Advent Reflections: Always We Begin Again

Advent Reflections: Always We Begin Again

Today’s advent guest post is by Leeana Tankersley the author of Breathing Room and Found Art. Leeana and her husband Steve, an active duty Navy SEAL, are currently stationed in San Diego, CA., with their three children, Luke, Lane, and Elle.

The other day I was driving Luke and Lane, my five-year-old twins, to preschool with their baby sister Elle, age two, along for the ride. About 11 seconds after we pulled out of the driveway, Lane announced she wanted a doll to take with her to school. No doll in the car. I determined we were already on our way and she would have to play with the dolls in her classroom.

Commence Lane. Losing. Her. Mind. Bashing the seat in front of her with both heals. High-pitched screams that would make you think one of her arms spontaneously detached.

I ripped the steering wheel over and stopped the car on the steepest hill between our house and their school. I threw my door open, and flew out, preparing to give Lane some godly wisdom about her choices. The incline of the street brought my door screaming back and the corner caught me right in the back of the calf. Like a gun shot. Mom down.

Bent over in the middle of the street, trying to catch my breath, sweating, spewing unsavory sentiments, I felt practically rabid.

I limped around and opened her door, breathless, groaning.

By this point, Lane was perfectly calm and looking at me like how I imagine she will look at me when she’s 15. (Geesh, Mom, you are so lame.)

In fact, all three of my kids looked at me as if I was the one who had lost my mind. Even Elle had popped her fingers out of her mouth and was staring at me aghast.

And then Luke says what everyone is already thinking: “Mommy, you’re kind of scary.”

I closed their door, limped back to my side of the car and waited by my door for a minute. Trying to breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

When we pulled into the preschool parking lot, I was still breathless with anger and pain and wishing it were all prettier. I was still nursing the angst, protecting it like a precious. I felt deeply entitled to my self-pity.

One salvific sentence arrives. I know it is the way out, and yet I begrudge its arrival. Saint Benedict is whispering in my ear, “Always we begin again.”

Once more with emphasis and deep compassion, “Leeana, always we begin again.”

Man, I hate letting go of my righteous indignation. I hate the audacity of grace, sometimes. I’m out for judgment, retribution, reckoning.

Saint Benedict invites me out of the corner I’ve backed myself into. He invites me to a much more spacious place. Breathe and begin again. In our parenting, in our marriages, with our bodies, in our recovery, in our thankfulness, in our prayers, in our attempts to cook a decent meal. Breathe and begin again.

I walk Luke and Lane into their class with Elle on my hip, and when we get inside, I put Elle down and whisper in Lane’s ear, trying to let God ungrit my teeth: “I’m sorry I got crazy. I’m sorry we had a hard start this morning. I love you.”

“OK, mom,” she says, her green eyes looking right into my green eyes. And she turns and walks into her class.

I see, as I look at her, the scared child inside of me that is punching my feet into the back of the headrest, all triggered and tantrum-y. The hardest moment, as I put my face directly in front of Lane’s precious face and feel my guilt, is then turning toward myself with the same compassion. “You lost your mind. You went to crazy town. You screamed. Your son thought you were scary. You wanted it to all to be so much easier and it terrifies you when it’s not. It’s OK. You’re OK. Let’s try and begin again.”

As we celebrate Advent, we commemorate hope. Hope in the midst of our longing. Hope in the midst of our heartbrokenness. Hope that we are not doomed in our scary, pained humanity.

This is such incredibly good news for someone like me.

During advent we celebrate the truth that we have been offered a gracious way out of our corners. [Click to tweet!] And everyday, we have the choice to accept that way out.

The other incredibly good news is that we can start today: in the most mundane moments and the most magical moments of this holiday season, we can begin again. And in doing so we allow our humanity and the hope of heaven to rub shoulders. We allow our hearts to remain in a posture of possibility. We allow Emmanuel to come to us . . . over and over and over.

Always, we begin again.

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Advent Reflections: God’s Government in Your Marriage

God's Government in Your Marriage

Today we’re starting a new advent series on the blog leading up to Christmas day. Our aim is to help you focus on Jesus throughout the busy Christmas season. Gary Thomas, author of many marriage books, will kick off our series with an Old Testament Christmas prophecy. 

