.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

life is what you make it.

 I woke up yesterday in a funk. Okay, it was more than a funk. Not only was I feeling less than inspired, but just downright bummed. Borderlining on sad, dangerously teetering over the edge of depressed. I was feeling down. Like woah. Thinking about many things and needing to make some decisions was not helped by finding out some bad news. It was one of those days when you feel like your dreams aren't going to come true, like you are working hard to no end. When you feel like a hamster on a wheel just going nowhere (am I the only one who feels that way sometimes?) And no amount of the usual "get me inspired" things helped at all. Not watching this... or singing  this. A cup of strawberry tea didn't help. Nor did lighting vanilla candles or spraying on a spritz of my expensive perfume. Mod podging something didn't help. Putting on my big white hooped earrings didn't help. Mid-way through the afternoon, plodding through work and feeling ever more discouraged, one of my go-to cry it out songs came on iTunes (do you have those too? the songs that just turn on the waterworks like that?) and as the tears threatened to flow, I got up from my chair. I threw on a knitted cap and my boots. I grabbed my camera. And I went outside.

A cold front came in with the beginning of this week (a rare occurance in Southern California) and snow was falling all day. Well, rather - drizzly, wet hail was falling all day. A slushy, rainy fall...not real snow, just slush (not helping the mood at all, really.) But, unbenowenst to me, in the last hour - real snowflakes - the big, white frozen kind - began to fall. And the ground was covered in pure, frozen, beautiful whiteness.

So I took a walk in it.


It wasn't a long walk. Because my skinny jeans and Forever 21 coat were feeling pretty thin and soaked-through after about 10 minutes. But I've gotta tell ya - just a jaunt in the crunchy, icy wonderland - and I was smiling.

And I realized - how thankful I was for the whimsical flakes falling from the sky. I realized...the things I need to decide that seemed so ginormous while I sat staring at my computer screen minutes before, were really small in the grand scheme of things. And I realized...I loved stopping and enjoying the perfect flurries covering the ground in a blanket of white. And I realized, I loved the crisp, unbelievable fresh air I was breathing in because it is something us California girls rarely experience.

And I realized a grown-up realization, that as hard and disappointing as life can be, it is still a gift. I am blessed. And it could be oh so much worse. Life may not always be as comfortable or as ideal as we would wish. But if we look at it the right way, through a fresh perspective - it is ever so beautiful.

My mom always says, "Just taking a walk can change your whole persective."
As I saw yesterday, a walk sure can change your point of view. As can looking at the little, ordinary things in life... and seeing the simple things as beautiful.

Things like these simple things that made me smile this last week:


...sweet coffee and fresh strawberries with a little dallop of whipped cream - oh yeah. My breakfast of champions.

...juicy, delicious oranges - and the best part? they're PINK.




...finding my Great-Grandpa's old love letters and notes to my Great-Grandma...from the 1930's.

...going back to the Farmer's Market. And this time, took my b-fri.

... i love how ice cream stands make me smile.


...i love colors. & flavors.

...and dinner with sistah friend. (seriously, can you get any more fabulous than her?!)
yeah, yeah that's the sticker on the sunglasses...just tryin' em on! although i've totally walked around with a sticker left on cheap sunglasses before!


...i love browsing homemade candy stands

  Yesterday, I realized afresh that a perfect, easy life does nothing to grow, change, stretch and shape us into the strongest and best version of ourselves we can be. Staying safely inside our comfort zones does not challenge us. Facing no pain or hardship does not push us to run to God and throw our cares at His feet. Without trials and tough cirucmstances, do we really need to trust the Lord? Without suffering, how would we know His comfort? Without weakness, how would we feel His presence and peace holding us close when we are broken? Knowing exactly what will happen and having all the answers does nothing to grow our faith. Does nothing to make us the strongest, best versions of ourselves that we can possibly be.

So, when life gets hard and crazy. When you can't take it and you wanna cry. Go...take a walk in the snow, or the sunshine. Breathe in crisp air.  And smile.


You might just get a new perspective and be reminded... just how oh so beautiful life can be.



