Wednesday, October 29, 2014

a He & She list.

The other day Shaun and I were sitting together in a meeting and I started doodling this "He & She" list in my journal. He decided it was pretty fun and started contributing too. After we finished I liked it so much that I decided I would share it on my handy dandy blog.
And so here we are! I hope it is as fun for you to read as it was for us to make! 

He & She...
He is 28.
She is 26.
They met when she was 19 and he was 21.
He was born in Rochester Hills, Michigan.
She was born in Great Falls, Montana. 
He is a night owl.
She is an early bird.
He is logical. She is emotional. 
He is hilarious.
She thinks she is too.
They both love sushi and public speaking.
They also love breakfast burritos.
She walks. He rolls. (Get it?) 
She loves to throw parties.
He loves to attend them. 
He is afraid of spiders.
She is afraid of heights.
He is not afraid to tell a company when he is disappointed in their product.
She is not afraid to do outrageous things in public.
He has been excited about having children since they got married.
She is coming around to it.
She loves all things Disney. 
He thinks Disney is overpriced.
He loves getting a great deal and is excited about practical gifts.
She loves going to pretty places and is excited about extravagant gifts. 
They both love to talk about leadership.
They both love to travel. 
They both think cats and dogs are just okay.
(Actually he might hate them. But she is in denial about that a little bit.)
He loves to be active. She really does too.
They both love the movie The Santa Clause. 
They both love to do life with friends.
He drinks iced coffee with milk and one pump of hazelnut. 
She prefers sipping hot lattes through a straw.
They live in a church. But they are staying with family in Huntington Beach tonight. 
They both think you are pretty amazing for reading this all the way through. 

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photos by @sarahgrunderphotography. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

"hungryangrylonelytired." a word on contentment.

Every week I look forward to "Writing Day Friday". I think because it feels like an opportunity to make something beautiful, and after an especially strenuous week I find myself extra hungry for beauty. This week I am coming off of a Fashion Week outreach which, as always, is a glorious combination of total excitement and complete exhaustion. In Alcoholics Anonymous they have this thing called "H.A.L.T." which stands for "Hungry. Angry. Lonely. Tired." AA warns that if you find yourself feeling any of those things then you need to halt and use caution, because you will be more likely to be tempted towards bad decisions... which for the alcoholic is obviously drinking.

Shaun and I use "HALT" too. Whenever I am in the type of mood where my mind and emotions feel mushy like oatmeal and all I want to do is dissolve into the floor and stay there until next year, Shaun usually asks me if I'm feeling "Hungryangrylonelytired". Because for us it has become a one word thing. Sometimes we say it jokingly, sometimes for real, and this week has been a "Hungyangrylonelytired" week... for real.

I have this thing where every night I lay in bed and daydream about escaping. I don't know if that is right or wrong but I appreciate the comfort it brings me as I drift into sleep. I picture myself living in a home instead of a church. I picture shiny white walls and vases of lush pink flowers.  There are pretty paintings and a big chandelier and happy photos on the walls. I imagine a fun family and fun guests coming for dinner and I imagine that after dinner we all go for a walk. Some nights we walk to the beach, other nights we walk to an ice cream shop. I imagine having a tidy home in a beautiful location that smells good and feels good and looks good in photos.

Unfortunately waking up from sleep is slightly less comforting. When my eyes open I still live in a room at a church. My walls aren't white and my vases are empty most of the time because we travel too often for flowers to fully be enjoyed. The family in my home is made up of me and Shaun and anyone else who happens to be residing on the church floor at the time. Our meals are typically eaten on the go or at the Youth With a Mission campus and we don't go for walks after dinner because my skater husband would rather roll than walk, and because if I'm honest I'm usually lacking the motivation to face the traffic near our church. I think it's safe to walk where we live, but I prefer to do it when there aren't speeding LA drivers racing to get home from work. My room is rarely tidy and if we were birds then our room would be less like a nest and more like a branch that we stand on in the evenings to relieve us from the wing-flapping of everyday life.

