Saturday, July 23, 2011

Favorite Things Friday



Friday is here, People. Time to start counting up those favorite things!!!








Toms fall line is out...and there are waaaay too many cute options to choos from!!! I'm loving them.


Like this printable "Week at a Glance" chart (found here). It satisfies all my list making addictions...making me one happy girl.



This privacy screen made from old doors. LOVE. Perfect for a photo op.



These "Misbehaving Cameo" cards. Charming and whimsical and perfect for writing a note to a girlfriend.



This bow brooch. What is FTF without at least one bow making the list :)?


I have been obssessing over beautiful cakes lately. These are some of my current cake crushes. The chevron striped one can be found here.
Ruffle cake?? Sign me up. I have no idea where I found this one. Sorry.
Same story for this one, but how fun is this bow/stripe combo??





I know. I know. I've been making y'all look at a bunch of chevron stripes lately. But they are just so fun (and especially cheery in yellow). And I HAVE to love a monogram on a pillow. I just can't help myself. This delightful pillow (plus some other totally charming ones) can be foudn here.





The Swell Season. Maurie is mainly responsible for my apprecation of this singing duo. This is one of my fave songs of theirs that I was listening to this past week.


Happy Friday!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Favorite Things Friday...It's Baaaaaack!!!!

I know it's been awhile since the last installment of FTF...and I only have 3 words to offer in explanation of its absence: Vacation Bible School. You see...I was in charge of VBS at church this year, and as VBS Director/Coordinator/Tyrant I made all my family members my slaves...I mean I gave my family members the opportunity to serve the Lord by helping me with VBS. After Vacation Bible School, it was just plain vacation that was preoccupying my time. But I'm finally back in the saddle, and I have approximately 953,871,326 favorite things to share with you (that's what happens when I don't have a weekly outlet for these things). If you haven't done so already, you might start brewing a pot of coffee because this Fridays list of favorite things is a little lengthy :).






First things first: The Old Testament. It is so rich and and relevant and full of application.


I've been camping out in Habakkuk and Lamentations 3 lately. One of the verses I have been meditating on and finding encouragement in comes from Lamentations:


"The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him."


Lamentations 3:25




If you tend to skip over the OT when you're doing your quiet times, you are seriously missing out on some good stuff.






These cookie cutters that imprint messages on your cookies from Williams-Sonoma. Like updated versions of conversation hearts. That Williams-Sonoma is giving Martha Stewart a run for her money.





I've referenced my deep appreciation for bows before, but these sandals are killing me. Nothing says you're ready for summer like a pair of yellow bow sandals.






Summer manicures. I have been drawn to bright pinks all summer long...




but I have seen multiple people wearing mint green on their nails this summer, and I find myself strangely and inexplicably drawn to this shade.





Reunions with old friends. I've gotten to have several of those this summer. Maurie and I had one with my favorite Asian Melanie Wong.



Then we had another one with our sweet friend Dana, her husband, and their adorable son Cyrus (who sat in my lap and laughed almost the whole time). Baby #2 is on the way, and I am pumped.


Then I got to jet set to Dallas to have a reunion with my other sweet friend named Dana who is expecting her first child. Again...I am SO pumped for this little baby to get here so I can love on him (or her).




Some of my college friends who also came to Dallas to see Dana and Baby (L to R: Lesley, Dana, me, and Jenn). It was a seriously legit reunion :).


And speaking of moms and moms-to-be, I loved this article on the Desiring God blog. Even though I'm not a mom, I was challenged by the call to die to self in the little things that no one sees or acknowledges, a challenge that is applicable to anyone in any season of life.





I'm loving chevron stripes these days, and this chevron stripe DIY art is so fun. You can find the tutorial for these here.




For the record, I need to state that I am jealous of Lauren Conrad's hair. This tutorial on a loose updo is simple and can give even an average person such as myself Lauren Conrad's hair.






And because it's summer and it's hot and all any girl with long hair wants to do is pull it up and keep it off her neck...here's one more LC hair tutorial for you, the ballerina bun. Don't judge this bun by it's name.





