In So Deep

Have you ever been so overwhelmed by God that you can hardly contain your reactions?

Have you ever been so utterly amazed by His goodness that you well up with tears?

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I’ve been in this unsurpassable place a lot recently. It’s His presence. I’m not here because I’m better, more holy than someone else. I’m here because I’m broken.

Somehow, brokenness always seems to equal fulfillment when God is in the picture.

His Spirit pours, showers, RAINS down His sweet mercy upon my heart, soul, and mind when I mess up the “biggest.”

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Truly, I keep on breaking. And when I practically melt, finding myself in desperate weakness, He doesn’t hesitate to straighten my slouch or bestow the greatest satisfaction and joy again and again. He is always more than enough.

I can’t go through a day perfectly, no matter how hard I may try.

But recently, He’s more than enough despite my weakness. He’s more than enough than He’s ever been. Yes, I know He’s always been enough. His immutable nature is, well…immutable. It’s secure, this I know. But for my little being, He’s becoming more than enough, and it’s magnificent.

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It’s as if my life is being stripped to nothing but Him. It’s like my very literal being is hanging by a single string from some unknown place. He, Himself is  that string. It seems so terrible to compare God to a string. What I mean is, there is nothing else attached to me. Just Him, only Him.

I only want more. His depths are where I want to go. Because there He is, always waiting. He is patient and kind and loving and gracious and here with me. He’s here with you.

Winter Wisdom

The same thing occurs almost every year at about this time. I get some version of the “winter blues.” The sparkle of the holiday season wears off and in enters the irksome epiphany that I still have a few more months of nip and early sunsets. The thrill of wearing scarves and boots, drinking far too many Peppermint Mochas is losing luster. I daydream of sunshine and fireflies more often than is beneficial.

I find this wee depression difficult to admit. It’s embarassing to acknowledge because deep down, I understand there isn’t the slightest reason to be living with this mindset. I’ve got the best thing here with me, IN me.

Embrace, embrace, EMBRACE. This lesson of being where you are is endless. More than that, it’s pivotal. God reminds me of this constantly. Plus, winter really isn’t the most terrible thing.

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Here are some delightful gifts helping me dismiss this blueish state of mind. These practical things are inspiring me “to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life,” remaining joyful.

My Utmost For His Highest. Oswald Chambers’ devotional has been both an encouragement and a kick in the rear. This year is my first reading through the daily gems. I am ecstatic at how closely they coincide with what my soul needs. I recommend the app – I went this route and am able to re-read it multiple times each day, whenever I have a brief moment.

Find a Furry Friend. I’m not kidding. Once each week, three-year-old Mia and I take a field trip to Petco and Barnes & Noble. It hasn’t gotten old yet. Let’s just say, we both leave the kitty area of the pet store overjoyed (and sad we can’t take one home). Consider yourself blessed if you’ve got a pet! Go cuddle.

Pray For Passer-byers. It’s truly humbling to realize how much we can focus on ourselves. Praying is a simple and powerful tool to shift the mind’s focus. It’s incredible, for when I actually choose to do this, the Spirit tells me what to pray. I enter into the prayer unsure and skeptical, but the outcome is always good on all fronts. I’m finding this practice to be increasingly beautiful and hope it is an area in which I can grow.

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“How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it, if you could really look at other men with common curiosity and pleasure; if you could see them walking as they are in their sunny selfishness and their virile indifference! You would begin to be interested in them, because they were not interested in you. You would break out of this tiny and tawdry theater in which your own little plot is always being played, and you would find yourself under a freer sky, in a street full of splendid strangers.” –Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton

P.S. If you haven’t read Orthodoxy, I highly endorse. It has recently been enlightening my view of religion (or lack thereof), emboldening my faith.

Ben Rector. If you didn’t know, he’s bound to brighten anyone’s day. Here’s a free sampler! But my favorite is his newest album, The Walking In Between. Just get it. I’m serious, do it. THIS moment.

Go For a Walk. I haven’t much felt like working out. When I turn in from work, all my energy seems to have been expended. No, I really don’t have an excuse. However, I try to make sure I at least get outside for a brisk, semi-lengthy walk. It may not be grueling, but it’s something. And even if the sun isn’t beaming, fresh air is valuable.

