30 November 2015

Why Advent is like 'Breaking and Entering'

Yes it really is.

While my Dad was in seminary prior to his ordination, he had several classes with a nun named Sr. Mary Finn. She was sweet, kind, and had the most interesting experiences when it came to ministry with other people. Honestly, this sweet old thing could write books on all her unique experiences of serving others.

My Dad always told us this story to describe the season of Advent in a unique way, that Sr. Mary once shared in his class.

One Advent Sr. Mary was visiting her friend Lester who was in prison. Never having grown up in a family where faith was lived out or taught, he asked her what the season of Advent was all about. She stopped and thought for a minute, trying to think of a way to explain it in a way Lester would understand.

"Well Lester," she replied "Advent is like breaking and entering. Jesus breaks in and enters in your heart." Lester smiled. He got that.

Advent is like a break-in. God wants to break into our lives and for us to draw closer to Him. But He never forces us to be in relationship. There is so much in my own life to I need to allow God to break down, re-shape, and change in me. And Advent is a time for that; to let the broken parts of me be changed and made into something stronger. 

I cannot enter into something deeper with God if I'm not yet first broken down and humbled.

Advent is the beginning of the New Year, in relation to the liturgical calendar. And with the New Year, it gives us yet another opportunity to look at our life and where we are headed.

Where are you headed as this season of Advent begins? What needs to broken in you, so that God enter more in your heart? (For me, its all about my pride and thinking I am in total control ;-).

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25 November 2015

How St. Ignatius Taught Me Thanksgiving is a Choice

You sometimes hear people share on what their favorite holiday's are and the reasons behind it. Christmas has always been my favorite, but over the last few years Thanksgiving has been gaining ground to tie with my all-time favorite holiday. I've always felt Thanksgiving gets overlooked and under-appreciated. I don't know if it has to do with the turkey, football games, or the insanity of Black Friday.

Over the past year, I have read a lot on Ignatian spirituality and the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola. What I have grown to love about Ignatian spirituality is that it's a way for people (whatever their vocation or state in life) to see God in all things while becoming a contemplative in action.

As I have grown to identify more with Ignatian spirituality in my life, I had the thought it was St. Igantius who helped teach me that thanksgiving (gratitude) is always a choice in life-no matter the circumstance or situation.

One of the most profound ways to pray in Ignatian spirituality is a prayerful review of the day called the Examen. It is a practice where you prayerfully review the past day; reflecting upon all the events, and looking to where you saw/experienced God. The point of the Examen is to look on your day to see where God's presence and activity was in it.

A review of the events of the day to find God's presence in it: this was a practice highly affirmed by Ignatius as the most important activity a person could do every single day.
Okay, yeah that's nice. But why? What was so important about this?

Well, let's back track for a second. A significant element of the Examen is a review of the day. And if we can see.find.experience. God's presence in the day (no matter what happens) it teaches us the life-changing power of thankfulness and gratitude.
So the answer? The power of gratitude. 

The power it has no matter the pain or suffering we encounter in this life. The power it has to ease the heavy crosses we carry. The power it has to bring about that peace Jesus spoke of that surpasses all understanding. Gratitude, thankfulness is spiritual dynamite. To thank God in all things, for all things is medicine the weary world needs to live life with purpose.

Ann Voskamp is another grace seeker who is passionate on how this one practice of daily gratitude can change lives and radically re-shape the culture. As she says, "only when we give thanks, will you get to be joyful. Being grateful is what makes you joyful."

And while daily praying the Examen is a discipline I want to get better at, I am constantly reminded that the act of thankfulness and gratitude is always, always a choice. I can either shake my fist at God and give Him my "choice" words or I can sit in the stillness with open hands of acceptance. I can be like that tenth leper who quickly returned to Jesus to say "thank you" for his healing. I want to be like that tenth leper in my life, no matter what comes.
Gratitude, a spirit of thankfulness is a choice. And no matter what, God is always good and I (we) are always loved by Him.

So tomorrow between the good food and hustle n' bustle of the day, take some time to put pen to paper. Allow the practice of daily gratitude to begin to transform you from the inside out. See how gratitude, thankfulness will change you. Be that tenth leper, and do it everyday onward.

So why do you think Thanksgiving is treated like pre-gaming for Christmas? Do you believe it is possible to be grateful and thankful for all things, in all things? What makes living with a heart of gratitude so difficult in our world today?

