“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.” This is a quote from the late Billy Graham who passed away just yesterday. There are so many wise things that he’s said over the course of his life but this one speaks to me personally on so many levels. I admire his courage. He was an ordinary many who simply used his life to do what God has commanded us all as believers to do – in our own way.
So many hearts were saddened by the news and you might have heard rejoicing on other ends. Why is that? Because as Christians, we know with every ounce of assurance that there is something eternally better and lasting than this current life. There is absolutely no doubt about it. “Living means living for Christ, and dying is even better” (Philippians 1:21). Better yet, I love how The Message translates it: “Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose.”
Billy’s life was lived famously for Jesus; but his death was even more so a victory. My first thought upon hearing the news of his passing was absolute delight as I replayed scenes in my mind of him facing Jesus for the first time and hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Wow! THAT just took place! To face Jesus and be embraced by Him…purest joy! What a party in heaven!
My second thought was, ” I have also been entrusted with a life and the message of truth. Am I being faithful with this life and message everyday?” We might not all be called to be evangelists but we were all given the same message to the reason for the hope that we have! We all come across hungry and hurting souls in our day-to-day lives. Are you called to be hairstylist? Who is it that’s sitting in your chair? Are you a waitress or barista? How many unhappy or lonely people are you crossing paths with? Are you called to be a nanny or a teacher? Could that child in front of you be the next Billy Graham?
I watched a Today Show clip of Kathy Lee Gifford’s reaction to Billy Graham’s death and it was a beautiful reminder of this treasure of a good news that we have as believers and the need to share it! “Jesus: The cure for the malignancy of the soul.” – That’s how Kathie Lee put it best.
If you’re like me you may have sometimes felt that sharing the message of Jesus would be too difficult or complicated for others to understand or even accept. What if it really is as simple as reaching someone at the core of where they need it most? God has given every single one of us a platform, an area of influence where we can share this wonderful news. What’s yours? How are you sharing your light? How can we courageously start doing that this very day?
“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 11 Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 4:10-11)
Lynchburg, Virginia. I never thought I’d find myself living in a smaller city such as this one, let alone one with such a name! If that eludes you altogether, just ask me later about the immediate thought that comes to a New Yorker’s mind when they hear of a place further south by that name. Outside of purposes for attending college, I never even thought I would manage to stick around. Alas! 6 years from the day my city girl heels hit this pavement, here I am. It has turned out to be “home” for me beyond the college life.
Now if you’re like me and have at times found yourself like Belle singing, “There must be more than this provincial life,” despair no more. There is more and you just have to discover it and make the best of things. Then everyday won’t quite be like the one before! Although I must say that there are a few Gastons here and all the other single, eligible bachelors must be cursed in some far away castle that I and many others have yet to discover. Maybe in Forest? Nevertheless, we must hope!
You can hear more as I share on a New In Lynchburg podcast featuring yours truly as a guest speaker! You can also listen on iTunes here if that strikes your fancy. Feel free to comment on this post and share your thoughts or any tips you might have on finding where the Beast lives! Haha!
Until then…Bon voyage!
The fall 2017 season is upon us in all of its layered glory featuring fashion trends reminiscent of the 70’s onward. If you’ve been equally amused and perplexed at the wardrobe possibilities, then here lies your handy style guide! I’ve selected my top trends for the season with tips on how to bring the look together yourself!
- A FLORAL SURPRISE! Yes, florals! Perhaps a least-expected trend for the season, florals are making way with a bold statement.
- How to Wear: Pair a darker combination of florals with black or a dark blue denim. If it’s a dress, you’ll want t try wearing it with black stockings and boots for a more distinguished fall look.
- OOH LA-LA RED! This trend is perhaps my favorite. It’s every woman’s confidently beautiful go-to.
- How to Wear: Pair your reds with black for a nighttime look and with browns, tans, and neutrals for the daytime. Grays certainly work too. But they should be more structured pieces in order to prevent your look from being a little too sloppy. The goal is carefree not careless!
- FUR-SURE! There’s no doubt about it. The fur-inspired pieces are here to keep us wildly warm!
- How to Wear: A coat for those extra cold days, or something that is fur-lined. For the early fall chill, opt for a sweater with simple fur-lining.
- MUSTARD ON TOP! Mustard brightens up those gloomier days with an added dash of color to your look.
