Freedom Friday: Eyes on the Resurrection

I started a new devotional for Lent today.

Yes, I’m aware Lent doesn’t start until Wednesday 🙂 I just wanted some built-in space in case I miss a day.

It’s called 40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole.

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Alicia subtitles it “A Different Kind of Hunger. A Different Kind of Fast.” She shares some thoughts along with readings from the Gospel of John (my favorite).

I’ve always loved Alicia’s writing style, and this book does not disappoint. Simple. Direct. Probing. Vulnerable. She’s the real deal.

The Scripture today was John 12:1-11, a favorite story of mine, where Mary anoints Jesus with a pint of nard. She was in awe of Him, so much so that she humbled/humiliated herself in her worship of Him.

It reminds me of one of my favorite worship songs, “Pour My Love On You.”

Like oil upon Your feet
Like wine for You to drink
Like water from my heart, I pour my love on You
If praise is like perfume
I’ll lavish mine on You
Till every drop is gone
I’ll pour my love on You

A life poured out.

One question I walked away with from the first day’s reading is this: are we hyper focused on our sacrifices during Lent, or are we awed by the coming Resurrection Sunday? It’s a reminder to keep my eyes on the resurrection everyday – the promise of a new day, a fresh start.

Consider getting 40 Days of Decrease or another devotional for Lent this year.

Sharing God’s Story At My Home Church

I had the privilege of sharing the story of God’s work in my life at our now home church yesterday. “New” is relative – we’ve been attending this church since January 🙂 I still get a little nervous when sharing, despite having done it for so long. I get even more nervous sharing at my home church! But God is gracious and able and only good, and He sustained me. Lots of folks shared their own struggles or their experiences having children who are gay-identified.

Some folks who couldn’t be there expressed interest in reading it. So here it is 🙂

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I was born in May of 1975. With an alcoholic mother and a father who worked long hours, I spent much of my childhood alone with few close friends. I began experimenting sexually with girls at a young age. As a high school freshman, I began a physical relationship with my female best friend. Trying to make sense of what I was experiencing, I looked up “homosexuality” in a health book. The book said that if you had attractions for someone of the same gender, then you were gay. I remember thinking, “There it is, in black and white. I am a homosexual.”

This was not good news. I was living in a small NH town. This was 1990. That’s 7 years before Ellen DeGeneres came out and 12 years before Rosie O-Donnell. By age 16, I had a full-blown eating disorder and was also using self-injury as a coping mechanism.

Over the next 10 years, I had a series of lesbian relationships, including a long-term year relationship with a married woman. She and I had a mock wedding ceremony and from then on, she introduced me as her “wife.” I lived with this couple for close to two and a half years. When my wife suggested I have sex with her husband, I did what she asked. I had never been with a man before. This began a cycle of abuse from her husband. I never said no. I was a guest in their home and if I said something, I would have to leave. Proverbs 27:7 states, “One who is full loathes honey from the comb, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.” The moments of love and acceptance I experienced with this woman somehow made the pain of the abuse tolerable. I didn’t know if I could live without her love.

My life spiraled out of control in many areas, not only in the area of my sexual identity, but also my eating disorder. Christians seemed to start coming out of nowhere to share about Jesus’ love. They never took it upon themselves to say that I should not be a lesbian. Like everyone else, I was a sinner in need of Jesus in my life. That was my primary need. My sexual behavior was only one of many indicators of my broken, sinful state.

One of these friends gave me a CD by a passionate Christian artist. His voice sang of a friend who was always there, a friend who would give everything for him. That friend is Jesus. And this was good news. In the midst of that song, I cried out to God saying, “I want what he has!” God, in His great mercy, honored my prayer on that day in January of 1999.

I asked hard questions, of myself and of God. Was it really even possible to break free of the chains that still held my life in so many ways, and give myself fully to my relationship with Jesus Christ? I knew homosexual behavior was a sin. I knew Jesus was more real than anything I had ever experienced. I was faced with a choice: continue to embrace the familiar, which was the gay identity I had lived for so long, or take a major risk and trust that Jesus would be and could be enough. I did what I knew I shouldn’t do: I entered into another lesbian relationship. After 3 months, the girl I was dating said, “Listen – you can’t be a Christian and be gay. The Bible says you must either be hot or cold – one or the other, but not lukewarm.” While quoting Scripture, she ended our relationship.

