When Recovery is Slow and Invisible

Remember that Friends episode where Phoebe and Rachel go running through Central Park and Rachel gets embarrassed because Phoebe runs like a lunatic? Her arms flail about and her legs look like frog legs and Rachel just didn’t want to be associated with Phoebe and all her elbows. (Below is a clip of that scene I love so much.)

When Phoebe confronts her and asks why she cares so much what people think, Rachel responds, “Because they’re people!

And so it has gone for me.

“If you wonder what gives you the authority to define me, I will say it is because you exist.” page 17, Grace for the Good Girl

It isn’t true, that you have the authority to define me. But I wrote it in present tense on purpose, because when I’m listening to that good girl in my head, that statement feels true.

A while back, a friend told me about another friend of hers who she thought might like my book. “She’s a good girl like you,” she said.

“Well I’m a recovering good girl now,” I said, wanting to distance myself from that identity as much as is possible.

She looked at me, firm smirk, head slightly tilted forward, unblinking. “You’re still a good girl, you know.”

Grace for the Good Girl

Sometimes it hurts, this having you read my journal, this everybody knowing all my junk, my insecurities, my shortcomings, my lessons. It feels risky because as the reader, it feels like you have the advantage. You have the high ground. You can still protect yourself. You can still hide. You can point to the things I write and then point at my life and the ways I forget and tell me I haven’t changed a bit.

She’s right, I still struggle with this good girl. I still have dark lies to slay when it comes to knowing how to live free even when you don’t like me, even when it hurts, even when I wreck it all up.

I still need to be reminded of the truth, especially when my feelings shout in no uncertain terms that it is time to hide and it is time to hide right now, woman; get your face behind a mask before somebody sees.

You can point to my outside and you might not be impressed.

But the wonder and the miracle is that I am learning how to care less about impressing you. I am changing on the inside and you may never know how much. And the fact that I don’t care if you know how much?

Well that’s a victory all on its own.

Grace for the Good Girl

And besides, this isn’t about me, anyway. Women ask me all the time – So what now? I know you’re telling us to let go of the try-hard life, but what does that even mean? What am I supposed to do? What does that even look like?

What will you be doing when you get up from the computer? Because whatever that is? That’s what it’s gonna look like.

Pulling out the laundry basket, heading up the board meeting, putting on your work shoes, taping up the skinned knees, praying in the darkness, laughing with your lover, seeing how they’re hurting, reaching for a friend.

It looks like life. Boring, normal, spontaneous, busy, hilarious, full, heartbreaking life. And it looks like you and me, living in the presence of Christ, one small moment at a time.

Grace for the Good Girl

This reputation thing? It is a hard road to learn to release my reputation into the hands of God. Because what about when someone thinks something about me that isn’t true? Or what if they misunderstand something I did or said? My character may be in tact but my image isn’t, and that is a place where good girls start to lose our Ever. Lovin. Minds.

Maybe it isn’t people-pleasing for you. Maybe it’s something really different but just as powerful. No matter what it is, I’ll bet you one thing is for sure: it has everything to do with fear and not much to do with love.

Fear drives, pushing and shoving. But …

“God can do anything you know–far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.”

Ephesians 3:20, Message

Fear pushes and shoves us around, but Love leads deeply and gently within us.

I’m on a long road of embracing my whole, in-Christ, complete person. When I feel pulled apart and fragmented, it helps to remember that’s what fear does. It helps to notice it, call it out, turn away from it towards Love instead. It helps to remember that Love holds all things together even when recovery is slow and invisible.

I wrote an entire book about this stuff (and sometimes wish I could take it back! Just kidding. No, really.) Today is the last day to download Grace for the Good Girl ebook for only 99 cents. I hope you will. Grab your copy here for Kindle,  NookLifeway Reader or anywhere ebooks are sold.

Grace for the Good Girl ebook Only 99¢ (!!)

It’s a rainy Monday in Greensboro but the sun is shining on the internet because the ebook for my first book, Grace for the Good Girl, is on sale today and tomorrow for only 99 cents! (I know. I’m too giddy about this. Bless my heart.)

Grab your copy here for Kindle,  NookLifeway Reader or anywhere ebooks are sold.


Here is a four minute video of some of my local friends sharing about their own personal try-hard life stories. I tear up every single time I watch – and I’ve watched it a lot.


