My Body Isn’t Perfect. Get Over It.

Carl and I had our engagement photos last week, an endeavor that undid me completely.

For someone who has been the subject of photo shoots for most of my life, this reaction to the impending shoot was out of character.

My mom is, and always has been, a photographer. She has the lights, the backdrops, the fancy cameras complete with lenses. I know because I was the one carrying her heavy camera bag on every vacation we ever took. I know just how fancy that thing is.

This provided for many a beautiful picture of my life growing up, with especially lovely senior portraits that I still kind of love. It also provided me with an education—picking up little bits and pieces about shot composition and lighting.The Lipstick Gospel

But it also provided me with a lifetime of resentment and frustration at the woman pointing the camera in my face.

I’m not sure what it was about my mom and her camera that was so irritating to me, but picture time before school dances was the absolute worst.

While other people’s parents pulled out a point-and-shoot for their kids and their dates, my mom had us off in a corner, the perfect lighting warming our faces, her taking a few shots before lunging at me to move a piece of hair, then taking a thousand more.

The Lipstick Gospel

While now I must admit that my homecoming and prom photos were pretty great (and perfectly lit), and while I can see my mom’s sweet love for me, and desire to photograph the moments in my life as they unfolded, I can still remember the particularly vicious brand of adolescent fury that would arise from me as photos took longer than I wanted them to.

And lucky for all of us, there are several photos from each dance in which I’m scowling through the camera at my offensive photographer.

But, her incessant photographing of me as a kid helped me become quite comfortable in front of a camera, something that’s proven exceptionally useful in my career as a storyteller and my schooling as a broadcast journalist.

(Thanks mom!)

All of that to say, my nerves about our engagement shoot were totally unlike me. Cameras don’t phase me.

But the day before our photos, I went on a frantic shopping spree to all of the stores in our tiny little town, looking for some outfit that would photograph well, or miraculously produce the photos that I wanted but didn’t even know how to picture, let alone describe.

And it was in one of those dressing rooms that I had a particularly horrible moment.

Can I just say that dressing rooms are one of life’s cruelest forms of torture?

Why in the world would stores that are trying to sell you on the fact that you look good in their clothes create such a tiny space with such a horrible mirror, and even worse lighting that brings out every single flaw until you’re crawling out of there, hands empty and insecurity dragging sadly behind you?

But that’s what happened in that dressing room. The body that I’ve been trying to care for, that I’ve been making do Pilates, and forcing to run three days a week, stared back at me and was imperfect beyond my ability to even really look at it for more than a second.

“It’s the lighting and the mirrors and the angle,” I tried to tell myself soothingly. But still, the body that stared back at me in the mirror did not reflect the progress I thought I’d made towards being healthy and strong, and did not reflect the kind of body I wanted to claim as my own.

Dammit, dammit, dammit.

And so as I walked out of the store, swimming in self-pity and frustration, I had one fleeting, possibly life-changing thought.

What if I never had a perfect body?

It was this daring thought, something I’d never really allowed myself to think before.

I’ve always been the person who is striving to improve, believing fully that there’s going to be a day at some point here when I look like a Victoria’s Secret model without even trying. I believe there will be a day when cellulite has magically disappeared, when I look absolutely perfect in every outfit, every mirror, from every angle.

And in that tiny, fleeting moment I wondered what would happen if I just gave up.

I’m not talking about health, I know the benefits of water, and broccoli, and exercise. What I’m talking about is the incessant pressure I put on myself to become perfect, like one day I’ll finally say the magic words and all of my physical insecurities will be a thing of the past.

Really, what would happen if we just gave up?

What if perfection wasn’t the target anymore? What if health was? What if we accepted the things about our bodies that are totally normal and totally imperfect? What if, instead of restricting ourselves from all of the delicious food in the world and exercising obsessively, we just accepted the hips that have a bit of womanly padding to them? What if we loved ourselves even with our thighs touching? And what if a lack of cellulite wasn’t the requirement for beauty and love and sexiness?

Every single woman has something they don’t like about their body. My skinniest, most stunning friends have qualms about their legs, and butts, and love handles.

And if they can’t feel confident, then I think we’re all just screwed.

Or, maybe we aren’t.

