inCourage Session 2

I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that it is Mid-February. But that’s OK, I’m surely not complaining! And I’m very excited to announce it is time for Session 2 of inCourage communities to launch! You can read more about Session 1 here
Julie and I are co-leading a group on Christian Singleness for women.
What exactly are (in)Courage Community sessions? (in)Courage is one of the ministries of DaySpring, and they rock! They help us hostess a series of 40 community group sessions on different ‘seasons’ of life, different journeys and places along the Christian road, and asking leaders to encourage others along the way. They paired me up with Julie. Julie and I…well, we’re single girls, and we have been for awhile. We’re different ages and stages in our own lives, and we live on opposite sides of the country. But we’re excited to be building a community of like-minded women who want to approach Christian single-ness, not on tiptoes around stigma, but by embracing it with a heart of compassion and purpose.

The second session runs February 12-April 28th and doesn’t require any commitment from you. That just means that Julie and I will be actively participating in our group, offering encouragement in our unique ways, and seeking to connect with you. This is all so exciting!

(Friend us and we’ll approve you right away!)
We can’t wait to get to know you. 

Psst….If our group/season of life isn’t the one for you, find the rest of them here!

Calling & Answering

I heard this song for the first time four years ago. Almost exactly four years ago. This beautiful song that makes me cry.
“I called, You answered….
and I, I want to be where You are…”
I heard it in a desperate hill country, in a place filled with violence and poverty. 
Filled with beautiful people, amazing mountains, and incredible culture (along with some questionable food).
A country with Erica Lisbeth, this darling girl pictured above, who lives in Imbabura province in Ecuador and attends a Christian & Missionary Alliance church. The very same Imbabura where the Otavalo natives were unreached and unfriendly to the Gospel.  Until God called Evelyn Rychner.
God called Evelyn and gave her a heart for Imbabura. A big heart like the one carved into the mountains there by two landslides. Art at the hand of God is visible all over this place; in piles of spices in the markets, in the strains of familiar worship songs sung in the Quicheau language, and in the smile of a little girl who took her favorite sparkly sticker off her Bible, ripped it in half, and stuck the other half on my Bible. 
{Praise God we get to worship together forever in Heaven! I can’t wait to give her another hug!}
Like Evelyn and so many before her and after her, God calls us to places on His heart, and writes them on our hearts.
He has rescued us. How can we not share that?
See it’s this reciprocal thing.
When we call, He answers us. And when He calls, I sure hope we answer Him yes.
No matter how weak we feel in the moment. He will give us the heart for it.
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’
And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!'”
Isaiah 6:8

You rescued us. 
May we want to be where You are, Lord.

Have you sought God’s “travel plans” lately? Where is He that He wants you alongside Him?
Your own home? Downtown in your city? Or maybe even halfway around the world?

Except for Brokenness

Hello lovelies! Just had to pop in this morning because I’m sitting here, listening to this song on repeat, nearly in tears, getting ready for the day. These lyrics are so my heart right now.

“When I have nothing to offer You except for brokenness, You lift me up.” 
So I guess that means we have to offer Him our brokenness, much as I want to keep schlepping it around, heavy on my back, head down, steam-rolling my way through the woods to the nearest hermit cabin I can find. 
“My God, I’ll trust You. I’ll find you on my knees.” 

Cocoa Chat

Let’s share a cup of hot cocoa tonight, yeah? See, I made you a special one with homemade whipped cream, peppermint bits, and a cherry Andes mint. It’s rather delicious, if I do say so myself. 
But it’s definitely for you.
My writings here always come from a really authentic place, and I hope you can see that, whether they are silly or deeper-hearted. I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching lately, and I am so excited about the plans I have for this little blog-space of mine. Thank you so much for sharing life with me here.
It is my pleasure to hostess you all here for a moment out of your day.

Today is a time for words instead of pictures. 
Except, one more picture:

For me, this photo embodies my word of the year for 2012: Change.
Every year I choose a Word of the Year that I feel God has laid on my heart as the banner word over my year. I pray about it and often wrestle with the word choice, unsure of what it means or how exactly He seeks to accomplish the meaning of that word in my life. You see, often the words are not pleasant things. They are usually words like 2011’s Discipline or  2012’s word: Change.
On the heels of a rough ending to the otherwise blissfully wonderful 2011, it seemed that there was nothing BUT change left for me. God was preparing my heart. Come mid-year, I was at the end of my rope physically, spiritually, and mentally. I took six flights to visit family in two different states, fighting anxiety attacks the whole way, bursting into tears at random times and in front of strangers, feeling unequivocally beaten down. I made the tough decision to move closer to my family and start chasing some dreams. 
I wish this post were about the healing I’ve experienced, the turning point for wholeness I embraced this year. But as I’ve often said, a testimony is no good without honesty and authenticity. My heart isn’t healed, much as I hate to admit that, because it’s been a year.
 A tough one.

 I know we serve a God whose provisions are complete. He is utterly dependable and overwhelmingly in love with us.
And no matter how much love we may lose on this here broken ground, our God in the Heavens never fails. 

