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Friday, August 30, 2013

loving God in the summertime

























Last night a few old coworkers and I met up at a local Italian joint to bid a fond farewell to a sweet friend.

Something strange was lingering above the long banquet table we sat around. Something was hovering in the air, over the red wine and the chatter of old friends.

It must have been change.



It's beginning to creep into Virginia Beach. It's happening slowly. Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back at the Starbucks up the street, teachers are back at work, summer is leaving.

And fall is coming in like the tide.

Seasons have a rhythm. They're predictable. They're the earth's metronome. And we all just have to march along. Let our toes be swarmed by the foam of the tide. Accepting change, yes, and even stepping into it. Stepping out of old seasons and into new ones. With purpose. With confidence.

But, as I hugged my sweet friend goodbye, I couldn't help but be a little selfish. I couldn't help but to wish that she would linger for a little while longer. Because her leaving signifies an ending of this season.

That makes me sad, because this season has been so full and rich.

It's been a season full of busy days and walking barefoot. It's been a season of washing my feet before I make them dive into the crisp cotton sheets of my snug little bed. It's been a season of blending a bunch of fresh fruit into a smoothie and calling it a meal. It's been a season of interviewing strangers and writing about how God is moving in their lives.

It's been a season full of falling in love. With friends, with jobs, with writing, with exactly where I am. With God.

It's so much easier to love God during the summer time. When everything is alive. It's the time of year when He gives. When seeds that sprout from the ground are ready for harvest.

And when the seeds sprouting in our lives are ready for harvest, too. Harvesting purpose. Harvesting friendships. Harvesting worship and community.

The sense of fulfillment I experience during this time of year is what I chase after every day. It's what I long for in the winter when the ground becomes hard and doesn't give anything. When it's dark before five p.m., and the air is cold and unfriendly.

God is, of course, present during every season. I know this. I've witnessed it.

But, to me, He just seems so much more apparent when the tomatoes are ripe and the air is warm. And maybe that's been a part of His scheme all along. To give us different seasons. Ones that make us smile and extend our hands for harvest, and others that make us clasp our hands together in prayer.

And I think part of being human means it's okay to like one season over the other.


Talk to me sisters, what do you think? Is it easier to love God when the sun is shining? Have there been times in your life when God has seemed nearer than others? Tell me about them! Leave me a comment below! 



photo credit: jacki-dee via photopin cc

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

putting on perfume and other things my mother taught me



















This morning, I was putting the finishing touches on my face. You know, the quintessential mascara-with-mouth-wide-open move, and concealer for the circles under my eyes; trying (successfully?) to cover the fact that I was up reading a delicious new book all night.

I was in the zone. Thinking about the day's meetings, interviews, stories to be written. Totally submerged in the roundabout of preparing for the work day.

Then it happened. I realized I was a real-life grown up. Right as I spritzed my perfume on my wrists and rubbed behind my ears. Just like I had watched my mother do when I was a little girl.


Not too much
she would say, her smile and eyes bright. She would only do this on very special occasions. She savors the things that are special to her this way.

But when I'd very quietly open up her jewelry box, or the drawer where she kept her silk scarves, the smell of her perfume would billow out. Loveliness everywhere.

I was captivated by her from the start. She was a real-life grown up. She rolled her hair into red steam curlers. She opened her mouth when she put on her blue mascara (it was the nineties, y'all). She was in her twenties. She was young, vivacious. Timeless.

I would watch her get ready every morning, starry-eyed. It was like seeing one of my favorite fairy tales come to life. I felt safe and strong in her beauty. Not just her outward beauty, but her inner beauty. It was expressed by her  love, by way of her prayers and whispers to me.

And by the little dab of perfume she'd dab on my tiny, eager wrists. Because I wanted to be a real-life grown up, too.

Now, I'm the woman in my twenties. I have my own perfume that I dab on my just-as-eager wrists. And I think of all of the traits that know my name because my mother taught them to me.


Perseverance.

Faith.

Love.

Joy.

Peace.




All of these things I learned being a curly-haired girl, just watching, watching my mother. When moments like putting on perfume are as profound as taking our first steps and writing our first words.

One day I'll teach my daughter the same. I'll say not too much when I share my perfume with her. But I won't be sparing with my love for her. I won't discourage her from having too much faith, joy or peace.

Because those are traits billow behind you like the train of a dress, like a sweet perfume that follows you.

