Thursday, April 10, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Paint

It's not going to be perfect and it may not seem beautiful from a distance but look close, closer still. Get right up against it and breathe deep. You'll smell the fumes but it will be an aroma of grace.

Notice the details and the carefully chosen words that hold a welcome. Admire the simple beauty and the honest portrayal of the mess.

Sit so close you can see the brushstrokes one by one and pay attention to how they seem insignificant, but now take a step back and look at the big picture, the masterpiece of it all.

Isn't it beautiful, the beauty of the telling, the laughter in the voice, the honesty in the words, the grace in the mess, the courage in the struggle and the joy in the pain?

original image // here

In all those broken off pieces and the jagged scars in the hurting places, the grace that washes in and washes over as He heals and mends, it changes us and cleanses deep.

But the scars remain.

They tell the story.

They speak of what has happened.

They wear the story of hurt and hard and maybe some ugly, too.

The scars remain and you hear the refrain again and again that hurt people, hurt people and yes it's true - but free people, free people and so you must play the music and pick up the brush.

You've got to roll up your sleeves and open your mouth and sing. And paint. And write. And tell. And love.

Yeah. You've got scars. You've walked hard roads. But your scars tell the story of battles won and fears conquered, dreams chased and mighty healing.

Oh, those scars tell a story. But what story will they tell? It's up to you and up to me.

Paint grace.

Speak comfort.

Listen long.

Love much.

It's in the telling, in the releasing of your words and your story into this big messy world, that He receives glory and we find freedom.

Tonight I'm joining the community over at Lisa-Jo's for story-telling and painting wide and vivid and brave.

Monday, April 7, 2014

For the Mothers and the Daughters

I didn't know I was about to make a new life-friend, one to travel through days and months and times and seasons with.

It was a Skype call with a stranger who I felt like I already knew.

That very first conversation across invisible airwaves in the sky between Alabama and Virginia brought online to real life and an hour later we were still laughing and talking.

She was never "just" my boss. She's a dear friend.

It took less than an hour and if that doesn't tell you something about this woman's character and genuine love, well I just don't know what will convince you.

Somewhere between the "tell me about yourself's" and the "so what are some dreams of yours?" I decided that I just plain like her.

Oh, I had read and loved her words for years prior but this was another level and I probably should have felt intimidated but I only felt welcome.

She has a way of doing that, of setting people at ease in their own skin.

Nearly one year later I jumped on a plane and knew that I was about to hear her beautiful South African accent in person, finally thank her for the difference she has made in my life, and hug her with real arms instead of through email.

Maybe I should have been nervous - after all, we're in totally different life stages. But see, this is Lisa-Jo we're talking about and none of that matters. Clearly.

And then she up and wrote a book about motherhood and I could barely contain the secret and I'm not even a mother - not by a long shot.

But I know this woman and I know her heart and I've read her words. I believe this book is calling forth an invitation of open arms to open up mouths and share the real of motherhood.

This book is for the mothers everywhere but it's also for the girls who aren't mothers. Because we each have a mother.

Mine happens to be my hero in so many ordinary extraordinary ways.

Really, my mother and this mother-friend of mine, they're quite similar. They both encourage me to follow my dreams, they push me out of comfort zones, and they love me for who I am.

Surprised by Motherhood is for all of us. It's an honest book, not a how-to or a this-is-what's-required list. Lisa-Jo reminds all of us, mothers and daughters, that love will have the final word.

This if for you. This is for me. This is for us.

There are too many of our sisters who need to know that they are not forgotten, they are not lost, they are not overlooked - but instead Jesus looks deep into their wash and rinse and repeat routine and says - THAT IS MINE. That is holy and good and I name it beautiful and necessary. - Lisa-Jo Baker

She has treated me like a daughter and I am proud of her, not just for her words or this book but because I have watched her write and love and wake early to step into dreams, all while mothering well in the good and in the messy.

I won't pretend to know the sacrifice of mothering but I can guarantee that as a daughter I have watched and learned.

The big moments speak out and speak up but it's the quiet daily times that sting my eyes. There's a woman in a chair with her feet curled under her in the corner of this Starbucks in Alabama, a man on his phone with a hot cup and an open laptop, and me with tears in my eyes typing these words.

I'm home but I'm twelve hours from my mom and so am I really home?

Talk of graduation has begun and with it brings questions of where I'll end up. I've always said Nashville but just this morning I was asked if I could live so far from family after these four years end. I speak a confident yes but the tears in my eyes tell a different story.

Every time Lisa-Jo writes about her Zoe I cry. I know it's coming and I read anyways because I know that if my mom wrote, those are the words she would speak over me.

To the mothers, may you know that the sacrificing does not go unnoticed or unappreciated. May you be surprised by motherhood when your daughter up and leaves for college, only to realize at twenty-one that somewhere along the way of growing up you became her hero.

And so this one is for the ones who have mothered me and this one is for all the daughters of all the mothers that need to be reminded of where they've come from.

And this book is for you. Right where you are, mother or daughter or friend.

You can get the first three chapters for free on Lisa-Jo's book page and there are several links below where you can purchase Surprised by Motherhood!

I can't recommend this book enough and I couldn't be more thankful for the friendship with this woman that has come as a such a gift.

