Welcome to Living Unveiled, the blog of Brenna Kate Simonds, Author of “Learning to Walk in Freedom”

Featured

Welcome to the blog of Brenna Kate Simonds, author of Learning to Walk in Freedom.

Brenna Simonds

Don’t know where to start?

Buy the book Learning to Walk in Freedom.

Read Brenna Kate’s story, straight from the back of Learning to Walk in Freedom.

Read Living Unveiled’s 3 most popular posts:
You Have Not Because You Ask Not
Do I Still Struggle With Same-Sex Attraction?
Remind God of His Promises

Check out Brenna Kate’s speaking page.

LTWIF.front.cover

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #6: “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day” by Mark Batterson

I finished my 6th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.


In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day: How to Survive and Thrive when Opportunity Roars by Mark Batterson

This book was a little different because I actually listened to the audio version. Every month, Christianaudio.com has a free download. All you have to do is sign up for their email newsletter, and they will let you know what the free download of the month is. You go to the site, enter your email, and it downloads. This month, the free download is When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. I’ve downloaded in the past The Hiding PlaceGod’s SmugglerGod is in the Manger, and quite a few others. You can’t beat free!

That said, I’m not sure I absorb as much from audio books as I do from actual hold-in-your-hands books. I also don’t absorb as much when I read on Kindle. Perhaps it’s because a hardcopy of a book is more conducive to taking notes and jotting things down in your journal.

The book was inspired by the following passage of Scripture:
2 Samuel 23:20 (NIV): “Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, performed great exploits. He struck down Moab’s two mightiest warriors. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion.”

Notice he followed the lion into the pit.

The book addressed regret and risk-taking. Most people, at the end of their lives, do not regret the risks they took. They regret playing it safe. The book addresses risk-taking and overcoming some of the challenges that come along with it, such as adversity, doubt, and fear. It also discusses how to seize opportunities and overcome your concern with looking foolish.

One main thing I took away from this book is that most people never feel 100% sure that the risk they are about to take is the right choice. In a study Batterson quoted, most people only feel about 50% sure they are doing the right thing. That made me feel better!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! If the concept sounds intriguing, you can download the series of messages that the book is based on here.

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:
           

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #5: It Starts With Food by Melissa & Dallas Hartwig

I finished my 5th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.

It Starts With Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig

This book is a little different than my usual fare 🙂 I mentioned in my last #EmptyShelf post that I struggle with overeating, and I was doing a modified fast with my church. The Whole30 program is based on this book, and so I borrowed it from the library.

I enjoyed the book. I can’t say I agreed with every conclusion. Some sections, I did not meticulously read word for word as I would other books. It’s not really that kind of book 🙂 I was interested in what it had to say about inflammation and some other health issues I face.

Well, the proof is in the pudding, right? Or lack of pudding, since pudding is definitely not allowed on Whole30 🙂 Now that I’m done with the fast/Whole30, I have noticed some changes. I do not crave sweets – at all. In fact, yesterday, I have some banana bread that I made, but that was the first time I had something that could be considered a “sweet.” I also notice less aches and pains post-exercise, but I’m still on a modified workout plan due to injury. I eat a pretty clean diet anyway (gluten-free, low grain, and mostly dairy-free, with lots of veggies and daily green smoothies), so the biggest change for me was not cutting out grains; it was eating so much fat.

All and all, it’s an interesting book/theory, and can be very helpful if you’re trying to clean up your diet. The program seems particularly helpful to those who have autoimmune disorders.

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:
           

#FreedomBook is Here!

It has been one challenge after another in getting my paperbacks of Learning to Walk in Freedom to actually arrive at my home. After a long string of issues, I was told my books would arrive Monday. When I checked the tracking Sunday, it said the book would arrive 1/28 (6 days prior). I called Monday, and the terminal was closed due to weather. They are supposed to call to schedule residential delivery, so when I hadn’t heard anything at noon Tuesday, I gave them another call. They said my books were out for delivery! I turned to tell my husband, and he said, “I think I hear a truck.” Don’t you know – it was my books!

IMG_7776

My 4 year-old JJ is guarding the goods.

IMG_7779small

IMG_7782small

Don’t worry. It wasn’t loaded.

18 boxes of #FreedomBook!

IMG_7789

Order your copy today!

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)

“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!

LTWIF.front.cover

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?

Happy New Year! Wherever You Go……

Happy New Year, Freedom Friends!

2013 is officially over, and 2014 is in full swing.

The New Year’s resolutions have been made. We’re excited about a fresh start. Out with the old – in with the new! Right?

Right?

That’s the hope, isn’t it? Isn’t that why we love this season? New Years brings a fresh round of “Change Your _____, Change Your Life!” Have you ever played this game? It begins with “If Only’s”:

If only I lose weight…
If only I move…
If only I find a new job…
If only I found a good partner…

Then my life would change.

Then we might lose the weight, or relocate; we find the job or the new spouse. Usually, we’re not successful. The outcome doesn’t necessarily settle the disillusionment we feel because we thought for sure things would be better “if only.”

Why is that? Because the saying is true:

Wherever you go, there you are

Have you ever thought about what this really means? We get so focused on changing our external circumstances that we forget this simple truth: most external issues flow out of internal issues. So no matter where you go or how much weight you lose, inside you are still you. If we don’t allow God to change the internal, changing the externals will not have the hoped-for result. We will experience the same trials, the same struggles, the same unhelpful thought patterns. We will do the same thing again and again and expect different results.

I started re-reading the book of Joshua today. The Israelites are about to cross the Jordan to head into the Promised Land. God gives Joshua a string of directives and things to remember, ending with, “For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

The Israelites had a few things they needed to work on. They needed to trudge forward without fear. They needed to remember the instructions God gave Moses on how to live, meditating on them day and night. They needed to choose courage and not discouragement. And finally, they needed to remember that wherever you go, there God is.

What would happen if in 2014, we played the “Change Your Perspective, Change Your Life” game?

What would happen if we began the New Year focused on who He is rather than who we want to become?

How about we make it goal to take God at His Word in 2014, no matter what comes our way, meditating on that Word day and night? What if we allow God’s Word and His Holy Spirit to change the internals and allow the external changes to flow out of God remaking us from the inside out? What if we chose hope and courage instead of fear and disillusionment? If we really believed that nothing is impossible with God (Matthew 17:20), and that we are to live by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), if we truly believe God is with us wherever we go (Joshua 1:9), how drastically different would our lives be?

Wherever you go, there God is.

What about you? What is God speaking to you about your hopes for the new year? 

Life

I need words as wide as the sky
I need a language, large as this longing inside
And I need a voice bigger than mine
And I need a song to sing You that I’ve yet to find

I need You, oh, I need You
I need You, oh, I need You
To be here now, to he here now
To hear me now, to hear me now

“I Need Words” by David Crowder

Tuesday came this week, and I realized I had not blogged on Monday.

Now it’s Thursday and one of my grad school classes ends Saturday with 2 assignments due tomorrow and a final on Saturday with an essay for my other class due Saturday as well.

The marathon is a week away, and I’m furiously fundraising.

And then we got a call for a showing of our house tomorrow.  While I’m at work.  So I need to get everything in tiptop shape tonight.

I had hoped to blog.

But my world is currently imploding on me.

The move is creeping up on us, and there is much to be done.

So much is uncertain, and many days I feel as if Isaiah is talking directly to me, in my fears, my doubts, my sin, my turning to other “gods” for support and sustenance.

God is so patient with us, as a friend said last night.

I just feel like an unfaithful bride.

Thanks for your patience with me, my faithful readers.

“The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” Psalm 34:10