i am the master of my own body

Today is a day I miss The OM Place for giving me the best yoga classes I have ever taken. For helping me discover my voice and teaching style. For showing me how to care for others’ hearts and bodies, and for training me how to teach others to care for themselves. The OM Place gave me poetry.

Today is also a day I miss Exhale Studios and all of my incredible, fearless students who allowed me to hone my skills with them. Who let me speak into their souls in restorative, and who braved my crazy kriyas in power class. Who gave me surprise t-shirts and followed me to froyo after hot yoga each Wednesday night and laughed away the sweat and pain with me.

My body was my own back then. I was the master of my own body and my own breath and my own heart, and I worked hard and consistently and gratefully to get there.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve had a regular yoga practice of my own. Call it mixed priorities, a lack of teachers who speak to me, or simply laziness. But there you have it. And not only have I been missing my practice, I am now growing a human in my personal space.

I am no longer the master of my own body. Continue reading “i am the master of my own body”

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jesus and honey

Like a waterfall of honey
let Your love be poured out on me

As the body of Christ, we sang this song in worship this morning. It was new for me. I hadn’t heard it before and, as with all songs I have yet to learn, I stood and listened and let the words and the music and the voices flow over me.

What a beautiful song. What a great concept- to not simply allow but to feel God’s love being poured out on us, dripping down like honey from a honeycomb.

There are a lot of beautiful things about honey.

I recently moved to Georgia. Did you know? And Georgia has some crazy amounts of pollen. Because the Professor and I are getting married outside in the springtime wilderness of Georgia, it was suggested to me to start taking local honey every day to begin preparing my body for the inevitable onslaught of allergies.

That’s amazing, isn’t it? That something as simple and natural as honey can help protect our bodies against illness. Wow. And when our bodies become injured, honey works as a natural antiseptic- it can be used to heal scrapes, cuts, and burns. Further, its natural sugars (glucose and fructose) act as an energy booster and they help to prevent fatigue during exercise. Amazing.

Honey is also incredibly sweet. You can throw it in almost anything as a substitute for sugar or chemical sweeteners: tea, coffee, oatmeal, cakes. It’s just enjoyable. Effortless, smooth, thick, delicious. That’s what honey is.

And as I was thinking about God’s love being poured out on me like a waterfall of honey… I began thinking about all the ways that God’s love is so sweet to me. It can make difficult things easier to handle. And I thought about all the ways that God’s love protects me from pain and hurt. And all the ways God’s love heals me when I’m down, and energizes and sustains me when I need it most. I thought about all the ways that, like a pouring out of honey, God’s love covers me completely- no inch of me is left untouched. Thick and heavy and sweet and smooth, God’s love is a waterfall of honey. And I’m so blessed to know the feeling of the weight and the glory of that protection and love.

Thanks, God.

i’m a mirror, you’re a mirror

I’ve recently found myself teaching some Vision Casting sessions for various groups of people. Yesterday at the completion of our time together, some of the participants told me I sounded like my fiance when I prayed. “You guys say ‘Jesus’ exactly the same!” I laughed at the time, thinking how silly that sounded, and that I hadn’t caught that connection myself.

But then I started thinking.

You know, it’s kind of beautiful that The Professor and I are starting to sound the same. We’ve been able to spend a lot more time together now that we live in the same town, and a lot of that time is spent praying together, seeking The Father. Or even just sharing what we’ve been learning about Him.

So it’s kind of awesome that we’re starting to sound alike.

I thought about other people I share random quirks with. My best friend (and the person I have spent the most time on earth with)-Sarah- and I have this weird “game show host” voice that we both somehow fall into each and every time we’re together. We also went through a strange phase when we used dancing hand guns (think the final dancing scene from Grease) and those gestures seeped out of us and into the small group we were co-leading at the time. Each of those girls, in turn, picked it up and would find themselves using the same dang dancing hand guns when saying pretty much anything of a non-serious tone. Those girls have also picked up my quirky habit of repeating things, like saying “NoNo” to make a dramatic point.

…I’m realizing now as I’m re-reading for editing errors that I technically didn’t have to share an example of repetition, but now that it’s typed in this draft… well, what can you do? I better just leave it… in case.

I’ve also spent a GREAT deal of time with my Sweet Janice, most of that time in intentional discipleship and mentoring. I have thus picked up her gift of discernment in most situations. When I’m trying to figure out what my next steps should be (or shouldn’t be), her voice is often the sound I hear in my conscience. She recently wrote an incredible book about discipleship (you can find it online here and here – and I highly recommend it- it’ll change the way you view discipleship, especially the discipling part)…and in it describes how disciple relationships work- that they are just for a season (length depending on a number of criteria), but they come to a close when the student begins to resemble the teacher. You don’t need continual meetings with someone when you can answer the questions before you ask them. And so our discipleship time came to a close when I asked her questions and then answered them for her.

Why?

We looked like each other.

That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Bearing resemblance to those you spend the most time with.

I started thinking about Jesus (“Jessuuuuuus”) and how wonderful He is. I thought about all the beautiful traits and qualities that make Him so….Jesus. And if I was reflecting those things.

Am I? Am I spending enough time with Jesus that I am starting to reflect Him in all His goodness? The way He sees and treats other people… The way He calls His friends out when they’re making terrible choices- in authority and love… The way He seeks so much time alone to spend with His Father…

If I am not resembling Jesus, I’m clearly not spending enough time with Him. If I give so much of myself to my friends and my loved ones that we look alike, but I don’t do the same with my Savior, there’s an imbalance that needs to be swiftly corrected.

