You Have Nothing to Prove

Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard
Jennie Allen

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“The constant feeling that no matter how hard I try, I cannot be enough.”

You know a book has the potential to really wreck you, when you are looking at the cover already questioning the idea that is possible to NOT try so hard. This idea is so contrary to what I so often think and believe. I’m always trying to figure out ways that I can try harder. It’s in my nature. It’s who I am. Simultaneously, it plagues who I am and keeps who I am from actually living.

“I am not ________ enough.”

I remember uncovering this at my college ministry’s winter conference, Epic Anthology, my freshman year of college. The more I reflected on my life long walk with God, I realized how so much of my story was written with these words.

I remember sharing this visual as a youth leader, literally unpeeling the sticky notes of all of the traits I so easily grasped for and eventually revealing that I am actually not enough. In sending this message to teenagers who probably held some sort of idea that I had it all together, and to a group that I was constantly trying to prove my enough-ness to, I experienced the power in being transparent in my journey of letting Jesus be my “enough.”

“We strive to be seen, to be known, to matter.”

This could hold no more relevance to what I continue to struggle with. In my real life career, in my writing endeavors and passions, and in my relationships/friendships – I want to be seen, to be known, and to be matter. And, when I feel like any of these tenants are withering their way out of my hands, I feel a low grade anxiety that fizzles into panic the longer that I let it fester.

“Jesus is better than happy stories that work out perfectly.”

From my lengthiest memories dating back to childhood, I always felt like the stories that played out in my life fell short of a happy story that worked out perfectly. Although I got by, this falling short of perfection that my life seemed to have continued to nag at me. Why didn’t I have that picture perfect best friend that I could confide my adolescent years in? Why didn’t I have that picture perfect ugly duckling turning into beautiful swan story by the end of my high school years?

What I continue to see time and time again, is that I don’t need to have that picture perfect story. I don’t need to have a happy story where everything works out perfectly, because Jesus is better than all of that.

This is a truth that I am speaking to myself in depth today, as I battle what the future holds in these next months for Josh and I. This is a truth relevant to me each day as I wake up and wonder what the day will hold as a teacher – it certainly hasn’t been a perfect story working out perfectly like I had imagined. And you know what? That’s okay.

But, that’s so so so so so hard to believe.

This book spoke to me in ways that I am constantly trying to speak to myself.

Jennie’s words are the words of truth that myself and countless other people throughout the course of my life have been trying to tell me.

It was incredibly life-giving to have a book speak to me in a way of prose that my heart needed, and in a style that my literary brain is drawn to and appeals to.

The idea that I am not enough is indeed crushing at first, but freeing in my exploration of it. Jennie repeats the message of Jesus’ enough-ness on every page of the book, poignantly pointing to the cross with every word she speaks. Jesus is enough, so we don’t have to be.

This book is for the girl sitting on the sidelines, feeling invisible. It’s for the girl striving to be her best, but never actually being THE best at anything. It’s for the girl constantly trying to do better and be better, but never getting noticed. It’s for the man who feels like he doesn’t have enough ______ to support his family and be the leader, strength, and head that he is called to be. It’s for all of us who are clamoring to be heard, seen, recognized, significant, known — to matter.

I know this because I am this person. And if you’re being honest, you are probably this person too. 


I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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The Top 5 Letters in My Alphabet

My February series was a doozy for me, but I keep thinking about how much  I learned about discipline in my writing from it. I’ve also been reflecting on what caught people’s eye the most.

Here are the most popular posts of the alphabet:

5. B is for Books – 4 Reasons to Pick Up a Book Right Now

2

4. C is for Change – How to Make a Change Right This Second

3

3. S is for Start – What You Need to Do Right No to Jump Start Your Passions

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2. F is for Faith – The Beginner’s Guide to Writing About Faith

6

1. A is for Asian Americans – What You Need to Know About the Asian American Identity

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Which one of these stands out to you the most? How about in the rest of the series? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

T is for Thankful

On this dreary Wednesday night, there’s nothing more fitting than a good old fashioned Thank You post!

