THANKSDAY #98

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Well, well, well. So we meet again. It’s been a minute, and I’m not gonna lie, it’s always so weird to come back to this blank page. I stare and wonder if I’ll ever write regularly again, or if my creative cup is full enough with Be Still Be Free. I wonder if my mind will marinate on words like they used to; or if God and I will process issues together through written words like we used to; or if His word was true to me all those years ago, “Don’t be so focused on the method that you lose sight of the message.”

Maybe there’s a new method now. Maybe written words will come back to me in force when I least expect it. Maybe I should quit wondering about the future and just focus on the here and now. Be present and all that jazz.

So for now I feel like I want to do a Thanksday post, and so I’m going with it. Onward and upward, y’all.

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1. Podcasts. Yes, I do listen to podcasts even though I podcast myself. (Why are people surprised by this?) I’m infatuated with them and listen to approximately three billion different ones. I listen after I take the kids to school. I listen while I’m working out. I listen while I’m getting ready and while I’m cleaning the kitchen. And I’ll be the first to admit they are not all Christian or even spiritual, for that matter. (Gasp, shock, awe.) Be warned: some have some language (especially that Christy Nockles) (sarcastic font). But I’m an adult and you’re an adult and to be honest I’ve heard worse in PG-13 movies, so there you go.

I’m not providing links to these because I don’t know which podcast app you prefer, so you’ll have to type them in to search if you want to give them a go. I know, so old school.

Here are my newest faves right now:

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  • How to Be Amazing with Michael Ian Black. This is an in-depth interview podcast where comedian Michael Ian Black sits down with some of today’s writers, entertainers, artists, innovative thinkers and politicians (similar to Alec Baldwin’s really). They dive into the creative process and the intricate minds of some of these people. Michael (Michael Ian?) is so funny, a great interviewer, and the guests (that I’ve listened to so far) are insightful and entertaining.

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  • Reel Conversations. Bryan Coley sits down with various guests and dissects their top 10 favorite movies of all time, and uses them as a way to gain insight into the values, character and passions of the guests. I am FASCINATED by this podcast and am trying to self-diagnose my own personality based on my favorite movies, of which I only have five on my list right now. (Which of course, says enough.)

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  • Glorious in the Mundane with Christy Nockles. This podcast is as sweet, tender and humble as you would expect. Christy has such a gentle way of speaking, of interviewing, and of talking about the ways the Lord has moved in her life. I love it.

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  • The Popcast with Knox and Jamie. Knox and Jamie admit this is a show about “delightful idiocy,” and it couldn’t make me happier. They discuss all manner of things pop culture, make me LOL and help the time on the treadmill speed up exponentially.

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2. Pumpkin Spice. Let me be the first to say I’m a big fan of pumpkiny things. However, I will absolutely admit that as a nation we have jumped the pumpkin shark. Not everything needs to be flavored or scented in pumpkin. I’ll give you muffins, doughnuts, pancakes and coffee — but outside of that we need to maintain some integrity. #amiright

Now then, since I’ve stated the aforementioned pumpkin-approved foods, I give a kudos this week to McCormick’s Pumpkin Pie Spice. I’ve started adding just a hint to my coffee grounds before brewing, and it warms me to my bones. And then I’m not getting all those pumps of sugary sweetened pumpkin spice. I also use it for making pumpkin pancakes and muffins, which my family reminded me yesterday I haven’t made in ages. To which I replied, get off me.

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3. Decaf Green Tea. So I’m trying to drink tons of water all day, but plain water is so boring. I’ve started making a big pitcher of this as iced tea to keep in the fridge, and then in my water bottle I mix half tea, half water. This flavors my water just  enough, gives me a metabolism boost (because truth in advertising) and now water doesn’t feel like a chore. Bam.

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4. iTunes Radio. You know what I’m sometimes in the mood for? French jazz. Or rather, any jazz where there’s French speaking happening in between songs or French words in the song. And thanks to iTunes Radio, I can just search it and start listening. And if I happen to be drinking french press coffee with pumpkin spice while listening, I can close my eyes and pretend I’m at some little café à Paris wearing red lipstick and a trench coat.

5. An Ode to Autumn. I was texting with a friend the other day and she mentioned how ready she was for fall, which we all know I agreed with wholeheartedly. Thus began a text exchange of fall poetry that both tickled us and made us eager for cooler weather. So I guess this is a two-fer; I’m thankful for both the friend and the poem. Here is the masterpiece:

Dear Fall,

You may now descend like a gentle dove upon us,

Give us boots of pure leather and rich textures like corduroy and tweed.

May your hot toddies warm our bellies like a shared laugh with a friend.

May your colorful leaves reflect the palette of all I plan to partake around a warm fire,

And your crisp nights like the snap of a honey crisp apple drizzled in warm caramel.

Or maybe like the black chimney smoke that roasts when I indulge in s’mores…

And then I don’t eat the marshmallows.

Amen.

