December 30, 2014

[illuminate us]

Hello, dear friends. 

Although I may not know you, I trust that you are searching for meaning & that you feel the need for a deep sense of belonging (hint: because that's what everyone desires). I want you to know that 2015 holds an endless supply of possibilities, successes, adventures, monumental learning experiences.. and maybe some darkness dispersed in between.

Wait, don't go. I promise this will get better.

So, ever since I was a little girl I have loved to craft - soap bars for my extended family members (why not?), "snow globes" in translucent, upside down Dixie cups for my mom to put on her desk at work (what can I say? I'm an artist), and more recently, beer bread for my coworkers (yes, cooking is a craft). Pinterest has accelerated this interest of mine. Anyway, I tend to craft items for people I love. So this Christmas, I knew that I wanted to make something for some family members, but I didn't know what exactly I wanted to make. This is where Pinterest comes in. After perusing the website for several minutes/hours/..days (you be the judge), I decided to make soy candles.

In addition to crafting, I also journal. This year I wrote down a couple of words to describe each individual month. I have a fear of forgetting the good & the bad in the midst of busyness, and I want to remember what each month brought to the table. Personally, I would recommend doing this - it's been pretty interesting. According to my journal, 2014 was full of settling in, backsliding, busyness, surprising myself, a European adventure, celebration of an absence, and love.

Back to the candles.. after choosing my idea, I, naturally, thought of light and its meaning to me.

Jesus said that He is the light of the world - that whoever follows Him shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life. 
--John 8:12

Jesus' word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. 
--Psalm 119:105

And then it came to me.

Although I wrote down individual words to categorize each month, there is one key word that is representative of each of the months. It is depicted in bold, capital letters, size 394,856 font on the banner that covers my year of 2014. All 12 months. All 365 days. And that one key word would be: Light.

Even though there were times that I attempted to hide in the dark, as well as times that I almost forgot what light looked like, it has been there. He has been there. And even when darkness dispersed into portions of my 365 days, Light prevailed.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
--John 1:5

So, dear friends - remember what I said about feeling the need for a deep sense of belonging? Know that in Him, 

You, along with the Church, are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
--1 Peter 2:9

Here's to 2015. I know that it's going to be a marvelous year - for you & me both. When we acknowledge Him, we are sure to see that His good, sweet, and victorious Light always prevails.

[give light]:

makes about 12 small candles

you will need:
- 12 small decorative containers (I used planters from Anthropologie)
- soy wax flakes, 1 lb bag.. get this at Hobby Lobby
- pouring pot.. also at Hobby Lobby right next to the soy wax flakes (SCORE!)
- wooden spoon for mixing.. I used chopsticks
- wick wire.. also next to the soy wax flakes at Hob Lob
- 12 clips to put your wire in.. "see above"
- any scent you so desire (I bought "homestead" scent from Hobby Lobby)

1. Turn the stove to medium heat and pour all of the wax flakes into the pouring pot.

2. As the wax begins to melt, stir with wooden spoon. Stir every so often until all flakes have melted completely and wax is transparent.

3. Remove from heat and pour in your scent. I poured in the whole bottle. (Note: this activity can also serve as the perfect bonding opportunity for you and your boyfriend.. or.. you can make him craft with you because you're a procrastinator on gifts and need help asap.)

4. Let the wax sit for 25 minutes before pouring in the small decorative containers so that it can cool to 120 degrees.

5. While you are waiting for the wax to cool. put a clip and some wick wire in your small decorative containers.

6. After 25 minutes, pour the wax into the small decorative containers. Then wait for the wax to harden (15 hours). As the wax starts to set, it will become less transparent.

7. Trim the wicks, tie some twine around your candle and gift to a loved one.

Happy 2015!

November 11, 2014

[life lately]

Summarizing everything I've learned about a particular topic in one, consolidated, quantifiable report.

This is what I do at work.

This is what I am going to do in this blog post.

Topic of choice: life.

Okay, so NO, I’m not really going to summarize the ENTIRE topic of life in this report – that would be far too time consuming; rather, I will settle for “Life Lately”. My consolidated, quantifiable report will comprise of 5 main truths that I have learned over the course of the late summer and early fall months – simple yet transformative truths. And, friend.. I hope you, too, have learned or will soon learn these wonderful truths. Because quite frankly, life is good when we experience truth. And with that..

Ready, set, GO.

