Brazen Voices — Shauna Niequist (+ a giveaway!)

Hello precious souls!!!

After some refueling this summer, I’m thrilled to be back in action on the blog! Throughout the fall, I’m going to be featuring a series of “Brazen Voices” — women who have impacted me with their words and their ways, women who I want you to know and read.

Present Over Perfect

Today, I’m bringing you an excerpt from my friend Shauna Niequist’s brand new, already bestselling book, Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living. This book is confession. That’s what I kept thinking as I read it. It’s an aching, vulnerable, gorgeous confession of how Shauna realized she got it wrong — how she got caught up in a lifestyle that didn’t actually produce and the ways she’s choosing something slower and quieter and simpler now. I don’t know a woman who wouldn’t benefit from reading this book. It’s incredibly personal, subversive in its message, and beautifully written. (And one of you will be lucky to win your very own copy!)

And so, here are Shauna’s brazen words . . .

This last weekend was one of the sweetest yet, and part of it, certainly, owes itself to my new learning: Memorial Day Weekend in the past has been frantic shopping and cooking and menu planning, guests upon guests, plans upon plans time and places and texts, a chaotic effort to ring in the summer season with one more drink, one more ice cream cone, one more boat ride before falling into bed.

And this year, none of that. We stayed on the beach for hours, because there’s something about the beach that just brings out the best in little kids—imagination and sand and sun and yelping and tumbling around, all the good stuff. We went to bed early knowing that, with all the fun, it would take the little boys some extra time to settle down. We stayed in our pajamas till eleven on Sunday, my cousins, their kids and mine, their parents and mine, all sitting around the Blue House kitchen table, a box of donuts from Golden Brown Bakery and a pot of coffee. We made s’mores and played with sidewalk chalk. We had breakfast tacos from the farmer’s market and kept the kids happy with bowls of strawberries outside on the lawn. It was slow, and it was simple, and it was sweeter than I can remember, because it felt more like a glass of water than a firehose. Pride, for years, has told me that I am strong enough to drink from a firehose, and gluttony tells me it will all be so delicious.

But those voices are liars. The glass of cool water is more lovely and sustaining than the firehose will ever be, and I’m starting to trust the voices of peace and simplicity more than pride and gluttony. They’re leading me well these days.

The more I listen to myself, my body, my feelings, and the less I listen to the “should” and “must” and “to-do” voices, the more I realize my body and spirit have been whispering all along, but I couldn’t hear them over the chaos and noise of the life I’d created. I was addicted to this chaos, but like any addiction, it was damaging me.

Here’s what I know: I thought the doing and the busyness would keep me safe. They keep me numb. Which is not the same as safe, which isn’t even the greatest thing to aspire to.

If you’re not like me—prone to frantic levels of activity, swirling chaos, fast-moving cycles of over-commitment and resentment—then you might press your face up to the glass of my life with something like wonder and a little confusion. “Why don’t you,” you might suggest gently, “just slow down?” I understand the question, but I find it’s a little bit like asking people who are ruining their life and health with their addiction to alcohol why they think they’re so thirsty.

The stillness feels sort of like walking on the ceiling—utterly foreign. What makes sense to me: pushing. Lists. Responsibility. Action, action, action. What’s changing my life: silence. Rest. Letting myself be fragile. Asking for help.

This weekend at the lake, Friday and Saturday were clear-skied and gorgeous, and we played outside absolutely all day long, morning till night. Sunday, though, and Monday were cloudy, storms moving through, showers on and off, and that cloud cover fell over us like a soft blanket, slowing us down, urging us toward naps and movies and coloring books. Lake life has those invitations to rest and slowness woven right into the fabric of our days—rain showers that send us inside, nightfall that lays us down. But so many of us, myself chief among them, have forsaken those natural rhythms and stayed at full speed, through the night, through the storms. . . .

It’s raining now, and I love the sound of the drops falling on the awning outside my window, love the smell of dirt and water, love the way the rain necessarily slows everything and everyone down just a little.

What kept me running? That’s the question I keep returning to, the lock I keep fiddling with. I was highly invested in maintaining my reputation as a very capable person. I thought that how other people felt about me or thought about me could determine my happiness. When I see that on the page now, staring back at me in black and white, I see how deeply flawed that idea is, how silly even.

But this is what I’ve learned the hard way: what people think about you means nothing in comparison to what you believe about yourself. Essentially, my identity then depended on outward approval, which changes on a dime. So you dance and you please and you placate and you prove. You become a three-ring circus and in each ring you’re an entirely different performing animal, anything anyone wants you to be.

The crucial journey, then, for me, has been from dependence on external expectations, down into my own self, deeper still into God’s view of me, his love for me that doesn’t change, that will not change, that defines and grounds everything.

