Terrifying Russian Literature, a Style Challenge, and New Year’s Resolutions

The book sat on a side table in my bedroom, the one over by the corner fireplace, for six months.

The oil portrait of its central character stared at me from the cover with those stoic, challenging eyes (like only Russians can), seemingly asking the question again, “Are you ready now? Is today the day?”

And then, a couple of days before Christmas, I was able to answer, “Yes, today is the day.” Finally, after months of looking the other way, I picked up Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and began reading.

those eyes…

Why had I resisted this book for so long? I bought it after reading (and hearing) multiple recommendations from trusted literary sources, but it just plain intimidated me. I wanted to read it, but I was scared that I wouldn’t “get it.” I was afraid that Tolstoy would make me feel stupid.  

Continue reading “Terrifying Russian Literature, a Style Challenge, and New Year’s Resolutions”

An update: thoughts on writing, leisure, and acknowledging my finite human nature

parent’s summer date night, commence!


(Not to be dramatic or anything…)

I don’t know about you, but the first half of this year flew by in a flurry of work and family life. Almost without notice, months had passed before I realized that my personal writing was taking a serious back seat to everything else going on. Even before the holidays, I sensed my internal/creative/mental gears shifting.

It wasn’t planned, mind you, but once that calendar clicked over to 2021, something in my brain said, 

“Nope. Not ready yet.”

And I was like, Okay, brain. Let’s switch gears for a while. 

I decided to listen to that instinct and take a step back from my regular blogging and newsletter writing (and social media interaction) and allow myself to focus on other areas of productivity. Like the final classes of my undergrad degree, which have been amazing but, you know, demanding of my time and energy…

as well as my actual job (the one where I get paid) of professional development consulting…

and my perpetual role (the one where I get headaches and sweet hugs) of mothering.

Shew. I’m tired just reading that.

working lunch

Speaking of, have you seen this? 

While the conversation about the gender pay gap is nuanced (for instance, women tend to work less traditional hours and choose more flexible careers), I’m all for tearing down any stigma that may still exist around the phrase “working” mother. The truth is, every mama works! I’ve already ranted about how Big Media loves to offer the (obnoxiously) narrowly defined glam version of the “working mom” here, while the rest of us are living a very different (and down-to-earth) reality– somewhere between the carpool line and our Gmail inbox.

So for now, I’ll just add “Mother” to my LinkedIn profile and invite you to connect with me there (if you so desire). Whether we are changing diapers or fielding client requests, we all want to know that our daily work has meaning. 

Inadvertently, I chose to take the first quarter of the year to re-direct my internal resources to other, less public areas of my life because I am finite and I’m learning to acknowledge my limitedness (I think this is called humility…?) But the time off gave me a fresh perspective on something so subjective that it’s sometimes difficult for me to make clear assessments on, that is, about my work as a writer.  

A quick digression: The twentieth-century German Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper wrote a famous essay in 1948 about the idea of “leisure” –that it was not the simple absence of work, but the attitude and perspective to be able to contemplate things outside of their immediate utility.

We see the lack of true leisure (ironically) in the uber-wealthy who “live a life of leisure” and are still extremely unfulfilled. Precisely because they have not given their life over to something bigger and more meaningful than their own comfort, they are unable to experience authentic times of leisure.

We see the highest form of this when Jesus would pull away from his time with the disciples and public ministry to go and be alone with the Father. Jesus was resting, praying, being filled up, listening, contemplating, and abiding in the love of God. How much more do we need the time and space to gain a more full, rightly aligned, and eternal perspective of our lives?  

Pieper wrote, 

“Leisure is the condition of considering things in a celebrating spirit…Leisure lives on affirmation. It is not the same as the absence of activity…It is rather like the stillness in the conversation of lovers, which is fed by their oneness…

And as it is written in the Scriptures, God saw, when ‘He rested from all the works that He had made’  that everything was good, very good (Gen. 1:31), just so the leisure of man includes within itself a celebratory, approving, lingering gaze of the inner eye on the reality of creation.” (Pieper, “Leisure,” 33) 

I haven’t yet experienced a dramatic “a-ha moment” from my time of pausing/stepping back from writing on the internet…but I am enjoying writing this post to you immensely. I mean, I really missed you guys! And for now, that feeling of joy is more than enough. 

