Thursday, December 27, 2012


"Seeing is of course very much a matter of verbalization. Unless I call my attention to what passes before my eyes, I simply won't see see it." Ann Voskamp, 1000 Gifts

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. -John 1:14


"My life is full of small rocks, pieces of asphalt..unwanted debris. But somehow God allows each to be served up anyway. Jesus talked to social outcasts, loose women, lawyers like me, and religious people and said they would not just be so many decorations or window treatments, but He would serve them up as well. He said this was true even though we're full of the kind of grit and that accumulates over the span of a life and quite a few parking lots.

"The only thing that Jesus said He couldn't serve up were people who were full of themselves or believed the lie that they were who they used to be before they met Him."

-Bob Goff, Love Does

"God writes a lot of comedy...the trouble is, he's stuck with actors who don't know how to play funny." -Garrison Keillor
“We live in a world where bad stories are told, stories that teach us life doesn't mean anything and that humanity has no great purpose. It's a good calling, then, to speak a better story. How brightly a better story shines."
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”  -C.S. Lewis
"God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man." -C.S. Lewis
"On Judgement Day, Yahweh will not ask you why you were not Moses, he will ask you why you were not his beloved Izzy." -Brennan Manning

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”  -Frederick Buechner

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

"I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10

May your Christmas be warm even if snow is falling, filled with laughter and time to remember God with us. In the midst of wrapping, busyness, parties, yummy cookies, presents, may your family or those who bring you joy remind you of Christ who came. This "indescribable gift!" (2 Cor 9:15)

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

When You Want to Say Something

It seems hard to rightly honor those lost, but sometimes, you want to say something, rather than just keep talking about sleighbells and snow. 

I've been amazed at the outpouring on the blog sphere sharing resources, love and support to those grieving the Sandy Hook tragedy.

 As Kindnessgirl shares, "May we meet the darkest dark with the brightest light."

-Here are some resources that address talking with children about tragedy.

-This post made me remember that even though we may walk through grief, that
it is real, there are also promises of hope, glimpses out there of people and places to see when you are looking for something good again.

Everyone processes things like this differently, and it's important to acknowledge that. If you're a practical, need to know how to help person, you might be asking, "what now?" My friend Amy shares some ideas.

My heart hurts when I think of those children and their families. For even in this very bad nightmare though, I know it's not the darkness that is the end.

There is so much darkness around. But, I'm constantly reminding myself that hope wins in the end. It is the story I want to tell. It is the writing on the wall. I don't have children, but I know the faces of the kids I see everyday. Many of them experience so much hurt, sadness, grief, longing. Sometimes I think they need a safe place to land. A safe place to be upset a little while if they need to be, or even to be happy awhile.

Don't give up and don't shy away if the kids in your life are experiencing grief. I pray space for them if they want to say something too.

Friday, December 14, 2012

On Community and Journey Friends

"A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for a time of adversity." -Proverbs 17:17

This week, I had the pleasure and joy to meet up with my good friend Traci.

Traci is one of those people you can sit down with and the fullness of life and the Lord is evident when you are with her. We laugh and yet talk about things that people might not talk about much, because we know where each other has been, and what may appear awkward becomes normal.


Not sure you can really see it from these pictures (and okay we're not actually related), but we're mistaken for sisters sometimes when we're together.

I'm always thankful when I remember where God has met needs I didn't even know I had at the time in the form of faithful friends.

Change is good.
I'm in the field of helping people; I have been for years, but through counseling I work with people on discovering what kinds of things they'd like to see change. One thing that saddens me is when I see people who don't have support systems in their lives. I'm constantly reminded, from my own life as well, that things are so much harder when we try to go this journey alone!

So, back when I didn't even know I needed a small-small group like this, Traci was part of a group of mine at church that were called Journey Groups, smaller groups who met and were able to walk through life and faith together in a closer way. We started out unsure what it would become, but it was a truly redemptive smaller community within a community. I'm still reminded of the life that can spring up from those places when I let it.

What do you like about community? What is challenging about community?

Who are those friends in your life who have journeyed with you and seen you down the long roads?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas is Coming!

It is now officially halfway to Christmas in the month of December.

Christmas is coming and I love Christmas music. I like checking out at least one new album an artist is putting out a year; recently I've enjoyed songs from Jason Gray's Christmas Stories: Repeat the Sounding Joy.  Check it out. "Joy to the World," "O Holy Night," and "I Will Find a Way" are some of my favorites.

What are some of your favorite Christmas songs?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Unwrapping Blog in a Book

"The Father wants to draw us into the story of his Son. He doesn't have a better story to tell, so he keeps retelling it in our lives." - Paul E. Miller, "A Praying Life."

Not too long ago, I saw Phil Wickham live at a worship concert. It was great! And it made me consider all the times his music had spoken to me. Words resonate with me, words in music especially, and even moreso when it's a song about the Lord.

Today, I'm linking up with Emily Freeman (on a Wednesday) to celebrate Tuesdays Unwrapped. Seeing on purpose the small or big gifts everywhere.

