Archive | encouragement

on earth as it is in heaven

This is the final post in the Gather Up the Fragments series on ending waste. 

I doubt there is such a thing as recycling or “upcycling” in the kingdom of heaven, but I am sure there is no waste. As a final part of this series, now that Christmas has come and gone and epiphany is here and your Christmas tree is either being disassembled or sitting by the curb, I want to reflect a bit on what we’ve learned together and encourage you and I to spend the new year spending less, wasting less and being much more grateful.

Jesus taught us to pray that God’s will would be done here on earth as it is done in heaven. You may not immediately think “go green!” when you hear that prayer, but I think that a healthy respect for God’s creation goes right along with it. God himself wastes nothing and in an attempt to reflect Him a little better, we should waste less…less than last year. Even though the green peas on your plate probably cannot be shipped to starving children in Africa, you eat them or share them because to throw them away would be to dishonor the hungry. Waste does hurt people. How to end it? Side with it’s archenemy: gratitude.

You’ve probably heard of the three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle. I’ve gathered some inspiration for us as we keep these three R’s in mind for 2014.

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  • The lovely Bethany  of Letters from Home writes often of “living with less” and mending and making do. I particularly love her post Where Nothing is Wasted (Or Why my Mother is Awesome) but anything under her tags of “living more with less” or “waste” is excellent. You’ll find lots of inspiration therein and probably a kindred spirit. “Banishing waste not only gives my parents the freedom to do the work to which they have been called, but also enables generosity. At its best, a home should teach its children about God, and I learned a lot about God’s providence from my mother’s watchful gathering and saving.”

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  • My dear old friend Tonia (our friendship is old, not you!) writes more and more these days about simplifying more and wasting less along with caring for the animal kingdom and being grateful. (Very applicable, yes?) I loved this post about new grocery shopping habits and plastic packaging alternatives. I also love any post with a picture of a little red-headed girl. She’s a pretty awesome friend of mine. :-)

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  • Have you heard of Sole Hope? I’m pretty excited about them ever since I heard their founder speak last October. I have attended a shoe-cutting party and hosted a shoe-cutting party and I am planning on hosting another at the end of this month or beginning of next. This is a wonderful way to recycle old jeans or other durable fabric, plastic bottles or folders. They explain it better than I do, but Sole Hope allows us to recycle instead of waste while creating jobs in both the U.S. and Uganda, giving relief and follow-up to people suffering from parasites and preventing them from being reinfected by giving them a pair of shoes.

What your ideas and suggestions for wasting less in 2014? How do you care for nature in your every day life? 

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Advice to Young Bloggers

advice to young bloggers

Why should I give advice to young bloggers? Heaven knows I’m not a techy person. I’ve grown up in the computer age, but my experience with electronics has been a lot of trial and error, learning from mistakes (or just continuing to make them) and doing things the long, hard way.

In other words, this post couldn’t be a techy post if I wanted it to be. I started blogging in 2007 when I was fourteen years old. I used Blogger and my focus was on appearance. I now realize that blogs have innards too. There are important things to be kept up and tinkered with on the inside of a website. I really didn’t know that when I started, and I still understand very little of it. I have since made the switch to a self-hosted WordPress site (viola!) If you want to know more about getting started on WordPress, I highly recommend this series by Gretchen Louise. She is a techy person. As a matter of fact, I sometimes think she’s my guardian angel. She just knows stuff and doesn’t cry when she’s working on my blog. Unlike me, who does. Cry.

But on the other hand, I’m only twenty-one and I’m already sort of a veteran blogger. There are some downsides to starting so young. I will be writing soon about the “spiritual puberty” the whole internet watched me go through. People saw me change and go back on my words and say things that I disagree with now, and that’s uncomfortable. But it’s not wrong. I will always be changing, even in the realm of beliefs. I don’t regret having published my thoughts at such a young age.

So this post is for the young bloggers. The bloggers who think that maybe they’ll regret what they say now when they’re, ya know, old. For the bloggers who are just jumping in and feeling a little scared and very much addicted. This is my advice to young bloggers:

1. Consider using a pen name

This may seem like a funny place to start, but I really wanted to make this point. I started using a pen name because I was young and the internet was a scary place in 2007. The truth is, it’s still a scary place in many ways. Pen names, when used as actual anonymity, can help protect your identity online. Other ways to do this are to name your house (ahem, Eyrie Park) instead of listing your town and never post pictures of the front of your house, your license plate, identifying information, etc. However, this isn’t the main reason I recommend pen names! 