10 Things I’m Thankful For Today & Everyday:

  1. Good Old Green Car has been a trusty companion for the past several years. I’m thankful it’s still running and doesn’t have any of that modern technology like power locks or power windows.
  2. Franklin the Dog’s jumping to come home to. His ever wagging tail and excessive panting always put a smile on my face the minute I walk in the door.
  3. My Students – between the good and bad, easy and hard, empowering and draining, funny and serious, energizing and tiring – there is always something to be thankful for in who they are and what they are learning.
  4. Coffee – Need I say more? Coffee is always there for me when I need her most. She gives me a false sense of energy and a false sense of confidence, but it’s all I need on any sleepy-eyed morning.
  5. Snapchats full of bitmojis with friends who get me and the true authenticity that these tiny pictures share.
  6. Josh’s hugs. Comfort and safety and love all wrapped together.
  7. Morning Time Bible Reading – no matter how groggy I am or sleepily I scroll the my Bible app, I’m thankful for the power these words and the
  8. The gift of words. If you’ve read any of my other posts,  you know the ways that I’m learning to embrace words strung together for others to read.
  9. The power of reading – the escape it brings, the diversity it shows, and the freedom it gives me to imagine and believe.
  10. Laughter. Always laugh. Find something to laugh at. If nothing else, just laugh at yourself. It makes everything better.
  11. Choice. The opportunity to make a choice on my thoughts, feelings, and attitude. The opportunity to choose what I do and where I go, what my future could hold and the steps I might take to shape it.
  12. Connection. I wrote about my new word(s) for the new year, and this was one of them. Connecting means being present with the environment and people I’m in right here and right now. Focusing on connection – when I remember to – has changed so much for me in my day to day life. I need to remember that more!

4 Reasons to Pick Up a Book Right Now

In the month of February, I’m challenging myself to write more (everyday), share more, and risk more. Welcome to my A to Z series based on whatever came to my mind first. 😉 Enjoy the ride! 

Books attach you to memories.

Some of my favorite memories include my hideaways in my beloved purple room as a not-so-angsty, invisible teenager reading the Princess Diaries series like it was my lifeline. My memories of middle school have me with a book in my nose. Reading in the back of my science class. Reading in my bedroom. Waiting for my brother to finish with the last Harry Potter book. Waiting for the next Princess Diaries book to come out. I can still feel the feelings of reading those books, and they attach me to that emotional point in my life.

Books understand you.

My love for reading was at first fueled by the power of connection. Connecting to a character who understood me, and that I understood was so liberating. I didn’t feel alone when reading these books. I found friendship with myself in a way that I couldn’t find in real life. I soaked up the feelings of being an outsider. Mia Thermopolis (Princess Diaries, come on people) indulged me with the validity of how awkward and unattractive adolescence truly is.  In deeply understanding a character, I felt understood myself.

Books will always be there for you.

Somewhere in high school, I was forced to read things like The Heart of Darkness and Grapes of Wrath. These books, although high and mighty in their literary value (or so I hear), served to rob the joy of reading, making it a chore, and making me count down the pages. My English assignments served to show me that books were about facts, and if I didn’t know what color shirt that obscure Uncle character was wearing before they went home was, well DID YOU EVEN READ IT?

Years went by and a crazy thing happened when I began a new position as an English teacher. For one thing, I had to re-read a bunch of old goodies, plus I also had to catch up on some literature that was created in the last 15 years. And with this returned my love of reading. For pleasure. For fun. For connection. I may have abandoned books for a decade, but books have always been there just waiting for my return. 

Books make you better.

Reading makes me a better person, friend, and citizen. Today, I read anything from young adult teenage girl love stories to World War II historical fiction. I find myself learning to empathize with injustice, grow awareness for hidden suffering that others may face, and think beyond myself. I find myself still thinking about certain characters and wondering about the realistic characters that they represent.

Reading is empowering and fun. It is lighthearted and thought-provoking. It’s a whole lot of things that can be anything at all. It’s a world of possibilities, but gives shade to the limited human nature. In realizing this, I realize that reading truly makes me better.

What was the last book that you read? How did it empower you?