Thin Places

A curving road bends with the shape of the river, and two minutes on its course and you feel apart from the city, all her rush left behind.

Five point five miles worth of towering trees lush with late summer, plowed fields with pockets of rainwater, and occasional groupings of mailboxes and horses, and the hills bordering the ravines come into view, and you’re almost there.

It’s a short stretch, no more than a quarter mile, but I anticipate it every time right before turning on the county road to home. A grassy field on the right dotted with tiny purple-blue flowers gradually slopes up to meet the trees that guard the ravine’s edge. The sun catches the light just so, even when rain’s coming, and I notice.

This is a thin place.

FullSizeRender (7)

The idea of the “thin place” is originally a Celtic belief that there are physical places where the line between heaven and earth, the sacred and the ordinary, is more transparent. Where we can sense God’s presence and glory more readily and powerfully.

While I’d heard the concept before, this devotion from Christianity Today clarifies that thin places can be actual locations, but they can also be everyday rhythms and routines and favorite ways to pray. Essentially, it’s about noticing where and when we feel most connected with God and savoring those thin places. The “holy ground” of normal life.

Thin places can be corporate, but they’re also personal. I doubt everyone who drives that same quarter-mile stretch shares my sentiment, and I surely miss what others consider their thin places. The ocean, lighting a candle and sitting on my couch, worshipping at church, a good conversation with a friend when you just get each other. These are thin places I now anticipate.

But I didn’t anticipate this one. Maybe because right before the turn, there’s a driveway that always has a miscellaneous giveaway at the end of it: a defunct toilet, a cat carrier. Maybe because along the stretch, there’s also a creepy scarecrow that makes me look twice. And maybe because some days it looks so Indiana, so normal.

And yet it’s the first open space beyond our wooded and graveled cul-de-sac to greet me in the morning and welcome me back in the late afternoon light. It feels right to acknowledge, to pray “thank you,” and to lean into the beauty, if only for a moment. Because soon after there will be bicyclists to arc around, words to type, people to see, and dinner to make. I can spare the attention.

Advertisements

On Change and a Salad

Sometimes change is the rattling kind, the sort that upends your assumption of stability.  The kind of change you didn’t anticipate and that requires walking out trust in a faithful God in a whole new way.

Plans shift. Relationships sever. We get bad news. Or maybe good news that still seems scary because even though we prayed for it, we have no idea what the implications are moving forward.

We know this kind of change.

FullSizeRender (3)

But there is another kind of change, the gradual sort. It’s the slow-developed prospect of something new, the far-off idea that with each conversation becomes more concrete and less like a foggy half-whim.

Settling into a home. Finding your people. Transferring jobs. Finally being able to leave your dog out of the crate for more than two hours at a time without him destroying a fourth throw pillow.

These can seem like small things, intangible and un-trackable.

But these are also big things, grounding and rooting you in the ordinariness between the segments marked by the first kind of change.

We’re in the midst of a gentle change now, ministry and law enforcement still making up our days but in slightly different contexts.

A degree of change, if you will. The slow-developed prospect of something new – that still requires walking out trust in a faithful God. Isn’t that always the case?

Last night for dinner we ate this BLT salad with creamy basil dressing, and I considered its resemblance to the sandwich – similar, yet markedly different. I devoured it while thinking about slow-formed, quiet change. About our transition being gentle, familiar, and brand new all at once. Like that salad. And my gratitude increased.

FullSizeRender (4)

I’ve never shared a recipe here before, but this one is relevant and salty/smoky/herby, so it would be rude of me not to. I write it here like I made it – loose and un-calculated.

Full disclosure: the dressing was originally a basil vinaigrette made with olive oil for a green bean recipe, but I wanted to make it creamy for this salad. For simplicity, I made it a second time with the mayo. Start with a few tablespoons of vinegar, and increase if you like it more zingy.

BLT Salad w/ Creamy Basil Dressing

For the salad:

  • Lettuce of choice (we used buttercrunch)
  • Bacon, cooked and diced into big pieces
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Cucumber, diced
  • Green onion, sliced (chives would also work)
  • Small handful of grated cheese (we used white cheddar)

Toss all to combine. Tip: more bacon is always better. Avocado, corn cut from the cob, bell pepper, or croutons would also be delicious, and I topped the whole thing with a couple grinds of fresh black pepper.

