Guatemala, My Love…

old guats

In the multiple countries I’ve been blessed to travel to, never did I have more peace and assurance that I wasn’t just there for a short season, that I was actually destined to come back, than I did when I visited the nation of Guatemala in 2012 on The World Race. Never in all of my sojourning has a place or people-group touched my heart in such a profound and eternal way.

It’s beauty and oppression both solidified passions I have, like feeding all of the people around a huge table, making sure the marginalized are still seen and cared for, giving children the education and principles they need to live a healthy and happy life, and my deep love for orphans and their care and adoption into good and loving homes.

To say I was changed by this place is an understatement; it permeated my being and caused me to pause to consider the bigger picture God was writing for my life.

flowers

tortillas

lago

So it’s with a heavy but hopeful heart that I want to update you on what’s going on in “Guat”, the very things I didn’t know myself until I began researching. My dear friend, Emily also has a stirring heart for this nation {among others}, and we’ve jokingly {but SERIOUSLY} considered moving down there for a season {Abby, I’m looking at you, too, sister-fran.} She is such an advocate for the people who are otherwise forgotten, and she’s a researcher and storyteller at her core.

I wanted to take a moment to share with you what she wrote {a few days ago, for historical accuracy} about the conflict that has been plaguing Guatemala for years due to their corrupt government and its agenda. She puts it in lay-man’s terms we can all easily understand so we can better equip ourselves to get behind this nation as prayer warriors and partners.

Her passion and conviction overflow all over the dang place. You’ll see what I mean below. Here is what she says:

“Y’all, today was an AMAZING day for Guatemala! I don’t know how much you’ve heard about what’s been happening there recently, but the summary is this:

It’s known to be an incredibly corrupt country, mostly the government, and the people aren’t prone to getting united behind one cause long enough to rise up and do anything that produces change, so the government operates with impunity and gets to be corrupt and stay in power.

Until recently. 

In April, watch-dog groups gathered enough evidence of the top government officials being involved in a high level customs tariff siphoning scheme to publicly accuse them. They were essentially stealing tons of money from the Guatemalan people and pocketing it. They forced the vice president to resign, causing her to lose her diplomatic immunity. She was also arrested, which will enable her to finally be tried for her role in the corruption ring.

They know the president is also highly involved, possibly the ring leader, but they haven’t been able to prove it or get him to admit to anything.  A UN commission came in and helped the under-resourced Guatemalan prosecutors to make their case, and then the citizens stepped in.

Every Saturday for the last few months, thousands of people have gathered in the capitol’s main square and protested against corruption. (I must reiterate: Guatemalans do not do this. Most of them are extremely conservative in the rural areas and they’re still reeling from the 36 year CIA-backed civil war, and therefore aren’t keen to destabilize the government even when they’re terrible. So this is a really big deal.)

They’ve been protesting and it’s been gaining momentum because they have a major deadline: this president’s term ends in January and the next election is this Sunday. If he gets through his term still in office with his diplomatic immunity intact, he can never be prosecuted for his crimes and corruption and impunity will win again. The people have been in the streets for days, 90% of businesses have closed, and protesting has not ceased.

Today is also crucial. Today, the Guatemalan congress voted to decide whether to strip the president of his diplomatic immunity or not. Citizens weren’t sure whether enough legislators would show up for the vote, or if the president’s own party would vote against him, but the verdict came back: 132-0.

100% Unanimous.
{Suzy here…cue my tear-buckets!}

Again, nothing is ever unanimous or agreed upon there (or in the United States, for that matter), especially something this monumental that actually calls the government out on their crap. This time, the representatives heard their people and listened to their demands. To clarify: this doesn’t impeach him and it’s not enough yet to try him or prosecute him for his crimes, but it’s the first step, and if this had failed it would’ve been over completely.

People have been celebrating in the streets all day and I wish I was there! 

Mostly, it’s a massive symbolic victory for Guatemalan people that even the leaders of their horrible government can be held accountable. And now they can move forward with trying to prosecute him.

Now, the next huge challenge is choosing the next president and vice president on Sunday. With elections in 5 days and an entire country in upheaval, they don’t expect anyone to win a majority and there will probably need to be a “run off” between the top two candidates in October. That said, there needs to be good options to choose between in the “run off” because this is the first chance in a long time to make some actual change in this country. A new government could change everything, including the orphan care system and adoption laws.

Please be in prayer this week through Sunday for the elections, because this is the most significant week for Guatemala in years.”

New York Times Reference
BBC Reference

yellow car

old man

nin-yo!

little boy

 

So here are the “Three P’s” I’m asking of you:

Pray/fast with me? Prayer is so tangible and simple, and I often forget how it and moves the heart of our Father. Fasting is done more out of a reflection of your own heart, to remind yourself what is important and worth your deepest attentions. Protest + Petition with me in your own home this Saturday as a way to stand beside our brothers and sisters in their own {peaceful} protests. I have no idea what this could look like for you. Stand on your couch!? Pray some more! Go tell a friend? Try to download some news coverage of the events in real-time. And party/celebrate some of the victories that are already happening there this week. As Guatemalans rejoice in the streets because of the headway of congress’ vote earlier this week, rejoice with them and with me!

There are other tangible things you can do, too:
+ Partner with me and my friends, and all of the souls I know who have invested different lengths of time in beautiful Guatemala for ministry and simply to learn spanish so they can come home to translate and better teach English to immigrants here on our own soil. Consider supporting them or me in the future as I ask God for a timeline of when I can return to this country so near to my heart and really make an impact on their soil, not in my own strength or ambition, but in His. Email me for more details.

+ Research existing organizations who are doing beautifully, amazing things through commerce, giving Fair Trade pay-rates to workers and crafters who desperately just want to provide for their families. {I’ll be compiling a list of a few of my favorites soon so you can make purchases for Christmas you know will have a positive impact!}

+ Ask yourself how you can sow into some of the political statutes in proportion to open adoption that the Hague Adoption Convention closed about 8 years ago, so international people can bring children into better opportunities and health care, into loving families and a chance at a future of hope.

~

Guatemala is such a beautiful place, with resources rich in coffee and macadamia nuts, to name only a few crops. The photos above capture the people I fell in love with in all of their sass and glory, from the abuela making fresh tortillas over a hot griddle all day {the street food is the very best}, to the older gentlemen who was waiting for his grandchild to come out of the private school we taught in, to the sweet young mother selling candy on the streets to support her adorable, chubby little {eskimo looking} niño, her own mother swelling with such pride as I asked to take a family portrait {I purchased all of their candy and ate it lasted a whole month!}, and finally to the young boy just trying to give his puppy some water from the fountain on the square.