"...the Lord answered her,
'You are worried and upset about many things.
But only One thing is needed...'"
-Luke 10:41-42


***

oh, & we can't forget this (very belated) piece of business...



Friday iPhone Photo Drop


{from instagram, to follow search: erin_sweetnessitself}



XO

Erin

Thursday, February 23, 2012

a thing called love.

"undeniable, unconditional, undoubtedly, infinity.
and oh so beautiful.
irreplacable, unforgettable, eternally. unmistakable, oh merciful.
and oh so beautiful."

God's love, that is.

That is how she described it, a mentor of mine who led a special retreat for the women of my church. One weekend with 45 other ladies, in a hotel meeting room in Newport Beach, California. It was a special weekend. One I'll never forget. I was just 14 or 15 years old, but the Lord touched my heart in a sweet way. I was ruined for any other life or love. And it changed me forever. 
Hearing those words above, sung in a beautiful melody, about the Lord's love... stilled the entire room that day. Women sat quietly. Some wiping their eyes, some kneeling on the floor in quiet prayer. It was high time for a lunch break, but somehow - not even one soul could not pull herself away from the sweetness of just sitting in that tender moment. Taking in the truth that was just sung and read:

"...how wide and long and high and deep
is the love of Christ...
this love that surpasses knowledge."
-Ephesians 3:18


During the weekend conference, the speaker asked the women to take their journal or pad of paper, and to write these 6 little words:

"Lord, why do You love me?"

Simple words. But oh the healing, the joy, the life that came from sitting down, stopping, and asking God how He loves us.

For some reason these past few days, I've been thinking about that special April weekend by the sea when my life changed. When I realized how big and beautiful God's love for me and you is. I have forgotten...with the passing of time, the wear of years, the blows of life's bitterness...just how oh so beautiful His love for me is. Sometimes, I get it so wrong. I go rushing around in a frenzy trying to "be good", "do good things for God", "serve others selflessly"...all good things. But, without the root of knowing Jesus...knowing Him for real, spending time with Him, knowing His love ..as the love of my life... those good things don't get me far at all.

That weekend by the sea, when I sat with an open journal and the words "Why do You love me?" scribbled on a lined page, my life was changed. Not in a flashy, fireworks kind of way. It was in a whispers of grace kind of way. A simple peace. In little things. And it grew over time. Through the sweetness and joy of singing words of truth in worship with a group of women I will sing alongside forever in heaven. In comforting words of a Psalm when my heart was shattered. Crying until I couldn't cry another tear, and feeling His presence all around me...giving me the strength to breathe. In those seasons of darkness when you can barely drag yourself out of bed in the morning, when staying under the covers in the darkness sounds much more appealing than going through the motions of life. His love...that gives you strength to somehow go on. His love...in hugging your sister. Laughing with a little child. Even sipping steamy cups of cappucino with a loved one. In the day to day ebb and flow of life.

I remember one of my best friends used to say, "I'm going on a walk. With the Lord. Just me and Him." And with that, she would take off...walking along and singing, smiling...completely enraptured with the Lord, the love of her life.


One of my favorite poems paints a beautiful picture of a woman who has opened her heart to the incredible love of God. Written in 1723 by Jonathan Edwards (theologian and missionary in the 1700s) about his future wife:

"They say there is a young lady in New Haven who is beloved of that almighty Being who made and rules the world, and that there are certain seasons in which this great Being in some way or other invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight, and that she hardly cares for anything, except to meditate on Him - that she expects after a while to be received up where He is, to be raised out of the world and caught up into heaven; being assured that He loves her too well to let her remain at a distance from Him always.
There she is to dwell with Him, and be ravished with His love, favor, and delight, forever.
Therefore, if you present all the world before her, with the richest of its treasures, she disregards it and cares not for it, and is unmindful of any pain or affliction.
She has a strange sweetness in her mind, and sweetness of temper, uncommon purity in her affections; and most just and praiseworthy in all her actions; and you could not persuade her to do anything thought wrong or sinful, if would you give her all the world, lest she should offend this great Being.
She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness and universal benevolence of mind.
She will sometimes go about, singing sweetly, from place to place; and always seems full of joy and pleasure; and no one knows for what.
She loves to be alone, and to wander in fields and on the mountains, and seems to have someone invisible always conversing with her."


