Open Letters pt. 4

Friday, September 14, 2018

June 19, 2018
I've had some words on my mind for a few days. It's feeling very much like fall. Schedules have shifted. People have turned their attention to putting one foot in front of the other instead of skipping around in summer mode. I've been wearing hoodies and leggings and drinking hot drinks every chance I get. The light is changing. The first of the leaves are falling. Summer of 2018 is settling into our memory banks. 

It was a good summer. I've got to get things worked out to share with you here. Until then...Let's get to another round of letters.

Dear Ghiddu,

I still don't eat the crusts of my sandwiches. You were the only one I could convince to cut them off so I didn't have to bother eating around them. Did you know that? I do eat some of them, just not the last two corners worth.

Dear Roald Dahl, 

One of my favorite library moments happened yesterday and I owe you for it. It was a quiet day. Kids are back in school, the tourists have gone home for the season, and the youngest moms haven't discovered the role the public library plays in their sanity yet. I was out in the stacks doing some shelf reading when I heard the familiar back and forth between a grandfather and his grandkids. They were looking for something and didn't know how to find it and he didn't either and so he was trying to encourage them to ask for help. For whatever reason, an adult behind a desk is SCARY. But, a woman hunched over in front of a shelf is always approachable. The little girl came up to me while her grandfather looked on and I said, "Can I help you find something?" She told me she was looking for Matilda. My eyes lit up! 

I got up off of the floor and said, "Oh, that's exciting! Do you know what today is?" She didn't, but I made sure to tell her so that she would...I told her about how it was your birthday and we walked over to the shelf where your books are kept and at the last second, I realized that Matilda was in after all even though it was out of place. 

I placed the book into her hands and she proceeded to wander around the library following her little sister with her nose buried in your book. That alone would have brought me joy, but the fact that it was happening all these years later on your birthday made it mean even more to me. 

Thanks for writing. Thanks for heading out to the little shed in your backyard and pulling out your yellow pad and keeping your pencils sharpened and spending so much time in that armchair. I don't know if what they say about you and children is true, but you've given us all so many hours of enjoyment. You've taught us to be honest about what scares us and you revealed the ugliest parts of us so that we can see how foolish it is to be ugly and mean and rude.

Thanks for giving me that moment with that little girl. And for all those hours in fourth grade when my teacher introduced you to us. 

You had a gift and you didn't keep it to yourself. We haven't forgotten  you and I'm not sure that we ever will. 

Dear People, 

You're all breathing your sighs of relief over how cool it is outside and how perfect it is. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?!? It's cold. This weather is perfect cozy up inside with a bowl of soup and hot bread weather. A nice Indian Summer COULD be on its way and I'm just going to warn you. You'll complain about how it is and I'll be soaking up every last ray of sun that I can. It's going to be winter before we know it, so let's welcome all the sun and warm days we can. K? 

Dear 28,

You're here and so far you've been nice. Welcoming you in was special. Looking back on 27 made me realize just how much you have to compete with. The year behind me was one of my best yet in terms of growing and facing things head on and learning to be okay. Can you do me a favor and bring on more of the same? Be gentle about it, but I'm ready. 

I hope you've got a lovely weekend ahead of you! Do you have any plans? Tell me about them, will ya?

Look Who's Here

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

July 21, 2018
It doesn't take much to make connections in this world we live in. It can be as simple as a drawn out conversation in an airport or as complex as running into the same person over and over again before finally introducing yourselves. These kinds of meetings don't always lead to becoming friends who stay in touch and who are a part of each other's lives, but they do breed familiarity. 

You greet one another by name. You wave when you see them in traffic. You send out an email or a facebook message a few times a year to check in with the ones who live far away just to check in on them.

This sense of community is rooted in God, who is in Himself, a community. He invites us into that community and He means for us to be builders of community among the people we come into contact with. 

One thing I've become aware of here in this city full of transplants is just how many lonely people there are. Unlike the farming community I grew up in where everyone was related to someone and saw the same 200 or 300 faces every single place they went, this place is full of people who come here knowing no one and who find that it's really really difficult to get people to commit themselves to one another. 

I've met old people and young people who share this sentiment. Some of them are single, some have young families, some came with a spouse. Some are self proclaimed hippies. Some are conservative Christians. Some are outdoorsy and some are content to sit in front of a computer screen for hours on end. They're all unique, but what they have in common is this longing to know and to be known. They want friends and they want to meet people who want friends and who are willing to BE friends.

And, let me tell you, I get it.

I've spent more time alone since I've moved here than at any other time in my life. I grew up seeing the same 25 people every single day for 10+ years. 15 of us did everything together...We at lunch smashed around the same table, we played during every recess, and then after school was over we looked for any reason to hang out. After those days were over, I found myself babysitting for the same families over and over again and working at the coffee shop and at my Dad's office which were both havens for the regulars that came in week after week. The ranch was a community of its own where the people who ran it become a second family to me. I developed friendships with people back in my hometown and during my time in Massachusetts that STUCK. Living at home with my family meant that one way or another, I was never alone. I was always connected and almost always in the presence of at least one other human being.

Then I came here and I was surrounded by strangers. We all started doing our own thing and those familiar faces were all so far away that staying in touch with them became nearly impossible. I felt disconnected and alone and it left me super unsettled. You know this...I've spent three years writing about the ins and outs of this whole process. 

When I was in SC last month, my brother and I were out one day. I looked down the street and all of a sudden I realized that I was looking at a familiar face. The face is familiar because of blogging, but it was familiar all the same. I yelled her name and when I realized that she couldn't hear me over the traffic, I kept yelling and started running up the sidewalk toward her. When I got her attention, it took her a second to place me...There we were, having a chance meeting after so many years of being blogging friends, it was hard to believe...We hugged and smiled and shared our awe at the fact that this was actually really finally happening. 

I've been looking around lately with that same awe. There are so many patrons at the library that I greet by name and that I know little bits about. There are neighbors that have become friends and who running into means it could easily be hours before I make it back to my own front door. There are people who look for me at church and who are disappointed when I'm not there.

Three years ago, they were all strangers. Now, I can't help but look who's here and smile when our eyes meet. 

