You’re Already Amazing by Holley Gerth

Well friends, it seems that my technical issues have passed, for the time being. While I’m still mourning the loss of all your lovely comments from the past year and a half, I’m very excited that this new commenting system will make it much easier to leave comments! 
Now, onto today’s post. InCourage sent me this brand new book to read and review: 
Holley Gerth - You're Already Amazing image 

About the Book

In “You’re Already Amazing,” Holley Gerth seeks to encourage and equip Christian women to embrace who God made them, and discover how they can best live out His purpose for their lives. Each chapter is packed with practical self-assessments, checklists, and graphs to help you determine your strengths, skills, the who and how your skills enable you to serve, your approach to emotions, your emotional style, determining “safe people” in our lives, your social strengths, and so much more. Holley blends scriptural encouragement with practical application in every chapter.

What I liked

Holley Gerth - You're Already Amazing image 
First of all, this book is beautiful. The cover design, page design, font choices, layouts, everything is beautifully detailed. 
I LOVE self-assessment quizzes, whether it’s determining which Disney princess I am or categorizing my personality traits, so I enjoyed the five minute assessment sections scattered throughout the chapters. Being able to stop and apply each section was very helpful. Also, these assessments weren’t the popular spiritual gift tests that I’d taken before; they were definitely unique. 
When reading the “How Do I Connect?” chapter, I felt like I was discovering the missing puzzle pieces that made sense of how I respond to different people and social situations. The chapter, “Who’s With Me?” brought to light some of the reasons I struggle with making and maintaining friendships. Chapter 3 illuminated some of the lies I’ve long believed about myself, but the exercise of writing them out and then actually writing out the scripture to counter them was powerful. Chapter 4 encouraged me to stop stressing out so much about certain areas of my life, and realize that just like God took the Israelites on a 40 year detour, He has a reason for keeping me “encamped.” 
I think chapter 10, “Is It Okay to Take Care of Myself?” will hit home with many women. Here’s a quote I highlighted in the book: 

When you give to a charity or another organization, it’s a good choice. But it’s still a withdrawal from your bank account. If you endlessly gave without replacing those funds, you’d end up banrupt. You wouldn’t be able to to give to the charity any longer or cover the needs in your life. That’s a lot like how our hearts work too. Even Jesus took time away to be renewed. It’s not selfish to make a deposit in your emotional bank account. It’s an investment that you’ll be able to use to bless someone later.

I also appreciated the “Do What You Can Plan” idea from chapter 9. Instead of feeling like we need to work out an hour every day, Holley encourages doing what you can every day, even if some days it’s only 10 minutes. Exercise is just one example of how creating a “Do What You Can Plan” could work. 

What I Didn’t Like So Much

The title. It sounds very self-esteem focused and self-help-y. But in the book, Holley makes it clear that we’re not amazing in and of ourselves: 

We’re amazing not because of who we are but because of who lives within us (pg. 127).  

You’re already amazing because God made you, formed you , and lives within you. You’re amazing because you belong to him, because he has a plan for your life, because with him there’s nothing you can’t do (pg. 192). 

I think the title could put off some people, and that’s unfortunate. I wish the subtitle said something like, “You’re Already Amazing- But It’s Not You, It’s Him,” or something to that effect.

In chapter 8, Holley talks about the law and grace. Her overall points are good, but I felt like she took some liberties by claiming that the expectations we feel are the same as the OT law. And when she decided to study scripture to see what God required of her, “I pulled out my journal again, ready for a long list, But a quick look at my concordance and trip over to Micah 6:8 stunned me with it’s simplicity: “The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Period. End of story. No long list of rules. No endless expectations. It’s all there in one verse. And it’s all about relationships.”

Well, while using a concordance to search for the exact phrase “what God requires of you” will take you to one verse, Micah 6:8, that’s really not very accurate. While it’s nice to say that the Old Testament is full of laws, and now we’re not under the old law but under grace so all we have to do is love, there are actually a lot of commands in the New Testament. Yes, there are still rules. And it is a pretty long list, somewhere between 613 and 1,500, depending on who you quote. It’s true that many of those commands deal with relationships and HOW to love others, but nevertheless, God definitely still holds his people to a standard.

