Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Best Hot Chocolate for Cheer and Warming Broken Hearts

Last week I experienced a personal tragedy for which I'd appreciate your prayers. But several weeks weeks before I'd planned to partner with Renia at The Development of Taste for her Savor the Holidays series.

I'd love to have you join me at The Development of Taste for tips on Savoring the Holidays and a hot chocolate recipe from yours truly that is good for both those who celebrate and those who mourn.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Missional Living is Easier at Christmastime

The holidays are upon us and in my experience you’re either feeling overjoyed by all the parties, presents, and events, or you’re feeling overwhelmed and ready for it all to be over. Either way, you have a list that you’re adding to regularly. The good news is that missional living is not another item to add to your list.

Missional living is a lifestyle that involves doing what you’re already doing ( ie. grocery shopping, raising kids, working a job, being involved in your community, etc.) with intention. Being missional means living as a missionary in your current context and season of life. 

Missional living is way of life and not a task to complete. Missional living is not random acts of kindness although those can be incorporated into your lifestyle. Missional living is not serving other Christians. Rick Warren distinguishes service to other Christians as ministry and service to the lost as outreach. While the Bible clearly calls us to love and serve other Christians, it is important to distinguish that fulfilling the Great Commission begins with lost people. Jesus make it clear in Matthew 9:12 that he came for the sick and not the well. Likewise, our missional lives should involve relationships with lost people otherwise we are not being missional at all.

Continue reading over at Missional Women to discover why it's easier to be missional at Christmas time. Join me there today?

(This post was originally published December 9, 2013.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Links I Love Plus an Update and Prayer Request

I've been struggling for over a month with  carpal tunnel-like symptoms. Needless to say that makes it difficult to write, work as a virtual assistant, and do just about everything that requires your dominant hand. I see a specialist soon but I'd love your prayers.

As I try to get back into the swing of things I'd thought I share some personal and miscellaneous things that are on my mind:

Words for Transition and Change:
  • I'm on the cusp of some major life change (more on that later) so Shelly Miller's words here on cooking through her own season of waiting are perfect for this me right now and maybe you too?

Things You Didn't Know About Florida Girls:
  •  Recently I went on vacation to Door County, Wisconsin. And it was cold and it SNOWED!!! Because I'm always dreaming of colder weather it made our trip perfect.

All the Happy Places:
  •  My friend, Renia, at The Development of Taste has started her annual Savor the Holidays series. And lets be honest, we all need to read/do this. Plus she includes some really practical tips and recipes. Follow along here
  • Grace Table recently launched and they are my people! Grace Table "is a place to talk about the intersection of food and faith and how the practice of hospitality is less about what you serve and more about that you serve. GraceTable is a space where there are always enough seats, always enough food, and always grace. 

What I'm Cooking:
  • Every Fall Lindesy's recipe for Beef Bourguign is on my list. Hoping to make (and eat) it this week.

For 2015:
  • I'm contemplating my word of the year for next year. "Hope" has really made an impact in my life this year and I can't imagine not having a word of the year every year.

Good Reads:
  • I just finished Boo Mama's A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet and ya'll, you have to read this book. It's laugh out loud hilarious and heart warming at the same time. Plus at the back there are recipes that will make you start saying "ya'll."
  • What are you reading? I'm into memoirs and fiction right now but am open to all your recommendations in the comments below.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

For When You Don't Want to Miss Jesus this Holiday Season

It was December of 2008 and it had been a year like no other. The catalysing moment of the year being loosing my first husband and becoming a widow at age 24.

I was on a random trip to the Christian book store when a small collection of devotionals caught my eye. I didn't have much energy for deep Bible study in that season and I was nearing the completion of a degree that included classes in homiletics, hermeneutics, and the like. But I was certain I needed to be close to Jesus that Christmas in a way I never had before. So I bought that little devotional and thus began my journey into celebrating Advent, a tradition that has shaped my holiday season ever since. 