What I'm Into Lately: Summer 2018 Edition

Monday, August 06, 2018

I've given you enough words. Right? Let's tone it down with a little list.

*Dragging people on hikes.

*Making new walking friends.

*Toting my steak knife around the yard looking for weeds and stuffing them into a garbage bag.

*All the extra friend time God has been making possible with the people I've missed so much.

*Not being tied to a strict routine and it turning out alright. 9pm dinners, an entire Saturday outside, and as much beach time as I can squeeze in.

*Fires in the evening...again, this is more about being together and less about what we're doing.

*Grilling..I conquered my fear and did chicken. I've done pizzas and burgers and hot dogs too.

*Pickles. WIth everything.

*Co-leading the jr high book club at the library.


*Heading to the beach to walk or read or write or lay out. Even solo. Even if I'm wearing tennis shoes and a sweat shirt.


*Shooting straight with people and asking them to do the same. Especially boys. Ain't nobody got time for games.


*Adventuring alone. I hate both of those words, but I've been doing it. And it's not terrible.

*Asking God for specific things and trusting Him with whatever He has in store.

What have YOU been into this summer?

Summer Stack 2018

Friday, July 27, 2018

I've been plowing through books this summer and I'm so excited to tell you a little bit about each one. Settle in, I've got a whole bunch of five star reviews to hand out!

An Assembly Such As This by Pamela Aidan // It's been a summer of five star books. After having this on my to-read list for years and then ending up KNOWING the author, I finally read it in almost exactly 24 hours. I was scared to read this one because I'm not big on fan fiction and I didn't want Darcy ruined. When the author came into my life I was even more afraid to read it because I was terrified I was going to have to tell her that I didn't like it. Like most worries, I couldn't have been more foolish to entertain them.

This book was so good. Darcy was so well done, I kept forgetting that I WASN'T reading Austen's actual words. I laughed out loud. I grew to appreciate him and adore him even more than I already do (he's my favorite of Austen's heart throbs). It's a beautiful story and definitely deserves any Austen fan's attention. You won't be disappointed and you certainly won't be sorry.

The Summer of the Great-Grandmother by Madeleine L'Engle // This book started a new theme...I went to the library one day and snatched a few books off the shelf for a weekend off. Little did I know how much they had in common! I read this one alongside Orchard House because I simply couldn't decide which one to begin first.

Both books were written by women in the stage of life where their own mothers are getting older. L'Engle had had a family of her own and was working to balance that and its continual changes with remaining an individual and a daughter at the same time. Like the rest of the Crosswicks Journals, it's full of anecdotes about writing and being a creative, but it also ties in her faith and her way of looking at life while looking beyond what appears to be to what really IS.

Orchard House by Tara Austen Weaver // While L'Engle was a wife and a mother, Weaver writes about the same stage of life from the perspective of a single woman who never had a family of her own. She faces change and transition in a different way and yet brings the same level of insight to the table. This book is written through the lens of gardening and the way the literal seasons of the year rule the life of the garden and the gardener. Like L'Engle, Weaver has a way of weaving in all the facets of her life and being into her words on gardening.

Together, these books granted me space to think about life and the seasons we all go through. I couldn't help but compare their lives and then weigh my own choices against theirs. While they wrote about their mothers and remembered their childhoods and the way their mothers shaped them, I reflected on my own. And let me tell you, it was good.

Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber // I'm not sure what stirred it up now, but Abu-Jaber came to my mind and I decided I needed to read some of her fiction. This one seemed promising and it was. It's the story of a 39 year old woman who lives with her uncle and spends her time cooking in his restaurant in a part of LA I never knew existed. Abu-Jaber is a Jordanian America and she knows Middle Eastern cooking inside and out...If you're a fan of Ruth Reichl at all, you will love her and her writing style!

I fell in love with the main character and her uncle and the life they shared. I toted this book around the backyard and to the beach and it even inspired me to do some cooking of my own. There's something about reaching the end of one decade and facing another one that makes us all take stock of where we are and where it is we're going. This book is about choices and families and history and love. It's about the cultures we carry inside of us and for me, it was like going home.

Hey Ladies by Michelle Markowitz and Caroline Moss // I'll be honest and say that I skimmed this book allll the way to the end. The concept of it was made me pick it up, but as I got into it, I couldn't believe what I was reading. It's told via emails and texts and social media posts between 8 fictional women. The authors came up with a cast of characters who were all so different and yet who truly did seem like they were friends in spite of their differences. If you've heard people cringing over Eleanor Oliphant, then you will have a clue into the thoughts that were going through my mind about each of these women. I was horrified and grateful that I can truly say I didn't recognize anyone I knew in any of the women in the pages of this book.

This is the one book of the summer that I won't be recommending or raving about. Have you read it? I need to talk about these women with someone who has!

Forty Autumns by Nina Willner // I spent a little longer on this book than any of the others because I've  recently become interested in the history of post WWII Germany. Willner's own mother was born in what became East Germany and she managed to escape.  This is the story of the 40 years Willner's mother endured being separated from her family as well as what it was like for the people she left behind. It was well written and balanced historical facts with the family's story perfectly. She doesn't mince words and yet it is tastefully done. I wept my way through this one, feeling the sting of tyranny and knowing what it is not to have a say or a choice. The mental anguish and control they endured is hard to grasp, but Willner's ability to bring their struggles to life gives you little choice. Whether you know much about that time period or not, this is timely reading.

That's my summer stack so far! I'm currently working on three more books...One for my soul, one huge one to slowly plod through, and one because it's July and in July I read him. I'll come back to this post to update it as I finish each one.

Be Still My Soul by Elisabeth Elliot

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

What have you been reading lately?

No Other Way

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

June 19, 2018

"Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

For quite a while now, I've been learning something. This morning, as I sat at the kitchen counter drinking my coffee and eating a biscuit and an egg while reading another chapter in Elisabeth Elliot's little book "Be Still My Soul", it all came together. The truth God has been teaching me came by way of conversations with friends, time in His Word, snatches of song lyrics, more time in His Word, examining myself, confessing my sin, and the stack of books I've devoured over the last few months. 

The truth is this...