Most days I really do like our home in the church and I really do like our life. I normally genuinely enjoy being the gypsy couple who travels often and has the gift of way too many friends. I also feel sincerely proud to have mastered the art of packing light because I remember how grueling that process used to be for me and it's not grueling anymore. But about once a month (hormones anyone?) I forget what I love about my life and all I can see are its apparent flaws. I want to see my wonderfully-hilarious-and-so-gorgeous husband but all I can smell are his yucky skate shoes. I want to see the adorable creativity in our almost entirely thrifted home decor, but all I can see is how cute my friend's houses are and how much I long for a space of our own. I want to see how cool is it that we have experienced so much of the world, but all I can feel is the chaos of not knowing whether I'll be spending next week in LA or somewhere else... or what country we will be in next year.

If you are rolling your eyes at me I understand. Why would I complain when I have so much to be grateful for? But it's always like that, isn't it? Other people are always longing for the things we take for granted.

The thing is that I know too much about God to wallow in my discontentment for too long. I know too much about His mountain moving power and about His "I-called-you-by-name" personal love and about the way He left Heaven to meet us in the depths of our brokenness to offer us a way out. Even though I am somebody who is quick to talk about God... which may also have something to do with the fact that I am somebody who is quick to talk in general... when I am going through my "hungryangrylonelytired" weeks I find myself doing less talking and more listening. My mouth glues shut, my ears perk up and my weary eyes look to Heaven pleading silently for some resolve.

"Remind me of Truth Lord. Remind me of Joy. Remind me You are near. Remind me that the God who saved me from the weight of my sin, can also save me from the weight of this week's burdens. Remind me what I love about this life. Remind me what I love about you. Remind of me everything beautiful around me. "

I don't speak the words, but my heart aches them, and I know He hears.

Faith that is detached from everyday life has never been interesting to me. Having a relationship with a powerless God who only cares about my church attendance and whether or not I stay married is not interesting either. I have already let myself down enough in this life and I would prefer not to acknowledge that I'm letting the Maker of the universe down too. But "hungryangrylonelytired" weeks remind me that the God I follow is better and nearer and more interesting and powerful than I even have the capacity to understand. The posture of my heart this week has been a bent over one. Like I'm a little child trying to carry something heavy and I'm falling down under the weight of it. But just as a mother rushes to the aid of her little one in pain, Jesus, the God called "Emmanuel" meaning "God with us", desires to be our ever present help in time of need. (Psalm 46:1)

All I really probably needed this week was a nap, or a day to rest and regroup, but it's comforting to realize that even before that happens, I serve a God who can handle my funk. He understands me. The Bible says He even knows the number of hairs on my head. He knows my dreams and my desires and though they may not all come true exactly as I imagine, I can be certain that His plans for me are good and my future with Him is full of hope.

My life is not my own. I was handcrafted by a Maker who calls me to contentment. He calls me to it regardless of my circumstances because He has made a way for it in Himself. Last night I asked my younger sister if she had advice for a "hypothetical person" struggling with "hypothetical discontentment" and without hesitation she gave me great advice broken down into 4 steps. Better even was that she spoke them compassionately, as a fellow struggler, which is my favorite type of advice-giver.

She said that her first step and last step are the same, be Grateful. She said it is most important to be thankful because usually being discontent is tangled up in being ungrateful, and God says in the Psalms that "we enter His gates with thanksgiving," which means gratitude is a sure way to enter the presence of God.

Next she said we need to assess why we are feeling discontent. Are we "Hungryangrylonelytired"? Are we being lazy? Are we heartbroken and need someone to talk to about it? Are we doing something that we know is disappointing the heart of God (aka sin) that we need to turn from (aka repent of)? Meredith said it helps to reflect on how we are feeling because processing it helps us to see the real need and be able to meet that need specifically.

Thirdly she said we need to do everything we can practically do to make the situation better. She suggested things like talking to a friend, stopping the cycle of envy we may have developed when we look at other peoples' lives, getting offline for a week... or longer, going for a jog, changing up our diet, getting plugged into a church, and disconnecting from the people or places that are making the discontentment worse.

