Category: faith

Today I’m inviting you up onto my blog porch, pouring you a cup of hot coffee, and sitting down beside you to hear from one of my favorite people. When I say “favorite” I mean it in the sense that I have always admired her coolness from afar, not in the sense that we hang out all the time in real life- although I’m fairly certain we would if we still lived in the same city. I have known Bruk for well over 10 years, and watched her grow from a confident, self-assured teenager into an effortlessly cool, relentlessly authentic, stunning-from-the-inside-out, grown up lady. It seems that Bruk has always known exactly who she is, and as a fellow woman, I find that to be both refreshing and inspiring.

She does interesting things like make jewelry, write songs, and take pretty photographs, and she does brave things like live in Africa for a year. The words she wrote here are just one small part of her big story.

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“When she reaches for him, you reach for Me.”

Those words changed my perspective the teeniest bit.

You know… when you know that God has the best plan for you, but you don’t entirely believe it until He gives you a fresh look? Maybe you don’t know. In my mind I’m the only person that doesn’t always trust God, but go with me here. I’m about to get real open about some stuff that I just don’t like getting real open about.

I’m 28 and single. When I say 28, I actually mean 27 and turning 28 next week, which is weirdly freaking me out. And when I say single, I mean it in every sense of the word.

Always. Forever. Single.

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It’s recently been pointed out to me that being single isn’t really the thing I struggle with, so much as the fact that I’ve never had a relationship. While I almost think that’s true, it’s also sort of not.

I’m good at being single. That’s the thing that scares me a little bit. I live mostly on my own. I’m great with power tools. I support myself, move as I wish, travel as I wish, shop as I wish. When I have a date I’m not thinking “Oh man, I hope he likes me!”, I’m thinking, “Oh crap, what if he likes me?” and the self-sabotage sort of starts there. Read More…

This week’s guest post is from my friend, Kris Camealy, and I’m thrilled to be hosting her words because they are honest and real. I hope that you, like me, see an echo of yourself in these paragraphs, and are encouraged.

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I sat down on the front stoop the other evening and watched a flock of Canadian geese fly overhead, while my kids scattered themselves down the street, making new friends with the neighbors. They’d been recruited for an impromptu soccer game happening up the street, in the common area between a couple of houses, an invitation unlike any we’ve ever had. This kind of living is completely new to us.

Before we moved here in March, for nearly twelve years, we lived on a noisy, unfriendly street that over the years, became more and more transient with the shifting tides of the economy. Our neighbors changed frequently as houses changed hands, suffered foreclosures, became rentals and so on. The neighbors who did remain we rarely saw, on account of a number of factors.

But it wasn’t all their fault. We could have made more of an effort.
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When my husband and I first moved to the old house, we had one toddler and one baby on the way. After walking through a number of nasty houses, we stumbled into a house that was clean, tidy, and move-in ready. We didn’t deliberate long before signing on the dotted line. We made our home there, and for a while, tolerated the openness of our large backyard. But as the boys grew into preschoolers, and we added yet another baby to the mix, the lack of fencing around the perimeter of our yard gave me pause. Our backyard became a regular cut-through for teens making their way to the bus stop, or to the main road. People regularly walked through our yard as if it were a public thoroughfare, and honestly? I hated this. The regular foot-traffic of strangers across our property made me feel unsafe, and caused me great angst when the children wanted to play in the yard. This, coupled with the fact that our home sat only one house into the neighborhood, off of a busy road, made me long for a fence to keep the kids in, and the wanderers out.

As soon as we were able, we had a 6 foot privacy fence installed all the way around the backyard. I would no longer have to deal with the neighbors dogs pooping where my kids played, or the teenagers behind our home traipsing past my living room window on their way to wherever. My kids could play freely without my worrying that they’d somehow make their way to the busy street out front. This was exactly what we wanted.

But now? I would no longer see my neighbors.

Before the fence, we’d greet each other while returning our trash cans to the backs of our homes, or while raking the yard or letting the dogs out. Before the fence, we could wave hello as they sat on their back deck, or grilled burgers across the lawn.

Before the fence, interaction with our neighbors happened naturally, without much effort, without any pretense.

The fence gave us exactly what we wanted. I still think we needed the fence for all of the reasons I mentioned, but at the same time, we lost something too. When we locked the door on that house for the last time, after 11 years in the only neighborhood my children had ever known, we didn’t say goodbye to anyone. We had no relationships there to grieve or miss. We’d been rooted there alone, and partly by our own doing.
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After nearly 12 years in what felt like a social dessert, we’ve miraculously landed here, on what is arguably the most social street in the state. Six months ago, I didn’t know places like this actually existed, outside of Hollywood sound stages and sitcoms. We are living in a place “where everybody knows your name”. For real. It’s crazy-amazing.