Soon after, I said, “Fine, God! I don’t want this. Please – take these desires away from me.” And in some ways, He did. While my desires for women lessened, the events and circumstances of my life that led me in the direction of lesbianism, an eating disorder and self-injury had not changed. I knew I needed more help and healing than just my prayer of surrender. Romans 12:2 says, “let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” I went to a Christian counselor who helped me transform the way I lived and the way I thought.

Still, besides my closest friends, I didn’t want anyone to know about my past. I mean, I had seen how Christians treated gay people on Oprah! They basically tarred and feathered them! I remember being at a campus ministry conference soon after I laid my sexuality at the cross. There was a couple there – the husband had come out of a gay past. I talked to his wife, giving me my first glimmer of hope that maybe there was another way. Maybe I didn’t have to be gay.

Fast forward through a lot of pain and hopelessness and wrestling with God, and God continually pursuing me and teaching me He is who He says He is and He will do what He has said He will do. It was the summer of 2002. I had just gotten engaged to my now husband Roy. I kept in touch with that couple I had met at that conference. I wrote to them, wondering if there was a way I could give back. They connected me with a ministry in Boston, Alive in Christ. Alive in Christ reaches out to Christians impacted by SSA, and they needed a women’s leader.

I thought, God, this can’t be Your will! I just wanted to lick envelopes! Did God really want me to build a ministry around this part of myself I wasn’t sure I wanted to speak openly about? I prayed and once again, like I still try and do every day, surrendered myself and my agenda at the cross. 8 months later, I became the women’s leader, and 1 year and a half after that, in August of 2004, I became the director of Alive in Christ.

Since then – well, I no longer have any issues talking about my same-sex attraction. It was a slow progression over the past 12 years, but in those years, I’ve been in the Boston Globe, on TV news, in 2 award-winning documentaries, on the TV show Pure Passion, and now speak at conferences around the US.

By the grace of God, I am married and have 2 amazing sons and a sweet baby girl. Still, I want to be really clear about something. I minister in this way despite the fact that I still experience same-sex attraction. It’s to a much lesser degree. Whereas once my same-sex attraction was like a swarm of killer bees, now it’s more like the occasional fruit fly. Experiencing temptation is not sin – but acting on it would be. Jesus was tempted – but did not sin. If we expect ourselves to never experience temptation, then we expect to be more free than Jesus.

I can serve and give, even out of my weakness, because God is God, I am not, and He never asked me to be! 2 Corinthians 12:9 says His power is actually made perfect in our weakness, in those places where I still struggle and have to admit that truly, apart from Him, I can do nothing. Gal. 5 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Freedom is not defined by how I feel; it’s defined by what He did. Freedom is not even defined by the mistakes I still make or how good my behavior is or how free I’m feeling on a particular day; it’s defined by the new identity God has given to me, and the freedom I’m learning to walk in. I am freed to serve, even out of my weakness, simply because of what Jesus did on the cross.

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Sharing my life with new folks reminds me of how very blessed I am – a husband I never thought I’d have, kids I never imagined I could be blessed with.

Truly grateful.

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Empty Shelf Challenge Book #19: “Run to Overcome” by Meb Keflezghi

I finished my 19th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.

Run to Overcome: The Inspiring Story of an American Champion’s Long-Distance Quest to Achieve a Big Dream

Everyone reading this knows I’m a runner. I talk about it quite often.

But what you might not know is I’m a running fan girl 🙂

I’m one of those people who thinks the Boston Marathon is the biggest sports event of the year. I had to work in the afternoon of Marathon Monday in 2013, but I was home long enough to see the elite athletes come in. Once at work, I was receiving text messages and Tweets from my friends as they crossed the finish line. My friends Robin & Colleen had already finished when my friend Dani started tweeting about a possible explosion shortly after crossing the finish line.

You likely know the rest of the story.

Thankfully, Dani and her family, as well as all my other friends, were safe. Many others were wounded and killed on that day. So on Marathon Monday in 2014, I knew where I would be: parked in front of my computer, watching the Boston Marathon.

As the elite men neared the finish line, my 6 year-old and I were jumping up and down, yelling, “Go Meb! Go Meb!!! Ggooooooo MMMMEEEEBBBB!!!!!”