I love that The Professor and I are starting to sound alike, especially when we pray. What a gift. I’m so happy that I carry pieces of my best friend with me when we are far apart, because we’ve spent so much time together we’re basically the same person. I’m overwhelmingly grateful that the voice of the Holy Spirit in my life sounds like Janice Wood.

I want the rest of me to look like Jesus. I want to reflect and resemble Him. I want us to look and sound and act the same.

And to do that, I need to hang out with Him more. More and more and more.

And so I guess I’d call this my first “New Year’s Resolution”…. and thank God He used a vision casting session to give me a vision of what it would be like to look more like my Savior. I want it. And I’m gonna have it.

Are you?

hiking revelations

This morning I met up with my sweet friend Kate and we drove around north Georgia to find a great hiking place. We settled on one of the plentiful state parks in the area, parked our car, and headed up a trail into the (completely unpredicted) rain.

It was supposed to have been sunny all day.

But that dampened neither of our spirits as we laced up our shoes and took a few deep breaths before launching into long-winded updates on our lives.

There are times for utter silence in the woods.

And then there are times for external processing and heavy breathing and beautiful revelations about and from The Father. This was one of those times.

We shared our Christmas stories of visiting family and friends. We discussed things that had our hearts burdened. We laughed and celebrated new beginnings and hope on the horizon and stories about how funny and charming the Lord is. And He spoke to us. He really did. And this is what He shared with me:

I am a do-er. I was created to be an accomplisher of great things. I have always identified myself as a “do-er” even to the point of missing out on how awesome it is to just be me. I have passed over on opportunities to sit and be still, to relax, to be silent, to receive, all because I felt the need to get up and do something. God created me to do great things for His Kingdom. And do them I will. But He also created me to be amazing. I am passionate and witty and kind and sexy and brilliant and fierce and beautiful. I am whimsical and emotional and dramatic and enthusiastic and I sometimes take things too seriously. I am made to be a shoulder for people, to be a sounding board for their pain and their celebrations. I am a storyteller and a performer, I am a planner and an organizer and a nest-er. I am beautiful. I am strong. I am exactly who I need to be. Just because I Am.

And you know what?

The God Of The Universe is captivated by my brilliance and beauty. Utterly captivated. He is delighted that I am who I am and that He knows me. He thinks I’m a treat. He believes me to be so special and so unique and so worth it.

And you know what?

He thinks that about you, too.

You captivate the God of heaven and earth. You are clever and generous and lovely. You are tender. You are strong. You have what it takes. And when you feel like you don’t, you really do. And you are wise and charming and necessary. You are so necessary. And enchanting and satisfying and enjoyable. You are grand.

And the God who reigns over all is completely and devastatingly and totally captivated by you. Exactly as you are. Right. Now.

It’s time we start living like it.

So what are we to do now? Well, I can tell you how I feel about it. I’m going to stop saying negative things about my body. I’m going to start saying awesome things about my body- like how it’s so useful for getting me to and fro, for doing all the things I ask it to do without hesitation, and for how beautiful it is. I’m going to start moving and eating and sleeping and drinking like I love my body, and I’m grateful for it. I’m going to stop saying hurtful things about my personality. I’m going to embrace all the goodness and all the flaws and all the quirks and all the humor that comes with being me. I’m going to love it. I’m going to stop feeling so insecure about myself around other women, or other professionals, or other yoga teachers, or people with straight teeth. I’m going to start celebrating how awesome other people are. I’m going to tell them how great and fierce and fabulous they are. I’m going to remind myself that I’m fierce and fabulous and breathtaking all the time. I’m going to enjoy where I am today, even if I’m working on it. I’m going to breathe in and fill up with joy and exuberance and peace and hope and love for all people and all things. I’m going to breathe all that goodness out onto whatever or whomever happens to be in the same zip code as me.

I am going to own how good God has created me to be. Stopping with the excuses and the complaints, I’m going to embrace exactly who He has designed me to be, and celebrate that no one else on earth can be me.

Just like no one else on earth can be awesome, funny, delightful, terrific, beautiful, gifted, fantastic you.

And God is captivated by that.

book reviews: a thousand splendid suns

look at this cool photo i totally stole from the internets

This book. I mean.  Just.  Oh, man.  Go read it.  Right away.

There are books that you read because they’re classics. There are books that you read because they’re the popular thing these days. And then there are books that you read that reach down into your soul and grab hold, ones that become a part of who you are, of your story. This is one of those books.

I think I discovered this book on a Buzzfeed Must-Read List sometime last year (or the beginning of this one). It sounded all right, and I had heard wonderful things about the author, Khaled Hosseini. So I added it to my bookit list and didn’t think much more on it for awhile.

While visiting The Professor at the end of last month, I browsed one of the bookshelves in his house and- lo and behold!- a copy of the book was just lying there waiting to be read!

A week later I was back at home and diving into the pages. I thought it might be a good end-of-day read, something to browse through before bedtime. But it is NOT. I opened the first page and didn’t set it down until I had finished it. (okay, well, I did set it down, but only to observe responsible bedtimes for work purposes).

I drank this story.

At its core, and spanning 50 years, this is a story about two Afghan women, Mariam and Laila, and how their lives intersect. It’s about the challenges faced by real women in a time and place that does not look favorably on them. The two characters deal with forced marriage, domestic violence, shame, war, fear, and helplessness, to name a few. Every page is relentless, powerful, and full of heart-wrenching realism. I finished the book near 12:30 one night, sobbing. The issues the characters are faced with are issues that real women are forced to deal with today. And I was so very and naively uninformed.

