Reflect & Rewind

WHOA. What happened to February 2014? I feel like someone just ripped out a whole month from my calendar and threw it out the car window!

As days quickly slip into months past in this brand new year, I’m realizing my need to live intentionally as I set time aside to slow…and be still in His presence. To feel the breeze against my face and Acknowledge. Lysa TerKeurst has challenged me to the core to BE a NOTICER of life and the simple beauty of of God’s hand all around me. Emily Freeman has given me Seven Little Ways to be present, to show up with what I have right now, and make beautiful art out of the everyday.  Natalie Grant and Charlotte Gambill have Dared me to Be all that God created and intended me to be by stepping out in faith not in sight into the future He wrote for me. Ann Voskamp poetically invited me to believe that this is my time such as this to shine as the star in the sky, amongst the galaxies, my Creator formed me to be.

Powerful Words. Absolute Truth.

Right now as I write the honeyed scent of fresh flowers is lingering in my office. I drift into reflection. February has been extra sweet to my senses this time around and swept me clean off my feet from Coast to Coast in a blur of blessings. For Valentine’s Day I made a surprise visit to see my boyfriend in Portland, Oregon. Our entire relationship has been long distance, mostly from one coast to the other, and this was our first Valentine’s Day together, so it was a much needed and extra special trip.

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The next weekend I traveled south to Tampa, Florida for my very first Dare to Be event with my sister-in-law. Wow…what a gift. Not only was I blessed by the conference and left completely wonderstruck by Natalie’s notes, but I had the opportunity to be a part of it in a small way as a Revolutionary. I walked away with a grateful heart, a stirred soul and completely leveled by God’s grace. I can honestly say I have not been so moved by worship since I responded to an alter call at youth camp when I was 18 and gave my life and heart to Christ forever.

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Tears of joy. Streaming.

I say all that to say this: I have been praying for God to reveal Himself to me in new ways this year and two months in I feel absolutely infused by His presence. I am left in awe of how He moves. And what totally blows me away is that these are just mere glimpses of His glory. Can you even fathom Heaven?

God is so good and my heart is so thankful.

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Anything, not Everything

A seemingly small trick I learned recently from Lysa TerKeurst has shed some new light on an old favorite script, Philippians 4:13. It’s called 10 fingers and it goes like this: I. Can. Do. All. Things. Through. Christ. Who. Strengthens. Me.  (Don’t forget to count with your fingers!)

It’s a little like counting to 10 when you feel like you’re about to overreact about something silly in the heat of the moment. When I feel suddenly overwhelmed with stress, worry, doubt, fear…I simply count to 10 and remind myself of how awesome my God is!

It’s an amazing sense of peace that comes when you take a moment to remember how big God is and that literally ANYHTING is possible with Him. It’s also humbling to recognize that outside Him nothing of value is possible.

But I’ve come to realize that just because God can accomplish anything, things we cant even imagine, in and through us by His strength, that doesn’t mean I need to go out and attempt to conquer EVERYTHING I can get my hands on. Just because God can make something happen doesn’t mean He will. That thing, goal, dream, task might not be for us. If I’ve learned anything in 24 years it’s this: if it’s not in God’s will for my life it ain’t gonna happen.

So I’m trying to learn to live in the moment God has for me right now and stop constantly striving towards the future. I don’t want to miss the present! I know God has me right where I am for a reason, a purpose. It might not be what I envisioned, but I certainly don’t know best. God does! He designed me and He wrote my story. He knows how it ends and all the stops in between. And He pulled me out of eternity and placed here for such a time as this. I may not know what my future holds or even what tomorrow holds, but I know Who holds me. Sometimes I just need to remind myself, God’s got this. I don’t need to have it all figured out because He already knows what’s ahead and the reasons for what’s behind.

I am challenging myself to keep my eyes open and my heart ready. To be obedient to what God is placing on my heart right now. To take the next little step of faith. To stay in his Word and let the light of his Truth guide me towards the destiny He has for me.

This year I want to read more than I’ve ever read. I want to DO something. I want to take steps of faith. I want to trust God. I want to decrease and I want Him increase. I want to give him the things I’ve been holding onto so tightly. I want to let go in full surrender. I want to be obedient where I am. I want to give more and worry less.

I want to let God do His thing and stop trying to force my thing.

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Roadside Revelation

Driving back from town on my lunch break today, I decided to take the back way instead of the interstate. Ever have one of those days when you feel like you need as much “fresh air” as humanly possible or you will suffocate. Yeah, it’s one of those days.