Give. Yes, I’m speaking of money. It sounds rough, but it’s actually the sweetest. It eliminates selfishness and pride. It points the heart toward the greatest Giver. It brings joy. It is love in action. From buying someone’s coffee to sending your missionary friends an unexpected gift, every instance is essential.

Write a Letter. Who doesn’t appreciate a piece of snail mail? I have a special place in my heart for those friends who take the time to write me with ink and paper. Because of them, I want to write to everyone. I’m realizing it doesn’t have to be a special occasion. Maybe I’ll write my Grandma tomorrow.

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Dream. I may daydream too much, but I still adore doing so (before I realize it’s driving me crazy). Dreaming without action can’t do much good. Even still, I think there’s a place for mind-wandering. Just maybe a little more imagination is acceptable this time of year? Journaling, reading novels, planning adventures and Pinteresting (guilty) are ravishing. I’m having a blast gearing up to hike the Carolina Smokies with my siblings in a few months. Almost as invigorating is finally reading the story of Cosette and Jean Valjean.

I’ll cap it off with that.

Happy winter!

This Is War

Recently, I began a writing course.

I’ve been learning to hone my voice, find my tribe, and establish a platform.

The lessons are intriguing; they make me love the craft all the more. The selected books propel me into action.

I get to be a part of some stirring forums. My classmates are awesome. They provide me with real feedback. Sometimes their words are rather alarming, jabbing into my outrageously sensitive core. But I know they are for my own good. I’m learning to hack it. I’m learning to dismiss the need for approval.

My creative side has acquired a true workout. I’m finding I’m more creative than I ever fathomed. You probably are, too.

This experience has exceeded my expectations. It’s been most excellent thus far.

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But the class sure is kicking my butt.

The content isn’t difficult. I understand it. Still, I’m being worked…and hard. I’m instructed to write every day, which should come as no surprise. This in itself is the most difficult part – writing every solitary day.

94 percent of the time, I don’t feel like it, I lack inspiration, I’m tired, and I have laundry to do. Nevertheless, simply showing up no matter the feeling, inspiration, tiredness, or busyness is vital.

A short time ago, I was doing fifteen-minute abs once each week. Now, I’m training for a marathon.

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“The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell, whether he knows it or not. He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation.

The artist must be like a Marine. He has to know how to be miserable. He has to love being miserable. He has to take pride in being miserable more than any soldier or swabbie or jet jockey. Because this is war, baby.”

-Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

I have mixed feelings about the above excerpt. The outcome sounds appalling. Why would I willingly write (or for that matter,  pursue anything) if I’m bound to experience these suggested inflictions?

However, Pressfield is absolutely correct. These inflictions come. They come and make every day seem as if there is a sniper trailing terribly close, shooting down every respectable attempt at something inspired.

Pressfield is also right to call this a war, although I prefer envisioning myself a bow hunter over a Marine.

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And Pressfield is wrong, I believe. Yes, miserable times undoubtedly arrive. Still, I don’t think one needs to “know how to be miserable” or “love being miserable.” The conditions must be dealt with, certainly. But I can’t justify dealing in this fashion.

I would rather fight with love and joy. I would rather fight with the strength He provides. While walking in these outpourings of the Spirit, there is no space for misery.

I’m venturing to make this shift because there is far too much goodness to resolve for continued misery.

Mr. Pressfield, this is war. This is a war against that sniper.

This is a war I don’t have to fight on my own. I don’t know why I ever thought I had to. I can let it all go, and he gives me everything I need. He fills my thoughts and sparks creativity.

I only have to make myself show up, keep saying “yes.” He unfailingly takes care of the rest.