The humanity of it all is what I love so much about sojourning: we’re all more alike than we could ever dare to imagine. We all have wants and needs, hard days of oppression, and reasons to keep smiling.

emily's photo{photo credit: my dear friend Emily Tuttle, whose helpful and passionate words you read above.}

starbucks?{photo credit: unknown. I snapped a photo of this photo in a coffee shop near Central Park, New York over 3 years ago. Don’t you just love this kid’s smile and Ninja Turtle’s shirt?! He may or may not be Guatemalan, but that is beside the point.}

 

***Disclaimer: whomever I marry had better want to honeymoon on Lake Atitlan, that’s all I’m saying. 😉
*** All photos mine unless otherwise noted.

 

My {Unashamed} Love Affair With Citrus Zest

photo by @itsjessicamiller

photo by @itsjessicamiller

I’m still not sure why winter seems to drag on for-ev-errrr, while sweet summertime flies by with new tides and the short life of the fire-fly.

The perfect sunsets.
The dusky drive-in movies and small-town carnival nights.
The ice cream & long walks along the river.
The kiddy-pool for your dog because your niece has out-grown it {insert crying emoji}.
The night-time concerts in sun-dresses + floppy hats with dear friends.
The five million weddings {or not, because you’re finally past that season of life?} & rambunctious dance-floor moves you bust out from 2001.

dusky summer{My town is so cute, amiright?}

And the ZEST!

For the love of the lemon zest! 

I’ve said it before, but the foodie in me just cannot contain herself when it comes to citrus zest. The aroma that fills my kitchen when that lemon oil permeates the air is simply the best scent {other than fresh laundry from the clothes-line that smells of nearly-here-autumn-air}, in my humble opinion.

Alas! I’ve altered a recipe I found somewhere on Pinterest {so sew me, I’m not correctly crediting someone and I’m sorry} to be gluten-free. I’d like to eventually try to create a Paleo version {see some of my substitutionary suggestions below}, but for now, you’ll just have to splurge a bit. And the best part is you can sneak in some fresh zucchini and raspberries for those picky eaters in your life + use up these seasonal ingredients before summer flies away. 😉

 

lemon rasp 1

Lemon Raspberry Zucchini Bread {with a Lemony Glaze}

Makes {1} 9″ loaf

Bread Ingredients:
+ 2 cups gluten free flour/”All-Purpose GF Baking Mix” {I just found Arrowhead Mills, and love it!}
+ 2 tsp baking powder
+ 1/2 tsp salt
+ 2 eggs, room temp
+ 1/2 cup vegetable oil or coconut oil {sub applesauce}
+ 1/2 cup milk
+ 2/3 cup sugar {sub 1 banana + 1 TBS honey and add 1/2 cup more flour}
+ 1/4 cup fresh squeeze lemon juice
+ the zest of 1 lemon :)
+ 1 cup grated zucchini
+ 1 cup of roughly chopped raspberries

Glaze Ingredients:
+ 1 cup powdered sugar
+ 2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
+ the zest of 1/2 of a lemon

Process:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease {w/ butter} and flour a 9 x 5″ loaf pan. Set aside.
2. In large bowl, blend flour, baking powder, and salt.
3. In a separate bowl, use a hand-mixer or stand-mixer t beat 2 eggs well. Then add the oil and sugar, and beat on low until well-combined. Add the milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest; blend everything well.
4. Gently mix in the grated zucchini until just evenly distributed in mixture.
5. Add dry ingredients and fold everything together with a large spatula, but don’t over-mix.
6. Gently fold in the raspberries, being careful not to smush them.
7. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. {Note: Add 1/2 cup of my “crumble” topping to the top of the batter for a “streusel” if preferred. This will make the recipe no longer GF, but you can alter it by using GF flour}. Bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean {should be golden brown}. Cool on a cooling-rack completely.
8. To serve, glaze each 1″ slice individually to avoid making the loaf soggy. Store wrapped in tin-foil, and reheat slices in a toaster over to re-serve.

lemon rasp 2

{Be sure to save some leftover raspberries to top your morning granola or fro-yo with, freeze some for smoothies, or to let your little ones to snack on. They are some serious anti-oxidant-packed little puckerers!}

I bet you’ll triple the batch and send loaves to your neighbors–it’s seriously that good. Let me know what you think of this recipe if you try it.

And do share: what are some of your favorite lemon-zest recipes? I’m dying to know!

P.S.-if you’re like me when I started this food journey, “GF” does not always equate to healthy. Just sayin’. 😉

My Favorite Summer Recipes

Where has summer gone?! I don’t know about you, but this season has flown by, and for once in my life, I find myself starting to mourn that; winter was so hard on me last year. While I’m excited for sweater weather, I can be patient. And that also leads me to something else I’m really excited about that can wait no more: recipe sharing!

For those of you who don’t already know, creating delicious food for others to try is one of my passions, so I had to ban myself from Pinterest {too many great ideas, some of which turn out divine, others ending in epic failure because they are recipes that have not been tested as tried and true. #petpeeve #endrant}.

Needless to say, I have a feeling you will be seeing much more from me on the food front. I’ve even prayed the prayer, “God, can I quit my 9-5 job and just feed people? Because that is what I want. Also, I have no capital to invest, so You’ll have to fit the bill for a second oven. Thanks, talk soon!”

All of that to say this: herein finally lie three of my favorite go-to summer recipes for you and yours to try. While I’m not opposed to fall weather coming soon, I’m trying to soak up these sunny summer days and embrace each season {with local produce and fresh ingredients}. I’m researching my food’s sources more than ever before, which is hard, and takes time, but is incredibly worthwhile.

Let me know what you think if you try them. They’re incredibly easy, with little to no prep-time, and use a lot of what you already have in your pantry {#bonuspoints}!

Happy cooking,
Suzy

 

BUT FIRST, COFFEE:

I’m not the world’s largest hot coffee drinker in the winter months {I’d rather have tea + chai}, but come summer, it’s game on! Iced coffee is so refreshing to me!

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Sure, I sometimes take time to source some great beans, grind them myself at home, french press them, chill the coffee for at least 12 hours in the fridge, and serve with my favorite add-ins {unsweetened vanilla almond milk + honey + cinnamon}. It’s delish, but let’s be real: who has time for that?

