side of the road, east Texas

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the best valentines present I have ever recieved

Image  quick note: the words below don’t really do the feelings I have justice. I am in tears just knowing the sanctification process that God takes his people through. I have traveled the world and seen miraculous things… but this was one of the most beautiful displays of the gospel I have seen and experienced.

My dad is southern. He is one of 14 children who grew up in a small town, where everyone knows everyone; reputation is everything and there is nothing left unsaid. He knows a lot about hard work, respect, and simplicity. My dad was raised in the church, in east Texas it’s uncommon for people to not go to church on Sundays. My dad is imperfect but I have never had more love for any person. He always tried to love my sisters and I well, and he is one of my very favorite people.

Two years ago I told my dad I liked this guy, who loved God and wanted to pursue me… this guy happened to be “black.” My dad responded the way any southern father would. He was concerned for my reputation, what people would think of me and my family. He was a protective father, and he wanted to keep me from anything that would be hard.

He was right… time showed that for me it was hard. I had elderly women talk to me in bathrooms; I have had countless rolled eyes and stares as I walked through towns holding the hand of this godly man that was created with a different skin tone. I actually ended the relationship out of fear.

In the south it’s uncommon to see white people married to black people. Is it wrong, unbiblical, unclean, or are we of different species… NOT AT ALL! But in the deep woods of east Texas there are some folks, well meaning… but they still have remnants of this belief. It’s heart breaking, but nonetheless true.

2 years later I found myself driving to the house of my father holding the hand of that same man. My dad had never met him. I was full of peace and I was sure that this was what God had for me. My heart raced because it was filled to the brim with love for my father as well as love for the man God brought into my life. As we drove past the run down fence and reached the tree line I saw my dad wave as we parked.

We walked hand in hand towards the man who at this point seemed to hold my happiness and there was a hand shake and hug. Not a glimpse of hatred or racism. My dad looked at him like he looked at any man that would pursue his daughters; with interest and good intent. They talked about everything from types of trees to nerves before they met. I was simply soaking it all in. Before we left my dad hugged this man and gave his whole hearted approval.

As we drove home it all seemed like a dream because it was covered in grace and beauty. I saw what the gospel had done in just two years. My dad is so strong, smart, and God fearing. Without the work of Christ he would have never shaken the hand much less hugged a black man that was dating his daughter. He would have never given approval and invested time, my dad in that moment showed me the finished work of Christ. He showed me the deepest of a fathers love. A father trusts that Gods plan is beyond what he imagines or had planned for his kids. A father seeks to understand the values, heart, and plan of the man that would be with his daughter… looks of any kind fade away. I was in tears thinking about what the power of God can do in a few years, I was amazed to think that God cared so intensely about his people.

Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to look beyond preference and what we know to be normal to get to know others and value people. Here it may be race, in other areas of the world there is hatred that’s gender specific, or hatred because of religious beliefs. Some of these things we would be outraged to hear about; babies in Asia being killed because they are born female, Christians being killed in the middle east because of their beliefs. It breaks our heart and we have our rants prepared if the opportunity arises. My question would be; what are some areas that you have found hatred in your heart. Maybe you are in my family and reading this because you are so confused by my relationship… What if your daughter wanted to be with a godly man who was selfless and full of integrity but he happened to be black… how would you respond?

My prayer is that hatred would meet an immense love, that this love would change the hearts of man and that the gospel would reveal in the slightest of wrong thinking. Just as my dad responded in love and embraced those whom we never imagined to be a part of our family… that they would be welcomed and shown genuine kindness.

this job, this gift.

“This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.”- Elisabeth Elliot

In the last several months I have been pondering hard work and being faithful. I work full time for a ministry, and when I say work… I mean work. I am 22 years old and for the last year and a half I have managed call goals, tracked and managed success of team from 7 to 40 people, helped send thousands of people on the mission field, and mentored dozens of interns. While most college students take a bit of a different route, I have learned an immense amount from being faithful where I am called. Work is something I am familiar with. I come in early and stay late; I have cried countless times over my job, I have laughed myself to tears more times than that. My work is something I have found joy in. I can even go as far as to say I love it.

I still have days where I am so frustrated I could scream and so tired I don’t remember to change out of my slippers, I have disagreements with my co-workers, and sometimes I give into thinking that I’m not called to be where I currently am. I think these feelings may be the same in ministry or in the secular workplace.

For so many people their job seems pointless, or the point seems so shallow that they are motivated by money or success. Some of these people are so selfless as to make the point of their job the people the work with, they are motivated by love for people that are otherwise working pointlessly…. Those people I respect so deeply.

