Friday, March 20, 2015

naja >>

"Pretty panties make you feel pretty." Ever since I was little Momma and I have said that. Its no less true as an adult. I'm a single gal, no one gets to see what Im wearing but me, but I like knowing that pretty things are underneath. One day when I get to share myself with my future husband itll be even more fun. All that to say, there are lingerie companies that make quality pieces and that are fun and lovely, but they use slave or child labor, and Im just not cool with supporting that. You know that I believe we are either helping or harming people with every purchase. I've had my eyes open for a lingerie company that employed people in poorer areas of the world, giving them a leg-up instead of taking advantage of them, a place I could really get behind to supply my basic items as well as exciting splurges. I found one! Naja employs single-moms, teaching them to sew their gorgeous line of bras and panties. 

I would love to transition my whole undies-drawer from my Target "5 for $20" bin buys to all Naja. It'll be an investment. A very worthwhile one. To get it started I made my first purchase with a $15 off coupon you can get here: As if the products werent gorgeous enough, the packaging it comes in is totally drool-worthy. I can hardly stand it!

not sponsored by naja

Monday, March 16, 2015

What a year can change //

April 4th will be one year since a death of sorts occurred in my life’s circumstances. [If you have no context for my life a year ago you can catch up here.] A long awaited promise, a future full of hope and purpose, suddenly died. The Enemy kills. But I guess he still hasn’t wrapped his mind around the fact that Jesus has the last say in my life, not him. I will have trouble in the world, but my life is hid in the One who overcame the world — I live and overcome by the same power that raised Him up from death. Even in the confusion and distress of the loss, I knew I was held secure and that it wasn’t an end altogether. I knew joy comes after, I was assured that new life came next. Step by step, faith has prevailed and hope has been realized, the promise not undone, merely increased, doubled. If the Enemy thought he was crippling my ability to advance the Kingdom by his theft in my life, or hinder my love for the Lover of my soul, he was mistaken. The One who is in me is stronger. His resurrection power trumps the power of death. I literally experience it.

“Grand adventure and a happy-go-lucky" joy would return, I prophesied over myself last spring. Here we are. I live in a war zone. Every day is a wild, wonderful adventure. Seeing Jesus overcome, seeing impossible things accomplished in His name, seeing His glory proclaimed in the midst of enemy territory and His kingdom advanced there by the faith of the Saints. I operate on the earth, but I see in the spiritual realm -- more and more clearly all the time. On the outside the life I live seems ideal, probably quaint, but it is what I am called to and there is power working through it. Relationship, discipleship… doing life in community together, sowing seeds in hearts and watering them in others… Encouraging the believers, speaking life in places of death… Being faithful where I am, doing all I do with excellence… I came to serve. I came to invest in lives. I came to influence for freedom in Christ. I didn’t come to create a ministry, but I did come to minister. Im not an out-going person, quick to introduce myself and become acquainted with others, but Jesus is quick to reach out and He has done so so much through me that Ive gained a reputation for being in-my-element when interacting with and engaging people, whether acquaintance or stranger. 

Many know my heart for Milwaukee is especially focused toward the homeless, the poor, the discriminated, the prostituted, so it could rise as a question why my schedule isn’t marked by any devotion of time to peoples in these circumstances after nearly three months of living here. The answer is two-fold. First, that it is my intention not to build a great ministry organization around this mission but to simply operate in it in my everyday life, to embrace the opportunities that present themselves intentionally and to seek to make myself available by always challenging my comfort zone, not settling into a routine of isolated living. Second, as someone with little life experience in the acknowledged deeper or darker issues of the world, Im aware that I have need of knowledge and wisdom in order to fulfill the vision the Lord is shaping for my lifestyle of ministry, of Love in action, in this city. Faithfully proactive in this time of preparation and training, I am reading constantly, am in prayer individually and corporately, and am gleaning from born-again men and women trusted and respected for their service here. In due time the vision will come to life and many will see it. For now, ground work is being laid. 