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Other times {95% of the time}, I opt for my store-bought brand of choice cold-brewed coffee, Chameleon. I get the Mocha flavor, which has a very subtle nod to some bittersweet dark chocolate; it’s so smooth and rich! I kid you not, when I open a jar of this stuff {concentrated, and great for up-to 4 servings for around only $5}, I stand there and inhale it slowly for a solid amount of time before adding some to a mason jar with plenty of large ice-cubes, shaking it up {with a lid, of course} which creates a delicious “froth” or foam, much like you see in an aerated hot latte, with all of my favorite aforementioned add-ins, and the addition of sprinkles and a straw, because duh.

photo 5{Need I mention that I save these jars, scrub off the label in hot soapy water, and use them as flower vases around my space? DIY win.}

NEXT, LET’S TALK DINNER: 

Blackened Tilapia Fish Tacos 
{My Friday night tradition}
photo 2

Ingredients:
+ ocean raised + caught, well-sourced tilapia fillets
{about 16 ounces, which will feed two people two tacos each, because we’re hungry, and fish is a light meat that is easy to digest, and 4 oz. is still the appropriate serving size for meat, but YOLO!}

Marinade {for at least 1 hour}:
+ chili powder- 1 tsp
+ cumin- 1 tsp
+ the juice of one fresh lime + its zest {zest before juicing}
+ Kikkoman Teriyaki Glaze & Marinade {i know this dish is more latin-inspired, but just go with it}- 1 Tbs
+ Worcestershire sauce-1 tsp
+ lemon essential oil- 2 drops
+ agave nectar- 1 tsp
+ salt & pepper to preference

Taco Toppings:
+ fresh avocado
+ homemade pico de gallo: fresh diced tomato, fresh chopped cilantro, fresh diced red onion {My favorite ratio is 1 part onion to 3 parts tomato with as little or as much cilantro as you like}
+ cabbage slaw {from a bag, because I let myself take short-cuts sometimes, as long as all ingredients are ones I know and can pronounce}
+ queso fresco and/or sour cream {can omit these if you’re dairy free because these tacos are still bomb without it}

Cook In:
+coconut oil
+ ceramic skillet {no cast iron/grill}

Bundle In:
+ your favorite fresh soft corn tortillas {I double up with two tortillas per taco for stability}

To Make:
Preheat your oven to 250 degrees and put a cookie sheet with a wire cooling rack on top inside to wait on you until you’re ready to use it.

After you have cut your tilapia down to 4 oz fillets and let marinate for at least one hour in the fridge, heat up your skillet with 1 tsp of coconut oil on medium-high heat. You want a hot skillet to create that “blackened” effect, and so the marinade will form a “crust” on your fish as it seres. A crust is better than a glaze in this recipe.

Cook each fillet for 2  1/2 minutes per side, and then transfer into the oven onto the “cooling rack” to keep warm and to let the air circulate around the entire piece of fish, which will prevent it from getting soggy and keep the crust we worked so hard for intact. 😉

After you’ve cooked all of your fish, use the same pan {with 2 fresh tablespoons of coconut oil} to shallow-fry each corn tortilla for 30 seconds per side on high. Flip using tongs. Sop-up extra oil with a paper towel, and place on a separate “cooling rack” without them touching to {you guessed it!} keep the tortillas from getting soggy. You do not want hard or crunchy tortillas, but you want a cooked tortilla that is still pliable and warm to serve.

Layer up two tortillas per taco, put slaw down first to act as a “bed” to nest your sweet + spicy fish in, and top with pico + avocado slices and queso fresco and/or sour cream. Serve with black beans and your favorite beer or Mexican soda {or La Croix w/ lime, if you are me.}

Nom nom nom! {<—the actual noise you and your family will make as you eat.}

 

 

FINALLY, WHAT IS SUMMER WITHOUT LOTS OF THINGS TO PUT ICE CREAM ON TOP OF? 

Case and point: Peach Crisp


photo-10{photo via @conveythemoment}

 

Goodness golly, is there anything more summer and southern than peaches? The answer is “no”. Some of you know I lived in Georgia for a season, and I often miss my friends and “family” down there. Good thing they came to visit just last week, and I made them their own individual Peach Crisps in small tart dishes and served them warm with a scoop of the best vanilla ice cream on top. It was such a beautiful time around my table spent catching up and laughing, and my heart was left full and refreshed after time in their presence. My good friend Emily {also from Georgia} says this of peaches: {they are} “tiny juicy fuzzy butts. That taste like nature’s candy.”

I’m not sure I could’ve worded it better myself.
So without further ado, the grand finale of this delicious post:

Filling Ingredients:
+ 1  1/2 pounds of whole peaches, quartered, pitted, and sliced 1/8″ thick {I leave skins on for texture and flavor, but you can peal first if you prefer}
+ the juice of a half of a fresh lemon + 2 drops lemon essential oil
+ 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
+ 1/4 tsp ground ginger
+ 1/4 tsp salt
+ 1/4 cup local honey
+ 1/4 cup corn starch
+ 1/2 tsp rum extract
+ 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Crust Ingredients:
+ 1 cup all-purpose flour
+ 1/2 cup wheat flour
+ 1/2 cup rolled oats
+ 1 tsp salt
+ 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
+ 2 cups sugar
+ 2 sticks of cold butter {cut into 1/2 tsp cubes}

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9 x 9″ baking dish with coconut oil or butter. Combine all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl, gently folding them together {so as not to break-up the peaches} until a semi-thick “marinade” is formed for the peaches to take a little bath in. I let the filling sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes as I make the crust.

In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients with a whisk, and slowly “cut in” cold butter cubes until the mixture starts to take on a sandy consistency. {This takes about 5 minutes, so be patient, and DO NOT use a food processor. I’m a firm believer that it just isn’t the same thing.} Then, get your hands dirty and start kneading the sandy mixture into lumps, and then larger pieces of “crumble” or “streusel”, until the mixture can stay together in a ball; the body heat in your hands will start to melt the butter and help in this process. If it can successfully hold itself together, it is the right consistency, and you can slowly break it back apart into 1/2″ crumble pieces. Set your “crisp” in the fridge to let the butter solidify back up for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, pull your filling ingredients back out, and pour into  your pan, scraping the bowl down to get all of the starchy liquid into the pan. Gently push down on any loose peaches that want to stick up. You can also shake the pan horizontally back and forth to get them to settle into place for baking. After 15 minutes, pull your cold “crisp” topping back out and evenly crumble half of the mixture atop your peaches. {The topping portion of the recipe is enough to make two 9 x 9″ crisps. I just like to do all of the work up-front, and refrigerate or freeze the excess for other desserts later.}

Bake for 45 minutes, but around the 30 minute mark, keep an eye on your Crisp, as every oven is different. If you find it is browning too quickly, or if you have a convection oven, drop your temperature to 350 degrees. It should be golden and bubbly when it’s finished.