Those are the things my mother taught me as she put on her perfume.







Talk to me, sisters! Have you ever had an aha! I'm an adult moment? I can't be the only one! Did your mothers teach you anything by simply being present in your lives? A comment below would be lovely :)

photo credit: snailsareslimy via photopin cc
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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Does Anybody See Her?: Why You Should Be the One to Reach Out to the Single Girl Sitting in the Pew Beside You



























She may very well be a line from the song Dancing Queen–“young and sweet, only seventeen.”

She may be in her late-twenties, cheerful, with a wardrobe and hairstyle that would make even Kate Middleton look frumpy.

She may even be older. Weathered. Her eyes may be sunken with disappointment or heartbreak. Her hands may be as leathery as the pages of her Bible she holds in her lap like the toddler she never had.

Young or old, these women have one thing in common: they are coming into to your church congregations alone.

You may not have even noticed them or given them a second glance. That’s understandable. Because, you see, they’ve learned to become anonymous. They’ve learned to become invisible.

Going to church alone is sort of a “takes one to know one” club that no one ever talks about. But we all think about it. The single girl sitting alone in the pew behind you is thinking about it.

The thoughts that
spur her singleness are the thoughts that cause her singleness in the first place. She may very well have made the decision to remain single forever–whether she wants to be or not–by the very thought that she will remain single.

Loneliness has the power to bloom more loneliness that way.

These ladies are smart. Meaning, that they’ve figured out how to hide really well. How to escape into their cocoon, their single girl silo.

But what you may not know is that these women, young and old, rich or humble, actually need you to see them. They need you to lock eyes with them and shake their hands. They need you to hug them. To welcome them. To let them know that you’re worshiping with them, too.

Because, honestly, it’s a miracle that they even got to church that morning to begin with.

Anonymous singles in church congregations spend their Sunday mornings before church arguing with God.


God, does it even really make a difference if I go today? they ask. Still under the covers over their beds that they want to burrow further into.

What difference does it make if I drag myself to a service or not? Who cares?

If you don't reach out to them, no one cares.

Except for maybe God. God probably cares that there are people his house that are unknown. He's the one that said in Scripture that we're all a part of the Body of Christ, right? 

And if that's true, if Scripture is correct and we're all a piece of one body, then lonely singles play the role of heads without faces.

They will leave after the benediction. And though grace and peace is with them, they will leave without so much of a breath in the direction of another brother or sister. 

Show us it makes a difference whether we’re there or not.

Don’t ask us to serve on committees or watch your children in the nursery. Don't take from us. Or assume that we have wild, exciting lives because full of fun and splendor.


Commune with us. Make us feel as though we'd be missed if we weren't around. Make us a part of your family. Give us faces. And names to those faces.

And, please, if you can, keep us from hiding.




Sisters, talk to me. Are you tempted, like me, to hide during church services? Why is it so tempting to be anonymous at church? What encourages you to keep going? Leave a comment below!

photo credit: David Stephensen via photopin cc
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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

so many somethings

























"The odd thing about this form of communication is that you're more likely to talk about nothing than something. But I just want to say that all this nothing has meant more to me than so many somethings."
-You've Got Mail





What do have to write about? I asked my mentor one day. We were sipping iced coffees with bright green straws. She was helping me focus my time.




I'm not a mother. I'm not crafty. And I'm certainly not cooking my way through Julia Child's dictionary of French cuisine, either. Isn't that what people want to read about?

What do I really have to offer? I asked.

My mentor sat, soundly.

I think what it is that you have to offer is your stories, she said.

We're close to the season where iced coffees are swapped for pumpkin spiced lattes. And I'm just now beginning to realize that she's right.


Today, I wanted to take some time to thank you all for allowing me the chance to write.

Not that I'm sitting around waiting for permission from anyone, of course. I've missed out on a lot of opportunities for joy by waiting for others to affirm something I should just simply begin.

I just mean, thank you for reading. For encouraging me. And for sharing with others.

This blog began as a way to encourage other unmarried, 20-something Christian women. Girls just trying to wade through the mess and insecurity of being a new adult. Girls just like me.

But most of the time, I think I'm the one who got the better end of the deal. Because I get to write, for one. And then as a result, I'm usually the one encouraged by the stories you share with me.

Thank you.

