When love isn't popular, continued.

I can't thank you all enough for the thoughts you have shared about my post on Wednesday and for all of you who have shared that post with others so that they, too, might join the conversation. I thank you for sharing your own thoughts and for having the courage to participate and advocate for a discussion rife with differences, difficulty and pain. Today, I wanted to highlight a bit of the conversation that occurred in the comments section and hopefully continue this discussion as well as encourage you to head over to my sister's blog (Empirically Erin) and read her thoughts on poverty and race specifically in the blogging world.

You may not know, but lurking here in the comments section from time to time is my own father. He writes under the moniker "P-Dids". He's witty and loves the power of the shock factor. I've deleted a comment from him in the past, the only comment I've ever deleted, because I knew those of you who don't know him well wouldn't understand the very disguised humor in his message.

This week, however, he posted a very serious and very powerful response to what I had written that, at the surface, seems in direct contrast to what I had written. He challenges the notion of treating people with grace and allowing them to continue to use government aid year after year.

In response to someone else's comment that the original blogger was not referring to the working poor but rather those who are chronically jobless, I posted the following:

Even if we are referring to someone who is perpetually jobless and drinks the entire day away every single day, would that make it okay to judge them without knowing what brought them to that point? Say for instance, that person had been sexually abused day after day throughout their childhood and drinking was the way they coped with the reality and aftermath of that abuse, would we be justified in condemning them? Or would we, upon knowing the truth of the life they had had the misfortune to have lived, be grateful for our own lot in life and be willing to lend an ear to help shoulder some of that pain? 

How we see a person on any particular day, or even across the span of a few years, does not encompass all of who they are or who they will forever be. 

Love always hopes.

I called my dad and told him to read my post because I knew he'd love the use of the word "proverbial". It's a Paul word. I never expected he'd then participate in the discussion. But he did and he wrote:

I applaud all of your idealism and desire to live the words we all say we live by, but that so many of us don't.

To be sure I have seen the hard working poor you're talking about. The Great State of Maine in which I live has many hard working poor. It also has a large number of folks who know nothing of hard work but rather dependence on the State for their existence. There are now generations of people who live this way.

Here's my take on this.

Here in Maine we have always had a manufacturing economy. First it was the woolen mills, then the shoe shops, the paper mills and wood products. The hours were long and very hard and the owners paid wages sufficient to keep the employees alive but not so alive so they could move on up to the East Side. The only exception was the paper mills where the workers organized and they made a decent wage but the need for paper, and cheap imports have killed this industry.

That said, there never was and still isn't, a sense that education is worthwhile. "Working in the mill was good enough for the old man, it's good enough for me."

The woolen mills are gone. The shoe shops are gone. The wood product plants are mostly gone as are the paper mills. Where does that leave us? With folks with little education and no jobs.

But here's the rub. Human nature (for the most part) like electricity, seeks the path of least resistance. Think about your own life. How often do you try taking a short cut when you know full well that you really need to expend the effort to do it right?

Perhaps this sound silly to you but if you have no education, and no propect for work, and the State is giving away money, what would you do? After you get on the dole, what incentive is there to get off?

Here's another thought for you. Well tempered greed can be good. The desire to get ahead, to become more than you are, to aspire, is also human nature.

I want to play with my ham radio toys so I bust my butt working hard to make the money to buy the toys. I provide a good service to my clients who pay me well for my efforts. To do this I have had to become smarter than I was (let that one go Em), and I have had to take risks.

It is also true that I have known economic hardship. These last few years have been hard with little work but because I took a calculated business risk, I ensured our economic future and I'm still standing.

Can everyone do all that's necessary to get ahead? Probably not. We're all different and we're all damaged. What seems easy to me, may be impossible for others. But to give up, to make others support you for your existence is infuriating. 

And what makes folks like me all the more upset are the folks who have come from nothing and made it. They valued an education and had a desire to be more. The best part of all, they let nothing stand in their way.

So here's where I get so confused. We are our brothers' keepers (I'm not known for being PC but I allow for our sisters too). So where do we stop being their keeper and start making them our financially dependent drones?