I bet it all on busyness, achievement, being known as responsible, and escaping when those things didn’t work. What I see now is that what I really wanted was love, grace, connection, peace.

When you decide, finally, to stop running on the fuel of anxiety, desire to prove, fear, shame, deep inadequacy—when you decide to walk away from that fuel for a while, there’s nothing but confusion and silence. You’re on the side of the road, empty tank, no idea what will propel you forward. It’s disorienting, freeing, terrifying. For a while, you just sit, contentedly, and contentment is the most foreign concept you know. But you learn it, shocking as it is, day by day, hour by hour. You sit in your own skin, being just your own plain self. And it’s okay. And it’s changing everything.*

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Thank you, Shauna, for these gutting words that hit right at the center of things for so many of us. Ugghhhhh. Thank you!

I’m giving away a copy of Present Over Perfect to one lucky winner. To enter, just leave a comment below about what was meaningful to you in this excerpt, and the winner will be randomly chosen and announced this Friday!

And stay tuned for more “Brazen Voices” posts coming to you throughout the fall.

So much love to you all,

Leeana

*Taken from Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist Copyright (c) 2016 by Shauna Niequist. Used by permission of Zondervan. www. Zondervan. com.
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23 Responses to “Brazen Voices — Shauna Niequist (+ a giveaway!)”

  1. Paige E

    “The more I listen to myself, my body, my feelings, and the less I listen to the “should” and “must” and “to-do” voices, the more I realize my body and spirit have been whispering all along, but I couldn’t hear them over the chaos and noise of the life I’d created.”

    I am coming to really dislike the “shoulds and musts” in this life. I’m slowly learning to turn my back on them and love my current life. Every time God takes something I “used to do” away from me and every time my husband says “we are going to do nothing tonight, and that’s ok,” I feel at the same time less accomplished and able to breathe better. I’m learning how not to numb by doing, but to sit with the feelings I have and enjoy the season I’m in. Work in progress. But the past is the past, I’m determined to leave it there and be hopeful for the new thing God is doing in my life.

    Reply
  2. Michelle

    “But you learn it, shocking as it is, day by day, hour by hour.” Right there; that nugget hit me with relief. Today I’m glad to know its okay to be enrolled in the hourly program because hourly is what I need; today. Permission granted. Permission received.

    Reply
  3. Aimee

    I spent a year fighting my need for an early bedtime and guilting myself into sticking with a weekly small group that didn’t finish up until 10pm before, two weeks ago, switching to a small group that meets an hour earlier than the other one. I am encouraged to hear that learning to slow down gets easier with practice!

    Reply
  4. Michelle Lisenbee

    “When you decide, finally, to stop running on the fuel of anxiety, desire to prove, fear, shame, deep inadequacy—when you decide to walk away from that fuel for a while, there’s nothing but confusion and silence. You’re on the side of the road, empty tank, no idea what will propel you forward. It’s disorienting, freeing, terrifying.”

    This is where I am now. Side of the road, empty tank, no idea what will propel me forward. Trusting Jesus will appear on the horizon and offer me His arm.

    Would love to own this book. Looked for it at the library and so far, it’s not there. If I had my own copy – I could write all over it and no one would care! :)

    Reply
  5. Patricia Willuams

    Role modeling these behaviors for our peers and children is essential in strengthening our own self worth. Reflecting on how others might benefit from slowing down and living in the moment might be the catalyst for us to take better care of ourselves.

    Reply
  6. Anne

    That Gods view of me does not change no matter what I do or don’t do just fills me to overflowing! I need only Him every day, I need to be like Jesus every day and so often it means slowing down, breathing and just being still.

    Reply
  7. Rachael

    Disorienting. Yes. I have been experiencing this lesson that Shauna talks about in this except. A year ago, I hit the proverbial brick wall and just couldn’t keep running the frenzied race anymore . Now, a year later, I see that God wasn’t just calling me to rest, bu was preparing me for change he saw coming. My job used to call for daily filling the schedule – the more the schedule filled, the greater the paycheck. So you can imagine I allowed myself to overdo it. Now I’ve been promoted and I don’t need those frenzied hours to get my paycheck. I don’t have the lists and to-do’s quite the same, and now I don’t know how to measure my success. I am indeed disoriented. This is all new and different, and I almost feel shame in not having to chase my tail anymore to earn my keep. I’m settling in to what God has gifted and trying to do my best to shine his light through this season that I have been given right now. Slowing down can be so hard.

    Reply
  8. Angela Turner

    This was such a great reminder to slow down and enjoy the simple things that God has given us in life.

    Reply
  9. Heather

    This excerpt just resonates so deeply with me. Giving of myself until it hurts, and feeling emptied entirely after all is done is something I think so many of us deal with on a daily basis. How uplifting and encouraging the joy and fulfillment that can actually be found in leaving the busyness behind to allow ourselves to be filled with God’s Grace and Mercy! Love Shauna’s perspective and openness!!!

