Two secrets of hospitality...

summer hospitality 2 "Every year, I long for the lazy days of summer – late nights outside, grilled food and fruity desserts, lots of beach days, and visiting and hosting friends and travelers from near and far. We love staying with friends when we road trip and travel, and we equally enjoy returning the favor at our home.

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When I think back to both times we’ve had with visitors in our own home and the fun memories of of staying with friends on the road, I realize the highlights of those times are pretty universal, no matter who we are with or where we are."

Read the rest over at The Art of Simple....

3 spheres of influence and calling

3 spheres of influence and calling Sometimes it's hard to try to summarize and recap a powerful experience. I want to try to give you a succinct summary of my trip to Portland last weekend, but I'm struggling to put my finger on the right words. Which is ironic, considering the main purpose for our trip was a writing conference.

It was a weekend of beauty and friendship and encouragement and kick-in-the-pants inspiration. Of good coffee and the best donut I've ever had. Of virtual friends made real and reconnecting with dear old friends as if no time had gone by at all, that is to say, of oh-so-kindred spirits.

Jumping back into regular life has honestly made it hard to try to process all that I learned, both in conference sessions, and also in heart-to-heart conversations.

I have twenty pages of notes in my Moleskine journal and a million thoughts swirling in my head, but this is what I'm most concretely able to pin down right now. As I process this, it feels a little like a manifesto, and maybe it is.

As a believer, my main goal in life is to glorify God and live out the gospel. But as an individual, I believe I have a few specific spheres of influence, areas of calling and responsibility.  I can't deny any of these or I will not be living fully as the person God created me to be. The more I invest in these areas, the more fully I will become myself (which, it turns out, is a pretty darn good definition of success, according to Emily).

1. My family. I have been gifted with the wonderful responsibility of being a wife, and a mom of three. It is my job to, in the grace of God, put forth my best effort in these relationships. A weekend away with my husband was a darn good way to invest in my marriage (but so is making his favorite dinner and sacrificing a Saturday so he can play golf).

Discipling my kids and training them in education and gospel living is my primary quotidian job. Parenting is really the hardest job I've ever had, and it refines me more than I ever wanted to be refined. It also teaches me more about my relationship with God than any other experience has.

2. My community. I believe that the sovereign hand of the Lord has put me exactly where I am for a reason, and that my family is right where he wants us to minister at this time. I love opening my heart and my home to others and I take the hard with the good because I wasn't created for isolation but for community.

My church family (and our community group and the music ministry), our extended family, friends, neighbors, school, sports teams, my local Community Bible Study group, even my long-distance friends and our farther- away extended family-- God has me right where I am to live out the gospel and connected to the very people to whom I am meant to be connected. I'm thankful for these people and for the privilege of doing life with them.

3. My words.

Two weeks after I graduated college I married David. This stage of life of marriage and raising a family and being a veritable grown-up seemed to start that day in June. Since then, those first two spheres have become such an integral part of my daily life and who I am.

The third one I have wavered in. I always felt called to words. A voracious reader, one who loved to write stories and poems and essays, a student of language and languages. I have bounced around in figuring what I felt like I was supposed to do in addition to those first two areas, but I've always known it had to do with words.

Sometimes I feel like it would be easier to not have a third sphere of life-- no calling beyond family and community-- but then I feel that I would not be living out true to who God made me to be. And I don't want to miss out on any of His plan for me.

I don't have this one nailed down yet--I don't know when it will fully emerge or what it looks like-- but I'm getting more and more inklings and feeling more of that heart-thumping pull to releasing the art I was meant to create.

In the pre-conference retreat day, we were asked in one of workshops, "How will this realization/lesson/experience change what you do on Monday after the conference?"

And so that's where I've started. I've started with words, with continuing to read, and with just plain ol' writing. I'm craving more consistentency in exercising this craft that I feel called and pulled towards. Because I've been waiting for inspiration and time, but time is just an excuse and "inspiration follows work" (Madeleine L'Engle).

There is beauty and glory in the world that needs to be translated into words, and our goal as writers is to show that the beauty of the kingdom is breaking through here on earth, and to show that to others. (Thank you, Seth and Nish, for articulating that for me).

So that's my calling, my third responsibility in life. I don't want to shy away from it even though there are a million fears that want to drag me down and away from it.

