Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living

LIVE A LIFE OF MEANING AND CONNECTIONInstead of pushing for perfectionA few years ago, I found myself exhausted and isolated, my soul and body sick. I was tired of being tired, burned out on busy. And, it seemed almost everyone I talked with was in the same boat: longing for connection, meaning, depth, but settling for busy.I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, ne...

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Title:Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living
Author:Shauna Niequist
Rating:
ISBN:0310342996
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:240 pages

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living Reviews

  • Jennifer
    Jan 11, 2016

    A 4.5 for me. A really strong (good) message about not hustling. Almost feels like she can see into my brain.

  • Ioana
    Aug 02, 2016

    I'm always curious of Shauna's new books, although I have realized long ago that I'm not always the targeted audience of everything she writers. I don't resonate with everything she writes about in this book, but there have been some aspects that rang true and caught my attention.

    Shauna Niequist tells stories from her personal discovery of what it means to have way too much on your plate, saying "yes" to one more thing, but forgetting what is important and what should be a priority. The author m

    I'm always curious of Shauna's new books, although I have realized long ago that I'm not always the targeted audience of everything she writers. I don't resonate with everything she writes about in this book, but there have been some aspects that rang true and caught my attention.

    Shauna Niequist tells stories from her personal discovery of what it means to have way too much on your plate, saying "yes" to one more thing, but forgetting what is important and what should be a priority. The author makes several references to her family, her husband and children, and this automatically makes a distinction between those who can relate to this life and those who aren't in that season of life. It's not a deal breaker, but something that should be mentioned. You know, the busy wife&mom life VS those who aren't that.

    Another thing worth mentioning is that sometimes it feels like she keeps saying the same thing over and over again. In a way it makes sense since the core of what she's writing is not some big theology, although it can be looked at from different perspectives. This is something I find in most non-fiction (especially Christian) books: the author has the idea, and that idea is turned every possible way to make a book out of it. Now, luckily, Shauna Niequist is good with words - I like how she writes, I like how she chooses the right word for the right sentence. Sometimes she goes the long way to make a point, and while this can be slightly hard to follow, one can look at it as her writing style. Others see this as rambling.

    On to what I definitely like: I highlighted quite a bit, so that should be enough evidence that I did like this book. My favorite parts were those that referenced to prayer. Adopting this new mantra of slowing down and being mindful of what she accepts in her schedule meant a shift in the way she looks at prayer. "[God] has all the time in the world to sit with me and sift through my fears and feelings and failings. That’s what prayer is. That’s what love is like. (...) He doesn’t ask me to show up and catalog my strengths. He doesn’t ask me to show up and abuse myself for my failings. He asks me to bring my whole-fragile-strong-weak-good-bad self. (...) He is love itself, grace embodied, holding the fullness of who we are—strong, weak, good, bad, wild, fearful, brave, silly—in his hands. He can be trusted with every part of it, the silly and the enormous." What she's saying is that prayer is not a brief meeting where we ask for direction when we're stuck, or give the run-down of how we did things - prayer is something that binds us with God. If not for something else, the passages about it are worth reading the book for.

    Another thing that I particularly liked was how she linked being still to coming to terms with who you are & who you are meant to be. Because "it’s only when we’re truly alone that we can listen to our lives and God’s voice speaking out from the silence." We can ignore what we are called to do and be, or we can live fulfilling our calling. This, too, is something worth reading the book for. Probably given the life stage I'm in, the words had a bigger impact, and they were most welcome.

    Although I'm not one of those people who have a lot going on and feel the pressure to make a big sacrifice to rise to the expectations imposed on me, there sure was something valuable I took from this book, as I'm sure everyone will. That is, if you don't make up your mind to see this book as another one in a long list of Christian non-fiction books written by middle-class, middle-age women (wife&mom, naturally). In no way is my life similar to hers, but some things are generally true, no matter the lifestyle differences.

    I received an ebook from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts expressed here are my own.