Even in the most difficult or overwhelming Christmas seasons practicing Advent has brought respite, even if only for a few minutes, each day of December. Every year I fear missing Jesus and every year I cling to Him through the hand of Advent.

Maybe upon reading the title of this post you dreaded thinking about the holiday season so early in November. But if you really want to hold onto Jesus this year the most important thing you can do is prepare your heart now.

Get your copy here
One way I'm preparing my heart is through Ann Voskamp's Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. This family celebration of Christmas is the perfect Advent resource for all ages and seasons of life. While the lovely full color illustrations and story format will hold children's attention the beautiful language and theological depth will go straight to the heart of any adult.

This exquisite hardcover book is heirloom quality and perfect for your coffee table. It will be a beautiful daily reminder this Christmas season of the love that came down for us. To set us free. To give us grace. And to offer a holiday that is about more than us. A holiday that is about an eternal gift to all of mankind.

Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of Unwrapping the Greatest gift but all opinions expressed here are my own.

Monday, October 27, 2014

On Living Between Suburbia and the Ghetto

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I live on the border of suburbia and the ghetto. North of my house is one of the most desirable neighborhoods in my city. South of my house, at the end of my street, you will hit a literal fence that divides this affluent neighborhood from "those people." You know, "other side of the tracks" people. Except it doesn't.

People who live in the sought after suburb want what most Americans, lulled by the American Dream, are taught to want. Safety, white picket fences, comfortable (in this case multi-million dollar) homes. Because my "neighbors" are so closely located to "bad neighborhoods" they have chose to insulate themselves from the problems around them. They have put up fences, both literal and figurative. An instead of keeping the "bad" out it has done something of the opposite.

Crime is an increasing concern in this area. The fences are hurting rather than helping. People who have the means to alleviate poverty, become fathers to the fatherless, love and serve those in need, have chosen to wall themselves up in their American Dream. They have turned their backs to the hungry, the hurting, the addicted. Instead of extending the hand of generosity to those who need it most they have had meetings, hosted ridiculous social media threads, and called 911 on every pedestrian they don't recognize.

This has made them both unfriendly and fearful. They don't wave at a young couple walking their dog. They firm up their faces and their defences. They serve the needy when it is sociably acceptable (ie. during the holidays or when a local school has a food drive) but they don't live lives of service, love, and consideration of their neighbors.

Hear me out. We have lived in an urban area for over five years. We have had legitimate needs to call 911. Those instances do exist. And I am not saying that charity, service and love would eliminate all crime in our neighborhoods and cities. What I am saying is that safety and security is a myth. The Kool-Aid of the American Dream has caused us to put ourselves first with disregard for those suffering around us. Our approach of building fences and walls, installing the most advanced security systems and walling ourselves in against the world has done little to alleviate the root of our society's problems.

I believe we could truly change the world if we practiced Jesus' way of hospitality. If we invited strangers and friends to share our tables. If we were more aware of the woman behind us in the grocery store than our to-do list. If we looked at people as brothers and sisters instead of inconveniences. How would our lives and communities be different if as Jeremy Courtney says we "love first and asked questions later"?

I'm joining with She Reads Truth for a study of Biblical hospitality. You can join us here.

My friend, Lori, lives in the hood and extends radical hospitality to hard people everyday. If you want to read more on this topic I highly recommend her blog here.

I'd love to hear about your neighborhood and how you extend Biblical hospitality in the comments below.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Pratical Ideas for Being Missional on Halloween

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Can you believe Halloween is only two weeks away? As many consider it the start of the holiday season I'm left wondering where 2014 went so quickly?

