on the promises of growth and green fields.

You can find this post at it’s original home, and other favorite place to hang out on cyberspace, The Rising! 

big thanks to Phil Frigon for letting me use his stunning photos! 


Every spring in the Flint Hills of Kansas, when wind is unusually slow and the promise of summer introduces itself once again with each evening growing longer, the farmers burn their fields.

To someone traveling from either coast, it is both brilliant and mystifying. The smoke-filled sky at times would warrant for shelter. The smell would send you packing. Either it would look unsafe or it would be chalked up to Midwestern madness.

In all seriousness, though, it is an annual event and it is crucial to the health of our land.

The burnings are preventative and protective. Like a pruning. It helps to keep destructive growths from invading the invaluable prairies and reproductive fields.

I remember, just a few weeks ago, I was on my evening commute observing the fires around me on each side. I whispered with a smile, “It’s all going to be green soon.”

The fields were charred black, smoke filled the air, and I saw the promise of growth.

When I look at my own life, I usually see regression before I optimistically claim victory.

Consequently, every spring I usually fight a hard spiritual fight due to lack of focus, my increased desire to sleep for as many hours as I possibly can, and because of laziness in my quiet times. I mistake pruning for destruction, bad days for a bad life, and spiritual dry spells are wrongly defined in my heart as a withdrawal from the Father.

Job didn’t do this. In Job chapter 1, Satan has asked if he can try to divert Job’s faithfulness. He believes that Job only loves the Lord and lives righteously because he has had a good life. Therefore, he has in mind to make Job curse God’s name. Step one of the process has begun. Job’s whole family has been killed and his property had been stripped away. The evil one wanted and expected Job to curse God’s name, but instead he blesses it. After he had lost what some would call his entire life, this is how Job responds:

“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”

— JOB 1:20-22

He fell on the ground and worshiped.

Job could have chosen to tear his robe, fallen to the ground, and given up entirely. But he chose worship. He did not ignore his grief, numb his grief, or live in denial. He saw the reality of his surroundings and still chose a godly rhythm of grief and trust.

Because of the fields in Kansas and Job’s riveting example, we know that living a God-glorifying life is not stitched together by good intentions. I don’t find the presence of God by ignoring His Word, by staying closer to my phone than my prayers, by covering up hurts with busyness. Living life with bare-minimum risks means that we reap bare-minimum harvests.

“If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface, I must be ploughed and re-sown.

Hand over your whole self. Your whole broken self. Given-ness. Because this is far easier than pretending to be whole and not broken. . . .The heart has to be broken and plowed and resown if it’s going to yield. The change must go deeper than the surface.”

— ANN VOSKAMP, THE BROKEN WAY

What you and I must do is be proactive. Ask God to test our hearts with fire for things that will hinder the growth of His kingdom. We open our Bibles when we don’t feel like it and ask Him to show up. Because when we ask for more of Him, He never says no. Instead of slapping clichés on our wounds, we tear our clothes and expose the wound, so that His wounds touch our own. We can look great darkness in the face, because we know the Light is always near. The call of the Christian is not to always be happy about our life – but to keep walking daily with our God, trusting in His promise of joy and the fullness of life, in the midst of it all.  If our faith is a faith that only believes in the fruit we can see, it isn’t faith at all. Because what looks like destruction can be a resurrection of our hearts, our lives, our land. What may look like nothing on the surface, is new life being rooted in the ground. A pruning that is making all things better than before.

I’m praying that God would give us that same rhythm of grief and trust. I am praying and I am taking action steps. So that when winter seems like it is never leaving, we can look at the horizon and say, “My help is coming. It’s all going to be green soon.” On days when we don’t see the victory, instead of running away in fear we can bless the name of God with quiet trust. When we look at near-destruction we say, “He is making all things new.” And when we feel the aches ravaging on our own heart we have the hope to say, “He is here, even now.”

Because the storms will come – Oh God, let us fall on the ground and worship. We don’t want to ignore You, deny You, or curse You. We are here. We are not submitting to mediocrity in our Christianity – we want more of Christ. We are waiting expectantly on Your Presence to do something remarkable with these ruins. We acknowledge that we are not the point, we never have been. Ours is the victory, not all the answers. When we see charred black seasons in our lives, help us remember you are preparing a life worth waiting for in the tension. Let our lives be a set of praise hands toward heaven – You give. You take. Keep our palms wide open in worship.

 

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saying yes to being eternally set free

[post originally published at my favorite home-away-from-home, The Rising.]

What does freedom in Christ mean? If I am free, then why is it not okay to do whatever I feel like doing? If freedom doesn’t mean that I can do whatever I want, then what is it for?

Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

This passage answers our questions by saying: Freedom doesn’t mean living according to the flesh and the countless paths it might take you down. It means submitting to a good God and throwing all empty promises behind. Freedom doesn’t leave us defenseless and wandering for our own sense of purpose. Freedom gives us a place where we can throw our worries behind and plant our feet safely. Freedom is not carelessness. Freedom changes our place of submission. Freedom does not mean that your life is summed up by a dictator, but given by a Savior. Christ died so that we could live under a life-giving law made to protect us and give Him all the glory.