And while we're on the topic of hair...I am thinking about chopping all mine off, and currently I'm loving Keira Knightley's bob.






And Marion Cotillard's bob.






And then this little Ballerina Bakery party is too cute. The combination of baked goods and pink frilly decorations is one that you can never go wrong with.








Dream Matte Mousse. It is my obligation as your sister in Christ to tell you about this stuff. I have been applying it to my cheeks for the past week, and let me tell you...it has given me a healthy glow when I have looke neither healthy or glowing. Verdict: $5 well spent.






I've been on a bit of a peanut butter kick lately. Peanut butter Snickers...then I moved onto peanut butter rice krispie treats...cookies with peanut butter chips...peanut butter straight from the jar. I don't know what my deal is. I do know that you should definitely try the peanut butter rice krispie treats. Delish.


And while we're on the topic of peanut butter, peanut butter cup s'mores are now on my hitlist of peanut butter treats to make. If anyone has a cure for this unexplainable urge to eat peanut butter, please let me know.






And while we're talking about s'mores, how fun is this idea to make a DIY S'more Kit as a gift. Okay....so if you don't like s'mores, that probably doesn't seem like a fun idea to you. However, if you don't like s'mores, you probably have much deeper issues to be be dealt with.






All girl's vacations. They are my fave. This year Maurie, our roommate Kali, and I went to beach resort in Cali. It was delightful. We slept, we ate, we read, we laid on the beach, we went shopping, we laid by the pool, we saw seals, we got massages, we tried to save a weenie dog from falling off the side of a cliff, we didn't wear makeup, we watched movies and ate dinner in bed. Basically, it was vacation at a geriatric pace...and I loved every minute of it.



Never underestimate the power of a girl's getaway to rejuvenate you.






I have been listening to this song by Gungor on repeat on my itunes and loving it :).

Happy Friday (and if you made it to the end of this post, you deserve a medal of honor :)!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Imago Dei


There is really nothing that kills me quite like an ugly break-up. And perhaps I should clarify this point - I have never gone through an ugly break-up...at least not firsthand. However, I work with students and have witnessed family, friends and the occasional stranger go through them. One of the things that makes these break-ups so painful is the loss of identity that often occurs. You see, many girls (and guys for that matter) tend to look at themselves and assign meaning to themselves through the lens of their relationship. Here's how it works:

He likes me.
He wants to be with me.
I am special to him.
We are a couple.
He has chosen me over everyone else.
He thinks I am beautiful.

And then...

He broke up with me.
What's wrong with me?
Why wasn't I enough?
Has he found someone better?
What did I do wrong?
How do I go on?

A song by Missy Higgins recently played on my Pandora station and it caught my attention. I think it sums up how a lot of people feel at the end of broken relationships. The chorus says: I don't know who I am, who I am without you.

Granted, every relationship doesn't end like this. Some relationships are mature enough that they move slowly and follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit and even if they end, the parties involved remain friends. But the sad reality is that the vast majority of relationships end messily.


I hate to see girls de-value themselves at the end of a relationship. I hate to see guys second-guess and beat themselves up after a break-up. Most of all, I hate to see guys and girls who belong to God believe the lie that their worth is found in any source other than Him. Dumped by a guy? Plagued by criticism? Made fun of? Laughed at? Gossiped aboout? Cheated on? Know this - your worth isn't affected by any of it. Here's some truth that you need to know:

1. You were created in the image of God.
Distinct from all other created things, man & woman were not spoken into existence. Genesis 1:27 says, "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." The word "created" means to fashion, shape, form - hands-on work, if you will. And even more significant is that man and woman were created in God's image (Imago Dei in the Latin). This fact establishes the value of human life independently from all other facts. You bear the image of God.

2. You were created for God.
When Colossians 1:16 says, "For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth...all things have been created by Him and for Him," He's talking about YOU! Go ahead and insert your name in there -
"For by Him ________ was created..._________ was created by Him and for Him." It is important to realize that you exist for God's glory, not for the glory of a boyfriend or a girlfriend. Let's not confuse that.

