Love and Faith

Merry Christmas!

“The message of Christianity is…Things really are this bad, and we can’t heal or save ourselves. Things really are this dark – nevertheless, there is hope. The Christmas message is that on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. Notice that it doesn’t say from the world a light had sprung, but upon the world a light has dawned. It has come from outside. There is light outside of this world, and Jesus has brought that light to save us; indeed, he is the Light (John 8:12).” Hidden Christmas by Timothy Keller

“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

May you have a blessed Christmas and New Year’s!

Love and Faith

The Most Random Round Up Ever Christmas Edition

First up, some Fun Finds and Christmas ideas!

Confession: I’m a big fan of subscription boxes. I’ve always loved getting fun mail. It’s one of my love languages. There are so many out there (teas, to art, to knitting, to Cat lady gifts ;), that it makes for some unique gifts. When done well, they are way awesome! Here are a few recent ones:

Fab Fit Fun: If you listen to podcasts, you’ve definitely heard about this. I wasn’t too interested, but I finally caved when they had a box for 50% off. I genuinely became a fan, so much so that I did the year subscription. I filed that under #treatyoself. Anyway, if you want to check out a box or are looking for a unique Christmas gift (my friend’s husband got it for her last year and she said it was one of her favorite gifts), definitely look into it! You can find out all the details here.

Causebox: True story, I remember when Causebox first launched 4-5 years ago. I got the first few boxes and I recently checked it out again and it has changed so much! There’s much more variety. It’s awesome to see how they’ve changed. All items are ethically made and they support artisans around the world. You can find out more here.

Little Passports: I’ve decided one of the most fun things as a kid is getting mail. Little Passports have monthly (or one-time) boxes on all kinds of things. My favorite? The travel ones. Gotta get these world travelers started young no? Right now they have a Christmas discount, so check out all they have here!

Out of Print: I know, I know, I always mention them, but listen! They have a few new favorites – like all kinds of socks (y’all, the cats get me every time) to Velocireaders. Perfect stocking stuffers and gifts. Also, they should really just make me some kind of ambassador already.

Literary Rebels: Who would I be if I didn’t mention this little shop? 🙂

And now to some really random finds:

Disc to Digital for Vudu: Do you have a Vudu account? It’s for your library of digital movies. You can also rent movies (sorry Redbox) and I love having movies all in one spot. I’m also trying to minimize things I have (except books #obvs), so disc to digital let’s you scan it and get the digital copy for $2.00. You might be wondering why I would pay $2.00 for a movie I already have, but it’s worth it to clear out space and there’s a ton of places to sell old movies, so it all works out.

Instagram Account to follow: The Kangaroo Sanctuary. You can never follow enough animal accounts and this is a fav.

Recent Reads

  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (A book club read)
  • I Am Not Your Negro by James Baldwin
  • A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay
  • The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harral (Another one from book club)
  • On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson (New hardcovers releasing Spring!)
  • Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

So what are you reading and what’s on your Christmas list?

Love and Faith

The Most Random Round Up Ever

I’m kicking off something kind of fun next week (more to come), so I thought why not have a random round up beforehand? Here’s a few fun things I’ve found, am loving, and of course some books I’m reading and ones in the TBR!

Recent Reads

  • Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren – Fun, light, cute romance. If you’ve been enjoying the recent rom com comeback (thank you Netflix!), I think you’ll like this one too. (Some minor language and adult themes)
  • Here’s a stack of books I’ve worked on recently for work. I’m biased, but they’re definitely worth checking out!
  • And in case you missed some Austen retellings, stock up on these titles!
  • Currently Reading: Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh
  • Up Next: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Fun Finds

