Dear Feeler

By Joanna Andrews

I’m going to be completely honest: I’m not really sure how to write a letter to you about my tendency to relate to people first on a rational level over an emotional one the way you do.

To pretend like I am a robot without feelings feels disingenuous—like I’m trying to pretend that I either don’t feel things deeply (I do) or that I’m better at thinking logically than you are (I’m not).

And yet, on the other hand, pretending like I don’t feel uncomfortable when you start ugly crying at movies (or when we’re having a serious conversation), would also be me telling a lie—which leaves me (especially as a “thinker” woman), I’m stuck in an even more uncomfortable middle.

If anything, this tendency of mine to lean on my mind more than my heart is just me talking about my first inclination when I interact with people—the first responder in my internal hierarchy of influence, if you will, and the way I feel most comfortable expressing things.

The truth is, Feeler, that it can be difficult for me to deal with you sometimes. It’s hard to see eye-to-eye when it feels like you most prize harmony and connectedness over objective reality—which becomes even more frustrating when I do feel an emotion, because there never feels like there’s enough room for the both of us. In environments that prize emotional connection over rational ones, this can be especially alienating, considering sometimes the best way to get me to process my emotions is to give me time to focus on literally anything else.

For me, laying out the realities of reasonable situations is comfortable, predictable and safe—the place I retreat to when I need to feel whole again, even though I am learning to give weight to “well thought out emotions.”

In our relationship, this can mean a number of things: It means I might at first seem distant or un-personable in the face of serious emotional issues or problems, or that, if asked to listen to a problem you present while showing obvious distress, I may unwittingly respond to you with a solution to your problem with minimal empathetic considerations.

Still—these are all just my relational truths, and how I function doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Also--no matter how much I try to deny it—I actually care a lot about how I get along with people…so, I’ll do my best to help us out.

Even I recognize that people are more important than being right all the time. But what does that mean for our relationship?

First off: in moments when I give you solutions instead of empathy, it’s not because I want you to shut you up—it is done out of love, and out of a desire to see your happiness and contentedness return most quickly. I know I can sometimes come off as cold or unwilling to hear you out—but (and I’m sure you realize this) you just get caught up sometimes.

Second: you are more than welcome to tell me when I’m saying something that hurts your feelings. Unless I force myself to filter my words through empathy (which is rare, and requires an unbelievable amount of effort to do in every interaction for me), I probably didn’t even realize that’s what I was doing. Your tears, as justifiable as they often are, don’t really help me understand the situation—and because I put a lot of effort into processing my emotions into nuggets of useful, actionable logic, trying to do the same for me is more appreciated than you could possibly know.

Lastly—in moments when you want to know what’s going on in my heart, give me time to process the emotions I’m feeling in my own way, rather than expecting me to come to you initially. My distance isn’t meant to keep you away—rather, it is my attempt to make sense of what’s going on in my heart before I burden the world with my unbridled emotions.

Even for thinkers that are external processors, it is often easier to hear equally “reasonable” people’s opinions of my feelings before I bring them to anyone who wants me to reveal the emotions in their raw forms—and while there are moments when open expressions of emotion are what’s necessary, it is often a balance between the two of us that would be the best answer—somewhere between total silence and aggressive shows of emotion.

Sure, it may be a little foreign to both of us at first, but understanding that we complement each other in our differences is important. I value all that you bring to the world with your vivid emotions and passionate movements of feeling in the world, emotive—and I hope you will equally value the steadiness, sharp problem-solving and rational determination that my “thinker” tendencies can bring.

Sincerely,
Kindred

Dear Thinker

By Jessica Bills

Did you know I (hesitantly) loooooveeee you? Well it seems like we rarely are on the same page. And it kind of hurts me every time I try to open up to you. But I mean, you’re great...

Hmmm. Let’s be honest. You’re super intimidating. Because that’s the thing, your honesty isn’t naturally filtered through empathy like mine is. Example. It took me 5 months to work up the courage to be “that” blunt.

We’re feelers. You’re thinkers.

We are the Annas. You’re the Elsas.
We are the Frodos. You’re the Gandalfs.
We’re Luke Skywalker. You’re Han Solo.
We’re Ron Weasly. You’re Harry fricking Potter.

And what that list communicates to me is we need each other. But I think we need to meet each other halfway. To help you meet me, to help me meet you, we will have to go into how I feel. So bear with me.


There’s a seemingly infinite moments where insecurities strike me, and block our friendship deepening, because I feel like you value being right over how I feel. Words said harshly are not remembered. How I feel, however, is forever seared into my memory.

My dad is a thinker. He is analytical. I am emotional. And almost every time we have a conversation over 10 minutes it is like pulling the largest piece of taffy apart across the continental United States of America. I could say my main point is 15 different ways, upside down, in the original Hebrew, and we will STILL have a disconnect. Until I remember, I’m translating everything he says through my feels.

A lot of times it seems easier to be you. I sometimes even try to articulate my thoughts through the phrase “I think” instead of my natural “I feel.” Because it FEELS frivolous. Even in college when Meyers Briggs is all the rage. It felt weak to be a feeler. It felt like our feelings are fickle. With each flip of a coin my feelings change. But your thoughts are solid like the Ten Commandments. And that’s the thing I have to remember about you too. You’re not intimidating. Just because you THINK something doesn’t mean it’s truth. Doesn’t mean it’s everything. It’s fickle too. You’re just so confident with how you talk about your thoughts.

What we both need to remember is I’m not to be looked down upon because I’m a feeler.

I’m not weak.

I’m not weak because I cry while we’re talking.
I’m not weak because I tend to be more of people pleaser than you.
I’m not weak because I feel off balance if my feelings are hurt.

Empathy is a beautiful strength -- one of which our country and the Church needs more of. Tears are wonderful. They are a physical, tangible sign to show the impact of our feelings both good and bad. That’s a wonderful thing.

However, my feelings feel like reality. And the truth is they are not. That’s why I need you sweet Thinker. I need you to gently steer me back to the truth that just because my feelings feel VERY real, they are not truth. They may be true, but they are not truth.

I can feel worthless. But I am made worthy through the Cross.
I can feel too far gone. But Jesus THINKS over wise.

While I need to sit patiently through while you’re processing your feelings, I need to remember your feelings matter just as much as mine. And my thoughts matter just as much as yours. I just might say “I feel” instead of “I think” to introduce mine.
But yes, patience to not take your analytical side personally.

Kindness to remember it’s a beautiful thing we’re different.
And selflessness to hold on to seeking deep friendships with you.

We need each other.
I hope I can help you, because I know you help me.

Self Worth: A Comparison

 
 
 
 
 

BY JARED OVERSTREET

“If I am worth anything later, I am worth something now. For wheat is wheat, even if people think it is a grass in the beginning.” – Vincent Van Gogh

 

 

Smell, touch, taste, hearing and sight – constantly, we are analyzing information. But how our brains gather the information is only the beginning, point A, of a long chain of thoughts that end at the conclusion, point B. This link between points in the brain usually take the same amount of time as you read the last few words in this sentence. The interesting part is the filters and lenses between the points that can alter our conclusion.

For example, I was standing in line at the store and a person in front of me was paying and was very impatient with the clerk thus the word rude popped into my mind. I could either conclude that the person is just being flat out rude and should wait just like everyone else. Yet, if I would simply see that I don’t know the whole story, as she might have a very sick daughter that needs the medicine she is buying, and conclude that she is not rude but rather coming off rude. Whether the woman had a reason for being impatient or not, you still receive the same information but with a different perspective, you end with a different thought.