I am incredibly grateful for the Body operating as the Father intended: together. The intense beauty of the great diversity of giftings and callings and personalities and tribes in powerful unity through Christ is a force to be reckoned with. No wonder the Enemy is so keen to stir up disunity among believers. Ive had the great joy of establishing true community and a partnership in mission with people from a number of different congregations in the area, several represented races, and all different seasons of life. It builds up and enhances. I get to serve many in little specific, personal ways throughout my weeks, and many others serve and bless me in specific, personal ways. Its awe-inspiring how our Father made His family to operate. He is all goodness.

I love my life here. I love the sights, the secret workings, the community, even the climate. I am not of this place identified as Brew City, but I am surely in it, I have called it home from day one, and its a privilege I take delight in to seek the peace of this city. Ive experienced the victory I foresaw, of life after death, in my life’s mere circumstances, and I know the same victory is available for the city of Milwaukee at large. The King is among us. #thebestisyettocome

Thursday, March 12, 2015

SoapBox Soaps >>

Its no surprise then that I jumped at the opportunity to partner up with SoapBox Soaps for this sponsorship, and I'll share more about their products in the weeks to come, but lets start with my two favorite things about the brand: A) a natural brand of soaps + B) a good cause to benefit from their sales.

Ive been a natural gal for most of my life because of an unidentified allergy/sensitivity to artificial scents as well as chemicals. Both of these things are found in most health care items, just about anything we put on our skin, and our skin would be a lot happier if that wasnt the case. Im also a firm believer that we get to support the building up or the tearing down of people by our purchases. Everything we buy is made somewhere, by someone, and the profits are benefiting someone, somewhere. We all have a say in who we are investing in every time we pay for something. My mission is to run a simple home, with only what is needed. Consequently I'll be investing my money intentionally and its my goal to do so with products that give back to people, build up people that society has torn down, and products that I can be confidant are helpful and healthful for my body, inside or out, not harmful.

I recently received my shipment of a body wash, a liquid hand soap, and a bar soap in the mail. I love mail. Especially packages. Seriously, as much as I love the experience of being in a shop and the atmosphere of a well-curated space of products, I am so much more delighted by online shopping because the anticipation of getting a package of good goodies is unbeatable.

As you can see each product supports a different cause through a couple of SoapBox Soaps' partners. I like that. They dream big! And, hey, I sure dont want you to feel like you dont get to jump in on these goodies. Here is a coupon code for 10% off your total order from SoapBox Soaps: SOAPEQUALSHOPE

Friday, March 6, 2015

What Love Looks Like //

This morning I felt the pull to go to Starbucks before work. It isnt unusual for me to be inclined to go for coffee but I am being careful about my spending as I dont have much beyond the needed amount for my expenses. However, even after reasoning this, the tug persisted. It seemed to me the Lord was hinting that He had something to give -- I assumed to me -- there.

Side note: As a Christian I am free in a land of captivity, favored by Heaven's King, and deeply loved by Him and His Son and His Spirit. Its no wonder we are meant to be known by our joy! So, not fully awake, and honestly wishing I was still in bed, I waited patiently for a parking spot at the coffee shop, greeted and thanked the woman who held the door for me, looked my barista in the eye while ordering, and complimented a lady on her gorgeous green jacket. Joy. Peace. Love. It speaks, it calls to the soul in bondage reminding it what it was made for, and it calls to the soul that is free but still walks around like its bound reminding it how fully it gets to live. This is our heritage. Lets not forget, or count it insignificant to walk in the Spirit's fruits.