He loves you. And don't let anyone tell you He doesn't.
He doesn't love you because you are beautiful. Or because you were popular in high school. He doesn't love you because you can whip up the best batch of cookies this side of the Midwest. He doesn't love you because you have a beautiful singing voice or because you can snap some pretty darn awesome photographs with that camera. He doesn't love you because you get good grades. He doesn't love you because you are a good mother or a faithful friend or because you teach Sunday school.
He just loves you.
He doesn't love you less because of what you did last week in secret. He doesn't love you less because of what she said to you. Or what he did to hurt you. He doesn't love you less because you dropped the ball last year. Or because you wasted the last 5 years. He doesn't love you less because of what they think of you.


He just loves you. Because you are His. His little girl.
There is nothing you can do to make Him love you more. Nothing you can do to make Him love you less. He just loves you.


He is there. He is real. And oh how He loves you.


Ask Him.
Why do You love me?
And listen for His whispers.

And then when you know - go. And love, love, love, love.
With the amazing kind of love He has shown you.
Because, what is the response to being lavished upon so beautifully?
We cannot help but say, "Oh how I love You, Lord."
And out of this love....only then can you truly give and love and serve someone else.
And change the world.



Oh my darling friend, how high and long and wide is His love for you.





"I love those who love Me, and those who dilligently seek Me, find Me."
-Proverbs 8:17

"Love covers over all wrongs."
-Proverbs 10:12

"Love never ends."
-1 Corinthians 13:13


This thing called love?
It's yours.
'Cause He loves you. And His love is better than any riches or wealth,
the love of even the most wonderful man in the world or the most beautiful romance.
His love is better than friendship or even family.
It is exceedingly, abundantly the most beautiful thing I have ever tasted.
And I hope that you pray and ask this great God to show you how
extravagantly
He loves you.

'Cause He does. I know it.

XO

Erin



ps - thanks to my sweet dad for helping me out with these photos :) 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

real men wear pink.

I don't know when it started, my love of men who wear pink. Maybe when I was a little girl playing Barbie dolls and the only Ken doll we owned not only perpetually wore the same floral shorts but had just one shirt to his name - a pink button down.

But...I learned over time, to love something about a man wearing a touch of pink.

They say real men wear pink, right?



Yeah, I still love a man in pink.
But I see now (Barbie doll days long gone) there is so much more than appearance that makes a guy a real man.

 When I was in college, I remember a conversation I had with a small group of girls in my dorm. We lived on a Christian college campus full of young men who said they loved the Lord. But, that night we all shared our discouragement with the guys we were getting to know. We compared notes about our bad experiences... one too many run-ins with less than our "ideal" types of guys. We exchanged disappointing stories we could only laugh at after the fact. "When a guy I went out with wouldn't even help an older lady up a staircase, do you think he's gonna treat me like a princess?!" I asked. The sweet brown haired beauty sitting across from me wailed, "Most guys are jerks!" and the head-nodding and words of agreement from the rest of the group proved that, sadly, most of us in the circle had come to this very conclusion.


"I just feel like my standards are way too high" the spunky soccer player next to me said, disappointed. Thinking about my mental list of "ideals" for a man, I joined in - "I feel that way too. It seems like my dream man doesn't exist." An older, wiser girl in our little circle asked me, "Erin, what are the qualities you've always wanted and prayed for in a man?" I thought for a moment and answered, "Well...someone who is kind, caring, gentle,  thoughtful, unselfish...who values integrity, honor and strength. A man who treats me like a princess."

My older friend smiled. "All those qualities you want... who are you describing? Who embodies these qualities?"

"Umm...no one we know! Maybe, Prince Charming from Cinderella?" I laughing replied.

"No... " she smilingly said. "Jesus Christ!"