When asked why he decided to write a book based on the lives of two Afghan women, Hosseini responded:

In the spring of 2003, I went to Kabul, and I recall seeing these burqa-clad women sitting at street corners, with four, five, six children, begging for change. I remember watching them walking in pairs up the street, trailed by their children in ragged clothes, and wondering how life had brought them to that point…I spoke to many of those women in Kabul. Their life stories were truly heartbreaking…When I began writing A Thousand Splendid Suns, I found myself thinking about those resilient women over and over. Though no one woman that I met in Kabul inspired either Laila or Mariam, their voices, faces, and their incredible stories of survival were always with me, and a good part of my inspiration for this novel came from their collective spirit.

I feel, at the very least, the beginning of an awakening to the issues that women under Taliban rule are forced to endure. Banned from active life, from the ability to work, or to provide for themselves, or to protect themselves, they are essentially chattel and are given no choice in what they must face. Afghanistan, in particular, has been ravaged by internal war for decades. Add this to our current collective history involving September 11th, and we can begin to imagine just how devastating are the lives of people living there- most especially the women, who have no right, say, or control over where they live or what they do.

Wow.

What are books for if not to widen our worlds?

Notable Quotes:

And the past held only this wisdom: that love was a damaging mistake, and its accomplice, hope, a treacherous illusion.

‘It wasn’t so much the the whistling [of the rockets] itself,’ Laila thought later, ‘but the seconds between the start of it and the impact. The brief and interminable time of feeling suspended. The not knowing. The waiting. Like a defendant about to hear the verdict.’

Learn this now and learn it well. Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always.

…Now I have to go find all the rest of Khaled Hosseini’s books and devour those, too. I hope you start with this one.

on graham cooke, inheritance, and what favor truly is

I’ve been walking through some junk over the past several years. And the name of the junk monster is FINANCE. I’ve really struggled (haven’t we all?) with budgeting, making enough, and getting All The Things paid. And I’ve been feeling for awhile now that I’ve been walking through some curses, financially speaking. That may sound like hoo doo, but it certainly hasn’t felt that way. Coming home from the Race I was faced with an overwhelming and unexpected financial situation. God blessed me with a job, and I began the painstaking journey of pulling myself out of the pit one day at a time. When I felt I was making some good headway- finally– I was bitten by a poisonous spider and suddenly faced three separate emergency medical bills, as well as unbelievably expensive antibiotics. 

I kept going.

I got those bills paid off, and my credit card paid off… and this past weekend my car decided to die suddenly while I was driving down the highway.

Cool.

Not cool.

There were 3 recalls on my vehicle, and they were fixed for free at the dealership. Thank You, Jesus! You know I can’t handle car expenses right now. But within 20 miles of driving after picking my newly-fixed car up, all the same warning lights as before came on, in addition to a terrifying warning sound… and then my gas and brake pedals stopped working.

Cool.

Not cool.

So as of last night, Penelope the Prius is back in a shop, where I was warned that it would be nearly $100 just to look at her. But… as we do in this day and age, I need a reliable vehicle, so I took her in anyway.

And proceeded to lose my mind in fear and anxiety about what may or may not be wrong, and how much it may or may not cost.

I wept through an entire conversation with The Professor about it. We discussed the Lord’s favor, and His provision, and my fear that I didn’t have enough faith to believe His favor could or would show up in my life in such a tangible way as a free fix or even- as The Prof encouraged me to pray- for an upgrade to my car. I just didn’t know. I have a long history of not receiving favor in that kind of in-your-face, extraordinary, supernatural way. He reminded me that my history does not predict my future, and that he had enough faith and trust to believe for both of us that this situation would work out the way it needs to, and that it will all be okay in the end.

I spent all of yesterday in prayer to the Lord, asking for His divine favor in the form of an upgrade to my car or, at the very least, a lack of financial burden to fix what’s wrong with it. It’s cool to get new things, but I love my car very much, and don’t care in the least bit for a new one. I just want my feelings of safety in regards to my car to be restored. I want to drive down the street knowing that I will get from Point A to Point B safely and without issue. That’s my real desire.

I also spent a lot of time thanking the Lord for who He is and for giving me this chance to renew my dependence on and trust in Him.

This morning during my break at work I found a new Graham Cooke youtube video. Graham Cooke is a prophetic speaker, and he reeeaaallly speaks to my soul. I think anyone who listens to him would have the same reaction. The Professor introduced me to his videos a few weeks ago, and I’ve enjoyed them all immensely, but none have touched me the way this particular one did.

It was about favor.

I have been looking at favor (and seeking it) as a one-time imparting of a tangible gift. I’ve been looking for a physical, touchable handout, instead of looking at favor as what it truly is: an intentional bias toward me because of relationship.

I’ve been looking at favor all wrong!

Favor is a special kindness from God to me because we are in relationship with one another. I’ve been seeking an end result; God has been asking me to look at and enjoy the process of what my current circumstances are creating for me. I have been financially burdened my whole life. I have struggled with finances for as far back as my memory goes. I keep looking for a fish, when God wants to teach me how to fish, and how to enjoy the process of relating with Him.

Mr. Cooke reminds us that when circumstances arise in which we feel we are losing, or we aren’t receiving favor, there are a few questions we must ask:

  1. What does this mean?
  2. What should I do to partner with Your cause and Your Purpose for me?

It all comes down to this point:

God, what is it that You want to be for me now, that You couldn’t at any other time?

