Friday, February 28, 2014

eFamily //

// eFamily is sponsoring this post by giving me monetary compensation as well as a free year of the app for my own use and one free year of use to giveaway to a reader of mine. You can be sure that all the opinions expressed in this post are my own. //

I've been here in Jersey for a month now. My family and I have always been really close and distance makes staying connected tricky. Being able to text each other is great -- wouldn't have had that level of connection ten years ago! -- but big events like birthdays can't be experienced through texting and little life moments like the dogs racing around slip through the cracks of text communication.  I was really excited to be approached by eFamily a month ago to try out their app. It's essentially like Facebook, where you're able to write a post or put up photos and videos, but exclusively for your family (and you can invite anyone you consider to be a part of your family!). You get a personal domain name for your eFamily site so all the information and moments you choose to share are just between you guys. Access it is convenient on either your computer or smart phone. I love checking my phone throughout the day and seeing what is happening in my family members lives on the same day. These are a few of my favorite moments from the past month...

Written Post
Photo Album
Photo Post

Here are examples of posts from a computer...

New Member

Photo Album

Written Post

I make the most use of the mobile app. Occasionally it has trouble posting or refreshing but shutting it down and reopening it after a little bit is usually all that's needed. Plus the staff at eFamily are super helpful if you have any questions or issues. In the notifications it shows you who "loves", comments or posts and on what. The funny thing is that it notifies you of what you do too. 

My little sister makes the most use of the website on her laptop. This is the easiest place to make edits to your profile and its the only way you can add photos to an existing photo album (or if you are able to add images to an old album on the mobile app, I have not figured out how). 

If you sign up for a personal domain for your family, y'all get a 30 day free trial -- just like my family and I did! Whoever sets up the domain simply emails invites to the people they would like included in their eFamily circle and you can start sharing moments with each other right away. I'm very picky about what apps I have loaded on my phone but eFamily earned its way to my phone's front page quickly because it is the best way our family has found to close the gap between all of us -- aside from Skype calls and long weekend visits. Try it out and see if it's a useful connection tool for you and your dear ones then, if you love it as much as me, check back here because I'll be giving away a free year subscription to the app in the near future!!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Wake-up call // week 6

I'm experiencing the physical toll that loneliness has taken on me this month. I knew I was suffering for lack of community but I didn't even realize it was happening physically. Last year this time I was experiencing the physical ramifications of stress (though I thought it was a bug I picked up in India). It was intense and it lasted for what seemed like a lifetime. Relief finally began to come when my family and I realized that stress is legit and started to define my boundaries and defend them. Similarly wholeness is coming with having my eyes opened to the state I'm in.

My days have been very free but also purposeless. I don't always sleep in but I tend to stay in bed until 10am thinking and journaling or reading. I've read a lot of books. Eventually I eat something for breakfast but its usually closer to lunch time when I get to it, then I make something protein-full just before I leave for work. I take care of four active infants for a couple of hours and then go home. I work out or occasionally I change clothes and venture out to the grocery store. I don't always eat dinner because once I'm settled into my room for the night it feels like too much effort to figure out something to eat, even cereal. Other times I tell myself I need to ration my food well because of my grocery budget so I shouldn't eat much and therefore don't even eat enough. At times food just doesn't even sound good -- which is weird because I love food. Occasionally I just get caught up in what I am reading, watching or writing and by the time I realize I'm hungry its time for bed so I just forget about it and turn in. Do you see what I wasn't seeing? 

I visited home two weeks ago and, while they didn't say anything then, Mom told me later that when she and Dad saw me get out of my car they gasped at how much weight I'd lost. Didn't help my case any that, aside from the breakfast sandwich and juice that Zach's mom had gotten me that morning when I left, I'd only eaten string cheeses and some cashews the whole day I was on the road. When out to eat or at someones house and provided a meal I eat heartily but still stop when I get full because I hate the feeling of being over-full, so I didn't think I was having any problem with eating. Zach's mom remarked that I was really thin when I visited her with Zachary this weekend. She asked if I eat at home. I thought she was teasing. "Haha! Yes! I have the hips to prove it." I teased back. Looking back that was a real wake-up call.

