i am an imperfectionist.

imperfection

lived

thenestingplace

Six or so years ago we were living in our second parsonage. It had blue outdoor carpet in the bathroom, the teensiest kitchen and nothing more than primer on the walls. We would live there for only six months, we said.

We lived in that little house for two and a half years. At first, I could only see the orangey kitchen floors and the heavy, very old cabinetry and white walls everywhere I looked. I could only see that here we were still right where we had been and it didn’t feel like a thing had changed. I could only see the blue carpet in the bathroom.

But. Things happened. We pulled out the blue pile carpet and we stuffed a handmade island right in the middle of our teensy kitchen. We had a baby. He slept in a bassinet in the breakfast room turned laundry room at night. Life happened and even though I felt stuck, we were going somewhere.

At some point in that two and a half years, I happened upon a blog about home and imperfection. Even though my mama had always told me that a house feels like a home more and more as life brings you collections of things, I had fallen into the big box trap. All of the my storied things felt used up in the face of the picture-perfection big box stores sold me. But when this woman who was just writing her story talked about imperfection and beauty, something clicked and I listened. I started living in my home. So many things happened in those two and a half years, but the most precious thing to me was the part when I started sighing a home sigh when I cam home instead of a not enough sigh.

I can’t even believe it but somewhere along the way, I became friends with Myquillyn. And now she has written a book. I’ve read it cover to cover, including the copyright page because I didn’t want to miss one single jot or tittle. The truth is I was going to be biased. It didn’t matter. This book is lovely and real and a true story about God’s faithfulness, sandpaper seasons, contentment and showing up in the midst of all of that. It’s beautiful and glossy and a treat to read. Also, I cried a good bit. If you’ve been living a wanderer, renter, up and mover, never lived anywhere longer than a few years type of season, you will especially be so encouraged and challenged by what Myquillyn shares.

The Nesting Place releases today. I can’t recommend it enough. I’m still living the truth of imperfection. Peacock green tiles in the kitchen. A dirt pit for a backyard. Stains on the stairs. Smudges and marks on so many walls. A bunch of hand me down furniture that has come together to tell the story of our family. I’m still fighting for contentment. And this book? It’s just what I need. I plan on reading it over and over again.

I think you’ll want to, too.

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you!

things that start in small places.

ELLEN_6f0b76ea-b98d-4e91-b242-6fe831447797_grande

We were standing on the playground, our sandaled feet planted down deep in sand. Our older boys were entrenched in a baseball game and we were keeping young ones busy. We pushed swings and dusted off sand-covered knees and talked about our lives. I was sharing about a verse that had come to mean everything to me: about how Moses reminded the Israelites that God is in the business of doing upside down things like nourishing us with things we can’t know or produce so that we will lean into Him more. I was all excitement sharing about root words and our very own form of manna.

This was my teacher-hearted friend, my teacher-gifted friend. She was pouring her heart into a Sunday morning class full of young women whose hearts were for the Lord and His plan. It was good to break open my heart and let all that I was learning spill out to her. She asked me a question that I didn’t know would be a spark in my life, blazing up long dormant desires and pulling in old things I thought my life had left behind.

“Would you like to lead a Bible study?”

It was a surprise. I told her I would pray, but I really didn’t need to. I knew the answer was yes. That summer, I welcomed a small group of women into my house. Initially, I was so nervous the girls had to tell me what to do.

It snowballed. I led more studies. I agreed to serve in the class. I spent close to three years there: learning, meeting, studying, growing. I sat at the feet of my friend and learned how to teach through books of the Bible and humbly serve. I taught lessons and grew at the hand of my generous friend.

That was a beginning in my life. It wasn’t fancy or grand. It all started in a small place, a place where God was taking one verse and wrecking my perceptions of the world. It’s a thing with us women, isn’t it? This desire to connect and share and learn and grow. We have it in different types, evidenced in different giftings. But. Most of us want to be woven into a community where we can give and learn from each other.

This Thursday night I’m going to be offering a class–a conversation, really–through the Influence Network on this very subject. It’s for women that have a heart to connect, serve, give and learn. It’s for women that feel tugged by that need and don’t know what to do with it. What in the world do we do to serve and love and give to the women in our lives? Where do we begin? How do we overcome obstacles? How do we start? The short answer is Jesus, but I’d love to invite you into this conversation as we look deeper at God’s call and our heart. This class is for any woman who has felt a need to connect and give, even if the what is hazy and the how isn’t clear. You can sign up right here.

about fear and comparison.

comparison

I’m at Starbucks on this sunshiney day and I’m still thinking about fear, about how much I depend on it to motivate me. And it does. It can easily drive my heart and take advantage of my insecurities until I’ve made a mess of my feelings-holder and my day.

