Goodbye, September and Farewell Instagram, for Now

September is turning golden.

I took a late afternoon hike last Saturday, when the trails were abandoned and the sun was beginning to set. The lowering light beams lit up a field of grass seed—I was so glad I had my camera to capture some of the beauty, and that there was no one else around to think I was crazy laying on the ground to get these angles!

Hunter enjoyed the solitude and open field too while I did my grass seed photo shoot.

In the spring, I had brought Scout on this same hike and he frolicked through the spring grasses. That seems like just yesterday and forever ago.

Time keeps moving.

Summer into autumn.

Moments become memories. Some of them grow sweeter, like the memory of my Scout, running through a meadow.

And others, with space, grow harder. Or rather, the distance allows the space to acknowledge the losses more accurately. I’m strong enough to hold the pain more—simultaneously with much joy and new life.

It means a daily balance of sorrow and joy, grief and gratitude each day.

Contentment in singleness and longing for relationship.

Gratitude for free time for creative pursuits and sadness over childlessness.

—>> What both/and is part of your daily life?

As I’ve grown into this raw and real way of living, one thing that is becoming more and more clear is this—that I want to live in my body, in experience. Not in my head, not virtually.

The simple gifts of being human—of hiking in nature, of playing with and holding my nieces, of laughing with family members, of baking with my hands, of picking apples with a friend, of wading through a creek with my dog Hunter, of drawing with chalky pastels, of practicing soccer with my 9-year old girls team…of taking photographs of grass under the golden sunshine…these are the gifts that have been healing. The gifts of being human.

I’ve decided to more fully lean in to this prescription for joy.

For a while I’ve been struggling with how “social media” fits into my life. As an elder millennial, it’s been ubiquitous in my adult life. And for me in particular, it’s been a source of great harm, and good connection as well. A both/and.

For now, I’m taking a break. I admit, it feels particularly confusing as a “creative” (I don’t want to use the term “content creator!”). My art, photography, and writing have been sources of great joy and healing, which I enjoy sharing…and of course social media marketing is a significant aspect of that these days. So, I admit—I don’t know what this looks like. Perhaps in the future I can figure out a balance. Come on occasionally to share work/connect. I don’t know. I just know that I need a break, and I have serious questions about the role of Instagram and social media in my life long-term. Is anyone else struggling with this? (Leave a comment below👇🏼.)

I don’t think I’m the only one wondering about this. We’ve become so used to our phones, that I think we forget how much technology and the Internet have changed life. In a very short amount of time. In many ways, we are in this historic junction. What is social media, technology, the Internet, doing to us? To me? To you?

This really hit me recently at a soccer practice. During a water break I dropped in on a conversation among several girls and I could tell by their energy level and the decibels of their chatter that they were really excited. As I heard more, they were exclaiming their excitement that when they turned ten, their parents would let them get Tik Tok. They were so excited to get Tik Tok.

My heart just sank. Not that Tik Tok or Instagram are inherently wrong, but to see 9-year old girls awaiting the arrival of Tik Tok in their life like it’s the best thing they could hope for…that was heart-breaking. Because yes, it might be fun, surely it will deliver some dopamine (because that’s how all of social media is engineered), but it’s also likely to have a lot of other detrimental effects, like anxiety and depression. My soccer girls are still pretty sweet and innocent right now. I want them to be excited about books, and sports, learning, and playtime, and new experiences…not Tik Tok.

(My heart and prayers go out to all the parents navigating how to do this and set boundaries and help their kids be part of the world too!! It is hard, I get it!!)

We’re all in this whole new world together. Technology isn’t going away. Will social media one day? I don’t know. Is it really sustainable in the future? I don’t know.

What I do know, is that for me, I need a break.

I plan to hang around here more, on my website, with my creative pursuits, but I’m actually quite excited about the social media break—I’m hopeful, praying, and expectant for a renewed season of being human, of being me—not the “somebody” I think I need to be online.

My prayer is that we all find wisdom in navigating life when the Internet is all around us. May you feel the sunshine, the breeze, and soak in the beauty of the changing seasons.

A Weekend Filled with Feelings

It’s a weekend filled with feelings.

Full hearts,
longing hearts,
struggling hearts,
broken hearts,
grieving hearts,
and grateful ones too.

Hopefully, we can see it,
not as a weekend of haves and haves nots,
but days to look more closely for grace.
To hold grief and gratitude,
equally as each emotion needs to be honored.

We are women of complexity, 
far beyond the hashtags and squares 
that fill our screens.

