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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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january thoughts

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I thought about starting this post with an apology for being quiet around here, but the truth is that things have been loud outside of my computer and I’m not sorry. As a matter of fact, I think I’ve told Meggie to please be quiet about ten times today. Like many of you, I love January because of the bright, clean newness of it. My calendar is clear and tidy, my year lies ahead like an open road and even the cold air feels pure when I breathe it in. Sadly, our noisy and lovable new sister flies away this Saturday. Back to the orphanage and the boarding school with all of the miles and oceans and silence between us. Back to freezing temperatures and only thirty minutes of sunlight a day. Back to loneliness. We’ll miss her very much.

My heart has been brimming with plans for a wonderful twenty-fourteen, but I am putting most of those things off until after the eleventh. Once Meggie is gone, we’ll need to busy ourselves with all the things we didn’t get done while she was here and prepare for her permanent placement here. I’m really hoping she’s home by the time we usually take our trip to Galveston Island. Still, despite my assurance that the first eleven days of January should be spent mostly cuddling with Meggie and listening to her adorable accent, I am feeling antsy and behind. I’m still working on reading books I started last year while my big reading list for this year sits idle. I’m still not sure which children’s book I should be working on or who is going to illustrate them. Should I be signing up for any conferences this year? Planning to go and visit any friends? Applying for jobs?

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the little sisters

There I go again, cluttering up my calendar and throwing all sorts of obstacles on that open road. I’m trying to remember to breathe and be present and most of all, not to worry. There are a billion good things I could try to do this year, but I’m only capable of really doing one thing at a time. I know I’ll end up panicked and unhappy if I try to do too much, especially too many new things.

I did apply for one job last week and I did start collecting illustration lessons and inspiration on Pinterest and I did email a local artist about possibly teaching a beginners water color class. I did find out when the next welcome class for Bible Study Fellowship is held and I did put that on my calendar, but for now, that’s quite enough.

If I told you that I’ve been thinking a lot about how loud and fast the world has become, I know I’d sound like a broken record. I am honestly seeing people grow up for the first time and it kind of gives me the chills. I just watched some old videos of when Willin and Jubilee were toddlers. The thing is, I didn’t realize they were toddlers so much at the time. They were just Willin and Jubilee, my brother and sister. And now I hardly recognize them, hardly remember their accents or what their skin felt like. They’re tall, lanky things now who rarely need my help with anything and I wonder if time will have picked up even more speed when the next ten years have passed.

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one of my favorite things: swirling swarms of grackles as the sun sets

I spend a lot of time on the internet (hello, here I am!) and I’ve been convicted lately for the billionth time that it’s really too much. And yet I have trouble knowing how to separate myself from it. I log into Facebook and a visual of a strainer pops into my head. If only I could log in and receive all the benefits of social media (inspiration, education, interaction, friendships, professional connections, entertainment,) without drinking in all of the negative effects (conflict, controversy, anger, distraction, mental pollution, jealousy, waste.) I mean, I suppose I wish I could take this strainer with me throughout all of my life, but it feels like the internet is a concentrated version of the rest of the world.

In “real life” I live in an upstairs room in a big old house on six acres of Texas land. I surround myself with people I love, things I enjoy and the work set before me. I’m guessing I’ve spent 90% of my time at home over the Christmas break and will spend at least 75% of my time here during this next semester (depending, of course, on whether or not I get a job.) On the internet, however, this blog is my upstairs bedroom. Facebook is like a mall/battleground/locker room/vegas with little alcoves cut out where friends are huddled with their coffee and tea and kind words and winky faces that tell me they’re being sarcastic/speaking my language. When I log out, I’m both full and empty. Sometimes I actually slam my laptop shut and make myself take deep breaths. And then I’m back. Five minutes later.

It’s like a bag of chips. You eat until you’re full. And then you finish the bag because, “Wait-what just happened?!” And it was tasty, but now you feel like a cow about to give birth and you’re a little bit furious with yourself.

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Putting the junk food metaphor aside, I don’t want to give up the internet. It is probably my favorite tool in the world. At risk of sounding really sad and creepy, I have a lot of friends on Facebook who I only know online, only communicate with on social media and feel like I am actually close to. Through this blog and the other blogs I contribute to, through conferences and writer’s groups, the internet has revolutionized the life of this solitary scribbler. I don’t want to throw all that away because I have an addiction problem and trouble saying no to futile internet arguments. As a matter of fact, I can’t imagine cutting off some of those relationships forever. That’s just not happening.

