Jamie Ivey’s “If You Only Knew”

Jamie Ivey’s “If You Only Knew”

book-3dI discovered Jamie Ivey about a year ago through Instagram. Someone I follow liked one of Jamie’s posts, and it popped up in my feed. Being the Instalurker I am, I scrolled through her photos and quickly discovered that she is a podcaster.

“A podcast. Huh, that’s interesting,” I thought. “Who even listens to those anymore?”

As it turns out, a lot of people listen to podcasts. In fact, millions of women (and men!) tune in to Jamie’s podcast, “The Happy Hour With Jamie Ivey” every week. I decided to download an episode and I was immediately hooked.

I’ve listened to nearly every episode of Jamie’s podcast now, and sometimes I feel like we’re real-life friends. (We’re not, and I’m sane enough to realize that. However, we’re sisters in Christ, so that’s better, right?) She and her guests have been a weekly encouragement to me. When Stephen and I started the adoption process, I went back and listened to every episode that covered adoption or foster care. (I tried convincing our adoption counselor to let me count those episodes toward my required education hours, but I was unsuccessful!) I’ve listened to Jamie speak truth and gospel week after week, and I’m constantly encouraged. I’m so thankful for Jamie and her podcast.

So, imagine my excitement when I learned that she was writing a book. I could not wait to get my hands on this book, so when I heard she was starting a launch team, I knew I had to be on it. I preordered the book, submitted the request for the launch team, and waited—impatiently—for confirmation that I was in.

One of the perks of being on the launch team is the opportunity to read the book early. Y’all, you will not want to miss this book when it’s released in January 2018. I highly recommend preordering the book so that it arrives on your doorstep (or electronically on your Kindle) on release day.

In If You Only Knew: My Unlikely, Unavoidable Story of Becoming Free, Jamie practically shouts this message from the rooftop: Jesus is better.

That’s the theme of her book. In this memoir, Jamie recounts her struggles with sin and shame and invites her readers in to her life’s story. She writes with the same authenticity that you hear in her podcast. She’s real and honest. She urges her readers to strip away the labels they place on their own journeys (failure, cheater, addict, depressed, you fill in the blank) and reminds readers that our stories are not as unique as we think. And those labels we place on our stories? They aren’t labels from God.

When you look at your own story, maybe all you can see are the goof-ups, the mess-ups, the things you’re afraid of ever bringing up, even the parts that happened this week or this morning or five minutes before you started reading this chapter today. But if you’d turn your head to look at your story just a little bit differently, you’d see it’s actually the record of a faithful God, willing His unwilling child to return to him, loving you through all your unloveliness. — Jamie Ivey

Jamie weaves her own personal story together with truths from God’s Word. She vulnerably and beautifully shares her struggles, and by reading it, we see a clear picture of Jesus and the grace of God.

Being vulnerable—sharing our need for a Savior—points people to Jesus and not ourselves. — Jamie Ivey

Jamie reminds her readers that no one is too far gone to be rescued by God’s love and grace. She urges her readers to find their identity in Christ, not their sin or the false labels they wear.

As believers and followers of God, here’s our identity: We are women who are being cleansed, changed, and “conformed to the image of his Son” so that we look more like Him every day. We are daughters of the living God, covered in Christ’s righteousness, set apart for His own wise and merciful purposes. — Jamie Ivey

Um, can I get an Amen? Though written for women, I would encourage both women and men to read this book. Through sharing her story, Jamie gives a beautiful picture of the gospel and how God’s love, mercy and grace is better than anything else.

To pre-order If You Only Knew by Jamie Ivey, visit http://ifyouonlyknewbook.net. Pre-order now and receive 20 percent off from Waterloo Style and five entries to win a 2-day getaway for two to Green Acres with travel included, a dinner with the Iveys, and a basket of Jamie’s favorite things.

Want to listen to the HAPPY HOUR but don’t know where to start? I recommend these:

Episode #66 with Amanda Jones

Episode #82 with Shay Shull

Episode #88 with Amy from the Bobby Bones Show

Episode #108 with Beth Moore (yes, *the* Beth Moore)

Episode #132 with Heather Avis

Episode #155 with Sara Hagerty

Episode #157 with Catherine Lowe

Episode #162 with Ellie Holcomb

Year in Review: Favorite Books of 2016

A few of you may remember when I set out to read 214 books in 2014. I came close—I read more than 150! I wasn’t as ambitious this year, but anyone who knows me knows that I always have a book in my hand. Stephen bought me a Kindle for Christmas (and gave it to me at Thanksgiving because he’s wonderful and loves me), and I’ve already put it to use.