My Verdict

Holley Gerth - You're Already Amazing image 

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. I don’t know that I would recommend it to my highschooler girls or a new believer, but I think mature believers, especially women in the ministry, will really benefit from it. The issues I had were really minor compared to the blessing I received from reading the book.

Want to find out more? Read the reviews over at the incourage deals page.

And just so you know, the book is on sale for $9.00 (regularly $13.99) from DaySpring. While you’re there, check out the rest of Holley’s collection. As added incentive: 25% off Holley Gerth Collection with code HOLLEYG25!

Holley Gerth - Perfectly Loved - Christian Mug image 
I received this book free of charge, and my opinion is my own. This post contains affiliate links: for more information see the disclosure at the bottom of this site. 

Have you ever wondered how your strengths, skills, personality, and passions could work together for a specific purpose? What has God used in your life to teach you about the way He made you? I’d love to read your story in the comments!

No Comment

You might have noticed if you’ve visited the blog during the last week that I’m having some technical difficulties. I discovered yesterday that after I made some design changes last week, for some inexplicable reason, it uninstalled my commenting system. I logged into my commenting system account, and it said that I hadn’t installed it on any sites, and all of my lovely, sweet, wonderful comments from you were vanished without a trace.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had issues with my comments on Blogger. If you remember, awhile back the comment count and “Leave a Comment” link at the bottom of my posts disappeared, and the only way you could get to the comments was by clicking “Links to this Post.”

I’ve tried re-installing the commenting system, and Blogger keeps giving me an error. So here’s my plan: I’m going to contact the support people at Intense Debate and see if they can help me. In the meantime, I’ll start using Blogger’s default comments again. If Intense Debate doesn’t get back to me, I’ll try installing a different commenting system. If that doesn’t work either, I might move to WordPress. Yikes. I love using WordPress for Newlywed’s Bliss, but the idea of moving my content is quite terrifying. So, let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

In the meantime, you can always comment on Scribble’s facebook page, tweet me, or send me an email at emi_jo08(at)hotmail(dot)com. I always love hearing from you!

Across the Border: Days 7,8

This post contains my best pictures from the week. For more about what I did in Mexico, see Days 1-4 and Days 5,6.

Day Seven-Friday

Today was our fun day! After a pancake breakfast, we went downtown to shop.

This guy paints tiny scenes on sea shells. We bought one for a unique souvenir.

Scores of little children followed us everywhere, chanting “One dollar, un dolar,” asking us to buy their bracelets. They targeted me especially, because I have a nice-lady look about me. They also asked me to buy them food, and no matter how many times I told them “No, gracias,” they never left me alone. But before we left, we gave them all tracts and they hugged me good-bye!  

Look at that mega bag of cheetos!

After shopping we played volleyball before heading to the beach. It was breathtakingly beautiful.

Pelicans

Me and Brian

The water was freezing cold, and after getting in, I couldn’t get warm again. I didn’t stay until dark like everyone else as a result, but I still thoroughly enjoyed the time I was there.

We ended the week with a bonfire, singing, and testimonies. It was a pleasure to hear the stories from the week and hear how God worked in everyone’s lives.

Day Eight- Trip Home
4 a.m. Rise and shine! We dressed, finished packing, ate breakfast, and loaded up.
5:30 a.m. We officially started the drive home.
Around 11, we reached the border.

Aside from a long wait, crossing the border was uneventful for our van. The van with our translator and his son was momentarily delayed while they questioned the two of them, but soon we were all safely back in the U.S.

We stopped at McDonald’s in Yuma for lunch. Normally, I’m not a big fan, but I was seriously craving an all-American Big Mac!

We ended up camping out in the parking lot for awhile, since the starter on one of the vans went out. Thankfully, we weren’t far from a parts store, and the timing couldn’t have been better. 
6:45 pm. We pulled into the church parking lot. As darkness settled and we gathered for prayer, it felt eerily like the previous Saturday morning before we left. The week went by so fast, and yet it felt like an eternity since we’d been home.