What if the bodies we fall in love with weren’t the strategically placed ones on the covers of magazines, and instead were just our own? What if we got over the fact that we’re short, or tall, or heavier in the middle, or too skinny up top? What if we just decided that good enough is good enough, and that we’re going to take care of our bodies instead of refusing them love until they conform to our idea of perfection?

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What if we never had perfect bodies, but learned to love the ones that we do have?

(Maybe you’ve had this thought before, but it’s currently blowing my mind.)

Bodies do miraculous things. I’ve seen ordinary women create tiny humans — the cutest little darlings I’ve ever seen — seriously, a miracle.

My body is able to love Carl, it’s able to wrap its arms around his neck, able to slow dance with him in the living room, and able to kiss his perfectly soft cheeks.

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My body is able to run a 5K (see how I slipped that in there?) and do Pilates and take long walks.

My body is able to sleep and digest food and heal itself when I’m sick, and look pretty darn good in a pair of jeans.

We are all different. We, as women, are all shaped differently, all molded uniquely, and all have quirks that make each of us unique.

And I just wonder what would happen if we if we gave ourselves a pass, a get-out-of-jail-free card, and allowed ourselves to just enjoy how we are?

Our bodies aren’t made to be statues of perfection. They’re meant to make babies, and make love. They’re meant to dance and to sleep and to snuggle. They’re made to eat cookies and eat icing with a spoon, and run, and be strong. They’re made to work and hold and kiss and love.

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Our bodies are amazing, and I just wonder what would happen if we started treating them that way.

My body isn’t perfect, and I’m learning to get over it. Want to join me?

 

 

The Loveliest Things – Megan Elliott

The Loveliest Things - Megan Elliott

1. Sunny Days

Sunny Days in this winter to spring transition are few and far between, but to me, their rare appearances makes them that much more special. There’s nothing better than feeling the warm sun on your skin after being a hermit for so many preceding weeks (or months!).

2. Bold Lipstick

Is it just me, or does bold lipstick equal bold woman? I feel SO confident in a bright lip. Not only does it add a dose of pretty, but it brings a pop of color and instantly pulls a look together.

3. Blogger Friends

Don’t get me wrong, I love my nonblogger friends to the moon and back, but there’s something different about blogger friends. They can relate to what I do and why I do it, while it might not make as much sense to my real life friends. The blogging world is so sweet and supportive and I have made some really amazing friends through this awesome, uplifting community!

4. Succulents

I have the craziest obsession with succulents. I have them everywhere in my home in all different shapes and sizes. They are so super easy to take care of and oh-so-pretty. These year ‘round plants are perfect to bring some life (and fresh air!) to a home. Just keep them by a window and make sure the soil is moist and you’re good to go!

5. Blog Comments

I don’t know if people realize just how much it makes a blogger’s day to receive a comment on their post. We spend hours researching, writing, photographing and more to get our content out there. Of course, we create for ourselves and for our sanity, but we also do it for our readers and getting feedback, whether positive or not, is not only helpful, but it totally makes our day and validates all our hard work!

SpringBanner-1024x681Megan Elliott is the stylist and writer behind the fashion lifestyle blog, Lush to Blush. As an avid lover of the earth, she has been a vegetarian for seven years and has been in love with flowers for as long as she can remember. She finds comfort in coffee, scented candles and a beautiful pair of shoes. At Lush to Blush, you will find a collection of all things lovely. From personal style, her favorite things, and beauty tutorials to weekly giveawaysrecipes and DIYs, you’re sure to find something that inspires you. Her goal is to create a space for you to get away for a little bit and just relax. She hopes to see you over at LushtoBlush.com!

Frantic, Frayed, and Blurry – aka – Learning to Trust God

This last weekend I traveled home to Denver for my mom’s 60th birthday. We haven’t talked much in the last few weeks — me needing just a little bit of space to process the life change I’m surfing down — and I knew that the distance was making her sad.

To boot, my baby sister (not such a baby anymore) is studying abroad in Uganda, and so my mom receives a smattering of pixilated FaceTime calls, and a brief update every so often.

With such a big birthday approaching, my dad and I knew that she was feeling isolated — lonely with her girls so far away, geographically and emotionally.

So we hatched a plan.