Almost no one has a fence.

Our current backyard is a wide open space that bleeds indistinguishable into our two neighbors yards. Our children play between the houses, and in the common area situated smack out my kitchen back door. On any given afternoon, half of the neighborhood can be seen wandering between each others homes, sitting in each others driveways, and wandering in and out of each other’s garages. Here, you can’t help but see each other.
I’ve thought a lot about fences since we settled here. I’ve thought a lot about the ways we build them in real life, and relationally. If I am honest, I liked living behind a fence. It made me feel safe. The 6-foot privacy fence erected behind my old house is not the first fence I’ve lived behind. Or hidden behind. It’s only in the last couple of years that God has revealed to me, what a master architect I have been at building fences.

Last year, God called me to launch GraceTable, a hospitality themed website where writers share stories of what it is to love their neighbors, to live in community and wrestle out what Jesus meant when He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself”. GraceTable is a virtual space, but through it God is teaching us what it means to make actual space for people. As we have been coming around to the idea of practicing intentional hospitality, it’s not lost on me that God planted us here, in a neighborhood free of fences. This is a place God is growing me, growing us, as a family. We are learning what it is to let others in, to let them walk on our grass, and discovering the beauty of fence-free living.

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Kris is passionate about bringing people to the table to be nourished by good words, good food and Jesus. Meet Kris at her blog, kriscamealy.com and on Instagram @kriscamealy. Kris is the author of the book, Holey, Wholly, Holy: A Lenten Journey Of Refinement and the founder of GraceTable.org, a community Table open to all who are hungry for more of Jesus.

You guys are in for a treat today. In fact, it’s kind of like a double treat, so, you’re welcome.

Not only do you get a hilarious peak into the creative process of real life editor, Cara Sexton (which made me feel a whole lot better about my own creative process, btw), but you also get a sneak peak into the making of Soul Bare: Stories of Redemption, which officially releases August 5th! That’s tomorrow!

You guys. This book is amazing. It’s a compilation of stories from so many of my favorite authors and each one is real, raw, personal and gutsy. Do yourself a favor: Order it. Go to your local bookstore and buy it. Borrow it if you have to. Just get your hands on it! Read it. Let these stories refresh your tired soul. Be blessed.

Okay, here is Cara’s post!

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I’ve always been fascinated by the creative process of other writers, and I also aspire to one day teach writing classes. Because of my unparalleled expertise in this area, when Amber asked me if I’d consider guest posting on her blog (ohmygosh, did you hear that?! Amber Salhus asked me to guest post on her blog EVERYBODY BE COOL), I figured you all could take a lesson from me on one of the important aspects of blogging/writing/being basically awesome in every way.

Here are 10 easy steps for writing a guest post for one of your favorite bloggers when the opportunity presents itself:

Step 1: Promise to deliver it on Sunday or Monday.

Step 2: On Tuesday, begin existential panic. Read More…

A few months ago when I was arranging for these summer guest posts (by the way, aren’t we so proud of me for planning ahead?) I was thrilled when Melissa generously offered to contribute her words. I know personally how difficult it can be to keep up with our own projects, so I don’t take it for granted when other writers go out of their way to collaborate. Also, yay for a new friend! I connected with her writing style right away because she’s got just enough sass and humor to keep things interesting. I knew she’d fit right in over here, so please make sure you head over to her website when you’re done reading this and check it out.

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Once I was a bridesmaid at a fancy wedding at a fancy country club. I had no business in this place but I loved my friend so much and I committed to her so I wore that periwinkle taffeta with a smile as pinched as my shoes. I ran to the restroom before the ceremony because fancy makes me nervous. Afterwards, I grabbed a cool drink and took a quick stroll by the pool.

I noticed some admiring glances from inside and it made me feel beautiful and confident. Smiling coyly, I tucked my hair behind my ear to let everyone know I was cool with the attention. As it turns out, some sweet older lady let me know the back of my dress was tucked up into my pantyhose.

I bless that woman to this day.

Hiding in the bathroom for the rest of the night was the only logical thought I had but the bride kept calling to me from the other side of the door. The sound of my precious friend’s sweet voice made me have to think hard about things. There were many reasons why I could’ve stayed perched on the commode fussing over my pride like a brand new baby.

But…I was really only there for one reason.

And I also really wanted to dance.