Finally she ended where she started. "I think we need to be grateful again," she said matter-of-factly after going through steps 1-3. "Gratitude is the opposite of discontentment. Gratitude invites contentment."

What a smart little sister. So now I am taking my smart little sister's advice and turning this "Hungryangrylonelytired week" into a week of "Everything is okay." I still dream of living in a home one day, but for now our sweet little room at the church is perfect and cute and I love it. I still dream of lots of other things too, but today I choose to focus on making what I already have better and more beautiful. Envy won't get the best of me. Neither will stress. I'll probably still take a nap, and I'll probably use tomorrow to rest and recover, but I hope more than anything that I will choose contentment over escape. Being right here is good, even if right here is not exactly how I wanted it, because everything I need is here and His grace is sufficient for me.

May we have eyes to see the beauty that is all around us.

"Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:12

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

some free relationship advice.

Last week was fashion week LA so my days were full and my "Writing Day Friday" was postponed. However in light of some recent conversations I have been having with some wonderful friends I want to share some free relationship advice. My advice is short and less than profound, but it's important and so I think it is worth sharing.

Be the type of person you want to date. 

Seems obvious right? If we want a person who is faithful then we ought to stop being the type of lady who flirts with everything that breathes, because a faithful man is looking for a faithful lady too. If we want a person who prioritizes family and has good morals then it's very likely he isn't the drunk guy hanging out at the club, which means we can go ahead and stop being the tipsy girl at the club, because "family & good morals guy" is looking for "family & good morals girl" and he knows she isn't the girl twerking in the club.

I am not encouraging us to base our lifestyles around looking for a significant other. Not even a little. But I am saying that singleness gives us an opportunity to become the very best versions of ourselves. We can take the time to develop our gifts, look for opportunities to serve others and pursue God like crazy. We can take risks that require great faith and we can jog and write letters and go to school. We can tell great stories and make gorgeous dinners for no reason and invite too many friends over for a girly movie and Thai food. We can do all kinds of wonderfully satisfying things that don't involve a special someone at all as we are being intentional about becoming the type of person we would want to date.

Anyway I'll finish with this... the idea of being the type of person you want to date doesn't stop at marriage. As a wife for over five years now, I am still trying to be the type of spouse that I would want to have. I want to have a husband who listens to me, prays for me, helps me fulfill the vision God has given me, reminds me of truth when my mind is bombarded with chaos, helps me with mundane life stuff, makes me laugh, and affirms me regularly... so instead of sitting around waiting for Shaun to do this to me... I do it for him first... because I still want to be the type of person I would want to date.

So that's my free advice on this Thursday. I hope it blesses you.

"Writing Day Friday" will commence tomorrow. I can't wait!

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Friday, October 10, 2014

trusting beyond chapter 2.

Ever since I learned to read I have loved to do it. I was the first one in my first grade class to read an entire chapter book and get my name on the wall. Remember that girl? Yep, it was me. Before I tried out for the volleyball team in 7th grade I went to the Colorado Springs library and checked out a book on volleyball. That's where I learned that the term, "shag your balls" wasn't actually sexual and didn't have anything to do with Austin Powers. When I was going to audition for Kathryn Grant's Dance Company at 15 years old, I went back to the same library and got a book about dance. Since it helped so much with my middle school and high school volleyball career, I was certain it would help with dance too. I ended up making the dance company before I finished reading chapter one, which was convenient because it started going into the history of ballet and I'm sorry to the historians and ballerinas... but it was completely boring. When I was 19 and wanted to learn about Jesus, I read books about Him. When I wanted to learn about marriage and leadership, more books. Today my preferred reading materials have expanded to include both books and blogs and I read more now than ever. I read for fun and I read for the sake of learning new things. I love it.