Booking a last minute ticket, my dad picked me up from the airport, arriving home just a few hours before she did from work. He’d fed her some lines about having lots of things planned, but refused to tell her anything, something that frustrated her to no end.

Frantic, Frayed, and Blurry - aka - Learning to Trust God

When the back door opened, we slapped a gift bow on my head and I rounded the corner into the kitchen.

There was one stunned beat of realization before she crumbled into tears. She blanketed me in a hug, soaking the shoulder of my sweater completely through.

Frantic, Frayed, and Blurry - aka - Learning to Trust God

It was a gorgeous weekend — wedding errands, and dinners with best friends. My family and I took a walk in our favorite park, my puppy trotting alongside. We ate rich food, and told stories that don’t get told when we’re having a quick phone call or texting about bank accounts or wedding plans.

It was delicious.

But when I’d get home at night, another part of me would wake up. It was like the charming, fun-loving, in-the-moment side of me fell asleep, and a wired, testy, anxious version of me woke up with a zing.

I stayed up late, scrolling through my emails and instagram account again and again. I googled job listings, and applied for several late at night (which in hindsight doesn’t sound like the best idea). And then I’d scroll through my Zillow app, searching cities all over the country for the place that might be mine and Carl’s first home.

But more than anything, I worried.

Sitting straight up on my childhood bed, my mind looked like my laptop—a thousand open windows, my desktop covered in stacks of half-finished articles, wedding plans, and job applications.

Frantic, Frayed, and Blurry - aka - Learning to Trust God

And finally at one, maybe two in the morning, I would put my iPhone away, only grabbing it a few more times to see if any jobs had been posted in the last 30 seconds.

Yesterday morning I woke up only half rested and more than half cranky, snapping at my sweet mama when she accidentally interrupted a train of thought. I applied for more jobs, and distractedly scrolled through my emails again — after all, something could have changed in the last five minutes.

And this is just not the way I want to live.

In the middle of my morning stress-fest, my puppy clawed at the back door asking to be let out.

I got up, let her out, and then watched her through the glass door for a long while.

She romped around in the snow (yes, snow, welcome to spring in Colorado), and then found herself a spot in the sun. She sniffed around, romped a bit more, and then asked to be let in, promptly falling asleep in a patch of sunshine on the wood floor.

That is the way I want to live, because that, to me, is what trust looks like.

Chloe trusts us. She trusts us to feed her, to let her out and back in, she’s not shy about asking for what she needs, and she doesn’t worry when it takes a moment for her needs to be met. She rests, she plays, she is very much in the moment, and she loves us in heaps and heaps.

Frantic, Frayed, and Blurry - aka - Learning to Trust God

Now, I get that she’s a puppy, and I’m a human, but I think there’s something to be said for this.

The bible tells us not to worry. It says that God knows exactly what we need and that we can trust him to take care of us.

It tells us to ask and we’ll receive, to knock and the door will be opened to us, to seek and that we’ll find.

It doesn’t say to freak out and to scroll through your iPhone until your thoughts are frantic, your nerves are frayed, and your eyes are blurry.

That’s not one of God’s recommended remedies for an out-of-control season of life.

Instead, he tells us to trust him.

And so today — ever imperfectly — that’s how I am trying to live. I’m trying to ask for what I need, and not worry when it takes a minute for things to shake out. I’m trying to enjoy the moment and lay down in the sunshine, knowing that God loves me, and knows exactly what I need, and that I can trust him to take care of me.

Have you ever found yourself frantic, frayed, and blurry? How did you learn to trust God in those moments?

The Loveliest Things : Conni Jespersen

 The Loveliest Things - Conni Jespersen

1. A Coffee Chat

I cannot live without these!  In this day where we are so connected to social media, it is important to get back to a great conversation with someone over a simple cup of coffee.  Each week, I make a point to meet up with someone for an hour or so to chat.  No phone, no distractions.  Just coffee, just a chat.  It’s an inspiring way to generate great ideas & feel connected on a human level.

2. Traveling

Whether it’s a day trip to L.A. to visit a local flea-market, a stay-cation, or a flying to a new destination, traveling keeps me sane.  With each destination, I gather new perspective in my life. Traveling helps me to take in new experiences, grow as a person, and share those experiences with others.

