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I'm a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world. AQUA
The moment of truth on the front porch passed, and I stepped back to life, back to whining babies and tired toddlers and mediocre dinners and brain-dead evenings on the couch. But the door had been flung open, and there was no slamming it shut. And so I did what I do best—I argued with myself about the question that wouldn't leave me alone: Am I changed because of Jesus?
First I told myself why I was qualified to decide if I was changed: I'm a counselor, for heaven's sake. I'm a supposed expert on how to be a healthy person.
Then I told myself why I was qualified to be a Christian: I rock at Bible trivia games. I am so legit. I can even pronounce a few Hebrew words, and I know the four different Greek words for love. I've gone to seminary!
Then I told myself the truth: I can't really handle ordinary life with a constant peace or lasting joy. I do okay loving when it's easy. I don't love much when it's hard.
I was tired. Tired of pretending that everything was fine, that I had this whole good-Christian thing figured out. Tired of worshiping on Sunday morning and yelling on Sunday afternoon. Tired of knowing the answers but continuing to deal with the same ol' ordinary problems that have been around since middle school.
Maybe it was the scandal of the ordinary that kept me there, thinking mundane, everyday problems were too small for God. Maybe I had bought into the lie that I have the power to deal with any shortcomings myself—other women I knew struggled with the same things and seemed perfectly fine.
Chalk my unease up to postpartum hormones or new house adjustments or fatigue. Perhaps if you and I were sitting together, sharing the frustrations of our lives, we would attribute it to circumstances like these. Maybe I'd tell you it would get better in a few weeks. Maybe you'd tell me I just needed a nap. We'd laugh, maybe. We'd call it ordinary. We'd tell each other we'd be okay.
Control issues, comparisons, insecurity—commonplace issues of the soul that I finally faced on my front porch—lead to a form of bondage. But because the chains of these issues are so thin, because we don't talk about them much or take them very seriously, we hardly notice their combined effect. We are unaware that these issues hinder us from walking free in the path God has laid out for us. The stuff that affects your inner and outer world might be ordinary, but it's certainly not innocuous.
Take my friend Rachel. I met Rachel when she was a bobble-headed sixth grader, full of chatter and bad jokes, when her most pressing concern was whether to invite one of the girls from Bible study to her sleepover. Friendships and sick uncles and bad quiz grades were her issues. I watched Rachel grow from a frivolous middle schooler into a brooding teenager, wrestling with boundaries and absolutes and the truth about who she really was. And ten years later, Rachel is still wrestling. She's twenty-five and beautiful now. She doesn't ask me to pray about her sleepovers or sick pets anymore, but some of the same issues that first wrapped chains around her in middle school—the ones we call commonplace—are still at work in Rachel's soul. Rachel's getting tired of the insecurity that plagues her, the always-present voice that tells her she's not pretty enough, smart enough, or loving enough to obtain the life she craves. She recognizes the voice and would love to silence it. But she's not sure how.
You may admit that there are some things in your life that hold you back, but you won't hear much about them anywhere else. Ordinary isn't sexy. Ordinary doesn't make headlines. It's not the stuff of e-mail forwards or YouTube videos. Ordinary transformation doesn't send us up to the front of the church to give testimony. "I used to struggle with comparisons, especially when it came to the size of my jeans ... but now in the power of Jesus' name, I'm free!" I want to be free of comparison, but it's not exactly a moving testimony.
Sometimes I wish I had a story more like my friend Jen's. She lived life to a whole different kind of "full" in college. She ran fast and wild. Our senior year, my friend group called her "the vampire" because she would slide into our dorm from a night-to-morning party when we were slinging on our backpacks and leaving for morning classes. But she lived her wild life with panache, embracing her party-girl reputation while simultaneously earning a double major. When she, out of nowhere, embraced Christianity, I wanted to hold a pep rally for Jesus. Jen's in full-time ministry now. Her dramatic story is real. She became my hope that Christianity actually did work; that Jesus was real; and that people could change. I clung to her story because it helped me believe in a bigger God—probably because when I, the "good" one, talked about my relationship with Jesus, I was about as convincing as a hostess on an infomercial.