- How to Wear: Mustard should always be an accent color in my opinion, not the main event. Don’t ever do head to toe. Too mustardy…you’ll be screaming for some ketchup and a bun! It can be worn as a coat, sweater, watch, or shoe paired with complimentary darker colors. You might even get mustard mixed with florals for a fun option!
- DENIM SQUARED! It’s denim on denim season and this one is a bit tricky. Truthfully, I wanted to steer clear of this trend but with some creative and personal touches, it can be quite a fun look.
- How to Wear: You’ll want to attempt to match your denim pieces (darker shades work best). If you’re wearing a jeans/top combo, wear the lighter shade on top. The look is more flattering that way. If you have a dressy denim item, make that the key piece of your entire look. It’ll pull everything together. Speaking of pulling it all together – brown boots of any shade makes this trend really work!
- FALLING OFF THE EDGE! This one deserves an honorable mention. It might take you a few shots of PSL espressos to muster up the courage to pull this one off…but just in case, I’ve got you covered!
- How to Wear: You saw T. Swift’s tough chick motorcycle look in her new video, didn’t you? This trend is all leather, studs, and everything black…yes. If you want to take a much safer route, a modest black sweater, turtleneck or a long cardigan will do the trick paired with a leather bottom.
You may already have items in your closet to make these looks happen. Get one or two pieces to pull it all together if you need to. My advice? Shop smart. Get something you know will match items that you already own and think timeless. Nothing’s fashionably worse than spending money on something you’ll barely wear. Ugh…I’d rather buy pizza! And remember, your number one fashion-must is confidence. Smile, hold the door for someone, and slay all day!
Hugs and kisses!
Really wanting to be liked. Really wanting to belong. Wanting to be known and be valued. Insecurities hit like crazy. I find myself all too often wondering how I’m perceived. I still struggle with the fact that people don’t necessarily see a smart girl when they meet me for the first time or care to get to know me. I’ve inadvertently heard the hurtful assumptions – shallow, concerned only with the outer appearance, only hangs out with people “like herself,” or as they call it these days, “basic.” That word still makes me laugh…because it’s a label like so many things that confine. But more on that later.
So, who am I?
A layered onion of sorts. I know things and have experiences that would not be necessarily grouped together. Weird, huh? Events in my life might seemingly juxtapose each other. I have always strived to be well-rounded before I even knew what being well-rounded meant and I suppose that is the cause. While societal influences might have encouraged me to fit into a box, I realized as a young teenage girl that it’s possible to use my intellectual capacity in a way that’s fitting to my own passions, interests, and unique personality.
My high school days involved some very strong encouragement to pursue an Ivy League school. Senior year Saturdays were spent getting up at 5am and riding the NYC subway to take science and engineering classes at a city college. Friends who know me now might be surprised by this. But because I was good at these subjects, I was sort of forced to pursue it. As I headed home on that noisy E train, studying my textbook but more so the diverse personalities all round me, something inside wanted to fight for me. I considered what I enjoyed and decided I would rather spend my energies excelling in those areas. I enjoyed culture, public speaking, fashion, language learning, the arts, anything that gave me an avenue to express this beauty of traits that I felt were spilling out of me.
You see, “smart” is not defined as one particular thing or in a limited way. It’s not a term only meant for those who pursue a certain course. I had to realize that and accept it. I enjoy reading but not so much about concepts or a way of thought as I do reading books and articles that leave room to the imagination…stories, self-reflections…those things that make life come alive for me!
Portions of my life have been lived stuffed into a box. There were times of having to conform to someone else in order to be accepted. It has left me feeling insufficient and empty. It’s no way to truly live. If we look closely, we might find that where we are in some way a product of who we felt we needed to be or who we were told to be. Some of us have realized this and courageously broken the mold. Dare I say that my discovery is more of a journey? I discover it daily and have done so even more in recent years.
Here is what I do know: the gifts, talents, abilities, and experiences that God has given me were in no way a mishap. I am to channel those along with what I find myself passionate about into something of great purpose. God has entrusted these to me for His greater good. We are ALL called to something! If you are still a seeker, know that He has been using the events of your life to draw you to something of significance. There’s no limit to what He can use you for. He’s got a plan for your life if you’ll just trust Him with it. As David wrote so confidently in the Psalms, “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.”
