Her Favorite Hymn

My grandma, Marie Black, passed away yesterday morning.

She was 97 years old. She was amazing. She loved Jesus. She loved us.

We are thankful she’s home with the Lord now, because she’s no longer struggling, no longer barely existing, but is now whole and free.

About a week prior to her passing, I’d gone in to check on her because I noticed she was talking nonsensically in her room. Her oxygen had come off, she was disoriented, so I put it back on her. You could tell she was full of anxiety in moments like these, struggling to breathe and feeling weak.

To get her mind off of it, I asked what her favorite hymn was. Without hesitation, she said in a clear voice, “Higher Ground.” So yesterday, when I heard of how she had gone home, I wanted to remember her, to honor her, to worship the Lord in thankfulness that he had received her.

So, here is Grandma’s favorite hymn.

The third verse says this,

I want to live above the world,
Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground.

I love that. I know she is singing with them now.

 

Amen.

 

SaveSave

When You’re Misunderstood {And There’s Nothing You Can Do}

It’s hard to be a lover of beauty and creating and things of the soul and be misunderstood by other human beings. I mean, just because someone isn’t artsy doesn’t mean they don’t have a soul; technically, aren’t we all soulful in some way?

Photography credit: Kara Cline Photography

But in spite of this, other people can seem like another species, whether it’s people you’re related to or someone you work with or even a friend. Maybe someone has misunderstood a dream that breaks your heart with its bigness, or maybe they misunderstood comments you’ve made, or a text you sent. (As far as communication goes, texting can really be the worst.) 

Sometimes, I think there are seasons of misunderstanding, or being misunderstood… or both. Where is the grace? It’s tempting to ask, brandishing a fist at the world. I think it’s a good question, especially as members of the body of Christ. How do we have grace with each other, no matter who is doing the misunderstanding?

Ecclesiastes 7:20-22 says,

Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous,
    no one who does what is right and never sins.

Do not pay attention to every word people say,

    or you may hear your servant cursing you—

for you know in your heart
    that many times you yourself have cursed others.

Sometimes, we hear other people’s words, and we store them up in our heart and let them define us. At least, I do.

Photography credit: Kara Cline Photography

But they don’t define us. Neither does a perception someone has or even a lot of people. Even if we do something wrong, that doesn’t define us either.

We are defined as children of God. That’s where the grace is. Or rather, He is where the grace is. God is there, clothing us in redemption, and clothing others in it, too. Even those who misunderstand and hurt us (intentionally or otherwise). 

It still stings when they do. It’s not easy to just respond from a place of grace all the time (especially if it’s someone who just pushes your buttons, right?) But I’ve found that if- at the very least- I can catch myself before my blood hits boiling point, that I can coach myself to remember Christ. Oh yeah- and those redemption clothes I mentioned.

Where is the grace? It comes from God- and now because of Christ, it comes from me too. You know- theoretically. But perspective makes all the difference. Often, we have to fight for it.

So, here’s some perspective for you:

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature[a] God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.”

Philippians 2: 1-11

You know what gets me about that section in Philippians 2? The part where it says, “Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” My first instinct is, “Yes. That’s a good thing. Loving and serving others. Totally.” But my second is, “Wait, what? Even that person who has contributed nothing but stress, drama, angst, and tears to my life for months? Years?? Value them as better than myself????”

To which Jesus says, “Yes.” And that’s all he has to say. Because he has the authority to say it. If we are in Christ, then we are children of God, and therefore we are on level ground, because we are all his sons and daughters. So, I must give grace to Thorn-in-my-Side, because before the Lord their name is Child. And so is mine.

Photography credit: Kara Cline Photography

If you’re finding yourself in a conversation, a relationship, or a whole season of just being plain misunderstood, may this encourage you to settle into the good garments of grace- given through Jesus, who- to put it mildly- knows what it’s like to be misunderstood.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Evie’s First Birthday: The Post of a Thousand Pictures

As I mentioned the other dayEvangeline Grace turned one on the 26th. One! My sweet little baby girl!!! Man, I have all the feelings about this. We even had a party for her- go us!

I say “even” because if you have more than one child, you know that it suddenly becomes way harder to do the things you did for child #1, i.e. taking monthly photos documenting their growth (or lack thereof: come on people, sometimes they don’t look that different depending on the month, amiright?) or in this case, planning and throwing their first birthday.

Let me disclaim that a major reason I didn’t even think a birthday party was doable for Evie was because we have almost no free weekends in the months of September and October this year. They’re either filled with traveling out of town or time-consuming events and commitments. (Side note: I like the word “commitments” better than “obligations”; doesn’t the latter just sound like you’re being a reactionary victim of your life instead of a proactive liver of your life? That sounded like I was describing a proactive internal organ…whatever, you get it.)

BUT. Thanks largely to my mom, we carved out some time during one of our weekend trips to their house the weekend before her birthday! There was even a theme!! Well, the cake had a theme. It counts. AND she had an amazing, epic birthday outfit. So, if that doesn’t prove my love for her is equal to my love for our firstborn, I don’t know what will.

Without further ado, here are a thousand pictures:

Look at her. She’s just presh. Also? She was tired, because the party was right after church on Sunday. I mean, she was real tired. Here’s a better representation of where she was at emotionally:

She has also been teething hardcore for awhile. And her allergies are acting up (thus the snot. soooo pretty). But all things considered, she kept it together as long as she could.

See? WOODLAND CREATURES. Theme. Mom even got her this adorable deer stuffed animal, which she totally loves.

Plastic woodland creature rings because THEME.

Don’t even care that my eyes are closed. I love this picture of us. Isn’t it great that photos don’t have to be perfect to be special?

I feel like I took a million pictures just of her sitting in that same chair eating and/or glowering… But again, I don’t care. And check it out- you can see how tired she is in this next one:

Bless her heart. She was so tired she wasn’t even interested in her smash cake. Not even a little. Like, I tried to offer her a piece and she smacked it away. So, finally I conceded defeat and laid her down for a nap. She was a trooper; AND she left that birthday hat headband on the whole time! Way to go, Evie.

Like I mentioned, the party took place two days before her actual birthday. So, on Tuesday, September 26th, I got out the leftover cake and the birthday hat headband again and let her at it.

I MEAN. I know she’s my child, but SO CUTE.

Clearly, she was in a better state of mind, because she destroyed that cake. I hadn’t planned on taking the girls anywhere on Tuesday, but looking at her in that hat and thinking about the epic tutu that went with it, I decided we needed to go somewhere and show off.

So, we went to Target, obvi.

I even let Lucy wear her Sofia the First dress, because birthdays necessitate the wearing of ballgowns. (Don’t mind that scary red mark on her face. I told her not to jump on my bed…and she did it anyway. Thus, scary red mark and tearful requests for Mommy to get an icepack.)