Halloween is one of the only nights of the year that people come out of their homes and interact with their neighbors willingly. It’s an open door to relationships and an opportunity we often miss when getting to know our neighbors. 
Why not make the most of this night with some fun and practical missional ideas? You can choose something really simple or more complex based on your neighborhood and abilities. Here are a few of my ideas:

  • Have two drink dispensers on a table outside. Label one “For the Kids” and one “For the Adults.” Fill each container accordingly and add the contents to the label as well, (ie. lemonade or apple cider for the kids and cocktails for the adults). Stay outside to hand out your Halloween candy and offer drinks to each family that comes by. You’ll get an opportunity to have conversations and the parents will love you for giving them a treat on what can be a very long night.
  • Host a cookout or potluck. Have neighbors bring something while you provide an affordable entrĂ©e like hotdogs or chili. Setup in your front yard (this is critical if you really hope to engage the whole neighborhood) and enjoy a relaxing night of making new friends.
  • Partner with your friend to host a front yard party or block party. Think of your front yard as a mini fall festival. Have bales of hay or other seating and perhaps a fire pit for lingering. Setup some simple games for kids (ie. bobbing for apples in a kiddie pool). Provide a hot drink bar and of course candy. (This requires the most work and investment, but will pay off exponentially.)

For more ideas check out the free to being missional on Halloween from Verge here.

What ideas do you have for being missional on Halloween? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

On Hope, Words, and Remembering

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It was everywhere. It was written on chalkboards and spelled out in Scrabble letters. Sometimes it played in the back of my mind like a tune that won't go away. Other times it hung over my head like a banner emblazoned over my life. Everywhere I've went, through the highs and lows. It has been there.

My word of the year is hope. And hope I have. In January, what I really hoped for was some relief from the past year that had left me beat up, worn out, hopeless.

In the spring I flew to the Missional Women conference and hope held my hand when I publicly shared a part of my story that had been known to only a select few in private. A month later I began to share that story here in hopes that you would be as gracious as the women in that room were.

Summer found me busy, overwhelmed and in need of a break. So with hope for the power of less I gave up a lot of things for a month. It was good and right. But at the end of the month I picked them all back up again and added in some more.

So here I am in Fall (my favorite season of the year) with less than 100 days left of this year. Once again I've had to lay things down in search of less. I know God is working in my heart in some new ways. And so I hold onto hope uncertain of the future but trusting The Source of Hope for what lies ahead.

This has been my first time choosing a word of the year and it really has made a difference. But I don't think I would have held onto it throughout the entire year if I hadn't had so many visual reminders around my home. If you're wanting to be reminded of hope perhaps the new Letterpress Blocks would help you hold on to it or whatever you're needing to remember most in this season. You can use the interactive interface here to customize any word you choose.

I'd love to hear how the power of words have helped you this year in the comments below.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

When God Says No: on Disbodedience and Choosing Less

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I've been writing in this space for three years as of today. I launched this blog by joining The Nester's 31 days series in 2011. Albeit a crazy way to jump into the world of regular blogging it was one of the better decisions I've made with my writing. I would highly recommend it to any new blogger wanting to get into the habit of writing regularly and looking to build their platform.

At the beginning of each new year I'm already looking toward October and brainstorming a topic I could write on for an entire month. Once I narrow it down I plan each day, research thoroughly, and save quotes and resources that I can use for my series. This year was no different and I announced a topic I was thoroughly excited about and prepared for last week.

But for months God has been calling me to less. To lay down things I hold dear. And I have been ignoring Him. Consciously disobeying. Sure I fasted some things for a brief spell in July but as soon as the month was over I jumped on the "more" bandwagon and filled my calendar and my life with too much of everything.

Everything came to a head last week and let's just say God made it impossible for me to keep ignoring Him. So in this season I'm choosing less even when I what I want is more.

Today would have started my fourth 31 days series but I won't be linking up. In October I'll be embracing less and seeking God about the future of my ministry, my life, my pursuits. I will be writing for five minutes each day using the 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes prompts from Five Minute Friday host, Kate. You can find all the October prompts here. Perhaps some of that writing will show up in this space.

I still have content 31 days worth of Celebration and Traditions for anyone who wants to really live. I do hope get to share that with you in the future.

In this season of less, I want to thank those of you who have given me so much by reading faithfully and encouraging me. Thank you for your grace.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

When Prayer is Common: A Guest Post

Photo by Preston Yancey
(I'm am so honored and excited to have Preston Yancey sharing in this space today. What I love most about Preston is his writing style and his honesty. I love that we both find the sacred in the mundane and experience God in cooking and food. I'm so thankful to him for crafting a post that fits perfectly in this space and speaks to me deeply during this season of life. I hope you finding it speaking to you as well.)