The feelings I had the night of that wedding remind me a lot about how it feels to do what God calls us to: a little naked, vulnerable, and sometimes foolish and drafty. Read More…

Today’s guest post is by my new friend and fellow hope*writer, Carrie Stephens. I connected  with Carrie right away because I could tell she’s a person who likes to laugh, but also isn’t afraid to get deep. I’m thrilled to share my space with her because I just know you guys will appreciate her words.

After you’re done reading this post, head on over to her blog and show her some love! (Sorry, did I just get bossy?) I didn’t mean to. It’s just that I’m still on the road-trip, its past midnight, and I’ve technically walked over 45,000 steps in the last two days, so once again I’ve lost all ability to be genteel.

I know you’ll understand. Because we’re comfortable with each other like that.

Without further ado, here is Carrie’s post!

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When I was six years old, my friend Dayna and I liked to play hospital. One of us was the pregnant woman, the other was the nurse/Doctor/entire hospital staff. I had seen an episode of General Hospital at a friend’s house (yes, my mother was appropriately horrified), so I knew everyone made very dramatic faces in hospitals. We made sure to do likewise.

Nurse: No! No food for you! [insert maniacal laughter]
Patient: [Languishing with hand over forehead] Surely this will be the end of me!
Doctor: [Heroic face] “Don’t worry…I will save you and your baby!” [Pulls baby from under the blanket over my stomach.]

The narrative always went this same way. Mean nurse. Heroic doctor. Easy-to-deliver baby. What we lacked in our understanding of reality, we made up for in imaginary awesomeness. Read More…

As you guys know, I’ve arranged to host some guest posts here throughout the summer and I’m so excited because today I finally get to share the first one with you!

It’s a dandy, too.

You guys are going to love this one.

Steve Wiens is a writer-friend, as well as a pastor, and today he’s pulling back the curtain and giving us a behind-the-scenes peek into the reality of life as a pastor. Growing up as a preacher’s kid myself, I can relate so much to his words, as well as the personal struggles and rewards that are so closely entwined with life in the ministry.

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Being a pastor is the best, worst job ever.

First of all, you have the dubious honor of attempting to speak for God on Sundays, and most of the rest of the week, too. When it comes to a layup like John 3:16, we come out smelling pretty good. God loves everyone, everywhere! I love that one, and I try to sneak it into just about every sermon I can.

But what about when it comes to the one where God piles one family in a large boat, along with all the animals, except the unicorns (who apparently were having coffee or frolicking in the hills or didn’t print their boarding passes on time) while the rest of the world drowns? I’m not sure where the hope is in that one. And why is it that this story is the one that gets painted on the walls of every kids ministry room in every church in the northern hemisphere?

Which brings me to the babies. Whenever I get to dedicate or baptize one of them, I cry great big pastor-tears. Whether they gurgle and coo when I hold them or let out a blood-curdling scream of anguish, I love them all. I baptized one of them recently who was wearing a little baby-sized fedora and bowtie. For reals. Babies are cute, but babies with fedoras? You had me at hello. Read More…

As you guys know, I’m a firm believer in hospitality and inviting people in. In the last year I’ve made it a priority for this blog to be a continuation of that; a place where I make room for others to share their stories. For someone else’s voice to be heard here from time to time. Today I’m honored to be sharing my space with Janna Reid.

Janna is a soul sister. A lifer. The kind of friend that you treasure and keep when you find them, because Lord knows they are rare. She is a light and a truth-teller, and her words are never wasted. Here is her story.

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I have a problem with productivity. It’s my dragon. No big deal, except, big deal. These days dragons are fierce, bullying creatures that come in all shapes and sizes. Chances are, you have some of your own and you may even be, unbeknownst to your conscious wanderings, feeding them scraps from Life’s table.

You, undoubtedly, are fighting some species of Dragon and are either so exhausted from it or conditioned to it that the uphill battle feels normal. Let me explain.

You could perhaps be feeding (or fighting) the Dragon of Anxiety. It’s a small, but relentless dragon that sits on the shoulder and engages itself in everything that you are looking at or thinking about. Anxiety rarely sleeps, but is always pestering and breathing fire on the smallest of situations. It feeds on the tiniest fears and lies, taking in every little, “what if” and building it up to certain doom. Not needing much food to grow, yet always hungry, Anxiety creates a ghostly host and if not fought off immediately, will continue to consume and constrict.

The Dragon of Discontent is a breeding beast. It feeds on attention and it doesn’t require much of yours before it will breed a whole brood of Baby Discontents to run rampant. It really doesn’t need much of your energy, attention, and care to grow. At first.