It was a good time. Errbody in Target was jealous of our epic tutus and ballgowns.

My favorite photos (other than the awesome grumpy face) are probably these two:

Evangeline Grace.

We’re just so thankful for her. We had planned to start trying for a second baby about six months after we found out we were expecting, which is kind of awesome, because it’s totally reflective of how Evie has been a step ahead of us ever since she was born.

I love this photo from the day she was born. My husband and dad had gone out on an errand and came back with a mocha for me from my fav local coffee place called Cavu Coffee. I mean, beautiful newborn plus good coffee?? Does it get any better???

I also thought she was a boy when I first found out I was pregnant with her. But I remember discussing names with Ryan and suddenly thinking of “Evangeline.” I think I gasped aloud when I paired it with “Grace” because GUYS. Evangeline means “Messenger of Good News” and “Grace” is the good news of the gospel. GAH I just love it. I’m sure I love it more than people who aren’t the parent of my child, but still. Isn’t giving your baby a meaningful name just awesome?

God knew we needed Evangeline. He knew the world needed her. The two words we most often use to describe her are fierce and sweet. Because she is the physical embodiment of them! She’s so feisty, and yet she also loves people.

Being a witness to her life is like hearing an ominous crash of thunder and feeling the weight of the air thick with the makings of a storm. You know that sense of awe you feel deep in your spirit in those moments? That’s what it’s like being around Evie.

Happy Birthday, you sweet and fierce girl.

 

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

How I Happy: Pre-Fall 2017 Edition

Once upon a time, I intended for this How I Happy type of post to occur monthly. And it did, for awhile. Then, I had a baby. My second to be specific. And ever since then, I’ve been- to put it mildly- transitioning.

I mean. Isn’t she CUTE?!

Still, it’s been one big transition, and it’s taken almost an entire year for me to find a new rhythm. I know. It’s totally normal to feel this way whenever you add a new member to your family. But certainly on my list of priorities, blogging fell so far down the list, it shared ranks with things like cleaning out our storage unit or going to the dentist. (So like, it wasn’t even on the list.)

So, how am I happying lately? Let me just shake the dust off my brain and I’ll tell you.

First of all, I’m happy- SO happy- that summer is almost over. OVER, I tell you! And now that we’re almost totally through September (how did that even happen?) pre-fall is thoroughly underway. Shortly to be followed by actual fall. (And there was much rejoicing. MUCH.) 

Okay, truth be told, the most summeriest parts of summer went extra quickly for me; well, not quickly so much as they basically didn’t even happen from my perspective. This is because I ended being sick with severe pneumonia for about a month…as in, it was so bad I was hospitalized. Yeah. It was horrible. The scariest thing was the shallow breathing that carried on for days before I finally realized I needed to go to the ER. Have you ever not been able to breathe normally? For days??? I mean, it was over a week before I finally felt able to breathe like a near human being again!

Look at this sweet baby. This was when she saw me for the first time after I’d been in the hospital a couple days; she just laid herself upon me. Oh my heart!!

However. We were so abundantly blessed by people from our church giving their time and- equally important- their food to help us get through all the mess. One of my good friends even brought me Starbucks and a bag of face wipes and dry shampoo and amazingness! (What do people do who don’t have church family? Who brings them casseroles when they can’t even inhale and exhale???) 

We were also super thankful to my mom who came over to kind of take turns with Ryan watching the girls and/or visiting me (and bringing me goodies and magazines), as well as my amazing mother-in-law who stayed with us the whole week after I was discharged from the hospital so I could, you know, actually recover and my kids would not, you know, go insane. So many good people.

Man. Thank you, good people.

Okay so that was all number one but I promise the others won’t be as long-winded. (Ha. That’s hilarious.) 

Secondly, I am happying because my 3-year-old daughter LOVES FALL AS MUCH AS ME. You guys. I can’t stress enough how adorable it is when my child recognizes fall decor, gasps audibly, and cries out with great jubilation that she sees fall stuff.

Examples:

1.We went to Dollar Tree back in early August (you know how I feel about Dollar Treebecause of their fab faux-leaves and garlands and whatnot to replenish our fall faux-leaves and garlands supply, and as soon as we got home, she said excitedly, “After nap time I wan’ decorate wiv’ you for FALL!!!”

I was planning to wait awhile…but when she said that I was like, “OKAY YES LET’S DO THAT TOGETHER!!!!!!” So obviously, we had to decorate for fall even though it was still a billion degrees out. Who even cares?

Post Dollar-Tree Adventure Starbucks, naturally. Don’t even worry about that double chin. It’s all good.

2.The other day, I pointed out a tree with leaves already changing to yellow to her, and I said, “Do you know what that means?” And together, with equally crazy eyes and jubilant voices we simultaneously shrieked, “FALL!!!!!!!” after which she threw herself into my arms and cackled with alarming giddiness. It was awesome.

3.Following this revelation, she has proceeded to bring up said tree to every person with whom I have a conversation lasting longer than one minute. I JUST LOVE HER. (Except when she throws tantrums of apocalyptic proportion…but let’s not go there.)

Moving on to Happy #3… Sometimes, there are just people in your life whom you know are wonderful kindred spirits that totally get you and make your life better. So you impulsively get them a present. An awesome present, featuring a pink mug with a unicorn prancing upon it declaring, “Just Believe” which I think we can all agree is in equal parts hilarious and awesome and would make anyone feel like a boss in their life…

And then, when you tell this particular bestie you have a present for them, they’re like, “Whaaaaat????!!!! You don’t need to get me pres- oh. You know what? I actually have a present for you too.” And you get together and the present they give you IS SO EPIC AND AMAZING AND PERFECT YOU NEED BETTER WORDS TO DO IT JUSTICE.

Yeah. That totally happened to me. The bestie? Ella. The gift? As follows:

  • A veritable cornucopia of beautiful little faux-pumpkins from the Target Dollar Spot (that I had lamented my Target not having any because I’d wanted some!!!)
  • A BEAUTIFUL travel mug with gold leaves etched on it (also from the Target Dollar Spot because that place just don’t quit, y’all…well, except when they run out of faux-pumpkins.)
  • And- AND?! A PAWNEE GODDESSES T-SHIRT YOU GUYS. (Listen, I know I’m writing in all-caps a lot, but that is because I have big feelings so I’m using the big letters and I’m just owning it.)  The link right there is exactly the shirt I have!! Well, I think it is. It looks exactly like mine anyway, and it’s awesome!!!!

