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Musical Moments that Made Me Weep

I have physical responses to music sometimes. Not sure if this is common - let me know if you experience this too. I don't mean that the lyrics necessarily are powerful - although sometimes they play a part - I mean the music. The note, or the moment, or the harmony, or the rhythm - whatever it is - sometimes it hits me hard - maybe it clenches my emotional and/or spiritual nerve so acutely that my body is affected too? Most often the result is crying. I have felt nauseous once as a result of a note Josh Garrels sung the first time I heard him (I explain it in an old music blog I had here). I don't know...maybe you can explain what is happening? Has this happened to anyone else?

Here's my best guess: Its like there was a bubble, a ceiling, over the place, with the whole song pushing against the top - and then this moment pierces through it. You can feel the singer stretching, yearning for breakthrough. Maybe what is happening musically is reflecting what is happening spiritually? So I feel that push, that breakthrough, when I listen - my spirit is resonating with what is taking place. The result for me is often breakthrough. It's like I am resistant to what the Holy Spirit is trying to do in me, and then this moment comes, and I'm undone. I can't resist any longer. I'm broken.

So here's my list. It's long - but I have always wanted to get these down. And I am vacationing in an Appalachian cabin by the fire (jealous?), so I had the time. I have put the moment that the tears started flowing by the song. I recommend listening to the whole song so you get the build up to the moment, but if not, start it a bit before so you get the effect. I've separated these experiences into four different types: notes, moments, instrumental and rap. 

 

bethel music w/ jenn johnson - our father

the moment - 3:38

josh garrels - words remain

the moment - 1:43

bethel music w/ amanda cooke - wonder

the moment - 5:14

bethel music w/ amanda cooke - shepherd

the moment - 4:54

kings kaleidoscope - felix culpa

the moment - 2:56

bethel music w/ jeremy riddle - walk in the promise

the moment - 3:18

 

bethel music w/ steffany frizzell-gretzinger - be still

the moment - 3:53

john mark mcmillan - silver shore

the moment - 2:56

hillsong united - with everything

the moment - 4:24

 

hillsong united - prince of peace

the moment - 4:00

harvest - curtains (side note - I made this video! stolen footage..)

the moment - 1:25

all sons & daughters - reason to sing

the moment - 2:34

 

lecrae - welcome to america

the moment - 3:41

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Why, as a Christian, I should care about the rights of Muslims

 

Today I broke down and had a 'chocolate attack'. This is a phrase my mom made up for when I just HAD to have some candy or else I'd lose my mind. Chocolate attacks are brought on by stress, overthinking, overworking, or silliness. Today's chocolate attack was brought on by all 4. Daniel was gracious enough to take me to our grocery store to pick up some CHRISTMAS THEMED oreos. 

At the grocery store, I fell into a conversation with a kind man next to me who was debating over which half and half to get. Several jokes and lighthearted comments into our discussion about the tireless quest for healthy living, we began talking about our faith. He is a Muslim, and I am Christian. I listened to this new friend's story of being hated, misunderstood, and discriminated against by...southern Christians.

He told me the heinous story of a woman, a Christian, who began thwarting his social media posts and publicly arguing with him on his wall. With a grievous heart I wanted to apologize for the actions of my fellow brothers and sisters. The most I could muster up was a kind smile, and an exchange of information for further talks. 

I'm writing today with a heavy heart, because I think that faithfulness to the Gospel means standing up for the oppressed, even when it's ostracizing or uncomfortable. If for no other reason, I ask my readership to read my words with an open heart because I am your friend, and I'm asking you to. 

Why, as a Christian, I should care about the rights of Muslims:

1. When one religious group is threatened, it a threat to all religious groups. Martin Luther King puts it this way: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere". 

To put is simply, the pioneers that would lead to the establishment of this country were originally Christians fleeing their homeland on account of religious persecution. If we allow any religious group, even one that we disagree with, to be threatened we are threatening religious freedom for all Americans. 

2. We are called to live in peace with our neighbors. 

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. - Romans 12:9-21

This passage was written to a group of Christians who were under persecution - in today's language you would call it terrorist attacks - by the Roman government. Even in the climate of such turbulence and insecurity, they were still called to live in peace and love their neighbors. 

3. We are called to welcome the foreigner into our land.

Remember when our people were persecuted under Egyptian rule and became slaves under Pharaoh? After all of that, God calls us to never mistreat others in the same way that we were mistreated when we were foreigners in another land. "Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt." - Exodus 22:21

4. We are called to be a light to all men. 

"In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." - Matthew 5:16

5. American Muslims are a deeply misunderstood people group, and should be handled with tremendous care for the sake of the Gospel. 

The reality is that most Christians don't know or understand a lot about Islam (like what the difference is between Islam and Muslim, Sunni and Shi'a, what a Hijab is, What the Qur'an is, What the Shariah Law book is and who abide by it.....) and so our national fear is not rooted in authentic information - but rather assumptions. Think about how Jesus handled the misunderstood. Anyone who was on the margins of society were embraced by Jesus and handled with care. 

6. Fear mongering often leads to the ostracizing or extinction of entire people groups.

In Nazi Germany a man put the fear of the Jewish people into his national agenda, and we all know where that led (concentration camps, the near extinction of the Jewish people). Fear mongering is a few slippery steps away from another genocide. 

7. We should seek to understand before we demonize. Consider the demonization of Jesus.  

Jesus was ultimately led to the cross because he was misunderstood. The reality is there is just a lot we don't know, or understand about Islam, and before we pick up a pitchfork, we should get to know who and what Islam represents, especially through conversing with and getting to know our Muslim neighbors. Let me be clear here; I don't think that if we become friends with Muslims that any Muslim (or Christian) will turn out to be blameless and holy like Jesus was. What I am saying is that Muslims are just humans, and many of them are seeking out the truth about God, just like Christians. One of my good friends was a Muslim and sought after God with all of his heart. In the end God showed him the Son of Man and he became a follower of Christ. Although I disagree with the theology of Islam and believe the Jesus is the only Son of God and the only way to God, Muslims are real people, with real stories, and should be handled with dignity and care. 

Thank you for your grace in reading even things that are hard to talk about. 

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Radical

Radical or Radical?

We use radical to mean revolutionary and extreme. However, the original meaning is really ' going back to the roots, or original intent.

 

Despite the variance, I don't think these two definitions conflict. Getting things back to the original intent is hard. It often takes revolutionary and extreme measures to make it happen. 

- Getting your body back to how it was when you were 21.
- Breathing life back into your career. 
- God restoring mankind back to Garden of Eden status.

We Never Change, Do We?

I want to be someone who is constantly becoming what I was made to be. Getting back to my original intent. I don’t want life to just happen to me, and look up one day simply being the sum of the influences and events around me. I want to happen to life. 

To do this I have to regularly check myself. I have to look inward, contemplatively. Am I who I want to be? Am I doing what I want to do? What do I spend my time, energy, thought life, money and breath on? 