I try to see life and others through God’s eyes…from His perspective. I value differences of personality and outlooks on life through which I see evidences of the Imago Dei. Beautiful. That’s what people are to me – because they’re made in God’s own image – so uniquely and beautifully made. Truly getting to know others, their culture, what drives them, what brings them joy, among other things unearths the “fearfully and wonderfully made” described in Psalm 139. My passion is helping others to discover this about themselves. While I may not be completely sure of all the ways I can do this, I am confident that I can use the tools that God has given me so far to accomplish that.
So, if those insecurities tend to hit you hard like they do me, here are the things I strive to remember:
- I AM SIGNIFICANT. I am created in God’s image. (If you know God personally then you know that this is by far some pretty legit quality to have)!
- I HAVE PURPOSE. I have something to offer the world that is uniquely me. My own set of qualities experiences, and characteristics. Good or bad. They can benefit someone else and doing it will bring me joy.
- I AM ACCOUNTABLE. We will all one day stand before God and account for how we’ve used what He’s given to us. Sure, this sounds like a lot of pressure for something too great but it’s really not. Just don’t sit around hiding from the world what God created you for. Put it to work! No time or room for insecurities here!
*Here are some awesome verses that have encouraged me:
“…He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live.” (Acts 17:26)
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21)
“The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.” (Psalm 138:8)
Here’s to finding where you belong!
I don’t know about you, but I feel like summer is flying by while everyone is having all types of fun and I’m over here like, “next please!” If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past year or so, it’s that life keeps moving forward and we have to decide if we want to make the most of it. Last summer, I started making myself a bucket list for each season. You can see samples of it here on Etsy.
So if you feel like you’ve yet to make the most of your summer, I’ve totally got you friend! You might not have had one of those summer vacations in Iceland that everyone seems to be going on right now, but consider trying a few of the fun things on this list. I’ve narrowed it down to 10!
- Saturday morning sunrise hike and brunch. Get some adventurous friends together who won’t mind getting up at 4am and hit the trails. There’s something about starting off the day while the rest of the world is asleep, sitting at the top of a mountain, and watching the sunrise. It’s my go-to option for those times when I’m feeling pretty down in life. The experience takes me higher! Pun definitely intended. You’ll definitely work up an appetite afterwards so head back to someone’s house for a delicious brunch and a movie on the couch. Team work makes the dream work!
- Picture perfect by the pool. You likely know of someone who either has a pool or lives at an apartment with pool access. You know that super-cute bathing suit that you haven’t had a chance to wear all summer? Or just never had the guts to? Well whip out that self esteem, put on that picture-worthy swimsuit, call up a friend who will indulge your selfie habits, and go embrace that vitamin D! Don’t forget to bring a cool drink, snacks, and a good book!
- Ice cream truck rendezvous. Ice cream shops are great but this can be a more affordable option and just as tasty if not tastier! I usually get the cone with their signature flavor and end up spending under $2 for a small. I get the kids’ size which is even cheaper! You’ll feel no guilt going for an evening stroll in the park with this delicious treat. Invite someone special to join you for a walk and you just might end up hand-in-hand and head-over-heels!
- Visit a National Park on August 25th! That’s National Park Day and all the parks that usually charge a fee will offer free admission. You’ll just have to research the activities offered at the specific park you’d like to visit and plan a fun activity or 2!
- Take a short weekend road trip to a new city. Got a friend or family member who only lives 1-3 hours away? Sounds like time to catch up and have a change of scenery! Plus if you take someone else with you it doubles the road trip fun and saves on gas. Take in the sights, visit some free museums, go sight-seeing, hang out in a local coffee shop – you pick! This is where using my Facebook “Events” tab comes in handy. Try it!
- Host a clothing swap and revamp your closet! Yes, the fellas can totally do this too! It’s basically shopping for free, so why not? Have everyone bring a snack and those gently used items in their closet they no longer wear. It’s a great way to get some “new” items to add a final touch to your summer wardrobe or to prepare for fall with some swapped sweaters! These are tons of fun and make for great social interaction.
- Catch a flick at a discount movie theater. Consider yourself lucky if you live in a town with one of these. You can catch that movie you’ve been meaning to see but never got around to for under $5. A lot of these theaters have a vintage feel but I think it’s perfect for watching those classic films on the big screen. Regal’s Summer Movie Express is a also great option for just $1 every Tuesday and Wednesday. That overpriced popcorn never tasted so good!