If this is our focus, if this is our starting point of thought and intention, everything else falls into place. If we look at circumstance, we’re lost. If we concentrate on our relationship, we’ve won. Even if and when it feels like we can’t go on, when the burdens seem too difficult to bear, we will not sink, because our eyes are on the goodness of the Lord. Which is unchanging. Which is unfailing. Which always is. We shouldn’t desire to see God’s goodness retroactively. We should want it right now, up front, in the thick of it.

And so my focus should move from Will I be able to afford the cost of fixing my car? to God is good. He is so, so good. And He loves me. And He is for me. And if this is the situation I am in, He has something very special and very important for me.

Cooke opened his message with this:

In the world, if it’s ‘too good to be true’ someone is being conned. But in the kingdom, if it’s NOT ‘too good to be true’ it’s not God.

Wow. Talk about stretching your faith. I didn’t grow up in a church that freely discussed the favor and the mercy and the goodness of God. I am a part of one now, but this is a long-reaching belief to replace. I’m still not a wealth-and-prosperity believer, but I do believe that as my Father, God loves to give me things. Sometimes they are hard things to receive. But they are always gifts, and they are always for my good. When a circumstance arises, or the Holy Spirit convicts me of something, there is something being pointed out in my life that isn’t working. Cooke says that it’s when this happens that God gets excited. EXCITED. Because it’s only when He points something out that He is ready to do something about it. This is the area of your next miracle, or- in his own words- your next UPGRADE.

There! There it is! The Professor asked me to pray about an upgrade the Lord might have for me, and this is it! It is an opportunity to grow closer to Him who loves me and delights in me so much! It is an opportunity to grow my faith and to embolden my trust that He has my back and is working for my good. Favor does not mean life runs smoothly. It means you are consumed by God’s desire for you.

Mr. Cooke reminds us that the Holy Spirit is the most excitable, enthusiastic, encouraging, and empathetic Person he knows. And this is so true! How have I not thought of this before? I was asked recently which of the Trinity I felt most connected with. I immediately answered The Father. Mostly because of my daddy issues, and the redemption He has brought to that specific area. But I’m convinced now that it is the Holy Spirit. I am created in the likeness of the Spirit- passionate, enthusiastic, encouraging, excitable, empathetic, present, dramatic.

Talk about the acorn not falling far from the tree.

This encourages me so much, because I also don’t come from a background of knowledge about or trust in the Holy Spirit. It’s just not something we talked about or learned about until very recently in my relationship with Christ. And knowing that He has modeled me after this one mysterious part of Himself, it gives me a hunger and desire to know more and experience more and more and more.

This is the favor of the Lord in my life. This is His calling me to draw closer, to come more intimately near Him, and grow up.

Mr. Cooke talks about two more things: an inheritance verse and our unique Name for the Lord in each of our lives. The latter I’ll discuss in a later blog (because it’s deserving enough- and I’m sure long-winded enough- to merit it’s own post). But an inheritance verse is something that the Lord gives us individually- a word spoken to us, over our lives, from the Bible. Cooke says the Lord is previous-minded. He will put a verse on our hearts- and most of us have heard this, we just haven’t recognized it or given it enough thought- but we will recognize it and claim it for ourselves in future circumstances. Cooke says once we receive that inheritance verse, we need to start living like it, owning it, using it in battle against the Enemy in all his lies and deceptions- THIS is what the Lord says about my life. This is His favor over me.

And for me, that verse- given to me about two years ago, is Luke 1:45:

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.

This is in direct connection with God’s Name in my life, God’s unique affection with me.

Perhaps in my life I’ve not seen God’s favor show up in supernatural tangible ways. My friend Emily has seen this a lot (you can check out more of her incredible stories (and wonderful writing) here). I haven’t prayed for free furniture and received it. I haven’t asked for supernatural healing and received an inexplicable health report. And these are all stories from people I know personally! But God has shown up in my life in extraordinary ways, unique to the story He’s weaving with me. I always, always know He’s around. There’s never been a time in my entire life- even before I had a relationship with Him- where I didn’t know who He was, or that He was with me. I always, always feel The Comforter’s Presence. I always, always receive frequent reminders that God is thinking of me- little coincidences, little nods to the supernatural, every day. Every single day. Always.

God’s favor is thick on me.

Who knows how much it will cost to fix my car? Who knows if a miracle will happen and when I show up at the dealership a brand new car will be waiting on me? Who knows if I will spend the next two years of my life trying to pay for the repairs?

Who cares?

This is just one hiccup in the great adventure we call life. Stuff like this will always show up. But I believe in and have a relationship with a God who ‘is too good to be true.’

And I want more of it.

Not more of His gifts. Not more of what He can do for me.

More of Who He Is. More of Who I Am when I’m with Him. More of Who He Wants Me To Become.

I’m hungry for more.

And I’m ready to start living out my inheritance- and His favor.

book reviews: passion and purity

This book was given to me by my lovely roommate Mary Alice. She’s a big fan of both Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, and has read most of the latter’s books. So when, earlier this year, I told her I was looking for a few good books to read, she not only recommended this one, she handed me her copy.

The subheading for the book is Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Christ’s Control. That sounded like the book for me, for sure.