Most of the time if we do this, we don’t like the answers. So we set ideals of what we want to be, and goals to get there, but find we can’t meet them.

Priority Plumb Line

I propose, instead of setting reactionary goals from anxious self-dissapointment, that we take an honest look at ourselves, at what God says about who He made all of us to be, and factor in specifics on who we know he has called us to be personally, then set some life priorities. We often don’t change because we either change our goals too much, so we never have time to progress, or we are striving to be something we aren’t supposed to be in the first place (examples: perfect, someone else, etc). We have to have a plumb line: a consistent priority list to aggressively go after - and grit through for the long haul.

 Plumb line: (n.) a tool that consists of a small, heavy object attached to a string or rope and that is used to see if something (such as a wall) is perfectly vertical

I have a list of 15 radical life priorities. A list of who I want to be, and what I want to do. I keep it in the back of my Bible so I see it regularly. When I see it, I don’t feel condemned, but encouraged by the Holy Spirit to keep pushing onward, and He gives me strategy on how to accomplish them. 

Here is my list, with some key notes below each:

1. Love God, Jesus, Holy Spirit
-Uncompromisingly abandoned

2. Love Sherei
- More than myself, intentionally communicating and taking on dates

3. Love others
- Relationship over vision

4. Make Disciples
- Teach them to obey all that Jesus has commanded 

5. Read Scripture daily
- Man lives on the word of God 

6. Worship Freely
- Radically, with dove eyes, alone, in a group

7. Exercise Daily
- My body is a temple

8. Read/talk/pray more
- Tv/movies/apps less

9. Be led by the Spirit
- Ask each day: “What do you have for me today?"

10. Be a good steward of $$
- give extravagantly, pay debt, save, spend well

11. Be good steward of time
- Calendar, to-do list

12. Live as a pioneer
- Fearless adventurer, dream, believe

13. Pray without ceasing
-  Prayer closet, asking “What does wisdom look like?”, with others

14. Family
- Keep up with, pray, visit

15. Nature
- Run away, get lost, fall down

 

What would be your radical life priorities? 

I encourage you to write them out. Put them somewhere that matters. And don’t give up.

God has started a revolution in the world, getting it back to its original intent, and he wants to partner with you - but the radical revolution has to start in you first.

 

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Charlotte Update: 3 Months

Daniel's been singing, I've been designing, and Avery's been napping since we arrived in Charlotte nearly 3 months ago.

When Daniel and I were first making plans to come to Charlotte, we connected with some brand new friends who were planting a church in the city, Rock Harbor Charlotte. At the same time, Daniel accepted a position at Assurance UMC. It was so much fun to help Rock Harbor in its infancy, and we made some pretty great friends along the way. 

After a lot of prayer, seeking wisdom, and discernment, Daniel and I have joyfully shifted our full attention to Assurance. Daniel is leading worship for 2 services, with a third on the way, and I am so excited to dive in the deep end of helping on the communications team.

It's amazing how impactful having a church family can be when you are new to town, and I can honestly say that we've falling in love with the family of God at Assurance.  I look forward to the teaching and worship (well, I'm biased) every Sunday and honestly cannot wait to get more involved. 

Some beautiful doors are opening in the city as well. Daniel and I have also joined the communications team for CharlotteONE, an incredible ministry that is reaching the 20s and 30s in our city. I have started doing freelance and contract work in graphic design, and have stayed busy! I've been working a lot with local restaurants and event coordinators, which has been just plain fun. We've stayed busy between school, work, and being members of Assurance - which honestly can be nice when you're in a new city and just making friends. A full calendar helps me keep my netflix binging at bay!

I think one of my favorite things about Charlotte has been the climate. We've had a rainy season, which I've honestly enjoyed, and witnessed the most stunning fall. Being just a few hours from the mountains has kept my spirits high. We haven't made it to the outer banks yet, but plan on taking a winter beach trip soon. 

 

It's hard to describe how rewarding our time in seminary has been. It's harder than I thought it would be, but in all the right ways. I feel like I'm going through a personal renewal, and I can hear the spirit of God teaching me and speaking to me in ways I've never experienced before. I've always had a really easy time handing my heart over to Jesus, I'm one of those wierdos who has absolutely no problem with the idea of God and the measure of faith that was given to me is high. But I do think I can be a lazy thinker, and so getting to experience God with my mind has changed my relationship with Christ in such a unique way. I feel like I'm growing up in and with Christ. My favorite class is Survey through the Old Testament. We've journeyed through the origin stories, historical books, and are preparing to get into the prophets. Please ask me sometime about what we're learning - I'm dying to share. 

We've got some really fun projects on the horizon for 2016 (Hint: we may finally be hearing that long awaited EP from Daniel). Both of our schedules have alot of freedom for travel, and one of my 2016 goals is to do more tag-team conferences. If your youth group is planning a winter retreat or spring break retreat, hit us up:

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Meals Matter More Than We Think

I went to the Charlotte Farmer's Market this past Saturday for the first time since we moved in our house...1/4 mile away. Sad, but true. Our lives have just been too crazy, we told ourselves as we realized on Saturday. But have they been? As we loaded up on fresh from the farm veggies, fruits and meats, guaranteeing a lot of home cooked meals was the only way we're going to eat this week - and I started stressed about how busy I am and the time it will take to prep, cook and eat. Wouldn't it just be easier (and tastier) to eat Chick-Fil-A every day? So, what's the point of a meal? 

The building blocks of the kingdom of God are families, and the building blocks of families are relationships. What if the building blocks of relationships are meals? 

Here are 3 thoughts on why that may be so:

1. What is a Meal?

On the practical side of things, meals make our bodies function. We can't do life without food, which seems a good enough reason to value them, but we still find ways to funnel down our nutrition with a quick vitamin-enriched smoothie, or a drive-thru window so that we don't have to sacrifice the time for a meal. But then meals also provide the pleasurable experience of tasting - which is functionally pointless. Why would God give us 10,000 taste buds? Maybe he wants to just make something we have to do daily not so mundane (rather than like porridge in a prison), but I'd say he was trying to get us lured into something more important; connecting us to the deeper meaning of the meal. The reality is: meals also make us stop working and slow down; to listen, and to talk.

