Foreword by Mandy Arioto, President of MOPS International TERESA SWANSTROM ANDERSON is living the life she thought she never wanted. With an art history degree and dreams of living in Europe as a curator, Teresa had big plans for herself. She had no desire to have kids—didn’t even like them—but after a decision to lay her exciting plans at the feet of Christ, God began changing her heart little by little. While dating the man who eventually became her husband, the two felt called to adopt from Africa. Now, Teresa’s house is bursting at the seams with the loves of her life—her husband, Ben, and their six children, four of whom were born in Ethiopia. She believes in celebrating the everyday and instilling the love of God and others in her children’s hearts. She views her life as a series of redirected dreams, stumbling, falling, getting up, and wondering if she is investing her time where it matters most. Through it all, Teresa grasps joy tightly amid the craziness of everyday life. Go from dreaming about your life to living it fully with God in control. Pick up this book, grab a notebook, curl up on the couch, and open your heart to the potential of allowing your life to become beautifully interrupted. Includes reflection questions and Bible study prompts. Have you gotten so caught up in life and your well-intentioned plans that you may have accidentally planned God right out of it all? Teresa Swanstrom Anderson did just that. Her carefully laid out life changed course when she whispered to God, “Send me. Use me.” Be inspired as you read Beautifully Interrupted and learn the importance of giving your plans back to God and allow Him to expand the borders of your life and heart. This book offers strategies and encouragement for living through the in-between times of waiting, as well as facing trials with grace and active faith. Become equipped to brave the storms and embrace the life-changing power of seeking God’s plan first and sacrificing time and set plans in favor of something far greater.
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About the Author
Teresa Swanstrom Anderson is living the life she thought she never wanted. With an art history degree and dreams of living in Europe as a curator, Teresa had big plans for herself. After a decision to lay her exciting plans at the feet of Christ, God began changing her heart little by little and began dating the man who eventually became her husband. Teresa’s life is a series of redirected dreams, stumbling, falling, getting up, and wondering if she is investing her time where it matters most. Through it all, she aims to see beauty everywhere and grasp joy tightly. And some days she actually manages to pull it off. Teresa grew up in Seattle, but spent her middle school years in Guatemala and has a deep love for people in third-world countries. Now living in Denver, Colorado with their loud and silly brood of 6, she spends her days wiping off sticky counters, Instagramming, and blogging at teresaswanstromanderson.com.
Read an Excerpt
A Different Kind of God
* * *
Plastic gods are safe. Plastic gods don't mess with you. Plastic gods don't matter much; they fit in a small crevice of the life you want, the life you were planning to have. And when everything in life is working ... plastic gods feel like enough.
Somehow I had gotten comfortable with a life that was typical, ordinary, average. I was content in the simple and familiar. Without realizing it, my dreams and goals only went far enough to ensure my little boat wasn't rocked.
I was graduating from high school and felt the surge we all feel during that exciting season — that the world was my oyster. I was ready for a summer of fun before heading to college and was perfectly happy in the little bubble I lived in. My planned major made sense to me, as did the sunshiny life I was designing, the kind devoid of challenge and discomfort. The one where I married my high school boyfriend and we rode off into the sunset.
In this idealized vision, I had no desire for adventure and whispered to myself that it was not the kind of life I wanted, even though my parents always used the word adventure as I grew up. To me, adventure required stretching and being out of my comfort zone, like when we lived in Guatemala during my junior high years. I'd had plenty of that and I was done, thankyouverymuch.
What I didn't realize as I turned my back on adventure was that I had unwittingly turned my face toward safety and ordinary — and I was just fine living that way. So, when my parents wanted to swoop up our family and fly off on a big family trip to Europe instead of letting me go on my idea of a senior trip to Hawaii, I begged and pleaded for them to reconsider. I wanted to spend a few weeks lying on the beach, leafing through magazines and devouring novels. Despite my protests, they chose Europe.
I was so disappointed. I know, what kind of person is disappointed in an all-expenses-paid trip to Europe? Looking back, I could kick my teenaged self.
My dad is an academic and to him learning is fun, so Europe was ideal to him. Now I would agree, but back when I was eighteen I just couldn't see learning as entertainment or enjoyment. School was hard for me, and my grades never reflected my desire to be a successful student. So I envied my friends who would spend their senior trips in tropical places where the sun always shines and stress fades away with the tide. At least they were getting tan.