Also, if you you're interested in learning more about Ignatian spirituality or praying the Examen, the following books are ones I have loved and found most helpful:

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23 November 2015


Forrest Gump was right: life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get. Sometimes its a sweet surprise, and sometimes it is just plain nasty.

Life is like a box of chocolates, and life is also bittersweet. It is a combination of both the pain and beautiful, the sweet and bitter experiences of life that grow us up as people and change us in ways we never dreamed possible.

Shauna Niequist sums it up so perfectly: "It is a combination of both the hard and beautiful moments of life. Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a moment of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich even when it contains a splinter of sadness. It's the practice of believing that we really do need both the bitter and the sweet, and that a life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth and your soul. Bitter is what makes us strong, what forces us to push through, what helps us earn the lines on our faces and the calluses on our hands. Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, courageous, and gutsy."

I remember hearing a professor talk in class during grad school that some people go their life trying at all possible cost to avoid pain and suffering. That they spend so much energy avoiding the bitter, painful moments of life, they can end up missing out on some of the most amazingly, beautiful moments as well. At the time, that sounded crazy to me: "How can you go through life avoiding the icky?" But as I look back on my own life, I think to some extent I have tried to do that too in my own way.

I think I only wanted to learn from the sweet, good moments in life. Instead of allowing the difficult, bitter ones to do some deep-down soul work in my life. Whether people admit it or not, we all will experience pain, suffering, and difficulties. There's just no possible way to escape or avoid it, no matter how hard you try. It is a reality of the human condition. But if we allow it, the bitter, hard moments can be some of the most life-changing and transforming.

Don't let life make you hard or bitter, let the pain stretch you like a rubber band. See difficulties as a way to learn more about yourself. 

Life is a reckless, confusing, beautiful combination of both the bitter and the sweet moments. And it is in how we respond to those moments that can change us for better or worse.

What have been some of the most profound, life changing bittersweet moments in your own life? How have they changed and shaped you as a person?

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19 November 2015

3 Myths about Community

I have said before that community is a funny, little thing. To be in meaningful relationships and feel accepted by people is something that every human hearts desires. 

Relationships with other people can be tricky sometimes, even messy. And while I am so grateful for the beautiful communities in my own life, it certainly took work and I made mistakes along the way.

1. It's Easy
Intentional, close-knit commuting with other people does not just happen overnight. It can feel odd, awkward, or just plain off. That was my own experience when several years ago I joined a small group at church. I tried really hard to "make it fit." I really wanted to be that girl that found these life-changing, deep friendships in her small group at church. But can I tell you something?

It felt awkward for me. While we were all the same age, I wasn't in the same stage of life as the women who were married with little ones running around. I stuck with it for about a year and a half before realizing that it just wasn't a fit for me. And you know what? That's a-okay.
It was a time that showed me sometimes being in community with some people just isn't the right fit.

2. It's Optional
We are simply aren't meant to be alone. God made us to be in relationship with Him and each other. Look at Genesis: God creates Adam and almost immediately acknowledges his need for a mate, a companion. If you read onward in the Old Testament, you see this reflected in the way God calls His people a group, a specific community (the children of Israel). Moving onto to the New Testament, it is so clearly seen especially in Acts where we see the records of the early (and rapidly growing!) Christian community.
We are not meant or designed to be "lone rangers" in life. We all need each other! 

3. It happens instantly or overnight 
Closeness just doesn't form overnight. I mean realistically it just doesn't. Building community takes time and effort. Community requires us to step outside the you-bubble and into someone else's bubble. That can be physically, emotionally and spiritually inconvenient or frustrating, but really is the best thing for us.

Think about the blessing of particular communities in your own life today: church, friends, co-workers, small group, Bible study, book club, etc. Offer up a prayer of gratitude for them today!

What are particular communities that have greatly blessed your own life? What do you think is the most difficult thing about community?

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17 November 2015

Carrying My Own Weight

I think I owe my body an apology. 

Well to be honest, I think I owe my body hundreds of thousands of apologies for the ways over the years I have mistreated it, starved it, hid it, and hated it.

I'm sorry for taking you for granted, for not taking care of you, and for wishing you looked different. One of the hardest things for me at times has been accepting you the way you are. But as I have slowly learned to do so, it makes me take better care of myself.

