Life is Beautiful Review

*I was given this book for free in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are 100% my own. 

Life is Beautiful: How a Lost Girl Became a True, Confident Child of God is the true story of Sarah Johnson and her life. While on an international mission trip, her family's plane goes down leaving fourteen people, including her brother and father, dead. The book documents Sarah's personal struggles related to her father's drug use, her aunt's death from uterine cancer, and her mother's long road to emotional and physical recovery after the plane crash. She herself struggles with depression and alcohol, eventually leading her to seek healing through God and therapy after hitting "rock bottom." It's a beautiful story of God's redemption in the midst of immense tragedy and it clearly demonstrates that even those of us who feel the most lost are not too far gone for God to reach.

While reading the book I was struck by how much this woman had to overcome so early on in her life. I'm not sure you can walk away from this book untouched by her personal story of redemption. I really felt like Sarah's vulnerability and willingness to open up about the darkest parts of her life isn't something you see everyday and it was incredibly refreshing.

The only thing about the book I really struggled with were the parts about Sarah's therapist. Don't get me wrong, I fully believe in the healing power of therapy and it's importance to overcoming addiction, grief, and so on. I wouldn't be pursuing my PhD in clinical psychology if I didn't believe in it. However, I also really believe in ethical practice and I felt like the therapist discussed in this book crossed the line a bit.

I should mention that I'm really sensitive to how therapists are portrayed because there have been so many negative portrayals in the media and pop culture. I'm not sure this book helps our case at all. Unfortunately, I felt the therapist overstepped her role by doing things such as going to the admissions office with Sarah as "a friend of the family, maybe a mentor" and writing her a letter of recommendation. I don't feel like these were appropriate actions for a therapist to engage in. I can elaborate on this further for those interested in why I feel that way.

The only other thing I would have changed were the photos in the book. The photos included were really great but they were way too small to see. They should have been made larger or left out all together.

Despite my qualms about the therapist in the book, I thought Sarah's story was incredibly moving. I don't want to discredit that. 

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Building Relationships and Ending Destructive Ones

I'm being trained in a particular kind of therapy that is skills-focused (that's a very brief description-obviously). One of the areas in which we apply skills is relationships, or interpersonal situations. Today, I thought I would talk a bit about two of my favorite skills that I find myself applying in my own life, and that I feel we can all benefit from: building relationships and ending destructive ones.

It's amazing how bad we are at these two skills. After all, we are human and we aren't perfect. What a shock, right?

These two skills are all about strengthening current relationships, finding and building new relationships, and ending hopeless or interfering relationships. I've thought a lot about how these two skills parallel my faith and the gospel, and they're more consistent than you might initially think. But that's a whole post in itself.


When talking about finding and getting people to like you, you need to consider proximity, similarity, conversation skills, expressing liking, and joining groups. Look for people that are close by and are similar to you. Use skills like asking and responding to questions, making small talk, self-disclosing skillfully, and not interrupting. This might seem self explanatory, but many people struggle with these conversational skills. Be sure to express genuine liking for the other person. Think about the last time someone did that for you, doesn't it feel great? This should be without expectation of favors. Finally, it can be helpful to approach and join and ongoing, open group conversation. This can be hard for introverts like myself, but when I'm skillful about it, I'm usually happy with the outcome.

What if you're trying to strengthen current relationships? This is where building closeness through mindfulness of others is really important. Try to do things like: pay attention with your full interest and curiosity, don't multitask, stay present, let go of a focus on self, give up on always being right, avoid assuming or interpreting what other people think about you, avoid questioning other people's motives, give others the benefit of the doubt, go with the flow, and become one with group activities and conversations. This is actually the area where I struggle the most, but it's also the area where I see the most payoff in my relationships when I'm being mindful of these things.


Then, the hardest in my opinion, is ending destructive or interfering relationships. What's the difference between the two? Destructive relationships are those that can destroy or spoil the quality of the relationship or aspects of yourself such as your happiness, self-esteem, or ability to care for the other person. Interfering relationships block or make it hard for you to pursue the goals that are important to you; enjoy life and the things you enjoy doing; your relationships with others; or the welfare of others that you love.