For those of you who are my dear, clever family and friends: thank you for giving me fodder to write. Thank you for trusting me with your secrets and heartbreaks.

For those of you (men and women) who have broken my heart: the abusers, the users, you get a thank you, too. By the grace of God, I've learned to overcome your foolishness/carelessness. So, I feel indebted to you all the same.

For those of you who I don't know, but reach out to me in emails and comments: I love listening. I love reflecting and absorbing the creativity rooted in this life. You don't know how much it breaks my heart that I can't fix your problems. But, for reaching out and telling your tragedies to a total stranger, that makes you brave. And that counts for something.

Today, I ran into an old friend.

Well, an old restaurant customer.

He may actually still be going to the restaurant, I have no clue, but he's an old customer to me because I don't work at the restaurant any more.

This is important because he asked me about what I was "up to these days." And I told him "these days" I was working in a local public relations office.

Of course you are, he said, it makes perfect sense with your personality.

We barely know each other. But at the same time, I've been present for some pretty big moments in his life. I served him the night he was on a first date with the woman he's married to. And they went from getting-to-know-you-jitters to engaged in a few months.

Now they're married and his wife works a little ways up the street from my office. I saw her coming down a flight of stairs across the room of a local dining hall. Her face lit up when she saw me, and she pointed to her stomach.

I'm pregnant! she mouthed to me and gave a grin that could have lit up the sky.

I yelped, and left my lunch date in the lurch for a few minutes to hug her.

When her daughter is born, she'll be named Margaret.

These little moments fill me to the brim with happy. These sort of stories are what I have to offer. And I'm thankful.

It may seem like nothing that you're here. But I assure you, this nothing means so much more to me than so many somethings...

Thank you.



What about you, sistahs? What makes you most thankful? What do you love offering to others? Leave some love below! 
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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

block: how to find your purpose when it's gone missing
























Purpose block. 


It's that creepy-crawly feeling of being foolishly stagnant in the midst of blessings. It's forgetting to be thankful. It's failing to live life close to the ground, while the soothing balms of the silver-lined crinkling pages of your NIV black-leather Bible is just a prop on the nightstand.Another item to carry with you in the stage production.

You can't leave it behind while you wait in the wings, but you don't necessarily have to read it either.

It's almost like writer's block.

Sometimes in writer's block, creative block, whatever "block" you're facing, it's best to let your projects rest. And sometimes it's well to let your mind catch up with where your heart has gone for a while.

So, what you do is you put your manuscript in a drawer. You put your colored pencils down, or clean out the dripping veils of colors from your paintbrushes. And of course for the athletic-types, I'm sure it could look something like lacking motivation to run your ten-mile spurt in preparation for the upcoming marathon.

I wouldn't really know what that would be like to actually want to run more than thirty minutes on a treadmill. But, I've heard that some people like those sorts of things. (You go, girls).

But, I do know what it's like to wake up and have to convince yourself to keep going, keep going, keep going. And sometimes it's hard to wake up and do these little life-chore marathons.

Because what if we do it badly?

What if people are talking about us behind our backs?

What if we make ourselves bleed on the page and no one pays attention?

It's a scary, gambly sort of way to live.

But, purpose block is so much worse. If we're being honest, it seems like something bigger than what one can simply keep her chin up through. The storm seems too big to weather.


It happens to us when our daily routine becomes a merry-go-round of prediction. Grinding awake at 6 a.m., creaking open the dishwasher door and pulling out your chipped Wizard of Oz mug, drumming your fingers on the kitchen counter, impatient for your coffee to finish brewing. When you stir in those two tiny packets of Splenda, while you hang your head and close your eyes over your steaming cup. 
 

Praying, asking for strength to get through the day.

Asking in the middle of the whirlwind of hard work, of school, of volunteering, of praying and planning and preparing.
 
What is the point of all of this again?

And each day you're granted enough. Just enough. The minimum wage–strength to live on paycheck-to-paycheck. There is no surplus or fund for a rainy-strength day.

Before you know it, you can get purpose block. Living life in a haze of duties, responsibilities. Forgetting that you were born with a mighty plan that you were created specifically for.

I don't think this problem solely belongs in the realm of first world problems. I think it's a this world problem.

I think that our purpose has the keen ability to be kept hidden from us. I think it's like the parable of the pearl in the field. And once we find it, we should absolutely buy the field.