Just as our bodies need steady diets of fruits and vegetables, they also need a steady diet of positive self talk and confidence. Instead over the years, I fed it with diet of negativity, mindless eating, and yo-yo dieting. I used to carry my body in this resentful, unloving, negative self-talk kind of way.

Realizing I need healthy physical activity like running began to teach me how to carry my body in a healthy, respectful way. I am learning to carry my own weight around not as some number that labels or defines me; but rather, in a way that allows me free to be me just the way I am.

Learning to carry your own weight may be easy or more difficult for you. Wherever you are on that journey of self-acceptance, hold yourself to a standard of grace not perfection. Sure its much easier said than done. But the older I get, the more amazed I find myself at the capabilities of the human body, both physically and emotionally.

Making the time to care for myself physically has increased my positive self talk and decreased the negativity. Making the time to exercise has grown my interest in eating healthy, and seeing how the right fuel can help my body work in the best condition.

Work on carrying your own weight with grace and patience. Ditch the negative self-talk and set alarms on your phone to verbally affirm yourself each day (I promise you eventually start to believe it!). I know that sounds crazy, but that small change has made a huge difference in my own life. Make exercise a non-negotiable part of life as you would with daily prayer or eating dinner every day. Refuse to give in to those little gremlins in your head that whisper you're not good.pretty.thin.fast. enough.

If I can run a half marathon, I promise you can carry your weight while showing grace and patience to yourself. ;-)

Do you owe your body an apology? What are ways you try to live a lifestyle of "grace not perfection" when it comes to exercise, food, and your body?

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10 November 2015

5 Tips to Simplify Your Digital Life

I can remember when I got my first phone it was one of those pay as you go cheap things. At the time, it would cost extra to text, so I always told me people to just call me and not text. I still remember when texting was starting to become a big thing and I didn't get it. Why send a text when you can just call someone?! 
Fast forward 10 or 12 years, and communication has only rapidly continued to change. 

Sure apps and social media have made my life easier in a lot of ways, but I have also seen in my life how easily it become a constant distraction. Since the New Year, I have made some changes that have helped me become more intentional, but I still see the need to constantly re-evaluate and simplify my digital life online.

1. Set limits
For awhile, I have been going on my social media accounts only twice a day. Some days are better than others, but overall it has helped me see how much time I can waste and the frequency I do "mindless scrolling." Some other things I have started trying and to be helpful are:
  • No notification checking before 9 or 10a
  • Not going on any social media accounts past 8pm (this one has been really helpful for me!)
Of course social media is not a bad thing, but seeing how much I go on them daily has shown me I need to use social media with a purpose, and not just mindlessly.

2. Turn off notifications
I did this about 6 months ago, and especially with texting I notice even how I'm carrying my phone with me every second of every day. Not focusing on the distracting beeps and dings is slowly helping remember to be more present to the life I am living instead of how many likes I got on a picture.

3. Move Social Media Apps to last page of phone
I've talked about this before, but recently I've noticed how my faves have made there way back onto the front page of my phone. I know for me, not having particular apps right in front of me makes it easier to not go on them mindlessly.

4. Don't sleep with phone in your bedroom
Until several months ago, I had been using my phone as my alarm clock. Not having my phone charging in the bedroom while I'm getting ready for bed and/or sleeping has surprisingly been a very good thing. If the phone is another room, I'm much more likely to not use it "just because."

5. Use Digital Life with a Purpose
Realizing how sometimes my social media use has gotten a wee bit addictive is teaching me how easy it can be to get consumed with scrolling, commenting, and clicks. I try to constantly remind myself not to post or hit publish on a post unless I have something to say. If it just adds to the mindless chatter of the interwebs, then really why do I want to engage in that?
What are ways you try to simplify and de-clutter your digital life? How do you strive to use your digital life and social media with a purpose?
I'm all ears with suggestions ;-)

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06 November 2015

The Waiting Place

I have always been waiting on some level throughout my life. Waiting to grow up, waiting for the perfect guy to marry, waiting for that life I dreamt up over many years, waiting to be down with school. I was waiting for the next biggest, best thing to achieve or have in my life. 

I was always just one step away from getting the next thing that would make me happy, complete, and full. In sense, its almost like for a portion of life I was waiting for my life to start.

