Saturday, November 22, 2014

Weekend Cheer-Ups



:: Lean in and see how some families are born.

:: Am I the only weirdo who never tires of looking at beautiful weddings? My pal's little sis styled this one!

:: Apparently I didn't save the right URL for that last link, so I had to search around for minutes and minutes. Instead of silently muttering my usual, "For the love of Pete" I said, "Did I do thaaaat?" In the Steve Urkle voice. I can't explain it, but I sure feel better now that the secret's out.

:: This provoked my Ugly Cry, on contact.

:: VINDICATION IS MINE!

:: I love, love this song. His voice does magical things and I'm inclined to buy the cd (yes, I still buy cds. shut up about it.) but I still haven't recovered from being duped by Elliott Yamin...

:: Hey, one of my favorite companies posted an interview with me!

:: I like the way this one tells the truth.

:: I'm on the secondhand hunt for a pair of these (WHY did I toss mine in college???)

:: LOVE is right. Yes to a green kitchen!

:: Add this to your kiddos' library, stat.

:: This sincerely feels like a website we all need, and I'm not even playing.

:: This woman somehow takes my kind of life and makes sense of it.

:: I HAVE A LOT OF FEELINGS ABOUT THIS. Mostly laughter. Related: Sarah and I used to have an entire "Secular" list, documenting all the times our pastor said it, with passion and earnestness, LIKE IT WAS AN ACTUAL THING.

Happy Weekend, Homies!


*A wee affiliate link was used for that there book.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

This is How God Speaks



I spent yesterday with some of my ladies. We ran through Goodwill (duh) then settled into a booth and asked the server to "keep the salsa coming". Then we shared what was on our hearts, and it was some serious business.

We're all in a time of uncertainty, aren't we? No matter what's going on in our world, there are unanswered questions and niggling feelings of internal wonkiness. We want what we don't want, we don't want what we do want. It's all a bit of a mess, and we've grown accustomed to the yank and shove of working out our faith, making it something that belongs to us, something that's all of us - fully in and through us.

Our words still ringing in my ears, I grabbed our kids' devotional book this morning and because 1) I'm not a morning person and 2) God is God and I am not, I read yesterday's page. By "accident".

So this is completely for me, but it's also for you. It's for the ladies who shared lunch with me and all the ones who came before. It's for those of you I may not share a chip basket with this side of eternity. (Sidenote: Jesus, keep the salsa coming!) We are in this together. We've been grafted into community with one another for a purpose.

So grab my hand, let's say what's true.

Follow Me. No matter where I lead you, just follow Me. Don't worry about how everything will turn out. Just trust Me, and I'll show you the way.

Think of your life as an adventure, with Me as your Guide and Companion. Don't worry about where our path will lead tomorrow - just live in the adventure of today. Keep your mind on staying close to Me.

If our path takes us to the bottom of a steep cliff, don't be afraid. Just hold tightly to My hand, and take a deep breath. I'll help you climb all the way up to the top. And when we come to a peaceful resting place, stop there a while and rest with me.
Is that just what you needed, or is it just me?
The devotional ended with this, my very favorite Bible verse. Because of course it did.
"For I am confident that I will see the Lord's goodness while I am here in the land of the living." Psalm: 27:13-14

Happy Thursday, Homies.
Thanks for being my people.

*I only feel slightly too-bossy in saying you need this kids devotional in your casa. Even if you don't have kids, because sometimes we need God's word as plain and simple and profound as it was always meant to be.

** I sent invoices out last night for Thrift Fix 1.0! Check your email. If you didn't "win", there's always next time. :)

*** Yes, that is an affiliate link up there.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Why Contentment Isn't Enough


Back when you asked me all your burnings questions, one of you asked, "If someone dropped $40k in your lap right this minute--what would you do with it? Can you justify going on vacation or do you easily talk yourself out of it because you could better spend that money feeding the hungry/housing the homeless, etc?"

