Empty Shelf Challenge Book #4: “Made to Crave” by Lysa TerKeurst

I finished my 4th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.

Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food by Lysa TerKeurst

I actually skimmed this book a few years ago and decided I needed to revisit it in this season, this time reading it thoroughly.

I’ve shared here before I struggle with overeating. It’s definitely been worse since the move. It began because I had less control over my food choices, and I became in the habit of both making less healthy choices and also using food to cope with my emotions.

Honestly, despite losing 60 pounds several years ago, I never really got out of the habit of overeating.

I began a “fast” 3 weeks ago with my church. It’s not a traditional “no food” fast, as my formerly near-anorexic body does not respond well to traditional fasting, nor do my emotions. Instead, I chose to follow the Whole30 plan. I hope to get my cravings under control and more importantly once again surrender my relationship with food to God – once again.

Another reason I chose to re-read this book was seeing Lysa TerKeurst speak at a conference several months ago. She was one of the best speakers I had ever seen. She’s a gifted teacher and communicator, and I wanted to hear more from her.

Made to Crave was a timely choice.

The premise of this book is that God created us to crave Him. Yet He is often the last place we run with our longing hearts. Lysa documents her own struggles with overeating and shares with the reader how she (or he) can too be free from the battle with food.

Lysa says this of her struggle: “These are not just little issues. These, for me, are sins – missing the mark of Your best for my life” (pg. 185).

This is something I’ve tried to explain to people. Despite the fact that I am not overweight, this is a real struggle – a struggle that hinders my relationship with God.

I’m comforted to know once again that people throughout the Bible struggled with food. The original sin of mankind occurred by biting into a shiny piece of fruit. The Israelites complained about bread from heaven, pining for the meat they ate while enslaved. Esau sold his birthright for some stew. Satan tempted Jesus with food.

I don’t want to be enslaved to food. God has something so much better for me.

“Everything is permissible for me’-but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”-but I will not be mastered by anything. “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”-but God will destroy them both. 1 Corinthians 6:12-13a (NIV1984)

I wrote in Learning to Walk in Freedom, “So if secular TV or sharp cheddar cheese causes you to stumble, you might consider Jesus’ instructions to ‘cut it off and throw it away’ (Matthew 5:30).” (I really wanted to write “cut the cheese and throw it away,” but I restrained myself!). This is what I’m doing with the Whole30 – distancing myself from foods that I struggle to eat reasonably. And finishing up Made to Crave during this time of fasting is exactly what I needed.

really enjoyed this book. You should get a copy. Most libraries have it if buying it is not in the budget right now. As Lysa reminds us, “We must remember we hold a power greater than any craving we face.” Thank You, Jesus! If you are tired of obeying your cravings and desire to walk in obedience to God in your relationship with food, get this book.

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:

Monday Morning Meditation: Deposit Courage

If you’ve been reading for a while, you know I’m a runner. About a month ago, I injured my ankle. After some rest didn’t seem to help, I headed to the physical therapist for an evaluation.

I basically pulled a tendon that goes from my big toe up the inside of my calf. My PT generally sees people 2-3 times a week, but she said to me, “Because you are highly motivated, I’ll give you the exercises to do at home, and you can come back in 2 weeks.”

Let me give you some history here. About 8 years ago, I started having severe hip pain and spent close to 4 years in physical therapy until it got to the point where physical therapy wasn’t causing any improvement. My PT there gave me exercises to do at home as well, which I did – about 10% as much as I was supposed to.

Now, 3 weeks ago, when my current PT called me “highly motivated,” guess what I did? For the first time in my life, I went home and did my exercises as prescribed.

What was different this time?

When she described me as “highly motivated,” 2 things happened:

1. She deposited courage into me. Words have the power to encourage us (deposit courage into us) or discourage (rip courage out of us). Her words helped me have the strength and motivation to do what needed to be done.