3. You belong to the LORD...and He doesn't share.
This point is closely related to the one above. God created you for Him. He is at work in your life for His good pleasure (Eph. 2:13). This has impications for how I carry myself, how I treat myself and allow others to treat me. First, I must realize that I do not belong to myself. That can be a rude awakening, but it also means this - I cannot belong to another person. My ownership is already established. I belong to the Lord. And, in case you haven't heard - God doesn't like to share. He is a jealous God, so desirous of your affections and your worship that He refuses to co-exist with other lovers. Romans 14:6-8 says, "For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord."

What does this mean for you? God made you. He looked at you and called your existence "very good" (Gen.1:31). He has a plan for you. He is jealous for you. He loves you. He sent His Son for you. He purchased your redemption. He gave you a future and a hope. He liberated you from the curse of sin and death. He gave you His Spirit to lead, guide, comfort and counsel you. He thinks about you.
And now, does it really matter what he says about you or how she dumped you? Will you be hurt in relationships? Yes. There is no escaping the fallen world we live in. Will your identity be shattered in these relationships? It shouldn't be, but it all depends on who you are looking towards for your validation.

Is my worth determined by a boy?
Does he make me more lovable or more valuable?
Can anything he say or do change who I am and how God sees me?

If your identity is grounded in God's Word, you will not be shaken by relational turbulence. My hope for myself and for the guys and girls that I work with is that we would understand what the psalmist did when he wrote this in Psalm 3:
But You, O LORD, are a shield about me,
My glory and the One who lifts my head.

Above the din of hatred and threats, David was unmoved. He was not staking his life upon what man thought of him - he knew that God was the source of his confidence and peace. If I had to paraphrase what David said, I would go with something along these lines: LORD, You are my honor, my reputation, my dignity, my splendor, my beauty. You're the One who lifts me up, who exalts me - I will not look anywhere else.

And I guess, in that sense, Missy Higgin's song is right. I don't know who I am without You.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dream Big

I love getting mail! And there are few pieces of mail I look forward to more than the letters from my Compassion kids. The letter I got today was four years in the making...

It was 2007 when I first saw his face. He was looking up at me from a plastic coated packet displaying his picture, some info about his life and some facts about the area he lived in. He was part of a Compassion project in Uganda. I was captivated by his face, his shy half-smile shimmering against his dark skin. He was tall...I could tell that from his long legs - after all, there were knobby knees poking out from under the khaki shorts he was wearing. I was supposed to be heading to the bathroom while on break during a Student Life weekend in Houston. There were thousands of people there, all crowding through the exhibition hall, looking for the same destination I was. I didn't have to stop at the Compassion booth...I really shouldn't have stopped, especially if I wanted to reach the bathroom before the others did. But, I did and in retrospect, I had to. His life depended on it.

His name is Deyas and since that day in February of 2007, we have been tied together in the beautiful relationship of sponsor and child through Compassion International. I was an unemployed college grad, afraid of the future and without a sure direction. He was a seven year old little boy living without a father in an area ravaged by AIDS and war. We seemed an unlikely match, but as I looked into his eyes, I knew that we were a match. And so the journey of (and my passion for) child sponsorship began.

My letter today from Deyas reminded me of the sacred trust granted to me. He wrote: "In Uganda it is  season for atheletics (he uses much creativity with his spelling!) and our schools is competing to getter with eight other schools. I am participating in 2 hundred metres and 4 four hundred metres."

And then the line that took my breath away: "I am working hard to become a hero please pray for me to archieves achieve this dream."

Deyas has a dream...and a big one at that - to be a hero. I can't tell you how happy I was to read it. God has placed within the boy with the shy half-grin a hope. Although it may seem impossible, impractical and improbable, Deyas has a mind to reach this goal - "I am working hard."
one of my latest pics of Deyas...he is already putting into practice the sports hero face - no smile, all intimidation.

