what i read in january.

I feel refreshed after a month of getting back into a reading routine and gaining momentum after a two month period of finishing not. one. single. book. In summary, I read 24 books in 2016 with an average of 2 books a month! I hope to kick that number in the butt in 2017, but am pleased about the titles I accomplished and lingered over this past year. You can find all my past book reviews here. 

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  • Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (And Everything In Between) by Lauren Graham

Writers: how therapists buy summer homes. 

Lauren Graham is the main star of two of my favorite shows, Gilmore Girls and Parenthood. This memoir, unlike A Year In The Life, was no disappointment. (Although the endings of both leave the same confused and hopeless feelings. Just a warning.) Graham took us through the beginning of her career, season by season through Gilmore Girls, gave writers some fantastic tips, skirted us through the adventures of her love life, and gave a lovely tribute to Parenthood. It was light and breezy – there wasn’t a real common thread that pulled the whole book together in harmony which at times annoyed me.  I received this one as a gift on Christmas day and had it finished within a week! If you love Gilmore Girls as much as I do, definitely pick this one up. As a bonus, I already had Lauren’s voice in my head as she told her stories and that added to the simple charm of the book!

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  • Writing Down The Bones: Freeing The Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

I write because there are stories that people have forgotten to tell, because I am a woman trying to stand up in my life. I write because to form a word with your lips and tongue or think a thing and then dare to write it down so you can never take it back is the most powerful thing I know. I am trying to come alive, to find the distances in my own recesses and bring them forward and give them color and form.

This book was the best book I have read about writing to date. I have had this one on my shelf for almost a year, but once I gave this book more than a glance, I couldn’t put it down. I decided to not highlight my favorite segments, because I wouldn’t quit highlighting. I love Goldberg’s unique voice, how she faces the struggles, reality, and glory of writing. I’ll keep this one nearby for years to come and pull out an essay or two when I am feeling discouraged and at a dead-end in my projects. Natalie Goldberg is a Buddhist, so at times the book stretched out of my belief system and comfort zone, but it’s important to read a bit from people you don’t understand and overall that didn’t overshadow the heart of the book! I was expecting a boring yet helpful book on writing, and instead was met with a poetic, thrilling, helpful account!

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  • Girl Meets Change: Truths To Carry You Through Life’s Transitions by Kristen Strong

When God uses change to send us packing, He sends us with the promise of blessing too.

January held some gut-wrenching change for me, and the rest of the year will be no different, so I picked this one up on a whim when I was taking care of my responsibilities at my church library. This book was a helpful companion, and I would recommend it, especially for those who are new to the faith or need a “change of scenery” so to speak! Kristen Strong was a new author for me. Honestly, I didn’t like her style of writing at all, but the heart of the God-given truths kept me going until the last page.

Currently reading…

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp (for the second time)

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend 

Abiding in Christ by Andrew Murray

Way of the Heart by Henri J. M. Nouwen

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines

Friends, what are you reading right now? Do you have a monstrous reading goal marked for yourself in 2017? Tell me what you have recently hated or loved!

 

 

 

 

the broken way: a playlist of hope & remembering

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp has been a powerful catalyst in my life since I first opened one of my first launch team e-mails in September 2016 and started scrolling through chapter one, to highlighting on my Mac late into the night so that I could finish the book before I met Ann herself, to present day: rereading my physical copy as it is already showing signs of use and love. This book has shown me that I don’t have to afraid of my brokenness, because through my weakest places God can reveal His power to the world in a way that He couldn’t if I would live my days as a put-together-always-smiling-actress. That maybe the hurt I despise could lead to intimate communion. That I can give freely and confidently, because I am loved deeply. You can find my full review on the book here: daring to live the broken & cruciform way.  Visit TheBrokenWay.com for the moving trailer, free printables, all the best reviews, and a direct link to getting a copy all your own.

The hard truth? Sometimes I am so weak that I don’t feel like I could bear the weight of a page, my own or someone else’s. On other days, I am on the go either working at my computer or commuting several hours a day roundtrip. No matter where I find myself on that spectrum, I still always need to be reminding myself of the truth that Ann pens simply and poetically: “You’re guilty, but not condemned. You’re busted up, but believed in. You’re broken, but beloved.” That reminder could come in prayer, gift-blitzing, the ministry of presence, practically a thousand ways… but one way that I have found extremely healing for my soul is in music. Perhaps you need to remember the truth of who you are, too?