  • Von
    Aug 02, 2016

    I WANTED to like this book, really I did, and to be honest there were a few chapters I really appreciated. However, I just don't think I can relate very well to the context of the struggle. It's really hard for me to connect to someone that has the luxury of going away from life every summer to a lake house or Lake Geneva and leaving things behind. I kept wondering why things were so tough for a person that has two healthy kids, a loving/wonderful husband, and annual get-away destination. I foun

    I WANTED to like this book, really I did, and to be honest there were a few chapters I really appreciated. However, I just don't think I can relate very well to the context of the struggle. It's really hard for me to connect to someone that has the luxury of going away from life every summer to a lake house or Lake Geneva and leaving things behind. I kept wondering why things were so tough for a person that has two healthy kids, a loving/wonderful husband, and annual get-away destination. I found myself only wishing that I had such things even before she starting improving upon them. As with other reviews I fear I was not the target audience even though I tried really hard to be.

  • Rebecca
    Oct 07, 2016

    This book spoke to me so deeply. The whole book is wonderful, but three things in particular pervaded my recent thinking.

    It’s ok for life to be less impressive on the outside. This might mean fewer vacations, fewer blog posts, and fewer parties, because being home and being with our loved ones leaves a space that is “beautiful and peaceful and full of life and connection, what I was looking for all along.” A Romanian saying I learned from my step-father-in-law is “They will not build a statue of

    This book spoke to me so deeply. The whole book is wonderful, but three things in particular pervaded my recent thinking.

    It’s ok for life to be less impressive on the outside. This might mean fewer vacations, fewer blog posts, and fewer parties, because being home and being with our loved ones leaves a space that is “beautiful and peaceful and full of life and connection, what I was looking for all along.” A Romanian saying I learned from my step-father-in-law is “They will not build a statue of you in the parking lot!” But Niequist takes it one step further into our spiritual lives by reminding us we aren’t building a castle or a monument, we are building a soul and a family. We can choose not to spend our lives at the altars of productivity, capability, busyness and distraction, even if those altars include “godly” pursuits such as volunteering and helping with church activities. Rather we can choose less commitments and more time with those we love for meaning, connection, love, and freedom.

    She also writes passionately about prayer, about bringing all our whole selves to God, as we all knew how to do as children. But somewhere as we grew up we learned to “only bring our achievement or our desperate apologies for the lack of achievement, as though God is the foreman of the factory, punching our time cards.” Wow, what a thought. I have definitely been unintentionally doing this, only bringing thanks for my achievements or apologies for my failings instead of simply pouring out my heart and soul to God, including all the small hurts and enormous fears.

    Finally, she encapsulates succinctly and strikingly the current culture’s message to women, to be, “really skinny and really tired. If I could shrink and hustle, I’d be right there, skinny and tired . . . The messages of the world say in no uncertain terms: ruin yourself, and starve yourself. Wring yourself out. Ignore your hunger, your soul, your sickness, your longing.” Niequist states unequivocally she will not live there anymore, and I’m with her. Instead, we can choose to be countercultural, to be rested, full of grace and nourishment. “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.”

    I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

  • Annie Rim
    Aug 22, 2016

    I was drawn to Shauna Niequist's newest book, Present Over Perfect because its title seemed to indicate our current season. I quickly realized that Niequist's life and my life are vastly different. While I'm learning to live with a messy playroom, Niequist is finding balance by saying no to Big Opportunities and Flashy Job Offers. She's learning to settle in at home with a cup of tea and her family. Perhaps it's harder for someone with a lot of opportunities to say no and to find that balance. I

    I was drawn to Shauna Niequist's newest book, Present Over Perfect because its title seemed to indicate our current season. I quickly realized that Niequist's life and my life are vastly different. While I'm learning to live with a messy playroom, Niequist is finding balance by saying no to Big Opportunities and Flashy Job Offers. She's learning to settle in at home with a cup of tea and her family. Perhaps it's harder for someone with a lot of opportunities to say no and to find that balance. I'd imagine that the sparkle of recognition is tempting. In that sense, Niequist is open about her change in mindset and what that cost her family and her career.

