Tuesday, March 3, 2015

From Good to Grace :: An Interview with Author Christine Hoover (And Instagram Giveaway!)

Hop on over to my Instagram account today to win a copy of From Good to Grace by Christine Hoover! (Click here.) Below is an interview with Christine about the book!

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Last week I shared with you guys that I've gained some pretty major victory in my life, in that I'm letting go of trying to be so good all the time. And what I mean by "good" is that I've been trying to work my butt off to earn a gold star from God, from my peers, my family, and my own weird standards. And it's been EXHAUSTING. And unnecessary - because Jesus was already all the good I ever needed to be; He was perfect, in fact.

One of the major tools that the Lord has used in my life the past few weeks has been Christine Hoover's book, From Good to Grace. I am CRAZY lucky to be internet friends with Christine, :) she is a woman who has doused my heart with life-giving truth over and over again. And this book, OH THIS BOOK you guys! Whether you're married, a mom, single, a grandma, no kids, ten kids - this book is for you. It's like Christine is reading my thoughts, as she describes her personal struggles with approval and her exhausting pursuit of earning God's "I'm pleased with you." But then she goes so much further than just admitting her struggles; she brings us into the freedom that God has given her, and offers it to us, too. This isn't a self help book - it really is about the Gospel. And the truth that Christine speaks of, in no exaggerating terms, has changed my heart and my life. So I'm incredibly excited to share a short interview with Christine about From Good to Grace, as well as hosting a giveaway of the book on my Instagram account! 
Christine, why did you write From Good to Grace? Could you give me a little snapshot of the book's concept?

This book was written on my heart through many years of wrestling with spiritual perfectionism. For so long I attempted to be good for God -- which is what I term the "goodness gospel" -- but then He taught me about His grace and that changed everything. I want other women to experience the same freedom and joy, the abundant life Jesus promised us yet so eludes so many of us because we live according to the goodness gospel.

The premise of the book, after debunking the goodness gospel of course, is that the Christian life is received from start to finish. Just as we receive our salvation by faith, we grow and are sanctified by faith, not through self-effort. We receive God's love and grace and it compels us to respond.

Is there a specific woman that you had in mind while you were writing this book?

I've found that many Christian women are deeply entangled in the bondage of "not good enough." They live their lives solely based upon what others are saying and the loud voices of expectations in their heads. These voices correspond closely with cultural messages of "do more, try harder," and "be the chance you want to see." They've infiltrated our churches and have confused the simplicity and beauty of the gospel of Jesus. I wrote this book for those women, the ones who don't even know they are living by the goodness gospel, but feel the effects of it: the comparison, competition, division, people-pleasing, isolation, self-condemnation, and guilt. They are the ones who felt like I did: unloved by God and certain that they'll never be enough or do enough for Him.

How has going from "good to grace" changed you as a wife, mom, friend, and minister of the Gospel?

Going from good to grace has changed everything for me. Everything. 
When God began to reveal His grace and my lack of understanding of it, we were about a year into my husband’s first full-time ministry position. I felt like a failure as a pastor’s wife, and we’d just begun! I tried to be like pastor’s wives I admired but felt inadequate. I looked for validation and approval from those we were serving, but the little I got was not enough for me. I tried so very hard. At the same time, I didn’t want to go to God for help or anything really, because I was so sure He would tell me all the ways I was failing Him and all the things I needed to do better. 

When He began to change my heart and mind, He did it through the book of Galatians. As I read through that book, I realized that what matters to God is faith, not my behaviors. I was using my role as a pastor’s wife to try to get Him (and others) to love me. In fact, He already did love me. He had all along. Not only did He love me, but He delighted in me. Once that really settled in my heart, I saw ministry so differently. Ministry is an opportunity to worship and love the One who already loves me. I can serve using my unique gifts and personalities without needing validation or approval. As Henri Nouwen says, “You have to listen to the voice that calls you the beloved, because otherwise you will run around begging for affirmation, for praise, for success. And then you’re not free.” That had been me, but after learning how to receive and respond to God’s love for me, His grace for me, I have experienced freedom in ministry.

When women read this book, and finish that last page, what do you hope they ultimately walk away with?

I hope it sticks that God willingly takes responsibility for both our salvation and our sanctification, because that really takes the pressure off. I hope that when they think they’re not “good enough”, they’ll immediately think “But God . . .” We see that in Ephesians 2:6: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead trespasses [not good enough] made us alive together with Christ--by grace we have been saved.” Mostly, I hope those who have struggled to comprehend that they’re loved by God will stop stiff-arming Him out of fear and finally receive what they most desire.

