Monday, June 27, 2016

On Healing the Hurt with Intentional Words [An Announcement]

[Part 1] 

June was a hard month for all the people. There was mourning and heartache for those lost in Orlando, for the heaviness that results from political campaigns, for those without fathers and those aching to be fathers. There was pain in our hearts, a feeling of smallness in our souls, a hopeless, helpless break in our hearts.

We slowed down and sat still. We were distracted and tearful. We grieved and rested and June held all it's blues. June was hard.

And now, July is here. July is here to remind us of the way that time passes, the healing happens, even if just a small bit at a time. A piece, a piece, a piece and it all comes together without our realizing. It all comes together until it's complete and we're here, in July.

Today, today is a new month for us to grasp and savor. Welcome friend. Welcome warmly to July.

[Part 2] 

When my dad died, when we found out kids weren't in our cards, when PMS hits especially hard, I look. I look hard and desperate for a band-aid. I feel the wound gaping and holey in my heart, all the emotions pouring forth, and I know I need some shreds of hope to stuff into the void.

Inspiration is that for me. Words like Hannah's, like Alexandra's, like Allison's. Prayers like Emily's. Songs like Bethel's. Oh goodness, I seek as hard as Hazel digging for a bone in the backyard. I need that thing, that one thing that's going to fit just right over the hole in my heart. It's inspiration, blessed and divine, that always does the trick.

[Part 1 + Part 2 = Part 3] 

So, I'm providing a small salve in my own small way this July. It's a daily application, little by little kind of healing that's an attempt at doing my part. It's my way of putting out good in the places I can. And, where better to be dedicated than online.

Every day in July there's going to be a pep talk on my Instagram.

Some short, some long, always aiming to inspire you. The goal: find light and be it.

July days are long and full of light. They're warm and serve as a cozy hug from a kind mama in the midst of our year. They're slower and more savory, willing to have you bask in their warmth.

Friends, we deserve a good, inspired July.
We deserve the healing and promise July holds for us.
We deserve small things done with great, exploding love (as Mama Teresa instructs us).
Be part of it here.

Friday, June 24, 2016

On Gift-Giving Problems -and Solutions- with Uncommon Goods (Also, A Giveaway)

I want to be the friend with the coolest gift. I want to give the unique gift, the off-the-wall unexpected present that garners at least a few oohs and aahs. Wedding gifts and baby showers are easy and fun. But gift-giving has become more challenging when it comes to Jason. He's a man that's not in want of anything but more workout shirts and a new fishing pole -all good, but not that much fun for my creative soul.

Jason's birthday and our anniversary are only a week apart which leads me to struggle with multiple ideas.When we got married it seemed so smart, but now -five years in- I find myself starting to stress come August 15th. I know what's coming up and, while I'm so excited to celebrate him and us, I become obsessed with finding the perfect, out-of-the-box gifts.

Enter the solution to my problem: Uncommon Goods.

Uncommon Goods works with artists -life goal to be a part of selling on their space- and small manufacturers throughout the world (I find myself buying products based on their backstory which is often featured in the listings) to make unique gifts available to us -the creative gift givers. I ended up with a cart full of ideas and some buyer's overwhelm... Though it seems important to admit that some of the products were more for me than Jason. 

Wine and beer ended up being the two unique themes running through my basket so I decided to honor them with a beer cap U.S. map (which has now become an arguing point because where do we hang it?) and a personalized Venn Diagram cutting board for our newest culinary obsession - the charcuterie. Uncommon Goods has an astonishing (literally, amazing) selection of products that can be personalized to your taste or name. Check them out here. Seriously, check them out.  

Now our biggest decision of the day is wine or beer? 


Also, bonus points: I did jump on this ridiculously adorable can of sprinkles because LOOK. They're like a unicorn and rainbow and magical tortoise got together and made sprinkles that are perfect for any and every day use. I'm almost so overwhelmed by how cute they are (check out that tiny scoop) that I am afraid to use them. But, sprinkles are made of sugar and sugar is what makes people happy so used they will be. 

And in case you couldn't come up with all the amazing daily uses for sprinkles yourself... The label gives you suggestions on how to incorporate them into your diet. (French fries with sprinkles certainly grabs my interest.) 