Best of Delaware

Best of Delaware

Goodness, what is Delaware known for? Dewey Beach’s nightlife is definitely pretty fly. Yes, there is indeed shopping without that darn sales tax I pay here in Virginia. And I’m sure the Dover International Speedway is a thrilling experience. But … Continue reading

Pepper In My Teeth

It looked scrumptious. The plate held vibrant hues of green, red, yellow, and purple. My tomato and avocado omelette was worthy of an Instagram upload.
Shortly after Andrew (my terrific tattooed waiter) slid the plate onto the slab of pine did tragedy take a toll. Instinctively, I reached for the pepper grinder. I inherited the “excess pepper trait” from my grandfather. Not a moment after I began vigorously turning the grinding mechanism, the darn gadget split in two. Pepper balls coated the formerly alluring platter and rolled onto the table.
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My cheeks turned pink for all but fifteen seconds, surprisingly. Normally, my blushing is endless. Having accidents like this pepper “catastrophe” is not uncommon for this girl. I should cut Revlon powder out of the daily routine and save twelve dollars a year.
Searching for a sympathetic soul, I tried to play it cool. The J.Crew couple at the table next to me didn’t offer a glance. They had been quietly snickering since before I ordered my green tea. A waitress came my way when she saw me sweeping up the black beads. I declined her gracious offer for a re-make. The wait staff was overwhelmingly kind and the manager also offered me a new omelette. Three offers later, I still declined. They insisted on fresh avocado, and I had no choice but to oblige.
Scraping the food was tedious and I munched on a couple of balls, but I couldn’t waste it. I hate wasting food. The extent of my “food saving” may be repulsive by Western standard. I eat whatever I drop on the floor. I don’t think twice about finishing Sophie and Mia’s leftover waffles. If I don’t like something, I smile and swallow. Liver in Uganda once each week was one of my greatest feats.
When did this happen? When did I become a scavenger? It began when I started internationally traveling. It is only honorable to eat what is in front of you in third world places. They often kill their only goat for you.
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Even Jesus advocates conservation. In The Book of John, He tells the disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.”
Jesus doesn’t want anything reusable to be thrown out. This extends further than the food category. Clothing, recyclable papers and plastics, furniture. Why should He discriminate?
This concept goes further than tangible materials. It is not His wish to see a life wasted. He desires for us to live with full purpose.
More than hoard, we should savor. Savor is more palatable, like my tomato and avocado omelette. We need to use what we have been given to its abundance.
The Apostle Peter (if you believe he wrote the book) asserts, “Each of you should use whatever gifts you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
We were not meant to waste time by wondering. Life has exploratory phases, but we must not waste too much time. We have great things to do. Let’s discover those gifts and step into savoring abundant life through relishing in them. He has given us the task of distributing His grace.
I can still taste the pepper in my teeth.

“How much large…

“How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it; if you could really look at other men with common curiosity and pleasure; if you could see them walking as they are in their sunny selfishness and their virile indifference! You would begin to be interested in them, because they were not interested in you. You would break out of this tiny and tawdry theater in which your own little plot is always being played, and you would find yourself under a freer sky, in a street full of splendid strangers.”

From Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton

Seeking Still

Life is often hard, but we generally make it out to be more difficult than it has to be.

At least, I do…

If there has been a single theme in my life, it has the pursuit (and lack thereof) of Jesus. And then there’s a little floundering. And then, there’s desperate pursuit again. It might very well be the theme of your life, too. Maybe you’re better at the pursuit. Maybe, more frequently, you find yourself staggering.

You know that verse that talks about all of life coming down to just One thing? It couldn’t be more true.

I always learn this. Every time, I learn that searching out my Father’s heart in everything is in fact everything. He is all.

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– Recently, I’ve been having some weird dreams. If I revealed them, I might be admitted to a mental institution. Maybe not, maybe dreams are supposed to be that strange. Either way, I am not particularly fond of these dreams. A few days ago, I was drowsily getting ready for work immediately after waking up from one of these bizarre sleeping experiences. I talked to God about them and was urged to pray for meaningful dreams. Then, He revealed to me that He will only give me dreams from Him if I seek Him. And maybe some will seem to be obscure, but He will only give me meaningful ones. The thing is, I really believe Him.

– -For many months, I’ve been wanting to write more. I’ve had many failed attempts of regularly pounding on my keyboard. And I’ve lacked inspiration. What I’m finding (in fact, I knew it all along), is He is my inspiration. He told me He would give me words to write if only I seek Him fervently. I believe Him about this, too.

