Book Review: Present Over Perfect



Part of me is sad that I don’t own a pair of white Converse so that I could take a picture of myself reading this book that matched the front of the book!  However, so many people did that on social media that it convinced me to download this to my Kindle and I was pleased with the rest it offered my soul!  Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist proved to be as refreshing as a long lunch on the patio in the most perfect fall weather with a dear friend.  This book is full of great reminders of what matters most…in keeping the main thing the main thing.  Niequist and I have a few theological differences, but we can agree on this for sure…

“And at the end of your life, I believe you will account for what you gave yourself to. Be very careful that you are not giving yourself to a pale imitation of life with Christ—life about Christ, or life generally near to Christ.”

When is enough enough?  When do you have to blow the whistle…call the play dead…and just walk away?  Carve out time to tend your soul before the inevitable crash occurs.  Make a plan to care for yourself for the long term so that you can care for others in ways that you never could have imagined.

I highlighted several things while reading and have posted those notes below…


  • God hasn’t invited us into a disorderly, unkempt life but into something holy and beautiful—as beautiful on the inside as the outside. 1 Thessalonians 4:7, The Message
  • Years ago, a wise friend told me that no one ever changes until the pain level gets high enough.
  • Now I know that the best thing I can offer to this world is not my force or energy, but a well-tended spirit, a wise and brave soul.
  • My regrets: how many years I bruised people with my fragmented, anxious presence. How many moments of connection I missed—too busy, too tired, too frantic and strung out on the drug of efficiency.
  • One friend said that a way to get at your desire or dream is to answer this question: if someone gave you a completely blank calendar and a bank account as full as you wanted, what would you do?
  • Part of being an adult is taking responsibility for resting your body and your soul. And part of being an adult is learning to meet your own needs, because when it comes down to it, with a few exceptions, no one else is going to do it for you.
  • As I unravel the many things that brought me to this crisis point, one is undeniably my own belief that hard work can solve anything, that pushing through is always the right thing, that rest and slowness are for weak people, not for high-capacity people like me.
  • You can’t have yes without no. Another way to say it: if you’re not careful with your yeses, you start to say no to some very important things without even realizing it. In my rampant yes-yes-yes-ing, I said no, without intending to, to rest, to peace, to groundedness, to listening, to deep and slow connection, built over years instead of moments.
  • Instead of competing for who’s busier or who’s more tired, who’s keeping more balls in the air, we’re constantly looking for ways to help each other’s lives get lighter, easier to carry, closer to the heart of what we love, less clogged with expectations and unnecessary tasks.
  • Pride, for years, has told me that I am strong enough to drink from a firehose, and gluttony tells me it will all be so delicious.
  • The no I said today is making space for yes, something I haven’t had space for in a long time.
  • Sometimes being brave is being quiet. Being brave is getting off the drug of performance. For me, being brave is trusting that what my God is asking of me, what my family and community is asking from me, is totally different than what our culture says I should do.
  • Present over perfect living is real over image, connecting over comparing, meaning over mania, depth over artifice. Present over perfect living is the risky and revolutionary belief that the world God has created is beautiful and valuable on its own terms, and that it doesn’t need to be zhuzzed up and fancy in order to be wonderful.
  • What I’m burning down are the expectations I’ve long held for who I had to be, what people needed me to be, and the distance those expectations created between God and me, and between the people I love and me, and between the beauty of the world and me.
  • What makes you say, “Must be nice”? What longing might your jealousy lead you to, if you’re brave enough to listen to it before you push it away?
  • Love, though, doesn’t allow hiding. Love invites whole selves and whole stories out into the light. Friendship sees into us, into our secrets, into our elaborate games and excuses. Friendship carries all this mess together, so that you don’t have to hide, so that you carry it together. What a miracle!
  • I’m learning to silence the noise, around me and within me, and let myself be seen and loved, not for what I produce, but for the fact that I have been created by the hands of a holy God, like every other thing on this earth, equally loved, equally seen.
  • I’m not building a castle or a monument; I’m building a soul and a family. I’ll tell stories all my life, writing on napkins and on the backs of receipts, or in books if they let me, but this is the promise I make to my God: I will never again be so careless, so cavalier with the body and soul you’ve given me.
  • And at the end of your life, I believe you will account for what you gave yourself to. Be very careful that you are not giving yourself to a pale imitation of life with Christ—life about Christ, or life generally near to Christ.
  • Of all the things I’m learning to leave behind, one of the heaviest is the opinion of others.
  • Hustle is the opposite of heart. And so one of the tiny little things I’m learning to do is to play—essentially, to purposely waste time. Strategically avoid strategy, for five minutes at a time. Intentionally not be intentional about every second. Have no purpose—on purpose. There are lots of conversations right now about how to do everything better/faster/smarter, how to streamline, multitask, layer, balance, flow, juggle. How to monetize, strategize, and on and on. This is good stuff. Necessary stuff. But my jam these days is wasting time, playing, becoming aware of that internal engine that always wants to go faster, faster, faster. That engine is not the best part of me. My heart is the best part of me.
  • I want the stuff in my life to be light, easily managed, simple, so that the best of my energy is free for people, dreams, creativity;
  • I will practice hospitality to my very own body—you can rest, you can be nourished, you can be loved. And I’ll also practice hospitality to my complicated feelings about my body. Because they’re a part of me, too.
  • Here’s to being medium. And here’s to sometimes being happy about it, and to giving myself space and grace when I’m not.
  • God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, “Fall on the earth,” and to the rain shower, “Be a mighty downpour.” Job 37:5−6
  • what powers our work when it’s no longer about addiction to achievement?
  • For a while, I placed my marriage, my family, and my soul on the altar of productivity, of hustle, of competency and efficiency. I can’t adequately express the regret I feel for having done that, or the gratitude I feel for pulling them back down off the altar before it was too late

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