Information such as this is always flowing into our brains and our perception of others can affect our concluding thought. It is also how we see ourselves that can alter an end thought and move us into action – or stop us in our tracks.

A strategy that all humans use for choosing what information is useful and what information is left behind is called critical thinking or comparing. We are very skilled at comparing in our everyday lives. You might be doing so right now – comparing the rest of this article with your time to see if it is worth your while to finishing reading it or to put it down.

A simple way to compare two things is to line one up next to the other and visualize the better option. If you are comparing a thought or idea, most people move to a pros and cons list to sort out the information. We do this so much that we don’t even notice it happening. Pay with my credit card or cash? Skip this stair step or not? Change the channel or stay?

But what if the act of simply comparing can become detrimental to you?

As a photographer, it is my job to freeze moments and seconds that I see in the world around me. As I take more pictures and follow different people, it never fails that I compare my own work to that of others. I do this often, not only with photography but also when I was a college student.

I compared my academics to that of other colleagues. Many other students in my biology classes were pursuing internships or research projects with a professor. I compared myself to them – how I had not pursued a research program or a volunteer position but instead stuck myself in a third-floor newsroom editing photos for a publication. Both comparisons of my academics and my photography could not hold a flame to those who seemed so much further ahead of the game than I was at the time.

It did not stop there either, as now I am in a season of life where at 23-years-old I should have a job using my degree and can make enough money to live on my own. I should be thinking of starting a family and raising children. I compare myself to an old idea that was set up from the previous generation of how my timeline should be flowing. If you want the truth of where I stand to these standards, I am far off, and because I feel that I cannot live to these expectations, my self-worth plummets. Just thinking about applying to a job in forensics and crime scene investigation makes me anxious because in the back of my mind I know that are other people more qualified who will apply and succeed – all because I compare my life and my choices to those who have not walked in my shoes and me, not in theirs.

We fall into these traps of comparison because we are so unsure about our own lives. We want to be good at something so we dive right on in, hoping to succeed. When we see others succeed but not ourselves we become discouraged. Just because someone else achieved a similar goal doesn’t make your accomplishments any less valuable. There is a multitude of reasons, such as years of experience, more education, the people they know, etc., that has placed them where they are now. Their success only means that it is possible to reach it, too.

Now I'm not here to preach that comparing one's life or work to another is wrong but it is how you perceive and act on the information you now know. It is the same as saying that the lady in line with me was being rude or that she was coming off rude; two different perceptions of the same information presented to you. It is how you perceive the situation that affects your attitude and conclusion.

Comparing your life to others will never stop. There is no off switch or magic level to stop this critical process in our lives. There’s also no off switch for your emotions, such as envy or jealousy for the other person, but it is how we funnel these feelings that can tear us down or bring motivation back into our lives. We can either say that achieving our goals can no longer be done because someone else is better or we can be inspired to work a little harder. Everyone has their own pace in life and everyone has a worth that they cannot see sometimes.

“For wheat is wheat” – it’s a nice saying, but Van Gogh has been improperly quoted. It’s actually more of a revision of what he wrote down in a letter to a man named Theo, his brother. In this letter, he writes that critics compare a drawing to drawing or a painting to painting, which is formidable but routine. One should compare the art to its realistic counterpart which is what Vincent says is nature. The word “nature” here can also be synonymous with the word reality, where the true comparison of how well the art portrays “nature” with the artist’s style.

“If I make better work later, I still won’t work otherwise than now; I mean it will be the same apple only riper — I myself won’t turn from what I’ve thought from the start. And this is why I say for my part, if I’m no good now, I won’t be any good later either — but if later, then now too. For wheat is wheat, even if it looks like grass at first to townsfolk — and the other way round too.”

The original version resounds more with a struggle of self-worth and his work compared to others in his time. This also has some motivation, like a quick whip, underlining the text with it stating that if he is no good now, he will not be good later. Small steps in the right direction will get him to where he needs to be and so he should start now.

Comparing oneself to others is a harsh thing to do and people have struggled with it before the 1880s and to present day. Remember, it's how you take the comparison and view it. That’s the key and it will make a difference in the way you live and the attitude you have towards your work or life situations. Also self-worth is based in what you find value and what, if not who, you place value in.

 

The Storm

 
 
 
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BY SAMI BROWN

 

This morning is still
The air is quiet and calm
I feel the sand between
my toes

I watch the waves break
gently on the shore
You are with me
And I am at peace

I walk along this beach
There is so much beauty
The light reflecting off
the ocean makes it sparkle

The sunlight is inviting
and it dances on my skin
I look in the distance
and I see dark and looming clouds

They are moving closer
and I am uneasy
I search for shelter,
I need to be protected

The waves start pounding
on the shore
And the wind is blowing
in every direction

This storm is raging and
I see no escape
I start to look for you,
but my vision is blurred

My strength is fading
as I try to make my way back
How will I ever find you
in this storm?

I cry out to you, “Father!”
Suddenly I feel a warm
and gentle touch on my shoulder

I look up and into the eyes of peace
In these eyes there is
protection, there is love, there is mercy.

This storm is still raging,
 but you are here with me.
Always.

 

Fairytale vs. Reality

BY MEGHAN ANDERSON

My day has been rough
Leaving me to feel like a mess
Yet you hold me in your arms and are eager to listen
My God is just alike

I’m stubborn
I can’t shake my mood
Yet you are patient and make every effort to be what I need
My God is just alike

I’m listening
Left convicted, but thankful for your words
Yet you remain humble and leave credit where due
My God is just alike

I always dreamt of marriage. I was the little girl who would sketch out her wedding dress, plan her color schemes, and even be a bride for Halloween. Where I thought I was excited for marriage, I was really excited for a fairy tale.

Before I met Curtis, and even early on in our relationship, I was in love with the idea of being with someone. Having the “wife” or “Mrs.” title with a gorgeous glimmer of diamonds on my left ring finger came far before thinking about the sacrifice and selflessness that marriage requires.

Being a senior in college and still single, there was a lot of pressure I felt about not experiencing what I had always imagined I would. Doesn’t everyone meet their spouse in college? Do I not have anything to offer someone? Insecurities ate at me and built off of other anxieties. Is it my weight? Is it my intelligence? Is it something lacking in my personality? If I found myself interested in someone, often I found those feelings to not be reciprocated.

Towards the end of college I realized my daydreams and anxious thoughts were not the truths I should be fixed on. I was seemingly looking for a relationship that I had already found in Christ, but didn’t understand how the intimacies connected. Searching for someone to essentially replace God with was my downfall. Christ knew me in the rawest form and yet was gentle in transforming my heart and patient in transforming my mind to know and want Him. Why would I want to replace this kind of intentionality?

It was not until I stopped searching for different avenues to fulfill my expectations
that God brought me closer to Himself in a new way.

He crafted my relationship with Curtis through a divine friendship. And as time progressed, we learned how both of us were brought into each other’s lives with qualities and experiences we could have never dreamt of knowing in another person.

Now being married, I realize this relationship is more than I ever thought it was going to be. It’s comforting, beautiful, raw, uplifting, exposing, surprising, humbling, and much more. Most of all, it’s not all about me. I definitely did not plan for this since I was little. I pictured that by the time I was married, I would be put together, my insecurities would be finished with, my style would be trendy, my job would be incredible, and life would be fun.