Allow to cool for 20 minutes on a cooling rack, and serve warm and with ice cream on top. And don’t be afraid to eat it for breakfast with coffee like I sometimes do. 😉

photo 1

While these peaches I used are not from Georgia, they are fresh and local Missouri-grown peaches from a nearby farmer, and I’m in love with them; we buy a bushel each week. They are also great packed in your lunch, atop your morning oatmeal, blended into smoothies and homemade popsicles, and so much more.

*Additionally, my recipe isn’t gluten-free, but you could easily alter it to be. If you need to store a partially-eaten crisp, do so in your fridge, not at room-temp. Reheat individual pieces in a toaster oven instead of a microwave to prevent sogginess.

{Can you tell I’m anti-soggy and mushy and all of those synonymous adjectives? Ha!}

I hope you enjoy these recipes, and I can’t wait to share more of my favorites with you very soon!

Freedom in Being-Off-The-Grid

photo4

 

photo1

Who says you can’t still climb trees and get scraped up knees, even a grown woman? WHO EVEN SAYS? I felt God implore me to take a risk, to do something a bit silly and child-like, to trust Him. Almost like Ryan Gosling in the movie The Notebook, urging Rachel McAdams’ character to “get her ass in the water”. She was scared, timid even, starting the jump, yet changing her mind and planting her feet firmly on dry land in a stubborn, sheepish way. But his love got her to take the risk. And it was worth it.

I channeled my inner Anne of Green Gables and checked the tree for bee-hives and wasp nests first, but it didn’t even cross mind to check for ants. At least they were the black ones–and not those spicy red ones that can literally destroy your life in two seconds. {p.s.-I was wearing a dress. My very most favorite dress from Anthropologie. That now has a gaping hole in it. But also, let’s collect more moments, and not things, amiright? And learn to sew.}

I probably broke all of the rules of the peaceful and serene property my dad and his girlfriend rented out for the holiday in a small town just 35 minutes north. #sorrynotsorry. Okay, maybe a little sorry. I still didn’t play music by the pool or swing from a vine like Jane in the Jungle into the mossy green moat like I wanted to.

 

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photo2

I did, however, plop down on my pull-out sofa bed in the perfect little carriage-house they rented, which was totally separate from the main house of the historic inn built circa 1907 by a local doctor who moved to the area for its healing mineral springs. I did eat all of the quiche {prepared by the french owner, also a fellow missionary} and soak up all of the sun in the sky {that’s saying a lot for my very pale self}, and I most certainly laid in a hammock beneath the pines for hours with my current read, “Own Your Life”. Speaking of The Notebook {Nicholas Sparks, just stop with all of the tears, okay?}, I took a very similar paddle boat ride {alone, not with Ryan, but I never liked that guy much anyway…}, and saw some huge fish, an old Ice-House from “back in the day” where the people used to keep their iced things and root vegetables under-ground, as I re-taught myself the art of using ors, of steering backward and hoping for the best.

photo2

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Have you ever done that? Felt like you were steering backward, rowing and rowing and hardly going? That’s what the last year has felt like to me. But I think I’m finally able to turn my head around and look in the direction I need to go. And have you even been up a creek without a paddle, figuratively…or even literally? Thankfully I had two paddles that were attached to the boat, otherwise we all know how this boat-ride would’ve ended: a very Anne of Green Gables situation indeed.

It was only 24 hours, but it was just the right amount of time, the perfect get-a-way where I had hardly any cell phone service–where I was forced to really hang out with my people, uninterrupted, to spend some quality time with my dad, to remember how he’s quite the grizzly bear {give the large Canadian man some smoked salmon and a pool of water and he is CONTENT.} And for the record, he had to help me out of the tree on his shoulders, because I couldn’t “bear” the jump. *wink*

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inn

But of course, all-too-soon, I returned home to the typical chaos of the holiday. People running around preparing food, trying to figure out which fire-works display we would go see in the city, making sure the 4 year old niece got her afternoon nap in, all while the dog sheepishly hid beneath anything she could get under to avoid the loud “BOOM!”s coming from the sky.

But that is life. You have to take the chaos with the serene, the fast-paced with the stoic. I guess it’s all a balance, and I’m learning how to navigate that. Learning how to steer, to turn around in my boat and face what lies ahead.

Life is all about finding our freedom, and relishing in it. And while I’m so grateful for the beautiful freedoms of the country we are blessed to live in, and all of the people who have fought for our freedoms here, I can’t implore each of us enough to just get our ass in the river. Or in the tree.

Trust Him again. Or for the first time. He has good things in store for you, and freedom in Him is like nothing we’ve ever seen or known.

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{My dad and I before my departure. He loves ‘Merica…}

So what about you? What did you do this holiday weekend? Were popsicles involved? Sparklers, even? I can’t wait to hear stories and see photos!

{Coming Soon: My best packing tips + tricks for a long weekend get-a-way. And I promise you’ll be able to subscribe and receive automatic updates very soon, too. Praise God for technology that I’m still learning how to use.  *wink*}

Fleeting June

summer

{Rug from Target. And the lady at the nail salon told me the mole on my big toe means I’m a “wanderer” and will always love travel. I told her I received that sweet blessing. ;)}

June is typically one of those months known for the start of sweet summer. It’s famous for no-more-school {hallelujah praise} and the opening of pools nation-wide, “ma & pa” farm stands on the road-side of the freshest garden-grown produce, and those sticky-legged bugs {that happen to be named after the month} + loads of fireflies making their debut. My sweet niece loves to catch them, and watching her try is one of my favorite past-times. The air smells of my childhood nostalgia {a.k.a BBQ smoke} and over-zealous neighbors compete for the most aesthetically prestigious lawn, because everyone knows the winner will receive honks from passers-by and head-nods of approval for THE REST of sweet summer.

