Cattails, Rabbit Trails, and Thistlefish: April 2016

Thursday, April 21, 2016


Last week I celebrated the fact that I have thrived and survived 22 short years!
I love birthdays. Not only are they an excuse to celebrate, they are an opportunity to reflect on where the Lord has brought you, what surprises He had for you in the last year (good and bad) and anticipate the surprises He has for you ahead!

But reflection has waited, because I've been too busy with the celebrating;)

Since Jon and I have been traveling so much for work, I almost got two weeks worth of birthday-ness from Jon and my family!
Mama and I went to Williamsburg and we filled up on cute spring clothes, winter clearance, and sushi!
And what about these floral pants from Gap! Didn't get them, though, and still don't know if it was the right decision..!
(Don't tell us we look alike; we already know;)
Like Mom says, "If you can't laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?"
(I promise, I actually do know how to eat sushi....)
Side note: Have ya'll noticed this bright orange trend happening??? Apparently Vera Bradley has! We can chat about that more later, but safe to say I am totally a fan.
Later that night met up with the men for wine and eats at the Vintage Tavern. Ya'll local to Suffolk (or even Chesapeake!) need to check it out.

On my actual birthday Jon and I just happened to be near DC, so we rode the Metro into the city and spent the evening in the area.
(this picture gets funnier if you know that at this moment I was fussing at Jon for embarrassing me and taking pictures of me in front of people... but I was the one who wanted the picture in the first place.)
(You can't have too many couple selfies, am I right?)
Jon took me out to this FAB restaurant called the Hamilton, and let me tell you, it was the best food I've had in a long time! And such a fun, classy atmosphere. It was the best place to go.  
And on a serious note, this man really does know how to love me... 
Can't wait to finish up this marathon of celebrations with drinks + the bff later this weekend! <3

Stay tuned for more style posts and DC adventures!

Love, C

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Where Are Your Eyes? - Looking to the wrong places to find Real Life

   That was the question that I was asked this morning as I journaled out my frustrations to the Lord. I was asking Him questions like
   Why do I feel inadequate?
   Why do I feel left out?
   Why do I feel like I'm never pretty/thin/athletic/put together enough?
   Why doesn't my life look like that?

"Where are your eyes?"

   Such a simple response, but oh, how it makes sense.

My Fight:
   My insecurities have been on the prowl as I start working my way into consistent blogging again, especially as I have considered getting back into fashion blogging. I'm so out of practice! 
   Not only that, but I am constantly looking at other bloggers on their websites and Instagrams to gather tips and inspiration. However, this search for tips and inspiration can quickly grow discouraging, especially as I grow to realize that I will never be like some of these women who seem to look picture-perfect all the time. I know it's not true, and that they have sweatpants-and-topknot days too, but I also know that my picture-perfect days don't even look like theirs. Not only is my body type and lifestyle way different, but in a life of ministry I know that I will never have the time or money necessary to be like these fashionistas. (Also, who expects that from someone who works full time while being a full-time student?? Psht.)
   So why am I looking at them to create a standard for a life and a blog that I already know is completely different than theirs?

   Social media is another relentless source of discouragement. While I typically avoid Facebook and I stop using Instagram every now and again, I still get caught in the trap of comparison sometimes. (Ok, more like, a lot of times.) Especially when it comes to social events and community. 
   I'm gonna be real, ya'll, being in a community now that I am married - especially as one of the first to get married among my closest friends - has been HARD. Throw in a job that has us on-the-move a lot, and it is even more difficult (seemingly impossible sometimes). Don't get me wrong, this has been an awesome season of growth for Jon and I, and I'm not saying we don't have friends. But when our life looks different than most of the friends we had in our "single life," it's hard not to feel left out.

   And don't even get me started on the constant struggle of body image... I'm going to assume we are all familiar enough with this one, and I'll just keep moving...

My Problem:
   Here's my point to all of this:

   Why do I feel like my life is "less" because of these things? or emptier?
   Why do I feel like I'm not cool/pretty/together enough?
   Why do I feel isolated or excluded, when my life is just different?

   Here's the answer:
I am discouraged because I am looking to others - to the world - for what it looks like to have Real Life.