Christine Hoover (@christinehoover) is the author of The Church Planting Wife and From Good to Grace. She is a recovering perfectionist, the wife of a pastor, and a mom of three boys. You can find her online on her blog, Grace Covers Me, and on Desiring God, Send Network, or iBelieve. 

Purchase your copy today on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook.com, or iTunes and discover the gospel’s reach in your own life.

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You guys, isn't this amazing? Head over to my Instagram page to enter my giveaway, or click on the just links above to find Christine's book. 

Thank you to Christine, and to Baker Publishing Group for providing a free book to me, and also to one winner from my Instagram giveaway.

Friday, February 27, 2015

freedom from "good": on not having to try so up-late, stressed-out, wondering-if-God-actually-likes-us hard.


It would remiss of me to not quickly mention that much of the heart change I've experienced, and am writing about in this post, came after reading two incredible books by some wise women, both of which are listed at the bottom of this blog post. Thank you Christine & Elyse for listening to God, and for helping women like me break free from the bondage of "good."


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I love being a stay at home mom. There are so many privileges that come with the territory, and I don't take that for granted. But on some days, I miss working outside the home.
For one, I'm an extreme extrovert, so I miss the adult interaction that comes with an out-of-the-house job. (This is why I love texting. What did our moms do before they could ask a friend to pray for them and get a quick reply? Or send a "this will be funny in about 20 minutes when I'm not so mad!" story and laugh together about something naughty our kids did?) I miss the people, the engaging conversations, and the rhythm of getting up and getting out to work.

I also miss feeling good about myself.
Ick! I know that's not a good thing. But in the workplaces I was in, I felt like I was able to measure my "good." I was a receptionist at a thriving naturopathic office, where I got to interact with patients, pray with them, and encourage them. I worked at a missionary training campus, where I traveled to other countries to serve, and when I was in the states, helped to train other missionaries to go out on the field. My days felt rewarding. I could look back and name the people I impacted, and I knew that my hours counted for something. Yet the difference between where I was at back then, and where I'm often at today, is that back then, I knew that it was ALL God's grace and mercy that I got to do those "good" things. I wasn't exhausting myself trying to make myself feel good; I simply was accepting what God put in front of me and went after it. I ended my days, my feet up on our coffee table while I nestled into our couch, and felt fulfilled by my work. And that's not a bad thing.

My current season of life feels like a different story. I find myself looking back on those years not just feeling grateful for all that the Lord allowed me to be a part of, but also with an unhealthy longing: I want to go back to the days where my "good" was measurable. I compare myself then, to myself now. And according to my (twisted) calculations, Worker Bee Mackenzie was much more useful to God's Kingdom. Her hours added up to something great. She was doing the right things, and it showed in the finished products. She was good. Stay At Home Mom Mackenzie? She is messy. She fumbles through disciplining and laundry-folding, and just plain trying to get out of the house a few times a week. There aren't many finished products; those laundry piles end up in the "dirty" hamper a few days later, those children throw another tantrum over the exact same thing. Stay At Home Mom Mackenzie must not be doing as much good. 

I spend many nights sitting on the couch like I did before, except now I don't let myself feel fulfilled. That's the kicker, isn't? I don't let myself. In actually, what I'm "doing in life" right now is very purposeful. I know that, in my head. Raising little hearts, serving my husband as he serves me, doing my best to encourage women through Thrive Moms and spending meaningful time with friends, family, and church community - those are valuable contributions to God's Kingdom. But it doesn't feel good enough. It is not so measurable, as my work was before. And so, as I sit on my couch, it's like I spread out all my deeds and all my hours in front of me, like a deck of cards, counting up all my "good." And because most of it is a work in progress, and most of it no one sees, and most of it I'll do AGAIN tomorrow - I don't think I'm doing enough. I, poisonously, long for the good ol' days of feeling good enough. 

This isn't a blog post about working moms versus stay at home moms. It's not a blog post about knowing that wiping sticky faces and diffusing tantrums is GOOD, worthwhile work. It's not even really a blog post about being a mom. Underneath all that, I find a girl who is working really hard to earn her goodness. A girl who wonders if she is good enough. And no matter my role, missionary or mom, or a combination of both - I could work my whole life in order to feel good, and it will never be enough. 
Through reading God's word, some hard but wonderful conversations with my husband, and reading a few books (see the end of this post), I'm learning that I actually can't make myself good enough. I never will be able to make my hours count enough. What makes me good, who makes me good is Jesus. Just Him. That. is. it. (My achieving, productivity-obsessed heart, wants to say, "No, there's gotta be something I can do!" But the BEAUTY of it is, that Jesus has already done all the doing, and He has already been "good." Perfect, in fact. So we no longer have to try so up-late, stressed-out, wondering-if-God-actually-likes-us hard.)