My purposelessness was shaken up by a hard and clarifying conversation Zach and I had during our visit. Realizing that I'd been hanging all of my purpose out here on seeing Zachary and, seeing that I need to awake to purpose right where I am day-to-day as well, things started to come into better focus, bigger perspective. I got home, looked in the mirror and realized my pants were baggy on me. Hit me like a ton of bricks that I could have carelessly stumbled into an eating disorder. I'd been living lost in thought and emotions and questions for weeks, stressing over my budget, and isolating myself when finding community wasn't easy. Food really hasn't sounded good lately because I tried almond milk and it messed up my intestines big time (suffice it to say that the little bit of food I have been eating is leaving my quickly) but this week I've made sure to eat something three times a day. I've made myself get up and go out of my room more. I signed up for a watercolor painting class and found a small group to plug into. I gave myself permission to eat out a few times to get back on track eating-wise and re-motivated to create actual meals for myself. For the first time in my whole adventure out here I actually ordered food and sat and ate it in the restaurant, bravely alone, instead of taking it to go and sitting in my car to eat it. Purpose is returning to my life. Instead of just feeling settled in my home to work, work to grocery store, grocery store to home rhythm I'm starting to actually make a "life" here in New Jersey. With that, balance is returning to my eating, my fear of being pathetically alone in restaurants is leaving and my thought patterns aren't going around and around in circles as much but instead are making a lot more sense.

I've discovered that lonely people need to be invited out on the town and into your home. They need to be welcomed with joy and asked about their troubles. They need to be picked up in your car sometimes and other times asked to meet you. They need phone calls and skype dates, care packages and texts. They need "hey, do you want to sit here?" and "can I get you anything to drink?" and "I bet you're excited to see Zachary this weekend!" (specifically lonely people named Chelsea Mills who come from WI need that last one!). They need hugs and eye contact, the invitation to have a voice and the chance to serve. Just knowing they can contact you if they have a need, that they're welcome to join you at home for your favorite show every week, or that you're excited to have them as part of your group dynamic (in a class or in community), even if only for a few months, makes such a difference. I dont want to be lonely anymore but I do want to always remember how it feels.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Moving forward on the same page // week 5

A ship is safe at harbor, but that's not what ships are for.
// william g. t. shedd

Sweet times and hard words. Fighting for clarity for ourselves somehow turned to fighting for clarity for each other. Gentle souls weathering wild waves (and, more literally, the storms of the polar vortex!). The fear of being torn apart by natural reaction to life's trials taunts us. The stress of this season's claims on your time and energy, of prior commitments and of a list of priorities that aren't as unquestioned as they once were nags. And right alongside Grace cools tempers and strengthens faith and moves hearts to joyful sacrifice. What the world could so easily wear thin or pull apart, the Lord sustains. Conflict is our friend, I tell you! In my experience, live in fear + selfishness and conflict will drive apart but live fearless + selflessness and it will drive together.

Living fearless only works out with the Lord. If you have Him, you have all you need to live in the land of adventure all your days. There isn't a schedule of brave choices for you to make in your day that you get to know ahead of time, there is just leaning hard on the Lord throughout the whole day and greeting the trials and fears and frustrations with grace and fearlessness.  That braveness looks a hundred thousand different ways. Reaching out. Holding back. Opening up. Waiting for the right time. Taking a leap of faith instead of "waiting to see". Changing your mind. Keeping your word. Repenting. Forgiving.

My goal in coming East was to know Zachary better. His goal in my coming out was for me to know myself better. Took five weeks of miscommunication, thinking we were on the same page but not being, to clear that up but those weeks weren't wasted. Both purposes were playing out independently during them. We aren't starting over now, we're just moving forward on the same page. Told you the adventure was only just beginning!


