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Sep 29, 2013

Girl Talk // Tag, You're It!


One of my favorite things is giving someone a gift that I've put effort and time into.  I love Christmas morning for that reason.  I love even more when I can surprise someone with an unexpected gift.

When my dad was diagnosed with cancer back in May, we radically changed our diets.  My parents became avid juicers and smoothie drinkers, going for a very all-natural, vegan, mostly raw diet.  My mom would make smoothies for my dad in her little blender that she got as a wedding gift nearly twenty-eight years ago.  She mentioned wanting to save up some money and invest in a Vitamix blender, but kept saying things like "my little blender is fine!"

Knowing that she was trying to be a good steward of finances in a time of uncertainty, I decided to ask a few friends and family if they'd be willing to pitch in to surprise my parents with that Vitamix.  A few text messages later, I had more money than I even needed, and we were able to bless my mom and dad with something they now use on a daily basis.  Seeing the looks on their faces when I pulled that box out of the trunk was one of the best moments of my summer.

We're starting a new series at GT called "Others First in a Me-First World".  It's all about serving and all about putting others first.  As I've been interning with the Creative Planning team, I've been steeped in thoughts about service to others, how to encourage our church body to serve, and how I, personally, can serve others better.

Jesus provided us with the greatest example of service.  In John 13, he gets down on his knees, towel wrapped around his waste, basin in hand, and washes the feet of his dirty, travel-worn disciples.

My friend Courtney wrote this in her new book:
Do you know what I hear Jesus saying to the disciples in this scene's last words?  "Tag. You're it."  They sit down to dinner, Jesus performs an outlandish act of love, and then he says, "Tag. It's your turn now." Jesus knew that He was not going to be around much longer with skin on, so He made sure that they understood His vision and then said, "...you also should..."  Serving is the legacy that Jesus chooses to leave with His disciples.
When I was young, I hated playing tag.  I always felt foolish chasing aimlessly after others, trying with all my might to catch them just enough to tag them and pass the baton of being "it" onto someone else.

And in today's "me-first" world, it can often feel as if trying to appreciate and serve others is just like that game of tag.  We need to hurry up and get it over with and then we can sit back and relax; the pressure is off, we've paid our dues.

But what if we flipped that thinking upside down?  What if we found complete joy in serving others?  What if we were constantly looking for ways to serve another, to anticipate a need, to appreciate someone who needs to know they're loved?

Serving isn't always a fruitful task.  It can be dirty, thankless, and even downright unpleasant.  Those we serve may never even know us to be the servant.  There is a woman at our church who cleans our nursery on a weekly basis.  For years, she's come in during the week and wiped down everything, sanitizing toys and changing tables, cribs and rocking chairs, prepping it for the next round of babies who will be cuddled and cared for while their parents attend service.  No one ever sees her do this, there's never a fanfare of applause for this great act of love, but she's done it faithfully for years.

Sometimes, serving silently brings more joy than if we were to do it in front of thousands.  Living a life of service means a shift in worldview.  It means taking putting down the mirror and picking up binoculars; it means looking away from your own needs and focusing in on the needs of others.

My challenge to you is this:
Look for the people in your life who serve you.  Appreciate them.  And then live as if they've said "tag, you're it!", for Jesus already said it two thousand years ago, and if we ignore that commission, then we're missing the heart of the gospel.

Tag, you're it.

Sep 25, 2013

Fall Fashion


Can I just say how much I love that fall is here?  It's my favorite season, hands down.  And I'm thoroughly enjoying getting to start dressing for the season!

My mom and I went shopping the other day and I picked up a few things and am completely delighted that it's now cool enough to start layering and not feel like I'm going to melt in pants.

Pictured above are a few favorite outfits for fall so far...and here's what they're made of. (I'm now realizing that all of the pieces shown above came from about three different stores....so now we know I'm a consistent shopper...and pretty cheap too.)

(My watch is also pictured in this post and it's by Betsey Johnson (it's one of my favorite accessories))
(My phone case is from the Refined collection by Case Mate)

Outfit 1:
Pink Chambray Shirt:  Old Navy // Sweater:  Target // Skirt:  Target // Taupe Booties:  Gap // Necklace:  Forever21

Outfit 2:
Striped shirt:  Old Navy // Blue Polka-dot Blazer:  Gap // Jeans:  Legging Jean by Gap // Shoes:  Old Navy // Necklace:  Walk in Love

Outfit 3:
Chambray Shirt w/ little anchors:  Old Navy // Sweater:  Handed down from a friend // Jeans:  Boyfriend Jean by Old Navy // Shoes:  Gap // Necklace:  Target

Sep 24, 2013

Snail Mail

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One of my favorite things in the world is snail mail.  I love shopping for stationary (it's seriously one of my favorite aisles in Target), writing letters (one of the perks of being in a long-distance relationship and having college friends all over the country), and of course, getting letters!  (I mean, who doesn't??)