  • Shopkick App! This is an app where you earn “kicks” while shopping (whether checking into a store, scanning items, or buying items you need). These kicks turn into gift cards. No joke! I already earned a $5.00 gift card to Amazon and I just went to my normal grocery stores. If you want to join (it’s free) use code WIN022926 or download and we’ll each get some kicks! Plus right now, for every person who joins Shopkick is donating $2 to Feeding America.
  • Norwex. Who would have thought I’d be so into cleaning towels? I went to party a friend was hosting and these are legit. I haven’t used any cleaning sprays in the kitchen, moping, etc for over a month! Seriously. It’s all in the science and the self cleaning material. You can find out more here. That’s a link to “my” storefront. I wanted to order all the things for my house, so I signed up! I also learned that many of my friends have been using it for years. My current favorite items are:
    • EnviroCloth® and Window Cloth (wiping up the kitchen and cleaning bathroom mirrors has never been so easy)
    • Microfiber Dusting Mitt (GAME CHANGER. I hate dusting and this makes it so easy and quick)
    • The Mop System (makes sweeping and mopping a breeze and you only use water!)
  • Vanilla Meringues. I cannot be left alone with a box of these. It’s dangerous.

The Super Random

Did I mention Max has an Instagram account? If you like a daily cat fix, check it out!

Skimm. I love this daily recap of what’s happening around the world. If you haven’t heard about it, you can find out more here and sign up too!

I hope you enjoyed the random break and, if you haven’t yet, don’t forget to join Literary Rebels :)!

Love and Faith, Ponderings

Be Brave, Not Safe

It was my dream job, but it was hundreds of miles away.

I always knew that if God opened the doors into the publishing industry, I would have to leave where I was living at the time: Austin, TX. And let me tell you, I love that city! I had incredible community, deep friendships, and a church that challenged and encouraged me. Plus, the food…it’s some of the best in the world. Really, it is.

As soon as I got the offer though, I knew I was leaving. I had been applying to publishing jobs for two years. I knew God opened the door I had been praying for. But would it be worth it? Would it be worth it to leave everything behind to such a great unknown?

Prior to my job interview, 98% of my experience with Colorado had been with the Denver airport. I hated cold weather. I didn’t know a soul in the city or of any churches. It was terrifying, even while exciting. Would I make friends? Would I find a church I loved? Would I survive winter?!?

The Lord was faithful through that season and He continued to remind me of this truth in so many ways. Through scriptures like this one found in Ephesians:

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” Ephesians 3:20 (NIV)

But He also spoke to me in one of my love languages: Fiction. In C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Aslan (the Lion who represents Jesus) has seemingly remained quiet in the land of Narnia as the terrible White Witch has claimed it as her own. Slowly things start to change, the never ending winter begins to melt and true Narnians began to have hope.

Aslan was on the move.

He was on the move in my life too. Did that mean my fear went away? Nope, but it gave me the courage to be brave. Just like in the book, where even though Aslan was moving to destroy the hold the White Witch had over Narnia, the four Pevensies siblings (and array of amazing creatures created by Lewis) still had to fight. They still had to choose to be brave. Safety wasn’t an option. But they had the best guide. One of my favorite lines about Aslan comes from Mr. Beaver, after one of the children asks if this Lion they kept hearing about is safe. He responds: “Safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

“The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8 (NASB)

It’s been two years now that I’ve called Colorado home and there continues to be plenty of opportunities to choose bravery over safety. Whether it is safety from failure, safety for my feelings, or safety from hurt.

It was pushing through as I searched for months for a church home. It was trusting that God would provide community, trusting that while I hadn’t connected in those first few months through different church groups, it would come. It was pushing through the awkwardness of making new friends (making new friends as an adult is hard!). And yet.

He was and is faithful.

These days? I love my church, my friends, and my community in Colorado. They are a gift to my soul. There’s plenty of times I need to remind myself about this (as life tends to send changes all the time), but I am so thankful the Lord continues to give me the strength to be brave and not safe.

Being brave isn’t fully conquering fear. It will always be there. It’s choosing to not let it stand in the way. It’s not always easy, but I’ve learned it is always worth it. When I don’t want to take that step of faith? I remember my favorite lion Aslan. I remember Who he represents and am reminded I’m not alone, Jesus will always be with me. And I can remember that “He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.”

May we always choose to be wild.

“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (NLT)

Love and Faith

What a Toro Can Teach Us

I absolutely love the movie Coco. It’s delightful, charming, and such a beautiful message. I love what it says about the importance of family and following your dreams. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend. After chatting about my love of the movie, a good friend recommended I watch The Book of Life. I did and y’all, loved it just as much. It’s a love story, a story of friendship, and standing for what you believe it.

