People can change

In my line of work (mental health), I have to remind myself of this all the time: “They’re still breathing, so they can still change.” Hope can be painful, but we should still do it. I have several people I have to believe for today. Who are you holding out hope for today?

 

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#Fashion for a week: 7 looks I’m trying

I feel so haphazard when I dress for work in the morning. I don’t stress much, which is a good thing. But I used to put more thought into what I wore, tried to make it more “me”. But that meant no planning. I would wake up and see if I felt like an artist or hipster or a J-crew wannabe or something else entirely that day.

I’m too old to have feelings like that now. Or at least to be operated by them. I know what I like, and my wardrobe accommodates my taste, at least most of the time. And thanks to getting hooked up with StyleUp, hopefully my fashion sense will get an upgrade.

This week, because apparently I drank something caffeinated, I decided to organize a week’s worth of outfits. And not in the groggy dark, like most mornings. Here’s are seven of the looks I came up with.

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A silk geometric color block short sleeve shirt under a gold cardigan. I will probably tuck the shirt in for extra preppyness, and the bright yellow scarf will add a pop of color. And all of it gets pulled together nicely with a black cigarette pant.
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I’ve had this Mexican peasant top for over a decade. (I literally bartered for it on the streets in Mexico.) I recently brought it back out to see what could be done. I love the color matching with this basic cardigan, and I think the peasant top over the wide leg trouser will look smashing.
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Oh no, another peasant top. I usually don’t like these. But this time we’re adding a belt to show I do have a waistline and doing some crazy pattern combining with the cardigan, which I think I can get away with. These bootcut pants are in a wine color, which I love, so that will pull out some of the richer colors in the top. Layers are a big thing for me since our office is really cold, but the days have been warm.
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I’ve been meaning to create more with chambray so here goes. A long-sleeve chambray shirt under a black blazer, worn over a pair of grey jeggings. Throw on a bright scarf for color and I’m ready to go.
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I am so in love with this floaty, asymetrical print top from Anthropologie. Aren’t you? this infinity scarf can be worn a million ways over the top, and the muted colors accent each other so well. Also worn with the grey jeggings.
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A friend of mine bought this semi-flamboyant pink blazer for me for my birthday two years ago. I never would’ve picked it for myself, but it’s really fun and I always get tons of compliments on it. I’m pairing it with a simple black stripe shirt and a wide leg khaki trouser, reminiscent of a nautical look.
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This one is for a weekend party I’m heading to. Sure, it’s a 3-year old birthday party, but whatev. I love this floral tank with a built-in bra (because I’m lazy on weekends). It’s going to be super cute with a cardigan and belt to pull it together. The colored jeans will get a little cuff and I’ll add in a pair of ballet flats and be good to go.

So these are my style ideas for the next few days. What about you? Are you a fashion procrastinator or do you plan ahead?

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These stories pump water

I love brand new ideas, really good ones I wish I thought of. Don’t you?

Well, here’s one for you. Have you heard of CausePub yet? If you haven’t, you’re about to.

I just wrote a story for CausePub, an organization creating books for a cause through group-publishing. [Click here to read the story and vote]. [Their current book project is called Couch Rebels, a collection of stories about folks who rebelled against horizontal life and got up to do something, to change something, even if the thing they changed was themselves. The concept is genius. Here’s how it works.

  • CausePub identifies a charity or cause they want their book to support
  • CausePub solicits stories from adventurers and story-tellers
  • After stories are submitted, they approve the stories and post them to their site
  • Story-writers solicit votes from friends and strangers
  • CausePub selects great stories they love with the most votes
  • The Couch Rebel book will be published as a Kindle eBook on August 14. So soon!
  • When anyone purchases the book, the proceeds are divided between the cause, the writers and basic overhead costs.
  • For Couch Rebel, 50% of the proceeds will benefit Blood: Water Mission. The breakdown is in the graphic below.

[Follow CausePub on Twitter here and find them on Facebook here.]

Here’s where I need your help: I wrote a story for CausePub, and I need your vote.

The story is below. It’s a story about a time when God met me and my seatmate on a plane to Atlanta. I didn’t see it coming. I love this story because it makes me like God even more. Please read and take a second to click VOTE. Thank you so much.

What God Thinks About You

“So, where are you headed?” I asked the young brunette next to me to end the awkward silence. She smiled the stranger smile, as if wondering how long this conversation might take. “Somewhere tropical. With friends.” She needed a little prodding, and I wondered if I should just lay off. Instead, I offered my own less glamorous destination: Atlanta.

I attempted to stir the conversation with more questions about her destination, responding with appropriate amounts of awe and jealousy. I hoped we would catch a common thread in our lives and the chatter would take off, giving me an opportunity to eventually talk with her about Jesus.

But no such luck. The conversation flailed, and we politely took up our books. I leaned into the window, pretending to read, but inside I argued with myself, knowing God might have bigger plans for this three-hour plane ride.