REALITY CHECK

  1. I still don’t know “being put together” even mean?
  2. Insecurities...yep, still here! And they’re bigger???
  3. Well, I have a pair of cute booties if that counts as trendy, but otherwise
    I’m looking the same.
  4. I can’t wait to have my own classroom, but wow this whole teacher thing is hard!
  5. Life can be fun but it will never be absent of hardships…
    And, that’s a little silly to dream of.   

So here I am at 23 years old, still in grad school, still flawed, same style, and nevertheless experiencing both good and bad days.

I have come to understand a truer definition of marriage:
It is the binding of a man and a woman brought together
for the sole purpose of bringing God more glory than
they would be able to do on their own.

When we fail Him, our spouse is there to encourage us to repent and continue in the faith. When we fail each other, the grace of God sustains us to forgive the other person as He has forgiven us. For this purpose, marriage demands a daily dose of humility, acceptance, and servanthood - knowing we are equal in our sins and God’s love for us.

My purpose of writing is not to shed light on being married or to uplift Curtis and I as a couple; but rather to emphasize how Christ is the beauty in the marriages we admire. I have found great love for my husband because of how he has led me to find a greater love for Jesus. Reunite with your Creator who knows you best, and is the author of all things good – I promise that’s what you are craving most.

 

Sincerely,

Kindred


Photo by Jessica Bills

 

Beautifully Bold

BY NADINE MITCHELL

My life verse is Acts 20:24. I want to soak every syllable, I want to bathe in the selflessness of it, to drink up the love for Jesus that drips from that statement. What I’ve come to love more about this scripture is the verses leading to it.

 

Verse 22:

“And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value…”

 

Paul was well aware that he was walking into affliction. The Holy Spirit told him that suffering would come from what was next and Paul went anyway-- no shrinking back, totally engulfed in his mission of spreading the Gospel. The very thought lights my heart on fire. Can you relate?

I find myself in a season of life where I don’t know a lot of things. I feel God calling me into deeper waters, and painful levels of uncomfort for His glory.  A lot of things feel shaky, and uncertain. The ground I’m walking is foreign and doesn’t feel safe.  As I read this passage, I can’t help but consider all of the things that felt shaky and uncertain to Paul.

 

Verse 22:

“I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, NOT KNOWING what will happen to me there…” And yet, he went anyway. The Spirit compelled him to move, and he was obedient. Paul is an amazing example of not shrinking back, of trusting God fully and having a willful obedience to Jesus. He wasn’t perfect, his past was muddy, but he was confident in who Christ called him to be and he was willing to die for that.

 

As I look back on my life and the “deep water with Jesus” moments that I have missed, I am convicted to figure out why. What stood in my way of digging in, of self-reflection, of cultivating a willing heart? And because I know that I am not alone there, I then begin to wonder what is the common denominator for all of us as we shrink back more into what feels safe, and less of what feels like ocean waves. As I speak with other Christians, I have come to the conclusion that for most, it’s the fact that we enjoy our comforts. Sure, we love Him, we pray to Him, we even work to be more grateful for His blessings, and pray for the ability to love more, we start tithing more, and memorizing more scripture. But, being madly in love with Jesus and living the confident life that He has called us to live is all of those great things, and also so much more. It isn’t comfortable, it’s not glamorous or popular, and I'm learning it can be very lonely. It requires a ton of self reflection and even more faith. Our flesh fights every bit of that and in our uncertainty, we make excuses for why bold faith and audacious living aren’t for us.

I can’t help but consider what we risk if we don’t color outside the lines -- on smaller levels and on the larger levels. What relationships could be saved if we were willing to be bold for Jesus? What life-giving conversations could be had? What Holy Spirit truth could be shared? And what about the Gospel? How many times have we missed out on sharing the Gospel because fear of the waves overpowered our confidence in who Jesus says we are?

I love Matthew 5:13, but again it’s the verses leading up that gets my praise hands going.

 

Verse 11:

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

 

The scripture not only promises that we will endure pain by following Him, but that we are blessed to do so. Blessed are we who experience pain for His glory, Blessed are we who walk the uncomfortable path for the sake of saving souls, blessed are we who point others to Him more than we point them to the latest deal at Target or our most recent obsession. Blessed are we to walk in such company as Paul’s.

So when the ground feels shaky and the waves are large, remember that your God is colossal in comparison and His love is unrivaled. You are adored, you are enough, and you have been equipped for Kingdom work right where you are.

 


Sincerely,
Kindred

 

Stop Making Christian Art

By Sam Elias

I’m going to get straight to my point, I want to stop making “christian art”

I don’t want to add in to all the mediocre art that is being produced and artist friends, I want you to know just how important your role is in the church. You are valued and you are so necessary.

I am so passionate about this. I am passionate about design and I have to defend how important it is to the Church.

Design is a way to visually communicate what someone is trying to say. I had a professor in college that would say that design was just problem solving. I literally think about that every day, it is just so accurate.

Sometimes ideas are complex and hard to understand (and come on, sometimes they are just plain boring.) You know what design does? It makes an idea approachable, it makes the idea shine and attracts people towards it.

I understand that design is not the most important thing. I know the content is the star, but design can elevate the content and transform it. It really can. I promise.

Artists, I want you to keep this in mind:

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 
Colossians 3:23-24

You are serving the Lord! How crazy and cool is that!

With that in mind, we need to stop accepting mediocre art as good enough. Because “good enough” is not what we should be giving to the Lord.

Our design doesn't need to be made through a “christian” lens. There is no rule that says our art has to look a certain way, it only needs to assist in pointing people towards Christ. and I mean, wow, that instantly makes this so so crucial.

So what does design do?
Problem Solve…and what is our problem?
Figuring out how to use design in the Church to visually communicate Christ.

So artists in the Church, start coming up with new ideas and start believing that everything we create is worship.

And if everything is worship, then we need to give special attention to the art that is being created in the church. Because God expects that. He expects us to give all we can in every aspect of our worship to Him.

God is an artist. The best artist.
In striving to be like Him, we must be constantly growing and striving to be better artists.


Sincerely,
Kindred

 

Waiting on Prosperous Plans,


BY KARA TRIBOULET

My husband and I recently planted grass in our yard. If you are unfamiliar with the process, it’s a pretty tedious project. But the main task of this project is to wait. You can’t do anything to add or take away from what you have planted or try to manipulate the process to make the grass grow faster. You simply have to wait and hope that you will see the results sooner than what Google predicts.

Waiting is seen as such a dreary thing to do. Waiting for your Starbucks order, waiting in line at the grocery store, waiting to be seated at a restaurant, waiting for that phone call that will tell you if you got the job or not.

When I tell someone I am waiting for something important or for some sort of direction in my life, I often hear the words from Jeremiah 29:11 quoted back to me: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and future.’”

That verse has been a comfort for millions of Christians all over the world. Wow, God knows the plans for me and these plans he has are for my good.

But when you take a good look at that passage in scripture, there is a very important layer that nobody really talks about.

Here is the passage in context:

“This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and future.’” Jeremiah 29:10-11

Let’s read that again, and this time, we’ll highlight something that doesn’t usually get placed on a graduation card.

“This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and future.’” Jeremiah 29:10-11

Whoa, hold on a second. Seventy years. In all of those well-wishes and good lucks, I was never told I would have to wait to see God’s plans for me.