When does a hand up turn into a hand out? Merely providing financial support does nothing toward improving the quality of their lives. Maybe it's just me, but the feeling of success from doing a job well is invigorating. We all need to feel like we have some worth. Living for the monthly welfare check doesn't help folks have that feeling.

The answer? I don't know. But I think it has to be that parents see to it that their children have the desire to learn. With an education you have multiple paths open to you and whatever path interests you, head in that direction. With no education, where can you go? The parents have to be convinced that their path won't work for their kids. That is tough. So Em, I salute you for being a part of the solution. I know it's tough but you keep plugging. And keep living the Word. Ha, look at that! I turned this religious!

I am so glad my dad decided to write because while it seems contradictory to my own opinion, it actually is the next step.

I spoke of not passing judgment on others and treating them with grace. Of not making assumptions and of not believing yourself to be of such high moral character that you would not make the same choices in the same circumstances.

But I am not advocating for mediocrity.

I teach adult ESL classes in the mornings and work on grants in the afternoons that cover the costs of said ESL classes so that we might continue to offer them to the community for free. Just yesterday, as I was editing a grant my boss had written, I came across this in her words: This program brings evidence-based methodology and strategies to individuals who need and deserve excellent educational services so they can move toward a better life for themselves and their families, and so we can all benefit from the gifts they have to bring to our society.

Compassion, understanding and grace is the first step. Next would be the students recognizing their vast potential, which we all innately have, fostering that potential and offering them a path toward something better: a sense of personal satisfaction, pride and hope.

In the program I work for, we not only work with students to recognize the transformative power of their own education, we push them towards recognizing that same power for their children. We discuss the importance of involvement in their children's education and how to advocate for their children if they need special services and how to help with homework if the parents themselves don't understand it and how to teach their children study skills and the importance of diligence and hard work. We've accompanied parents to parent-teacher conferences and meetings at schools. To doctor's appointments and introduced them to mental health specialists.

If I'm not part of the solution, I'm part of the problem. But it is not difficult to want to be part of that solution because it involves recognizing that everyone was created to be somebody and that society is lesser every single time potential goes unrecognized and unfulfilled. That you and I are lesser without the contributions of others.

Once you've found your own life's work, it's much easier to encourage it in others. Education is my life's work.

Lastly, in my father's own words: My reply above hit the character limit and I had to edit it to get it to go. I am the king of verbosity.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

If you are looking to read more on this topic, I again encourage you to read my sister's blog and her thoughts on this in the context of the blogging community. I would also encourage you to head over to Traffic Jelly and read about how her experiences teaching in a school where education is ofter undervalued. She wrote a beautiful post the other day (before all this controversy began) about how her teaching has been a healing experience for herself as well.

Thank you so, so much for taking the time to read this. I would love for you to leave your thoughts below and to share this with others that they, too, might participate in a constructive discussion on poverty, race and education. 

When love isn't popular.

Yesterday I read a blog post that I have not stopped thinking about. I won't link to it here because the part that I have been thinking about has since been deleted by the author. But it was a political post in which the author affirmed her commitment to a presidential candidate and did so in a joking manner. After that, she then made just a few quick comments along the lines of being tired of driving through the South Side of Chicago and seeing people brown bagging and smoking and that she didn't want to have to pay for them anymore. Lots of people responded, some in favor of what she had written, some (myself included) not quite so in favor. The words that were written and the consequent reaction have been in my mind ever since.

My response to this post was of the tone that I live on the South Side of Chicago in one of the poorest, roughest neighborhoods and have known many people that put my work ethic to shame. People working 60 or more hours a week, with only one day off, on their feet in 120 degree temperatures. And I made the offer that, since we both live in the same city, that if she did not know such people that she was welcome to come visit and I would introduce her to a few. I also cautioned against making broad generalizations on the internet.

Others also voiced their opinions about poverty and injustices. And those voices have since been drowned out in the overwhelming support of the author and the tendency of some people to "leave their negativity out there," to generally just go crazy anytime politics is mentioned and to not be able to take a joke.