  1. Even if you think your prayer is somewhat ‘small’ or ‘stupid’, I can guarantee you that God cares. [Insert Matthew 6:26, 1 Peter 5:7, Psalm 139]. If you REALLY think about it – this is both humbling & frightening – we are quite small. We are 1 in 7.125 billion. Not only are we small population-wise, take note that we are small galaxy-wise. Let’s talk about how there are 17 billion Earth-sized planets in our galaxy ALONE. Think about your worries of your day. Then minimize them. Of course your prayer is going to be ‘small’. Regardless, God – the sole Creator of the 7.125 billion people and 17 billion planets – artistically crafted an intricate being – aka YOU – and desires to know you. Every little piece of you. He wants to hear about both the painful mouth ulcer that won’t go away and the huge presentation you’ve got next Thursday. He loves when you slowly release the grip of your so-called ‘control’ and give it up to Him, the only true Controller. He loves to comfort you because He loves you. Take heart. When you tell Him your thoughts and hopes and dreams, trust Him with them. Wait expectantly to see more of His character through the way He answers [or doesn’t answer] your prayer – small or big. You will be amazed.
  2. Community is good. Wherever you go, there is someone out there (no, multitudes of ‘someone’s, actually) who are experiencing the same things as you, feeling the same things as you, attempting to understand the same things as you. Take comfort in this. Use this. I have found a commonality in each of the ‘crossroads’ of my life: there has always been one particular person strategically placed in my life to aid me in my distress, celebrate with me in my joys, or sit with me in my apathy – who has either previously gone through or is currently going through this stage. No coincidence there – it’s on purpose. He determined the set times for them and the exact places where [His creation] should live. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him.. –Acts 17
  3. Where you invest your [prayer], you invest your life. No, I didn’t just butcher the Mumford and Sons lyrics.. inadvertently. I always kind of wondered why God wanted us to pray – don’t get me wrong, I know that this communication vastly deepens & strengthens our relationship with God – it’s just that sometimes I just don’t understand why we are called to pray for certain things if God has already made up his mind about everything, ya know? That’s what I call a conundrum. Well, my perspective changed. 2 weeks ago. I am blessed to know some of the most loving, mission-minded people. It’s crazy inspiring. SO.. I was reading a monthly newsletter of one of these beautiful-souled people and slowly began praying for the prayer requests included in their letter. And like that, suddenly I became invested. Interesting how that works out. I became sincerely interested in the wellbeing of my friend and each of her prayer requests. God is good like that. He gives us that heart for others. He gives us the freeing ability to trust Him when we leave our cares at His feet.
  4. Never lose your sense of wonder. I seriously enjoy music. Zach Winters, Ellie Holcomb, All Sons and Daughters, Sigur Ros, Bon Iver, .. the list goes on and on. Ever spent time thinking about how we hear? Sound waves enter the ear canal and cause the eardrum to vibrate, vibrations passing through 3 connected bones in the middle ear, which in turn sets fluid moving in the inner ear. This moving fluid bends thousands of delicate hair-like cells which convert the vibrations into nerve impulses which are then carried to the brain by the auditory nerve. In the brain, the impulses are converted into what we “hear” as sound ( The sound worms its way deep into our emotions, our lives.. while we just sit there stupidly and hear. Let’s not forget that this world, including all of its inhabitants, is deeply magical. We should respect people for who they are: individual miracles. Little bodies of life and little tiny evidences of a creative Creator.
  5. Abide. While you’re busy praying, communing, investing, and wondering..I’ve learned it’s very important to keep on keepin on. Let’s  a-b-i-d-e.

a.       to await in expectation
b.      to continue without fading or being lost
c.       to endure without yielding
d.      to bear patiently
e.      to accept without objection
f.        Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.. apart from me you can do nothing.” –John 15

And regardless of when we arrive upon our discoveries of truth – whether it be late summer / early fall like the 5 I discussed – in every season, He is still God.

October 3, 2014

[the gospel brought to you by the season of fall]

This is my most favorite season.

How can one not enjoy fall? Sounds like a pretty impossible feat if you ask me. (But you didn't.)

I like the crisp, cool weather. The pumpkin flavored e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. The snuggling. The football. The color of trees when they change colors. Umm hello.. comfort food! The scarves and plaid flannels. The anticipation & joy that comes from the beautiful realization that holidays are quickly approaching - ATTENTION: Coming soon: precious time with loved ones and time off of work.

But most of all, I love the imagery of the gospel that I see in fall.