I wholeheartedly believe that when people have quoted this verse to me as an encouragement, they weren’t trying to be deceptive. This verse is just misunderstood. This declaration from God is a response to the disobedient, idolaters, Israel, who were going to have to suffer the consequences of their unfaithfulness to God before entering into prosperity and hope. We seldom think about that context as we purchase that Hobby Lobby pallet with this verse printed in cursive and painted with roses.

We quote Jeremiah 29:11, process it through our American, instant-gratification minds and think God is going to shower us with all of his promises immediately, or at least somewhere tucked into our five-year plan. And when he doesn’t, it’s His fault. He broke his promise. We question Him and we question if we even have a purpose. We set ourselves up for failure when we misinterpret the God we serve.

This is not coming from a pastor preaching biblical hermeneutics, waving the Bible in your face and telling you you’re wrong. This is a sister begging another sister to explore the accurate character of our gracious Father who sometimes asks us to go through the valley before we reach our glorious future.

God is faithful and he does know the plans he has for you. But God doesn’t operate based on what we think is best for us. These are His plans for me, not my plans for me. And His plans are always better and give us more hope than any of our plans can give us, even the genuinely good plans.

Maybe waiting should be seen as something good instead of something to avoid. In waiting, we trust the process. In waiting, we trust our good Father who knows how to give good gifts to His children. Maybe waiting means allowing God to refine us by not searching for when the waiting stops but just falling deeper in love with Him.

So before you add this verse to your Instagram bio or get it tattooed on your wrist, really reflect on the weight of what you are saying.

Seventy years from now, I’ll be 92 years old. Think about that. How old will you be?

The next time you read or hear Jeremiah 29:11, ask yourself: Am I willing to wait that long to see the goodness of the Lord? Am I willing to walk faithfully with Him, knowing that maybe I won’t even live to see my persistent prayers answered?

Trust His plans for you and go deeper than you ever have with Him as you wait.

Sincerely, Kindred

 

Jakob Hartt: Testimony

 
 
 
 

BY JAKOB HARTT

 

I grew up attending Catholic school. Neither of my parents were religious, but they wanted me to have a private school education. In the 3rd grade, I was struck by a car while I was walking home after school, and easily could have died. I came away that day with nothing but bruises and a bent bike. For my mother, that was her “there is a God” moment, and she started going to church in the years after that. The summer after my 5th grade year, my mother forced me to go to Camp Woody, a week-long Christian summer camp.

I went into the week with a hard heart, but God proved persistent in His efforts to reach me. Towards the end of the week, I became more receptive to the songs the chapel band played. “Our God” written by Chris Tomlin, easily brought me to tears Thursday night, and the speaker’s simplistic analogy of the blood of Christ spoke to the deepest parts of my heart. I walked up the stairs to my cabin that night and got saved.

    Since that night, I’ve been infatuated with music. The passion in someone’s voice, the careful instrumentation, the list goes on; I relish every aspect of it. When my mother, around the time I was in 6th or 7th grade gave me the choice between doing tap dancing and joining a performing group where 10-20 kids from my age through high school played a variety of songs on African hand drums, the choice was obvious. I took a summer class where the teacher, went over the basics of hand drumming, and I fell in love. I drummed for the next few years, learning the intricacies behind the different instruments and growing closer with my teacher, whom quickly became a father figure/role model for me. I drummed for about 4 or 5 years until the group blew up, when my drum teacher went to prison for child molestation.

    I was shocked, to say the least. To think that one of my role models could do what he was being convicted of shattered every unrealistic perception I had of every authority figure in my life. The infallible idols I had made of these people quickly came crashing down. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I became cynical, but I definitely learned to guard my heart from naïve expectations. In retrospect, God had a huge hand in this situation. In recognizing the sin of the people I had perceived to be unfailing, my relationships with these people (parents, pastors, all of the above), deepened significantly. My conversations with them advanced beyond surface discussion and into more intimate subjects.

Jakob Hartt on his 19th birthday celebrating in Big Bear Lake, Calif.. 

Jakob Hartt on his 19th birthday celebrating in Big Bear Lake, Calif.. 

Life went on, as I continued to make and learn from my mistakes. Towards the end of my 8th grade year, I got grounded. The island of Kodiak, Alaska has very little entertainment to begin with, so when I became grounded I was left with literally nothing to do. I decided to pick up my dad’s acoustic guitar that sat in the corner of my room. My dad was gracious enough to teach me a few basic chord shapes, and then left me to my own devices. Childlike wonder pervaded through my very being as I went through the pains and tribulations of learning an instrument. I would play late into the night, trying to learn songs by Metallica, Nirvana, and anything else that would satisfy my adolescent angst. My fingers bled and calloused, until I eventually gained an understanding of the guitar.

From that point on, music became a priority in my life. I acquired an insatiable desire to make music with others. So much so that I went against common sense and joined the high school jazz band my junior year, despite not knowing how to read music (I faked it the entire year, still not sure how they didn’t figure it out). I started a student-led worship/bible study event with a few of my friends, something that improved several different areas of my life, from organizational skills, to musical necessities like finding the right key and making a set flow.

Something that was also very important to me, for better or for worse, in high school was my relationships. As I grew as a person, both romantic relationships and friend groups came and went. Despite being an introvert, I love people. I love sharing stories and sharing experiences. Whether that’s hanging out at a coffee shop or skating on a frozen lake, my favorite memories involve the people I’ve met and “done life” with.

I would not be who or where I am today without the people in my life. People like Chris who has taught me spiritual maturity as well as honesty. Keith, who has been a stalwart positive influence in my life as well as a model of Christ’s love and compassion. Michael, Richie, and Micah, whom I have shared the mountains and valleys of my life with. Zhanelle and Mariah, who taught me things about myself I would never have learned otherwise. These are just a few of the people who have shaped me into who I am today.

 
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If you pull anything from my story, let it be this: love people, create with people, and do life with people. God didn’t create us to be islands. God craves intentionality in our relationship with Him, so we should crave the same in our human relationships.

Dear Burnt-Out,

Are you tired? Me too.
Do you feel unmotivated? All the time.
Have you played with the idea of quitting that job, that hobby, that relationship? Sometimes too often.
Have you looked over at your Bible and just thought *sigh* too far? Honestly, yes.
Or maybe even turn to another form of encouragement and couldn’t bring yourself read it?
Do you deal with anxiety? Ohhhh yeah.
Are you overwhelmed with adding one more thing to your plate? Basically.
Have you reached your limit? A long time ago.
Do you keep pushing through? I try.
Are you alone? No.
But do you feel alone? Yes.

 

Dear Burnt-Out,

It sucks to be us…

 

PAUSE, because it’s best to define “Burnt-Out” before we go any further.
Burnt-Out: “to ruin one's health or become completely exhausted through overwork.”
Now let’s put it through the relevant filter because dictionary definition’s just aren’t personal enough.
Burnt-Out: “ I’m doing way to much, I’m over-committed, I have no energy so, I’m done with work, I’m done with relationships, I’m done with basic life.”


Without going into too much detail, I have recently had a burn-out and really struggled with bouncing back. With burn-out came depression and a lot of other roadblocks, but the point of this letter is to share with you what steps I took and still am taking to move forward and start the slow climb out of burn-out.

I fit in the Millennial category. As with many Millennials and generations that have come before; in all things I do, I seek to have an impact on people, I seek to be utilized, I seek to impress whether subconsciously or not, and I seek to be successful in whatever form that takes. The root of my burn-out problems came from trying to do these things. 

The problem isn’t necessarily pursuing the above, but not having defined check points or times to take a breather, but something that has helped me over the past few months is: defining what each of these “vague” statements mean to me. 