I believe Jesus came to restore the earth to its original intent - to bring freedom, love, peace, and hope. In short: what we are made for is authentic, intimate, loving relationships; we lost all that, and Christ came to bring it back. And he gave that mission to us...a daunting task to say the least. Often we may feel frantic with this mission, and find ourselves striving to increase our kingdom productivity: more programs; more buildings; more ministries. But is that what Jesus did? He had a much weightier task at hand, and it seems the big business of Jesus was built around meals. So why should we adopt a different, more corporate strategy? I think God has set some solid precedent that the meal is one of his major  go-tos for doing his work with humanity, so let's take a look at the history of God and meals:

2. God Really Loves Meals

  • In the beginning God made a garden............enough said?
  • God gave it to Adam to cultivate it, then demanded that he spend his life literally enjoying the fruit of his labor: which would mean eating.
  • In Israel's culture, sharing a meal was sacred time and space: if you ate with someone, you were making a declaration that you would be at peace with them.
  • God gives a ton of dietary rules for some sanitary reasons, but primarily to set them apart from other cultures. Meals were so important, and so much intimacy and value was placed on them, that God knew if he could keep His people from eating with other cultures, he could keep them set apart for his purposes (continually we see the nation turn away from God as they commune with other nations and end up following after their gods).
  • All sorts of festivals commemorating all sorts of stuff in the Old Testament were established by God, which mostly consisted of...eating together.
  • Jesus was always eating with folks. Some examples:
    • His followers
      • Martha and Mary: Jesus tells Martha to stop stressing out about the details, to chill out and spend time with him over the meal like her sister Mary (Luke 10:38-42)
    • His enemies
      • He sat down with the Pharisees to get questioned and work through them always getting tripped up about who he really was (Luke 7:36, 14:1).
    • Lots of sinners (Matthew 9:10, Mark 2:15) 
      • Jesus was accused of being a drunkard and a glutton he spent so much time eating and drinking with broken people (Matthew 11:19). 
      • Jesus tells Zacchaeus the thug to to make a meal for them to have later, where Zacchaeus' life would be changed forever (Luke 19:1-10) 

3. God Does Really Important Things Through Meals:

These three are pretty much the most important meals in the bible, and they are heavily related:

  • Passover
    • When God is about to deliver His people from slavery in Egypt, he tells them to eat a meal. They sacrifice a lamb, put its blood over doors, and the spirit of death "passes over" their household as it went to take out the firstborn sons of Egypt. God tells them to prepare this certain meal, which they eat then; and every year they eat this meal and sacrifice the Passover lamb to celebrate and remind themselves of the faithfulness of the Lord to deliver them.
  • The Last Supper
    • This blew my mind when I found out, but the Last Supper was Passover. Read about it:
    • Then came the day of the Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.” “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked. He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.” They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover." - Luke 22:7-13

    • Jesus is about to be sacrificed as the ultimate Passover lamb (v.7), to deliver all people from the slavery of sin, and what does he do with his followers? Has a meal. This seems odd. If I am on a mission to save the world, and I am about to die, I would probably go to the biggest arena and invite the most people to share my message one last time. But Jesus has a meal with just his few followers. This should tell us something about the value Jesus has for meals. Of course we know it wasn't just any meal; it was a meal that signifies the deliverance from sin that his sacrifice would bring. He told them the bread was his body and the wine was his blood; that we any followers in future generations should get together, share some bread and wine at the table, and do it in remembrance of him. He is about to change the world, and he needs a vehicle, a natural occurring experience that the supernatural can intersect with, and what does he use? A meal.

  • The Marriage supper of the lamb
    • At the end of this long story, all of creation who were delivered from sin by the sacrifice of Christ, the Passover Lamb, come together and have a big celebration together. How is it celebrated? A meal called the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6-9). In short:

od really loves meals. His beginning redemption of Israel, global redemption through Jesus, and the celebration of all that redemption in the end are all commemorated with a meal. 

4. Meals Connect us to our Purpose: Cultivating Community

I can't write this part any better than it has already been written, so for this point I am going to recommend that you go check out what Barry Jones, professor at Dallas Theological Seminary has to say about how meals connect us to our purpose of cultivating community in his recent article in DTS magazine:

 "The Dinner Table as a Place of Connection, Brokenness, and Blessing."

Here is my favorite excerpt, that summarizes it:

"I’m convinced that our dinner tables have the potential to be the most “missional” places in all of our lives. Perhaps before we invite people to Jesus or invite them to church, we should invite them to dinner. If table fellowship is a spiritual discipline that is vital for shaping and sustaining our life with God for the world, we need to make a point to share our tables with people who are in our lives but far from God. This was one of the most distinctive aspects of Jesus’s ministry."

Bread and Wine

Lastly, here is an amazing song from my favorite artist, Josh Garrels, about community and meals: 

Bread & Wine
By Josh Garrels


I was wrong, everybody needs someone, to hold on
Take my hand, I’ve been a lonesome man, took a while to understand

There's some things we can’t live without, 
A man’s so prone to doubt, 
Faithful are the wounds from friends. 
So give it just a little time, 
Share some bread and wine
Weave your heart into mine, 
My friend

Walls fall down, where there’s a peaceful sound, lonely souls hang around
Don’t be shy, there’s nothing left to hide, come on let’s talk a while

Of the places we left behind, 
No longer yours and mine
But we could build a good thing here too
So give it just a little time, 
Share bread and wine
Weave your heart into mine

If I fall, I fall alone, but two can help to bear the load
A threefold chord is hard to break
All I have I give to you if you will share your sorrows too, 
Then joy will be the crown upon our heads
My friend

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My Friend Committed Suicide: Now What?

I've noticed that when you lose someone you love, life tends to come to a painful, resounding halt. I've been hesitant to write this post because so many of my beloved readers were deeply affected by the passing of our dear friend last week, and I want to be so careful and sensitive with my words, especially those that are written. If you are in that affected crowd, are wrestling with the pain of having lost him, and need someone to talk to, please reach out (email me at sunnysherei@gmail.com).

Losing a life through suicide is so much different from losing a friend from natural causes. Not to say that losing a friend through any circumstance (cancer, car wreck, expected or unexpected) is not a treacherous, deeply painful process - but there is something so significantly painful about wrestling with the questions around the death of a loved one when it was chosen.

A few years ago Daniel and I lost a dear, precious, beloved, and deeply adored friend to a heroin overdose. Just a few months before his death, George (name changed to protect privacy) had given his life to Jesus. Daniel spoke at his funeral, and we grieved with a full heart. A few months later, we graduated from university without George by our side, and the gaping pain was evident on that day that was supposed to be a joyful one. Though I don't believe he took his life on purpose - there was still human choice involved in his death. That was our first exposure to human choice involved with death.

Then last week happened. I won't go into the details here, but we lost a friend through an intentional, no questions about it, suicide. Our friend chose to take his life. So, what do I do now?

Here are a five things I've learned from losing my friend, and I hope it helps anyone out there that is navigating these dreadful waters:

1) GRIEVING IS SERIOUSLY OKAY

I'm a pastor, and so I have a knee-jerk reaction to help others through their grieving process. A lot of my friends are public servants as well, and are often thrust into the spotlight when things like this happen. I've heard a lot of..well..cheesy and not all that helpful stuff around the idea of death like, "he's in a better place now" or "he's looking down on us and ....". That may very well be true - but that doesn't change the immediate grief of life after death. When I was first meeting with students after the passing of our friend, I had this instant reaction to 'be strong', but I actually found that I was able to give more strength to my students when I was honest with them and communicated that I too am frustrated, hurting, and wrestling with God over our loss. Grieving is a natural part of life - and you can face some serious consequences down the road if you don't allow yourself the space to grief. Scripture puts it this way:

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace."
-Ecclesiates 3:1-8

King David grieves when he loses his son as an infant. Job grieves when his life literally turns into unfathomable chaos. Mary, the mother of our Christ, grieves when she sees her son hanging in death. Jesus himself is known to grieve - he grieves when his buddy Lazarus dies (even though he's going to raise him!). Grief is okay. GRIEF IS OKAY! Especially for my tough, cool sons who are reading this - grief is okay. It's okay to cry. Daniel and I have both have moments of being overwhelmed to sobbing tears in the midst of this event; it is a humbling event that makes you confront the full force of what’s going on inside, and humbles you to lean on the Lord and those around you to get through it.