So I’m driving along, worship music playing quietly over the radio, trying to drink in as much of the big blue sky, crisp air and sunshine as I can in my brief commute back to the office to ease my mind. As I pass the field of miniature horses and near the church on the left side of the road, my focus shifts to the sign. This week it reads, “We always find time for the things we value most.”

And after I’m done being shallow and applying this statement to everyone else I can think of who clearly have re-prioritizing to do, I realize it’s me who needs the spiritual tune up. In the words of my Southern Sister, Mrs. Beth Moore, “Girlfrien’, you are in a STRONGHOLD.”

The truth of this church sign is washing over me in cycles. What do I find time for? Namely, how much time am I finding in my schedule for God? What about just me and Him – no author in between? How much time am I spending in THE Word? Better yet, if I do find time for God, how much am I truly taking to heart and then putting into action?

Find time. Those two words alone are powerfully convicting. Our faith walk is not a scavenger hunt. There is always time to spend time – real time – with God. The question is not whether we can go out and round up some time. The answer is to be intentional with the time we have.

Thankfully, my missteps are met with conviction from my Heavenly Father and not condemnation I am all too familiar with from Earthly experiences. The lyrics of a song ring tried and true today, “God’s not finished with me yet…”

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Creative Writing TBT “Kathi”

I was born in 1990.  Back then my mom had long, red nails and managed an apartment complex called Georgetown across from what would be my elementary school.  That’s where she met Kathi Horne.  Kathi lived in a two-bedroom, one bath apartment right above the main office with her mother and a few cats.  She was a petite woman with short, blonde hair and tan skin.  Her vibrant personality and eclectic style seemed to burst from her tiny frame.  Kathi was different and awkwardly outgoing.  Her energy was contagious.  She was the type of person you feel like you can trust the moment you meet them.  I can only assume that it’s for these reasons that Kathi became my babysitter – my only babysitter.

I called her TahTah (pronounced with a short ‘a’.)  I’m not sure why.  I guess the phonics of the name Kathi proved difficult for my grasp of the English language at the time.  The memories of my childhood are woven with the adventures I had with Kathi – vivid snapshots of my life that conjure much different feelings than memories with family.  You see my family is southern conservative to the very core, like bless your heart, make ya slap ya momma good, don’t tread on me kinda southern.  Kathi’s liberal outlook on life and vast open mind was a stark contrast to southern hospitality to say the least, but I liked that the most about her.  My Daddy always says that out of all the kids I’m different.  I think different.  I do things different.  I agree.

Kathi and I, we were a team; we did everything together.  I would go to her apartment almost every day after school and sometimes even when I didn’t have to.  I knew good and well I was not allowed to ride my bike any further than the line in sand at the end of our driveway on 23rd street, but that didn’t stop my mind’s eye from mapping out exactly what my path would look like from the end of that drive to Georgetown Apartments. Most days I wasn’t with Kathi my thoughts wandered to imagine my next adventures with her.

Kathi had weird snacks that we didn’t have at my house.  To this day she’s the reason I crave Fresca with handful of semi-sweet chocolate pieces. Or pour just enough low-fat milk over my frosted flakes to cover the bottom of the bowl.  We would sit and watch whatever cartoons were on T.V., usually Rug Rats, while I ate a snack on the floor of the living room.

Her extra bedroom was filled with toys, games, books, movies, sewing materials and her mother’s clothes (I would often shut the door and plunder through the closet wondering who would ever wear such strange, marvelous things.)  Directly across from the closet, there was a window opening to the street with a small opening in the screen she had rigged up for her cats, Opossum and Nickers and later Princess.  Opossum was my favorite.  He was dingy white and extremely tolerant of my adolescent mind.  I would push him around in a child’s stroller all over the apartment complex.  Up one sidewalk and down the other, we covered every inch of  in Georgetown. And he would just sit there, perfectly still.

But the times I didn’t spend entertaining myself in the play room, doing God only knows what, or running amuck in the rectangular courtyard just outside the back door, I spent with Kathi.  We walked almost everywhere, but sometimes she would push me in an old wheelchair she had.  Most people thought this was weird, but it was just another day with Kathi to me.  Sometimes we would go to Rotary Park (sidebar: I got gum stuck in my hair over by the swings once and she got it out.  Slowly but surely.) Sometimes we would swim for hours at her pool.  There was a thicket on the pool deck I loved to catch lizards in and swing from the branches. Sometimes we would go to the public library where her mother worked as the librarian for story time. Sometimes (during the summer) we would just walk across the street to eat Chinaberries that looked like miniature pumpkins, but they were delightful! I still love to eat those and I always think of Kathi.