My thinking changed that night. I realized - the Lord put the desire in my heart for a man who was just like Him! We ended our little conversation with prayer. Asking our ultimate Prince, Jesus to mold and shape the men who would someday be our husbands into His likeness. Not men who are flawless, perfect and never make mistakes. But men who love the Lord and try their best to be like Jesus.


As time wore on that semester, our nightly chats over homework and strong coffee were often about our ideal men. And we began to realize that we needed to ask ourselves: are we acting in a way that encourages the guys to stand up and be strong, honorable men of God? Or are we tearing them down in the way we act, talk, relate with them, or dress?

Sadly, there are more than a few sleaze-balls out there. And I think we've all run into them at one time or another. Christlike men who treat women with respect, honor and dignity are very rare gems. But they do exist. Just a few of them.


Like these two brothers I saw in concert a while ago. Joel and Luke (in the band For King and Country) spoke such precious encouragement to young women (quite a few years have passed since the words they spoke, and marriage and relationships have since come into their lives) their wisdom is so precious:


"We have a heart for raising respect for women.
We believe that under God, you are princesses and deserve to be treated with
honor, dignity and respect.
...if we had one encouragement for each of you -
especially you single ladies tonight it would be:

Don't settle for 2nd best.

Don't settle for anything less than what God has for you when it comes to men.
Because let me tell ya - he may not be there in the timing that you want or in the way you want like on ...
Pride and Prejudice...but he's there.
And God's timing is the best timing, amen?
...your Holy Hunk...your Prince Charming - he's out there.
And coming from two single men who are waiting for their 'holy hunnies',
take it from us - it's worth the wait."

photo via forkingandcountry.com

*you can find the video here.
*check out the band's website here & listen to some music. (they're one of my very favorites!)

 And to you few guys out there who might be reading: don't settle for second best, either.
Wait for the rare woman who will respect you, honor you, guard your purity, love you for who you truly are and not what she can get from you.


Remember, ladies - as unrealistic as our ideal men may seem in this world,
we trust the God who is the ultimate example of a Prince.

"God laughs at odds. No matter how big the dream,
how huge the request, how lofty the hope, or even how statistically impossible the task,
He can do it -- and infinitely immeasurably more.
May God be seen for how great He really is!"

-Ephesians 3:20, paraphrase.
paraphrase by authors Eric and Leslie Ludy




And just for the record, I still think real men wear pink.

A pink tie, a pink shirt - I'm in love! A pink pocket square?
And the pink-wearing gentleman treats women right? Heavenly, I tell you.




Stay strong, my dears
and keep your standards high.

XO

Erin

Saturday, February 18, 2012

half-full. (and lot more than 4 favorites)

 I went on a little adventure this week. I love day-adventures. And I love where I live - just a short drive away from snowy mountains. A quick journey away from sandy beaches. My mom and I had some things to do in the city, so we ventured through a rainstorm to the middle of Los Angeles.

The lovely Grove was almost empty...Southern Californians don't really know what to do with inclement weather. We were surrounded by somber shoppers, arms laden with big bags from high-end shops that never, ever have sales. But we happily meandered under the trees and by the big fountain, arms free of any bags, our boots splashing through puddles on the shiny street. enjoying being out. Being together. Laughing at simple things. Admiring beautiful things. Loving our little, simple un-extravagant adventure.

I want to have a big, beautiful fabulous life. But as I get older, I am amazed at how "big, beautiful and fabulous" does not translate into designer clothes or fancy dinners. I am finding "big, beautiful and fabulous" in the little things. In splashing around on a slick rainy street laughing under a wide-brimmed umbrella. Exploring a colorful farmer's market. Enjoying summer-like sunlight in February. Sending a real, hand-written letter. Sipping steamy coffee from a ceramic mug with an old friend.

And as I get older, I realize that I would rather be wise than rich. I'd rather be happy than wealthy. And I'd rather really know the Lord than be known by the world. I'd rather have a simple, beautiful life than a rich, flashy one. I sure do like pretty things just as much as the next girl. But do we really need closets full of every shade of Jimmy Choo shoes or 3 different Birkin bags? Does this really make us happy?

