Monday Things

I just want to tell you:

You are beautiful. 

And loved. 
And worthy. 
And I’d totally give you a hug if I could, because I think you’re awesome.
And I just wanted you to know that.
I mean, all this outfit stuff? 
It’s fun. It’s an expression. It starts a conversation. 
I know the whole schpiel (spelling?) of why I do what I do.
But does it really matter when it comes to the nitty-gritty? 
Nope. 
It’s the heart that matters. 
I’ve said it before and I will say it again:
I AM NOT PERFECT. 
I am so, so, so far from perfect. 
Just ask my friends. Just ask my family. Just ask anyone who has spent five minutes with me ever. If you’ve ever watched one of my vlogs, I’m sure you figured it out 😉
I am flawed and sometimes I find myself frustrated that I have to be stuck with this whole humanity-thing so often when I’d like to just GET the being-like-Jesus-thing. 
But I am daily, minute-ly (totally not a word) being perfected by Jesus. 
He is working on me, and it’s a beautiful thing.
You see I just can’t get the words out, friends!
I can’t tell you how much you are loved by God. 
I’m a writer. Words? My thing. But I can’t re-write your story. But God can. He wants to step in to your story and change the ending. I can’t tell you how much He desires to walk with you. 
Not only does He want you, He is JEALOUS for you. 
He doesn’t want the world to have you! 
The world with its ugly, mean, and dirty. With its hateful and hurtful and guilt and shame.
God says no. 
God says love and beauty and trust and freedom and openness and joy.
Can one have an “altar call” on a blog? A “come to Jesus” post? I don’t know. 
I just know that He loves you, He desperately wants you. 
And if you want to accept that into your life, here’s what you can say:
“Lord, I’m done with this world’s definition of me. It stinks! I want to get my heart right. I recognize that I am sinful, that my sin hurts you and separates me from you. I ask for forgiveness from those sins through your death on the cross. I believe that you rose again and you are coming again to give us eternal life. I desire to live my life according to Your desires. I invite you into my life and into my heart, to teach me Your ways.”
Those words? Sometimes we need to say them daily. And that’s OK. He’s just wants us on our knees, coming to Him, even if it is with offerings of humility in our frail humanity. 
xo
Natalie

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!   
xo
Natalie

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! 
xo
Natalie

Monday Mid-Day

Ya’ll this verse is just SO on my heart today. What a beautiful reminder of how good and gracious our God is! So much hope. #allthetime
{hover and click the pink heart to pin!}
This beautiful song is also on my heart this morning…”You have called me higher, you have called me deeper…” so when we’re ready to get sent in that right direction, we can know He is whispering in our ears the entire time, sending us with love and grace and never alone.
Today, I am praying over this blog and everyone whose heart finds the way here. I am praying God blesses you, gives you rest, and sends you off to find your place in His great big beautiful story. 
You’re playing your part magnificently, darling!
xo
Natalie

Five Minute Friday: Choosing to Accept

Linking up with Lisa-Jo for Five Minute Friday…She gives us all a writing prompt and we write, uninterrupted, with very little editing for 5 minutes. Imperfect but real… Today’s word is: CHOOSE.
{Go}

We all choose. Every single day, choosing, choosing. Which tea to have for breakfast (right now I’m loving Bigelow’s White Chocolate Kisses), how many chocolate chips to put on the oatmeal (it’s Friday–a decent handful). And the big decisions, sometimes even the subconscious ones: Choosing to show up to work with a smile on your face. Choosing to feel beautiful, even if you’ve been told otherwise by people in your life. Choosing to step out on a precariously thin limb, knowing that God is the one who sways the trees and can make you fly off that branch into blue sky dreams. These are bold choices, sometimes even reckless in the face of the world’s desires.

See God calls us to choose. We must choose. It’s one of the biggest pieces of this glorious puzzle He’s got: We choose. 
We choose to accept Him. 
We choose to accept Love. 
We choose to see with His holy eyes instead of our dusty, earthly ones.

Yes, He can love us through and through but without our choice, it is not a relationship. So, too, it is on earth, here, that we must choose, and choose, and choose again: To accept love. For the more love we accept, the more love we have to give. And that, my friends, makes the world a much more beautiful place.

{stop} 

Five Minute Friday
      Today’s Linkup

By the Water

Absolutely LOVING these verses in the Message version. With all of your passion AND intelligence, not by brute strength. 
“Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’” Matthew 22:37
because 
“Cursed is the strong on who depends on mere humans,
Who thinks he can make it on muscle alone and sets God aside as dead weight.” Jeremiah 17:5
but the man who trusts in the Lord 
“will be a like a tree planted by the water, and will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit.” Jeremiah 17:8

The photo of me above is during a drought season. A life-drought: a tough string of years. A time where I tried to stand by the water but I think my roots were only nourished by my tears. One Sunday afternoon, my parents and I went down by the River. The wind was blowing something fierce (can you tell by my hair?). It was a little too late in the day to be down there without a sweater. But I love this photo in front of the giant tree down by the water and the fact that somehow, somehow there is light in my eyes. 
Looking at it reminds me: 

Let’s go to the water, my dears.
If we are in a year of drought, perhaps its time to think, am I loving God with my passion, prayer, and intelligence? Or am I setting him aside and using my own strength? 

xo
Natalie

What I’m Looking for in the Man I Marry


Time for a word-heavy post! So grab a cup of tea and let’s chat…

I’ve been told time and time again that who you marry is the second-most important decision you make in life, right after accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. Woah, hey there, that’s some kinda pressure! 