And -funny timing- right smack in the middle of this quiet time, an article of mine was published in Be Still magazine. What a fun surprise to see that in my mailbox! If you haven’t yet picked up an issue, you can do so here. 

Here is what I’m learning: I am human, and therefore a limited creation (by design). He is God, and without limit. If we believe that God is our loving and generous Creator, and if He made us to be limited in our resources, then let us honor the reality of our nature (and place our trust in His infinite one.) Our ultimate freedom and daily joy will be birthed from the acknowledgement of this foundational truth.

Let’s listen to the whisper of the Spirit and take those moments of leisure to step back and fully appreciate who God is, who we are, and the wonder of all that He is doing in our lives. In this sense, leisure is a very real part of living coram Deo, and I’m here for it…what about you?

p.s. I recently came across some writing of Jonathan Rogers (one of my favorite authors and a fellow Tennessean) and interestingly, he also referenced Pieper’s thoughts on leisure. Must be something in the water. You can read his letter here.

If I Stand – Rich Mullins

There’s more that rises in the morning
Than the sun
And more that shines in the night
Than just the moon
It’s more than just this fire here
That keeps me warm
In a shelter that is larger
Than this room

And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper
Than mere sentiments
And a music higher than the songs
That I can sing
The stuff of Earth competes
For the allegiance
I owe only to the Giver
Of all good things

So if I stand let me stand on the promise
That you will pull me through
And if I can’t let me fall on the grace
That first brought me to You
And if I sing let me sing for the joy
That has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home

There’s more that dances on the prairies
Than the wind
More that pulses in the ocean
Than the tide
There’s a love that is fiercer
Than the love between friends
More gentle than a mother’s
When her baby’s at her side

And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper
Than mere sentiments
And a music higher than the songs
That I can sing
The stuff of Earth competes
For the allegiance
I owe only to the Giver
Of all good things

So if I stand let me stand on the promise
That you will pull me through
And if I can’t let me fall on the grace
That first brought me to You
And if I sing let me sing for the joy
That has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home

And if I stand let me stand on the promise
That you will pull me through
And if I can’t let me fall on the grace
That first brought me to You
And if I sing let me sing for the joy
That has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home

And if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home

If I Stand – Rich Mullins (Wheaton College 1997)

Amazon Prime Day Picks

This morning has found me neck deep in two (yes, two) different group text threads about what else but…Amazon Prime Day! I’m sharing links and recs with my people IRL, so I thought–why not share them with you guys, too?

Here ya go, internet friends. My picks for Amazon Prime Day (today and tomorrow) covering beauty, home, and fashion. If you’ve found a great Amazon Prime Day deal, then share it in the comments!

1. Pampas grass

2. Pink taper candles

3. Adorable midi slip skirt

4. Gel sunscreen for normal/combo/oily skin

5. Easy, lightweight black joggers

6. Vase with a personality

7. Gorgeous full length mirror

8. Milk frother for afternoon lattes

9. Fav smudge-proof mascara

10. Striped T-shirt dress

11. Fun gold rings (set of 3)

Deep Dive: Is it possible to experience the communion table online?

The Western church is in a strange moment. We have long enjoyed the freedom of meeting together as a body of believers in person, locally, and frequently. But last year brought a new challenge (varying in intensity depending on where you live) to our freedom of assembly. Without getting into the legality of the situation (for Americans, at least), I would like to take a moment to consider one important factor that might be getting overlooked due to the politically charged atmosphere of 2020—the question of the communion table.

Depending on your particular denomination or doctrinal belief, the communion (or Lord’s) table/Eucharist might be all but missing from this year’s calendar of experiences. Most churches are either scrambling to learn how to live stream or tentatively opening their doors for socially-distanced services (and some are serving lawsuits to their local and the federal government) so it’s understandable that they might not have the time or energy to tackle something as situationally unexpected as whether to serve communion online (or not).