To be a woman is a beautiful thing.
And it’s a hard thing— 
in a world that seems like it says,
if you’re not a model or a mother 
or a #girlboss with a million followers—
and performing it all perfectly—then,
you’re nothing…
… no.
Let’s not look to false standards,
or insidious internal lies;
worth and dignity come from within,
the gifts of humanity given by God.

Let’s rejoice with one another, 
celebrating good gifts;
like the laughter of little children,
and the warm arms of wisdom;
while respecting our wounds too.
The deep places of long ago,
along with the present spaces that ache.
We can nurture our own hearts,
when we hold tenderly, 
every dream, 
every loss, 
every precious joy.

Dear ladies,
I see you.
As the beautiful woman each of you are;
artist, dreamer, thinker, giver,
daughter, sister, mother, friend.
Let us see one another,
know one another,
love one another
and be,
who we are meant to be.

May we keep growing—our families, and our souls—in grace.

What is this Season Inviting You To?

The wind whipped today, and I found myself shivering a few times while out with my dogs, despite being bundled in my winter coat, and gloves, freshly pulled from the closet for the first time since April. The weekend too, felt different, with rains, wind, the cold coming in, and sparse sunshine.

A new season is upon us.

There’s no hiding from it, especially considering NEXT WEEK is Thanksgiving. Which means Christmas will creep up in no time.

I’m still trying to hold on to the bits and pieces of fall, though. I came upon this beautiful spot last week, as the fall colors were desperately holding on for a few more days of glorious color.

The scene appeared to me as a welcoming, an invitation. Perhaps it was its warmth, or its opening to a world of color; I’m not sure exactly, but I do know that I want to receive this beautiful invitation.

And so I wonder…what will these weeks hold? What is this season inviting me to?

That’s the question on my heart.

There is certainly a pull to the hustle and bustle, frantic rushing, fretting over supply chain issues, making and performing so that everything is just right, or at least looks just right on Instagram.

But I don’t think that’s what our hearts truly want.

What if we could heed the invitation to slow down, to look, and listen, to soak up the season for all that it truly is?

That type of attentiveness and openness to the world around us seems to become harder in this holiday season – gone are the gorgeous sights of spring, summer, and beautiful spots like these from the fall.

And instead we come upon the barrenness of the winter.

But even in a season of darkness and decay, there is light and there is life happening below the surface…Will we notice it?

I have been learning and striving in this work, as I’ve shared a bit about with summer wildflowers, fireweed, and the unfurling of ferns. But I am still learning, always learning. And right now, I am really enjoying thinking about this spiritual practice in terms of holy noticing.

In his book, Holy Noticing: The Bible, Your Brain, and the Mindful Space Between Moments, Charles Stone describes this as “Noticing, with a holy purpose, God and His handiwork, our relationships, and our inner world of thoughts and feelings.” But central to this slowing down and awareness to both surroundings and what’s going on inside us, is noticing God first and foremost, and trusting his goodness and timing, accepting that we do not know and see everything.

What an invitation that is!

To see, to notice the good, to trust.

That is the invitation that I am going to accept for this season, even if in some moments it is more of a begrudging acceptance. And I hope you will join me, too. But whatever the invitation that is on your heart this season, I hope you will accept.

May we all find the opening to slow down, and to listen to whatever the welcoming is that weighs on our soul. And when we slow down, when we listen, may we hear and know the lovingkindness of the Lord.

Recent Posts:

Summer Wildflowers

The summer is slipping away. I don’t want it to end. Do you?

I like to hold on to every moment of a shifting season. To day by day, notice the small changes. The angle of the sun. Flicks of color in the leaves. The golden hue of autumn creeping in.

Perhaps it’s a manifestation of anxiety? Go slow because the prospect of fast change is too much? Or, settled into the rhythms of one season, there is fear of what the next one will bring?

How can one entirely know? I’m not sure. But as I grow, and continue in this new slow pace though, I am learning how the Lord is gracious with all that’s on our heart, including every fear, and every hope.

With a new season on the horizon—he has reminded me, there will always be new delights along the way. Even if it’s as simple as an unexpected wildflower, the simple joys are there. Sometimes, you may just have to wander off the beaten path or look a little more closely.

I have been amazed to discover new wildflowers blooming in places I never remembered…of a gorgeous fall color palette, soaking up the late summer sun.

I’m grateful for these late summer wildflowers, a show of God’s creativity and provision. I don’t know what this fall will bring, but I know God will be with me—will be with you—in it all.