I’m not a book reviewer, but I love recommending my favorites. It was hard to narrow down the list, but here are my top five (with some honorable mentions at the end).

1770675Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. I’ve read this one before. I don’t think you can call yourself a book lover if you haven’t read Anne of Green Gables. And I’ll admit, I didn’t actually read this one. A new audiobook version was released this year, and Rachel McAdams narrated it. She made me fall in love with Anne, her friends, and the town of Avonlea all over again. I love Anne’s youthful innocence, her wide-eyed wonder and her ability to find joy despite her circumstances. It may be a novel for children, but I think every adult should re-read it. (Side note: My middle name is LeeAnn, and I feel like my parents did me a disservice by not spelling it “LeeAnne.”)

25852870Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. At 181 chapters, this was my go-to beach read. I’m a sucker for any retelling of Jane Austen’s stories—no matter how cheesy they are. (This one does not fall in the “cheesy” category!) In this modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, Sittenfeld moves the story to the Cincinnati suburbs. As Sarah Lyall of the New York Times wrote, Sittenfeld’s “special skill lies not just in her clear, clean writing, but in her general amusement about the world, her arch, pithy, dropped-mike observations about behavior, character and motivation. She can spot hypocrisy, cant, self-contradiction and absurdity 10 miles away.” (Side note: Keep in mind that this won’t be as, well, wholesome as Austen’s novel.)

9781433549496Seasons of Waiting: Walking by Faith When Dreams Are Delayed by Betsy Childs Howard. For my full review, check out my post from this past September. Howard points to five common issues (waiting for a spouse, a baby, physical healing, a stable home and the return of a prodigal) and describes how waiting can be sanctification process and also a representation of the gospel. For my season of life, this was a powerful book, and one I turn back to on a regular basis.

5151dyyk3plUninvited by Lysa TerKeurst. I don’t know about you, but I often feel left out or unwanted. Satan wants us to believe we are unworthy of love, and he will do anything to make us feel abandoned or rejected. It’s a lie. In Uninvited, TerKeurst explains how rejection can hinder our relationship with Jesus. TerKeurst encourages her readers to replace negative self-talk (hello! I’m so guilty of this) with scriptural truths. It points to the importance and necessity of being grounded in Scripture. I love this quote: “With you, Jesus, I’m forever safe. I’m forever accepted. I’m forever held. Completely loved and always invited in.”

51ftojyv2lThe Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines. I’ve followed both Chip and Joanna on social media, but I didn’t start watching Fixer Upper until this year. We only have one TV in our house, so we typically only watch shows we both enjoy. But Stephen watched one episode and got hooked, and it now has a regular spot on our DVR. I listened to the audio version of this book (bonus: Chip and Jo read it!) and loved it. It was the bright spot of my commute for a week. I love how Chip and Joanna live out their faith on TV each and every week, and I’m amazed that this business they’ve built truly started from nothing. The Magnolia Story is a behind-the-scenes look at the Gaines’ life: Their relationship, family life, business and faith.

Honorable Mentions:
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay
Bare Bones by Bobby Bones
Looking for Lovely by Annie Downs

On my to-read list:
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (on my Kindle now!)
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
None Like Him by Jen Wilkin
The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

What were your favorite books this year?

Seasons of Waiting

Seasons of Waiting

9781433549496Confession: I’m not very good at waiting. Patience is not a virtue I possess. And yet, here I am … waiting.

We’re all waiting on something. Some people are waiting on a job promotion. Others are waiting on a spouse. Some are waiting on a rebellious child to come home. And others—like me—are simply waiting on a child.

We wait. We pray. We cry. We hope. Repeat.

Betsy Childs Howard, an editor for The Gospel Coalition, understands this season of waiting. So much so, that she wrote a whole book about it: Seasons of Waiting: Walking by Faith When Dreams Are Delayed.

By weaving together Scripture, theology, stories from close friends and her own insightful thoughts, Howard shows how waiting can be a sanctification process and also a representation of the gospel. She looks specifically at five common issues: waiting for a spouse, baby, physical healing, a stable home, and for the return of a prodigal (a rebellious child or unfaithful spouse).

