Dear Nathalie, You Inspire Me

I have a bright, determined best friend named Nathalie. I have known her since we were 1Ls in law school. We both signed up to be on University of Miami’s roommate list. As fate would have it, we found each other.  Loyalty runs through her blood, so we have been best friends ever since.  It’s been a lifelong friendship of good and bad, up and down; all erupting with hilarious laughter; because after all, life really is that funny.

I mentioned that she’s bright, and also witty.  I mean that.  No matter what the table conversation begins or ends with, she lays down questions about world politics, sex and marriage, life’s hits and misses.  In the midst of conversation, she reminds her closest friends how good it is to have each other, after all this time.

When you have been friends this long, you can blame each other for stuff from time to time.  Nathalie still blames me for her divorce. She says that, since I didn’t show up to her wedding, I cursed the whole thing.  Lucky for both of us, she has two beautiful children that proves her marriage was necessary. How could we live without her sweet babies C and R?

Using one of her phrases, all this to say, she has an awesome annual reading habit.  For as long as I’ve known her, she reads 12 darn books per year. She picks them out and gets them read, one per month.  That would explain her ability to lead interesting conversation anywhere with anyone. Something I will strive for, probably, for the rest of my life.

In honor of her, and because of my admiration for her, I am inching towards 12 books per year.  In 2015, I covered approximately 9 books.  I didn’t finish two and I can’t count bible study guides.  I revisted some of the books I read and chose a quote to share with you.  Whether you are well read or not, or even whether you aspire to be, enjoy these literary patches that made up my reading quilt for 2015.

That’s how we get to know each other – we tell each other our struggles and victories. We talk about our past and how those pasts have shaped us and changed us into who we are today. We talk about the experiences in our lives that affect us, and we talk about the ways other people throughout our lives have changed as too. We speak.  Speak, by Nish Weiseth

If you are worried that your art is a waste of time, perhaps you need to redefine success in art. Are you becoming more fully yourself? Is there someone else who believes in you or has been inspired because you were living life more fully alive? Are you learning what it means to depend on God in ways you’ve never had to depend on him before?  A Million Little Ways, by Emily P. Freeman

Could it be possible we have it wrong? Maybe success isn’t in believing I can do anything but in knowing I can do nothing. My limits – those things I wish were different about myself – are perhaps not holding me back but are pointing me forward to pay attention to my small, eight-foot assignment.  Simply Tuesday, by Emily P. Freeman

I am of the opinion that the thoughtful arrangement of your daily and weekly calendars is one of the holiest endeavors you can undertake. Drafting a new, proactive, holistic schedule is tantamount to writing a whole new script for the next season of your life. Your calendar plays a critical role in determining who you will become as a person, as a Christ follower, as a family member, and as a friend.  Simplify, by Bill Hybels

I once heard somebody say that God had closed the door on an opportunity he’d hoped for. But I’ve always wondered if when we want to do something that we know is right and good, God places that desire deep in our hearts because He wants it for us and it honors Him.  Maybe there are times when we think a door has been closed and, instead of misinterpreting the circumstances, God wants us to kick it down. Or perhaps just sit outside of it long enough until somebody tells us we can come in.  Love Does, by Bob Goff

Listen to what God keeps bringing to your attention, what he interrupts your thoughts and your days with. In those things you will recognize his leading.  Undaunted, by Christine Caine

Realizing our inability to earn righteousness isn’t meant to be a rat wheel to run on. The depravity of man is only the realization of the hollow, the need. Depravity should only imply that we can be filled with God. I wish I had known.  Wild in the Hollow, by Amber C Haines

You gotta cue the eagle. I discovered that, in moments when I was stumbling, if I called on the Lord and strengthened myself in the name that’s above every name – the name of Jesus- I could arise from a heap on the floor with renewed power. The Holy Spirit would energize me and give me what it took to keep peddling through the pain.  Through the Eyes of Lion, by Levi Lusko

By Sasha Katz



Over Before it Began?

By JMathis

I learned over the weekend that another set of my friends is getting divorced. My third set of friends this year, and we’re only into July.

Well, this year is turning into quite a doozy, isn’t it?

The very weird and perplexing part about this particular relationship is that Brian feels completely blindsided by Dara’s actions. In Brian’s mind, Dara suddenly, without any warning whatsoever, made the big announcement that from this day forward, we’re over.

I talked to Dara about it, and in a way, Brian is not that far from the truth. Dara doesn’t want to try counseling and she doesn’t want to work it out. She just claims that the relationship is beyond repair and not worth fixing.