In blogland, there's this idea that one must always be positive. That everything must be light and funny. When people began responding to this particular blogpost and respectfully disagreed, the blogland community came out in droves, condemning the negativity of those who disagreed.

I have since responded to my original comment with the following:
"The part of the post I was commenting to has been deleted (which I appreciate!). For me, it's not really about the politics. I don't really care much about democrat/republican/whatever. For me, it's about treating people with grace and recognizing that if we have found ourselves among the financially stable, we are lucky. It just as easily could be any one of us out there hoping for government aid, if the circumstances were slightly different. That's all I was trying to say. To treat people with grace because you just don't know what led them to that point in their life and you can never be sure that given the same upbringing and circumstances that you would have done differently."

I believe the ideas I spoke of are the very opposite of negativity. I advocated for grace, understanding, gratitude. That before we make judgments, we take a moment and really get to know people and try to understand.

There is this notion in the U.S. that people who are poor are poor because of their own choices or lack of ambition. Those of us who have money often think that if we ever found ourselves in a similar situation, that we would pull ourselves up by the proverbial bootstraps. We don't consider the traumas that may have occurred, the abuses committed by the very system we attack the poor for abusing,  or the power of someone routinely saying by words or by inequalities in education or by lack of access to proper education, "No. You will never be anything."

We love to think that given the same circumstances, somehow our character would shine where others haven't.

That prejudice, that condemnation. That thinking of "that would never be me. I would do x, y and z if that were me." That is negativity. Negativity does not reside in advocating for the poor, for grace nor for understanding.

This, for me, was never about politics. It's not about who you vote for and who I vote for. It's about treating people with dignity and with grace. It's about understanding that, statistically speaking, given the very same set of circumstances in life, the strong majority of us would make those very same decisions that we judge and condemn.

And it's about being thankful. Grateful that I've never been in a position where I've had to make those choices. Grateful for my exceptional education and for the opportunities afforded me by my life circumstances. And incredibly indebted to my parents for instilling in me that I am no better than anyone else.

When I considered writing this post, I wondered what the inevitable fallout would be for going against the grain and whether it was worth writing. The conclusion I came to is this: My blog is and will always be about love. And sometimes love isn't popular.

Love "rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (Corinthians 13:6,7).

Happy Wednesday, friends.

Around Town: Hala Kahiki, y'all.

I've come to realize in recent years that I love most any place that makes me feel like I am in a completely different time or place the moment I walk in. This is why I love retro/vintage places and why I love my parties overly decorated. I am fascinated with transformations, with that feeling of out of the ordinary.

So this past weekend, some friends and I visited a little bar called Hala Kahiki. I warned my friends, this place had the potential to be absolutely amazing or absolutely awful. I was certain there could be no middle ground. And I was completely right.

Within ten minutes, my friend Emily had declared that Hala Kahiki would be the place for her 31st birthday party, come December.

When I researched this place, I found that someone had aptly described it as looking like the place where the Brady Bunch went on vacation in Hawaii. I also saw it listed as number 7 on the Top Ten Tiki Bars in America List so there's that too.

And let me tell you friends, this place did not disappoint. Aside from the slightly musty smell upon entrance (but really could it be a 1960s Tiki Bar without that??), Hala Kahiki is the place for fruity drinks. Among the five of us and our numerous drinks, there was not a bad drink to be had.

Overwhelmed by the pages upon pages of drinks, I decided to start with the waitress-recommended Zombie. Thought tasty, I was looking for something a bit more fruity and sweet.

After the Zombie, I stumbled upon the martini list and made the discovery of a lifetime: Key Lime Martinis. Honestly, a gift from the tiki gods. That's crumbled graham cracker you see up there. That drink in and of itself will bring me back. I can feel it in my bones.

As for the actual place, Hala Kahiki does not lack in the decor department. It's covered from floor to ceiling in tiki goodness. Cheesy, for sure, but isn't that to be expected? And the crowd? Quite eclectic, ranging from just-turned-21s straight through to grandmas.

So if you happen to be in Chicago and you're looking for some laughs and some strong, fruity drinks, well then, Hala Kahiki, my friends.