If I am free, why do I feel weighed down?

In Galatians 5 verses 2- 6, Paul explains why the church of Galatia needed to give up their hang ups. “…if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision not uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”

The Galatians were convinced that you couldn’t inherit eternal life unless you were circumcised, and Jesus suddenly shows up on the scene and changes everything. Jesus changes the requirements from laws and sacrifice to accepting a gift? Yes. The Old Covenant had taught that their life was all on them. God has always been the same good God, and He graciously provided a way that didn’t leave those under the law hopeless, but He knew that they couldn’t keep the entire law on their own. He made another way. The Old Covenant said, “Follow these rules and when you mess up take care of it very carefully.” The New Covenant says, “You are mine. Accept my grace. Take it as a gift. Come follow me, and if you truly know me, you can’t help but be changed.”

I think we all have a bit of Old Covenant thinking in our midst. We stuff lists and lists of ways of life and things to accomplish in our heart and say, “When you finish, He’ll love you.” On the alternative, He loved you therefore He came to free you from all kinds of bondage. If we think that others have the foundation of their relationship with Christ on a petty requirement, we have fallen away from grace. He died so that we could live unafraid and unashamed. Accepting anything less is man-made religion that means nothing to Him, and ultimately means nothing to us. If you feel weighed down instead of taking heart in the gospel of Christ, perhaps you’ve carried an Old Covenant truth as your New Covenant way of life. Clinging to those ideas and promises leave us confused, because that carries the weight on us and not on Christ. If we make our lives about us and not about life from and because of Christ, if we accept empty religion, if we carry everything over from the Old Covenant, we accept a perversion of perfect, present grace.

If I’m not under the law, what does it look like to work under a standard of grace instead

Galatians 5:16-25 points to walking according to and with the Spirit, opposing the way of your flesh and defying the odds in the way you live your life. Paul instructs to stay pure in your heart and with your body, to fight back feelings of bitterness with forgiveness, to be united amongst one another, and to not rely on the things of this world to satisfy what only God can. At first glance, it seems surprising that after Paul rants about their obsession with the law, he gives more rules. But there’s something different here. It’s not just a list of do-nots. With the command, comes a promise: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is now law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Jesus isn’t about boring, petty requirements – He is about faith worked out in love, called fruit.

Work in Christ might be hard temporarily, but it’s not heavy permanently. It is not oppressive. John Piper says, “He offers his fellowship and help, and even makes the life of obedience a life of joy. The Christian life is a life of freedom because it is lived in the power of the Spirit.” Following the world leads to temporary pleasure and eternal destruction. Obedience in Christ may involve temptations and hard decisions that say no to the things that entangle us to the world. Saying no to the things of this world may not feel joyful, but produce long-lasting joy. When we obey Christ, we don’t become His by our own doing, but literally love Him back. To obey Christ might mean momentary confusion, hurt, or seclusion → but a life dedicated to obedience guarantees a life of love, community, adventure, and joy.

Life with Christ doesn’t exclude trouble, but it promises victory. If you are wrestling with God, or feel far from Him, I ask you the same question Paul asked the church of Galatia in chapter 5 verse 7. You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?

If you are hindered from running on the mission of Christ, that didn’t come from Him. Anything that destructs and oppresses is not from the Father. Because…

For every hard no required of us, there lies a better, sweeter yes in Christ.

What is freedom? Freedom is running unhindered and being kept close to the heart of God. Living out commandments that were made for our care in mind with His glory at the center. We accept the grace that allows us to not be justified by what we do and show the world we love Him back when we say yes to His will. We loudly proclaim Galatians 6:17:

“From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”

Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

This passage answers our questions by saying: Freedom doesn’t mean living according to the flesh and the countless paths it might take you down. It means submitting to a good God and throwing all empty promises behind. Freedom doesn’t leave us defenseless and wandering for our own sense of purpose. Freedom gives us a place where we can throw our worries behind and plant our feet safely. Freedom is not carelessness. Freedom changes our place of submission. Freedom does not mean that your life is summed up by a dictator, but given by a Savior. Christ died so that we could live under a life-giving law made to protect us and give Him all the glory.

If I am free, why do I feel weighed down?

In Galatians 5 verses 2- 6, Paul explains why the church of Galatia needed to give up their hang ups. “…if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision not uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”

The Galatians were convinced that you couldn’t inherit eternal life unless you were circumcised, and Jesus suddenly shows up on the scene and changes everything. Jesus changes the requirements from laws and sacrifice to accepting a gift? Yes. The Old Covenant had taught that their life was all on them. God has always been the same good God, and He graciously provided a way that didn’t leave those under the law hopeless, but He knew that they couldn’t keep the entire law on their own. He made another way. The Old Covenant said, “Follow these rules and when you mess up take care of it very carefully.” The New Covenant says, “You are mine. Accept my grace. Take it as a gift. Come follow me, and if you truly know me, you can’t help but be changed.”