I am a particular kind of reader. I'm what you call a "read-the-last-chapter-of-the-book-if-it-gets-too-intense-to-make-sure-I-can-handle-this-part-of-the-book" type of girl. Did you get that? It goes like this, if I am on chapter 2 and the story is getting all twisty and my emotions are getting all twisty with it, I skip ahead to the end and read the last chapter, then if I like what I find back there, I return to twisty chapter 2, but if I don't like it, I set the book down and go look for another. Horrible right? A little bit. But it's my favorite way to do it. I think its because I am a deep feeler so the words on the page quickly become my reality, and if I am going to give myself over to experiencing something really intense, I need to know it will be worth it in the end.

There is something interesting I observed about myself recently though. I've found that its easier to not jump ahead to the end of the book if I trust the author. Take Shauna Niequist for instance. I think she is so great. Everything I have read of hers has blessed me like crazy. So now I am at a point where I am not even tempted to rush to the end of her stories because I am confident that she will not leave me hanging as a reader. If she introduces me to sadness or those twisty feeling I told you about, I know very soon she will also lead me to a place of hope, because that's what she always does and I like it very much.

Anyway I've noticed that my reading style is not so different from my lifestyle. I am extra good at enduring tough stuff when I can see the ending and understand why it will be worth it, but I'm prone to giving up if I can't see a promise of hope in what I'm going through. When I face something hard, all I want is to read the last chapter and know if the struggle I'm experiencing will lead to something redemptive and beautiful. The problem with life though is that most of the time the end of the story feels beyond reach, and when that happens I end up wanting to just close the book and start another, different, better story altogether.

I know that our favorite stories always involve struggle. The struggle makes the celebration at the end all the more exciting. We find ourselves rejoicing tearfully as the couple finally gets to be together, or the underdog finally wins the game, or the bad guy finally gets the justice he deserves. We endure those twisty feelings of chapter 2 when we believe that the ending will be a good one.

As I find myself walking through my own struggles without access to the last chapter of my story, I begin to consider my Author. Do I trust Him?  Enough to endure this? Because if I don't trust Him then my only alternative is to attempt to take his job, I move from being a character in the story to acting as the author of it. "My life, my story." Right? This mentality works for a little while until life inevitably reminds me that control is an illusion and at the end of the day I don't have the power to decide if my health will remain or my loved ones will live or even if the economy will be on my side. And if an "author" can't even control the variables in her own story, then she is not a very good author anyway. Which brings me back to determining whether or not I believe that the Author of my story is trustworthy.

The way I learned to trust Shauna Niequist was by reading her work. So naturally if I am going to decide if I trust my own Author, I am going to need to get familiar with His work.

His work. Genesis. The woman who endured decades of infertility finally had a baby. She was over 90 years old. The brother who was wrongly sold into slavery and unfairly spent years in prison, was eventually set free and made the leader of a nation. Exodus. Slaves miraculously set free from slavery. Their enemies defeated. Psalms. The pure-hearted man who is being attacked by a crazy, jealous, insecure leader finds peace, protection and promise. Isaiah. The people who disobey their Maker over and over and over again, are offered forgiveness and a new beginning. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. New beginnings. Always, always new beginnings. The dead girl miraculously restored to life. The slutty girl, given respect and dignity. The sick woman healed. The hopeless woman prone to hiding is given purpose and brings life to her community. Acts. Sick people healed. Dead people raised. Ephesians. Identity. Broken people restored. Poor people experience the riches of a meaningful life. Rich people experience the joy of generosity. Revelation. Every tear wiped away. No more sickness. No more heartache. New beginnings. Again.

All of that and I didn't even mention the part about sending His Son as Savior of the world.

His work invites me to trust. When I am tempted to close the book and start again, or when I wonder whether there is even really an Author at all, I remember His work and I choose trust. I choose to trust that nothing is wasted. I choose to trust that new beginnings are everywhere. I trust redemption is coming. I trust that struggle and heartache are opportunities for glory. My Author writes meaning into the mundane and purpose into the chaos and I trust Him. My Author writes peace into storms and life into barren places and I trust Him.

