular believers, from teenagers to senior adults, from homemakers to pastors, to have real conversations with people about Jesus” (p. xii). It’s about having real conversations in the context of healthy relationships with people we already know. 

Conversation about your relationship with God should feel natural

Tracing the recent history of evangelism in the 19th and 20th centuries, Reid explains how the church followed the world by applying mass production techniques and programmatic approaches to evangelism.

Similar to any sales tactic, the approach to evangelism began by establishing the need of the prospect. Once the need was established, the next step was to simply demonstrate how my “product” meets that need; then sell my “product”; and enroll the person in a maintenance program. Can you believe this?! 

Although he consistently and respectfully refrains from condemning these “fruitful” endeavors, the author is keenly aware that emotional manipulation and successful sales tactics did not yield true disciples in every case.

You Are Totally Unique

Reid explains that we were never meant to follow some streamlined, impersonal approach to sharing Jesus with others. Instead, he proposes eight principles which serve as touch-points to help us understand and remember our unique place in the grand story of God’s redemption.

You are unique.

By concentrating on one principle per chapter, the author is able to help the reader work through common mistakes in evangelism while at the same time fostering a sense of confidence in one’s own testimony. 

He warns against the tendency to avoid evangelism due to overcomplication and fear of rejection by reminding us that sharing our faith is not about making visits and presentations: It’s about transparent conversations within the context of existing, authentic relationships. 

If you read the book of Acts, you will find a few people were called to preach to crowds. People like Peter, Paul, and Barnabas. But ordinary believers had conversations with others, telling people they met the good news they found in Christ (see Acts 2:10-11; 4:29-31; 8:1-4; and 11:19-22).” (p. 45)

Most of us are “ordinary believers” who live “ordinary lives.” We are homemakers, entrepreneurs, and hard workers. And we are called to share our faith, but in a way uniquely suited to our own personalities, skills, and quirks—sharing our hope in Jesus with others was never meant to be a burden.

Sharing the hope we have in Jesus with others was never meant to be a burden. Click To Tweet

Assuming our relationship with the Lord is healthy, conversing about what God is doing in our lives or offering hope to the hopeless is one of the most natural things we do! 

If Jesus is the greatest thing that ever happened to us, he should come up in conversations. Not forced, not structured, but simply because he is the biggest deal in our lives.” (p. 50)

In the chapter “It’s Not in Your Power, yet You Are Vital,” Reid explains why he takes issue with the one-size-fits-all approach to evangelism with which I was trained.

The more you see how God wired you uniquely, the more you can learn how to live for him—including talking to others about him—in the way he created you to, uniquely for his glory and your good…speak about Jesus out of your personality with the strengths and the limitations with which God has blessed you.” (p. 57)

He had me at personality and strengths

Reid goes on to say, “as you continue to learn who you are in Christ and how God made you, you will become more comfortable sharing Christ in your own unique, uncontrived way.” (p. 63) In other words, sharing our authentic faith is natural. Organic. AND low calorie. ?  (I’m just checking to see if you’re still awake.)

Quality vs. Quantity

The bottom line is that we were never meant to follow some cookie-cutter approach to sharing our faith with others—especially people we don’t know and may never see again.

Nothing substitutes for a personal relationship with JesusPlease note: I’m not denying the existence of rare God-appointments or trying to discourage you from sharing your faith when the Holy Spirit is prompting you to do it. I simply am sounding a warning for you to make sure the evangelistic nudge is coming from the Lord and not guilt-induced or pride-filled motives.

Reid offers a sobering reminder that when we share our faith, “we are not seeking to simply ‘close the deal’ and get people to respond; we want them to meet Christ.” (p. 102) We’re sharing with them because our own personal relationship with the Lord is so fulfilling, we can’t not share. 

Make a Plan

The final chapter of the book is dedicated to helping you “develop a specific, practical, and personal plan for your daily life, focusing on sharing Jesus.” (p. 110) Using Acts 1:8 as the outline, Reid reminds us that Jesus presented the perfect evangelism plan to his disciples and challenges us to follow it as well: start where you are with those you know and grow from there. 

Your plan needs to be rooted in the gospel and focused on Jesus, not on you, your church, or your method. Just as one plan for diet and exercise does not work for every person, you need to tailor your plan to the person God created you to be.” (p. 110, emphasis mine)

(I don’t know why he had to bring diet and exercise into it, but whatever. ?) The author visually demonstrates each person’s approach to sharing faith will be in our very own sweet spot—where our individual giftedness, calling, and deep satisfaction intersect. 

