{ Refining Gold (DAY 526) }

photo(84)Hello friends! Today I would just like to offer you a bit of encouragement in your week.  Lately I’ve been walking through some deep valleys but that doesn’t mean it is bad.  In fact it is the opposite.  It’s hard but it’s refining.  The dross of my life is getting removed by the grace of God and that’s exciting!  It’s exciting because he’s making me more like him.  More trusting, more patient, more caring…  Sometimes it feels like my limbs and especially my heart are getting hacked at.  I’ve even cried out like the psalmist “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalms 73:26)  Yet here’s the thing…I want to be pure gold and that takes going through the fire.

Over the weekend as I sat with a beautiful group of women for a bible study and took a walk with a dear friend we discussed how it’s so easy to believe lies.  They can come rapid fire and unless we lean into the truth it’s going to be hard to not get wounded.  I don’t know what lies you’re believing or what things you’re wrestling against but I pray this quote will encourage your heart. “Thank you that I can throw the full weight of my anxieties on You, for I am your personal concern.” (Ruth Myers)

We are God’s personal concern! How amazing is that?  In the midst of your storm and struggle God hasn’t forgotten you.  He’s the same amazing God that stilled the storm with a word and kept Daniel from being eaten by lions.  He’s still the God who healed blind men and made a city’s walls fall down with a great shout.  He sees you, he knows you, he hasn’t forgotten you.

Friends, let’s stop believing the lies today and start preaching the gospel to ourselves.  Let’s remember how he’s been faithful because he’s the same God yesterday, today, and forever.  The victory has already been won!  You don’t have to let the arrows pierce you anymore.  “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)  You’re loved.  If you believe that then I think you’ll be a force to be reckoned with!

Posted on May 19, 2015 by | Comments { 2 }

{ A Last Supper (DAY 525) }

photo(83)Sometimes you don’t realize it’s the last super like this, right now, right here until you’re half way through it. It started like any other time before where one thing rolled into the next, casually, spontaneously, family style. A going away party that felt like the hand made quilt that we lounged on, the ones all spread out on the grass. So many different people and prints in a seemingly random conglomeration and yet beautiful. These are the types of friendships you don’t see coming.  Yet all the sudden your heart hurts really bad and you’re wiping away tears that you only just held in till you got in the car and you’re driving away not know when you’ll see them next because this is goodbye for now.

The park time rolls into a stroll through the trees and the sun’s gold gown is trailing behind her when a quick question about dinner turns into, “come eat at our place.” It’s the, “you’re REALLY good friends to see our house this messy” followed by a reassuring, “you’re moving! Stop apologizing!”

So there we are in a tiny kitchen and we’re weaving in and out. Seven of us are prepping for dinner. The screen door opens and shuts again and again as mismatched plates are spread out on the table in the narrow space between one building and the next. Tall chairs and short chairs and one that has my rear is falling through the plastic slats by the end of the night gather round this table. Cold beverages are poured into teacup shaped mugs, each one a little different and silverware is passed in a china blue and white cup. Pot roast, sliced cucumbers, grapes, strawberries, cooked vegetables, bread, and a bowl piled high with sweet, hot pink watermelon spears crowd the table. I laugh with Jonathan about the fact that we can’t cut the roast only to realize we’re using butter knives. Ansley’s laugh rings out and her green shirt reminds me of a gem, just like she is. Sherry is petite but she’s expressive and lovely and her bangs frame kind eyes. Tyler is perched on the tall chair. Mom is fully enjoying the fact she’s sipping something chilled from a teacup and delighting in the little things. We both know this dinner is going to be written about in her gift book without even saying it. Dad is making me smile with his comments. There are questions, there is silence, there are stories shared and friendships built just like that around the table. We commune on a level that leaves me in wonder. It’s so simple this breaking of bread together and yet it is much more profound than that. It’s saying yes to community and letting people in. It’s like Jesus and his friends. I know Jesus was there last night. I saw him in the faces of those dear ones around the table.