Other awesome things that happened over the last few months? Well, I quit nursing on August 30th. WOOHOO!!!! I know lots of mommas love nursing with their whole being and that is great for them, but y’all, I barely made it to eleven months. I was already over it when Evie hit 4 months, so basically someone should throw me a parade for doing it as long as I did.

Also, in August, I had the honor of being commissioned to paint a Scripture mural on a wall at the church where I grew up. That was SUCH a fun project!!!

Fyi, I based this pretty closely on a design I found on Pinterest by Cory Say. There were some things I changed, but overall it’s very similar.

(I also got to see Andrew Peterson in concert that same weekend, but was too exhausted to think of taking any pictures while I was there.)

I also acquired some Apple Cider hand soap by Mrs. Meyers and it is The Best Cider-scented Anything in Creation (except maybe actual cider). Go get you some.

Last but not least, I got to go to Experience Conference in Orlando a couple weeks ago; it was SO good and so life-giving for both my husband and me. We’re both really passionate about creative arts and worship ministry (and ministry in general, but that was the focus of this conference) and this marked the first opportunity since our girls were born to get away together! Admittedly, though it wasn’t a relax by the beach vacation or something, it was 100% the most relaxing thing we’ve done this year.

I even got to go to a songwriting pre-con workshop!!! YOU GUYS. Along with somewhere between 25-30 others who participated, I got to meet and connect with actual industry songwriters including Jon Egan, Michael Farren, Krissy Nordhoff, Paul Baloche, and Andy Rozier. IT. WAS. AMAZING.

Not only did we get to listen to them review and give helpful (and gracious) feedback to a handful of songs submitted by attendees, we got to break up into groups and do a co-write with them. I had never gotten to co-write with anyone, which is actually highly unusual in the real songwriting world. Naturally, I felt a degree of apprehension. But even though I’m so green to cowriting, I absolutely loved every second of it. Do you ever do something and you are just the most fully alive version of yourself when you do that thing? That’s how I feel about singing/songwriting.

Four other attendees and myself got to write with Andy Rozier and a fellow songwriter and friend of his from their church, Harvest Bible Church. I really could just write about this experience for a whole day, but I’ll just say that the Holy Spirit moved in many ways. For me, I felt a distinct shift in my posture regarding songwriting, and really life as a whole.

My favorite thing Andy said was that God didn’t give us the gift of songwriting to bless the church. He gave us the gift of songwriting to spend time with us. Wow. I would argue that that statement carries truth for many parts of our lives and isn’t limited to songwriting alone. He also said that when you write a song, it’s like building a boat: sometimes it’s a big boat that will carry a lot of people like “Revelation Song” for example, and other times it’s a boat that’s only for you and Jesus.

These two statements alone would’ve been worth traveling all the way to Orlando. Because they’ve clarified my vision and my approach to the creative faculties God has put inside me.

Someday, I’d love to share the song we wrote, but I don’t have a recording of that ready yet.

Clearly, much has transpired in the last several months! And today, just so happens to be my precious baby girl’s first birthday!! But I’ll be doing a separate post about that because there may or may not be a thousand pictures involved…

This is a small space, this blog where I write. And I have had to let go of writing regularly here for the past year. I’m here to tell you, it’s ok to let go of creative pursuits for a season. I find myself in a beautiful season, but one that requires a lot of fluidity; I work a handful of jobs as well as working on a handful of hobbies. But most importantly, I’m hanging out with an awesome guy and taking care of some sweet little girls that won’t be little for long.

If you read my posts regularly here, I hope you’ll forgive my absence this year. Here’s hoping this year I’ll be able to write a little more often! (I miss it; for one thing, it helps me remember my life a whole lot better!)

This was a long and semi-scattered How I Happy, but I do hope you enjoyed it! Here’s to new seasons- literal and figurative. And let’s hope fall gets here, already!

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

Artist Feature: Albion Tea Company! When Tea is More Than Tea

Today’s Artist Feature is one of the single most inspiring, mobilizing stories of beauty and heart that I’ve had the privilege of sharing so far on this blog.

Deborah and Brock Wilkie are the founders of Albion Tea Company, a business + ministry that not only creates beautiful and delicious teas (and even herbal coffees- what?!) and tea products, but also utilizes their heart for the broken, marginalized, and needy. They are doing good as well as creating good product and I simply can’t say enough about them!

Settle in with a cuppa for my interview with Deborah as she tells of the adventures that led them to start this exciting journey! (All product photography by Kara of Humilitea House who was featured on this very blog here!)

Tell us a little about your background:

World travel was a big influence in my life. I started traveling overseas immediately after high school and never looked back. Germany, Malta, England, Wales, 4 times to Ireland, 2 times to Australia…interning on a cattle station, helping as an au pair, teaching English, volunteering with a ministry…wide variety of experiences that broadened my horizons and gave me a deep appreciation for other cultures, cuisines and of course, introduced me to the wide and wonderful world of TEA!

WOW! That is a lot of travel!! (I’m only a little jealous…like 99%) Were you always a tea-lover? How did that passion develop?

I grew up collecting tea things and having teas with my mom. Our favourite book was Emilie Barnes’ If Teacups Could Talk. From picnic teas to themed seasonal teas, to teas with my dolls and teas at real tea houses, it was a staple of my girlhood. The teas my mom would throw became legendary in our area. So many amazing memories wrapped up in the gentle beauty and bonding of tea time.

I love that tea was such a sweet and meaningful part of your childhood!! I’d love to hear how the business developed from a passion into a business?

Albion Tea Company really all started with chai tea. I first had authentic loose leaf chai while on my first trip to Australia and fell in love. I never could find it back in the states, so I set about learning how to craft it myself. Many, many months later I developed a stunning chai we dubbed Rivendell Chai which has become our flagship tea. This experience opened my eyes to the complexities of tea blending, but also to how much I enjoyed the challenge and the process.

My husband and I have a heart for the UK, particularly Wales. We fund raised for two years to move to Wales and work with World Horizon’s Youth Development Team, leading an outdoor adventure program for Welsh young people. However, UK immigration denied our visas which closed that door, causing us to look for a new direction but still with a burden for that corner of the world.

Wanting to be free to pursue ministry stateside and create the life we wanted for our young family, in 2016 we decided to go into business for ourselves. Early in our marriage I had been crafting a few teas and candles and such and selling on the side. Our friend, Kara, was the one who asked if I had considered re-starting a full-on tea business, considering I had already crafted a killer chai! 😀

The seed was planted, the idea grew, and we realized that was the perfect fit for us. I had become quite the tea snob from my time overseas, and my hubby and I could see a tea business being something we would love doing together. We had a soft launch in November, 2016 and were stunned by the response from family and friends to the teas we were creating. So we officially launched in January 2017 and made the leap: Brock quit his remodeling job and I stepped away from my role as Senior Executive Leader at Usborne Books & More to give 100% to the business we are building together.

