Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Image borrowed from Grassland church website (thanks Google!)
I used to think that the word grace was a word only to be added to the descriptions of the elegant; ballerinas, dancers, royalty, pageant contestants. Those people who hold their necks up swan like, with nothing about their person being out of place. 

It was a word that was the opposite of my tomboy, scraped up knees, unruly hair self. The self that took bacon and tied it to a string to catch crawfish in the creek. The self that rarely brushed her long, slightly wavy hair. Who rode bikes until dark and ran into every corner that presented itself leaving her constantly covered in bruises that I wasn't ever sure where they came from usually. My family would jokingly call me Grace, because I lacked it in almost every area (except oddly, gymnastics, I was great at that because I had amazing balance, go figure).

As I've studied more of Scripture, and read books, as well as blogs by Christian authors, I have learned so much more about the meaning of the word that for me now, it holds an entirely different meaning.

Grace is a beautiful word that holds so much meaning to our Heavenly Father. Grace bears multiple meanings throughout the Word, while not always directly stated. It can mean Thanks, Forgiveness, Mercy, Love, Hope, Salvation. For me, it is a word filled with hope, love, forgiveness, and guidance. 

This word no longer holds the teasing, self-confidence busting, meaning it did for me as a child. God constantly shows Grace for us, and has throughout the Bible in so many ways. By giving Abraham a child in his old age, by saving his first son, Ishmael, and taking care of him despite Abraham's disobedience. 

The word Eucharisteo, which is like the word of the day in One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, has the root word "charis" which means "grace. 

 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.-2 Corinthians 12:8-9

Monday, November 24, 2014

Make a Difference: Christmas Shopping

I believe the way we spend has a huge impact on our world. Such as, when buying products exclusively made in the USA, we are giving back to our community by ensuring jobs stay in our country. With so many jobs moving out of the country and high unemployment rates, I think it's important. Just like with our food.

So for Christmas shopping, I believe it's important to shop with meaning. This year, I've compiled a list of companies with products I'm interested in and that also give back to communities in need. I tried to give a fairly wide variety of items in my post.

Noonday Collection was started as a way to raise money for adoption fees and is based here in Austin. It's primarily jewelry and it's reasonably priced! The items in the picture below range from $12-$30 and are made by artisans involved with the Fair Trade Federation.

TOMS is the original "one for one" company. I recently read his book, Start Something That Matters, and was impressed. He was honest (or so it seemed) and passionate. Purchase shoes, they give shoes. Purchase eyewear, they help restore sight to someone in need. Also, right now if you pay with PayPal, you get free two day shipping.

Beyond Beanie is one I haven't shopped at yet but I am planning to for the holidays. Each purchase, a beanie, bag, and other accessories gives back to the community a certain amount. 1 beanie gives 5 meals, 1 bag gives a set of school supplies.

Sevenly is one of my favorites! I own a couple of shirts from this organization. Each week they focus on a different charity or organization and donate $7 from each purchase.

Warby Parker also operates on the buy one, we give one, business model but with eyewear.

MudLOVE is mostly jewelry. I actually own one of the bracelets and love it! The band is my favorite part; it stays exactly where you put it which is amazing for an adjustable band. Each purchase donates a week of clean water to someone in need in the Central African Republic.

Wear Figs is a newer one I have found. Each set of scrubs sold, they give one to someone who can't afford them; Threads for Threads. Prices are $25-$32 for women, and $25-40 for men. They also have scrub caps and v-neck tees.

FEED Project has been one that has gotten some attention lately! The bags seem kind of expensive, at $100 for a tote, but once you read the fine print, you see that one purchase will feed a student for a year! That's amazing. Most of them only feed a person for a week, or a month, but this helps even longer. There are also bracelets that are $18 that gives 5 meals. The bags all contain inside pockets and they note in the description that the larger pocket will fit an iPad.
$80, provides 1 year worth of meals to a student. Image from the FeedProjects website.
$125, gives 100 school meals. Image from FeedProjects website.