Now THAT is a question.
In the 2 months since then, Cory and I have had 20 at least conversations about it. It's a fun one to ponder and I highly recommend it the next time your husband is relaxing on the couch with his nose in a book. :)

We've been all over the map. Family Vacation. Giving to missionaries. New camera lens (Cory). All of the throw pillows in all of the stores (Shannan). I daydreamed about replacing our towels and buying a good set of pans (the things that seem necessary after 15 years of marriage, but never seem to actually happen.) We'd like to finish the basement, and we tell ourselves we "need" to. (Another post for another day.) There's the despairing fact of our two troubled mini vans. And the looming threat of braces. And still, after all this time and all we've learned, there remains the pulsing instinct to "put it in savings".



Every time it came up, when the daydreams had thinned into the air around us and all that was left was the truth, we came back to this: We would pay off our house and immediately buy another one.

We'd buy something small and grubby, in our neighborhood. We'd doctor it up and figure out how to become landlords. And that's what we'd be. Against all logic, Dave Ramsey be danged.

If you'd asked that question two years ago, or even one, our answer would have been different.

But you can only sit around the table so many times with beautiful, broken people and watch the world close in on them before it starts to kill you a little. And isn't that the point of life? Aren't we suppose to lose ourselves?

We're in a season where God is making good on His promise to bring us a new community, and it's a community of brokenness and deep need. Patterns keep emerging, a never-ending rabbit trail, the curling loop of infinity.

It's the broken child who becomes the angry man who commits a crime who does the time who puts ink to all his pain who won't be hired who can't find a home who works for minimum wage who owes the system who doesn't see his kids who has no car who signs over his soul to a slumlord who is bled dry by greed who walks to work in the cold with a flame at his lips who wants to quit, wants to save, wants to dig out, wants to start fresh, wants to know God, wants to feel loved, wants to lock eyes with another human, wants to convince me his gang is full of "good people", wants to change, wants to move, wants to leave, wants to quit, wants to try try try. But can't.

Those blue eyes, they're so kind and he will never get out from under the system. Do we really want him to? Do we care?

We tell him to change, to prove it when he has, but would we even listen? Will his change ever look like enough to you and me?

Not when half his teeth are missing and "F**k the world" is scrawled across his forearm while our eight-year old sits with her bowl of soup, just two chairs down. Not when bed sheets covers his windows and he gets jittery when he needs a smoke. Not when he pays through the nose for a crap-hole because no one else will trust a felon. Not when nothing about him shows us he's moving up.

That's what we want. We want everyone to move up, to meet us where we are, but we keep climbing while they crawl and we know they'll never catch us. We kind of like it that way.

Do you want the secret to contentment? Break bread with someone who has nothing then watch their backs get smaller and disappear as they walk home on ice-covered streets wearing thin, zip-up hoodies. I dare you to go to bed that night and think about what you need. You'll fight sleep as you look around your cute, cozy bedroom. You'll swear you'd rip the fixtures from the ceiling and sell the duvet if you had to. Your cheeks will flame in the dark while you pretend your closet doesn't hold 12 pairs of shoes.

I've been so wrong, so long. This death is hard. It's painful.

People like to tell me it's okay to have nice things, or that it's wrong or prideful to get caught up in having less. I understand it. I feel some of those things, too. I don't think we're called to be monks or make our shoes from cardboard.

It makes us uncomfortable to consider choosing a life of lower means. We want our stuff so badly. I want it. I like it and I love it. It makes me happy, brings me joy, gives me something on which to hang a bit of my worth. My stuff defines me.

His does, too.

If I had this riddle all worked out I probably wouldn't be tapping these keys. We're learning to be more content, but I still have miles to go. All I have to do is look to the South, look to the North, and I'm schooled. It's in my face, and I still resist it every day. I find it impossible to reconcile the woman I am and the woman I'm meant to be.

It's not much, but here's what I know for sure about contentment: If you want more of it, stop only hanging around people who have as much as or more than you. Spend time with friends who tell you that every pay-day, they go to Goodwill and buy a dish or a pan or a sweater because a few months ago, they were evicted again, lost everything, and had to start over from scratch.