Eventually, my discomfort with silence grew larger than my desire to be well-mannered company. “What are you reading?” I finally inquired. She stammered a bit. “It’s a little unconventional. I’m not sure I want to say.” She tucked the pink book cover down toward her lap. I attempted to reassure her I didn’t have plans to judge, but I wasn’t going to push it. But what was she reading?

“I’m reading about artificial insemination,” she offered hesitantly, waiting for the verdict to read on my face as she turned the cover toward me. “I’m not married yet, but I’m 35. And I want to have a baby.”

Oh.

Click the button below to keep reading and vote.

Vote

Unafraid

Yes. To all of the above. One of my big goals this year is fearlessness. I was afraid to commit to it. (LOL.) But seriously, I really was. Being unafraid means potential loss, pain and other things we religiously aim to avoid.

So why put ourselves out there? Whenever I choose to risk, it’s because the pain of regret is bigger than the pain of failure.

May I remember the pain of regret only long enough to make the strong and fearless choice. And may we all live lives unafraid.

What’s the one thing holding you back from taking the leap into living unafraid?

{Let’s stay in touch. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter. And you can subscribe to the blog right here. Thanks.}

[Image cred: found this one from Em and Kat over at The Refined Woman. Love that blog. Those girls are too fun, sassy and they know how to dress. Stop by for a visit and get a few wardrobe ideas from these fearless gals.]

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#NewMusicMonday: Haim

I am a pop-lover at heart. I think that’s why I fell in love with this girl-fronted band, and this song especially.

Haim is a sister trio from LA who grew up playing small gigs with their parents, who played for a hobby. Together with their drummer, who happens to be a guy, they’ve  launched two EPs, and their fame is growing, including a recent nod in SPIN mag’s 40 favorite songs of 2013 So Far).

This song, Falling, won my heart as a poppy hipster ballad, but honestly, I expected a little leather and metal, 80s punk style, from the sound. When I saw the video, I was surprised to see the girls washed in a vintage filter, frolicking in the woods and along cliffs in muted tones and tiny, high-waisted denim. In other words, Urban Outfitters models on an Anthropologie set. They look young enough to be having a roommate sleepover, but you’d better take them seriously. It’s clear these women know music.

Fair warning: this tune is a stick-in-your-head, feel-good pop ballad you’ll want to play on Repeat. You may also find yourself dancing, 80s dance floor style. At least I did.

A squishy, floaty, sturdy, heavy thing called Love

Only the things done in love matter.

Only the things done in love weigh enough to stamp eternity. Everything else just floats off the surface as vapor.

It’s not the act. It’s the intent.

Love might wear you out, but it doesn’t get tired that easily.

Love lets you be where you are right now, knowing you won’t always be here. It knows This too shall pass.

Love is lighter than gravity with a terrible memory for the bad stuff people do.

Love is more a grandmother and less a police officer.

Love doesn’t look down in vulnerable moments. It just looks you square in the eye. And it doesn’t flinch at all that you’re uncomfortable.

Love chuckles at the past, beams bright toward the future and sits perfectly content in this moment. Because its a pretty good one.

Love isn’t in a hurry, doesn’t wish it was somewhere else. Love can silence the phone and taste dinner.

Love likes itself, doesn’t wish it was someone else. Love takes good care of itself, but isn’t self-obsessed. Love doesn’t belittle itself because it doesn’t need your compliments. And it’s confident enough to care about you, to really listen, to squat down next to you in the dirt and feel all you feel.

Love looks past sour, crusty shells to warm, squishy insides. And knows just the words to safely let the guts out.

Love listens because the stories are the people, and the people always matter.

Love can tell you you’re wrong so kind you won’t feel the sting. You will just be grateful. 

Indeed, only the things done in love matter.

Jesus is love. If you don’t know him yet, introduce yourself.

#NewMusicMonday: Laura Marling

I don’t know what to do with Laura Marling. She is so deceptively deep. I say deceptive because look at her. She’s angelic, the golden hair and giant blue eyes, staring off above you into another world.

And she is only 23. She shouldn’t have this kind of experience, the kind she crams into her music. And she shouldn’t have that rich, soul-resonating voice.

How does she do that? It’s a wonderful surprise.

She has something of a dark edge going on, anger, sometimes forceful, sometimes subtle. A scratchy voice with lyrics beyond her years. It’s small-minded of me to make comparisons, but I can’t help thinking of Bob Dylan when I hear her sing.

But I will let you decide who she is. Take a listen:

I am Jesus’ awkward friend

In college, it was getting easy. I finally figured out how to make friends, not talk too much or make people feel uncomfortable around me. And aside from the tumultuous relationships and the general self-loathing, my relationship with God felt relatively sturdy too.

In the mornings, I propped up my pillow behind my head, then read, wrote, prayed, sang. I poured my dirty, little heart out. And Someone always welcomed me.

