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Friday, June 29, 2012

Ablaze // your turn.



    I've been blown away this week by realizing afresh how many passionate hearts for Jesus are out there on this earth. I pray the Ablaze mini-series this past week encouraged all of us, strengthened our faith in God, and pushed us to consider our hearts and relationships through the lens of pursuing Christ. 

 We talked about the stoking the right fire and pursuing Christ in singleness, seeking Jesus in the midst of dating, walking through the heartache of breaking-up and readjusting to singleness while running to Jesus, and focusing on the Lord in a relationship, and we shared about pursuing God in marriageIn honesty and openness, we have shared our hearts, struggles, pitfalls, heartbreaks, failures, lessons learned, and passion found for Christ.


 Today, it's your turn.



   Friends, how do you pursue Christ in the midst of singleness, breaking up, or marriage? 

 We'd be honored if you link up below. We all have unique stories, perspectives, and hearts. I can't wait to read how God has shaped you, loved on you, and lit your heart on fire through the relationships in your life. 

Share away. We're listening.




Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Girl Behind The Blog Vlog

      This is a day late and a dollar short because of my Ablaze post on breaking up  - but how can I resist joining in on the fun with The Girl Behind the Blog link-up? It's always such a sweet way to get to know other bloggers better and meet new friends. So here it goes - enjoy! 


5ohwifey








XO

Erin





remember to check out Annie's post on marriage 
for the Ablaze series 
- and I hope you link up tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

ablaze // on breaking up.

 

     **honest note: this is another doozie, friends! go pour yourself a cuppa coffee... and take some time to read this one.


     When Annie asked me to write about the topic of breaking up and readjusting to singleness after being in a relationship, I just smiled. In the last few years I walked through this very season of life, and through the pain and surrender of it I found my heart set ablaze for God in a brighter way than ever before in my life. Today, I look back on that season of my life with a sigh and a slight smile. Knowing what I do now, seeing the past with clear 20/20 vision, I am thankful. Thankful I walked through the heartache of losing a relationship - even though, at the time, it felt as though the Lord was asking me to cut off my right arm. Now I see how wise  He was in directing me the way He did, in closing the doors He closed, in taking away from me something I cared about. I've always been careful about dating; I'm not a girl who dates much at all - and if I do, I am very selective and don't just date "for fun." If I can't see the guy as a possible future husband, I end it (or don't start it.) So, I am really no expert on this subject because I haven't endured very many break-ups. Yet, I have been through a few hard ones and I'm acquainted with heartache. Breaking up is hard to do, dear sisters. But when you walk it out with Jesus by your side (or sometimes, you just gotta let Him carry you) I promise it will be okay.


    Listen as I share my heart and some practical things I learned about breaking up, readjusting to singleness, and pursuing Christ in the midst of all the craziness. All our stories are different. Break-ups happen for a myriad of reasons. And each heart responds, grieves, and mends differently when broken. Each and every relationship is unique and each relationship that ends breaks up differently. Yet I believe women's hearts were created by God to feel deeply and sensitively. Whether you are currently going through a break-up, have been through one in the past, or are happily single or in love today - my prayer is that you find encouragement to pursue Christ through this blog post.


   Perhaps you can relate with this following example. Or perhaps you can just imagine it. Either way, picture with me a scene: 


*** 


     Your heart sinks. You can't believe your eyes, your ears. He is leaving, walking away. He shuts your door behind him and you run to the window, watching the light blue t-shirt disappear into the darkness of the night, get into that old car, and drive away. He's gone. You sink into the love seat where you sat with him moments before, and tears flood your eyes as pain fills your heart. He's gone. The scent of his cologne lingers on the chair where he sat... suddenly, you can't breathe. You lay your head on the arm of the loveseat, taking in the last little piece of him you will ever know. You know it needed to end. You know God has a plan. But in your heart? Oh, what a different story. Your heart isn't logical at all. Your heart is a swirling mess of emotions, feelings, and pain. You can't sleep. You can't eat. You can't breathe. Sometimes, you cry so hard you throw up. Each moment, each day that passes brings some new fresh wave of acute pain. The first morning when you wake up and there's no usual "Goodmorning, Beautiful" text on your phone from him. The first time you must go somewhere without him - walking into a room of people even feels lonely. When you are asked how he is doing by a well-meaning friend and you must explain, "Oh...we broke up." The first time you hear your song on the radio and the memories just come flooding back. When you find his hat in the back of your car - the one he left there on your last beach trip together... and you lose it. When you pass a car on your way to work and it's the same model, color and year as his - and you gasp and begin to cry all at the same time. When you start avoiding certain restaurants or stores because there are too many memories there of times spent with him. When the 1 week-to-the-day mark hits - the 1 month...2 months...3 months... and the pain is just as searing as it was at the 1 hour mark. When you can't stop thinking about what you lost. You cry yourself to sleep every night and plod through every day, asking God "Why?" and wishing you could just wake up from the nightmare.


    Oh my friend, I have been there. And while, perhaps, your response to the loss of a relationship is not quite as dramatic as mine (yes, the above story was based on true events!) -- my grieving is something akin to Marianne in "Sense and Sensibility" when she loses Willoughby (Right, Jane Austen lovers?) 