I was thinking about this yesterday on the way home from work. I was listening to "Nothing I Hold Onto" by United Pursuit while passing by trees that were slowly beginning to change colors. It was good.

I don't know if this is how it is with you, but summer is always a busy time for me. I have learned to [a little bit] strongly dislike it. I just feel like, for some reason, in the summer, everyone - myself included - is constantly on the go during the hours of extended daylight. I don't do "always-on-the-go". Eventually, my introvert self gets tired. I get tired of the hot weather. The sweating profusely problem that I may or may not have.. but mostly I get tired of the busyness.

It seems like as fall rolls around, I am done with continual activity. I am so burnt out of trying to get that overflowing to-do list checked off and being social by signing up for activity after activity to fill my schedule while simultaneously attempting to fill my heart, that I simply can't do it anymore. I am trying and trying so hard to be effective & efficient with my numerous summer activities that it gets me. I give up.

Fall is letting go of those habits that aren't so becoming. Fall is realizing I can't do it on my own and letting go. Slowly, becoming so ravaged with the clutter, that I let it loose.

And in winter, even though it is cold and hard - I let go of my 'control' - and slowly, progressively, I see the white. Slowly, I am becoming clean. I am letting go of trying to do it on my own.

And in the spring, I am made new. I am brought through the busyness and the attempt at controlling my own life, the hard times that make me clean and present me as a new creation - white & blameless. And in the spring, I flourish. Only because of the realization that I can't do it on my own. I am not in control. I am never going to get anywhere by over-cramming & checking off items on my to-do list. It is through the hard winter that I learn more about my Creator, about who He created me to be. It is through the winter that He makes me clean - white as snow. And it is in the spring that I am joyful - that I blossom.. understanding that the only reason I am able to blossom is because of the seasons that brought me here - this season of spring. This season of becoming.

And soon and very soon, I will find myself - again - in the continuous cycle of seasons. I will find myself in busyness, in attempting to do things on my own for the false belief that I am all-knowing or something (um.. I know. Ya right.). And I will then recognize it. And come clean. And bloom.

But the best part of it all - it's not the continual transformation or the different life stages. It's the truth that I am always coming right back to the source of life - Jesus Christ - the fulfiller. The pilot. The controller. The cleaner. And the planter who brings about the fresh blooms. Time and time again.

September 12, 2014

[for the lovers]

The woman who lovingly sprinkles grapes on her husband's Chipotle salad to make sure he gets his fruit intake for the day. (And yes, this truly just happened - you can surely believe I chuckled with delight.)

The wide open arms spread nearly a mile apart, preparing to engulf the best friend who just arrived at the Dulles Airport.. shortly followed by shrieks - a multitude of shrieks - of pure joy.

The couple across from you on the bus, fingers interlaced and eyes locked, staring at one another as if they were the only other person in a world of over 7 billion.

Words from a family who loves and cherishes every single part of you before leaving for a vacation thousands of miles away. The prayers and heart felt good wishes received, joy beaming on the face of the traveler - the radiation seen and felt by all who come close.

Sometimes, on a day like today, amidst the painful memories of the hate that led to a terrorist attack, or the current ongoing stories of 'religious' movements attempting to wipe out a certain people group.. it can seem like this place is devoid of love.

It's easy to get sucked into thinking this way.

To get caught up in asking the "Why?"s. To let disgust consume us. To believe that love is merely lingering around for a short time before it completely vanishes from the earth, leaving us with nothing but contempt & wars.

No matter how terrible or discomforting our current world may seem, you and I both know that love is still out there, actively winning over every single ounce of the souls of those it touches, illuminating the hearts & minds of those who cannot merely keep it to themselves - they must show it to others.

Freely you have received; freely you give.

Let's elaborate on the love in our life stories. Expand it, encouraging everyone to feel it from their heart, outwardly displaying it through the sprinkling of grapes, the hugging & shrieking, the hand holding & eye locking, the words of encouragement.

Let's fight anything that is against it by stripping the world of its hate. Its emptiness. 

And in turn.. let's show it love. And by showing love, we can be sure that we are slowly & simultaneously revealing life.

For the lovers:
(Side note: I unabashedly & wholeheartedly believe this title encompasses every single one of those 7 billion people mentioned earlier - call me a fool or a crazy enthusiast.. I'm okay with either.)

Just keep going.

It's going to be hard, and you're going to constantly get the urge to give up.