Without giving away everything (because you should definitely watch it), Manolo comes from a long line of matadors, but his heart is with music (plus he refused to kill the bulls). As the story goes on, Manolo finds himself is a hard situation. In order to get back to his love before Dia de Muertos is over, he must first beat all the toros that his ancestors bested and killed (who have combined to make one massive bull). Here’s what happens:

(I also recommend listening to the Spanish version of the song. It’s beautiful)

Not only does he stand his ground against killing the bull, Manolo choses another route – one of asking for forgiveness. These lyrics get me everytime:

Toro, I am humbled, for tonight I understand.
Your royal blood was never meant to decorate this sand.
You have suffered great injustice, so have thousands before you.
I offer an apology, and one long overdue..
I am sorry, Toro, I am sorry, hear my song and know I sing the truth.
Although we were bred to fight, I reach for kindness in your heart tonight.
Oh and if you can forgive and if you can forgive, love can truly live…

This is by far one of my favorite scenes in the movie. It is such beautiful imagery of what forgiveness can do, both for the one asking and for the one receiving. Both the bull and Manolo get peace they have longed for.

Forgiveness is a powerful gift. Maybe there’s someone you need to ask forgiveness for, maybe you need to forgive someone, or maybe it’s yourself you need to forgive. Whatever the case may be, may you take the same steps as Manolo. I promise something beautiful will come from it.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

Love and Faith

I Want to Be Dangerous

My church is currently going through a series called DANGEROUS. Each week we look at the lives of the people in the Bible who were dangerous to satan, the people who showed up on his radar as people to watch and go after. I’m loving it! Not only because it’s been great, but it has reminded me of the truths in Screwtape Letters and as we all know, that’s one of my favorites from Lewis. Anyway, we’ve talked about Jesus, David, and Esther.

After each sermon, I’ve been randomly thinking of ways I need to be more dangerous. Do I trust my own strengths or do I trust Jesus’ strength? Do I wait for His timing? Am I seeking Him daily through His Word and prayer? Do I trust Him in the battles?

It’s been convicting and encouraging at the same time. I don’t have much more to add (plus it’s been 900 years since I’ve blogged), but I encourage you to look at those people who kept satan on his toes and, what do you say? Let’s be dangerous together!

(If you’d like to watch the sermons, check out the sermon videos here!)

And for chuckles, here’s a video from one of the sermons. Each week, some of the staff members do something dangerous and I got to stare my fear of heights in the face. Like for real. I have two things to say: 1. Sorry for the scream. 2. I had to sign a waiver, so legit dangerous 🙂

Love and Faith

There Are Better Things Ahead

This year has been a year. In both incredible ways and also really hard and ugly ways. From personal events and happenings, to things in friend’s lives (from exciting engagements and babies to cancer diagnoses), to global events (from racism, to horrific mass shootings, to heart wrenching natural disasters to people coming together in beautiful ways), 2017 has been a year. A heavy year that I’m most definitely ready to say farewell to.

But here’s the thing: I’m thankful that each has taught me that it doesn’t end here. This is not it. It’s because of this truth, I have hope. Psalm 71:14 reads, “As for me, I will always have hope.” I don’t know what I would do without that promise. Without the Words that bring hope and are true.

“There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

I have this hanging on a wall in my house – a gift from a friend and the quote is from none other than C.S. Lewis.

The quote comes from a letter Lewis wrote. A few months back it was posted by an author friend, Tamera Alexander, as she and her family worked through her Dad’s failing health. Here’s the full letter:

TO MARY WILLIS SHELBURNE: On how to rehearse for death and how to diminish fear.
17 June 1963
Pain is terrible, but surely you need not have fear as well? Can you not see death as the friend and deliverer? It means stripping off that body which is tormenting you: like taking off a hairshirt or getting out of a dungeon. What is there to be afraid of? You have long attempted (and none of us does more) a Christian life. Your sins are confessed and absolved. Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave it with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.

