Someone recently asked me if it was hard to see others' prayers answered in the midst of mine continuing to seem unheard by God? My answer to that question is yes, and no. Yes, if I see myself as the most important person in the world, who has earned all that I have and just hasn't yet done enough for all that I don't. If I abandon all truth and demand my right to answers in my way and in my timing.
But, as God has his way of being gracious and slow to anger with us, I believe he is teaching me some things about this very topic. It is a really slow process for the light to be shone in the dark corners and closets of my heart. There I have found that I am prone to classify people as either important towards elevating my status and value, or a threat to it. This reaches from people out walking the streets, to one time interactions, to people I have known all my life. It is ugly and not glorifying to God, but it is at the heart of what I can not change about myself, and exactly the heart of God's business to transform. This is where the rubber meets the road in my life as a Christian. I am seeing how this sinful pattern plays itself out in my life in so many ways, and how it causes anxieties, fear, laziness and indifference, lack of love, I could go on. The next layer is how I see God responding to me and others around me, and how I believe his love too is directly proportional to the value that I place on others. For example, something good happens to someone on "important" status, it threatens my position and value. This even plays itself out in comparison of spiritual health & vitality of myself and others. But (cue redemption bell now) as God is moving my heart to simply see this pattern, he is also planting seeds of change towards bearing fruit! Seeds. Slow process. Lots of tending, lots of watering. The fruit of repentance and faith is a changed view of those around me, and of myself. The grace that God offers to give us our life in him and to allow us to flourish is for all of his children, for all those who fear him (trust in) him and call upon his name. The grace and mercy that he gives to one by answering their prayer, is the same grace he offers to us who wait. No less, and no more. It is infinite and deep, and when others flourish, we can rejoice. It is possible, as I am getting a taste. In the end, if I am honest, even when my prayers go unanswered in human terms, there is so much to be thankful for. There is flourishing in the midst of suffering too. A friend recently left this book on my doorstep, so sweet. "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp.
One of the highlights of my having a flexible schedule right now is getting to do things I wouldn't be asked to do otherwise. Friends, Sean and Kristie Maddox have begun the launch of a mobile coffee & tea bar. (More to come on advertising for that as they are finishing up their branding and will be ready to go soon!) Last night I helped them to staff an event held at King Plow Arts Center, a turn of the century machinery manufacturing plant on the Westside, full of history and charm. It was such a fun event and all of the Maddox' bars & equipment are top notch and built by Sean himself! They served hand poured brewed coffees and teas out of dainty glass pots and artful carafes. The Earl Grey had the most amazing aroma I have ever smelled in my life. I don't think I'll ever be able to handle tea on a string again. Their Barista, David, who also works at Rise-N-Dine, haven't been there but want to try it, served a steady stream of deliciously gorgeous cappuccinos and lattes, and I had fun talking to people and mixing the Italian sodas. Do you know how to make a good Italian soda? I sure didn't. Most of the people attending didn't know either. They were expecting ice cream, liquor, all kinds of other things. This would be my kitchen counter the day before, practicing my pouring for the event using water once I ran out of syrup. My brother, who ran a restaurant and bar in Mississippi while in college and whose boss has been written up in Southern Living, also gave me some tips like suggesting I should throw the bottles up in the air and catch them behind my back. In the end, I didn't think a girl in heels should be throwing bottles for any reason. Italian sodas are refreshing, light and the perfect end to a heavy meal, even after the "after dinner" cup of espresso or coffee.
7 oz. of sparkling water (San Pellegrino is best)
1 oz. of flavored syrup (ex: orange, lemon or mango)
-Fill glass half full with ice .
-Add sparkling water and pour syrup over the top in a swirling motion.
-No stirring is necessary.
If you missed the quote from the title of this post, I'll give you another clue..."I'm talking about a little place called Aspen, Harry".
I have said this before, but this blog takes some crazy turns. One day I'm thinking deeply, and then next, I'm wishing I was a clothing designer that left home at 20 to pursue a career in NYC. As I am continuing to journey through figuring out what I love, it's moments like almost falling off of the treadmill today while watching Oprah interview Ralph Lauren & family, that I just get really excited. I don't know why, but the ins and outs of starting at a drawing board, and making something that people put on their bodies is so fascinating to me. He talked about how each piece is a story that he is telling.
After 45 years of creating and designing, wildly new things continue to emerge. One comment did strike me though when he said that as he comes down the runway to wave good-bye at the end of a beautiful show, he's always feeling sick, already can't even enjoy his accomplishment or praise, because he fears deep down that he might not do it again.