Shauna Niequist says it so perfectly in her book, Cold Tangerines"I don't want to wait anymore. I choose to believe that there is nothing more sacred or profound than this day. The big moments are the daily, tiny moments of courage and forgiveness and hope that we grab on and extend to one another. The big moments are in every hour, every conversation, every meal, every meeting."

I don't want my life to be defined by just waiting for the big moments, but I want it defined by the beauty and grace of every little moment of every single day. A lot of those things I waited and hoped for in life I now have: a real job, finishing school, financially independent, and a husband. As I waited for life to actually begin, I actually missed out on a lot. 

John Lennon is credited with saying, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans." For a long time, I was busy waiting for the next big moment in life to fill me up. It was years later before I saw how empty a way that is to live.

Now life is in a different waiting place, not the kind where you're waiting for next greatest event or thing. I am waiting on God. Waiting for His wisdom, clarity, and guidance in life. Waiting for Him to stir me and lead me. When you don't know what to do or where to turn, just wait on God. And in a certain way, that's what I am doing, just waiting on God.

A good chunk of life I spent waiting for life to start, and now life is in a different kind of waiting. A more peaceful, less busy type of waiting. Waiting on God right now is reminding me yet again the only person I can control is myself. 

Waiting on God is reminding me how He is in control and I am not. Waiting on God is reminding me my only dependance should be on Him.
And between the two different types of waiting, I would much rather be in this current waiting place right now. 

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05 November 2015

Mrs. Fields Homemade Marble Cookies

SO excited to be a part of a fun series (A Blogger Family Cookbook) with my dear friend Emily. She just had her second little boy George (who is stinking adorbs!) and created a guest post series on favorite family recipes while she recovers and rests up.

Wander over to her neck of the interwebs today, to check out the newest addition to her Blogger Family Cookbook: Mrs. Fields Marble Cookies. Fair warning, they are pretty drool worthy!
Now go show this lovely lady some love and be sure to check out her fun, new series!!!
Happy browsing:)
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02 November 2015

Color Me Beautiful: How the Right Colors Change Your Style

Have you ever been shopping and tried something on that totally washes you out? Or maybe it just brings out the pasty whiteness of your skin (okay I'm talking to myself here) in an obnoxious way?
Yeah those types of situations are the most frustrating for me when it comes to shopping.

I have been hearing a lot from different blogger on the books, Color Me Beautiful. The book helps you learn what colors look best for your skin tone to bring out your natural beauty by learning if you're warm or cool tone. Then you look to color palette based on the four seasons to determine and learn about what specific shades work best for you. If you're even remotely into things like makeup and fashion, I HIGHLY recommend you check out this book!! I was amazed how much I learned for myself as I am trying out a capsule wardrobe for the first time.

First, you need to figure out if you are a warm or cool tone. Understanding this concept is the whole key to this book's perspective. I learned I have a warm tone. Remember you're looking at your hair, eyes, and skin to help learn your tone. How did I arrive at that monumental conclusion? Hair color is one of the best ways to determine. I have natural golden highlights in my hair, which is an indication of warm. My eyes while blue lean toward green and also have gold flecks towards the most inner part of my eye.

You've identified yourself as warm or cool. Warm people are then broken down further either Springs or Autumns, and cool people are Summers or Winters. The further distinctions are to see if you're "light" or "deep." If your hair is blonde, light brown, or light red, you are "light." If your hair is brunette, dark red, or black, you are "deep." It's so easy from here:
  • If you are cool and deep then you are a Winter.
  • If you are cool and light then you are a Summer.
  • If you are warm and deep then you are an Autumn.
  • If you are warm and light then you are a Spring.
For me, I am warm and deep which makes me an Autumn. Brunette women with a golden or metallic red cast to their hair have Autumn coloring. Really the hardest part is discovering if you're warm or cool, and then its just nailing down the shade.

The most fun part is seeing the color analysis which tells you what particular shades work best for your skin tone. Here's what works best for me:

And that's it! Fun right? There are also section in the book on how the right colors can play into your skincare and makeup routines. 

Be sure to check out the book from your local library! It's a fun, easy read and really helpful!

Do you use any certain tricks to help you find the right colors for your style or makeup? What certain colors do you think work best for your hair/skin color? 

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