This story is so uplifting to me as a creative, hearing how God has grown this dream into a reality! And you are also using this passion to give back to that corner of the world you’d felt led to as well, right?

Yes! We currently have a tea, Snowdonia Ceylon, that has a portion of the proceeds being donated directly to the YDT program in Wales.

Tell us a little about how you created your logo and came up with your company name?

Our logo includes the Trinity Knot and the name Albion is the Ancient name for Great Britain. We love books, so there was also a literary influence to our name choice: Stephen Lawhead’s Song of Albion trilogy which is a favourite of ours!

(Yes! Favourite with a “u” in true British style.)

Clearly, you have a heart for reaching people along with your passion of creating fabulous teas. Is God opening your hearts to any other avenues of ministry?

As we have looked at the future and how we can impact young people here in the states through our business platform, youth aging out of foster care were put on our hearts. Our goal is to build our business to the point of needing to hire employees and then hire young people in this much ignored, but often very needy, demographic! We want to provide a good income, a stable work environment, mentoring, and assist in plugging them into the community and find their passion for their future.

As many as 36% end up homeless as they lack the support system and skills needed to acquire a job and establish a life for themselves. Nearly half of youth who age out of the system end up in prison within 2 years. Our goal is to hire aging out youth as employees of Albion Tea Company, providing a steady paycheck, mentoring, and assistance plugging into the community.

That is amazing!!! I think you’re the first person I’ve heard of point out this overlooked corner of the population. How awesome would it be to see God use Albion to reach and bless them!

We are actually moving to northern idaho next year and looking at farm properties. To expand our business and ministry, we want to have a pick-your-own-lavender and tea farm with a tea/gift shop, a getaway cabin or two, and tiny houses for the youth we employ to live- a place of peace and rest for folks to come, relax, and find Christ-love. Our own little Rivendell if you will.

We believe this vision to provide work and housing for a time will give these people much needed tools and eventually help them work towards full independence to chase their own dreams!

I am already in love with this idea, not only because I would obviously want to visit, but because it’s so empowering and inspiring to find ministries and businesses and creatives (or a combination of the three) who are not only creating beautiful, excellent products, but are also using their gifting and business etc. as a vehicle to draw people close to Christ and grow the kingdom of God.

Personally, I LOVED the teas you sent me. Would you share a little more about your process of creating them and what kinds of products you have?

Each tea blend we sell is completely our own creation. We dream them up and make them a reality. We currently have 15 black and herbal blends, plus 4 drinking chocolate blends, and an herbal coffee blend, plus chai tea jelly and a chai spice blend. We love to get creative and think outside the box with tea! We also love searching for unique beverage accessories to provide for our customers.

Herbal coffee?! Okay. That’s the next thing I’m ordering. And hey, if I decide to go absolutely all-natural everything tomorrow, can I still consume your products?

Absolutely! We are committed to an organic, eco-friendly life style and this carries over to our business as well! Our tea ingredients are organic and fair trade. We do not use any artificial or natural flavorings or preservatives…if we can’t make a flavor with real food ingredients, we don’t make it! Presents a huge challenge but we are committed to providing tea as it should be…fresh, pure, organic, utterly delicious.

We create our teas and drinking chocolates to order so each customer receives a deliciously fresh product every time. Nothing sitting on shelves and collecting dust over here!

What if I’m new to the tea-drinking world? Can I ask questions or reach out to you guys?

Definitely. We love teaching people how to use loose leaf tea and love answering our customers questions about the process from selecting a kettle to choosing an infuser! The taste of fresh loose leaf will blow the mind of anyone accustomed to drinking tea made from boxed tea bags. And not only is it easy to prepare and tastes amazing, but it is highly cost effective. Our loose leaf canisters come out to less than 50 cents per cup for made to order, fresh, organic, fair trade tea! You can’t beat that anywhere!

That is a lot cheaper than my Starbucks order, not gonna lie. Can you give us any sneak peeks of what’s new or coming up for Albion Tea Company?

This month we have launched our Adventure in a Cup Club…a monthly subscription box featuring our teas and drinking chocolates, along with carefully curated accessories and goodies. We have a box for adults as well as one for kids! With our love of world travel, we will be exploring different cultures with our boxes throughout the year.

That sounds fabulous!! And for kids, too? I would never have thought of that.

Yes! Kids love tea too; plus, it makes a super yummy alternative to sweet sodas and juices! We have created many of our herbal blends with kiddos in mind; our daughter Carys LOVES being our official taste tester for those. 😉 Her favourite is Misty Mountain Chai.

Since it’s summer, do you make any cooler options?

All our teas and drinking chocolates can be made ICED! How cool is that?! So for warm months, or for those not keen on hot drinks, we have ya covered. My favourite trick to make iced loose leaf tea (which knocks bagged iced tea out of the park!) is to use a french press (that hasn’t been used for coffee of course.) You put in 1 tsp per 6 oz of water, cover with cold water, pop the french press in the fridge for 6-12 hours (depending on which kind you are steeping), press down, and voila!

Also, the drinking chocolate makes amaaazing homemade popsicles! A trick of the trade for hot herbal brews is to cover your mug with a plate while steeping to keep all the healthy herbal goodness and flavor in your tea instead of letting it escape with the steam.

Wow. Great tips!! Anything else we should know about your fabulous company?

In July, we will be donating 10 trees to Trees for the Future for every canister of tea we sell: our goal is to sell 1,000 canisters in July to plant 10,000 trees! 1,000 trees brings an entire family out of poverty! (After July we will regularly be donating 1 tree per canister.) Trees for the Future has an amazing program teaching forest farming techniques to families in Africa to help bring them out of poverty and to restore the land itself. Check them out here.

I can’t stop saying wow… Readers, are you inspired yet???

Thank you to Deborah from Albion Tea Company for taking the time to share your story with us!!! And just for you, reader, use this COUPON CODE to receive 15% off your order: BEAUTY15

If you want learn more about Albion Tea Company, here are all the places on the interwebs you can find them:

ALSO: Deborah and her hubby are hosting a tea time event TOMORROW evening for anyone who would like to know more about their online tea experience program!!! To find more info, click here.

And one more thing…
If you’d love to do something fun in support of Brock and Deborah’s fabulous business + ministry, here’s a truly fun idea!

MomGirl Products are HERE! Plus, a Giveaway!

Look! Up in the sky- it’s a bird! It’s a plane! No. It’s MomGirl!!!

She is here, y’all!!! MomGirl products are officially up on my shop to order! I’ve been working so hard on these for a couple months, trying to figure out how best to offer my messy-bunned, legging-clad, coffee-drinking superhero to the world.