She writes:

Waiting exposes our idols and throws a wrench into our coping mechanism. It brings us to the end of what we can control and forces us to cry out to God. God doesn’t waste our waiting. He uses it to conform us to the image of his Son. But sanctification is not only the purpose God has in mind when he takes us into the school of waiting. When we wait, God gives us the opportunity to live out a story that portrays the gospel and serves as a kingdom parable.  – Betsy Childs Howard

God may never give me a baby. He may never give you a spouse. You may never find physical healing. That is, on this earth. And that’s OK, because God sustains us. Just like the Israelites had to trust that manna would be there the next morning, we have to trust that God is going to give us grace and strength to sustain us each and every day, Howard says.

God doesn’t give grace in a lifetime supply. … God doesn’t allow us to stock up on his grace. He gives it to us one day at a time. We should want to learn how to wait well so that we can go on waiting well because we will always be waiting for something in this life. The Israelites lived on manna for forty years, and if your particular season of waiting lasts forty years, God will supply your daily needs. If you are walking through infertility, my question for you is, can you live the next twenty-four hours without a child? Can you trust God to get you through today? If the answer is yes, then you have what it takes to survive for the long haul. You just need to ask yourself the same question tomorrow. The same thing is true of every other season of waiting described in this book.  – Betsy Childs Howard

Howard reminds us that we should want God more than we want the things He can give us. In this short, easy-to-read and encouraging book, you’ll find comfort for a soul that is weary and struggling with waiting.

What Are You Reading?

What Are You Reading?

I’m planning to read a lot more now that it’s summer. I’m not really sure what summer has to do with anything, because let’s face it: It’s not like my work schedule eases up. But I do have some vacation time scheduled later this summer, and I plan on taking a ton of books to read on the beach.

BUT I don’t plan on purchasing all of these books. Lots of books, little funds. Did you know that you can check out ebooks from your local library? Plenty of how-to tips on this website—all you need is a LIBRARY CARD! With my library, I can check out 15 ebooks at a time, and I can keep each of them for three weeks.

So I’m doing my annual call for book suggestions. What are you reading? What have you read? What’s on your to-read list? I need to know!

Here’s my “to-read” list so far:

-> Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

-> The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

-> Seasons of Waiting: Walking by Faith When Dreams Are Delayed by Betsy Childs Howard

-> Keep Me Posted by Liz Beazley

-> Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

-> Room by Emma Donoghue

-> Jane Steele by Lindsay Faye

-> It Was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell

-> Looking for Lovely by Annie Downs

-> My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

-> Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

-> None Like Him by Jen Wilkin

-> Bare Bones by Bobby Bones

-> Hannah’s Hope by Jennifer Saake

OK! Now your turn—tell me what to read!

My 10 Favorite Books


I’ve seen several lists floating around Facebook about my favorite topic—books. People have been listing their favorite books, books that have changed their lives, and books that have challenged their ways of thinking. Now, everyone knows I love reading. I almost always have my nose in a book. I have a personal challenge to read 214 books this year. (We won’t talk about how that’s going.) So I decided to compile my own list of books—a hodgepodge of some of my favorites and books that have changed my life.

It took me a long time to write this list. It only has 10 books, but it was a struggle to narrow it down. I kept adding and removing books from the list. I apologize in advance for this post being so long!

(After #1, this list isn’t in any particular order.)

1. The Bible. As a believer and follower of Christ, this is the most important book in my life. I learn something new every time I open it. As a fan of literature, I can appreciate the stories and parables. But as a Christian, I see the Bible as more than a simple story. The entire canon of Scripture is about God and His plan. It’s about His character, mercy, love, and grace. It’s about His plan of salvation and redemption, His Son and sacrifice. It’s about His deep, relentless love for His people—people who have done absolutely nothing to deserve that type of love and grace. I don’t read the Bible to learn how to make my life better. I read the Bible to learn about God.

2. I’ll Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. This will always be one of my favorites. My mom use to read it to me and sing the lines of I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always. Even though we don’t plan on having kids for a few more years, I already have a new copy of this book on the shelf.

3. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. This series was the first to challenge my imagination. I remember reading the first book when I was in the fifth grade. J.K. Rowling made me love reading. This was the first series to make me feel like reading was an escape from real life.

4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Jane Austen will always be my favorite author. I’ve read each of her books several times. I own several copies of her books (including that huge compilation book you see in the picture). P&P, however, was the first book I ever read by Austen. It made me fall in love with classic literature. I especially love this article by USA Today.

5. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. Sandberg encourages women to “lean in,” participate, and take on roles in leadership. My favorite quote from the book was this: “Women need to shift from thinking ‘I’m not ready to do that!’ to thinking, ‘I want to do that—and I’ll learn by doing it.'” While I don’t agree with everything Sandberg writes, I found this book to be incredibly helpful and informative for my own career path.

6. Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin. I admire Jen so much. I was fortunate to work as the copy editor of her LifeWay Bible study—Sermon on the Mount. (Yes, that is a link to the Bible study. Forgive me for the shameless plug.) Jen is a gifted Bible teacher, and she teaches women how to study the Bible in Women of the Word. I read this book through the course of my study on the Book of Hosea. It helped shape the way I studied Scripture, and I am extremely grateful to Jen for writing it.

7. Adopted for Life by Russell Moore. God put adoption in my heart and mind when I was 18. I don’t know if Stephen and I will ever adopt, but we will definitely always try to support families who do. This book helped shape my understanding of adoption. It showed me that adoption is a picture of what God did for us—He took us in and adopted us as His children.

8. Let Me Be a Woman by Elisabeth Elliot. Ironic that this book is listed along with Lean In, huh? How can two extremely different books resonate deeply in the heart of one woman? I admire Sheryl Sandberg for writing Lean In. I admire her for her intelligence, success in a male-dominated workplace, and courage. However, I also admire Elisabeth Elliot. I admire her for her writings on marriage and raising children. I’m not saying I agree with everything (just like I don’t agree with everything in Lean In!), but Elliot’s book did teach me more about biblical womanhood and my role as a wife and future mother.

9. When Sinners Say “I Do” by Dave Harvey. My former youth pastor gave Stephen and me a copy of this book when we began premarital counseling, and it has remained on my list of favorite marriage books. This book focuses on the reality of sin and the beauty of grace. Marriage is about two sinners coming together. It reminded me that I’m a sinner … and I married a sinner. We both need to show grace to each other. As Harvey writes, “When sin becomes bitter, marriage becomes sweet.” When we recognize and repent of our own sin, our marriage drastically improves and becomes God-glorifying.

10. Gospel by J.D. Greear. This book taught me the need to preach the gospel to myself daily. It taught me that the gospel is just as relevant in my life now as it was the first day I heard it. I should be saturated in the gospel of Christ.

So there you have it—my ten favorite books. Give me a year or so and this list will surely change. So tell me, what are your favorite books? (I need suggestions to get me closer to my goal of 214!)

Favorite Books of 2013

open-bookI love to read. Which is a good thing, because, well…it’s part of my job. I’m constantly downloading books to read on my iPad (love that Kindle app) and I almost always have a book tucked away in my purse.

What can I say? I love a good story.

I’ve read some pretty fantastic books this year, and I decided to share my four favorites. I’d love to hear what your favorites of the year were, too!

1. And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini — Hosseini is one of my favorite authors. If you haven’t read his first two books, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, you need to do so. And The Mountains Echoed is a multi-generational story that takes place in the Middle East. While the book is focused around two young siblings and their father, it reads like a collection of short stories. Each chapter is told from a different character’s perspective, but eventually the entire story comes full circle. It’s a beautiful story about family, guilt, heartache, and love.

2. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg — I don’t normally enjoy business or leadership books, but this book challenged me in many ways. I would probably never classify myself as a feminist, but Sandberg made several important points about why women are vital to the workplace. She emphasized the importance of women stepping up and taking leadership roles. My favorite quote from the book was this: “Women need to shift from thinking ‘I’m not ready to do that!’ to thinking ‘I want to do that—and I’ll learn by doing it.’” If you’re a woman working in a professional environment, pick it up. You’ll benefit from it.

3. My Story by Elizabeth Smart — This was originally on my list to read in 2014, but I just got it from the library and was too excited to wait. I was just 11-years-old when Elizabeth Smart was abducted from her home in Salt Lake City. However, I remember the news of her abduction and the news that she was found 9 months later. I was moved by her story then, and even more so now. Elizabeth is smart, but she doesn’t dive into a psychological reflection of her experience (which many people critique her for). Her book is conversational, and that is what I loved best about it—often times I felt as if I was just sitting beside her, listening to her tell me about her experience.

4. Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers — Okay, so this book wasn’t released in 2013, but when I heard Saving Mr. Banks was coming to theaters, I hurried to read Mary Poppins. I’m not sure why, but I never read it as a child. Overall, the book was interesting, yet enjoyable. There was no actual plot, but the adventures Mary Poppins and the children took were imaginable and creative. I loved getting to use my imagination as I read—the book truly stretched it (but maybe that’s what happens when an adult reads a children’s book). I enjoyed the book, but I also enjoyed learning about the reasons Ms. Travers created Mary Poppins in the first place.