Grace for the Good Girl ebook only 99 cents

We have a small group leader discussion guide you can download here for free or it’s also available in the back of the book. You can even gift a copy to every woman in your small group at this price! (What? I know – you can gift ebooks!)

 If you don’t have an e-reader simply download a free reader app for your phone or computer. It’s how I read all my ebooks.

Grab your copy for only 99 cents here for Kindle, or Nook, Lifeway Reader anywhere ebooks are sold.

If you already have the book but know someone who you think might need a kind companion on their journey toward grace, would you consider sharing about this deal with her? You could tag her on my instagram post here or simply share in whatever way is easiest for you. Thanks, friends.

Grace for the Good Girl only 99 cents

Best Price for Books This Weekend

a million little ways by emily p. freeman

For our US friends, I hope you are all enjoying a happy Thanksgiving weekend! And of course for our readers around the world, I hope your weekend is off to a lovely start. It still blows my mind that December is summer for some of you. But I digress.

I’ll post our What I Learned in November link up post in just a few minutes. But first:

Every now and then I get texts or emails asking if I know where the best place to buy Million is – Barnes and Noble, Amazon, LifeWay, and many other places all carry the book and it’s good to check them all for the lowest price.

Right now, it looks like DaySpring still has the best price for A Million Little Ways. It’s only $9.99 in their online shop, and if you use the code 30SPECIAL, you get an extra 30% off so it’s only $7 through Monday, December 2.

AND if you spend $50 total in your order, you get free shipping. So if you planned to buy Million for Christmas gifts, or teacher gifts or stocking gifts, this would be the best way to do it.

While I’m at it, here is a summary of current lowest prices for all the books I’ve written:

I rarely do posts like this because it always feels a little weird – Hey! Buy my books, y’all! But for those of you who are going to buy them as gifts anyway, I thought I would help you out with the lowest price deals. The DaySpring links here are affilliate links, so if you purchase from there, I will get a small percentage. I hope to see some of your What I Learned posts today! More to come.

One Thing Your Daughter Doesn’t Need You to Say

In the middle of a radio interview I did last week, the host decided to take calls from listeners. This happens during longer live interviews – the host greets the caller and then hands the reins of the conversation over to me. Might I pause here to point out how this practice evokes equal amounts of panic and excitement into my bones.

I panic because I have absolutely no way to prepare for what a caller might say. This isn’t a problem in normal conversation but on the radio it gets a little tricky. Because after exactly 15 seconds of listening I will be expected to have some kind of “expert” answer which stands in direct opposition to both my personality and the natural way I believe a conversation is suppose to work.

I gag. Still, I realize this is the nature of interviews like this and I accept it as part of the process while I work desperately to avoid ever trying to sound like Dr. Phil by refusing to say statements like “How’s that workin’ for ya?” and “Do you wanna be right or do you wanna be happy?”

Still, there is also something exciting about having people call in. It’s true, there is no way to prepare for what someone might say, but that’s kind of the fun part. There is no way to prepare for what someone might say!

In a way, this takes the pressure off and frees me up to be myself.

So last week when the host opened it up to callers, I got that familiar ache in my knees I always get when I am anxious and also excited. One of the first callers was a girl, a junior in high school.


After two minutes of listening to her story, it was obvious she was a good girl – dedicated student, obedient daughter, sweet disposition, high anxiety, unrealistic expectations of herself. Her main concern was being a Christian in high school and wanting to be a good example for her friends.

But it was hard, she said, to always be a consistent one.

Then the host turned it over to me.

I made a few observations, told a story about how I could relate – I don’t think anything I said added much to the conversation in that moment, which was fine. This is the downfall of handing over the reins of conversation to an INFJ on a live call – I can usually assess the situation fairly accurately but it takes a lot of time for my observations to reach my mouth.

I tend to just want to ask a question or say, “Hmm, that’s so interesting!”

Which is decidedly not interesting on the radio.

Lucky for me, this particular radio host was deeply invested in the conversation and responded to her in an appropriate way – he told her the worst thing she could do is to try to have it all together in front of her friends.

Instead of trying so hard to be an example, just be honest. “If you struggle,” he said, “say so. If you hurt someone, apologize. Then they really will get to know you and they won’t have reason to call you a hypocrite.”

Brav. O.

When the interview was over, I sat in my room and thought for a few more minutes about the conversation. I kept rolling her words around in my head: “I want to be an example to my friends, but sometimes it’s so hard to be a good one.”