So, if you are in need of some MomGirl in your life (or if you know someone who does), here are all the goodies so far! Click on any of the pictures to be taken to the listings within my Etsy shop.

(Side Note: I sense this post will be filled with all the exclamation marks and much all-capping. You have been warned.)

First, greeting cards!!! 

There are 3 cards up in the shop at the moment, which are the following:

 

GAH. Aren’t they so cute?!?! (Is that ok to say about your own artwork? I’m just so excited about them!) Each card comes with the teal envelope you see pictured.

Each card has a fun caption inside, too.

 

 

Here’s the second one:

 

And here’s the third:

Plus, they’re pink on the back!

You can see more details and/or purchase any of the cards over on my Etsy shop, Ebenezer Designs! 

 

NOW. Prepare yourself for what I’m all giddy-like-Hermione-Granger-in-Gilderoy Lockhart’s class about.

Letters from MomGirl- aka a MomGirl Subscription!!!

YOU GUYS. I’m so excited. SO EXCITED!!! Ok. Here’s how it works. You can choose from a 3, 6, or 12-month subscription, which will feature one 5×7 MomGirl print per month, with a short note of encouragement on the back from me, MomGirl! (Gasp! I’ve said too much…now people will know I’M MomGirl…) 

Here’s what I can promise about the encouragement: it’s real, it’s brief, and it’s lighthearted. Moms carry enough weight- baby or otherwise- and levity is such a gift when you’re parenting littles and overwhelm hovers ominously close by.

Plus, it arrives each month in a pretty pink envelope!

This subscription is an ideal gift for new moms, no matter how many children they have! But really? It’s a gift for anyone who feels like a hot mess. MomGirl is here to say- “Me too, girl.” She wears a messy bun for the fourth day in a row, throws on that pair of leggings with the mysterious crust on them, and loves on her people the best she can- often while doing one or more jobs on top of all that!

I wanted to offer something that would be a means of support and a smidgen of self-care to those who need it. Hopefully, these Letters from MomGirl can be a vehicle for that!

SO. In celebration of launching these MomGirl goodies, I wanted to offer a gift and a giveaway.

Here’s how to get the gift:

The first 3 people who purchase the MomGirl subscription (regardless of 3, 6, or 12 month) will receive a custom print of themselves as MomGirl!

Here’s the giveaway:

One lucky winner will receive a MomGirl care package including one MomGirl greeting card, a pack of these watercolor thank you cards, and a Starbucks gift card! (So you can get your coffee on.)

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Purchase any MomGirl product.
  2. Subscribe to this blog.
  3. For bonus entries, repost one of the MomGirl posts on my Instagram and tag me in it using the handle above!

This giveaway will run for one week, ending on May 25, 2017!

I have been so excited to share this with you, and hope you enjoy these goodies!!!

Keep on momming.

MomGirl, out.

 

P.S. You know what another fabulous method of self-care is? Listening to the Kindred Mom podcast which just launched yesterday!! I am already enjoying listening to these ladies share encouragement from their journeys in motherhood. PLUS, THEY are doing a giveaway too, which includes stuff from Magnolia Market y’all. MAGNOLIA MARKET. Go check them out here! And enter their giveaway by following them on IG @kindred_mom

Why It’s Ok If You’re an Extrovert

I’ve noticed something in the last few years. Maybe you have too? And it’s not just that one ubiquitous blanket scarf that has been all over Pinterest and every woman from 12-70 years old for a few years now.

(That scarf is to white girl clothes what pumpkin spice lattes are to white girl drinks. It’s not racist when I say it, because I am a white girl who loves pumpkin spice lattes and plaid blanket scarves.)

It’s introverts. Or rather, it’s a lot of stuff on the internet about introverts: memes and gifs about the challenges of being an introvert, bloggers sharing posts with titles like, ” How to Be an Introvert in [insert setting here]”. Just generally there’s a lot of talk emanating from a community of people who ostensibly don’t- well- like to talk. (Or at least they don’t like to talk in a huge group of people… whatever, you get it.)

 

I know there’s truth in this, but “My response would probably be over your head…?” Really? That’s not an introvert thing. That’s just rude and pretentious. Here are a few more:

My husband is kind of like this. He is hilarious, y’all!! But a lot of people aren’t super aware of this, because he’s not like me, interjecting loudly every time I think I have something remotely funny to say. At least that one isn’t overly dramatic or angsty… unlike this next one.
Wow. I can feel your angst through the computer… You’re such a martyr for dealing with all the peasants who must demand your precious time and energy… Too much snark? Not for something this ridiculous. Frankly, it’s an insult to introverts, making them sound like lofty, tortured 13-year-olds. Sheesh. On behalf of whoever made this, I apologize to my introvert friends who aren’t like this AT ALL.Okay, again- there’s actually some good stuff in this. But also? Why aren’t there a bunch of “How to Care for Extroverts” posts out there??? And hello, give ME 15-minute warnings to finish what I’m doing before making me move on to the next thing. I think that would be immensely helpful.

Ok. I love that last one. I relate to it. But maybe that’s because I have kids and going places together sometimes feels like trying to go on a trip to Mars.

A lot of this content is really great! It’s often insightful, helpful, and downright funny. Because real, awkward, uncomfortable life often is funny! Plus, don’t we all need help learning how to navigate ourselves through the world? Sure. But here’s the thing.

Not all of us are introverts. Some of us are extroverts. And if you are such a one, I’m here to tell you, it’s ok.

I did some research (a term which here means: I googled some stuff), and found some great articles about extraversion which were thoroughly refreshing and insightful.

The first was this one:

6 Things Every Extrovert Secretly Has To Deal With

My favorite quote from this article is as follows:

…there seems to be some romanticizing of introversion (via tumblr and social media) that involves depicting introverts as deep, philosophical, misunderstood, quirky unicorns… or something along those lines. Since when has ‘outgoing’ been a synonym for ‘shallow’? Extroverts are just as capable of complex thought as introverts are of talking to people.

Quirky unicorns, indeed. And how much of all this talk over introversion and extraversion really comes down to issues of people skills or a lack thereof? (Side note: if you’re like me and wondering whether extrovert/extraversion is spelled with an “a” or an “o” there is apparently some debate, but it doesn’t really matter. Here’s a whole article about that.) 

I mean, to label all the quirks of your communication as products of extra- or intro-version seems, well, lazy (or at the very least an overgeneralization). Just because you renew your energy by being alone doesn’t mean you can’t learn how to warmly greet someone, make eye contact, and say, “Hi, my name is Haylie. It’s nice to meet you.” And just because you love talking and being the life of the party doesn’t mean you can’t also learn how to listen and be aware of other people.