Speaking of which, I really struggled during the missions trip with feeling like I didn’t do anything. I was sick all day Monday, and didn’t really get back to mostly normal until Friday. I helped with VBS, but the teens and missionary had it all down to a science. I didn’t do much there except help the kids put together their crafts for ten minutes. They really didn’t need me.

As far as the work projects went, on Tuesday morning, I tried to work really hard clearing the empty lot next to the church. But since I hadn’t eaten much, I got dizzy and had to sit inside. On Wednesday, I was excited about getting to work more, but the leaders decided I would go hand out flyers and tracts instead. Ultimately, I’m thankful for that, because it was a very neat experience. Then Thursday I got to go on visitation, but I didn’t say a single word the whole time other than hello and good-bye. I thought my contribution could be singing, but I couldn’t even remember the words to well-known hymns. 
Sitting around the campfire on Friday night, I wondered if it was really worth it. I felt discouraged that I didn’t have wonderful stories to share like the others. But as I thought about it later that night and Saturday night, maybe what God wanted me to learn was that I wasn’t as needed, as important, as I thought. That it’s a blessing just to be used by God, and that maybe He was using me in ways that I wasn’t aware of. 
I like to look strong and capable. And there was nothing strong or capable about puking my guts out at the beginning of the week. Maybe God wanted me to give up that facade and teach me to accept help from others. It wasn’t easy for me.
And there’s no doubt that I have a renewed sense of total gratitude for God’s blessings to us, like this rental house, our vehicles, our clothes, our food, toilets, everything God continues to provide even while Brian is unemployed. It solidifies my trust that He will also provide Brian with a new job in His timing. 
So what about you? Has God ever had to humble you?

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Across the Border: Days 5,6

Home sweet home! If I learned anything from the mission’s trip, it’s to be grateful for all of the rich blessings I have, including little things I don’t normally think about, like being able to take hot showers and flush the toilet paper (read about Days 1-4 to see what I mean about the toilet paper).

Day Five- Wednesday
By the time VBS ended on Wednesday, I was wiped out. But, because the church had a service that night, we didn’t get to go home and eat dinner like usual. People from the base were going to bring us food for dinner, and we’d just hang out at the church all day. During the church service, we would take the kids out and entertain them. I really wasn’t looking forward to it, after being with the kids all day. Plus, taking a hefty dose of immodium after my bout with Montezuma’s Revenge completely blocked my digestive system, giving me cramps and bloating. Whenever I tried to jump rope or run around with the kids, I felt like throwing up.

But when the church service started, my attitude changed. There’s something so special about singing hymns in Spanish and English. It made me think about what heaven would be like, when people of all tribes and tongues sing God’s praise.

When we took the kids out to the next room, the missionary’s daughter-in-law took over, telling the kids stories and organizing the games. She’s brilliant with kids. We all learned some new games that we want to play as a youth group when we get a chance. Even though running around still upset my stomach, playing with the kids was the highlight of my day.

Day Six- Thursday

VBS group picture

Thursday was an exciting day filled with blessings. Brian, the other guys who were hanging the drywall, and I got to go on visitation today. Brian, two other people from our church, the translator’s son, and I went with the Mexican pastor to visit two families. They were two very different homes.

The first house was basically a two room shed, with cracks between the boards that sunlight shone through, and a blanket for a door. A mattress on the floor took up one corner, where the family of five all slept. Marguerite, the woman of the house, kept everything as clean as could be. The pastor explained that she accepted Jesus just two months ago and was being taught weekly. We sang a few hymns, and the pastor read some scripture and taught from it. The two oldest children, a boy and a girl, paid close attention as he talked and followed along in their children’s Bible. When the pastor read from Philippians, including the passage about rejoicing, a lump rose in my throat, and I swiped away tears while we prayed. They have so little, even though I know that much of the world is even worse off. Yet, they were content. They could be content, knowing that God would provide for their needs. 