By the time the stories about wild animals have humored the group the faces of people I love so dearly are hazy in the dark. I swat the mosquitoes. How can two of these people I’ve only known a few years be family? How can we let them go? We have to because we love them and want what is best for them.

I hate goodbyes. I thank Jesus he came and broke not just the bread but his heart so that someday I won’t have to say goodbye. He knows how I’m feeling. Until then we may sit at different tables and break bread with other people but we’ll still be gathering and enjoying fellowship with others. We’ll be passing on a little bit of ourselves and hopefully a whole lot of Jesus in the hope that one day when we are gathered around the Lamb’s feast the stories will be all the richer for the last suppers had.

Posted on May 12, 2015 by | Comments { 2 }

{ To mom (DAY 524) }

photo(81)Dearest mommy,

Even though you taught me how to use the English language I’ll never be able to adequately use it to say how much I love you.  Actually you’ve pretty much taught be everything I know!  You’re my best girl friend.  You’re the one I laugh with and the one who hugs my tears away.  You’re the one who gives me wise counsel and the one who challenges me to be adventurous too.  You’re the one who I love to eat breakfast with and the one who takes walks with me daily.  You’re the one that prays for me and my oh my is that amazing.  You’re the one that will fight for your children and be a strong support.  You advocate for us.  You have laid down your life for us everyday and you’ve served us like no other.  I don’t know how one woman can be so completely beautiful, wise, caring, strong, smart, talented, funny, and godly but you are.  You’re my superwoman-amazing-live-life-with-purpose role model and I hope that someday I’m half the woman you are.  I know you think I’m biased but I’m not when it comes to you.  I thank the Lord for you.  Thank you for always pointing me to Jesus by your words and actions.  Mom, I love you so very much.   You’re my favorite girl.

All my love

To all you amazing moms out there! Thank you! We need you and we love you!

Posted on May 10, 2015 by | Comments { 0 }

{ Velella Velella (DAY 523) }

photo(80) photo(79)This past Saturday I ran away to the beach with one of my best friends. The weather was sunny and the wind brisk but that’s the Oregon coast for you. It was lovely. I needed to unplug and get away.

There’s something about getting in the car and just going. Let the miles slip behind you and the past be in the past. The road twists and turns before you and you’re not quite sure what’s around the bend. Sounds like some cliché poem but that’s really how it was.

You know what I discovered at the beach? Velella velella. I just like saying it like some tantalizing perfume or something. Although the smell of the little creatures covering the sand were anything but fragrant… The cobalt blue was stunning and the little clear sail fascinating. These tiny sea creatures are nicknamed “Sailor by the wind.” The wind takes them to and fro and thousands of them congregate upon the waves in the ocean. Yet a south west wind had blown hard and landed them stranded on the beach enabling us to see them.

I’m curious and I like asking questions and discovering new things. I especially love nature and science so I was in my happy place. When a lady on the beach was able to answer my marine wild life questions I was thrilled. I could have stayed at the tide pools looking around for hours if it wouldn’t have been so cold.

Here’s the thing…I hope you keep asking questions. I don’t want to stop the learning process. Last week we were discussing a book my dad read called A More Beautiful Question. My dad mentioned that the book talks about how children start out asking hundreds of questions a day but then that number takes a dive once children enter school age. Isn’t that sad? I think so. I hope you never stop asking questions and that you ask a lot of them and that you ask follow up questions. Please don’t stop learning and having a zest for discovery. You really might discover “new worlds” if you’re willing to look for them and seek out answers.

Posted on May 5, 2015 by | Comments { 0 }

{ FOUR (DAY 522) }

4thblackdressanniversaryEasel pics 9If you make it all the way to the end of this short blog post I commend you! (It’s not what you think it’s about!)

What if I told you I was going to….

go to India?