And if you're not in Chicago, what's your Hala Kahiki?

The tests we pass.

It's been kind of crazy round these parts lately. Hence forgetting that it was Wednesday and that a blog post was in order. Luckily, I've had something I've been wanting to share.

Jen and I went for collective solitude the other day. It's where you go together to a coffee shop or wherever you like to get work done and you get your work done separately, but because you're together, there's someone to bounce ideas off or to encourage you or to make you laugh. But since we hadn't seen each other for a while, there was a bit more collective and a little less solitude. Not that I mind, of course.

We got to talking and I told her about this little incident from a few weeks back. I had an appointment the next day and at about oh midnight I realized I didn't know what time that appointment was. I spent around an hour frantically searching for this little paper that had the time written on it.

I realized later that I had become so fixated on that little paper because it became about so much more than finding out what time my appointment was. It started to be about proving to myself that I am not disorganized.  So I searched and searched, hoping I had put it in some clever "safe place". And only when I found it would I have been saved from my own disorganized label.

Maybe it's only me that thinks this way, but I kind of doubt it. Probably a lot of other women feel like this, too. Like every day and every little tiny task is a test of who we are. Am I organized or disorganized? Do I have it together or am I falling apart? And when we do something that could be characterized as a negative, we start to believe that that is exactly who we are, regardless of all of the positive things we have done. It doesn't matter that I have been incredibly organized this year at my work. In that moment, the only indication of who I truly am is that I have lost that appointment slip, making me completely disorganized.

Because the tests we pass never carry nearly as much weight as the ones we fail.

Jen told me that someone had told her once that we tend to think of ourselves in character traits rather than states, when it really ought to be the other way around. So in my disorganized moment, rather than telling myself, "I am disorganized right now," I was thinking, "I am such a disorganized person."

Learning to see myself as dynamic and always changing and hopefully growing would allow me to let go of those smaller failures. Of the times that I was disorganized or when my apartment was messy or when I forgot that it was Wednesday and should have had a post done. And to recognize that not every moment is a test of who I am and who I will forever be.

I have to start thinking in spectrums. Yes, I may be on the more disorganized end of the spectrum but I am growing and changing. In the past few years, I have made huge leaps and found strategies that really work for me. And losing one piece of paper does not negate those years of positive strides.

And I have to start treating myself in the same way I would treat a friend: with a bit of grace.

(And I never did find that piece of paper. I went to bed completely defeated and feeling like a disorganized failure. The next day, I woke up and called the office to find out when my appointment was. And nobody cared that I called to find out.)

Tell me, friends. Is this something you think about? Are you always trying to prove to yourself that you're not _________?

Feels like home.

It's been a while since I've shared much about our humble little home. I didn't want to show anything until it was done. But it's still not done and I just can't wait any longer. I'm hoping to find the perfect coffee table and the perfect somethings to accompany the spray-painted mask, but I've come to realize that finding the perfect takes some time. Especially when on a budget. So here we are. An imperfect little livingroom. But a livingroom I am quite proud of.

Sometimes it can be such a challenge to make a small rented apartment reflect your style. Luckily our landlord has been super accommodating and trusts my sense of design. So he let me pick out the floor. And I can paint the walls any color I wish. I'm sure he was thankful to find the living room white after he discovered the teal and white horizontal stripes all over the bathroom walls (more on that later!).

I am so glad that our apartment is shaping up the way it is. And that the style reflects a bit of both of us, of Adrian and me. It feels like home. However temporary that home may be.
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Friends. I came across this quotation yesterday. It leads me to believe that I am awesome, amazing and lovely. Unless of course we're referring to adjectives I've used this week. In which case, I can best be described as frustrating and tired. Yes, yes. Those would be the words to describe me this week. So glad it's Friday.

And you? What adjectives have you been using?
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Beyond Inspiration: The Continuously Fractured Life.

Friends, apparently there was some crazy stuff going on with Blogger the other day. On Monday, I shared some of my thoughts on faith. As this next post in my Beyond Inspiration Series touches on faith, I wanted to get the discussion started.