We Christians know about grace. We know we depend on it, we remind each other that it belongs to us, and we ask God for it regularly. We name our daughters after it. We do our best to grant it to one another. And yet, it takes a lifetime to really truly grasp exactly what it is. If we're honest, we don't really get it. 

Difficulties come our way and we want a way out. We don't want to have to face them, let alone endure them. We immediately seek deliverance and we ask other people to join us in pleading with God. We cling to grace, but we don't really want it. What we want is for things to be easy and comfortable and peaceful and our definition of good. 

I know this is true of you, because it's true of me. Even Christ Himself looked at the road His Father had for Him and asked if there was any other way. 

There isn't another way. There wasn't for Him. There won't be for us. We're meant to face things we can't face. We're meant to look to the Father and to keep looking to the Father. We're meant to depend on the grace He keeps fresh. 

This is how the power of Christ rests on us. This is how our boast becomes gladness in God rather than assurance in our abilities. 

Some people have no problem asking for help. They're not shy about saying they're in over their head. They admit their weakness and look to someone else for strength. I've never been one of those people. I'd mastered the art of looking like  I had it all together before I even started school. I was going places and the way to get there was to make sure my weaknesses appeared to be non-existent. This was partially rooted in my inability to trust people for fear that they'd let me down, but it's also tied to my pride. I don't want to have to trust people. I don't want to let them see who I really am, especially if that includes weakness. 

This kind of living is ridiculous. For one thing, everything we're capable of involved some kind of learning curve. For another thing, nothing we have or are capable of is ours to brag about. The very breath in our lungs comes from Him. 

The most basic truth about humans is that we need help. We need His help. We need each other's help. With that, we're right back where we started...Looking grace square in the face. Help is just another word for grace. 

We plead and plead and plead. We try so hard to do it all and to do it well. We don't want to need God. We don't want to need each other. We'd rather lie to ourselves, to everyone around us, and even to God than to stoop down and say we're in over our head. The situation is too much. Our flesh is pulling too hard. The hate being poured out on us runs too deep. We know it, we feel it, but we limp on. 

We choose sin over grace. Death over life. Darkness over light. A broken cistern that holds no water over fountains of living water. Stones over bread. Mud pies on the side of the road over a vacation by the sea.

He'd get us THROUGH and we'd rather beat our heads against the brick wall of our own pride. 

He knows we need help. If we're honest, we know we need help.

May we recognize our need, admit our need, and humble ourselves to ask. Receiving help and offering help is a chance for the power of Christ to rest on us. He means for us to be strong the same way He means for us to be everything that He calls us to be. 

He shows us how and then He works it out in us. 

Like Paul in 2 Corinthians pleading over his thorn, and Christ in the garden, and the man in this song announcing the fact that he's impotent against his enemies, and Elisabeth Elliot who spent decades of her life writing and teaching truths she was learning in the school of life and faith, and every single human being we're rubbing shoulders with...Our weaknesses are continually showing up thanks to God's providence. 

Where there are thorns and supreme suffering and temptations rooted in our own hearts and losses so great that we're not sure we can go on, He's there saying, "You must. You will. I'm granting you my strength. You are weak. You need help. Here I Am, I'm going to help you. There is no other way." 

The point isn't really the weakness or the strength or even the grace. They all exist to point to God and the fullness of His glory. May we be honest, plead, receive, and then boast. Not in who we are or in the work He has granted us, but in the realization that He is our God and we are His people. 

We boast in this, that we are those who receive help from God Himself.

There is no other way. 

Such Is Life

Monday, July 23, 2018

I started. And now I've got to keep going. My sister says she wants stories. She'd be most happy if they were memories that include her in some way. So...I guess we'll start with one of the best weekends I've had in a while. This last Saturday turned out so good.

I've seen very little of my family lately. With the schedules that we keep and the way things are, we just don't have a lot of time together. For months, it got under my skin and just festered. No matter what I did, I couldn't seem to not be bothered with the way things were. It was more than just people having their own schedules. It was more than just a temporary turn of events. Transitions and change are part of life and yet the changes that have taken place over the last 9 months have served no purpose other than one person's happiness and everyone else figuring out how to cope. Or so it seemed.

I was wrestling and begging God to show me what it was that He was doing and to protect everyone from the temptation to run and hide. I so wanted this time to bring us closer together and to make us stronger. I cried a lot of tears and went for a lot of walks and wrote a lot of words. And then I met up with a stranger and he looked right into my life and told me exactly what was happening.

I kicked his words around for most of a week before telling him that he was right and that I realized that I was trying to do something I was never meant to do. More on THAT later.

The point is, without me telling him much of anything at all, he somehow recognized that I was in a transition period and that I was ready to make changes. My reaction to his words helped me to see that in my mind, I've always thought of this potential transition as me giving up and giving in and running away from something that was too hard to bear. I didn't want to chicken out. I didn't want to seek change because I thought that it was just a disguise for betraying everything I supposedly stood for.

You've been there. You're up against something difficult. Everyone around you thinks you're crazy for sticking with it. They tell you over and over again that you need to get out of there, that you're being taken advantage of, that you need to change things. They offer to help. They try to woo you to seek deliverance in them and in their companionship. And they mean well.

That guy was right. It IS a transition period. Changes are going to be made and I am the one who gets or needs to make them. And it isn't weak. And it isn't giving up. And it isn't backing down.

At the same time, there's something to be said for looking trials in the face and staying in the lap of God. Over the last month, God granted me that stranger's wisdom and then He brought it full circle with a message of endurance and the purpose of trials and the call to not only face them, but to SEEK them.

So...There you have it. Days have been hard. Days will continue to be hard. I know you've got difficulties of your own. I know you know what it is to wrestle with hard times and to wonder what it is you're supposed to be doing in light of them. I know you've sought counsel only to hear words that seem so incredibly wrong. And maybe, just maybe, you've heard words on suffering that gave you a hope that you know comes from God.

And you've had good days in the midst of it all. Like my Saturday. The morning started with me coaching my sister in the art of potato salad making and joining in on an alllll day picnic less than an hour after finding out about it.We ate and walked and laid around the park and the beach. We swam and we laughed and told stories and we were together and it was so good.