2. She made me want to make her words true. Now, maybe she thought I am highly motivated because I’m a runner who’s completed two marathons. Maybe she said that because I didn’t let the injury linger or keep trying to run on it before coming in (as runners tend to do). I don’t know. But because she used those words to describe me, I wanted to live up to what she saw in me. I wanted to be able to come back in and tell her I did what she instructed.

As you speak, think about how your words to someone (or even to yourself) are depositing courage or ripping courage out. Who can you deposit courage into this Monday morning?

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18 (NIV)

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #3: “Choosing to See” by Mary Beth Chapman

I finished my 3rd book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.

Choosing to SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope by Mary Beth Chapman

As I stated before, I don’t plan on doing full book reviews, or summaries even. Rather, I will share a few quotes as well as my personal takeaways from the book.

I chose to read this book next because it came in the mail this week. Why did it come in the mail? I got it from Paperback Swap! I’ll share more about that later, but it’s another great way to make the #EmptyShelf challenge affordable.

Overall, I enjoyed Choosing to SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope. In it, Mary Beth (wife of Steven Curtis) Chapman recounts not only the horrible car accident that took the life of her 5 year-old and impacted her whole family, especially her son who was driving the car, but also the events in her own history that made her who she is.

I appreciated her ability to shift her perspective and try to see her life and the events within through God’s eyes. I can’t say I enjoyed the format of the end of the book, which mainly copied journal entries and blog posts into the text. It felt hard to read and flimsily put together.

The story was certainly compelling, and I read it over the course of 3 days. Yet the things I carried away from the book and found myself earmarking were quotes from other people and not the conclusions Mary Beth came to.

Still, an enjoyable read 🙂

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:

“Learning to Walk in Freedom” Paperback is in the Truck! Let’s Give Some Away!

Since the paperbacks are on the truck from Illinois to Virginia, I’ve decided to prepare by doing a giveaway!

Now read the whole post to hear about your giveaway options!

I’m going to send signed copies of Learning to Walk in Freedom to 5 of my readers!


You can get one entry by commenting here, but you can get even more entries by liking my page on Facebook or following me on Twitter! If you’re signed into Facebook and Twitter, click on the little down arrows next to each category. The raffle widget will tell you whether or not you’ve done those 2 things. Follow the steps in the widget below.

Also, I will give away an additional signed book to an email subscriber (that’s 6 books total!). So go to my website and enter your email address where it says “Get Living Unveiled Updates and Posts via Email.” Mailchimp services this, and you will not be spammed 🙂

Please share the love and share the page!

You can also now pre-order the paperback. It is available in packs of 10 if you are buying for your church, non-profit or ministry.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

    The 1st five winners have been chosen!

Heather F.
Jenn B.
Meghan B.
Robyn H.
Beth W.

I will chose the winner out of those who subscribe to blog posts later!

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #2: The Circle Maker

I finished my 2nd book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.

The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson

I don’t plan on doing full book reviews, or summaries even. Rather, I will share a few quotes as well as my personal takeaways from the book.

I’ve been hearing about Mark Batterson for a long time. I have a few friends that are on staff at the church he leads, National Community Church, which isn’t far from where we live. I have spoken at conferences alongside some of his church members. The free download at Christianaudio.com a few months ago was his book In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. I have begun to listen to that. Then our church started reading The Circle Maker at the midweek service (which we don’t usually attend), but a good friend started talking about it a lot.

So I checked the book out of the library.

(Side note – for the #EmptyShelf challenge, why not find out what your library might have to offer? I just asked my library to order 2 books I wanted to read, and they did!)

I really enjoyed The Circle Maker. This book has a lot of great takeaways. Mark Batterson uses 3 main themes to structure the book:

1. Dream Big
2. Pray Hard
3. Think Long

I had a 4th takeaway: Praise Through.

The book hit a bunch of themes and Scriptures that God has been challenging me with so the past year, especially in light of the book release. I was simultaneously reading this book as I reviewed words and impressions that God spoke to me over the last year. It actually almost became comical after a while to see the parallels. OK, God, I’m listening!