What impact do I want to have? How do I want to be utilized?

Who am I impressing and why? What’s success?

It’s easy to say “I want to have an impact, I want to be utilized, I want to impress and have success, but without clearly defining these goals I kept pushing past my limits until eventually… Burn-out.

Here’s my “more defined” statements as a Graphic Designer for a church:

I want to have an impact on every kid that attends our church indirectly through graphic design (my Monday-Friday job) and directly through personal teaching and investment (during the week in Life Groups or on the weekends during church services).

I want to be utilized at work or wherever I am in a way that uses my 5 strengths: Ideation (graphic design), Belief (in all things I do, my values and faith come into play), Developer (I lead a Junior High Small Group and volunteer at church on the weekends), Restorer (I like to hear life stories and encourage others) and Responsibility (give me something important!!!).

I want to impress those who think little of me because of my age or experience, but not in a way to prove them wrong; in a way that shows I am serious about what I do and want to be here.

Success to me is knowing that God is in control of my life and as long as I submit to him, I will be strategically moved to where he wants me to be which will allow me to have an impact, be utilized and grow in relationships.

You may be thinking that there is still some vagueness in those statements above, that’s because I am still learning how to get out of this burnt out funk I’ve been in. So, if that encourages you, I’m walking in this with you. You’re not alone in this.

I do believe however that as long as the things I spend the majority of my time doing align with what fills me up, there will be less opportunities to burn out. So, define what fills you up as a person! Not just what activities bring the most pleasure, but what fits you as an individual and what gives you purpose.

In my experience, the best way to get out of burn out, even though you don't want to do ANYTHING, is to do SOMETHING. Here are three somethings to do by the end of Manuary (January). I have done all three and they are working so far. I call it
UGH… “for those times you just don’t give a crap.”

  1. Understand you: What are my goals for right now?

  2. Go find someone: Someone who can mentor you; work related, life related, anything related. A person who can challenge you, and hold you accountable and have the best conversations with.

Have boundaries: Don’t become overwhelmed with work or whatever you do that you pour into. Set time aside to do things that fuel you. You may have to find that balance through trial and error, but you’ll save time if you “understand you.”

Sincerely,
Nathan Boschen

FINDING YOUR TALENT

BY JON NYQUIST

Photo by Ruth Nyquist

Photo by Ruth Nyquist

Hey, you. You’re talented.

You just may not know it yet. I like to think of it as the Michael Bublé song and instead of “just haven’t met you yet” it’s “just haven’t discovered them yet”. Some talents are immediately evident, others take some time and resources to uncover.

Growing up, I didn’t consider myself very talented. My sister was a natural at academics and sports and could draw really well, seemingly without trying. I sang and played bass in chapel and somehow got the lead role in the high school musical. There were only three of us that tried out.

It wasn’t until college when I was trying to figure out my life like all college students that I started to dabble with graphic design and photo. I wanted to make commercials, I wanted to entertain people on a grand scale. The world is messed up and cruel, and I wanted to show that there could still be joy. A professor told me “you can take the front door and get an advertising degree. Or try the backdoor and work your way up through graphic design.” I never was one go the traditional route so I opted for the backdoor. My first two opportunities came to me shortly after: the church plant I was apart of wanted to start doing video announcements and my dad wanted to put his teachings in video form and needed them edited. With those two, I started to stumble and bumble my way around the video realm.

In the summer of 2009, I was with a good high school friend named Caleb for a week (we grew up in Bolivia, so this is a big deal, ok). Every day he tried to convince me to move down to LA with him and we’ll make films together, live the high school dream we had had. I thought it impossible and improbable. But God’s got a sense of humor. Through a series of events, six months later I found myself moving all my stuff eight hours away to live with Caleb. This is when making videos really started to take off. My friend and I grew in it together, getting clients and sharing workloads. We’d make videos of anything and everything, experimenting and challenging ourselves, going on adventures simply to further our knowledge and technique.

My parents never really forced me to try anything, but anything I wanted to try on my own, they supported whole-heartedly. They had gotten me my first advanced point-and-shoot to tinker with and upon graduating college, had gone in with some other family members on a DSLR. I kept dabbling in everything, I didn’t realize that when you got into photo or video, there were entire worlds and niches you could be apart of and I tried most of them.

I got to this point where I was doing anything and everything to get my name out there, that’s when I met a young man named Mike that was looking to make a music video for a fundraiser he was doing. The music sounded pretty sweet so I obliged and we put something together. I had such a grand time working with him. It was then that I had a little glimpse of using my talents for God. A couple months later Mike comes to me and says he has spoken word piece that he’s written about sharing the gospel. I listen to it and I’m floored. He was kind of hesitant to ask me to a do a music video for him without any pay. I told him that I wouldn’t be making the music video for him, but for God. He gets a look of determination on his face, grabs my hand and pulls me into an embrace.

We planned out to film for a full day in LA. It was long and hot, but neither of us had felt so fulfilled: we were using our talents for God trying to further the Gospel for his kingdom. We shared the video with friends and family and it opened up conversations we wouldn’t have otherwise had. The impact it had was incredible. We’ve done two other videos and each time I have this sense of purpose, a feeling of “I’m doing what I’m suppose to”.

Some of you might be like “Hey Jon, I don’t have a friend that cooks up dope lyrics and jams for me to make a music video to.” Hmm, good point. But certainly there is something that makes your heart smile. Some other things I’ve done are print out photos and hang them in a coffee shop to sell. I then give the proceeds to an organization that sends students on service projects around the world every summer. I’ve volunteered at church taking photos of events, filming baptisms, making bumper videos and being on the production crew. I’ve offered my video services to nonprofit organizations at a discounted rate. I’m not trying to toot my horn, I’m hoping to show you there are so many possibilities for how you can use your talents for our God. You don’t have to follow the examples of what I do. You can find your own way you can use your talents for God.

So whether your talent is crocheting, baking, or like your degree (undeclared), look for ways that you can impact people and make a difference with your talents. At times it may even be in conjunction with a friend. So find some like-minded friends, turn off Netflix and get to moving and shaking.

This growth has been much like having a baby, when you’re the parent you don’t notice much. But when you visit every couple years, the growth is exponential.

I’ve seen a number of people start something and if they’re not really good at it in three tries, they give up. But keep at it! You’ve all heard it: “Practice practice practice” and “practice makes perfect.”

I find that I get mad at myself for doing leisure activities instead of working on learning something new. If I took how long I was on Instagram or Facebook and put that time towards learning a new language or instrument, I would be pretty good at it in two years time.  So I’m as guilty as anybody.

So if you have your talents, now what do you do? Jesus tells a story of a master that gives his servants talents. In that context, the talents are money, but I like to think that it applies to our own talents as well. Two servants take their talents and use them. The master comes back and praises them for their work with what he’s entrusted to them. The third servant, afraid of his master’s wrath lest he lose the talent, buries it. What a fool. The master is enraged at him and throws him in prison.


Watch a few of Jon's videos here:

GOD'S NOT A GENTLEMAN

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We’ve all heard it. Some of the most popular books on evangelism teach it. I’ve believed it. “God loves you, but he’s a gentleman. He won’t force you to love him. He waits for your willingness and permission to enter into your life.”

For years I believed that. For years I sat in services where pastors and evangelists would pressure us to make a decision to invite Jesus into our hearts. I can’t tell you how many times I prayed the sinner’s prayer and hoped that maybe this was the time that God would obey my request and enter into my life.