The day ended with me trooping around town to meet up with another friend of mine for one last walk. Then, I drove alllll the way across town with the windows down talking life and music and books and whatever we could cover with yet another person I hardly know, but who seems like he's going to be a friend in the days ahead.

It's been a long 9 months. Summer got off to a rocky start. I looked myself in the face and told myself what to do. I've packed my swim suit and a change of clothes and sneakers and snacks and have spent time doing what I love doing even when I can't find anyone to do it with. In a way, it's great because you don't have to plan ahead and you don't have to feel bad about only doing it for a little while before you hurry off to do whatever else you need to do.

I'll always be a people person. I think I'll always prefer the company of people to the company of myself. But...I'm learning. Learning to translate trials in a way that fits with who I am in Christ. Learning to trust God with everything, including the decisions other people make. Learning to make the most of time I am granted, even if it's just HOURS with the ones I love. Learning to be firm with myself and yet gentle with myself at the same time.

It might be the perfect Saturday. It might be a walk through the rain with a stranger who won't back down. It might be a sermon that comes at just the right time. It might be months and months of God appearing to say no to every single thing I thought He was in the process of granting me.

Such is life.

And you know, it's good.

Start Somewhere

Friday, July 20, 2018

July 20, 2018

Fridays are the day I go into work late. I try to have the house cleaned and the laundry done so that Friday mornings can give me some time to slow down and take my time. I look forward to these mornings all week. I linger over coffee and usually take a book out to the backyard. Sometimes I go for a walk. Sometimes I take some time to write. This morning was all of that minus the clean house part. I toted my coffee around while my Mom and I visited. I started a new book. And then I sat down and wrote for almost an hour before heading out on a walk. 

After a heat wave that gave the Dog Days of Summer every bit of meaning associated with it, it has cooled way down. Two mornings ago, it almost felt like the first hints of fall were in the air. That whole tease shouldn't be here for another month at least, but this is the PNW, so I'm not holding my breath. This morning, everything is adding up to those final days before the first day of school. The sky is a fainter blue. The air smells like smoke from nearby wildfires. There's a crispness and a bite on the breeze that reminds you that summer won't last forever. 

Needless to say, I got back from my walk and promptly headed to the kitchen to complete the very summery act of making a batch of sweet tea. All of a sudden I started thinking about blogging and how I've been meaning to get back here for so long. While I kicked around ideas as to where to begin and what to write, I got interrupted by the stir stick I was using to fish the tea bag out of my tea. I snapped a picture, wrote a little post to share on FB, and started crying fresh tears all over again (the stir stick made me think of my Grandparents). Spending my life missing people who live far away and who have passed away has taught me a very important lesson. Namely, time doesn't heal wounds. There are some wounds and aches that never do go away. Some days are most certainly easier than others, but God doesn't mean for us not to hurt. The hurt has a purpose. It drives us to Him. It makes us understand the value of each other. Time goes by and you still miss them like crazy. So, miss them. Cry when you need to. Remember them often. Talk about them with whoever will listen. They're gone, but they're also not.

I stepped out onto the patio and took the thousandth picture of the sky and the bushes and the trees and then I did what I haven't done in month. I logged onto blogger and sat down to get some words down for YOU. 

I've got a whole stack of books to tell you about. There are more lessons from God, especially when it comes to the way He leads His people. I've got some shopping stories to share with you. There are a few recipes I could pass on to you. I should probably tell you about what I've been up to and what I've been into. I've got a trip to SC coming up along with my one year anniversary at the library and my last month of being 27. I've got some things to brag about (if you can call being proud of yourself for doing things you never thought you'd ever do and realizing how much you're enjoying them bragging) and a few words on boys men that I need to find the guts to write out and share. 

I'm finally about to make my way through the only Fitzgerald book I haven't read yet for the first time. I read Gatsby the summer I was 21. Then I read Tender is the Night the next summer. Then I read The Last Tycoon. Two summers ago I read The Beautiful and Damned. And I've been waiting to read this final one until the time was right. It's July again and it's time. I read the first few pages before bed last night and let me tell you, the time really couldn't be more right. 

When there's something you want to do, you have to start somewhere. So here I am, starting. 

What have you been up to since we talked last?

One No And Then Another

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

July 1, 2014

It didn't take me long to realize that the first half of my 20s was about learning how to say no when I needed to. That lesson carried with it the conviction that I am 100% replaceable. The fact is, if I don't do something, someone else most definitely will. If they don't, then it wasn't as important as it seemed.

Learning to say no without any guilt following me around afterwards was so freeing. I spent my teenage years saying yes to everything. I was always working or out with friends or playing sports and did my best to make sure I was spending plenty of time with my brothers and sister. In high school, my main group of friends and I split ways and I stopped playing sports at school. I took on a bunch of afternoon jobs and for a while I felt like an actual chicken with my head cut off.

When I started college, I realized something had to give. I couldn't do EVERYTHING well and doing what I did well was super important to me. So, I started evaluating priorities and long term goals and made some decisions. Saying no was very, very difficult at first. I always felt like I had to have a good reason for saying no and was always sharing that reason with whoever I had to disappoint.

Then, I realized...I didn't have to do that. There doesn't always have to be a "good" reason. Sometimes you can't. Sometimes you need that night at home to recharge. Sometimes one thing just outweighs another. Being able to say no without feeling guilty about it was one thing, being able to get past believing that I had to explain myself was something else entirely.

The two go hand in hand. Somehow, both became true of me. I learned to say no and explaining the why behind my decision was no longer a default. Lesson learned, things should be smooth sailing from here, right?

Not quite...

These days, I've put my finger on what's next. While the first half of my 20s was about learning to SAY no, the second half is proving to about being able to be TOLD no. It was really hard and it's not that it's getting easier, but I'm learning to think differently about it. When you get told no, you can't necessarily take it personally.

Sometimes, you DO need to hear the no and realize that you've got some work to do, but a lot of times, it's simply someone else evaluating their life and saying no because it's best for them. With every no I've said, it's rarely about the person who has asked for a yes and more about who I am and where I am and where I'm going in that moment. I need to grant the same right to the people whose yes I'm asking for.