Instead, my family flew first into Frankfurt, Germany, where we rented the tiniest of tiny cars, and my brother, Erik, and I enjoyed days full of knees shoved up to our chins in the backseat. We drove through Germany, Austria, Italy, and France, and ultimately rode through the Chunnel and into England.
What happened on that trip, a trip I dug in my heels so deeply against, completely surprised me. Suddenly history came alive when we stayed in thousand-year-old castles-turned-hotels, walked over the same cobblestoned streets the Romans marched on, and searched ruins, museums, and the countryside.
I came alive.
Soaking up every morsel of history and culture I could while I munched on baguette and cheese in Italy, I walked through the narrow streets, passed over mossed canals in Venice, and fell in love. Not with a boy, but with learning and people and God. My heart awakened as it tuned into the achingly beautiful violin music drifting through the cramped streets of this ancient, sinking land.
This dreamy città captivated me as deeply romantic-sounding songs drifted up to our room from the gentleman who delivered black olive scones and feta spinach tarts to our bed-and-breakfast every morning before light had peeked through our shutters. And afternoons — post-siesta, naturally — brought us the most melodious tenor from another man as he collected garbage from cans resting beneath a web of linens drying on the lines strung through the windows, high above.
I was utterly enchanted.
Love and Truth meet in the street, Right Living and Whole Living embrace and kiss! Truth sprouts green from the ground, Right Living pours down from the skies! Oh yes! God gives Goodness and Beauty; our land responds with Bounty and Blessing. Right Living strides out before him, and clears a path for his passage. (Psalm 85:10–13, msg)
Love and Truth meet in the street.
Christ certainly allowed these two to meet me right there in the ancient streets of Europe as He showed His goodness and beauty to me in a big way. Touring small villages fenced in by nothing but countryside, our car was repeatedly delayed, surrounded by goats and sheep herded by children who had been taught by their fathers and their fathers before them.
Those children made me realize how I wanted to be taught by my Father too. I wanted Him to show me how to live a life that would yield harvest, bounty, and blessing. Though that thought frightened me because it seemed to hold adventure, it somehow made me feel safe at the same time, because I knew God would travel beside me.
As the countryside whisked by, wedged in the backseat of that tiny car, my mind wandered and dreamed. I pondered and remembered His protection and guidance in my past. He taught me as I listened.
Somehow as He met me in ancient European streets, God no longer existed as someone I loved simply because my parents taught me to. I've loved Jesus for as long as I can remember, and even as a child, my faith in God felt real and not simply a fairy tale my parents told at bedtime. I continue to feel fortunate and blessed that in our family, faith and relationship with Christ were like breathing; they were just part of who we were and how we lived. At the same time, though, since God had always been part of my story, it took this trip abroad to remind me what living and breathing with God by my side really meant.
Perhaps my growth had become stunted because I was jaded by years of Sunday school and youth group and I forgot the magnitude of what relationship with Him looked like in my everyday life. I lived a life where Jesus simply was but forgot that He also is. It was during this trip that Jesus ceased being the fair-haired, light-skinned Man-God I learned about on flannel graphs in Sunday school.
Instead, I finally viewed Him for who He really is: a Man with dark skin and hair and grime beneath His fingernails, calloused hands from His trade as a woodworker, and miles of dusty travels with His disciples leaving blistered and weary feet. A Man with grit and passion and struggle. A Man with a deep love I could only attempt to fathom.
I could trust a Man-God who looked like this. He seemed legitimate. He felt solid. This was someone whose deep love was a small fleck of light that began to shine through the sliver of my heart recently pierced by His grit and passion and struggle. That tiny fracture continued breaking open as my will was tossed aside, and in its stead, He began construction on a house He engineered.
My eyes poured over our dog-eared Baedeke travel guides, and I pleaded with my parents to pay the extra few dollars for a docent to take us through various museum tours, closed umbrella raised high above her head so we didn't lose sight of her in the dense crowds. I was as hungry for knowledge as I was for Parisian chocolate croissants — I just never had realized it. I was so enthralled while people watching in Paris that when the waiter came by for the third time to take our order, I realized I still hadn't looked at the menu. I was too absorbed in really seeing people for the first time ... seeing their lives, their stories — both the individuals whose portraits lined the museum walls and those who occupied the café seats near our hotel.