Even though I hate to admit it, that was arrogant of me.

I didn’t realize at the time that the idea that God is a gentleman runs counter to everything the Bible teaches about God and salvation. I didn’t realize how powerful this view makes me, while turning God into a desperate dreamer who can’t seem to achieve what he wants to achieve.

You see, if we really believe that God is waiting for our permission to act, we believe in a God who is either too unloving to care or too weak to take decisive action. If we really believe that salvation is about bringing our own hearts to a point where we can accept Christ, we cannot also believe scripture when it says that salvation is “not by works, but by him who calls”  (Rom 9:12), since bringing our own hearts to obedience would, in actuality, be a work.

Fortunately for us, salvation does not depend on us turning our own hearts to God. God loves us too much to leave our fate in our own hands.

Consider the testimony of Saul of Tarsus, found in Acts 26:1-20. One minute he was breathing murderous threats against God’s people, and the next he was being commissioned by God to take a Gospel he deeply despised to a world that did not know Christ.

Saul did not turn his heart around. He did not pursue God. He did not accept Jesus into his heart. He did not give God permission. God stopped him right in his tracks, stole his heart, and forced him to obey His will and His plan. God forced salvation and purpose on Saul because He loved Saul and knew that Saul was incapable of pursuing God on his own. If you have ever felt led to follow God, then God feels the same way about you.

My story is the same as Saul’s. I did not want to obey God. He forced me too. And I am so glad that he did. I never would have given my life to him on my own.  And neither would you. If you are saved, rejoice and give glory to God for authoring and finishing your salvation. If you are not saved, but want to be, be encouraged. If Romans 3:11-18 is true, it is not you who are seeking God, but God who is lovingly seeking you.

 
 

Sincerely,
Paul Warburg

20 THINGS I LEARNED IN MY EARLY TWENTIES

From one friend to another here is some encouragement I’d give to my twenty-two year old self.

One: Hurting people hurt people.
You know those people who are sad and mean for no apparently reason? It’s like ice to a wound every time you talk with them? Remember, hurting people hurt people; it’s heals the wound a bit.

Two: Choose a neutral paint color in your living room.
When Kev and I moved to Birmingham we painted one of our walls in our living room (yes, only one) salmon pink. I’m still shaking my head in confusion.

Three: Marriage isn’t the end all.
Kevin and I married two weeks before my 22nd birthday. We were fresh out of college, bright eyed and idealistic. Marriage has opened my eyes to adulthood, responsibility, joy, and grief in ways nothing else could. But, it doesn’t complete me.

Four: Marriage isn’t for everyone right out of college.
One of my dearest college roommates has yet to get married. She is single and thriving as she works in Los Angeles. There some how became the notion that anyone happy and successful gets married right out of college and thats just not true. Don’t feel like you have to rush the ring.

Five: You don’t have to stay at that job.
Fresh out of college I took the first job I could get. It was a disaster and I somehow convinced myself I needed to be there at least a year for my resume. Life's too short to stay somewhere that crushes your soul.

Six: Don’t compare yourself to someone else’s “middle.”
Oh I love this thought a wise person once said! You know that person whose established and looks like they have their life together? And they are about ten years older than you? Yeah, we don’t need to get out our measuring sticks out to their level of success. We cant compare our beginning to their middle.

Seven: I’m not for everyone.
I am perky, overly excitable, full of expression, and I’m not for everyone. It doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate one another but sometimes we just won’t fully click. And, thats okay.

Eight: Fill in those eyebrows.
Seriously. Get a brow kit, watch a youtube tutorial and pencil those pretties in.

Nine: Openly talk about your struggles.
When I worked at said job above, I would frequently have panic attacks. Really bad ones where I felt like I couldn’t breath and that drained my desire to get up in the morning. My dad fell ill that year. I was so homesick after moving from California to Birmingham. But I began to talk about it all. As I did this I found healing. Then others began to open up with me. Transparency drops a pebble in the Pond of Faking and Hiding and sends ripples out to others that invite them to reciprocate. Be brave; tell someone.

Ten: Get involved in a local church.
You need the church and the church needs you. It’s lovely. It’s messy. It’s worth it.

Eleven: Buy a plant and then buy another.
Have you ever tried to take care of a plant? Oh my. It’s daunting task. But, I promise buy a plant and then when that one dies, buy another. Keep watering and watch them grow. Plant therapy is a thing.

Twelve: Take a Dave Ramsey course.
Right before Kevin and I got married we took a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace course. You really should give it a try. We go back to the basics on a monthly basis. #snowballeffect

Thirteen: Grab a copy of The Gospel Centered Life.
Apart from the Bible this study guide has forever changed my life. It’s a small, light read with hearty life changing thoughts and convictions. Pick up a copy, grab a few friends and discover the beauty and power of the gospel in fresh and new ways.

Fourteen: Figure out what you're passionate about.
This is something that has taken me so much time. You don’t have to be passionate about what everyone else is passionate about. Don’t forsake what is in your heart simply to duplicate someone else's. For me it was putting down the brush and isle and picking up the camera.

Fifteen: Explore new places.
Kevin and I lucked out on this one. Considering we’re not from the Birmingham it has been one of our life goals to explore every inch of it and it is so good for the soul.

Sixteen: Don’t be so hard on yourself.
Spoken from a recovering perfectionist, it’s not worth it. Those people we see on Instagram have just as much pain and issues as we do. Give yourself the grace God freely bestows upon us.

Seventeen: Learn that we can’t forgive ourselves.
I was listening to a women speak once about how there’s no place in the Bible that says we need to forgive ourselves. Not one place. So why are we buried under guilt and shame and remorse for something we can’t ever lift away? Let forgiveness of your Father be enough.

Eighteen: Adopt a dog.
Or three. If you think plant therapy is a thing, try puppy therapy. ohmyword.

Nineteen: Figure out what rest looks like for you.
Sitting on my back porch or taking my pup for a walk are life giving to me. How can you fill up to best pour out?

Twenty: Learn to rest in the reality that we are the bad news and He is the good news.
If I could look at my twenty two year old self in the face, with tears welling up and a beaming heart I would shout that I am far more messed up that I ever imagined but I am far more loved that I could have ever hoped for. The good news of Jesus is good news because we are broken and weary and unrighteous. And yet he has given himself to us and for us. His performance on the cross and not mine is what counts before the Father. There is a profound safety in this reality that we need as we grow up. The finished work of Christ in our behalf which renders us lovely before the Father frees us to try and fail and not be crushed.

 
 

Sincerely,
Allison Naylor

WHY I SAY BAH HUMBUG

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Every time I’ve sat down near a screen these impending days before December 25th, it seems to be showing “A Christmas Carol.” It’s a holiday classic. Probably a tradition for some of you to watch it with your families, or maybe the Mickey Mouse version, which is far more up my alley than the 1984 version with the creepy children legs. Watch it, you’ll get it.

And reflecting upon why it’s been so hard for me to write something encouraging about Christmas, I realized I’m stuck in my visit with Christmas past.

Our family has shifted and changed the last many years, and frankly, Christmas doesn’t FEEL like Christmas. Our traditions have also shifted and changed. And the shifting has left me disappointed so many times I don’t even know how to be joyful about this seaon.

When the presents are unwrapped, and the people have left, I've become what I fear the most; alone.