Here, it's important to stay centered and calm, be skillful, and stay safe. You don't want to make this decision when you're feeling overly emotional. If the relationship is important and not destructive, and there is hope that it can improve, first try problem solving in order to repair the relationship. Maybe consider the pros and cons of ending the relationship. If the relationship needs to be ended, then practice ending it and cope ahead for what the outcome or response may be. Be direct.

So how do you decide which of the three areas to focus on in a particular relationship? I think a good starting place is to look at the relationships in your life and ask: "How is this specific relationship building me up right now?" From personal experience, you might be surprised by the answer. And before anyone goes off on me, let me just point out that there is always GRACE. Just because a certain relationship isn't building you up in that moment, doesn't mean it doesn't build you up at other times and doesn't mean that relationship is necessarily bad for you. Give grace, but take an honest look at the pattern of your relationship as well. The answer isn't always clear. Consider it prayerfully if needed. This might help you determine in which of the three areas above you should be working. Sometimes, loving someone means ending the relationship.

Where do you struggle the most in building and ending relationships?

*These skills are adapted from the DBT Skills Training Manual. 

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2XU Thermal Tights for the Coldest Winter Runs

Disclaimer: I received the 2XU thermal compression run rights to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Remember when I reviewed 2XU's regular compression tights and RAVED about all their awesome features including how their compression gear would probably change your life? If you don't remember, please go read that post and prepare for your life to be changed. Then, run back over here and wait for your life to be changed AGAIN.

The regular compression tights were great for fall running. You know, when the temps start to drop but the days are still warm enough to run in a technical tee. But what about when you live in the midwest and have to fight multiple days with highs in the negatives? Then what? Enter THERMAL compression tights. You heard right. LIFE. CHANGING.

2XU's thermal compression tights are the same great compression tights I reviewed previously, but with a fleece inner layer. You will want to do everything in these, I can promise you that. They're incredibly cozy and make even the coldest winter runs bearable. And that's coming from someone that rather hit the dreadmill when temps drop below 30 outside. I'm a whimp. However, with these tights I have definitely felt more comfortable in the freezing temperatures.

I HIGHLY recommend these thermal tights to anyone that does winter activities. They're even great for running errands in. Trust me, they've been paired with my uggs a number of times already this year. I promise your life will never be the same.

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An Explanation, or Lack Thereof

Sometimes I feel like I owe everyone an explanation for the sudden radio silence, but then I remember that not everything in life needs to have a rationale behind it. Not everything is meant to make sense. My blogging break started out as planned but quickly became the new norm as I realized the state of my heart. How can I come to this space and encourage others, when I feel so desperately in need of encouragement myself?

I have said time and time again that the blogging community is special, and it is. However, there are also things about it that weren't, and still aren't, bringing me joy anymore. I'm not sure when the norm became to post blogging tips, how to... brush your teeth/clean/put pants on, etc. etc., but it just wasn't speaking truth to my heart in the way it used to. For me, my blog was a space to come and pour my heart out, but I felt the pressure of having pin-worthy posts and beautiful pictures, and to me the fun became lost. I wasn't pouring out in the same way anymore. I wasn't encouraging others in the way I intended to when I started this blog.

Now, don't get me wrong, there are still a number of blogs that defy the pressure of "blogging norms," but the majority feel cookie cutter. As I have been walking through this period of sanctification, I've been learning about how much I CRAVE authenticity from people. I need it to feel close to someone. Realizing this, I thought: Maybe I don't feel connected to my blog anymore because I'm not being genuine to myself. I'm not being authentic.

I'm not sure if that's an explanation because, honestly, most days I don't feel like blogging at all. But I think it might be one piece of the puzzle. I don't know what this space will look like moving forward. I don't have a plan. I do know, however, that I want to go back to the basics. Encouraging you and sharing my heart.

Thank you to those of you who have stuck around. Who have tweeted me to tell me they miss my heart. I appreciate you and I hope you will continue to follow this little space of mine.

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