The reason I still use my pen name after all these years, even though most people know my real name, is because Everly is so much easier to remember. Everly catches your eye when I comment on your blog. It’s unique. If your name is already unique, you might consider using your real first name and leaving your last name off, or something like that. For me, as much as I love my real name, I know that my pen name gets me good recognition and helps create online friendships.

2. There is techy help to be had

If you have a technical question about your blog or your online presence, don’t just throw in the towel! The blogging world is made for ordinary people. You are techy enough to blog. I promise. :) You can always use the “help” bar on your blog, google your question or visit sites like gretchenlouise.com for help. You might even consider hiring a VA (virtual assistant) to get over a bump in the road. I recommend Chantel Brankshire.

3. Promotion isn’t selfish

This might be the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn as a blogger. Has God given you knowledge and wisdom on certain subjects? Does your story need to be heard? Are you unashamed of your message? Then promote it. It’s not about “me, me, me!” It can be very much about Jesus. Be prayerful and sincere in your promotion. Remember that your favorite writers promote their work. If they didn’t, you’d never have the pleasure of reading their words. Hide it under a bushel, no!

4. Think before you speak

With that said, remember that your words are very powerful, even if you feel small. They are pebbles in the great lake, creating ripples somewhere. Be careful what you say. Don’t spout off. Don’t ever address something publicly that should be addressed privately (in otherwords, your blog is not your diary, your method of revenge or a place for personal confrontation.) Anne Lamott is often quoted as saying,

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

In theory, this is true. But there’s such a thing as mercy. You don’t have to air  everyone else’s dirty laundry just because it has stunk up your own room. There is mercy and grace and forgiveness and patience. Jesus didn’t rise from the grave and go this friends and say, “Did you see what those Romans did to me?!” He moved on. Sometimes we need to do that too.

5. Controversy isn’t everything

Don’t write about something solely because it’s controversial. Controversy dies after a while. Write out of your own real passions. Write what needs to be said, yes, but don’t make a career in ruffling feathers.

6. Authenticity is gold

“Aim at authenticity, never at style, originality, or “creativity.” -Elisabeth Elliot

We want nothing more than to hear your real story, your real heart, your real message. The blog world used to be a place of facades and fake lives. We don’t want your glossy magazine life. We want you.

7. Own your work

Learn how to put a watermark on your images. Use your own graphics. I love picmonkey for this. Don’t let other writers use your words without permission or recognition. This is just common courtesy.

8. Stick with it

There is definitely a time to take a blogging break, but don’t give up entirely. Change your writing style if you want. Create a new blog. But don’t think that because of one technical issue (or a lifetime of them, if you’re me!) or one negative comment or one bout of writer’s block that you’re not meant to be a blogger. There’s room here for you. What do you have to tell us?

9. Join the beautiful community!

This is probably the #1 greatest advantage to blogging while you’re young. The community is like no other. I have developed relationships here that I would’ve never had if I hadn’t been blogging. Relationships that are strong online and then become strong offline! Older bloggers have taken me under their wings, invited me in and validated me as a writer. I have been given opportunities to learn and to teach. I have grown so much in my faith because of the words that I’ve read, spoken to the world at large and to me personally. Find a community. Do a link-up. Leave a comment. Tag a friend. Join a group. Start a mastermind group. Submit guest posts. Ask for guests posts. Offer critique. Encourage one another. You are not too young, too small, too new. Reach out and I promise, you will find a hand to grasp.

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this is the day

beauty berry: this is the day

I’ve often heard it said that we should live like we’re dying.

Really? Like we’re dying? That sounds kind of panicked if not macabre. What about living like there’s something worth living for, whether you have a thousands of days left on this earth or just one?

I’m in a pseudo college student season. Most of my friends are in class all day, watching their grades, applying for internships and grad schools. They all seem to have a few questions in common, “What should I do after I graduate?” being number one.

Though my lifestyle is very different, our questions sound the same. I’m living at home, writing blog posts instead of papers. I spend 90% of my time with my family, most of that at Eyrie Park. I cook, clean, run errands and goof off with my ten-year old sister almost every day. It’s not the life of a college student.

But I have the same fears. What if I’m wasting my life?