Fast forward a few years to a dream come true. I met a man, we dated for a year and a day, and then we married. I love marriage. But God and I aren’t friends like we used to be.

After we married, I went back to school. Then he took a pastoring job. Then we bought a house, birthed a kid, and flung ourselves into the modern whirlwind. I’m studying to be a pastor myself. And I am a working mother and writer.

I just haven’t figured out where God fits into all this ministry I’m doing.

Ironic, isn’t it?

I am so busy saving people from suicide and trying to stitch together failing marriages and regretting nights where I choose anything over playing with my son.

I stay up late and arise early. I pray for people on Sundays and throughout the week. I listen to God for total strangers and encourage them with the proof that he sees them. I use God’s word to guide my life. My life feels busy, quite spiritual, yet strangely empty.

It’s hard to find time to be with God himself. 

It’s easy to coast, to look the part, to impress people with stuff I know. But growing up in a Christian home, the kind where people spoke in tongues and prayed Scripture for prayers, I have an unfair advantage. I know exactly how to sound like I have my crap together.

But I don’t.

Some Sundays, I want to stand on the platform and apologize to everyone for being a fraud. But instead I go home and apologize to God. I tell him I want it to be different. But not much has changed.

The last time I remember feeling anxiously earnest for God and his presence, for Jesus himself, was May 2010. I was a few months pregnant. I was alone and suddenly felt this heavy fear I would burn out on Jesus if I didn’t get some fire around me, the hunger of other people who wanted God too. So I got a group of girls together and told them I needed women to burn with me. We called our meetings Burn Night, and that’s been the name ever since.

I have one friend here who loves God and wants him like I do. But we are both struggling with motherhood and life and where to schedule in time with a Guy who exists everywhere all the time, who knew what I would be thinking about last week, before I even thought it.

How does one be friends with Jesus?

I woke up this morning and realized that I feel awkward around Jesus now because I talk to him often, but it’s small talk, often about other people. It’s not good, quality time. Our friendship just isn’t what it used to be, and it’s my fault.

There is a wall of condemnation guarding heaven, and I just haven’t learned to push through. But I have to.

So today, I sat down and wrote. I told him I feel naked and vulnerable, and I’m worried he’s going to remind me of all my failure, and I will just sit here looking down and then try to leave and act right.

Weird. He has never done that before.

Then I reminded myself what Jesus said a long time ago: “No one can come to the Father unless the Father calls for her.”

I have no right to be here. No right to talk to him. No right to be his friend.

I may be attractive and well-spoken, and that usually works for me when I need someone to think I know what I’m talking about. But that doesn’t impress God. He sees right through the extra make up and the confident posture.

Drat.

So what impresses God? Some might say nothing. Some might say, “Being a good person”. But Jesus said we can’t come to God unless God calls us first. So we are pretty much screwed unless he initiates the conversation.

But has he? Will he? Does he?

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. And suddenly, he’s coming to me. I’m not the sad, little orphan outside of heaven. He’s the one at my door.

And the tables turn. I feel I’ve been discovered. But not in a rock star way. In a “I am so going to jail for this” way. I want to hide, but I’m getting called. He’s at my door! It’s what I wanted, right?

Hello, awkward.

I feel deeply uncomfortable because I so want to qualify myself. I want to earn love, to prove my worth with my talent and labor. I want God to be impressed with me. But he just doesn’t care about that because he’s not looking for good deeds.

He’s looking for people who just want to be with him. I mean, he has everything he needs. And if he needs some work done, the angels are more reliable.

He doesn’t want a work force. He wants friends.

I feel really awkward, like I’m going to start playing with my phone and not making eye contact, because I am not bringing anything to this dinner. All the stuff that I normally bring to a relationship doesn’t matter here.

And yet, I am pretty sure the level of my personal contentment and happiness come with making peace with the fact that I am not really bringing anything except myself. And that is good enough.

By showing up, I am saying, “I want to be here”, and it’s all I can offer God since the only thing he won’t touch is our free will. It’s my will saying “Yes” to him, to all the forgiveness and love and future he hands out, and the humility and love it takes for me to receive it is worth a lot to him. 

Well, that’s a relief. Cause that’s all I have.

Unblock your writer

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“I write in terror. I have to talk myself into bravery with every sentence, sometimes every syllable.” –Cynthia Ozick

“Don’t simply tell me that faith saves you, tell me how it almost failed you, too. Don’t tell me about love, speak of your passion. Don’t tell me you’re hurt, let me see your heart breaking. I don’t want to see your talent on the page, I want to see your blood.

“Dare to be naked before your readers. Because that is writing, and everything else is worthless crap.”

-Wisdom tapped from From Billy Coffey’s post Writing Naked

Perhaps, if you are blocked, you are not writing about what moves you, what terrifies you most. You are not afraid enough yet.

Write a few words about the scariest stuff, and then see how big your block is.

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