Mondays are slower days here. We get up and have breakfast—greek yogurt, honey, and a homemade almond coconut granola—we are three months married and we are already settled into our habits. We read together a passage of Scripture slowly. Four times between us, alternating between she and I. The ancient church called this practice lectio divina, the art of listening for God in the Scripture. We take a few minutes to share what stood out, what took our attention, and then conversation turns to the day ahead, its own sort of lectio in a way, the recitation of schedule to hear the lilts, the unease, the hoped for. We take the canvas bags on the way out, I drive her to campus, and then I head on to the grocery store. There aren’t many people that early in the morning, the fish monger is usually still just setting things out, and I ask him for the twenty third time whether or not there is any whole fresh trout and he, once more, says they only have frozen. Conversation with the cashier is always the usual exchange: a fine morning, looking forward to the weekend already, her daughter is applying to college. Back at the apartment the canvas bags are hoisted up a flight—I always try and take too much at a time, this, too, now habit—and then the contents slowly put away: the grains in a small space above the sink, the wine in the antique copper basin by the easel, the bread flour in the canister on the fridge. This is the smallest kitchen I have ever had, but it is the one I have loved the most.

Here is the end of the island where we sat and chose our future. Here the meals were planned. Here the vows recited again. Here the term papers outlined.

I’m breaking down a chicken for dinner, an adaption of Jamie Oliver’s chicken in milk. I’m thinking about how we try so much these days to justify ourselves, to justify the ordinary. The ordinary needs no justification, if we are inclined to believe the saints. All of this life is caught up into God. Not one thing in this life can ever be ordinary if in Jesus all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17) I get told often about the qualifications around my faith—I studied theology in graduate school, I write about God and our relation to God, I am part of the monolith of Christian identity in the digital age. These things seem to make people assume a good deal about how hours must be spent in prayer, in study, that the spiritual doing is done so often, so constantly. But that’s an old lie. That’s the ancient lie that whispers to us in the dark that our neighbors have something we do not and cannot. My faith is common. Just as common as yours. And that Monday morning rhythm, that slow pace and dance and movement? That’s all a prayer of a kind. It’s common prayer. It’s the ordinary doing kind of prayer. The spiritual of it shows up in the posture in which it is done. Take a moment and just breathe. Breathe deep. Are you searching for intentionality in everything you do? Stop. Just be there. Just be in the presence of God in the midst of the recitation of schedule, the school drop off, the routine chat in the grocery store. There is not one thing in this world that is secular if we believe in a God who has the hold world in God’s hands.

Maybe this is what you need to hear today: it is enough. What you are doing is enough. But it’s not enough because it has some grandiose deeper meaning or because its the sort of thing you would Instagram. It’s enough because you are enough because God is enough. Full stop. Faith is ordinary. Prayer is common. Sometimes what that means is hauling bags upstairs because you feed the ones you love. Sometimes that’s making sure to always speak to the cashier like they are a fellow human. Sometimes it is the most mundane of actions, made whole because God tangles Godself all in them. There can be no deeper meaning than that. Why on earth would we want more?

Now, about that chicken in milk, which is the best recipe for chicken I have ever made, let me tell you: it can be yours. It, along with nine other favorite recipes of mine can be yours when you preorder my new book, Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again, which comes out on September 30th. When you preorder, I’ll send you a copy of some of my favorite and best-tired-and-tested creations, like chocolate pavlova and a French onion soup that has seen a decade of practice and refinement. Details on that here

Preston Yancey is a lifelong Texan raised Southern Baptist who fell in love with reading saints, crossing himself, and high church spirituality. He now makes his home within the Anglican tradition. He is a writer, painter, baker, and speaker. An alumnus of Baylor University, Preston completed a masters in theology from St. Andrews University in Scotland before returning to the States. He currently lives with his wife, Hilary, in Waco, Texas, where she is a PhD candidate in Philosophy at Baylor. Preorder Preston’s new book, Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again here. Find him on Twitter here or at his blog here.

