A New Year, A New Look: Living with Eyes Wide Open

Living with eyes wide open

Just in time for the new year, I randomly decided today that the blog needed an update. A new look and name. Something a little fresher. So I started changing it. It will be a work in progress as I figure out all of the features of this particular layout, so please pardon the continued changes as I move things around, but I like it already.

A while back I had toyed with the idea of changing the name (from “Live. Love. Serve.”) but I couldn’t think of anything better & it fit well enough, so I left it.

But times are a-changing. Continue reading

Fall Leaves & Fellow Commuters: Discovering Beauty All Around Us

I love fall. The changing of the seasons. The brisk, cooler air. Everything pumpkin. The chance to get some variation in my wardrobe again. But probably most of all, I love the colorful leaves. They are simply gorgeous.

Each tree is different. The varying, distinct shades of green, orange, yellow, red. My personal favorites are the trees that get bright red on top, while staying a rich green underneath.

Continue reading

Hello DC!

King Street in Old Town Alexandria, a couple miles from our place.

My last post was Farewell Nashville. My goodbye to the city that’s been my home for the last 6.5 years. This post is Hello DC! We have been catapulted into another life and this post is to celebrate some of the things we look forward to in the N. VA./DC area.

It has been 3 weeks since we moved here. It’s been a lot of adjusting, unpacking, settling, etc. In some ways, I feel like I’m just now getting my head back above water. I have plenty that I want to be writing about, but need to get back to it. So first up is this fun post.

Granted, I grew up only an hour from here. 45 minutes north of DC. But I really lived there from birth to 18 years old when I went off to college. We came to DC for school field trips and to go sightseeing when someone came to visit from out of town. But it’s so different now being in the area (& much closer to DC) as an independent adult.

This new life is ripe with possibilities of endless exploration. We are a couple miles from DC. (9 miles from the White House, for a little perspective.) It is a 7 minute walk from our condo to the nearest metro station, which gives us some wonderfully easy access. From my office I can see the Pentagon and the Washington monument. It’s really surreal some days to look out and go, “oh, look, there’s the Pentagon.”

So in no particular order, here are some of the things I’m really excited about:

  • Old Town Alexandria is 2 miles away. It’s a super cute little downtown area, filled with all of the cute boutiques and restaurants you could ever want. For our Nashville friends, it’s kind of like Franklin times 10.
  • The endless supply of museums, monuments, and historical sites that are only a short metro ride away. Many of these I’ve probably been to in my growing up years, but I hardly remember some of them (Mt. Vernon, getting a tour of the White House, etc). It will take years to explore the plethora of these.
  • Miscellaneous cultural events, like Passport DC, which is happening in May. It’s where all of the embassies host open houses & events that you can just bounce around to.
  • The National Cherry Blossom Festival, in March/April. This is something else I’m sure I’ve been to, but I really don’t remember it.
  • A whole new world of potential weekend trips – Williamsburg, Philadelphia, New York City, etc. It’s nice to have more options than just Chattanooga now!
  • Riding the metro to work. Without the stress of navigating traffic, I’ll be able to read a book or something, and get some walking in on either end. I’ll start this up March 1st.
  • Restaurants, restaurants, restaurants. Any type of food you could ever want to find. And I love international cuisine. Now I just need to be able to finance my eating habit!

It’s kind of invigorating to be thrust into a very different world. We’ve already had plenty of “we’re-not-in-kansasnashville-anymore” moments. Like the fact that it took us 15 minutes to drive 3 miles south to a nearby shopping center yesterday [the traffic is definitely something to get used to]. Or how this area is so diverse – by income, ethnicity, age, etc. There are pockets of super nice housing 2 blocks away from really rundown areas, and there are people of every ethnicity (way more than the places we’d  frequent most in Nashville).

A huge bonus to being here – the proximity to so many members of my family. My parents are an hour away. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins are 30-40 minutes. Other grandparents are 2 hours. Brother, sister-in-law, 2 nephews are 4 hours north (which is an amazing difference from what we were before). And next summer, my other brother will be about an hour away. This is huge! We can be around for birthdays, to go to dinner, to see my cousin play football. I don’t even know what that’s like!