It stuns me to think of the responsibility and privilege and weight of being married. Godly marriage is one of the most beautiful, blessed things a person could ever enter into. It’s holy. The idea is scary-as-all-get-out sometimes, too, if I’m being honest. It’s not something I take lightly in the slightest. But I’m also just really excited about being a wife. I think it’s going to be amazing, and a role and season of life that I am excited to embrace and explore.
In light of all of this, out there in this great big crazy dating world, how does one sift through the possibilities to find the potential? I’ve done my fair share of sifting, and I’ve found a few non-negotiables for the man I marry.  
I thought I’d share with you a few of the things from MY “list” (as inspired by Ali and her list). 
1.) A spiritual leader, willingly, unequivocally, and with my blessing (Ephesians 5:22-33): This has always been something I’ve struggled with. First off, I’ve seemed to always end up dating immature Christians. Secondly, it seems that oftentimes men are not taught what this looks like if it was lacking in their own home growing up. Thirdly, I’m pretty independent and a little bit (lot bit?) stubborn, so actually submitting and wholeheartedly accepting someone else as the spiritual leader has been difficult for me in the past. But this is non-negotiable, and requires work and commitment from both parties.

2.) Equally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14): I used to think this just meant “don’t marry an unbeliever” but now I have a more in-depth understanding of how God can create two people who are equally yoked in more ways that you can count or imagine. It’s utterly beautiful. I spent a lot of time (and I mean A. LOT. of time) with my mom and best friend trying to figure out what sort of man/personality type would fit with me. I’m a pretty unique person/personality type, and I’m the first to admit I’m not always the easiest one to “get” right away. But the truth is, you don’t need a “type” of man that would fit. You just need one. And God is faithful.

3.) Someone who is in a place in life where they are ready to get married (1 Corinthians 13:11): I’m not looking for a boy. I’m looking for a man. I’m looking for someone who seeks to serve the Lord with his finances, his career, his relationships, and his whole heart. I’ve dated guys who weren’t ready to get married and I’ve poured myself into them, tried to “love them” into growing up, etc. etc. Doesn’t work, friends. Let’s find men who are secure in Christ and secure in who they are BEFORE we show up on the scene.

4.) Someone who accepts me completely as I am, and yet makes me want to be a better person in all areas of life (Philippians 4:8 and 1 Corinthians 13:4-8): I want to be with someone who brings out the best of all of me. I’ve dated guys before who brought out one facade of my personality beautifully. One guy I dated brought out the nurturer in me in a lovely way, yet he never got to experience passionate-about-life Natalie. I want someone who makes me want to be better for him, for God, for my family, for my friends, for my employer, for everyone I meet in daily life. Someone who has seen my weaknesses and still chooses to love me and walk beside me. “I have seen the best of you and the worst of you and I choose both.” ~Sara Kay

5.) Someone who inspires me. (Ephesians 2:10). This might not be important for everyone, but for me, it is crucial. I’ve dated boys before with whom I never shared a word of my poetry with and never spilled a drop of ink about them onto the page. To me, that means they weren’t bringing life out of me, or pouring life into me. My creative spirit and soul is one of the gifts God has given me, and I want a man who isn’t afraid to engage that. This requires emotional intelligence, something that oftentimes men haven’t exercised enough to fully develop. He needn’t be interested in the exact same things I’m interested in or see the world through the exact same lenses I do. I’m looking for someone with the time and space in their life, heart, and mind to engage with my passions and their own. 

I found my “list” from 2008…and the majority of it still rings true, though it was me-focused, rather than God-focused. I thought it would be fun to share just for comparison: 

“I want a man who knows the value of a promise. Who keeps his promises.I want a man who believes that marriage is holy and is forever.I want a man who makes me absolutely a better version of myself (not just the other way around).I want a man who has both common sense and utter nonsense.I want a man who thinks I am cute when I make a few too many stupid jokes in a day, and when I laugh a little too loudly at something in my head.I want a man who will know when I’m in just a little too deep, and will give me that helping hand.I want a man who knows that occasionally I do get in a little too deep, but usually I am just fine.I want a man who is strong enough to be the spiritual leader for our family. And by that, I also mean, I want a man who wants a family and is a “family man”. I want a man who loves me FOR my quirks, not in spite of them.I want a man who is able to see through me even when I just keep staring straight ahead.I want a man who appreciates the little things I choose, like nice towels and hand soaps; who knows exactly what I want, but surprises me still the same; who is okay with the fact that I am a major dork; who knows that I always want the honest answer even if I don’t like it; who will like to cook with me; who will sleep out under the stars with me JUST because I *want* to.

