Book Review: Downside Up by Tracey Mitchell

“Rejection reveals, alerts, exposes, defines, confirms, and is one of the greatest motivators in life.”

This is one of the opening points Tracey Mitchell makes in her book, Downside Up: Transform Rejection Into Your Golden Opportunity. This out-of-the-box view on rejection is an example of how Mitchell takes an alternative look at the role adversity can play in life.

Mitchell relates to the reader from personal experiences in her own life and those she’s encountered. More importantly, she draws relative stories from Scripture to show that rejection is an emotional wound Christ can heal.

The end of each chapter offers a list of “Chapter Principles” to not only serve as reinforcements for Mitchell’s main points, but also as references the reader can easily access in the future. Following the chapter principles are “Words of Wisdom” which consist of Scriptures and famous quotes that relate to each chapter’s main points. Finally, building on her principles and Scripture, Mitchell offers a “Plan of Action” for the reader to directly apply to their personal life in tangible ways that will last long after this book has been read.

Downside Up, by Tracey Mitchell, is not like any other self-help book I’ve read. My pen went dry from all the notations and underlining I did throughout this book. The amount of ah-ha moments made me take this read a bit slower so I could ingest all the extraordinary points being offered.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through the BookLook Bloggers. program. I was not required to give a positive review.

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You can purchase Downside Up: Transform Rejection Into Your Golden Opportunity by Tracey Mitchell here.

Do I Belong Here?

One day, when I was in 5th grade, my teacher handed out a test explaining there were no wrong answers – so we should pick what we felt was best for the question. Something about the look of that test made me feel it was important. I scrutinized over each question – trying to accomplish whatever the goal of this activity was to the best of my ability.

I remember feeling anxious as my classmates, one-by-one, walked past me to hand in their finished exams.  I wondered why it was taking me longer than everyone else.

Was I doing it wrong?

Or maybe, I was the only one doing it right?! Finally, I finished! – Days went by, and as the rest of the class moved past this experience, I fixated on it. There was never a time I received that test back with my results.

Did I pass or fail?

Eventually, I prodded enough that I found myself in a small room one morning, before school started, meeting with my teacher and the Principal. They explained this test determined our IQ – those whose results were above a certain number were going to be participating in a special program at the public library once a week. This program would provide challenging tasks so students could further develop areas in which they excelled at.

I was not one of these students in need of further development. At least that’s what the test said.

So, naturally, I asked to join this group. I rode that bus each week to the public library – and I sat with these students…my classmates…my friends…and stumbled along as we were asked to build bridges out of toothpicks and solve complicated math equations.

Most of that experience is a blur to me now – except the unmistakable feeling that I didn’t belong. That insecurity has sat on my shoulders, whispering in my ears throughout my life. I’ve endured unbearably hard math classes, college lectures and business meetings hunkered down, hoping I wouldn’t be found out for being in the wrong place.

Then I heard this TED talk on the TED News Radio Hour. Amy Cuddy’s story spoke to me. It resonated somewhere so incredibly deep within my spirit – it caused the mountain of negative rubble to shake loose and allow rays of hope to break through. So, I’m sharing this with you – hoping it does the same.

Book Review: Second Chances by Max Lucado

Second ChancesThe title of this book, Second Chances, caught my eye because I have been on the receiving end of many second chances in life. From very small happenstances to extreme life changes – being granted a second chance is the greatest form of grace I have encountered.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover this book was not comprised of  chapters directing me on how to accept second chances with a grateful heart. Instead, it contained stories of grace from Max Lucado’s library of writings.

From traditional Bible stories to biographical recollections from Lucado’s life; this book reminds us, page by page, that God’s love is endless and His grace will return moment after moment.

Favorite quotes:

  • God’s efforts are strongest when our efforts are useless.
  • Reconciliation restiches the unraveled, reverses the rebellion, rekindles the cold passion.
  • Deflating inflated egos is so important to God that He offers to help.
  • Their [Your] sin collided with their [your] Savior, and their [your] Savior won!

I received this book from Thomas Nelson through their Booksneeze program. I was not required to write a positive review.

In the Light

Co-authored with my dad, Reverend Philip VanDop @ CalculatedWanderings.com.

jesus-savesShe sat in my office, shoulders slumped – heavy with the weight of fear from past memories. Burdens she’d chosen to carry too many long and lonely years.