It's not just people either. God also has a way of telling us no. It's easy to get excited about opportunities and possibilities and everything always falling into place. It's easy when what's meant to be is happening so clearly. Sometimes, what's meant to be takes a struggle. And I think it's a struggle when we push against the no He's already told us. Not necessarily foolishly either.

You meet someone who seems so nice and so you ask them to coffee or you try to plan a get together or you simply attempt to talk to them after church. It doesn't take you long to figure out that they're just not into it. It might be you or it might be them. You see a job opportunity and you go for it and the interview goes well and yet they pass you up. You pray for things to change and hearts stay exactly the same and maybe even grow colder and harder than you had seen in a long time. You see a car that seems worth looking at only to find out that it has been sitting so long that it won't even start.

Can you tell I'm in the thick of it? I've heard no so many times lately, both from the lips of people and from God Himself by way of stops He's been putting in my path, that each one that gets piled on top of the ones I've already heard comes close to sending me into hysterical laughter.

I know how to say no, but I'm still learning how to accept no as an answer. I'm not sure if you just brush it off and move on. I'm not sure how to tell when it's not a firm no and when it's a not yet. I'm not sure if you're supposed to know the difference or if you just move along either way without giving it a second thought.

I'm thinking the lesson here is in not giving up. The lesson being able to accept a no carries with it is being able to trust God. We trust Him to direct our path and we trust Him with the decisions other people make. It's difficult.

There was a day when saying no seemed impossible. Looking back on the years it took me to be able to do it so well is granting me hope that it's possible to do this well too.

I'm not sure how many more nos I'll have to endure. I'm not sure how much disappointment I'll have to get over. I only know that no matter what it looks like or seems like or feels like, God is taking me through life. He's teaching me how to respond and I'm confident that He won't give up.

In fact, I'll remember this decade as the one that taught me to look to Him.


Friday, May 18, 2018

May 15, 2018

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." So goes the opening line of the story we've all been so familiar with for generations. (If you're not a woman or haven't made it to certain classics just yet, that's the first sentence in "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen.) For a while now, I've been kicking around some words to make my own opener. 

After my most recent encounters where I comfort myself with the thought that people really do mean well and just forget to actually think sometimes, I've settled on my version of the sentence. It goes like this, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of a beautiful face, must be in want of a husband." I tend to make it a little more modern in my own mind, "It's a known fact that a single woman with a pretty face, must be after one thing, namely a husband." 

The last year has been rough for me in a way I didn't expect. It makes me feel like a jerk to admit it. At 27 years old, I thought the whole getting hit on thing would slow down. Talking about it makes me feel precocious. But, here's the deal...I've got to talk about it. 

The guys I can handle. It doesn't take me long to size them up and figure out what to do with them. What wears me thin is a guy who won't take an obvious no or who seems like serial killer material. If I know he's finagled his way into having a conversation with me, give me 10 minutes and I'll have him shot down and on the hunt for another pretty face to smooth talk. What I can't seem to handle are the well meaning people who are more disturbed by my singleness than I'll ever be. 

After the initial hand shaking and name swapping, people want to know three things: what you do, where you come from, and whether or not you're married. That's alllll well and good. Relationships begin through the discussion of those three topics. Some of the best stories and encounters come when people connect over their answers to those questions and the questions that follow. 

But. I can't tell you how many times people begin the conversation with the assumption that I'm married. When they find out that I'm not, they're dumbfounded and they're always quick to tell me why, "You're beautiful. You're really not married? You don't have any kids?" 

Have you figured out why I feel precocious here? On the one hand...I've never felt like any kind of supermodel. I'm so skinny it grosses my own Mother out and she's always riding my tail about it. On the other hand, my posture is terrible and I'm constantly contorting my body into the weirdest positions. And on yet another hand, I have so many freckles here, there, and everywhere that I'm amazed at my ability to keep track of the ones that have just shown up. Yeah, I've got a great smile. Thanks to spending half my childhood in braces. Yeah, my hair is pretty nice. If you don't look too closely at all the gray. And yes, I'm half leg. But, you guys...They're chicken legs. We're all harder on ourselves than we ever are on each other. Someday, I'll be 67 and men won't check me out or go out of their way to talk to me and women won't be doling out compliments. Someday, these days of graciously accepting well meaning comments and looks that make my skin crawl will be a distant memory. 

I realize that. 

What I'm trying to get at is that it's an actual predicament to be a single girl with a pretty face. 

I know I'm not alone. I know you've had the conversations with the gushing complimentors. I know you've dealt with the guys with the roving eyes. I know you've been questioned and smooth talked. Chances are you're more gracious about the whole thing than I am. 

Yes, I'm single. Yes, I must be some kind of pretty given people's reactions. Yes, I'm a woman of marriageable age. Yes, in the good old days I would have been married and had a house full of kids to my name by now. 

But, can we please not make our conversations about THAT? Please? 

Because here's the thing...I'm not married and I have no children for one reason: God doesn't want me to be. There isn't another reason. It has nothing to do with who I am or who I know or don't know or how I've handled past relationships.

I appreciate your care and your concern. I appreciate your interest. Or, at least, I'm trying to.

Single isn't something I need saving from. Pretty doesn't make good men fall at your feet. Please don't try to save me. Please don't expect me to be flattered. It might disturb you that I'm not in a hurry. It might disgust you that my attitude seems indifferent and rude and put-offish. I really am trying.

I'm trying to be polite. I'm trying to be gracious. I'm trying to smile without bursting into a fit of laughter. I don't want to join a singles group. I don't want to meet that great guy you know in a situation  you arranged that's just going to be weird for everyone involved. I'm not lonely. I'm not waiting on my life to begin. I'm not battling discontentment. I can talk to a guy and smile at him and care about him without expecting him to make me his wife.

If I'm meant to get married, I will. If I'm meant to raise kids of my own, I will. It won't be because I put myself out there. It won't be because I made sure my accomplishments were accentuated. It won't be because I finally managed not to strong arm someone who thought pursuing me was a good idea.  It will be because it was time.

If you need me, I'll be in the parlor with my girl Austen. There will be a cup of tea close by, ink stains on my hand, and a writing callous on my finger. I'll be chuckling to myself as I gaze out the window before lacing up my shoes to go for the long walk I always seem to be looking forward to. Someday, there might be a man sitting in a chair nearby and a stroller full of kids in front of me. If there is, it'll be because God said it was time.