The more I thought about her struggle, the more frustrated I got. I paced my room, made my bed with the excess energy. I thought about what the host said to her and began to think how I would put his response in my own words.

Here’s what I came up with: She isn’t supposed to be an example. Her friends don’t need an example, they need a friend. A real one. An honest one. A touchable one. They  need a friend who doesn’t think she’s better than everyone, but one who knows she isn’t. They need a friend who knows she needs Jesus.


So what about being a leader and setting the example? Isn’t that a good thing? Isn’t that what parents and youth leaders tell students all the time?

The more I think about it, the more I believe this well-meaning statement is not only a manipulative way to try to control our daughters’ behavior, but can also be dangerous to their spiritual health. When we tell her to be an example, we may as well just hand her a mask right there – Here. Hide behind this. Don’t let them see you struggle.

I know that’s not what we mean. I know. But it doesn’t matter so much what we mean, it matters what she hears.

And when she hears adults tell her to be an example, she thinks that means she can never mess up, can never have problems, can never just be a teenager with struggles like everyone else.

She might then mature into a woman who believes being a Christian means having it all together, saying all the “right” things, staying a few steps above everyone else.

She may become a person people look up to, but she will never be someone they can relate to.

She may be successful at managing her behavior, but she will always struggle to manage people’s opinions.

She may have a great reputation, but her character will be clouded with bitterness and anger.

She may be a good church-goer, but she will not know how to be a good friend.

This may keep her out of trouble, but it will suffocate her soul.

But what about holiness?!  I can hear the protests now. Don’t we want her to be a light in a dark place?

Yes. But telling her to be an example won’t let her shine, it will just cause her to shrink.

She already is a light in a dark place, but here is the part most of us forget when we’re telling our teenagers to be an example:

Her light comes from Jesus, not from her awesome behavior.

Do you believe Christ himself has taken up residence within her? Do you trust him with her life – her decisions, her emotions, her relationships? Do you truly believe he goes with her wherever she goes?

If so, then instead of telling her to be an example, how about encouraging her to be herself?

When she is hurt, she can deeply feel it. When she messes up, she can own it. When she hurts someone, she can apologize. When she has doubts, she can voice them. And when she is joyful, it will be from a real place inside her, not a manufactured mask she puts on for show.


If you have a daughter graduating in a few weeks, don’t be afraid. As she packs her bags for her summer trip or her college dorm, encourage her to leave the mask behind.

One Thing Your Daughter Doesn't Need You to Say - Chatting at the Sky

Believe Christ is in her. Believe she already has everything she needs. And for the love, don’t tell her to be an example. Free her up to be herself – a girl who has the living Christ living inside her.

Need a resource or a gift for the high school or college girl in your life? (Or, let’s face it, for your 54-year-old self?) Consider one of the two books I wrote on this very topic: Grace for the Good Girl or Graceful (For Young Women)Both books encourage women of all ages to let go of the try hard life.

UPDATE: I have written somewhat of a follow up post to this one – since I’ve shared one thing your daughter doesn’t need you to say, I thought it only appropriate to offer 12 things she might need to hear. Let’s call it part two. Ish. Thank you for reading – it is a gift to say the very least.

one question people ask me a lot (and $5 books!)

Someone emailed me this question again the other day and I realized it’s one people ask a lot. I’m in between ages for your two books – which one should I read?


Here is a little guide to help you decide which book would be best for you (your daughter, niece, sister, etc):

read Graceful if:

  • 6 youthyou are a girl in high school, 9 – 12 grade.
  • you love to read and are a girl in 7th – 8th grade
  • you are a mom who wants to learn more about your good girl daughter (elementary, middle, or high school age) who is showing signs of perfectionism, anxiety over school and relationships, and/or a genuine desire to know God.
  • you are taking a gap year between high school and college.
  • you are a high school girls small group leader – this book makes for great discussion and I wrote a free small group leader’s guide to help you out.
  • you are a freshman in college.