2) BLAME IS A DARK GAME

It's not your fault that your friend took his life. It's not my fault that my friend took his life. In the wake of losing both George and the recent loss of last week - I have been paralyzed with blame. I knew that George was struggling with drug abuse, and I often am gripped with pain when I start to wonder if there was more that I could have done to show him a way out. In light of this recent death, I'm definitely riddled with the pain and blame - and shame - of having not been there in the final months and hours of my friend's life when he so clearly needed to talk about things that were going on in his life.

In the wake of wrestling with blame, I met with my pastor (who has an amazing blog here btw) who was generous enough to lend his wisdom and his shoulder. He explained to me in gentle terms that I am not responsible for another man's choice. The truth is that suicide is often a result of depression, mental illness, or other internal struggles. Change of circumstance doesn't always change what's going on inside of a person - that takes deep and significant renewal of the mind, body, and spirit that is often carried out through the care of professional counselors, medicine, and years of mental discipline. I could have told my friend all day, every day how important he was - but if he doesn't believe that at the core of who he is - I can't change that. I can't cause one person to be set free. I can't heal bones. I can't wound up the broken hearted. There is more going on here than what is in our hands to control; and where we do have a role to play in the story - man also has free will. My job (AND YOURS) is really simple: communicate the message of love and truth that the gospel gives, and live it out by loving them as Jesus did. That's it. Let the Holy Spirit be the Holy Spirit. He is the one who sets people free. He is the one who heals bones. He is the one who binds up the broken hearted. We get to partner with him - but he carries the pressure.

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." - Matthew 11:29-30

3) WRESTLE WITH GOD

Let's be clear, I'm NOT COOL with what happened. I trust Christ to carry me through this grief - but my blood boils with anger and pain over the loss of my loved one. I'm learning that God is a better listener than even the most wisest friend, and gives better love and advice than my squish-able dog Avery (no offense Avery, you are amazing and I am weirdly obsessed with you). It’s amazing how much peace comes when you just have it out with Christ. I don't have answers - and I might never - but I do have peace after spending time with the great comforter.

4) GRIEF IS REALLY GOOD FUEL

I wake up wanting to undo last week. I've spent a long time wanting to change the past - my own past - my loved ones' past choices. But I can't. I can't spin the earth backwards on its axis, and losing my mind and sleep over days that are done literally does nothing. There is a time and place to wrestle and grieve. There is also a time to say, "I'm going to learn from this experience." In the week following that dark monday, I had the immense pleasure of going back to Nashville. I got to meet with student after student, and I got to do things different. I was slower to speak. More full of gentleness and kindness. I took extra time to tell my students individually that I loved them - that they matter. I got to say all of the things I wish I would have said to my friend who passed before his time. See, I can't change the past, but I can change today. I CAN change the future. Some days I think the days are promised - and I can take my sweet molasses lovin' time in loving on people or showing them who Jesus is. But the days aren't promised. I thought I would have more time - a lifetime - with both George and my friend I lost last week. I was so miserably wrong. I was painfully wrong. I don't want to be wrong with the friends I have right now. I want to cherish every single day that I get to be a messenger of the gospel, and use the time I have left on this earth to tell people in every form how true the good news of Jesus is, and to love them how Jesus loves: laying my life down for those around me. I want to go to great lengths in love - showing people with lavish, unafraid affection how serious Jesus is about setting them free. I want to have the hard conversations that I hide from. I want to take every opportunity to make sure people leave my presence knowing they are loved.

That includes writing this painful post, if it will set others free.

5) THERE IS HOPE

The truth is, death wasn’t in God’s original plan for humanity. Death is a result of the fallen nature of man. One of the main reasons Jesus came was to defeat death once and for all. Good Friday, when Jesus died on the cross, was not the end of the story; Easter morning was coming. Death isn't the end of the story of us either: God's plan is to put everything back to how it was meant to be originally: no death, no pain, no suffering.

"But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have died. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. …  When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
   O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
- 1 Cor 15:20-23, 54-56

I do not assume to know what only God knows, but in the assurance of the faith that my friend professed, I believe that he will not taste death in the ultimate sense; death has been defeated for him.

We grieve losing such an amazing friend. We will miss his bright smile, his sense of humor and his camaraderie. We mourn a loss of life because God wasn’t through with him here: he wanted to set my friend completely free, to redeem him fully - and then use him to be a part of that redemption story in the earth - to help others through their struggles. We are compelled to love others by his death, that those around us may never reach the point he did. But lastly, and most importantly, we are not grieved beyond comfort. We start out with grief in our hearts for our temporary loss, but let's end proclaiming that our hope is real: Christ has defeated death. So - “O death, where is your sting?”

Check out this amazing song by John Mark McMillan called “Death in His Grave”:

"Death in His Grave"

by John Mark McMillan

Though the earth cried
Out for blood
Satisfied her hunger was
Billows calmed on raging seas
For the souls of men she craved
Sun and moon from balcony
Turned their head in disbelief
Their precious love would taste
The sting
Disfigured and disdained

On Friday a thief
On Sunday a king
Laid down in grief
But woke with the keys
Of hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The man Jesus Christ laid
Death in his grave

So three days in darkness slept
The morning sun
Of righteousness
But rose to shame
The throws of death
And overturn his rule
Now daughters
And the sons of men
Would pay not their dues again
The debt of blood
They owed was rent
When the day rolled anew

On Friday a thief
On Sunday a king
Laid down in grief
But woke holding keys
To hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The man Jesus Christ laid
Death in his grave

He has cheated hell
And seated us above the fall
In desperate places he paid our wages
One time once and for all



80% -90% of teens that seek treatment for depression are treated successfully using therapy and/or medication. (TADS study). If you or someone you love is wrestling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, Day or Night at

1 (800) 273-8255

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Porn Problems

I hope you don't read any of my direction in this post as overly preachy or insensitive. I have been there, and have the scars to show it. I am hoping that my experience, both personally and pastoring others through this, and the resources I gained practically, spiritually, and scripturally might lend a helping hand to others finding themselves still amidst the struggle. I pray you will walk away with fewer scars because of my words shared here. I pray you might join me on the offensive side of the battle, where I am confident we will win, if we fight together and not alone.