Remember, though we struggle against things because we are afraid of them, it is often the other way round—we get afraid because we struggle. Are you struggling, resisting? Don’t you think Our Lord says to you ‘Peace, child, peace. Relax. Let go. Underneath are the everlasting arms. Let go, I will catch you. Do you trust me so little?’

Of course, this may not be the end. Then make it a good rehearsal.
Yours (and like you a tired traveller near the journey’s end) Jack
From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III

That’s the hope that keeps me going. That no matter how horrific evil rears its head, there’s hope. This may not be the end for many of us, so I plan on making this a really great rehearsal. Christ isn’t finished yet – with me or the Church.

I will continue to fight and speak out against injustices and work towards making our nation the ideal it has long promised (and the world too). Action is an important piece to our Christian life. Whether that’s helping my neighbor or working towards change in our government. My Christianity isn’t tied to a party or one cause. It’s dedicated to the pursuit of justice (and Christian, pro-life views do not end once a baby is born, but that’s another post for another time), loving my neighbor (even when I don’t agree with them) and trying to leave this world a better place.

I will continue to pray because that is the most important piece. You know what else I will continue to do? Be active. Be a voice. Use my freedom to hold accountable politicians. Demand for more. And live everyday as I think Jesus would – serving, loving and sharing the hope I have in Christ.

Love and Faith

What If?

I’ve learned that when God wants to teach me something (and usually a repeat lesson, I can be stubborn on occasion), He is the most Creative out there. He doesn’t stop at Scripture or prayer (although I’m a fan of both). He brings in all the things – even a country song.

Have you heard the song “What If” by Kane Brown? It hit the radio a few months ago. It’s super catchy and cute and I became an instant fan. Here’s some of the lyrics:

You say what if I hurt you, what if I leave you
What if I find somebody else and I don’t need you
What if this goes south, what if I mess you up
You say what if I break your heart in two then what…

What if I was made for you and you were made for me
What if this is it, what if it’s meant to be
What if I ain’t one of them fools just playin’ some game
What if I just pulled you close, what if I leaned in
And the stars line up and it’s our last first kiss
What if one of these days baby I’d go and change your name
What if I loved all these what ifs away

When it came on the radio several weeks back, I thought to myself how the “What If” idea isn’t only for romance. It’s for all aspects of life. It’s easy to become cynical in the world we’re living, but I never want to.

Recently, the Life Group I host and co-lead picked a study by Mark Batterson and you know what it’s called? What If. No lie. The whole bible study is based around Romans 8:31:

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

In one of the recent video studies, Batterson talked about Ephesians 3:20. It’s been a life verse for several years now. Years back, when I was in Austin, my church did a whole series on it. Through this new study, God has been reminding me what He taught me back in Austin. No joke, a couple of days after that study, my morning scripture reading was Ephesians 3. I legit laughed out loud as soon as I opened up my bible. To top it off, I started decorating for Christmas (Judge away internet. Judge away. ;)) and an ornament I didn’t even know I had, had Ephesians 3:20 written on it.

I’ve kept this for years and is a reminder I see every morning

There’s been conversations with friends, with coworkers and even other books I’ve read….all things that God has brought into my path, reminding me Who He is, what He is able to do and what He wants to do. So why would I ever stop asking What If?

What if…
…I could get that job?
…that dream was worth going after?
…I became the parent I believe I could be?
…that relationship were possible?
…We pursued adoption?
…I could make that move?
…I put myself out there to make friends?
…I took that chance?

These are several “what ifs” I’ve heard people in my life ask and prayer through. I’ve been inspired by these people. In the past, I’ve sometimes done the, “well if I don’t ask for it, I won’t be disappointed when God says no.” It’s easier that way isn’t it? But what a depressing and fearful way to live. We were made for so much more.

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

I’ll share one more quote from the video study that has stuck with me since: “God has blessings for you in categories that you don’t even know exist.”

May we always live life that way. Expectant and willing.

What I love about this truth is, it’s for everyone. Whether you’re “what if” makes you famous or whether it gives you the courage to be the parent you want to be (or both!), God’s truth remains the same and that “what if” will change the world.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” Ephesians 3:20

What’s the “What If” in your life?

And in case you want to hear the country song – here y’all go!