I am so happy to introduce you to a real-life friend of mine, Ashleigh. Not only is she amazing in person, she's also amazing on her blog, which is lucky for you because you probably don't know her in person. Ashleigh blogs over at The Continuously Fractured Life, where she shares about women's issues, racial reconciliation, faith, and poverty. Ashleigh challenges and poses questions and wrestles through some difficult topics. I am so glad to know her and to have the opportunity to share her with all of you. I hope you'll check out her blog and join the discussion.

1. Could you tell us a little about your blog? What inspired you to begin?

I started my blog as a way to process work and life experiences surrounding race, poverty, gender, and spirituality. I’ve always best understood life through writing it out and I find that I best express myself and communicate with the world in that way too. Part of the inspiration came from wanting to talk about these things all the time, without talking about them all the time. I’ve kept this blog for two years and have added a section where I recommend documentaries (which I am obsessed with), and a Top Three Things I Like This Week section, which is self-explanatory. When I started grad school last year in a Women’s and Gender Studies Program I was both inspired and anxious and used the blog to share ideas and theories I was learning and harping on in school. I hoped to expand the conversation about Feminism within my own group of friends and I think it’s worked really well.

2. How does your faith play a role in your blog?

I don’t usually set out to write specifically about faith because often faith-based blogging is not welcoming to everybody. It’s a niche I don’t want to be in. I set out to take ideas out of my head and share them, and faith comes with that process. Faith is something that’s inextricably attached to my life and thought patterns, and so it bleeds through in my writing. I use my blog to try and better understand the world and suggest better conversations around race, poverty, and gender – not to preach about faith. I don’t think that’s my place in the world and people are always more receptive to you when you’re conversational. I’m interested in writing for everybody, not just for Christians or for people interested in religion. If I write a blog only for that segment of the reading public, I mention it at the beginning so people know to whom I’m writing. But, everyone is always welcome to read, I just want non-religious readers to be prepared for language or themes that might not be familiar.

3. Your blog is so very different than many faith-based blogs I've seen. What challenges does this present you?

I don’t necessarily consider my blog a faith-based one although, I do write about faith quite a lot, again, because I think about it a lot. I like to think of my blog as an extension of loving God with my mind – something written about in the Gospels – not as a blog about faith or Christianity or proving either of those things. A far as specific blogging challenges go, I’ve noticed that the majority of female bloggers who are also Christians write about a few things and in a few ways. There is a lot about being a wife, a mother, a crafter, a fashionable lady or a mix of those things because those are comfortable topics, and they’re also gendered so that they’re topics that seemingly define women. I’m also sensitive to the fact that we only talk about gender and sexuality (two of my main topics) in two or three ways, even though those things do not exist in the world in such a flat system. I would love to read more straight, cisgendered women writing to better understand the LGBTQ community. We currently don’t do a very good job at that; we’re too busy defining them in relation to the aforementioned comfortable topics.
I also use my blog to communicate fears and frustrations with being a person of faith and a person who identifies as a Feminist. I’m trying to navigate two identities (although I have others), both of which have various stereotypes attached to them, without being pigeonholed by either of them, which has proved difficult and rewarding. Popularly, both communities have misunderstood and regretted the other one – whittling an identity down to a few assumed beliefs. I hope some of my writing calls for us to stop doing that – we owe it to one another.  

4. What keeps you inspired to continue sharing your thoughts and viewpoints?

It sounds ridiculous but I constantly worry about having no thoughts left to write about. Like I’ll suddenly stop caring about the world and then have nothing to dissect or comment on – but that never happens. Inspiration comes from everywhere and if you’re a writer, you are writing 24 hours a day in your head. I find inspiration in conversations with friends, on my bus ride to work, in reading for school, in movies, in the Psalms, in music, in the language other people use –
I find new viewpoints in peace and in being overwhelmed. There’s really no formula.  The world is always fracturing apart or becoming whole in new ways, all the time. I am always encouraged when I read blogs addressing those comfortable topics in complex ways that involve uncomfortable dynamics. What does it mean to be a mother to a differently-cultural, adopted child? What does that dynamic mean to that child? What does it mean to be a married woman who is the household’s primary breadwinner? What does it mean to be an artist living in an under-resourced community, who is concerned with consumerism? I know women addressing all these questions and they inspire me by actively looking for new ways to see the same world. Matthew 13 says that the kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field and when a seeker finds the treasure, he goes and sells everything and buys the whole field. I love that. He buys the entire field, not just this one piece of treasure. The idea of the whole field inspires me.