But, to be honest, I wasn’t entirely thrilled with the book. I didn’t understand where she was taking her readers through most of the book. Her old journal entries, the back-and-forth love letters, even the hymns- while they were lovely and thrilling to read (who doesn’t love hearing old journal entries?), didn’t seem to add up to a lot. I found myself thinking, Wow, that was a good chapter. But I’m still not sure what she’s trying to teach me, or what I should be taking away from this. I wonder when she’s going to start talking about all the bullet points listed on the back cover…

Not to say this is not an excellent book. It is. And we’ll get into that. But I wanted to express my full opinion, from beginning to end.

The only other issue I had with this book has to do with the love story we find in it. The Jim-and-Elisabeth-Elliot love story is quite famous, and really something to behold. They waited seven years for each other. Seven years without kissing or holding hands or any of the common habits we see in modern couples today. Other than the occasional use of an affectionate nickname- a stray darling or dearest– their love letters were mostly encouragements to one another to press into the Lord for as long as He has called them to remain single and chaste. It’s a beautiful, enduring love story to read. She loved him, he felt called to remain single for the Lord (he felt there were things on the mission field he could not do/places he could not go, if married), and so he asked her to release him from her affections, even though- and this is where I take offense- he loved her. He really cared about her, he longed for her, but he felt he could not ask her to wait for him.

Wait a minute.

So he loves her- and basically says so- as well as actually saying if the Lord released him to marry, he would marry her… but he could not promise these things, so please don’t feel like you have to wait.

Okay.

While this is a lovely story of two people who remained sexually pure despite circumstances, feelings, etc… the area that I really struggled with (throughout almost the entire book) (and I kept coming back to my feelings of frustration and indignation for her) is where he should have kept his mouth shut.

Listen, if you’re a man and you feel convinced the Lord has asked you to remain single for only-He-knows-how-long, you’d best keep your mouth shut and your flirtations nonexistent if you want to be obedient. How many women can resist a man whom she has had multiple encounters with (intimate in the cleanest sense of the word), whom she is clearly in love with, and who tells her “If God would let me marry, I absolutely would marry you. I really care for you, and you have so many of the traits that I’m looking for in a wife. But God has told me to remain single for an undisclosed time, so I can’t ask you to wait for me.” VERY FEW.

Just keep your mouth shut. There’s no reason he dragged her into the responsibility of remaining single. Had he not shared his affections with her, she may have released her feelings for him and moved on. Things worked out okay (read their entire story for the truth behind this), but COME ON. It’s not her responsibility to wait for you, but that’s all she’s going to do if you tell her you would marry her if you could. That’s just selfish.

I mean.

I reeeaallly really struggled with some serious frustrations all throughout this book. I couldn’t even concentrate on the beauty of what “waiting” did for her character, or the patience she learned, or the opportunities she had to press into the Lord and learn obedience and total dependence on Him. Which are all incredible, life-changing things which we all need to learn. But I was so overwhelmed with how she should never have had to suffer through seven years of waiting for a man who MAY NOT EVER BE ALLOWED TO MARRY. Seriously. I’m still mad about it.

And I’m happy they finally married. I’m so happy their love story worked out in the end (for a little bit). I’m happy there is a beautiful story about how a girl loved a boy, and used all her time of waiting to improve her heart and character, and to bloom where she was planted.

But I cannot get over a man who dragged her through seven years of waiting without a promise in sight.

UGH.

It’s not really my place to judge someone’s relationship. I’m happy for Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, and the heaven they experienced together for a few short years. But the long-suffering story they both walked through was the direct result of his lack of self-control. And it’s frustrating, because I’ve known so many men like that. I want my cake and eat it, too. You can’t have it both ways, buddy.

Well, I guess you can, but it can have some serious consequences. Not all love stories end like this one. (And even this one had a truly painful ending, even though good still came from it). (Probably due to the time she spent pressing into the Lord).

Anyway, back to the beauty of the book. Now that I have that off my chest. And I’m sorry for the rant.

Mostly sorry.

Anyway.

The entire last quarter of the book was fantastic. Full of wisdom, encouragement, and fulfilled hopes. I raced through the last few chapters, writing down some quotes to dwell on later, and trying to take in the things Mrs. Elliot had learned from all her years of growing while she waited. I found a lot of encouragement and challenge about relationships, and in particular marriage, here at the end.

I’m glad I read this book. Despite my frustrations with the choices of Jim Elliot in regards to Elisabeth (which is none of  my business anyway), I did end up learning quite a bit about waiting on the Lord in joy and movement- blooming where I am planted.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“By trying to grab fulfillment everywhere, we find it nowhere.”

“The problem starts when we make up our own minds what will give us happiness and then decide, if we don’t get exactly that, that God doesn’t love us.”

“Life requires countless ‘little deaths’– occasions when we are given the chance to say no to self and yes to God. …But even little deaths have to be died just as great ones do.”

“It helped to develop in my soul tensile strength- resistance to stress, the kind of strength that can bear stretching without tearing apart.”

“Don’t walk straight into [the wayward impulses of youth] and then blame God if the temptation is too great for you.”

“Charity, which is always self-giving, says ‘I grant you your rights. I do not insist on mine. I give myself to you; I do not insist that you give yourself to me.”

“There is no ongoing spiritual life without this process of letting go. At the precise point where we refuse, growth stops.”

book reviews: wild

This book jumped quickly from a brand-new-read to an all-time-favorite. Cheryl Strayed’s tone is at once down-to-earth and humble as well as slap-you-in-the-face honest. She doesn’t pull punches when she flashes back to the painful conversations, drug-induced sexcapades and other one-night stands, pre-divorce confusion, and the unspeakable loss of her mother that combine to rip apart her sense of self and sanity. So she sells everything she owns and embarks on a solo hike across nearly one thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail.