I think I’m starting to decide that I want to set a goal for us, so that we don’t get trapped into what feels too comfortable and not get out and about. Maybe something like exploring/doing 3 new things a month. We’ve already purchased a deal to do a walking restaurant tour in Georgetown. I can’t wait! Now we just need to set a date.

So Hello DC! We sure have some exploring to do!

Last Monday, we wandered over to the President's Day parade in Alexandria. So much fun!

A Life Less Comfortable

It is often fear that holds us back from taking a leap of faith. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of change…

When Cason & I started seriously considering this leap of faith, it was that fear of change that kept sneaking up on me, infusing me with doubts. We have a very comfortable life here in Nashville. In fact I wrote a post called “This Comfortable Life” early last spring (you can read it here), as I was wondering what God was really asking for from our lives.

In making this leap, we’ll go from our lovely, suburban 3 bedroom house with a small yard to a much downsized apartment in “the city”. Money will be much tighter (do you know what cost of living is like up there?). I’ll go from wearing jeans to work to wearing suits everyday. My commute will be much more brutal. If I choose to ride the metro, I’ll have to give up my sense of personal space & convenience. We’ll have to find a new church, make new friends. Cason is giving up his job here and has to find something new. I’m giving up a job that I’ve been very comfortable in for a number of years now for one that will definitely challenge & stretch me in every way I can foresee.

A lot of the above things are superficial, but it’s true that our lives are about to completely change. Even when that change is good, change is still scary.

There have been several instances along the way the last couple of months where I’ve stopped and half-jokingly said “Let’s just stay here where we’re comfortable.” Finding a place to live is too hard, finding renters for our house here is too hard, finding Cason a job is too hard. Saying goodbye to friends, co-workers, & our church is too difficult. Let’s just stay where we’re comfortable…

A short story… On the day we met with a realtor to start looking into whether we could sell our house, we learned that we had lost so much value that we’d have to take a huge check to the table to even get rid of our house. I panicked. What if this meant we couldn’t go. That weekend I felt entombed in our house. This house we had so enjoyed for 5 years had now become a heavy burden. I decided that weekend that I don’t want to be held back because of my material possessions. If that’s what keeps me from a God-given dream, then yikes.

God does not call us to be comfortable. Personal comfort is definitely not mentioned anywhere in the Bible. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. God requires everything from His followers.

We can’t play it safe in this life. Without risk, there is no great adventure. No chance for God’s glory to be revealed.

So I still have twinges of wanting to stay where I feel safe & comfortable, but I know that a God-sized adventure is waiting for us just around the corner!

Bring on this life less comfortable!

Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace

Hope of all hopes, dream of our dreams,
a child is born, sweet-breathed; a son is given to us: a living gift.
And even now, with tiny features and dewy hair, He is great.
The power of leadership, and the
weight of authority, will rest on His shoulders.
His name? His name we’ll know in many ways
He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Dear Father everlasting, ever-present neverfailing,
Master of Wholeness, Prince of Peace.
His leadership will bring such prosperity as you’ve never seen before
sustainable peace for all time.
This child: God’s promise to David—
a throne forever, among us,
to restore sound leadership that cannot be perverted or shaken.
He will ensure justice without fail and absolute equity. Always.
The intense passion of the Eternal,
Commander of heavenly armies,
will carry this to completion.

~Isaiah 9:6-7 (From The Voice Bible)

The Voice is our newest Bible translation from Thomas Nelson Publishers. Admittedly, I’ve been working on the marketing for this campaign for a while now, so I am a little biased, but I personally love it. It reads so beautifully. You can download the book of John on the website here, if you’d like to check it out.

Let us celebrate this day the Anointed One, Our Liberating King! Merry Christmas everyone!

Gifts That Give Back

Here’s a post I wrote for the website that I manage at work, God’s Word in Action

Are you still looking for the perfect gift for someone on your list this Christmas?

Do you always get Dad a tie & want to do something a little different this year?

How about getting a gift that gives back?