There are so many other things I could tell you I’m looking for. The little things. But when it comes right down to it, the truth of the matter is this: I’m looking for someone I CAN’T WAIT to do every day life with. Who can’t wait to do every day life with me. I’m looking for the one God gives me. 
And I’m also working on a post of What I’m Hoping to BE for the Man I Marry…comin’ up soon! 🙂

So…what’s on your list? Am I way off track?

xo
Natalie

Best. Year. Ever. #boom

{feel free to pin this! hover over the image and click the pink “Pin It” heart!}

You guys. Like no joke I am BEYOND pumped to jump into 2014. You can bet I’ll be the one at the starting line, in ready position, jumping off the blocks on January 1st (actually, before, but January 1st is when all of my new calendars start so…yeah).

I’m investing in 2014. Socially, spiritually, emotionally, fearlessly, boldly, bravely, and financially investing in 2014. I feel strongly that God has called me to be *prepared* for BETTER this year.

Better
is my word for 2014.

The past two years have been full of heartbreak and the difficult struggle to get my heart put back together again, whole and healthy and ready at the feet of God. He has been ever-so gracious and patient with me, and I can see His hand all over the last few years. That Footprints poem might be cliche, but I can see it was only Him who was carrying me. Now, He has set me down on two feet, and said, “Go, now, and be better.” Be stronger. Be healthier. Be braver. I think He is calling me to fill a bigger space, to be more beautiful in heart and spirit, and to dance with Him this year. To be a better version of myself, for me, for Him, for my family, for my friends, for my boyfriend, for my church, for my employers, for you beautiful readers, and even for strangers I meet in day-to-day life. Once again, I have no idea how this word will look in practice, in the rubber-meets-the-road moments over the next 12 months. I am scared, but I am willing.  

I thought I’d share some of the resources I’m using to rock 2014. I’m just so pumped to see what God is going to do and I want to do my best to be intentional and organized (woah, hey grown-up Natalie, where’d you come from being all organized and all?) to be the best version of Natalie I can be for whatever God wants me to tackle.

These are my #PowerSheets from Lara Casey. They are designed to guide you through the entire process of defining, setting, and completing goals that give you the framework to make your dreams a reality. Go far with God! I’m loving them so far.
I also purchased an Emily Ley Simplified Planner (look at those cute gold edges!). The planner is designed to simplify your life so you have the space to accomplish more. You even plan dinner in your planner…a major time-suck and money-waster if you don’t have it written down ahead of time!

Necessities: Pink legal pad, Powersheets, Emily Ley planner, Afar magazine (to get my heart interested in adventure & travel again?), hot pink Post-Its, light pink Post-it flags, pink pen, metallic pencil, blue highlighter, striped paperclips, Martha Stewart goals binder with pink clips, tea, Good Girl Style business cards, and polka-dot washi tape. Happy little things 🙂

Other Resources That Have Informed My Heart So Far for 2014: 
This song.
This blog post.
This challenge.
This reminder.
This sermon series, followed by this one.
The fact that THIS is our God.
This goal-setting plan.
This convicting blog post.
This Twitter feed.
This organization.
This poem.
This heart-truth.

There are so, so many more resources that have been speaking to me as I prepare for the new year. I hope you find some of these helpful to you as well.

Lysa posted on her Facebook page this question: “Lysa, if you are a woman with faith then are you willing to live a life that actually requires faith?” And it’s one that has been tumbling around in my own heat and heart. 

Am I ready?Are we ready?
Let’s be game-changers and faith-walkers this year. 

xo
Natalie

Five Minute Friday “Together”

The word for today is “Together”. Set the timer for 5 minutes!

Go: 

Together is a tough word for me right now. I feel the opposite of it in so many ways. I feel left behind, left out, lonely. I am so tempted to think that God doesn’t have a plan for me, and that somehow I have been forgotten altogether.
Together  implies two.
And I am only one.
Only one in the morning when I make coffee. Only one at lunch time when I check my phone and see no new messages. I am only one at night when I crawl under my fuzzy hot pink blanket for the evening. And sometimes only one hurts. Because we always say “only” one. How many? “Only one.”
The lonely one.
But in the morning, I like to sing to the radio at the top of my lungs and dance around and at lunch time I go shopping at at bedtime, I snuggle that hot pink blanket and I enjoy eating chips in bed and watching Netflix like its my job. Maybe I can enjoy being, “one,” without the only. Nothing is missing when Jesus is involved. The fullness of time brings the blessings it is meant to, and in the meantime, this season? It’s pretty darn blessed, too.

STOP

Words were harder this week. So it goes.

xo
Natalie