So what do I do? How do I apply a strainer to the internet? All I know is it’s probably going to break every rule for modern-day authors. I’m not going to be the most popular person on Twitter or have a post go viral any time soon. As a matter of fact, I might become a total flop. “Remember that girl with the fake name? What was it, Waverly? I really thought she was going places. #whatevs.”

But, I’m becoming more okay with being a “flop” in the eyes of the world. The more I learn about traditional publishing, the less appealing it becomes. I have not the means or desire to be Beth Moore. The idea of millions of people reading my Tweets makes me feel nauseated. Deadlines have the potential to send me to the psychiatric hospital down the road (and I’m only slightly kidding.)

Woah. What is the post even about? I’m not sure, but I hope you enjoyed rambling along with me. I want to write another post soon giving a real-deal update on my family and then another post about how Jesus handled fans and friends. And then eight million more posts because I really love blogging. See you on Twitter! But maybe less than usual? Email me for my snail mail addy. :)

everly

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table talk and a new series

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The meal was a simple one of eggs, bacon and fried potatoes but the preparation had been almost strenuous. My dad had fried the bacon on a skillet on our grill, my mother had fried the chunks of red potatoes one little batch at a time at the stove and I had scrambled eighteen eggs (which barely landed a pile on each plate.) The meal had been gobbled, glasses of milk and pomegranate juice guzzled and coffee sipped. My mom leaned her face on her palm.

“Does anyone have any ideas for Thanksgiving this year? I know we’re all thinking about Christmas already, but we need to remember to be thankful first.”

We glanced at each other over sticky forks. Jubilee started off on a rabbit trail about what she wants to get everyone for Christmas. “You did say something about Christmas, didn’t you?”

Eventually we circled back around and began to open up. Jubilee ran and grabbed a few leaves off of our thanksgiving tree and we read the verses aloud. My dad begins to speak and soon we were all sharing things we are thankful for: warm clothes, warm water. A homeschool football team. Unusual fall colors (thanks to our Autumnal rainfall!) The benefits of living in a large college town. It’s amazing how a good conversation is sometimes just a question, or a paper leaf, away.

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Soon the talk turned to those “less fortunate” and how we might help them by sharing what we’ve been given. Earlier my dad had to told us about the little girl he’d seen in the ER the night before. She suffered a head injury and may never wake from her coma. He tells us her mother is beside herself. We talk about aging out of foster care, about homelessness and abuse. We mention human trafficking, abortion, hunger and jiggers. We talk about slave children on cocoa farms and how every single purchase really does make a difference to somebody.

I begin to share about the lady I’d met just that morning who doesn’t have a sink in her bathroom, and how she told me she was going to spend Thanksgiving at a place where they serve meals to the needy and I how I thought she was going there for a meal, but she is going there to serve. My voice snags at the thought and I stop talking and just wipe away the tears. We are so blessed.

The children ask questions and we travel from Haiti to Latvia to Bryan, Texas in our conversation and we are trying to hammer it into them that, around the corner, down the road, Jesus’ feet need to be walking and His hands need to be healing and that’s us. I tell them about Ann’s talk at Allume and the part where she told us that we’re all Queen Esther-s inside of the palace walls. We’re the only people that can help those begging at the gate.

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The dishes cease to clank and our stomaches are heavy with (too much) good food. We collect the plates but there are no “fragments to gather” because we’ve licked the platter clean. We cheerfully help each other rinse the grease off under purified water and load the glasses into the shiny dishwasher and pour Mommy’s homemade detergent into the door.

I make my way upstairs in a hurry and open my lap top. There’s this series I’ve been dying to write here but I’ve just been floating down the river of thought gathering things from this bank and that but now I’m tipping over the waterfall and I have to write.

(Would you join me in a short and likely scattered blog series on the idea of “gathering up the fragments”? Thoughts on gratitude and giving? Reflections on Emmanuel and why He came to us?)

Last night as I breathed under my covers, I looked out the big window I’ve stubbornly kept uncovered and marvel at the audacity of the Christmas story. I wonder how many folks going to Christmas parties this year with their cross necklaces and cheery nativity sets and chocolate Advent calendars actually believe the story. Have you thought about it lately?

I mean, God the creator, ruler of the universe, all-knowing and all-powerful, chose to be conceived in the womb of a poor virgin girl, born among livestock and manure in a stable room, raised by a carpenter, rejected, betrayed, tortured and finally butchered naked on a cross at the age of thirty-three.