     Hey, I love hard, I grieve hard, and I express those emotions. But darling friend - we've all been there; we've all felt (in some way or another) the battering winds of the hurricane of heartbreak. And I want to encourage you, in the midst of the pounding rain and icy cold wind of loss and grief, hold onto Jesus. I beg of you - don't let Him go. And I, speaking from experience, would like to share seven ways to do that practically: 


one // know this: it is a big deal. Don't let anyone diminish your pain. Because it's real and it needs to be walked through. Although I've never truly been "in love" (not the "You're a bird, I'm a bird" kind of love) I remember when I went through my first heartbreak over a guy I truly cared about. A few well-meaning girlfriends said, "Get over it! Move on. He wasn't that great and he didn't treat you right anyway." What they said was true. Still, I cared about the guy a lot - and the loss of the relationship, the friendship with him even, was painful. Yet, it was more than just heartbreak over a lost boyfriend. In all honesty, I knew the guy was kind of a jerk, I knew the Lord wanted me to break up with him, and I knew he was not "the one" I could see myself walking down the aisle toward in a white dress someday. For me, it was the loss of a dream - the dream of marriage - moving further and further out of sight. As Proverbs 13:12 says, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life." 


      Also, I want you to know this: breaking up is a big deal because (and I firmly believe this) each romantic relationship takes a piece of your heart you can never get back. People may argue this, but it's true. No matter how big or small the relationship was. Whether you dated for 6 months and never even kissed or if he was the love of your life for 4 years. I don't care what the world says: physical intimacy on any level means something, and when the relationship is severed after sharing that intimacy, hearts will be broken and it will never be forgotten. A woman's heart is like a rose. It can only be battered and handled so many times before it falls apart and wilts. Be careful with your heart. Be careful in choosing who you date. Be careful with your purity. This is a big reason why breaking up "is hard to do." 


two // remember that big girls DO cry. When a plastered smile on your face and a mantra of chanting - "I don't care, it doesn't matter, he's not mine. I don't care, I don't care..." melts into a mess of tears and you hate yourself because you do care ...yet you know he is not right for you... you have to admit something: it hurts. And that's okay. It's going to hurt. It's gonna hurt like h-e-double hockey sticks! (Hey, just tryin' to keep it PG here :) In the first 24 hours of my first breakup, I jumped in the car and headed down the highway to the nearest beach town for a day out with my girlfriends. I smiled, laughed, said "Yeah, girl, I'm totally fine!!!" I drank iced coffee on the beach and took pictures. At the end of the day? I sank into my bed alone and cried harder than I ever have in my entire life. I tried to be strong and "fine" but it didn't work. I needed to be honest. And that felt weak and ugly. Yet, it's necessary. Grief is a natural and healthy part of life, my friend. It's not fun and it's not glamorous. But it's needed. It is necessary to fully grieve if you are going to move on someday. So cry it out. Get that tissue box and sad song, and cry. It's okay. The tears are healing. Don't try and put on a plastic smile or happy face and push those feelings away. They'll just rear their head again someday. And remember one of the most comforting truths God speaks into our lives: "You number and record my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle - are they not in Your book?" -Psalm 56:8


three // read the psalms. I couldn't take it another minute. On day 3 of a broken heart, I came to the end of myself (AKA became tired of watching sad movies and crying my eyes out) and so I washed my face, sat down alone on the floor of my apartment and I opened my Bible. A wise friend of mine had suggested I read through Psalm 101-Psalm 139 "If you can't take the dark feelings anymore." And so I did. I sat cross-legged on the floor, with a mug of coffee in my hands, and I read and read and read ... truth upon truth, tears falling freely. Man, it gave me hope. The indescribable peace that can only come from God. And though it sounds simple, that was one of the most memorable moments of my life. For the first time in my adult life, I experienced sorrow and was lifted out of it by nothing but the Word of God. It's an amazing experience of hope. And though this sounds crazy, I wouldn't trade that break-up for anything in the world. So in your dark moments of heartbreak, go - open that Bible and read the Psalms. Full of real, raw honest human emotion and comforting truth. Like this: "I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes... The Lord has heard my weeping. The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer." -Psalm 6:6-9


four // cut ties and move on. Or, in other words: delete him from Facebook. Or at least, block yourself from seeing his updates. I know this sounds harsh and I also know everyone's situation is different - some people break up and are just fine being good friends after they part. But in these more "messy" situations of heartbreak, I recommend cutting ties and moving on. Can we be honest here, girls? If you are constantly checking his Facebook, looking at his latest pictures, monitoring any and all females that may write on his wall - stop. It's not helpful. It's not helping you move on with your life and get over him. "Out of sight, out of mind" is not true in all cases - but I believe it's true in this case. If you find yourself often re-reading the cards and letters he gave you and then throwing yourself on the bed in a mess of sobs more than a few times... it's time to take drastic measures. You've gotta stop obsessively his relationship status on Facebook. You've gotta stop pouring through photos of the happier dating days and thinking over what you lost. Yes, it's healthy to grieve and cry and work through the loss. But eventually you have to move forward and move on with your life. In a lot of ended relationships, an ex will continue to contact you. I've experienced that, and though it gives you glimmers of "hope" in the midst of the loss, it really isn't helpful in most situations.  Again, it's the principle of guarding your heart. Be careful with your emotions and heart, protect yourself, and if necessary, take drastic measures to do so in the midst of heartbreak. "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." -Proverbs 4:23