I felt God whisper the words bigger and more into my heart, though I had no idea what they meant ... other than the possibility that my safe little bubble might lose a bit of air.
I realized why my parents wanted to bring my brother and me here, on likely our last big family vacation before they became empty nesters. They wanted to open our eyes and hearts and minds to how vast the world is. They wanted to remind us how many exciting things there are to be a part of so we wouldn't get too comfortable, sequestering ourselves in the limited sphere of life that's so easy to get caught up in.
I still don't completely understand how my view of Christ changed so drastically on this weeks-long trip, but I think touring through new countries and cultures was the catalyst God used to get me out of my comfort zone and allow my eyes to open to His bigness — and the bigness of life itself.
My heart soared with life's possibilities and the future.
I hadn't read C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity yet, but if I had, I know I would have highlighted this section in deep pink with arrows and exclamation points all over the margins. Because without realizing it, this journey across the globe opened in me something new. I saw life in a new way and viewed Christ as less of someThing and more of someOne.
Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense.
What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.
C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
* * *
Fall quickly approached, as did the time to pack up all my belongings and move from life as a child to life as an adult. My heart pounded wildly as I remembered the past summer's travels. I never wanted it to end. I wanted to travel the world and see everything, examine every culture, learn all I could from our world and the people in it.
The problem was, in every dream and plan, the main focus was I and me.
Planning God Right Out
* * *
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.
That first semester in college, I thrived. My roommate Lissy was my other half, and we prided ourselves on the fact that our dorm room (complete with cream painted cinderblock walls) was decorated so beautifully, girls would swing by from other areas of campus just to check it out. It was, I believed, confirmation that I continue forward in what I'd planned to major in for several years: interior design.
The problem was, I learned early that first semester, that though I loved creating a beautiful ambiance for myself to enjoy, I had zero passion in doing everything required to learn about it. Plus, it never occurred to me how much math was involved in creating beautiful spaces. My mind reeling over numbers was the final nail in my imaginary interior design career coffin.
Most of my friends were either pursuing fashion merchandising or Elementary Education. And since being around children all day, every day, was about the last thing in the world I ever wanted, I thought perhaps I'd take a course or two in fashion. The History of Fashion was all that was available when I went to register and I ended up loving it. We poured through time periods such as ancient Egypt and the Byzantine Empire, studying all the way to the Tudor period, the era when the Medicis seemed to rule Italy, and beyond.
I loved learning that Napoleon ordered buttons to be attached to jacket sleeves to prevent soldiers from wiping off their runny noses and dirtying up their uniform, and so became tradition. I adored knowing that my closet holds stilettos because in the early 1700s,
elaborate heels decorated with miniature battle scenes were worn by King Louis XIV of France. The king decreed that these "Louis heels" could never be taller than five inches because he wanted his to stack taller than anyone else's.
I had no idea there was so much history in something as common as a shoe or buttoned jacket sleeve.
This history thing, I decided, was kind of fun.
I proudly came home during a long weekend and announced that I was on the dean's list. We all celebrated, my parents remembering well how I struggled in high school. I was ecstatic dreaming of the future, though still having no clue what my major would end up being now that I was officially not doing interior design.
When it came time to register for classes for the next semester, because I had an overdue library book, which I actually couldn't even find, I wasn't allowed to register. By the time I had it taken care of, every single class I had planned on taking was full.
Except art classes. Art classes were open. After rolling my eyes at the idea of paying college tuition and yet taking three art courses in one semester, I went for it.
Through the course of those weeks and months, God released something else in me that I didn't know was deep inside. I knew I had some sort of creativity in my blood because of my love of decorating, baking, and playing with flowers. Because of our trip to Europe and the fun I had in History of Fashion, I knew world travel and history were budding delights for me as well.
But I never knew I was artistic. Ever.
I had enjoyed art class in elementary school, sure. Who didn't love crafting buildings from stacked toothpicks and whittling stamps from potatoes? But between my Drawing Studio, Still Life Painting, and History of Art classes, I was in complete and total heaven. It's as if everything I ever thought I loved suddenly was related. It all made sense to me. And I was surprised how natural I was, paintbrush in hand.