That’s where this handy list comes in. Ties get stuck in a closet, fruitcakes sit uneaten, and the latest gadget will soon be replaced with something newer. This year, consider purchasing items that will really make a difference in someone’s life. Many organizations will let you donate to fulfill a specific need (buy a goat, provide job training for women, etc) and provide you with a lovely card to present to your recipient letting them know that you’ve done this in their honor. There are also items like jewelry and coffee that you can purchase to give to your loved one knowing that the proceeds go to a wonderful cause as well.

So what are you waiting for? Check out the list of great ideas below & get shopping!

World Vision

What do you buy for the person who already has everything? World Vision’s Christmas gift catalog offers many ways to give a gift in honor of a loved one while helping someone around the world.

Here are some needs that you can help fill:

  • A backpack & school supplies for a child ($22)
  • 2 chickens for a family in need ($25)
  • Seeds, tools, & training in Africa ($30)
  • Feed a family in the US for 3 days ($48)
  • A small business loan for a woman ($100)

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. Click HERE to flip through their gift catalog.

International Justice Mission

IJM seeks to make public justice systems work for victims of abuse and oppression who urgently need the protection of the law. IJM fights injustice around the world, focusing efforts on rescuing slaves, victims of sex trafficking, and more. In all of its casework, IJM has a four-fold purpose: victim relief, perpetrator accountability, victim aftercare, and structural transformation.

Their “Gifts of Freedom” catalog allows you to join them in helping secure justice for victims around the world.

Some donations options include providing a bicycle for a former slave, aftercare help for a trafficking survivor, desperately needed medical care, funding to equip investigators, etc. Click HERE to explore the options.

Blood:Water Mission

Blood:Water Mission is a grassroots organization that empowers communities to work together against the HIV/AIDS and water crisis.

For their current Christmas campaign, you can buy a bag of cement in someone’s name. It’s usually not at the top of a Christmas list, but in sub-Saharan Africa, it’s a generous gift. Cement is the main component of most water and sanitation projects. In many of communities, it’s also one of the most expensive pieces of these projects. Although not glamorous, this gift will help transform lives for our neighbors in Africa. Each bag is $25 & for a limited time when you buy 2 bags, a 3rd bag will be donated free. Click HERE for more info.

31 Bits

What female on your list doesn’t love jewelry? Now you can buy some beautiful jewelry to give as a gift and know that it is helping women in Uganda too. 31 Bits is a socially minded business designed to give internally displaced women in Northern Uganda an opportunity to counter poverty. By giving women access to the international market, they are able to earn an instant income, providing homes, food, and education for their families. Their program equips women by providing literacy education, financial and vocational training, holistic care, and strong support systems, empowering individuals to further their careers and attain social equity.

And their jewelry is rather fabulous! Check out the collection HERE.

Project 7

Project 7 is a cause-related company that makes every day consumer goods, like bio-bottled water, gum, mints and coffee. They aren’t asking you to buy more stuff, just change the products that you already buy. For every purchase of a Project 7 product, some good is done in seven areas of need – Feed the Hungry, Heal the Sick, Hope for Peace, House the Homeless, Quench the Thirsty, Teach them Well and Save the Earth.

Their items make excellent stocking stuffers. Check out their online store for coffee, gum, mints, and more HERE.

Are you giving any gifts that give back this year? Have any other great organizations or websites to share?

More on Being Restless

One of my recent favorite songs is Switchfoot’s “Restless”. It hits something in my core that I can find hard to define some days. I wrote about this feeling before in a post I called “Feeling Restless“. Click on the title to open that post in a new window to skim for some background on what I’m talking about here.

“[Sheila Walsh] describes this restlessness as ‘a sacred ache, an ancient longing’ that points us continually to Christ, and that it won’t go away ‘until we make it all the way home’. It tells us ‘that home is what we’re made for’. Like a constant reminder.”

Anyway, this song totally struck a similar chord with me & I wanted to share it with you. I recommend hitting play on the video at the bottom & then reading through the lyrics.

What do you think? Does this song or the idea of restlessness strike a similar chord in you?