The 8-Week Challenge

Following the close of the book, the author provides an “Eight Week Challenge,” so you can put into practice what you’ve been learning—one baby step at a time.

eight week evangelism challengeEach week’s challenge is based on one of the eight principles expounded upon in the book. The reader is presented with the principle, Scriptures upon which to meditate, questions for reflection and application, as well as a few practical tips for how to pray that week. 

This book is like a ‘how to’ manual for sharing your faith with others—but what you get out of it is going to be completely different than what I got out of it or what your partner might get out of it. Why? Because we’re all DIFFERENT. 

Finally! Somebody gets the fact that I’m not wired for knocking on doors or talking to strangers on airplanes. There’s nothing wrong with those practices, if that’s how you’re wired. There’s also nothing wrong with my avoidance of such conversations, because it’s NOT how I’m wired. 

We all need to be open to the nudges of the Holy Spirit and willing to step out of our comfort zones when necessary, but to assume that witnessing ALWAYS takes place outside our comfort zone is just plain wrong.

We need to be open to the nudges of the Holy Spirit and willing to step out of our comfort zones when necessary, but to assume that witnessing ALWAYS takes place outside our comfort zone is just plain wrong. #evangelism #sharingjesus Click To Tweet

If you’re interested in learning more about how to comfortably share your faith without freaking out, let me recommend Sharing Jesus without Freaking Out: Evangelism the Way You Were Born to Do It. It’s short, funny, full of truth, and highly practical.

Anyone who grew up in the 70s, 80s, and 90s needs to read this book—that’s just a no-brainer in my opinion. I also think that this book would be fantastic for youth ministers to use with their high school students and/or young adults. And, well, if you’re reading this, you’d probably benefit from reading it as well. It’s that good and relevant. 

Download this book for free with a trial Audible Membership

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. 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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A Pleasant Aroma (a.k.a. “What the Smell?!”)

A Pleasant Aroma

Isn’t it interesting how we associate certain aromas with specific times of the year? Pumpkin spice signals a season of thankfulness; cinnamon, pine, and peppermint usher in the season of giving.

StarbucksSome smells are so lovely and inviting we automatically inhale deeply as soon as we detect them. (Yes, Starbucks, I’m talking to you!) Others are, shall we say…disgusting! Within nanoseconds of detection, windows go up, recycled air is blasted, hands cover nose, and we scream, “Skunk!” 

Smells are powerful triggers, aren’t they? They can cause a visceral reaction instantaneously which makes it extremely important that we be aware of our own aromatic contribution to our surroundings.

Therefore, it is with much compassion as your sister in the Lord that I must tell you—and I mean this in the nicest of ways: You smell! 

Click here to read the rest of this important devotional thought “Rooted at the Throne” hosted by Rachael Carman. 

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Book Review: “Here’s Some Happy” by Gina Graham

Here's Some Happy Coloring Journal Book Review

Here’s Some Happy!

What are you in the mood for? Coloring? Journaling? Meditating on Scripture? All of the above? Well, guess what?! I found a beautiful, sturdy coloring journal that’s filled with frilly drawings, inspiring verses, and lots of lined space for journaling. ?

Here's Some Happy Coloring Journal Book Review
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It Passed the Test!

I gave this book my standard test using a variety of media, and it passed with flying colors (no pun intended). The ink did not bleed through—which is super important when you consider that one side of every page is lined for your writing pleasure. 

Here's Some Happy Coloring Journal Book Review
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This 128-page, 10×10-inch, hard-cover book is perfect-bound with a soft, colorful cover that opens flat and stays open while you color and/or journal. Yasss!!! 

Here's Some Happy Coloring Journal Book Review
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The pages are thick and slightly textured (you can see some of the texture in the orange block, bottom right); the pictures are beautiful, light-hearted, and fun!

Add Textures and Patterns

There is plenty of white space within the drawings where you can add your own patterns and textures—you can customize it to your own tastes. They really thought of everything when they pulled the Here’s Some Happy coloring journal together. 

If you click the picture below, you can see the texture I added to the gray loops on the umbrella (with a silver gel pen). 

Here's Some Happy Coloring Journal Book Review
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Here’s Some Happy: A Coloring Journal to Lift the Soul by Gina Graham would make a wonderful addition to your own collection, and I also think it would make a great gift for the thoughtful creatives in your life. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. 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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One Word. Choose It Wisely.