For the dressing:

  • Small handful of basil
  • Small garlic clove
  • A few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (depending on your tastes – add more if you prefer)
  • Generous squeeze of mayo
  • Dash of salt and pepper

Use a food processor or small blender to combine basil, garlic and vinegar. Once blended, add mayo, salt and pepper, and blend once more. I like to keep homemade dressing in a mason jar for easy shaking.

A Word to the Planners

Hey, hi, hello. I hope September has been good to you so far.

The past few months have been wild, working in campus ministry during the start-of-the-semester hustle and attempting to create healthy rhythms in the midst of it.

Photo Credit: Andrej Chudy

Days are full, and although they sometimes wear me out, they’re also full of purpose. I’m continuing to process all the changes of this year – job shifts and two houses and new friendships, and I hope to share those with you in time.

But for now, I wanted to tell you about a blog post I recently wrote for Deeply Rooted Magazine about releasing expectations and seeking Jesus instead. You can find it right here!

I discovered Deeply Rooted this spring and was immediately captivated by the lovely design and honest content. I’m humbled for the chance to write for them and hope you’ll meander around the site to explore it for yourself.

Thank you for reading, and for hanging out with me on the journey.

 

The Best Things That Happened When I Didn’t Have a Job

In three days, I start working again after a five-month hiatus.

That means I’ll use the slow cooker a bit more and should try to refrain from starting movies late Sunday night. But it also means there is a role in the world of campus ministry that I can fill, and I’m excited to devote myself to something I care about so much.

IMG_3831I’ve savored the quiet days in this season more than I could’ve imagined. I was reminded that my value does not come from my job. It doesn’t hinge on having a pretty house or plans that go accordingly. I’ve learned how to change a tire, how to not feel guilty for reading for pleasure at 10am. But things weren’t sunshiney the whole time, and I often fought against the very reasons why this time was a gift – the quiet schedule.

And even though I’m ready for another change, I don’t want the lessons and memories of the last five months to fall away. I want the patterns and meditations to stick, so the following list is just as much for me as it is to share with you. It’s a list of things I’ve read, tasted and experienced that left an imprint, marking where I’ve been and (just possibly) where I’m going.

1. Humiliation & Exaltation. At the start of this non-work time, I wanted to instantly settle in – to fit and be heard and matter here. Then this: “Sometimes we want to be recognized as valuable to God in the eyes of others more than we want to be seen by God Himself.” I wrestled with this on a snowy Sunday morning and returned to it many times since.

2. The 36 Questions That Lead to Love. A study sought to determine if two strangers could fall in love based on this set of questions. One night, Thomas and I meandered through them and determined that if we could have a dinner party with anyone, Brad Pitt and Shauna Niequist would be at our table.

IMG_39963. Dexter. He wrecks my house but makes me laugh, and that’s a fair trade-off, I think.

4. The Last Granola Recipe. I haven’t made another since I found this one. I use it as a base for whatever random dried fruit/nuts/seeds are in my pantry, and I replace some of the olive oil with coconut oil. On the days I felt aimless and like nothing I did was worthwhile, granola kept me grounded.

5. Campus House. My new work home in a few days and the place where we met our Wednesday night crew. We babysit their children and eat each other’s food weekly, and I’m so thankful for these new friendships that formed right when I needed them.

6. South Carolina. The visit south to see family in May was just what we needed – full of beach time, no responsibility to four-legged ones, and this Asheville gem on the trip down reminded me why I love food so much. I say that shamelessly.

7. Beautiful Ruins. A lovely summertime book that drew me right in.IMG_4008

8. Thom’s Birthday. The night before, we celebrated with an all-request birthday menu and a big yellow cake. Then Sunday came around, and after church, we sat wondering how to make the day more special. “We can play putt-putt, or we can go home,” Thomas said. So we called our parents and somehow managed to get home in time for a carry-out pizza dinner with all of them. It was completely impractical and entirely fun, reminding me that most restrictions I perceive in life I create myself.

And that’s only a sampling. I could also mention the seven pounds of strawberries we picked yesterday, Ann Patchett’s essay collection, or how I almost like running…almost. Maybe the point is that I had the time to pay attention to all these things, so I did, and now I don’t want to let that habit go.