I think we all have a bit of Old Covenant thinking in our midst. We stuff lists and lists of ways of life and things to accomplish in our heart and say, “When you finish, He’ll love you.” On the alternative, He loved you therefore He came to free you from all kinds of bondage. If we think that others have the foundation of their relationship with Christ on a petty requirement, we have fallen away from grace. He died so that we could live unafraid and unashamed. Accepting anything less is man-made religion that means nothing to Him, and ultimately means nothing to us. If you feel weighed down instead of taking heart in the gospel of Christ, perhaps you’ve carried an Old Covenant truth as your New Covenant way of life. Clinging to those ideas and promises leave us confused, because that carries the weight on us and not on Christ. If we make our lives about us and not about life from and because of Christ, if we accept empty religion, if we carry everything over from the Old Covenant, we accept a perversion of perfect, present grace.

If I’m not under the law, what does it look like to work under a standard of grace instead

Galatians 5:16-25 points to walking according to and with the Spirit, opposing the way of your flesh and defying the odds in the way you live your life. Paul instructs to stay pure in your heart and with your body, to fight back feelings of bitterness with forgiveness, to be united amongst one another, and to not rely on the things of this world to satisfy what only God can. At first glance, it seems surprising that after Paul rants about their obsession with the law, he gives more rules. But there’s something different here. It’s not just a list of do-nots. With the command, comes a promise: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is now law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Jesus isn’t about boring, petty requirements – He is about faith worked out in love, called fruit.

Work in Christ might be hard temporarily, but it’s not heavy permanently. It is not oppressive. John Piper says, “He offers his fellowship and help, and even makes the life of obedience a life of joy. The Christian life is a life of freedom because it is lived in the power of the Spirit.” Following the world leads to temporary pleasure and eternal destruction. Obedience in Christ may involve temptations and hard decisions that say no to the things that entangle us to the world. Saying no to the things of this world may not feel joyful, but produce long-lasting joy. When we obey Christ, we don’t become His by our own doing, but literally love Him back. To obey Christ might mean momentary confusion, hurt, or seclusion → but a life dedicated to obedience guarantees a life of love, community, adventure, and joy.

Life with Christ doesn’t exclude trouble, but it promises victory. If you are wrestling with God, or feel far from Him, I ask you the same question Paul asked the church of Galatia in chapter 5 verse 7. You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?

If you are hindered from running on the mission of Christ, that didn’t come from Him. Anything that destructs and oppresses is not from the Father. Because…

For every hard no required of us, there lies a better, sweeter yes in Christ.

What is freedom? Freedom is running unhindered and being kept close to the heart of God. Living out commandments that were made for our care in mind with His glory at the center. We accept the grace that allows us to not be justified by what we do and show the world we love Him back when we say yes to His will. We loudly proclaim Galatians 6:17:

“From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”

the secret to finding holy rest

In 2 Chronicles, there are two battles that are told side by side that note two important components of the Christian life. We can’t afford to only see each of them individually, but to open the eyes of our hearts to both of them in order to more fully see the truth of who we are to be.

2 Chronicles 18 describes the king of Israel, Ahab at the time, fighting in the midst of everything with his army, disguised so that no one would recognize him from the others, considering the whole army of Syria had been ordered to only be after him. The army of Syria thought Jehoshaphat was king of Israel (instead of king of Judah) and fought against him. In the midst of the fight, Jehoshaphat cried out. It says in verse 31: “Jehoshaphat cried out, and the LORD helped him; God drew them away from him.” They realized he was not indeed Ahab and soon scattered. When the story seemed to be looking up, Ahab was struck and immediately realized his fate, asking to be taken off the battlefield. The battle did not cease. He listened and watched the battle, “propped up in his chariot”, and “at sunset he died”. I It was a battle where the army was pulled together to fight hard and fearlessly. Afterward, King Jehoshaphat returned to Judah.

Later in 2 Chronicles 20, Jehoshaphat is once again heading to a discouraging battle and calling out to God, humbling himself at the thought of battle: “In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you…. For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (verses 6,12). God answers Jehoshaphat in verse 17: “You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.”

There are two kinds of battle we face in our daily walks: the ones we fight until we are dog-tired and bloody, confused at the ending but surrendering it all to the Lord and the ones we watch and wait with belief for our deliverance.

There is one thing that is required of us in every single type of battle, regardless of what it’s for, whether we will be doing the fighting or God will completely take care of us without our interruptions:

We are always, always called to show up.

 We are commanded to stand firm, to hold our position, to remain unafraid regardless of what we can see.

We don’t have to worry about the outcomes, but we still go out to meet the battle. Whether we fight hard or watch for the Lord, in both situations we call upon the Lord to move.

We can’t stand firm in how we want to see the battle becoming, but we can stand firm in the promises of God. That He has got us. We don’t have to fight, love, walk, win, forgive, or surrender alone.

What does standing firm accomplish? As we see in 2 Chronicles 20:29-30, “…The fear of God came on all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard that the LORD had fought against the enemies of Israel. So the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around.”

When we stand firm we can be confident that people will take note. And whether we are the destination or a stepping stone on the way to this realization, people will know that something as amazing as a battle lived like that can only come from God. They will see that even when you didn’t know what to do, your eyes were on Him.