Proverbs is a book of wisdom, given by God, that man might live a life of good, not evil. Something this generation needs wisdom on is pornography. Proverbs 5-7 gives a dead on portrayal of the porn struggle, step by step, and provides remarkable wisdom into how to prevail. Sorry for the "p" alliteration...I got carried away. Forget addressing cheating, sex outside of marriage, or divorce; if we take care of porn, we prevent the others at the root of the problem: our nation's men are addicted to pornography - and it's going to destroy everything in their lives. 

6 Practices from Proverbs to Prevent Porn Problems

1. Keep the Commandments

"My son, keep my words, and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. Say to wisdom, "You are my sister," and call insight your intimate friend, to keep you from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words." - Proverbs 7:1-5

Scripture is apparently a magic weapon against sexual temptation, seeing how direct the correlation is in these verses between knowing/applying scripture and staying pure. The idea of "treasuring" God's commandments means they are so carefully and frequently looked over so that we know them by heart, and value meditating on them high above anything else we could be doing with our time or attention.

"My son, keep your father's commandments, and forsake not your mother's teaching. Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you. For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, to preserve you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress." - Proverbs 6:20-24

"How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." - Psalms 119:9-11

Isn't this the question on every man's mind that struggles with pornography: "How can I possibly steer clear of this!?" Scripture has an answer: know God's word ("store up your word") and do what it says do ("guard it according to your word"). For scripture to work its magic charm, we must be "doers of the word, not hearers only, deceiving [our]selves" (James 1:22). If we want to not be shaken when the storm of temptation comes, we must take Jesus' tip: "Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like the wise man who built his house on the rock" (Matthew 7:24). Plenty of people hear and even know God's word well, but will we apply it? Here is the true dividing line between those on top of this and those underneath it: discipline. 

2. Keep Away...Far, Far Away

"Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house" - Proverbs 5:8

Note here that it does not say "do not go into her bed," or even "do not go into her house:" but rather "do not go near the door of her house." God's strategy for us to defeat sexual temptation is not to flee once we find ourselves in its house, but rather to avoid the house altogether! For that matter, even the street that it is on! See what chapter seven says about keeping your distance:

"For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice, and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness. And behold, the woman meets him, dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart. She is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home; now in the street, now in the market, and at every corner she lies in wait." - Proverbs 7:6-11

You know what the "street near her corner" and the "door of her house" look like for you. Maybe it's Netflix, an app, a website. The first step for a man struggling with pornography (meaning that he has a conviction about it, but has not overcome it) is to identify these "gateways" in their life (the "door" or "street" of her house); they won't look that bad on the surface, and you could cover up for them if you got caught there, and you might even be tricking your own mind into rationalizing why it's ok to be in these gateways. Scripture's strategy is to stay far, far away from even these gateways. Sound too dramatic? Listen to Jesus: "And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell" (Matthew 5:30).  His point is that there is not a response to the causes of sin that can be too violent; cutting off your hand or plucking out your eye is about as violent and self-harming as you can get. So, if it has ever caused you to trip up even a little bit, cut it off and throw it away, forever. Cancel your subscription. Delete the app. Throw away the phone. 

But there are two problems at play here: one is our fault and another is the world's. The truth is, this isn't a fair fight. Right? We do have the responsibility to "not go near the door of her house," but we also see "her feet do not stay at home; now in the street, now in the market, and at every corner she lies in wait." Right when we think we have a kicked out every gateway to pornography in our lives - temptation comes to you right where you are! And in this day more than ever. I could type in "cute cuddly bunny" into Google images and probably find Playboy bunnies. I'm walking at the mall with my wife and "ohp! There's Victoria Secret, diverting my eyes away and ohp! Lookie there! A barely clothed woman with candles and lotion around her is the ad for Bath & Body Works..." It can feel defeating. Like fighting an uphill battle with boulders barreling down and pummeling you as you climb. But the awareness of this element is part of the fight. We need not be naive or ignorant as to how common it is. And we need to take an open and vocal approach to the frustrations we have with this: I tell my wife how pissed I am about sexy commercials and have written an email to NY Times letting them know I deleted their app because of the voluptuous Game of War ad I repeatedly had to see at the bottom of my screen (they responded apologetically and promised to make efforts at providing a more family friendly news reading experience). These efforts are both to do our part in eliminating temptation for others, while also cultivating our hearts to become like God's as we love what he loves and hate what he hates (Psalm 97:10).

3. Be Intoxicated with Your Wife's Sexy Body

"Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love." - Psalms 5:15-19

Sex is good. It is actually one of the best and most powerful things in our world - intentionally made so by God. Marriage is crazy business - and the Bible says some wild things about what happens when we get married (two become one...what!?). So what is so magical that happens when we get married that makes it any different than two people who love each other dating? Sex. Yes, there are other things - but sex is the defining trait of what biblical marriage should have that biblical courtship should not.

Sex is not bad, it is powerful.

In the same way that nuclear fission, or a shotgun shell is powerful, sex has the potential for great good or great harm. If nuclear fission happens within the confines of a power plant, it can provide power for thousands. If it is used in a nuclear bomb, it can kill thousands. In the same way, if we smash a shotgun shell with a hammer, it might fire and BBs will fly everywhere, injuring me and anyone around; but if it is put into the confines of a shotgun, I can aim and fire with accuracy at this Thanksgiving Day's turkey dinner. Sex within the confines of a marital covenant is phenomenally powerful at its purpose of uniting two souls.

What makes the marriage covenant such a successful conduit for sex? A covenant is different than a contract. A covenant says "I'm not going anywhere, no matter what." God made a covenant with Abraham regarding the nation that would come from his children, and even though they failed to keep up their end over and over, He always kept up His, and never abandoned them. This type of biblical understanding for what marriage is is radically different than our modern interpretation of it - even within the church. But when there is a true understanding and a true marriage covenant is made, there is remarkable safety and trust that is necessary to share in the powerful, vulnerable, mingling of souls action that sex is. Side note: it is not surprising that so much damage is seen in relationships and individuals that have sex out of the confines of covenantal marriage, because true soul damage has been done (1 Corinthians 6:18). 

With that being said, a real combat to porn is to engage in the life-giving act of sex regularly and with intentional energy to improve your marraige and love your spouse well. There is no harm in enjoying your wife too much or too often - visually or physically. For unmarried men, focus your attention on preparing yourself to be the man you want your wife to have one day. Keep your eyes on working unto the Lord, and one day you will look up and she will be there beside you, running after Him alongside you.

Side note: sex is not about you. If love is not self-seeking (1 Cor. 13:5), then true love making ought not be self-seeking. Our aim in having sex should not be getting our pleasure and intimacy, but rather our focus should be on providing pleasure and intimacy for our partner. Giving is better than receiving (Acts 20:35). That and the golden rule should be enough reasons to convince us to realize that sex is not about us. God-intended sex is not about receiving; it's about giving.

