Friday, May 10, 2013

Book Review: Free to Be

Tyndale Publishing provided a complimentary copy of Amanda Jenkins' Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist: Learning to Be Free in exchange for an honest review.
      I only wish I had this book at my disposal years ago. Author Amanda Jenkins in her quirkiness has vindicated every obsessive compulsive thought and action I have ever conceived. Really. Every woman has her issues, but it is when we voice them they lose their stranglehold on us. Jenkins in sheer honesty and bluntness lays it all out there and then chooses the better road, sometimes only after she has stumbled down the path that led her to the conclusion that there was a better path. Is it vanity that enslaves you? Or maybe money, friendship or pride?
     In my favorite-titled chapter, Diet Coke, Jenkins explores idolatry. Diet Coke in all its simplest terms is a beverage, but when it becomes a crutch for harried days it becomes an idol. Funny how things that seem so trivial can loom large on the horizon if our perspective is askew. She lends validity to a woman's insecurities and explores the repercussions of allowing the issues to take hold of our lives. And then the path to freedom is explored, how we can gain a foothold and push the nemesis out the door.

     The greatest strength of Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist is the path to freedom is always biblical. She answers worldly problems with biblical acumen. Another strength that stood out was Jenkins' honesty. I think I may have even blushed a time or two and yet, was relieved to read such candor. Instead of bottling in her awkward moments trying to hush them up, she acknowledges them and the issues within all to dismantle their grip on her. In doing so, freedom ensues and a life lived out well follows.
     Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist is refreshing and invigorating. It explores the depth of the heart and soul and engages the mind. Often our heart determines our actions. With intentional mindfulness we can find freedom from the emotions that rule the day and live better, live well and live free.

Read an excerpt from Amanda's book here.

   Author Q & A   

  About the Author . . . Amanda Jenkins attended Northwestern Bible College and graduated with a degree in biblical studies and communications. She has worked in sales and marketing for a number of Christian retailers, as well as in visual communications and advertising. For the past 14 years she has taught Bible studies for women of all ages and is passionate about communicating truth in a culturally relevant and humorous way. She lives just outside of Chicago with her husband, Dallas, and their four young children, including their newly adopted son. 

1. What is your hope for this book, Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist? 
That my transparency would get readers one step closer to freedom from their own impossible goals; that it would open their eyes to the strangleholds we sometimes don’t even see, but shape the way we think and spend our time; that it would get us laughing at the stuff we hide; that when brought into the open, things like vanity, materialism and desire for recognition would lose their power/hold on our minds and hearts. 

2. In your book, you talk about your addiction to perfection. What were the signs that this was an issue for you? 
Little things. For a long time, I didn’t let my husband see me without makeup. I got really upset/frazzled when people dropped by unexpectedly. I got easily embarrassed when I messed up, and I wouldn’t admit to struggling. And I thought I had life pretty together—that I actually didn’t struggle/mess up/sin as much as other people did. 

3. You talk about God speaking into your life, waking you up to the true cost of your addiction to perfection. Can you tell me about that? 
Praying and listening to God have changed my life because they’ve changed the way I think. But in the beginning, it just good old-fashioned conviction. He’d been in my ear for a while, pointing out when I was being ruled by perfectionism—more accurately, by my insecurity and fear of being outed for NOT being perfect. After an embarrassing moment, He said to me very clearly, “You can fight the process, but this is happening. You’re taking off the mask. I suggest you get on board.” 

4. Tell me about the journey of letting go of subtle yet destructive idols of perfectionism and replacing them with God’s truth. What did that look like for you?  
Simply put, I talk about my sin and the things I’m struggling with, to God and to others. It’s amazing how many opportunities there are in a day to be honest. And it’s amazing how being honest diminishes the power certain strangleholds have. 
5. What advice might you give someone in your same situation so that God can release her from her obsession and accept the true freedom that comes through the love of Christ?  
Get specific with God first. Ask Him to show you not just what the strangleholds in your life are, but all the ways they’re manifesting. Perfectionism was a stranglehold that was showing itself in all kinds of destructive ways in my life. And God dealt with them one by one, and being honest with and accountable to others was a part of that process for me.  
6. When did you realize that you had to share this story? What message do you hope will resonate with your readers? 
As I started to share a little of my own struggles, I quickly realized I wasn’t the only one drowning; that my issues were common, and that being open and honest diminished their hold on my heart. 
7. What encouragement would you provide to those who feel overwhelmed by their own perfectionist expectations?  
God doesn’t allow His kids to stay trapped when they don’t want to be. He baby-steps us, one vice/chapter at a time.  
8. In your book, you talk about the “tragic irony” for Christian women of basing our self-worth on what we can and cannot get accomplished. Can you talk about that a bit? 
The whole point of being rescued from our sin by Jesus is that we didn’t earn it. But then somewhere along the way, we start trying to deserve it—which means we’re prideful when we’re doing “well” (meeting our own expectations) and insecure when we’re not. The tragic irony is that we lose sight of the grace that saved us in the first place, for ourselves and everyone else. 

9. Is this something that is an ongoing struggle, or do you feel as if your perfectionist days are behind you? 
I’m experiencing freedom I’ve never known before, but my perfectionism continues to rear its head. My standards for myself are still too high, but I’m aware of them and their destructiveness. I’m allowing God total access, and I’m working hard to surrender to the changes He’s making in my heart/mind. I’d say that God has my perfectionism on the run.  

10. What is the best advice or encouragement that you have received? 
Start talking and keep talking. Satan wants us to be quiet—to hide our sin from ourselves and everyone else. But sin gets bigger and more powerful in the dark, which is why God wants us to live in the light. So we need to talk. We need the encouragement and accountability that comes in numbers. And we need to share the stories of how God is rescuing us. Again.


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