Meb Keflezghi, a man who would turn 39 in just a few days (that’s “old” in the running world), became the first American man to win the Boston Marathon in over 30 years.

That was one of many reasons I was excited to get this book from the library.* I knew Meb was a man with a strong Christian faith. I also knew he overcame much hardship in his life (from Amazon.com):

Meb is the living embodiment of the American dream. His family came to the U.S. to escape poverty and a violent war; 12-year-old Meb spoke no English at the time and had never raced a mile.

This book takes the reader through Meb’s life with its victories and defeats. While the book does not have the captivating writing style of Unbroken, the simple way Meb describes the ups and downs of his life draws the reader in. His gratitude at the sacrifices of his parents challenged me. And the perseverance that brought him back from major injuries to win the Boston Marathon the year after such tragedy inspires me.

This book is definitely worth reading.

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:

           

*I read the original edition of this book because that’s what the library had. It was updated this year to include his Boston win.

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #12: “Bible Doctrines: A Pentecostal Perspective” by William W. Menzies & Stanley M. Horton

I finished my 12th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.

Bible Doctrines: A Pentecostal Perspective by William W. Menzies & Stanley M. Horton

I actually read a slightly older version, since that’s the edition I was told to read. I mentioned before I’m working on finishing up my ministerial credentials with the Assemblies of God, and this book helps in studying for the written test.

The book basically walks the reader through the 16 Fundamental Truths of the Assemblies of God, including the corresponding Scriptures. While none of this was new for me, it went further in explaining concepts I was already familiar with.

This book would certainly be enlightening to anyone with an interest in the theology of the Pentecostal movement.

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:
           

 

Freedom Friday: The Power of God’s Will

For it’s only in Your will that I am free*

Do you ever think about the Garden of Gethsemane? With Good Friday coming up, I’ve been thinking a lot about the words Jesus said as He prayed one of His final prayers here on earth.

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”**

Prior to this prayer, Jesus asked all the disciples to sit in Gethsemane while He took Peter, James and John further into the garden to pray. He stated, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

After uttering His first prayer of submitting to God’s will, He walked back and found His three closest friends – asleep.

“He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.'”

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I first heard the song “Jesus, All for Jesus” at a women’s conference. I was struck by its simplicity and depth and challenged by the lyrics.

But I find myself singing one line over and over as Good Friday approaches:

For it’s only in Your will that I am free

The only place we are truly free is in the center of God’s will. This was true for Jesus, too.

But how can horrific suffering that ended with death on the cross be freedom?

Isaiah records in a section of Scripture that prophesies of Jesus’ coming and is often referred to as “The Suffering Servant” that “it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer.”

The cross was God’s will for Jesus.

The first time I saw the above verse, I didn’t know how to respond – because I knew the implications. It was the fulfillment of God’s perfect will that Jesus die on that cross – for me and for you. It was the only way for us to be reconciled to God (Romans 5:10). And not a quick, easy death (because God could have done that), but one that involved being crushed and suffering immensely.

Jesus knew that there is no life apart from God’s will.  And so He surrendered to the will of His Father.

“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:8-11

For the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2).

For our freedom (Galatians 5:1).

And for His glory (Philippians 2:11).

Jesus, All for Jesus
Jesus, all for Jesus
All I am and have and ever hope to be
Jesus, all for Jesus
All I am and have and ever hope to be

All of my ambitions, hopes and plans
I surrender these into Your hands
All of my ambitions, hopes and plans
I surrender these into Your hands

For it’s only in Your will that I am free
For it’s only in Your will that I am free

Jesus, all for Jesus
All I am and have and ever hope to be*

*Song lyrics are from Jesus All For Jesus (Featuring Robin Mark).

**The story of the Garden Gethsemane, as quoted above, is found in Matthew 26.

Monday Morning Meditation: God is Able

Just wanted to send you off into this week with a quick thought:

“Now to Him who is able…..” Ephesians 3:20

I purchased the new Paul Baloche album, Live, last week. I’ve become a fan of Paul Baloche over the years. If you are a worship leader or team member, you may notice that quite a few of the songs we sing today were written or co-written by him. The last church we attended in Boston (which was mostly folks from the Philippines) sang quite a few of his songs, though sometimes when I hear Paul sing them, I still expect a strong Filipino accent 🙂

As I listened to the album one day, I noticed Paul was repeating these lines from an old hymn:

A mighty fortress is our God
A bulwark never failing.
A mighty fortress is our God
A bulwark never failing.