Knowing this truth is one thing; living it, that's another. In my head I've probably "known" this truth for a long time. But in the past few weeks, when I've felt like the Lord has been going to town on my heart and just beating me over the head with GRACE, something major has shifted in my heart. And actually, in my home. And I truly feel free.
It's almost as if God double-dog-dared me to believe what He said was true - and when I've begun to take Him up on it, I've found out that grace actually works. Honestly, I feel like a different person inside. It's a little bit crazy. And it's a lot a bit GOOD.

In the past few weeks, I've traded incredible anxiety for the deepest peace I've felt in a very long time. I've begun to stop wishing away the past, and instead I'm genuinely feeling very grateful for these present days. I've stopped trying to do MORE MORE MORE, and I've begun really enjoy my kids and my husband and really enjoy my ministry responsibilities (instead of constantly wondering if I was doing enough or doing it right.) I've even begun to believe that God loves me when I'm doing the dishes or scrolling Instagram or painting my nails.

I no longer feel this crippling pressure to please God; I'm just living as His already loved daughter. I don't have to chase good anymore. I just have to believe the truth. This is the freedom that the Gospel brings. And it's wide open for us. Let's take God at His word when He says that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. When He gives us work to do, let's go for it! Not because we'll earn anything, but instead for His glory.

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If you've made it to the end of this blog post, thanks for sticking with me :) I am so happy to share this victory in my life because I want this same victory for you. If you looked at my life from the outside, a lot of what I do has stayed the same; but inside, my heart has been flipped upside down.

Besides the Bible, I don't know if I've ever been so deeply impacted by two books in my life: Elyse Fitzpatrick's "Good News for Weary Women," and Christine Hoover's "From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel. It's like Elyse and Christine were both writing out what has been sitting in my heart, all the striving and the ick - and then they poured out truth and the Gospel.

This next week I'll be sharing an interview with Christine, who's book came out this week! And if you follow me on Instagram, I'll be giving away a copy of her book. So keep an eye out for that. And go get these ladies books, they are amazing.

*affiliate links used


Thursday, February 12, 2015

a quick thrive moms update & an easy way to help moms in need



It is a crazy privilege that I get to be a part of Thrive Moms. If you're a weary mom, and if you need some encouragement and community - #1 me too! and #2 you are why Thrive Moms was created! We seek to encourage moms, right in the middle of the chaos, and to help each other not just survive motherhood, but to thrive.

One of my favorite things that we do is our Support Ministry. We host support groups for moms walking through difficult experiences, and we also get to tangibly support moms in need. We've been able to help with medical bills, send care packages to moms in crisis, write handwritten letters, to name just a few ways we get to support different families.

Today at 12pm CST, Thrive Moms is hosting an Instagram auction, and 100% of the proceeds go to moms in need, via our Support Ministry! If you want to help us help other mamas, and if you'd like to bid on some awesome items, please consider checking out our auction tomorrow!

You can head over to instagram.com/thrivemomssupport (@thrivemomssupport). The auction starts at Noon! If you can't bid on an item, will you please pray with us for God to provide for this part of our ministry? Thank you!

Here's a sneak peek of some of the items:




Monday, February 9, 2015

on being productive, but not making anything that really matters


I'm a productivity junkie. Finishing a task or being able to measure something and say, "Yes, I spent 30 minutes doing ____ and here's how it turned out," mmhmm that's my bread and butter. That feeling is a great motivator to finish cleaning my kitchen when all I really want to do is watch another episode of Gilmore Girls. #lorelaiandlukeforever. But when I get interrupted in the middle of being productive? (By a tiny child needing something, perhaps?) My reaction lately has been very telling; I get super flustered, and if I can't finish that specific thing, I want to find something else that I can super quickly do in order to have produced something. Clear off that surface real quick; send that short email. Anything so that I can sit down and say, "Wooh, I spent that time getting something accomplished. Good thing, because otherwise..."

The answer to that "otherwise" - it's been a big, fluttering red flag.
Otherwise I will have not accomplished anything.
Otherwise I've just been wasting my time.
Otherwise I'm disappointing myself, my family, the Lord...

I know, slightly dramatic answers to the idea that I didn't get something checked off my to do list during nap time. But when I've dug down into the WHY behind that "otherwise," I've found a gal who is working real hard to feel significant. I've been carefully crafting my time so that I can feel good about what I've done at the end of the day. (And when the day ends with me not having "accomplished much," I mostly feel defeated.)