In this world of trouble, with a Captor relentlessly and actively working to destroy every life it can, its not unusual to hear people complain of something. While I waited for my order to be completed I heard two men complaining of great pain in their bodies. Picking up my drink and before walking out the door, I turned to them, said Id overheard their complaints and wondered if I could pray for them. This is what the Lord had wanted to give: Himself. Not to me, I already have Him every moment of the day and night! To others. To these two. I know my Father, I know He wants freedom for all -- as passionately and relentlessly as the Enemy wants destruction for all -- because He so loves people (and the Enemy despises Him so of course he hates what God loves). I have authority to release that freedom wherever I go but it involves a choice, an action. The men were shocked by my offer but accepted it. I placed my hands on their knees and crouching down by their table I spoke healing to their bodies, freedom to their souls. SIMPLE. Powerful.

The Enemy has held us all captive from the first breath, throughout the ages, and, until Jesus fulfilled His mission on earth and returned to Heaven to send His Spirit, there was little threat to his territory. Now, two-thousand-some years after the Spirit was released for all who believe, the Enemy still isnt used to the idea that Believers get to advance in his territory and take it for the Kingdom. He will never be a good sport about it, but it doesnt matter. We all begin as captives, but we are all designed for Jesus' freedom. He minsters it through the Church, the offer is extended through the Body -- and, though the Enemy wants us to think it, that is NOT limited to Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights, to pews or pulpits or programs. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. He is in us, and He was meant to be shared -- as freely and sacrificially as the Father shared Jesus.

We get to be ministers everywhere we go. If youre God's child its part of your nature. Whatever your vocation is in the earth, you are in full-time ministry. The Enemy is so frustrated that we have the authority of heaven to break his chains and release his captives in the earth, to speak life where he has spoken death, to release wholeness and restoration where he has wrought destruction, to give to those he has stolen from. But he cannot change the fact that we are free and filled with power and carrying holy permission to bring the kingdom everywhere we go. However, he can suggest that you think -- i.e. deceive -- that if youre not "working in ministry" that its not your job or you arent qualified. Always remember that he's the father of lies. The prophet wrote:
Isaiah 61 Amplified Bible (AMP)
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed and qualified me to preach the Gospel of good tidings to the meek, the poor, and afflicted; He has sent me to bind up and heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the [physical and spiritual] captives and the opening of the prison and of the eyes to those who are bound,
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord [the year of His favor] and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,
To grant [consolation and joy] to those who mourn in Zion—to give them an ornament (a garland or diadem) of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment [expressive] of praise instead of a heavy, burdened, and failing spirit—that they may be called oaks of righteousness [lofty, strong, and magnificent, distinguished for uprightness, justice, and right standing with God], the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
And they shall rebuild the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former desolations and renew the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.
Aliens shall stand [ready] and feed your flocks, and foreigners shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.
But you shall be called the priests of the Lord; people will speak of you as the ministers of our God. You shall eat the wealth of the nations, and the glory [once that of your captors] shall be yours.
Instead of your [former] shame you shall have a twofold recompense; instead of dishonorand reproach [your people] shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double [what they had forfeited]; everlasting joy shall be theirs.
For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong with violence or a burnt offering. And I will faithfully give them their recompense in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant or league with them.
And their offspring shall be known among the nations and their descendants among the peoples. All who see them [in their prosperity] will recognize and acknowledge that they are the people whom the Lord has blessed.
10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as [surely as] the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring forth, so [surely] the Lord God will cause rightness and justice and praise to spring forth before all the nations [through the self-fulfilling power of His word].

Many years later, at the beginning of His ministry, Jesus went into the desert full of the Spirit and came out in the Spirit and in power after being tempted by the Enemy and not falling. He began to teach in the synagogues. When He came to the one in Nazareth, His home town, He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah to teach from.
Luke 4 Amplified Bible (AMP)
17 And there was handed to Him [the roll of] the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened (unrolled) the book and found the place where it was written,
18 The Spirit of the Lord [is] upon Me, because He has anointed Me [the Anointed One, the Messiah] to preach the good news (the Gospel) to the poor; He has sent Me to announce release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to send forth as delivered those who are oppressed [who are downtrodden, bruised, crushed, and broken down by calamity],
19 To proclaim the accepted and acceptable year of the Lord [the day when salvation and the free favors of God profusely abound].
20 Then He rolled up the book and gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were gazing [attentively] at Him.
21 And He began to speak to them: Today this Scripture has been fulfilled while you are present and hearing.