Laura Zielke

I cannot believe it’s already November and Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season in about two weeks! What?! Where did the year go? And what will next year bring? 

Over the past few years, I’ve traded in my old, rusty New Year’s Eve tradition for something modern and efficient. And I can testify that the results of this new habit have been pretty darn fabulous!

I’m talking about choosing a one-word theme for the year versus creating a list of New Year’s Resolutions which may or may not be achieved. 

Back towards the end of 2013, I first learned about the “one word” challenge on the radio and thought I’d give it a try. I’ll be honest: I don’t actually remember what my first “one word” was. I think I gave the process about as much thought as my resolutions were getting around that time in my life. I certainly didn’t embrace the process!

2014 was probably the hardest year of my life ever. I felt lost. Alone. Sad. Confused. Overwhelmed. Depressed. Worn-out. As the end of 2014 approached, my favorite radio morning show hosts were once again discussing the “one word challenge.” This time, I paid closer attention. 

The concept was birthed out of a desire to address failed New Year’s resolutions. According to Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen, co-authors of My One Word: Change Your Life With Just One Word, our resolutions tend to fail because they focus on characteristics we want to change versus who we want to become. The list can become overwhelming and yield little results. 

The My One Word challenge is simple: lose the long the list of changes you want to make this year and instead pick one word that represents what you most hope God will do in you in the year ahead. This process forces clarity and results in focus. (website)

I decided that for 2015, I would take the one word challenge and write it down this time. So, my word for 2015 was “CLARITY.” I felt like I had been living in a fog, so clarity seemed like the perfect word for me at the time.

Phew! I had no idea at the beginning of the year just how much clarity I would receive regarding my life, my priorities, and my passions. I was tested beyond anything I could imagine, and my vision became very clear. 

For 2016, I chose “DISCERNMENT” (while secretly holding onto “clarity” from the year before). Over the course of 2016, I needed discernment regarding all kinds of choices and commitments for both me and my family. 

By end of 2016, I was already praying about what my word for 2017 would be. I eventually landed on “COURAGE.” If you’ve followed me for any time, it’s possible you knew that, because I wrote about it on my Facebook page and created a cover image to explain it.

Here’s what I wrote on December 29, 2016 when I posted the above photo on my Facebook page: 

So, my #oneword for 2017 is COURAGE. I chose this photo, because it was during one of the most courageous moments I’ve had in my life: Putting on chains by myself in the middle of a freak snowstorm on the first day of my drive home from California to North Carolina.

(I was the only driver–my son is too young to drive, but not too young to take pictures of mom with the chains!) I first had to purchase the chains…in case we needed them, and then when we did, install them.

I got the process started, but then God provided three French men and one French woman to help get them on correctly. I still had to take them off by myself in five inches of slush. But I did it.

And if I can do this, and then continue driving for HOURS and DAYS… I can do whatever comes my way in 2017. (Phil. 4:13) What’s your ONE WORD for 2017?

Back then, I honestly had no idea what lay on the horizon for 2017—which has been one of the most fulfilling, busy, exciting years of my life! Here are just a few things I got to do this year: 

  1. WRITE one devotional every month to be featured on
  2. ESTABLISH to pray about the 2016 election and for the leaders of this country every day at Noon.
  3. babymPinch-hit BABYSIT for 2 months for dear friends who are foster parents. The little baby who stole all our hearts had been in the hospital for one month due to apparent abuse. He had multiple surgeries, required a feeding tube (which he still has), and a neckbrace which he wore for six months. 
  4. Help LAUNCH two books, one online Bible study, and one movie:
  5. Accept the COMMUNITY MANAGER position with the Nonprofit Leadership Lab
  6. ATTEND a Pre-Grand Opening of the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.

I also turned 50 this year. I cannot even believe that. Where has the time gone? I don’t feel that old, and yet, my knees don’t lie: I’m 50. 

the deckFor my 50th birthday, my hubby, son, and I rented our first Airbnb in Plymouth, MA. I sat on a deck overlooking a lake and enjoyed a week’s vacation with my family. On the way there, we saw the Statue of Liberty and a 9/11 Memorial in New Jersey. We used our cottage in Plymouth as a hub and enjoyed touring the Northeast. We ate Maine Lobster in Maine on my actual birthday; visited the oldest Marine Society in the world and touched an artifact from 1752; toured the U.S.S. Constitution; and We toured many historical sites and enjoyed a few too many Dunkin’ Donuts. 

