Keep Shining

“Don’t you worry your pretty little mind, people throw rocks at things that shine…”
As a culture we have this really messed up pattern of behavior where we tell people to SHINE (be  famous, stand out from the crowd, stand up for what they believe in, etc., a concept I read about in this article about L’Wren Scott’s suicide, I think) and then as soon as they stand up we throw rocks at them. Why do we do this?
Most of the time we’re afraid that someone else is shining more than we are or might be taking away some of our own glow. And it brings up our own insecurity/failures/past/wounds. So we deflect and find comfort in defense mechanisms such as demeaning the efforts of those who have found their place in the world. 
Stop. Stop now, ya’ll. 
There’s enough to go around. 
We all bring something different to the table, I promise.
That’s a beautiful thing.
How about instead of throwing rocks at other people, we reflect on what those rock-throwing-tendencies say about the state of our own hearts, and humbly admit that we might have some work to do. It takes ownership of faults and our own failures. This is hard heart-work. But it must be done. Oftentimes it must be done over and over and over. For the health of our own hearts, it must be done. I promise you, you’ll never shine to your own full potential while still holding on to a mentality of rock-throwing.
And then, in humility and selflesness, let’s applaud those who shine. Let’s use them as inspiration to be braver in our own lives, to throw off our insecurities so we, too, can shine, and light the world with our collective glow. 
Wouldn’t that be a beautiful place to live? 
“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” ~James Keller

*P.S> If people have been throwing rocks at you lately, like a few people have been in my life, lean in to it. First of all, consider the source. If you deem the source someone in your inner circle whose opinion and voice in your life you value, then you can dig deeper. If not, release it from having any say in your own heart and pray for the other person. The hard thing here is that you might realize someone you thought had your best interests at heart, didn’t, and that hurts even more. 
If it is from someone you value, say to yourself, “What here has merit?” examining the situation, your own heart, and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Strip it down to the essence of what you can work on, and use the rest as motivation. Looking back on my life, the naysayers were actually the ones who helped me access my deeper inner strength when I was struggling.
Shine on, you gorgeous thing, you!   

You Make it Beautiful: Happy Spring

beautiful early-morning spring light through my curtains.

It’s Spring. And my heart struggles with this, in a strange way. I know normally Sunshiney Natalie would be screaming from the rooftops (especially after a maple latte this morning) that it’s SPRING YA’LL!

But really my heart is just in a little bit of a no-not-Spring place. Just a bit of a “let me stay here, buried in snow, I’m fine…really…” sort of half-smile place. More like the several inches of snow we got last night and the gray day here with my candle and vintage lamp and a warm mug of goodness in my fleece pajama pants (yes, still, at 11am #writerlife) snuggled under a blanket that has Love written in several languages on it. Just a little bit more of this.

I’ve been thinking lately of when I was little, how I spent so much time in my room quietly creating, happy as a clam to be in a cozy space creating beauty out of nothing more than glitter and gluesticks and paper and words. I would write all sorts of little storybooks and set up a shop to sell them to my mom for a nickel each. Just a happy little quiet Natalie-heart.

And then life. 
You know what I’m sayin’? 

Today is one of those days where I feel that unequivocally, life pressed down on top of my heart. Anxiety, selfishness, fear, bitterness…not so pretty.

See the truth of the matter is, I have a tender heart. I have a poet’s heart underneath it all, when we get down to it. One that sees pain and the quietness and the joy of life and takes it in deeply. A heart that has been wrecked with pain and brokenness.

These soft hearts like mine don’t just bounce back quickly. It is a bit more fragile. A bit more malleable. A bit more attentive and empathetic and a whole lot softer. It still hurts now and again and I face the thought of blooming into spring one more time with trepidation.

But I’m thinking how I don’t want an “And then life” life. Not worldly-life. I want heart-life. I want quiet-beauty-inner-happy-deep-well-soft-heart-poet-eyes-take-it-all-in-and-bring-it-back-to-life-and-breathe-it-out life. A happy little quiet Natalie-heart.

So I guess that means I do want Spring. The beautiful, life-giving, revival of Spring.  To breathe that in again and let it fill me. To sit with that for awhile, to heal and slowly be brought back to life.