So as much as I love the dramatic story of my college friend, what matters in our lives, in the way we love, is the story we are all living right now. My story, Rachel's story, your story—not the YouTube viral video or the e-mail forward or that great testimony in church—is the place where Jesus wants us to demonstrate what "life to the full" means. And our story is deeply affected by everyday issues because they impact every aspect of our lives—our understanding of God, our own emotional and spiritual health, and most certainly our relationships.
SO WHAT'S THIS "ORDINARY"?
We all have roller-coaster-mood days, lapses in judgment that lead to bad decisions, and moments (or months!) of self-centeredness. My front-porch moment was all of that, but more, the culmination of consistent and well-worn patterns popping up like a jack-in-the-box in my life. On further inspection, perhaps what I considered "ordinary" was closer to crazy.
When God laid my heart out in full relief, I was shocked enough that I not only wanted to change but realized how desperately I needed to do so. There's a simple exercise that can help you determine the full reality of your own heart condition. Imagine reading a printout of every thought you've had this week. Now picture yourself taking that printout to your best friend, your small group, and (gasp!) your pastor for them to read. Would you be okay with living that transparently? How different would your inside reality be from your outside persona?
Most days, we filter this "ordinary" existence, hoping to leave the dirty stuff on the inside and put forth the cleanest version of ourselves. But on a bad day or in the dark stillness of interrupted slumber, have your thoughts ever wandered to a startling place of general unease? Have you ever thought, Is this really all there is? Is this as fulfilled as I can be in this life? Will I ever be who I'm truly meant to be? These moments are the true revealers of our hearts, showing how puny our "abundant life" really is, how dependent our faith and joy are on feelings and circumstances.
I'm guessing this isn't any surprise to you. I think you want more. We all hope the promise of abundant life is attainable in our lives, but we keep stubbing our toes on obstacles and joy-stealing, love-sucking issues that we don't know how to change.
Sound familiar? It certainly does for me. And after years of living like this, it's not surprising that most of us give up on actually changing. We give our issues cute titles. We shrug off our issues as just "our personality." We call our stubbornness or pride just being a "control freak." We call our anxiety our "concerns." We call a bitter place of unforgiveness a "grudge." We call our insecurity—well, insecurity. Being secure in yourself as a woman? The exception, never the rule!
When we believe that life is as good as it's gonna get, we make an expensive trade in our souls. We stuff away the raw and messy and put forth a nicer but cheaper, plastic version of ourselves. Our story is clean and easy—but also fake. We aren't seeing a true image anymore—the image God made and is making of us—we have built our own "acceptable" image. This is what living with ordinary issues does to us. It slowly kills what is beautiful and unique and turns us into half-dead versions of what we were meant to be.
FINDING REAL ABUNDANCE
If your normal Christian experience is about a fleeting peace, some emergency prayers, or relief that you have an insurance policy for heaven, I can't wait to introduce you to so much more. Although Jesus does offer you eternity with him, he is just as concerned with another aspect of living—the part that happens right in the mess of your ordinary life.
But even the people who walked behind Jesus while his sandals kicked up dust, who shared the same loaf of bread and touched his hands, and knew what his voice sounded like when he first woke up—even they were confused about Jesus and what he offered to them. Near the end of his earthly life, Jesus and his disciples shared a special meal—the Passover. Imagine them reclining around the table, talking about the many things they'd seen through the last few years of doing life together. Imagine how their ears perked up when Jesus, the miracle worker, the interpreter of the law, the center of all the action, looked intently at them and said, "A new command I give you."
Don't you think they leaned in even closer to hear what he would say next?
Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35, NIV)
It's not that Jesus was proclaiming something new: he'd been all about love through the last three years of healing and teaching. But ... well, is that what it's really all about? That the way we love each other is the way we are to be known to the world?
Author Brennan Manning says, "Contact with Christians should be an experience that proves to people that the gospel is a power that transforms the whole of life." Being a disciple when Jesus walked the earth meant following a radical call—not of rebellion but of crazy love that defied earthly expectation. And that hasn't changed. Being a Christian isn't just about going to heaven. It's about a power that transforms your whole life. Your thoughts. Your behaviors. Your relationships. Your love.
SO ... HOW'S LOVE GOING FOR YOU?
If the grocery store cashier or your kid's teacher or the last waiter who served you described you with complete honesty, would loving be the first word he or she would use? Or would you be known by some other nicety, like control freak or frazzled or scared?