I thought it was kind of neat that after the concert, I stumbled upon the beginnings of this blog when it was just a seed in written form which I had titled: Blog in a Book. Some time back, my friend Mandy gave me a journal/book to write in and I was determine to set the stage for what might me a new writing adventure. I had started the journal writing about music, specifically one of Phil's songs, True Love. Looking back, the words behind this song moved me forward and set me scribbling and onto a new writing venture. I thought I'd unwrap it for you today.

What could be more faithful than the morning? In Phil Wickham's song, "True Love," he speaks of a love more faithful than the morning. The morning is pretty consistent; God gives us grace to see light and dark each day, and his mercies are new each morning.

It is a loving God who is more faithful than even seeing the morning.

"come close and listen to the story..."

I think sometimes we skirt around the heart of story of Jesus. That the Father gave up his Son for us so we could be fully united with Him, freeing us from all the walls that separated us from Him.
Romans talks about this as well.
It's hard for our minds here and now to comprehend sometimes, but there's something in what God says that speaks, yes my child, as much as you think you know about the world and how it works and what you can see, there's no where you can go that you will depart from me. I am with you always. Nothing can separate you from me.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Five Minute Friday: Wonder


From the Airplane Window:

The clouds are starting to break. There are lights below. I can see flashes from other airplanes zigzagging below. The world beneath is starting to open up again. For a moment, I don't want it to yet. Looking at the sky in all its beauty, I want to keep it that way. The clouds look like snow as it starts to thaw. The ground is slightly visible now. The lights below look like a Christmas tree. It all looks the same down below; you'd hardly know there was life everywhere, people with families. There's no more sunlight now. Down below I see blue spots that look like rivers or maybe lakes.

I see flashes of light again. The ground is lighted and glistens now. Every which where - I love the lights. All over the ground as we inch closer to the bottom: lights. The city is farther in the distance for sure. Its compact. Roads spring up. It's beautiful at night. More patches, flashes of light. We keep moving . . .

Linking up for Five Minute Friday (a little late on Saturday!) for the topic Wonder

Friday, November 30, 2012

Balloon Rooms and Serving Others

This past week, when I was in Ohio, I went to the Cleveland Museum of Art. They had a balloon exhibit. The whole room was full of balloons; something like 20,000. That seems a little crazy to me, that many balloons in one room. Still, a pretty great idea. They were all purple balloons. I heard the artist loved that color most. I think he had good taste.

The line for the exhibit was like an amusement park ride. We couldn't wait the hour and a half to walk through the balloon room, but I peered closeby just to see what the fuss was about. Maybe someday I'll walk through a room of balloons. Or have a room in my house with balloons in it. Who knows.

This experience reminded me a bit of a new book by Bob Goff called "Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World." I'm pretty excited to read this book. If you get a moment, watch this video. The museum apparently isn't the only place filling up rooms with balloons.

My friend from bloggy world, Amy Sullivan, has an amazing heart for serving others, and I wanted to share this recent post of hers with you. It's worth reading, I promise. I just had to share: 99 Ways of Serving Your Family and the World This Christmas. 99, are there really even that many to name? Yes, it just goes to show about finding the extraordinary in the ordinary, of ways we can share life with people and love and giving in this season, down to taking what seems ordinary and making it not so in this holiday season. Think you have nothing to give? Think again.

You can do a lot in this colorful balloon world.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Five Minute Friday/ Thanksgiving : Thank you

Happy Thanksgiving (a little late). It’s been a year of counting gifts, here, anywhere. That hasn’t always been successful, but it keeps changing my heart as I search for how there are multitudes everywhere. 
There are so many more multitudes than I can count. It's not Monday, but everyday is a day to say Thank You.
-journal-list-gift reminders, showing me what matters is that I remember
-the people I have come to know in NC, old and new
-the familiarity of Ohio & family who never stops loving
-a small moment to shift my perspective
-sun – in Ohio even!
-re-reading "A Place Called Here"
-skipping rocks
-all, all, all is grace
-friends who remind me of thanksgiving
-home, how it can mean so many different things
-1000 Gifts this year
"You have made known to me the path of life. You will fill me with joy in your presence."
-Psalm 16:11

Inspired by Five Minute Friday : Thank You

Friday, November 16, 2012

FIve Minute Friday: Stay

At the time I didn't want to stay, those tired feet *almost needing a break from traveling. Looking back, I see myself staring for a few moments at the mountains one last time, and realize, staying is what I wanted to do. Maybe just a little longer.

There was something of home that became in me there, in the sense that yes, I could completely settle somewhere I knew nothing familiar. Scary, unfamiliar but still home for a little while. Somewhere that if I tried, I could always find a road back to. The picture is clear. And as much as I struggle at times to map out my next destination, there are some spots that stay vivid in my memory. They might have German names, they might be villages without much meaning to many people. They might fly by and you'd miss them if you weren't looking on the train. But those are the ones that stay.

Linking up with some lovely ladies for Five Minute Friday.