You made it. You made it all the way to the end which deserves a unique gift of it's own. And, lucky for you, I'm such a fan of Uncommon Goods I wanted to share their Goody-Goodness with you in the form of a $25.00 gift certificate to spoil yourself (although, spending just $25 is nearly impossible.)

How do you enter? 

Simple check out Uncommon Goods unique gift guide and let me know what you'd get for a special him in your life (dad, boyfriend, husband, brother) and what you'd get for her (you, mom, sister, best friend). You'll get one entry for each answer.

This giveaway will be closed on Monday, June 27th at 11:59 PM. The winner will be randomly selected through a number generator and subsequently notified via email on Tuesday, June 28th.

- - - - - - - -
This post was sponsored by Uncommon Goods. All opinions and reviews are my own. 
Seriously, their products (and customer service) are amazing. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The World is Ours [A Marriage Letter]

Dear Jason,

Every morning I pull out of our driveway, press the button to close our garage door, and I wonder how this all happened to me. I look at the house that is yours and mine and I can't believe the good of my life. That red front door, the white-trimmed windows, the rose bushes aplenty belong to us. And my heart flutters that I get to love you inside the walls of that home.

Oh Thomas, I love you at home. I love you while you sit on the right side of the couch and me on the left. I love you as you let out soft snores in the depths of the night and I lay awake in bed. I love you in the comfort of our home, the smell of your soap on the air after you get out of the shower, the laundry routine we fall into on weekend afternoons. I love you at home.

But this month, as we rafted and camped and jumped from rocks, I grew to love you more. I laid next to you on a sleeping deck under the glittering night sky and I wondered how this all happened to me. I looked at the man that's snoozing, listened to the night animals' conversations, and I couldn't believe the good of my life. Your blonde hair, your blue eyes, your hunger for all that's good in life belongs to me. And my heart flutters that I get to love you in all the places this wold has to offer.

I fall in love with you when we are away. I fall in love as I watch you adore new places and spaces. I fall in love as you wander and stare and stop to make sure you've taken in each inch. I fell in love on the banks of the creeks in Bishop, on the beaches of Cancun, in the harbor of Cabo, over the brews of Colorado, on the currents of the Snake River, and -once again- under the stars of a Kernville sky.

I love you at home but oh how being away makes me more deeply yours.

The world is ours because your heart is mine. Italy, Africa, Sydney, Iceland. They are ours because you belong to me and I to you. Brazil, Alaska, Tahiti, Paris. They are not simply destination, but promises that bring our vows and love to life.

Thankful to share this world, this life, with your kind, handsome soul,
- - - - - - - - - - -

This letter is one in a series of letters I write to remember mundane moments of my marriage that would otherwise slip away. I write with a dedication to hold tight to him and to remember how life looks right now at this very moment. The chance for these letters to shed light on our marriage before children for our children because they won't know us as newlyweds is a much loved and added bonus.

Monday, June 20, 2016

On living through the first six.

Six months. It's been six months since we sat at his bedside as he was in final hours. Six months of heart break, joy, tears. Six months of wishing he was here, thanks for his restful place, wonder at how He works inside of tragedy. It took me six months to return to his grave. It took me six months to walk the many steps from the parking lot to his place on the small hill in the cemetery. It took me six months, but it was perfectly timed with Father's Day.

I've spent the last twenty-four hours thinking about his last day. I've run through the words I spoke to him, the prayers we said over him, the affections poured out on us and I end up in tears. I'm indefinitely and completely thankful for the happy ending that came with our hard, ugly journey. I said I loved him. I asked him to handpick his grand kids for us. I promised to watch over my Mama. I ran my hands over his salt-and-pepper hair and marveled over the ways we'd all changed. 

Dying is hard, blessed work. 

Dying is work that brings bolder color and grander shape to life. It emboldens your spirit, breaks your heart, and reveals all the strength you didn't know you possessed. Dying is work that tests your endurance and proves your grit. As you're drowning in loss, His people come alongside you in unexpected, glorious ways. Trays of bagels with cream cheese, caffeinated sodas at midnight, good morning cups of coffee all make holding space a dream. 

Living is full, grateful worship. 