Faucet Face are thick, glass water bottles with interesting designs. You can even custom design them with your own, uploaded image which might be neat for Christmas gifts for a family! Free shipping with 4 or more.
Through its 1 for 100 program, Faucet Face donates 5% of ALL sales of hose water, tap is terrific and hummingbird feeder glass water bottles, PLUS, a complete filter for each sale of 5 or more individual bottles to the clean drinking water charity Third Millennium Awakening (TMA).
Infographic from faucetface.com
Soap Box Soaps sells soap, body wash, and liquid soaps. A lot of us give soap related gifts at Christmas (like Bath and Body Works) so maybe something like this would be good gifts as well.

Link up with She Lives Free

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Since it is a well known fact around here that I am a book junkie, it probably stand to reason that I am also a quote junkie. So I thought I'd post some of them here. They may not all be Christian oriented, but they get the message across. I believe quotes can be very motivating and helpful.

"People couldn't become truly holy unless they had the opportunity to be definitively wicked."
Good Omens-Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Etsy link

Monday, November 17, 2014

My First Make a Difference Monday post

It's funny that I came across this blog post from She Lives Free today. My son attends an I.B. school in our district that focuses on a lot more than a traditional public school. They encourage community service, a whole, international, civic minded individual with guiding principles. It's an interesting concept and I've watched my son develop into this very world view minded kid as a result. We have been lucky that he has been in an I.B. school since kindergarten.

Back to the irony of coming across this post today. My son's den teacher (like a homeroom teacher) sent out an email stating that the school encourages at least 10 hours of community service for the students. Not mandatory, but strongly encouraged. I believe in high school this is required for graduation. These kids work hard! I decided to broach the subject with my son and see what he thought about volunteering. He was immediately on board and this weekend we will be doing some research into some organizations that we can volunteer at together. Children model our behaviors, it's how they learn everything, from walking, talking, to their prejudices, likes, and dislikes. So I think it's important to do this with him. I give in other ways, generally monetarily, but volunteered frequently as a teenager through my church.

Living in Austin, there are lots of opportunities to make a difference in our community. Up for discussion:

Habitat for Humanity. He's under 16, so he's not allowed on an active construction site yet (he will be super bummed to hear this one) but they have Youth opportunities, such as painting or helping with landscaping that he can do.

Keep Austin Beautiful has ongoing and one-time opportunities quite often.

Austin Food Bank has a few different opportunities, though I'm not sure they'd allow a younger child to volunteer.

I will be emailing most of these to see what the age limit is for volunteering. My son also mentioned volunteering with the elderly.

Link up with She Lives Free

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Impactful books

Though I have identified as a Christian for most of my life, only recently have I begun to really own it and explore more in depth. This compilation will be just a few of the books I feel have really affected my own faith and journey, and a small snippet of how.

What Women Fear: Walking in Faith that Transforms & Chasing God both by Angie Smith. Honestly, when it dawned on me how much I missed and needed a church and spiritual life, Angie Smith's blog happened to cross my path and it helped me immensely. I started reading her blog when it was only a few pages (and had a different name), reading about her great love for Beth Moore before she met her. This was long before she started writing her books but I've grown more due to her than any writer of faith so far. Questions/thoughts derived from her blog and books: If she can remain steadfast in her faith after the loss of her daughter, reconcile with her past, still have moments of being confused by God, but still remain so in love with it all, I can too...eventually. Quote
"When we spend more of our time searching for assurance than we do acting out of belief, we are chasing God."

Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Just Isn't Good Enough This book must have been hard for them to write! The husband, Justin, had an affair with one of her best friends. This book has chapters from both of their perspectives, starting from how they met to the finding out of the affair, how they decided to make it work, and what they are now doing to make their marriage work. In her shoes, could I have forgiven him? Eventually. Would I have stayed with him? Honestly, I hope I never have to be tested on this but it would be one of the hardest decisions I'd ever have to make in my life.
Quote "Ordinary marriages go to great lengths to avoid marriage valleys, yet it is often in the valleys that God meets us and sets us up for extraordinary."
"There is an irony in Christians' struggle with forgiveness. As believers in Jesus, we have been saved by grace. We have been offered forgiveness. When we least deserved it, God forgave us. Yet many of us fail to forgive our friends, parents, siblings, coworkers, and yes, even our spouses."