I’m afraid I don’t stack up, so I serve lists in my day and look for validation there. I end the day defeated and trying to find marrow in a dry place.

I’m afraid someone else won’t do it just right, so I hover. I rob others of joy and myself of the truth of my weakness.

I’m afraid I’ve made all the wrong decisions as a parent, so I walk around with my heart sinking into my stomach and keeping me unsettled and unfocused. I miss opportunities to just move into my people anyway.

I’m afraid that I’m not a good enough friend, mother, wife and child. I’m afraid that a season isn’t just a season. I’m afraid that God’s good thing for others means there isn’t enough for me, even though my brain knows His goodness, His largeness, His beauty.

So, I look around. I watch what happens in other people’s lives. I store away all the ways that they are better, that their life is better, that they have better good things.

I compare.

But, that’s not how God made me to live.

I believe that God’s love for me is the death of comparison. I believe it. And I’m teaching a class on the truth about comparison and the freedom God wants for us tomorrow night. I’m inviting you. Thursday, February 20th. 9 pm (Eastern). The Influence Network (you don’t have to be a member to take the class). Sign up right here.

*************************

I wanted to mention that it is my joy to be a part of The Influence Conference again this year. In a turn that only God could design, I’ll be speaking this year. He has already begun to till up my heart soil about this weekend and what His words through me will be.

It’s going to be a sweet weekend of community with a list of speakers that you will want to hear from. There’s a place for you. Tickets are on sale right now. I hope you’ll consider joining this community of women who long for God-bent hearts.

some recipes and an invitation.

50a93ccc312d11e3b0ce22000a1fa90f_7

Eightish years ago we lived in our first parsonage. Our girl was just a round, brown-eyed baby. There was a sweet simplicity to my life. It was the New Year and I was full of lots of hope and resolve. I knew how to make a few things: variations on casseroles, chicken in the crockpot and bake and break cookies. I decided that year that I wanted to learn how to roast a chicken, how to bake a pie with flaky, scratch-made crust, how to make cookies that didn’t come in a plastic tube. I still cook and cook and cook. That year began something in me and I’ve covered all kinds of ground. Truth? After dozens and dozens of chocolate chip cookie recipes, my husband still loves the bake and break kind the best.

Over the last year I’ve taken such a journey with food. I’ve cut away and added in and examined my heart and confronted my stubborn will. There is a truth I can’t shake: convenience is killing enjoyment. I’ve found myself so angry at how long it takes to make a meal full of fresh ingredients over and over again. But. I’ve also found that the best meals are the ones I’ve worked hard at making. They leave me full and nourished instead of empty or weighed down.

I’m not a chef. I don’t write recipes or experiment much. I’m a cook, one who loves a good recipe and will go down following it. I try new things often and have at least one grand failure every week. This time and love in the kitchen is a huge part of my life. It seems wasteful to let all of that energy go wandering away when the dishes are done and I get to put my feet up. So. Here are three recipes I’ve loved over the past month.

Zuppa Toscana. This is a paleo-version of the hearty classic soup. I love soup, stews, stoups. All of them. I’m alone in my family on this allegiance but I don’t care. This one was so wonderful and I’m pretty sure my children had no clue they were eating turnips. I used ground pork instead of sausage and added some spice and flavor to kick it up some.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Butterscotch Cake. I made this because my children had eaten through all of the cereal and frozen waffles and we had nothing for breakfast. Plus, my mama had sent home some butterscotch chips and I only had white wheat flour in the house. I substituted coconut oil for the canola oil and pure maple syrup for the sugar. This was so, so good. It was. Just good. I don’t have fancy words for it. Although I eat a predominantly paleo diet my family doesn’t and I’m sure they’ve prayed many a time that I’d give up on paleo-ified treats. I’m learning to just let treats be treats.

Sauteed Fennel and Carrots. I am obnoxiously obsessed with fennel right now. This obnoxious: I tried to evangelize my cashier at Trader Joe’s today on the subject of fennel. It’s great made with carrots but it’s also delicious as a stand alone. I like to leave it in the pan long enough to let it get brown and crispy on the edges.

**********************************

On a sort of unrelated note, I would love to invite each of you to take part in my December class for the Influence Network. I know it’s such a busy month. And that’s why I think we would all do well to gather together around the Word and speak truth over perfection-chasing and expectations. This month’s class is about perfectionism. We’ll be looking at five verses that have been changing me in so many good ways as I slowly learn to rest instead of strive. You don’t have to be a member of the network! Sign up right here if you’d like.

 

meeting and greeting.

The Influence Conference is just over two weeks away.

Two weeks.