I love this book for many reasons. A gifted storyteller, Strayed writes both of her past and her present on the trail with a vividness that launches her anecdotes right off the page. Most particularly, her descriptions of places on the trail and the physical trials she suffered through makes you almost feel as though you’re walking (and sometimes hobbling) right alongside her.

I found myself underlining entire sections of the book, wanting to go back and re-read pages that affected me more deeply than others. I found myself identifying with her lack of fatherly love or guidance in her early life, and with many of the self-esteem issues she certainly struggled with. Beyond even the emotional gravity of her life story, I found myself simply being drawn to the outdoors, and to the self-healing one can find there. Through her therapeutic hiking process, I discovered little bits and pieces of myself that wanted to be found on a trail somewhere. Not necessarily because I’m walking around as broken as she, but because her ability to describe nature in all its glory is exceptional.

Especially with her hiking the PCT.

I grew up in the Pacific North West and it’s a place I’ve always longed to return to. For how long, who knows. But her descriptions (especially toward the end of the book) of places I’ve been to or heard of frequently brought quite a bit of nostalgia bubbling to the surface. I told The Boy one night that I had begun dreaming of going backpacking myself in the PNW. Maybe through Oregon. It’s on my 30 Before 30 List… Well, to backpack for two nights, anyway. But a new dream had been birthed in me to hike at least from one section of a trail to another. Maybe a week’s worth of hiking. To be out in nature, off the grid, living out of whatever I can carry in my pack.

That’s the power of Strayed’s  story. She really found herself again, once she was in a place that forced her to deal with all the crap she had either fallen into or created herself. And she conveyed that journey stunningly onto the page. No wonder Hollywood is making a movie about it. (Check out the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tn2-GSqPyl0)

Notable Quotes:

The father’s job is to teach his children how to be warriors, to give them the confidence to get on the horse and ride into battle when it’s necessary to do so. If you don’t get that from your father, you have to teach yourself.

It was my life, like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me. How wild it was, to let it be.

There was the actual doing it, quickly followed by the grim realization of what it meant to do it, followed by the decision to quit doing it because doing it was absurd and pointless and ridiculously difficult and far more than I expected doing it would be and I was profoundly unprepared to do it.
And then there was the real live truly doing it.

Alone wasn’t a room anymore, but the whole wide world, and now I was alone in that world, occupying it in a way I never had before.

30b30: four. see ya later, debt monster!

prepare yourself for honest confession time

Several years ago, I moved to a small town where the only job I could get was minimum wage… and my rent was not. So I started to buy food and things on the evilest of evils: a credit card. Then I went back to school. Then I was a waitress. Then I was a missionary. None of which are positions of excess, and I found myself deferring payments. UGH. What a terrible idea. (Note to future young-twenties credit card possessors: DON’T).

this is not an example of stuff i used a credit card to buy.

This year, however, I was blessed with a job that I love, making enough money to help me pull myself out of the pit I created, one ten-yard-army-crawl at a time. I’ve been able to pay off three separate medical bills, one random payment on a camera, and any number of various living expenses that anyone with a pulse and a social security card seem to incur. And as of eight o’clock this bright, sunshine-y morning, I made my last payment on my only credit card.

HIP HIP HOOORAAAYYY!!

Seriously, I just might throw myself a party! I have been living under the weight of this (relatively small) debt for so long, and there is NO FEELING like having it fall away from my shoulders forever. If I’m perfectly honest, there was a part of me that truly believed I would never get to this point. But I’ve learned some really valuable lessons about finances over the last couple of years, and this feels like a win for everyone in my life who took the time to pour into me in the area of fiscal responsibility and just simply “doing whatever you have to do to pay your dang bills.”

should i save or should i spend? …DUH

No joke.

So here’s to a continued habit of stewarding my finances (and my financial responsibilities) well!

Cheers!

the world is officially my oyster once more

30b30: three. i MUST live in a log cabin… i mean, congrats betsy and josh!

It’s been a minute since I’ve done any real blogging, so here’s a toast to beginning again the process of publicly journaling my life.

This past weekend I traveled a few hours north of where I reside to have a wedding reunion with O Squad- the loud, colorful, joyous, hilarious, indescribable group of people with whom I journeyed the world round last year. Two of our own- Betsy and Josh- were officially tying the knot. It was a quick but lovely ceremony, followed by a reception dinner that was basically an excuse to continue catching up on what everyone is doing these days, who is dating whom, where everyone is living, and which of our numerous memories from our year together are our favorite.

everyone was SO clean…and smelled so good

It was an awesome day and a half.

Know something else that was awesome?

The log cabin some of us got to stay in for the weekend. Betsy’s family put the whole squad up in various locations, and I was one of the suuuuper lucky few to bag the cabin (thanks for your logisticing skills, Emma!) (#racebestie)

Seriously.

This place is a glimpse of my personal heaven.

I woke up each morning early…not even that early… but I had about an hour each morning totally to myself. “Not a creature was stirring” kind of quiet. It was incredibly life-giving.

I have to start at the beginning. You see, my version of heaven includes lots of trees and wilderness, and a house resembling, well, a sweet-looking log cabin. Lots of natural hardwood flooring, big windows, open ceilings with visible rafters. There’s an old-timey front porch with handmade rocking chairs, for sure, and definitely a back porch.  A big kitchen with a table for everyone, and a warm feeling you get as soon as you walk in, that spreads from your head all the way down to your toes.