In my personal case, it’s involved “floating” through some of the best storms this year {Kansas City has practically been entirely submerged under water for about 42 out of the last 60 days, but who is counting, clearly not the woman who just purchased her own paddle boat?} It’s even included concerts of long-time favorite bands + unheard of new favorites from Oregon, friend’s milestone birthdays {#dirtythirty is a thing}, and visiting my sweet cousin, the seriously brave soul who just underwent spinal surgery, in the hospital on my rare day off. By the way, I will never understand why hospitals smell the way they do. Or why they’re so hard to navigate. {Because ending up in the pediatric bone-marrow transplant ward and being screamed at by a nurse to “scrub up” and throw out my fresh flowers because they can’t come through the main doors is normal for you too, right?}

Joseph, that band from Oregon I was telling you about {just go ahead click on their name for a mini listen to some serious talent + gift to your ears. Three woman bands are all the rage these days. ;)}

sun

{The Trader Joe’s sunflowers I took my cousin.
Because they just scream “summer!” to me + they’re the flower of Kansas, you know?}

Recently, toward the end of June, I found myself at Women’s Dessert night for church, where I ate my entire week’s quota of sweets in one sitting. {Bring on the clean-eats in July, am I right?} Needless to say, I was blessed beyond belief by some of the open dialogue and discussion that happened when the question “What do you dream of for the church?” was asked. Can you say holy moly estrogen fest? Feelings and passions flew around the room like fire-flies, but more than that, connections were made, walls were broken down, and this overall sense that women can really be for one another was understood and believed in again. Gosh, it was refreshing.

dessert

{These tarts from the dessert night were delish. I may or may not have
stuffed 3 in my purse for the car-ride home.}

Speaking of desserts, here’s the recipe I promised for my easy-peasy Cherry Garcia Brownies, one of my all time favorite flavor combos. I love these because they use fresh, local ingredients, healthy fats, and are only semi-homemade, so a serious cinch:

+ Set aside one 8 oz. block of cream cheese to come to room-temp.

+ Choose your favorite boxed brownie mix and follow their directions for a 9″ square pan serving, substituting coconut oil for vegetable oil, and making sure to use room-temp, fresh, local farm eggs. My go-to brownie brand + favorite will forever be Ghiardelli Ultimate Fudge Brownies, because the texture/consistency is the best {FUDGE, helloooo!} , and it includes mini chocolate chips {which I just add more of, but that’s beside the point}.

+ Additionally, add 1 1/2 tsp. of cherry extract, found at your local grocery market.

+ Mix well, adding in a heaping handful of your favorite 60% cacao dark chocolate chips {ain’t nobody got time for the semi-sweet!} in a gentle folding motion with a spatula.

+ Set aside your brownie mix to let it rest, and in the meantime, preheat your oven, and dice 1/4 pound of freshly washed cherries, tossing the pits/seeds out.

+ Pour the brownie batter into a greased 9″ square pan, evenly distributing with a spatula, and gently sprinkle and slightly push the diced cherries into the top of the batter, so they’re sunken into it, but not all the way at the bottom of the pan, which they will stick to.

+ Bake according to directions and your oven, but also be prepared to add anywhere from 15-20 minutes. I find that the addition of the cherries adds moisture and texture that just prolongs the baking process, so be patient and keep an eye on them.

+ While the brownies bake, put your block of cream cheese in a large mixing bowl, and add 2 tsp. vanilla extract and 4 Tbs confectioner’s sugar, and beat on a medium speed for about 3 minutes, until the icing is creamy and aerated. Keep chilled in the fridge until you’re ready to use.

+ Once the brownies have finished baking and cooled completely, evenly ice them with your cream-cheese frosting, cut to serve, and place an individual cherry on each piece so people know exactly what they’re biting into.

cherries
{These are MESSY, as you can see from my photo, but worth it–and so, so good!
Please let me know what you think or if you did anything differently. }

In addition to baking and brunch + heart-chats with a dear old pal, and cleaning and DIY projects {photos coming soon}, I had some sweet fellow missionary friends pass through KC en-route to…Seattle! Patty is moving there with another friend, Meg, and I could not be more excited for them. Seattle is definitely one of my favorite cities {next to Kansas City…just look at our skyline, wouldja?}

friends {Chelsea, Myself, and Patty at Liberty Memorial overlooking Union Station}

It was so good to sit over BBQ with these amazing women and hear their hearts, learn more about their personal journeys, and encourage one another in the mundane, scary parts of life like the risk it takes to move cross-country, or finish a graduate degree, or date a man. We laughed a ton, because that’s just the kind of people they are, and in the wee hours of morning when they departed, I sent them with some Cherry Garcia Brownies for their continued westward journey. {An absolute road-trip must, and you have to eat them quickly, because they should be served cold.}

june{GIF image via @romanticiist via Tumblr}

All in all, June was a good month–a rich and full month that taught me a lot about myself and reminded me of my fondest dreams and ambitions. It set the trajectory for summer, and gave me a lot to look forward to! Don’t you just love it when your calendar is about to burst with great gatherings to celebrate friends and let some others rest in your abode? I sure do. The rest part is hard for me, but I have a feeling July will be so hot, no one will see my pasty ass anywhere near the sun, as I’ll be inside fanning myself.
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“Take a lesson from the fig tree. From the moment you notice its buds form, the merest hint of green, you know summer’s just around the corner. So it is with you: When you see all these things, you’ll know he’s at the door. Don’t take this lightly. I’m not just saying this for some future generation, but for all of you. This age continues until all these things take place. Sky and earth will wear out; my words won’t wear out.

Matthew 24:35 MSG

{Coming Soon: those DIY project photos I previously mentioned.}

A Broken Hiatus + Manifesto

photo-3{Photo by Jay Carroll of @onetrippass via Instagram}

Hiatus: “High-aye-tuss”; noun – a pause or gap in sequence, series, or process

Whelp, that pretty much sums it up.  A process paused is what the last year of my life has felt like. Even more accurately, I’d say it was on rewind. But “hiatus” just sounds cooler than, “oh yeah, I took steps backward by moving home to my mother’s house and now live in her basement.” You know? And it sums it up all the way up until today, which just stood still as if there weren’t enough hours or minutes or seconds to launch this thing so near and dear to my heart.

Of course I wish this long “trip” of sorts had involved a whimsical train-ride to a far-off, distant place worth photographing, but that’s just not the case. Not even close; but it has involved left-overs and living pay-check to pay-check, buckets of tears and hours of sleep lost.

Call it transparency, call it foolish: I want to finally talk about this past year, what I’ve walked through, where I am now, where I see myself {and this great endeavor} going one day. Because there are so many dreams, you guys. So many places I’m headed.

And honestly, the fact that some of you have been awaiting this return to the blog {I’m not sure how many, but even a single handful is so humbling and sobering and astonishing and…} well, it means the world to me. It means you believe in my story, my writing, my ability to tell other people’s stories with integrity and grace {or sass or sarcasm, but mostly not, I hope, because I swear I’m 28 and an adult some of the time}.

It means somewhere along the way, you’ve been inspired, or you’ve felt like you can relate. Maybe God has even spoken to you through me. 

Whatever the reason you’re stumbling upon this page, know I’m grateful beyond words on a screen. Also, accept my sincere apology, because butofcourse, being the chronic procrastinator that I am, I didn’t have anything prepared for you like I thought I would as I mulled over this website in my heart and mind for the last nine months. Of course I wrote entry after entry, thinking surely one would fit the bill and make the cut. Nope. Ew. No way! Scary. Not happenin’.