five // find a strong, godly supporter. In those moments you want to call him, want to give up, want to go back to bed, quit your job, stop living life and crawl under your covers in bed and never get out. When you can't stop watching Nicholas Sparks movies and eating boxes of chocolate - you need someone. You need someone you trust who loves you to help you out of the pit, which I affectionately call (having lived there several times myself) "the depths of despair." 
Exhibit A: remember this? This is not where we want to go, ladies.
via 
    My mom helped me so much in times of heartbreak. She patiently listened to my crying, my regrets, my fears - but she also helped me out of the dark place. She encouraged me in gentle ways to move forward. She reminded me of truth: the truth of God's love for me, the truth of His plan, and of the realities of what I lost, which (in honesty) was a guy I am now very thankful I did not commit my life to. Find a godly, strong, mature supporter to cheer you on. You cannot do it alone.


six // get out there and serve fearlessly. I know this is the last thing you want to do in the midst of a relationship loss. But, friend - it is one of the only ways to move on. Getting out of yourself, your pain, your heart's hurt - and looking to help and serve others will drastically change your outlook. One of the downfalls of a broken heart is inwardness and selfishness. I know you don't want to serve. I know you'd rather just stay home and cry. But the time for that must end eventually and you must move forward. The best way to move forward is to give - to forget your troubles for a while and think of someone else. So volunteer at church, simply write a friend a thoughtful card, make cookies and give them to your sick neighbor, buy Starbucks for the person behind you in the drive-thru. It will make all the difference and you might find yourself smiling. As 2 Corinthians 6:10 says, "Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing." 


seven // get to know the lover of your soul. You are single again. And that is okay. It's not the end of the world. In fact... it's a beautiful opportunity. I know, I know - hand-holding, Friday night dates, sweet texts and a cute boy to call you "pretty" is wonderful. But at the same time, being single is wonderful and fun, too! Last year, I decided to stop thinking of singleness as a scary, lonely awful black hole and I began viewing it as a precious gift. Spend these precious moments you would otherwise use Skyping with a boyfriend to sit at the feet of Jesus and pour out your heart to Him. Let this season of singleness be an offering to God - a form of worship to Him. Use this time to enjoy being just you and the Lord. I've found singleness to be a special, beautiful, rare and sacred time - a gift and a chance to grow and learn. I once had a chance to ask one of my role models, singer Rebecca St. James, what she wished she'd done differently while still single. She said that she wishes she had spent more time "grooming" herself for her groom! Learning how to communicate, love others well, learn practical skills like cooking and homemaking, and becoming more like Christ. It is a unique, beautiful time - perhaps the one chance in this life that the Lord gives us a window of time in our young years to get to know the Lover of our Souls without the distraction of a boyfriend, husband, or little ones. Don't waste it. Cherish it.


          Keep your chin up, beautiful. Yes, it's hard and painful. Cry it out. Find peace in God's truth. Get a support system around you. Go out and serve. And when you fall into the depths of despair -  if a boy breaks your heart or life crushes your dreams in another way - run to the feet of Jesus and rest in His peace. After all, He loves you. And he cares about each one of your tears: they are in His bottle. Single, dating, breaking up, or married - we are His daughters. And that is the most beautiful comfort of all.


Sweet reminder to us all, in every phase of life: 

"Hold everything in your hands lightly,

Otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open."

-Corrie Ten Boom

Photo Credit: Photographer, Karen Kingsbury

Love to you all 
and prayers for you who walk through valleys of heartache
only to rise to the heights of healing through 
the lover of your soul setting your heart ablaze 
with the passion of His love.

XO

Erin


 *This post is dedicated to my sweet sisters who are walking through a heart-wrenching break-up right now. Friend, if you need someone to talk to or to pray for you, please don't hesitate to e-mail me @ erin_sweetnessitself@hotmail.com 

Monday, June 25, 2012

sweetness style: June.

 first off - remember, this is Ablaze series week! Please go read Annie's post on singleness from Monday. And Nicole's post Tuesday on dating. I'll be back Wednesday dishing on my tips for staying strong in Christ while enduring a heartbreaking end to a relationship. You really don't wanna miss these posts!

***

        Oh, summertime. Warm weather is hands-down the best. One of my favorite things about summer is the clothes. I love the laid-back feel of summer and I love me some summer fashion. Cute lil' dresses, skirts, sandals and tank tops are my favorite clothes to slip into - and let's face it, summertime attire is just way easier and simpler than cold-weather outfits. And while we all gotta love our Burberry scarves and leather boots, come springtime - I'm always happy to ditch thick socks, fleece coats and scarves for lighter, breezy outfits. And since fashion is really one of my favorite hobbies (umm does it count as a hobby? It does in my book!) So, girls - go pour yourself a glass of sweet iced tea, get comfy, & maybe even turn on one of my favorite summery songs (this one... this one) to get you in the mood - 'cause I got some summer style to share with ya! 