THIS WAS THAT PLACE.

From the front porch- wildflowers and weeds and tall grasses as far as you can see.  From the back porch, nothing but woodland and underbrush. Then to the side of the cabin was a small pergola opening into a garden.  The house was surrounded by a picket fence that looked as old as the ages (and yet also well-maintained).

Heaven.

That first morning I woke with the idea to grab my bible and journal and head to the front porch to spend time with Jesus in a rocking chair. But I was so overwhelmed with the aesthetics of the place that all I could do was walk around and around and try to drink in every sight. I picked some wildflowers from along the “road” (an extremely long gravel-and-dirt driveway), place them in a piece of pottery from the cabinet, and start the morning coffee. I walked all over the side garden, and across the “driveway”, where a little pond was surrounded by a grassy path that led through a tunnel of small trees. I did rock on a chair on the front porch, but only for a minute, because there was so much else to see. There were little walking paths all over the place, made of flat rocks, with pieces of weed and grass growing between them. The sun was still rising above the trees behind the house, so only the tops of the trees and flowers at the top of the hill in the front was illuminated. Everything was still and quiet and covered in dew and my feet got wet and grassy pretty quickly.

I went back inside to unpack some of the groceries Emma had picked up for the house, and to stand in the middle of that silent kitchen and just dream. What an amazing place to be able to live! A big island in the kitchen to prepare food on while your family sits or runs around. A huge table with lots of seating. There was even one of those old metal hangy-things that had peppers and garlic drying from it. And also old pans and skillets.

I felt so clean and de-cluttered. I felt in that moment, standing with my coffee, listening to the sounds of the early morning, that I could do anything, be anyone. I dreamed of my own future house with my own future family, and how I hoped it could be like this- big and open and lived in. As my squadmates woke up and filed in and life began, I kept thinking what a wonderful place it would be to even simply live in community- just have a big cabin and fill it with my best girlfriends- women who would sharpen and encourage and challenge each other to live closer to Christ.

It was simply a breath of fresh air.

Sunday morning was similar, except instead of running around marveling at how creative God is, and how creative His children are (to make such a perfect building), I just sat in the nook with my coffee and my bible and read about how awesome and faithful and loving He is. I sat in the again-quiet kitchen and drank in the goodness of the Lord. After spending all afternoon and evening with my squad, laughing and sharing and storytelling and bonfiring, I still woke up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. I felt like I had been at a retreat. That’s the power of finding your place– those spaces that make you feel new.  For me, it’s a cabin in the woods, far from internet or cell phone service (SERIOUSLY, OHIO), full of hardwood floors and walls, big windows, and some history. A place to escape life and responsibility and tasks for just a little bit. A place to take a walk and meet God in nature- to see His beauty in His magnificent handiwork.

I’ve recently discovered a love of flowers (wildflowers in particular), and a love of lacy things, and a love of feeling feminine in the most old fashioned ways. This weekend was all of those things.

I consider myself an introvert and really need a pretty good amount of time alone to recharge. And yet, God plopped me down in the middle of more than half my squad to celebrate a momentous occasion. And even with all of those things, He gave me just the tiniest amount of alone time in the perfect space, and I feel new. I feel so refreshed. Such a full, busy, travel-y weekend, and still I am fully ready for another 50-hour work week.

The power of the perfect place. Thanks, Ramser family, for allowing us to live in your cabin. Thanks, Jesus, for knowing and blessing my heart. You’re so good, and I’m so full.

book reviews: heaven is for real

This book was handed to me by a sweet lady, who is basically my surrogate grandma, just before I left her house to drive the hour and a half back home. I’m one of those weirdos who can’t just read one book at a time, so I gladly opened the front cover as soon as I arrived home and dove in. This is the first book in a WHILE that I haven’t taken notes on. I’ve spent so much time with other books on love, ministry, relationships, Jesus, etc… that reading a book that was solely a narrative was a real treat. Such a treat I finished the dang book in three days. (And this whilst working 60 hours a week!)

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The story of a young family in a teeny town in Nebraska whose youngest child gets seriously ill and almost dies. Two surgeries and a miracle later and the boy leaves the hospital for health and home. I recognize there was/is heavy criticism of this book (which was recently adapted into a movie), but I enjoyed it all the same.

It’s written with a sincerity and earnestness that we really don’t read much of anymore. The way the author (Todd Burpo) speaks about his wife throughout is kind, honoring, and loving. Every time he mentions his wife it is with a tangible respect. He speaks about his son Colton- the major character of the story- in a way that is at once confused and amazed. Yet not once does he assert any kind of domineering-fatherdom; he allows Colton to share plainly and honestly about his near-death trip to heaven and back.

I think the thing I enjoyed most about this book is that it is replete with anecdotes and personal family stories. Burpo didn’t pull any punches. When Colton brings up information about his great grandfather, Burpo shares personal histories of his family. There were also photos in the center of my book (which I rather liked as it gave me a more realistic image to go with the narrative).

I found myself being very encouraged by the thoughts and experiences of Jesus by a four-year-old. My own beliefs and theologies weren’t transformed, but I was incredibly encouraged. Colton says things like, “Jesus told me that he died on the cross so we could go see his Dad.” Again, there is a just a sweet earnestness that comes out and grabs your heart from the page.

It was a good book, a quick read, and I would recommend it to anyone needing a little encouragement or inspiration.

it also goes great with a cup o’ joe

to mr. h. potter, the page, the shelf:

come at me.

