Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Ten Products & Companies & People That I Love So Much

Sometimes I am amazed at how much goodness there is in this dark world.
Over the past few years, but especially the past 12 months, I've discovered several companies/products and people that I love and am so encouraged by.
I decided I want everyone to know about them, too. I'm not getting anything cool for doing this or benefitting from it in any way except having friends who know about the things & people I love.

So here they are (at least the ones I could think of off the top of my head).  Please comment any others that should/could be added to the list and let's all support fellow God-lovers and good-doers. :)

1. So Worth Loving : a clothing company (once blog? also they send encouraging emails just for fun?) to remind each of us that despite having felt alone or unworthy at various points in our lives, we are all SO. WORTH. LOVING.

2. Giving Keys : a jewelry company that employees homeless people trying to get back on their feet. they engrave a word of your choice on a key. you buy said key jewelry. you pass the key on to someone else when you feel the urge.

3. Hannah Brencher / More Love Letters : one of the most inspiring yet relatable women I know of, Hannah Brencher, sends out heart-wrenching emails every monday morning if you're in her email club [I quote her and post pictures of her words quite often]. she also writes love letters to humans everywhere, started the More Love Letters movement, and accepts pain-filled emails anytime.

4. Sara Hagerty / Every Bitter Thing is Sweet- Daily Adorations : a dear friend told me about this  woman who's so transparent it brings tears to my eyes. her heart for the Lord and His work challenges me daily and following her on instagram was one of my best life decisions.

5. Hannah Hurnard : While many people who are familiar with her writings point out how she strayed from Biblical truth toward the end of her life (article here), I have personally been taught SO MUCH in my relationship with Christ via her writings, specifically Hinds' Feet on High Places and Winged Life. I strongly encourage everyone to read her books!

6. Elisabeth Elliot : where do I even begin. Her mindset, heart attitude, and book Passion and Purity have wrecked my life. Don't read that book unless you're ready for at least a partial life change. It has God all over it and will make things happen. She has many more books, but I've yet to read any others. All I can say is that God has used her as a huuuuuge instrument in changing me to be more like Him. read about her & read her book(s).

7. Punjammies / International Princess Project : fun, adorable pjs made by women who've survived and been saved from sex slavery.  you don't even need more of an explanation. wonderful company, wonderful heart.

8. Penny Powers Jewelry : it's straightforward: pennies flattened and engraved with weighty words and worn as reminders of various truths to our souls. run straight out of Alabama (gotta love that home state representation!) and their Etsy shop is WONDERFUL.

9. She Reads Truth : bible reading plans. adorable scripture screensavers. encouragement. an awesome app. TRUTH. all designed/catered specifically for/to women after His heart.

10. Bob Goff / Love Does : a man who wrote a book that I am currently reading and trying to soak up and savor because it is revolutionizing me and doing a spectacular job of transforming me by helping me renew my mind to Christ moment-by-moment. again, HIGHLY recommend this book and the guy who wrote it!

I hope you check these people & companies out and follow them on social media and are encouraged.
I've found that filling your life with as much light from as many venues as possible changes everything for the better- even if it's just seeing these things, people, and updates on twitter/fb/insta.

Friday, January 16, 2015

the LoveQuirk

I have this quirk in my face that says "I love you."

It shows up whenever it wants to, and it's easy to spot. It's kind of inconvenient sometimes when I want to be mad at someone, or not care about something, or be a tough teacher. Honestly, it's incredibly narcissistic of me to know that I have it (because I am apparently the only person to have studied my face enough to know this about it. #vainmuch?)
But I can feel it on my face sometimes, and I've seen it in a few pictures, and I see other people recognize it and reflect it back to me occasionally.
And, truly, I wish I could control it.
It would be wonderful to be able to turn it on and off.
But I can't.
It's just this quirk that lives in my skin and frequently makes itself known when I find myself looking at someone that astounds me in the best way.

I bring this up because I've been looking at engagement photos here and there (there are an abundance these days) and are a few that look natural and happy, but several that just lack what I have recently (five seconds ago) dubbed the LoveQuirk.
I'm convinced some people's faces just haven't seen enough Love to know how to LoveQuirk yet.
But me, I've seen a lot of Love. And now my face is so good at LoveQuirking that I can't even control it.