My heart broke as her life’s painful timeline unraveled through desperate, broken sentences.

Tears and exhaustion stained her face. Her heart – a well trodden battleground. Her soul – discouraged and lost in the dark.

She’d lived her life blinded by pitch black – with no light to guide her steps. She needed the light switched on, directing her path.


Why do we choose to live in darkness?

In a time in which electricity is a commodity and “light” is always a flip switch away – we consistently chose to clothe our hearts in darkness.

Driven by fear from deeply hidden secrets – we believe Satan’s whispers that hiding from the truth (light) is safe and acceptable.

Fear and hurt build up…

…secrets bang on the door of our lives, threatening to destroy us…

…vulnerability becomes a consistent worse case scenario.

We double down on poor tactics and destructive coping mechanisms which are misguided at best and outright lies at worst.

Satan, like a cock roach, lurks in the dark. Hiding under floor boards and between the cracks slithers around where we can’t see him. Shine the Light and see him, the cock roach, scatter – running towards a blackened sanctuary.

God is Light. He is the Truth that erases the shadows which seem to make our lies bigger than reality.

You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. (Psalm 18:28)

It is my hope and prayer that if you are hiding behind corrosive secrets, you realize God is here to help you heal. Nothing is beyond Him, nothing is more than He can handle. Remember His Son died so that you could be healed of the greatest hurts, the deepest secrets and the loudest criticisms. Let His light shine in all of your life so that your secrets, whatever they may be, will scatter for darker sanctuaries.

Happiness in the Final Surrender

Mary washing Christ's FootEach of us has struggles we face – they are life long, daily and even momentary.

I want to talk about that last one. The struggle you hang on to because it is your last means of coping or even your last shred of abnormal normalcy.

Let me use myself as an example. Like any other person existing in the main stream of today’s world, I had a difficult childhood. I say this not to point out that my parents were failures, in fact they were very much the opposite. But life is messy, and inevitable circumstance arose which changed the course of my emotional development from an early age. The result: a handful of dysfunctional coping mechanisms.
Looking back, it seemed as though I consistently rotated life’s battles like marbles within the grip of my palm – able to fall back on those remaining as I let go of one. This coping net became thinner as I began to surrender my life to God little by little.  And now I face the last of my unhealthy coping mechanisms – the final piece I need to surrender so that I may be fulling relying on Christ and not myself or any other idols.

Some of you may cut in order to find a release from the abounding pain inside you…

Others may eat hoping to fill those pot holes in your soul from others frequently traveling across it…

And some of you may even allow men or women to abuse your body, giving them the power to act out the darkness you feel inside your soul…

To stop these behaviors, these struggles, these last coping mechanisms would mean you are left fully relying on the intangible safety net of the Heavenly Father. You are unsure of what this will feel and look like, so you cling tightly to what you know – screaming out that you have already given up so much. But Christ did not die on the cross for us to live a mediocre life.  He did not endure the torture and abandonment of that sacrifice so that we may cling to what damages us instead of resting on His peace.

There was a poem my mom used to have on our refrigerator, that never escaped my mind:

As children bring their broken toys
With tears for us to mend,
I brought my broken dreams to God
Because He was my friend.
But then instead of leaving Him
In peace to work alone,
I hung around and tried to help
With ways that were my own.
At last I snatched them back and cried,
How could you be so slow?
My child,” He said, “What could I do?
You never did let go.
By: Author Unknown

Remember, as the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 118: 6, 9-11, 14-15 NLT:

The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear.
What can mere people do to me…
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.
Though hostile nations surround me,
I destroyed them all with the authority of the Lord.
Yes, they surrounded and attacked me,
but I destroyed them all with the authority of the Lord…
The Lord is my strength and my song; He has given me victory.
Songs of joy and victory are sung in the camp of the godly.
The strong right arm of the Lord has done glorious things!

Guest Blog: The Masks We Wear

Growing up, insecurity and I were the closest of friends. One might say we were constant companions. I was all too familiar with insecurity’s constant need – its endless hunger for more and more and more.