A few months ago K (one of the girls I nanny) asked about reading the Harry Potter books. For weeks thereafter we went to the library to search (always in vain) for the first one. Finally she decided that she didn’t want to read them anymore- maybe she was tired of looking, maybe the moment had passed. Either way, her parents found out and told their parents, who brought the whole set home when they came to visit a couple weeks ago.

At the beginning of this past week, we decided to dive into them. I don’t know what prompted it, but one afternoon I found myself sitting in a cozy little chair in the girls’ play area downstairs with a captive audience at my feet. They had dragged over a ton of blankets and pillows, and their dog, and were waiting impatiently to hear the story. This from girls who have seen the movies and believe they already know the story. But read we did.

lots of cuddling happening here

The idea was to tackle one chapter every day- it gives us some quality “us” time, gives the girls an opportunity to discipline their attention spans, and gives us all something to look forward to. It’s always a good idea to have something that your kids/students/young ones are eagerly anticipating. I first heard this idea from PJoe’s wife Janice, who read to her children one chapter a day, every day, when they came home from school. She said they loved it and, because she stopped after one chapter, they were always waiting excitedly for the next day to come so they could find out what happens next.

I thought this was a great tool to use with Harry Potter. So on Day 1, we plowed through a surprisingly long Chapter One and concluded. Maybe because it was the first chapter, and maybe because it was a lloooooong chapter, but the girls were quite content to put the bookmark in there and move on to something else.

The next day, however, was a different story. By the conclusion of Chapter Two, both girls had forsaken the pillows and the blankets and the toys and were perched on the arms of the chair I was sitting in, reading over my shoulder and begging me to continue. I happily obliged, but had to cut it short when time ran out- we had to get to gymnastics class. Reluctantly they got up to get ready, but by the time we got back home, they were both okay with doing a different activity.

jackpot sometimes wants in on the action, too

Today we’ve spent almost the whole morning reading. A cooler summer day, I set my hammock up in the woods in the backyard and we sat and read two entire chapters together. We decided it was  a bit too chilly to stay outside, even with our hoodies, so we raced back indoors where they unabashedly demanded another chapter. So we read a third together. At this point, they were asking to read as well- they would read two full pages and then share with the other. In between they would ask me to read a bit. But I cut us off after three chapters. I had woefully failed in the we’re-only-reading-one-chapter-a-day-period challenge, and I didn’t want them to get burnt out or bored with the story. Especially since they have already seen the movie. But I think I’m losing the battle. I’ll suggest an activity or something we can do, and they both answer with, “Actually, can we just keep reading the story?” or “I’d rather read the book some more.” It’s amazing. I’m not sure if it’s amazing in a good or bad way, but so far a lot of great things have come up in conversation while reading the book:

*They’re learning the pronunciation and definition of new (and much longer) words.

*They’re learning that, while in movies you get all the answers up front, with books you have to be patient and willing to wait it out. Answers are most usually revealed later on in the story, or simply when you least expect it. V has some serious issues with this and will constantly interrupt her sister to ask questions about the plot, or about something she remembers from the movie that either hasn’t been introduced yet, or is different than what we’re reading. So they’re definitely learning there is more to a book than a movie, and often it’s a secret or a character or an entire plot line that has been left out of the film. So hopefully they’re gaining the ability to appreciate a text on its own, rather than just relying on a movie to tell the whole story.

*They’re learning patience. When V asks a twentieth question in a row and K gets frustrated because the story keeps stopping, it’s a good opportunity to discuss how books reveal answers to your questions in good time. And as much as this confuses her, it gives her a great chance to hang on to information that she doesn’t fully understand in order to apply new knowledge to the problem later. As the story unfolds and cool new stuff is revealed, she’ll suddenly burst out with, “Ohhh!! That’s why Uncle Vernon was so mean to Harry!” or whatever the case may be.

*They’re learning that sometimes authors write sentences that don’t quite make sense because they words are made up (C’mon, Hagrid! We get that you have an usual accent, but really? Do we need to read “ter” and “yeh” and “summat” a hundred times in order to get it?) (The answer is YES). And as we begin to understand that people can have different accents than us, our horizons begin to broaden. A question that came up today was (K) “Why does Hagrid say ‘was’ instead of ‘were’?” I’m hoping this leads to understanding and patience for all people, whether they talk the same as us or not.

Both girls are avid readers and love to spend a rainy afternoon by a window with one of their favorite books (I seriously love my job) (*tear*), but reading out loud (really for the first time) is giving them a new perspective on reading. They’re having to learn cadence and pacing, both with the sentences and with their breath. And reading aloud brings to attention words they have yet to see or be able to pronounce, so we get to work on vocabulary (as I said earlier).

It’s a pretty incredible experience so far, and something I’m coming to look forward to. I know it’s only been a few days, but it almost feels like we’re on a mission together- that we are trying to conquer something as a team that takes longer than an hour or two, or even a day. Coming back to a task we’ve left off somewhere in the middle the day before just feels good.

All in all I’m really enjoying the process of Reading Time with my girls. They’re enjoying it, too. I’m hoping this will keep continuing to engage them as good books and good stories always do. Reading gives you so many opportunities to have adventures or learn something new or make new old friends. It introduces you to new words, new ideas, and new places. They’re learning a lot from this time, but I have to admit: I think I may be learning even more- about children, about parenting, and techniques and tools that I want to use when I have kids of my own.

What a great book.

What a great job.

Thanks, Mr. Potter.

not quite us, but pretty close.