That photo above? That’s me, standing in front of Niagara Falls, during my move. I used to think it was strange that I decided to turn my back on the falls and look out the other way. Why didn’t I face the falls? Now, I think it’s mighty symbolic. My back is to the falls. My back is to the difficulty, to the mighty rushing river cliff of heartbreak.
A year into it.
I’ll see you next January to check in on my word for 2013 and how God used it in my life. 
Oh, and one of my blog-friends asked me about my goals for the upcoming year. I have a list, but I’ll share my big one:
Get my poetry published!
I wish you all a marvelous year. 

Mail Call Monday

I LOVE these inRL (“in real life” from (in)Courage) postcards. They feature inspiring quotations from the inRL community on inspiring community and living life with God’s perspective. So many good ones to share (and put up on my bulletin board!). Check them out here: (in)courage Postcards from God’s Beach House – Encouragement – Set of 20 and  (in)courage Postcards from God’s Beach House – Friendship – Set of 20.  I love postcards because they are quick to write out  they cost less to send.
I also sent out a beautiful card for a co-worker whose husband is in poor health, and a few more moving announcements. Sending mail is one of my favorite little ways to encourage friends.

Even though I don’t live near them right now, I have SUCH good friends, and I am blessed that they like to send me mail, too! My best friend sent me this package with hot pink and leopard tissue paper. Better yet? The package was filled with ballet leotards and legwarmers so I can get back into ballet once I finally settle into my new routine. She knows me so well and it inspires me daily. being on the receiving end of packages makes me all the more anxious to send them out, because I know how exciting it is to receive real mail, filled with love and goodies.

Martha Stewart Living, a package from another friend (with pink/green/glitter polka dot tissue!) and Christmas present supplies! (sorry, had to block out my address with the heart, hehe)

So many good things amidst the bills and junk mail.
Next up? Sending out Christmas cards and Christmas presents.
How exciting 🙂
Have a good Monday!

inCourage Community: Christian Singleness

I talk a lot about community here. I talk a lot about digging into life and setting down roots and really embracing the fellowship of the family of God. But I don’t talk too terribly often about Christian single-ness. I don’t usually talk about being the one who sits alone in church, or who watches Netflix on Friday nights or how often I practice the art of buying myself flowers 😛

Christian Singleness. Even saying it makes you cringe right? There is so much stigma surrounding singleness in our culture: if you’re “secular” and single—it’s great and you are pretty much given a free pass (unless you happen to be Prince Harry. Ahem.) If you’re Christian and single, and “of marriageable age,” (whatever people seem to think that means these days) they are constantly asking you if you have a boyfriend/ring/wedding date yet. 

This is where (in)Courage Community sessions step in. (in)Courage is one of the ministries of DaySpring, and they rock! They are starting a series of 40 community group sessions on different ‘seasons’ of life, different journeys and places along the Christian road, and asking leaders to encourage others along the way. They paired me up with Julie. Julie and I…well, we’re single girls, and we have been for awhile. We’re different ages and stages in our own lives, and we live on opposite sides of the country. But we’re hoping to build a community of like-minded women who want to approach Christian single-ness, not on tiptoes around stigma, but by embracing it with a heart of compassion and purpose.

We understand that this season–it isn’t just a season of waiting. Yes, we wait, but we are also preparing, growing, encouraging, and…working on contentment. We’re single. But that doesn’t mean we have to be lonely, hurt, jaded, bitter, unhappy, stagnant, waiting for life to begin, or any of those things. God still works in single people’s lives, friends. God still gives us tasks to accomplish, people to love and nourish, lives to build into…he gives us tough lessons to learn and he gives us MANY, MANY blessings. We’re here to encourage each other in this time. Let’s make it a fruitful time, so that we aren’t wasting it wishing and waiting. We can wait purposefully and with intention.
The first session runs October 2nd-December 2nd and doesn’t require any commitment from you. That just means that Julie and I will be actively participating in our group, offering encouragement in our unique ways, and seeking to connect with you. This is all so exciting!

 Join our community on Facebook!
We can’t wait to get to know you.

Psst….If our group/season of life isn’t the one for you, find the rest of them here!

Friday Goodies {Giveaway!}

Oh I love a good late-summer, early-Autumn weekend.
The weather! The clothes! The golden sunlight!
I have discovered my new favorite Indian summer drink, friends. 
 Amazingly delicious. Just use a shot glass full of maple syrup (~1 1/2 oz.) and half a shot glass of half-and-half (~3/4 oz.), lots of ice, and fill with sparkling water. Stir really well, and enjoy! 
{add whipped cream if you’re feeling indulgent}

I found it amusing to see this “Tousled Topknot” in Seventeen’s September issue.
And since it’s the weekend, it’s totally time for a pretty treat…
Flowers + GF treat + Gorgeous Gifted Cakestand. Feelin’ so loved! <3
I’m so excited, because I know you will be excited to win these cards.
Just leave me a comment and I will enter you into the random drawing!
{U.S. only, sorry. entry closes Monday at midnight. If you comment using a Mobile device, it won’t show up here but I’ll still see it! Technical difficulties…}
Thanks, Dayspring!
Have a great weekend, friends! 