“You take brokenness aside and You make it beautiful.” Amen.
Happy Spring, my dears! 

Thoughts & Things

I’ve had so many “come to Jesus” moments lately. You know the kind, right?

Because I just packed up my Subaru, all weighted down with vintage purses and baking dishes and hot pink Swedish clogs, and I drove halfway across the country again, only not back to where I started. To somewhere new. Crazy. The sort of crazy God gives us.

I feel so empty of all that I knew. So far away from home. {whatever ‘home’ means, really}

And yet, so powerfully full of the mercies of God.

I arrived here, in this sandy, red-faced tourist town, white-knuckled from driving for 3 1/2 days and from carrying baggage long before then. Here’s the thing about gripping something tightly: you have to let go of it to hold anything new. There is only so much room in my hands. I have to let go of insecurities and anxieties that built up in my time of waiting. Because God is doing something new.

I have traveled three days and nights to get here, to see something God has told me I must go see. The second I wrote that sentence, I thought of the Three Wise Men. I understand that story of the Three Wise Men much better now…how they journeyed toward a star, believing God had sent them, but not knowing what they would find. They arrived exhausted, exhilarated  and humbled…bowed before a King.

They brought Him gifts.

I think I will bring Him gifts.

I will bring Him anxiety, and worry, and fear. Those are the most precious things I have to offer right now, the things of my heart that will really be a sacrifice of praise, because letting go of them means: I trust.

I am trusting.

Holding Patterns

Have you ever been on a plane that’s been put in a holding pattern? You’re ready to land, the plane has reached the destination, and all you want to do is hit the ground running in your destination city. Instead, you are still strapped into your uncomfortable seat on the airplane because someone “up there” in the control tower put you in a holding pattern. Why? Well, who knows: the airport might not be ready to accept your plane yet. There may be a bad storm beneath the clouds. You may need to use your gas before you can land (I never understood that one). So they have you fly in a circle over your destination.

That sounds like the most pointless thing in the world, right? To you, on the plane, ready to go, of course it does. But the airport controller has his reasons. He can see the other planes on approach, knows how busy the airport is, and knows what is safe on the ground. While the pilot may have actual control over where the plane goes, he trusts the controller and listens to the advice, which unfortunately means you get another round of stale peanuts on the airplane.

Sometimes it may feel like God puts us in a holding pattern, especially when it comes to love. We cry out thinking, “God! I’m here! I’m ready to love!” just like we are ready to get off the airplane and hit the ground running. But as ready as we may think we are, it may feel like we’re going in relationship circles. We may be put in a holding pattern for any number of reasons unknown to us at the time, including the fact that God may want us to remain single. But here’s a big one I was thinking of today: We may be ready, but our future significant other may not have lived out the part of his story that brings him to us yet. Much like waiting for the airport to be ready, or for the weather to clear on the ground, we may be waiting for God’s work in our future husband’s life. The best thing we can do in that case is to Pray for him.  As we wait, God refines us constantly, takes care of us, brings us closer to where He wants us to be.

Rest and take heart in this fact: God has has the control tower’s view. He will let you land when it is safe, when it right, when all is well. And if that happens, you’ll never have been so happy in your life to run towards love.

PS. Just wanted to mention this is written specifically with the girls of our (in)Courage group in mind!

Empty Hands

Here I am, in Minnesota. It started snowing as we unloaded my car 🙂 An appropriate welcome.

Here I am, with empty hands.

Empty hands because I am beginning again, and beginning again means opening hands that held so many good things and memories to make room for new things. I have no idea what those new things are….no idea at all.

And then I got to thinking, what if my hands are empty, not to receive again, but so that I can have two empty hands for serving. For helping. For literally digging in to community.

What if my hands were filled with goodness, love, friendship, growth, and all of those good things, filled to overflowing for awhile to give me the strength and courage to live with empty hands for awhile. It isn’t easy to keep hands open and empty. We are always wanting, always reaching and grasping and taking. It is human nature. I am no exception. But God showed me the image in my head: a beautiful and lovely image of hands reached to the sky, touched with grace, mercy, and strength… held up day after day in front of God, on bended knee, offered to Him for His use and good purposes.

Maybe “empty” hands aren’t empty at all.
Not empty at all.