– – – I can’t abstain from the relationship subject. I play it off really well, I think. People think I’m satisfied being single. Many times I am! But there are so many instances in which I ache. That’s the only word for it…ache. I somewhat despise this subject because it makes me uncomfortable. But if I’m honest, it weighs on me increasingly more as time carries on. The only solitary thing that can relieve the angst is resting in Him, seeking His face. I fully credit this remedy. In His presence, I find how to “tackle” this arena. Because sometimes, the accompanying self-pitying thoughts require an aggresive blitz.

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– – – – I dislike when I get caught up in debatable things that don’t have eternal significance. The things taking hold of my mind do matter and are worthy of attention, but ultimately, they will never be in the same league as what really, really is important. A lot of my friends (aka: young adults navigating the beginning of “real” life) seem to struggle with this as well. In searching for a meaningful, advocating life, we find ourselves with more and more questions about justice, truth, and well…truth. This is so often the particular thing that causes me anguish…formulating questions. I believe it is essential to wrestle through issues, but God is teaching me to seek Him first versus trying to figure out how to save the world.

“In the seeking, You will find me. I will teach You what you need to know.” -God

Hard things, hard questions, hard feats will always come our way. And I’m thoroughly convinced that the more we follow Him, the more difficulties we will know. He wants to use us to do unfathomable things that will usher in His Kingdom.  But I’m also certain we will better be able to steer through these obstacles because we recognize He is with us.

Out of everything I’ve learned in my quarter-century life, the most paramount is that seeking Him is the only time I am satisfied.

And furthermore (if I can add an appendage, but an essential one), when we seek Him, we find Him. He does in fact respond like He promises.

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Let’s keep seeking.

Or maybe we need to begin pursuing Him once again.

May we be encouraged. He is waiting for us! And He’s always ready to lavish the most undeniably extraordinary love upon us.

“In Your light I will find all I need is You.” -All Sons and Daughters

This Is My Prayer

God must think I’m crazy.

There are always a million (okay, maybe only 57) things running around in my brain simultaneously. I used to talk to myself a lot, oftentimes aloud. The talking was more a narration of what I was doing in the moment and what I next needed to cross off the task list, all the while pouring out any accompanying feelings.

Truth is, I still talk to myself. Kind of. I’ve learned to exchange most of this babbling for praying. More simply, I talk to God about all these notions instead of spitting them right back at myself. That does no good at all. It’s better this way. I sometimes sing in that raspy voice in the midst. Sometimes there  is a lapse where I try to listen. And then I talk some more.

need to do this…cast all my cares on Him. He cares, I know He does. The more I talk to Him, the more I believe in His veritable love for me.

Maybe I am crazy. That’s why I need my Dad. He says He loves my words.

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But yesterday, I had less words to say. I yearned for simplicity. I was tired and sickened of my own babbling. After all, hadn’t I been saying the same things over and over for days, months, and years? I know God takes us right where we are, no matter the day or the condition…be it a frenzy, serenity, or somewhere in between.

Out of the blue yonder, the Spirit brought The Lord’s Prayer to the forefront.

When I initially think of this passage, I think tradition. I think of all the times I’ve been to a Catholic service for family christenings, funerals, and first communions. I think of my high school cross country team huddling together at Brandywine Creek State Park before a huge invitational. I think about the nice settings in which it was said, and not necessarily the true meaning. I’m sure the scripture held weight in all those instances. After all, it is the Word of God. But yesterday, it became truer than true.

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I quoted it line by line. It went a little something like this…

Our Father in heaven,

God, Father, Dad,

hallowed be your name,

Your name is great. YOU are great. I lift you up above everything.

your kingdom come,

Let me see your kingdom here in this place.

your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

That’s all I really want, whatever that is.

Give us today our daily bread.

Thanks for the Apple Jacks.

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Forgive me! And give me the humility to forgive where I have not.

And lead us not into temptation,

Keep my thoughts pure. Keep my motives righteous.

but deliver us from the evil one.

Keep me with You.

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I’ve come alive again.

Hallelujah.

Drug Stores Forever

I have eccentricities. Some of these quirky habits are classified as Super Single Behaviors.