How do you experience God in the mundane? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

Monday, September 22, 2014

For Couples, Singles and Anyone Who Wants to Really Live

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I've told the story before of how I sat in the middle of a staff meeting in a huge board room and had an epiphany; I had been holding off on living.

I had a million excuses or what seemed like great reasons why I was waiting to live so much of my life. But if we're honest I was really just missing out and I know I'm not the only one.

Perhaps you're waiting until you graduate, get married, find the perfect job, have kids, or any other milestone that you think will set you free to really live. I've got news for you. You're wasting your life. You're wasting precious minutes, days and opportunities waiting. I know. I was there too.

In the month of October I'm joining with the Nester to Write 31 Days. This will be my fourth time (I can't even believe it) participating in the 31 day challenge. This year I'll be writing 31 Days of Celebrations and Traditions (for couples, singles, and anyone who wants to really live).

I've noticed (especially in the church) that singles and couples without kids spend a lot of time putting their lives on hold until they reach some kind of mythological status that will finally complete their lives and free them up to pursue their dreams. So I'll be writing directly to those two groups. However I'll share practical suggestions for living well that will apply to almost anyone. I'll write about the theology of celebration and some practical ways for celebrating in your daily life and creating simple meaningful traditions that help you to live more intentionally.

I hope you'll join me in October as we learn together how to live better more joyful lives that are overflowing with gratitude and celebration for the now. You can follow along by clicking on the subscribe button on the top right.

Are you participating in the 31 day challenge this year? If so I'd love to hear from you in the comments below. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Hold: #FiveMinuteFriday

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(It's been busy  this week but I'm so excited about what's in store. Next week there'll be a very special guest post and we'll start talking about 31 days. But like every Friday I'm joining with a community of writers that encourage one another. I write to process my week, discover what I truly believe and tell stories. You can join us here.)

I measure the ingredients out methodically. I have scoured the Internet for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe and I hope the one I've chosen lives up to all the hype. I mix in coconut sugar and cream it with eggs, butter and vanilla. And I pray.

This is new for me. Learning to pray over what seems like the smallest things. And this time I pray for him. I pray love into that dough. I pray that he won't see the end of a relationship as the end of himself. Or worse yet, the end of life.

I believe in the power of prayer. In community, God, life lived together, and presence. But I also believe in the power of a chocolate chip cookie. It is one of the few times that I get out the white flour and refined sugar I so staunchly avoid.

And I pray. I wrap the cookies with a personalized tag. And I pray he will feel, know, taste and eat love. I pray as he takes hold of that plate that he will be completely aware that he is anything but alone. And I pray he will remember what he knows of us. What he knows of Jesus. And perhaps this end of a relationship may be the beginning of life after all...

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ready: #FiveMinuteFriday

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(On Fridays I join with a community of writers that encourage one another. A lot of times you'll find me sharing stories from my own life because stories are my favorite. I also write to process the week and learn what I really believe. You can join us here.)

I stare at the page on my calendar. I'm supposed to call her on a Wednesday. Can you ever be ready for something like this? I think maybe. But I'm not sure. So much unknown.

I met her on Twitter. A girl who lives over 1000 miles away. I don't do this. I'm not one of those people that make "friends" on the internet.

But her tweets stopped me in my tracks. Her questions about God not healing when we've prayed and prayed. About when God is silent. When He doesn't answer. These are the things I cannot ignore. I know them all too well.

So I dial the numbers. And her voice is not what I expected. But is it ever, really? We talk for an hour and 20 minutes. We share stories. And eventually we unwrap even those. We go deeper. Both of us victims of abuse. Unbelievable losses, suffering, and life lived, in our short years.