I also truly believe that receiving a hand-written letter really does say a lot.  I know that it makes me feel really special when I get a letter written just for me, and I love pinning notes from friends to my board above my desk and rereading them later.  Plus, letter writing takes time and intentionality, and I firmly believe it's a good practice to get into.

So, in the spirit this being the most wonderful season of the year and the fact that letter-writing is just plain old fun, I'd like to invite you to participate in the first ever HTB Snail Mail Swap!

Here's how to participate:
1.  Fill out the form below by October 6th
2.  I'll take everyone's addresses and match them up with someone else
3.  You'll get an email with the address of your swap buddy
4.  Send your buddy a letter (or little package...whatever you want!)

This is supposed to be fun...no pressure!  I'd love to have as many participants as possible, so just join and don't over think it!

Sep 22, 2013

Girl Talk // Be Authentic


My friend Lacy is probably one of the most real, authentic, genuine people I know.  We went to college together and I had a friend crush from her from afar for a few semesters.  She was the bubbly redhead with the amazing voice who I always thought I'd like to get to know better.  It wasn't until we were both accepted into The Elijah Project, a faith and vocation crash course of sorts, that we really got to know one another.  After that, we lived together for our junior year and my senior semester, and even had nearly identical schedules that last semester of school.

The thing that I love about Lacy, though, isn't just her smile or sense of humor, it's the way she welcomes you into conversation and without ever having to say it, invites you to bear your soul if you so choose.  She has that unique ability to make you feel like you're the most important person in her world when she's talking to you.

I had the pleasure of visiting Lacy in her little apartment that she shares with her husband Austin, in the bottom floor of an underclassman dorm where she mentors 80-some underclassmen on our alma mater's campus.  And in the brief hour or so that we spent together, it was like no time at all had passed.

Lacy's example of authenticity, of being intentional and taking the time to really listen to others, of finding genuine ways to show the love to Christ to not only her nearest and dearest, but everyone she comes across, and of being able to truly and deeply engage in both conversations and relationships is one that I've always held in high regard.  

I'm sure she'd blush at this post (and Lace, if you're reading, know that every word is so true!!), but I desire to be a little more like Lacy.  A little more thoughtful, a little more intentional, and a whole lot more authentic. 

This morning, a friend at church commented on how I was walking through our crowded atrium wearing a serene smile.  I laughed it off, saying it was my "it's Sunday morning and I'm on staff at a church and must look constantly friendly" smile.  And immediately, I hated what I had said.  The last thing I want to be is someone who wears a smile and even jokes about it being an obligation!

We live in a society that makes authenticity really hard.  Everything is so instant, so right now, that it can take some serious effort to stop and really see people.  I'm not necessarily talking about just the realm of social media, though I've blogged about that in the past, but of a deeper connection with others.  I honestly am not sure when I last had a conversation with someone and didn't look at my phone at least once!  

I desire to dig deep and create authentic and real relationships with people.  And if we have that desire as humans, how much more do you think God desires that with us?  God created us to be in relationship with Him, but so often our quiet times, our prayers, our worship, even, is rushed.  We're constantly distracted by other things and other thoughts, and if it takes effort to focus when we're in conversation with real, physical people sitting in front of us, how much more effort does it take to focus on a very present, if slightly less observable, God?

Authenticity is hard.  There's just no two ways about it.  Really investing in other people can be exhausting and emotional at times.  But those relationships that you truly dig deep into, those friends, are the best ones to have.  

So, because I like lists, and like to be practical, here are a few things I think are baby steps on the road to authenticity....

1.  Learn to be grateful.  And joyful.  If you've ever met someone who is truly an authentic person, you've probably also realized that they also wear gratitude like it's their favorite accessory.
2.  Slow down.  Take time to have a conversation, even if it means being a few minutes late.  Write a letter and send it through the mail because people feel special when they get a hand-written letter.
3.  Clear the distractions.  In your quiet time, throw on some worship music and find a spot free of distraction. If you're having coffee with a friend, be intentional about turning off your phone or leaving it in your car.  Get rid of the things that tempt you to disengage.

Do you have more to add to this list?  Let's chat!

Sep 19, 2013

Boston and Back

I know it's been a little quieter than normal around here lately...September has been quite the whirlwind so far!

I've been to Boston and back twice this month (the first time on the first & second to move AJ into his new place and the second to visit him for a week!, chaperoned a weekend-long youth retreat, and turned 24.  Oh, and worked a lot.  I'm currently interning in the Service Planning department of our church and I'm loooovvvvinnng it.