3. A clean closet

Each season I try to take ev-er-y-thing out of my closet, give it a good cleaning, and re-organize it.  I categorize clothes by color, style, and season, pack some away in garment bags, donate some, then re-arrange the rest, so that I feel like I’ve minimized and decluttered. It feels great.  I’d highly recommend it!

4. Flowers

We have a local flower stand called La Belle Bloom on the corner in our Little Italy neighborhood of San Diego.  I pick up seasonal flowers for a few dollars or so from her each week.  Having fresh flowers always brightens up any room in our home and always makes everything just a little more whimsical.  (They also make for very pretty pictures!)

5. A Compliment

Compliments to or from someone can go a really long way.  When I receive them, it makes me feel amazing and want to pass that feeling on to other people.  You never know what kind of day someone might be having and a compliment might just make their day.  I’ve emailed, written, tweeted, even left a post-it, to offer someone a compliment.  I usually find that if I focus on someone else and pass on a piece of happiness, it comes back to me in some way.

Limelife Photography_Conni-12

Conni is a California native, self-proclaimed closet style junkie, cuisine exploring, travelista.  As a wardrobe & small event stylist, she started her styling business and blog, Art in the Find.  The name of her blog & business was created out of a love of sharing what she finds with others.  Art in the Find is a place where you can find style inspiration, the occasional DIY idea, features on small businesses & recommendations for fun places to eat, stay, and shop!  You can follow her on her blog, Art in the Find, and find her on InstagramTwitterFacebook, and Google +.

Horrible/Wonderful Seasons of Transition

Moments like these have been my favorite in my life, moments that are unattached, undetermined, like a sailboat out to sea without a destination, just out there to enjoy the ride.

Those free-flowing, transitional moments have been the most defining of my life, and here I find myself, smack dab in the middle of the largest one I ever could have imagined.

Often, we don’t notice big moments until they’re over. We have our heads down and our snorkels on, too focused on the thing right in front of us to notice the massive change of direction we just took.

But this moment isn’t like that, I’m not oblivious to this transition, I’m fully conscious to it — for better or for worse.

The first two weeks after losing our jobs, I was a basket case. I could cry at any moment, and the thought of applying for a new job unglued me completely.

The unexpectedness of it all felt cruel and life felt wild and unsteady beneath my feet.

For a solid two weeks, I wasn’t ready to move on with my life. I still needed to talk about what had just happened, to rehash the trauma of the thing, and to sit firmly where I was, refusing for the moment, to move forward.

Like the heartache that follows a breakup, I wasn’t ready to fall in love again. I was still hurt over what I’d lost, I wasn’t ready for what was next.

But even through the waves of tears that crashed over me again and again, I was wide-awake to God’s presence in the midst of it all.

My roommate and I had planned a dinner party for the night after we were let go, but in light of the recent events, a dinner party seemed insensitive — like bright light when all you want to do is pull the covers over your face.

We reasoned that even if we did a potluck, that nobody was going to want to pay for food. We were all in lockdown mode, tightening our wallets, and mentally fixing up our resumes, unable to concentrate on anything else.

Thinking we were doing everyone a favor, we offered to cancel. Our hands felt empty, we had nothing to offer the people in our lives. But our wise friends refused.

“You must have this party. We need a reason to come together. We need a reason to celebrate.”

And so we did.

The Lipstick Gospel

My roommate and I zipped to the store and came out arms laden with the ingredients for the richest baked ziti we knew how to make. If this wasn’t a time for comfort food, we didn’t know what was.

We mixed and shredded, layered and baked. And as we lit the final candles, we heard the first knock at the door.

One by one, our friends trooped through our door, looking heavy but relieved not to be alone. Almost ceremoniously, they set their offerings on our table: a loaf of bread, a bowl of salad, a bottle of wine—until our table was overflowing with food that would last us for weeks.

We scrunched in closer than necessary around the table — relieved to have some company to help us carry our heavy hearts. Our faces glowing in the candlelight, we talked and laughed and refilled our plates. We told happy stories and sad stories, the wisdom from around the table bringing us to tears.

The Lipstick Gospel

God’s presence and provision were palpable that night. Our apartment became a sanctuary from the cold, unpredictable world.