Here’s to something new – and recognizing the people and things that are no-nonsense good to us.IMG_4053 (1)

What I’m Reading

I won’t lie. I often struggle to finish things I start.

Just last week, I got around to completing a scrapbook of our South Africa trip from 2+ years ago. I’m still dragging my feet to put a wedding album together. That dining set makeover from last fall was my game-changer in the world of Get Your Projects Done Already.

But so far, 2015 has graced me with this ability in the much more relaxed world of reading. And because I’ve directed all my free time to these books, I thought I’d share what I’m loving right now. Maybe you’ll love them, too?

delicious1. Delicious! by Ruth Reichl

Recommended to me by Mom, this was a foodie book – lots of talk of cheese and spices and lengthy meal descriptions (not complaining). The language is elegant and rich, yet playful, and the book blends stories from present day New York City with Midwestern tales of World War II. A thoughtful and charming read.

2. Date Night In by Ashley Rodriguez

date night

Thomas gave me this cookbook for Christmas, and I proceeded to read it for a week straight, much like a novel. Ashley writes at Not Without Salt, and the woman has so much skill in pairing flavors, not to mention her stunning photography. The recipes are slightly more adventurous than what I’m used to cooking, which I believe is a good thing. I’ve already tried a handful and may have found a second love in the tarragon aioli.

The recipes are divided first into four seasons, then broken down into date night menus that include a cocktail or drink, appetizer or side, main dish and dessert. Ashley also gives an introduction to the menu based on her own date nights in.

“Together we are eclectic, introspective, creative, and funny – basically one hell of a person. A decade into this thing called marriage, I no longer wish for Gabe to be different, or more like me. Instead, I’m able to see the very reason why we are a team. Our differences attracted me to Gabe, drove me absolutely crazy, and made us strong. Gabe and I are soul mates, but we worked damn hard to get here” (p. 37).

This book is special, and I’m marking it up with joy.

3. The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smithnesting

My sister gave me this one, also for Christmas. The Nester is not a DIY blog, but Myquillyn instead focuses on loving your home in its imperfections – not waiting for the next house to be the dream house. It’s filled with practical tips (like where to save and where to splurge), but the greatest value of this book is its reminder of why we create inviting spaces and rooms in the first place.

In one section, she writes about the apology trap:

“I always apologized for my home to protect myself so people wouldn’t think I was a slob, or at least so they would know that I acknowledge I can be a slob and that I’m not okay with it and that really I have much higher standards than this and my house does not meet my requirements. But that day, I realized that when I apologize for my home, I’m declaring to all within earshot that I’m not content. That I’m silently keeping score. That I put great importance on the appearance of my home and maybe, just maybe, I’m doing that when I visit your home, too.

“Don’t apologize for what you have. It makes guests feel uncomfortable, it encourages discontentment, and if you’re married and your husband hears you apologizing for what he’s provided, it could be hurtful” (p. 61).

Other tidbits:

  • Buy a plant. If it dies, that’s okay. Buy another kind of plant until you find one that lives (p. 193).
  • For the love of all that is lovely, don’t be afraid to make a nail hole (p. 82).
  • Live in and enjoy your space. Don’t fret when something breaks or gets scratched, because that is a sign of a life well lived. Yippie, you are doing it right! (p. 194).

4. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

bernadette

This book. I heard about this bestseller probably a year ago, picked it up for cheap at the bookstore and flew through it. The story is pieced together by emails and letters interwoven with narrative and dialogue. It centers on a mother-daughter relationship (that, of course, has its dysfunctions) and had me laughing out loud at 7:00 in the morning and 10:00 at night. It has a ton of wit and soul, even in the serious parts. Loved.sweet paul

5. Eat & Make by Paul Lowe (in progress)

Again, another Christmas cookbook. It’s written by Norwegian Sweet Paul, namesake of the quarterly print magazine. Flipping through, the book is filled with recipes, many of which will push my tastes (again), and kitchen crafts, like jam jar salt and pepper shakers and coffee filter paper flowers. I’m excited to really dig into this one.