Our post is late this week because it took many days of external processing, thinking, crying, and wallowing, all leading to a parking garage at the Irvine Spectrum (right before Christmas shopping) to figure out why I’m such a Scrooge about this holiday: I know I’m going to feel so alone on Christmas.

But the beautiful thing about it is, I know there are an incalculable amount of other weary hearts that can relate to me. So to you, my fearful of Christmas loneliness, can we fight past this together?

Dear Alone on Christmas,

I don't know why you're alone. I don't know what circumstances have led you to this place of isolation when it feels like the rest of the world is gathered in a warm group hug.

Social media doesn't help. It amplifies the woes and wounds of comparison. It leaves you feeling strangely addicted to befriending the pain of knowing what you're missing out on.

But I think everyone feels a tinge of loneliness at some point during the Christmas season. Because essentially what this time is about is the birth of Someone who is not tangibly with us.

There is this absent feeling that comes with this time and I think it strikes deeper than lost loved ones or apparent loneliness. Fundamentally, we were wired to be with Jesus. We were made by a Creator, for that Creator. And when we are remembering/celebrating the initial coming of His tangible presence, when He is not tangibly here, it can create a longing in the heart.

Our souls desire to be with their Maker.
Our spirits need their Reviver.
Our bodies crave the Resurrection.


So what do we do with this justifiable loneliness?
We fill it with hope which fills us with faith.

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Faith is an unwavering hope that God is who He says He is.

I don't doubt that your circumstances are less than your ideal. I understand the longing for that one Hallmark movie moment with the feeling being complete.

But don't lust after something that won't fulfill you friend. We need to stop making this time about us. Let's take the “me” out of Christmas. But how? Switch your internal focus to an eternal perspective. Jesus came, so we worship. But one day soon, He is coming again. So we worship till then. And then we'll finally be made whole in eternity, praising Him.

Choose to take yourself out of Christmas. Decide to be a servant of good and a seeker of gratitude. And know you are fundamentally not alone. God is at the ready to care for your hurts. And we are at the ready to pray for you. Hoping a great Christmas for you friend.

 

 
 

Sincerely,
Jessica Bills

SHE IS CLOTHED WITH STRENGTH AND DIGNITY

 

The chilled air of December nips at my face as the covers shielded me from it’s grasp. At this point I’m calculating how to maximize the minutes I spend cocooned here before it slips into wasting time and missing deadlines. I rip the blankets off fast, like a Band-Aid and shiver as the turn in temperature has this California household in shock. The morning routine continues despite the chill and I reach for a dress for the day. Dress, leggings, fuzzy mismatched socks, boots, cardigan and we’re good to go. I look back in the mirror at my armor of choice for the day and despite the cold and cry for comfy, I am cloaked in dignity and justice. My armor of choice is a dress; my voice is through my fashion.

 
 
 
 

Welcome to the Dressember project.

I’m not wearing a dress every day for the month of December for vanity’s sake; I’m more of a leggings and dry shampoo sort of girl. I’m also not the only one doing Dressember, thank goodness for that or I’d be that crazy dress in December girl by myself. Allow me to introduce you to the Dressember project, and in effect introduce you to big part of my heart.

The Dressember website states their mission as:

“Dressember uses fashion to advocate for women who've been exploited. As women take on the creative challenge of wearing a dress for the 31 days of December, they are advocating for the inherent dignity of all women.”

Women rally together in the month of Dressember by raising awareness through their fashion choice. While committing to wearing a dress every day for 31 days fundraising occurs and supports organizations like International Justice Mission, A21 and the like. The funds raised go to combat human trafficking with a specific emphasis on sex trafficking.

And it starts with waking up and putting on a dress.

About four years ago I prayed desperately in a fight against apathy and despondence: “God break my heart by what breaks yours”. Isn’t it beautiful to serve a God who hears? I was aware of sex trafficking but after I uttered this prayer God gave me a fervent passion for this field. Since then, I have dedicated to studying to work in this field and to be a part of the movement against sex trafficking. I recognize I may sound idealistic, too dreamy, and naïve when I speak about this topic. And I recognize that in my life I will not see the end of sex trafficking. But I will continue to wake up every day like I could. And the greatest thing I have realized in my preparation is even if it was just one person victimized this way, we should be doing everything and anything to restore their dignity and free them from the bondage of sex trafficking.

Dressember picks up on the same note. Even if it’s just wearing one dress a day for a month, that matters. Because it’s becoming a voice for the voiceless. It’s becoming an advocate in the midst of whatever your job, your life, your existence is. It’s taking the symbol of women and declaring that this is beautiful, this is dignified, this is worth it.

So I put a dress on today. By putting on this dress I embodied Proverbs 31:25, “She is clothed with strength and dignity” because she is, even though her voice has been stripped of her and her dignity held captive.  I invite you to join in being a voice of justice. We’re a little over a third of the way through but it’s not to late to dress for advocacy. It’s not too late to make a contribution to Dressember in lieu of a red cup holiday beverage from Starbucks. I invite you to be a voice of justice through the means of fashion, because it’s more than just a dress.

 

 
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Sincerely,

Sara Kernan

 

ADDDITIONAL LINKS:

http://www.dressember.org

https://support.dressemberfoundation.org/team/99174

^^ my personal team but people can make their own or donate to any team

 

LOVE

Photos by Jessica Bills

Photos by Jessica Bills

 

This was originally posted on Kylie's blog. Follow along with her blog for more posts about the Advent Season.

kylieshackelford.com


 

Yet another week has swiftly come and gone. The weeks and months have been blazing past me with concerning speed since the month of May. I blinked and it was September, opened my eyes again and it was December. It’s been flying but amidst the flight I am taking comfort in the repetition that Advent demands and am resting for this fleeting second in the fact that I get to light the candle of expectation and hope again tomorrow. That though this first holy week is behind us, we still get to expect and we still get to wait. With our eyes fixed on the truth of the good news, we carry our hope and our expectation into this second week taking another stoke in this great liturgy. We cut deeper into the practice of advent as we remember the very powerful truth that the most life-giving and satisfying aspect of human connection is a part of the Savior story too. Love. If love was removed from Creation, from the wilderness wanderings, from the silence, the Incarnation, if it was removed from the ministry, the journeys, and from the hands and the feet of the Church all else that we hold as believing ones would be shallow, meaningless, hollow, and void. But our story of hope is not shallow, its not meaningless, its not hollow, or void. We light the candle of love together as one church body across the globe, yet again, defying the darkness and illuminating an even more powerful, brighter flame.

This morning Dr. Jerry Root said something quite simple that caught my attention. He said, “In all of my life, I have never met a person who lives an honest life who doesn’t long to be loved.” He’s right, for the longing for love and belonging is universal to the whole of humanity, laced within us deeper than muscle and tissue. Love is not an action or an emotion that is signature to one particular demographic of people. It is all encompassing; undefined by culture, belief, upbringing, or socio-economical status. It’s in eye-contact – resting in that short and beautiful action of acknowledging and celebrating life with a stranger. It’s in the telling of stories, the breaking of bread, and the opening of doors. In the giving of gifts and in fits of unrequited laughter among friends. Love lies in sacrifice and in the tending of wounds. It boarders the hallways of hospitals, fills itself out in military uniforms, and files along the isles of food banks. It is tender and affectionate, noble and bold, but most of all it is not self-serving.