We’ve had many nights like that once since that fateful Thursday. We’ve had slumber parties, and small group meetings that included wine and lasted for hours. We’ve had more dinner parties, and cookouts by the lake, we’ve had movie nights where we all piled on the floor, whoops of laughter rising up from the crowd all at the same times.

The Lipstick Gospel

We’ve grown closer during this terrible time in our lives, learning each other’s stories, and dreaming about the future in closer, more tangible community than any of us have seen in awhile.

The Lipstick Gospel

None of us wanted to lose our jobs. None of us wanted our time at Adventures in Missions to end, especially not so suddenly. But even that first day — surrounded by people we deeply know and love — it was impossible not to see God in and around our conversations and laughter.

The Lipstick Gospel

The dichotomies of this season are obvious and strange.

This is one of the most disconnected times of my life — no job, no place to be, no strings holding me down — but it’s also one of the most connected times of my life — connected to friends, spending lots and lots of time together, and preparing to get married to my favorite human in the world.

But that’s how God works, I’m discovering all over again. He’s a God that makes beautiful things out of broken things, and who does more than we could have ever asked or imagined through situations that we never saw coming.

God’s hands are working away, ticking steadily like knitting needles hard at work, and all we have to do is open our eyes to see him. 

The Lipstick Gospel

Thank you SO much for your emails, and your prayers, and your links to job listings. I have felt so surrounded, so loved, and so cared for by our Lipstick Gospel community. My heart is so full. Thank you again!! 

The Loveliest Things: Sydney Smartt

The Loveliest Things - Sydney Smartt

1. Skylines

I’m a city girl at heart, there is no denying that. I was raised in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia  and I currently live in Nashville, Tennessee. So maybe I’m more of a southern city girl? Nonetheless, I’ll go to great lengths to get a good view of a skyline.

2. Acoustic guitar

There is just something about an acoustic guitar that captures my heart. I like concerts but I love sitting around listening to friends play. Learning to play the guitar is definitely on my bucket list. Something about the beautiful strum of the guitar strings makes everything better.

3. Windows down, Music up

Not many things bring me as much joy as riding around with my windows down and country song blaring. If I’m having a bad day, sometimes all it takes is for me to hop in my car, put on a good song, and just drive around singing my heart out. One of the reasons I hate winder is because I can’t roll my windows down, it’s really quite sad.

4. Mountains

I think I could stare at the mountains and never get sick of it. I live in Tennessee so there are plenty of mountains around me. Well, I actually live in Nashville so many of the “mountains” I see are considered hills by natives but they are totally mountains in my city girl eyes. They captivate me and draw me in. They reveal to me the mystery of God’s creation.

5. State Welcome Signs

I take a picture every time I pass one. I’ve lived in 4 states in the past year so you could say I have a problem staying in one place. Each time I pass into a new state, the sign represents all the chances I have to make new memories or to reminisce on the old ones. Whenever I go home and pass the Georgia state sign I’m filled with so much happiness because I am reminded of how much I love where I grew up. I am reminded of all the memories I’ve been allowed to make in these different places when I pass those beautiful state signs.

 

Sydney Smartt - The Lipstick Gospel Sydney Smartt is a twenty year old college student in Nashville, Tennessee. She is a dreamer with a strong since of wanderlust. She dreams of traveling the world and teaching abroad. She finds joy in the small things and constantly strives to follow the Lord. Sydney loves to write and share her story and experiences with others. God has given her a story and one of her dreams is to share it and see it impact and encourage others around her. See more from Sydney on her blog

What to do when you lose your job (tell me, if you know.)

The last thing you expect to have in your hand on a Thursday morning is a severance check. The last thing you expect when you’re called into an ordinary, 10am meeting is to hear that you no longer are employed at the place that’s been your home for so long.

But that’s the position I found myself in last Thursday.

20 of my friends, my fiancé, and I were laid off from our jobs last week.

They had run out of money. Someone had to be cut. Those someones were us.

Our boss kindly but sadly told us that we could go home. We didn’t need to finish out the day or any of our projects.

And so with the tether that had held us in place for a year and a half suddenly cut, my friends and I drifted to the back deck of the office, not sure what to do or say or where to go.

One by one our friends joined us, until Carl came out — the last of us to hear that we were no longer employed at Adventures in Missions.