“Restless”

I am the sea on a moonless night
Calling falling, slipping tides
I am the leaky, dripping pipes
The endless, aching drops of light

I am the raindrop falling down
Always longing for the deeper ground
I am the broken, breaking seas
Even my blood finds ways to bleed

Even the rivers ways to run
Even the rain to reach the sun
Even my thirsty streams
Even in my dreams

I am restless, restless, restless
Looking for you
I am restless
I run like the ocean to find your shore
Looking for you

I am the thorn stuck in your side
I am the one that you left behind
I am the dried-up doubting eyes
Looking for the well that won’t run dry

Running hard for the other side
The world that I’ve always been denied
Running hard for the infinite
With the tears of saints and hypocrites

Oh, blood of black and white and grey
Oh, death in life and night in day
One by one by one
We let our rivers run

I can hear you breathing
I can feel you leading
More than just a feeling
More than just a feeling

I can feel you you reaching
Pushing through the ceiling
Til the final healing
I’m looking for you

Until the sea of glass we meet
At last completed and complete
Where tide and tear and pain subside
And laughter drinks them dry

I’ll be waiting
Anticipating
All that I aim for
What I was made for

With every heartbeat
All of my blood bleeds
Running inside me
Looking for you

Party with a Purpose

Julia, myself, & Kelly with our new 31 Bits necklaces

This past weekend was my 28th birthday.  This year I wanted to do something just a little bit different. I wanted an excuse to host something, to have people over to my house, make some yummy treats, and also to do something with & for 31 Bits – a new favorite organization. So it worked out perfectly. I threw a birthday brunch/31 Bits House Party, & was even able to throw my World Vision stuff into the mix.

I met two of the girls from 31 Bits back in March at the Ideation Conference – Jessie & Alli. As I sat & listened to their story and learned about the organization, I couldn’t help but be impressed & inspired. Here are some girls around my age, who are directly responsible for improving the lives of over 100 women & their families in Uganda. They were the ones in particular that had me leaving the conference saying “what am I doing with my life?”

From the 31 Bits website:

USING FASHION AND DESIGN TO EMPOWER WOMEN TO RISE ABOVE POVERTY.

31 Bits Designs is a socially minded business designed to give internally displaced women in Northern Uganda an opportunity to counter poverty. By giving our beneficiaries access to the international market, they are able to earn an instant income, providing homes, food, and education for their families. Our program equips women by providing literacy education, financial and vocational training, holistic care, and strong support systems, empowering individuals to further their careers and attain social equity.

The women in Uganda make the jewelry. 31 Bits buys it from them on a monthly basis, providing them with regular income. They then bring here to sell in stores, through house parties, etc, and the profits go back to the women through programs that include job training, English lessons, health/AIDS education, and more.

As an added bonus, the jewelry is fabulous! I love this stuff!

My jewelry display

One great thing that 31 Bits does, is they let you host house parties. You just need to fill out an application, with your credit card info & they’ll send you a box of jewelry. At the end of the party, all you have to do is send back the money that is collected & the unsold jewelry. It’s a very simple, yet innovative concept.

So my party went very well. It was fun to set up the jewelry, prepare all of the good food, and then to enjoy the company of good friends. I think almost everyone left with at least one piece of jewelry, and of course, full bellies!

The yummies - mini quiches, bacon muffins, pound cake, frozen banana bites, grapes, strawberries, pretzel chips, m&m's, then cappuccino punch & virgin mimosas.

The 31 Bits pieces that I choose to keep/purchase.

In addition to the 31 Bits materials, I also took the opportunity to set out my World Vision materials. One friend even did sign up to sponsor a child that day! It really was the best birthday present.

All-in-all, it was a great way to celebrate a birthday. Maybe I’ll even do it again next year!

Embracing This Season

Does God ever reveal messages to you in themes – you read something on a blog, your friend brings up the same topic later that week, your pastor preaches it from the pulpit?

I feel like that has happened to me recently. It’s been the theme of seasons of life (Ecclesiastes 3).

At church, our pastor was talking about these seasons of life and how we all go through them, following a pattern. I am normally not a note-taker in church (though I should do it more), but what he said resonated so much with me that I had grab something immediately to write it down.

Very briefly…
Spring = a time of growth & new beginnings. Exciting & maybe challenging.
Summer = the busy season of toiling & working hard, yet enjoying the sunshine.
Fall = the harvest; a time for celebration.
Winter = a time to be still/quiet, for preparation & nourishment.