Do me a favor? Join me on waiting on Him.

Finishing Our Courses

Sunday, May 13, 2018

August 9, 2014

I went to a memorial yesterday, the first in a good 10+ years. This particular one was for a friend of mine. Our last talk was a joking banter about learning to play the Banjo. It's strange the things that come to your mind sometimes.

He was only 23 and the whole service was dedicated to talking about his faith, his smile, the way he strove for excellence, and the role relationships played in his life. I've only known him for a few years. Seeing pictures from his childhood and then seeing and hearing the grief firsthand of a family who never got to say goodbye and who will live the rest of their lives missing him made it all more final than it was before. 

They played his voicemail greeting and a clip of him reading Scripture and songs that he sang. Hearing his voice fill the sanctuary one last time was surreal. We all sat looking at the screen, hearing his voice, and we let the tears flow. My tears were for his family and the people who knew him far longer and better than I ever did. For his mom and for his younger brother and sister. My tears were a reflection of the grief I've been carrying with me as my own family seems to be in a state of disintegration.

I know the posts around here have been heavy for quite some time. I know a lot of them have been vague. I've always said my hope for this space is that you will find something here that will brighten your day, encourage your soul, and give you a reason to praise God. That's still my hope. That's been my hope as I've written posts about all sorts of things and covered topics I'd rather not have addressed. 

As I sat with a sanctuary full of people reflecting on the life of one faithful brother in Christ whose life ended far sooner than any of us expected in a way that still seems so impossible, I did what everyone else was doing...I began to ponder the impact his life and death will have. I thought back on what it was like to know him and remembered the fun times we had and laughed over my first impression of him all over again. 

Death is a fact of life. One of my friends keeps saying, "what's done is done." That's all he has to say about the whole thing. For Christians, death is different. We have a hope in Christ that in our living and in our dying we will glorify God. And yet, we're never quite ready to say goodbye. 

What's done is done. He was born. He lived. He finished out his course here. The rest of us have courses of our own to finish. We'll carry his memory and his example and the same hope that was in him with us. It will sting for a while, especially when we look into eyes that are missing him most. 

We don't know what our courses will hold. We don't know how long they'll last. We'll make mistakes. We'll be so happy we'll cry and we'll face times of sadness that runs so deep the tears won't come. The hope we have will spur us on. The Helper granted to us will be there reminding us of the promises of God that are shaping our course. 

I've been making a royal mess of my course lately. Saying I'm sorry won't make it better. I can't will people to care and the fact that I feel like I have to makes me feel even more rotten than being tempted to believe that they don't. One thing I know is that the object of my course is to be made more like Christ. That's the glory of God in us. We can make it confusing and difficult as we struggle between who we were and who we are in Him. 

Song after song talk about how we're on our way to heaven and only passing through life on this earth. It's never been a secret that I'm more excited about what's next than any next this earth holds for me. It's because that next is certain, but you know what...The nexts here are too. 

Every next brings us closer to the God who calls us His own. They may be difficult. They may be a new version of an old struggle that nearly knocked us off our feet the last time around. They may be sweet. They may be our hopes and dreams realized in a way that truly is far better than we ever imagined. Our certainty comes from Him. 

He designs our courses for His glory and for our good so that when what's done is done, we'll be able to join Him in being convinced of that. 

May our hope in Him be strengthened by His grace. May right spirits be renewed in us by the testimony of His Word. May we live as those whose purpose is defined by God Himself. They are, you know. 

Our courses may be ours to finish, but they come from Him. 

What I'm Into Right Now: March 2018

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

March 27, 2018

I'm back with another round of what I've been into lately. This one seems to be the food version. Along with everything on this list, I've been into putting one foot in front of the other with specific goals and intentions in mind. I always have a to-do list or five going, but lately, it's been more than just that one habit that keeps me on track. Those lists have been what have kept me going. 

I'm looking forward to the day when this feeling of just wanting to throw in the towel is over. If I'm honest, I wonder if it ever will be. Hit me with your remedies for those moments when people are getting the best of you, would ya?

Okay, back to what I've been into lately...

* Eggs with salsa and cheese over corn bread. 

* Two scoops cocoa mix, one scoop instant coffee, boiling water. 

* Most of an hour shooting hoops in the afternoon.

* Eating lunch outside.

* Checking off books that I've been meaning to read forever. I've finished The Hobbit and the first three books in the Wrinkle In Time series and I'm working on LOTR and the rest of the WIT series.

* At least doing the Swagbucks poll most days

* Setting up shop in my window seat.

* Adding strawberries to the fresh fruit rotation and asparagus to the veggie one.

*This song by this band and this song and all of the other ones that help me keep my head straight. 

* Reading this book with my friend Shauna (who lives on the other side of the country) and taking one of my long walks while having our book club chat about it over the phone. 

* Being honest about what's going on and not letting myself see giving up as an option. 

What have you been into lately?

Ode To Winter: Ten More Pictures

Monday, March 19, 2018

There are at least ten more pictures I could share from my little winter walk. Maybe I will, maybe I won't. 

Since there are still piles of snow everywhere I normally walk, I was shocked to find so little snow around the lake. When I headed out, I planned on getting lots of shots of the snow and didn't expect to be able to sit on the beach, or really anywhere, at all. 

I found myself watching the geese and the people more than anything else. I overheard snatches of conversation and laughed out loud after being forced to follow a couple of guys who were pushing the rattliest food cart ever to one of the house boats because I couldn't get around them on the dock. 

The world we live in is a beautiful place. There are stories and details that inspire stories everywhere we look. It was fun to go hunting for a few of them with a camera in my hand. 

I guess that'll do it for now. 

When's the last time you took your camera along for a walk just because?

Ordinary Suspense

Sunday, March 18, 2018

For years now, one of my go-to genres has been suspense. The tangled plots that mess with your mind just enough to convince you that you're always on the verge of solving the crime for yourself  make these the kinds of books that I almost always fly through.  "Beneath the Surface" by Lynn H. Blackburn is one of those books that's perfect for times when such a mood strikes.