Looking for the Fireweed of Life

Fires are deadly and destructive. At both Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, I saw first-hand the damage that wildfires can do.

On a hike along St. Mary’s Lake in Glacier National Park, I could even still smell the effects – the odor of burnt wood still wafted in the air.

Fires unfortunately happen. Sometimes it’s negligence, which is incredibly frustrating, criminal-even. And often, it happens more naturally – dry conditions and a lightning strike.

I’m not a botanist, or a naturalist, or a park ranger (obviously!) but I do like looking for the meaning and significance in the natural world around me. And I think fires have something to tell us.

Fires change the terrain. There is a ton of interesting reading one can find about the value of fire to the environment. Here’s a snippet from the National Park Service (click the images below to read more):

“Fire is part of a cycle in most ecosystems. It reduces dead vegetation, stimulates new growth, and improves habitat for wildlife, many of the details park visitors imagine when they think of a national park. With fire suppression, fire was removed from the cycle and ecosystems began to get out of balance.”

An informational sign for the Three Falls Trail, my aforementioned hike, noted “The Reynolds Fired burned most of this area in 2015. The fire opened up new vistas and wildflowers abound in this dramatically changed landscape.”

And I love this description from a National Geographic informational book on the impact of the great fires of 1988 on Yellowstone:

What an interesting metaphor – the creative destruction of fire.

As I hiked through the burned out forest at Glacier, and yet was overcome by the beauty of the view of the lake and the beautiful wildflowers growing everywhere, I couldn’t help think of what a picture it painted for my own life. Metaphorical destruction, and yet beauty coming up from the ashes.

Don’t we all have fires in our lives?

Sometimes, they are fast and quick, the damage can be minimized. Other times, the fire is all-consuming, destroying everything in its wake. Nothing is familiar, and you’re forced to navigate wholly unfamiliar terrain. Perhaps even your body bears the physical scars, an additional handicap to moving forward.

How to go on?

First, grieve the fire. Give your body, your heart time to rest.

And then?

Accept the force of the fire. Look for new vistas and fireweed blossoms.

“Fireweed is a tall showy wildflower that grows from sea level to the subalpine zone. A colorful sight in many parts of the country, fireweed thrives in open meadows, along streams, roadsides, and forest edges. The name fireweed stems from its ability to colonize areas burned by fire rapidly. It was one of the first plants to appear after the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980. Known as rosebay willowherb in Great Britain, fireweed quickly colonized burned ground after the bombing of London in World War II, bringing color to an otherwise grim landscape.”

Where are the new landscapes opened up in life – that you never could have dreamed of before?

What are the new wildflowers that are now free and open to germinate, blossom, and flourish – bringing unexpected beauty and delight?

How are the debris and dead trees providing an opportunity for new life to come alive?

I am not minimizing the utter destruction, pain, and impact of fire. I know it first-hand. But I have also experienced the complicated beauty of the wildfire. Life can find a way. There is always newness available. Fireweed will appear.

And above all else, on the moments when there’s not a glimpse or a hope of the fireweed, I can know that the Creator of this vast world is with me – when my reality and body are threatened, my soul is always safe:

When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.

(Isaiah 43:2)

It is truly incredible to me how the earth can regenerate after fire. Nature is pretty amazing! And yet, I don’t think it’s surprising given that is just how God works – always working towards redemption.

Keep looking for fireweed, friends.

Receiving the Sunset

The Practice of Receiving Love

The February sky put on a show last weekend!

I wandered the shoreline, watching the evening progress through several stages of beauty. The cold of the night contributed to a sensory experience, as I soaked in the crisp air, the colors, and the calls of various birds on the water and in the woods.

Back in my car, the heater blasting as the last vestiges of color faded, I sat for a few minutes thinking about what it is that makes a sunset experience so powerful. After all, I go to this spot frequently to watch the setting sun, shouldn’t it get old?

It doesn’t; it may not be quite as memorable with the colors each time as it was this night (or like THIS STUNNING SUNSET I wrote about last year), but it’s always meaningful. It is a gift, which must be received, with me giving nothing in return. It’s a practice of learning about and receiving God’s love.

To sit and observe the sky,
Somersaulting into glorious colors,
Is a precious gift

It’s a liturgy of learning to be still,
Of welcoming peace,
A practice of receiving love.

As the shades of a setting sun unfold into beauty,
All I can do is watch and wait;

No where to go but to be present.

This moment is real and true;
I am safe and secure,
In my space and in the Father’s love.