Cason & I both have been feeling kind of restless lately, like we’re in some state of limbo, not sure of what is next. He’s been in a frustrating (at times), temporary state of employment for the last year, not sure what God has up His sleeve for him or even what field he should be looking in. The small groups that we’ve led for the last 4 years have sort of fizzled out. We’re not really sure in what ways we’re supposed to be serving now or even really know where our giftings supposedly lie. I’ve dealt with (probably irrational) questions of self-worth, as far as “what am I even good at” and “who cares what I have to say anyway”.

We are definitely in a season of winter and I feel like it makes sense now. Being in winter can seem cold and depressing, but it doesn’t have to be. Winter is where we’re supposed to be quiet, to focus on preparation for and anticipate whatever spring is going to bring. We need to let go of some things, let some things die, allow the land to rest, and the soil to be nourished in anticipation of the new growth that will come.

This is our time to be still, to focus on the tasks we’re given, to work on nourishing our souls. We want to be ready when the time comes to move into spring and for whatever new growth opportunities God gives us.

It is a step-by-step, day-by-day sort of thing. God doesn’t generally give us a flash of the big picture. It is much more like the verse,
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105

We often only get to see the very next thing in front of us. Then, when we step in obedience, the lamp moves on to light up our next step.

I do know some of the things I need to be focusing on right now. So that is what I will try to do. When the time comes, I pray we’ll have the discernment and courage to know what to do next. But I do feel relieved just knowing that this season is a necessary step before we reach the next one.

I guess it can’t always be spring.

What season of life are you in? Are you embracing it?

Check out Mike Glenn’s blog here if you want to read more from him on the topic of the seasons.

Wake Up

I am reading “Radical” by David Platt. The subtitle is Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream. Wow, it’s a good book. It is really challenging me and making me take a look at how I am living my life, and where I have not been doing such a good job.

I’ll admit that I was afraid to read this book at first. Afraid of how it would convict me and what it would then require of me to do or to give up. I am certainly feeling stretched already, but am glad for the conviction.

This is an excerpt from close to the beginning, and it really spoke to me.

I’m calling it “Wake Up“:

…We do have to give up everything we have to follow Jesus. We do have to love him in a way that makes our closest relationships look like hate. And it is entirely possible that he will tell us to sell everything we have and give it to the poor.

But we don’t want to believe it. We are afraid of what it might mean for our lives. So we rationalize these passages away. ‘Jesus wouldn’t really tell us not to bury our father or say good-bye to our family. Jesus didn’t literally mean to sell all we have and give it to the poor. What Jesus really meant was…’

And this is where we need to pause. Because we are stating to redefine Christianity. We are giving in to the dangerous temptation to take the Jesus of the Bible and twist him into a version of Jesus we are more comfortable with. A nice, middle-class, American Jesus… A Jesus who brings us comfort and prosperity as we live out our Christian spin on the American dream…”

…Wake up and realize that there are infinitely more important things in your life than football and a 401(k). Wake up and realize there are real battles to be fought, so different from the superficial, meaningless ‘battles’ [we] focus on. Wake up to the countless multitudes who are currently destined for a Christless eternity. The price of our nondiscipleship is high for those without Christ. It is high also for the poor of the world…


Half of the world struggles to get by on less than $2 per day while we sit in our comfortable homes with our endless supply of food and clothing. 26,000 children under the age of 5 die every day due to diseases that can be prevented. Millions of people are facing another day of not knowing Christ and risking unimaginable suffering for eternity. The price of not obeying what Christ has told us to do all along is quite high.

We CAN do something about these realities.

The problem is, I AM comfortable with my material possessions. I don’t WANT to give up everything and to risk it all.

But, if we really do claim to be followers of Christ, as Platt says, we must commit to believe whatever Jesus says and then we need to commit to obey what we’ve been told. We can’t cherry pick our favorites and ignore the hard parts. We can’t claim to follow Him if we refuse to believe ALL of what He said. “The gospel does not prompt you to mere reflection; the gospel requires a response.

So this is what I’m working on – figuring out what my response is supposed to be. We have a couple small things in the works and I look forward to sharing those with you as they develop.

But for now, how does all of this strike you? Do you think we need to take back our faith from the American dream?