Insecurity fed my fear of rejection and ultimately my fear of being unloved. You see, like many of us, I had my fair amount of experience with both of these hurtful feelings.

behind_the_mask_III_by_dinemizLike many of you, my path to adulthood wasn’t smooth. In fact, it was the opposite. So, to cope with my fear and to pacify my friend insecurity, I affixed my “mask.” You see, my mask became my greatest defense. I believed that my mask protected me – or at least I thought it did. I believed that it shielded me from hurt, judgment, and protected my vulnerabilities.

BUT the mask is a crafty thing. It’s forever changing – shifting its color, shape, wants, and desires. I can still hear the voice of my younger self agreeing to things to pacify others and laughing at jokes to please.

Sadly, much of my laughter was only skin deep and much of what I claimed to “love” I don’t think I really did. You see, it’s not that I lied or intentionally tried to be deceptive. I said what I thought others wanted to hear – which was easy because not only did the mask stop others from truly knowing me- it also stopped me from knowing myself.

That’s the danger with the mask- it slowly suffocated and isolates. Our masks and insecurities leave little room for anyone else. They leave little room for beauty, truth, and peace.

But this is not where my story ends. You see, because we have a loving Father and He loves us so much – He won’t settle for our bondage. I was a believer the entire time I wore my mask – but I never truly accepted His love and His acceptance of me.  Some of the reason I clung to my mask was because of my painful road to adulthood, and some of it was that I didn’t know how to trust Him with my flawed self. After all, how could the God of the universe truly love someone like me – when so many others hadn’t and didn’t.

So, out of love God removed my mask. I STRESS out of love, because at the time, it didn’t FEEL loving.  At the time it felt hurtful. At the time I felt truly exposed, vulnerable, and alone. It was during that time I discovered that there is strength in vulnerability, power in exposing our true selves to the light – HIS light. I realized what I was most afraid of – the world knowing that I was hurt and everything wasn’t perfect – He already knew.

I learned that my mask/ insecurity weren’t my companions – they were my enemies. You see I had built a fortress around myself to protect myself. I lived alone in that one room cell and probably would have stayed there- BUT what I was willing to settle for – true isolation- Christ wasn’t willing to accept. So, He did what any loving parent would do- He tore down my walls and showed me how beautiful life can be when we truly accept HIS love.

Insecurity keeps us so busy running from person to person or thing to thing seeking to be fed – always hungry but NEVER satisfied. And we are left weak, hungry, and alone.

Insecurity has us constantly looking around comparing ourselves to our sisters and brothers. It convinces us that we never measure up. But the truth Christ gives us- is that we are ALL beautiful in His sight. The truth is, there is beauty in our diversity and our distinct differences.

The truth is, He is the only One we need to seek approval from. He is the only One who can ever fill us full. The truth is, in this world- pain is sadly the thread that binds many of us together- we all have experiences that have left us raw, sad, or discouraged. The enemy would have you stay in that place looking to the world to fix that pain. The enemy would have you believe that “this” daily hunger is as good as it gets.

But I say, thru Jesus, you can have true healing. He will fill up the empty corners – the places no one knows about- He will bind up your broken heart and set you free so you are no longer in captivity.

The truth is, that when we compare ourselves to each other, or tear ourselves apart, we limit ourselves in so many ways. So, as I stand before you, without my mask – I ask you to look at your own. What if we tried to love one another but really only sought out to please just ONE- the only One who truly matters. SO, when insecurity comes knocking on your door – which it will and still does for me- remember that we have an ultimate Healer who can set us free, be our constant companion and truly make us Whiter Than Snow.

Jen and Guy


Guest Blogger: Jennifer Fitzgerald
(my sister) lives in Michigan with her husband, Guy Fitzgerald and two dogs – Nellie and Zoey. Jennifer is currently furthering God’s kingdom through her service as a Christian Counselor at the Christian Mission, Inc. along with working in her family business, Team Fitzgerald.

What to do with the Scars of Life?

An incredible message by Rev. Philip VanDop which asks us to look at the scars on Jesus’ hands and side as evidence of what He went through and the healing that occurred.  Each of us with scars have the same opportunity for healing.  You will be better for having heard this message.

What to Do With the Scars of Life?
Scripture: John 20:19-31.

Forgiven by Thomas Blackshear