I am about to kick off The Broken Way study with over a dozen women in my community tomorrow night. I made a playlist brimmed full of melodies and lyrics that resound the message of The Broken Way for them, and for you. The lyrics hold stories of heartache and resurrection, redemption and true community from artists like Jason Gray, Kari Jobe, Lecrae, and Tenth Avenue North.

Take a scroll and listen while you kick off this brand new semester, do the dishes, drive to that presentation, or go pick up the kids from school. Exhale. Grab some hope and light. Bookmark it, tuck the words away in your heart, and save it for a rainy day. I’ll do the same.

 

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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your 365 step guide to a powerful new year

Glory, hallelujah for January 1! How does it feel to be settling into a new chapter?

We are reaching nine full days in 2017. I don’t know about you, but the first week of the new year I believe that almost anything is possible. I can write the book. I can shed the weight. I could fall in love. I can start brand new. 

I hope that I will serve you all better and love you well in 2017. There are literally thousands of internet homes you could be visiting instead, and I don’t take it lightly that for even a shred of time I hold a piece of your valuable time and your heart. I want to make this space inviting, beautiful, and challenging (in all the best ways) for you all year long. I might be more quiet some months more than others, because this year holds big changes for me as well as time dedicated to a few nameless-for-now-Kingdom-rooted goals. But, I promise, you never leave my mind and you are one of my favorite places to land, to reflect, to grow in Christ’s love and instruction.

This year, I didn’t hold back on my goals. Last year, I set some worthy ambitions but never broke them down into attainable, daily steps. The truth is this: you don’t get a renewed mind without being in the Presence of God, a new body without putting something different in your mouth, and you don’t get a cleaner house by googling “cleaning strategy”.  I looked into the face of the things I want in my own life that I have the power to control and said, “This. This is your year.” I threw my excuses in the garbage. I began. I’ve started a vision board. I’ve processed through the good, the bad, and the ugly of 2016. I’ve made a plan of how I want to steward my time. When I stumble on the way, I stop playing victim and continue chasing. But here is the thing: beginnings feel sexy. It is exciting to feel the burn after your first post-holiday workout. It is thrilling to see the first few pounds shed during your first week of clean eats. It doesn’t feel daunting to dig into a project, the study, the semester when you have a bright idea of how it will all turn out. We all know and have experienced that change doesn’t last all year long on adrenaline alone. I won’t succeed with my ambitions this year until they become actions in my daily routine. You don’t become an avid prayer warrior by talking about it, you don’t get the date without asking for it. You’re never truly loved until your heart is exposed. You don’t get vibrant, bigger faith by playing it safe.

Good intentions? Ideas? Pinterest boards? They are home base. They are wonderful tools to keep you going! We kickstart from those spaces, but we don’t succeed until we choose the same thing every day when we get up in the morning. Do you want to know how to get the year you really want? The one you start itching for the day after Christmas? Make a choice. Make another choice. And keep making those choices 365 times. 

This is my urge, my push, my call to you as we plunge wholeheartedly into the new year:

“…Fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” – 2 Timothy 1:6-7

FAN INTO FLAME THE GIFT OF GOD

You have a gift unlike any other. It won’t blossom by itself. Fan that baby into flame! Pray over it, exercise it, feed your heart with truth, weed through the lies, and repeat! Sure, this year won’t go like you plan. Life will throw you curveballs and you might wonder what is worth all the inconvenience. You’ll get discouraged. But you know what is bigger than our daily anguish and disappointments? God’s love and majesty, grace and joy. If we live like we believe in those things, He will readjust our hearts, shape our manmade goals into God dreams, and mold our year into something so beautiful only He could do it. 

NOT OF FEAR

I know the main way that people try to run out the back door on their new year resolutions on January 15th, April 2nd, July 4th is through fear. I’m not good enough, I don’t have time, why does it even matter? You have to believe that you’ll have the strength to not stay the person you were the year before. That means you’ll experience joy and discomfort, both of which can be terrifying. Don’t dwell in what didn’t get done in 2016. Push. Let go of the weight of your own expectations and let God use you. Run. You are worth it. You belong here. 