It made me stop and think, "What are my dreams? What are my impossible goals?" It is a sad reality about adults that the older we get, the less bold we become. Our dreams fade and our priorities shift and the things we once thought within reach seem only pie in the sky fantasies. We tell ourselves to grow up, let go of childish things and move on with it. The strangest part of it is that the more we learn about God and His power, the less we think Him capable of actually using it.

And yet, half a world away, a little boy believes. He wants to be a sports hero. The verse he quoted in his letter was Jeremiah 29:11: "God has good plans...plans to bring prosperity but not disaster." How many of us know that verse, but don't really believe it...at least not enough to live our lives as confirmation of it? How many good plans does God have laid out for us that are still unrealized by us? What are the good works that He has prepared beforehand that we are refusing to walk in? What are the dreams He's placed within us that we are too cynical, too scared, too embarassed to give life to?

while dreaming of glory, he takes time to draw pictures of a boy plowing the fields...soccer ball (or football, as he knows it) nearby.

As I wondered what that dream would be in my own life, I read Deyas' last line, something he's never written to me before, not in four years and countless letters. It is something that I think God wanted me to know, something to fuel the fires of hope and expectation:

"I am proud of you and pray for you daily."

Deyas, my Compassion child, is proud of me. I don't want to let him down - after all, he is going to be a hero. I must pursue my own impossibilities in order to show him that with God, all things are possible. And I must work hard. If Deyas is a hero-in-training, then I must be serious enough about my own goals to sacrifice in order to see them fulfilled.

Big God, big dreams. Deyas knows it...do I? Do you?

There are thousands of children dreaming of someone to pray for them, support them and believe in them...could that person be you? Prayerfully consider sponsoring a child today. Click here to visit Compassion's website.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Holidaze

Because the memories and my tan are fading...
4th of July in Cali
viva la vacation!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Community: A Guest Blog

A Note from Maurie: What you're about to read has been in the works for a very long time, probably about as long as I have known the author of this piece. His name is Daniel Weizel. He hails from Houston. He is an Aggie. He is married to one of my best friends. He is probably one of the best-liked guys I have ever known...and once you meet him, you know why. Let me just give you one "Dan story": this past February, Millie and I were up in North Dallas for a conference. Daniel & Jenny live in North Dallas. We were at the Allen outlet center, shopping our hearts out when Jenny called and wanted to meet up. Dan would be happy to tag along, she said, and I knew it was true because he loves people and he loves, loves, loves his wife and I knew that we were people his wife loved, so it seemed like a win/win for all involved. The Weizel's hadn't been there for 30 minutes when Dan gathered us up and said, "You girls don't get to see each other often. I'm going to let you shop and talk and why don't I go get some Starbucks for us all?"  And that's just Dan - loving people and serving people.

Something that comes up frequently when you spend time with Daniel and Jenny is the topic of community. It is something that few believers really understand and even fewer embrace. The Weizel's do both. There was no person that I trusted more to share about this topic than Daniel. He is passionate about community and I hope that reading his journey to authentic Biblical community will inspire and encourage you to go and seek (or start) your own.

Daniel, no one was good enough for my friend until you came along. Thanks for being you.



Millie & I pose with each of the Weizel's after we (minus Dan) hit up Dry Bar Dallas back in February.
  Remember the Dry Bar? It got Favorite Things Friday props back here.
how cute & cool is this couple?

Community: A Guest Blog
By: Daniel Weizel

What a pleasure it’s been for me to get to know Amara, and subsequently the unique things about her that everyone loves – her great relationships with her family, the strength of her relationship with the Lord, her artistic eye and passion for relationships with friends. First hand, I know the blessing that a ‘Maurieship’ (see what I did there?) can have on one of her friends… because my wife Jenny (and I) have one of those.

I got turned onto OSV relatively recently (within the past year), but I do know a few things about this blog: it is insightful, well-written, well designed, encouraging, creative, and generally pretty incredible. That being said, I am blessed by the opportunity to share my thoughts on community, something that I terribly passionate about, on this great platform.