God has been calling me for a long time to dream ludicrous dreams, and this book reinforced that ludicrous dreams are, in fact, Biblical. Here is the main quote that I’ll leave you with:

At one point, God spoke to Mark, “Stop praying for it and start praising Me for it.” At the beginning of 2013, I wrote in my journal: 2013 = Sacrifice of Praise. I didn’t do so well with that last year, so God is giving me another chance to learn what that looks like as a daily practice.

I’ll be making a little virtual bookshelf at the end of each update:

I may also include some other meaningful quotes at the end, like these:
“God isn’t offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He is offended by anything less.”
“To me, writing is praying with a keyboard.”
“If you want to see crazy miracles, obey the crazy promptings of the Holy Spirit.”
“What we perceive as unanswered prayers are often the greatest answers.”
“Goals are dreams with deadlines.”

Monday Morning Meditation: Who Is Ruling You?

Oh, I’m running to Your arms,
I’m running to Your arms
The riches of Your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world, forever reign

I was at a conference recently where we sang the above song. I loved the premise of the song and sang out with the rest of the crowd. Then the song continues:

My heart will sing no other name:
Jesus, Jesus

And I knew that part wasn’t true for me.

Isaiah 26:12-13 says, “Lord, you will grant us peace, for all we have accomplished is from you. O Lord our God, others have ruled us, but we will worship you alone.”

As we sang the above worship song, I knew very clearly that others have ruled me. My heart sings all sort of other names, things I crave and long for inappropriately: food, fame, identity, recognition, to name a few.

Romans 6:16 (NLT) says, “Don’t you realize that whatever you choose to obey becomes your master?”

I am working on this. One of my themes for 2014 is to praise through. God has called me to worship my way through whatever happens this year. Though I have allowed others to rule me, to become my master, I can now choose to worship God alone. Through praise, I can train my heart to sing no other name.

Who has ruled you? In your disobedience, who have you allowed to become your master? What steps can you take today to worship God alone?

Freedom Friday: What One Reader Thinks of “Learning to Walk in Freedom”

If you’ve ever wondered how God can use challenging situations to His glory, here is one example.

You may remember the woman with bulimia who I met in Whole Foods 2 months ago. After I wrote that blog post, I just “happened” to get an email from Constance Rhodes, the author of Life Inside the Thin Cage: A Personal Look into the Hidden World of the Chronic Dieter. It was a mass email as I am on the list for the organization she leads, FINDINGbalance. She and I have chatted a couple of times before over the last – oh, probably 8+ years since I saw her speak at SoulFest, but I really don’t think she’d remember me. I had written the blog post by that point, and I sent that to her in an email along with a handful of questions.

She replied to my surprise and asked if I’d be interested in guest posting at the FINDINGbalance blog. My answer was a resounding yes! That post is here.

Through this opportunity, I met the blog moderator, Abby Kelly. We are becoming quick friends 🙂 In fact, I will appear on her blog sometime in the near future (when I get my act together – ahem!).


She sent me her review of Learning to Walk in Freedom this week. Wow, she is generous with her words. If you’re wondering if this book can help someone without same-sex attraction, here is your answer.

I first read Brenna Kate Simonds in a brief blog post that she shared with FINDINGBalance. As the editor of that ministry’s blog I approach most submissions with a critical eye. I usually find a sentence or two to prune and sometimes the story just doesn’t address our audience. However, when I read Brenna’s story, I knew it was not only well written and would appeal to any audience, but that it would speak to, and change, anyone who was blessed to read it.

Immediately, I headed over to Brenna’s website, Living Unveiled. I had to read more from this bold and beautiful woman, a woman who unashamedly writes from her pain, and bravely pours life into the secret wounds of strangers. It was there I discovered her book.

Learning to Walk in Freedom: A Journey in Five Steps, is the culmination, for now, of Brenna’s ministry to any who feel bound by sin, failure, defeat, loneliness and fear. I say culmination, because to produce a book this deep is a monstrous effort of faith and energy, but Brenna is only on the cusp of what God intends to do for and through her.