Happy Weekend!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Birthdays, Sisters, and Quiet

College is not a quiet place. It's not quiet when you have to wake up at 6 a.m. for tennis workouts and it's not quiet when you and your roommate are sleepers rather than party animals (we still had a blast). College is not quiet when you get infested with bugs. College is not quiet when you live in a room so small you try to rearrange your room a dozen times to figure out where to put your bed.

College can leave you with things you soon forget and often don't mind forgetting. You don't forget the people you grew up with, the ones who love you and who you stay connected with no matter where you go.

You don't forget the roommate who becomes a sister and calls you her own even though she already has five. You don't forget the times you stayed up and counted your dreams and dished out your fears and found someone else who said, "Me, too."

In the end, quiet is good, but in the loud, flurry of life we meet experiences and people who will always stick out among the clamor. 

Happy Birthday Tomorrow to a sweet sister :).

*Linking up for Five Minute Friday on the topic: Quiet

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


"Do everything without grumbling or arguing,  so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.  But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.  So you too should be glad and rejoice with me." - Philippians 2:14-19

I was excited to complete the(Nearly) 31 days on Inviting the Uninvited, and yet, some things feel very unfinished, especially as it relates to that topic. What do you do when parts of life have no resolution?

That is probably a good thing.

I might need to tell myself this a few more times. 

There is room for sweet friends, new opportunities, purple nail polish, yes. Grumbling, no.

"For all the thirsty in need of the river
For all the sleeping hearts waking from their slumber
For everyone still standing at the shoreline, come"

-Matt Maher, "The Spirit and the Bride"

What is unfinished in your life? Can it be okay?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Roots - Family Style

“But Julie, you’re Greek, so why does your last name sound French? You should be French.”    – student I tutor who knows what’s up.

Except, I shouldn’t be French, that wouldn’t make any sense. Greek. Only Greek. On my dad’s side. Irish on my mom’s.  If you know my family, this makes plenty of sense.  We are who we are, and it fits.
I love roots. Not the kind in the ground (sorry, plants, don’t come near me, I will only kill you!), the kind I can trace back to where my great-grandfather came in from Velvando, Greece, when our name switched from Tsitsimiklis (still the coolest last name ever in my book), and how the Irish side is late everywhere they go (is that an Irish thing or just a character trait?), to stories of how Greek those ancestors were.  My brother went to Greece and it took him a few donkeys and a couple hitchhikes to get to the village we’re from. I say we’re as if I’ve been there. I hope to someday.
I’m convinced my now-love for anything Greek/Mediterranean comes from my dad’s mom, even though sadly when I was little I was far too finicky to have a taste for all the lovelies she concocted in the kitchen.
I love learning about my family, seeing my own when I get the opportunity, and even, getting to see people who resemble the crazy background I come from.  This year was the first time I went to the Greek festival in the south. It was different. I didn’t know the people there. But, something was slightly familiar, universal about the roots there too, if you looked hard enough.  And, because I couldn’t resist, I think I came home with a few pounds of Greek food J.
Question about roots, because I love learning about YOU too, any interesting facts about where you come from?
 Linking up for Five Minute Friday with Lisa-Jo Baker and others - Happy Friday!
me, Irish grandma, brother

Thursday, November 1, 2012

31 Days of Inviting the Uninvited: Old Shoes and The House He's Building

God, I know you have me on an adventure, and it's good. I can take a step back and look at the big picture, I can see that you have a purpose inside every journey and that my steps are planned by you.

It is exciting to think about all the uncharted waters yet to come, those places I often consider uninvited from the start but you are teaching me to look with a wider lens.

As we move from October to November, I can't help but think about transitions. Some transitions in our lives can be fast, but often they are slow for us when we are moving out of one season and into another, or preparing for another. To notice the subtle changes happening around us or in us during these times can be hard. It's not without the Lord doing something in my heart that I become amazed again at the bigger story at play. His story. Knowing my story is part of His.

I pray, friends, that you can see the story in your own lives as it unfolds, too.
I pray all different uninviteds are ushered in: joy, trials that give birth to hope, laughter, friendship and community, new experiences and places you might never have thought to go.

I pray a kicking off of any "old shoes" you've been walking in and rest for the tired feet.

As gifted singer/songwriter Audrey Assad says during this live performance of "The House You're Building, "God chooses us before we're perfect...He picks the broken stones to build the house with."

God knows what He's doing with what He's building.

"If God is sovereign, then he is in control of all the details of my life. If he is loving, then he is going to be shaping the details of my life for my good. If he is all-wise, then he's not going to do everything I want because I don't know what I need. If he is patient, then he is going to take time to do all of this. When we put all of these things together - God's sovereignty, love, wisdom, and patience - we have a divine story."
-excerpt from "A Praying Life"

This is the last day in the series, yet I have not "arrived" with the uninvited. It's been a learning experience to write about it for (close to) 31 days. Still, the uninvited can be hard for me. I need to remind myself that sometimes the uninvited is there to remind me what I place my trust in; where is my identity? God truly is a shelter for every "misfit soul." And for everytime that something or even me does not feel like it "fits" into the organized box I'd like to place it in, I am reminded there is always a place for me in front of God, who knows exactly what He is doing and is "the solid rock we are built on."