I remember one of my professors, Michael, telling me, "Paint what you see, not what you know" like it was yesterday. In the art building, you were allowed to call your professors by their first name. We were progressive like that.
I've thought of Michael's advice hundreds of times through the years. And I don't mean only when holding a pencil or paintbrush. It whispers in my ear when I'm in a new situation or decision, when I'm traveling, or seeing something beautiful God has created.
Paint what you see, not what you know.
What, in this moment, do you see? Forget what your brain is telling you from past experiences, hurts, failures, or weaknesses. What is Christ showing you right now? What is He impressing upon your heart? How is this situation going to be one of growth as you cultivate your relationship with Him?
Imagine this scenario and let your mind wander ...
You're sitting in a park, cross-legged on the grass, with a large sketch pad resting in front of you, near your knees. In your hand a pencil is sharpened and ready. Glancing around, your eyes fall on a heavy-leafed tree slightly to your left. Putting the lead to the thick paper, you start drawing. With quick, sharp lines, you begin the makings of a tree and the shadow it gives on the ground below. You look up and realize it looks nothing like the tree and the shadow. You didn't capture it or even the essence of it. Not because you're not artistic, but because you drew the tree and branches and leaves how your mind said they should be formed, how you wanted to see it.
Look again. Look at the colors. There's more to the tree than you initially perceived. The base of the trunk isn't simply brown as you'd first seen. The light bouncing off the grass gives small portions of it a greenish tint. And the leaves aren't just green. Depending on how the sun is hitting them, they're green with a touch of white. Or with a touch of yellow. The leaves in the shadows might have a blueish hue to them or look a flat gray.
The branches of the tree don't simply grow straight out like you had originally sketched but instead lightly curve upward ... a few may even grow in a manner that doesn't resemble the others.
Now that you're taking the time to really look at the tree, you notice one branch twists slightly, giving the shadow a slight turn also. And the texture: it's not a smooth or flat surface. We couldn't cut out this tree using a piece of construction paper like we did when we were young and do it justice. If we tried, we would miss the real composition: the balance of delicate beauty with a rough and seemingly flawed outer covering.
Getting up and walking closer, you find there's so much more texture than you feel you're able to capture with merely pencil and paper, so many more layers and activity and seemingly imperfect or boorish qualities in its appearance. But reaching out and placing your hand upon those imperfections, you realize they show uniqueness, not ugliness. That texture shows character.
Excerpted from "Beautifully Interrupted"
Copyright © 2018 Teresa Swanstrom Anderson.
Excerpted by permission of Worthy Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword Mandy Arioto xi
Part 1 Born for such a Time as this
1 A Different Kind of God 7
2 Planning God Right Our of My Plans 15
3 An Impact That Outlives Myself 25
Part 2 A Heart Under Construction
4 Character to Match the Assignment 41
5 Removing the Blinders 55
6 Releasing Expectations 65
Part 3 Uncomfortable
7 Becoming Better, Not Bitter 83
8 Free-falling 97
9 Praying for the Desire to Pray 111
10 Outside My Comfort Zone 125
Part 4 Openhanded Trust
11 It's Your Calling, Not Theirs 141
12 Fear Magnified 159
13 The Widow and the Oil 173
Part 5 Living Boldly
14 See, I Am Doing a New Thing 195
15 Firstfruits 213
16 Now Live Like It 229
For Reflection 249
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Beautifully Interrupted is an inspiring story of what can happen when you let God make the plans for your life. Teresa’s writing style is straightforward and easy to read. I found her story engaging and extremely relatable. I have felt that God has been asking to interrupt my life over the last several months, Teresa’s book has shown me how beautiful and wonderful that kind of interruption can be. Her words encouraged me where I’ve been prone to fear, inspired me where I’ve been prone to overwhelm, and motivated me where I’ve been prone to give up. I really appreciate her open honesty in these pages. I admire the way that she has endeavored to wait for God’s best rather than accept the immediate or closest things. Since reading Beautifully Interrupted I feel inspired to live more fully. Like Teresa, “I want my world to outlive me, for it to be very little about what I’ve done but rather how I’ve loved.” (Beautifully Interrupted, pg 231). Beautifully Interrupted has inspired me. I believe it can do the same for every woman brave enough to ask “Can God do more with me?”
