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Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living Hardcover – August 9, 2016
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"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
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Returning to the theme of decluttering everyday life and concentrating on what is truly important, Niequist (Savor) weaves together a series of essays concerning her personal experiences overcoming a life overwrought with busyness, stress, and feelings of inadequacy. After years of frantic living, Niequist has come to the realization that she’s missing out on the beauty of everyday life with her husband and children---that it will all speed past her if she doesn’t slow down and simplify, learn how to say no to demands on her time, and stop worrying about others’ opinions of her. “Present over perfect living is real over image, connecting over comparing, meaning over mania, depth over artifice,” she writes, explaining along the way that she’s found a new “strength” in embracing quiet surroundings and in spending time alone. To emphasize her points, she quotes Scripture, but does so sparingly and intentionally---more often than not, her included references to her faith are intended only to bolster her own experiences of mindful living. Her style is conversational, friendly, inviting, and never heavy-handed, making the book accessible to people of all faiths. Women will find the advice hits closest to home. Niequist’s latest book is her most satisfying blend of mindfulness, scripture, and self-help to date, offering readers the blueprint for a life lived in the real instead of the ideal. (- Publishers Weekly)
I begged Shauna for this manuscript a year ago while it was half-baked. When I finally received it, I read it from cover to cover in one sitting, then sat down at my laptop and wrote four emails bowing out of engagements that no longer fit my life, made two hard phone calls, and gave an end date to two other commitments. Present Over Perfect loaned me the courage, integrity, and permission I’d been waiting for. I will go to the grave thankful for this message. It has changed my life. (―Jennifer Hatmaker, author of For the Love and 7)
Most of the teachers I’ve had didn’t think they were teaching me anything; they just thought we were friends. Shauna is that kind of friend, and this is that kind of book. As you turn these pages, you’ll be reminded about what you have loved, where you’ve found your joy, and perhaps what you’ve misplaced along the way. Most of all, you’ll be guided into an honest conversation about your faith and where you want to go with it. (―Bob Goff, author of Love Does)
I cried tears of relief while inhaling Present Over Perfect. I cried because I’d completely forgotten that I don’t have to earn worthiness, hustle for love, or fight to belong. Shauna’s words---equal parts elegant and urgent---invited me to remember that my worthiness, belonging, and beloved-ness are birthrights. I can’t think of a more important, more desperately needed invitation. (―Glennon Doyle Melton, author of Love Warrior and the New York Times bestseller Carry On, Warrior, founder of Momastery and Together Rising)
I’ve watched Shauna walk this journey away from proving and pushing toward connection and grace, and as a friend, I’m proud of her. As a reader, I’m thankful to have these pages as an inspiration and guide. For all of us who yearn for meaningful, connected lives but find ourselves sometimes settling for busy, her words are the push we’ve been waiting for. (―Donald Miller, New York Times bestselling author of Scary Close and Blue Like Jazz)
Shauna awakens our desire to not miss our lives. Because that pursuit costs us our distracting habits, we need motivation beyond disciplines and rules. We have to want to really live and be with our people and enjoy this gift of a life that God has given us. Shauna’s life makes me not want to miss mine, and her words here will make you not want to miss yours. (―Jennie Allen, founder and visionary of IF:Gathering, author of Anything and Restless)
We live in a society that can easily have us running in circles if we aren’t careful. And this can result in having a life full of things we actually never intended to sign up for. Shauna helps us take a step back and reset our minds and souls. In these pages you will find wisdom and encouragement to see past temporal success and accolades to experience the deeper, more connected and truly enjoyable life. After all, it is the power of connection with others that helps us thrive in every sense of the word. (―Dr. Henry Cloud, New York Times bestselling author of Boundaries and The Power of the Other)
I have already read this book seven times. It’s about pursuing the present over the perfect---but it is nonetheless a nearly perfect thing, a nearly perfect book. Shauna speaks exactly to my condition. (―Lauren Winner, author of Girl Meets God, Still, and Wearing God)
With graceful confession, Shauna has created a memoir of her heart---a racing, fragmented heart that is becoming a contented, loved, and present heart. Reading this book heartened me for her, for her family, for her church, and for her generation. Shauna summons each of us to resist being sucked into the fast-paced draft of saying Yes and offers us a better way: the way of presence, the way of saying No. But this No is a Yes to something far better. (―Scot McKnight, author of A Fellowship of Differents and The Blue Parakeet)
About the Author
Shauna Niequist is the author of Cold Tangerines, Bittersweet, Bread & Wine and Savor. She is married to Aaron, and they have two wild and silly and darling boys, Henry and Mac. They live outside Chicago, where Aaron leads The Practice and is recording a project called A New Liturgy. Shauna also writes for the Storyline Blog, and for IF:Table, she is a member of the Relevant podcast, and a guest teacher at her church. Shauna’s three great loves are her family, dinner parties, and books, and she believes that vulnerable storytelling, hard laughter, and cold pizza for breakfast can cure almost anything.
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However, as an average mom who doesn't have a Big Career to say no to, I had trouble relating. The big ideas were powerful but the details were privileged and narrow. Niequist leads an idyllic life: Vacations at a lake house, travel, tons of family support, the ability to reimagine her work-from-home job to more perfectly fit her family's needs. And I say this as a middle-class, educated woman of privilege. I wonder how people living paycheck-to-paycheck, without the ease of reinvention would relate to this message?
**I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.**
Throughout that interview, and throughout my reading of the book, I kept thinking that this would have been a great book for me to read 12 years ago when I was still working and stressed out to the max. Even though I am now retired and no longer stressed out, I still found the book helpful in terms of reminding myself to focus on remaining present and connected. I am a solitary person and, though I love my family and friends, I am so comfortable being in my own world that I often forget to stay connected to them. This book is a this book was a great reminder that I must work harder at remaining connected.
I am also a lifelong perfectionist, and related quite a lot to the author's struggles with letting things go and not always having to be perfect. Perfectionism is both a blessing and a curse. In my career as a technical editor, perfectionism made me the best at what I did, but it also sometimes robbed me of the ability to just let go and enjoy life, even if it's messy. It also drove my staff crazy with my constant need to be perfect.
Is this book the solution to being a perfectionist? Will it ensure that you are always present and connected instead of isolated? Probably not. But it's a good start. For those who are still working full-time and also parenting, this book is way over-simplified. Ms. Niequist's solution to not being present enough for her husband and children was to just stay home and write instead of constantly traveling for speaking engagements. Most working people don't have the luxury of that decision. That's not to say that busy working parents can't gain something from this book, I think they can.
Finally, I want to address the religious aspect of this book. There are many many references to God in this book (though, strangely, there were long stretches with none and then there be a section with many). Personally, it was too much "God talk" for my taste. For the record, I am a believer, but consider myself more spiritual than religious. I think the book would have been equally as effective without the God talk; that it would have been a better book if it let people frame the message in whatever way they wish. Then again, this is Ms. Nyquist's story.
That said, I can understand the other reviews about how some people aren't loving this book as much as all her other books. This book in comparison to all her other books is geared to a specific audience and I believe that is women who are of the same thread and cloth of Niequist. If you are not, the book will seem unrelateable.