When I was a child, I remember waiting with my mother in a line somewhere and, upon seeing another little girl with their mother- somewhat nervously, vulnerably- attempting to introduce myself to them. I remember the girl hiding behind her mom’s legs. That’s totally normal kid behavior, right? But I was so super-sensitive that in the moment I felt hurt that the other kid didn’t seemingly like me or want to play. (I was just trying to make the most of having to wait for a million years! That kid missed out on the most epic line-waiting-playtime of her life.)

Of course, growing up, my mom had to help me understand things like this, and ultimately to learn how to put on my big girl panties and just be cool with the fact that sometimes it has nothing to do with me, and that people are different.

Just recently, I watched my little girl introducing herself to a kid who didn’t talk back. Which just prompted her to talk even more loudly at them. Bless her heart.

But I’m wandering into rambling-soap-box territory… Where was I?

The second article I found was this one: 17 Things Everyone Gets Wrong about Extroverts 

The two most pertinent points I think she makes are this one:

Life is somehow easier for us to navigate

Ah, yes. The secret to a successful, A+ existence is to be a bundle of awkward that talks way too much and too loudly and feeds on human companionship like it is their life blood. YOU’RE TOTALLY RIGHT.

 

Seriously. Does it ever occur to anyone that we might be talking because we are uncomfortable?? That maybe we feel as awkward being around you as you do being around us??? That maybe being extroverted results in us being nervous-talkers because we are wired that way and you are making us straight up anxious with your super power of being quiet????

And the second point:

We don’t realize when we’re talking too much

Truth bomb: I totally know when I’m talking too much. I know it before everyone else knows it. It’s like a runaway train. And nothing on the planet is more humiliating than someone pointing out that you have been talking too much, especially because, at that point, you’re fully aware and already trying to reign it in. Speaking a reasonable, socially acceptable amount is an actual struggle for a lot of extroverts—but we always know when we’ve crossed that line.

Again, yes. My propensity to talk has often been a source of frustration for me. Must I fill every silence??? Yeesh. I like to think I’ve gotten better at this with age, but there are still days when I feel my inner, awkward, talky fifteen-year-old self stumbling out of my face and SAYING ALL THE WORDS.

Like in the first quote I shared, this quality often seems to leave an impression that extroverts are shallow, that we’re all vapid, messy twenty-two-year-olds who love going clubbing and steam-rolling other people with our personalities. But I posit that it’s no better to paint extroverts as shallow, annoying party-goers as it is to paint introverts as pretentious, brooding philosophers who can’t even be bothered to use full sentences when they meet someone new.

You know what kinds of people are introverts? Albert Einstein and Rosa Parks, according to Google (so of course it MUST be true, because Google knew Rosa Parks so well). You know what other kinds of people are introverts? David Berkowitz, the .44 Caliber Killer (a serial killer from the ’70’s… I don’t recommend reading about him, but if you want to, I encountered his story on Wikipedia, so once again, my sources are rock solid).

You can make either personality type sound good or bad. I mean, if we listen to Professor Google, then supposedly famous extroverts include Gandhi, Hillary Clinton, and Moses (yes- as in Moses from the Old Testament. Sounds totally legit, right?) 

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure Google is just making this stuff up… I mean, A) if anything, Moses sounds like an introvert to me, what with his whole, “Uh, God? Uh, public speaking is just not my jam, sooo… I mean, the burning bush thing was cool, but like, ask someone else, because words are hard.” and B) Are you kidding me? Hillary Clinton?! Come on, man.

If you think I’m being unfair by citing a serial killer as an introvert, keep in mind I literally just googled, “famous introvert serial killer.” There was a whole list of articles, but the Berkowitz guy was the first one I found. You know who shows up when you search, “famous extrovert serial killer?” No one.

Ha. Okay, okay, don’t burn me at the stake just yet… This is not a hate-on-introverts post. If it was, I would’ve titled it “Down with the Introverts!!!” But I have plenty of close friends who are introverts, not to mention my husband is an introvert… and not to mention as I’ve grown older I’ve identified more and more with introvert tendencies.

And guys? Obviously I don’t mean there haven’t been terrible extroverts throughout history. I mean- has anyone out there researched Hitler?? I haven’t. Maybe he was an extrovert…or maybe he wasn’t. I don’t know. Maybe he was just a straight up psychopath. That’s not the point.

Whether or not you are introverted or extroverted, you are still a person, and that aspect of your personality is just that- one aspect. People are not boxes and for the most part, they are not extremes. Regardless of how comfortable you feel talking to strangers (or acquaintances or even friends), you can still learn good people skills. That goes for extroverts and introverts alike. Just as the former can be mindful of squashing other people with their enthusiasm and ready stream of words, the latter can be self-aware enough to realize that being quiet is totally fine, but that it can come across as judgy and aloof if you don’t at least smile and/or acknowledge someone else.

Is this totally unnecessary? You guys already know all this stuff, don’t you??

Well, I’m just going to keep talking anyway, because I can and apparently that’s what all of us extroverts do…

My third and favorite article relating to this issue was this post: 5 Myths About Extroverts That Need to Die. Now, I will say this post contains what Shakespeare might have referred to as saucy language. But girlfriend is on point as far as the content goes.

Her first myth is the following:

Myth 1. Extroverts don’t have feelings.

I can only assume that introverts think this about extroverts when I read articles like Revenge of the Introverts.

I get it. I talk too much. I’m loud. You feel overlooked and marginalized. You’re afraid you’re being left out.

That said….

WE ALL FEEL LEFT OUT.

You don’t have the market cornered on feeling unwanted or under-appreciated..

I’m not your enemy, and it hurts my feelings when you label me as one. Stop it.

Also, she says this about extroverts caring about what you have to say:

When I get excited, I tend to talk my [butt] off. I can’t seem to help it, although I am getting better. Later, I am totally traumatized, because:

A: I am petrified of being a bore, and I’m certain you don’t like me.

B: I wanted to learn all about you, and I totally sabotaged myself.

So I stop myself, sometimes mid-thought, to turn the conversation back on you.

Again, YES. I get so excited and/or nervous to meet people sometimes that I find that- again- I’m saying ALL THE WORDS. I still often have to stop myself when I realize, “Hmm, the most prominent sound I’ve heard for the last 5-10 minutes has been my own voice. Dial it back, girlfriend. Try and listen as well as speak.” (Something which I have yet to master, and which will probably be a lifelong learning process.)

You know what else? Extrovert or introvert, it’s hard to communicate. It’s even harder to communicate well. Whether you only like talking if you have something to say or talking until you have something to saycan’t we all agree that communicating is often awkward and uncomfortable and challenging?