6. Notes from a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider (in progress)

blue bikeI can’t get away from non-fiction for long, can I? I discovered Tsh through her podcast, found here. The tagline of the book is “The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World,” and it centers on living consciously by way of small choices that make up a life. I’m like a sponge with these kind of books; should be a good one with many wise words.

Side Note: A few weeks back, I wrote about our transition to a new city, a new home with new coffee shops and schedules and one-way streets to memorize. This season, despite its tough moments, is doing a lot in my soul. These books have undoubtedly helped me make space in my brain and heart for both wisdom and whimsy. Words change us, you know?

Time to Move

I never thought books could hold me back.

I relish in hearing stories of faith being challenged and adventures that individuals find worth pursuing. I read about people taking jobs and quitting jobs, road-tripping and choosing to stay. I read about crazy generosity matched by crazy creativity and these huge risks people take to serve others. I read about people who don’t care about cultural expectations and decide to engage in life, rather than be burdened by it.

And my response is always, “That’s so neat. They’re so brave/innovative/insert-adjective-here.”

Then I rack my brain thinking of all the things I could do, too, until I talk myself down from that place.

It becomes easy for me to read inspirational stories and simply close the book, saying it was a good read, but have no resulting motion on my behalf.

So now I’m toying with this idea that we can take our most inward thoughts and then act on them.

We can absorb the stories of adventure and love and everyday life to no end, or we can challenge ourselves to react. To move. And these movements can be counter-cultural, too, just like in those stories we read.

It may be a trip. It may be an act of kindness. Demonstrating love or forgiveness. Anything, really.

That kind of life we imagine for ourselves as the most fulfilling or God-honoring, it can begin today.

And it took me a while to realize that.

So for the next while here at Make of Me, we’re going to explore this idea. We can think inward to act outward and change some things, no matter how seemingly small or overwhelming. We don’t have to remain in the same place, wherever that may be.

IMG_1297

This week, I’m in Florida. We had the chance to hang out with my in-laws for a week at the beach and took advantage. My first thoughts upon being invited were so Mallory-esque. Questioning whether a second trip to the beach in two months was indulgent. Whether I should just stay at home and get some hours at work.

Then my more sensible husband and I agreed – we won’t always be able to just “pick up and go.” So we decided to. And I’m glad.

Things I Learned In July

I’m linking up again with Emily Freeman over at Chatting at the Sky to blog about every quirky thing we learned last month. Here’s my list. Perhaps you could make your own?

1. Hand-written notes matter. I finished up thank-you notes from the wedding this month, and I often questioned if my five-sentence sentiments would mean anything to the recipients. One couple at church (who attended the wedding AND celebrated BOTH their birthdays on that day) came up to me and said they appreciated the note, and it was so sweet that we acknowledged how they spent their birthdays with us. Our words matter. Online, and hand-written.

2. The cliche that a life change often equals a change in hairstyle…well, that was true for me. One afternoon, I dreamt up this idea of a new hairstyle. So I went for it, and chopped it off! Maybe next time I’ll go darker…

photo

3. Sharing stories provides connection. When Prodigal Magazine featured a story of mine, I received so much feedback and encouragement for sharing such personal emotions. Readers began to say, “Me too.” And that was awesome.

4. Allison Vesterfelt’s blog resonates with my soul. She’s the editor of Prodigal, and the last three posts she’s written have spoken so directly to my current thoughts about transitions and big decisions and life in between stages. Check her out.

5. It is so fun when family keeps getting bigger. T’s brother, Paul, married the love of his life, Hannah, at the end of the month. It was a beautiful outdoor wedding, and the start of a pretty rad married siblings relationship. Love it.

photo

6. Sometimes it’s hard to follow through on our commitments. But we must. A few months back, Thomas and I had the goal of sponsoring a child through Destiny Rescue. We still plan to, but haven’t moved on it. And I think it’s time. Thank the Lord for grace.

7. There is much risk in moving your life forward. But when your husband looks this good in graduation attire, it’s worth it. 

photo

Resisting Babylon

Well, well, well..look who decided to hop back on the blogging train (that would be me). Sorry to leave you, readers! You understand how life gets. And, frankly, it’s pretty silly that it gets that way. A part of my delay in creating another post is that some topics wear people out – be it wedding talk or desperate I-just-want-to-slow-down-and-take-life-in posts.