OF POWER

If we are in Christ, we have the power of the living God who rose Jesus Christ from the bloody grave by his mighty grace inside of us.

The real question is, church, what can’t we do if we are battling on the side of the Father? Running after God dreams? Fighting the good fight of faith? Becoming a better temple for His Spirit to dwell? Seeking to glorify Him in all things?

OF LOVE

In our frailties and bitterness, the paradox of the human heart, God gives us the growth of lovingkindness. He gives us the love and we hand it right back to Him as a sacrifice when we reveal that kind of true love to the people under our roofs, in our circles, at our tables, across the street, and around the world. Because we have His power, we are able to minister His love with wider implications and a much deeper impact. What if love got a bigger name than chaos did in 2016? 

OF SELF-CONTROL

What do you need to say no to in order to say yes to the ministry God is awakening inside of you? A quiet, suffocating addiction? A relationship?  A responsibility that zaps life out of you? Brothers and sisters, He has given us the power to say no to things that don’t love us back, anything that keeps us from healthily furthering the gospel, and the love to make the tension of the decision worth it.

We’ve been commissioned to do shocking, tough, holy things. We weren’t given a spirit of laziness, of doubt, of unbelief. Power is yours. Love is yours. Self-control is yours.

What would you do if you were automatically promised a yes? Success? Being loved back? If you had never been burnt out? Start there and stay faithful.

In Jesus’ name, what will you accomplish?

 

 

five choices to turn this Christmas week upside down

See this post at it’s original home The Rising.

This week a lot of hurt is highlighted and identities are shaken. We say, “My love won’t be enough, I need to buy them a little something more. The house doesn’t look good enough, I need to get busy. This year wasn’t productive enough, I need to squeeze in tighter jeans and wake up earlier before January 1.” Or, “How do I look into the face of the people I’ve disappointed with love and how do I look in the mirror and not see failure? Loss took my sleep and my heart this year, how do I sing Joy To The World here when it is hardest to even breathe?”

This week has the potential to add to your weariness or it can make you clap in celebration. You can come to the stable humble or you can stay cold. You can beat yourself up or you can dare in hope. You are invited to make His love your home, but you can choose to remain in lies.

I ask you this – how do you want to remember this December? When you look back at this in the years to come, what do you want to see more than anything else?

As I think over that question for myself, these are the choices that I am carefully crafting and praying over these holy days.

choosing the better thing

When Jesus came to the house of Martha and Mary in the village he was visiting, Martha was whining that Mary was at the feet of Jesus listening to his teaching and not helping her clean. Scripture says in Luke 10:40 that “Martha was distracted with much serving.” My heart understands Martha’s. I so often choose to clean up my act before I allow myself to sit with the Lord, but Jesus said this to Martha in her hustle and impatience:

“You are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

— Luke 10:41-42

Our culture belittles soul-rest, let alone sitting at the feet of Jesus to simply listen. To admit our need and to come to sit at His feet. So what better way to make a stand for the kingdom of God then to choose time with Him over things that can be taken from us in an instant? It sounds crazy to our busy world that is distracted with productivity and independent, but our strength that comes from Christ alone is unmistakable and our time in the presence of God can never be stolen.

choosing forgiveness & gratefulness

God has awakened much in me lately, but I know for certain that He has moved me towards less anger, more forgiveness, and true gratefulness. It’s not easy, and the process is only beginning, but one step toward freedom is not a small thing. If in these next few days, we would acknowledge our hurt against others instead of lashing out in anger, what would happen? When it’s easier to choose judgment and bitterness, let’s choose pain and compassion. Let’s ask for the grace and the other-worldly strength. Let’s choose being hurt over being angry. It doesn’t sound normal, but God coming as a baby was not normal. It is upside down from everything we had expected. That is why it means everything to us.