The Bible is so powerful that one phrase can feed a hungry soul for days. The way God weaves words to nourish our spirits is truly astounding.

I thought of this when I came across a familiar passage used to celebrate Christmas, an Old Testament prophecy that speaks of the future Messiah. “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,” (Isaiah 9:7).

There is so much hope here for marriages and families. Let me explain.

God’s “government” is his rule, his sustaining influence and providential work over our lives and this world. Isaiah reminds us that this rule will never end. God, unlike a politician, doesn’t have to get re-elected. We’ll never see him standing behind a podium giving a concession speech. His words are eternal, forever binding. No one can vote him out of office and undo one of his decrees. We need never fear the veto or rule of another.

It’s not just God’s government that will never end, it’s the increase of his government that will never end. God’s government, his rule, spreads. That’s what it does, by nature, and it can’t be stopped. So, if you’re praying for a lost spouse or lost child, be comforted in knowing that the nature of God’s reign is to increase. It never stops increasing. You can have great hope that there is always room for one more soul to bow down and recognize God as Lord. There is no “quota,” no limit to which God’s authority is confined.

This promise gave me hope to write A Lifelong Love: What If Marriage Is About More Than Just Staying Together?If God’s government (his rule and influence) is on the increase, then my marriage doesn’t have to stay where it is. Allowing him to be the builder and re-builder of my marriage, we can submit ourselves to him and say, “Lord, we tried building a marriage and family our way, without you, or limiting you. It didn’t work. Will you take over? We submit to your rule and your influence.”

I was challenged by Jeremiah 31:4 where God promises Israel, “I will build you and you will be rebuilt.” Could this work for a dead or dying marriage? Or even just a stagnant marriage?

Yes, it can. When God’s influence increases in our lives through worship, through one or both marriage partners growing in their understanding and practice of love, and in submitting ourselves to intentionally follow through on our vows made before God, marriages can be and are being remade, renewed, refreshed and strengthened. In short, it’s about putting our marriages under God’s reign, influence, and government.

In other words, what many marriages need is to get more into God so that the couple can get more into each other.

Christmas marks God breaking into this world in a dramatic fashion. Experiencing the increase of his government is about opening up our marriages to receive more of God—we surrender to the increase of God’s government instead of our own selfishness; we surrender to God’s aim and purpose instead of our own desires; we recognize the daily authority of God’s presence over our words, our thoughts, and actions toward each other.

Marriage is about far more than just staying together—it’s about sharing God together, enjoying God together, growing in God together, and when we do that, the affection we feel for each other, the joy we have in each other, constitutes not just a lifelong marriage, but a lifelong love.

There is great security, peace, joy, and hopeful expectation when we surrender our relationships to God’s government. God didn’t come merely to save—He came to rule. And He wants to rule in and through you, beginning with your marriage.

Drink deeply of God’s reign this Christmas season. Feast on the security that God is in charge, and not just in charge, but in eternal charge. [Click to tweet!] When you return from this meditation to reconsider your family and marriage, you just might live with a lighter spirit. You’re not in this alone. You never have been, and you never need to be.

 

You can get many of Gary Thomas’ ebooks on Vyrso, including his bestseller Sacred Marriage and the newly-released A Lifelong Love: What if Marriage is about More Than Just Staying Together?

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There’s Still Time to Get Black Friday Deals

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As we progress into Black Friday weekend, there’s still time to take advantage of huge savings. All weekend long, you’ll find ways to save—and build your digital library—with exclusive freebies, discounted ebook bundles, and over 100 titles under $3.99! One of the best ways you can save on ebooks this weekend is with our exclusive ebook bundles. While we love every hand-picked bundle, we’ve selected five of our favorites that we think you’ll love:

Ed Stetzer on Church Growth

These four ebooks from Ed Stetzer look at how churches form, transform, and grow.

You’ll get:

  • Comeback Churches
  • Transformational Church
  • Transformational Groups
  • The Mission of Today’s Church

Get all four ebooks for $9.99—that’s 76% off! Add this bundle to your cart right now!

Faith in the Family

Learn about nurturing faith in your family with this ebook bundle!