I thought to myself, How my heart would be changed if I spent my days repeating that truth rather than staring at the seemingly insurmountable mountains in my life.

A similar truth that is contained in Ephesians 3:20 has challenged me to my core lately. It begins, “Now to Him who is able.” That alone is enough to give me pause. I have found myself repeating this to myself and to friends in the simple statement, “God is able.” But Paul, the writer of this letter to the church in Ephesus continues:

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,”

We all like the “immeasurably more” part, and that has seemed to be the phrase my heart has latched on to in the past. But lately, I find the next phrase greatly encouraging: more than all we ask or imagine.

When I don’t know what to pray, when I’m afraid to dream another big dream, when my hopes seems outlandish, the God of the cross is able to do abundantly more than I could even think up. How is that even possible? “According to His power that is at work within us.”

Not my fancy prayer. Not my willpower. Not my effort, even, but according His power that is at work because of His Holy Spirit in me.

And because He loves me. Read Ephesians 3:14-19 for reference.

No matter how your week plays out,
No matter what challenges you face,
No matter what mountains come your way,

Remember.

God is able.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV)

Freedom Friday: Does Jesus Accept You as You Are?

Imagine you’re at a bus stop.

Technically, it’s a free shuttle. The sign at the covered bus stop says that the free shuttle runs on this route.

You wait. You wait some more. Several buses come and go, but no free shuttles, and none of them end up at your needed destination.

Finally, you ask someone walking up the street if they know anything about the free shuttle.

“Yes, the free shuttle goes on this route and will take you right where you want to go. Just sit back; relax. This is the route for the free shuttle. Don’t worry.”

Relieved, you sit back in the shelter of the bus stop and wait. You check your email on your phone, text a few friends, check your Facebook. Soon, you realize another hour has passed.

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Just then, another bus comes, and someone gets off. “Please,” you say, “do you know when the free shuttle will be coming? I’ve been waiting a long time!”

“It’s Sunday,” the man replies. “The shuttle doesn’t run on weekends.”

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3 weeks ago, I wrote a post on what allows me to still wear my LIVESTRONG bracelet and to still listen to the song, “Healer.” What allows me to do that is grace.

This week, with some big news in the Christian media (which I’m not going to comment on :)), I kept hearing the phrase: “Jesus accepts people as they are.”

I hear this phrase a lot from my American Christian friends. I can’t say that in the past this phrase ever bothered me all that much. I can’t even say I really gave it much thought until those recent conversations.

Something about the way the phrase was used didn’t sit right with me. I started to wonder if this phrase actually accurately depicts the fullness of the Gospel.

We generally use this phrase as another way of saying, “We shouldn’t judge where people are. Jesus accepts people where they are and so should we.”

But what if that’s only telling people half the Gospel?

Mary Heathman, in speaking at a conference I recently attended, said, “Grace and truth are two sides of the same coin. They are not two different coins.” She went on to say that one without the other isn’t grace or truth; it’s pseudo-grace and pseudo-truth. Grace and truth, in essence, are inseparable. You can’t have one without the other.

I immediately think of John 1:14:

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

What if “Jesus accepts you as you are” is just the grace part? Can we really have grace without truth if Jesus was the fullness of both?

Isn’t that sort of like telling someone that yes, the shuttle you’re waiting for does run this route, but not telling them the specifics of how to get on the bus?

Did Jesus accept the rich young ruler where He was? How about the woman caught in adultery?

Can you think of examples in Scripture where Jesus accepted someone who was stuck in sin where they were (grace) without calling them to something better (truth)?

Because I can’t.

This verse is the closest I can think of to the sentiment of “Jesus accepts you as you are” stated by Jesus and recorded in Matthew 11:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Sigh. We all give a big exhale when we read this verse. What a peaceful, embracing sentiment. Jesus continues:

Take my yoke upon you

Now hold up! That doesn’t sound very “come as you are”-ish! Exchange my weariness and burdened self for a yoke?