Would you be willing to help me get there so I could meet my kiddos? I don’t know about you but I’ve received my fair share of “mission trip” letters and I’ve even sent a few myself. What would happen though if we took all the money that went towards short terms mission trips to help build schools and such and actually just donated the money straight to the people in need?

I know this is a big issue and at some point I want to dive in and discuss it but I’m still processing and in the meantime I really don’t want to needlessly step on any toes. Why you ask am I thinking about this? Well today marks the four year anniversary of starting my black dress for 100 days project. It feels like a lifetime ago that I made the decision that would change my life. I’ll be honest…I’ve had days where I’ve wondered if I made the right choice to derail the way my life was headed to raise funds for children in India. YES! It has been 100% worth it. I need to get outside of “my” life and plans more than I do. Will you join me?

Today in honor of the dress project that began four years ago to help orphans will you invest in the lives of children in India?   They need the basics like school supplies. Every child should have the opportunity to have an education. Emma Watson sums up how I feel, “In my moments of doubt, I’ve told myself firmly: if not me, who? If not now, when?”

So, dear friends will you stand with me today for change? Will you be a world changer today by making an impact for one child? Will you donate $20 dollars or whatever you can afford to help orphans who do need our help? Your investment in future leaders, doctors, teachers, moms, dads, and business people is important.

UPDATE! $91,874.82 :) Let’s see how far we can get today!

P.S. Wanna see past years?  Day 1, 1st anniversary, and 2nd anniversary, and third anniversary posts!

( Photos by: Christa Taylor, Kiersta Rhodes Photography, and F. Robert Openshaw )

Posted on May 1, 2015 by | Comments { 4 }

{ It’s that simple (DAY 521) }

IMG_3341So often themes emerge in my life.  Sometimes it’s because I’m looking for them but mostly it’s totally unexpected.  Like the same verse popping up in different places or people in totally different contexts saying the same thing.  This week a theme emerged (again, because it’s the most important one) and it was so simple, something I’ve heard often, but it was spelled out the past few days.

Two things, love God and love people.  I tend to make this way more complicated then I need to half the time so it was really encouraging to just go over the basics.  Do I love God?  Am I delighting in him and him alone?  Is he my source of joy?  Next, do I love people?  Do I serve where needed?  Do I care for others?  Do I make them feel valued?

Those two questions (Do I love God? Do I love people?) are really important for us to filter our decisions through I think.  If we can honestly respond to those then I think then we are headed in the right direction.  I don’t know about you but I’m always looking for direction (specific direction) from God but it doesn’t always work that way.  He has already told us what to do in His word, I just need to do it!  If you’re struggling to know what you should be doing right now then maybe those two questions will help bring some clarity.  And I’m thankful for you, yes YOU!

Posted on April 28, 2015 by | Comments { 0 }

{ Faithfully (DAY 520) }

photo(78)We count things in numbers most frequently.  Approximately 367,920 hours, 15,330 days, 540 months, or 42 years have gone into my parents marriage by tomorrow, April 22nd.

When I look at them though I don’t count the days and hours that have made up their marriage.  I count the ways they’ve loved one another.  I count the almost daily meals eaten together and made with love.  I count the hours they’ve walked and prayed together nearly every morning of their lives.  My oh my they have logged miles. I count the ways they have laid down their lives for one another.  I count the ways they’ve withstood the storms of life and been best friends.  I count the ways that they have served others side by side.  I count the ways they have both supported and encouraged each other and not held one another back.  I count the ways they’ve been faithful.  I may be able to tally the days and hours you’ve been together but I cant count the ways you’ve loved well because they are so many.

Mom and Dad, thank you.  Thank you for walking out what an excellent marriage looks like.  Thank you for really truly living life as a team and showing me a beautiful picture of Christ and his church.  I love you two so much! Here’s to the next amazing 42 years!