You can do it.

Cling to the joy that Jesus Christ has freely given to you. Celebrate the little acts of love you see. Pray for those who try to steal your joy. Love on them, too. Focus on the good. And when things become completely unbearable..

Remember: the best is yet to come, my dear friend.

For [She] was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

August 7, 2014

[life together]

There are a few things I have come across in this world that I truly love, although many that I like.

-I like the smell of coffee early in the morning after 8.5 hours of sleep.. and not a second more or less.
-I like reading words of meaning, whether words that teach me or those that encourage me.
-I like baking - particularly oatmeal chocolate chip cookies - on cold & rainy evenings.. and eating 1/2 of the cookie dough before putting it in the oven. Whoops.

But I love community.

Here goes.. my first post in quite some time. The past 6 months have been somewhat of a large blur. Sometimes life plans get sidetracked and my own strong desires become outweighed by present feelings & situations. Could I be more non-descriptive? Probably not, but hopefully you get my gist.

Anyway, throughout this entire season, two things have remained.

1. Jesus
2. Community

Throughout this season, I have learned just how essential community is for myself, as well as every single person on the face of the earth, I would argue. Strong, solid, righteous community. You know what I'm talking about - those people that you can pour out your heart to for hours on end without second guessing your decision to tell them your most intimate life details. The people who don't have to listen to your complaining but willingly choose to do so because of their genuine love for you. The people who urge you on in the right direction with truth, regardless of whether or not you can see the truth for what it is at that specific time in your life.

My community/encouragers/supporters - each of them as important to my well being as water is to my body - have exhibited the love of Jesus to me time and time again. That truthful encouragement that I'm talking about - the loving kindness that community graciously presents to us - comes from Jesus Christ.

To the ones that love me - this one's for you. You mean more to me than you know.

Thank you for reminding me that I belong.

Thank you for believing in me.

Thank you for showing me that God delights in me and calls me by name.

Thank you for reminding me that I am never too far gone - that I am loved deeply and wholly as I am.

Thank you for choosing to be the salt in the world, especially when it is difficult and goes unnoticed.

Thank you for showing me what God is really like.

Thank you for loving me. The world needs more people like you.

not pictured: nicole triana

YOU are love.

June 18, 2014

[the season of becoming]

In lieu of my own words, I am going to reference one of my favorite authors, Shauna Niequest. If you have not yet read any of her 3 books (particularly Bread & Wine), I demand (strongly encourage..?) you to.

This is the thing: When you hit 28 or 30, everything begins to divide. You can see very clearly two kinds of people. On one side, people who have used their 20s to learn and grow, to find … themselves and their dreams, people who know what works and what doesn’t, who have pushed through to become real live adults. Then there’s the other kind, who are hanging onto college, or high school even, with all their might. They’ve stayed in jobs they hate, because they’re too scared to get another one. They’ve stayed with men or women who are good but not great, because they don’t want to be lonely. … they mean to develop intimate friendships, they mean to stop drinking like life is one big frat party. But they don’t do those things, so they live in an extended adolescence, no closer to adulthood than when they graduated. 
Don’t be like that. Don’t get stuck. Move, travel, take a class, take a risk. There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming. Don’t lose yourself at happy hour, but don’t lose yourself on the corporate ladder either. Stop every once in a while and go out to coffee or climb in bed with your journal. 
Ask yourself some good questions like: “Am I proud of the life I’m living? What have I tried this month? What have I learned about God this year? What parts of my childhood faith am I leaving behind, and what parts am I choosing to keep? Do the people I’m spending time with give me life, or make me feel small? Is there any brokenness in my life that’s keeping me from moving forward?” 
Now is your time. Walk closely with people you love, and with people who believe God is good and life is a grand adventure. Don’t get stuck in the past, and don’t try to fast-forward yourself into a future you haven’t yet earned. Give today all the love and intensity and courage you can, and keep traveling honestly along life’s path.

-- Shauna Niequest's "11 Things to know at 25(ish)" for Relevant Magazine


May 11, 2014

[in everything]

I wonder if God laughs when he sees us contemplating how to ‘best’ practice His presence.

Do I need to go pray in the church?
..Read the Bible every morning before work?
..Spend time in nature?
..Maybe partake in coffee with a friend while discussing Jesus’ characteristics?

Yes – to all of these things together, but no to each of these things alone.

Don’t we see?