You may soon grow so accustomed to this beast that it becomes normal to go out of your way to feed and care for your Discontents, and any other Discontents of your friends and family along the way.  Discontent runs in herd, and the mob mentality is strong in this particular breed of dragon.

Maybe you are feeding or fighting a dragon that preys on groups of women- The Dragon of Comparison. She is one ugly and persistent beast. She picks and pecks at the victims’ dreams, obscuring their vision. The weight of Comparison causes the victims to stumble along their way, only seeing a bit of their own unkempt and dirty path, but allowing the view of other lush and green paths to be clearly seen and desired. The Dragon of Comparison spits out fire of insecurity and ineffectiveness. But the worst part of Comparison is the aftermath. Read More…

This may come as no shock to you, dear readers, but I am a simple person. And while we’re being honest, I’m also pretty fearful in general. And okay fine, a little stubborn too.

With every big decision I’ve made in life I’ve waited until I absolutely, undeniably, know in my knower that I’m sure about it. And even then God usually has to spell it out for me with a big sign saying,

Yeah, umm, did you miss the memo on the TPS reports?” 

“JUST DO THE THING already.”  

(Also, yeah, God quotes Office Space to me sometimes. It’s not weird.)

I often need to hear the same advice from ten different people in ten different ways before I’m finally like “Yes! I see it now!”

What can I say? I’m a little slow on the uptake.

Just ask my sister.

She’s 7 years older than me, and therefore at any given time has always been one whole stage of life ahead of me. She’ll always offer up golden nuggets of wisdom like, “Sister. You should never, under any circumstance, wear white athletic socks unless you’re going to a gym to work out or a field to play a sport.” Sadly this is how we would refer to it: “Play a sport”, because neither of us know the first thing about any one sport, other than the fact that they usually take place on a field. (This does not bode well for me in my Fantasy Football league but I refuse to quit playing, because stubbornness, remember?)

Or she’ll say, “Sister. You need to have a micro-planer in your kitchen drawer. What are you going to do, BUY fake grated Parmesan? Absolutely not. You grate it yourself. With a micro-planer.”

Or, “Sister. You’re in your 30’s now. You really should start using wrinkle cream. And for the love of God, wash your face each night before bed! Don’t you know that every time you sleep with makeup on it adds seven years to your face?” Incidentally, I feel that this is a gross exaggeration on her part. Then again, I could wake up tomorrow and realize with horror that I have the face of an 86-year-old woman because of all those times I was too tired to wash my face before bed.

Whenever she gives me advice, I’ll nod in pretend-agreement and then go on to totally ignore it for the next three years or so until I inevitably realize that she was, in fact, correct.

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I recently had the rare opportunity to give my big sister a little advice of my own. She sat on my porch with teary eyes and a shaky voice, questioning whether or not she should pursue a particular opportunity. She wanted it badly for herself, but it felt risky. She worried about failure or looking foolish.

You should know that Sister is a lot like me. We both need God and the universe to make things obvious for our tentative hearts.  We find comfort in the redundancy of signs all pointing to the same thing.

As she explained the details of the situation to me I couldn’t help but laugh, because it was so obvious to me from the outside looking in. I grabbed her shoulders, looked her squarely in the eyes, and said “Sister. YES. Don’t you see it? God hasn’t just opened the door he’s taken it off the hinges. Walk through it!”

By the way, she did, and it I’m happy to report that it all worked out in her favor. Then as luck and fate and God would have it, I soon found myself having a teary, shaky moment of my own. I felt stuck in a creative rut. Writing was something that had always been breezy and fun and casual for me but suddenly it was complicated and difficult. I began to question whether or not I should really even be pursuing this dream at all.

“It all just feels too risky,” I commiserated aloud one day to my writing group.

One of them immediately responded with, and I quote, “Stop it. Get out of your own way. Get your butt in that chair and write. God has apparently taken the door off the hinges for you so start running through it! Go on.”

You guys.

She said my own words back to me, almost verbatim, and I nearly choked on them. If it was redundancy I needed, the universe was surely giving it to me.

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But I’ve got to say, I’m starting to wonder about all this redundancy that I assume I so desperately “need”. (Those are air quotes, by the way. I’m using them ironically.)

I’m starting to wonder if maybe there’s a better way. Read More…

One of the best things about writing has been discovering a whole new community of other writers to connect with. One of these new writer friends, Steve Wiens, is generously sharing his corner of the Internet with me today.

Steve is a kindred spirit who writes to inspire and encourage, but also has a sense of humor, so when he graciously asked me to write a guest post for him I was thrilled and said yes without hesitation. I’m over on his blog today and we’re discussing creativity, the art of writing, and why it’s so important to “kill your darlings”.