I'm learning, happiness is in taking the imperfect and making it beautiful. The unexpected and turning it into something good. The unanticipated, the Plan B's, and making them something sweet.

It is in taking the simple things and making them grand. Looking at the glass and seeing it as half-full, not half-empty.

And when I looked at mine this week, it was half-full. Beautifully half-full... with simple things. And love.

Speaking of love...I am loving all these simple things... (oh and for my Friday 4 Favorites? Forget it - there were way more than four favorite things this week)

i love...finding a farmer's market...be still my heart.


i love...vibrant colors on a dreary, drizzly day.


i love..."gilmore gas station". it was old. and charming.



i love...literally stumbling onto interview sets and meeting random Harlem Globetrotters. (yeah, not gonna lie - definitely didn't know who he was. i'm more of an NFL girl. but hey - "Big Easy" was super nice and now i know all about the globetrotters.)


i love...vintage signs hanging above random old-fashioned stores selling miniature porcelain dog statues and hard candy.


i love my mama. and colorful tropical flowers unexpectedly popping up their sunny heads in a rainstorm.

i love sea birds who bravely fly even in the blessed rain.


i love blue skies after rain. dark, heavy clouds replaced by sunny streams of light and fluffy white pillows against the blue.


i love... my new favorite drink - ocean spray cranberry juice, sparkling...way better than soda.


i love... slipping outside, sitting down on the porch steps and drinking in the glorious, warm sunshine.

i realize jenn's eyes look a little posessed in this picture..thanks to the light and editing. ahhhh a little scary!

i love...meeting up with old friends who are more like family. the kind you ask, "wait..how long have we known each other?" and she replies, "a long time..." 13 years i've known this sweet one. she's a gem with a beautiful heart and wisdom far beyond her years.


i love... being a free spirit.


i love... my new valentines kiss mug because it is so me. and little billows of steam from mugs of tea make me so insanely happy.


i love....the color red. because (just as a certain elle woods said) "red. it's the color of confidence." yes ma'm.


i love...red in the form of spendid little delights. i think they'll find their home in a strawberry pie.


i love...finding little inspirations in tiny boutiques.


and i love...that this is true for you and me -

{Jesus said}

"...i tell you -
do not worry about your life;
what you will eat or drink or about your body, what you will wear.
look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns,
yet your heavenly father feeds them.
are you not much more valuable than they?
can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?"
-matthew 6:25-27



if you look at it right, life is beautiful.
go drink that half-full glass til it's dry.
find as many favorite things as you can.

and love, love, love... til it hurts.

happy weekend!

mwaaaaah.

Erin






***


Friday Saturday iPhone Photo Drop


{from instagram, to follow search: erin_sweetnessitself}



ps - I'm so sorry if you had tried to leave a comment since I posted - I'd accidentally hit the "disable comments" button when I posted :(  sorry about that, loves! XO

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

to whom it may concern.

"i miss you, but i haven't met you..."

This song by The Civil Wars has been on replay for me lately.


A beautiful song, characterizing the longing of waiting for "the one"...the "Dear Whoever You May Be..." and waiting patiently for timing. (sigh...)

Tonight, after all the long stems of red roses have been submerged in tall vases of water and heart-shaped boxes of half-eaten chocolates are tossed aside, another Valentine's Day comes to a close. And with it's passing, some impressions and thoughts are left on my heart.
An Internet ad popped up on my screen earlier today. For one of those Internet dating websites (insert disclaimer - I'm not saying I think people shouldn't use Internet dating sites...that's another topic for another time. disclaimer ended. ha.)  A Christian one, apparently. And it boldly proclaimed, "Sign up today for a free profile! Find God's match for you - Mr. Right won't wait forever!!"

Mr. Right won't wait forever?? I thought God was sovereign? I thought He said in His Word, "For I know the plans I have for you....plans to prosper and not to harm you. To give you hope and a future." -Jer. 29:11. That He tells His children to trust Him, to rest in His timing. I thought He tells us that fear trips us up, but when we trust in Him, we are safe (Proverbs 29:25.) And that He is the God who "opens doors no one can shut and shuts doors no one can open" (Revelation 3:7)

I thought about this today. And mid-afternoon, found myself wandering over to my bookcase, dusting off one of my favorite old poetry books.