He who knew no sin knew our sin intimately at that moment. Every evil act, every creepy motive, every cruel word. Every moment of hatred and bloodshed. Every desecration and rebellion. He bore that sin and became it and then gave up His spirit. He was buried in a borrowed tomb and then returned to His dead body after three days to clarify things for us one more time before ascending into Heaven and promising to return for us.

This is not Frosty the Snowman singing, “I’ll be back again someday.” This is The King of Kings promising to return for us. We who refused Him room at the inn. We who started an infanticide in hopes of ending His life. We who called Him crazy. We who betrayed and denied Him. We who pulled out His beard and spit in His face. We who doubted, and doubt still…

The moon has gone behind a cloud and I can hear raindrops plinking on my balcony furniture. I roll over. There’s nothing to see out in the dark and my mind is back at that stable. I’m somewhere between the piglets and the llama, kneeling in the grimy hay. I’m staring at a seemingly ordinary baby and my jaw is dropping in utter confusion. “Why, Jesus? Why would you come for us?”

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14

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the one about allume

IMG_0684Last month I had the pleasurable opportunity to attend The Allume Conference in Greenville, South Carolina. My mother accompanied me after rescheduling our family reunion (which includes about fifty people!) so that I wouldn’t have to miss it while I was gone. We had never taken a trip together, just the two of us, and it was odd traveling that way, but also very fun. I should give a shout-out to the nice man who brought our luggage up and down from the overhead storage during our flight. We may be independently minded, but we aren’t very tall.

First of all, Greenville was wonderful. The conference was held at the Hyatt in the middle of downtown and it was the perfect location for two women with no vehicle. We walked from the hotel to an underground coffee shop and a few lovely cafes and shops. We even strolled through Anthropologie once. The area is thick with history and sprinkled with lovely artistic touches. I really loved it and could have spent many more happy days exploring. There is even a natural spring-fed waterfall right in the middle of everything. You should go sometime.

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The conference was a bit intimidating for two (very) introverted women, but I wasn’t at all nervous the way I had been about She Speaks the past two years. The first year it was my first ever conference, I was only nineteen and all alone. The second one I pitching a book for heaven’s sake. I never knew I could be that nervous.

This time, however, it was just fun and relaxing. I had no special agenda there, just learn and make new friends. It was lovely connecting with a few women from my mastermind blogging group. I loved chatting with Shannon on multiple occasions and getting to meet the lovely Kalyn, Christin and September!

The speakers were really wonderful. Some of them I had really anticipated, others were new to me. I saw many faces I recognized and met new people I wish I had known all along. It was lovely to hear Ann speak again, but my favorite session of hers was the Pure Charity panel when no one was scripted and everyone shared the mic. It was so good, I clung at my throat and thought, “I will retain this wisdom if it’s the only thing I do this weekend.”

Ladder Bloggers, Unite!

Ladder Bloggers, Unite!

I am not paid to say this, so please know I am genuine. The conference was spirt-led. I had put on my armor and prepared myself for a commercialized, made up world of blogging bliss. I had imagined the speakers in their white jackets bringing the good word and then disappearing behind stage and onto their plane home. It was not like that. The speakers, who were not told what to speak about or what anyone else was speaking about, had so many common threads, it was amazing. The messages we truly needed to hear were there (sometimes to the surprise of the speaker) and there was no fakey-fakey.

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The worship leaders all brought some kind of prophesy or gem of wisdom that tied into what God was already teaching me. The teachers all helped me in some unique way. They didn’t stick to the schedule when they felt that God could use their time differently than planned. One of my favorite things is that there were no pedestals. The speakers and worship leaders and presidents of organizations were in the buffet line with me, sat at my table for lunch, roomed next door. They too walked the streets of Greenville and grabbed casual cups of coffee. There were no celebrities. We were all on the same page and with the same goal in mind.

Even though the past couple of weeks have had me thinking that marketing and promotion are not my gift, that mainstream publishing is not my goal and that blogging may not ever be my primary source of income, Allume continues to inspire me. I’ve had some snide remarks and funny looks since I’ve been back. “A blogging conference? Is that like a Pinterest conference?” They ask laughingly. I feel a little fire rising up in me because the men and women I had the privilege of meeting at Allume were straight-up world changers.  There is nothing hokey or selfish or silly about what they do.

And I want to be like that too.

(psst! Super early bird registration for Allume 2014 starts on Black Friday!)

Everly

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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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