Your battles, beloved? I know that they are tantalizing. Confusing. They make you want to stay home and face your back to them. But the focus is not on the success of your battle, but a dependence on God that lead the nations to see His face. When you get on your face before the LORD, call for help, and stand firm in the promises of God? Overwhelming armies are exchanged for rest all around. Rest is not found in laziness, but reliance. Rest isn’t in numbing yourself away from your one life, but from embracing what God has for you in all that lays ahead. Your battles are complex. Show up to them anyway. Stand firm in the hope of your God being with you. Maybe your battle won’t recede, but your holy rest is coming.

[ visit my friends @ Walk In Love & find my Stand Firm sweatshirt here! ]

what i read in february

This month puts my tally to seven books so far this year! I am passionate about each of these books on my shelf this month. The common threads, unintentionally, have been solitude, idolatry, technology addiction, pressing against lies, ministering with compassion. These books have made me wonder why people don’t read and how in the world they function without books. Everyone that owns an iPhone would benefit from Changing The Subject, every minister should read The Way of the Heart in seminary, every Christian should invest in Counterfeit Gods, and The Broken Way continues to take my breath away. Humor me? Read on for all the good words about these books that my nose was stuck in this February.

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  • The Way Of The Heart: Connecting With God Through Prayer, Wisdom, and Silence by Henri J. M. Nouwen 

We have, indeed, to fashion our own desert where we can withdraw every day, shake off our compulsions, and dwell in the gentle healing presence of the Lord. Without such a desert we will lose our own soul while preaching the gospel to others. But with such a spiritual abode, we will become increasingly conformed to Him in whose name we minister.

Henri Nouwen’s pen, I am convinced, was made of gold. This account is easy to read and gives a deeper level to Christianity’s simplest lessons in a way that convicts and inspires. This book touches on how we have replaced compassion with systems, living life together for meetings, action for God as intimacy with God. Nouwen redefines ministry, what it looks like to live out a true ministerial life, and the problems of how we have been approaching it in the 21st century. I highly recommend this read if you are seeking more prayer, solitude, and compassion in your life… or, maybe, especially if you don’t know why those components even matter on the daily. (This book would be especially profitable for church staff, pastors, and those in leadership roles in their communities!)

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  • Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power and the Only Hope That Matters by Timothy Keller

We become like what we worship.

In this book, Keller takes the three main things that we have set before God as a culture and points to the truth of how life in Christ trumps everything the world has to offer. What made me love Tim Keller even more in this book, is that he is aware and awake to the problems of our secular and church culture. He knows what is going on outside of his generation and has such a gift for pointing us to the Scripture that applies to the same issues we are wrestling with today. Counterfeit Gods made me ask myself what motivates me to wake up in the morning (is it an idol or my God?) and made me look at money, sex, and power completely differently. This goes on my list of “Christianity Classics” and I’ll be recommending it for years to come.

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  • The Broken Way: A Daring Path Into The Abundant Life by Ann Voskamp

In Christ, I  am chosen, accepted, justified, anointed, sealed, forgiven, redeemed, complete, free, Christ’s friend, God’s child, Spirit’s home.

Oh, The Broken Way. This was my second journey through The Broken Way, and so much more came alive to me on this time through. I led a small group in my church and we watched the accompanying videos and discussed our readings each week. Something I appreciated that wasn’t at the front of my mind when I read it last October, was how Voskamp doesn’t just tell us truth, but invites us to live the story with her. I appreciate her honesty that doesn’t make me feel like it’s impossible to live a messed up, cruciform, yet-truly-abundant life. To see my first full review of the book, go here. If you’ve read The Broken Way and don’t want to let the truths of the book get dusty in your mind, check out my book-based playlist. 

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  • Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age by Sven Birkerts

Do most of us truly wish to be in the swim of the digital “now”? Or is it more that people are afraid of not being in that swim? Could both be true at once? Almost everybody I know makes the same superficial complaints about the distraction, the triviality, the frustration, the self-alienation, you name it. At the same time, there is clearly such a powerful, and, it seems, increasing desire to be in touch – to express ourselves, to hear from others, to  be caught up in that pulse for a time eases our essential loneliness.

A T T E N T I O N: Everyone that owns an iPhone needs this book. While The Way of the Heart was about the spiritual implications of noise in our lives, Birkerts takes on a more intellectual angle. It’s about our generation’s “fragmentation of focus” & being “choked by noise”. How technology is literally rewiring our brains, our kids’ brains — how it’s changing the way we communicate & see art. It initially made me want to pull every iPad from every little kid’s and grown adult’s hand, and honestly? I don’t think that a bad thing. We need to be more aware of the issues of connection, attention, and communication because of the silent change brought on by our devices. Simply put: this book has encouraged me to forget about my phone more often, embraced people over systems, buy in physical stores when possible, create with no distractions, and read more books. If I ever go completely off the grid, y’all can blame Sven Birkerts.

Currently reading….

 

Ethics by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

…and currently contemplating on what titles to choose for the weeks and months ahead!

What authors and topics have been keeping you flipping pages as we dig in deeper to 2017? Tell me what books have been on your mind in the comments!

intro to vision board-ing.