You’ll get three titles:

  • Family Driven Faith by Voddie T. Baucham Jr.
  • Family Vocation by Gene Edward Veith Jr. & Mary J. Moerbe
  • Adopted for Life by Russel D. Moore

Get three titles for $7.99. Add this bundle to your cart, right now!

The Greatest Stories Ever Told Series

This three-volume bundle depicts some of the greatest stories told in the Bible. Get immersed in the lives of men and women who wrestled with mountain-sized dilemmas, life-shattering tragedies, and stunning opportunities. Get all three volumes of The Greatest Stories Ever Told for $4.99Add this bundle to your cart right now!

An Introduction to the New Testament

Get 15 ebooks from Kay Arthur’s Inductive Study Series on the New Testament for just $32.99! You’ll be able to observe, interpret, and apply the gospel’s message with the help of these inductive studies. Each ebook is filled with daily exercises and tools to help you note key words, list important insights, and reflections on the text. Add this bundle to your cart right now!

The Power of Prayer

Understand the power of prayer and lead a dynamic prayer life with the help of this ebook bundle.

You’ll get:

  • History Makers by Dutch Sheets & Williams L. Ford, III
  • Praying with Authority by Barbra Wentroble
  • Secrets of a Prayer Warrior by Derek Prince

Get all three ebooks for $10.99—that’s 75% off! Add this bundle to your cart right now!

 

 You won’t find these ebook bundles anywhere else. Take a look at the rest of our exclusive ebook bundles during Black Friday weekend!

 

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Black Friday Roundup: Exclusive Freebies, Bundles, and Huge Discounts All Weekend!

Vyrso's Black Friday

Black Friday deals have arrived! Through December 1, get free ebooks, discounted bundles, big savings, and more!

Here’s a roundup of all the deals you’ll find on Vyrso:

Exclusive Freebies

All weekend long, we’re offering free ebooks by some of today’s leading Christian authors. You can get an advent devotional by Robert Morgan, a Christmas novel by Melody Carlson, and more!

Here are some of our exclusive free ebooks you can download today:

Check out all the other freebies available during Black Friday weekend!

Discounted Ebook Bundles

Save over 75% on ebook bundles from some of your favorite Christian authors. Through Cyber Monday, save on these hand-picked bundles:

Ebooks for $3.99 or Less

Save big on over 100 titles, including:

 

Get huge savings all weekend long with Vyrso’s Black Friday discounts!

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4 Ways to Live a More Thankful Life

4 Ways to Live a Thankful Life

Giving thanks is an important part of how we interact with God. Being thankful to God, in a way, is choosing to be vulnerable, releasing our concepts of control in our lives over to him. While giving thanks often takes place around a meal or in our personal prayers, it’s worth thinking about thanksgiving as more than an act, but a state of the heart and constant outpouring. Throughout the Psalms we see countless instances of giving constant thanks with the entirety of the heart.  Psalm 86:12 is a great example—”I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever,”—as is Psalm 9:1. Sometimes being thankful is hard. We have days where we can’t see the good things God has provided for us. We can be envious of what others have and feel like we’re coming up short on things to be thankful for. If we want to live more thankful lives, we need to put a few things into practice.

1. Think of the gospel and evaluate your mindset

Are you too wrapped up in your day-to-day challenges to see the good things God has placed in your life? It might be time to evaluate your mindset.

If you need a place to start, there is no greater thing to be thankful for than the work of Christ on the Cross.

The gospel is larger than your discomforts, hardships, arguments, and short-comings. 1 Peter 2:24 says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” It’s impossible to imagine a more stunning act of love. This, first and foremost, is what we should be thankful for each day.

2. Open prayers with giving thanks

Beginning a prayer with, “Thank you, Lord . . .” is a humbling way to acknowledge God’s work in our lives and our dependence on him. It’s a simple, yet powerful act of gratitude that’s important in any prayer life.

3. Make a daily list of what you’re thankful for

Creating a list of things you’re thankful for focuses your attention and time on identifying God’s blessings and how he is working in your life. Try keeping a list for one week—you might be surprised at how this practice shapes your outlook on gratitude.