Also, this happened this weekend. Comic con at BBC meant Zachary becoming Ziggy Stardust + me  "playing dress up" and getting an excuse to finally sport my cute red dress as Clara Oswald. He's really into Rock from the 70's and I'm a Whovian. Part of being fearless is taking each other as we are. I'm proud to be this rockstar's best friend. ;)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday Favorites >>

GOOD READS // Do you ever read something and go, "Hey! It's like this guy has been in my head! I could have written this book."? I do. Something about being a little part of a huge community of creatives in the online world has changed me though. I still read books and find familiar thoughts but rather than begrudging the author for the royalties I somehow feel I should be partaking in, I sense I've been affirmed in my brilliance by a kindred spirit and I want to pat them on the back and applaud them for actually writing the book I never would have taken the time to. Three such authors of three such books include: "You're Made for a God-sized Dream" by Holley Gerth, "A Million Little Ways" by Emily Freeman, and "Start." by Jon Acuff.

"We need each other to raise us up and round us out." Writing, photographing, drawing, singing, branding, designing, doing social media like a boss and championing non-profits or fair-trade organizations with our platforms better than everyone else in the world isn't what we really want, is it? Nah. That's lonely. Experimenting with an adventurous + encouraging audience, dabbling in big dreams as freely as your kiddos who are painting masterpieces today and saving the world from bad guys tomorrow, and being brave enough to keep growing in your area of passion and expertise everyday beside a bunch of others doing the same. That sounds so much better!

JOIN the community // pass along a compliment, no strings attached! For months and months I have been curating a board on Pinterest, collecting hundreds of images and graphics and thoughts over time. I thought it was brilliantly original work. Then one day I came across Megan Gilger's blog "The Fresh Exchange" and realized that almost every one of those carefully selected pins from all over the web that I'd collected, originated with her brilliantly original blog. You'll love her stuff.

Per usual, Casey Wiegand is one of my favorite vulnerable creatives in the blogging world. She is consistently brave with her heart + inspiring with her eye for the whimsical in ordinary moments. I love how she loves her man and her littles. HopeSpoken is coming up in the end of March and the anticipation for that big, beautiful experiment of a conference is building -- especially on Instagram! Will I see you there?

Guys, wildly talented and stunningly lovely people sometimes come out of the woodwork, are quickly recognized and take off like wildfire. Even if they're only 17 years old. My darling friend Hannah (who designed this little corner of the worldwide web that I call "mine") is one such individual. Her voice is sweet + brave, it both woos and convicts. She's brave enough to ask the question "Is it that I, or we, don't remember how to even exist without constantly reviewing the never-ending stream of forever updating information? As I write this, I have about twenty tabs open." And that's why I love her. Get a little taste of her fierce sincerity here:

LISTEN // Over on my Spotify a handful of tunes getting played a lot are: "Friday Night" by Eric Paslay, "I Lived" by One Republic and "Tangerine" by Led Zeppelin. My musical tastes are expanding so the selection is pretty varied! What are you listening to lately?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Conflict + Emotions // week 4

In any relationship there are differences and, often, break-downs in communication. These, among other circumstances, lead easily to conflict. As a culture that fights for comfort we avoid conflict like the plague. I get it. I grew up that way too. So, here, in a brand new place where the only relationships I have are the most basic and needed ones -- host home + employer + coworkers + a few hours away, Zachary -- its rough to have conflict in all of them at once.

I don't know how I knew but I did. The Lord does that for me sometimes. He knows how I work and although He has grown me to a point of trust and surrender with Him that I trust His heart toward me even when He leads me into things that go very against my hard-wired ways, He sometimes works in a way that's easy for me. I don't like unknowns and being unprepared for what comes next. Of course I am really into dreaming big and going on adventures and walking by faith rather than by sight. Finding my security in Jesus rather than knowing what will come next has freed me to live fearlessly like that. Now and then He gives me a heads up about things though. I don't usually realize it until afterward when I look back and see that my heart and mind was prepared in advance for a situation that would have been extra hard for me without that prep. So anyway, He gave me a heads up that this week was gonna be rough. For the first time in my challenging adventure of newness and loneliness, I did not want to face the week ahead.