Good community v. Great communityGood community is self-fulfilling. It’s good, but it’s nothing special. At the least it means that there are people who are close with you and who know you better than most. There is nothing wrong with good community. If you want personal matters to be kept pretty close to the vest; only bringing to light major issues when the timing is convenient (or desperate enough) for you, then good community is right up your alley. If you don’t like people meddling around in your business, knowing your financial situation, what you struggle with (intense pornography or harsh body image issues might be OFF limits, or only addressed in generalities), the specifics of what strains your relationships with your parents, friends or co-workers, then good community is where you belong. If you’re trying to make sure that everyone knows that you ‘can manage’, or that you ‘can handle whatever might come your way’, or that ‘things are fine’, then by all means, STAY IN GOOD COMMUNITY!

Now, if you want people to know exactly how to pray for you, or exactly what they can do to help, you might start thinking about pursuing great community.  If you need to talk to someone because you find it difficult to talk about certain issues with many people in your good community, then you should consider making the switch.  Living in great community has taken my young marriage from good to GREAT.  I can address that in a bit, but I want to make sure I make clear how living in great community while I was single helped prepare me for marriage.  First of all, great community will almost always include people who are older than you.  I found this to be true, because after finishing college and starting a big-boy life, I quickly realized that I was pretty clueless, just like I learned freshmen year. Clueless when it came to 401k's and insurance comparisons, minimum coverages, tax returns and detailed lease agreements.  Even more disheartening was how clueless I was as to what great community looked like.
Then in stepped a friend I had met in grad school in College Station. Ryan invited me (just as he had been invited) to this men’s Bible study and it flipped my brain completely inside of itself, because these men met with purpose.  It certainly lacked some structure (but I do have an update I’ll share later), but it always began with a 3-fold vision statement… something that our leader John, called “Vision-or-Die”, utilizing Proverbs 29:18 [Where there is no vision, the people perish: but but blessed is he who keeps the law] as our battle cry. 
Tenant 1: We meet because of Jesus, because He’s worth our time, because He’s worth our lives, because He was murdered on our behalf.
Tenant 2: We meet for community; because men in Dallas are desperate to meet with other men for encouragement and edification, and they come out of their cubicles and offices with arrows in their back, weary from perverted media, bad relationships, etc., we meet together to build each other up [obvious Prov 27:17 ref there].
Tenant 3: We meet to multiply… out into our places of work, our friends and family, to share the most legitimate and worthwhile news that we have – Christ died once, for all.  This is what will fulfill you, and not any other lifestyle.  We meet to pull other men (and now women) into our community to grow deeper in knowing Jesus.
So the first few times I went over to the apartment we met at, I sat quietly in the corner and prayed. This was the first time I met men who were not only cooler and more established, and incredibly open and relational, but they spoke with authority and edification and insistence on me getting involved, getting discipled, and learning more about Jesus.  Wow.  I literally couldn’t believe how lucky I had been to be pulled into this group of men.  Such began my journey into the understanding of Great Community.  I would love to take nine more paragraphs to explain what this group – we called The Retreat – is turning into now, which is eventually going to be a church plant with a specific vision and community make-up here in Dallas, but alas I cannot.  M117.org is their website.
It was through this great community that I found an older man to disciple me, to show me what sincere conversations and purposeful relationships really looked like.  They gave me the structure to continue to lead Jenny and I’s relationship towards marriage.  Once we were married, I have tried to remove first person singular pronouns and replace them with the plural.  I am no longer responsible for just my community involvement, but now that of my wife (individually) as well as ours as a family.  So per the leadership of our church (watermark.org – the most authentic, biblically based, community-pressed [from top-to-bottom] church we’ve ever been a part of), we connected with a young married community group.  The structure of our 18-months together (with a mentor couple) is to be completely vulnerable and honest with struggles, and sincere in meeting together as a community, to encourage and pray for each other, as we bring our young marriages along toward deeper relationships with our God.  This has been incredible, and its been another example of great community.  I feel so lucky to be here- like I backed into all of this - but I’m confident that it’s been the Lord's hand that has guided me thus far and has led me to this place.
So accordingly, how can I not demand of my friends, and OSV’s readers, to leave behind good community, and figure out a way to get into great community? Think about how Jesus’ boys did it… they just dove in headfirst. Sure it was tough at first, leaving behind (way too) comfortable lifestyles of “I’ll manage” and “I’m doing ok, I’ve got a great job and good friends with perfectly appropriate boundaries”; while moving toward a “well, I’m so confused here Jesus, everyone seems to hate us, and we can’t get a decent meal, and I haven’t had a glass of wine in a while, and I’m still a little confused as to what the Torah says ‘bout all this, and all these analogies? C’mon JC, throw us a bone!” kind of mentality. The predictability and safety of thier lives was blown apart and replaced instead with something more dangerous and meaningful. That is what great community does in our lives as well.