Carl and I hugged each other for a long time in a worn in spot that had held many conversations, and many similar hugs. “We’re going to be okay,” he whispered in my ear, shocking me back to the reality that we’re getting married in just over three months.

We packed up our desks, still gripping our small white envelopes, and walked out of the office we could navigate in the dark into a future that was totally unknown.

At first we were all in shock. We told the story again and again, even though we’d all been there to witness it the first time. We stuck together like glue, not wanting to be alone long enough to rattle around in our empty homes, and our newly unstructured lives.

photo

My wonderful apprentices helped me clean out my desk. It was such a surreal moment, we didn’t know what to do except smile and take a photo.

The best way I can describe it is going through a breakup. There have been days since this happened where I can physically feel my heart aching inside my chest.

We lost something that was really important to us, a place, jobs, a community, a family, and it just hurts.

I’ve wanted to tell you this story since it happened almost two weeks ago, but I haven’t found the words. It’s kind of like how I haven’t been able to pray, preferring to just sit with God in silence, knowing that he’s close.

And even now, even though some of the sting has subsided, and some of the fear has gone quiet, it still takes all of the energy I can muster to tell you all that’s happened. Grief and change just take it out of you. Don’t they?

I’m acutely aware that this season is going to be a big one in my life. I’m totally cognizant of the fact that God is at work, and that I’m going to look back and send God a big thank you note for what he did in this time.

But right now, it still hurts and it’s still scary. 

I promise I’ll tell you the beautiful stories that have already come out of that Thursday. I promise I’ll share the lessons I learn through this season. And I promise to keep you up to date on the miraculous things that God’s undoubtedly up to right now.

But for now, I just want to ask you to pray with me.

Pray for me, and Carl, and all of our friends who’s lives have been turned upside down. Pray that we grieve well and heal fully, and that we allow God to prepare us for the next big thing in his plan for our lives.

And pray anything else you can think of. Like I said, I’m not the best pray-er these days. I could use some help.

Also—if you know of any job opportunities, I’d love it if you’d send them my way.

Carl is applying for creative director and design positions, and I’m applying for online content management and social media positions. We are not attached to any particular location at this point, so we’d love to hear if you know of anything.

Thank you for caring about me and Carl and our friends. And thank you in advance for your prayers.

I love being part of this community that embraces hard seasons and messy people. I’m honored to get to share this hard, messy story with you.

The Loveliest Things: Ellie Moran

The Loveliest Things - Ellie Moran

1. Wrap Around Porches

Ask everyone I know, wrap around porches just get me. I am a Colorado Native, but the South fascinates me. The way you can sit out in the morning dew and watch the neighbors head off to work, in the middle of the day when kids are out of school playing on the sidewalk, at dusk when cicadas are just loud enough to create melody, and in the dark where conversations take a turn towards the heart, to the raw depths that we so wish we could share every minute of every day. The Lord loves when we delight in His creation and what better way then to sit on a long stretch of painted wood, in a rocking chair, just admiring how the hours in everyday hold so much of His sweetness.

2. Gardens

I love flowers. And I love them in abundance. Something about sitting in the vibrancy of colors, potentially a warm breeze with a good book really captivates me. The amount of the different types of flowers amazes me. I could probably list about a dozen types of flowers and that wouldn’t even scratch the surface of varieties of flowers existing today. I love how just like snowflakes, no flower is the same. As a child, my mom would always make me garden with her (probably reason for me having a bad back and knees currently). I would always despise going out into the garden with the weathered gloves and the torn up knee cushions. We would spend hours planting and pulling weeds and creating a space that was immaculate. Much like my walk with the Lord, that garden was beautiful beyond compare, but needed tending to constantly because weeds would never stop sprouting and I was never the biggest fan of that.

3. Sweet Tea in Mason Jars

I love the South and I am in love with Colorado but Colorado doesn’t have one thing that the South is extremely good at, and that is brewing the best sweet tea. As specific as this lovely thing is, this could be my favorite moment in life. Mason jars remind me of places where I feel at home, where I know I am supposed to be. In Georgia somewhere, just eating comfort food, sipping on a sweet tea. I have learned that I have a wildly uncontrollable taste for the sweet things. I have a large sweet tooth and sweet tea completely satisfies that. I have tasted something that millions of people are so thirsty to taste; the sweetness of the Lord. His honey drizzles over everything on this Earth and a glass of sweet tea in my favorite container just reminds me of how blessed this life is, and how I have savored that sweetness.