Then there’s how being a mom affects this whole saying-all-the-words situation. Being around my little ones all day is such a wonderful thing for the most part! But when I get to be around other adults, I often notice the stream of words escalates to a flood and the decibel of my enthusiasm rises to a piercing shriek because ADULT CONVERSATIONS WHAT?!?! Plus, chances are I haven’t gotten to finish a single sentence the whole day with my almost-three-year-old who talks more than I do. Did you hear that? MORE THAN I DO. Just think about that for a minute.

Now, think about my husband, who gets home and immediately gets hit with a bunch of word-bombs from both of us! Bless him. (Evie can’t talk yet, but just imagine when there are THREE talkative girls in our house… Unless Evie is introverted, of course.)

If you are like me, then this article about having zero chill by Amber Salhus will be like a great big “Me, too!”  for, “All of you nervous-talking, big-feeling, over-thinking, off-beat, sensitive, hilarious souls. I got you, boo.”

So, what was my point again? My point is, it’s all ok. Being an extrovert? Fine. Introvert? Totally good. Just remember it’s only one part of who you are.

Point #2? Don’t paint the opposite -vert as a weirdo or crazy person, or your own type as the sane one, the more fun one, or more intellectual one etc. (Although funny memes and gifs are still fun, and laughing at ourselves IS pretty important too.)

Point #3? It’s part of being human to learn to care for each other- for all types of people. And it’s hard- for everyone- to learn how to do that.

Here is my most favorite post about introversion/extroversion:

The first time I read through the How to Care for Extroverts part, I was all- YES!!! Exactly all these things!!! I love especially #2 where it says, “Compliment them in the company of others.” I don’t know why, but that is huge! I mean, a compliment is kind no matter what, but this touched a nerve, because I’ve never heard anyone put this into words, and it’s SO TRUE for me. (To be clear, it doesn’t mean I need compliments given to me from a stage in front of a billion people, but for example, whenever my husband tells people we’re hanging out with something nice about me, it seriously sends me over the moon. It tells me he thinks I’m worth telling people about.)

Also #4 because VERBAL PROCESSING PEOPLE! It’s a real thing.

One of my favorite quotes that is empowering to anyone, regardless of your vertness (a word which I just made up, because I’m good at words), is this:

Let people deal with the full force of who you are. – John Eldridge

When you do that, you give others permission or freedom to be more fully themselves as well. So, maybe that can be our goal? I’ll say my words and you can be quiet if you want, and then we’ll trade, and everyone can wear cute blanket scarves and be friends.

Deal? Deal.

P.S. I’m not immune to the power of that blanket scarf. See?

 

 

 

A Few Tools for Creative Juices {And Spring Starbucks Cups}

So, one of the purposes of this blog is theoretically to talk about and/or wrestle with being an artist (in all the senses of the word) and in particular, being a follower of Christ who is an artist. But obviously, I’m not able to write as regularly as I was pre-second baby. Which is totally fine!

But lately, I’ve felt the nudge again; I’ve felt the pull to tell you some things. Namely, I want to say- Remember! This is a safe place, where hopefully you’ll feel the hospitality of the Holy Spirit to bare your battles and burdens as an artist, and where you can come on over any time to get a cup of coffee (or tea, if that’s your- well- cup of tea) and we can say all the things to each other. Probably a lot of, “Me too!!!”

Things like:

  • I’m discouraged.
  • I feel like I’ll never be the type of artist I want to be
  • I feel overwhelmingly small, like a dust bunny swept under the rug.
  • Is anyone else out there feeling this way?
  • I know God is faithful, that he gave me dreams and desires, but I’m having trouble shaking the dust of today off of my perspective.

OR

  • I’m loving my life right now and I just want to see and/or celebrate all the pretty things.
  • I am so thankful and encouraged.
  • I’m praising Jesus!! Because I’m feeling security in my now, not because everything is secure, but because he is.
  • I feel small in such a good way, because he is so much bigger, and because I know he can do big with small things.
  • My art is my art, and I’m going to do it and feel joy abounding, and not question it.

OR really, any other think you could think. (No, that’s not a typo, but we’re working on “Seussical Kids” at the performing arts center right now, and that’s an actual song from it.)

Also, I love the idea that occasionally when you come for a visit and for the aforementioned hot beverages, you might find something helpful in your artistic journey. Something to encourage and bolster you with the stalwart ferocity of a British sea captain in the 1800’s (or at least one from the movies).

So, here are some ideas to help provide encouragement and bolstering and stalwart ferocity:

  1. On Being Creative– Remember this? Well, if you don’t, it was a series I poured my heart into last spring, all about many of these struggles we face as creatives/artists/people in general, and specifically about my own struggles.
  2. Frannerd and Iraville on Youtube- if you’re an illustrator, THESE TWO are my favs right now. Find them on IG. Just do it. You need the beauty, the inspiration, the skill of these ladies… Also, Fran is HILARIOUS. She likes cussing a little bit, though (can we all just admit we like doing that sometimes?), so if your kids are around, you know… wait til they’re not around.
  3. Art & Faith Conversations– My friend Libby John has been doing some big things in the past year, like recording and releasing her album (WHAT!) and now, launching this new podcast with her friend, Sarah. They talk about exactly what’s in the title: conversations about all things art and faith, the battles a creative fights, identity, Jesus, how we approach art as believers, and of course- C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, because can you talk about art of any kind too long before bringing up those guys? No. No you cannot. You can also find links to the podcast on her Facebook page here or you can just search it in the iTunes store.

So, these were just a few things I thought I might share with you, my artsy friend. Keep making your art, okay? If this isn’t enough stalwart ferocity for your British sea-captain sensibilities, I suggest renting Master and Commander.

 

P.S. Have you SEEN the springy cups at Starbucks?! They are my new favorite thing. Here’s one I doodled this week. Doodle-able cups are the best. (Fyi I used a red micron pen, a light pink tombow dual brush marker, and this random blue pen that just says “Le Pen” on the side.) Also? That aqua/turquoise color is MY JAM. That is all.

The Adventures of MomGirl!

If you and I hang out on Instagram and/or Facebook on the regular, you’ve probably seen some posts featuring illustrations. Specifically, the illustrations of MomGirl!

Y’all. I have never had such a deluge of responses as I have had regarding MomGirl. Namely, that many of you are like- GIRL, that is totally me!!!

Here she is, in her glorious debut.

 

I mean, seriously. Don’t you feel like this, momma friends?? Like you’re winning at life because you’re keeping small people alive and loved and also you’re doing all the things all while drinking coffee?! (Which you’ve inevitably microwaved 5 times.) And simultaneously don’t you feel that as much as you’re winning at the most important things (i.e. child-rearing and drinking the aforementioned coffee) you maybe also have piles of laundry that have sat on the floor for a month?