I have so many more thoughts from my experience at the conference that I'm sure will come out in one way or another as I process them. But for now, I leave you with this little manifesto, and I guess, I'd love to know if you've nailed down your own spheres of influence and calling. I know this life isn't the be all end all by any means. But I still want to make it count, and I want to be all who I was created to be.

On Katniss, The Hanging Tree, and keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus-- a manifesto for the new year

on katniss, the hanging tree, & fixing our eyes on jesus David and I went and saw Mockingjay Part 1 the weekend it came out. I can't really explain my love for Katniss-- the Hunger Games books aren't really my usual cup of tea. They're a bit dark, and definitely intense compared to what I usually enjoy. But there's something about them.

And there's something about her character-- brooding and bold, she's an unlikely leader thrown into the limelight--to heroine status-- by apparent circumstance, and it's there that her true calling comes alive, and we see her living out her purpose (hmm,that sounds like a book I'm reading), whether she likes it or not.

We both enjoyed the movie (but I'm a bit miffed that I have to wait a whole year for Part 2 though). There's one scene that, two months later, I can't stop thinking about. And It's not just because I love it when actors who aren't known for their singing voice sing in movies (See also: Keira in Begin Again).

It's the scene where Katniss sings The Hanging Tree and we see the rebel forces rising to fight the Capitol.

(this video isn't the whole song but I like this clip because it actually shows a bit of the scene it's from. You might have to click over from email to watch.)

A week later, one of our pastors taught on a somewhat obscure passage in 2 Chronicles 20. A story with a vaguely-familiar character and a story of which I had no real memory. You might want to go read it now (I'll wait here).

I know these are two very different battle scenes-- we've got the rebels storming a dam to take out the Capitol's power supply and God's people up against a great "horde" of the Lord's enemies-- but I read the passage with the image and the haunting beauty with which Katniss sang The Hanging Tree running through my mind.

That movie scene helped me visualize the battle scene where Jehoshaphat and his men are praising God before they've even won the battle, confident that the battle is His and that He will give them victory. It's an unlikely juxtaposition of singing and a fierce battle.

Of course for the Israelites it wasn't just "singing;" they were praising their God for His sovereignty in the midst of the battle.

The story starts with the enemy coming up against God's people for battle.

"Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah assembled to seek help from the Lord; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord." (vs. 3-4)

Pushed to the edge, Jehoshaphat doesn't let despair overwhelm him, instead, he immediately goes to the Lord in prayer, gathering others to join him.

He pleads for God's intervention, recalling what God had done for His people in the past and how He was always present with them, and then as "all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children (v. 13)," the Spirit of the Lord answers through a prophet.

"You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.” (v. 17, emphasis mine)

So what happens? Jehoshaphat (and his people) immediately worship God, and then they obey: they go out the next morning and enter the battle (still worshiping), and God, He gives them the victory just like He said He would. In verses 21-22, we see that salvation came when they went out to worship.

And through all of this scene we see this: it plays out in the context of community.

We see this in Katniss' song, too. She starts singing it and it's quiet, haunting, just her voice, and then gradually, the music builds powerfully and we hear the chorus join in and get stronger and stronger. The districts will never have victory until they come together with their various gifts, resources and skills and fight the enemy together.

The phrase that has stuck with me, engraving itself into my heart is from verse 12:

"We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

Before God had answered, Jehoshaphat and his people came together to fix their eyes on the Lord, remember His past work and provision, and seek His guidance.

When we walk through the trials and challenges of life, we need to surround ourselves with people who are helping us keep our eyes on Him.

This year, for 2015, I didn't choose a word like I did last year. Instead, I'm picking this verse and this phrase to guide me through the year.

Our eyes are on You

So often (okay, basically every day) I find myself at a loss, not knowing what to do. In motherhood, in community, in my calling, in marriage... in LIFE.

And herein lies the answer: I'm not in this alone, and my best weapon isn't the battering ram that knocks out the Capitol's power.

It's the God of the universe, who created everything, and stands boldly to fight all of my battles for me, giving me victory over sin and over my enemy... all while I worship Him right where I am. It's the gospel-- that's my greatest weapon, and my greatest comfort.