      My sweet friend Kelsea kindly agreed to be my model for this first Sweetness Itself blog fashion shoot. I asked her to put together some outfits and boy did she deliver! Besides being one of my best life-long friends (she might as well be our sister) Kelsea is one stylish girl. She is also simply amazing, such a faithful friend, a godly example of a girl who loves Jesus, and someone I've learned so much from. She heads off to college this fall - the same school I graduated from - the one she dreamed of going to when visiting me in the dorm. I'm super proud of her. Plus, isn't she gorgeous?! (Oh and please ignore the fact that I'm totally not looking at the camera in this pic...whaaaaat?!) 
     For each of the 3 outfit sets, I included "outfit stats" so you can run out and buy yourself one of the little numbers you just love seeing on Kelsea! Because we chose not to include accessories in this shoot, I threw together a little accessory idea board for each of the outfits - I included some ridiculously expensive, top label brands just to inspire us - so we can do my favorite thing: find the knock off versions for a fraction of the cost. Stylish and designer yet still cheap. 'Cause, let's face it - who wants to spend $1,000 on a watermelon-colored bag that's in this season and out the next? Cheap yet classy shopping is the name of my game. Score, right?! Enjoy some of my favorite summer looks for June!


Outfit #1: 

{stats: bracelet: Aldo earrings: Kenneth Cole New York Era Necklace: J.Crew Bubble}



Outfit #2: 


{stats: bag: balenciaga. necklace: kate spade. earrings: kenneth jay lane. hat: austique.co.uk}

Outfit #3: 

{stats: necklace: barney's NYC. ring: sydney evan. pashmina: debenhams.com sunglasses: ray bans}

   Are you inspired yet??       


      The only unfortunate part of the fab photoshoot was one little mis-step I made. Just for fun, I decided to wear some fake eyelashes just 'cause I was feeling cool. The lashes, by the way, they cost a mere $1!!!! Who could resist?
        After a day of shooting, I carefully removed the right lash with the instructed warm wet washcloth. But, apparently, removing the left lash the proper way was just too darn hard, so instead of following the directions, I decided to just go "cold turkey" and go ahead and tear that bad boy right off. Can't hurt, right? Um... WRONG! I've spent the past four days in serious pain - with a completely swollen left eye. That's where vanity and impatience gets ya, girls, ha! 
   Me, after removing said eyelash: 
I realize this picture makes me look like a complete idiot - I did say left eye.
Mirror image picture here :)

Moral of that story: carefully remove your false eyelashes!!


     Battle wounds aside - I hope y'all were inspired to spruce up your summer wardrobes! Thanks again to my sweet model for a fabulous shoot and for letting us copy her outfits :) 


        And seriously, ladies - pray for me little eye please? Some of you Instagram-ers prayed so faithfully last night & I've seen (no pun intended) a huge improvement! (The Lord answers prayer!!) And any advice you'd like to share on ridiculous, totally silly, who does this happen to but me?!?! false eyelash injuries like mine would be greatly appreciated. 


Hugs, loves!

Don't forget to check out the Ablaze posts
 and stop by Wednesday for my baring-of-the-heart 
and sharing of my break-up diaries.

XO

Erin


*style boards made using Polyvore.


ps - I'm linking up here today, go check it out and meet new friends!


Friday, June 22, 2012

set your heart on fire: Ablaze.

  Darling friends.


  If you stop and look around for just a few minutes, you will hear, see, encounter and experience lies in this world. You are bombarded with messages everywhere. Billboards, songs, TV shows, books, radio stations, Internet ads, commercials - scream for your attention, beg for your heart, allure your eyes and mind. And instead of telling you truth - lies will enter your heart. Unless you live in a cave all alone, the messages of this world will stare you in the face, day after day. Lies that say you need money, popularity, social status, and romantic relationships to make you happy. And if you are not careful, these lies will shape your mind, your thoughts, your actions, and your heart. Instead of lighting your heart on fire for Jesus, you will grow cold to truth. Numb to light and life. I've been there. Just a few years ago, all the things this world says you need to make you happy drifted out of my reach, I found myself in a desert. A desert of loneliness and disillusionment. And though my heart never lost sight of Jesus, I felt like the fire of passion that once burned in my soul for Him began to grow dim. In the desert, I realized that no amount of romantic relationships, earthly goods, or social status would ever make me truly happy. So I decided that I had to get to Jesus. I became desperate for Him. Frantic in seeking Him - He was all I needed. And I found Him. In a new way. He lit my heart on fire. And friends, I want you to know that kind of passion - the passion for God that surpasses the desire for anything or anyone else.


   My dear friend - I want to share this passion with you. Along with my sweet friends Annie, Nicole, and Annie  (yep, 2 different yet wonderful Annies!) I am going to share some perspectives and thoughts on passion for God. Initiated by Annie #1 :) this next week, we will be offering our hearts - sharing with you, our sisters, the ways we have fought for and found our hearts lit on fire for God. 