- Groupon with a group! This is one of my favorite options because if done right, you can snatch an AMAZING deal online. Get a couple of friends together and look up hotel deals in a major city not too far away but far enough. I live 4 hours outside of D.C. and I’ve totally done this with a friend. Our room in a 4-star hotel cost $56 per night with a hotel, gym, continental breakfast, and the most comfortable bed you can sleep in away from home. I’ve seen deals for $71 per night for up to 4 people, which comes to just under $18 each if you split the cost. You can all go out to explore the city ad eat at a neat local restaurant if you manage to get a good Groupon for that as well! Bonus: You can rack up some credits in Groupon bucks to be used over time.
- Plan a themed dinner party. Choose a country, have your invited friends bring an inspired dish and maybe even dress accordingly! Think: “An evening on the Italian countryside.” If you have a backyard that’s big enough, put out a table and chairs, pick fresh flowers, and get creative with some simple decor. You can find some ideas here on my Pinterest board! Set up glass bottles of cool drinks as your centerpiece and throw on some Andrea Bocelli in the background for that authentic feel. No fuss. Pure fun!
- Backyard bonfire…Or anywhere you choose! But a bonfire is the perfect way to end the summer and welcome the crisp fall weather! Think Spotify, s’mores, and stories! Make a playlist of some summer favorites, invite lots of friends, and you’re all set. Yes, you can tolerate listening to “Despacito” just one more time!
Don’t forget to take LOTS of pictures and make a photo book of all your adventures! Be sure to follow my blog for more ideas like these in the future! Who knows? Maybe we’ll figure out some money saving tips for next year’s trip to Iceland! 😉
I’m tired of living life as is. Mundane. In redundancy. In complacency. Spiritually complacent. Never truly expecting to see God move in incredible ways. Continually hearing about how God is working wonderfully in the lives of others but not seeing that come to fruition in my own life is difficult.
Have you ever prayed like crazy for someone – lots of someones – and see God answer those prayers left and right; yet, when it comes to prayers for yourself getting answered you can hear a pin drop? Why is that? You’re happy for that person. Genuinely happy. But the walk to your car after church service or after a get-together with friends can admittedly be one of the loneliest. Sometimes I feel like my heart is carrying bricks. The only solution seems to be avoiding those events altogether. Arriving late and leaving early because you don’t want to hear about anyone’s life or answer questions about your own that will only end up in a mascara-ruining situation. No thanks.
Truthfully, I’ve had past experiences of seeing God do unimaginable things in my life, but right now it’s a struggle. Is He done acting on my behalf or something? Or is it just my inability to have any shred of hope in Him right now?
Faint memories remind me of a time when my heart leaped at the thought of what God could possibly do. I had a joyful anticipation of His crafty hand delighting my soul with a miraculous surprise. But I’m afraid I’ve lost that anticipation and somehow gotten lost in the world of having little to no expectation – FOR ANYTHING. There’s just not much that I expect from God. The eager joy has escaped my heart like that of a girl wooed no more. The words “have faith” now produce a strong sense of resentment within me. I don’t believe that “moving mountains” ordeal as I used to…at least my heart doesn’t.
One of the godliest men whom I have crossed paths with has become sort of like a spiritual grandfather to me. He listens and encourages with great, Godly wisdom. I don’t get to see him often but I know that if I’m having a rough time I can send him an email or just send updates on my life. To have that is a great blessing itself. He recently reminded me that in Genesis 8 it says, ‘and God remembered Noah.’ “So dear sister, He has remembered you. Your time adrift on the boat is coming to an end. You’re in the palm of His hand.” Coming from someone who should’ve lost his battle with cancer numerous times, those words brought a comforting hope to my heart. God has remembered ME…little old me.
Jesus does in fact pursue my heart and He does delight in my seeing evidences of Him in incredible ways. As seasons change and look very different in our lives I think it’s the same way with the Lord. He doesn’t want to stay in the same place with us as it was a year ago…or even months ago! Like any relationship, He desires us to grow and be closer to Him. And sometimes, that requires difficulty or maybe even the feeling of being distant so that we’ll press into Him more. So that we’ll seek after Him.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)
I want my God to open these eyes to see Him in ways I never have before. I don’t want to stay stuck in spiritual complacency. I want to dream endlessly walking by His side and have a part in His grandest of plans!