In it, there's a poem I love. My eyes fell upon it again today, remembering when I first read it about 10 years ago. Since then, I've prayed it along with the sweet author:

"Dear God, I prayed, all unafraid
(as we're inclined to do)
I do not need a handsome man
but let him be like You;
I do not need one big and strong
nor yet so very tall,
nor need he be some genius,
or wealthy, Lord, at all;
but let his head be high, dear God,
and let his eye be clear,
his shoulders straight, what e'er his state,
what e'er his earthly sphere;
and let his face have character,
a ruggedness of soul,
and let his whole life show, dear God,
a singleness of goal;
then when he comes
(as he will come)
with quiet eyes aglow,
I'll understand that he's the man
I prayed for long ago."

The young woman who prayed this? Ruth Bell Graham. The Lord answered her prayer. And (I imagine) exceeded her expectations. On August 13, 1943 she married Billy Graham. The evangelist who would become one of the most admired and respected Christian leaders in the world. The man who preached the Gospel in person to more people than any other person in history. The man who committed to guard against even the appearance of wrongdoing and so promised to never be alone with any woman besides Ruth. The man who said, "I saw her walking down the road towards me and I couldn't help but stare at her as she walked. She looked at me and our eyes met and I felt that she was definitely the woman I wanted to marry." Ruth once said, "he wanted to please the Lord more than any other man I'd ever met." (Needless to say, she is one of my role models. Her book of poetry is called "Sitting By My Laughing Fire" and it is lovely)


Her faith and trust, her submission to God's will and way. And the way in which her faithful God brought into her life a wonderful man - the one she prayed for (and more!) Her line, "as he will surely come" - how small, yet how full of faith.
My dears - if you feel that post lonely-Valentine's Day urge to set up an account on some dating website, call and ask your married friends to set you up on a blind date, friend request hot guys on Facebook, reluctantly say "yes" to a guy who's pressuring you (one you know is not good for you...) or just pace around the house, wringing your hands while trying to think of some way to meet the right one... wait. And remember something with me -

"We haven't even seen a God like ours
who acts on behalf of
the one who waits for Him."
-Isaiah 64:4


"Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed."
-Proverbs 16:3

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will make your paths straight."
-Proverbs 3:5-6

"We humans keep brainstorming options and plans,
but God's purpose prevails."
-Proverbs 19:21
(the msg)

As my friends and I used to say in college whenever tempted to pursue a guy outlandishly or make something happen on our own: "God does not bless manipulation." I've found (through experience, unfortunately!) God's timing is best and when we try to make things happen and force things to go our way, we usually end up disappointed and unsatisfied. And this goes for more than just relationships, too.
In all the areas of life - relationships, romance, careers, ministry, things we want...it can be tempting to manipulate or make things happen in a way that speeds up the process, makes things easier for us. We may want something so badly we can barely stand it. Slowly counting down the days til we know the name of the one we will spend the rest of our life in love with. Waiting for the perfect job to come along. Aching for the dream to come true, the plan to be fulfilled. Yet, perhaps the Lord wants us to wait. To have faith, to pray. Like Ruth Graham did. To be faithful in the small things. Instead of rushing around, scheming, planning and trying to make things happen.

After all, He commands your destiny, doesn't He?

And who knows... your Billy Graham may be just around the corner.

(why, hello there little dear running around in the woods behind me.
seriously, had no idea he was back there...)
When we put our love stories (and life stories) in God's hands, there is no telling where He will take us. And that, my love - that is wonderful.

"The Lord your God is with you,
He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with
singing."
-Zeph. 3:17

XO

Erin

headband: my new etsy, sweetness shoppe (comin' soon!)
sweater: ann taylor loft. watch: michael kors necklace: forever 21
dress: diane's (surf shop in LA) belt: forever 21
tights: forever 21 shoes: boutique shoe store

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