  We are not experts nor are we perfect. Yet, having walked through unique and different aspects of life, we would like to share with you a meager offering of encouragement - our stories and the lessons we have learned about a love that is stronger than death. A love that is bigger than what your "relationship status" is on Facebook. And surpasses whatever phase you may be in life. We will share with you how we've learned to pursue Christ in the midst of singleness, dating, breaking up, and marriage.


 The schedule


Monday, June 25: Singleness, by Annie of What She Saw
Tuesday, June 26: Dating, by Nicole of Bloom 
Wednesday, June 27: Breaking up/Readjusting to Singleness by Erin of Sweetness Itself
Thursday, June 28: Marriage by Annie of Turning Pages 


 In these posts, we'll attempt to answer one simple question: 


How do we pursue Christ in the midst of these stages?


   Although we don't have all the answers, we desire to share our hearts with you all. And at the end of the week, we will provide a place for you to share where you are and how you pursue Christ's love fiercely. We hope you link up with us on Friday, June 29 - the link up will be on all four blogs (you will only need to link up on one blog and it will show up on all four.) 



 May we come closer to Jesus through this coming week of pursuing.
 And may our hearts be set ablaze by the passion of His overcoming love.


Be blessed and Happy Friday!

XO

Erin


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Game On, Summer.

  
  It's summertime... what will you do with it?

    Ready, set, go. Today was the first day of summer! And time's ticking away. I've never been one who particularly likes the confines of time. I'm a laid-back free spirit, easy-going and go-with-the-flow. Sometimes, that can be wonderful. Because sometimes, I'm kinda like a free, singing bird. But, it can also be a bad thing. Sometimes, I lose track of time and forget to plan ahead.




   As Frank Sinatra crooned, "Summahtime... and the livin' is easy" - we love the "easy-breeziness" of summer. Yet, I've realized something as summers pass and I am older (and hopefully a little bit wiser.) For far too many years in my past than I'd like to admit, the balminess of summer nights turned swiftly into crisp autumn days, and I would suddenly wake up one morning to see golden leaves falling outside my window and pumpkins on display at the grocery store. And suddenly I'd realize, summer is gone and my heart is filled with a tinge of regret. 




    If I am truly honest with myself, perhaps the fly-by summers I've experienced in my life have less to do with lack of planning or procrastination - and more to do with my discontentment. Truthfully, something about summertime air always carries with it a certain happiness and perfection. As the cool spring breeze turns to a balmy summer wind - certain "ideals" come along with it. And in my hopeless romantic's mind, if I did not have the perfect situation come summer (and this applies to any season of life, really) then I'd think, "forget it." You see, for my perfect summer - I need to have a bank account full of money to fund my ideal tropical summer vacation, and then of course I'll need a budget for my dream wardrobe and must-have beauty products for the summer. I'll need planned beach trips and girls nights out. An ideal summer would also include romance, right? So, the perfect tanned and handsome man needs to be in my life, right? Or maybe marriage and a family  - that may be the perfect set-up for summer - a couple kids and the SUV to take on park outings and camping trips. As summer approaches each year, my comparing and selfish heart start working - these types of thoughts begin flowing - and all of the sudden, my focus is on me, me, me... what I don't have. What I want. Self-pity begins creeping in. Being purposeful just went out the window, along with contentment and finding any joy in my faith and the Lord. And I'm stranded in feeling bummed out as I spend the "going through the motions" summer comparing my life with those around me and not taking opportunities to serve others or grow in my faith.




    Friends, I am being totally honest with you here. Comparison and discontentment with what I have - these struggles have held me back in past summers. But you know what? That's not going to happen this year. No ma'm. I remember when I was 15, I got to visit some of the islands in Greece. I watched from a cruise ship deck how a group of girls jumped off a high cliff on the isle of Mykynos, straight into the dark blue water of the sea. I wanted to do it too. This year, I am going to jump off the cliff of my fear and into deep and beautiful "waters" of summer - regardless of my circumstances. Even if life isn't just as I would imagine. Because, maybe - it's even better.



   Darling friend, your situation may be different than mine. And, maybe I'm the only who who feels this way....but perhaps you do too, in your own way. So instead of just wishing away summer in discontentment, will you take on a challenge with me? I started a list today. Appropriately, on the first day of summer. Will you write one with me? A list that helps you embrace summer, just as God has given it to us this year. With it's flaws and things that lack. And just maybe... in an effort to embrace this season in a new way, we will find just how beautiful it can be - just how beautiful contentment where we are can be. 

  My list? It includes things like,

  • Make homemade sweet tea.
  • Find a homeless person and give them a care package (see my Pinterest "good ideas" board for this one) 
  • Go to the beach and look for seashells.
  • Spend a whole afternoon laying in the sun in a hammock.
  • Send a card to a friend who lives near me, just because.
  • Pray for friend's missions trips faithfully.
  • Make summer fabric bunting to hang in my window.
  • Take a friend out for coffee and pay for her.
  • Do something that scares me.
  • Watch old black and white movies.
  • Start a project I've been procrastinating.
... and a whole lot of others dreams, too. 

photo in honor of my dear friend, Rae 

    Maybe you can't take that fabulous summer vacation you were hoping to afford. But perhaps you can take the initiative to plan a simple picnic at the park with friends. Maybe you can't go to that tropical destination, but maybe just a day-trip to the local river, stream, beach, or ocean can be special. Maybe you don't have a handsome man to go on summer evening dates with, but maybe spending this summer investing in special young girls in your life or hanging out with your mom will be lifelong relationships you build. Perhaps you don't have a baby to pack up and take to the pool, but maybe you can offer to babysit for a friend who needs a day off. 