I picked up, Learning to Walk in Freedom, as one now walking in freedom after 15 years of bondage to anorexia. I felt camaraderie with Brenna from the very start as she tells her story of battling an eating disorder. But almost anyone will find common ground with the author, who also shares of struggling with same sex attraction, emotional dependency, self-injury and chronic low self-esteem.

With empathy, Brenna lays open her own wounds and tells of the healing Jesus Christ gave her—how through Him she learned to walk in freedom. Then, employing an almost simplistic strategy she walks her reader through five steps leading them straight to the throne of grace.

Now lest you fear that this is a preachy book, written only with the holier-than-thou, assured-of-their-salvation, from the preface, Brenna invites everyone to join her on this journey. She writes:

‘You may not be sure you really know God, or you may be quite confident that you don’t. You may not be sure that you want to know Him anymore. Perhaps you have experienced a measure of freedom, have long since moved past that “gasping for air” feeling, but still dream and hope, as I did, for more than this. This book is for you all.’

Brenna doesn’t abandon her readers after a careful explanation of the five steps to walking in freedom. Instead, she grips their hand a little tighter, tugs again and says, “Let’s make this personal.”

For each of the five steps, Brenna compiles all of the Scripture references used in the book. Then, she asks pointed, inductive questions to help the reader, “feel the ground beneath their feet”, as they take each step.

Lastly, Brenna shares her testimony in full detail. I love that she saved the gritty intricacies of her story until the end. Such humility. She gives her readers enough to identify with her and feel safe as they follow her through the steps toward freedom. But she doesn’t offer up her story of courageous recovery until the very end. Throughout the book, the focus remains on the reader and on the work that God can do, will do and is doing in their own lives.

You will be hearing more from Abby here as well when I interview for the release of her book. Thanks, Abby, for reading Learning to Walk in Freedom and for your generous review!

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #1: Learning to Walk in Freedom

I finished my first book for the #EmptyShelf challenge. It’s a fantastic book! You should really read it.

It’s called Learning to Walk in Freedom 🙂






You can go ahead and laugh 🙂 I needed to read the proof that was mailed to me by the printer. This time, I wasn’t meticulously reading to find typos (hopefully, those have mostly been found!). I was reading to make sure everything looked good on the page.

I was reminded why I wrote this book and why I believe in it so strongly.

Here are some of my favorite moments. If you haven’t read it yet, now is the time to get yourself a copy!

I believe Scripture teaches that freedom is both a one-time gift and a process. The moment we come to Jesus Christ, He gives us freedom through the Holy Spirit, so that we are no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:17–18), but that freedom is something we need to learn to walk out in our lives.


If we expect a life free from temptation, then we expect to be more free than Jesus.


Free people do whatever it takes to become free and remain free. Whatever it takes. Jesus did whatever it took so we have the opportunity to learn to walk in freedom. He gave up everything as He hung from that cross, dying a criminal’s death, carrying the sin and the shame of the entire world on His back.

Do the Empty Shelf Challenge With Me!

I posted on my Facebook page (have you “liked” it yet?) about the Jon Acuff #EmptyShelf challenge. I thought I’d post here and see if anyone else was interested in doing this.

From Jon Acuff’s site:

Empty a shelf in your house somewhere. Every book you read from now until December 31, 2014 goes on the shelf. (Waiting until January 1st to do something awesome is stupid and fake.) At the end of the year, I guarantee you will have read more than you did in 2013. Best of all, you’re scientifically more likely to accomplish something when you have people working on it with you.

I won’t really have an empty shelf because I’ll likely use the library, read some of my books that are collecting dust, or the many I’ve accumulated on my Kindle app. I’m currently reading The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson (from the library) and Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst (on my CBD reader).

Are you committed to reading this year? Join the challenge! I’ll post an update each time I complete a book.

And consider starting with Learning to Walk in Freedom!