Living is worship when you know what dying can do. It is a testament to those who came before you, to the track that was laid in order for your to drive your course, the opportunity to honor a legacy within which you were born. Living is worship over the way hearts grow, break, mend. I thought I'd cry or kneel down or rub my fingers over the engravings in his stone. I thought I'd pour out the heartbreak of infertility or the joy of white water rafting or renew the promises I made when he was passing. But I stood -still and scanning the emerald grasses of the town cemetery. I stood and felt a deep, earnest thanks for the last six months. Thanksgiving for the opportunity to walk beside a dying man, for the wagons that have drawn around our family by His grace, for the way I've learned how to weather a storm. 

Dying is hard, blessed work. And living is full, grateful worship. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Five Ways I'm Simplifying Bible Study

In the last month my hunger for time with Him has finally returned. It's been years since I've been willing to bring myself to the table and listen to Him in this deep, consistent way. I've tried over and over again to find our groove -His and mine. I've worked hard to make space, small bits and pieces that I was sure would come together into a cohesive bible study. Alas, no.

I threw up my hands and tried to hold tight to grace. Grace that was true and good, but not able to fill the hole of missing in my chest. Grace that sang love, but didn't solve the way I wanted so deeply to be Father and child again. I waited. With pent up energy and more failed attempts than I have fingers and toes, I waited for us to find a relational flow.

It's back and I'm thankful. But the thing about faith and relationship is: there's no special trick to bible study, no way to bullet proof your faith from all the holes and aches that happen in life. There's no way to make it easy when it's hard or deep when shallow is all your soul can swim through. But when you're trying to make your way back, find your groove again there are ways to make it easier on your weary soul. Here's a few of my newest tips and bible study tools:

1. Do your journaling in your planner/bullet journal/daily tracking place.

I usually have a separate journal for my bible study. But the last month I've been doing it in my bullet journal so that the words and reflections are caught among my daily business. At first, the mish mash annoyed me, but lately it's been a reminder that faith is a daily -small f choice- more often than a Big F Faith challenge. And, well, I feel encouraged to see some truth of His among my To Do lists.

2. Use multiple translations.

My (favorite) bible is ASV and I adore the way there are emphasis among the verses. The binding makes my heart sing and the size of the bible is perfect for travel, church going, and being tossed in my purse. However, NIV was what I grew up on and The Message made my heart sing in high school. So, I use two bibles -one has NIV and The Message side by side in it- when I'm studying at home. This allows me the flexibility and opportunity to move between translations when a verse (or series of verses) is unclear in one translation.

3. Read small, palatable chunks instead of chapters.

I can't explain why I feel like it's important for me to read an entire chapter every time I sit down for my bible study. But, I do. Sometimes I get hung up on one verse but won't spend time mulling it over because I need to get through the rest of the chapter. This is doing my time with Him a disservice.

Since taking on Jane Johnson's Quiet Time Challenge, I've realize that clean breaks on chapters aren't nearly as important as I expected. In fact, reading an entire chapter is too much content to begin to metabolize it. I've started to think of the bible as a rich bar of chocolate -better consumed in small, enjoyed pieces than in a large binge.

4. Find a bible study that is (sort of) structured.

This is what I enjoyed about Jane Johnson's Quiet Time Challenge as well as the studies found in Studying the Scripture (heard about it from Jane). In the last few years I've come to find devotions distracting, instead of inspiring. Often I wander down a rabbit hole of thought while going over the text written by another Christian, when I should be engaging with the text of the Bible. So, I've dropped the devotions and leaned toward loose studies with wider questions.

5. Color code your interactions with His words.

I've started using different pens to mean different things in my bible instead of trying to keep it uniformly black. This was partly inspired by Jane Johnson and also by the art journaling movement with influence from my desire to mark, notate, and highlight. I track three things in my bible:

  • Emotional reactions in magenta/purple/pink. 
  • Recurring phrases, theme, and cross references in green. 
  • Notes from pastors, books, devotions, and the link in blue. 
  • Highlights for verses that are beautiful and convicting. 
There are more thorough systems and suggestions out there for what to track, but I prefer not to have to work through a color code in order to study.

Basically, I'm suggesting to simplify. 

The best way to tune yourself out of your own bible study is to make it work, work, work, work, work (didn't expect a Rhianna reference in here, did you?). Keep your system simple. Keep your system fun. Keep your system centered around conversing with Him instead of focusing on all the logistical details of study.

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