We should invest in communities that allow us to break our purpose block. We should buy into relationships that encourage us to keep going, keep going, keep going on the trek to discover purpose.

To run, lace up your shoes and head out the door. Even when every part of you wishes to be in bed. To write, sit in a chair and clack on the keys. Even when the words seem slapped together.

To find purpose? Pray, hope and heal a little bit.

Remember what powerful Father made you. And remind yourself of your special gifts and quirks in the midst of your busy and your messy.

Buy the pearl of your purpose in the field.
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Monday, August 5, 2013

oh, for the love of joy: finding your "why"

























What's your "why?"

We're Americans. We're creatures of ambition. It's a thing that's imbedded in our hearts as well as our skin cells. It's broadcasted from within us, but it also encapsulates us.

That's why doing something simply for the sake of joy is difficult.

At the end of the day, while we rest our heads on the pillow, we don't dream. We strategize. We plot. We never rest or bask in the process of milestones or creation.

We use our talents as weapons of entitlement, rather than what they really are.

Gifts.

I think that's why I hated writing.

My manuscript was my enemy. A thing I was a war with.

It could sense my beginning to pull away from it. It could sense my neglect. That I wasn't that into it.

It knew I was using it, but it wasn't getting me anywhere. It wasn't making me renowned, or famous, or pretty.

Which is essentially all that I want to get out of writing. I want it to make me feel pretty and clever.

That has become my "why."

And when I use writing for those purposes, rather than for joy I notice. I notice big time.

And guess what the Bible says about that?

You guessed it.

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit..."

Uh...whoops.

This is what Christ did. This is how he lived.

He wasn't reaching for anything. He wasn't busy giving a video sermon. Or writing a book about his opinions on Christian culture. There wasn't a cardboard cutout of him at his local Barnes and Noble. He didn't do book signings. Or TODAY show interviews.

He wasn't worried about being radical. He wasn't worried about his marketing. His brand. His social media outreach. His platform.

He had 12 followers. Twelve. And that was enough to start a revolution of extraordinary love.



But, see? There are the things--blogging, branding, number of followers, blog stats, blog comments---I have been swarmed with.

Swarmed with.

This has been my ambition. And it's a heavy, thick intoxication. Like a man wearing too much cologne.

This has been my why. The purpose I've been following. The ambition. The motivation.

So, since my incomplete manuscript that I've been fighting with, and this blog I've been somewhat committed to has failed to make me a sparkling, famous celebrity writer, guess where this ambition has left me?

Fearful. Feeling like a failure. Depressed. Hopeless. Procrastination-ess.

That is the path where my selfish ambition has led me.

I went to a beautiful, fun wedding this weekend. Lots of old college friends. Lots of singing the James Madison fight song and talking about how grown up we are now that we're done with school.

A sweet friend of mine just put out a musical album. And we chatted briefly about how it feels to make art. To expose what we've done to the world. And how scary the whole darn mess can be.

She humbled me. Because it seemed, in our too-brief conversation, that she was just being obedient to a calling.

She wasn't using her art or her music to invent her. She was doing it because she loved it.

Because she found joy in it.

And because of that, her joy was her why. It was her reason for singing. It was her motivation for producing.

And it's lovely (y'all should check it out).

This is how Christ did it. He kept his eyes ahead. Hung out with prostitutes, convicts and tax collectors. For the love. For the joy of bringing people to the kingdom. He was obedient, yet confident. Humble, yet incredibly effective at conveying his message.

This is how it should be.

So, with the new ambition to seek joy and obedience in writing, I feel refreshed. I can feel myself falling into the groove of my purpose and calling. The little nook where a space is carved. For my words, my actions, my pursuits, my desires.

What if we could have all of that simply by letting our fingers relax from our try, try, try that we've been clutching onto? What if we let our shoulders step away from carrying the weight of achieving.

What if we just simply said yes to our talents, instead of burying them away because of fear?

What if we just obeyed Christ's command to step out of the boat and walk on water for a while? Trusting that when God created us as individuals, he built us to pursue the talents he locked away within us for His glory, His kingdom. His purpose.

Step out of the boat. Walk on your talents. Do it for the love of it.

Do it for the Kingdom's community.

Do it for joy.

Let the joy be your "why."


Talk to me sistahs! Are there talents in your life that you need to seek joy for? Have your artistic pursuits ever been hindered by your own ambition? Let's chat! Tell me about it, below!


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