4. Folk Bands

Folk bands remind me of summer nights, under twinkle lights, listening to the best music with the best of friends, experiencing God in every note. I love banjos, mandolins, pianos, guitars and even washboards, anything that has an almost Hipster country vibe if you will. Judah and The Lion, Beta Radio, Mountain Man and one you may recognize, Mumford and Sons, are artists that just get it. They know that loudness is not the key to entertainment, but well thought out lyrics and chords whisper the Lords name.

5. Dancing

I cannot stress dancing enough. This is my favorite thing to do, anytime of day, in any mood, anywhere. I wholeheartedly believe that dancing can mend the soul. Much like chicken noodle soup for a common cold, the physical act of moving your body to music in the presence of family, friends or complete strangers lets out pent up frustration, anger, extra energy or just purely joy. I took an African Dance class last semester and was amazed at how comfortable you can be looking like a fool wrapped in African cloth. With dancing, no one cares how silly it is, and that’s the point. Come as you are. Do not try to hide in a corner like in the middle school Sock Hop, or fancy up your moves because you see others doing it. Look weird and gangly. Sweat and sing along. The Lord loves when we dance, he laughs and smiles when we don’t care what others think.

 

EllieEllie is from Denver, CO and a sophomore at the University of Colorado Boulder (the most amazing place on Earth). She is a Creative Writing Major going into the School of Education to be a high school English teacher. She leads high schoolers in a youth ministry program called Club through First Presbyterian Church of Boulder. She dreams of being on SNL one day. She loves adventuring, jumping off cliffs, dancing, sipping chai and watching movies. She is 19-years-old (super young for her grade), wishing she could just get out of this teenage stage…because she cannot be grouped with 13 year olds anymore. To read more from Ellie, check out her blog!

Spots are Now Open for the Atlanta Writers Weekend!

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I told you a few weeks ago about the possibility of a Lipstick Gospel writers retreat in Atlanta. Well your response was overwhelmingly gracious and positive. And so here we are, just a few weeks later, and it’s actually becoming a reality!

I’ve spent the last several weeks planning, and I’m convinced it’s going to be an incredible weekend.

I always call The Lipstick Gospel my living room. I love the idea of a physical space where people can come to rest, think, dream, and just be themselves.

That’s my hope for this weekend retreat, and it’s the reason we named it Living Room.

I wanted to create an intentional space so that you could come and create the same, a place from which you can tell the stories that will change the world.

The gospels are stories, written by ordinary people, about the most extraordinary man to ever walk the earth.

And it’s my fundamental belief that that’s the way the Gospel is meant to be shared. It’s not certified people or boring people or uptight religious people that are meant to be sharing this story. It’s us. Everyday people. Messy people. People who live extraordinary lives purely because He is extraordinary and loves extraordinarily.

Throughout my life, I’ve come to believe fiercely in the power of story.

My life has been transformed as I’ve heard testimonies of what God is capable of, and what other people have endured and conquered.

Life can be isolating but stories are the threads that connect us.

They give us hope and remind us that we’re not alone. They whisper, “You can make it,” and reassure us that it’s going to be ok — even and especially when we can’t see it for ourselves.

Our world is saturated with messages. It seems like every day there’s a new way to spout your opinion, or a new place to try to gain followers.

But this isn’t about that.

We aren’t just bloggers, or tweeters, or people with ideas.

We’re courageous women — stepping out on a limb to share our story, knowing that there’s no kinder thing we can do for the women around us than to walk the road with them.

That’s what this writers retreat, Living Room, is all about.

Surrounded by women who believe and want the same things, we’re going to figure out what story we have to tell, and learn the best way to tell it.

We’re going to walk out as women determined to bring freedom, and truth, and love using the most powerful tool we never knew we had — our stories.

All of the information is right here on the new Living Room website. 

Sign up soon, spots are limited!

I can’t wait to meet you!!

Quitting the Christianity Club

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A quick note: Life is chaotic these days — a full update will be coming soon. But in the meantime, I wanted to share this post with you. I wrote it for Prodigal Magazine almost a year ago, but it’s been my heartbeat all over again recently. I hope it encourages you! 