5. How does your blog/writing contribute to a fuller version of yourself?
Of course. The best way I know to share my thoughts is to write them out. I am the Queen of follow-up emails after conversations that stuck with me for the rest of the day.  As an introvert who spends a lot of time in my head, I’ve found writing to help me share thoughts I don’t feel comfortable sharing until they’re complete. Writing has helped me to explain things that overwhelm me in ways I would otherwise have trouble vocally expressing. I read once that when something touches you deeply, you will have a hard time talking about it and I definitely resonate with that. It’s why people who are in love have a hard time adequately expressing their feelings; it’s just too deep to verbalize at once. Writing connects my thought life with my physical life, which most definitely contributes to a fuller version of me.

I'm so thankful to Ashleigh for being so open and willing to share! Please be sure to check her out and join in the on-going discussion.
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Disclaimer: For those not interested in faith, I do not intend to make faith in particular a regular topic of conversation. I will not be evangelizing nor sharing Bible verses weekly nor anything else along those lines. I don't have all the answers and I avoid awkward interactions like the plague. Or ketchup. Which I loathe.

This blog post has been working itself out in me for quite sometime. And as the next post in the Beyond Inspiration series touches on faith, I wanted to share a bit about my own perspective and thoughts here on the blog before delving into someone else's.

I was raised Catholic and went to church every single Sunday, regardless. My parents always brought me and by high school, I actually enjoyed going. I participated wholeheartedly in a very active and engaging state-wide youth ministry program, which I still believe was one of the best in the nation because every aspect was planned and carried out by the teens themselves. I made bunches of friends, learned about leadership and grew in my faith.

I chose Boston College because it is a Jesuit university and I loved that about it. With a strong focus on "men and women for others," I began thinking about service and what my faith would look like on a grander scale, beyond the gates of the enclosed campus.

So, after college, I signed up for Mission Year. What I liked about Mission Year is that it emphasized service and community living, rather than flash evangelism. For a year, I lived in one of the absolute roughest, and often overlooked, neighborhoods in Chicago. In that neighborhood, I lived and worked and went to church and bought my groceries and did my laundry and met my neighbors. It was certainly one of my most trying years as I did my best to make sense of who I was, who God is and how I wanted to live.

Since then, I moved to another rough and overlooked neighborhood. The job where I volunteered during Mission Year has since hired me full-time and I've now been there for six years. This job is located in the same neighborhood where I live. When Adrian and I go for walks around the neighborhood, I almost always run in to students. And I love that.

My attendance at the church in my neighborhood has fallen off in the past few years. I have a hard time reconciling the things I hear in church with the realities of my neighborhood. A few years back, there was a hard push for a marble altar. In this neighborhood, there are many needs. We need afterschool programs and safe havens and job training and English classes and pre-natal care and decent, affordable groceries and honest immigration legal counsel. But we do not need marble altars. It's been hard for me to go to church and to see firsthand the disconnect.

I am a strong proponent for social justice because I believe that in twenty years, my kids will ask me, "Mom did you support immigrant rights?" And I will say "Yes, of course I did. Remember how I lived in an immigrant neighborhood and how I taught immigrant students and how I worked so hard to provide them a decent education and how I spoke openly about immigration so that others would know the injustices that routinely divide families?"

And then they'll ask me why I would do that.

And I'll tell my kids that it was because I lived among immigrants. I worked beside them. I ate dinner with them. I prayed with them. I believed that each person deserved to be treated with dignity. Because I thought Jesus would have done the same thing because he knew that when you know people, it's hard not to have your heart break when their's break.