Here's the craziest part of our ordinary issues: we often have no idea how these issues kill our ability to love powerfully and unconditionally. We all intend to be loving. We try to do a good job of it, but when we are living with a half-dead heart or a plastic existence, we aren't capable of loving the way we'd like. A withered heart just doesn't respond the way we want. And no power of will or self-talk or knowledge can change that.
I have a twentysomething friend who struggles with comparison. She intends to love well. She wants to be happy with her friends when they have a date or a job interview, but the issue of comparison has a hold on her heart. She is so busy evaluating what she doesn't have that she has no energy to be happy for what her girlfriends do have. Her intense preoccupation with self is just one example of how our ordinary issues cripple our ability to love—even our own friends!
Peter, a disciple of Jesus who had control and comparison issues in his early life, later admonished believers to "be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8, niv). As my friend discovered, even ordinary issues can create destruction in your life.
DO YOU HAVE ISSUES?
The ability to see yourself clearly is crucial in your relationship with Christ and in your subsequent ability to serve well. You cannot live more abundantly and love better without addressing the underlying issues. You are not after perfection in the way you love, but you do need to cultivate a growing dependency on a relationship with Christ that gives you the ability to love.
The first step, then, is assessing your heart condition. To do that, you need to look for the three signs of an issue-laden life. Think of the way fatigue relates to anemia, or sniffles to the cold, or fever to the flu. These symptoms are your first indicator that you've got something going on beneath the surface. Similarly, there are three overarching symptoms in your life that let you know you've got issues: blindness, lack of compassion, and convoluted conflict.
Symptom #1: Blindness
Let me explain how motherhood and triple bathroom mirrors opened my eyes to this condition in myself. When our oldest son started kindergarten, our family moved to a new level of crazy. A young man of rules, Charlie deals with a little fear issue, and every morning he was terrified of the dreaded possibility of missing the bus. That could be manageable, except for the three- and one-year-olds who ruled the house like little dictators.
One morning after we had narrowly escaped the dreadful missing the bus, I began helping my daughter prepare for preschool. Finally I stole away for sixty seconds of luxurious "me" time: just enough to hurriedly brush my teeth in peace. But as all mothers know, the click of the bathroom lock is the signal for a code-red emergency to break out. On this morning, it was my daughter's unsuccessful search for a pair of matching socks.
"Mama, I need socks!"
"Mommy, I can't find my purple and white socks. Mommy!"
"MOMMY, I need help! MOMMY, where are you? MOMMY!"
I spit into the sink and screamed so loud that my voice scratched as if it were coming from a blown speaker. "BEEEEEeeeeeeee PAaaaaaaTIENT!!!!"
At that moment, I caught a panoramic view of myself in the triple bathroom mirrors. With toothpaste on my lip, hair scrambled on top of my head, and a wild look in my eye, I screamed "Be patient!" like a woman possessed. The mirrors captured the irony of my statement in triplicate. I began to wonder how my own issues were becoming my kids' issues. Ouch.
Eye-opening experiences happen throughout Scripture. Jesus proclaimed that he came to bring "sight to the blind" (Luke 4:18, nkjv). He frequently preached about spiritual and relational blindness, particularly when talking to the so-called spiritual people, the Pharisees:
You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean." (Matthew 23:24-26, NIV)
Heavy words! Even—and especially—the religious leaders seemed prone to a malignant form of blindness. They could preach the Word. They knew the law, and they knew what to do to appear right and good. But Jesus knew the truth about their hearts. The religious show they liked to put on wasn't fooling him.
Our ordinary issues may seem so commonplace that we stay blind to the truth of our own condition. But it's in stories just like mine that we have a choice. We can shrug off reality and use circumstances, personality, or PMS to justify our behavior, or we can face the truth of just how damaging ordinary issues are in our lives. Without that truth, as painful as it might be, we aren't able to access the kind of compassion and love that should characterize our lives. We will be known by our love (see John 13:35). That morning in the bathroom mirror gave me eyes to see the reality of my heart: something crazy was lurking beneath the surface. (I also looked crazy, but that's another story.)