An evening experience for the senses;
So that my soul can rest and receive,
The love that is mine, is coming, and that I am becoming.

God’s love is steadfast, enduring, redeeming, and never-ending. As a child of God, I can’t earn it or lose it (just ask the Israelites). It’s so easy to be conditioned through our culture (🙋🏼‍♀️) that God loves us because we are good, achieve, or do the right things. He desires for us to follow him in obedience, don’t get me wrong! But that doesn’t earn his love; rather, the outflow of a heart that abides in him should be a life of faithfulness. Ultimately, he loves you for who you are, not for what you do.

This can take a lifetime to truly live out, I believe. To rest securely in his love, and not our own control. That’s why each sunset, as a practice of receiving love, is such a gift.

Here’s to becoming a professional sunset-watcher, basking in the light of God’s love!

A song to consider for the week, from Koryn Hawthorne, “How Great,” on the theme of God’s love!

Grace I don’t deserve
Forgiveness I can’t earn
For this I will praise you.
Love that covers all
Love that makes me whole,
For this I will praise you.

Pour Over Me Your Holiness

It’s beginning to feel a lot like winter!

As I wandered the woods this weekend, the wind whipped, and the chill cut to my bone. But beams of sunshine and a brisk pace brought warmth to my face and core.

With the trees completely bare, except for a few pines and holly plants, and the leaves crushed along the trail, I was aware of the death all around me. Gone is the vibrancy of summer; it has broken down into this necessary phase of the seasons, the rhythm of renewal for the flourishing of the forest. For new life in spring time, death and detritus must come first.

The woods in winter, is a place of death. Like the world, without Jesus.

As I walked, the Christmas song that danced through my head was one of my modern favorites, Breath of Heaven, by Amy Grant.

Breath of heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of heaven
Breath of heaven
Lighten my darkness
Pour over me your holiness
For you are holy

I came upon one of my favorite spots and was struck by the contrast—a little pool created by a mini cascade of fresh water before it forms a creek on its way to the bay.

Watching this little waterfall, was a perfect moment of serenity. Of peace (an answered prayer from last week). The sound of the constant flowing of streaming waters felt true and holy and life-giving.

It was a reminder of gratitude for the living water that is the gift of God.

The spirit of God, the breath of God, is like a well-spring deep within the hearts of those whose believe.

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.””
‭‭John‬ ‭4:13-14‬ ‭NIV‬‬

There is too much death and destruction in this world to live without this living water. Even the good things won’t ultimately satisfy; they won’t quench the soul’s thirst for God.

This living spring, signed with a seal at baptism when water is poured on the body, is a renewing source. A well of rest and regeneration, supplying the soul with a source for sanctification, each and every day.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:16-18 NIV‬‬

In the wasting-away woods, the wilderness, and in this world of woes, one needs Jesus.

This Advent season, if you are looking for rest and renewal, strength and serenity, hope and holiness, draw on the living waters of Christ. It is a well that will never run dry.

Savoring every second at this spot of serenity (except for a quick selfie!)

Disperse the Gloomy Clouds of Night

And all of a sudden, Advent is upon us and Christmas is right around the corner.

The mild weather this weekend allowed for a few hikes crunching through fallen leaves, as waning light led the way through bare trees, and across cold creeks.

The nice temperatures were also a good opportunity, apparently, for many to put up Christmas lights. As I drove home from the woods on Sunday evening at dusk, my neighborhood was adorned with house upon house of Christmas lights. It was lovely!

As Advent begins at the end of this difficult year, there was something about these lights appearing tonight that moved me and brought tears to my eyes—tears filled with sadness but also great hope. Tears of gratitude for the simple beauty and tradition of twinkling lights upon trees, sparkling reindeer, and light-lit nativity scenes.

I’m feeling the tension this year. Isn’t that what waiting is about? The tension between the here and now and what is to come, for whatever we are waiting.

As I joined with my fellow, spaced-apart congregants in a masked but no-less meaningful singing of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” this morning, I was feeling the tension. The tension of those minor chords, noting the lonely exile, and the longing of Israel for its promised Savior, Emmanuel.

I was feeling the tension of the joy of the knowledge of the incarnation, with the weight of the sorrows of this present world, as believers everywhere await the return of the Lord of Might, once and for all, setting all things right.

The tension of waiting is weighty, filled with grief and groans. It pushes and it pulls, punctuated with joy and goodness along the way. All along, it’s underlaid with longing.

But we have the light.