Even so, the consideration of such an option means that we must first deal with the questions of 1.) what do we believe about the communion table (or, what is the purpose/aim of communion), and 2.) is this possible to achieve online/over the internet?

What is the purpose of communion (the Lord’s Supper)?

I can only answer the question of online communion from my own experience and belief, so that is what I will do…but I strongly believe the quandary is worthwhile for anyone in ministry currently (or any believer, really) to go back to the text and wrestle with—so I encourage you to do the same.

When considering Paul’s charge to the Corinthians on their mishandling of the Lord’s table in 1 Cor. 11:17-34, the fact that Paul has to deal with certain problems (divisions/disunity, the elevation of certain members of the community over others, greed, drunkenness, and other expressions of selfishness) that only manifest in a corporate setting should not be overlooked. After admonishing the group for its behavior (v. 20-22) and instructing them to individually examine themselves before partaking (v. 28), Paul then says, “Therefore, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another” (v. 33). The point is that the brothers and sisters cannot show this kind of preferential love by themselves at home. They must travel a dusty road to the gathering place and be seated at a table next to the body of another believer (and then patiently “wait for one another”). By doing so, the members are embodying Christ’s sacrificial nature and preferring others over themselves.

We have often remembered the words of Hebrews 10:25 this year—that we do not forsake the meeting of the saints—and this can be done provisionally and virtually in circumstances that demand it (long-distance travel, members who are sick or immobile, etc.) We can virtually worship together in song, in receiving teaching and preaching, even in agreement with corporate prayer. But can we join together at the Eucharistic table if we are not physically together? Can we participate in the remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice for us -his corporate body- if we are alone?

While Paul is providing practical guardrails for the Corinthians to learn the proper way to partake in the supper, we find the true crux of what he is teaching in 1 Cor. 11:26,

“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”

The Greek form for the word “proclaim” is katangellō, a word commonly used throughout the New Testament, which means to “declare openly, to proclaim, announce, preach, celebrate,”…you get the idea. To “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” through the sacrament of the supper inherently means that there will be one (or many) proclaiming while others listen and receive.

Paul’s emphasis here in “proclaim the Lord’s death” is something we do in the presence of one another—we don’t “proclaim” to ourselves, but to another person. It inherently requires us to be in a corporate setting. (Which, of course, we can do virtually via Zoom or Livestream, although I’m not sure can be done if you are alone and following a communion template.) The communion supper is meant to announce the atonement for the building up of the body (in celebration!) and to be a witness to seekers—it is a way that we “see” the beautiful work of the gospel while we await its fulfillment in Christ’s return.

5 Theological Dynamics of Communion (the Lord’s Supper)

At this point, I think it might be helpful to consider five theological dynamics that emerge from the communion sacrament. I assume that all five aspects can be achieved through the medium of a digital/virtual communion, but also believe the best scenario is an in-person and corporate expression of the table (for reasons stated above).

  1. Unity– the main purpose of the Lord’s supper/communion is unity. Primarily, unity between the believer and God, and secondarily (but still closely intertwined with the first) unity between the body of believers and God. Whether one believes that the elements transfer a kind of mystical exchange to achieve unity, or that the unity happens through remembrance/heart response, either way, the purpose is the welcoming, communing, and union of God’s Spirit with his people.
  2. Contemplation- Paul instructs the believers to engage in self-reflection at the table—to get quiet and allow the Spirit to search us inwardly and to be ultimately aligned with the Father’s heart and will (1 Cor. 11:28). This aspect goes hand-in-hand with repentance and renewal.
  3. Healing- Paul also mentions how neglecting the proper attitude toward the table has resulted in people getting sick and even dying, or “sleeping” depending on the translation (1 Cor. 11:30). On this point, we are keenly reminded of our holistic experience as people (body, soul, and spirit) and of the tangible effects of the power of the Holy Spirit moving in the corporate setting.
  4. Eschatological Hope- Time spent at the table causes us to turn our thoughts toward the ultimate rule of Christ as King -being birthed even now by the continual and progressive work of the Spirit- that which is our ultimate hope. Communion is an act of looking back, but it is also an act of looking forward “until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26).
  5. Resurrection Power- Approaching the table inspires us to remember the whole of Christ’s journey: the cross, the tomb, and the resurrection. It is our participation in all three phases that allow the Spirit of Christ to communicate real power to our lives. Communion is both a memorial to this process and participation in it (1 Cor. 10:16-17).[1]

So is it possible to experience the communion table online?