Autumn Thankfulness

I know it isn’t even close to Thanksgiving yet. But my heart, despite its see-saw of emotions about moving, is thankful. I wanted to take a moment to encourage you today. I know it’s a busy day…I am two steps behind, too! Let’s just take a breather together…
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if you have any grievance against another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
 And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body we are called to pursue peace. 
And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts
~Colossians 3:14-16
I LOVE those verses today. They speak to me on so many levels. First off, they remind me to be filled with the traits that make me beautiful in God’s eyes. They remind me of how we should behave, and live our lives so that others know something is different with us, and see Jesus in our lives.  They remind me to let go of petty things. And they remind me to be thankful. They remind me to sit at the throne of God, as if I were a little girl sitting at the foot of daddy’s La-Z-Boy, and to praise. To come to Him singing, with gratitude in my heart.
Remember that photo above? Here it is again just in case:
This summer, a block down the street from me, my neighbor’s house caught fire and burnt entirely to the ground. They barely escaped with their lives, let alone any earthly possessions. The pile of rubble remains and every time I walk by it, I pause, to pray and reflect. My eyes scan and I pick out pieces of their lives…a red tennis shoe, a tea kettle, books, flannel shirts. Useless now. 
And the burnt leaves of the trees are still scattered along my own yard, mingled with the brightly colored foliage too. Here I am, packing up all of my pretty things to move, contemplating the worth of my earthly possessions, weighing them in my head with the things God tells us to cultivate and to seek.
I am thankful, ever so grateful, for the blessings God has given me to enjoy on this earth. I am thankful that He blessed me with a heart that leaps up in excitement and joy over beauty.
 But I remember, too, that those things are temporary
Do not invest your heart in things of this world, my loves. Fires, moths, rust, and floods destroy oh so easily. What you keep in your heart is eternal.
Seek to fill your heart with kindness, compassion, humility, gentleness, forgiveness, patience, peace, love, and songs of praise and gratitude.

Cliche Race-Running Analogies

I get to that point, mid-way through Week 2 of the Olympics where I think, “Is this over yet? ‘Cause I kind of have some other important things to get back to…” Do you? Am I the only one? It feels terrible to admit it. But I couldn’t let the past two weeks go by without thinking about how it related to my relationship with Christ. It seemed almost too much of a metaphor, at times.
And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This, too, is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 
~Ecc. 4:4

These Olympic athletes strive for perfection in every area of their performance, going to great lengths chasing after an elusive “edge” over their competitors (Michael Phelps’ hyperbaric chamber, anyone?). I don’t want to downplay their amazing achievements, and even how cool it is to see young athletes like Gabby Douglas using their platform for God’s glory. But I notice a bit of myself in these athletes. I see my own drive and dreams, and how, sometimes, I get caught up in finding my ‘edge’ and chasing after the wind for…well, yeah, I admit it… that “perfection” thing.
Let us throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
~Hebrews 12:1,2

Chasing our OWN perfection is meaningless. We will never achieve it, and it only hinders us from serving God whole-heartedly. When we chase our own perfection, it’s usually because we are unsatisfied with Christ alone. Ouch. It’s so easy to become entangled with sin and selfishness that takes away from the security of who we are in Christ. But when we run our race with Jesus’ perfection in mind, striving to be perfected more and more into His image, we can run with perseverance and hope. 

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. 
~Prov. 14:30

Don’t look over to see how fast or far the person next to you is running because you might trip on something in your own path. There is no life in keeping tabs on the person in the other lane. I don’t know about you, but a “heart at peace” and “life to the body” sound much better than rotted-out bones. Like vinegar poured on a wound is envy to our souls. It eats away and only creates a deeper hole. 
 For the Lord takes delight in His people; He crowns the humble with victory. 
~Psalm 149:4
God has His eye on you. He has His hand on you. When you are following His path for you, He will help you every step of the way. I have no doubt you you’ll find innumerable blessings along the way. And when we cross that finish line in Heaven, you can bet we’ll be perfected. Isn’t that exciting?
Instead of getting a gold medal, we’ll get streets of gold {Did I just take the analogy too far?} 