 Our Jesus fulfilled the prophesy, with His death and resurrection He set-off the release of captives from captivity, the reconciliation of children of the earth to their rightful Father, and He returned to heaven to send the Holy Spirit -- His Spirit -- to indwell us that the work might go on and spread across all lands, and every generation, until the end.
Matthew 28 Amplified Bible (AMP)
18 Jesus approached and, breaking the silence, said to them, All authority (all power of rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.
19 Go then and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 Teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all the days (perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion), to the [very] close and consummation of the age. Amen (so let it be).
All this to say, youre allowed. Youre equipped, qualified, empowered, instructed, called, purposed, needed for ministry. Youre His. And as much as the Enemy would love to separate you from His Spirit, from His Love, from His favor and authority and freedom and power, he cant. Its the truth. Its our reality. This freedom is too good to keep to ourselves. How can we choose to keep ourselves from sharing it with any captive life we see, knowing they are made to be free? Fear is the Enemy's attempt to keep you from taking the territory youre authorized to take from him. Dont listen to him. Run with me, Church!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Over Tea //

In school I certainly learned more about the Civil War than about the Civil Rights Movement. I dont know much but I do know that for such a ethnically diverse and multi-cultural land as America to still dance awkwardly around the subject of race is a clue pointing to a much deeper issue. Its something to be addressed. When there is conflict in your marriage does it get resolved by ignoring the issue, harboring your opposite thoughts and feelings, and pretending that there isnt an issue all the while being on pins and needles afraid youll step on the toes of the other at any moment and things will explode? Thats a rhetorical question. Of course not! You restore unity by facing the conflict and holding tight to each other as you seek to understand the other's heart, to grow through the issues together and keep the bonds of trust and open communication strong so that you foster the safe place for vulnerability and intimacy in your relationship. This works to unify the vast differences of two genders through love and respect, I suspect it works just as well to intentionally tend to unifying our diversity.

"I really care about you. Help me understand." Ive heard my Dad say this to me as my head was buried in my pillow saturated with hot tears and he sat on the foot of my bed bewildered at what had caused the melt down. Sometimes he was frustrated at my emotion, certain it was an over-reaction or, preoccupied with what seemed must be more important issues, was inconvenienced by the deeper time and focus I was requiring. Too far removed from the cares of the childhood season of life to relate, speaking too quickly from a position of ignorance regarding what it is like to be in the body of a woman as he is a man, or simply ill-equipped for an issue never before encountered and never anticipated, his words were not always fitly spoken. Such a picture of our response, as white Americans, to the tender issue of race. It always made such a difference when my Dad simply entered into my hurt because he cared deeply about me and, not presuming to have all the answers but sincerely wanting to do all he could to help and comfort, invited me to help him understand.

Dr. King -- Martin Luther King, Jr. -- is a figure recognized all over the world. We know a phrase of his most famous speech -- much like we know about one sentence of the documents that founded our country's government, and his birthday is a national holiday which to us mostly has meant a day off of school. For me, he was the starting point for my education on racial tensions and the strive to close the gap, to bridge it, through history. I wanted to hear from the heart of a spokesperson, someone who much, if not all, of the black community trusted to represent their own hearts well. I wanted to hear from someone not ready to pick a fight because theyd been kept down so long and it had wound them so tight they finally snapped, but from someone who stood their ground in the face of ugly opposition and revealed the suffered injustices through raw but non-violent displays. I had never known he was a pastor. Im not sure that Id even known he was a brother, of mine, in the Lord. I had just finished reading his brief but revealing account in "Why we cannot wait", which opened my eyes, when the movie "Selma" was released in theaters. The film recounts the foundational account of the march to secure equal opportunity to vote through Selma, Alabama in 1965. Almost as difficult to watch as "12 Years a Slave", "Selma" was the most powerful and inspiring films I have seen in years.