If we truly believe God to be the creator of the universe – the creator of you & me – why would we not believe that God is inextricably involved in each & every aspect of our lives? He wants His followers to experience Him through time in prayer, reading His word, exploring nature, and over coffee with a friend.. and then some

When we think that we can set out x amount of minutes/hours/etc. (also known in Christianese as ‘quiet time’) in order to get ‘closer’ to the Lord, we are inadvertently diluting His image. God was never meant to be reduced to a ‘once a day’ dosage. He wants us to experience His goodness & joy constantly – without ceasing. (And no – this is not to say that I don’t like setting out time to learn about the Lord. If you know me, you know I love a good coffee house & some Bible reading; rather, I am saying that God wants us to stretch out this communion with Him over the entire course of our days.) why do we do this? Is it because we’re scared?

Are we unbelieving?

Are we forgetful?

I would argue the latter to be most prevalent in my case. Unfortunately, it is extremely easy for me to be consumed in my current situation while completely neglecting God – not necessarily on purpose, but just because it is hard for me to redirect my thoughts on something I am not tangibly seeing or communing with.

However, I truly believe that if we intentionally opened our eyes and removed our blinders, stopped putting boundaries on where we expect God to show up, we will see that God is speaking to us throughout each & every moment of our days. 

I can guarantee that He wants to work through you..if you let Him.

I can guarantee that you will find Him.. if you look hard enough.

He’s there when you wake up – affirming that His mercies are new every morning.

He’s there when you eat lunch – giving you nourishment through the foods He created and the taste buds He blessed you with.

He’s there in your conversations with coworkers – urging you to love them as Jesus loves you: without limit, without fail, without judgment.

He’s there in the midst of your worrying about your busy schedule or your upcoming project deadline – He wants to give you focus & endurance when you ask. He wants you to be still & know that He is God.

What I’m saying is that He wants us to feel His presence and let us know that He is with us.. constantly. Let us not take this gift for granted.

Let us occupy ourselves entirely in knowing God. The more we know Him, the more we will desire to know Him. As love increases with knowledge, the more we know God, the more we will truly love Him. We will learn to love Him equally in times of distress or in times of great joy.
--Brother Lawrence

That we need only to recognize God intimately present with us, to address ourselves to Him every moment, that we may beg His assistance for knowing His will in things doubtful, and for rightly performing those which we plainly see He requires of us, offering them to Him before we do them, and giving Him thanks when we have done.
--Brother Lawrence

April 13, 2014

[a redeemed failure, I am]

There is this one thing. This one, enormously h-u-g-e problem I have. I can't for the life of me get rid of it. And trust me.. I've tried. It's sticky and bitter and has an AWFUL aftertaste. It upsets every facet of my life whether it be through friendships, relationships, religion, love, or goals.

Here it goes..

I'm a failure.

[Background Information:]
The other weekend I was talking with my friend about our lives in high school - about how young and naive we were compared to our college selves. We discussed how knowledgeable we felt in that present time but how off the rocker that thought, in fact, really was. We talked about our mistakes and how we thought we had learned from them.. until we began discussing our college lives and the mistakes we re-rehearsed.

[Fast Forward:]
Post college I still make most of those mistakes, no matter how hard I try to evade them. I am constantly relearning the lessons I 'learned' last week, last month.. last year. Hard of hearing? Maybe. No - definitely. Apparently [and unfortunately] my conscience isn't always as loud as my feelings.

a. I am never going to be omniscient or as full of knowledge of life as I would like to be, thus enabling me to make mistakes. Frequently.
b. While there is wisdom to be gained in life, I will most likely choose the wrong route [at times] even though I know it is wrong. I will do so knowingly & willfully.
c. I have a hard time ridding myself of these mistakes when depending on my own strength to do it.

And then grace steps in.

That illogical yet life changing five letter word - the word that only comes to meaning after failing. And failing hard

You begin to feel it releasing you from your heavy shackles after putting that significant other on a pedestal when they were never called to be there. After proclaiming to love a friend, yet neglecting to put her above yourself. After placing your self worth in your success at work.. as if this is an indicative measure. After trying to go a day without coveting something or someone. (Whatever it is, it's all the same.)

..and finding that you're f-o-r-g-i-v-e-n. Not because you deserve it, but solely because you don't deserve it.

And the good thing about grace.. is that it also sticks. We can't seem to get past it once we truly & intimately experience it. Rather than having an awful aftertaste, it is sweet like honey and filling like homemade bread. Rather than upsetting every facet of your life, it restores & redeems it all.