choosing to come humbly to the stable

It’s the truth of our identity that we can’t live forever unless we are born again. The sweet thing, the overwhelming thing, about Jesus’ birth is that now it is made possible. When we come to the stinky stable in all our own grime and accept the wild truth of who this God-child is, we are adopted as beloved children. It all sounded crazy and impossible to a bunch of Jews who just knew that Mary must have committed a crime, but we know the truth that it was only the beginning of Christ baffling man’s expectations as He created the gospel story. Kristen Strong said it this way: “Wrapped in the swaddled bundle of a wee babe is a startling truth: sometimes God allows change in our lives so we can have his presence like never before.”

choosing to give generously

We have been given the best gift, and the only Gift that matters and eternally lasts. How much more should that encourage us to wrap joyfully, to deliver packages and joy? We have the chance to give generously year-round. What better way to open conversations about God’s grace and faithfulness than when we are giving gifts than during the curiosity of the world when it is Christmas? The chances are, you are going to give something in the days ahead: will you give Good News or stress? Will you give from necessity or out of love? It’s no trivial thing, shedding beauty wherever we tread. Will you be a little crazy with me? Do a touch of the unthinkable? Let’s not grumble in our to-dos… let’s make it simple (we have nothing to prove!), keep our thoughts grateful when plans get destroyed and homes get messy, and lavish love wrapped in bows and hugs with generous hearts! We have been given a Savior! How much more should the church be moved to give happily as a symbol of true love and forgiveness?

choosing to make the truth of God-with-us into a God-with-us party!

I know it sounds impossible. You are burnt out, and it is impossible to get it all done. You don’t have time to sit and pray, because the guest bed needs changing and the gifts need wrapping and your heart is bleeding. Do you want to know the gospel’s all-encompassing truth? The baby was born so that the veil could be torn. He is God-with-us. You can take Him with you. Take Him to the store, see the world under redemption’s light. Give Him a seat around your Christmas tree, and watch the glow on your family’s faces like never before. God-with-us sometimes means prayer rooms and silent corners, but God-with-us gives us the freedom to tap into His presence in the driving and eating and dancing. While half of the world feeds on greed, give Him your heart and your home. Ask Him to come and flourish in His birthday party. Ask Him to be in the unspoken disappointments and needs, the comfortable silences, and the loud noise of family.

Rejoice, oh church! We have a stable to celebrate in and a cross to confess beneath. Rejoice, because we have both places to crawl. You see, everything broken and restless and insecure in us comes alive and whole in a baby in Bethlehem. Everything that aches and is helpless – finds healing and hope. On that not-so-silent-night, all our lives shifted and had a chance. I am captivated by a God who carefully thought through how to come to this earth so that He could sympathize with us, save us, be with us.

Merry Christmas, friends. See you next year. 

lessons in living Advent

“And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

— Luke 2:36-38

I cannot shake Anna out of my mind. This story takes place just one month after Jesus is born. While at the temple when Anna the prophetess heard that the baby had finally come, she was glad and began to declare the good news. Can you imagine? “Messiah has arrived! God is in our midst! Redemption is on the way, Jerusalem!”

Luke 2 tells us that Anna was the the temple night and day, worshiping.

Fasting.

Praying.

The girl knew how to live Advent. You don’t stay in the temple day and night if you don’t know that the waiting is worth it; if a Savior coming in the darkest night isn’t what you need most.

When I first sunk into this passage, I began to ask the Lord to give me a desire for His Word. I want to be a woman that pulls back those sacred pages every single day. I want to know my Shepherd’s voice. When I read that Anna never departed from the temple, I felt like I had been punched in the gut. When was the last time I gave Him more than ten minutes to truly minister to my heart? Am I willing to be vulnerable? Am I willing to wait to hear from the Lord, or do I give up when He doesn’t show up in the way I would like?

“Waiting is an art that our impatient age has forgotten. It wants to break open the ripe fruit when it had hardly finished planting the shoot.”

— Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I want a faith that looks into the face of emotions and circumstances and says, “My God is bigger than you. And His Kingdom is coming.” I want to be faithful, sorting out the lies about myself and the God I serve in exchange for the truth of His Word. I don’t want to slap His name on a bunch of empty good deeds and call that a legacy. Prayer is the means by which theological truths seep into my bones and become actions. Therefore, I want to be immersed in prayer. I want to live from and pour out of the love He is always manifesting within me. I want to stay in the fight, and I don’t want to fill up on a thousand things that don’t love me back.