Making vision boards is something that I have only habitually done since this past Autumn, right before my school semester got cranked up and I needed some focus and direction as I looked into the days ahead. It has always been revitalizing for me to work with my hands. I love painting, knitting, and finding treasures hidden in common day magazines, but regardless of what I am making it is having the satisfaction of making something that can never be recreated precisely the same way that is so life-giving.

While I have made magazine art that doesn’t directly correlate with a season of my life, I have found it beneficial to create a piece that holds images and headlines that help me think of the next few months in a positive light and inspire me to be a real, tough goal digger.

My girl Hannah Brencher stated it this way and I couldn’t agree more: I’ve needed a hobby for a while and something about this has really fueled my heart to create more, dream more and expect more from God. In the midst of flight delays, I went to the store and got a sketch book for $5. Been using all my old magazines to dec these pages out with prayers and inspirational articles I find. Amazing outlet for anxiety. Beautiful way to cast vision but also get inspired by the visions of others.”

I keep my vision board as a desktop screensaver so that I catch glimpses of it every time I open my computer and in transition between projects. You can read all about my fall vision board HERE.

 

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GET STARTED

you will need the following:

  • A pile of old magazines that you won’t feel like reading in entirety again. I used a Lane Bryant catalog I got in the mail in December, an old fortune, Good Housekeeping (that Lauren Graham article though!), a Christian Bible Study flyer, and tons of Real Simple.
  • Stick glue.
  • Cardstock paper. I have used acrylic friendly as well as brown kraft, both work nicely! The important thing is just having enough thickness to the foundational page that won’t soften or bend the end result.
  • Scissors.
  • A safe space to spread out.
  • Coffee and Ed Sheeran optional, but highly recommended.

 

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GET THINKING

In my first session for this project, I started with a huge poster board. Eventually, I ditched the overwhelming bulk of it and moved to a smaller page. I love the idea of keeping a small sketchbook! It was more challenging to fit everything I wanted to include in the smaller piece, and I was sad to see the rose gold floral pictured above go, but it helped me to prioritize what was worth keeping for both looks and implications.

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GET MESSY

The great thing about making vision boards (or vision journals, as some people like to lovingly refer them), is that anyone can do it! It’s not something that requires three consecutive trips to Hobby Lobby. It won’t break the bank, and it will still get your creative juices flowing, as well as propelling you onto a better life even after you’ve finished. Most of us have scissors, glue, magazines we aren’t reading, and a few pieces of paper lying around! It is easy. While time consuming, I believe that even the least-creative of people can get into the puzzle of it all. As Hannah has said, it is amazing hands-on work for someone with anxiety. It feels good to dream, have control over design, put thoughts to paper, create something concrete and beautiful. Lastly, there are no rules! You don’t have to explain why the simple phrase “don’t be afraid to shift gears” or the image of the pencil with shavings laying all around awakened something inside you, if you don’t want to. This isn’t a project for school (most likely). It’s for you, so do whatever you want! Nothing has to match. If you like it, it goes! Rearrange. Allow for some craziness. Include everything you like, and then slowly design and make the final cuts. Get messy. (Most of our lives need to be pre-approved by someone, so it’s important to make art and cook dinner and remember who we are! Especially because so much of the rest of our lives are out of our control.)

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While there are no rules, when I am creating a board for the next season of my life, I try to create a section based on multiple areas or main events. This time around, I made a section on health, writing, my relationship with Jesus, other creative work, community life, a shout-out to coffee, learning, and graduation. The section on health was significantly larger than the others because a) my heart and body is craving whole wellness like never before! and b) the materials I was working with catered to the topic.

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GET CREATIVE. –> GET EFFECTIVE.

In the end, there will be things you want to change. You’ll want to add just one more word, move something that doesn’t sit the way you wanted it to, recreate a corner because it’s not as Instagram-worthy . Celebrate anyway! You got off your phone for a few hours, moved those fingers beyond a scroll, and thought your own thoughts. We live in a world of headlines that make us want to shut down and give up. The most important thing is making smiling, reviving headlines. 

Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. – Pablo Picasso

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how to be light when you don’t feel light.

It is the holiday season. Turkeys are being devoured, families are gathering, and in the luckiest places, snow is falling.

Across the world, these next few months of holidays are known as the most wonderful time of the year. I hope that this note finds you feeling that cliché down in your bones. I hope your days are becoming a perfect blend of work and sleep, rest and play. I need you to know, though, that you are not standing alone if you are dreading the winter and the holiday parties that seem to point out everything you don’t like about yourself. Maybe your nights are coming sooner and you are just craving some bright and merry days.

The truth is that so many of us are worn and battered from a rough year. Our hearts have taken a beating, a few dreams had to die, and we worked ruthlessly. The year didn’t turn out as we had hoped. We thought that we would be ice-skating with our new bae by now, or giving our parents the news of a pregnancy, feeling the happy change of something when the weather changed too.

We feel so-worth-rejecting. Or simply so-not-worth-loving.

I don’t tell you this as someone who has all her mess packed away tidy in a suitcase, as someone that doesn’t know what all of that feels like. I tell you this as a friend, as someone who has been there: you are so worth loving. When you put your feet to the floor in the morning and already feel a rush of defeat, you are so worth persevering. When you are dancing barefoot in the kitchen, you are so worth celebrating. When you feel gross and when you feel gorgeous, you are always worth affection. When you are wrestling deep in the night with covers and with lies that don’t seem to settle, you are so worth fighting for.