I am coming to recognize the unfortunate truth that our world is inhabited by tired, strung out people who are searching for meaning and fulfillment. We pine to belong and we’ll do anything to establish a place and a name for ourselves. We’ll be restless until we do. I am noticing that there is something that lies incomplete within us and our relationships that tends to lead us deeper into dissatisfaction and longing and I can’t help but wonder if a part of that missing thread could be perfect love. Because truth be told, we don’t love each other perfectly. I for one don’t love the people that I have been entrusted with perfectly. I can be terribly selfish and self-seeking and more times than not, I fail in relationship and let the people that I love the deepest down. I love out of the only heart and the only mind that I have and unfortunately, it’s a heart that is imperfect and is subject to destruction and decay. In 1 John, the apostle says that perfect love casts out fear. My question is that if it’s love perfected that casts away fear then the what does that say about love imperfect? Does it breed anxiety, lack of trust, and more pain? Love imperfect sounds like a destructive, toxic mode of expression. And if I am honest with you, there are few things that I hate about being human more than the fact that we are incapable of extending perfection to one another. We wound those we love. It’s a nasty cycle that everything in me desires to see broken. But the truth is that imperfect love is the only kind of love that we are able to experience amongst one other and if we’re honest, we’d fess up to the obvious truth that imperfect love is terribly painful.

So where is the good news in that? Where is the hope in ceaselessly existing in a kind of human relation that hurts just as much as it nourishes? We are a broken people who wake and sleep in repetition trying to learn how to love and be loved. We are the hurting, the lonely, the fearful. We are the tired, the outcast, the jaded, and the longing ones. We just are! It’s our daily reality. If we’d open our eyes we’d find a world of people just as desperate as we are for love – which is unbelievably overwhelming and discouraging. What I am professing to you on this advent Sunday is a confession of the truth that I love the people that I have been entrusted with so imperfectly that I am discouraged at even the thought of trying to love the whole of humanity. Loving each life I encounter, each story, placing my hand gently over each wound, looking knowingly into each stranger’s eyes, and speaking words of life, grace, and peace in every passing interaction? HOW?! Is it possible? Is that kind of life and posture something that is actually attainable, or is it too etherial and utopic? I think that it might be slightly utopic BUT I also think that though perfection might be unattainable it shouldn’t discourage us in the here and now from giving ourselves entirely in love to brother, friend, and stranger alike.

Despite all of the discouragement that I feel in regard to loving my neighbors who crave even the smallest seeds of love, I am increasingly encouraged by that gentle, open invitation to faithfully learn how to love in the midst of imperfection. Because the truth is, friend, that we have what it takes to look, know and communicate solidarity with a single moment of eye contact with a stranger. We have what it takes within us to be the loving hands that heal physical, emotional, and spiritual wounds. For truly, what does love look like? Saint Augustine says that love simply has the hand to help others, the feet to hasten the poor and the needy, the eye to see misery and want, the ears to hear the signs and sorrows of men. And that very invitation has the divine power to inhabit our bodies and reengineer our minds and hearts to function differently which could and would, in turn, rewire our world. WHICH IS THE VERY THING THAT WE ARE CELEBRATING! Am I right?! The incarnation of love introduces words like unconditional and forgiveness, words that loosen bonds and break chains of callousness. Love came down and changed the world. It’s as simple as that. Love invaded and paved a new way to be human, teaching us how to be tender, compassionate, and hospitable to a broken and very weary world.

So I guess what I want to do on this Second Sunday of Advent is to humbly submit my resignation of defeat to the Creator. Committing to the repetitive art of speaking away my fear of ineffectiveness and inability to love in perfection and choosing to exist in the reality that the little seeds of love that I am able to sow as I walk this beaten ground are good seeds and they are seeds that are enough. I confess that I am not self-sufficient, though I oft like to think that I am. I confess that I myself, am poor and needy of brotherly love, affection, and belonging. I confess that I am desirous of the company of Emmanuel, The One who loves perfectly with no inhibition. I am desirous to learn from Him and way that He loves right in the midst of this imperfect and very broken here and now.

So tonight we light another candle. Reigniting hope, we confidently make way for love, and in expectation we wait and we watch the embodiment of perfect love slowly spark into that warm, holy, fiery flame that consumes all that is in its wake. Love came down and decimated the darkness with His Light. Love stayed and love lived. He was patient, he was kind, he healed, and he gave Himself up for the sake of obedience, pardoning the lost and broken. Love defied every vice that this world knows and teaches us how to live in this new way to be human. Let us anticipate and live into the healing that love brings. He has come and He is coming once again to redeem all things to himself and his perfect intention, even the very love that we imperfect. And you and I both know that all 7 billion of us desperately need that.

Come Lord, come quickly.
We need your restoration.
We are waiting.

Sincerely,
Kylie Shackelford

LIAR

 
 

a poem by sami brown

_____

Liar lie lie lie
How you've made me cry
Used me as your foolish puppet
Oh and I played along
Soft and sweet were your whispers
You saw the hidden darkness
I thought I locked up safely away
Exposed, accused, shamed, defeated
You are so quick to destroy me
Disgusting thief, killer, murderer
You want nothing more than to crush me.

AWAY with you evil one

 
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For I am chosen!
 

I am set apart for His good works
I am SEALED in His very own blood He shed for me!

 

I am a daughter the King most high,
Royalty!

And you cannot take it away
Nothing can separate me.
Dark prince of this world
Your days are numbered
My savior crushes your head
You know full well He has the Victory
FLEE you slithering serpent

 

MY JESUS IS LORD.

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THE THING ABOUT DREAMS

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Beautiful friends,

I’m sorry for all the walls I put up and I’m sorry I have a hard time letting you in. I’ve done this for so long. I do it because it's easier, it’s safer. Exposing pieces of myself is not natural for me. But, I am forcing these walls down because I have things to say. I have things that I need to tell you.

I need to tell you how very important dreams are. I'm sure you’ve heard it a thousand times..but really, it's true. They are important and keep us moving forward in such a big way.

But sometimes, dreams are also dangerous.

If I’m being transparent with you, I’ve been struggling. So hard.
I’ve been mad, jealous, drained, and just so tired.

I have so many goals and dreams that I’m chasing after, and it makes the “right now” I'm living in such a difficult space. Often times, chasing after these dreams has become just so exhausting that I want to give up.

Example: Sincerely, Kindred. I honestly began to resent it. I became selfish with my time and SK fell to the side. And geez, what a shame..because what a great thing it is! So life-giving and such an encouragement, but let me tell you..when you’re empty, you can't give anything to anyone else.

I've been asking, “Why am I not content?”
My life is so good! In the last 8 months, I got married, got a new job (that is honestly really cool), and started an illustration business.

But really, that doesn't feel like enough.

So here it is,

I’ve been ignoring God for a long time. Like a really long time.
Because I’ve been mad. I’ve felt hurt and I’ve felt out of place.

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A lot of this has to do with being an artist in an environment where I often feel I can’t grow. But mostly, it has to do with the fact that I just want everything to go my own way, and for my dreams to be a reality right this very second.

And you know what I’m realizing?
I can be mad and pout and do nothing…or I can just stop. Like really, stop.

I can choose to take steps, no matter how small they are and just grow in the place that I am and serve with the abilities I have.

I can thank God that He has even given anything and move forward.

Right now, I am being called to this season of waiting; in this, I am learning and growing. This is a season to remember that God has placed these dreams in my heart and that they are something of value. 

I’m not called to this place without reason. There is a purpose and if I am given opportunities to move towards my dreams, it's because of the things that I’ve learned as I am struggling in this season. 

 
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Sincerely,
Sam Elias