DaySpring // Barnes and Noble // LifeWay // Books-a-Million

*Photos 4 and 5 from Lisa-Jo's blog.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

God In Slow Motion [Book Review]

"Christ alone is the substance of our hope, the truth on which we rely. Hardship will invade our world and miracles may or may not come, but in every circumstance Jesus all always be Christ. That truth is enough to create faith that can withstand anything." Mike Nappa, God In Slow Motion

We say that we live in a hurry up and wait culture, but if we stop for just a split second and think about it, we live in a hurry up and hurry some more culture.

If we slow down long enough to pause and rest we often feel guilty for "wasting time" and not checking something off the to-do list. Or maybe that's just me.

God has been so sweet to spend the past year teaching me again and again what the word 'rest' actually means. One of the biggest things I learned in Haiti - and learned even more so once stepping back onto American soil - is how much we rush everywhere all the time.

But if you look in the Bible, Jesus never appeared to be in a hurry.

God In Slow Motion by Mike Nappa talks about how Jesus never rushed or hurried through ministry. He took His time, listened intently and loved well, never appearing to be checking things off a list or breezing through an agenda.

He sat. He listened. He took the time to be present.

Throughout God In Slow Motion, Mike Nappa looks at different stories - ten important moments in the life of Jesus - and examines them in light of the busyness of our modern day culture.

In a completely not-joking way, I didn't want to rush through this book. I'm one to pick up a book and stay up all night until it's finished, but this one has been sitting in a neat row on my desk for months. I've read a chapter at a time in coffee shops around Birmingham while trying to figure out how to apply this to daily life.

I personally would say the book functions best as stand-alone chapters. Each chapter looks at one of ten moments, but read together it does not flow seamlessly. However, if you choose to take the time to read one at a time and then sit with the words for a while, it is certainly a book that will make you think.

If you're like me and are always adding one more thing to your overflowing plate of responsibilities and commitments, this is a really good book to help you examine what's important in the long run and will likely convict you, as it did me.

If Jesus wasn't in a hurry then maybe it's time we all slow down and savor the little things just a bit more.

I was provided a free copy of God In Slow Motion from All opinions are solely my own. Affiliate links used.

Friday, April 4, 2014




I finally sat down to order some happy surprises from for my (in)RL gathering and I can not even handle all the amazing goodies and beautiful things I found!

Since I don't want to ruin the surprise for those that are coming, I thought I would share a few of the things I ordered as well as some amazing steals going on right now!

These postcards? Possibly my new favorite thing. I ordered quite a few of the beautiful bracelet sets, too!

(in)courage - Your Story Matters - 4x6 Postcards, Set of 18

Faith, Hope & Love - Gold Bracelet Set

These pocket notebooks and pass along cards are the most convenient, inexpensive gifts I may have ever seen. No joke.

Faith, Hope & Love - Pocket Notebooks - Set of 3
Lyrics for Life - Heart & Soul - Pass Along Cards, Set of 20

A few other favorites:

(in)RL - They Overcame - 8x10 Print
Holley Gerth - Encouragement - Heart to Heart - 12 Boxed Cards
Redeemed - Beloved - Wooden Plaque

And of course cards (for less than $2!) because one can absolutely never ever have enough.

Blank - Everyday Joy - 10 Premium Note Cards
Thank You - I Thank God - 10 Premium Note Cards
Redeemed - Love, Joy, Grace - 10 Packaged Notes
Everything Beautiful - 10 Note Cards

With so many gorgeous new products it was hard to choose but now that the order is placed? It's hard to wait for these and a few other happy surprises to make their way to the campus post office. Major thanks to and (in)courage for creating these new items!

*affiliate links used in this post

Five Minute Friday: Writer

It's a ministry and a calling and the thing that feels right.

It's as natural as breathing but I've been holding my breath.

Five years of writing and I attached the word to my being but send me to Haiti and the words dry up.

I've spent seven days processing and thinking and sitting and waiting. I've made myself busy and made myself be still. I've spoken up and quieted down and all I can see when I close my eyes are these faces.

If I sit quiet long enough I hear the story of the former witch doctor, the voices of the children singing our welcome, and the missionary saying "just tell your story."

And still, the words run dry and my mind walks around the bumpy streets of Haiti. People keep asking how it was and if I've written and I speak a quiet "no" and shake my head side to side.

It's dangerous, this title of writer. Because when you claim it, people expect you to actually, well, write.

This breathing naturally feels like suffocating under the weight of the stories. Someone said once that they bear the weight of an untold story and I hear Haiti's cries and laughs and songs of praise and I want desperately to share but what does the writer do when words run few?

If small is the new big and scared is the new brave then broken is the new beautiful.

These words, they are small and scared and they feel broken, raw and unpolished - but they're a start, a first inhaled breath after too long under water pushing down.

Maybe being a writer has less to do with the amount of posts each week and more to do with the genuine bravery and soul-truth found in the words.

Writers write because they cannot stay silent. Writers carry the torch and fan the flame. Writers speak life and hope and meaning into broken and bruised and worn down souls.

Writers keep on writing even when the words dry up because they know rain will fall again.


Breaking the silence simply because it's Five Minute Friday and I can't stay away. These people, this tribe, it's what community is about.

Related: for when you realize you might actually be a writer // there's nothing small about being brave

Sweet Hannah, this one is much because of you, your encouragement, and your quiet push to allow the words to be the healing and the beginning. You inspire. You encourage. You are a gift.