Get specific with your list. When you ask yourself, “What am I thankful for?” do you default to broad categories? “Family?” “Friends?” “God?” These are all great things to be thankful for, but what if you drilled down deeper to more specific events, people, and happenings? You can be thankful for your friends, but more specifically, how a particular friend supported you through a rough day and gave you much-needed words of wisdom in the situation. To take this a step further, let others know you are thankful for their friendship, fellowship, love, etc.

4.  Quit the comparison game

Constantly comparing yourself to others is an unhealthy habit that’s bound to leave you feeling like you’re coming up short in some way. We were all created with different gifts, abilities, and life stories. It’s inevitable that our blessings, and what we are thankful for, will vary. We are able to have a thankful heart when we focus on our relationship with God and what he is doing in our lives—not what others have or appear to have. Don’t let your focus on someone else’s blessings diminish yours or your ability to see the good things God has provided for you.

  Thankfulness is always in season. If you need a resource to help you focus on giving thanks to God, A Collection of Thanksgiving Blessings is just 99 cents on Vyrso through November 30.

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Save Over 75% on 30 ebooks from David C. Cook

David C. Cook Bundle

The David C. Cook bundle gives you 30 ebooks for more than 75% off. That’s right. 30 ebooks from authors like John C. Maxwell, Leonard Sweet, David Frost, and more for over 75% off.

Here are four reasons this bundle should be on your holiday shopping list:

1. You’ll save over 75%.
Black Friday is coming up, but you don’t have to wait to get a great deal! Normally you’d be spending over $450 for the 30 ebooks in the David C. Cook bundle, but at over 75% off, you’re saving $367.73. How many times can you say you bought anything for 75% off, let alone 30 books? Plus, with all that you save, you’ll have plenty left over to hit the rest of your list.

2. You’ll get insights and guidance from some of today’s best authors.
LeRoy Eims gives you tools for professional growth, John C. Maxwell shares his expertise on leadership and relationships, and Leonard Sweet equips you for spiritual growth. These are just a few of the many authors—see the rest.

3. You’ll spend less on books than coffee.
With the David C. Cook bundle you’re spending approximately $3.33 on each ebook. That’s less than what the average drink costs at Starbucks ($4–$5). Instead of lattes, get 30 ebooks that you can read and reference for years to come. The David C. Cook bundle costs less than a month of ordering a “grande, triple-shot, four pump, extra-hot, extra-foam, gingerbread latte,” and what you learn can last far longer.

4. You’ll never see this deal again.
The David C. Cook ebook bundle is only available until December 1. When it’s gone, it’s gone for good. Right now, these 30 ebooks are $99.97. After December 1, these popular titles will go their separate ways and be back to their individual prices.

5. You’ll get it right now.
When you purchase the bundle, you download it, and it’s yours. All 30 books. Instantly. No crowds of people. No lines to wait in. And you still get an amazing deal.

Get 30 ebooks for over 75% off with the David C. Cook bundle! Hurry, deal ends December 1.

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Daily Deal: Billy Graham’s Christmas Ebook for 99 Cents

the-cradle-cross-and-crown

With the Advent season only a couple of days away,  Billy Graham’s newest ebook, The Cradle, Cross, and Crown is the perfect resource to help you focus on the true meaning and message of Christmas. Today only, you can get The Cradle, Cross, and Crown for just 99 cents.

You’ll learn from Billy Graham as he discusses the true Christmas message that is so often lost in the busyness and profit-making venues during the holiday season. How does one wade through all of the worldly diversions and still find Christ? Drawing from a lifetime of writings and sermons, Graham takes readers back to the time when heaven descended to earth—and the place where Christ was born. Included in this classic Christmas message are excerpts from This Christmas Night, Scriptural accounts of Christ’s birth, favorite carols, and beautiful poetry by Ruth Bell Graham. It’s perfect for keeping focused on what’s truly important during the bustle of the season.

Here’s an excerpt from Billy Graham’s The Cradle, Cross, and Crown:

What a difference the baby born in Bethlehem’s manger two thousand years ago makes to our world today. The educational systems He has inspired, the social reforms that His teachings have instituted, and the transformation of families and lives that have come about as a result of a baby born at Bethlehem! The whole world was thinking of Caesar. The whole world was thinking of Rome. But in God’s eternal plan, He was thinking of a baby in a manger in the little tiny town of Bethlehem.”