Anyway...I took my camera to Boston this past week, fully intending to take loads of glorious photos of our jaunts around town.  And of course, I carried it around.  I carried it on our 7 mile walk across the Charles to Harvard Square.  I carried it on the 9 mile walk down around Beacon Hill and to Faneuil Hall.  I carried it and carried it and only took it out once.  So here are the 5 photos that weren't taken with my iPhone on my trip to Boston.  At least they're pretty good.


What have you been up to so far in September?

HTB on Facebook!


Confession:  this feels really weird.  I've avoided creating a page for HTB on Facebook for awhile now, mostly because it always feels awkward and show-y to promote myself (I cringed when I published my photography Facebook page), but I finally did it.  

The reality is that I follow a lot of other blogs that I like to read on Facebook, and it helps me stay in touch, and read, those blogs a lot more than I would if I didn't like those pages.  Seeing links to new posts while I'm browsing my news feed during a bit of down time on my phone often leads me to reading those posts.  So I'm taking the plunge.

And I invite you to plunge with me!  If you like Heavens to Betsy (which, obviously you do since you're taking the time to read this...heh), then head on over to my brand new Facebook page and like away! I sure would appreciate the love.

Oooh...and don't forget....throughout September, you can get 30% off of all ad spaces with the code "SeptemberLove"!  (That means you can advertise for as cheap as $0.70.  What else can you buy for seventy cents?!)

Sep 15, 2013

Girl Talk // The Most Powerful Weapon


Last Wednesday, I hopped on a plane and flew up to Boston to visit AJ for the week.  It was 9/11, and after watching documentaries about that fateful day during the earlier part of the week with my parents, I'll admit I was a bit nervous to fly.  I've flown the Philly-Boston corridor more times than I can count and really, I've never been afraid to step on a plane.  But something about last Wednesday, the weight of the significance of that date, the realization that no one else who stepped on their respective planes that day twelve years ago knew their fate, it just made me a little nervous.

I took my seat on board and got out my iPad and headphones and book in preparation, and then I took a moment to do what I always do when I get on a plane...I prayed.  Except, this time, my prayer was different.  It was more powerful and more passionate.

I've been learning a lot about prayer over the past few months.  When my dad first received his diagnosis back in May, we immediately gathered family and friends at our church for a time of prayer over him.  Then, we started making weekly appointments with our church's Healing Ministry, and every Wednesday night, we gathered with a team who encouraged us with scripture when we felt despair and celebrated our joys when we received news.

Growing up in the church, I always thought I knew how to pray.  I carefully listened to my pastors and youth leaders pray over the years, and picked up phrases and formulas for what I thought "good" prayers sounded like.  Eventually, my prayers became my own and became more authentic.  But it wasn't until this summer that I realized that God wants us to claim things in prayer.

Claiming my dad's healing and banishing the enemies of death and disease takes courage and faith beyond measure.  It requires prayers that you can stand behind 100%, believing completely that what you're praying will become reality.  God requires bold prayers of us, and it's a pretty awesome thing to pray boldly, and to have the freedom to come before your savior humbly praising His name while boldly asking for Him to move in big ways.  And what's even greater is when you can look at your life and praise Him for answering those prayers.

My challenge for you this week is this:  pray, and pray boldly.  No matter what you're dealing with, what you desire, find Scripture verses that you can pray over, for there's nothing more powerful than praying and claiming God's promises in Scripture.  Learning to pray with a boldness takes time, practice, and courage...find some people who can pray with you and can teach you what praying boldly means.  And gather with other believers, because there's no greater thing than sharing your sorrow and joys with others who can encourage you along this walk.

Sep 9, 2013

24

My weekend was filled with:
a bunch of fun 7th grade girls
praising Jesus
praying over students for emotional, physical, and spiritual healing
awesome messages from an even awesomer boss
fun at the beach
a lot of exhaustion
and birthday cake oreos to celebrate turning 24 on Saturday

This past weekend, the youth ministry that I work for at our church took 265 students and leaders to the beach for our annual back-to-school retreat.  To be honest, spending my birthday amidst the business of a jam-packed weekend, surrounded by middle and high-school students, and feeling tired and drained wasn't exactly how I'd love to do it, but God always surprises me.  The small group of girls that I get the privilege of leading on a weekly basis is just awesome and I loved getting to spend the entire weekend giggling and praying and talking with them.  Plus, I got to end my birthday by anointing those girls and worshipping alongside them.  How cool, right?

So, this is me at 24:  a little bit lost in this big world we live in; a whole lot grateful for my family, friends, and church; excited to pursue some passions in my life; in love with a wonderful guy; and so ready for God to use me for whatever He chooses.  My best friend and I just talked today about how different we imagined our lives to look right now (like our moms, married with kids by their mid-twenties), but I have a feeling that we're both right where we're supposed to be.  And I'm so excited to see what 24 holds!  First up:  a trip to visit AJ in Boston this week!