That really freaks me out sometimes, because a LoveQuirk is something that I can feel but can't control. Then I realize HEY THAT'S LIKE MY ENTIRE LIFE SO HEY-O THAT'S AWESOME.
And, I don't know, it just makes me wonder: maybe if we all let our lives be things we feel but don't control, then maybe we would be better people.
Maybe the world would be a better place.

Maybe if we let ourselves be vulnerable and transparent enough to get hurt and feel it, then heal and feel it, then have incandescent joy and feel it, maybe THEN all the things we find wrong in ourselves and our world would start fixing themselves and being fixed by all of us who started loving more.

Maybe if we stopped trying to rig our own destinies and fix everyone else's problems and control how the world works and put God in a convenient smallish-but-not-suspiciously-small box (the kind of box that is almost camouflaged against the searching eye of other hearts who keep ours accountable to the Truth, because it's just big enough to look like it isn't a box to hold Him in, but it's just small enough for us to stuff Him in when we get uncomfortable with how vast He is), maybe THEN some of the terrifying circumstances would be sorted out by the God who is able to speak the earth into existence (and therefore speak our heartaches and troubles away, and/or use them for His glory, yes?).

Maybe if we let our lives become LoveQuirks- things brought on by Love and that happen naturally and effortlessly and are uncontrollable because you're just abiding in Love- then we'd find so much more Love in the world.
We could finally be the people who saw so much Love that our faces became experts at LoveQuirking.
We could be the ones who know real Love so intimately that it's hidden right under the skin and seeps out without our knowledge sometimes in public LoveQuirks that we're oblivious to but that are so obvious to others.

There's a lot of "I don't know"s and "Maybe"s here, mostly because I'm afraid some cynic will come along and talk some reality into me about how LoveQuirking isn't a real thing, just a figment of my overactive imagination, or how feeling things and losing control of life is the opposite of what it takes to solve the world's problems or at least soothe some of the world's heartache. Maybe they'll come and they'll prove me wrong and show me up.
Just go ahead and do it, realists/pessimists/cynics/others.
I know that Fear is the only true opposite of Love. I know that LoveQuirking will only be made impossible by me being afraid of the What If's, those evil wonder-wanderers.
So I'm not gonna What If.
I'm just gonna LoveQuirk and let my life become a reflection of that. Because at the root of it all, Love is a quirky guy that just calls us to be His reflections.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

so for a long time she sat-- remembering, wondering, and thankful.

For some reason, my words never quite fall the way I want them to. Especially when it comes to nights and moments like this, times that matter and that deserve eloquence. I’m just really not the eloquent kind of girl, I suppose.

It’s New Year’s. Happy 2015, my friends!

Apparently there is something about this day that makes me melancholy every time it rolls around. Maybe it’s the vast amounts of reflection it requires, maybe it’s the tidal wave of emotion that sweeps over me as I remember every big & small thing I encountered throughout the past year. 

Whatever it is, it almost bowls me over every year. In fact, last year it really got me.
Last year, God told me on New Year’s Eve that 
“someone will die this year.”
Just that one sentence.
That terrifying fact,
Whispered repeatedly when I asked for an explanation.
I remember it so vividly- I was in the theatre watching The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug for the second time, and He dropped it on me.
And when I asked “why?’ and “who?” and “when?’ and “WHAT?”, He simply restated Himself.

Sometime in the past couple of months, I have realized it was me He was talking about.
It was me that was to die in 2014.
It is me that sits typing at almost 1 A.M., tired of holding back tears, tired of having no words that adequately explain my heart condition, and dead.
Dead to self. Dead to false hopes. Dead to frivolity. Dead to shallow relationships.
And I think the reason that this particular New Year’s is so melancholy is because I know that I’m not done dying yet.

And I hate dying. And I am so bad at it. And I wish I were a natural.
It almost do wish it were easy for me present myself as a living sacrifice. 
But it’s not. 
It’s freaking hard. 
And I feel like such a wimp because I cry about it a lot.

Because I should have expected this. People told me it would be hard.
But I don’t know, I guess it’s one of those hard things that you don’t understand until you’re under the weight of it yourself… and by then it’s too late. By then, all you can do is cry and hope to find someone along the way who will encourage you and remind you:
It isn’t easy to offer yourself up to be crucified. It’s not supposed to be.