The second house we visited was very different. This family was actually the pastor’s mother and step-dad. He told us before we went in that his step-dad felt discouraged and hadn’t been attending church, so he hoped that we’d be able to encourage him. We read scripture together and sang in both Spanish and English, and then the pastor taught in Spanish for awhile. The pastor asked if we were familiar with a hymn called “100 lambs,” and when we hadn’t heard of it, just the Mexicans sang it. It was based on the parable about the shepherd who left the 99 sheep at home to go find the one lost lamb, and when he found it, he rejoyced more over that one lamb than over the 99 who had stayed. Afterwards, the pastor’s step-dad told us that that song really touched his heart. He was thankful that the pastor cared enough about him to come visit him and see why he hadn’t been going to church, and the song reminded him of God’s love for him too. He told us that it was no coincidence that we came to visit that day.

To make the day even better, around ten children went forward and prayed to accept Christ as their savior during VBS. That was a thrill to witness.

As icing on the cake, after VBS, one of the girls, Lisa, came up to me out of the blue and told me something like, “Tu ojos bonita,” meaning “Your eyes are beautiful.”

Since it was the last day of VBS, we had to say good-bye for the last time to all the kids and the church people. They were very sad to see us go, but repeatedly thanked us for our work with the VBS, handing out tracts and flyers all week, the dry-walled ceiling, and the yard work we accomplished.

the yard-work crew

the pile of debris

Because I have so many pictures from the last two days of the trip, I’m going to end this post here. I’ll finish my updates on Wednesday!

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Across The Border: Days 1-4

Be prepared for a lot of pictures, a lot of text, and some Montezuma’s Revenge. Right now, I’m in Mexico on a missions trip with about 29 other
people from my church. Most of the adults are doing a building project, and the
rest, including the teens, are running a vacation Bible school at a local
church. 
Day One 
3 a.m. Got up after going to bed the night before at 9:30p.m., but
once my feet hit the floor, I got such a rush of adrenaline that feeling tired
was not an option. I was about to leave the country for the first time in my
life! 
5:05 a.m. On the road to Mexico! 
I slept for a couple hours, but by the time I started winding down
enough to sleep, the teens were winding up! 
We stopped for lunch just before crossing the border, and then came the part I was nervous about. The teens had told us that the Mexican soldiers at the border would be carrying machine guns. There’s something about a gun that creates just a little bit of tension! However, just like the teens had said, when we crossed they just smiled at us and waved us through.
Across the border, we entered Encanata. We aren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto!
Mexico seemed much more foreign than I expected.

Something familiar

The Ocean!

These boys smiled and waved at us until they turned a corner

See the Starbucks sign in the background? I was SO EXCITED to see that!

For the last several hours of the trip, the teens in the back seemed to be getting louder, and Louder, and LOUDER. Did I carry on conversations of meaningless banter when I was a teen? I don’t remember being as obnoxious. I guess I’d have to ask my youth leaders, but most likely, I was every bit as annoying as these guys can be. I reminded myself multiple times, they’ve been sitting in this van for almost 10 hours. This is totally understandable.  
 