4. Realize that Sexual Sin is Surreptitious Slavery

"The iniquities of the wicked man ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin." - Proverbs - 5:22

"All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life." - Proverbs 7:22-23

"Let not your heart turn aside to her ways: do not stray into her paths, for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng." - Proverbs 7:25-26

In sin we often seek freedom; escape from our current stresses or sadness. But as we know, sin is a liar. We buy into the lie of satisfaction, fulfillment and pleasure over and over, but it always leaves us empty. A fleeting moment, then gone. The truth is sin is a snare, placing our ankles in shackles, chained up to a post. Rather than becoming more free as we continue to sin, the chain becomes shorter, and our radius around the post becomes tighter. Eventually, there is no freedom left; we have locked ourselves back down on the ground, every limb constricted. "How did I get here?" we ask ourselves. Well, the enemy is the father of lies, and his lies don't seem so irrational at first. Take a look at the downward spiral with the man in Proverbs:

"She seizes him and kisses him, and with bold face she says to him, 'I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows; so now I have come out to meet you, to seek you eagerly, and I have found you. I have spread my couch with coverings, colored linens from Egyptian linen; I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love till morning; let us delight ourselves with love. For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he took a bag of money with him; at full moon he will come home." - Proverbs 7:13-20

"For the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread" - Proverbs 6:26

Do you see the rationale offered? She has offered sacrifices, so she is a good girl, an exception to the others. There is such nice and pleasurable things inside her house - Egyptian linens, perfume -  why not enjoy them? Can you see him taking another step closer as he is offered and believes each subsequent lie? She tells him her husband isn't at home, and won't be until a much later known time. And lastly, it's easy - it barely costs anything. These are all lies we believe as we step through the gateways into pornography. It appears good on the surface, different perhaps, from the other times. It seems good for pleasure, and something inside us does crave those things (sounds familiar from Genesis? "When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye...she took some and ate it" [Genesis 3:6]). There is then the rationale that no one will ever know. "My mom won't know, or my wife won't find out" - the plan is perfect. And lastly, its not like it's costing me anything! Just a few minutes. Just a click. Just a short peak or video. Of course we know all of these are lies. It will not relent. The chain will only shorten, and the cost will quickly grow exponentially.  

To turn an apple commercial on its head: What do we have to lose? Only everything. Which leads to my next point:

5. Comprehend the Consequences

"For a man's ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths." - Proverbs 5:21

"Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death." - Proverbs 7:27

We often talk about loving God, and from this love the trust of relationship blooms. However, I have often avoided talking about fearing God, which is a key element if we want to actually obey him. This is necessary if we want real life change, and therefore real world change. I wrote more about this balance of being loved/being commanded by God & loving/obeying God here, but the gist of the idea is this: Jesus said "If you love me, keep my commands" (John 14:15). How often do we rationalize our lack of discipline, and minimize the consequences in our mind as we premeditate our sin? Let's realize the consequence of our actions: the ugly separation that porn puts between us and God, the chief consequence of sexual sin, grieves Him greatly. We can't overlook the value of fearing God, when it comes to wisdom especially, as Proverbs starts out with the thesis statement for its book that "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Proverbs 1:7).

Going back to the original idea, the best strategy I have found truly is to store up God's word in your heart, and to do what it says to do. Don't miss the second part. I love what Francis Chan says about this American church tendency: "We know an important scripture is 'Go make disciples of all nations'. We say, 'Great! I'll go memorize that verse!" If we don't learn to grow a spine and start making hard choices that go against everything we want; if we don't learn to heed discipline, we are truly going to reap the consequences. As Proverbs says below, the results could be wounds, dishonor, punishment, utter ruin, and death. No good outlooks here. Or do we really think this isn't going to affect us? No, if you play with fire, you get burned:

"Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife; none who touches her will go unpunished...He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away." - Proverbs 6:27-35

"At the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, 'How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation...He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray." - Proverbs 5:11-14, 23

Jon Foreman (of Switchfoot) Song About Porn Struggle

"Ghost Machine" from Jon Foreman's new album series The Wonderlands is a remarkable introspective study into the struggle as a whole and the mind of one struggling with pornography. I fully recommend a listen and for you to read the lyrics, as I believe it can be cathartic for wherever you are in the process:

Ghost Machine Lyrics

All hail the siren of our time
I'm possessed when she passes by
She drains the best years of my life
She makes promises
She could never keep

Ain't it a ghost machine
Making a ghost out of me
After all her lies I'm surprised that I still believe
She haunts me with her laughter in my dreams
My ghost machine

Father forgive me cause I know
Exactly how I spread my soul
My idolatry is in the pocket of my coat
I make promises
I could never keep

Ain't it a ghost machine
Ain't she a ghost machine
I'm still haunted by the faces on her screen
I swear she's gonna make a dead man out of me

Do you know yourself?
I heard a voice call out loud
We define ourselves
By the things we can't live without
I deny it, I could quit at any time
But my ghost is a drug
My ghost is a drug
She's in our blood
And I can't give her up

The clock - the altar of our time
The thought - the temple of our mind
Then I've been sprinkling the blood of most my life
On the altars of my ghost machine

Ain't she my enemy
My ancient remedy
The gods of all the empty promises that I believed
She haunts me with her laughter in my dreams
I swear she's gonna make a dead man out of me
My ghost machine

Final Word: Don't Be Discouraged

I have been more direct in this blog, because of how serious I take it. I hope in doing so I have not stirred up emotions of shame or condemnation. I hope it produced godly guilt - which is a good thing. Guilt says "I made a mistake;" Shame says "I am a mistake." Paul puts it best as he is writing to the Corinthians, whom he was writing to to confront many similar issues: "For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it...I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief...[which] produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death" (2 Corinthians 7:8-10). If worldly grief (shame/condemnation) is what you are feeling, ask the Lord for godly grief. If godly grief is what you are feeling, treasure and heed His words. Take them into action. Repent. Confess. Cut what you need to out. And run for the Father. He is there ready for you, saying "Don't turn your eyes from me. My love can't be undone." 

Please email me at dbjackson3@gmail.com if you want to talk.

Daniel

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New Song by Daniel - One Day

These big dreams
Keep me cozy at night
But morning comes
And puts 'em all to flight
Rent keeps coming
Even though I try to fight it

All my friends are real growns up
With cars and kids and so much stuff
It makes me look
And realize times are rough

But one day
When I make money
I'm gonna throw my friends a Hollywood party

One day
When I make money
I'm gonna take my wife to Paris for a date

I might be broke
But I'm not sad
'Cause I know one day
I'll be just like dad
And give it all away
To make my momma glad

Some might say that
I seem stuck
My head in the clouds
Running low onluck
But In due time I'll turn
Pennies into Bucks

'Cause one day
When I make money
I'm gonna throw my friends a Hollywood party

One day
When I make money
I'm gonna take my wife to Paris for a date

One day
When I make money
I'm gonna get my dog a big ole juicy steak

One day
When I make money
I'm gonna buy my parents a cottage on a lake

I've had years to plan for when I land on my feet
And I realize moneys just not mine to keep

Though time moves slow and the day seems far away
When loves around life just seems okay

So for those who saw me through my very worst
Here's to you I offer up this toast

One day
When I make money
I'm gonna throw my friends a Hollywood party

One day
When I make money
I'm gonna take my wife to Paris for a date

One day
When I make money
I'm gonna get my dog a big ole juicy steak

One day
When I make money
I'm gonna buy my parents a cottage on a lake

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A Capsule Closet Experiment for a Clothing Addict

Scroll to the end to see my fall capsule look book. 