Sep 3, 2013

Why I'm Not Afraid of Long Distance


On Sunday, we moved AJ into his new apartment in Boston.
And on Monday, we got in the car, tears in our eyes, and drove away.

I'm not going to lie to you...I'm not thrilled about the fact that my boyfriend now lives six hours away.  But I'm not afraid of this new season.  And not because we're some wonderful, strong couple who could handle any amount of distance (please note sarcasm here), but because I'm choosing to look at this new adventure as just that...an adventure.

Of course there are cons to this whole little situation.  Skype is great and all, but I sort of like to hug AJ a lot.  But then there are the little weekend trips up to Beantown, the fact that he's getting a kick-butt education that will prepare him for his dream job, and the opportunity for both of us to grow.

I encouraged AJ to pursue Berklee from the beginning, and so I've always known somewhere in my mind that having him move was a real possibility.  But when he made the decision to go, it didn't feel quite real.  For a while, I was sad and upset about it, until it finally clicked that just as in any season of life, there are pros and cons.  And I was going to look for the pros in this one.


So I'm not afraid of long distance.  I know there will be times when it will be difficult.  I know there will be days when we miss each other more than words can describe.  I know there might be times when we even argue or feel frustration because of the circumstances.

But I'm excited.  I'm excited to find ways to be perfect for one another from a distance.  I'm excited for us each to grow and change in our own ways, and then to be able to come back together and have new and exciting things to share.  I'm excited to cherish the time we do have together more fully and to appreciate one another more.

I'm looking at this season as a time of preparation and a time of growth.  And I'm ready.

Sep 1, 2013

Girl Talk // Slow Down, You Crazy Child

Where's the fire, what's the hurry about?  
You better cool it off before you burn it out.
You got so much to do and 
only so many hours in a day.
-Vienna, Billy Joel

Vienna might be one of my favorite songs of all time.  My parents were huge Billy Joel fans, so I grew up hearing his "greatest hits" in the car a lot.  I know all the words to Piano Man by heart.  

I'll always remember the first time I heard Vienna though.  A quartet of girls who were a few years ahead of me in high school sang it at a concert, and I remember thinking that it was pretty, catchy, and one of those songs I wanted to hear over and over again.  I downloaded it that night.  It's got that jazzy piano rock sound to it that's soothing and relaxed and just easy to listen to.

But more than that, the lyrics are just good.  They resound within the space in life where so many teens and twenty-somethings reside; the place where I find myself over and over again.  Rushing and yearning and striving beyond belief to accomplish something, to be something.

I recently read an article about my generation, "Gen Y" as they call it.  According to researchers and journalists, we're a set who is used to questioning authority and who are wistful and transient.  We want a balance between work and family and are happy to change careers faster than we can change socks. Mostly because we're a generation emerging from college with degrees we often can't find jobs to use.

We all have our dreams and our desires.  Our lives are like a road map, with a big "X" for what we'd like to be our destination and a carefully planned route marked out taking us there.  But oftentimes we run into unexpected road blocks and speed bumps.  

We fail a test.  We don't get into the school we wanted.  We don't get the job.  A relationship falls apart.

I spent the past two years working towards a Masters in Education.  And in May, I walked across the stage and out into the summer, eager to find that teaching job I had been preparing for.  Applications were completed, follow-up emails were sent, cold visits were made.  And summer went, without even an interview to show for it.  Road block.  Speed bump.

Slow down, you're doing fine.
You can't be everything you want to be 
before your time.

Speed bumps hurt.  Especially when you hit them going 60mph.  That thud that shakes you from your course and makes you hit the brakes is never really welcome, but it shows up anyway, and maybe even causes you to detour a little.  

Those lyrics haunt me.  The entire song envelopes the concept that slowing down is okay.  In a world that preaches the opposite, it can be hard to imagine how not being able to use something you spent years working on is okay.  

There is a verse written on the board that hangs over my mom's desk.  It's Psalm 138:8, and it reads "The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; do not forsake the works of Your hands."

Even when it seems like everything is wrong; even when it feels like we're terribly off course, God is still at work.  He is still perfecting that which concerns us.  What a privilege and honor to worship a creator who is that intimately vested in our lives that He cares to perfect that which concerns us!  Who am I that the small details of my life are concerns of a maker who crafted the heavens in merely days?

And so with that knowledge, I leave you with a challenge...slow down.  As the world begins to rush around you with the start of the school year and the oncoming fall, take a breath and put on the brakes.  When will you realize, Vienna waits for you? 
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