I’m getting all kinds of excited and nervous and so ready.

hello

Here is an awkward picture of me. You are welcome. Smiley face.

2 THINGS I’LL BE PACKING

1. Dry shampoo. I’ve finally crossed over and it is the best thing ever. It takes me forever to dry my hair everyday. For.Ev.Er. My husband is saying hallelujahs over how quickly I can get ready on dry shampoo days. Seriously. I’m a little embarrassed at how it is changing my life.

2. Little pieces of my world here. I’m an introvert. Shocker. I’m also a shy introvert. When I get far away from home, my heart legs get all wobbly and before you know it I’m ugly crying into the phone while my husband gives his best version of a pep talk.  But I’m in a really lovely harvesting season here and I’m adding some pretty amazing things into my life in the form of relationships. So I’m bringing the truth that the beauty of relationships is in the way God meets us there. Hearts are His currency and I plan on seeking out ways to connect deeply.

2 THINGS I’M ANTICIPATING

1. Actual fall-like weather. I’m so thankful for our mild winters because I’m not really built for bitter cold and tromping through snowy days but this time of year always makes me angry-impatient for cooler nights and days. The thought of wearing AND needing a light sweater in September? Makes me giddy.

2. Being humbled. Anything I can imagine or dream up falls so short of God’s own vision. I know the women who are behind this thing. I’ve seen the beauty of this community in forums and online classrooms. But for it to be in my face? I don’t think I can accurately wrap my brain around the beautiful things He will do in my heart and in community. And the speakers? I’m already torn about which sessions to go to.

I’m linking up today at The Influence Conference blog with other attendees.

influence.

conf1

I’ve been a fan of The Influence Network since it was a fuzzy dream between two friends. I have the privilege to call both of the founders–Jessi and Hayley–live and in person friends. So. I was going to be a fan no matter what.

I couldn’t go to the conference last year. That’s just my reality. I know it’s yours, too. Sometimes I have to say no when I really, really want to say yes. On the weekend of the conference, I texted with and prayed for my sweet friends. I was so excited for them. A little bit sad, yes. But mostly excited.

I’ve watched something grow since that weekend in October last year that I think is just right. I love that there are so many ways to connect with women through Influence: forums, classes, the conference. And just this week, a relaunch brings discipleship and pursuit groups. Plus, now you can purchase recordings of older classes.

Becoming a part of the teaching team and teaching classes has been a favorite for me over the past seven months. If you’ve never taken a class, I hope you’ll consider taking one soon. I’m super excited about the teachers and subjects the network has lined up for you.

But. I really want to talk to you about the conference this year (It’s September 26-28 in Indianapolis). Listen. Going to a blogging/social media/women’s/whathaveyou conference can be overwhelming, especially for an introvert. At my first conference, I found myself crying on the phone to my husband and ready to come home after a few days. It’s hard for me to be away from my people. But. It’s also abundantly good to sit across the table from a kindred heart or hole up in a hotel room and dream big. There’s nothing like learning that you aren’t alone even when it means that you connect with someone who’s miles away in her everyday.

This year’s conference is going to be a sweet time to connect and focus and surrender. The speakers look amazing (I’m not sure how I’m going to listen to all of them. Because I really, really want to.). There will be smaller, hands-on workshops (I’lm leading the one on writing).  It’s just going to be sweet.

I’m going to be there as a community leader. I couldn’t be more excited even though I am a hermit-like introvert.

How about you? Will you be there?

 

about last week.

86a12aa0ea1b11e292be22000aeb0fee_7

So. I did it. I felt like I might not be able to breathe and I just about melted into a puddle of tears as I was walking up to the stage. But after about five minutes? I got lost in my excitement about God’s Word. What I have loved about this journey through the lessons of contentment is taking the tiny little thing God showed me so personally and then laying His Word over it to see that it was from Him and that His Word is so very much alive.

Thank you for your prayers. I needed them. My community and this little corner are definitely a yes in my life. I still have a painful no in several pockets of my life but the yes of being part of God’s people is so loud and wonderful that I have to honor it. It’s harder for those of us who are introverts but there is beauty in sharing the ways God smoothes the deep set wrinkles in our hearts with His grace.

It’s totally scary knowing that you could mess up or that you could’ve messed up or that someone probably didn’t like what you said. It’s also a pretty great way to be reminded that it’s not your Truth or your Words or your Good News. They’re His and all you can do is step out and trust that He takes our broken mess and makes a beautiful thing.

EDIT: If you’d like to listen, click right here. I want to type a bunch of disclaimers here but I don’t want to discredit who God is through me so I’m not going to even though I really, really want to.

overcoming the lie: where i belong.