A year is a long time, right? And yet not. But long enough. {Also, our lives are but a mere vapor, so that makes a year, like, not even a puff, if my scientific evidence of smoking Hooka that one time counts for anything…}


hello there{image from @hanuelofficial via Instagram}

It’s funny, the things we assume will be. 

I thought I’d have so much to say, that I’d come running up to you like an old friend at the airport who’d been traveling overseas for years, out of breath and a bit weary, but mostly excited, with a heavy pack filled with souvenirs and duty free goods for you and your gram. I figured words would be spewing out from every angle with nowhere to land but onto your screen, into your heart, all over your tables.

I figured surely I’d have developed my styling business, with a rip-roaring portfolio to hand in for your approval like a student handing a well-worn assignment into their teacher.

I was sure I’d have progress to talk about, recipes oozing out of my kitchen’s pores, and amazing new ideas for you to try around your home from the experience I’ve gained in styling and organizing. {But let’s be real–there’s nothing new under the sun, amiright?} Also, this will never be a “Pinteresty Mom-Blog”, sorry not sorry. If anything, it will house a place for the “unmoms” of society {but more on that later, k? I’m pacing myself here.}

The thing is, I have none of these things for you today. I don’t have much to impart, but I’m getting there, slowly and surely filling back up. I’ve pouted and pursed my deflated lips, cried like a baby, and drown in my own confusion of life and technology woes {thank you, Carl Wilson, for putting up with me, oh my gosh, just who are you even for being a website super-human?}

Life is hard, you guys. If there’s one thing you can expect on this new blog of mine, it’s the brutal honesty of that, my battle with depression and anxiety, confessions of a modern missionary’s life gone “secular” where my curse-word vernacular has only multiplied, coupled with the praises and progress as I’ve learned to rise to the occasion and defeat the hard days with God as my help.

Sure, you’ll be inspired.
I hope.
But mostly…

I want you to be met. I want you to feel seen, known, and understood here. This place is truly an extension of my home {as empty as that sounds because I don’t even own a home or a have a guest-room or use a dining room table}. Even still, my heart’s desire is to host you with a gentle hospitality that seems to stay “Pull up a chair. Stay as long as you wish. There’s no agenda here, just grace upon grace.”

You’re not even required to bring anything to this table of mine. Potlucks are all good and well until someone cross-contaminates the salsa with the bean dip, and well we just all know what happens next, so let’s avoid it, k?

And for crying out loud, I’ve given up on entertaining! If you want that, go to a circus. I hate the idea of loud music and blaring lights and performers with rehearsed acts, and empty stares from across a sticky arena with peanut shells all over the ground and really mistreated animals.

If there’s any correlation with a blasted circus here, let it be the part where the flying-trapeze artist makes her descent into the mesh net that catches her with strength and ease, softening her blow, propelling her back up to her feet, easing her burden of ever having fallen.

My sweet friends have listened to me whine for moons and tides, and this is what one of them reminded me of today: Hosting is worship. I’m inviting people to gather – and perfection doesn’t need to be a part of that. Especially not at first. SO picture the messiest house on the block, front lawn a mile-high, no candles lit or wine & cheese laid out, and me in my soft-clothes {sweats} with no make-up on, hair in a disheveled top-knot.

Are you envisioning it? Are we there together? 
Okay, good. That is what you’ve stepped into. 

And I could not be more thrilled or proud or terrified.

For the record: I wish I was the girl on the train, full-steam ahead, onward to my next adventure. But I’m learning the adventure is in the mundane, ordinary places where God meets us in our longings and turmoil and becomes the peace in our troubled seas.

For the record again: I like wine & cheese. Sometimes, you’ll see some of that put-together-stuff here, too.

photo-4
{Photo source: still investigating}

A Recap: Plywood Presents

 

plywood{Plywood Presents 2014 took place at the Historic Fox Theatre in Downtown Atlanta}

Sometimes when we ask God for a way out, with ultimatums and disillusionment ruling our hearts and minds, He instead provides a way in.

That’s what happened when I learned I was able to attend Plywood Presents {for a fraction of the regular ticket cost, thanks to my good friends}. It’s a two-day conference in Atlanta that works to connect and instruct creative entrepreneurs under the idea that “we will be known by the problems we solve” as we open our eyes to see the unseen {Jeff Shinabarger}, and moreover, Atlanta’s entrepreneurs are “hopeful and helpful” {Sid Mashburn}, which gives many a reason to come and to stay.

On the breaks between sessions, I had the opportunity to help work my friend’s Purchase Effect booth, telling people about how our purchases have the ability to have purpose, if we’ll let them, by meeting and pouring into the people involved in the process, and going back to reinvest in their lives, their economies, and their eternities.

 

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 10.00.12 PM{photo via Plywood Presents}

Here are some of my favorite take-aways:
+ If we change the world and lose our family, we lose.
+ See a better future. Proceed to create it.
+ Where do you find your worth? If it’s in your enterprise, you’re already in the red.
+ Live well; it’s the best revenge.
+ What will we be known for as the Western World? Mindless consumers, or significant changers?
+ Apathy is our biggest challenge; bring intentionality to life.
+ But what if we succeed?
+ What if we loved first and asked questions later, letting God sort them out?
+ Take the fears, grip them, and reframe them.
+ What do I mean when I say “boys will be boys”, and what do I want it to mean for my future sons?

Meeting Johnny Early of Johnny Cupcakes, and experiencing the Atlanta skyline from our hotel rooftop were some definite highlights!

photo-9{Design by @wildstandard, Photo by @FosterATL via Instagram}


And then there’s more! I can’t neglect to share these tid-bits with you either:

+ Ask hard questions. Be willing to give hard answers.
+ Pattern removes uncertainty and creates trust, and we’re homesick for an era of capitalism we trust.
+ Only when the clamor of the outside world is vanished, will you be able to hear the opportunity.
+ The same is not working.
+ Be open to serve in your pain.
+ Live your relationships in the light.
+ Create space to create.
+ Spend more time in cemeteries. If you only had 6 months left to live, what would you do?
+ Think like an editor: they don’t want the whole story-only the part that matters to their pages
+ Let defeat light a fire with a different spin on it.

Dale Partridge of Sevenly gave an extremely noteworthy talk on prioritizing people over profit, and all he has accomplished in his 29 short years made me realize I’ve been wasting time. Bonus: the swag bags we each received were filled to the brim with goodies, including some of my favorite things, pictured above.