I am a glass half full kind of girl, the kind of girl that you wonder if it’s all real or if I just say what I am supposed to say. Well life and truth have collided for me and now joy is all I know. I wanted to share a couple of things that I hope make where you are a place of joy; and my hope is that you are found faithful in that place, for as long as you are there.

Joy is not circumstantial.
Joy is a gift to you, you possess joy. The only way you don’t have it is if you allow something to steal it. A gift is a gift regardless of your circumstances. Joy goes beyond the fact you split coffee on yourself, beyond that you ran out of gas, or woke up late. Joy decides that maybe that moment was ruined but your day is not. There are still people you will meet and can inspire, and if that doesn’t motivate you… there are the simple things like, coffee is readily available to you.

Joy is different than happiness.
I cannot stress this enough. Joy is based on long term perspective and happiness is based off feelings right now. I pray perspective for the person on the roller coaster of life’s moments determining the entirety of their day. I have days where I am not happy; it’s true things don’t go as planned, I get frustrated, I DO spill coffee on my new shirt… but joy can shake it off and make the most of the rest of the moments in the day.My joy has been deeply rooted in my identity and is interwoven in the gospel. My satisfaction in God, my trust in His sovereignty, and delight in Him gently guiding me throughout this life.

Your job is a blessing.
My job is a lot of things but the overarching theme is that it’s a blessing. I pay my bills every month, I live in a nice house; I am surrounded by people that are working just as hard as me for the same reasons as me. It wasn’t always even this way for me; I have been an intern that didn’t get paid and I once worked as a receptionist for a food equipment business and it was so hard for me because I didn’t get the vision… I’m such a believer and visionary that I must have purpose beyond tasks. But I remember choosing to bless those around me, I remember that I wanted to be known as faithful and true to who I said I was. If you are in a job that isn’t like mine in that you feel like you are changing the lives of people daily…. Be faithful. Be thankful. Look for the blessings. Seek to be selfless.

While there is still much to be said I hope that you have some things to chew on and some reasons to walk into your work week with a smile and a little more perspective.

Rest well this weekend.

winter thoughts

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In the beginning of winter you see the fiery and golden leaves fall to the ground. It can be so lovely to see them fall; they have lived the past season so beautifully. In the same way it’s hard to see them fall, leaving the trees bare and most vulnerable.

My life feels that way in the winter; it leaves the deepest of thoughts from the year vulnerable. It’s as though they are brought up and left on the bare ground to either celebrate their completion or deal with the depth of their disappearance.

The winter also brings alertness, the cold sweeping against your face and the air is crisp and confident. You can become so aware of your failures from the year, of the hopes you had, or the ones you’ve lost.  It can make the deepest of hurts magnified. This alertness can also bring about the strongest of hope; for the deepest of dreams and life to be lived. In the winter I often ponder the importance of life; the things that took up my time in the past year that maybe wasn’t the best use, the books I wanted to read, or the places I wanted to go. I often settle in contentment knowing that every year happens as a part of a bigger story and the next chapter holds what I cannot even imagine.

Clarity is one of my favorite things; I very much dislike confusion and I live most free when expectations are clear so that I may be aware. December brings clarity; the promises made, friendships had, the things hoped for, and the unexpected changes that have already come. It leaves all things bare and without excuse. The time slowly winds down and you must reflect on all the year has held, both joyful and painful.

It’s hard to have a full smile because it’s mixed with so many emotions. One thing I have learned, that I am sure of, is that every year has come and past and brought with it a fresh slate. Everything that has happened in its own way was beautiful, whether a hard lesson or simple joy. Look back knowing that the only way to go is forward with a deep peace and a confident expectation in your heart.

Tim & I

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I have known Tim for 4 years; I have seen him as a follower, a leader, a mentor, and a friend. I have seen him fail and handle defeat, I have seen him rise above, and I have always been impressed with his determination. He has always seemed to have things figured out. He makes decisions so easily.

Most people would say we couldn’t be more different; they would be right.
He is from New Jersey and I am from East Texas. I am easy going and tend to be quieter, he is easily excited and a huge people person. He loves to make decisions and I rarely make them at all. He is great at math and catching grammar, I am a free thinker and creative spirit. He is very clean and tidy, I tend to be messy. He seeks to challenge and I encourage. He loves to speak in front of crowds; I love to have coffee one-on-one.  On top of those things, he is black (half) and I am white, and in the south that’s often a HUGE difference.

But it works.

We both love adventures and traveling, we love the church. We enjoy cooking and reading books. We both value people more than any earthly possession. We are both studiers and students of life. Where he is strong I am weak. We are both submitted and dependent on the same God, and we both seek to glorify him in all we do. We truly want what He wants in His timing.

It’s taken 2 years for me to come around to the idea of relationships; I have been such a fearful person. Marriage has been my worst fear because it’s always meant impending failure. I have seen very few first marriages last. It breaks my heart and in many ways has shaped my perspective on marriage. All I wanted was for God to prove me wrong. I waited for Him to.