O come, Thou Day-Spring
Come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, o Israel

While I have been feeling the tension, I am praying for peace this season. For myself, of course, for my community, this country, the world. But true peace only comes from Jesus, the one we await in Advent. Christ came, “through the tender mercy of God,” to show the way of salvation. He came as the day-spring, like a rising sun,

to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.

Luke 1:78

The light illuminates the pathway of life, as we live as exiles, again, in a world filled with gloomy clouds, and dark shadows of death.

The day-spring lightens our loads, and lifts our tension.

The light leads the way.

Emmanuel, who has come once, and will come again, is the prince of peace.

He is the light of life and love, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Peace and blessings as we wait together this Advent, in the year of our Lord, 2020.

Emmanuel, who has come once, and will come again, is the prince of peace.

Some helpful reads on “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”:

Desiring God
Ligonier Ministries
Mere Orthodoxy
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
Theology of the Carols

Thoughts on Thirty-Five

Birthday Musings

Oh what a year it’s been. Here I am smiling on my birthday last year, with no idea what 34/2020 would bring!

Yesterday on a pre-birthday outing, I visited a winery with a dear friend. I have always enjoyed wineries, but this time the spiritual symbolism was jumping out at me.

The vines and branches.

The pruning process.

The grapes and the wine-making.

The aging.

It’s been a year of crushing, to a degree, for all of us. For me, I’ve been pushed to the brink with physical pain from an injury that sent me to a surgeon. Have persevered through physical therapy, trusting that the daily imperceptible changes add up to full healing. (And praise God, they have!!!)

Through it all, the pruning has been hard. And yet, I know it is for my good—and for God’s glory. That I may bear much fruit for him.

Through this, I have also been learning the value, rather the necessity, of dependence. My family has always been a rock to me. With COVID, my injury, and other challenges, 2020 has showed me, more than ever, how much we need each other.

My parents are especially my heroes! Godly, loving, supportive parents are an incredible blessing and I am eternally grateful for mine!

An abundant grape vine requires care and pruning by a master gardener. Likewise a fine wine does not become so on its own. It is a process—many people play a role.

As I hit 35—an age between two decades—I hope and pray that the work the Lord does in me always points to him. He is in control and his loving-kindness never ends.

As a new year unfolds for me, I pray that his love also flows forth!

Thank you, dear readers, for following along this year! It’s been a joy to spend more time on this blog over the past year.

Attentiveness and the Fruit of the Spirit

What a Justin Bieber Music Video Taught Me About Paying Attention

I cried over a Justin Bieber music video. 2020 really is wild.

Watch to the end, when the distraught couple are invited in the “direction of a warm meal.”

Hopefully you made it to the end! It might be understandable if you didn’t…human attention span is decreasing. It doesn’t take a study to recognize our modern dilemma of constant bombardment of information, technology, social media, etc.

The illustration of attentiveness in this video struck me as a beautiful antidote to the noise. I was caught up in the plight of the young couple – burdened by job loss and family abandonment – when a kind soul, who surely is juggling his own trials, notices the homeless pair and invites them to his home. The kind, selfless, non-judgmental hospitality portrayed is beautiful!

I was touched and challenged by this song and video – if I slow down, and pay attention, what might I notice around me?

Every human has a story, with unique wounds and wisdom. If we listen, we can both love and learn.

Every human needs love. We were created by love and for love-in relationship and community.

Every human has a story, with unique wounds and wisdom. If we listen, we can both love and learn.

Ultimately, attentiveness displays kindness, goodness, gentleness…does this ring a bell?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22, ESV)

These characteristics exude Christ and attract the human heart, opening the door to God’s love – the love we all most desperately need. If there is anything we need next month, I’d say it’s definitely attentiveness with the fruit of the Spirit!

As we continue through a very hard year, and a divisive season as we head into October, I want to challenge myself to pay attention – to notice the humans around me (including when it’s me!) who are hurting and in need of love. Will you join me?

Here are a few specific ideas for practicing and forming a spirit of attentiveness:

  1. Text a friend going through a trial to check-in, and let them know you’ll follow up next week (or invite them to coffee!).
  2. Go for a walk around your neighborhood and leave the phone at home.
  3. Try the 5-4-3-2-1 method to reduce anxiety. It will keep you grounded and cultivate your ability to notice your surroundings.
  4. Meditate on the fruit of the spirit (or another meaningful Scripture passage).
  5. Spend some time in nature and notice the little things to practice attentiveness.

Blessings on October. I’d love to know your thoughts on the video, or other practices for paying attention in the comments!