   When I am placing my eyes on bloggers who have "more" than I do, I begin to think that I need more time and money to really be cool.   
   When I am placing my eyes on people and their fun social lives, I begin to devalue my own stage of life and  think that my friends are experiencing life to the fullest and I am not.
   When I am placing my eyes on clothes or styles or models, I begin to think that I need to have what they do, or look like they do, to really start living.

   When I realized this morning that I have been thinking like this I was a little embarrassed. 
   Why on earth would I look to these people - most of whom aren't experiencing the Real Life that I want to be experiencing - and I expect them to show me what it's like to really live? That's not even logical! Especially when I have a real relationship with the Creator and Source of all life. Logically, if I want to experience a full life... shouldn't I look to the Creator and Source of life?

My challenge to you:
  So if you've experienced anything like I have in the past few weeks or years - the discouragement that comes from seeing others' version of "life" and thinking that you need what they have to experience it too - then I challenge you to reevaluate where you're placing your gaze.
   Where are your eyes?
   Are you looking to models, Instagrammers, decorators, athletes, artists, bloggers, or other moms/college students/wives/girlfriends to define your standard of what life really is?
   Or are you looking to the Creator and Source of True Life who has His fingerprints in every area of your life?

   See, when I'm looking to Jesus, He says that He has everything I need or desire.
   He says that giving my life away to the people around me is more meaningful than all the possessions in the world, regardless of what the world says I need.
   He says that my body image could never make me more or less beautiful.
   He says that Real Life comes from experiencing Him and His love more every day, not the amount of social outings I have.

   I don't know about you, but I want that Life that Jesus has for me. And I have found that this world doesn't have it.
   So why look to the world for what it does not have? I'm going to start looking to Jesus to show me what it is to have Real Life.

Monday, April 18, 2016

"Fresh Start Grace": Believing that I have the choice to start over when I make mistakes

By definition, beginnings should only happen once.
Beginning = the point in time or space at which something starts.
Start = come into being; begin or be reckoned from a particular point in time or space.
I know language is weird and we use phrases like "start over," "fresh start" and "begin again" all the time. But,
here's my question: Do I believe in fresh starts and new beginnings? 

I went to church with an attitude yesterday, for the sole and stupid reason that Jon and I left the house without my coffee, and then Starbucks got my order wrong (still convinced they forgot the coffee and just gave me coconut milk and caramel sauce).
To make matters worse, one of the first worship songs was one of those repetitive ones where you sing "I am free" over and over again. There is absolutely nothing wrong with those songs, btw, I just get irritated with them sometimes, especially when I am not "feeling it," or in one of those "jump up and down and spin and sing loudly and rejoice because God is good and I can feel it" kind of moods. I wasn't feeling free, I was feeling stuck, trapped, moody, tired, and selfish.

But the thing is, our freedom in Christ doesn't mean that we are going to "feel it" all the time, or have the jumpy, spinny, singy kind of response for it. Because this freedom is not just freedom from hell or eternal bondage, but it is a freedom to choose.
I'm not talking salvation at the moment, I'm talking beyond that.
I'm talking about those moments when you've started your day in a bad mood and feel committed to it.
I'm talking about those arguments that you stick with to the bitter end because of your pride.
I'm talking about the attitude you choose when Starbucks messes up your order because you're too stubborn to admit that it was a stupid thing to get upset over.

When I feel stuck in these attitudes, or feel committed to this "funk," what am I actually believing?
That I don't, or can't, get a fresh start.

Because the thing is these attitudes are choosing pride, stubbornness, and selfishness. When I feel like I have to stick with these attitudes - either out of guilt because I've clung to it so long, or because I think it's the only option - that is when I am not believing that I have another choice.

Here's my point: I do have another choice. I never have to feel stuck in my sin again, and this includes those obvious, outward sins, and those subtle, heart sins (like my bad attitude).
God's "Fresh Start Grace" does not just extend to the murderers and sexual immoral and the kind of people we consider "bad," but God's Fresh Start Grace also extends to those attitudes. God's Fresh Start Grace means that I never ever have to feel "stuck" in my attitude again, because I have an infinite amount of "do-overs" and paradoxical "new beginnings."