Here's one more thing: If you do this, you will never be truly content. Your wanting might mellow a bit, but it'll be replaced with the hot burn of injustice at point-blank range and you'll begin to believe it is your job to right some wrong things. You'll find it impossible to watch humans around you - humans you love - suffer.

The truth is, if $40,000 dollars fell into my lap, we'd take these kids of ours on a simple vacation.  As sure as I'm sitting here, we'd make an unnecessary trip to Target and eat somewhere nice without that fluttery feeling in our gut. And then we'd find that little cottage and believe that it could change something for someone.

I guess I'm some kind of a holy roller this morning. I'm here running the aisles because I'm tired of sitting still. I'm spitting into the mic, crashing the cymbal, begging you to believe we were given this job, to find these people and love them straight to the cross. Let's not be content with contentment. Let's believe it's our high honor to give a rip.

We can support them in meaningful ways and love them to the feet of Jesus. From there, the rest of the work is His. We can do this, friends. We can do the job we were given - a tangible job, nothing theoretical or hypothetical about it. We can actually do actual things for His kingdom here on earth. Today.

We can decide to never be the same again.

"Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone." 1 Thess. 5:14


Friday, November 14, 2014

Thrift Fix - 1.0


For the past year, various blog friends have harped (ever so nicely) on me to hop aboard the Stitch Fix bandwagon. A few made a great case, saying this is a needed service for women who don't have time to shop or don't trust themselves to put together an outfit that they'll feel great in.

While lots of people I love use Stitch Fix, it was never the right fit for me (ha), primarily because I don't buy retail very often. I'm a big believer in buying secondhand. It's the best value and it works against the popular norm of cranking out more "stuff" when this world has plenty. Plus, it requires a little more creativity and patience, both of which I could always exercise more.

So, welcome to Thrift Fix!

Every now and then, I host a sale of secondhand outfits I've put together with much love and affection, JUST FOR YOU. (You can read about the first sale, similar but not entirely the same, right here.)

I'm committed to buying ONLY things that I would wear. In fact, I feel some level of visceral pain that I can't keep all of this for moi. If I'm buying it, I love it. And I try to pair things up in a really FPFG sort of way, but remember that these are pieces you can mix-and-match however you'd like. They would also work well with things you already have!

Boss Notes
If you're interested in an outfit, leave me a comment with the outfit number (the number is directly BELOW the photo) along with your PayPal address. I will randomly choose a winner for each outfit and send you an invoice.

Shipping is only available to the Continental US.

Sadly, there are no returns. I do my best to accurately provide size information, making notes when items look larger or bigger than their actual size. If your outfit doesn't work, you can feel free to comb back through the comments and find someone else who might want it!

Comments will be open until tomorrow, at noon ET. (Saturday the 15th)

Outfit 1
heathered blue 3/4, scoop neck T - Old Navy, size XS
citron/light grey striped sweater - Old Navy, size XS
plaid scarf

Outfit 2
hunter gingham button-down - Gap, size XS
black turtleneck sweater with "leather" elbow patches - Max Studio, size XS

Outfit 3
navy flowered button-down - Banana Republic, size S
varsity cardigan - Forever 21, size S


 Outfit 4
striped "dress" (it's short, so I'd definitely wear with leggings or skinnies, a thin belt and boots!) - Rue 21, size M (runs small, so would def be more of a S)
pinstriped button-down with ruffled front - American Eagle, size 4

 

 
(blurry! sorry!)

Outfit 5
grey long sleeved "Live Free" T-shirt - Old Navy, size S
leopard cardigan - Old Navy, size S
plaid scarf

Outfit 6
long, sage green sweater with pocket - Banana Republic, size S (runs a bit larger, more like M)
polka-dot thermal - Belle du Jour, size M
knit scarf

Outfit 7
knit sweater dress - size M (Think leggings and boots again!)
**Note** I discovered a tiny hole in the armpit when I was taking the photo. Should be an easy fix, but this is sold as-is!

Outfit 8
sheer, black flowered long-sleeve T - Free People, size S (runs big)
knit tank with swingy hem - Pink Rose, size M
(My friend Alison paired a tank over a LS t-shirt last week and I immediately vowed to do the same. Looked so cute!)


