Singled Out in Prayer

Over the month of July I was out of town almost every weekend, traveling for birthdays, weddings and concerts. While it was fun for the summer, it also removed me from my home church most Sundays. If I am honest, it was also a bit of a breather as I have been in some major wrestling on the state of the Baptist church as a whole and specifically the Southern Baptist church which I have been a part of for most of my adult years (and all of my childhood). That’s at least a chapter in my second book for sure-how to wrestle in the Southern Baptist ring.

Last Sunday found my first weekend home in what felt like ages, so part of me was looking forward to being back at church and the other part was really just hoping to sleep in. The wrestling of my inner dialogue that many have on a Sunday morning hit full force but I made myself get my butt to a seat in our church plant service. I glance at the bulletin to see what Scripture we’ll be reading and see it’s the Armor of God in Ephesians…

WOOHOO! I missed the entire chapter plus on marriage!” was my initial thought. But then our pastor does the ole switcharoo. Preaching off script on marriage instead. The weekend prior I was at a wedding. The weekend before I was celebrating another birthday being single. Needless to say, my head and heart wanted to get up and walk out. My emotions were closing off and crossing my arms, thinking “well this won’t apply to me, should’ve stayed in my pajamas with coffee.”

This also fell after a conversation earlier in the week where it felt as though I was being single-shamed because I didn’t have a husband and kids to keep me busy and therefore could take on something. (For transparency’s sake, this wasn’t at my job) It may not have been the intention of the individuals but we all need some self-awareness of our words, even especially me.

So as I sat in the building God built, alongside brothers and sisters, I started having this conversation internally that I have to admit was Spirit influenced. God was being very direct that you know what, His Church isn’t me-centered, it’s Him-Centered. As it should be. And what if me praying for the marriages in that room was what He needed from me today. It wasn’t what I could get from Him but what He was asking of me, obedience in what can seem such a meaningless thing in the work of God but what He wants of me. Not to be me-focused, seeking Jesus-and out of life, but what I can do to serve Him. Giving up more of me so I can be fully who He knows I can be.

What would it look like to pray for every marriage I am around, that I know of? To pray over friends’ and families’ marriages that they would be God-centered, building a covenant relationship around love and respect, Biblical submission and leadership, authority and mutuality. That they would be the relationships I see as God-honoring and desire after the good things in those, rather than the Hallmark-saturated romance we are often using for relationships. How would the church look then? How would our communities and workplaces look?

Having that change of ‘tude made me grateful I had gone to church last week, that I’d been in a sermon on marriage and that even at the end our pastor made it a point to say he knew there were single individuals present and for us to be in fervent prayer for future spouses as well, just as he’d directed the spouses present to pray for one another. It was a reminder that I may not have a future spouse but I can sure pray for each and every one of them I know, and for my single friends as well to have spouses of the same prayerful focus.

Seeing Our Creative God

“So often we miss life’s beauty because we’re too preoccupied with it’s flaws.” -Ann Spangler

 

Did you forget God created you in His image? Or that He created the ground you walk on and grass you seem to mow 24/7? Or the cat who keeps calling your new patio cushions home?

I think we become so engrossed with what’s wrong or “what just has to be survived” rather than remembering the Creator who made it, Who thought it out of absolutely nothing to reflect Him.

It may seem rather Pollyanna-ish to think about it, but when you start to see a person as a fellow creative image of Him, created by His hand, you tend to approach them differently. You value them in a different way and the time you are given to interact and engage with them. It reflects our God, His creativity and absolute sovereignty in situations and our lives.

When we focus on the flaws of this life, even in ourselves, we miss the absolute wonder and creativity of the God who created this world from nothing, created us from mere dust of the earth, who brought land to life and animals into being. What if we focus on His beauty and creativity in our day rather than the flaws or ways we wish it were instead? I truly believe it brings Him joy and we get to give some praise back when we are able to celebrate His creative character in those small ways in every single day.

Killing “Just a Season You’re In” Mentality

Do you ever resign yourself to the thought “Well, this is just the season I am in,” and just wallow in it? It’s a difficult season, or a quiet one, and you just find yourself giving in and wallowing a bit? Does that sound familiar? Or that it’s just so busy and crowded with things, that you think this is the way it will always be?

Recently I was skimming a couple of social media accounts I follow and seeing their “Hang on (fill in the blank situation) person, this is only a season” and it gave me pause. The reason why I wouldn’t understand until this weekend. I truly believe it’s because I was putting my very own excuse on a “season” I have been in and have thus grown to disdain it. I labeled it simply to get out of owning the fact I was uncomfortable with the wrestling, with the work of it, the tension and the change of schedule.

I kept being asked about my book, my writing, how it was going, by dear friends who were checking in on my life but I felt I had to label as a season of no writing. A season of quiet and contemplation. When in reality, I was quite willing to let this portion of my life die. I was putting down my writing life for no good reason, a calling I had so passionately from God years ago simply because it got hard. I was wrestling with realities and words, with stories and sharing, with being personal and very raw with my own life and struggles.