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I’m really good at being a Christian.

I’ve worked for a Missions organization for the last year and a half, I spent the previous year traveling around the world with a backpack for Jesus, I give away money, don’t have sex, and only curse occasionally – when it’s either funny or I’m really, really surprised.

From the outside, others would say I do it right. I fit in. I belong to the club.

But for the past six months, I’ve felt like an impostor.

I thought I would come back having been polished through my journey into a beautifully, admirably godly woman. I thought I would come back changed, and I did, but I was afraid the change wasn’t permanent enough to withstand the pressures of my old life. Back in the US, I clung to the disciplines I’d learned on the field – white knuckling my faith more with fear than with actual devotion.

Every morning I’d wake up and spend time with the Lord. I’d read a little bit of my bible, and then maybe worship like I was throwing holy sprinkles on top just for good measure. I’d pray and say Christian things, and secretly drown in shame every time I did something wrong.

I wasn’t in a relationship anymore. I was serving a task–master; and I felt as though we were both always disappointed in me.

The harder I tried, the more distant I felt and the more frustrated I became. Why wasn’t this working? I had perfected the art of Christianity – I made it look good. I was a guest of honor, an A+ student, so why weren’t my tricks working anymore?

It got worse as life got more serious and as the stakes got higher and higher.

I met a guy. I really liked him. We started talking about the future. I started to panic. Thinking about the future felt like teetering on the edge of a cliff and I was pretty sure God had given away my parachute to someone more deserving.

It was a Friday morning when everything broke. I laid on my bed in a bathrobe feeling like my whole future was pressing in on me. I was filled with a totally shapeless panic – I couldn’t explain what I was afraid of, but it was getting hard to breathe.

I began to sob – deep, aching sobs.

The kind of sobs that can only come from a girl who had spent the last six months performing for a distant god. “Are you really there?” I choked out, tears streaming down my face. “If you are, I need you to show up right now! I can’t DO this! I can’t do this without you! It’s too big, too scary. I need you… please be there.”

And in that moment I didn’t need discipline. I didn’t need to be a good Christian or receive an invitation and a VIP pass.  Those things weren’t strong enough to hold me.

But what did help me in that moment was Jesus.

Lying there, sopping wet on my bed, I knew for the first time in a long time that I was a sick person.

Jesus told the Pharisees that he came not for the healthy but for the sick, and I knew that I was the kind of person he was talking about.

I was dirty in that moment – impossibly messy. I was tangled and frantic and the last person you want sitting next to you at a dinner party. I needed help in the worst possible way and was far too exhausted to notice that my shiny facade was now smeared with runny mascara.

The only thing holding me up in that moment was Jesus – and I understood him for the first time, all over again.

He he sat down in the thick of the mess with me and took my hand. He didn’t try to clean me up or make me presentable – he didn’t even try to fix me. He just sat there with me. It was that moment on my bed when something cracked.

The ceiling was smashed open and light began streaming in.

In the presence of the light, the fears and the doubts and the anxiety slipped right out the door having been caught red-handed in their lies. Truth began to fill me, and so did peace – peace that was completely outside of my ability to understand.  And finally… oh, finally… joy returned, too.

On that day, I gave up my membership to the Christianity club. I’m not interested in proving myself and I don’t care whether or not I look the part. I’m not shined up – not all the time. And when I am, I had absolutely nothing to do with it.

But I like it so much better out here on the outskirts, hanging out with Jesus – messy and honest.

From the outside, it may not be obvious that anything ever changed.

It’s possible that no one even saw that I had been struggling. My outsides have perceptively remained the same; I still go to the same churches, and have the same friends. I still even hang out with God each morning (although it’s so much better now).

But something remarkable has changed – I’m sitting beside Jesus now – not performing for him.

I don’t want to be the perfect Christian because I realized that for me, there’s no lonelier place in the world. I’d rather be a messy Christian, full of honesty and desperately in need of some grace.

I want to be the kind of person that believes she’s loved by Jesus – not because of me, not because of anything I do, — but because that’s who he is, and he just does.

Have you found yourself empty and inauthentic? How have you dealt with feelings of lost faith and anger?