*Catch the posts you missed from the 31 Nearly 31 Day series here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

31 Days of Inviting the Uninvited: Who?

What does it actually mean to be an uninvited person (or squirrel)?

Yes, sure, not getting a letter, an invitation to that IT thing, or being included in the what our friends are doing. But it goes much beyond that.

We all have been the uninvited. We are all the uninvited, some way, some how. Phew, thank you, God, for that.

Thank you, God, that it's through you that we can see need, and we are pointed back to what it means to be seen by you. How you give us countless examples of what our value is and how you accept us. Thank you for the way you heal, for how you enter in pain, how you show us that you know what it's like to be neglected, outcast, and yet, you have reached the outcast, the ones who don't have a voice, who are hurting. You have healed the sick and the broken. 

You have seen me. You have seen us all for who we are.

Mathew 9:20-22 Jesus heals a bleeding woman.

He calls her daughter.

Mark 2:13-17: Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners.

Mathew 8: 1-4: Jesus heals man with leprosy.

-Inspired to think about this idea a little different. To think about those people who are considered 'uninvited' and what that means today.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

31 Days of Inviting the Uninvited: Our Plans Revisited

I was at my friend’s annual Halloween party this weekend and I had a conversation with someone I’d never met before who asked me about myself and how I’d ventured into the uncharted land of the south, you know, being a northerner and all. Common question, but I guess hanging around people who know me now for awhile, it doesn’t come up as often anymore.

I generally answer questions the same and then depending on the situation, I’ll go into more detail if needed: I moved down here after college basically for a teaching job. Insert typical question: “So did you know anyone?” Insert my typical response: "I knew one person from college" (my sweet friend, Emily, by the way).

In this particular conversation, the person told me I had a lot of guts for doing that. You know, moving far away, hardly knowing anyone. Sometimes, on the spot, when I’m excited about something, I don’t always think before I speak, and I replied, “I know!” I didn’t have the chance to explain what I meant, but it didn’t seem to matter to this person.

In case you’re wondering, I was not thinking I was so bold and gutsy to move down here. In fact, the opposite.  See, at that time, I wouldn’t have considered myself much of any kind of bold. I was a homebody most of my life. The only place I ever went was overseas for 3 months in college. I know that sounds extreme; some people never leave the country, but before that, I hadn’t gone anywhere permanent outside of a 40 mile radius from where I lived. Meaning, that's how far away I went for college. I never wanted to go to camp. Etc. And that was okay for me.

Not everyone is intended to move. But then, not everyone is intended to stay forever. There are moments when your plans are shaken up and it’s good.

Moving to NC was one of those times when I didn’t realize it at the time but I would be on a wild adventure. I like adventures, but I didn’t realize both the joys and difficulties that would come with this process. I love, love my family. I came to NC, though, sensing that God had pulled me here for a reason and as I better understood after my first year here, the reason was not just to teach.

There have been several times when I have wondered “What kind of plan did you have with this, God?” The road I’ve taken in NC has been anything but straight. Yet, looking back on the last 6 years, I can't imagine my life without living here, my church family (ies), yes even some of the jobs I thought were leaving me with a bitter aftertaste but  left a distinct “finger-print” type mark on my life and me in general. Don’t ask me how; it’s a work of God for sure. He led me through some tough stuff which perhaps allows me now to work in the middle of harder stuff. God only knows who we would be without the most difficult periods of our life we’ve already gone through.   There is something to be said for what comes through it.

Six years ago nearly to the day I moved to North Carolina. I believe it would have been this weekend. I don’t have a date book or anything from back then, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is not the dates from the past, but what God has done in purposing His timeline for my life. There is purpose each of our timelines, as out of order or uncommon as they look.

*What has been the most “uninvited time” in your life? What do you see now if you are past it? Can you see any blessings in the interruptions or uninvited-ness that have been (or are in) your life?
Song for a Sunday: "Not For A Moment"
Just to remind you, not for a moment did He leave you ...

Check out the rest of the posts in the series here.

Friday, October 26, 2012

31 Days of Inviting the Uninvited: Hope Again

I realize that yesterday's post was titled Hope and I sort of alluded to it but I didn't really talk about hope. Sorry about that.

There's plenty I could talk about pertaining to the topic of pain but this here series isn't all on pain. I might talk more about some of my experiences or thoughts another time since the ball is rolling.

Really though, living with hope is a whole lot better than living without hope. That sounds really easy I'm sure, but it doesn't mean it is. Honestly, though, I'm so thankful to know that We. Are. Not. Without. Hope. In life. Not just any hope, not the "I-hope-you-feel-better," or "it would be kind of nice and I hope to marry a chiropractor someday" (just sayin') kind of hope. The hope of Christ, the hope that is secure, assured, the hope that walked this earth, died for us so we can live. The hope that is alive today.