When I am tempted to give up and start again I remind my soul, or perhaps the Author reminds my soul, "Stay with it Jess. The page will turn. The twisty feelings in chapter 2 will be worth it. Trust."

Our Author promises hope. Always hope.

So we keep on keepin' on and believe together for an ending that will make the middle worthwhile.

In the words of everybody's favorite fish,

"Just keep swimming."

"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-2

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(Photos by Sarah Grunder Photography.) 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

a little thankful list.

Because it's good to be thankful.
And I'm just in the mood to focus on the good stuff.

I'm thankful for:
1) Little sister Meredith. Last night we played tennis with our husbands and then we took on the adventure of going through her closets (yes plural). It's the best to hang out with her because she thinks I'm funny and I think she is funny and so we spend most of our time laughing at things that other people aren't laughing at. I hope if I ever have a daughter that she will have a little sister like Meredith.

2) The pumpkin treat section at Trader Joe's. What a delightful place. It helps me know that it is fall, even though it is 95 degrees outside. Also I should note their free sample section. We love those free samples.

3) Flowers. I just love them. Sunsets too. I think beautiful things that are created solely for the sake of beauty are the perfect reminder that our God is good. If He takes such care in forming the details of a flower, or in blending the perfect shades of pink into a sunset, surely He will take care of me and the details of my life. Pretty flowers and sunsets have sustained me on days when I'm feeling weak.

4) "Window shopping" on pinterest. It's so relaxing to mindlessly scroll through dream-homes and dream-outfits and dream... everything. I don't do it too much because I think I could accidentally waste my whole life on there, but from time to time it's my favorite.

5) Hearing my little 4 year-old God daughter Lily talk like a grown up. She doesn't always know what she is talking about but she still says everything confidently like the older people do. She started T-ball on Saturday and seeing her in uniform melted us. Her little sister Ella loves to shout "Shaun" when she sees him now. She also shouts it when she sees me and when she sees a skateboard. She says "Jess" occasionally too, but we think she has a crush on Shaun because his name is always followed by an exclamation point when it leaves her lips. It's okay with me. I have a crush on Shaun too.

Okay that's all for tonight. Time to go pick up Shaun from the skatepark! See you Friday!

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

poison & the f word.

Last week I Face-timed with one of my very best friends who is living across the ocean in a culture that is very different from my own. In updating me about her life and marriage and the various challenges she is facing in adapting to this new place, she said something adorable. I thought it was extra cute because English is not her first language and so she was trying to explain something very common but with her limited English vocabulary it came out like this, "Jess, I feel like there is poison in my heart. It came in there because people have let me down. They keep making promises to do things and then not following through on them. I know I need to get rid of the poison, but it is so painful."

a substance that is capable of causing the illness or death of a living organism when introduced or absorbed.

I never want to be someone who communicates ideas without living out what I say, which I happen to think is a very nice value and I respect others who share the sentiment, however I would have been just fine talking about the "poison" this week without having to experience it in my own life. But God doesn't work like that does He? He knows that real authority in anything comes not through talking about it, but in actually walking it out, and so this week the "poison" and I have been doing some walking together. Oh the joy.

The "poison" as my friend so sweetly put it, is the experience that happens when we have been hurt or offended. Whether the one who harmed us was intentionally malicious, or accidentally insensitive, it stings our hearts and we want to retaliate or hide.

That's what happened to me this week.

It wasn't just one venomous situation, but a series of almost unnoticeable ones working together like a slow drip IV leaking toxic ugliness into my system. The poison invited a mean skeptic to rise up in me. When they would say something nice to me I would question their sincerity. When they would say something insensitive I would take it personally and relive the moment in my mind over and over again, making up fake comebacks to put them in their place. Even their attempts to love me felt irritating and painful, like when your shoulders are sunburned and someone gives you a hug.