6. Books. I went on a reading bender this summer (and all the people said amen), and even discovered how to check out e-books from the library for instant download on my Kindle. Say whaaaa? It was amazing. Out of all the books I read (probably 20), here are two I am recommending to everyone:

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  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows. This book is fiction and written entirely as letters back and forth between the main character and the others in her world. It takes place in London just after the WWII, and is just such a sweet, fun and tender story. I was grieved when it was over. I wanted to keep reading forever.

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  • The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty. I’m late to the Liane Moriarty game, but I can tell you that I’m fangirling hard and already devoured three of her books this summer. This is my favorite so far. It’s the most fun, delightful and fun read — I think I finished in 36 hours — and almost fell into a depression that it ended.

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7. Cold Brew Iced Coffee Maker. I’m pretty sure this is supposed to make a concentrate that you dilute with water for your iced coffee. But I don’t like it diluted. So I have a cup of this in the afternoons and am WIDE OPEN for the rest of the day. I ordered mine at Amazon. #mountainlife #ifcoffeeiswrongidontwannaberight

8. Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. I’ve mentioned this before, but I just noticed the other day that season 8 is out! It includes Jim Gaffigan, Lorne Michaels and Judd Apatow. It’s a web show, so just go to the website to watch. Each episode is about 12-15 minutes so it’s a perfect mid-day pick-me-up to watch with your pumpkin spice or iced coffee.

9. Celebrating. I love to celebrate the little things, the big things, and the little things that feel like big things. And so when my husband or my friends celebrate those things with me, it feels like the biggest gift. Being able to shoot a text to say, “This just happened!” and to get responses that show how excited they are for me is the greatest. Even though in the grand scheme of things the thing we’re celebrating isn’t a huge deal, the fact they’re supportive and care is a huge deal. You can’t put a price tag on that. I just hope they think I reciprocate in the same manner.

10. NASA’s Instagram Account. You guys. If you’re not following NASA on Instagram, you’re missing out completely. They’re incredibly consistent about posting images of real live things in space, and if after seeing these images you don’t believe that there’s a Holy God who created the universe, then there’s no hope for you. The images are stunning, almost mystical, and take my breath away. It might have something to do with the fact that I’m a wannabe astronaut (that couldn’t hang with the math or science). Here are a few of my recent favorites:

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Saturn’s shadow stretched beyond the edge of its rings for many years after our Cassini spacecraft first arrived at Saturn, casting an ever-lengthening shadow that reached its maximum extent at the planet’s 2009 equinox. This image captured the moment in 2015 when the shrinking shadow just barely reached across the entire main ring system. The shadow will continue to shrink until the planet’s northern summer solstice, at which point it will once again start lengthening across the rings, reaching across them in 2019. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

 

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A maelstrom of glowing gas and dark dust within one of the Milky Way’s satellite galaxies, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. This stormy scene shows a stellar nursery that’s over 150 light-years across. It contains many hot young stars. These stars are emitting intense ultraviolet light, which causes nearby hydrogen gas to glow, and torrential stellar winds, which are carving out ridges, arcs, and filaments from the surrounding material. At the heart of this cosmic cloud lies the Papillon Nebula, a butterfly-shaped region of nebulosity. This small, dense object is thought to be tightly linked to the early stages of massive star formation. Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

 

Alright, my friends. That will conclude my bi-annual revival of Thanksday. I hope you enjoyed it.

I’d love to hear the things you’re thankful for this week! Leave a comment and share the love!

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When God is Gentle, Even When He Shouldn’t Be

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I’m sharing over at Be Still Be Free today, in our new blog linkups! Hop on over to read and link up!

It was one of the darkest times of my life, and yet I drove there and parked the car and walked in the front door. It was our weekly prayer group. A motley crew of five to eight of us who would barge through the front door and drop everything a heap right there in the doorway — our junk, our sin, our issues and our unrealized dreams — and we’d slide into a chair and heave a sigh.

We were safe there. No questions ever asked, no judgments ever given. Just prayer and love and Jesus.

Always Jesus.

It was the always Jesus that drove my car there that night and it was the always Jesus that parked the car and it was the always Jesus that got me through the front door.

It was one of the darkest times of my life. Have I mentioned that? It’s always dark — almost pitch black — when you’re standing in the bottom of a very deep pit…even if it’s a pit of your own digging in which you almost gleefully, almost excitedly dive in head-first.

Dark. Very dark, indeed.

Sitting at the bottom of this pit I could see light, but it was faint and distant. I could see the difference between where I was and where I should be and tried clawing my way out day after day, but could never seem to get a firm footing. The dirt would crumple in my fingers and my toes would slide right back to the bottom.

I never shared about this pit with anyone. I lived in fear of what others would think of me…lived in defiance to the judgment I knew I deserved but hadn’t yet received. I memorized speeches justifying all of it and placing the blame everywhere except on me.

So I hid. I literally and figuratively hid. I still attended church and Bible Study and my little prayer group…but I hid in the back row, and hid behind odd clothing, and hid behind strange behaviors and speech.

And I thought I was doing a bang-up job with my hiding. I really did. I think I even convinced myself that I was fooling God.