Symptom #2: Lack of compassion
This symptom may be the most obvious: the half-dead heart has no compassion reserve. The word compassion means "to suffer with," and when we are "suffering with" a bunch of our own stuff, it is almost impossible to offer ourselves freely to someone else. We all find it difficult to feel for others at times. Busyness, exhaustion, lack of boundaries, or painful life circumstances suck our compassion reserves dry. But I wonder how often something else is going on.
Excerpted from SHE'S GOT ISSUES by NICOLE UNICE Copyright © 2012 by Nicole Unice. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted September 1, 2013
Counselor Nicole Unice shares from her heart on several issue-laden topics that seem to especially plague women. She seems quite transparent, sharing both her own experiences as well as those (by permission) of her clients and friends that illustrate each chapter's topic. These include: Control, Comparison, Insecurity, Fear, Anger, Unforgiveness - even just plain feeling crazy (issues, everyone's got 'em!) - all covered in a real and non-platitude way. The companion chapters to the 'problem' topic provide potential, non-textbook solutions. I was pleasantly surprised.
Each chapter also includes what she calls "Taking a 'Space Bar'" -a little break to really examine and pay attention to a specific issue or incident and therefore be able to process and deal with it; a prayer; a journaling exercise, and Group Discussion questions. There are even snap tags at the end of every chapter where you can watch a bonus video with Nicole. Some chapters have a quiz (i.e., "Are You a Control Freak?") that illustrate and illuminate issues. The end of the book includes a great list of further resources including how to find a counselor along with some recommended reading.
I love the author's obvious genuine love for people, it is clear that she truly wants to help people work through and be released from their issues, by a true heart change from God. She communicates well and this book is recommended for anyone who is struggling with the above issues list, as well as anyone who would like to communicate more effectively.
Posted August 13, 2013
Powerful, Valuable Advice and Easy to Read. Humor and life-experience examples give this book punch. Nicole Unice speaks to me where I am. I like her way of expressing herself; she is so intimately acquainted with how women feel and think. The video links are a great bonus feature. The stories told by the author and others are very illustrative, and the Scripture verses are really helpful. There is much to think about, and I see this book as continuing to be useful in my life.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 12, 2013
This book was so helpful! Unice touches on five areas that women frequently struggle with that she has dealt with in her private counseling sessions. It was reassuring to me to read that I am not alone in the issues that I struggle with. These areas that she pinpoints are anger, insecurity, comparing, anger, and unforgiveness. The book is set up where each topic is discussed in two chapters, the first to define it and the second to help readers cope with that issue through Scripture.
From start to finish this was book was user-friendly, relevant, and insightful. I loved the was Unice described how these issues negatively impact our lives. I loved the journaling exercises, they were short enough to complete quickly, but focused enough to prompt ongoing reflections. I also enjoyed using the smartphone codes and the youtube links. Very interactive!
I also thought the assessments were focused and helpful. Even if my score was mostly in the middle, Unice included in her discussion people that share characteristic with each group, so each section was relevant to me.
This is an excellent book that I highly recommend. I love her suggestion to use it in a small group study. I will definitely encourage others to get a copy of this book!
Posted August 4, 2013
Women face different issues every day, but there is help in Christ. The author wrote about five different issues- control, insecurity, comparison, fear and anger (along with forgiveness). Each issue is discussed and then there are tips to overcome the problem. I thought the book was interesting and the exercises and quizzes helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 16, 2013
This book was so enjoyable. I loved the message, the layout and the feeling it left me with upon completing it. Many things in our busy lives keep us from enjoying the life God plans for us. It’s up to us to search within ourselves, and within the scriptures, and allow Him to shape our character.
I especially enjoyed chapter 3 (I’M NOT CONTROLLING I JUST LIKE MY LATTE EXTRA HOT) I can be a control freak at times, but even though I like things a particular way, I know that God is ultimately in control and I trust him over my own judgment. Reading this chapter (and book) gave me gentle nudges to remind me what I lack and what I’ve been blessed with. It is God who transforms us, so we need to keep him close in mind and heart.
Closing the chapters with prayers, journal exercises, and group discussion questions is an added bonus. The prayers have a simple, conversational tone, I LOVED the journal exercises, and though I didn’t read this book with a group, the discussion questions are fitting for individuals as well.
Whatever your issue(s), if you’re stressed out, overwhelmed, or simply taking a breather to redirect your path, this book is for you.