I did, however want to provide you with a little peek inside the bible study I began a few weeks ago with a very special group of ladies at Christian Student Fellowship. We’re diving into Beth Moore’s study of Daniel. It’s a twelve-week study, and the first half of the book of Daniel discusses his life in Babylon – a place of glamour and overindulgence that carries many parallels to America, as Beth elaborates upon. The second half prophecies about end times and Christ’s return. I haven’t done much study on this topic, or Revelation, as I’ve always been a bit intimidated by the imagery and symbolism within it.

So far, I’m really enjoying it. It’s been a wonderful combination of genuinely learning about history and already-fulfilled prophecy (crazy cool) and examining myself in how I live day to day. For example, the theme of the study is integrity. In chapter 3, we learn that King Nebuchadnezzar builds a giant statue and commands the people of Babylon to bow down to it (punishment if one resists: being thrown into a furnace. Sheesh). Similar to King Neb, we, too, like feeling significant and being in the company of important people in order to make ourselves better. And two semesters away from graduating college, this mentality is seriously shoved down our little, pre-career, we-don’t-know-where-we’re-going throats (I’m digging hyphenated sequences tonight, no?).

So the challenge is to resist Babylon. To resist making more of me and building up my image, and instead live a life of integrity. Being the same person I am in the day as I am in the night. A helpful thought for me as I enter into Lent.

May you, friend, feel empowered to let yourself  become less.

IMG_2239

Still remembering Cape Town..

Much.

If there’s ever a time where five plus parties/events/get-togethers occur all in the same week, it would be December. Seems like the celebratory bug gets a hold of everyone – Christmas does that to people (i.e. me). Here is a little sampling of what I’ve been up to lately.

photo copyThis is my ministry at school, Christian Student Fellowship. I just love the strung up lights and how full the room is. Wednesday night we had a Christmas Communion service, where we read scripture and sang Christmas songs the whole time. Then on Saturday, we hosted the Haiti Compassion Gallery, a silent art auction to raise money for a young Haitian girl named Markilene. We raised over $800 that will go to building her a new house! And I got two new pieces of art for my future apartment/house (thanks Em and Erin!)

photoThis was my setup for my 31 Bits House Party on Friday!  31 Bits is a jewelry business that provides women crafters in Uganda with a sustainable income. All the pieces are hand made with beads of recycled paper. Beautiful and fair trade. I have been really fascinated with these kinds of socially minded companies lately, so hosting a party for my friends and sharing their story was super fun.

photo copy 2And this is a mediocre (no one to blame but myself) picture of some of my youth group caroling to the church’s shut-ins. They sang beautifully! I only had one high school student come along (who provided an excellent bass), but the rest were my middle schoolers. So energetic and fun. We’re busy nearly every Sunday in December, but they seem to be the most well-attended events. I’m really enjoying myself this year, and I think the kids are more acquainted with me now. I always said that if I was going to be a teacher, no way could I teach middle school. This group makes me rethink that. I love them.

Finals this week, then a break for three. I’m eager for Christmas, eager to give gifts and perhaps begin a wedding registry… :)

More to come.

Getting Lost in Dreams

I can’t remember if I’ve written about this before.

But I have all these ideas about what I want to do as a career. Writing a book would be amazing. Working in event coordination for a not-just-for-profit company like Sseko or 31Bits sounds tops. Campus ministry would be wonderful. And then a part of me just wants to open a tea shop and model it after Panera Bread’s idea of “pay what you can” (see that story here).

I guess you could say that while I’m so thankful for my choices, high hopes and belief that loving my job is possible, it’s a tad overwhelming. Thomas completely supports me wanting to pursue something unique…even if it is in California or unpaid. Sigh.

So beyond prayer and seeking God fully, how do we make these choices?

Maybe you’re pondering the same thing. My brain wheels have been turning the whole week. But I’m thinking that’s a good thing.

NEWS FLASH: Make of Me is getting a new look soon! In the next day or so (or maybe hour if I’m eager), I will be updating the blog layout and switching the address to makeofme.wordpress.com. Seems a little more congruent that way. And I think you all know my middle name by now.

A sincere thanks for reading. And caring.

This gets me every time.