Encourage & Redeem

Today is National Day of Encouragement. I’m a bit late, and it’s more like Night of Encouragement over here, but hey, if you had a rough day, I want you to know that the day hasn’t run out of encouragement for you 😉 
I’ve been meaning to start a new series for a LONG time: Mail Call. It’s like at summer camp, you know? And it’s an embarrassing ritual to get your name called at lunch time if you have a letter, because someone back home loves you? It’s like that, only less embarrassing.
When inCourage by Dayspring offered a package of their encouraging, uplifting greeting cards, it seemed like the perfect time to share Mail Call. Mail Call is the giving and receiving of happy little notes…sentiments exchanged through the mail, sent with love from a friend or family member, prayed over, written in someone’s own handwriting, with a stamp they chose and maybe some fun extras. I absolutely adore writing notes. In college, I was known for sticking random encouraging notes in everyone’s mailboxes. I have a collection of stationary, but, to be honest, I live in a small town with no access to a local Christian store. I’m always having to write in my own inspirational messages in blank cards, so receiving these cards was such a spot of sunshine. These cards just exude joy and encouragement.
Redeemed All Occasions - 10 Premium Card Assortment
{click image to see the collection}

I cannot tell you how BEAUTIFUL and LUXURIOUS Dayspring’s Redeemed All Occasions – 10 Premium Card Assortment  line of cards is; they mean it when they say PREMIUM cards, ladies. They are thick, stunning, with embellishments (embroidery, tiny pins, tags, etc.) galore, and so uplifting. And guess what? They arrived on a day when *I* needed encouragement myself. Reading through them in awe of their beauty was food for my own soul. These are cards that will stay on the bulletin board or refrigerator for a looooooooooong time. In fact, I’m tempted to keep them up on MY refrigerator, and get another pack to share! Nah, I cannot wait to write them out with love and send them to new homes.

 Thank you, Dayspring, for making beautiful, Scripture-affirming cards, and for letting me share them. 

*Disclosure: These are my true and honest opinions and my own words, but Dayspring provided the product for review. All Dayspring links are affiliate links, but only because I love them so much 🙂

In Other “Mail Call” news…
There was a notebook, wrapped in vintage wrapping paper (on left), and then again in Kraft paper, and sent to mom.

Not just any notebook, though….a leopard print (wonderfully indulgent) Kate Spade notebook found on uber-clearance…
and embellished with love & washi tape 🙂 
There was also a late wedding present sent, and a birthday card for a dear friend, all wrapped up with hot pink tissue paper and (more) washi tape.
That’s all for the Mail Call today! I can’t wait to show you more ideas for notes, projects, and happy things to send in the mail! Bringing a stack of pretty mail to the post office (or finding one in your own post box!) is definitely one of life’s little pleasures, don’t you think?

Friday Morning

Goooooooooood morning, loverlies! I was up and at ’em early this morning, something my heart delights in in the summer. Though I wouldn’t call this chilly, windy morning “summer” quite yet. What better morning treat for a Friday than a creamline Orange Creme organic yogurt made with milk from 100% grass-fed cows, along with some “hippie” cookies I made last night, spread with the leftovers of the maple cream cheese. Then there’s my newly thrifted 1970s Norwegian mug over on the left. Some local half and half, and a french press of coffee waiting in the background…

“Cookies” for breakfast. Hey, they have applesauce & raisins in them! And millet! And chia seeds! Whatever those last two things are! (just kidding…I know what they are, that’s just the coffee talking.)

And some morning encouragement…

Have a beautiful day, you lovely readers with beautiful hearts! 


Friday Morning

{my Bible and books in a new little arrangement for Easter on my bedside table…}

An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.
~Psalm 12:25

I’m thinking this morning about how important affirmation is to the human spirit. How deeply we crave kind words or an extra bit of encouragement. Encouraging words for a friend are truly sunlight to a heart. 
When my friends tell me, “You are sunshine,” my heart lights up. Something within me feels deeply understood, appreciated, fulfilled and sometimes, on mornings like this, it makes me a little misty-eyed. It also encourages me to continue being happy-Natalie, to continue sharing sunshine in all the many little ways I love. Isn’t that a beautiful thing?

A wise man’s heart guides his mouth…pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
 ~Psalm 16:23a-24

Obviously, I am not saying that we should seek attention or approval from others. That must come from God alone. We must always go to HIM first. 
I am saying, though, that it is so important that we take time to respect, love, encourage, and support the endeavors of our friends. What a delightful occupation to cheer on our friends! I absolutely adore it! Not only does it give the recipient joy, it gives the giver joy, too.

                            Friendships multiply joys and divide griefs.
                                                ~H. G. Bohn 

You, dear reader, look lovely today! You are beautiful, and I hope you find many joys in your day today that remind you of how loved you are.