I had labeled it “just a season” as my excuse and hearing the words “Hang in there…” started to really make my stomach and my eyes roll. Because I knew it was all a label to me, for me and my giving up, my own death of a part of me. This part was who I was made to be, and what I was made to do in some form. It was a part of my life, and not a season.

Why stay here until we die? (2 Kings 7)

Those words were exactly what I had chosen for myself. Sitting outside the city gate in the midst of a famine as a leper of my own making. Staying in that season til I die, til that part of me was good and dead. In reading those words of 2 Kings I found myself leaning back into the very time God has called me to be in. A time of writing, a life of writing in fact. A life of living out the hard and pressing through it knowing that I am living it. For so many months I’d chosen death, the stench of it surrounding my life in a way I hadn’t clearly noticed, making this season one of despising and struggle rather than joy and searching.

Maybe you’re in a season of life, where you just can’t stand it being called a season. Because it’s not, it is a defining portion of your life from here on out. It’s more than a chapter, it’s the very plotline of your character development. What you are living, dealing with today, is the very thing making your day tomorrow, your month and your years. It is you. Just yet, you need to not hear the words “Hang in there” and instead, get up and live it. Live the hard. Live the difficult. Live out the strain and the stress, the chaos of it all. But live it. Don’t resign yourself to staying in it and dying. Don’t wallow in the death of it because that too will become what you live. You will be the walking dead of your life.

Today it’s being real that I just gave up for a bit. That I defiantly attempted to die at the gate instead of going to see about life.

Nash-versary

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Five years ago today I moved a couple of hundred miles west into a new time zone and began to make Nashville my home. That first night in my basement apartment off of West End feels like yesterday. I think about how seasons of Gilmore Girls got me through those first few days of only knowing a couple of people in this big town.

As I was driving downtown this morning for a fitness class I think about the changes over those five years of being in Nashville. How one year ago today I lost the job that brought me to this city, another chapter on my life (and career) closing. I think about the relationships I have begun and ended, both romantic and friendly in that time. I think on who I was when I moved here at 29 and who I am at 34…the growth in every aspect of my life as well as the broad range of experiences that being in Nashville has afforded me.

In five years in Music City I can most assuredly say this place has changed me, and I am better for it. I finally stopped accepting less than in my life and started pursuing more than I can fathom. I stopped believing it was in my power and left it with God (that’s an ongoing thing). I valued friendships above selfish gain and realized that one’s wellbeing is in one’s power to care for.

Five years has shown me so much in Nashville and beyond. It’s given me the opportunity to pursue a new call and purpose for my life, afforded me the benefit of great mentors to learn from in this new pursuit, and shown me that the truest people of your life will stand with you when you cannot hold yourself up anymore. Oddly enough, five years ago I questioned my decision to move to Nashville as I sat among boxes in my new apartment. It’s been a decision I have often questioned over the last five years as well, and one I have dwelt upon over this last year in quiet with God.

I have wrestled in this last year, as this day inched closer knowing it also meant it had been one year since I lost the job that brought me to Nashville. Questioning God’s hand in a situation and circumstance became my banner for a couple of months, and then I turned to seeking what He’d have me pursue in bringing me to this place. While I don’t see it fully, I do know that He lead me here by His doing, and He keeps me here by His hand steadying me along the path He desires for my life. It’s when I attempt to go outside those bounds that He gently guides me back, reminding me the doubt I had five years ago and the control I had to let go of in these moments.

So I celebrate five years of Nashville today, looking at photos of friends made and kept…amazing people I have gotten to know and walk alongside…students I have gotten to see become friends…places that hold dear memories and relished friendships. I think about all the people I count as friend today, that five years ago I did not know, the people still to meet, and the stories still to be written for me in Nashville. I celebrate the breath this city brings into my heart and the joy of the ones whom I hope with. They are the rocks to my roll.

The Fort and the Legacy

The Saturday adventuring continued this weekend, as I went “home” to Knoxville. Having lived there for 12 years through college, grad school and post-grad life it became my home. It’s always good to go back and see how it’s changed, and some of the things that stay the same, visit family and friends, and enjoy it as a little respite from life. Next week I will celebrate five great years in Nashville, and this week two years in my own home (hooray!) so I thought it was right to get back to Knoxville where these big plans of life all started.

My sister and I decided to jaunt out to James White Fort in honor of Statehood Day on June 1, celebrating 220 years. While ridiculously hot (hi June in the South) it was really cool to see the juxtaposition of the oldest building in the state against the backdrop of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, downtown, and the Tennessee River.

 

It was a great weekend filled with time well spent thinking on the legacy we are leaving now for people to see two hundred years from now. What are we building in our lives, our homes, the people around us that leaves a lasting imprint like this? What will people read about and discover about us centuries into the future?

Lovin’ It, the Summer Edition

Every little bit I like to share what I am absolutely loving on. As random and weird as I am, you can bet it’s always a bit interesting around these parts. So below is a little rundown of some things I simply cannot stop loving on. So it’s summer, what’s good for summer loving? Check out below.

Music

Maren Morris
Y’all, seriously. I am a bit late on the bandwagon with this one around Nashville as I have seen my peeps here sharing her for a bit. My word it’s so good. She’s country, which I know is so not my style. But let me just say, I cannot stop listening to her. Especially this song.