Snack Time

There’s this chance I have developed a bad habit. 
By bad I mean, utterly delicious. Watermelon sherbet with Cool Whip.
No, it’s not a bad habit, really. 
It’s sherbet! Less fat and fewer calories than ice cream!
Right? RIGHT? 
Oh, how we can rationalize to our hearts’ content. See, here’s the thing: God calls us to take every thought captive. Every word, every deed, everything in our hearts–to take it captive. To pass it through the sieve of the Holy Spirit, so that we can make every thought/word/deed obedient to Christ. 
But–well, we’re really good at RATIONALIZING.
I’m equating my rationalizing a “bad habit” of sherbet with sin, just for effect.
Because the problem is, sometimes sin tastes delicious.
It feels good. 
It might make us feel alive for a minute, or dulls our pain for a minute, or maybe we think it’s just plain fun. 
And that never hurt anyone, right?
It hurts God’s heart. It hurts him because He is Holy. He detests sin and unrighteousness. And he LOVES us. He WANTS us. 
Next time you find yourself rationalizing sin, remember: God detests that. He loves you. And that is enough. 
That is always enough.

Proportional Priorities

(I didn’t make this saying up, it’s been floating around. But I did add the last part and then make it pretty 😛 also, it doesn’t entirely make sense with my post, but just go with it, k?)
Sometimes, we spend time a priority-amount-of-time on things that should only be options. We’re spending the most amount of time on the least important things. Ya know what I mean? This goes for people (been there, done that with boyfriends), clothes (can’t I get another pretty impractical cocktail dress even though I never go to cocktails ever?), and commitments (just one more TV show, that’s all!). None of these things are pulling their weight for priority status (they shouldn’t demand all of our time/closet space/energy).
Case in point: I started writing this “deep” blog post about priorities. And then I proceeded to spend OVER an HOUR creepin’ on Facebook photos. I’m not even kidding. Raw honesty. Things be gettin’ real. Ahem. 
Life and closets have a lot in common, metaphorically. I alluded to this idea in the Life:Beautiful article: create a closet that is mostly filled with pieces that work well in the space/place in life where you spend most of your time. Spend the majority of your money on pieces that will serve you well day in and day out. 
Then, too, we should spend the majority of our time on the most important things, and less time and energy on the less important things. Mind-blowing, right? If by mind-blowing I mean, incredibly simple and face-palm-worthy. Which I do. Why is it so easy to let our priorities become disproportionate with our time and energy? 
Consider this, also: The less-important things are not BAD things, in general. They are just LESS important. Facebook is not a bad thing, in and of itself. Have a Facebook check-in now and then with a cup of tea to relax. No biggie.Have a few fancy frocks in your wardrobe that are incredibly impractical for your workaday life. They make you happy.
 But when the majority of your closet becomes impractical frocks, your morning becomes a frustrated routine of “I have nothing to wear!” drama while staring into a packed-full closet. 
Likewise, an evening filled with Facebook-checking leaves a time-crunched, unfocused girl who says, “I don’t have time to write blog posts!” 

Silly Natalie. Of course you have time to write blog posts! But you might not have as much time for Facebook.
And so it goes with other areas of my life, too.
Where are you investing your time? 
Where are you investing your clothing budget?
Do they both line up with your priorities
or are you facing some of the same struggles I am, and needing to differentiate between the things I am letting be priorities, but are really more “option” level?

Friday Morning

Good Friday morning, beautiful people! 
I’ve gots me some coffee with almond-coconut milk, what about you?

And I am SO glad it is Easter weekend. It is my favorite holiday, and I am also very anxious for the Good Friday service tonight. Good Friday just sets my heart right. It is So powerful. I’m sure I’ll write a post on Good Friday later.

But for now…
A few little snippets…
{my ring that was missing for months and months and months!}
{you’ve been seeing these nail colors on the blog lately}

{my new motto: spray paint ALL the things!}
{delicious thrifting snack}
This is my absolute most-favorite lip balm right now. I canNOT get enough! It is thick and rich like buttercream frosting, and smells and tastes like the “Vanilla Chai” it is. The thick tube reminds me of the Lip Smacker BIG chap stick we all had in school. Plus, it’s Vegan and 70% organic.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and how long and how high and how deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
~Eph. 3:17b-19

Wow! What a powerful verse!

Have a beautiful, powerful Good Friday, my dears.