Position your head and your heart to truly reflect on the meaning of Christmas with this inspirational message from Billy Graham. Pick up The Cradle, Cross, and Crown for just 99 cents today.

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Get this Daily Deal for Just 99 Cents!

shaping-a-christian-worldview-the-foundation-of-christian-higher-education

Hopefully you’ve been able to take advantage of some of the incredible daily deals we’ve offered over the past couple of weeks. If you haven’t yet, be sure to take advantage of our free download of Josh Kelley’s Radically Normal when you sign up to receive  daily deals email alerts. Josh Kelley’s writing is incredible—you’ll love all of the stories and examples he uses while exploring the concept of joy in radical obedience to Christ in your normal, everyday life.

We’ve saved some of our favorite discounts for this final week of the sale. Today only, we’ve discounted David S. Dockery & Gregory Alan’s ebook, Shaping a Christian Worldview, to $0.99—that’s over 90% off!

In this ebook you’ll get a collection of essays that address the key issues facing the future of Christian higher education. With contributions from key players in the field, this ebook addresses the critical issues for Christian institutions of various traditions as the new century begins to leave its indelible mark on education.

Be sure to check back every day through November 27 to get the daily deal, take advantage of great savings, and fill your digital library with some of this year’s best content. 

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Jesus: More Than a Great Teacher and Leader

cold-case-christianity-a-homicide-detective-investigates-the-claims-of-the-gospels

Today’s guest post is by J. Warner Wallace a cold-case detective, a Christian case-maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity. You can get Cold-Case Christianity in the David C. Cook Bundle, which is filled with titles to help you grow spiritually, personally, and professionally. For a limited time, get 30 ebooks for just $99.97—that’s over $350 in savings! 

 

What separates Jesus from other great religious figures of history? Many faith traditions lay claim to famous religious leaders and founders, but Jesus is different. Jesus claimed to be more than a good teacher or leader. Jesus claimed to be God. Some deny this truth about Jesus’ teaching, but the New Testament leaves little room for doubt—Jesus claimed to be God and taught this truth to His followers:

He spoke as though he was God
While all Biblical prophets of God made statements on God’s behalf, they were careful to preface their proclamations with “This is what the LORD Almighty says,” or “This is what the LORD says,” but Jesus never used such a preface. Instead, Jesus always prefaced his statements with, “Verily, verily, I say to you,” (KJV) or “I tell you the truth,” (NASB). Prophets spoke for God, but Jesus consistently spoke as God.

He claimed the title used by God
Faithful Jews recognized the fact that God identified himself to Moses as the great “I AM” (Exodus 3:14). Yet Jesus (in referring to himself) told the Jewish religious leaders, “before Abraham was born, I AM.” They immediately recognized he was identifying himself as God and were so angered by this ‘blasphemy’ they “picked up stones to stone him.” (Jesus also identified himself as the great I AM in Mark 14:62, John 18:5-6, 8:24, and 8:28.)

He claimed the home of God
Every time Jesus was asked about where he came from, he told his listeners he came not from Bethlehem or Nazareth but from the same realm where God abides. Jesus claimed to come “from above.” He repeatedly said he was “not of this world” (John 8:23-24) and even told Pilate he was a king whose kingdom “is from another place” (John 18:36-37).

He claimed equality with God
Jesus said God’s angels were his angels and God’s kingdom was his kingdom (Matthew 13:41). Jesus even said the judgment typically understood to be reserved for God was actually Jesus’ judgment to make (Luke 12:8-9). Jesus told his followers when they saw him, they saw God; if they knew him, they knew God, and if they loved him, they were loving God (John 14:6-9 and John 14:23).

He saw no distinction between himself and God
Finally, Jesus simply and plainly told his followers there was no distinction between himself and God the Father. When talking about the manner in which saints are selected for salvation, Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:29). He did not mean they were ‘one’ in purpose or power, but they were one in identity. His hearers understood what he was saying and picked up stones again to stone him “for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God” (John 10:33).