To return to our original two-part question, I hope the (above) five points provide helpful contours for answering what we believe about the purpose of communion. In my view, the strongest argument for a church to offer a digital/virtual communion to viewers at home (via Livestream or providing an outline) would be for the general encouragement of the believer who cannot physically meet with their local congregation. The sacrament is meant to provide a moment of self-reflection for the believer to remember the Lord’s sacrifice (the memorial view) and this can certainly be done anytime, anywhere by the aid of the Spirit.

However, I take seriously the argument against doing a digital/virtual communion precisely because of the way the Lord exemplified the supper (and his entire ministry, ie; foot washing, healing by touching) as an in-person experience, as well as Paul’s encouragement for the believers to “wait on one another” before they ate (discussed in 1 Cor. 11). On the one hand, I think communion is meant to be a type or model for us to understand the spiritual nature of our relationship with Christ (we are to “eat” and “drink” of him daily; Jn. 6:35, 57) but on the other hand, there is supernatural power in coming together as a corporate body to worship, reflect, and respond to God.

My overall impression is that communion CAN be done digitally/virtually if necessary, but that it is BETTER to come together in person. The Lord knew that in every circumstance of the church -whether pandemic or government oppression or personal hardship- we would need each other to continue in the faith. The communion table is a beautiful and uniquely Christian sacrament; it is time intentionally set aside for us to be united together with our total focus on Christ and what he has done for the church. May we not forsake the breaking of bread together in his name.

[1]Thanks to Professor Dony K. Donev, D.Min. at Lee University for feedback on the five-point framework of theological elements of the communion table from a Pentecostal perspective. Some of the language has been slightly changed to my own preference.

How I am Learning to Be a Better Fashion-lover

As I began to think about this post, I got stuck on what to title it.

I wanted to say something like, “How to be a good steward of your closet” –but then I hesitated. Does anyone use the word “steward” anymore? It sounds like a custodian, which sounds like a janitor, which then again, maybe we’re on to something.

Fashion & Stewardship: A Beginner’s Guide

Being a steward (or a custodian, or a janitor) in the broad sense is about taking care of something that doesn’t belong to us. As Christians, we believe that God is our Creator and the (primary, preeminent) owner of ourselves and that -for this temporary time we call life- we are being entrusted with our bodies and resources and time. Our aim is to live our lives coram Deo, or to God’s glory and our joy…and we can do this even through our wardrobe.

So, I know even mentioning money might seem out of the blue and sound so economically insensitive (lol) but if you are like, hold up, what? Then go ahead and listen to this podcast episode on “How We Approach Money” by the gals at Daily Grace and see how it all connects…and then come back for the rest of the post.


As I was saying, being a good steward generally means that we are compelled to think deeply about the process of taking care and we seek to do it with integrity and excellence. Therefore, being a good steward of our closets must mean that we think about how we make fashion choices (and yes, learning about things like where our clothing comes from, chain of production, environmental impact, etc.), but it also influences how we actually take care for the physical garments, and how we represent ourselves as ambassadors of Christ.

Delicate wash, please!

In a very practical way, we can begin by taking care of what we have. This could look like a lot of different things but would include regularly cleaning, pressing, and hanging up (or folding, putting away, etc.) our clothing to preserve its lifespan. It might mean sewing a button back on, buffing out a scuff, or altering a piece so it fits better (and you get more wear out of the purchase). One of my all-time favorite wardrobe purchases has been this inexpensive travel steamer:

Travel Garment Steamer

It’s handy for quickly steaming out a dress or blouse, and especially for those pieces that you want to wear more but hesitate because the fabric requires a bit more care.