Hope hope hope. It's a good day to sing about hope. Won't you sing one of my most all-time favorite songs with me on this Friday? :) Happy Friday and yes, "Hallelujah, sing!"

Thursday, October 25, 2012

31 Days of Inviting the Uninvited: Hope

I remember one time a few years ago, I was having one of the worst headaches of my life. I'm not sure the timeline exactly but it was a bad round for me, and I knew at this point I couldn't mess with it anymore. I'd had some bad migraines that pulled me down to a low point, and this time I felt like I needed to do something quickly.

For me, there's usually a small window of time when I've had my worst migraines before I just can't go anywhere, it wouldn't be safe to drive because I'm feeling so lousy, etc. I knew I was about to that point, but I had to get to the Dr. who was still about 30 minutes away. So, as I sometimes do, I had to make up my mind quickly. I don't think there was anyone around at the time and so I just started driving, praying the whole time to sense God's closeness and to make it there without everything getting worse. Sometimes I still have the visual in my mind of that experience, the whole thing. Going there, getting shots in my head for the pain and migraine that surprisingly didn't freak me out. The whole experience was bizarre because up until that point I was really careful and concerned. But sometimes, you come to a point of surrender and where you just have to trust. 

God does not abandon us in our time of need. He is there in the darkest hour.
We can rejoice because the Lord is near (Philippians 4).

Somehow, during my darkest and deepest pain, my prayers started to change. I wanted healing, but I began to see healing meant a lot more than just my body becoming something more than what it was then. I came to see every cry to God did not have to be prayer for physical healing. I began to just see that being close to Him was what mattered.

I don't make light of pain; it warrants more than a breezy response, pat answer or a verse or two to get at the complexity of what people experience. But, then and now I still cling to knowing that God does have a plan and it's good. It helps me to remember. Even if I once thought it would be hard to remember the pain because I never thought it would end, His faithfulness and me looking back now reminds me that there was an end to those moments.

God is bigger than the suffering we go through, even when it feels like it has no end. What can take our eyes off the moment is an understanding and promise that God is working it for good. He sees the outcome, the end, the plan, even when we can't.

31 Days of Inviting the Uninvited: Sub-stories continued - On Pain

1. Deviation or departure from the normal or common order, form, or rule.

2. One that is peculiar, irregular, abnormal, or difficult to classify
I was told early on that my situation with the pain I had in my neck since I was younger was a bit of an anomaly. I've been called that more than once. In some walks of life, a person might like being 'different,' but not in the world of medicine. You want there to be a name for what you're going through. Where there's an effect, you want there to be a cause.

I didn't ever remember inviting in pain. Or the 'lingo' and understanding you learned to have when you went to physical therapy regularly at 16 and then to see neurologists again and again for unrepentent migraines over the course of several years into your twenties. Muscle spasms in my neck and back, chronic issues that only seemed to be resolved through chiropractic treatment, it just didn't make sense for a person who was "young and healthy," but with whom their upper body seemed to always be rebelling against them.

Like I said, I finally found some relief with good chiropractors, both in the physical sense, and in helping me understand at least what was going on in my body. It didn't help me with any long-term sense of hope for living bonded to the way my body always felt: the moments I was without pain were rare compared to living in pain so much I couldn't remember what it was like to feel normal.

Over the years, I've written notebooks full of my take on pain, have pages and pages of journals filled with prayers to God for healing, and held nothing back on the written page. Yet, in real life, I was this happy person who you could hardly ever tell anything was wrong. Unless you got in very close or were my family, chances were you might not have known the clear picture of how I felt day-to-day.

It's not because I'm afraid of what people might say to me. I've heard it all. I've heard the five minute lesson on how a certain stretch will cure all my problems (I'm still looking for that stretch...) I've been asked when was the last time I got in a car accident (funny, I was hit a few years ago, and my Dr.'s hoped that would knock everything into place. It didn't work). I've been told that chiropractors and different treatments just make everything worse (not true, especially in my case).

I notice that pain is a substory in my life, and that's okay. I choose it not to be the main event. Yet, it matters. It matters to talk about; it matters even though right now I'm not living in it deeply like I once was (amazing praise!). I'm not naive to think I'll not experience hard times with pain again (hence the chronic nature..) or with something else that will take time and energy and patience to tell people the truth about what hurts, and even if they don't quite understand, well, it's worth it for some people in your daily life to know your substories.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