It would mean the most to me if you would read the whole post at its original home –> SO WORTH LOVING!! 

currently :: vol. 5

For those of you reading this post soon after November 18th, welcome to the new and improved emileeclemons.com! It may seem like a trivial cosmetic change but who doesn’t love a fresh start? A chance to renew vision and passion? Everything has been tweaked, redesigned, and a few things have been completely rewritten so explore a bit and get reacquainted with my new little blog home!

The whole month of October was a complete whirlwind for me, and the past two weeks have been all about resettling into consistent work and school. But now I am officially on my Thanksgiving break! THANK GOODNESS & all the people said amen. Read all about what I’ve been up to lately –>

October in short summary.

14 States in 4 weeks. 2 Countries. I got a new car. Conquered my first college final. Enjoyed two separate college visits to Kansas State University. Dressed up for 2 fun sessions of senior pictures. I was invited to Ann Voskamp’s house and by multiple gracious miracles, I had coffee in her backyard and hugged her neck less than two weeks later. That afternoon, I participated in Ann’s #TheBrokenWay book launch party and met many new friends, including Ann’s family and reconnecting with the singer Jason Gray. We all celebrated the new book, shed a few tears, and praised the Lord together. I spent a total of two nights in Toronto, and flew straight to a missions conference in downtown Minneapolis the following day. The conference was four days long, and I had the great joy and privilege of meeting Pastor John Piper and thanking him for the ways his writing had influenced me! Next up — a wild weekend in Jackson, Mississippi including: 28 hours in the car roundtrip, meeting my pen pal and one of my best friends in person for the first time, and participating at Propel Women (where I got to worship with Kari Jobe, under teachers like Priscilla Shirer, and finally see Hannah Brencher speak in person). And somewhere in all of that, I did homework and loved on babies and threw a few parties. It was a blast, and it was a month I will never forget.

little joys.

Autumn and finally having cold weather!

Starbucks red cups.

The 1st birthday of one of my favorite boys in the world. Cue all the nostalgia and feels and happy tears.

bookworm.

I am currently reading Gone With The Wind for the first time and The Broken Way for the second time. I don’t reread books often, but my heart begged to go through The Broken Way slower than when I was reading it for reviewing purposes. Hopefully I make good strides with Gone With The Wind this week too!

music all day, everyday.

Frank Sinatra on vinyl.

Justin Timberlake.

The Weeknd.

Michael Buble’s new album Nobody But Me.

JBiebs Christmas, old school, and modern.

balance.

October had no balance. It was full on headaches and adrenaline. (Absolutely not complaining, just facts.) However, November is greeting me with earlier bedtimes. I am trying to learn how to enjoy my life before all my homework is done — this is key, especially with finals approaching!

netflix, yo.

I AM GETTING SO PUMPED FOR #AYearInTheLife GILMORE GIRLS REUNION. Who is with me??

But, until the PARTY PARTY, I have been watching Andy Griffith, the “new” Bewitched movie, all the old Gilmore Girls, and Grey’s Anatomy.

my thinking cap.

I am brainstorming for many blog posts in the near future! Stay tuned!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Hug your families tight, take countless naps, make a list of all the things you’re grateful for, prepare those Christmas playlists, and eat lots of turkey.

my fall vision board :: blog-tember

I took a webinar class from Hannah Brencher last month. It was on discipline, and the nitty-gritty of making big dreams small realities. One of her homework assignments was making a vision board, so later that week I spent one whole afternoon flipping through magazines clipping out what I found inspirational and challenging.

Every quote and picture and word spoke to my heart and pointed towards my goals, especially for this season of autumn. I have the board nearby, but I see it most as my laptop screensaver almost every day. I truly love the way it turned out and that so little pictures can represent so much of the person I want to become.

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Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

This board inspires me to live like this and more:

being a happier person than the grump I was all summer.

looking and feeling more brave. regaining a sparkle in my eye. 

working towards a lighter weight and whole health. 

conquering loads of homework.

making tangible to-do lists that create more balance and less stress. 

rest in reading and netflix. drinking coffee. writing letters. 

praying about an upcoming trip.

being the best, truest friend that I can be. 

making my phone my least priority, especially when people are around. 

immersing myself in prayer. 

growing into the person that six-year-old Emilee dreamt of. 

being grateful to God. serving well and showing my thanks to those around me. 

of course, my personal quote addition that I love so much: writing like flannery. dancing like usher. studying like dietrich. loving like taylor. dressing like audrey. smiling like adam. 

living my movie! laughing and watching more jimmy fallon! 


It has been a healthy challenge to join in on the blog-tember challenge! Click the image above to read from many others joining in, creating, and learning together! 

 

 

 

beyond the myths: a real look at homeschooling

Read this whole post at The Rising! 