Thrifting: The Original Ethical Choice

There is a lot of information out there about ethical shopping, so I won’t dive into that for now. I will offer this: if you (like me) are unable to physically get out and thrift but are open to second-hand clothing and shoes, then run *don’t walk* over to Poshmark. I don’t get any kind of kickback for saying this but y’all, it is such a great option for buying second-hand.

The idea is this–we all have those pieces that we never wear, so why not put them back into circulation? I tend to search for quality brands like Able, Everlane, Nisolo, Madewell, Sezane, etc. on the site and have found some great deals. Like these adorable sneakers!

Everlane sneakers for half the price!

And these fab leather mules!

Fav Nisolo mules

Money Realness

Finally, I think the best and most straightforward way to be a better fashion-lover (code here for “stewarding your closet well”) is to set a budget for your monthly purchases. I know that feels like a bummer answer, and I regularly cringe at the way it brings needed discipline to my life, but setting a specific dollar amount for your monthly spending is wisdom for two reasons.

First, it allows you to be totally aware of how much you are spending and where it is going; we will never change our (wasteful, impulsive?) bad habits without first having that self-awareness. And second, it helps you to put your money where you actually need (and want) it to go. Can never quite save up for that lovely 24k gold chain? Probably because your money is flowing like water at your local Target (again, I empathize-cringe with you). Sticking to a fashion budget will get you there quicker than you realize!

Taking care of what we already own might not sound very spiritual, but it is. Thoughtfully buying secondhand, instead of filling up another online cart doesn’t feel like it is doing much for our hearts, but it is. Setting up boundaries and personal accountability for our money might actually cause a little pain at first…but trust me, it is the good kind of pain. It means we are growing, maturing, and moving onward to become the people that God has called us to be! People who live actual lives of peace and contentedness in a world of chaos and insatiable desire for more.

Isn’t it good to know that there is another way?

Starting a new job? You need my “secret mentor” strategy.

When I was in my mid 20’s, I had the opportunity to join a new and exciting company in the luxury cosmetics field and started the job with stars in my eyes. I was already working as a freelance makeup artist around Nashville by offering my services to photographer, videographer, and event planning friends in the music business, so this seemed like the next right step.

Once I got into the swing of the daily job, I quickly realized how much I didn’t know. Not only was my product knowledge lacking, but my artistic skill was in it’s infancy–all I had to do was assist another seasoned makeup artist to witness her expertise while she served a challenging client (and it was obvious that her experience was light years away from my own!)

After some time, I noticed one artist in particular. She was polite, well groomed, and reserved (some would even say intimidating)…but her work was head and shoulders above the rest. Her ability to glance at someone and know exactly what product and shade to use spoke to her deep knowledge of our inventory; her skill at application and personal touch revealed her ability to execute both parts of her job (the artistic side and the sales side) with excellence. I decided then to make her my “secret mentor” via three points of action: I would watch her work, try to emulate as much as possible, and always be a help to her (and never a hindrance or annoyance!)

The strategy worked. It didn’t cost anything of me except my pride (and I was fine with being in the student role…I was too eager to learn to feel anything but excitement about it!) By observing someone else do the job really well, it helped me to visualize myself at that level and inspired me to work harder. It also brought focus to my mind during a shift because now I knew who I could turn to with my questions, where I could go to learn a new technique, and how I needed to be filling my time.

If you are starting a new job or transitioning careers, it will benefit you to find someone at your new firm to be your “secret mentor.” You don’t have to tell anyone (hence, the “secret” part) but you do have to pay attention!

You can do this by:

  • recognizing those in leadership who do their job well
  • zeroing-in on one or two people at this level
  • honoring those people by being a pillar of support for their work
  • and learn, learn, learn as much as possible!

Over time, I gleaned a wealth of knowledge from that artist, and we eventually became friends. Because of the example that my “secret mentor” set for me, I was able to rise to a role of brand education and regional leadership (which I loved even more than being a makeup artist!) There were many mistakes made during the early days of my working life, but this is a strategy that I’ve carried over to other jobs and careers and it has brought me success–I hope it serves you well!