   Will you join me in striving to give rather than get this summer? To serve rather than be pampered? To embrace God's will for our lives this summer rather than mourning over the failure of our own agenda.


    The season will change soon enough, dear. Soon than you think, we'll be ordering Pumpkin Spice Lattes (with extra whip!) at Starbucks and cheering for our favorite football teams. Soon, the summer breeze will blow away. And what will you have to show for summer? I want to... for one of the first times in my life ... really embrace this summer. Because, after all - we only have one wild and precious life to live. Will you step up to the plate with me? (Where are these sports references coming from? I'm just gonna go with it...) Let's make this our best summer yet. 




     My dear reader, may you rise up singin' on your summer mornings.
 And the rest of the day, may you spread your wings and take the sky. 
You know why? 'Cause you're loved by God.



This is your summer - what are you going to do with it?





Breathe a little deeper tonight.


Make some iced coffee and add a little extra sugar. 


Slip out to your front porch and watch the sunset from your porch swing.


Put an old record in the player and crank it up,


or just YouTube some good old Ella Fitzgerald (I can't get enough of this one- "Black Coffee")




It's the longest night of the year. Embrace it.
I made a celebratory pitcher of sweet passion iced tea.
{recipe I use here}






Game on, summer.






XO


Erin


{summer verse}


"But godliness with contentment is great gain." 


-1 Timothy 6:6


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

in my father's eyes

{this post is in belated honor of father's day and my dad's graduation}


   Dad. A mere 3-letter word. But, oh the depth of meaning in it, the magnitude of weight it holds. Fathers. The figure of a father has touched all our lives, guaranteed. Negatively or positively, for good or bad -  we are all influenced by our father: the presence of him in our life or the lack of his presence. Whether your dad was your beloved "daddy" who showed up for every dance recital and cheered on the sidelines of each soccer game, or if he was distant, absent, aloof...or altogether missing from your life... the idea of a father, at very least, impacts every aspect of who you are. 

 Just as the purpose of marriage is to picture Christ and the Church in a smaller image on this earth, fathers are placed by God in a family to lead, love, and shepherd the hearts of their children...just as God does for His people. Yet, just as marriage is sometimes marred by the horrors of divorce or perversion, fatherhood is also tainted by unfaithfulness, lack of leadership, or absence. Yet, there are good men who walk out fatherhood as best they can (with God's help) and strive to love and lead their children in a way that honor's the Lord - and in these precious ones, fatherhood can be such a beautiful picture of God's love for us.


{me & dad - father's day 2012}


    Yesterday as we celebrated Father's Day, I couldn't help but be thankful for my earthly dad. The one who exemplifies the heart God for His children in such a sweet and incredible way. He is an example of God's love and care for me, and for that I am grateful and thankful. In the past few weeks, my family's had the chance to celebrate Dad in some special ways - not only observing the holiday of Father's Day last weekend, but the week before we celebrated Dad's completion of his doctorate degree from seminary. He is a Doctor of Divinity - after years and years of work and sacrifice. And I am over the moon proud!




  As I've been thinking about my dad and how he has loved me for so many years, I thought about how his love is a mirror and a picture of God's. Not everyone has the privilege of a dad who is like mine, and I know I am really lucky. But even if you don't have a dad in your life or he just hasn't been there for you, I want you to know something: you have the most amazing Father there is. 


    I've been thinking about God as Father. Oftentimes, we view God as impersonal, distant, or even sternly looking down on us from Heaven with a concerned and harsh demeanor. Yet, that is so far from the truth. He loves us. Man, does He love us. And he tells us in Scripture that He loves us as a Father. Like a proud daddy who loves his little girl and would lay down his life to protect her. That's how He loves you. And I am infinitely thankful for an earthly father who has made it easy for me to understand how God loves me as a father. 


  I think of how my dad has been there with me through thick and thin. How he has walked with me through hard times, seasons when I've strayed and fallen, through changes, through the good and the bad. He's shown me God's love,  not by just telling me about it - but in the most convincing way possible - by living it. 






He showed who God is by...

..How he's raised me, provided for me, taken care of me practically and spiritually. 
..How he taught me how to ride my bike. 
..How he planned special family vacations for us every year. 
..How he spent his every pastor's Friday off work homeschooling me and my sister while mom took a break - reading high-brow literature to us, teaching us fine art, and taking us on "nature walks." 
..How he made my 16th birthday so special - rented a limousine and made it possible for me and my 4 best girl friends to enjoy a magical night under the stars of Beverly Hills, dining at the finest restaurant and dressed up in prom gowns.
..How he comforted me when I was brokenhearted at 18 years old. And how he told me confidently that "God will use this someday to minister to many women." I shook my head at the time and didn't believe him....but I see it now.
..How he loves my mom, his wife, so well and with such a servant's heart.
..How he worked for over 20 years on his education and recently completed it with such faithfulness (I am over-the-moon proud of him!)
..How he showed me how to love Jesus fiercely and to radically live for God.