Or is that just me…

Anyway. MomGirl is, I think, here to stay.

 

One word: Potty-training. This is our life right now. Bless it.

And in case you’re having a day of MomGirl fails, let me just remind you what you look like most of the time:

 

Most of what I do consists of all these things at once and Coffee. In. Hand. Amiright? Nursing, entertaining my crazy almost-threenager, talking on the phone/working, and let’s not forget my handful of jobs done from home. Oh, I’m not complaining! I’m just saying- this is 100% accurate, at least in my own experience.

 

And because of all the responses of joy and delight and “Me too!” types of sentiments I’ve received over MomGirl lately, I thought- wouldn’t it be nice to do something more with her? Offer something to MomGirls everywhere who would like some delight in their lives??
Suffice it to say I have about ten ideas on how to accomplish this. At the very least, I’m thinking there will be some greeting cards. But I’ll keep you apprized of details as they develop.

In the meantime, I’m going to heat up my coffee again.

 

MomGirl, out.

Happy 2017- Wait. Let’s Try That Again.

The month of January was a month of false starts. After traveling for two weeks with our little girls, we got home. Ahhh home.

After we unpacked and ever-so-promptly did all the laundry and cleaned up the assorted Christmas debris, I prepared to settle in, get a new calendar, arrange my life in ever-so-orderly a fashion.

Focus, I thought to myself. Focus shall be my word for this year. I will cultivate true presence with my husband, with our children, in our relationships. I will engage in the varied jobs and responsibilities I have with humility and attentiveness. I will be patient with where we are in life and savor the season with gratitude and joy. I will practice listening to the Holy Spirit and quiet my chatty soul.

And all in all, I shall transcend the heretofore tolerated messes in my life and failures of character into a rosy, glorious existence of serenity and wisdom.

I mean. So much serenity, you guys.

These are the things I considered with much anticipation as we undecorated in the last day of December and first of January. And then, January second arrived, and I’m pretty sure Peeves the Poltergeist was lurking somewhere  enjoying the coming upheaval, cackling in delight. He was probably also eating popcorn…

First, I got a cold. Then, in those first days of January, Ryan asked me, “Where’s your wallet?” I unconcernedly assured him I didn’t know, but that I’d find it. Fast forward to a week later, by which point we had ransacked all of our earthly possessions and even gotten so desperate as to call the Cracker Barrel we ate at on our way home from Christmas traveling. No luck.

On top of that, one of my big toes started hurting. Real bad. It started as a minor annoyance that first week of January, but by the end of the second week, I was limping around pathetically, with a swollen, gross horror movie of a toe. I decided I was probably dying.

So, we paid the urgent care $100 only to have the doc come in and say, “Yeah, I don’t do toes. That’s infected. You should go to a podiatrist.” And I was like, “Greeeaaat. Would you like to tell me any more obvious things while I light some more money on fire?”

Later that week, we went to the podiatrist. Let’s just leave some mystery there. I don’t think you really want to know what they had to do to my toenail… Regardless, it was expensive. So, you know, a really good time to lose my wallet (and the extra Christmas money we’d received which was inside it).

“Focus.” I flinched as my glowingly good-intentioned word for the year arose in my mind. The irony was not lost on me.

Meanwhile, marchers protested and blew up the internet with their signs and their rage and their holy hashtags. What was all this about? I wondered. I looked into it and was kind of like, “Wait, so what are they marching for again? Did Trump like, veto women’s rights to vote and I missed it??? Oh. They’re just…preemptively protesting. Got it. Well, they’re allowed… Oh, and pro-life groups were removed from the list of protesters. Okay.” I felt increasingly disconnected from this group. Which is weird, since I’m a woman.

But I say this because the holy hashtaggers flooded social media, and subsequently another wave in the onslaught of political arguments resulted across the board. Friends I know deactivated their Facebook accounts. (I didn’t. Because cute pictures of other people’s babies, you know.)

So it felt like I’d stumbled into 2017, into a loud, distracting mess. I wanted to back away slowly- back into 2016. Maybe no one would notice?

But we can’t run away from our messes. Does that mean we join protests? Do we take the bait and follow the crowds? Follow the popular instagrammers, YouTubers, some who used to be pillars of faith and now have decided a deep end of half-truths is a better place to dive than to face the hard things- minor or major- head on?

Clearly, I experienced some disillusionment as these things transpired. Not that I now despise anyone who is well known or think blogging is a waste, or that hashtags are evil. (They’re not necessarily. They’re fun, and I usually overuse them.) But I just reminded myself that I’m not one of their “followers.” I am a follower of Christ.

No, I’m a disciple of Christ. And that means certain things for how I view the world.

For one thing, it means that when a mini-maelstrom of minor calamities befalls me, I don’t feed my fearful, suspicious side. You know, that ominous voice inside that says, “It’s a sign. Doom is at hand. This will be the year of crap.” 

Instead, I say, “You know what, no.” Just because January threw a fit and marched in protest of not being 2016 anymore doesn’t mean it’s worth coloring all the other months in similar hues. I am not the victim I once was. Not that I’m not weak, but that Christ’s strength is growing inside me. This is a time to be a victor.

So, whatever, January. You sucked and you’re over. Also, you didn’t suck because the Lord helped me drive a stake in the ground and declare that even times of losing my wallet and subsequently our Christmas money, times of stupid toenails and stupid toe infections, times when I have a cold on top of all the other stuff and can’t take any normal decongestants because I’m nursing, times when half-baked opinions and wholehearted unkindness is rampant- in the midst of times like those, I can be joyful. Because the Lord is sufficient in all things; he always gives us what we need.

And he did.

Aimee always says that laughter is usually her default. I decided that was a better plan than implosion. So I tried laughing at all the distractions. I asked God to help my trust sing louder than the noise- trust that he would provide, that we could handle this, that light is still brighter than darkness, and that darkness is paltry and puny in comparison.

It worked out well. Because you know what? Someone left a Walmart gift card with a hefty amount on it anonymously at our door. Ryan ended up receiving a chunky check for some work he did recently. And several other providential, out-of-the-blue things like that happened. In fact, only a few hours after my procedure at the podiatrist, we received word about that check. Hours, you guys.

God is good. He gives us everything we need. And I realized these distractions were just opportunities- to focus. So that’s still my word for the year.

Therefore, I will not be joining the ubiquitous tantrum that everyone is throwing about how terrible things were in 2016, or will be in 2017, or whatever.

Instead, let’s throw a party. Or at least have some cake pops. Let’s be people who add flavor to the world. It’s February. Happy New Year!