This doesn't mean everything is daisy-fresh all the time, because embracing this approach means youi need a hearty dose of humility. Most of the time my pride and stubbornness don't even want a fresh start! Sometimes I don't want to admit that God is bigger and better than me and that I am free from everything I struggle with! Sometimes I want to stick with my pride and say "No, my Starbucks drink is worth getting upset over! I should let it ruin my day!"

But praise God that His Fresh Start Grace extends to every sin and mistake before and after it occurs. Not only that, but it is a grace that is so great and so pure that it breaks the impossibility of only having one start or one beginning. In God's Kingdom, beginnings and re-starts happen all the time, and can happen the very second after I make my numerous mistakes.
If I choose it.
When I slip up in my pride and selfishness, I want to be a growing believer in the fact that I have the freedom to immediately accept His Fresh Start, do a 180, and can start over as if I hadn't yet made a mistake today. I want to be humble enough to give up my pride and stubbornness, and choose to receive His grace and His fresh start. I want to believe that God is big enough good enough to give me these unending fresh starts and new beginnings.

Friday, April 8, 2016

God's ultimate control in my unpredictable world

   If I could choose one word for what my life has looked like this year so far it is Unpredictable. In both great ways and uncomfortable ways, I could use that word for all 8 months of my newlywed life. However, it has been even more real and more uncomfortable these first 4 months of 2016. For the first time, Jon and I have been unsure when our next dependable job will be and each week has looked different since the school year has begun.
   For me, that means no schedules, changed plans, and no two weeks look the same.

   This might not seem like such a big deal to some, but it has been oh-so-challenging for my obsessive planning personality. I like lists and schedules and routines and predictability, or at least a warning before every plan gets changed.
   At first, I welcomed it as a challenge, but my open arms didn't last long because I thought it would be over quickly. But, here we are, four months later, I still have no idea when we will have a predictable schedule again, and I am choosing frustration instead of thankfulness. I am frustrated that I have been chosen for these challenges and stretching exercises instead of thankful that the Lord is working out of my heart my extreme (wayyyy more extreme than I thought) need for structure, control, and predictability.

   This morning, the Lord finally spoke to my heart exactly what I have been feeling through Matthew 8:

"And when He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him.
And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but He was asleep.
And they went and woke Him, saying, 'Save us, Lord; we are perishing.'" (8:23-25).

   I feel swamped. Instead of feeling like the Lord is guiding me on some great and sunshiney adventure through beautiful places, I feel like He has pushed my sailboat away from the dock it was sturdily tied to into choppy seas and scary winds and waved from the shore with a "Good luck!" as the battering of the seas began. I feel like I am being swamped by the waves of obligations, my own expectations, the learning curve of married life, and being pushed around by the unpredictability of life. I do not feel like I am thriving, but (to put it dramatically) perishing.

"And [Jesus] said to them, 'Why are you afraid, O you or little faith?'" (8:26)

Why are you afraid? Don't you know who I am? You are mine! My very close friend, my disciple! You have seen me provide and protect you. Have I ever left you wanting? Have I ever left you to perish? How could your faith be so small when you know who I am?

   That was the gentle reminder He spoke to my heart this morning.
"...Then He rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm." (8:26)

   He is not just chillin' below deck because He expects me to battle these ornery winds and waves alone. He is resting below deck because He is in control. And He is inviting me to leave my fretting and worrying, to stop grasping at control against the mighty forces of nature, and to rest with Him. To know that "even the winds and sea obey Him," (8:27) and that they are accomplishing His purposes of taking me on a greater adventure than I could ever ask or imagine.

   I never thought I was someone who needed control, but I am realizing that my need for scehdules and predictability are just a way for me to feel like I can control my life. And this need for control is one of the hardest things I have been asked to surrender. But it becomes so much easier when I can be confident that I am not surrendering my control to these merciless wind and waves, but surrendering control to a loving Father who actually has control over everything anyways!

   It all comes down to how much I am willing to trust Him; to choose resting in His control instead of trying to gain my own. Then my soul can experience this beauty and calm and peace, even when my outside circumstances don't look anything like it.