 

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My first Jane Austen Society event

IMG_8815 When I decided to start the book club, it only seemed fitting that I also venture out and meet up with some other serious Jane-ites. So in December I somehow found a way to squeeeeze in a little morning out to celebrate Jane's birthday with some other ladies in my local JASNA chapter..

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There was tea, an abundance of snacks, Jane-related gifts and even a few people dressed in regency attire.

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I happen to have an empire-waisted maxi dress that my mom bought me that actually looked quite regency-esque in context.

This is the dress (I also wore it to a Cru vision dinner recently, so this is a photo, with a dear friend of mine, from that event).

For Jane's party I wore it with a long-sleeve white tee shirt under it.

We played a few games to honor Jane-- it was truly like a classy grown-up birthday party. The first was a guess-which-JA-character I am ice breaker. We each had a name tag with a quote by or about a character. I felt like I picked a pretty obvious one, can you guess who I was?  (I'll give the answer in the comments).

"Nobody can tell what I suffer! But it is always so. Those who do not complain are never pitied."

We also played a game of charades. Regency charades are actually word riddles; it's the modern game we play where we act words out silently. Some of these were quite tricky. Our group solved a few of them... naturally, when I quizzed David later, he was able to figure out all but one (he's a clever one). Are you in the book club? I'm going to share a few over there for fun.

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Then we worked on "translating" a letter Jane wrote to one of her nieces- she wrote each word backwards, showing what a fun, playful aunt she was (something that I feel like Elizabeth Bennett would have done).

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Other than one other younger girl who came with her mother, I was definitely the youngest one there. But I loved it! The ladies (actually there were also a couple of gentlemen there!) were all so sweet and welcoming, and they truly had a love for Jane. I really do think I'll be joining JASNA and returning again.

Have any of you Jane fans been to a JASNA event? Local friends, who wants to come with me next time?

Where I find myself these days

My Women's Summer Discipleship group just started up for the season. Our church transitions out of weekly co-ed community groups and into men's and women's groups and all-church beach nights for each week of the summer. It's already my favorite season and this shift in how we do life together with our church family is just the icing on the summer cake. This year, we're reading a book on Biblical womanhood which is redefining for us what that term means and helping us to see ourselves as created in the image of God, uniquely reflecting different characteristics of Him than men were created to do. So far, between that and our inductive Bible studies that we're training our groups in, it's been really rich.. and we've barely just begun.

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{David took this photo on Mother's Day.}

The question came up in our discussion about where-- other than in Jesus-- we find our worth and value. My first inclination was to give a superficial answer of living up to cultural standards. And while that may be true to some degree, it's incomplete.

The truth is, the deeper I dig in my own heart, the more I see myself finding worth in whether I feel included by my peers.

This effects me in many areas of life, but I feel the rub a lot in blogging. Sometimes I just want to throw in the towel because I don't feel that successful or popular enough (ugh, here I go, back to high school).

Blogging niches feel a little like various in-crowds to me. I don't identify with a super specific niche per se, so I feel a bit like an outsider, standing outside of a variety of circles but not quite included.

Sewing is one of my passions, but I rarely have time to do it, let alone write about it. I'm not a fashion blogger, although I'm interested in really figuring out my personal style. I'm by no means a food blogger but I love to share recipes with you. I don't write exclusively deep thoughts on my faith filled with poetic language and tangible analogies (although I'd love to write like that more often).

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I'm trying to be at a place where none of that matters, but it's still hard on some days. The idea of fitting in is a constant struggle that I'm trying to stamp out with truth. I'm trying to see myself as me enough, even if I don't feel green enough, creative enough, deep enough.

I'm reminding myself that God was intentional in crafting my renaissance soul. This is who He made me to be and maybe not fitting into any particular box is a good thing.

And as for writing, the more I write, the more I think I will become who He made me to be as a writer, because I know He's the one who created me with words that spill out of my heart and make their way to my little corner of the internet.

I'm experimenting a bit with my writing and blogging. The times when I can get on my computer and compose tend not to be my most creative, inspired moments (usually that "free" time coincides with my exhausted-and-want-to-veg-out-moments), so I'm going to try going a little old-fashioned. If I write my inspired thoughts down on paper when they come to me, maybe I'll end up publishing a few more blog posts... it's worth a try anyway! ;)