Weary from four weeks of knowing that every interaction I was having with people were ones where they were forming their view of me -- none where I could just be completely easy and hang out, except at BBC with Zach. Little pickles at work and home were stressing me out. Getting desperate for quality time with Zachary and an escape from my day-to-day scene I tried every possible scheme for squeezing in a visit before he went to Ohio for a snow camp. My desperation and stubbornness + his stress-level from getting ready for his weekend away created the perfect storm of miscommunication and frustration and conflict for us. Conflict at work, conflict at home, conflict with Zach. It was all too much. I was wildly emotional, very unusual for me.

I was ready to pack everything up and run home. I didn't want to give up though. I didn't want to go running back to my comfort-zone and quit my adventure. My soft, soft heart needed some major comforting but my hard, hard head knew that if it was going to fight for anything it would be to make a wise decision not an emotional one. I called my Dad, got a pep-talk, and felt a little better. Then Momma texted and said that she had had me on her heart all day and was praying for me. I called her and got another pep-talk. Through our talks I learned that conflict is misunderstood as a destructive thing when it is actually a helpful tool. Conflict draws out deep issues that need to be addressed, reveals hearts, refines motives and perspectives, and tests character. There's no reason why we shouldn't come through every relational conflict stronger and healthier, but it requires pressing through it rather than running away.

I had a long weekend from work and had planned to spend it in Wallaceton with Zach's mom. Then a blizzard came through and extended my long weekend enough that I could manage to get to Wisconsin, have two days there and get back in time for work. So I packed quick, ate breakfast while I waited for the neighbor to plow our driveway and then hit the road. Yes, I decided to go on a 18hr road trip during a "State of Emergency" weather warning. I was having an emotional breakdown! My stubbornness and years of snow-driving skills kicked in well enough to get me through safely though. Stopping in Wallaceton on the way there I was finally able to relax and feel really, really at-home for the first time in a month. I got some balanced and helpful insight from "Momma B" over dinner that helped Zach and I begin to resolve our conflict. Being snuggled by pets and mothered there and at home over the weekend was SO refreshing. My two days at home were cut short by another on-coming snow storm I had to get ahead of but I had just enough time with my family and dogs, in my house, in my town, at my church and in my favorite places to process a boat-load of stress, reset and return to my #newjerseyadventure with fresh perspective and more clarity. I asked myself honestly if I regretted my big move East while I was home and the answer was no. In fact I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that, had I stayed rather than moving, that's what I would have regretted.

By this Tuesday I was back at work and in everyones good graces, settled right back in at my home-away-from-home and well favored there, and Zachy and I were all good -- better actually. I didn't come all the way out here for the opportunity to strengthen our relationship under the illusion that that would look like skipping through field of wildflowers or waltzing in the moonlight. I knew I was providing us with the opportunity to walk through the refining fires of challenge and conflict and cares. Adventure is messy but working through the mess is the brave thing to do and what it produces in you and others is invaluable.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Join the Club!

She Does Justice started a club // check it out!
For anyone unfamiliar with SDJ it is a boutique-style online shop of handmade items supporting a worthy cause with 10% of the gross sales from the month.