    Reply
  10. Bethel

    ‘You sit in your own skin, being just your own plain self. And it’s okay.’ What a breath of fresh air this is; she is! I can not wait to dig deeper into Shauna’s book and into the journey of slowing down, giving myself grace and truly being present in these moments passing me by at the speed of light.
    xo

    Reply
  11. Shirley

    Wow, I feel like God very sweetly and directly smacked me with a 2×4 with this…

    ‘I thought the doing and the busyness would keep me safe. They keep me numb.’

    ‘I bet it all on busyness, achievement, being known as responsible, and escaping when those things didn’t work. What I see now is that what I really wanted was love, grace, connection, peace.’

    …but what I just learned is that we cannot selectively numb out the good from the bad!! So important! Take a moment to hear Bene Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability:
    https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?utm_source=tedcomshare&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=tedspread

    me. https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?utm_source=tedcomshare&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=tedspread

    Reply
  12. Susan

    I can really sense the Holy Spirit moving in Shauna’s life and her realness and vulnerability and example to so many women is so needed. Thank you for posting her work. Susan

    Reply
  13. Pam Steinke

    “Letting myself be fragile…” This brought tears to my eyes. When, oh when, was the last time I did that without dumping guilt all over my fragile self? I always try to be so strong, especially for everybody else in my life. I am wrestling with this right now, this very day! Always the achiever, the one who has it all together, but who really doesn’t. This book sounds like a soft landing place.

    Reply
  14. Laura Kearney

    What matters most isn’t what others think of me but what I feel inside. I quit the 3 ring circus and am focusing on believing in myself and discovering me again! I loved Shauna’s book Bread and Wine and saw a clip of her talking about this new book. She is amazing! Looking forward to more Brazen posts! ????

    Reply
  15. Rachel

    “It was slow, and it was simple, and it was sweeter than I can remember, because it felt more like a glass of water than a firehose.”

    Yup. Slow and simple are worth shutting off the firehose for.

    Reply
  16. Amy Shotts

    This whole section resonates with me. I often feel addicted to the busyness, the to do list and the things I think I “should be doing. And I agree it is an addiction that is damaging in every way.

    Reply
  17. Rose

    When you decide, finally, to stop running on the fuel of anxiety, desire to prove, fear, shame, deep inadequacy—when you decide to walk away from that fuel for a while, there’s nothing but confusion and silence. You’re on the side of the road, empty tank, no idea what will propel you forward. It’s disorienting, freeing, terrifying.

    Reply
  18. Meghann Eastham

    “When you decide, finally, to stop running on the fuel of anxiety, desire to prove, fear, shame, deep inadequacy—when you decide to walk away from that fuel for a while, there’s nothing but confusion and silence. You’re on the side of the road, empty tank, no idea what will propel you forward. It’s disorienting, freeing, terrifying.”

    This is me, right now: An action addict, a chronic over-doer and a woman, momma and wife who is finally able to admit that I’ve been measuring my self worth by how others perceive my ability to “do it all”.

    When we received orders to the LAST duty station I ever wanted to go, I knew within moments that God hadn’t just called my husband to lead there but that he had a plan for me too. This tour is to be a time of rest…time to lay down the firehose and embrace the slow, cool, refreshing glass of water…time to be still and know that HE loves me no matter what I achieve or the obstacles I conquer. This tour is to be a time for me to reset, refocus and reconsider what exactly HE has called me to do with this life and to respond to that call.

    Yet, we have been here a month and I’m already uncomfortable and fighting it…I’m fighting the rest. I’ve been here one month and I’m already overcommitted. I needed to read this today. I needed the reminder…the kick in the pants…the conviction. Time to reign it in and commit to being obedient in this time and space HE has brought me into. Thank you.

    Reply
  19. Kristin Murdock

    I am so excited about this book! The thing I think I resonated with most about this excerpt was when she talks about wanting others opinion of her to be good — and slowly realizing, time and time again, that what others think of you really doesn’t matter in comparison to what you think of yourself. I also LOVED what she said about finding her security in God. I feel like so often in the world of self-discovery, a world I LOVE and is so necessary, God can get left out. I find, for me at least, when I listen to HIM first, and His whispers to my soul, that is where the true change and love comes!

    Reply
  20. Melissa Blair

    I can’t wait to read this. My friend reading it now voxes quotes near-daily from it. Thank you, Leeana (one of MY favorite brazen voices❤️)

    Reply
  21. Jennifer Officer

    It is comforting, in a strange sort of way, that she addresses the discomfort choosing to live differently will bring. I think we might be prone to believe in immediate restoration, when the reality is more like detox. When it isn’t all rainbows and butterflies right away it is tempting to give in to discouragement. Addressing the reality gives us hope.

    Reply

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