God is funny, you know? I would have never said, "hey, I'd like to disciple this stranger I don't know who I met on the internet." But He knows. He knows what our hearts and lives need. He creates and weaves our stories so that, believe it or not, we're nearly always ready.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Orlando Ladies: You're Invited

 "What does it look like to build and rebuild in my life, with my gifts and my skills and do that for the glory of God?"

Have you ever felt alone? In your city? In your neighborhood? In your life?

Have you ever felt Restless? Convinced that you are are made for something greater? But not sure what that means? Or how to get there?

Yeah, I thought so. Me, too.

"By ourselves we won't make a dent in the rubble crushing those around us."


"This is a movement of women that actually believes God at His word that He could take us in our places and use us for His glory and the good of his people."

The mission of IF is to gather, equip, and unleash the next generation of women to live out their purpose. Does that excite you, too? When I first heard of IF roughly a year ago I knew it was something my heart had been longing for and that I had to be involved in.

If you feel the same way I'd love to invite you to join our first IF:Orlando gathering. We're meeting in less than two weeks with women all over the world to gather and pray:

  • When: Tuesday, September 23, 7:00-9:00 PM
  • Who: Women of Orlando
  • Where: Enders Park Clubhouse at Baldwin Park, 947 Fern Ave, Orlando, 32814
  • What: We'll pray, connect with other women in our neighborhood and share dessert and coffee.

Join our IF:Orlando group on Facebook here. RSVP for our prayer gathering here

Want to hear more about IF:Orlando? Courtney, another one of our area leaders, shares a great post here.

"We are going to be free and set others free. Period."


I'd love to here if you plan on joining us in the comments below. If you're not local to Orlando find an IF:Pray event in your area here.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Whisper: #FiveMinuteFriday

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 (On Fridays I join with a community of writers who encourage one another. For me it's a break from more practical writing and a chance to have a little fun. You can join us here.)

Inspiration strikes us all differently. Some of us feel like it rarely strikes us at all. Others feel forlorn when for once they sit down to write uninspired.

Part of my process for writing is visualization. It always has been. It's that way for everything. When I taught dance. In relationships. In life. I rehearse, replay, rewrite in my head over and over before I put pen to paper.

Like most women I work on my art in the fray. Like most writers I also make intentional time to write. And when my schedule clears unexpectedly I relish in the whisper of quiet. Silence. White space.

I don't always know where my writing will end. But when I get to that last period I know more of what I believe. I love the stories of those around me more. I find space to process my week, my life.

I stare out the window into a backyard that is much like a secret garden. Bright light wakes me up. I find inspiration in living. In nature. In the stories of those around me. But most of all in the beautiful mundane of daily life.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

For All Women: Who Create, Make Beauty, Give Life

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 "I've come to believe all women are mothers because we all bring life to the world...when we write, cook, plant, make beauty where there was none, speak an encouraging word, say a prayer, take a hand and form hope out of thin air, resurrect a marriage, save a life from poverty, bring forth light and truth and goodness in ways women are uniquely created to do." -Holley Gerth

Once upon a time, I sat at a desk in my private office during my lunch hour at the job I hated and got very very angry at Holley Gerth. Do you know Holley? She's an encourager, a writer, a speaker, but certainly not one typically stirring up controversy in the blogosphere. She's more of a "speak the truth in love" kind, than an incite you to anger kind.

But I was waist deep in one of the harder seasons of our infertility journey and I did not want to read her words. I did not want God to speak to me through that post. But most of all I did not want to believe the truth; Holley way right.


It came slowly to me. In those tear stained moments my soul shouted, "No!" Even as I gently heard God whispering yes. I did not want to embrace my current season. I did not want see where God was using me already to grow and birth things.

But at some point, over time I started embracing it. Sure I did not want to become a mother figure to twenty-something male college students. I certainly did not set out to "mother" a woman older than me. But it has happened again and again. As I feed people, meet there needs, listen to their heartaches, and make a welcoming space for them in my home, I continue to embrace my role of mothering.

There is still pain and loss and grief in this area of my life. I still have babies in heaven that I long to hold. And a failed adoption of two little boys that leaves a gap longing to be filled. But most of the time I have peace too.