Posted June 12, 2012
So often, the real everyday issues that women face often take a backseat to the bigger issues and complexities of life. This book helps bring a fresh perspective to the challenges that many women face on a daily basis. Nicole Unice brings to the light issues that many women are reluctant to talk about because it might put a crack in the perfect armor that we try to wear. Drawing on a number of Scripture passages, she really helps draw the reader back to a biblical understanding of topics such as control, anxiety, fear, anger, and unforgiveness. It's a great book to go through slowly on your own, but would be even better to go slowly through it with a small group to really digest the book and find accountability as you begin to deal with your own issues. What a treat to read this book!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 21, 2012
She’s got Issues: Seriously Good News for stressed out Secretly Scared Control Freaks Like Us (Paperback)
The title says it all, we all struggle with Issues, Insecurity, fear and stress in our daily lives, its part of our human journey. If you feel you are struggling with the same issues year in and year out, questioning your ability to change and Gods plan for your life this book is for you.
Nicole’s Authentic, fresh, and inspiring quality will capture you in the first chapter. Her relevant, searingly honest, funny and direct writing style will help you break thorough the barriers holding you back from living the abundant Christian life God intended for you to live.
Nicole shares stories from her own personal journey as well as experience from her many years as a professional counselor.
Her truths are solidly backed by Biblical principals’ and scripture references. The book also includes great study guides, a prayer, journal exercises and group discussion questions in every chapter.
Often throughout the book I felt as if Nicole truly got me, It spoke to that place deep within that hid behind the “I’ve got it all together” Christian facade I find myself wearing, It was so refreshing to sift through the layers and give it back to God!
This book is not your every day self help book, It is a must read; buy it for yourself and your friends! I know you will not regret it!
I received this complimentary copy of She’s Got Issues, for reviewing purposes from Tyndale House.
Posted May 17, 2012
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Cooking dinner. Taking care of the screaming children. We go through the exhaustion of life. We don't know how to get out of this rut so we just give up and don't try. We women all have issues, as much as we want to try to hide them. Whether we are controlling, angry, insecure or fearful, we have some issue that we are fighting with almost every single day. For us to be able to live the life that our Creator designed us to live, we have to bring these issues to light and come to dealing with each of them. She's Got Issues by Nicole Unice confronts this issues and brings them out into the open. She describes these issue in detail with a way we can transform ourselves and bring ourselves closer to Christ.
As I read through the issues in this book, I could relate so well to each. This book has made a great difference in my life and how I have even been dealing with these issues since beginning to read the book. I love the prayer, journaling exercise, discussion questions at the end of each chapter. The discussion questions allow us to dig deep inside ourselves and draw out those issues we have. I also love how Nicole uses scripture throughout each chapter reflecting upon each issue and it is also scripture that we can memorize and ponder upon when we are struggling daily. This would be a wonderful book for a women's study, discussing and supporting each other through our issues.
Tyndale House publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book.
Posted May 2, 2012
What a refreshingly honest look at Christianity! Nicole's in-depth exploration of control, insecurity, and comparison illuminate issues that daily keep us from a meaningful relationship with each other and more importantly, with Christ. Nicole's examples are honest and realistic without judgment. Discussion questions and scripture references make this book the perfect guide for your next Book Club or Bible Study. Definitely a must read, ladies!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 2, 2012
Well done Nicole amazing book! We all have issues thanks for sharing yours and helping me to "own my issues". Each day I feel as I relinquish a little more of my control issues and let Christ take the reigns. Christ at the center of life equals a happy, loving and prosperous life!!! Congrats on a well written helpful book and I highly recommend this to every woman out there and hope you can "own your issues".Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 1, 2012
"Every woman becomes either beautiful or bitter by the time she’s forty. Women either face their stuff or they don’t." ~ Nicole Unice
This is one of my favorite quotes in the book. I've learned to "own my issues" and it makes for living a much more meaningful an fulfilling life. I enjoyed Nicole's fresh look at letting go of trying to control life and just embracing who I am as a woman of God. "Living free and Loving Well" has become my new motto. I really enjoyed the cool way Nicole put the new scan codes at the end of some of the chapters that link you to inspiring videos about the issues discussed in the book. I look forward to reading the book again this summer with friends using Nicole's group discussion questions that are at the end of each chapter. Great read!
Posted April 27, 2012
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