For King and Country
I know I have talked about my love for them before, but I seriously cannot stop listening to Run Wild, Live Free, Love Strong from start to finish. I have used it to write to quite a bit, and this is me in song form, a simple glimpse into my mind:

Mudcrutch
Most people don’t know that my favorite band is Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (after NEEDTOBREATHE, obviously). I have long been a Tom Petty fan and his Southern rock sound found in his side project Mudcrutch, which was his original band in the 70’s. They have a new album out called 2, and I have it in heavy rotation, all the way through. That’s the mark of a really good album, that it’s a story from start to finish. Go grab it, or stream it your favorite streaming service. I’m curating some Spotify lists these days so find me and follow along!

Movies & Television

Superhero Movie Goodness
I love a good superhero film. Frankly, I love a bad one too. I am a dork and I freely embrace that when it comes to these big action films with caped crusaders, and villains alike. Captain America: Civil War? LOVED IT. X-Men: Apocalypse? So cannot wait to see it. Did I clap at the Doctor Strange preview? Yes I did. I will geek out at Suicide Squad. Honestly we could probably scratch out Superhero up there and put Action instead. I love a good action movie, especially in the summer. Jason Bourne? Yep, because MATT DAMON y’all. Independence Day twenty years later? Why of course I will see you. This is where my girlfriends get off the bus and leave me be. Don’t get me wrong. I love a rom-com (sobbed at Me Before You screening), but I want fight scenes, big explosions and hopefully some chase scenes with sharp objects involved.

Crime Shows
I confessed some time ago that I have a penchant for crime shows. Some Saturday nights in college you could find me watching Cops. I think part of me wanted to be a cop or FBI agent growing up (I wrote to the FBI at age 8 asking for info on the academy, such a nerd). Nancy Drew was my sister in crime-fighting in my elementary school days. Harriet the Spy was my Halloween costume of choice one year. So it’s fitting that I now cannot stop watching crime-related shows. I part ways at Law & Order, I have never watched it and don’t really ever care to do so. But this summer’s biggest binge? Southern Justice. It’s Cops, in my hometown. I kid you not y’all. It’s on NatGeo channel, and my neighbor growing up has been on there (she was the officer), as well as some guys I went to high school with. It’s insane to see the places I know, roads and sites, and people that I am familiar with on national tv. It’ll give you a good laugh, and a little insight to my App-a-LATCH-an upbringing. If you missed Quantico this season, I encourage you to binge it. That’s my other good summer suggestion because y’all, so good. (It has nothing to do with the guy named Ryan in the least). Not a cop show, but Zoo is also my other summer suggestion. Being a big fan of James Patterson (hi crime novels), this show is fantastically wonderful and back for a second run this summer.

Misc. Stuff

I had an M thing going, and I couldn’t stop y’all.

Food from the Garden
So I started an urban garden this year. I have a couple of herbs going nutso (basil and oregano for daaaays) as well as some tomatoes and peppers starting to pop up. But more than anything I am loving all the stuff from the gardens whether my own or a farmers at the market. Avocados are beginning to be an obsession, along with foil-wrapped corn on the cob with just a splash of EVOO and garlic powder. Grilling peaches for ice cream? YES MA’AM! Fresh strawberries and blackberries with a simple syrup, absolutely. Even last night I whipped up a fun, and mildly decadent, banana pudding to take to a work picnic. No Nilla wafers here, this ain’t yo momma’s pudding we’re talking about. Food from a garden beckons creativity and not treating it like you do in the winter, but giving it life just as it sustains you. It’s nice to get the creative juices flowing again in the kitchen (pun intended).

Workout clothes
I am obsessed with my Danskin workout crops. And the fun shirts that make me want to work out, to run, to get up at 4:30 to get my butt to POUND class. (except this week cause migraine) They were a reward for weight loss and muscle tone, and now I want more…but I have said it’ll only happen when I hit another marker, so I go workout for a couple of hours at the end of the work day when I just don’t really wanna. It’s better than feeling like a lump sitting on your couch though y’all. Get some fun workout clothes, or shoes even, to inspire a healthy attitude.

Park-aholic
From theme parks to state parks and national parks, I cannot quit you if you have a park in your name. Dollywood-YES! I have had a season pass for years, years. I hit up Mammoth Cave National Park already, and have a couple of other parks on the list this summer. Also, Holiday World. It’s a thing, and I will be there for my birthday. I cannot wait y’all. Can-not wait.


So what are you loving on right now? What’s something fun you are doing, reading, listening to or watching? What’s a favorite summer activity?

Saturday Adventuring

IMG_4663It’s the unofficial start to the summer with Memorial Day upon us. I don’t know about you all but here in the South it’s already gotten hot. But one thing’s for certain, Saturdays in the South in the Summer were meant for adventuring.

Sometimes it’s planned and other times it’s on a whim. That’s kind of how I like living my life these days. And we all should enjoy plans and spontaneity.

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Stay tuned as I share photos over on the Photopalooza tab (we may rename that to Adventuring) and share some of your favorite places of unplanned or planned collisions with adventure.

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Happy adventuring everyone!