And the fact that you finally are offering yourself up doesn’t mean you’re some awesome, strong person; it means you’ve come to the end of your weakness and realized you have absolutely nothing left to give. You are the utter weakling. At least for me that’s how it’s happened. It’s almost a last-ditch effort, this final surrender. It’s the:
“OK OK HERE, TAKE IT!” that seems to be human instinct when we are met with someone who wants something from us and won’t back down.

On Christmas Eve, Jesus did another of his whispering acts. Except this time instead of warning me of coming death, His words were spoken so softly and tenderly it was almost like a proposal.
But instead of “Be my wife”, it was
“Be my cathedral.”
And I really don’t know why or how or what, but something in my heart understood that. Something clicked.
Before I even really had a chance to think about it, my heart was whisper-screaming and crying out and twirling around before Him the most wholehearted
I think has ever existed in a human heart.

I didn’t even know it was there; it’s like she, strong little Yes, had been lying dormant and growing stronger as the other things in my little human heart died off in 2014. And when enough of them had finally had died off, she had the space to stand and twirl and leap and shout her strongest.

It was then that I remembered that lovely (though terrifying) C.S. Lewis quote:
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

It turns out, Jesus was never interested in turning me into an adequate little residence. He wants me to be His Cathedral. 
And don’t you think it’s fitting that in Cathedrals, you find stained glass windows? 
And that this year of the most brokenness of heart I have ever encountered has surely left some tinted glass bits behind somewhere?… they, I am sure, will be used for the windows.

It reminds me of Joel 2:12, (the first verse I am memorizing this year!) where the Lord calls on His people to come back to him AS THEY ARE: broken/shattered/weeping/etc.
“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning, and rend your hearts and not your garments.”

If you haven’t heard of it before, that verb there, REND, literally means to rip apart violently. Applied to the heart, it means “to harrow or distress the heart with painful feelings.” (thanks, Webster).
Honestly, I don’t think I’ve completely understood this verse until right now as I type, but here it comes:

He is inviting us to let our hearts be distressed.

After all, a broken and contrite heart is an offering He will never turn down (Psalm 51:17).

Last NYE, I posted something about sweeping out the dark corners of my heart to make more room for Him, and boy has that proved true. I almost think God is in the business of Corner-Sweeping-Out of Hearts. Mike Donehey, lead singer of Tenth Avenue North, put it this way: 
We are never trying to win divine approval, Christ has already bought that for us. No, we are in search of simply creating more space where He can fill.”

And all the little corners in my heart need to be swept out and filled with Him.
So 2015 is a year of that. Of continuing to sweep out and let Him fill the vacancy. Of inviting Him to renovate this old shack into not just an “ok” cottage, but a palace, a dwelling place where He alone will reside, a stunning CATHEDRAL.

What does it mean to be a Cathedral of God?
We are “sanctuary” for each other.
Like those great and mighty structures of old, 
we too can be a place of refuge for those in trouble.
People are no longer a threat.
They are fellow sojourners searching for that eternal spring.
Weary sinners can find a harbor for their souls when they come 
to those who know they have been redeemed.
We are safety for the stumbling and still waters for anxious hearts.
We have tasted.
We have seen.
And now, we can show them the way.” (Mike Donehey)

So with that, let me share my few resolutions for the year:
1.  Become a Cathedral, or at least more of a Cathedral than what I am now.

2. Within that, stop viewing other people as a threat. Stop seeing myself as “small sauce” (thank you, Hannah Brencher, for those perfectly paired words). The time of “we seemed to ourselves likegrasshoppers” in comparison is OVER. Love people, be a hospital, and claim what the Lord has given you and built in you, so that you may use it to bless others.

3. Write one encouraging/thankful note per week.

4. Memorize 24 scripture verses- one every two weeks (I'm doing this with Beth Moore & friends...  "SSMT 2015", they call it. Please join. It's going to be a tough and so worthwhile commitment!)

I’ve only recently finished re-reading an old favorite book of mine, Hinds’ Feet on High Places. 

At the end of it, when Much-Afraid has reached the High Places and received her hinds’ feet and had her name changed to Grace-and-Glory, she runs around on the High Places rejoicing.

And then, at the close, it states: 
“So for a long time, she sat silent—remembering, wondering, and thankful.”
May that be each of our hearts’ attitudes today and throughout 2015.

welcome to midnight.

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