When long-time friends become real-life friends

green ninja ladies I was going to title this post something like Meeting friends for the first time but it just didn't feel right. I've known these ladies for over five years, but a couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of actually spending time with them, all on the same side of the computer screen for the first time.

Thanks to my parents taking a little winter excursion, I was able to sneak over to their place, where I co-hosted a lovely little girls weekend/retreat with four friends from my blogging mastermind group, the Green Ninjas. I co-hosted with a local friend, Krissa, who I knew a little from my college days but who I really got to know through the mastermind group, and we were joined by Rebekah, Stacy, and Emily.

working lunch with blogging friends

It was a simple weekend-- Krissa picked up the girls from the airport Friday night and we met up at the house where we spent the weekend lounging, chatting, eating, and getting some blogging brainstorming and writing inspiration.

We made sure to visit the beach, and had lots of down time to relax and just be together. Food highlights included local favorite chips, salsa, & guacamole from El Nopalito, a trip to In-n-Out, fresh-squeezed orange juice, homemade sourdough bread, and some delicious coffee and pizza.

green ninjas at the beach

Monday morning, we were already talking about planning our next gathering (hopefully with even more members of our li'l group present). We headed over to my place so I could pick up the kids and relieve my husband from a weekend of solo-parenting (thank you, honey, you're the best!).

fresh squeezed juice

And I laughed as Rebekah commented that entering my house was like stepping into my blog, or like being on a movie scene. She'd had so many little glimpses of it through the blog and social media that it was already familiar. And that's how it felt to finally hug these ladies and be able to talk to them face-to-face.

I drove the girls to the airport where we embraced and they waved goodbye to the palm trees. And just like that, we are back to communicating by chatting on Voxer and commenting on FB and IG posts.

It's a funny thing, this modern world, and sometimes we find beautiful, real friendships in unexpected places... like the internet. ;)

More pictures found at #greenninjaretreat.

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.

...

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....

Kicking off Women's Summer Discipliship (or, what you can do with a few extra quiet minutes)

Some of my favorite memories of dinners with friends have been thrown together on the fly-- last-minute texts with my friend Amber saying things like "I have chicken!" and "I have a bunch of veggies we can roast!" or spontaneous neighborhood potlucks or playdates that go too long and turn into dinner dates. Those memories are awesome. The settings were never formal, the meals were haphazard, the kids were chaotic, but there have been lots of beautiful shared meals like that, that I've completely loved.

But.

Every now and then, it is certainly fun to put a tad bit more effort into the details. I always like to do this around Valentine's day with our community group, or sometimes for birthday dinners, or on holidays. But sometimes there isn't really a special occasion, there is just simply... time.

wsd 2

My kids spent the night at my parents' house on Monday night so I could host the ladies from my summer group-- what we call Women's Summer Discipleship-- for a relaxing little dinner. The weather was perfect for patio dining, and not only did I have time to cook dinner and clean up (while listening to my new favorite podcast!), but I also had the time to put out a few special touches, like my Mr. B's Luminaries and a handful of the many "treasure" shells that we've brought home from the beach, and my fancy flatware that was my grandma's.

Dinner itself was simple: baked BBQ chicken thighs, baked potatoes, and dilly carrots (more on the cookbook this recipe comes from forthcoming); bubbly juice and iced tea to drink. One friend brought a fruit crisp for dessert, too.

wsd 1

After dinner, I busted out a stack of cheap composition books, and my scrapbooking supplies that have been collecting dust for over seven years. We got to work, decorating our notebooks that we will use this summer as we study Mark, learning more about inductive Bible study methods with this book.

It was such a solidly good time of connecting, eating, getting to know each other more, silly selfies with Amanda's phone, little June cracking us up from her high chair, and even using a bit of creativity. And as a busy mom of little ones, it's amazing what a little quiet time can do for prepping a nice evening (thanks, mom and dad!), and what pleasure a little beauty and fun can bring to my heart.

~

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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.

Simple tools for remembering to pray

prayer cards-- a tactile reminder to pray It is both a privilege and a responsibility to offer to pray for someone, but I've definitely been guilty of saying I would pray for someone and then promptly forgetting, and failing to follow through.

For me, this is partly a season-of-life struggle, since my alone time is limited and I'm often distracted. But I've experienced this struggle in other seasons as well. I'm not by nature, or gifting, a prayer warrior. I have to work at prayer to make it a part of my life. I set alarms on my phone to remind me to pray at set times, and I also do a few other things to keep prayer in the forefront of my mind throughout my days.

I thought I might share them here in case this is an area where you are growing as well.

One way I've fought against this forgetfulness is to simply pray immediately for that person when I receive the request. Whether that means, quietly, or out loud for the person directly, this way I make sure to follow-through by doing it right away.

I also started a note on my phone where I keep ongoing (or obscure) prayer requests I come across, such as praying for my friend Michelle's son Luke (the Brave), who's fighting cancer, or a friend of a friend who's waiting on an adoption, or a long-distance friend's pregnancy. I try to check it regularly to update or remind myself of things I wanted to pray for.

For my CBS prayer requests, I write them on the first page of my commentary reading so that when I start my next lesson, they are right there for me to read and pray through.

prayer cards- tactile reminders to pray

Prayer Cards

The best tool for prayer that we have found as helpful in our small group setting is our prayer cards. This is the most simple, yet effective, system that everyone in our community group has really liked.

It's as simple as this: I bring a stack of 3x5 index cards and a mug of pens to the coffee table. As we hang out and settle in, we write down prayer requests and stick our name on the card. We shuffle the cards and hand them back out. That's it!

As the weeks go on, we acquire a nice stack of cards to remind us what our friends would like prayer for, and we can visually see prayers get answered as time goes on.

I keep my little stack of cards stuck in my journal that goes along with my Bible, so it's always handy. I love reading through them in my friends' handwriting, a personal, tactile reminder to pray for them.

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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