Great community is tough; much tougher than good community, because it requires vulnerability, not just the minimum verbal spew of prayer requests. Great community requires you to open up your heart, and sledgehammer those walls that you won’t let most people over...but the reward is that you get to pour out what you’ve learned into other’s gaping holes! You get a future of lessons learned, and some of these lessons you’ve been able to learn because your community opened up about a pothole you were certain to fall into. You get those gaping holes in your heart poured back into by those who know how you sincerely feel about ‘that issue’. You get to encourage your friends with sincere prayer, and can be done wasting $4 on a frappuccino just to have your friend talk around a real issue instead of just lay it all on the table. Open up, because a life spent only in good community, talking around real pain and real issues, is probably a life that’s going to end up fairly wasted.

So, what's it gonna be - good or great community? Choose wisely.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

California Dreamin'

Well, it's been awhile.
I have been on vacation.
In California.
At a resort.
With my sister and our friend.
It's a hard job, but someone's gotta do it, folks.

But, I am back.
I know you're all relieved.

We have some cool things coming up on oneSINGLEvoice, including a special guest blog that you won't want to miss! So check back soon.

In the meantime, I am going to regale you with some little tidbits from our holiday in the "sun" (just like MK & Ashley; aren't we cool?). First off, I held lots of subconscious stereotypes about Californians like:
-they are all tan
-they are all blonde
-they are all celebrities
-they all drive sportscars
-they are all millionaires

I know, ridiculous, right? And so ironic that I held these because as a Texan, I have been subject to just as many equally ludicrous stereotypes. Like, in Texas...
-we are all cowboys
-we all ride horses
-we all wear "ten gallon hats"
-we all speak with twangs, and greet everyone with a "Howdy, y'all!"
-we don't have a mom and a dad; we have a ma and a pa.

Let's just put this to rest: none of the stereotypes are true. Okay, most of the stereotypes are not true. Anyway, back to the story. The people of California were very nice, very accomodating and very down-to-earth. They play baseball and drive trucks (!) and raise families...just like we do in Texas. However, there are some differences: first off, the view. We enjoyed a breathtaking vista of mountains while lying on a beach and looking out at the Pacific Ocean. It was almost too much for my senses - beauty overload. We ate lunch one day on a pier...with some seals nearby. That's never happened to me in Texas. On our drive to the resort, we passed through Los Padres National Forest and although I had warned Millie that the greatest danger we faced in California was driving off a cliff - isn't that what has happened to lots of plastic surgeons out there recently? - I couldn't resist the urge to stare out the window.

It was magical.

I got 12 hours of sleep a night. I awoke and only had two things on the agenda each day- find some sun and read a book. Some days we were by the resort pool which was situated on top of some cliffs and provided incredible scenery, other days we hit up a beach down the road. I read a couple of books; I got a massage; I spent some time with the Lord. And after hitting the "pause" button for five days, I feel ready to unpause and jump back into full-time ministry, full-time family, full-time life.

Thanks, California. You were good to us.

With love,
Texas.
this was the resort's "private beach" which we later discovered was code for "crazy co-ed beach"...we didn't last long there.

Millie & Kali

lunch on the pier...

Mama Seal & Baby Seal. Cue the "oohs" and "ahhs"

the first round of reading materials