    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.**

  • Jennifer
    Aug 25, 2016

    I am a fan of Shauna Niequist's honest and approachable style. Her devotional

    is one I've relied on for the past couple of years.

    Having read probably 10 books about "slowing down" and "simplifying," I'm never quite sure if I'll glean anything new from a book or if it will just be more of the same. I'm not sure if Niequist's writing just resonates so well with me, if I was desperate to hear the message, or if this book is really that good, but th

    I am a fan of Shauna Niequist's honest and approachable style. Her devotional

    is one I've relied on for the past couple of years.

    Having read probably 10 books about "slowing down" and "simplifying," I'm never quite sure if I'll glean anything new from a book or if it will just be more of the same. I'm not sure if Niequist's writing just resonates so well with me, if I was desperate to hear the message, or if this book is really that good, but this book struck a major chord. The highlighter function on my Kindle was working in overdrive while reading this book as my brain went right along saying "Yes! That's right! This is what I need to do. This is what I need to *stop* doing!"

    As much as a liked this book, there were a few chapters in the middle that seemed to drop out of the sky. They related to some very specific church-building initiatives and seemed out of place in the book.

    Thank you to NetGalley and Zondervan for a galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  • Callie
    Aug 30, 2016

    1.5/5 stars.

    I have never read anything by Shauna Niequist, but I see her books everywhere. So when I saw Present Over Perfect available for review, I thought, why not?

    Niequist is known (to me) for her food memoir, so I knew this book would be a bit of a departure, but I was excited to give it a try. However, I would not recommend reading this book. As so many books I have read lately, I felt this one had positive and negative elements, but the negative elements definitely outweighed the positiv

    1.5/5 stars.

    I have never read anything by Shauna Niequist, but I see her books everywhere. So when I saw Present Over Perfect available for review, I thought, why not?

    Niequist is known (to me) for her food memoir, so I knew this book would be a bit of a departure, but I was excited to give it a try. However, I would not recommend reading this book. As so many books I have read lately, I felt this one had positive and negative elements, but the negative elements definitely outweighed the positive for me, coming from a biblical perspective and as a new reader of Niequist's books. Here are my thoughts.

    Negatives

    I started this book and about a fifth of the way through I realized I was just going to have to plow through without really enjoying it. The main reason I couldn't enjoy it was because it felt a little schizophrenic to me - not Niequist, just the book. Was this supposed to be a memoir or a self-help book? I couldn't figure it out. For so much of the book Niequist seemed to be just going on about her own internal struggles, like a memoir, but with little practical advice or inspiration for her readers. The book seemed selfish to me, in a way. If I had read other books by Niequist and was interested in her as a person, I might have really enjoyed getting an inside look, but mostly I was just annoyed because I had no background on the author to frame all this personal stuff. It felt like reading a stranger's journal of innermost thoughts. There were occasional gems (I'll quote a couple lines I liked below), but mostly I just kept thinking, "yes, but where is the value here for me?" That sounds a little selfish, but then again, as a reader I'm the one who could potentially be buying this book and spending hours of my life on it. There should be something in it for me.

    I did not like this author's mention of "centering" prayer and deep breathing. The idea of "centering" is a very New Age concept and not biblical at all. I was more likely to give the author the benefit of the doubt and assume she meant simple meditation on Scripture, but then she started talking about her "spiritual director" (shouldn't that be God and His Word?) and "which God she prays to", which for the author was a mix between the Father and the Holy Spirit, not Jesus. Um, what? They are all ONE God, you don't get to pick and choose. At this and other points in the book, she uses language that suggests that God changed as her view of Him changed, and I thought the way she expressed it could be misleading. She missed the boat on communicating that no, He's been the same good God all along, regardless of how she viewed Him before.