There are many important religious dates commemorating the significant role historic religious leaders have played, but Jesus was more than an important leader and founder. He was more than a great thinker and teacher—Jesus taught his followers he was God.

***

Want to learn more from J. Warner Wallace and other inspirational authors? Get the David C. Cook Bundle today for just $99.97. Don’t wait around, this bundle is only available through December 1!

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Ministry Would Be Great If it Weren’t for the People

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Today’s guest post is by Vyrso’s author of the month, Josh Kelley. Josh has been a pastor for 15 years and is the author of Radically Normal: You Don’t Have to Live Crazy to Follow JesusJosh has graciously offered to give away Radically Normal for free when you sign up to receive Vyrso’s daily deal email alerts! With Vyrso’s daily deals, you can get a new 24-hour deal through November 27. There are only a few days left to get this freebie—enter your email address on the Radically Normal product page to receive your free ebook in an email!

I cringed as I saw Mabel walking by my house. At church she told me she lived in my neighborhood, and now she’d found my house. As she walked up to my door, I put on my best pastor face.

“Hi Mabel, so good to see you!” I lied.

“Hi neighbor, I mean Pastor! God bless you!” she said, the words interrupted by nervous laughter. As she spoke, she bobbed back and forth, like a Hasidic Jew praying at the Wailing Wall.

I allowed her to chatter and bob away, nodding and smiling at appropriate intervals. After giving her enough of my Saturday, I politely drew the one-way conversation to an end.

“Can you pray for my corns first?” asked Mabel. “They’re hurting from the walk.”

She plopped herself down in a chair, took off her shoe, pull off her sock, and propped her foot up on another chair. She believed prayer required direct contact. I gingerly put my hand on the top of the offending foot, but she said, “They’re under here,” and wrapped my fingers around her toes.

A couple of minutes later, as Mabel was walking down my driveway and I was washing my hands a second time, my wife asked me, “What was that about?!?”

“That’s nothing,” I said. “She once had Pastor Bruce pray for her hemorrhoids.”

The Real Problem

Looking back, the part of that story that makes me cringe is not the memory of Mabel’s sweaty foot, but the stench of my own attitude. Back in Bible college, we used to joke, “Ministry would be great . . . if it weren’t for the people.” I saw Mabel as one of those people—I ministered to her because I had to. Given a choice, I would’ve spent my time with the movers and shakers who matched my idea of spiritual greatness.

Because I’m writing this to Logos and Vyrso users, I suspect that many of you are pastors, students, and lay leaders and that you’ve heard that joke before. Even if you aren’t in formal ministry, God probably brings hurting people across your path on a regular basis, people that are a drain on your time and patience. In either case, think about what “if it weren’t for the people” communicates—“They are lucky to have me ministering to them.” Somehow that doesn’t feel very Christ-like, does it?

In truth, you and I are lucky to minister to them. Here’s how I now see it. I’m crazy about my two young daughters. They are the apple of my eye and I’m very protective of them. Were I ever to ever allow you to care for them, it would be very high praise indeed.

I finally realized that Mabel is one of God’s precious daughters. He had given me the high privilege of carrying for her and I treated it as a burden. I say that to my shame. My attitude reeked worse than any sweaty foot. I’m learning that until I see it as a privilege to lay hands on Mabel’s feet, I am not worthy to do so.

This hasn’t been an overnight change for me. I’m learning to come off my high horse and be less impressed with myself and my Biblical knowledge. I’m learning that God cares a lot more about his broken children than I did. He has also allowed me to be deeply hurt by the sort of people that used to impress me.

Becoming less impressed with myself (especially when I had to get a second job at Starbucks) is a key part of my story, which you can find in my book, Radically Normal. It’s free on Vyrso until November 27, so you may want to download it and read chapter 2, “It’s Okay to Be Normal.” In the meantime, I pray that God blesses you with many stinky feet to pray for and the perspective to know that it’s a privilege.

Get Radically Normal for free when you sign up for daily deal email alerts! Through November 27, you can get a new 24-hour deal each day. Once you enter your email address, you’ll receive your freebie in an email. Be the first to know what’s on sale—sign up for the daily deal!

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