It's the first book in a brand new series and will be hitting shelves in bookstores and libraries at the end of this month. If you're in the mood for a little suspense that is developed just as much through ordinary people as it is through a horrific string of murders, then this will be a good fit for you! I'll admit, this one seemed to be more about the characters themselves than the actual murderer on the loose angle. As hard as I tried, I didn't have any idea who I was up against or who to suspect and it didn't seem as though Blackburn was concerned with making that possible.

In some ways, it was nice to just sit back while the story happened, but my mind does like the challenge of sorting through all the evidence that suspense writers usually toss out there. There wasn't any one character that I was especially taken with. The romance between two of the main characters that was apparently a LONG TIME coming took center stage and there weren't any real obstacles in the way of things working out between them.

My favorite part by far, as hard as this is for me to admit, were the food references. Blackburn, who lives in Simpsonville, South Carolina, was very generous with details where food was concerned. Since the book happens to take place in Carrington, North Carolina, that meant Southern cooking was basically a well developed character with a role to play. Which...Was fine by me!

I may continue reading the series to get to know the supporting characters (and for more stories filled with awesome food on display against a southern backdrop), but if nothing else, this one was a great way to spend a few days while winter took a little break.

What's something you appreciate in books that might be a little odd?

What's one genre you go to again and again for a quick read?

*I received a review copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own honest opinion. 

Ode To Winter: In List Form

Friday, March 16, 2018

I shared some pictures from a winter walk and promised you a few more. Today I'm here to make good on my promise to share the list of winter things I've been smitten with. For those of you who don't know me, I am always cold. I wear sweatshirts almost all summer long and not just because of air conditioning that's working overtime. If there is a sunny spot, I will be in it. I love the beach and am always ready for a trip to the ocean or the lake or any place where I can stretch out and enjoy summer in all her glory. I tell you all of this so that you can know that winter had to do some major stunting to change my mind.

On to that list...

1. The crunch of snow, that's still white even though it's been hanging around for months now.

2. The strange silence after another fresh snowfall.

3. The way clearing snow brings everyone together.

4. Pale blue skies after weeks and weeks of gray.

5. Early nights sending people home to cozy up with their families.

6. Fresh, cold air in my lungs. So cold it stings my cheeks, but not so cold that it burrows its way past the layers of clothes I'm wearing.

7. Feeling the sun on your skin when you were so sure you'd have to wait months for that to happen again.

8. Hovering over the stove with pots and pans of food and something special in the oven, knowing that people will dig in just as soon as it's done.

9. The way the noises of the birds and the squirrels and whatever else is out there catch you by surprise because they're less and less common.

10. The way the park can be totally deserted one day and overflowing with people the next. Same place. Same people. Just different days. I also wonder what it is that they're up to when the cold keeps them home.

When winter was just getting underway, I snapped a picture for IG and wrote a little caption to go with it about what my version of developing a mind for winter looks like. Every season really does carry with it unique ways to enjoy the little gifts God sprinkles throughout our lives.

What about winter could convince you to love it?

Just As He Promised

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

March 3, 2018

"At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, 'Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.' This phrase, 'yet once more,' indicates the removal of things that are shaken - that is, things that have been made - in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain." Hebrews 12:26-27

These verses come on the tails of the chapter in the Bible that is known as "the hall of faith" where the writer reminds us about men and women who have gone before us who were characterized by a faith that shaped their lives. They left homelands, bore children they never dared hope to bear, were tested, crossed through a sea that had been parted, were hidden away from people who ordered them dead, knocked down walls, hid spies, and faced brutal deaths all because their eyes were on God and their hope was set on an eternity that was in His hands. The writer tells us that there is neither time nor room to go over the faithful witnesses who have graced this earth. 

Still, things have been recorded and the reminder stands. Faith is granted for specific purposes. It is intended to make us brave and bold and strong. It's not something we can muster on our own. By faith we will do things we would never otherwise dare to do. What sets faith apart is that we don't do what we do because we think it will make us happier or more successful or more respected. By faith, we obey God. By faith, the fear of man and of death disappear. By faith, we keep hoping in God knowing and believing that He'll sustain us and the faith that is driving us forward.

This is all familiar. This is what it means to be a Christian. It's easy to remember Moses and Daniel and Abraham and Sarah and Rahab. It's easy to think of the faithful grandparents and neighbors and teachers that we've known personally. The ones who consider Him faithful and able to do as He promised. What's not so easy is to reach a point where we wonder what we're supposed to do next. What's not so easy is stepping out without hope of reward or security or of everything working out. There are entire seasons of life where the ones we have looked to for direction let us down. We're left to wonder what faith would have us do. We want to do what is smart, but we also want to do what is right. 

And so...We are forced to look to God. We may have been looking to Him all along, but in those moments when trust is broken and betrayal is constantly being shoved in our face, we learn what it is to look to Him alone. 

And so we look. And what we see is that He is shaking away what was never meant to remain. Just as He promised. 

It hurts to be lied to, to be told that what you thought was true actually isn't, to be told that what you've given of yourself was nice and all but that it's actually built a case against you. It hurts to have the ones you love be pitted against you. It's difficult to look to the years ahead and not have a single idea as to what you're supposed to do with them. It feels like being unfaithful to God and to the life you committed to Him when you're given no choice but to start over with a whole new set of rules and motivations. God doesn't mean for people to hurt one another or to lie to one another or to let selfishness turn them against one another. He doesn't mean for women and children to be trampled on by the men who have taken interest in them. He doesn't mean for churches to bully and cast out the ones who have found themselves sitting in the pews asking for help.

What He does mean to happen is for us to seek the city that is to come. He's taught us about that city that He is preparing and made a way for us to get there and He's making us fit to spend eternity there. We would wander away from faith and cling to the very things that God Himself is shaking away.

When things hurt, that's God shaking away what is meant to be shaken. The shaking will continue until what was never meant to remain is destroyed. It will be hard. We'll get angry. We'll get so sad that we'll cry ourselves to sleep. We'll be confused and we'll wonder why it has to be so difficult. We'll think He's finally done and then the shaking will start all over again, loosening our grip on the next thing that we've got to stop clinging to. 