God may never give us more children. I hope He does. But as I wait, not knowing His plans or heart, I try to savor this season. This season of nearly unlimited time with my husband. A season of caring for those who eventually go home and don't wake me up at all hours of night. A season of helping to grow so many things.


Once upon a time, Holley Gerth made me mad. Because she was right; all women are mothers.

So what do you think? Is Holley right? I'd love to hear your thought in the comments below.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Reach: #FiveMinuteFriday

Photo by Tom Benitez via Orlando Sentinel

(On Fridays I join with a community of writers that encourage one another. I write to process my week, discover what I really believe and to tell stories. Join us here.)

Things have normalized by now. It's been a week and a half. The details are foggy. What we know for sure is that in the midst of stray bullets, a girl lost her life.

And just days later we sat across the street from the crime seen on a porch that is very much ours. You can finds us there most Wednesdays and several other nights each week. The tension of random violence coming so close to home and a makeshift shrine outside the doors of a dance club is palpable.

But a local ice cream truck pulls in front of the shrine, either not knowing or not caring. And our view is blocked. And suddenly fifty-somethings, and twenty-somethings, and thirty-somethings become children again for a few short minutes.

I reach for my cone: always vanilla with chocolate sprinkles. And we're all grins from ear to ear. You can't help but smile with an ice cream cone in hand. Suddenly we're all children again. And we remember that the world does have some good left in it. In the midst of shootings, and Ferguson and our country's unrequited battle with mental illness, we have a bit of respite.

On this hot summer night both tragedy and ice cream cones are unifiers. And God reminds us that we need both. The bitter and the sweet. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A New Perspective on Missional Living: @MissionalWomen

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In the Fall of 2011, I was just over two years into our life and ministry in Orlando and I was struggling. We had moved to Orlando to plant a church and God had made it clear that our dream of what out ministry would be was not His. I had also grown up in the church and was suffering from a very narrow view of what ministry was. I didn't have a strong support system and I had just survived one of the hardest years of my life.

And I read a lot. And listened to sermons a lot. That sounds innocent enough. But having come from a legalistic faith tradition that didn't hold an accurate view of the Gospel, every preacher I heard or blogger I read made me feel more guilt and shame about what I wasn't doing to serve God.

Then I read an article that changed my life and realized two things. First, I had spent too much time trying to work for God and not enough time being with God. Second, I realized that I shouldn't be trying to do ministry exactly like everyone else. God had made and gifted me in a specific ways and those were the areas where I should seek to serve Him.

To hear my three missional living game changers continue reading over at Missional Women>>>>>

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How to Restart: Your Day, Your Year, Your Life

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There was a period where it was happening a lot. The Monday morning waking to a Paypal hack. The day with the water seeping into the bathroom floor. And a host of other days when things didn't go as planned, relationships were getting messy and life just felt suffocating. More than once, I have wanted to quit. Give up. Throw in the towel. And if you're honest, I know you have too.

Life doesn't go as planned more often than it does. Oftentimes that can make us feel ravaged, disheartened and discouraged. Like failures even. I know. I have been there too.

What I've learned these last eleven months of pursuing my dreams and those several weeks of things not going my way, is that you can always restart. Your day can be redeemed. Your year can begin again and your life's script is not complete.

Below are some simple ways I've been implementing "restarts" into my days and my life. Use them as a jumping-off point to create practical signals in your own life:

 How to Restart Your Day:
  • Pick a "begin again routine." For me this is either showering or a new pot of coffee. Stepping out of a shower make me feel fresh and new. And a new batch of coffee signals to me a new start at the work before me.
  • Change your environment. Leave the source of stress. Either go for a short walk, drive to pickup your favorite beverage, or grab your laptop and work somewhere else entirely for the remainder of the day. 
  • Use Pomodoros to manage your time. The great thing about this time management technique is that if you feel like everything during one Pomodoro went wrong. You've only lost 25 minutes. You can take a break and begin again. (Learn more here.)