Posted on April 21, 2015 by | Comments { 0 }

{ Bleeding Hearts (DAY 519) }

photo(77)Dear human, these gorgeous flowers are called bleeding hearts. Maybe your heart is bleeding today. Maybe that job still hasn’t come through or the loss of a loved one stings as fresh as the day you said goodbye to them years ago. Maybe you’re missing something or someone from your life. Maybe you’re in constant pain. Maybe you’re just plain tired. Maybe you’re smiling on the outside but carrying secrets of what others have done to you buried inside. I don’t know what your struggle is today but I pray you can take heart that you’re not forgotten. “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalms 34:18

Bleeding hearts are alive hearts and they are beautiful and precious.

“Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”  Psalms 33:18-22

Posted on April 14, 2015 by | Comments { 4 }

{ Front Porch (DAY 518) }

IMG_4124It’s a flight of steps up to her front door.  I’m not sure how many it is precisely but there are two sections of stairs.  Right now wild purple and white baby flowers are creeping out of the cracks.  Last week I went over to visit one of my dearest friends.  When I texted her about dropping by her reply went something like this “Totally fine! But I warn you, the house is in shambles.”  Right then and there I loved her even more.  It’s not the first time she’s let me come over when she thinks her house is a mess.  This woman has been grace to me for many, many years now.  She’s one of my longtime friends and when I went to her house the other day she let me in, like she always does, with a smile and warmth.  She lets me in.  Time and time again regardless of her house or how she’s feeling or what’s going on.  That, my beautiful readers, is amazing.  When she lets me into her home just as it is that speaks volumes of love to me.

In a day and age where social media allows us to have whatever “storefront” we choose, vulnerability and real connectedness are rare.  Yet this friend consistently lets me in.  We laugh hard, we talk about gritty stuff we are dealing with and processing, we pray for each other, and so many other things.  You know what?  Every time I think that I could say something that will make her think I’m insane she just keeps right on loving me.  She doesn’t judge me but she helps me.  She sees right where I’m at and she sits with me in that place and then shines a ray of light into it.  More than most people she probably knows just about everything about me and she keeps on loving me.  We sit on her front porch and the minutes turn into hours faster than we can imagine.  Last week we laughed that it’s not even really a front porch where we sit but I feel like it’s the most wonderful place.

A while ago I was going through an especially hard time and several people in my life at that time were more discouraging than uplifting.  Then she listened and helped love me back to life in the way I needed.  It’s not easy to love people in the way that they need.  It takes work, it takes truly listening, it takes caring, and it takes time.  We can’t be close friends with everyone so choose your friends wisely.  Today I just want to say thank you to my (few) but amazing friends who are real, vulnerable, and trustworthy.  I love you.  And I thank God for you.  To my front-porch-sister-friend you are incredible and it is a joy to be in your life, thank you for always letting me in.

My hope for all of you is that you find your “front porch” person/people. :)  <3

P.S. My friend is so awesome that she totally took this photo for me while her baby napped because I had forgotten to do so…

Posted on April 7, 2015 by | Comments { 6 }

{ Light seeds (DAY 517) }

IMG_0769Lately I’ve been mulling over the thought of sowing light, like seeds, in the darkness. Years ago I went to a conference and a speaker repeated this mantra over and over: “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.” Sometimes I get distracted with other things but for me I want my song to be loud and clear, “Jesus you are the main thing! You are the One who is light ‘For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.’ I want people to know that Jesus is supremely beautiful and that being loved by him is better than anything else life offers.

Giving my life to know, love, and serve him has been THE best thing. I know first hand how life can bring deep sorrow and pain but that doesn’t have to be the end of the story in your life and I know it’s not for mine because Light came down and gave an earth quaking “NO!” to darkness and it must retreat. The pain won’t win. There is hope and I 100% believe it comes from Jesus. If you’re hurting, confused, or questioning and you’re gasping for air please feel free to email me at misselaini [@] gmail.com (remove brackets and spaces when you copy and paste). ❤

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Matthew 5:14-16

Posted on March 31, 2015 by | Comments { 4 }