Outfit 9
blue pin-striped button-down with ruffle placket - Eddie Bauer, size M
grey polka-dot T - JCP, size L
*Note: This T has a loose, slightly-cropped cut.

Outfit 10
navy blue courduroy blazer - H&M, size 10 (runs small)
cobalt woven tank - Ann Taylor Loft, size M

Outfit 11
flannel - Club Room, size L
flowered thermal - Mossimo, size L
(Flannels are HUGE right now and this monochromatic pairing is a great way to break into mixing patterns.) :)

Outfit 12
loose, comfy-knit grey T - Whisper, no size (looks like a Large, but could work for a Med, too. I have a similar shirt and wear it ALL THE TIME. Looks cute with leggings (it has a longer hem in back) or skinnies!)
navy blue scarf - (this thing is huge, like the scarves I wear! you can twist it up a million different ways.)



 Outfit 13
Xhileration dress, NEW WITH TAGS! - size XL
thin, studded wrap bracelet
(People. This dress is so killer. I wish it could be mine. Black tights and black booties!!!)


Outfit 14
white, comfy-knit shirt - Old Navy, size XL
black/gray gingham scarf
(Same notes as gray T above. This is the sort of thing I live in. Would probably need a cami or tank underneath.)

Outfit 15
blue pin-striped button-down with ruffle placket - Old Navy, size XXL
burnt orange velvet blazer - Talbots, size 16
*This is one of my all-time favorite thrift finds. I have a velvet blazer that I wear ALL the time. It's so polished but also looks great with a junky T underneath. The color in this photo is way off. Sorry. It's a much more mellow, burnt orange. And the blazer appears to be brand new!

Leave your preferences in the comments with a PayPal address! Total for each outfit is $23, which includes shipping.

Thrifty Luv 4-Ever,
Shannan


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Closet Rehab - When Your Clothes are all "Blah" (and an announcement)


I go through phases where I stare blankly at my closet, believing nothing works anymore. I despair. I hate everything. It's all out-of-date. I'm tired of it. I wear the same things all the time, but I don't have the panache of Carolina Herrera to pull off the signature "uniform". (I culled that CH trivia from the fashion-magazine-obsessed recesses of my adolescent brain. Who cares if I got a C in Spanish II, Mom? I WAS BUSY.)

Back in the day, when these moments of  bleak fashion forcasting struck, I would decide it was time to go shopping. Invariably, I'd bring home a few crappy shirts that I didn't even love, and the cycle would begin again.

Since we're 2/3 of the way through the Secondhand Fashion Challenge, I've had to gather my wits and be a big girl. I've *definitely* added a few "new" things to my shelf, but I'm also more committed than ever to making my old stuff work.

Here's what I wore to church a couple Sundays ago.
It's nothing legendary or super-creative. (I'm thinking of you, polarizing man pajama!)

But Everything I wore was, in my mind, old, tired, or in some way less than my favorite.

I know you're thinking, "Back up, FP. You're wearing gingham! How can you expect us to believe you don't love it???"

Truth: I have 2 navy/white gingham shirts. One of them I wear CONSTANTLY. This one is wonky and hardly gets worn. The collar is strange and it bells out at the bottom in all the wrong ways. I've tried to love it. I swear. But it never happened.

UNTIL THIS DREAMY DAY.

I layered it under a very blah, beige sweater that I'm still not sure why I bought in the first place. (Must have been in one of "those" crises - see above.)

I grabbed my vintage (in internet years) Noonday necklace and piled on some bracelets, then pulled on my old Target boots that resemble the neck of an old man or a turkey. I'm not sure which.

I was surprised by how much I liked it all.

Here's what I'm preaching: Its time to renew your vows to the stuff you already own. Love is a choice, people. Love is a VERB. Just ask DC Talk. Or John Mayer.

(Actually, don't ask John. I don't trust that rat.)

Your closet is FULL of things you might buy this very day if you happened upon them in a crowded rack at Goodwill with the intoxicating lyrics of Genesis or Cyndi Lauper pulsing through the grimy store.