She’s just so final and resolute about it all, and honestly, I’m not really sure what to make of Dara’s stoic inflexibility about her decision.

She keeps giving me these very Hollywood answers: the relationship has run its course; we’re both moving in two different directions; we just grew apart, J.

From what I understand, we’re not dealing with issues of abuse, infidelity, neglect or constant fighting.

We’re just dealing with over.

Brian, on the other hand, feels like he was never even given a chance to make things right, and that Dara should have opened up much earlier, as to what she had been feeling over the years.

She never revealed to him that their relationship was in trouble. She never gave him a clue as to what was being bottled up inside of her for so long.

From what I can observe from my conversations with Dara, she evidently had all sorts of expectations for Brian—some sort of mental checklist of everything he should have been—and when these expectations didn’t come to fruition, she just decided to just walk away.

I know Brian and Dara are probably an extreme example, but sometimes, I do think God feels blindsided by us in the same way that Brian feels.

We have all of these expectations for God (give me, give me, give me), and yet, like Bindu said, we don’t even bother to really trust Him, get to know Him, or love Him with ALL of our strength.

We don’t spend time with Him everyday, we don’t seek Him out for His presence, and we don’t pick His brain about the little decisions or the big ones.

We expect Him to drive our mind-body-spirit connection, but yet we refuse to give Him the keys.

Instead, we just want, want, want. When we don’t receive, we don’t understand. When we don’t understand, we get frustrated. With frustration, comes blame, and a lifetime of resentful feelings that somehow God just didn’t come through for us.

And then, one day, we declare that it’s over with God. No heads-up, no warning, no explanation. Not even a Dear God letter.

We just walk away. Like Dara.

No one in a relationship needs to be treated with such a lack of respect. Especially God.

Before walking away, or before you start pointing the finger at God asking Him about all of the Why’s and the Why Nots of your life, ask yourself if you ever even made the effort to make your relationship with God truly work.

Did you ever really give it a fair shot? Did you ever really talk to Him beyond a few minutes each day? Did you ever spend time to read the book He wrote just for you? Did you ever love, cherish and trust Him with every fiber of your being? Even when your world is falling apart?

Or, do you just childishly declare that it’s over?

Over before it even had a chance to begin?

Divorce and the Happily Ever After

By JMathis

There was a time in my 20’s, where I spent almost every weekend going to a wedding. We would get decked out and dance the night away, being sleekly dressed accessories in the myth that every bride and groom’s “happily ever after” had finally arrived, as Bindu would say. The bride and groom were Mr. and Mrs. Prince Charming, and we guests were complicit in re-telling the story of this fairy tale for generations to come.

Now, in my 30’s, I am becoming a co-conspirator in the unraveling of fairy tales. I spend hours on the phone consoling my friends, and then analyzing the “he saids, she saids” with my husband (as he inevitably hears the guy’s side, while I am now only privy to the girl’s narrative. “Ladies and gentlemen, the lines in battle have been drawn! Boys on one side, girls on the other”). After all, this isn’t some college breakup, but a full-scale war where the casualties are often children.

The children. Innocence lost in one fell swoop. They, too, were complicit in the fairy tale. Seeing and hearing the nightly fights, but never believing that the ‘D’ word would actually sever their household.

Last night,  I heard the news again about another couple. I feel almost too sick to write this post in a week where we have kept it lighthearted on our blog.

But, yet, here we are once again, and the “once upon a times” are taking on the dark quality found in the sinister fairy tales of the the Brothers Grimm…decapitated heads, wolves in sheep’s clothing, children falling to their demise. 

I need strength, Lord. I can’t hear story after story without wondering if this is the fate of all parents, even Christian ones.

What words do I say to a couple facing this, Lord? What words do I say to myself and to other parents who are watching this horror movie where our friends are playing the lead roles?

I turn to Romans 8. I tear up to find a chockful of verses that give me hope. Hope for them, hope for their children, hope for me, hope for all of my married friends.

 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose.

 31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written:

   “For your sake we face death all day long;
   we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[j]

 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Thank You, Lord, for hope. Thank You, Lord, that we do know how the story ends, and that is with You, triumphant, saving us from darkness, despair and the harmful effects of the ‘D’ word. Thank You, Lord, for allowing us to surrender our fairy tales at your feet, in exchange for restoring the “happily ever after” in our lives. A true “happily ever after”, where we are showered with Your grace, majesty and the hope of eternal life.

Most of all, thank You, Lord, for Your LOVE, that saves, heals, covers, purifies and makes all things new–even our “once a upon a times”…