Anna didn’t know the timeline of when her Lord would finally come, and yet she was continually seeking the heart of God. She didn’t give up during the first week of hunger or silence. She looked outside herself and she lived in humility.

You can find part two of this post over at my home away from home! Click here to visit The Rising.

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!! 

the ultimate Christmas playlist

Are you bored of listening to the same old track again and again? (I love that new Maroon Five single, but WHEW it is time for a little variety). Do you need to get the Hamilton soundtrack out of your head for a hot minute? Do you need some background music for your holiday festivities? Whether you are wrapping presents at home or on a ride looking at Christmas lights around town, I have the perfect playlist for you!

I have compiled an ultimate playlist of all my holiday favorites and there is something for everyone! I’ve got theologically rich tracks for reflection and party jams for dancing. I’ve got songs for feels *insert Michael Buble* and songs for reflection, country albums from my childhood and jazzy albums I’ve discovered in recent years! You’ll find anything from the classics such as Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin to recent picks such as Sam Smith, Mariah Carey, and Lauren Daigle!

IMPORTANT: you must must must MUST listen to Jason Gray’s Christmas album titled “Christmas Stories: Repeat The Sounding Joy” if you don’t listen to any other Christmas music this season. It is my favorite Christmas collection hands down. He writes a song for each person in the nativity story along with several of the classics, and it is nothing short of stunning. It is the first album in my ultimate playlist, so you can’t miss it!

Each song, however eclectic the collection, holds a sweet meaning or a Christmas memory for me. Without further ado, go get busy and listen to these festive tunes!

* emilee’s ultimate Christmas playlist *

 

What are your must-listens every December? Tell me what favorites I missed! 

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.

Is America Blessed?

Is America blessed? In this post I do not plan on bashing the state of our country and I will clarify by saying that I do not take for granted the unexplainable gift of being born and raised in the country that I was. But when I look beyond the surface of materialism, I am anxious not only for the status of our country, but for the status of the church within our country.

I see comfortable Christians with high gates up around their hearts and around their homes. Is our community filled with more products than people? Are our routines built more around making money and staying busy rather than investing in relationships? Are we building our whole lives out of clumsy and temporary things? Or are the temporary places showing people our eternal hope?

Look at who Jesus says is blessed in the kingdom of God from “the Sermon on the Plain”: the poor, the hated, the sad, and the hungry. I am asking God to strip away my preconceived cultural context as I read this Scripture. Most things in the kingdom of God are upside down from our perspective. So in this moment I am asking God to allow us to see His upside down way as supreme and holy, as worth following.

“And he lifted his eyes on his disciples, and said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.’”
— Luke 6:20-26

This time in our world calls for people who are living hungry for righteousness, those who weep with those around the world who are weeping, for those who stand up and out for the sake of the gospel. I see people who are satisfied and comfortable and superficially rich. Until we begin being blessed – embracing our DNA given by the Holy Spirit – and until we remember that this earth is temporal, our world will not be the changed for the better. It’s a paradox of kinds: the more we focus on the kingdom of God regardless of our cultural circumstances, the more our worlds improve as a fringe benefit of knowing Christ. Unless we become hungry, we won’t be filled. Unless we weep, we won’t experience laughter. Unless we make ourselves poor to the world and rich to Christ, we will have gained nothing.

In summary:

Examine yourself.
Change starts with you. If we want to see revival, we have to first show people what revival is. Ask yourself: am I hungry for more of God and less of this world? Am I compassionate? Am I standing out in the midst of darkness? Do I consider all less rubbish compared to loving and knowing God?

Focus on the eternal.
This world? I don’t have to point out how overwhelming it is and how it changes every day we wake up and scroll through the news. Although we must remain awake to our surroundings, we will not touch this world when we are always succumbed to the distractions it holds. When you are working hard down here, point people upward. When you are running your race, remind people of what the finish line is worth to you. When you seem like you are catching all the woes of this earth, remind your soul of who your Jesus calls blessed. When you seem crazy fighting hard against mediocrity and injustice, remind those around you of the God who is worth it all.

Blessed are the ones who are hungry and mourning and betrayed, for they trust the One who is unseen.

You can find this original post at my home-away-from-home, The Rising!