Pair them up in a different way. "Make it work!"   
We'll try, Tim. We'll surely try.

Let me know how it goes.

And now, for a "very important newsletter":

Tomorrow at 12:00 PM (Eastern Time) I'll be posting a fresh batch of secondhand outfits. All sizes. REALLY GOOD STUFF. (As in, I feel visceral pain that it's not all for me.)

New rules: You have to leave a PayPal email address with your outfit choice in order to be entered into the drawing to "win" said outfit. I do this because it makes it 1,000,000 times simpler and more organized from my end, but also because I love bossing people around. (Ask Silas.)

Cost per outfit will be $23, including shipping. Each outfit includes 2 pieces (sometimes 3! what?) that can be worn together AND mixed-and-matched with the sleepy, "give me another chance" stuff you already own.

Comments will be open through Saturday morning, so you've got to move it-move it. 

Consider this your fair warning. Tomorrow, friends! It will be such a party. Spread the word to anyone who might be interested. (But only if they wear a different size than you, because you know...)

On the 'morrow!!!,
FPFG


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

How To Be A Friend



Back in August, I told you to ask my anything. As much as this space is "mine", it's also very much "ours". You and I, we're friends, and I love it when we can chat.

One of you asked a great question about what I value and seek in friendships and how I maintain friendships that thrive. Right away, and I knew it was something worth talking about.

Truth is, I don't feel like the worlds greatest friend. I'm historically awful at remembering birthdays, I'm not great at keeping up on social media, I'm an introvert and intermittent hermit who loves time alone. I fail often, but I'm always trying to regroup because I love my friends. I rely on my people. They make me better. They make my life fuller. Anything I know about being a friend, I learned from them.

While I'm by no means an expert, here's my take on how how to be a friend.

Be Safe
This tops my list. To me, the most important quality in a friend is the ability to be trusted. I'm fortunate to have a circle of friends who I can (and have) trusted with the most vulnerable places in my life. I gauge the safeness of my friendships in a couple of ways. First, do they gossip about other people to me? (There's a difference between chatting about other friends and gossiping about them.) A friend who will tell me someone else's dirt will just as easily dispense mine. Second, are they vulnerable with me? When a friend bares her guts, I know she values trust, and I'm more inclined to offer more of myself back to her.

Be Real
I want to see behind the curtain with my friends. I want them as they really are, not as they think I want them. I need to see their life isn't perfect, that they struggle just like I do. I'm honored to be welcomed into their messy homes, all bed-head and heaped-up dishes. I want to be near them when they're spiritually dry, when mothering feels impossible, when marriage makes them weepy, when their kids are tyrants, when chaos reigns, when they're angry, guilty, entirely spent. I have a few friends who are more Type A than I am, and I want to embrace them exactly as God made them. But my radar is keen, and striving women make me edgy. I don't like wondering if someone's taking mental notes on my relative put-togetherness. (That's a test I'll never pass.) So, tell me your doubts. Show me your mess. I'll love you forever.

Celebrate
I have a friend who tells me when she gets a bonus at work. I've seen glowing cheeks across the table as a friend tells me her son is the best reader in his class, or that she ran her best marathon to date. These conversations make me very happy. As much as I want to share in the hard places with my ladies, I love sharing in the parts of life where they're just killing it. This tells me they aren't score keepers. They're people who operate under the assumption of abundance, rather than lack. They know I want to cheer them on, and they want to do the same for me. My success doesn't rob them of their own. There's enough for everyone. I've learned that sharing a life without sharing our victories means we're hoarding half the story. We aren't vulnerable and knowable if we can't reach the place of believing there are people waiting to hear all the dirt. A true friend offers the glimmery parts of their story as living proof that they want to see the glow of mine. Boom. Pass the shades.

Offer the Benefit of the Doubt
I promise, if we're friends it's just a matter of time before I say something ridiculous or even stupid. I will definitely fail you and let you down. I'll arrive late to dinner. I'll forget your birthday or miss your big news because I go weeks without scanning my facebook feed. I want you to love me in a way that views my mistakes as evidence that I'm simply human. I'm on a mission to extend the benefit of the doubt whenever possible. (Note: It's possible 99.9% of the time.) If you stick your foot in your mouth, I'll laugh about it and breathe a bit more easily in anticipation of the day it's my turn to cash in on a little grace. I want to be slow to upset and even slower to get my feelings hurt. If you say you love me, I believe you.