And, fine. Because I #CantStopWontStop, here are just a few more things I took away: 
+The currency of encouragement spends longer than cash. & time is more valuable than money: you will get back more than your investment.
+ Don’t dictate. Shape.
+ Write a manifesto of core values that invite people into your “home”.
+ Sometimes we have to go back in order to go forward; but stay the course of your dream.
+ Make people {your customers} feel like it’s their birthday!
+ Collaboration = cross pollination.
+ Keep reinventing yourself.
+ Real success is being happy doing what you love.
+ Find something that is a part of your personality, and do that thing.
+ Leaving our immediate social circle creates magic.

photo-8{Atlanta skyline via our hotel rooftop, The Georgian Terrace}

Considering my ultimatum with God was “connect me to people who enrich and re-activate my passion, or else I will leave.” my getting to attend this event was a REALLY big deal to me, and to say I’m grateful is an understatement.

So I will leave you with this: 
“I’m not willing to accept the things I cannot change. I change the things I cannot accept.” 

P.S.- Won’t you come with me to next year’s Plywood Presents? I sure hope so, and will let you know when tickets go on sale.

A Recap: Bing’s #Awesome Event

 

© 2013 | Haley Sheffield | www.haleysheffield.com

© 2013 | Haley Sheffield | www.haleysheffield.com

{Some of the event attendees, including Rapha, rockin’ his amazing floral pants! Alison must’ve said something to make Blue Eyed Yonder and myself crack up.}

First thing’s first: confession time.

If you were to ask me my humble and honest opinion about whether or not I love Atlanta, my answer would be a resounding “NO.” I’ve told God over and over again that I don’t think this city is the one for me {namely the traffic and humidity}, and if He could kindly remove me and implant mountains back in my life, that’d be swell.

But iiiiffff I were to stay for a bit longer, I’d like to be connected with some great people, creatives who support one another in their trades, ones who inspire and encourage me, the type who help others network by initiating, inviting, and introducing.

I’m blessed to say so far, I’ve received the latter part of my prayer, and I’ll take it with gratitude, because things are unfolding slowly and steadily, and the people I’ve had a chance to meet have been utterly lovely.

Like those I met at Bing‘s Search For Your Awesome event near, you guessed it, downtown Atlanta! 

© 2013 | Haley Sheffield | www.haleysheffield.com

© 2013 | Haley Sheffield | www.haleysheffield.com

Cue sweet Anna, a bright and energetic wife and mama of three who I’ve had the absolute pleasure of working for these past few months. She’s all about creativity, and she’s given me a lot of freedom to help out in her new business, The Brand Market, where I coordinate many details for her one day workshops all over the country. She has a lot of influence in the blogging world, and moreover, a heart of gold, so when she invited me to be a part of Bing’s event, co-hosted by the warm and hilarious Alison Faulkner of The Alison Show, I immediately cancelled other {unimportant} plans to make sure I didn’t miss it. {And just to be real about Alison for a sec: she practically bulldozed tables and chairs and flung her whole self across the room to be the first to welcome me to the party, and she exuded so much joy and love and positivity the entire night, even after traveling to + hosting these events for weeks on end; she’s definitely the kind of person you’d want in your circle on any day, good or bad.}

© 2013 | Haley Sheffield | www.haleysheffield.com

© 2013 | Haley Sheffield | www.haleysheffield.com

And you know how sometimes, all of your worlds seem to collide, and you feel like you’re only separated by a few degrees from almost everyone? Well, enter the sweet and talented Jamie Jimenez, who I’ve also had the pleasure of working with on social media + blogging for her line of hand-lettered + illustrated goods at Yours is the Earth. She and her husband, an incredible chef, also run Homespun Atlanta, and they catered the entire event with a tropical island-themed menu. Everything was delicious, so I obviously went back for seconds and thirds, and loved watching Jamie co-host to teach about food pairings, herbs, and even edible flowers. Yum!

Bottled drinks were provided by Onli Beverages, and that’s me up there, working on my own table-scape with new acquaintances!

 

© 2013 | Haley Sheffield | www.haleysheffield.com

© 2013 | Haley Sheffield | www.haleysheffield.com

I had the chance to meet handfuls of other talented folk, too, like the sweet and southern Blue Eyed Yonder, who provided most of the amazing furniture to stage the space for guests to sit at and utilize. I absolutely love what she and her husband create!

Speaking of space, the whole studio and all florals were provided by Amy Osaba Events; to say I was swooning over both the whole night would be an understatement.

King of Pops provided some cold, sweet popsicle treats!

All in all, the night was nothing short of magical, and I’m honored to have been a part of it.  I even chose my seat wisely and sat next to sweet Megan, who has worked for Alton Brown of The Food Network for the past 6 years. {Now, I just need my own cooking-show, and life will be in full-swing!}

Some of my biggest take-aways were these words of solid advice:
+ Use what you have
+ If you want different results, do things differently
+ Invest in people who invest in you
+ Give thanks, give love, give your gift
+ Not to mention, Bing generously gave us all $50 worth of advertising + 1,000 Bing Points to take home and use. Did you know you can get paid in FREE gift cards to use their search engine, as well as pin photos straight to your Pinterest board?! Google needs to step-it-up! 😉 

To all involved, and to Anna for kindly extending the invite, I’m grateful. #ThanksBing! And if you want to really feel the vibe of the night, check out the video below. Cheers to being awesome! 

*All photos by the talented Haley Sheffield, unless otherwise stated. Stay tuned for another recap of my time at Plywood Presents in Atlanta last week, coming Monday!

On Loss {Part Three}

photo

{photo by @littlefixations via Instagram}

…And isn’t that how life seems to go? Life happens while we’re living it, and before we know it, we’re traipsing through Wyoming to mourn losses of family members we haven’t yet mourned, and bawling ugly tears as we take our vehicle off “cruise control” to pull over to the road-side and observe the massive rocks, these things called mountains, jutting up into the crystal blue sky that is somehow, almost cloudlessly, spitting pellets of rain down onto the earth beneath it, down onto the windshield whose wipers are squeaky and haphazard, and we throw on our favorite floppy brown hat and set down the camera to just breathe instead of capture.

photo-2

And there we are.

C.S. Lewis says it so well when he reminds us that nothing seems awry or even changing in the day-to-day until we look back, and everything, including ourselves, is completely different.

On the trek, as I rested amongst friend’s kind parents and didn’t fight them for the dinner bill, but instead just learned to receive their gift gracefully, I realized I’ve changed. As I got on my hands and knees in the mud to coerce two Golden Retrievers into letting me onto their {very well-protected} land to photograph the beautiful mountains as I sprinkled leftover popcorn on the ground as a decoy, I realized I’ve changed. As I sat in the most quaint little bakery in Missoula, Montana with an old-soul friend and his lovely wife, a woman who I’ve admired and read about from afar for a while, not trying to control the conversation, but just letting it organically become what it needed to, I realized I’ve changed.