He doesn't mean for us to do it on our own or to be so strong that we don't need anyone else. He doesn't mean for us not to trust or love or care anymore. It will seem like that's best and that it's the only way forward and the only way out. In those moments, what He's doing is showing us that He is our strength. That He is the only way through and that we will get through. 

A day is coming when all the shaking will be over. In that day, all that will remain is what can never be shaken. In that day, we'll look to Him and we'll see that everything went just as He promised. 

That city and Christ and the struggles and the faith granted to us and the witness of those who have gone before us and the opposition of those who hate us because of who we are in Him...They are all reminding us of one thing, namely, that we are His and that we will remain in Him. Just as He promised.

He remains. And we will too. 

Currently: March 2018

Friday, March 09, 2018

March 3, 2018

This happens to be my favorite picture from the walk I took on Saturday. I love the sky and the bare trees and the wall and the way this whole scene is layered just the way it is. It's almost like some kind of perfect accident. And yet, I think it's safe to say that a lot of people were in on planning the placement of every single element that went into it. It caught my eye and stopping for the picture was a good move, if I do say so myself.

It's good to be back here with pictures to share and a desire to put time into posts again. Even though blogging has changed shape over the years, it's still alive and well and I'm grateful. Texting and emailing with blogging friends has been a real treat this winter (and always is, really). 

Let's get right to the currently stuff...

Planning: Strategies to keep my head straight...This looks like guarding sleep time, meeting with God regularly no matter what, and challenging myself to be brave in specific ways. I'll keep you posted.

Seeing: Signs of spring all of a sudden. The trees have been budding and the sun has been coming and going, but it was still really cold and snowing every few days. Until this week.

Making: Choices that are consistent with who I am as a Christian. It's weird to say that, but it's the best way I know how to put the thing that is on my mind alllll the time these days. I've been reminded that THAT is what grace is for that that is what it means to have the Holy Spirit as your Helper and that there is nothing else that matters. Nothing.

Pretending: That it's not crazy to listen to the same five songs over and over and over again. I'll tell you about two of them and then I'll post a playlist later on. Cause...You might be the kind of person who does the same thing. Maybe?

Wearing: What I always wear this time of year. Layers and sweaters and coats and hats and gloves that are constantly coming off and on depending on what's happening. I also have this plain black skirt that I found at a thrift store for like $2 last fall that I'm still wearing several times each week. It's the perfect thing to make every outfit look put together. 

I'm linking up with Anne and Sarah!

Ode To Winter: In Ten Pictures

Sunday, March 04, 2018

I've learned to adore a good winter walk. No amount of bundling up can keep me inside these days. That's huge for this person who has been dubbed a "summer girl" by everyone who knows her. Theoretically, winter should be over soon. That's a little hard to believe with all of the blizzards we've been having, but I've been itching to get back into my garden and to take books and my writing notebook and every single meal outside all the same. As much as I'm looking forward to warmer days, I wanted to take some time to celebrate the season that is NOW.

These ten pictures were taken on an unusually warm day. My morning walk and the day off I had ahead of me convinced me that I needed to make the most of it all. My batteries couldn't charge fast enough. It actually worked out that they took as long as they did, because the light was perfect by the time I made it out.

I meandered along, stopping where I wanted for as long as I wanted. I fiddled with camera settings and took test shots. I kept checking to make sure I hadn't lost a glove since it was warm enough for me to tuck them into my purse. I made my way down to the beach where I sat cross-legged as close to the edge of the water as I could get without actually getting wet. I took my hat off and tilted my face up to the sun and fought the urge to stretch out on the rocks for a nap. I listened as people wandered by or stopped to stare out across the lake.

I didn't see a single familiar face or hear any voices that I recognized. I walked far enough that even the sounds of the city faded away. There were geese and seagulls and other birds I can't name singing songs and calling out warnings. There were dogs barking and the first of the boats making passes across the water that was so still. There were kids laughing and adults telling story after story.

And there was me. Camera in hand without any reason to rush or hurry along to anything else. I've got a few more shots to share and an ode in list form coming soon. Until then, I hope you enjoy these ten pictures.

Do you have a favorite season?

Back Again

Friday, March 02, 2018

March 30, 2017

It's been a while. Somehow, it's already March. I've been hanging on tight to that word I chose for 2018 and kicking around a few others. I wrote about two of them and the others will probably make their way into posts before too long. I've been coming face to face with the work of the Holy Spirit everywhere I turn. Not just in theory, but in the doctrine of WHAT that work is and what real evidence of it looks like. I've been reading less again and writing more. I'm still walking every chance I get and doing my best to stay in touch with friends who are far away. I might have finally come to the end of my "I can't get enough TV" phase thanks to watching an entire season of a show by watching a few episodes everyday after work last week.

Last night, I dreamed that someone was at my house and I realized they were wearing my slippers. And it really bothered me. To the point where I was like, "Okay, excuse me. TAKE MY SLIPPERS OFF. What were you thinking?" I've been trying to think through the parts of who I am that need some intentional work. Apparently I'm stubborn and territorial and lately I've been tempted to let the way things are make me angry. This little post isn't the place to go into that, but pay attention to your mind at rest...It can help you get to the bottom of things!

One of the words that's been on my mind lately is the word sturdy. I ran across it somewhere, wrote it down, and have been thinking about what it takes to BE that and what it looks like when it can be said of you. For one thing, it makes you sure and brave and gives you an endurance that you can't summon on your own. I'm pro at chickening out...At being afraid and letting that fear keep me from even TRYING something. There are always so many opportunities in front of us. We don't have to attempt everything, but it's important that we don't hide away. I want to be sturdy and it takes one thing, namely, staying close to God and being led by His Spirit. This verse from Acts says it all. When you fear Him and are comforted by His Spirit, there's a lot less wrestling with yourself and with the people around you and with what you should do in light of what's right in from of you.

Those three paragraphs have taken me a long time to write. Not because they were especially hard to string together, but because coming back always seems to hold a certain pressure. I wrote them and I'm going to hit publish...Do me a favor and tell me what's been on your mind lately and what you've been up to and what you're working on? I'd love to hear about it!