This is a big week in all things that don't really matter, but I seem to care about.

  1. Google changed it's logo
  2. I cleaned out my closet

Remember being 18, and being totally cool with moving into a tiny dorm because it meant FREEDOM? It's not as cute at 26. 

Daniel and I are going back to school to get our Masters of Divinity (Jesus kind, not wizarding kind) and we have downsized to the cutest and tiniest 2 bedroom house, which I've named the Little White House, nestled in a quaint wood across the street from the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte. Now go get you stalker on. Just kidding. 

My closet in Nashville was historic. I could literally sit in there and hang out with friends, which of course, I did. I prayed in there, journaled, hid from Daniel and the boys when I needed some alone time, and even took a smallish nap or two in there. It had 4 enormous sections for hanging clothes, and entire floor to ceiling built in drawers. When Daniel and I were looking for a rental in Nashville, before we viewed our townhouse, I said I wouldn't go for it unless there was chocolate pouring out of the walls. It was when I saw that glorious closet that I turned to him and said, "chocolate is pouring out of the walls". Can we just have a moment of silence for my old closet?

Moving to Nashville was dangerous for me. We moved to Nashville from a farm where the closest gas station was 30 minutes away. Suddenly, I was within a 20 minute drive from Anthropologie, Target, H&M, Altar'd State, and Forever 21 (or what I call The Big Five). Throw in Hobby Lobby and I'm DONE. Every ounce of my shopping-addiction came out in full swing. I FILLED my closet. Glory. 

So we moved, and my closet couldn't move with us. Most of the apartment bedrooms we were looking at were the size of my former clothing sanctuary, so before leaving Nashville I enlisted the help of my no-nonsense pals, Whitney, Christina, and Kenyah, to help me in what I initially thought was the Great Purge. I got rid of some of my clothes, dating back to MIDDLE SCHOOL. Again, I'm 26 people. That's a decades worth of nonsense. After securing the deposit for the Little White House, I knew I would have to purge again. Then again. It was traumatic. 

Finally, one night I just had this epiphany. I wanted to get rid of all my clothes. YES. I, Sherei Lopez Jackson, was going to get rid of 80% of her wardrobe. There were several reasons for this:

  • JESUS PROBLEMS

It's always been a conviction in my heart that it's thoroughly ridiculous for me to own such a big closet when I literally have friends in the Dominican Republic whose entire home could fit in my big fat American closet. I think about Jesus' call to leave everything, follow him, and have seriously wondered about my love of possessions. It's been a long time coming, but I just think my love for fashion was becoming unhealthy.  

  • BIG GIRL PROBLEMS

As of this morning, I am 175 lbs. I average a size 14-15. When I married Daniel 4 years ago, I was 142 lbs and a size 2-4. I'm not meant to be super thin; my Puerto Rican frame just doesn't get down with that, and I personally love being full figured. But jumping 10 sizes in 4 years means my closet is full - full - of tons of clothes I don't wear because they don't fit. I literally had every single size from 2 up to 16. And if you're a fellow full figured gal, you know what a bummer it can be to keep seeing your smaller stuff in your closet, holding onto it thinking it'll be so fun to one day fit back into it. I'm not saying that I've given up on getting healthier - I'm just saying if I lose 30 lbs it'll be a lot more fun to go replenish my wardrobe as a treat than wear my circa 2011 garb.  

  • MINIMALIST'S GAINS

I've been really digging the nordic/scandinavian/minimalist vibe, although I'm in no way a minimalist. I love decorating my walls from floor to ceiling, and tend to go big or go home. Nonetheless, I am getting into simplifying. It's a great feeling - keeping what you really need and moving on. I feel like a huge weight has come off my shoulders the more I have let go of material possessions. 

SO, I GOT RID OF ALL MY CLOTHES. I had this insane idea to literally keep just what I needed, and started making a raw list of how many items I thought a person reasonably needed to have. Here's the first breakdown of my Reality List:

  • 7 casual dresses
  • 7 dressy dresses
  • 3 nice pants
  • 4 colored pants
  • 4 jeans
  • 3 jackets
  • 3 coats
  • 7 casual tops
  • 7 tanks
  • 7 fancy tops
  • 6 sweaters
  • 5 sentimental items
  • 3 nonsense items
  • 10 scarves
  • 5 belts
  • 15 undies
  • 3 sports bras
  • 1 strapless bra
  • 6 t-shirt bras
  • 5 socks
  • 5 leggings
  • 2 shorts
  • 5 workout shorts
  • 3 nice shorts
  • 5 tshirts
  • 1 sweat pant
  • 5 hats/hair wraps
  • 5 beanies

I did a little research on downsizing and found this super fascinating concept:

The Capsule Wardrobe

I was sold. I didn't create a separate capsule for each season, because so many of my clothes transition to the entire year (I love to layer summer dresses with sweaters and tights, and I love putting my tank tops with sweaters, etc). The key to an effective capsule wardrobe is that you know and understand all of the different ways to combo your outfits so it feels like you have endless possibilities. I wanted a way to be able to keep up with my clothing choices, and that's when I found the Stylebook App. The app was a game changer. Remember that moment in Clueless when she uses a computer program to find her white top. THIS IS FINALLY REAL LIFE PEOPLE. For the sexy price of $3.99 I can have the computerized personal stylist I've dreamed of since 1995. No brainer. Yes please.

 

So I did it! I systematically purged all of my clothes.

Here are my steps and rules:

1. Make your own Reality List. I don't need more than 1 pair of sweatpants because I don't wear them that often. Do you? What do you wear a lot of? Create your own list of things that you think are reasonable. Don't do it off of what you own, do it off of what would be ideal for your lifestyle (without your present clothes in mind. Think with a clean slate). Ask yourself: What do you really need? What can you do without? What is just taking up space? I do laundry about once a week, so in reality I don't really need more than about a weeks worth of anything. It's unlikely that I'll wear 7 dresses in one week, so do I really need more than 3? Hard questions. Rewarding answers.

2. Immediately start a pile of every single item that doesn't fit anymore. You are only allowed to keep 3 (THAT IS IT) items that are too small as sentimental pieces. For example, I kept a dress from our honeymoon, my favorite pair of old jeans, and a swimsuit from our honeymoon. 