We arrived at the Mission Base at 5:04
p.m., almost 12 hours to the minute. We unloaded our sleeping bags and
suitcases and found our rooms. Originally I’d planned to stay with the teen
girls, but after spending so much time with them in the van, I really wanted my
own space and some peace and quiet. I felt completely exhausted, and my small
store of patience had evaporated. 
There’s nothing like being in a van for 12 hours, or being deprived of accustomed comforts, to teach you about your shortcomings!
Our room didn’t help my emotional
state. I’m fine with plywood bunk beds, small foam pads, cement floors, and
block walls. I have no problem with that at all. But bugs and I do not get
along well together. Our bunk beds were covered in cobwebs, a giant black beetle
emerged from under a bed, and the upper bunks were littered with unrecognizable
dead bugs. When Brian lifted my foam pad to shake it off outside, we discovered
piles of mouse poop underneath.
That all made me just a little
stressed. But after a few minutes of sweeping and squishing, the room was
livable.
After dinner, the missionary gave us
some instructions. Don’t drink the water. Don’t brush your teeth with the
water. Take short showers. Drink lots of bottled water. And throw away the
toilet paper.
Yes, throw it away, not flush it. Here
in Mexico, everywhere you go you’ll find little trash cans in each stall. You
wipe, and instead of dropping the paper in, it goes in the trash can.
Otherwise, you’ll plug the toilet. It’s been incredibly hard to get used
to!
I had a little meltdown that night. Technically, it was over whether or not to wear my pajamas to the shower, but really, it was just the culmination of the stress and exhaustion, along with a hearty dose of feeling useless, inadequate, and over my head.
Day Two
Today was Sunday. We had our own church
service here on the mission base. After a
short break, we had two sessions of orientation. I’m so glad this organization
provides orientation; there are so many things about the culture I wouldn’t
understand at all without it. Even though Mexico is so close to the U.S, their culture
is so very different. As the missionary explained, it’s partly due to the
difference in how they were colonized and the impact England had versus Spain.
The governments are also very different, there’s a lot of corruption here, and
laws are viewed more as “guidelines.”
 Most of the residents in this area work in the
strawberry fields, earning $7-10 a day. After middle school, parents have to
pay to send their children to school, and since at that age, the children could
be working in the fields and making them money, they usually choose not to.
However, just because most of them aren’t as educated, they are not lacking in
wisdom. To them, social skills and life wisdom is more desirable than an
education. They put great importance on manners and etiquette. Their culture
focuses on good relationships and respect.
The missionary instructed us to be sure
to greet everyone when entering and leaving a room, to eat all the food that we
were served, or at least do our best, and to make sure we kept an easy going
attitude. The Mexicans are not in a hurry for anything. They take it all in
stride, and peace is of much greater importance than timeliness. I could
certainly stand to learn a few things from them in that area!