    My dad is a gem and I am eternally thankful for His example, influence, and presence in my life. And yet, yesterday as we celebrated wonderful fathers like my Dad, I also spoke with a few dear friends of mine who don't have dads in this life. And I was reminded that whatever our situation is - whether we are privileged to have incredibly loving, faithful dads or whether we have an empty place in our hearts, wishing a dad had been present in our lives - we all have the ultimate Father: God. He describes Himself in Scripture as Father many times. And, as wonderful as our earthly dads may be, He is still the ultimate example of a Father. 

 May I remind you of all the ways God is Abba to us, "Daddy" to His children:



  I've always been a "Daddy's Girl." When I was little, my dad was my hero - and he still is. In times of heartache, he's loved me unconditionally - just like God holds us when we sink into the depths of despair. And in times of joy, he is always there cheering along with me.
 I look up to him so much.


{Silliness in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - 2009}


 The other day, I found my first-ever prayer journal. At the age of 12 years old I started praying for my future husband for the first time. In scribbled, misspelled letters I made my first list of what I prayed for in "my man." I smiled as I read through the desires of a 12-year-old's heart, and stopped when I noticed #2. Right after "Be a pastor/Christin" (guess I forgot the "a" there...) And above, "Gotta love kids" (at the time I planned to have at least 10 and adopt 2) and "support me in my singing career" (I was just 110% sure I would be the next Amy Grant), I wrote,
"Be just like Dad." 



 He's the reason I am so picky about guys I date - because few men live up to his standard of character. My dad is the most amazing and wonderful father, husband, professor, pastor, writer, leader, griller, and fly-fisherman in this world.


  I pray that I someday love the Lord as passionately as my dad does.
 I pray that I love my future children as generously as my dad loves me & my sister. 
I'm thankful for Dad's reminder in my life of the bigness of God's love for people.
And I pray that you are reminded today 
of how extravagantly 
you are loved
by your Father - your Abba, God.


He loves you.
So, so much.





"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God.
And that is what we are!" 
-1 John 3:1


XO

Erin



***


PS - I created a little video documenting Dad's graduation last weekend, enjoy!



***
Special thanks to Karen Kingsbury for taking some of the photos in this post
 and for the inspiration for the topic and title :)
***

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Longer the waiting, sweeter the kiss.





oh, the longer the waiting, the sweeter the kiss.


it's better my darling, I promise you this.


will you wait for me, darling?


  Waiting. It's not a word any of us care for. Waiting is not popular in this culture. In an age of fast microwaves, fast cars, fast internet, and fast food... we don't like waiting. In fact, if you really stop and notice - we all tend to get very irritated when we must wait longer than we'd like: when the line at Starbucks takes forever, when we're stranded in turtle-slow traffic, when the poor waiter at the restaurant is having a rough day, or when somebody is late to meet us. Over the years, I've noticed how clearly I dislike the times things do not fit into my perfectly-planned timetable. How annoyed and downright discontent I tend to become when things don't happen when I want them to.




  Yet, I've also come to see - as time passes and seasons change over and over again - how beautiful waiting can be. And I want to remind you of this beauty today.


  You see, it's kind of like Christmas (it's the best illustration I can think of...and besides, around June/July I start missing Christmas like crazy so let's just throw this in here for good measure.) I believe certain things must be anticipated and waited for. And one of these things is sex. Though not everyone agrees, I firmly believe it must be waited for. It's worth waiting for. And here's why:


   Imagine with me... a child waking up on Christmas morning to a messy, cold house. There's no fire in the fireplace, no cheery Christmas lights. A tree from last year stands in the living room, it's ornaments fallen off and broken, lights gone dim. The presents under the tree were ripped open weeks ago, torn wrapping paper strewn about with dust settling on it from ashes in the fireplace. No candles lit, no happy Christmas music playing - because the iPod died after being played over and over the last few weeks. You see, this family celebrated Christmas right after Thanksgiving.  They wanted Christmas to come so badly this year, they decided not to wait. As gifts were bought, they were immediately unwrapped right after. The special Christmas breakfast food was eaten soon after purchase at the grocery store. The coffee had been drunk, only used grounds sitting in the stale coffee maker. The rocking horse given to the child broke about a week ago in a frenzy of mid-day play one bored afternoon. Christmas had already been celebrated. But not in a big, much-anticipated, excitement-filled event that had been saved up for - presents wrapped and tucked carefully under a beautiful tree.... food bought and dutifully prepared, carefully placed in wrappings in the refrigerator, waiting to be prepared on this very day. The Christmas tree was not thoughtfully set up, ready for the big unveiling: lights and ornaments placed just so. No wood stacked up and set beside the fireplace, ready to be burned as it's flames send warmth into the celebratory room. No gifts to savor opening, no pretty shiny paper taped precisely and carefully for little hands to happily unwrap. No iPod all charged up, playing the special yearly album that is saved for one day and one day alone each year. No camera batteries charged, no lenses cleaned and ready to snap precious pictures.  No Christmas pajamas to be worn, no soft new fleece to sink into as stockings are opened. No Christmas meal to eat. 