Anything I did with Kathi was fascinating to me.  She was so different from all the other adults in my life.  She was totally carefree and spontaneous.  She lived life by the day as she wanted to, not as she “should.”  Nothing we ever did had any rhyme or reason, really.  She taught me to think about things differently – to see the world through different glasses, with an open mind.  She showed me how to be creative.  She made a place for me in her life, not just her home.  She was more than my babysitter; she’s my dear friend.  Always will be.

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I Need to Take 5…or a Destination Trip to an Exotic Island Bungalow

The joys of moving back home with your parents after living independently for five years can evoke feelings that are actually quite the opposite of joy at times. Some days living at home is my saving grace yet others it is the last straw of my sanity that snaps like a brittle twig leaving my nerves frayed and frazzled without hope of mending. The very source of the seemingly irreparable state of my mental distress. A swirling torrent of disillusionment.

Okay. Cue the world’s smallest violin. Maybe I’m being a tad bit dramatic and melancholy. But don’t call the #FirstWorldProblems police just yet. Let me explain.

As an independent soul with introverted tendencies, I cherish my quiet time all to myself, but that is rarely acknowledged as necessary by former empty nesters relapsing into a state smothering intrusiveness. This is usually preferred to be labeled as affection or quality time. I tend to gravitate more towards sensory overload or slow asphyxiation.

All hyperboles aside, I don’t vent to be spiteful at all. Of course, I absolutely cherish this season of my life, which has led me back home for an indefinite period. No, maybe I’m not slap-happy every single second. I have brief lapses of sanity when I secretly fantasize about a weekend away left to my own devices. But I know I will look back and cling to these memories for dear life. It is an opportunity I do not take lightly or for granted. I dearly love and adore and respect and admire my parents. They have raised me up in the Word and I am who I am today because of their guidance and wisdom and lavish love. And I am so beyond words grateful to be blessed with such amazing parents. Not many can say that for one reason or another and I’m humbled by the honor.

Malicious intent is certainly not the motivation for this post tonight. Simply an immediate need to feel a keyboard beneath my fingers and vigorously express raw emotions in the wake of an unforeseen wave of invasiveness. I still don’t think I’ve fully adjusted to having to answer to someone other than myself. Sometimes I just want to come home from work and eat cake for dinner and take a night nap and not have to feed the horses…or the dogs or the cat. Moving from the conveniences of city life to rural country have also required some getting used to.

Normally, if I found myself panting from the suffocation of forced interaction with someone other than the little voice inside my head I would just hop across the street to Starbucks or Panera for some “me time” with a coffee and my laptop. Or peruse through Publix aimlessly with an empty stomach. (Word to the wise, not always the best choice.)

However, that’s not exactly possible when the only place within 60 miles of my house with WIFI is called The Red Onion Grill joined to a 24/7 truck stop. I’ll let you paint that picture of tranquility. You get my point. So my only hope for silent solitude is my bedroom, but that’s never guaranteed unless take my laptop to the bath tub with me. And that still doesn’t stop my mom from breaking and entering.

Well, as the saying goes..her ears must have been burning. Mom just walked in my room. I have to put on my technical support hat now.

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Southern Airs

The South is an ambiguous Graceland. A place where the words bless your heart, having slipped slowly off the tongues of many a proper Southern Belle, can take on a myriad of meanings with a slight inflection of tone. A place where cadence is an art form and a raised eye brow assumes the power of God himself on Judgement Day. Home to the front pew dwellers, the good ole boys, and green-thumbed grandmas. A place where most people have entirely too much time on their hands, camouflage is a wardrobe staple, and comfort food will make you slap ya’ momma. Lilly Pulitzer reigns queen and monogrammed merchandise runneth over.

The lovely  eloquently says it this way, “The South is a land where grace and guilt sit shoulder to shoulder, where the past isn’t past, and redemption is ever on offer.”

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Ahh…yes ma’am. Journey just below the Mason-Dixon and you’ll find life lived a little slower and the tea sweeter. But, you see, the problem is a picture only paints 1,000 words. Let’s look a little further, past the perfectly manicured camelias on the front lawn and walk through the red door to white manor house to find dusty Bibles on bed stands. Suddenly the leather bound cover and the gold trimmed pages lose a little luster when we peel back the corner to peer below the surface. We don’t have to go far to tarnish the perceived reality to see what’s real.