I’d say anything below 6th grade is definitely too young. But if you have a 6th grader and you’re on the fence about it, just get the book and read it yourself. There may be some great conversations starters for you to bring up with her as she enters the tough middle school years. Visit the book page to find out more about the book, watch the trailer, or read an excerpt.

how to buy Graceful for only $5

If you think Graceful would be a good fit for you or your daughter, niece, sister, small group girls or son’s girlfriend, this is your super lucky day because LifeWay is running an amazing sale -  you can buy Graceful at LifeWay for only $5! The low price is good both in stores and online.

read Grace for the Good Girl if:

  • 5 for writersyou are 18 or older – I’ve had women read who are from college-aged up to 90 years old.
  • you are looking for a book to use for your women’s Bible study (small group leader guide is included in the back of the book)
  • you are 16 – 18 years old and already read Graceful but want to know more about what it means to let go of the try-hard life you’ve been living

Obviously any aged girl/woman can read either book. But these are just some suggestions for which one to choose if you are on the fence about it. I’ve talked with Cru leaders who have told me they used Grace for the Good Girl with their college groups. I’ve also visited with my mom’s group of friends who all read the book together as well. Visit the book page to find out more, watch the trailer, or read an excerpt.

how to buy Grace for the Good Girl for only $5.60

I knew about the sale on the teen book, so I checked around to see the lowest price on Grace for the Good Girl – Amazon has it as a bargain book right now for only $5.60. I don’t know how long that sale will last, but I wanted to let you know about it when I saw it.

Have you read both/either book? If you have any tips about which book might be best for a certain age, please leave them in the comments and I might just add them to this post. It’s one thing for me to offer suggestions but it’s even better to hear what you might recommend as the reader. I hope you enjoy the $5 books!

when never being finished is a good thing

My dad asked me the other day if I was looking forward to being finished with my third book. I laughed out loud when he said it because the truth is, I will never be finished with my third book.

The writing will end, of course. The book will be covered and sold (November!) but the work on the book? That work will continue in the form of speaking engagements, conversations, blog posts, articles, and interviews.

My first book released over a year ago but here I am, still sharing the message of that book. And can I tell you something?

I’m so thankful.

I’m thankful this topic resonates enough with women that I still have permission to talk about it. I’m thankful for the email and the letters and the conversations in church hallways and grocery store aisles with women who desperately needed to be reminded (or told for the first time) that because God is graceful, we are free.

I know there’s so much more to it than that, but for now I’m celebrating the simplicity of those words.

Today we release the final video in the Letting Go of the Try Hard Life series. If you’ve missed the first three videos, you can watch them all by clicking the links below. I hope you enjoy and and are encouraged by them.

letting go of the try hard life

Session 1 : Receive the truth

Session 2 : Remain in the truth

Session 3: Respond to the truth

The fourth and final video, releasing for the first time today:

Session 4: Remember the truth

We made these videos to be a resource to you as you read either of my two books: Graceful {For Young Women} or Grace for the Good Girl. The videos do not coincide with a particular reading plan, rather our intention was to simply give you one more tool to use in small groups, book clubs, or individual study. I truly hope you enjoy them.

Thank you to the staff and listeners at New Life 91.9 in Charlotte and WMHK 89.7 in Columbia for having me in your studio and for being ministers of the Gospel in our communities.

P.S. Listen to the radio, y’all. There’s some Jesus loving people behind those microphones. 

one thing to read, two things to watch and a $10 diamond ring

Today I’m writing at (in)courage – One Painfully Obvious Thing a Genius Taught Me About Life. It’s a good thing, too, because after watching Downton last night, I’m not sure I can gather my wits together enough to come up with a fresh post.

Y’all. Y’all.

I will remain silent so as not to spoil things. Let’s just say I feel like I should have seen that coming, but I did not.

Also, I’m not quite finished with my Artists & Influencers post for this week. I know I said it was going to be a Monday series but it’s turning into a Tuesday series. I love being the boss of me.

The topic? The people who are teaching me about church. Will post that tomorrow.

Until then, wanted to also let you know this Wednesday we’ll release the fourth and final video in the Letting Go of the Try Hard Life video series. You can watch the previous three videos here.

My publisher and I partnered with several radio stations to produce these videos – so if you are in the Charlotte, Columbia and possibly some spots in Pennsylvania, I’ll be joining Eric in the studio again this Wednesday on the morning show. Or if you live anywhere, you can listen live online. I should have just said that first, I guess.

In summary – go here to read about my a-ha moment at the Apple Store and then when you take a mid-morning break from your work, you can watch the week 3 video in the Letting Go series (scroll half-way down the page).

Then when you need a longer break, watch last night’s episode of Downton. Because you have to.

See how I planned your Monday out for you? You’re welcome.