Freefall to Fly: A Breathtaking Journey Toward a Life of Meaning -I wrote a blog post on this a few weeks, but I still really enjoyed this book (eventually...). Anxiety happens! Quote
"If we invest in earthly treasures, Jesus seemed to be saying, our hearts will shrivel with them. When we derive meaning from fleeting objects, our spirits decay and become a meal for moths. But if we invest in eternal treasures, our hearts will be satisfied. My recent struggles confirmed the truth in His Words."

Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War -the author is from Liberia. She grew up somewhat privileged, but once the wars starting in on her turf, her life was torn apart. She overcame so much and has spread her faith and love for her country around the world. Her faith is what got her through the hardships and continue to shape her.
"Women are the sponges, I thought. We take it all in-the trauma of separated families, the death of loved ones. We listen to what our husbands and children tell us, we look at the destruction of our communities and belief systems, and soak p that pain , too. We hold it all because we need to be strong, and complaining-or even sharing-is a sign of weakness. But holding in that kind of misery was as crippling as holding on to rage."

Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith -Faith is hard. It can be really hard and the author, Michelle, DeRusha, does a great job at showing just how hard it can be when you aren't sure what you believe. Quote
"You can't expect to have a healthy relationship with your spouse if you talk to her once a week, he noted. Likewise, praying once a week in church wouldn't amount to much of a relationship with God either."

Have a Little Faith: A True Story -I enjoyed the contrast between the two religions, the bluntness of some of their, the pastor and rabbi's, words. Quote
"But what if someone from another faith won't recognize yours? Or wants you dead for it." "That is not faith. That is Hate." He sighed. "And if you ask me, God sits up there and cries when that happens."
You're Already Amazing: Embracing Who You Are, Becoming All God Created You to Be by Holley Gerth has definitely made me think...a LOT! I'm only half way through this book and one other by her but because they make me reflect, I prefer to take them slowly. Honestly? This isn't all of them. I have moved in the last year and a half, and I'm sure there are others I'm leaving out. In some books, there are only a few quotes I loved that really stood out versus the whole book having meaning for me. Those will be in a separate post because I am a quote junkie and think they deserve their own space!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Childhood wisdom and faith

My son amazes me. He always has of course, he's my child. While sometimes he still has the silly innocence of a child, at other times, he exudes wisdom far beyond his years.

He will say things to me like "I love you more than anyone ever, except God and Jesus."

This child and I have had trouble finding a "home" church. Being a single parent makes it hard to find a church where you feel accepted and where people aren't openly judging you. (Yes, this has happened). I don't want him face that harsh criticism about something so important at such an impressionable age. However, we are closer to finding a church home we think!

When my son was speaking to the person I have been dating for a couple of years, he told him frankly that "there is only one God." My boyfriend was slightly taken aback at home adamant and firm he was in this statement. I was proud! I want him to stand firm in his convictions and beliefs.

My boyfriend wasn't raised in a religion household; they believe in God, pray at holiday dinners, and I believe mostly went to church on holidays. My son on the other hand, is always excited to go to church, even when he is drug to small group with me and isn't quite sure what to do with himself. It's like he feels the energy of it all.

Some back story on this little guy. He was born 2 months early at barely 4 pounds. It was a scary time as it was flooding in our area and we had to be raced in an ambulance to another city 30 minutes away where an adequate NICU awaited. We were each hospitalized for a week, him staying an extra two nights after I was released. I was across the breezeway in another hospital so I didn't actually get to hold him much the first few days. I came back over (they had to put me in a wheelchair to go everywhere still at this point) and noticed a little prayer bear next to his incubator. There was also a little note from a priest who had stopped by letting me know that they sensed something special in this little, prayed over him, and for me in my absence, and blessed him. It was sweet and overwhelming at the time. I didn't see these over anyone else's child, which struck me as interesting.

This child literally saved people's lives when he was born. His grandfather's health was horrible until he found out about his grandchild and suddenly, he had a reason to live and is doing very well 12 years later! He was also named after the angel Michael and I just see such great things from his very unique personality.

"Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6

"And he said "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me."
Matthew 18:3-6

Blog Name Change and my religious background

I honestly was never a huge fan of the previous name, Journeyfaithhopelove.blogspot.com. One, it didn't flow together well. It wasn't a complete sentence and it wasn't in alphabetical order. (Seriously, this bugged me EVERY TIME I LOOKED AT IT). The definition of journey is typically a word used for physical travel. While pursuit means to seek, reach, search, chase. And this feels more accurate for me at this time. Yes, it is still a journey, but it is something I am pursuing wholeheartedly in understanding and coming closer to God through. Something I think we are all constantly pursuing. The name may change again, but I believe it fits for this stage.

 I've been wanting to write about my religious background for a while, but it's a hard topic for me. I've noticed most people fit into a few categories and I don't seem to fit into the same. For me, my family was pretty divided when it came to religion. My paternal grandmother's side was raised Methodist. My paternal grandfather's side was raised Baptist. My mother was raised Catholic but as an adult, her father renounced Catholicism and became a Baptist missionary spending most of his time in Mexico trying to convert natives. I

 attended a small Baptist church with a classmate for a while, and then our family started attending a non-denominational church with a few hundred members (this would have been in maybe 1993?). That church has now ballooned into a mega church of around 4000-5000 members and I've attended a few services with my father when I go home to visit.

 We then moved to a little town outside of Atlanta; I was in the middle of the Bible belt (this was a foreign concept to me as a Native Texan from the Dallas/Fort Worth area). This was a town where everything closed at 6, and was shut down on Sundays for church. If you didn't attend church every Sunday, you might as well have been a leper from the Old Testament and stayed away from everyone. It was that serious at the time. A lot of the maps I see that show the Bible Belt, do put most of Texas in it. A little unfair, since to us it's cities East of Dallas (East Texas) that still have that Deep South, Southern vibe and I'd consider being the Bible belt. But with the Dallas Theological Seminary, and one of the biggest Baptist Bible schools in the country being around there, I guess that's why. 

Back to Georgia. We started attending a mega Baptist church. It was a very large church, with each grade level having their own class (this was unheard of to me). I was baptized in this church at 13 as well. They did full submersion and I had several interviews/meetings with an older couple from the church first. My siblings had been baptized a few months earlier, but being the stubborn older child, I wanted to be sure. I later attended smaller Baptist churches, and a Catholic church, with friends from school. Catholicism was interesting to me as I had only attended funerals in the Catholic church growing up. There was so much going on!

As a child, I was always fascinated with religion spending hours on my CD-ROM encyclopedias researching them, and reading any book I could find on them in the local library that was conveniently across the street from my middle school. My family did not approve of this and I was scolded quite frequently and called a heathen by my stepmother. I still love learning about other religions as I enjoy the parallels, the history, the culture, and experience. I have friends who are Muslim, friends who are Catholic, Buddhist, Shinto. It's fascinating.

 Once we moved back to Texas, my stepmother and Dad split shortly after. Old habits die hard and she wasn't willing to not act like a teenager. I'm not holding this against her, it's just how she is and still is over a decade later. I attended a Pentecostal church with a boyfriend whose friend's dad was the preacher. I had never been in a Pentecostal church before and this definitely threw me for a loop as it was very different. The people were all very nice and understanding but I never really felt like I fit in. (Also, no one told me there was a dress code and my skirt that came just below my knees was apparently a no no in their book...oops). As a Mother, it seemed hard to find time to go in between caring for him, being a nanny, and being in college. My son's father did not grow up in a church so he was hesitant to start. We split up when my son was 5 though we have remained close friends. As a now single Mom, trying to find an accepting church was even harder! The few times I did try, I was met with hostility and not so nice comments from the individuals there and I really would prefer to not have my son's experiences in church be negative, as well know how much negativity towards something during your childhood affects you as an adult. Now that I live in Austin, I'm ready to try out some new churches. I have been attending (off/on) a church and small group with a co-worker. It was interesting how it came about as a group at work started a Bible Study group that met on Friday mornings. I loved starting off my last day of the week with the Word! It has since been moved to a time during the week when I cannot attend. However, through this group, I discovered a friendship and sister in Christ.