I just found out that the home I'm living in will be foreclosed upon on June 7th, that's a lengthy 3 weeks from tomorrow. This is actually a familiar story for me as just two years ago the house that I was living in was in the same situation. Luckily, we all found places to go and it wasn't that bad. This time around it feels like a cruel joke in the midst of my uncertainty about full time work which has been dragging on for a good 9 months now. This morning while angrily emptying the dishwasher and dropping a few choice words throughout my thought process, it dawned on me--I am desperately seeking to be settled. That is my greatest desire right now, and it has reached idol status in my heart. I feel like it is a right, and most people would happily agree that it isn't a bad thing to want, wouldn't they? But then I started thinking about Jesus. Was he ever settled? Did he have a stable place to call home? I'm pretty sure the Bible says he had no place to lay his head. Is being settled the highest value, or even a value at all in God's Kingdom? I guess not, so now I feel guilty. If this is where I stop then I'm just going to be a miserably guilty Christian who doesn't believe the gospel at all. It will not inform reality and I will probably just move on carrying low grade bitterness and doing other things to numb my feelings and still won't be getting to the real issue. Turning my heart and its worship back toward Christ. I need to confess before God my idolatrous heart's desires and my desire to love the gifts and not the giver, and to seek out ways to hear, know and believe the satisfaction possible in his voice when he calls; and to believe the truth that where he leads is to an abundant life in himself, even when it feels unsettling.
"The sheep hear his voice and he calls his own sheep by name..the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. I cam that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep". John 10: 3,4,10-11
I was inspired by the back wall of a DIY bookshelf over at Growing Home, and decided that the final wall of the church office needed a dressed up bulletin board. This is what I've been looking at for a couple of months and can't take it much longer.
I really enjoy starting projects, but I don't like finishing them. Once it's 95% done, I'm ready to move on. The office started out something like this below. All men working there, you get the idea.
I honestly did find a half eaten Twinkie still in the wrapper inside a filing cabinet drawer. It was hidden in the back behind some empty folders. There's now a waiting area for people who stop by and the lighting is softer (lost the photos which were on my phone, so I'll have to add some later). I'm still hoping to do something fun with the bulletin board though. I also thought about changing out the flower picture in the kitchen with a piece of more cheerful fabric in a modern pattern. The kitchen is all white and so the flowers don't do much for it in terms of "pop".
The kitchen is NEWLY all white I should say. We had an Almond colored refrigerator from 1970 for two years, that made a sound like the house was going to blow, for about 1 minute every week. It froze everything on the bottom two shelves which ruined all the produce, so we just upgraded to a truly white version, possibly 1990, compliments of Craig's List. $250 total including delivery, removal of the old, hook up of the new and a 90 day warranty. We're excited.
Mother's Day was especially fun this year, knowing that MAD (Mom and Dad) would be leaving for England right after to see my brother and sister-in-law who are living there. We are very low key with holidays and they always include a meal, a photo of us in front of the same fireplace or tree, and plenty of laughter. My middle brother is usually running late and calling to say "he's 10 minutes away". Translated: He just woke up from a nap and forgot it was *insert important holiday*.
Typical relaxing afternoon together. I would say the shoes were kicked off, but that is possibly my late brother who forgot to wear shoes at all (late as in still alive, just not punctual). Jake, the dog my parents have now inherited from my youngest brother, is interested in the camera; whereas Charlie is more emo and pondering his looming haircut.
And with good reason. His self esteem takes a beating for about a month. Now I love my dog, but I'm just not that keen on treating him like a human. There's a dog daycare in the area called "Pets Are People Too"...really, people?
By the way, I realize that none of these photos are very good. However, I have decided that I'd rather capture the memories than not post them, and it's also practical help towards creating a blog about reality. We don't always look good, and that's just life. Since purchasing my first SLR camera last summer, I have been excited about getting into one of Kate Byar's photography classes, but every time I go to her site to register for one, they're all booked. She's an amazing photographer and I'm so happy to see that she has found work that she loves and is passionate about. Very inspiring.
What's even crazier is that she recently did a photo shoot for one of my college friends with her sweet baby Nicolas. I didn't even know she had hired Kate until I received a precious baby announcement in the mail with "Kate Byars Photography" printed on back. They're great pictures not only of the baby but also of the amazing nursery! Well done and congratulations Julie and Nic!
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I have found it amazingly refreshing to sit in a place of pure honesty before God and others when life is cloudy, hard and I just can't make sense of anything happening to me. I have a desperate need to understand it all, and to explain it all to others, but why? So I can justify myself and functionally wipe out all that God has done to justify me once and for all, through Christ? Yes, pretty much. Well, there is grace for that too. And does God simply want to make us "blind from birth" (or insert your particular suffering) so that he will be seen as big "so that the works of God might be displayed in us", and we will just be miserable, pathetic creatures? No. Our faith gradually becomes more mature through sufferings, we know Christ more deeply as we share in his sufferings, we love others more genuinely when we have suffered, we have conversations that are honest and real with our friends and family members, we recognize and long more truly for the world to work properly again when Christ returns to right all that is wrong, and to bring us back to perfect harmony with himself, each other and with our world. Now, that might be a stretch to think through completely on the average morning, but it is a redemptive view of suffering that with God's help, we can grow to see glimpses of. I am just beginning to see these glimpses in my life. Ask the people around you. Often they can see them before you can.