31 Days of Inviting the Uninvited: Inviting Sub-stories

Within every story, there are substories. Sometimes they've lived dormat for years, sometimes they can breathe life, but their capacity for air is sparse. Other times, they've been given room to move about freely, but wish to stay still, waiting for their chance to jump.
When I was in high school, I kept notes and observations about other people. No, I didn't stalk people, I was for better or worse, a journalism 'major.' There weren't majors at my high school, but if I could say I majored in something, it was learning about other people. What made them tick, what people said, etc: I had to get good at interviewing folks, keeping track of who did what, said what, and most of all keeping my writing and brain focused on others.
I think journalism is good for that. The focus is off of you; I actually thought about going into journalism at one point but decided after years of already running around chasing 'the story' before I even turned 22 that maybe there was something else out there for me. Funny, I was trying to avoid job-stress because I knew it ran thick in journalism. Instead, I choose an equally stressful industry - such a naive youth : ).
I've really been trying to give more than just a passing thought to my substories, and write about them. You know, these are the ones I share only with the people who really know me or who I can predict their response before I start the conversation, and they are also the ones I might not talk about much because I'm not sure how important they are.
Our substories are really our stories. And they matter. I'd like to hear what your passions were in high school, because I bet, if you look hard, your back-thens connect to something you're doing today or would like to get into your life somehow if you could find a way.
What about mine? I know I'm forever rambling about myself on here, but I truly do love learning about others, collecting information, interviewing people, and certainly writing about all of that makes this heart happy. I'd say a small part of counseling-ish work I do now relates to some of that.

With online print becoming so pronounced these days, things have changed a lot for magazines and the like, but I'm also inspired by online magazine writers and even bloggers who bring communities together and make the world seem a little smaller by connecting people together.
So, talk to me friends. What's something you see in your life today that developed way back when?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

31 Days of Inviting the Uninvited: On Living Right Where You Are

'"We are not the playwright, we are not the producer, we are not even the audience. We are on the stage. To play well the scenes in which we are on concerns us much more than to guess about the scenes that follow it.”
-C.S. Lewis

*Want to see what other 31 Day-ers are up to?  Go to The Nester's page to view hundreds of others posting this month.

Check out the other posts in the series here.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

31 Days of Inviting the Uninvited: The Middle Redux and Story

I taught tennis lessons in my teens and then through college, and one summer there was a litte girl named Story in one of my classes. I thought this was amazing and I had a few thoughts: a) how can I steal the name and add it to my name somehow {Julie Marie Elizabeth Story ?? YES!} b) maybe I could tuck the name away and use it in a part of my own child's name someday. I asked around a bit and the consensus was it sounded more like a last name than a first or middle name. So, I needed to search the globe looking for a person whose last name was Story and marry him? That could be hard and very tiring.
*Note to self: don't listen to the consensus when choosing names.

Anyway, the point of this is that I never actually found out why the girl had this name, but a lover of all things story and story-telling, I thought there was still a sense of beauty to it.

If you're a creative dreamer like me, when you invent and/or write stories, you can see how you are bigger than those made-up stories. I remember when I was young, I had a habit of not finishing stories. I would leave characters hanging all the time! I don't remember the exact details without them in front of me, but I had kids who would get into trouble by falling in a creek, and I never resolved it. Another time I wrote a story with a family that moved away, and that's where it ended.

Would anyone prefer half-stories, unfinished pieces and stories that don't go the way you intend?

Thankfully, God doesn't leave us with just pieces. Even when it looks like the story ends,  ask yourself if you aren't just in the middle of one of God's bigger stories.

I'm not sure if that brings you comfort or not. I'm speaking from experience that you can be in the middle of a story, and sometimes it's difficult to see the larger story at play. Last year, I wrote entirely on this sort of strange concept called The Middle Space. This year, I'm writing about Inviting in Uninvited Places. I guess I like ambiguous, life-in-the-middle kind of themes.

I love the book A Praying Life by David Powlison. It talks a little bit about living life when you feel you're without a story or one you'd rather write differently. He writes, "Living in our Father's story means living in tension. After all, tension and overwhelming obstacles make for a good story!" Then he talks about prayer and it's not removed from the rest of life: the waiting, thankfulness, repenting, suffering.

"When story isn't going your way, ask yourself, what is God doing?"

Can you see His hand? Can you see His artistry at work? One thing I've come to recognize is that "every good gift comes from above" (James 1:17) and the reason I yearn for and can appreciate stories so much in life is because of the best Storyteller.

Friday, October 19, 2012

31 Days of Inviting the Uninvited: Look Back

How we remember the past is important. God designed us to recollect our experiences and learnings. This is a good Christian-based article on why our pasts matter, but also why we don't just stop there with it cold turkey. The past can be troubling for many people. Often, we're left to ponder difficult questions or painful experiences.

I keep journals to help me remember. I don't write down every last thing that happens to me, but for years, I've charted life, even if I know things might become more clearer to me later than they are in the moment. I still want to remember how I felt at the time or what was happening then. Remembering is important for recalling what we experience, and for shining light on the work of God.

Sometimes, it's hard looking back. My journals are some of the most raw writing I have and also a place of truth-telling, reminding me what I believe.

It's there that God shows me on the pages as I look back, His mercy has been there all along.

Remembering what God has done in the past is the key to trusting him for the future.

I will remember the deeds of the Lord, yes, I will remember your wonders of old. Psalm 77:11

*Linking up with some great ladies for Five Minute Friday!

This post is part of 31 Days of Inviting the Uninvited with The Nester. See the rest of the series here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

31 days of Inviting the Uninvited: When There are Days Like That, Yes Alexander Said

There are days when I can't wrap it all up nicely. It's on those days, I struggle to write a complete post and so I watch another episode of Gilmore Girls, too tired to write about the nice invitations we should accept.