Tim and I dated 2 years ago and I broke things off because of fear; I knew how he felt and what he was thinking. I talked myself into and out of a marriage while we were just dating, yes women can do that. Something in my heart starting to ask questions months later and I was so closed off to the idea of revisiting it… God has a way of being constant though, so it continued to come up. I saw that it was my fault, and that I was the fearful one; I was the one who didn’t let him in, and in trying to protect everyone and myself I freaked out. I needed to apologize… but I couldn’t, I knew that would start a whole other journey and I NEVER wanted to hurt him again. That was in February of this year.

In June we talked for the first time, really, since we have broken up. It was so natural but the obvious elephant was between us. “Remember that time we broke up,” is never a fun thing to say. But that week I explained everything and apologized. As that happened something in my heart began to change and I became open to what God had in store, but I wanted to be slow and be sure. We hung out a couple times and began having conversations. I realized so quickly why I was attracted to him before, because we are SO different. I love that when I am with him I see a different side of life and of God. He helps complete my perspective. Color has never mattered to me in the way it matters to some people, I have a deep love for Africa and other countries and cultures. I love the way different pigments look together, it brings my heart so much joy.

Tim was made to pursue, he does it so well. He is great but more than that, I feel so loved by God and so protected when he is around. I feel like even when we disagree, it’s going to be ok. There is a deep reverence that he has for God, and that makes me feel so secure and safe to be around him. He loves God more than he loves me and that’s what I need.

So yes, we couldn’t be more different but I love it. Yes it’s going to be hard, but what in life isn’t. I believe in the power of God, of community, and love. My prayer is that God would be glorified, that I would be fearless, and that grace would cover whatever is in store. I don’t know what tomorrow holds but I know the One that does, so I’m fine with whatever comes.

do what you LOVE

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Life is busy, very busy…. almost annoyingly so at times. I have always been an avid believer of making time for the things you love. Whether it’s alone or with dear friends; make time for the things that make your heart soar.

For the adventurer; try something new. Go down a road you’ve never been down before. It doesn’t always have to be a plane ticket or a car ride. Sometimes, walks can sooth you’re longing for adventure and newness.  Try having a conversation with a stranger; this is one of my favorite adventures. Everyone’s life is different, it almost magical to learn about someone else’s stories and travels. Just take some time and ask.

For the introvert; get a good cup of something hot and read your favorite book. Even if you have read it a thousand times… make some time to read it again. Maybe even invest in some water color paints, try your hand at art; it’s soothing and whose knows maybe you have a talent you’ll discover.

If you’re a people person invite some of your favorite people over for a baking night. The cold weather is here and that means it’s the perfect time for baking. Be intentional with your conversations and your time, don’t allow yourself to be too busy to check up on your friends both near and far.

I am all of the things in one eclectic person; I love to paint and make things with my hands, there is nothing like a good book and hot vanilla chai, and I enjoy good conversations with a dear friend. I make time to bake, go on walks, watch my favorite TV shows, and even to travel… I even make time to have a photo of each of these moments. That’s one of the reasons I love instagram and pinterest, they remind me to live life beautifully and to live it well.

It’s what has made working hard worth it. I have always been a student and for the last several years I have been in full-time ministry; which can so easily take over your life, but doing the things I love refreshes me to be all I can be.

My encouragement to you is to try something new; you know what you love…. so do it, prioritize things and make time for the things that give you energy to work hard. Stop building a to do list and start living. This is not writings against hard work and against getting things done; this is meant to be motivation for you to fill your life full of things to help others, to laugh often, and to bring joy to everyday.

“As a well spent day brings happy sleep,
so life well used brings happy death.” 

              – Leonardo Da Vinci

sometimes I envy the birds

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When was the last time you felt free?
Last weekend I was in a field, it seemed endless. My feet were bare and the trees were starting to change. In that moment nothing seemed to matter but the thoughts in my head and the dreams in my heart. Or maybe it was this morning; as I read a book unlike other books. The text soothes my soul and the love it speaks of seems to be my own. What a wonderful feeling as I read chapters that brings about the deepest contentment. Moments like these, I feel free.

Today, I sit and ponder the birds. They are unpredictable; which most of the time frightens me when they are close, but from afar they carry a reminder of freedom. Oh, for the sky to be my highway and the trees to be my jungle jim.
I watch them dance and chirp, like they were created to. It’s as though they are created to remind me that I am free. Free from opinions, from the cares of the world, they remind me to do what I do and let everyone watch and be challenged by my freedom. Like the birds challenge me.

I have realized that I often create my own cage, I consistently hate it.
The door is wide open but I sit inside defeated, as though it is sealed shut.
I am boundless but act bound.