 Because, you see - it's already been done. 


 Yeah, opening the gifts as they came was fun...in it's own way. But it was fleeting and now it's over. There is no big, special event. And the family is regretting it very much. Everything's over, done, tarnished even. Dusty, used, broken. The fun's been had. Not in an exciting culmination of - "I can't take it anymore but it's FINALLY the day!!" - that comes when something is prepared for, carefully readied, longed-for, anticipated. 




   The anticipation is half the fun. This is how I feel when I look at the majority of couples who "rip into" the beauty and fun of sex and marriage from day one. When they're "hooking up" with an almost-stranger on a first date, having the most intimate experience - physically, emotionally and spiritually - one can share with anyone, there is soon nothing new. Oh, you don't really know each other. That takes way more time. But the beautiful gift from God called sex is forced open, like a bud - it's petals torn off before their time, forever stunting the flower's growth. Instead of carefully gazing at the precious bud in wonder, watching as the days pass and soon the petals slowly yet surely open - and the flower blooms into something beautiful, natural, spectacular even. Instead, the bud is forced open. Yes, the petals are still there and still semi-intact. The flower is still a lovely color. Yet, it didn't ever really bloom, did it? It was stunted and forced...and that is not blooming. Blooming takes time. And you cannot really see it happening. Only over hours, days, weeks...nurturing, tending, and watching over it - giving the bud proper light, water, food....but mostly, time and space to bloom. A bud is just like a relationship between a man and a woman. It takes time and space to get to know one another, to establish a relationship. It takes waiting and patience - you must be still for a spell. And at the right time, it will surely bloom. A relationship will be ready for marriage, and it will bloom into something that takes your breath away. 




   My dear readers, this is why I am waiting for my future husband. This is why I am abstaining from sex at this time, while I am unmarried. It might be fun in the moment, but that would take away from the beauty of the later - the full bloom. It would steal from the fun of looking forward. I don't want to wake up on the "Christmas morning" of my future relationship with my man and realize we've already ripped into the gifts. I don't want to realize that the fun of a long-awaited day finally arriving, the traditions and music and food and gifts of our "Christmas" are already used up. I don't want to realize, "Oh man! We used up all the wood for a fire last Tuesday... the tree died a month ago... last week we ate all the food, and the week before that? We took all the garland off the mantel and the lights off the house and threw them away, because they wore out, faded, and got dusty." I don't want to realize we've stolen all the long-lasting beauty of the bloom just because we were too impatient to anticipate the beauty of waiting.


   Purity is a funny thing. It grows more beautiful with time. Like fine wine: the longer it is in a cellar, stored away in the coolness and darkness, the better it will be in the future. Like a pearl: with more waiting, chafing and time, it becomes shiner and finer. 


   There is such beauty in purity. Such joy at the end of waiting. Yes, it is hard. It's not easy to wait. It's not always very fun. Honestly, at times it seems as though it may be best to just rip into those pretty "Christmas presents" and have the fun now - forget the holiday! But, in the end, I know it is better to wait. Because after waiting ... especially after waiting for what seems like forever, it is oh so worth it. 




    Sex is a gift. It is sacred and special. It is made by God. It is meant for marriage. And oh how beautiful, safe, protected, and sweet it is - where it is supposed to be. Darling friends, wait for it. For those of you who are still waiting like I am - be encouraged. You are not alone. Stay strong and resist the constant temptations that try to tear down and distract our faithful hearts. When you fall at times, get back up bravely and move on. If you are one who has already opened your "gifts" - it's not too late. You can recycle them, you can start afresh today - you can wait from this point on and receive the sweet redemption, renewal and forgiveness the Lord offers. 




    And for you already married ones, the ones who are already celebrating their long-awaited "Christmas" - you are our inspiration. Please share, in the comments below, how worth the wait was. 'Cause I know it was - some of y'all have already told me!


 And dears, perhaps your "waiting" looks different than this. 
 Perhaps your waiting is...


for a baby.

for the home you're saving for.

for the time when your husband is done with school
 & you can be a stay at home wifey.

for the dream you're working towards.

for the one you love to finally come home from war.

for 2 years of work to culminate in a degree you can hold in your hands.


Whatever it is you long for. Whatever it is you're waiting for... 
Remember that waiting is not a bad thing. in fact - it's really very beautiful. When it blooms in it's own time and not in yours.

It's gonna be so very worth it, loves. Just as we cannot force the sun to rise, don't force it. Don't force the thing you are waiting for. Just wait and be patient, bravely.

For the longer the waiting, the sweeter the kiss. I promise you this.


 XO


Erin



*the title and some words in this post were inspired by this song.


* outfit stats:

top: gift from a friend who lives in Texas!
headband: Target
necklace: Forever 21
watch: Michael Kors (you already know that, I wear it in every shoot)
bracelet: handmade by me!
belt: Forever 21
skirt: Angl - boutique in Los Angeles (it used to be a dress  but I upcycled it - yeah!)

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