No longer are you bound to your mistakes. Not because you deserve it, but solely because you don't deserve it.

This is exactly who Jesus is. 

When one of the 12 disciples, Peter, who admittedly desired to follow Jesus with his whole heart denied being a follower of Jesus not one but a solid THREE times, Jesus wholeheartedly forgives him.

'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.' (Luke 23:34)

Let me remind you - Peter is the same guy who told Jesus that he would never disown Him, even if that meant he had to die with Him (Matthew 26:35). After Jesus' mysterious act of forgiveness, Peter goes on to be an ambassador of the gospel to the Gentiles. When persecuted, he perseveres. When tempted, he holds his ground to he point of death.

You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (Romans 6:18)

This is grace in action. 

This is exactly what you are being offered.

Of course, this is in no way to say that you are never going to mess up (hint: see above). Rather, this means that you are forgiven & redeemed through the blood of Jesus Christ. We will never fully understand the mystery of grace, but if we're wise enough to see what is truly being offered, we will sprint with arms wide open to the only One who can cure us of our emptiness. Our mistakes. Our backsliding. Our selfishness. Our inherent flaws. Our incapacity to see God for who He truly is.

This, my friends, is grace.

[We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
--C.S. Lewis

March 29, 2014

[the last thing on my to do list]

This past month has been stressful [for somewhat unnecessary reasons].
So.. if you know me well, you are one of the lucky people who get to hear about my bodily stress issues. (Side note: my body HATES stress. Like if my body was trapped on a deserted island with one thing.. the last thing on the list would in fact be.. stress.) I digress..
So it’s been annoying.
But you know what I find even more annoying?
It’s the fact that I know exactly what will help in easing my apprehension, yet some days I find myself neglecting to do it, as if it’s just another box to check off on my never ending to-do list.
Wait.. why?!
Because I am stubborn.
I like to pretend that I am in control of my life and can obtain peace on my own accord.
I spend the time that I could be using in communion with Jesus to worry about my worries. And yes, I am well aware that this is not a sensible solution. 1 + 1 does not equal dog.
Do you ever find yourself getting caught up in the troubles of the day/week/month/year? Don’t get me wrong here – I understand that some things naturally bring about anxiousness: new jobs, relationships, travel, overfilled schedules, etc. I would find it a bit strange if I wasn’t concerned with the things that I have been experiencing the past few weeks. But the amount of concern I have expressed over these things (..should we call them lifesuckers?) looks different than trust and a WHOLE lot different than being still and knowing that He is God.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those that love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.
What if I took time to meditate on this truth rather than worry about outcomes and expectations? The Creator of the Universe loves ME and wants to use me for His divine purpose of redeeming the world!
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
What if I took Jesus for His word and trusted Him to give me rest?
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Welp, it’s time to sit & trust.

February 22, 2014

[a letter to the future me]

A letter for those of us who can sometimes get caught up in the expectations - whether implicit or explicit, true or false, big or small - that the world around us demands; a letter to give perspective from outside of the tunnel, desiring to shed new light that can only come from experience, wisdom, and time.

---------->Hint: Insert your name [here].

To the future [Laura],

Earlier this week you assisted your company in recruiting at the University of Oklahoma's career fair. You saw hundreds of 'real world' bound, wide eyed college students, anxiously awaiting a chance to talk with you as well as your fellow coworkers about the possibility of a career with your company. While conversing with these students, you noted that some appeared confident, others were heavily perspiring when you spoke to them about their plans post graduation.. but all of them - of this I am sure - were the perfect balance of anxious and unsettled. If you remember correctly, you too were in the exact same position two years ago. The funny thing is, yesterday, you had a completely new perspective. What once seemed like such a fearful, defining moment now shone forth as - yes, a defining moment - but more so, a natural part of life - a small yet integral stone in this pathway known as life. I want you to forever remember this feeling when future life changes come your way and you are left wondering if everything is going to be alright.

It will.

You have always been okay, and you will continue to be okay for the remainder of your life. And with that, I want to remind you of a few realizations that I have come to know as truths along this journey:

You have tremendous worth. Be confident in who you are - learn your characteristics & traits. Find relationships & workplaces in which these characteristics are deemed valuable. Know that you are unrepeatable - there is a magic about you that is all your own. No one has been, currently is, or will ever be the exact mix of these characteristics and traits that make up the essence of [Laura Elizabeth].