Apologize
Having said that, an apology goes a long way toward keeping friendships fortified and sturdy. A while back, I had dinner with a friend. We laughed and caught up and I left remembering, all over again, how much I adore her. A full week later, she left a voice mail apologizing about a particular conversation where she felt she'd spoken out of line. She wanted to make it right with me. (I had no recollection of the fumble and still don't, which she chalks up to the goodness of God rather than to me being a poor listener. Benefit of the doubt! *clink*) Her actions were such a testament to her character. That she cared enough to be vulnerable in this way spoke volumes to me. It renewed my resolve to default to apologizing when I fear I've been out of line, or when I worry that something I've said or done *might* have been hurtful, even if that was not my intention. I want my friends to know I value our relationship over my pride.

Tell the Truth
This is a variation on all of the above, but I want to know my friends value truth, even when it's unpretty or scary or dicey or awkward. Don't tell me things are fine, because it's never true. I'm guilty of tossing out that pat answer when I don't want to engage, but "I'm fine" actually translates as, "I'm alive. I still have a pulse." That's not what we're asking, is it? If life is good, I don't want you to tamp it down. If life is hard, don't be scared, I can handle it. If I ask for your opinion, it's because I'm on the fence - I need your wit and wisdom. I want to believe you can tell me hard truths when it's time. 

Help!
I'm learning the value of asking for help. It's not realistic to expect our friends to anticipate our needs. In fact, one of the best ways I know of to forge a new friendship is to ask for help. For two years one of my neighbors and I struggled to move past waves and hellos until the day she sent me a desperate text asking me if I could babysit. Voila. We were friends, because in coming to me in need, she showed me I could do the same. It takes a village, and we belong to each other a bit more now.

On the flip-side, my closest friends are quick to offer help when I haven't even asked. They're teaching me to do the same. Ladies, we are smart humans. We're intuitive. We know what life is like. There are so many times I want to help and let it slip away before I act. But there are also times when I know a meal, or an offer to watch the kids is all it would take for the waters to part in the sea of our emotional well-being, providing safe passage to shore. Don't ask "Do you need help?" Ask, "How can I help?" or even better, "What time should I pick up your kids/bring you dinner/do your laundry?"


We need each other, ladies. We aren't experts and we'll continue to botch things up. But it's worth wading through some ditches to find the people who will help hold us together forever. Is there someone you admire? Tell her. Is there a woman you want to get to know better? Ask her out on a date. Friend her on facebook. Be pen pals. Pick up the phone. (GASP!)

Take a risk. Be fully you, and you'll open the door for her to do the same.

Now tell me, what is my list missing?


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Weekend Cheer-Ups




:: A mom tells the truth and we all exhale. (Or maybe it was just me.) "i want to keep losing myself and my reputation so that all you see is my need for grace."

:: I love everything about this cozy study, especially the horse ribbons.

:: The 10 Commandments of Tacos

:: My kids all share a room, so I loved this post on tips for a shared kids' room.

:: This series was about simplifying home-school (I don't homeschool) but it applies to most of life. 

:: We watched Chef last night. It has f-words. But it is a beautiful, inspiring, happy movie. Featuring lots of food, and Jon Favreau ('nuff said.) 

:: Speaking of food, I'm reading this right now (amongst the rest of the stack) and the first chapter was sort of a downer because it's about eating gross food, but it was also hilarious because I learned as a child to be a bit "loose" with my stance on "old" "food". (Wanna come over for dinner????)

:: Powerful words about raising black sons.  

:: Nester and Tsh created an INTJ Pinterest board and IT IS GOLD.

:: Raspberries were on sale two pints for $1! I'm making these.

:: Bradley Cooper and Jimmy Fallon can't stop laughing. (And neither can I.)

Kick it this weekend, Homies!

XO,
FPFG
 

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