3. Start a 'maybe' pile. It's easier than painfully putting your not-favorite-but-still-loved stuff into the trash bin. 

4. Separate what's left into sections. Look at your reality list and start putting aside you're top picks for each section. The I-will-not-part-with-this list. Initially don't put anything more than your final number in the keep pile, and start a second "maybe's" pile. Keep in mind that you like the second "maybe's" pile more than the first, because they made it through the first round. 

5. Get your closet really organized. For me, this included matching hangers per section. White hangers for tops and dresses. Blue hangers for bottoms. I bought a closet sweater holder, and was able to fill it with all of my sweaters and jeans. I also bought an over-the-door shoe rack, and bins for the top of my closet, baskets for the bottom, and an under the bed slider. It's an initial investment, but worth it to have a clean, organized space. 

This is the size of my REAL closet! Because now I don't need more! Freedom!

This is the size of my REAL closet! Because now I don't need more! Freedom!

6. Start filling your closet with all of your keepers according to your list. For me, this included taking a photo inventory for my app! This took forever but now that I've done it I can plan out my clothes way in advance and take full advantage of the app. 

7. Take a look at your 2 piles of maybes. This was the most painful part for me. I did pull a few items back into my closet, but only if I could fit into them right now and they could be worn in multiple ways. 

8. Say goodbye to the maybes and add them to your sell or donate pile. Say goodbye. Look away. A treat is coming if you'll just say goodbye!

9. GOOD JOB! If you're like me than you literally just got rid of like 350 items of clothes. As a major treat, I wrote a list of items that I felt I needed to complete my capsole wardrobe and went shopping. This totally changed my shopping game. I knew exactly what I needed, and knew I didn't have room for more, so I only came home with the 7 items on my list. 

Here were my added capsule items. I came up with them from looking at my pinterest clothing board to see what I pinned a lot of but didn't already have or could 'improv' with my closet. Here's what I added.

  • A few casual tops. Most of my tops that fit are from my 'teacher style' clothes from working at LCA for 2 years. I wanted a few (2) tops that could go with my new, more casual grad school wardrobe.
  • Winter boots. I got rid of all but 1 pair of my winter boots because they were so gross, falling apart, and worn out. I blame carline for that. I realized I could style a short pair of military boots in a few different ways (with jeans, with a skirt and tights, with a dress and tights, with leggings), and I tend to live in a pair of tall brown boots during the fall and winter. Both of my picks came from JustFab.com
  • One plaid shirt. Again this can be styled under dresses, over dresses, with sweaters, tied around your waist, etc. I did have a plaid shirt but it was too small and it was one of those items I would never buy another of because I kept thinking I would fit into my too-small one. Time to upgrade!
  • One denim shirt. I was surprised to see how many times I had pinned a denim shirt. I'm a deal hunter when I shop, and so I have passed over this item again and again because I keep thinking I'll find a great one for like 10-15 bucks. I bought one for $26, and don't regret it one bit because I know I'll wear it during 3 seasons of my capsule.

And TADA! I didn't even end up needing to buy an extra Ikea wardrobe for storage! My closet is simple, clean, and I LOVE IT! 

And for your viewing pleasure, a few pieces from my fall capsule wardrobe:

I hope you enjoyed today's edition of "Mischief" and thanks so much for reading! Please let me know in the comment section if you'd like to see more stuff like this (clothes, hair, etc) and what you want to hear about. 

Grace and Peace

Sherei


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Why I have & how I use an iPhone, iPad, Macbook Pro, and iMac

Or, for you losers out there, it could be said, "Why I have & how I use an android, tablet, laptop, and personal computer". 

Technology is an important part of my life, and so over time I've ended up with more gadgets then (at first) I knew what to do with. At different seasons we bought different items (iPad when we needed a hotspot at the farm...iMac when my dad was selling his because he didn't need it anymore), causing some of our tech items to fall into disuse. I'm in a new rhythm where I, surprisingly, now use all of my Big 4 (iPhone, iPad, Macbook Pro, and iMac). Here's my break down of usage.

IPHONE

I mainly use my iPhone for texting, phone calls, social media, health, reminders, bible study and photography apps. My favorite photo apps are enlight, vscocam, pictapgo, and phoster. I'm huge on myfitness pal, a health app that helps you keep up with calories and fitness. Bible apps. I love youversion, a bible app with a million versions and daily reading plans. I'm getting into First5, an app that shows you scripture right when you wake up, and She Reads Truth, a devo community for women. I also use my phone for the etsy seller app so I can respond to clients quickly and check on stats. 

IPAD

This guy is a trickster. I use to not use my iPad at all after we didn't need it for a hotspot anymore, but this summer he has found his place in my lineup. I currently use my iPad most for reading, graphic design using Paper, taking notes with Evernote (with a portable keyboard), my clothing organizer (Stylebook) to pick out outfits, and Netflix. A word on taking notes: I'ma  new seminary student, so note taking is a part of my life again. This time around the info is way over my head and going a million miles a minute. I type 75 WPM, and so as much as I want to whip out the old pen and paper...I need to stick with typing to keep up. I'm also in a lot of meetings and feel kind of like a jerk if I'm constantly on my laptop, typing notes. There is something less obtrusive and more approachable about using an iPad when your taking notes in meetings.  Daniel and I don't have a TV, so it's so nice to pop up Netflix in bed or on our coffee table while we share a meal on the couch. I also occasionally use it to ustream a service that I'm speaking at or Daniel is playing at. I just prop it up and walk away. 

I'm about to betray all of my 'real' book friends (and I'm still a HUGE fan of real books), but I've started reading books on my iBook app. There are some books that I definitely want a hardback copy of, like a really beautiful edition of Pride and Prejudice. Daniel and I have the top shelf of our bookshelf lined with Barnes & Nobles beautiful collectable line of classics, and I hope for that to grow. But some books aren't particularly pretty, and when you live in a small space, you need to keep the book count to a minimum. For example, I love Francine Rivers, but think her book covers can be kind of cheesy, plus they are insanely long. This summer I read the second Mark of Lion book on my iPad, and absolutely loved being able to carry that around as appose to a 600 page printed book. 

MACBOOK PRO

Old Faithful has been a part of the tech family since 2011. My Macbook pro is my lifeline. I do most of my photo editing (Lightroom), graphic design (Photoshop and Illustrator) and writing (Evernote) using my macbook. I'm a huge fan of working in coffee shops and around town, so it's so nice to be able to 'bring my office with me' when I'm tired of working from home. I also use this guy for church services to project Pro Presenter, and at times Planning Center. 

IMAC

This huge guy is set up in my new office. Sometimes my work gets really detail oriented, and it's so nice to be able to work on graphics on a big screen. I use this guy to work on graphic design, writing, and photography from home, and love the massive workspace. You'll occasionally see me enjoying an episode of Parks and Rec from this dude too. 

So, that's my tech wrap up. I hope it helps you decide if you really need a tablet, or laptop, or whatevs to help your workflow and daily life :D.

Grace and Peace

Sherei


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