Life isn't about the 'shoulds.'
Sometimes it's more like Alexander and his very bad day. Okay, hang with me. Alexander, who is one of my literary favorites, because he knows that a lot of things can go wrong and get all mixed up, and even though he is a wee bit woo-is-me about the whole event, he doesn't shy back from the reality of life. But he LEARNS, through stating plainly about this mess and the junk, that sometimes there are days.

Yes, there are very good days. But, there are also not so good days. Alexander understands by the end, that there are also days like that even in the place he most wants to go (Australia) to get away from 'them days.' 

We forget that. Or at least I do. Let me on the next train to Switzerland - then things will be easier. Better.  Or I just want to go visit my friend and her baby in Indiana.

Whether I want to get to the place of peace or contentment with where I am or not, God teaches me that He has me where I am for a reason. That place wouldn't necessarily be better, different, right. He has me on a purpose, a plan, and sometimes the trials send me back into His care, seeing my need again, which is where I belong.

Surely, sometimes trials cause you to plunder, cause you to question what you're doing and your effectiveness, or the situation around you, but that is when the call to trust resounds even higher. It's easy to trust God is working together all things for good and His glory when things are going well, but when they're not? Then what?

The answer isn't always just pick up and move to 'Australia.'

"The Lord will fight for you. You need only be still." -Exodus 14:14

Monday, October 15, 2012

31 Days of Inviting the Uninviting: Because Being Thankful Matters

There are days I don't feel thankful. There are days I have to remember the little joys. Days friends come for dinner and when you get to laugh with a neighbor about nothing at all on a walk that would make sense to an innocent bystander walking past.

These 31 days, I thought it would pretty pretty easy to chart along and invite in all the things that I typically shoo away, the unexpected, yuck parts of the everyday. I'm finding it's not that easy.

Being thankful helps. Again and again my heart needs to see the thanks, live the thanks. "A nail is driven out by another nail." -Ann says in 1000 Gifts. This drives out nails that do not need to be there, the writing and remembering the gifts. 

I lost my list this week, but their nails I pray stayed in long enough to stick with me.

132. hanging with friends and their kids...making s'mores, bonfires
133. the familiarity of people who know you
134. taking a long time and not being in a rush with a friend
135.  my sweet family!
136. October
137. worship songs on Sunday
138. remembering your dreams at night..the feeling of a good sleep
139. lovely, kind neighbors
140. finding new music - new album by Gungor!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

31 Days of Inviting the Uninvited: Race Continued

"I have no endurance!" -quote by actress Jamie Lee Curtis in recent magazine article, I think - I can't remember exacty. I tried to make a mental note while I was getting my car worked on for the third time in recent months. But who's counting right?

Jamie Lee says her husband never knew anyone who could walk so fast but run so slowly. I get that. Walking fast, on a mission all the time, this was me for years. Good at speed but not covering any real distance.

We often think of endurance in the physical sense. The Bible says that "suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope."
-Romans 5:3-4

At times my heart is in a different place and I think suffering must produce endurance just for more suffering? But then I remember that there is something different taking place. It's not only about suffering. See there's more there. Endurance/ perseverence, produced by suffering, you know those trials and turbulations we don't want, produces character, and character, hope.

We are not without hope. God's plan for us, even in suffering, involves hope.

It feels strange at first, to welcome this kind of endurance into our lives. Just like it would feel strange if you are a sprinter like me and you begin long-distance running (hypothetically speaking).

"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you." 1 Peter 4:12

Friday, October 12, 2012

31 Days of Inviting the Uninvited: Race

When I think of race, I kind of think back to elementary school, running sprints, back and forth to pick up the eraser on the floor in gym class. How fast can you pick up the eraser? That was the question on all our my mind (s).

I'm pretty certain it was about that time I decided I was not going to do track, cross country (across the whole country??), or anything that involved straight up running. I commend people who do it. I like to cheer on my cousins who do marathons and have been in lots of races, even on Thanksgiving, while the rest of us are already eating our first bird.

I'm not much for running. I like to walk fast. That's my tagline. Sometimes I'll jog, if it's for a short distance. Like up and down this long street that always helps remind me a) yes, it's a long street b) unless there's a purpose, like chasing tennis balls, I don't usually run.

I still have a lot to learn about choosing carefully my sprints in real life. I know myself well enough to know I'm a sprints kind of girl. I dive in heavy, go full swing, and try to make the most of situations.

But amidst the good in capturing energy and running with it, life can easily turn into a speed chase when you didn't need it to be. A sprint is only good in a sprints race (insert real running terminology here).

Life is not a sprint. I'll say it again in case you were rushing to grab the isn't a sprint. Give yourself room to catch the scenery.

*Linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker and others for Five Minute Friday fun. This was longer than five minutes, but writing is one way I'm giving myself more  t i m e  these days. I hope you can find some ways to do that, too.

This post is part of The Nester's 31 Day Challenge. Check out the other posts in the series here. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

31 Days of Inviting the Uninvited: When It's Okay To Tell Someone Your Dream

Your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

-Psalm 139
What's your dream?