    Overall I got a sense of a New-Age, fluid version of Christianity from this book, and it bothers me how easily we are letting New Age philosophy into our churches and lives. These ideas are not in line with the Bible, and it's not okay. That's another point - there was little mention of Scripture in this book, aside from a couple verses Niequest uses to explain her own journey. Definitely no explanation or reference to the Gospel, which I always find disappointing in Christian non-fiction. She quotes many people and talks about "spiritual" this and that, but she doesn't back up any of her main points or principles with God's Word, which is our only firm grounding in the world. The more I think about it, the more it bothers me. In this book Niequist almost talks about God and Christianity as some sort of phsychological "savior", instead of the truth - that God became a man (Jesus) and died to pay the price for our true problem (sin) and to save us, not from poor self-esteem, but from an eternity apart from God in Hell. That truth isn't covered here.

    Positives

    While many of the chapters in this book felt like a waste of my time, there were a few that I actually appreciated - mainly the ones that actually related to the title of the book, giving thoughts on how to be present in our lives while letting go of our ideas of perfection. Unfortunately even on that topic there were probably only two or three chapters that I felt were somewhat valuable to me as a reader. These are a couple quotes that I thought were somewhat useful things for me to think about.

    "I was faced with a dilemma—one so many of us face quite often: I could either wrestle my life and my kids and my house and our Christmas into something fantastic, something perfect . . . or I could plunk myself down right in the middle of the mess and realize that the mess is actually my life, the only one I’ll ever get, the one I’m in danger of missing completely, waiting around for fantastic."

    "I gave myself away indiscriminately. Be careful how much of yourself you give away, even with the best of intentions. There are things you cannot get back, things that God has not asked you to sacrifice."

    I thought she touched on some good points here, but it was too brief. She quickly went back to the personal reflections, which I found disappointing, because it was not what I was looking for when I started this book.

    Conclusion

    Overall, I wouldn't recommend this book. As someone who was new to this author, I did not enjoy this book, I was disappointed by the New Age undertones, and unfortunately I won't be picking up one of her books again.

    Note: I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review. This is my honest opinion.

    Second Note: I felt a lot of the themes that I assumed Niequist was going to address in this book were things that I have already read about in other books, and they were addressed by other authors in a more effective way. Since I can't recommend this one, I thought I'd say that "The Best Yes" by Lysa Teurkherst was really helpful to me in learning to say no; "Breathe" by Prsicilla Shirer was a really useful Bible Study on the biblical value of rest; and ironically, a secular fiction book called "What Alice Forgot" by Lianne Moriarty was a fun book (warning: some language) that really got me thinking about how busyness was affecting my life. I would recommend those ones to you if the title of "Present Over Perfect" is what interests you.

  • Amy
    Dec 30, 2016

    If you want to start your next year out right, this book is for you. Niequist really explores our lack of presence in our lives as this becomes overshadowed by busy schedules and pleasing the wrong people in our lives. Basically, this book is giving you the side-eye, overcommitted extrovert. You know it is!

    Shauna shares her own struggles of overcommitting, guilt about what she isn’t doing, and how we look for validation through social media instead of the people sharing our home.

    Yup, it hit me r

    If you want to start your next year out right, this book is for you. Niequist really explores our lack of presence in our lives as this becomes overshadowed by busy schedules and pleasing the wrong people in our lives. Basically, this book is giving you the side-eye, overcommitted extrovert. You know it is!

    Shauna shares her own struggles of overcommitting, guilt about what she isn’t doing, and how we look for validation through social media instead of the people sharing our home.

    Yup, it hit me right in the gut.

    Why are we so scared to sit in silence and what can be learned from a slowed down life? This soulful way of living is something I hope to embrace in 2017 and this book just seemed to speak to me at the right time in my life. If you are seeking present over perfect, you should pick this one up. I just know it would be a great way for you to start your year too as you shift your focus from others to the people that should be the most important in your life.