I've experienced the poison lots of times before this week too. Like when my exboyfriend made out with another girl during our relationship. Poison. Or when I overheard a family I loved talking badly about my little sister. Poison. Or when I found out a "best friend" was gossiping about me and spreading rumors. Poison. Or when I heard people making fun of my husband and accusing us of being dishonest. Poison.

There are worse ones too but you get the idea. The point is that when we get hurt by somebody the poison invades our hearts. Did you see that? It invades OUR hearts. Meaning the poison does not access the heart of the person who hurt us, but it most definitely gets inside our own.

It's the resentment that tempts us to stay silently offended, adding little tally marks to the secret sheet in our mind keeping record of everything they do wrong. Its the bitterness that causes us judge their motives and character, making us quick to assume the worst about them. It's the insecurity we feel, the hopelessness of "this always happens" and "people always treat me like this." Its the loneliness of being let down by someone we love and admire. Its the temptation to leave or hide, to give up on the relationship without an explanation of our pain. Its the desire to retaliate, to gossip, to slander, to yell at or seek revenge. That's the poison my friend across the ocean feels. That's the poison I have felt. But the trouble with poison is that it only destroys the one who has ingested it. Which means that as long as I am the one with the poison in my heart, I am the one who will be destroyed by it.

So how do we get rid of this horrible thing that is capable of causing death in us? The answer is....
the F word.


The other F word.


Forgiveness is not saying that what they did to hurt you was okay. Because in many cases it was absolutely not okay. Rather, to forgive is to release them from something they owe you. Essentially it is saying that you are no longer going to take responsibility for the justice of the situation. Shaun and I talk about forgiveness as something you are giving over to a higher authority, trusting that the authority will take care of it and you no longer need to ensure they get the penalty of their messed up actions. As believers in Christ we recognize that God cares about everything we go through and is passionate about justice. Therefore we can trust that when we surrender a situation to Him in our hearts, and practice forgiveness towards those who have hurt us, He will be faithful to work everything out.

Forgiveness is the only way to free us from the poison.

That's probably not new information for you. It wasn't for me either. But it was a reminder I needed. You have heard the quote, "Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die." You have also seen what happens to the person who holds a grudge against someone else: It consumes them. They talk about it. They think about it. They wonder what the other person is going to think about their latest instagram post or facebook status. They gossip. They slander. They secretly stalk the person's social media feeds and then try to live a cooler more photogenic life as a form of revenge. I have even seen it happen where the two people haven't spoken to each other in almost a decade but one of them is still convinced that the other is doing everything possible to destroy her life. Poison. Absolute poison.

But Jesus calls us to forgive. More than that, He commands us to forgive. I think He takes forgiveness so seriously because of the lavish, mind-boggling, absolutely crazy forgiveness He extended to humanity by dying for our sins. I also think it is because He is passionate about life. All throughout scripture, anywhere He went, life happened. Blind eyes opened. Dead bodies raised. Lonely people loved. Shamed women given dignity. Children valued. It's everywhere. He even said, "I have come to give you abundant life." It's no wonder then that he calls us to be people who forgive. If unforgiveness is like a poison that causes death, then forgiveness must bring life, because Jesus only commands us to do things that bring life.

Sometimes forgiveness requires us to go directly to the person who offended us and talk it through with them. Other times, when things like abuse are involved, it is safest to stay away from the offender but to extend forgiveness in our hearts through prayer and with the help of loved ones. Often for me, forgiveness involves lots of journaling so I can make sense of my scrambled thoughts and sort out whether or not the person actually did something harmful to me or if I was just being insecure and easily offended. In those cases I may still need to forgive them in my heart but it may not be necessary to talk with them about it because they didn't actually do anything wrong.

Let's do everything we can to be free from the poison. Let's love extravagantly, forgive quickly, and seek to understand each other. May people see Heaven in the way we do relationships. May we be people who assume the best and protect each other's reputations, and when we don't understand what they meant when they said that thing that hurt our feelings.... let's ask them instead of judging them for it.

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And how about another couple of F words??
Here's to fun & family! 
A couple great photos from the #batesweddingbash.
The bottom one is gold.