One of mine is to work with teen girls (okay, I get to do that some now..) and to give them a chance to chase their dreams in a big way. I'd like to build a mentoring program that births out of a faith community. Kind of like Donald Miller's Mentoring Project - which I love, by the way.

I think youth have great ideas. They have lots of potential. Passion, too, that sometimes they don't even know they've got.

It's hard to open up, to let people in. Really in. I get that. My dream is one day there are more people than kids and teens who want to spend time knowing them, investing in them, and can be positive influences on all those who might feel overwhelmed by life.

I like to ask people what they want to be when they grow up. Kids, adults, whoever. Dreams don't have to be far-fetched ideas. They might be. But sometimes, dreams are what you always thought you could be but never told anyone. 

I want to pause a bit, in these 31 days. It's not all about me. I like telling stories. But, what's better, is that story untold, the one you listen for, and then you consider yourself blessed when you get to spend time with people and kids who matter just because of who they are.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

31 Days of Inviting the Uninvited: Change, and More Octobers

I know, I know, I know. There are times you just want to be anywhere but here. Wherever your current here is. You probably would like to be somewhere else. Maybe There?

I don't know if that time is now for you. If it is, understand I've been there.

I didn't like my first October in North Carolina. The year after the great Swiss adventure.

Sometimes I forget that it wasn't even an October though. It was barely an October, the last couple days of the month when I moved here.

I started teaching on Halloween. I thought it was an awful trick, and often wondered if things would have been easier had I dressed in a witch's costume my first day (just kidding). Have you read the children's book Miss Nelson is Missing? The one where the class shows no respect for their teacher until their new teacher (or substitute) Miss Viola Swamp, dressed as a witch, comes in to stop the class hysterics. Read it. It's a good book.

My first year in NC was some of the most difficult I've had. At the time, I was just hanging on in a lot of different ways.

I'm generally an optimistic person, but I've forgotten parts of the story. I remember about the hope that comes later and the healing when the broken pieces were put back together. I can make stories wrap around to the 'all things work together for good,' which I totally believe, but what if the main parts you remember are the painful ones?

What I usually forget about that timeline is that I spent the earlier part of that month with my sweet cousins before I moved south, getting some experience subbing - not Miss Viola Swamp style.

“We sometimes choose the most locked up, dark versions of the story, but what a good friend does is turn on the lights, open the window, and remind us that there are a whole lot of ways to tell the same story.”  -Shauna Niequest

The good thing about living in a place long enough to feel settled is that you usually find some good friends. You stop thinking of yourself as anonymous and force yourself into a community.

Be careful, this community might just inch its way into your life and you could never be the same. You might want to to tell your story a certain way. It might seem like there was only pain, but that is typically only half the tale.

What else is there?

*Find all my 31 Day posts here

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

31 Days to Inviting the Uninvited: Change, and When You'd Rather Be There

I saw a bumper sticker today that said: I'd Rather Be There.

Not sure where There is, but perhaps for that car, it is wherever it was going. Or had gone.

October always makes me think of change for some reason.  I often think of change like the seasons. There are seasons I like and seasons I could do without. Change I like and change that can go on ahead by. You know, like certain Octobers.

When I saw that bumper sticker, I thought of one of the first Octobers where I had a lot of change. It wasn't just October. It was fall all together that year, seven years ago (was it really that long ago?!), during my last quarter of college spent overseas. It was a wonderful, tiring, eventful, exciting, long, amazing time. Sometimes, like when I see bumper stickers that say "I'd Rather Be There," I think about Europe and the Swiss mountains and I wonder for a minute...

I wonder if a little bit of home and heart might still be there, even though those days were a small corner of my story.

I've had a lot of Octobers with change since then. I haven't gotten back to see the cowbells or trains. But they were part of my favorite October to remember.

What if the seasons help us realize, some things are only proven over time?
-Audrey Assad,
Even The Winter

Possible little known fact: both pictures in my blog header are from Switzerland during those months way back when.

Real question: When you live amongst your own 'uninvited' (s), or when difficult change happens, is there some place you'd rather be?

Monday, October 8, 2012

31 Days of Inviting the Uninvited: Making Time For What You Love

"If you've only got one hour in the day to write, don't spend it defeated. Spend it writing."
~Lisa-Jo Baker

Today, my 'one hour,' give or take, was about to be spent, well, sleeping. I rarely, if ever, go to sleep before 9 p.m., but being fall sick-o for a couple weeks has left me extremely exhausted.

Still, there was this nagging sense that sleep could wait. That rest comes sometimes in many forms, and part of rest to me is remembering my need to write.

No TV. No email. No distractions. 

Okay, maybe some music...

"Freedom comes when we surrender to the sound
Of Mercy and Your Grace"

-"Feels Like I've Been Losing" - Tenth Avenue North

"Sweetly Broken" - Jeremy Riddle

"Grace Like Rain"- Todd Agnew

"All The Way Home" - Andrew Peterson