 
Sunday afternoon we went to the church we
would be serving. We met the Pastor and some of the church leaders, and then we
canvased the neighborhood in small groups, passing out tracts and a flyer with
information about the church.
I started feeling some culture shock. I
couldn’t talk to anyone we met, and our translator, the missionary’s son, never
translated for us what people said. The streets were all dirt, the houses
varied from extremely elegant to hovels, and dogs, chickens, and even a horse
roamed the streets.
When we got back to the mission base,
one of the teens, Jeremy, was having a very animated conversation with the wife
and daughter of one of the church leaders. The missionary’s wife was helping
translate as Jeremy practiced his Spanish. The missionary’s wife eventually
left the conversation, leaving me, Jeremy, Mikayla (another one of the teens),
and an older lady. Hilarity ensued. The older lady seemed to think that
repeating the same words slowly and loudly in English would help the Mexican
ladies understand her. We found creative ways to learn new words, such as acting
out tocar el perro (to pet the dog), and many gestures. We had a long conversation
with them, and it was probably the most fun I’d had yet on the trip. For the
first time, I didn’t feel as overwhelmed and totally inadequate. Laughter is
the same in any language.
The missionary was right about the
Mexican’s lack of concern for promptness. When church started, hardly anyone
was there, but they steadily trickled in until the auditorium was full. Our
group sang special music, “Amazing Grace,” and a song in Spanish, “Jehova es mi
Pastor.”
Jeremy and I did a puppet skit we’d
practiced earlier in the afternoon. It’s easier to lip-sync Spanish than I would
have thought! The skit went well, and I didn’t need to be as nervous about it
as I was.
We took all the children out for the
sermon part of the service, and sang songs, did another puppet skit, practiced
the Bible verse, and listened to the story of David and Goliath. I cannot get
over how cute the kids are! They were so eager to shout out answers. 
After church, the ladies fixed us
dinner. We spread out so that we sat next to some of the church people. Brian,
some of the teens, and I sat next to a group of kids. We asked them their names
in Spanish, and told them ours. I could ask them how old they were, and
sometimes understand their questions to us. They laughed uproariously when we
tried to put together sentences in Spanish, but they were happy to tell us what
things were, like serviettas (napkins). We had a blast trying to figure out what
we were saying to each other.
The Spanish I’d taken in high school
started coming back to me, but along with it came the French I learned in
college! I’m discovering that in many ways, the two languages are not so
similar!
The food was delicious.  I had chicken, tortillas, cabbage, and beans,
and following the example of the Mexicans around me, I scooped it all into a
tortilla and ate it that way.
After I went to bed, my stomach started
burning inside. I figured I was tired enough that I’d be able to fall asleep,
and I’d feel fine in the morning.
Day Three
I was wrong.
At 3 am, after fitful dozing, I felt
the diarrhea coming. I made it to the bathroom, and there I stayed until after
4 am, when it finally let up. I went back to bed, but my stomach was still
burning, and I couldn’t really fall asleep. Plus, my legs kept cramping up, probably
because I was dehydrated.
After Brian left to eat breakfast, I
felt another episode coming on, so I headed to the bathroom again. Since everyone
else was getting up and around, it was full. Luckily, I remembered that they
had opened a second set of bathrooms, but I didn’t know where they were. By
some miracle, I found them before it was too late.
Then the vomiting began. I’ve thrown up
pretty violently in the past, but never like this. I thought all of my
intestines were going to come out. I honestly thought I might faint.
By God’s grace, Pastor Roger happened to
hear me in there. He told me later that at first he thought it was the teens
yelling, then he thought it might be a cat fight, and then he thought it could
be a car with a broken fan belt. The fourth time, he realized it was coming
from someone in the bathroom, and he ran to get his wife, Tammy.
By the time Tammy got there, I’d
finished expelling all my stomach’s contents. She helped get me to bed, fixed
up with a trash can to throw up in, several bottles of water and Gatorade, Pepto-Bismol,
and anti-diarrhea medication. I slept until 2, and then my stomach felt much
better. I got dressed and worked on my classwork for two hours, but by the time
I was getting close to finished with it, my head was throbbing, and I had
chills and aches all over. I went back to bed for several hours, hoping my
headache would improve, but it only got worse. I felt utterly miserable. I couldn’t
take any pain reliever, because I had an empty stomach and I knew I wouldn’t be
able to keep it down.
Finally, Brian got back from working at
the church. He bought me crackers and Powerade, and shared some Mexican chocolate
with me too. After eating the chocolate and half the package of crackers, I took
the pain reliever, showered, and went to bed.
Day Four
Besides being hungry and weak, I felt
completely better in the morning. I ate a little breakfast and packed a lunch
to take to the church. Apparently, my digestive system just isn’t capable of
handling the food here.
This was really disappointing to me.
One of the main highlights everyone who’d been on the trip mentioned before was
the amazing Baja Mexican food. It wasn’t really spicy, but it was fresh and
flavorful. Most likely, I’d have to miss out on it all.
In the morning, I worked with some of
the teens and one of the moms clearing the empty lot next door to the church.
It was hard work, shoveling and raking dirt, trash, and branches. I was a
little over zealous and had to sit inside and drink Gatorade for awhile after I
started feeling lightheaded. I watched the guys work on hanging drywall on the
ceiling. Now, that’s a hard job.
my husband is the one holding up the drywall with his head
The church ladies served us lunch, and
of course it was the meal I’d been looking forward too for months: fish tacos
and horchatta.  It smelled amazing, and
everyone around me said it tasted amazing. I managed to get down a granola bar
and banana, but then my stomach started acting up again. I took more Pepto, and
was mostly recovered by the time vacation Bible school started.

First there were two…

Then there were more…

Then there were a lot more…

And more!

This little girl was the jump rope champion for awhile, but our translator’s son, David,  was pretty good too

The kids loved the bell on this bike

Tackling Jeremy

I got to help a group of kids put
together their craft. I had a hard time explaining how to do it, but I could
give them a thumbs up when they were doing it right!
By the time we got back to the base, I
was exhausted. I did eat a decent sized dinner; I couldn’t resist smell of
grilled hamburgers! After dinner, I went back to our room and worked on typing
this. It’s 8:30 now, and 9:30 is quiet time; 10:30 lights out. Brian has been
snoring on his bunk since I started typing, over an hour ago.
So now, I’m used to the bugs. And when I look at those kids’ smiles, even being as sick as I was is totally worth it. I’m so excited for the rest of this week! 

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