One SDJ scarf per month for 12 months. 
// value: $324 // price: $199

One SDJ turban per month for 12 months.
// value: $240 // price: $139

One SDJ scarf OR one SDJ turban per month, alternating each month for a total of 6 scarves + 6 turbans after 12 months time.
// value: $282 // price: $179

Aside from the club, there are all sorts of new goodies in the store (including a limited edition designer turban by Jessi of Naptime Diaries). To do a little "window shopping" click here:

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of She Does Justice. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

What Love Looks Like // loving the stranger // week 3

I don't know where this week went. A few crazy snow-days, a couple days of work, a cold that lasted just six full days and right when I've finished processing + journaling out last weekend's visit to BBC, its the weekend again. I wish I could go visit every Saturday. All I do here in Jersey on the weekends is read, write and listen to music and I would be happy to do that in the presence of community, more than happy to. We aren't made to live in solitude and a two hour drive is a small price to pay for the company of friends. Zach needs time to do all his homework though, I don't want to distract him from his work, and I need to find community a little closer to home for these weekends that he's swamped.

I love my church family here in Jersey. Each week I'm excited to get to see them again and get to know them better but the intense winter weather we have been having has made it necessary to cancel most church gatherings throughout the week for safety reasons. I'm sure that the community I am so homesick for is going to be found in this Body of believers if I can just see them for more than an hour or two on Sunday morning.

I see people -- I mean I'm not a recluse. I live with a sweet family and work with nice women, I interact with cashiers and baristas when I run my errands or get out of the house for a change of scenery. I want the Mathai's to be able to do their own family things as much as possible though and working in the infant room you don't see the other teachers much. I'm introverted and I'm happy to have my own space and keep to myself when I'm at home, occasionally eating dinner at the same time or watching TV with the Mathai's. I love working with my four babies until close and then cleaning up and saying goodbye to the other two closer's at work, teamwork creates professional bonds and a sense of community at work for sure. What I'm missing though is meeting up for coffee with someone, dropping by to pay a friend a visit while they're working, or spending time in someone's home over a casual meal.

When you're lonely like this for community you don't have much to lose. Makes you brave, fearless even. You may even Facebook your Pastor's wife and invite yourself over to spend time with her and Pastor. She may even welcome you to do just that but take it up a notch and offer to pick you up at your house and take you out to dinner with them on a Saturday night. You may cry, even if you aren't much of a cryer, from the relief that such sweetness brings your soul. And I did.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Of needing people // week 2

I lack words but I want to keep welcoming you into this #newjerseyadventure. Loneliness makes the effort of words seem frivolous and useless but while I can't actually stop by for a cuppa I know you're still wanting to hear what I would share if I could. 
Last week was about establishing routine + accomplishing things for work outside of work (finger-printing and CPR class) which were both big adventures in my mind but neither as intimidating as I anticipated and far more enjoyable than I expected. I didn't really go out. I went to my appointments, I went to work and I went home. It was nice to develop a routine of cooking and working out and reading but I was really aching for community. You see, life can feel established and settled. I can no my way around and have a life that I operate in here, but it isn't much of a "life" without community.

I could write pages and pages, because I'm a story-teller and there is so much story to be found in the development of relationships, on my weekend visit to BBC but suffice it to say that I had a wonderful time. I didn't realize just how bravely lonely I have been the past three weeks until I soaked up Zachary's company and having a place in a community of people again. I told him after that it was like taking deep breaths after three weeks of taking shallow ones. I've missed having friends. We did a lot in just two days. He spoils me! Just doing life is the best though. Walking around, eating pizza, singing along with the radio, watching football (yes, it was embarrassing to be a Broncs fan on Sunday night).

>> sitting quietly and reading while he studied Hebrew was one of my favorite moments of the weekend <<

// discoveries from this week //
a neat little graveyard in Ewing - the flower selection at Trader Joe's - the back roads of Bucks County, PA - the insane toll charges of the NJ/PA turnpike (not taking that road to BBC anymore!) - Northern Lights in Scranton - a pretty little lake in Clarks Summit - the maze of stairways and halls on the BBC campus - all sorts of people who already knew about me and were excited to meet me - new friends who are looking forward to my next visit - how the Lord continues to go ahead and prepare the way before me with unexpected sweet blessings