In reality, at the end of the day, when my day has been all about me and what I've been able to (or haven't been able to) accomplish, I feel empty. I am tired from all the "hard work" I've been doing, but but I still feel so disappointed- because all that work has gotten me what? A cleaner house? A eye-catching calendar with all of it's squares scribbled in?

I spend a good part of my days "accomplishing a lot," but when I'm lying in bed at night and thinking over my day, only a small chunk of that work adds up to feeling like the hours actually mattered

These words aren't easy to write, but my kids don't care if their closets are full of clean clothes, if all they hear during the day is "hold on a minute." My husband and my friends deserve a Mackenzie who is fully present with them, not one who is "listening" to them while mentally scolding herself for what I didn't get done prior to our conversation.

I don't have a perfectly crafted plan for how to accomplish getting over my striving, ugly heart; but I do have Jesus. His Holy Spirit has been whispering to me, "Put the dishes down and build that puzzle with Nicholas - and watch what I, the Lord, accomplish in this sweet time you spend together." He's been using Make it Happen (by Lara Casey) to help me ask the questions, "What really matters? What lasts for eternity? Who matters?" And He's been speaking, over and over again, where my significance truly comes from - my position with Him as His daughter. He's an awesome Dad who has joyfully invited me into His family; that's it. I don't have to do anything, accomplish something, work harder; He's already done the work.

Don't get me wrong, it's important to do my dishes so that my family can eat. God calls me to really good work, and so I need to accomplish things. But I'm learning that checking off a list is just one kind of "work." Work can also look like giving my baby too many kisses, and playing footsie with my husband while we eat ice cream. It can look like giggling, listening, praying. Good, meaningful, lasting work can look like something that isn't measurable - and I want to feel free to work hard at all the different types of work that God has given me to do. I'm incredibly excited about the work that the Lord is doing in my heart. I want to do the things that matter to Him.

*affiliate link included


Thursday, January 22, 2015

17 year olds, butterflies, and choosing each other 10 years later

Photo from the first day we met, at a church winter camp - 
taken with a disposable camera, because those were all the rage in 2004.

A funny little milestone passed a few weeks ago: 10 years since the day Brian and I met. We were both 17, he was the new boy in the youth group (I know, I know), and I was smitten the moment I laid eyes on him. His dark curly hair and those clear blue eyes, you guys, I was a goner. He was charismatic and charming, and when I came home from that church camp (again, I know), I wrote in my journal about how I wanted to marry him. So many cliches and high school hormones. The joys.

The memories feel magical. Boy did my heart beat fast when he asked me to be his girlfriend, and then two years later, his wife. The first time we kissed, yowza! (That's actually a pretty funny story.) But today, with a few more years of real life under our belts, I wouldn't trade places with that young, slightly naive, head over heels version of myself. I'm so happy to be where we are, right now.

Ten years later, we're 27-year-old Brian and Mackenzie, who've experienced incredible highs and some valleys, too. We've fought, we've traveled, we've started a family. We've championed each other and we've been selfish. We've cried, we've clung to each other for dear life, we've prayed desperately and prayed gratefully. I've been at my worst, and well, I'm sure he has too, but 9 times out of 10 he's just a better human being than I am. Through the late nights with our boys, and the laughter with beloved friends, the rejoicing and the grieving- there is nothing like staring into the same pair of eyes, day after day, and continuing on together. It may sound all kinds of cliche but man do I ever mean it: commitment - is there anything more sexy, more "makes my heart beat fast" than that? No, I don't think there is.

Being chosen, day after day, even though I have giant bags under my eyes because our chillens never sleep, and even though I forget to fold the laundry, and even though I can be a big jerk - being chosen in the middle of all that, that's love. Butterfly-stomach, passionate romance is awesome - and there are definitely moments that Brian and I feel that way towards each other. But even those fun feelings pale in comparison to when I watch Brian choose me again, day after day. He knows my dark, he knows my worst - and yes he still chooses me. "Grateful" doesn't even begin to cover how I feel. And even when its hard, and even when I would rather be right than be nice to my husband, and even when we hurt each other's feelings - I am incredibly humbled and grateful for the power of when I keep choosing Brian, and he keeps choosing me. Our marriage, this choosing kind of love, is a gigantic, beautiful, GRACIOUS gift from God. He's makes it possible, because He started that choosing kind of love. He came up with it, and He continues to choose us day after day. We just look at Him, and try our feeble, messy best to do the same.

I'm a floored-in-awe kind of grateful for the gift of looking into that same pair of blue eyes, still ten years later. And can I just say, Brian, you've got even better looking with age? I can't wait to keep choosing you, and I'm so incredibly thankful that you keep choosing me. High five.


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