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Let me be clear with y’all. These words are neither meant to condemn or judge nor are they a universal assumption.  I was born  in The South and raised Baptist. I love country music and I prefer my comfort foods deep fried and smothered. I own more camouflage (with pink trim) than your average girl raised in the sun. I have a monogrammed purse and I’m proud of it! I’ve blessed more hearts than I can count and at times my Bible has gathered some dust of its own. If you ask me, I’d have to agree with the boys of Florida-Georgia Line…it is all about The South. Yeah, I love the crazy quirks of Southern life.

In the words of Ann Voskamp, I’m preaching Gospel to myself.

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This is a challenge. A wake up call to you and me both, Sister. Y’all we have got to get it together! Let’s stop giving Grace in one breath and rationing guilt in the next. Since when did grace (sans the amazing) become so conditional? I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I want grace that requires me to check the box at the bottom to agree to all its terms and conditions. Do I need to sign in blood, too?

Y’all. Jesus already did that at the cross. Once and for all. 

Can we start living like He did??

I’m so tired of settling for being “the good Bible study girl” I could throw up! What are we doing this for? Why are we wasting our time playing good Christians? We’ve got all the right bumper stickers and perfect church attendance record. We plaster on a big smile and pretend to have it all together. And for what? A gold star?

Girl, please. 

God is not impressed with our novelty awards. He sees straight through our facade to the heart. And the last thing a broken world needs is a bunch of Bible trivia know-it-alls with Southern accents parading around in our UGG boots armed with monogrammed Vera Bradley pocket books. And you can insert whatever name brand makes your heart flutter here, but let’s reign ourselves in for a reality check real quick. Jesus don’t care about the price tags on our stuff because He already paid the ultimate price for us.

Knowing your Bible and knowing Jesus are two totally different things, girlfriend. Can we own that Truth? Can we stop runnin’ our mouths long enough to actually start walkin’ out our faith?

Let’s end with this last graceful thought from Ms. Allison,

It was, of course, the perfect metaphor. We were all plunging into the unknown, the South nothing if not a place of infinite mystery. I had come back, boomeranged yet again, still searching for that elusive missing part, the Southernness—otherness—one finds only in Dixie, a land of stark contradiction, where grace and guilt sit shoulder to shoulder, where the past isn’t past, and redemption is ever on offer.

Redemption is ever on offerand all my Jesus girls said, Amen! The truth is, I’m just as much of a hot southern mess as the next girl and that should make me want to give grace that much more freely. No strings attached. I’m choosing to live that truth this year. How ’bout y’all?

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First White Christmas! 2012

First White Christmas! 2012

Last year, I saw snow for the first time. It was much colder than Hallmark cards quaintly illustrate. But all the more beautiful when you can touch it and feel it powdery and weightless in your hands. As I get ready to travel north for my second White Christmas, I can’t help but reflect on the seasons of God’s Grace that have marked the past year.

Seasons of Life colored with sunsets, blooms, countryside, streams, shorelines, fields, falling leaves, and snowflakes. But life doesn’t always stay inside the lines. Trials and tribulations do not tip toe around our hearts. Death has a way of settling in for the night…reminding us it’s never farther away than our own shadow. Looming. But Life renews our Spirit again each morning as the sun rises with Promise. Then, change comes stomping into our comfort and snatches our security out from under our sure footing.

And yet, somehow, in the midst of the thickening plot, our Father always writes the perfect ending to every season. Like an Ecclesiastes Saga, the mountains and the valleys flow seamlessly together orchestrating a harmonious hymn as the Almighty Conductor just sings over our lives.

From blossoms of Divine opportunity to winters of hardship. Nothing surprises Him. No matter where the road winds.

He is the beginning and the end.  He cradles the very Cosmos in His hands. Still, He loves each of us intimately. His heart hurts from our pain and suffering. He relishes in our relief. He rejoices in our joy! He sits enthroned atop the clouds of the Heavenlies warmed by our hearts of thanksgiving and adoration of His faithfulness.

Seasons of Life come and leave like waves on the shoreline. Ebbing and flowing.  Filled with Hope. Dripping with Grace.

So remember to pause. Ponder the magnificence of His Perfect Penmanship. Gaze as He paints the sunsets with flawless strokes of warm hues and splashes of Light.

Allow yourself to get lost in Awe. Be struck by His wonder.

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