Until that night. That night when always Jesus drove me and parked me and ushered me through the front door of prayer group.

During a silent prayer time, each of us huddled with our journals and Bibles and pens, eyes closed and just being still and listening to God, a note was passed over to me. It was from a girl who wasn’t a regular, who knew absolutely nothing about me or my pit.

I quietly opened the note . . . Click over to BE to finish reading!

When Desperation Drives You to Finally ASK

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EVIDENTLY, this is my personal website. As in, MINE. ALL MINE.

Yet I’ve been so utterly and completely focused on Be Still Be Free that I’ve let this poor little site wither like a grape. And now we’re past raisin stage and into full-on petrification.

And I know I pop in over here from time-to-time and declare no more! I’m back and I’m committed! And then the empty words ring hollow and leave a mighty echo.

[Echo…]

[Echo…]

I have no strategy, plan or even shred of determination to rectify this, sadly. But here I am again…popping in to declare I’m back! For now! And to let you know I’m sharing over at BE today as we wrap up our series Be Bold and Conquer.

Here’s a brief peek:

She was a guest speaker at our Bible Study…an elegant woman with empathetic eyes and graceful demeanor, and a southern accent that lilted words and softened the convictions that always came as she spoke the truth. Plainly.
She words were full of authority and grace, with understanding and yearning. I sat mesmerized and unable to blink as she shared about Jesus – her Jesus – and how He changed her. Utterly and completely changed her.
For the next several days I struggled to stand as my weary bones carried my heavy heart. As I’d shuffle along throughout each day, she’d appear in my thoughts, blowing across my mind like a refreshing breeze. I needed something…that much I knew – and one day I suddenly realized I needed her.
On an it’s-almost-fall morning, with a cup of coffee in my hands, I found her number and called her. I stumbled over my words until I could coherently state,
I need a mentor. I desperately and immediately need a mentor.
Okay, she replied with that southern lilt and graceful demeanor. Let’s meet for lunch and we’ll see what God says about this.
Over squash soufflé and sweet tea with extra ice, she told me she’d been praying and that God nodded Yes, you should mentor this lost and desperate girl (although maybe I imagined the last part). And we developed a schedule and a plan and a list of things I needed guidance with.
She left with a very, very long list.

To continue reading, just click here! And I’m looking forward to seeing you back here in oh, I dunno…maybe another three months or so?

In the meantime, I would LOVE to see you over at BE. It is my heartbeat and favorite place, and I think you’d really, really love it.

Love you, friends!

Loving Yourself Enough To Do The Scary Things

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The arena was jam-packed with women wearing their Sunday and Monday and Thursday and Saturday best. Their accessories matched their pocketbooks which matched their shoes which matched their Bible covers. An arena full of sopranos and altos and even a smattering of tenors harmonized during worship and their heads nodded during the lesson and their wallets poured out money during the love offering. Hands were raised in re-commitment to Jesus and tissues were dabbed across blurry eyes and when it was time to break it was as if there was one giant exhale in unison.

We strolled through the lobby deciding what to eat for lunch, my friend and I. We dodged women in their Tuesday and Friday best with their accessories that matched their shoes. Some were impatient with the lines at the food stands, some were frustrated with getting their pocketbooks (which matched their accessories) bumped. Some couldn’t believe there wasn’t enough lunch-time seating for all seven hundred million women jammed into the arena.

My friend and I grabbed lunch and searched for a place to sit among the bright patterns and matching Bible covers. As soon as we took our first bite, we saw him. He couldn’t have been more than 21 and he was dirty and his eyes were glazed and his shoes had holes and he appeared homeless. He walked the aimlessly amid the maze of nodded heads and tear-stained tissues trying to talk to the women, but was largely ignored or smiled at politely as they turned back to their conversation.

My friend and I looked at each other and I knew what she was thinking and she knew what I was thinking but we were both petrified of each other’s thoughts, afraid to say it out loud. I don’t remember who broke first, but the words rang loudly in our ears,

 “Should we pray for him?”

Click here to keep reading — I’m sharing over at my second home, Be Still Be Free today!

 

Loving Yourself and Cleaning House

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Is this thing on?

Pardon me while I clean out the cobwebs over here. I mean, my gosh at the stale scent ova hee-ah.

I’ve neglected this place. I really, really have. I miss writing something fierce, but my creative cup is still getting filled over at my second love, Be Still Be Free. And yet I’ve been remiss in tying these two homes together consistently.

BUT NO MORE.

This week over at Be, we’re talking about loving yourself. We’re nearing the end of our series Be Loved and Live, and let me tell you — it’s been a huge blessing to me personally. If you want to start at the beginning and catch up, just click over to listen to each of the podcasts:

Next week we’ll explore what it looks like to truly Love Others. After that, we’re on to a whole new series that is 100% my heartbeat and passion:

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I hope you’ll hop over to check out the amazing things God is doing with Be Still Be Free, and I’ll do a better job of bridging these homes together.

In the meantime, I’ll be here opening all the windows and beating dust out of the rugs — and overall, just bringing this site back to life.

Be free today. Love y’all.