Awaken my ear, O Lord, to You. To hear You. To know You. Until my very being is in You. In You l live, I move, I breathe. This day cannot, it must not go on without You, my anchor. Be my stronghold.
When this world is at my front door, the very front door of my mind, knocking and vying for my attention – the Instagram stories, Facebook news feeds, pretty Pinterest pins – I need You to be at the forefront of my heart. I need You to guide.
Let my attention instead be drawn to Proverbs of wisdom, Psalms of praise, the will of Your word. Pry my fingers from the scroll of social media, plant them on the pages of Your word that You may instead scroll through my heart. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24
Because to know You is so much more. To find You elicits such deep joy. To be Yours fills me with greater purpose. Oh the deepest of pleasures one cannot know apart from You! Dare I search elsewhere? Though I have tried I have come up empty. But now I rejoice in Your truth. In Him who is Truth. He who beckons with the words, “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you.” Jeremiah 29:13-14
So today, it’s You I want to seek first before I face it all. May this heart not seek the approval of this world or the utter emptiness that it offers. May I not seek my own accomplishments or selfish desires. May I set my eyes on You, Jesus. May I tune my ears to wisdom and concentrate on understanding. (rf. Proverbs 2:2-3)
Birthdays. To me they speak of new life, hope, and gifts. Let’s face it – who doesn’t like to get a good gift or two on their birthday, right? But to be honest, for me it’s sometimes brought with it the dreadful realization of aging, which spirals into a day of feeling sorry for myself. Oh, and let’s talk about feeling the need to get gifts or attention to offset what’s really going on in my heart. Well, this time I wanted it to be different. I knew I was going to have to intentionally make it different.
This year, I’ve been grasping in a new way the God-given gift of my life. And let me tell you, at times I question what kind of cruddy gift of a life this is. But that’s my innate selfishness speaking. Guys, it’s a ridiculous blessing of a life that I have. To say this in spite of every hurt, disappointment, discouragement and confusion I’ve had to face in 2017 alone is huge! Praise God for perspective. How then do I steward this life well? What makes me the happiest? I wanted to spend my birthday doing what gave me joy. So I did. I came up with fun, creative, and meaningful ways to serve and connect with others. Though certainly not without opening some cards and presents first!
On a wonderfully adventurous mission, I hopped into my car and drove to the nearest coffee shop to order coffee – for the first time in my life, I’m sure. You see, I’m allergic to the stuff. But I took the risk and drove across town to surprise my friend Kayla for Teachers Appreciation Week with a latte and sweet treat. I always wanted to meet this class that she pours her life into. Those little nuggets not only sang me “Happy Birthday” but they also told me that I looked 17…May the Lord make His face to shine upon them!
Then there’s my spunky Lizzy. She’s an amazing life warrior of a friend who I met for Chipotle, deep talks about life, and polaroid selfies. She believes in me so much that she bought me a plant…one that I’ll have to keep alive…all on my own. (It’s now 3 days later and I still haven’t watered that thing yet…shh).
Afterwards, I turned on my GPS and did a search for the next destination. With bags upon bags of clothing, shoes, and purses originally intended for consignment or a clothing swap, I headed to a place I’d never been to. Just a week prior I had heard of the YWCA Domestic Women’s Shelter in Downtown Lynchburg. My heart broke for these women and their kids. So I did what I could.
The best part was giving away this gift – an old Bible, complete with 5 years’ worth of my notes and markings. On it, I left a note for the woman who would be the recipient: YOU ARE LOVED. YOU ARE CHOSEN. YOU HAVE A PURPOSE. There are so many ways we can leave a legacy behind; and for me, this is one of them.
About a year ago, I’d prayed for a community that I could share life with – not just the surface highs, but the lows as well. Others who would walk with me through this torrential season of life. I ended the birthday with my church small group. Gathered around a table, we ate together, laughed together, cried together, and shared the weight of life’s burdens. This night was indeed a gift. It is a gift I can appreciate even more because I’ve experienced life without it.
So many family, friends, and old acquaintances took the time to wish me a “happy birthday.” What constitutes a happy birthday? Is it being showered with many tangible gifts and all the attention in the world? No, at least for me it’s not. I’ve found that it’s that which lasts us for a lifetime and beyond. It’s memories and moments that will linger even when the day draws to a close. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” (Matthew 6:21)