I’ve already begun praying about my word for 2018. I think it will be “STRETCH,” but I’m letting it marinate for a while before I fully commit. 

I definitely prefer having one word for the year versus a list of resolutions which may or may not be kept! 

You can learn more about the One Word Challenge at

Why stay the same?! Please join me in this transofrmational process and choose one word for 2018. Share your one word in the comments below! 

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Book Review: “Remarkable Faith” by Shauna Letellier

Remarkable Faith: When Jesus Marveled at the Faith of Unremarkable People

Has a trial (or a truckload of trials) ever left you feeling isolated? Hopeless? Defeated? I mean, you didn’t start out that way. At the beginning of the trial, you were active in community, full of hope and vigor, up for the challenge of whatever came your way.

Setbacks? No problem!

Delays? I can wait!

Illness? I’ll get well in no time!

But the road to recovery was a lot longer than you—or anyone in your circle of influence—were expecting. One by one the friends dropped away, because they couldn’t force your pain to exit stage right. They couldn’t control you or your situation, so they left.  

Or maybe they didn’t drop away. They tried to stay, but you—feeling weak, worn out, and unworthy—began to isolate yourself. It was easier to be alone than to have to explain to one more person what you were going through and listen to their well-meaning, yet utterly useless advice. Solitude was a good thing. For a while. 

As you began to reflect on your situation—comparing your situation to the outcome of Bible hero stories from your childhood—you might have begun to wonder whether or not you ever had faith at all.

But you did have faith, and the fact that you continue(d) to look to God for deliverance or healing is a sign that yours is the exact type of faith Jesus finds remarkable. Don’t give up.

Remarkable Faith: When Jesus Marveled at the Faith of Unremarkable People will be an encouragement to you or a friend with chronic illness—Jesus sees you. He hears your cries. You are not alone. 

Shauna Letellier has written a profoundly insightful and painstakingly researched book retelling the stories of eight unremarkable, unnamed men and women whose “lives were marked by desperation, pain, fatigue, hopelessness, disability, poverty, loneliness, and sin. Each of them sought Jesus in unabashed desperation (p. xiii),” and Jesus found their faith remarkable. 

Remarkable Faith begins with a brief compare and contrast between the apostles and the afflicted. Letellier makes her case concisely, and there is no arguing with her point:

“Remarkable faith is often grown in the broken soil of desperation.” (p. 174)

It really is amazing, when you think about it: Jesus marveled at the faith of strangers who remain to this day unnamed and known to us only by their afflictions. 

With bridled creative liberty, Letellier has beautifully written an imagined backstory to each of the eight vignettes we read in the Gospels. Steeped in the Scriptures and cultural context, the characters come to life as they unabashedly seize their opportunity to interact with Jesus. 

Letellier defines remarkable faith as “the braided strands of doubt, hope, and wonder at a God who is able to do anything and sometimes restrains his power for reasons we rarely understand.” (p. 15) 

The eight characters whose stories are re-imagined are: 

  1. The Father of a Demon-Possessed Boy
  2. The Paralyzed Man
  3. The Roman Centurion
  4. The Hemorrhaging Woman
  5. The Samaritan Leper
  6. The Mother of a Demon-Possessed Girl
  7. Blind Bartimaeus
  8. A Forgiven Woman 

Remarkable Faith is a mix of fictional retelling and factual application. The author imagines each person’s backstory tracing the moments immediately leading up to and through his or her encounter with Jesus Christ. 

The structure of each chapter is built to take you through one character’s faith journey at a time followed by a time of reflection, application, and prayer. 

  1. Bible passage
  2. Dramatic retelling
  3. Reflection
  4. Application
  5. Prayer

First, you will read the story straight from the Gospels. Following this is a dramatic, fictionalized retelling of the story which engages the senses and emotions.

Then, the reader is challenged to take a closer look at the person’s remarkable faith. The author is skilled at teasing out the underlying lesson(s) in the story and bringing the reader to a place of self-examination. 

Each chapter ends with a prayer to apply the lessons learned and insights gained as a result of the study. 

Although I did not agree with some of the author’s assumptions and creative liberties, I think the book is a valuable and necessary addition to the faith conversation. We need to study these characters as much as (if not more than) Bible heroes such as Noah, Moses, Samson, David, and Daniel.

Remarkable Faith could provoke great conversations in a youth group or small group setting. I definitely recommend reading the creative backstories with an open-mind. Give yourself permission to look at the story from a different perspective, and ask God what He wants you to learn from each one. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. 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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