What is an SSB?  It is as it sounds. I learned of this phenomenon a few years ago when one of my traveling buddies brought it up during a late-night guitar jam sesh and “in-depth” conversation in Romania. She heard the phrase coined on a Sex and the City episode. I’ve never seen Sex and the City. Apparently, in the show, one of the characters from the sexy city had a habit of standing at the counter, reading trashy magazines while eating cereal.

You get it, right? Definition: A frequented mannerism of single persons, not necessarily bad in which judgement should maybe be implemented. And it usually involves food with some kind of oddity to accompany.

What is my SSB? Oftentimes when I get the munchies (usually well into the evening), I grab my jacket and walk the two blocks to CVS. Sometimes, I buy the overpriced Ben & Jerry’s. Other times, I buy a chocolatey Chex Mix. I flounder between the two aisles while deciding. Mind you, I’m typically a quick shopper. Ask my mom and my sister and they will confirm that I dislike shopping. When the SSB is in motion, however, time knows no limits. I linger, for I must make the perfect decision. If I need an extra moment, I’ll wander further to the magazine aisle and read National Geographic or something of the like. I’m usually disappointed at the limited selection, but don’t feel like catching the bus to Barnes & Noble. Back to the snacks. I check out. The girl up front knows me. I don’t go in all that often, but enough that she knows my solo, late-night custom.

One of my other SSB’s is the infinity of purchasing canvas sneakers. I would own every existing pair of Tretorn, Gola and Keds if I could come slightly close to justifying the act. Furthermore, I like wearing the kicks without socks. That gets kind of gross after about four wears. But I recently learned (thanks to Pinterest) that storing shoes with tea bags in them helps absorb  and eliminate the stench.

I hope I don’t sound like a loser. Who am I kidding? Everyone has at least a few Super Single Behaviors, even my non-single friends. I think I’ll dare to say these habits get carried over into marriage. After all, my parents have some quirks. And I’m pretty sure these idiosyncrasies have existed since well before I was born.

I am hopeful. I don’t think I’ll ever have to relinquish my love of drug stores.

I hope I’m walking up to the magazine rack with that looming question when I’m 65…just like the elderly gentleman browsing alongside me tonight. He was behind me in line a few moments later, goods in hand.

This is fairly meaningless, I’m sure. Nonetheless, tonight, I am embracing my super singleness (hopefully like a champ). Thanking God for this season and that He loves even these whacky things about me…and you.

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Like a Child

Most of my life currently revolves around children, so brace yourself for another kid-saturated blog!

In the nineties, when I got my new pair of school shoes each year, I would save the shoe box. I knew I would need it a few months following when December rolled around, for my family took part in Operation Christmas Child. It’s a brilliant project extension of Samaritan’s Purse, an international aid organization initiated by Bob Pierce and Franklin Graham.

Essentially, millions of boys and girls around the world are mailed shoeboxes stuffed to the brim with little toys, candies, toothbrushes, socks, or crayons…whatever can fit! My sister and I used to have a ball (i.e.: we would actually dance around in the aisles of the Dollar General) shopping for these items.Packing a shoebox each fall took sponsoring a child to the next level. Somehow, the faces on the refrigerator pinned by a World Vision magnet suddenly became more real and alive.

On a whim, I decided to participate this year after a lapse of a decade. Then, I thought, “Why not have Sophie help me out?” Sophie is the bright and lively 5-year-old I have the privilege of watching. I thought she might enjoy prancing around Target with me searching for fun little items. Boy, was I wrong.

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I mean…I was right, but I was definitely wrong about the measure of her willingness. She was distinctly overjoyed to help. Within minutes of explaining the project, she was looking for things around the house. I had to gently explain that we needed to buy the gifts. A few moments later, she was making a card for our prospective little girl. It was no longer a project, but a gripping mission.

It was and is remarkable.

Oh, Jesus. I can see You smiling. Oh, that I would capture this heart of giving in my everyday, “run-of-the-mill” life.

Mailing these boxes is such a small stroke of the more grand portrait in the Kingdom. But I know opening those boxes must bring about extraordinary joy for those children who receive. And I know sending those boxes produces joyful givers for those who send.

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“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  -2 Corinthians 9:7