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Review: Stay by Anjuli Paschall

Stay by Anjuli Paschall

When I decided on Stay as my reflective book for the summer, I had no idea what I was getting into.  Instead of being gentle and peaceful (like The Next Right Thing I read last year), Stay is intense and raw.  Like The Next Right Thing, though, it keeps on leading the reader to God, so it’s all good and I am glad I chose it.

Often, when things in our Christian lives seem stuck or dry, we tend to want to fix them, try harder, or even avoid God.  Stay: Discovering Grace, Freedom, and Wholeness Where You Never Imagined Looking encourages us just to stay instead, humbly waiting for God instead of frantically trying to figure things out ourselves.

Through an abundance of detailed personal experience, Anjuli leads us to consider topics we tend to want to run away from:  mistakes, neediness, vulnerability, loneliness, pain, embarrassment, and trauma.  She talks about listening, showing up, waiting, and aging. In each case, she comes back to God, his saving goodness, his sovereignty, and his love.  He is the answer to all of our needs—sin, guilt, fear, loneliness, and the endless ponderings about how to live this life well.  In each of these, God can sanctify us and draw us closer to himself.

Anjuli Paschall’s writing is personal—sometimes even embarrassingly so—and poetic, yet her discussions are well-thought-out and logical.  In fact, I cannot imagine the amount of exhausting thought it must have taken to organize the book’s ideas so well.  Because of these things Stay shows one person’s painful journey of sanctification with both emotion and biblical accuracy.  It can do us good to consider this journey through her experience.

For example, while exploring aging and the fear of death—because even though we know that God will be with us and that Jesus has removed the sting of death we are afraid of the dying process—Anjuli confesses that gratitude is “the pathway from knowing God is with me to experiencing peace in my soul that He actually is with me.” She fleshes out this concept with a rhapsody of joy at the everyday miracles God works in our lives, ending with the declaration, “I’ll say it with every passing year and up to my dying breath. Breathe in: Savor.  Breathe out: Thank you.” (p 175)

This book is raw in places.  It discusses despair, trauma, pain, and other hard things.  However, immediately, in each chapter, Anjuli points to our loving, saving God.  She tells the reader:  do not run from the hard things into self-saving mode; stay with the hard things and because that is where “God is weaving his redemptive story into mine.” (p 204)

Although it was not intended to be a major theme in the book, Stay also shows effects of living one’s life by social and other media.  Our society does not fully realize that screen addiction can cause problems for adults as well as kids. So, to Anjuli’s message I’d add this: don’t stay with your screens, those beloved rectangular idols that are designed to distract us from real world relationships with God and others. Stay with God instead.

I highly recommend Stay by Anjuli Paschall.  Complete with discussion questions, it could be used for personal reading and reflection, a group study, or even in Christian therapy.

Trigger warning:  We live in a broken world. If you are deeply affected by that, you may wish to read this book with a loving supporter who will be able to help you face the brokenness and Stay with God.

Disclosure: I received a review copy from Graf Martin and Bethany House and, as usual, am not compensated for this review.

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