  • Angela Mushrush
    Jan 12, 2017

    I stopped on page 70. I just can't believe this is a book and I'm embarrassed and kind of angry that I bought it. There are some truths in this book. Basically that she's addicted to working and is really rich and blah blah blah. She could have summed this book up in about a paragraph on her Facebook account. I waited for her to say how she became present over perfect but she just kept talking about vacations and describing places (like Hawaii) of complete serenity where her in laws were keeping

    I stopped on page 70. I just can't believe this is a book and I'm embarrassed and kind of angry that I bought it. There are some truths in this book. Basically that she's addicted to working and is really rich and blah blah blah. She could have summed this book up in about a paragraph on her Facebook account. I waited for her to say how she became present over perfect but she just kept talking about vacations and describing places (like Hawaii) of complete serenity where her in laws were keeping her kids and STILL not feeling right with herself. Really?! As I read to page 70 I just kept thinking and what about the single moms with no money?! You have it all lady. And honestly, I think that's her point. She has it all, like a lot of Americans and rich Christians she "suffers" from gluttony of stuff. And I know, that's a real spiritual issue; it's just irritating to me that she wrote a book on it.

  • Morgan Zoeller
    Jan 26, 2017

    Where to begin with this review...I think first the positive. First and foremost, this book should be called a memoir. It should not be read for spiritual instruction, but since Niequist has assumed the role of an author, speaker, and teacher, no doubt readers are coming to her for instruction. If I were rating this book simply on writing style and relatability to the author's struggle for simplicity, for being present over perfect, I would give it a 4. But as a believer in Jesus Christ, I strug

    Where to begin with this review...I think first the positive. First and foremost, this book should be called a memoir. It should not be read for spiritual instruction, but since Niequist has assumed the role of an author, speaker, and teacher, no doubt readers are coming to her for instruction. If I were rating this book simply on writing style and relatability to the author's struggle for simplicity, for being present over perfect, I would give it a 4. But as a believer in Jesus Christ, I struggle to give it a 1.

    Some reviewers will call me fundamentalist or conservative, but there is a reason the Holy Spirit gives us a spirit of discernment, and my discernment sensors were on full blast throughout this book. Mentions of spiritual directors (both she and her husband see Jesuit priests as their spiritual directors), and practices of Catholicism and mysticism left me beyond wary of Niequist. She mentions this new meeting she and her husband have started at Willow Creek Church (where her father Bill Hybels is the lead pastor), called The Practice. The Eucharist takes center stage as does teachings from Rabbis, Jesuits, and other interfaith leaders. This was a red flag....interfaith teachers...and we're all sharing communion? Spiritual practices such as centering prayer are encouraged. With very little research one can quickly find that centering prayer has its roots in the occult.

    Perhaps even more disconcerting is the author's own admission of not having grasped grace until this point in her life, that she has" competed, feared, proved, and hustled," but that grace has eluded her. And yes, grace is a hard pill for all of us to swallow! We're not worthy of it, we don't want to be indebted to anyone. But when we come to the point of our salvation, we cannot help but be overwhelmed with gratitude and praise for amazing grace! How I longed for that in this book! And sure, we struggle with continued efforts of self-righteousness, but God in his great mercy always brings us back to his gospel of grace.

    And that was completely lacking for me. Very, very little emphasis was placed on Jesus, the gospel, Scripture, or grace while overwhelming ink was given to counselors, spiritual directors, and practices of spiritual formation. And why is this all so disconcerting? Because over the past decade, Niequist has published four books, all geared toward an audience of Christian women. Because in the past decade, Niequst has made her rounds at Christian women's conferences as a speaker and workshop leader. Because in the past decade, she and her husband have been leading in a prominent mega church in Chicago, her husband previously the worship leader there. And prior to that both were on staff at another large church in Michigan.

    Honestly, this terrifies me that this book hit the NYT bestsellers list immediately, that so many women look to Niequist's voice for "spiritual direction" (to use one of her favorite terms).

    LADIES, we have a spiritual director and counselor. His name is Holy Spirit. We have a mediator of grace. His name is Jesus Christ. We can hear the voice of God. It is called the Word of God, the Bible. We have grace, we have freedom, we have all we need in the Word and with the direction of our spiritual director. While there is nothing wrong with learning from other faiths and ancient practices, if they lead us astray from the gospel, we must always, always be wary! Overall, this book is laden with a smorgasbord of Catholicism, mysticism, and New Age practices. I cannot recommend it or anything else produced by Niequist.