People are just people; do not allow them to fill you with feelings of insecurity, envy, unnecessary shame or guilt. Everyone needs love & sincerity. If they are not displaying love & sincerity in their lives, do not judge them or blame it on them. Instead, merely assume that they have not yet seen it. Show it to them.

Life does not owe you anything. As soon as you are able to fathom this harsh yet true idea, you will no longer expect a problem free life. Know that hardship, trial, and grief are inherent risks of life. And then move on.

That hardship, trial, and grief that I just mentioned - everyone is experiencing. At some point in their lives, every single person on the face of the earth will have bad days/weeks/months/most likely years. You are to take comfort in this. Knowing this will give you the ability to relate. Don't bottle up these emotions and pretend as if you are not experiencing them. Let it out. Find a trustworthy mentor, best friend, family member to confide in.

Be a mentor. This involves being open, loving, trustworthy, respectable, and knowledgeable, so if you are not these things, you should probably go back to step one (hey - it's okay if you have to. Take time to become these things, and don't be distraught when it takes longer than you imagined). Find a mentee who is willing & able to retain what you discuss. Love them. Let them know how valuable they are. Share life with them.

Find out what you believe and why you believe it. Then stand firm. This involves feeding your faith with action & knowledge. Soon you will see your doubts beginning to starve. C.S. Lewis states that faith is the art of holding on to something in spite of changing moods and circumstances - I would say that he was pretty accurate in that description.

You will never stop learning. At first this may seem slightly annoying - which it kind of is - but who do you think you are.. Creator of the universe? Enjoy the learning. It is for the better that we don't understand everything. Life would not be nearly as magical as it is now.

Take the focus off of yourself. I know I just told you earlier about how you have tremendous worth and all, but you certainly do not deserve the focus. There are 7 billion people in this world. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. Some 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water, and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation. You're suddenly seeming less important, huh?

Do not ever be ashamed of your past. It brought you here, and right here is exactly where you should be.

And lastly..

When you find yourself forgetting these truths, remember that you, [Laura Elizabeth], are to hold yourself to a standard of grace - not perfection - because of Jesus Christ and his unfathomable mercy. In love, show this to others.

Again.. not to spoil the ending for you, but everything is going to turn out okay.

With love,
The 2014 [Laura Elizabeth]

|| Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works within us. ||

January 3, 2014

[so this is the new year]

It’s 12:46, and I’m sitting here in my work cubicle on my lunch break. I only have 60 minutes of internet quota time since Blogspot is outlawed by my place of profession (as well as Facebook and Spotify); therefore this post will be choppy & sweet.

- The closing of that novel you’ve been reading all freaking year.
- The second chance you’ve been so eagerly anticipating after that first go around didn't quite cut it.
- Three hundred sixty five acres of pasture full of wide open spaces.. just waiting for your creative little heart to take over and plow, build, run wild – whatever suits your fancy.

..or as some would put it:
I’m ready.. are you?
We made it. You tried your best to keep me down, and at times, you kind of did. BUT.. here I am. I made it through.. ready and feisty as ever to leap into 2014 with this four letter word we call h-o-p-e.
Your antics were both sweet & sour, which I guess in all reality, is quite better than plain & dry. You made me cry, question, and get accommodated with that terrifying thing called change.
You’ve made your presence known, that’s for sure. But you know what? I’m stronger, wiser, and more myself because of you. Everything that brought me here will be worth it – of this I am sure.
And for this reason, I give thanks.
Thank you. For European adventures. Beautiful, intentional friends. Laughter & silliness. A wonderful job with wonderful people. A new car. The gift of partaking in the unions of God seeking couples. Family communication via FaceTime and group messaging when I am a state away. Books with words of meaning and truth. For reminding me to be confident in who I am: a daughter of the King. Thank you even for the times you walked right over me while I was down. I got up.
And now is where I say..
Move along. You’re done here.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time.”
--Ecclesiastes 3:11
My phenomenal Mrs. Mayberry on her wedding day right before she
 married her college golf coach.. life is funny, isn't it?
I wasn't kidding when I said my friends were beautiful.. THIS girl.

The A to my B personality AND she dresses up with me? One word: keeper.
P.S. Pumpkin + Pi(e)
My heart friend and I attending weddings.. it's what we do.
They REALLY are the best.
She gets me. AND she's cute to boot.

Oh ya.. I went to Europe.
 Get at me 2014!