The changes are resounding, yet small, and I’m learning I’m okay with being both “girly” and rough & rugged all at the same time. I’m okay with disagreeing with people on huge and small topics alike, and stating my valid opinion in strength and peace. I’m okay with my thighs, even though I remember them looking better. And I’m okay with not having all of the answers or closure in certain relationships that have fizzled-out over the years.

So I cannot tell you what will come from this trip. I cannot say what promises will be fulfilled or what milestones will be accomplished. All I know are the ones that already have, the ones that remind me God is for me and not against me, how He writes the very best stories, the true tales He allows us to have a subplot in, with real opinions and lasting impressions, because when He was done making us, He said we were masterpieces, and He called us GOOD. 

And so for all of these reasons and more, I’ll always take the road less-traveled, the longer road around the biggest lake with road-construction that slows everything down, allowing time for crisp thoughts and robust dreams to come to life, the road that leads me to huckleberry ice cream and glacier-fed water falls and antique stores in old, red barns, the road that screams “pick me.”

Petal to the metal, I’ll go.

On Loss {Part Two}

SONY DSC

{Written in March, 2014, from the final stop on an epic,
cross-country road-trip.}

There are at least two or three hours {for my overseas friends, maybe eight to twelve} between many of you and myself right now as I write these words from THE coziest king-size bed in my grandpa Frank’s home, in the chilly and foggy Spokane Valley. He’s the kind of burly, Canadian man who won’t leave the house without a stick of gum and his smart-phone, a pocket-knife attached the his belt-loop, and his Golden Doodle in the passenger seat.
So here I sit; I’ve given-up trying to keep my body on Eastern Standard Time, and have succumbed to the fact that my body is, in fact, out West {#suzygoeswest}, and would like to do what the westerners do, like not go to bed at 7 p.m.

I finally pulled into his driveway yesterday evening, through the Aspens and Pines, after rolling along for nearly two whole weeks in a car I don’t own, up from the North Georgia mountains, a place that has become home over the past year. On my way, I passed through Nashville to see a sweet friend and crash on her couch, and realized I’d been there exactly one year prior, when I’d made the move down to Georgia for the job recently lost, and my Jeep broke down on the road-side, where I remember thinking, “what the hell am I getting myself into?“; then it was onward to Kansas City, where home and hugs and {the world’s best} barbecue awaited, and after a dear friend’s beautiful wedding that ministered to the deep parts of my heart, along with a reunion with my best ladies from college and the biggest Easter service I’ve ever attended, I eventually headed as far west as one can get on $500 worth of gasoline.

The days leading up to today have all blurred together, and if you asked me to define them for you I’d say they’ve been sweet and bitter, messy and organized, & slow and rushed, all at the same time. There has been so much juxtaposition, and in the process, I’ve learned I’m not quite who I hoped I would be, no where close to who I once was.

Often-times when you lose your job, your very identity gets packed into that brown cardboard box along with your personal belongings and favorite pens that had been shoved in drawers and tucked into manilla folders amongst your work desk.

I felt both frantic and free the day it all happened, so what ensued, to my dismay, were two weeks of sangria and margaritas and every other kind of beverage my sweet hispanic brothers and sisters created to be paired well with food and dinner parties and wedding showers and laughter.

photo-7

OH, did we ever drink.
Not in the emotional, alcoholic way, but in the celebration way, how one drinks when a big life event has happened and it means something because it shook things up and hurt and set people free.

So I sat within circles amongst women I’d only recently let into my heart, allowing them full permission to speak into the fractures and crevices and dreams that were evident and yet kept hidden, the places I purposelessly protected and almost always neglected to tend to. These women were more than my peers and colleagues; they were a sisterhood, and they reeked of opportunity and passion and sometimes even pure anger, where if I glanced away for two seconds too long, they’d probably light someone on fire with their words.

It was messy, but we allowed one another to feel and be where we each individually needed to be. And for once, I was so okay with everyone not being okay, with things being out of control, and with shit utterly hitting the fan. I was okay with shoving Girl Scout cookies {bless the Thin Mint!} down my throat as I listened intently to their plans and non-plans and the camaraderie that was birthed when one of them honestly proclaimed, “I SUCK at being a follower of Christ!” to which we all nodded emphatically, relieved we weren’t the only ones.

These women, these newly sacred people in my life, each challenged me and provoked different direction. I challenged them right back, with audacious prayers and assignments from Jesus and sassy looks that seemed to say, “…I can’t believe you just said that. but I love you anyway.” 

photo-6

Even now, as I sit here on this cloud-like bed, wishing I had a dapper-plaid-wearing, lumberjack-looking-husband to occupy the other half of it {and that, coming from a gal who has rarely thought about or prayed for her husband until recently}, I still don’t know how I got here. Seriously. I’ve glanced back over my atlas, tracing all of the highways and byways with my index finger, and it just doesn’t make sense. Even my dad facetiously said, “sometimes I think God just drops you off places, kinda like the Jetson’s and their travel machine”, and I laugh out loud, because it’s true.

Which reminds me of what I do know about this sojourning of mine. It has all involved meticulously orchestrated plans by God to get me to two new states on my year’s “bucket”-list, ones I had no idea how I’d get to, but ones He remembered on that short list I’d made at Christmas-time, places He followed-through on getting me to.

“He always does what he says…The Lord watches over the sojourners.” {psalm 146}

The process involved me turning down a great job offer that just didn’t have peace wrapped ’round it. It involved semi-well-planned travel and lodging logistics for my last minute road-trip, snacks from Costco and my mom’s kitchen, and enough mix CDs to get me through the {suspiciously flat} state of Kansas. It involved so many finite details, but for the life of me, I don’t know how I made it from Point A to Point B.

P.S.-Since these days of sweet gatherings and road-trips, much adventure has ensued: 
Steph got hitched to Carl, who was once more than our boss, but someone who also became a friend and confident.
Heather hiked the El Camino with her husband for 6 weeks.
Emily & Katie ventured off to Turkey and The Republic of Georgia to document ministries there.
Lacee moved to Dallas to be with her fella.
Nicole is about to leave for a mission trip to Brazil.
And, amongst other events and travels, I led a group of amazing young adults on a mission trip to Appalachia, completely blown away by their servant hearts and boldness.

I guess it all serves to remind me that “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes”, and nothing is wasted. Not one thing.

{Part Three…Now Available.}