Yes.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Jesus’s yoke may be easy, but it’s still a yoke. His burden may be light, but it’s still a burden.

Perhaps this is why He implored the crowds listening to His teaching to count the cost before committing to being His follower:

 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.

“In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” Luke 14:28-33

The problem may very well be with our definition of the word “accept.” However we couch it, the thought that Jesus might accept or embrace us where we are is not necessarily reassuring.

Because I don’t want to stay here.

What we do know is that Jesus is always calling us to so much more than what we’ve experienced thus far. He calls us to abundance. Therein lies the hope of the Gospel: the promise of life-changing transformation.

For that, I’m all in.

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #7: “The Predatory Lies of Anorexia” by Abby Kelly

I finished my 7th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.

The Predatory Lies of Anorexia: A Survivor’s Story by Abby Kelly

I “met” Abby because she oversees the blog over at FINDINGbalance, where I have guest-posted. I’ve mentioned her before, and over the past few months, we’ve become fast friends.

I was THRILLED when she offered to let me read a preview copy of her book about her recovery from anorexia. I read this book almost straight through one Sunday and then had to slow myself down so I could actually write a review. That’s how captivating Abby’s story of battling the grip of anorexia is.

Since I also have overcome an eating disorder, I recognized much of myself in this story: the denial, the self-protection, the battling with family and other loved ones. But having read so many books on eating disorders, this one is distinct in two amazing ways.

The first thing that sticks out is how very well-written this book is. As someone who became a Christian as I emerged from the eating disorder’s hold, I have read many book on eating disorders by Christian authors. “Predatory Lies” is one of the best. Abby is a writer and a talented one at that. Though I was granted a preview copy, I could not think like a reviewer upon first read: I just had to read to finish. It’s not just that her story is compelling; the words she uses to capture her experiences and emotions grab your heart. I found myself needing to read the book again in order to be able to actually write the review! The parallels Abby draws between real-life situations and her recovery draw the reader in, so that even if anorexia is not your struggle, you relate. I love her honesty and willingness to not mince words. Here is one such quote: “anorexia robbed me of all ability to create and live within meaningful relationships. An eating disorder builds a shell around its victim, fending off anyone whose love might threaten it.”

The second thing that struck me is the hope. Abby clearly lives out the truth of Psalm 25:5: her hope is in the Lord all day long. And it’s not some vague “wishing on a star and pray everything comes out okay” hope. Her trust is in a living Savior who longs to help her (and you!) overcome life’s challenges. And she makes it clear in her captivating way that this hope is available to all who struggle with the lies an eating disorder speaks.

Abby has a clarity that is refreshing and necessary. The book has been released and is now available on Amazon. Read this book and sign up for her blog updates while you’re at it. You will not regret it!

You will be hearing more from Abby here at Living Unveiled in the coming weeks. She posted an interview of me in her blog, and I will be doing the same 🙂

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:
           

Monday Morning Meditation: Teach Us to Pray

Luke 11:1: “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.'”

I’ve been spending a lot of time with the section of Scripture we call “The Lord’s Prayer” lately. Not studying it – just praying it. This prayer I memorized as a child that flows out of my heart when I’m not sure what else to say.

In December of 1998, I was introduced to Keith Green. I was given his biography, No Compromise, as well as a couple of his CD’s. I was not yet a Christian, but a friend thought maybe Keith’s music and life would draw me closer to Jesus during a difficult time.

Keith was a radical. He was 100% sold out to Jesus. And one night in January of 1999, as I listened to one of Keith’s passionate songs, as I heard him sing about Jesus, I cried out to God, “I want what he has!”

I don’t know that I was ever taught the context of the Lord’s Prayer. This wasn’t a prayer that Jesus apparently recited over and over, as my Sunday School teacher did, in order for the disciples to memorize it. It wasn’t super lengthy or wordy. It wasn’t even a topic that Jesus brought up on His own accord.

One disciple wanted to be taught how to pray.

Read Luke 11:1 again, as quoted above. The disciples saw Jesus praying. When Jesus was finished, one of his disciples said of Jesus, as I said of Keith Green that January night, I want what He has.

If you struggle with knowing how or what to pray, ask, as the disciple asked:

“Teach us to pray.”

God, let that be our prayer this week. Teach us to pray as You pray. We want what You have.

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!).

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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!