“Homeschooled children have greater potential to work outside the box because they are educated outside the box.” — Thomas Purifoy

I just went to my first official classroom only two weeks ago, and I have been schooling at home for the past twelve years. Homeschooling is widely misunderstood. I wanted to start shedding some light on what homeschooling is really like. This past week, I have heard from YOU – The Rising readers – and have loved your questions! I will be answering all of them today. I know that I cannot begin to speak for everyone. Keep in mind that I am speaking today only from my personal experience, or from the perspective of friends. I have full respect for all kinds of schooling. I am in no way implying that homeschooling is for everyone. However, I believe I should share from my experiences, because something so close to my heart is often ignorantly thrown under the bus – whereas, if more people knew the truth, they could discover something truly life-changing for their family.

First off, is it all awkwardness and illiterate children?

Most often, it is the exact opposite: kids and teenagers that are excelling, reading well, and are extraordinarily healthy socially. There are most definitely exceptions: some parents shelter their kids from the real world, normal social interaction, or they don’t stay disciplined. But most families that decide to educate at home are striving for a higher education, and don’t often settle for one that is below average.

What prompted your family to homeschool you?

There were definitely a few things that went into the decision. My parents were committed to upbringing a Christ-like child. By homeschooling me, they would have direct guidance over the kind of literature and worldviews my textbooks would be feeding me daily. My two older brothers graduated from public school, and my Momma had worked in the public school systems. Mom had witnessed poor treatment of children (either behind their backs or in their presence) that she saw hindered them in a place where they should have been actively flourishing. When I was ready for kindergarten, lots of our closest family friends were also homeschooling and they were huge influences. Because of our strong networking and support system to get us started, the decision was made easy.

What is your daily schedule like?

In my elementary years, my youngest brother was still in public school, so I would get up early in the morning and start with my schoolwork. Mom and I would do devotions together, and then we would dig in to my lesson plans for that day – which included unit studies like human anatomy and the rainforest, reading history texts and answering questions, dissecting sentences, art projects, flashcards for memorization, Mom reading a chapter of a classic book to me aloud, math problems, and science experiments.

In middle school, it became a balance of textbooks I could work through solo and still working side by side with my mom in some reading and all of my math studies. I slept in most days, and rearranged my schedule accordingly! Most often I would start school in the late morning, take a lunch break, and finish up in the afternoon depending on my work load for the day.

In my past three years of high school, Mom still made up my lesson plans, helped me whenever I had questions, and graded my papers. But, primarily I have taught myself through freshman to junior year. I’ve never stayed with a specific order in lesson plans – so as long as I crossed everything off in my lesson plans for the week, I rearranged the order however I wanted. I’ve worked a part-time job since turning 16, so more often than not I have worked half a day and then done school during the other half.

What are the differences in curriculum when compared to public school?

One of the many beauties of homeschooling, is that you choose your own curriculum! The biggest difference is that you can buy textbooks with Christian worldviews, no matter what the subject is. BUT, that definitely doesn’t mean all homeschoolers are Christians. You can choose whatever curriculum you would like, and most often I had a different curriculum for each subject based on my learning styles and preferences.

Do you still have to take standardized tests, get grades, have a GPA, etc?

I have taken many standardized tests over the years. My mom has always graded everything with discernment and grace, and she has figured up my GPA. As far as HAVING to take tests and show my grades, though, that changes from state to state. I have lived in Iowa, Mississippi, and Kansas, and every state law has looked different. In the standardized tests, I usually tested two grades above average in most subjects so we started to take them less often as I got older and moved to a state that didn’t require them every year.

Was there anything about public school that you felt like you missed?

Yes, of course! I will never go to a prom. I will never have a class reunion. When I went to public school sporting events, I always felt out of place so I eventually stopped going to them altogether. There are things I felt like I missed out on, but they aren’t things that make me regret my family’s decision. With every decision you make in life, you are saying no to really great opportunities for something you believe is better. I believe that is why I wanted to continue homeschooling, even though my parents always kept the option open for me to go to public school. There are things I missed, but there are also things that my public school friends missed out on that I had the opportunity to be involved in. Homeschooling fit just right for me, and although it’s hard sometimes to feel left out, I wouldn’t trade the long term impact that homeschooling has made for any of the short term things I may have missed.

Do previously homeschooled students typically find they are either under-educated or over-educated when later attending public school/a university?

I haven’t ever heard of a student feeling incompetent or under-educated when entering the public school or college setting. In the case of someone feeling a little behind, homeschooling teaches you to be a critical thinker and you are already accustomed to teaching yourself tough new concepts. This means that you have the skill to work independently on the things you don’t understand (which is especially vital in college), and you are able to think outside of the box when it comes to subjects that you were already well-rounded in.

Is there much exposure to the community during the time of being homeschooled?

This is ultimately a family-by-family decision. I was heavily involved in family life, church groups, homeschool group classes or parties, and community events.

Tim Tebow was homeschooled, and he explains it well in his book Through My Eyes:

“Another thing that I think homeschooling helped me with was that we all learned how to talk to adults at a much earlier age than some of our friends… Regardless, the ability we acquired in being able to talk with and to be around adults has benefitted me greatly… We weren’t just surrounded by kids like ourselves all day who were just speaking at our own level of maturity and content. We were challenged to grow in being able to build and have relationships with others – of all ages.”