Sometimes I envy the birds.

When was the last time you felt free? Do you seek freedom as though it’s already yours or do you like me at times sit in a cage with the door open?

One ounce of courage tears down even the highest of walls, one swift movement and you are OUT. You are free to be what you’re created to be, and do what you were created to do.

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” ―E.E. Cummings

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waiting on watermelons

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There is something about stillness that brings about a beautiful contentment in my soul. I have loved the idea of just going for the sake of being gone, about being alone with my own thoughts. I process life through photographs and ink on a page. I have learned to love silence and to share it. Though my thoughts are imperfect and my fears often cross my mind; my soul is restored in stillness.

I rented a cabin about 5 hours away from home and for 3 days I did just that, stayed alone with my thoughts in stillness.

I spoke with this elderly lady at a winery on my little outing to get fresh food from the market and she said she was waiting on her watermelons. I don’t know a lot about farming, but October seems a little late to be waiting on watermelons. But she said that “you can’t rush soil, sunlight, or the weather, I have found that just waiting makes the difference.” We proceeded to talk about all of her jams and preserves. She had me try about 15 different textures and flavors, but my thoughts on waiting echoed for hours after.

Waiting is one of the hardest things to do; you feel helpless, it seems endless, and at the end of the day it may never end. I feel as though I am always waiting on something, and that used to drive me crazy. But if life has taught me anything it’s to trust in the timing of the One who holds time. I now find beauty in waiting, because it’s a season of preparation for things to come. I find grace in the stillness because I know that there is always something bigger going on.

Words aren’t always necessary, demanding answers and shaking our fists only get us so far, and is all the energy really worth still having to wait in the end. Be patient with your process, it may take longer for you to “get” something that others have long understood. You may need more time, and let me set you free in saying, THAT’S OK. God finished every work He begins. Time heals wounds, brings understanding, and allows stillness to restore what this world has broken. Don’t rush into a season, or out of one; allow yourself to confidently walk into new beginnings and new seasons if and when the Season Maker sees fit. Taking time is a good thing.

thoughts at a coffee shop

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I wonder what coffee shops or pubs theologians that have past visited… thinking genius thoughts and writing inspired works, while everyone around them talked of petty things and walk past thinking… He’s just another person not worth a hello or even a smile….

The ones that don’t take time, that don’t really SEE people. They enjoy life less, pass moments by, and will never recognize true genius or beauty because they are only looking at the mundane and expecting the same everyday… every person… every place.

It’s sad really, because you see… every place has a history of beauty, every person a story to tell, and everyday has a new adventure if you just take time…. Maybe drive a different route, talk to a stranger, smile to see if someone smiles back, or ask them about the book they are reading. It won’t take away from what you are doing, your drink will still taste as wonderful, and it won’t make your day less productive. But it may make it less about you, which is often not a bad thing.

It’s awful to think you could pass by such beauty without even acknowledging its existence. 

sweetness of community

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“There is strength in numbers”
“There is no I in team”
“A cord of 3 strands is not quickly broken”

Whether you are in the church, on a sports team, or in a family of some sort you have heard someone say phrases like these. You have been steered towards teamwork and unity.

But the truth is everything in life fights against community.

Something inside us always longs for community, but the world around us has taught us that community brings pain or drama. We hate the feeling of being alone. We always want someone to talk to about life; good and bad things alike. We have a mixed desire for community and for independence. If you have lived beyond the age of 5 we know that it can be messy and so much of life tends to lead us towards independence to avoid the mess.

My favorite things about community are the simple things like; cups of coffee become doorways to conversations, music becomes memories, movies become inside jokes, everyday activities become extravaganzas, writings become sweeter, and learning becomes a way of life. I love the growth that happens because of sharing; sharing stories, laughter, hardships, possessions, space, and time.

I’m not saying that it’s easy; I have had my fair share of annoyances. I have wanted to scream words that should never come from a ladies mouth. I still hate it when people borrow my clothes and don’t give them back, I don’t like it when people are in the bathroom when I need to be, or even when I have done wrong or offended someone and need to make it right. It’s not always just sweet, but because of the hard things you learn to appreciate the wonderful things. In my community I feel deeply loved, they are always seeking my good. They want me to become a woman that is faithful, inspirational, fearless, and kind. They call me out when I act contrary to my own standards. They are the ones that dance with me when I get promotions and cry with me when I am just having a bad day.

I love the feeling of not doing life alone, of knowing that someone is praying for me. Our imperfections often lead us to reconciliation, which then deepens our bond. Seasons of life change, sometimes all too often, but there has never been a season when I wasn’t thankful I invested in something that multiplies joys and divides sorrows. Community is a sweet thing.