When I began blogging, I chose not to speak much about my faith because I did not have the answers. I  still don't have the answers. But as I read more and more faith-centered blogs, this little fire quietly burns in me. To share more of who I am and how what I believe changes how I live.

I am more than the loves I list here regularly and more than the photos I painstakingly edit and the words I write to inspire. I am a passionate advocate for immigrant rights and a teacher who believes wholeheartedly in the freedom education offers. And I am also a Christian and a Catholic.

So I have always been interested in talking about faith and in writing about it on the blog. But I rarely do anything half-heartedly. And if we are to talk about faith, then we must also talk about social justice and equality and racial reconciliation and better distribution of resources because they all go hand in hand. To follow Jesus means to care about the things He cares about. And I believe He cares about injustices and poverty and ridiculously high homicide rates and gang violence and inequality in education and segregation and paying people living wages. But sometimes, people don't want to talk about these things.

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus routinely spends time with the marginalized people in society. The prostitutes and tax collectors and all those undesirables. And he knows them. He counts them among His friends. So what if that's what He intended for us to do as well? To place ourselves alongside the marginalized and forgotten. To not just know their heartaches and sufferings, but to choose to suffer with them. To advocate for them. To count them as friends.

You know the questions in Matthew? When did we see you hungry and feed you? When did we invite you in, clothe you, visit you when you were sick or in prison? And you know the answer, too. Whatever you did for the least of one of these, you did for me.

What if He meant that literally? And what if He meant not just once in a while, but daily? And what if  He meant not in another country, but right here in this country? And what if He meant directly, not through a donation to a charity?

I understand this may not be popular. I'm not totally sure I like to think about all this myself. Makes me question myself and what I do. Or mostly don't do.

And perhaps that is why I have refrained from sharing my thoughts on faith and Christianity and where I stand. Because I am hesitant to put myself out there to be held to the standard that I believe a Christian woman ought to hold herself to.

This is all to say that I still don't have all the answers and I'm fairly certain I never will. But I love a good conversation. A conversation where we share ideas and thoughts and beliefs and questions because I'm sure you have them, too. And while I'm interested in talking about what my faith means to me personally, I'm much more intrigued by what my faith means to those around me and how it effects them.

So then. Thoughts? Ideas? Questions to discuss?
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August Designs.

I have been dying to share this little round up with you for quite some time, not only because they're some of my favorite designs so far but also because they're some of my favorite ladies. Lacey, Al and Ariel are three very different bloggers with three very different styles. Going into each of these projects, I wasn't quite sure if I'd be able to create a design that would reflect their highly individual styles. But I am so proud of each of these designs and the journey it took to get there.

Lacey wanted a very clean black and white design, which if you've seen my own blog you know is very different than my own personal style. It was certainly a challenge to not infuse some color somewhere. But in the end, I love how this clean, simple design highlights what is most important: Lacey's content.

After seeing Lacey's design, Al contacted me to see if I'd be up for working with her on a design. I adore the girl so I was excited and honored at the possibility. She wanted to start in a new direction and hoped for a design to represent that change. I am so glad to have been a part of that and I love what we created.

Lastly, Ariel won a design from me as part of a giveaway. I was crazy nervous about this giveaway because I really had no idea what I would be getting myself into or if I'd be able to come up with something that would work for the winner. Luckily, Ariel was a dream to work with. From the minute I read her blog title, I knew exactly how this design would look. She provided me with the colors she preferred and generously allowed my imagination to roam free from there.

Can I tell you? I am most excited and proud of those little social icon balloons. Seriously, I love them. 

I'm off to spend a quiet weekend, writing back to all of you, catching up on what you've been up to and soaking up some time at Renegade Craft Fair with that Adrian. I'll be back next week, and I hope you'll check in with me. I'll be sharing a bit about my own perspective on faith and then I will be getting back to my Beyond Inspiration series with a post from my real-life friend Ashleigh! 

I hope you have an equally restful weekend!
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Favorite houseguest and best weekend.

Friends, my birthday was so good. So. good. I wrote this little post the other day about how excited because my sister wrote such a nice post (including super cute pictures from when we were kids!) and i reached 100 bloggy friends!