I enjoyed this book, cover to beautiful cover. Teresa pours out her soul and takes you along on the journey as God moves in her life. Her writing style is easy and breezy and you almost feel her pop out the page likes she speaking directly to you. There's a reflection "guide" at the end that's great for a bible study group or a book club or just to dive deeper into your own walk with God. There's plenty of scripture but not so much that it becomes "preachy". To be honest I found it to be faith inspiring. Great book!!
This book is beautifully written with an authentic and open dialogue from Teresa Swanstrom Anderson. I literally read this book from beginning to end in one afternoon. I was captivated by her honest story of her life as well as all of the thought provoking things that really made me take a step back and wonder what else God is doing in my life. I can't wait to gift this book to my friends and family over the next few weeks! Favorite quote of the book: Still unaware what my purpose or assignment from God was, I knew what it wasn't. Holding on to that, I continued forward as I worked on becoming a woman of substance. page 50
What a treat to read Beautifully Interrupted. It was perfect timing for me to learn even more about trusting God and living boldly! Teresa Anderson is living out the story God has written for her and as you can probably guess, it's different than her own well laid plans. From the mindset of "my dreams are all planned out" to a surrendered shift of "living the life she thought she never wanted," Teresa takes you on her redirected journey. I appreciate the author's style of writing where you can almost hear, see & feel the life adventures she paints so vividly, especially her experiences in other countries! Whether you are younger, older, single or married with children ... you will appreciate how Teresa comes alongside us, her readers, and guides us on how to celebrate each and every day to the fullest!
I can't say enough great things about this book. LOVE IT. It is for the teenager, the single, the young mom, the older parent.... We all can learn about chasing after that adventure we so want from life, by setting our plans aside and opening our arms up to what God has for us. Such a fun and easy read. Hard to put down. Love it.
I can’t recall how I ran across Teresa’s blog years ago, but I instantly was attracted to her unique, but beautiful style. I admire her for her love of Jesus, her big diverse family, and her taste in décor. I was chosen to be part of her launch team for this book and was so excited to dive in. This book took me longer to read than any other book and that was only because each page made me stop and really think about what she was sharing. I found myself writing and marking up this book, which is way out of the ordinary for me. If I was interrupted while reading or felt the least bit tired, I would put it down, because I wanted to be fully present. Even though I have been following Teresa for a few years, I was so surprised at everything she wrote in this book. She was real, raw, and vulnerable and that is what is important when reading a book like this.
This book is a refreshing departure from the normal inspirational offerings. A lot of books in this genre seem to tie up quite nicely with a big red bow and finish with "they all lived happily ever after" ending. Teresa's book is more real, showing us the consequences of saying yes to God when he interrupts our plans. While God's plans are always what is best for us, many times they are not the easiest path. Teresa invites us into her story, - the ups, the downs, in a very real way. Her story doesn't end with the big red boy but it does end with a sense that God has much more to do in her life and I look forward to reading more of her story. I was able to really connect with her and was able to get a lot of application from this book. Another issue I typically have with inspirational Christian writing is the sloppy handling of the scripture, a lot of times the authors will take verses out of context or twist it to fit their understanding. Teresa is very careful in handling scripture and I was very happy to see her explaining the correct context of Jeremiah 29:11 - something I don't see very often. I highly recommend this book. It would be very good for a book club.
Wow! I loved this book and truly felt her stories and descriptions of her experiences. She left me wanting to talk more with God and trusting what his story is for me. I highly recommend this book! It was inspiring ,encouraging, and never left me bored!
There are not words to describe how this book has 'interrupted' my way of thinking. Teresa's story not only inspires, but challenges in the best possible way to think outside the box, to see God's movement in new and exciting ways, and to truly ask ourselves if we are living complacently and comfortably instead of boldly and abundantly. Teresa is raw and honest about the challenges she has faced, the moments that were tough and exhilirating to walk through, and the ways in which God has interrupted what she thought was the perfect plan. It has given me hope to believe that perhaps God too has given me what I once wanted to help me realize I was made for more.
This book. There are no words. It’s a book where as soon as you pick it up you can’t put it down. It’s a book that challenges you, and just spews Jesus. Teresa’s heart is golden, and you can tell with every word written. You go from laughing hysterically, to just sobbing over these words. My faith has been challenged, and my love for Jesus has gotten deeper. What more could you want? So thankful for this book and for what it did in my life.