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What if I never marry? What if I never become independent? What if I get stuck and nothing comes of any of this effort?

It’s a season of questions and waiting. There is a feeling of rushing down a river toward a waterfall, unsure of what fate might lie at the bottom. Every day bustles by, every iphone has a full calendar app. Plans must be made and made now or you’ll miss the boat! And everyone knows what happens to people who go over the waterfall without a boat…

sisters: this is the day

Sometimes my house is suffocating, but I’m always thankful that I live here rather than in a dorm with a couple of people my own age. I sometimes slip out of the house and walk around in the pasture (less now that we’re building a house there!) and think about what’s changed and what’s remained. I know that some changes come like spirits through all the walls and locked doors we may put up. They appear when we least expect them, but their presence is impossible to ignore. Jubilee is getting tall and losing her baby teeth. She reads chapter books in a day and bravely goes to overnight events at the church. You can’t mistake the fact that she’ll soon be a young lady.

But I think I forget to remember this one thing: today is today. And today is the day. The day that the Lord has given me at this ordained time. I will never wake up and say, “Hooray! It’s finally “tomorrow”! Now I can be the person I always wanted to be!” The future won’t feel like the future. It will feel like today.

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And that’s the secret to living life like life’s worth living. That’s the secret to enjoying your life! Enjoy today. And then enjoy today. And then enjoy today.

I’m not waiting for anything. Sometimes I get giddy thinking of what God might have in store for me, but I don’t know what that might be. One way or another, it is beyond my imagination. But I don’t have to “wait” for that. He’s given me something today. Life. Breath. People to love. Things to do.

My rushing about doesn’t change how soon God’s best will come. It’s a daily thing. New mercies every morning. The rising of the sun. The postal service. :)

rainboots: this is the day

I’m done wasting my life while waiting for it to begin. There is so much given to me daily and so little faith in all my plans. God planned this day for me. It would be a sad thing indeed to waste it waiting for tomorrow.

“This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

“But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day..” Hebrews 3:13 

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the art of silliness

“Do a loony-goony dance
‘Cross the kitchen floor,
Put something silly in the world
That ain’t been there before.”

-Shel Silverstein

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I have recently come to the conclusion that people who don’t embrace silliness forfeit a huge percentage of the joy life has to offer. Silliness is essential to happy days upon happy days. The mundane becomes delightful when you understand the art of silliness.

All my life people have asked me how I get along so well with my siblings. Everyone knows we’re not perfect, and some of us have closer relationships than others, but in general, we’ve always worked well together and been friends. When I was seven and eight we lived on a ranch out in the middle of nowhere. During that time, we had few friends and were only able to see them sporadically. The four of us (there used to only be four, if you can imagine) were not only siblings, but great friends. We did our lessons, chores, adventuring and make belief together. It was lovely.

One of the greatest things we’re still nurturing from those earlier years is silliness. It is also, in my opinion, one of the keys to getting along with one’s family. Silliness isn’t just acting dumb (though a lot of times it is dumb) but intentionally finding humor and joy in small, ridiculous things. I’ll give you some examples.

  • Whenever one of my sisters is sick or has some sort of physical ailment, we always rebuke them for “not making plans like the rest of us.” (Which everyone knows is the reason Beth March had to die.)
  • Making up goofy songs about people or places we pass while driving.
  • Birdie going up the escalator like Buddy the Elf in Macy’s while strangers stared.
  • Looking for the piece of broken sidewalk that resembles a turtle.
  • Pretending to be on Iron Chef while baking cookies.
  • Doing random, annoying things like silently grabbing the elbow of the person sitting next to you at the dining table. Just hold it as you continue to eat.
  • Knocking on the bathroom door and using a fake voice and name when the occupier asks who it is.
  • Leaving funny pictures in surprising places (like that terrifying thumbnail of Dwight Shrute, or the hilarious-looking dog from the shelter ad.)
  • Always singing certain songs together no matter when or where they come on. Our main one is I’m Gonna Be Strong by Cyndi Lauper. You have to have a “microphone” for this (we’ve used kitchen utensils, hair brushes, and yes, tampons.)
  • That time we watched Tombstone and started quoting it for weeks, replacing one word in each quote with the word “stroganoff”=hilarious.
  • Patting a baby’s open mouth as they cry (this makes a funny sound, and usually makes them laugh instead!)
  • Singing background vocals to songs that don’t have background vocals.
  • “Collecting” purple cars (we always tell each other when we’ve seen one.)
  • Nicknames galore.