How to Restart Your Year:
  • Get a new calendar. Did you know that half way through the year brand new calendars and planners are released? Buy a brand new one (they run from July to June) and suddenly you have a clean slate and a whole new year ahead of you. This is the brand I use and they're sold at Target. Or print your own here.
  • Go on a retreat. This does not have to be overnight but that is great if you can afford it. Ask yourself some intentional questions about the past year. Based on your answers, make some plans for the year ahead. (I often use the retreat models in this book.)
  • Choose a theme for the rest of year. You can do this however you like but One Word is simple and effective. My theme for 2014 has been Hope and it has really made a difference.

How to Restart Your Life:
  • Get experience, education, or training. What is the thing you dream of? Don't wait to live the life you imagine. Whatever the first step is to pursuing your dream, start now. Do you need to take night classes? Sign up today. Do you need experience? You can volunteer in your free time. Just take your first step.
  • Pursue your dream a little bit every day. Want to be a writer? A doctor? A professional juggler? Devote at least 30 minutes to your craft every day. I had to do this for years. It will not only make you better at what you do but it will also fuel your passion for pursuing your dream.
  • Make an exit strategy. Does your dream require a radical career change, a move, or some other big decision? Plan your exit now and start working toward it. 

More Great Resources:
  • If your trapped between your day job and your dream job: read Quitter by Jon Acuff
  • For practical encouragement for blending passion and professions: visit Live in the Grey
  • To implement practical rhythms for retreats and rest: see this post by my friend, Tom Nebel
  • If what you want is to be awesome instead of average: read Start also by Jon Acuff
  • For more inspiration from someone else whose pursuing her dreams: see this post by the inspiring Renia Carsillo

I'd love to hear your tips for restarting in the comments below.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

All the Things: An August Update

Image Credit

Perhaps you've noticed I've had a hard time getting back into my writing schedule since my July blogging break. While I don't usually do personal updates, I thought I'd share a few things with you as we prepare to dive into Fall:

  • In case you're wondering, we did not host a French student. Instead I learned some good things about God's timing and honoring my husband.
  • Can you believe I had to take a break from hospitality for a few week during July? More to come on that.
  • On July 26th we celebrated 5 years of life and ministry in Orlando. I still have some processing to do on these past 5 years.
  • I'm starting to connect and be able to use some of my gifts and passions at my church. This is an answer to a prayer of many years. 
  • I'm reading a lot of mindless fiction right now because I spent the beginning of the year diving into lots of serious stuff and needed a break. 
  • I am also reading Supper of the Lamb by Father Robert Farrar Capon. 
  • If you don't know, I work from home as a Virtual Assistant and I love it more and more each day.
  • I'm super excited about the Fall. It's my favorite season. I'll decorate my house, eat all things pumpkin, and go on some fun trips. 
  • A group of ladies met on August 10th to lead IF:Local in Orlando. More on that soon for all you locals.
  • The Nester's 31 Days will be here before you know and I'll be announcing my topic soon.

Thanks for your grace, support, and encouragement, friends! I'm so thankful for you.


Friday, August 8, 2014

Fill: #FiveMinuteFriday

(On Friday I join with a community of writers that encourages one another. I use the weekly prompt to find my writing voice, discover what I really believe, and oftentimes to tell stories. You can join us here.)

Somebody fills the cups to the brim and they're there waiting for us. The first time goes fast. I say the words over and over, "the body of Christ, broken for you." They take their bread to dip in the cup. I use their name if I know it. Most look me in the eye the same way I do to them. Most smile. A lot say "amen" or "thank you."

But the first time it goes fast. I rush my words. It's exhausting. I wonder if the Body broken for me can keep having meaning after all that rushing? But then the lines of people stop and we, the servers, go up to him for our portion of the bread and wine. And to each of us he says it with such meaning, such passion, that it's like the first time every time.

So the second time, and the third time, and all times after that I go slower. I recognize that my words and speed control the pace. I go slow so others may feel it's the first time, every time. So that we both might be filled with newness of the blood that washes away all our sins.