Ok, that was last Thursday.

Friday morning I was moving on from birthday excitement and just happy to have a four-day weekend. Yes, four days! Woot! So I was passing my Friday morning perusing various blogs and I came across this one by my sister. Yes, my sister revealed in a blog post that she was coming to Chicago to spend 6 1/2 days with me! I briefly freaked out (given that our water heater had broken and our landlord hadn't fixed it...), quickly cleaned up and got excited to spend time doing what we do best: lounging around and gossiping.

Five days into the visit, I have come to a couple conclusions. First and foremost, my sister is quite possibly my favorite houseguest. No offense to others, but she is totally fine passing an evening watching some Teen Mom. She could care less about seeing Chicago and mostly just wants to hang out. Which is awesome. I don't feel the pressure to entertain or run here and there, though we do try to get out at least once a day so we have something to report back to my mum. Otherwise she calls us slugs. It's lovely when someone wants to visit just to visit you. And it's even lovelier when it's someone who knows you so well that you can just be you without excuses or explanations.

And even better, Erin may be Adrian's favorite houseguest also. I think it's because she appreciates his humor and isn't afraid to make me the butt of many jokes, which you know Adrian thinks is hilarious. He told me just yesterday (after four days of non-stop Erin) that he was having such a good time that he didn't want her to go home. I couldn't be happier that my husband and sister get along so well.

So if I've been a bit slow replying to comments and e-mails and haven't made my usual commenting rounds, it's because I've been quite busy taking photos in my gangway, BBQing, oohing and ahhing over the sweetest baby ever, hanging in hipster coffee shops, laughing over karaoke and watching far too much Sesame Street in restaurants. All with my sister.

It's been good, friends. And for those of you who knew beforehand and shared in the excitement, thank you. It has been just as wonderful as you are hoped.

And one more thing. Adrian wrote this on my Facebook today: "I am really happy that I married you 2 years ago, I guess i'm just a really lucky guy." 

So in short, my heart is so full. Best birthday/anniversary weekend ever.
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Two years ago...tomorrow.

Adrian and I got married two years ago tomorrow and it seems we've started two traditions: 1) Never being alone on anniversaries and 2) Not celebrating anniversaries. My cousin Maddy (Hey Maddy! Miss you!) came for our wedding and our first anniversary and this year my sister surprised me (More on that to come!!) for my birthday weekend which happens to coincide with our anniversary. As for tradition numero dos, welp, we've never been big on anniversaries. We can't always agree on what year we first met or what year we started dating, so the very fact that we know when we got married is a celebration in and of itself.

That said, I think it's actually quite telling of us as a couple that these have become our traditions. We both love to entertain, to host dinners and Midweek Mojitos, to hold BBQs and holiday parties. We love to have people in our home. Adrian loves seeing someone appreciate his cooking and I love to chat. But more than that, I think we both like to make people feel welcome and at home.  I love this about us and I am excited about the day that we'll own our own home and be able to make many others feel welcome and at home.

And as for never celebrating anniversaries, I think that comes from being celebratory by nature, which sounds counterintuitive, but we make a habit of celebrating on the day to day, which makes bigger celebrations seem unnecessary. I like to think each day is a little celebration of our anniversary.

But I would like share a few little Adrian tidbits that contribute to my love of that guy. All from this weekend.

1) He was so excited for my sister to come surprise me that his coworkers even asked him what he was so happy about. He told them he was so excited to see me so happy.
2) He made us blueberry pancakes yesterday for breakfast.
3) He had to go into work today at 5am, but was able to leave at 9am. So, naturally, he came home and made french toast for us while we sat around watching Teen Mom clips on Youtube.
4) He bought me the shorts I wanted and made his very first online purchase!
5) He tucked away bits of money for my birthday cake and to spend while Erin is here (for anyone on a tight budget, you know how wonderful that is!).
6) Annnnd he puts up with my slightly spastic/anxious tendencies.

So on our anniversary, I am happy with the traditions we have started and even happier with the decision I made two years ago. Happy Anniversary, Adrian!!
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