P.S. Sometimes I buy $10 diamond rings. My sister told me if I was 80 years old, that rock might be believable. My latest find is pictured above.

this is what happens when you publish live at midnight thirty

letting go of the try hard life

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  – John 15:5

To remain means to stay where you already are. So the question is – where are you?

And is it a place worth staying?

I am a crazy person up at midnight dark thirty to publish this post. I’ll be waking up at five something dark o’clock to chat it up with Eric at New Life in Charlotte. If you’re up by 7 am EST, you can listen live online here. Or you know, don’t. Because who might not be making any sense in the morning? You guessed it.

Here’s what we’re talking about: Last week I introduced a video series I’m doing with New Life 91.9 called “Letting Go of Your Try Hard Life”. We’ll release a new video every Wednesday in January.

Well, it’s Wednesday! And it’s January. And we have a new video for you: Week 2: Remain. If you missed last week, you can see it here: Week 1: Receive.

There is also a short devotional here. I hope these words offer some encouragement to you today. Now I’m going to sleep for seven minutes before I have to wake up again. Amen.

still living a try hard life? (a video series just for you)

For the last few months, I’ve been working with New Life 91.9 in Charlotte to prepare some videos just for you. If you have read, are reading, or plan to read either of my books, you may want to check out these videos.

There will be a new video released every Wednesday in January, starting today. To watch the first one, simply visit the home page at New Life 91.9.

letting go of the try hard life

Facts to know about these videos:

1. We filmed all the videos at my sister The Nester’s house in Charlotte. So even if you are completely uninterested in what I have to say, you can get your nosey on and snoop around the background.

nester's house

2. Even though the girls in the video are fairly young, our intention is for the content to be relevant to all age groups. We wanted a resource you could watch alone or with others, so if you are part of a small group reading either book, scootch on up to the laptop together and watch!

3. One thing I know for sure about writing a book is that making videos will always and forevermore be part of my job. I did not expect this, but I’m getting used to it. Ish.

4. There is also a short devotional on the New Life website. You can read that here.

Click here if you would like to find out more about this month-long video series. I hope the content in these videos will encourage you in this new year as you consider what it means to let go of the try hard life. Now go watch the first video!

don’t hate me because I’m dutiful

I talk a lot about my own personal struggle with the perfect invisible version of myself. Through books and blog posts, I’ve documented my journey of understanding that my identity and security are not based on my performance but are in Christ.

Because for so long I misunderstood the role of discipline and work in the life of the believer, I write as one wounded by impossible expectation. And so my story is laced with warning to the list-makers, rule-keepers and high-achievers, reminders that God is not looking for products, he longs for people.

One of my great fears in writing these things out is that I’ve somehow communicated that discipline, work, excellence, and determination are negative things.

They aren’t negative unless they become your god.

Discipline became god without my realizing it. It took years to tease out the truth, like Peeta after the Capital brainwashed him, I had to constantly weigh my own perception of God against scripture and ask, real or not real? 

This wasn’t a one-time, bright-light conversion moment. It was gradual, is gradual. I still ask those questions a lot.

Over the past several years, I have been walking up to discipline with cautious steps and loose grips, with the timidity of an addict approaching the street where she took her first drink. The old patterns whisper, habits circle around and nudge my hands to pick them up and wield them as weapons as I once did – to protect myself from other people, God, myself.

But grace speaks louder, is a solid place to lean.

I am becoming reacquainted with the spiritual disciplines and the meeting is sweet. Practices that I once saw as scorecards are now becoming to me sacred. There is sometimes a sense of confusion and questioning. Other times, there is peace and assurance. Christ brings answers but also mystery. We don’t get to know everything.

Once, that was terrifying. Now, it mostly brings comfort.

There is a certain beauty in repetition, in the breathing prayer, in the memorization of scripture. Maybe I’m just getting old, or maybe I’m experiencing more freedom. Probably both.

Two weeks from today, the book I wrote for high school girls will officially release. It’s leaking out in bookstores and there may even be some in stock already on Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites (What?! I know.) Graceful was hard to write, mainly because of who it’s for. I sense the weight of responsibility to walk beside the next generation. I also sense all the ways I fall short in being able to do that well.

But there’s a whole book of my attempts and it’s coming to a bookstore near you. I hope it will be a good resource for you as you walk beside young women in your life. And if you haven’t yet read my first book, Grace for the Good Girl, it’s still half-off at LifeWay.