You get the idea! Any of these things could just be plain irritating if both parties are not using the art of silliness. The art of silliness, at it’s core, is a willingness to find humor or joy in any and every situation. It makes time pass quickly, strengthens relationships and makes you laugh, which is really, really good for you. Being silly turns an ordinary, boring, sad, frustrating day into a day that you’re sad is over. Sometimes I just lie in bed and smile, thinking of all the funny things that were said, the dumb games we played and the way my family made the best of each situation. I think if more people allowed themselves to be silly and allowed others to be truly silly in their presence, their world would be opened up to a million more opportunities for daily happiness and humor and our world, as a whole, would be a brighter place.

“Be silly. Be honest. Be kind.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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a warning for hipsters (and myself)

beach pic by pops

Peaceful and passive.

Two words I hear thrown around a lot these days. I try to think of the difference by imagining two different dads.

Passive: the dad who doesn’t come come to the school play, or stick up for you when you’re being bullied, or give up drinking when the courts want to take you away.

Peaceful: Atticus Finch.

And what worries me is that my generation tends to preach peace, but practice passivity. Somehow, we’ve come to think that anything serious, convicting or (heaven forbid) offensive is hostile and un-Christ-like. Don’t speak your opinion about politics, because we want people to make personal decisions. Don’t draw attention to the needs of those in Africa, because that might make someone feel guilty about their lifestyle in America. Don’t give feedback because that could start a disagreement.

Use your voice to talk about the weather and your favorite recipes, use Instagram to share pictures of your rain-washed windows, but don’t stamp anything down, don’t express anything solid, don’t take a stand. We use the excuse of trying not to judge others in order to protect ourselves from judgement.

The silence itself can feel like judging at times, you know? The absolute quiet during times of turmoil. The still, when the world needs someone to simply hold out their hand and say “peace” aloud.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but having an opinion isn’t a sin. And voicing it isn’t either. If you can accept that this isn’t a sin and that isn’t a sin, why not accept what I do with my words as holy too? Why not open your mouth and join the conversation once in a while? If not, we’re at risk of becoming part of the bystander effect.

I know that Facebook is loud and Twitter is whiny. I know people are plain mean sometimes. I know we judge and mock and laugh and sneer. I know. Sometimes silence is golden. But sometimes your voice is vital.

Scripture tells us not to have an unhealthy craving for controversy, quarreling about words and creating constant friction. (1 Timothy 6:4-5) It tells us to have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies, for they only create quarreling. (2 Timothy 2:23) This kind of behavior is contrasted with kindness and gentleness (Titus 3:2)

Does this then mean to keep our mouths shut at all times? To never voice an opinion, at least not in public? To avoid offending another at all costs?

At risk of diminishing the point I wanted to make with the scripture above, that holding one’s tongue is so often the best thing to do, I want to defend the defensive for a moment. I want to express my opinion about expressing opinions. I want to voice something about voice. (You get the idea…)

The apostles were often our examples of screwing up. Jesus called them out on multiple occasions. Think about that for a moment. Jesus called people out. He also tore through the temple violently removing the business people and completely chewed the church leaders out, calling them vipers.  But the apostles were also examples of living in the light of Christ. Paul, when he had turned from sin and began following Christ, continued to have a loud and bold personality. He preached until he was arrested and then preached in prison and then immediately preached in public again when he was released. In Galatians 2:11 we hear that he “opposed Peter to his face” in front of a crowd of people…Peter who so loved our Lord and tried to honor him with his life.

Though we are asked to be humble, we are also asked to be bold. Though we are asked to lead a quiet life, we are also warned against putting our lamp under a basket when we’re supposed to keep it on a stand.

God gave us the truth in scripture and we’re taught that it is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness. He also reveals new things to each of us throughout our days on earth. With kindness and gentleness, I believe we are meant to spread this truth. With much love, we are equipped to express ourselves to one another and even reprove one another for the furthering of the kingdom. This is part of our freedom in Christ, part of our calling.

So hipsters. Instagrammers. Tweeters. Me: Don’t confuse foolish quarreling with sharing what God is teaching you. Don’t confuse peace with passivity. Don’t confuse a quiet life with a dangerous silence. For perhaps God gave you your voice, your thoughts, your opportunities for such a time as this.

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