The original song, "Glory" from "Selma" took home an Oscar this year. John Legend and Common performed it live at the awards show and it gave me chills.

We cant afford to walk in ignorance on this and reconciling the issue cannot wait. Before you ask why I care so much, be careful, for why could anyone NOT care? No one is more equipped to get down into the trenches of all of this tender, powerful stuff than the Church. Unity is a heart-desire of our God -- He walked among us in human flesh just to reconcile us back to Him, and that when we were at war against Him and had nothing about us that would be found desirable. Again, being peace makers does not mean avoiding an issue or pretending it doesnt exist. Peace making is a fruit of love, ultimately, and if we are being truly loving we know that putting another's needs before our own and considering their life worth more than our own is what that looks like in its most basic form.

I observe the life of Dr. King or Solomon Northup and I count myself blessed to identify myself as a fellow member of the human race with them, as well as the true Body of Christ. I want to be like them. I want my kids to look to them as an example. They look like their heavenly Father, with their patience and long-suffering and love of mercy, and their understanding of His heart through the experience of it in the midst of tribulation is breathtakingly powerful. Character transcends racial borders. Love pulls down the barriers.

I went to a grade school concert tonight for the little boy I nanny. The performers and the audience alike represented many ethnicities and they werent sitting in segregated clumps by color but rather as families all mixed together. Friends, neighbors, co-workers, spouses, all mixed. How its supposed to be. Just like adults and children mix, like men and women mix. We have separate and unique needs and perspectives and issues but we gladly enter into that diversity, seeking after unity, because we love each other.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Stitch Fix >>

"Fix" #4 appeared on my doorstep right before the weekend. It put a skip back into my step. Made it feel like delightful things were around any corner even as winter continued to persist and bills started arriving in the mail.

Market & Spruce // Sam Hi-Lo short sleeve tee
size M
Never have I ever tried on a top of this style, though I have seen them on several of you in recent months and have liked them. The jersey-knit fabric of this piece turned me off in the end but had it been a silk or linen piece I would probably have swooned.

Honey Punch // Layla striped elbow-patch detail cardigan
size M
I was just saying the other day that I wished I had another sweater-like layer that was super cozy but more spiffy than a sweatshirt. How did they know? As simple as the layer is, the pattern is arresting, the soft-knit is luxurious, and the elbow-patches won my heart instantly. I couldnt help myself.

Octavia // Delta lightweight geo-print infinity scarf
So silky-soft and the print was super boho which is fun. I felt like the colors fought with my skin tone just enough that I wouldnt want to wear them that near my face so had to pass on this piece.

Honey Punch // Stinson tab-sleeve top
size M
Ive had a few pieces be slightly too small on me in past fixes but this one was a surprise, it was too big. I know the style is intended to be a bit baggy but not as bag-like as it felt on. The colors were very muted but combined with these heels the red popped a bit better. The style of the piece is very like me. A size smaller it would have been more tempting.

Just Black // Connely skinny jean
size 8
These stunning skinnies had status all on their own! There was a lot of stretch in them which was the only way I was able to button them at the waist -- I have wider hips than these were made for. The length was ideal. I could tell they were just too snug to be practical. This was confirmed when I took them off and I realized the blood circulation had been hindered to my legs in them. Haha!

Shout out to my chic Target wedges that, I feel, really made each of these outfits. I love that part of Stitch Fix, getting to try on the pieces with the rest of your wardrobe in the comfort of your own home. So convenient, so fun. It hasn't gotten old to get a package of delightful surprises picked out just for me in the mail -- even though Ive had to switch the frequency to every-other month with my current budget. If you still havent taken the plunge and scheduled your first "Fix", you may as well go poke around the website a bit, right?

not sponsored by Stitch Fix