Below is a small bit of that post. You can head over to Steve’s website to read the whole piece. And while you’re over there take a look around and show Steve some love! He is a great writer and you won’t be disappointed.

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“For most of my life I did not consider myself a creative person.

Like…at all.

I’m never the one to come up with a big idea. I’m not good at crafty things; not to mention I don’t even care for craft suppliesI cannot paint or draw. I cannot make music. I’m not even a good dancer. Unless you count car-dancing, which, I don’t mean to brag or anything, but I’m actually very good at because it only requires me to focus on half of my body at one time.

For the better part of my adult life, I’d completely accepted this lie about myself as truth. The lie that I’m not a creative person.

But the truth is, I am a creative person.

There, I said it.

I’m creative with blank pages and words.

And while we’re on the subject, can we just go ahead and agree that all people everywhere are creative in one way or another? I mean, seriously. The God of the universe who wildly, romantically created things like sunsets and galaxies and springtime is the same God who chose, as his grand finale, to create us. In his image.

I’m pretty sure that means we are all creative too, whether or not we choose to acknowledge it or actually do anything with it.

YOU, by your very nature, are creative a creative person!

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The moment I believed this to be true about myself was the moment everything began to change. Suddenly I was allowed in this club. Incidentally, the only way I knew I was ‘allowed’ in was because I decided to be. No one sent me a formal letter of acceptance into the Creatives Club. One day I just chose to take a seat at the table.

I was making my own art and I was putting it out there in the world! And it felt so freaking good.

The only problem was, as soon as I started identifying my words as my art I became rather attached to them. I was suddenly protective over every sentence. Every word felt in some way precious to me because I’d labored over it. I basically fell so in love with the whole process of writing that I completely forgot that editing is a vital part of that process.

I left nothing on the cutting room floor.

Slowly but surely I became less and less satisfied with my work. I would hit ‘publish’ on an essay and walk away with an unidentifiable chip on my shoulder. I couldn’t pinpoint what was bothering me, and as a result I started to struggle more and more with writing. I even stopped altogether for brief periods of time.

The temptation was to ignore the fact that I still had a lot to learn and to whine and complain about how hard writing is, how it takes so much from me, and to wonder why it’s obviously so much easier for everyone else.

The temptation was to resent the fact that making art and having a dream can often look a lot like doing the work…”

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Click here to read the full article.

 

Can I tell you a secret, dear readers?

Lately God has been whispering to me of big and brave things.

A dream, I guess you might say. One that was always there, but until now has remained safely tucked away in the quietest corners of my heart. I must say, I rather liked it there, where it was unacknowledged and safe, requiring no risk on my part.

You see, I’ve never really been a big fan of risk. I actually happen to be in a very long-term, exclusive relationship with my Comfort Zone. We have an unspoken agreement not to stray from each other’s side.

Yet here I find myself, in a season of change. A season of knowing, whether I’m ready to or not. God is slowly, inexorably drawing The Dream up and out of me. It’s exciting, yes, but also uncomfortable. Like a needle pulling a thread up and through as he sews it into the fabric of who I am.

For me, The Dream has always been writing. This is no surprise. I’ve spoken about it here often, bringing you guys along (whether you like it or not) as I’ve begun to sort this dream out for myself.

Besides, is it really any shock that I would go so far as to write about wanting to write? I am an over-sharing, unfiltered kind of person who feels the need to talk to everyone about everything that happens to me. We know this. Let’s just say I’m working on it and chalk it up to art imitating life… imitating art. Or something like that.

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I’ve shared with you how this writing journey has felt much like a dance, to which I do not know the steps.

How it was slow and cautious at the first, with me learning to trust and let God lead. That I moved more freely once I finally realized that it wasn’t about how I looked as he spun me across the floor, it was about what was happening right there between us. I told you when my heart quickened with the pace and I felt as if he’d winked at me and whispered, “The dance floor is ours. Hold on to me, and let’s go.”

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All the while he’s been pulling that needle, up and through, piercing my heart with The Dream; at each turn leading me further out and away from my Comfort Zone.

At first I only had an up-close picture of the tapestry he weaved. Just this one little square space, two inches from my face. “This spot right here. This is where I want you to work,” he whispered.

I busied myself in my little writing space and I loved it.

I realized in one breathless and audacious moment that I actually had something to offer here.

I could make this space lovely and in turn it could make me come alive.

And then of course, as soon as I started to get comfortable with this version of The Dream (my version), it began to shift and change. It grew. Suddenly that neat little space that was two inches from my face fell away to a tapestry that was much larger and more lovely than I’d ever dared to see. Read More…