2462c19ebd9f11e29e6f22000a9e2992_7

I still have the dreams. The ones where I’m 16 again and I’ve just walked into my high school’s cafeteria. And then the anxiety sets in. I have nowhere to sit. No group to belong to.

For most of my childhood I flitted along the outside edges of social groups never really finding a place to rest for a little while. Along the way I found a friendship or two but the awkwardness followed me. In truth, it was more about my fears than anything. I was afraid I’d be too eager or too annoying or too fumbly. I’d be found out, too–the fact that I was too different. I never belonged.

All lies. I didn’t understand this truth: I’ve taken the place of daughter in God’s heart. Paul declares it, that Jesus carried my name on His heart all the way to the cross. That God looks down at me and knows I am His. I belong. He’s shown me is most personal name and I can call it out to Him at any time.

I do belong. Still, as a grown woman I have to go back to this truth and let it seep down to bone level. I still wonder where I’ll sit. I still hope I’m not found out. I still fear how fumbly I can be.

But I have only to call out Abba and I’m reminded of the place that is just for me in His heart.

I’m participating in a blog tour today for Overcome the Lie. Overcome the Lie exists to equip and empower a generation of women to overcome the lie because Jesus overcame the grave. You can read more right here.

a love letter to my city.

loveletter

When I was 17 and graduation was a hop, skip, jump away and college was a reality and I was ready to leave my awkward high school skin behind, my parents were battling the fear that I might not ever leave. Because while I couldn’t wait to walk away I had no idea where to walk to. On May 1st, 1994 I did what my Daddy told me to. I picked the first place that came to mind as the steam rolled out of a hot morning shower.

Columbia, SC.

I didn’t know that 19 years later, excepting one year after college, I would still be living in this city of cement and pecan trees and red sandy hills. I had grown up with mountains around every corner. I found sticky breezes, flat horizons and low country azaleas. I gave up things. Green tinged evenings that smelled of musty wood and tea olives. Crisp autumns that brought patchwork tree lines. The relief of a soft breeze on a summer evening.

But I gained things. New skin. The relief of a good friend during a hard season. The beautiful aggression of a page of William Faulker. A caramel eyed boy who would understand how much I needed to laugh. Two sons: one with freckles for days and another with an affection for cowboy boots so strong he actually wore them to the pool today. A daughter. A daughter. The weight of that has broken me and mended me. Community.

My city. Yes, it’s hot. Yes, a breeze is a bold hope. Yes, the summer air wraps its vice grip around you until it lulls you into a trance. Yes, it’s still feels small. But it’s also this. It’s gardenia and jasmine surprise. It’s pink sunsets almost every night from May to October. It’s the thunderous roll of a summer born storm. It’s autumn air so mild and sweet. It’s neighborhood church bells on the hour. It’s taking twilight strolls in your jammies.

And this is my love letter to it.

I wonder. Where do you live? And what has it brought you?

I’m linking up with The Influence Network today.

let your heart lie fallow.

heartground

In wooden pews on Sunday morning. Stooped over God’s Word at wind-whipped daybreak. Over the kitchen sink as my heart runs ahead. The pricking. Plowing. Tilling. This year has been full of heart preparation, the rocky soil broken and made ready for a planting.

But God let my heart lie fallow. A season of rest for the soil. Nothing planted. Just waiting. My heart has exploded with joy for others as I’ve watched God nurture and grow planted dreams in their lives. And still a bit of sadness tinged the corners as I wondered what my part was. I’ve questioned my significance and I’ve questioned His plan and I’ve wondered aloud about hope.

But when the fallow ground of your heart is ready,  the Lord quietly ambles across rows in the thick of night. He tenderly plants while you’re unaware. And you stay unaware until the first tiny sprout pushes up through the ground.

You look at that sprout. You’re amazed. It isn’t what you had been preparing for. But in His goodness and sweetness, God has chosen a plant that only you could know you wanted deep down. Only He knows how you whisper in your heart and cling to the heady scent of gardenia blooms and honeysuckle vine and tea olive carried on soft breezes. He knows what’s been hidden underneath for years and years. A sweet reminder that He holds your heart.

_____________

Recently, I shared that what I thought would be a year of writing became a year of waiting. Something sweet has come out of that waiting: sharing my notes on life with others live and in person with my spoken words. I’m so thankful that the Influence Network keeps letting me come back and share all of my scribblings. I’m teaching again this month on rest and margin. Rest is God’s hope for you; Jesus’ call to you. It IS God’s design for the ebb and flow of life. Margin is the tool to get there. If you feel the call to rest, wonder how to build margin into your life or need to know that the burden of doing, doing, doing is not God’s heart for you, I hope you’ll join me next Thursday night at 9pm (EST). Find more here.