Books give us the opportunity to enter a different world, make a new friend, and experience a different lifestyle. They make us laugh and cry. We experience different emotions through books—anxiety, fear, anger, happiness, excitement. Books challenge us to try new things and inspire us to make a difference.

As Stephen King once said, “Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

One of my 2014 goals is to read 214 books that I’ve never read before. That’s right— 214 in 2014. That averages to almost 4 books a week, and boy, it’s going to be a challenge. I’m excited though! I’ll probably blog at the end of each month with brief review of my favorites, as well as a list of the others I read that month.

Join me in a reading challenge for 2014! Make it work for you. It could be 12 books in 2014 (one a month) or 52 books in 2014 (one a week). Do what is best for you, but be sure to read.

 “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!
How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book!”

–Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

 Happy reading and a Happy New Year!

Life Lessons from Harry Potter

I’ll never forget the day that my fifth-grade teacher announced we would be starting a new book for our afternoon reading time. It was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. She told us that she would read one or two chapters every afternoon.

After the first couple of chapters, I was hooked. She read too slowly for my taste, so I got my own copy to read at home. At that point, the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, had already been released, so I finished the first book and moved on to the second—all before my teacher had finished reading the first to the class.

My mom would tell you that those are the books that made me truly love reading. I had grown up with Nancy Drew and The Babysitter’s Club, but Harry Potter challenged my imagination and made me think in new ways.

A lot of skeptics and critics would tell you that these books aren’t suitable for children, but many of these people have never even picked up the books. And like the saying goes, never judge a book by its cover.

At 23-years-old, I’ve read every book roughly eight or nine times. I’ve seen all the movies. I just finished reading them all again, and I recently introduced my husband to the series, and he’s reading them for the first time. There are actually a lot of life lessons to be gained from these seven books. I thought I would share some of the insights and things I’ve learned from my years of reading this series. I could probably list more than 5, but I didn’t want this to be too long.

1. You can count on your true friends—always. I don’t think Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger ever expected their best friend to be the famous Harry Potter. Being friends with Harry wasn’t always easy, I assume. But they were loyal. They were loving. They were sometimes blunt and brutally honest. And yes, sometimes they got scared and ran away—but they always came back. The relationship between Harry, Ron, and Hermione shows how friendship is supposed to look.


 2. Book smarts only get you so far in life. The smart, brilliant Hermione Granger was always at the top of the class. Her nose was often buried in a book, she made top marks in every subject, and she could tell you the history of anything in the wizarding world. But she was wise, and she knew book smarts were not the most important thing in the world. When Harry declared that he was not as smart and talented as she was, Hermione declared, “Books! And cleverness! There are more important things— friendship and bravery.” Hermione knew there was more to life than being clever and book-smart.

 3. Treat others with dignity and respect. It shows your true character. Remember when Hermione started S.P.E.W.—Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare? She cared about the well being of house elves. Hagrid developed relationships with centaurs, dangerous beasts, and other creatures of the Forbidden Forest. And although he had a nasty habit of being mean to his house elf, it was Sirius Black who said, “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”

 4. A mentor teaches you life lessons, but eventually you must stand on your own two feet. Spoiler alert: Nearly all of Harry’s “mentors” die. Albus Dumbledore, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, Tonks, Mad Eye Moody, (heck, let’s even include Snape)— they all guided him, taught him, prepared him for what he was about to face. But they couldn’t hold his hand through the battle. There are some things you have to face alone.

5. Never judge a book by its cover. From the moment we meet Severus Snape in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, we’re inclined to hate him. He’s rude and arrogant, the head of Slytherin’s house, and has an obvious distaste for Harry. Throughout the series, however, we learn that Harry’s deceased parents, James and Lily, have a past with Snape. Snape loved Lily, Lily loved James, James hated Snape. Love triangle gone wrong. But we learn it was Snape’s love for Lily that caused him to turn his back on Voldemort after her death, to pledge allegiance to Albus Dumbledore, and to protect Harry at Hogwarts. He was torn between hating James (hence his bitterness toward Harry) and his love for Lily (why he sought to protect Harry). By the end of the last book, you find yourself in tears for judging Snape so harshly and learning about his story. Never judge a book by its cover—you never know what’s on the inside.

Read them. Enjoy them. Watch the movies (but read the books first). I’ll probably start the series again next year—they never get old.