Name three keys to successfully homeschooling.

Community. It is possible to homeschool without a support system, but practically and relationally it is best to have a team of people alongside you. Discipline. With great flexibility, comes a heavier weight of responsibility. Creativity. Make it fun! And don’t take the privilege of being able to school at home for granted.

What was your least favorite part about homeschooling?

By far, dealing with homeschooling myths and ignorance was definitely my least favorite part. Although I love to answer questions and abolish as many myths as I can, sometimes I wished that I could mention school without having to answer a list of often skeptical questions and face sometimes hurtful comments. Another hardship was not being able to contribute to a lot of my peer’s conversations when they were specifically discussing their sports teams and daily classes. Most of my peers only talked about school – which makes sense, because it is the largest percentage of their life and most of them have the same experience in common. I don’t feel like homeschooling was a hindrance in me making meaningful relationships (it taught me to be outgoing and intentional in a way that public schoolers don’t learn as naturally), but small group discussions were often challenging when everyone was consistently comparing teachers and projects that I wasn’t involved in at all. But my true friends always drew me back in and never let me feel excluded for long.

What did you like about being homeschooled? What was your favorite thing?

Maya Angelou said, “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” I loved the safety and flexibility of homeschooling. I don’t know what it’s like to be a homeschooled extrovert, but as an introvert it only added to my success. I grew up in an environment where I could be myself and broaden my mind without worrying about how I measured up to the kids around me. As I have just started learning in a classroom with peers, I am seeing the value in having a strong sense of self before entering an environment where you naturally compare yourself to others. I love that homeschooling allowed me to travel constantly, go slower when I didn’t understand, sprint ahead when a concept came easily to me, to teach myself effectively, to live a simpler life that wasn’t constantly defined by hurry, and that it enabled me to build rich and unique relationships with people of all ages.


If you didn’t have the opportunity to ask a question before this post, feel free to engage in conversation and drop your questions in the comments below. This post was meant to stand as a kick-off to opening up more informational and kind conversations on homeschooling! If you are interested, don’t let the conversation end here.

For more information on homeschooling, here are some links to articles and a video from homeschooler and recording artist Jamie Grace  – some include humor, some include plain statistics. They are golden resources and hopefully they can clear up anything I may have missed!

For Statistics & Research:

http://www.nheri.org/research/research-facts-on-homeschooling.html

https://www.time4learning.com/homeschool/homeschoolstatistics.shtml

Google search “homeschool statistics”

Well-known people who have homeschooled or were homeschooled themselves:

https://www.homeschoolacademy.com/a/famoushomeschoolers/

A MUST SEE video giving another personal account:

five things that bring me joy :: blog-tember

Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world. – John Piper

There are thousands of momentary pleasures that make me happy. Like trendy coffee shops and watching Jimmy Fallon and smelling cologne. God is most certainly in the details of my life, from laughter and drinking to homework and life-changing decisions. But joy is a little different in that it gives life and it is long-lasting. The Greek word for joy [χαρά] properly means “the awareness (of God’s) grace”. When I look at that distinction, these are some of the top things that fill me with joy.

  • Resisting temptation and going to Him for satisfaction first.

It is hard to be vulnerable, and somehow I have found it’s even harder before God, because I know that with Him there is no show. Before Him all things are laid broken and completely bare. I cannot say things to cover up where I have been, because He is in my life behind and presently and ahead. But, when I don’t fall into temptation, and I ask Him for help, finding His deliverance in those moments are full of joy. Of overcoming. Of going against the odds. Redemption feels too good to be true. I guess too good to be true, but it is could be another definition of the grace that Jesus died to give. Fresh strength makes me aware of unlikely grace.

  • Stretching outside of my comfort zone and finding Him there.

Whoever said being a Christian was boring were unbelievably wrong. There are often dry spells, but most often – whether we realize it or not – they are of our own doing or because of our circumstances. Walking with Him is an adventure. I love the thrill of saying yes to some crazy idea He has for me, anxious to see if He is trustworthy, and – of course – finding that He is. This journey of following Christ makes me aware of thrilling grace.

  • Being on a team, in community, in relationship.

I love it when conversations eventually seep below small talk, and the conversation begins to look like rhythms of confession and sharing. Heart-to-hearts are not the only kind of conversation that matter, but I love walking away from a conversation where I know for certain that I am not alone. The feeling of being on a team goes beyond deep conversations though. It can come in that electric moment when you are in a stadium of people and your football team wins. Sometimes it looks like that knowing glance you exchange with a stranger in the airport. Living life alongside so many other people is rickety and we don’t often do it with excellence, but it is a gift. Community makes me aware of personal grace. 

  • Beauty in countless forms. 

Observed in a friend’s smiling face, a baby’s contagious giggle. The Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The Flint Hills of Kansas. Hiking in Uganda. A hand-painted canvas. Architecture that beckons you to come closer and join its history. Trekking through a suburban city in Ecuador. Beauty is revealed to us in a million different sensations on this earth, but the Lord uses it all to display his glory. Beauty makes me aware of stunning grace. 


 

The blog-tember challenge is a blast to be a part of! Click on the image below to get all the inside scoop…