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Connecting Like Christ

This month we’re talking all about connection.

My whole career has been shaped by three things: the fashions I’m feeling at any given time, my relationship with God, and the Brené Brown books that I’m reading. 

Brown’s books, especially Braving the Wilderness and Dare to Lead, have radically changed my life and taught me things about connection that I don’t think I ever would’ve discovered, or perhaps at least never put words to, on my own. I think her work is deeply important for Christians to read and interact with, because she helps us with the human framework necessary to embrace the kind of freedom and wholeness that God desires for us. 

A huge part of that framework is connection. 

One of my favorite Brené Brown quotes is: 

“ I define connection as the energy that exist between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.“

Brené Brown

Too often we get caught up in the weeds of relationship with other people – they annoy us, we question their choices, and sometimes we wonder what’s in it for us. 

It can feel like a lot of work. 

But we are not able to simply get our own personal relationship with God in order and leave everyone else to it. Like the Trinity, our foundation is a triangle – the connection that exists between us and God is also balanced by connection between ourselves and other people and other people and God. 

All three legs are necessary to support a firm faith. 

We must follow the Commandments to both love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. And the starting point for loving like Christ is connection.

Christ made it a habit to eat with people. He ate with all kinds of people – the Gospel tells us at length about how much the holy ones of his day disapproved of his free and easy eating habits. But I think that this tendency to eat with people was, and remains, one of the best ways to develop connection. Sharing a meal. Entering a home. Listening to how the day has gone.

It was these every day actions and entering into them with others that provided the foundation for the connection Christ made with people that allowed him to love them in a way that radically changed their lives. 

So here’s my challenge to you – how do you let others into your every day and allow yourself to enter that every day of others so that connection can be fostered?

If that’s not a part of your every day life, how can you add that in? 

How can you invite others into your life and except the invitation to be a part of the lives of others so that you can embrace connection the way to Christ did?

Love Boxes 2020 Launch Today!

I’m so excited to let you know that our Love Boxes launch today! They include $100-$200 worth of product for just $25 with free domestic shipping (just $12 international shipping). 

I can’t wait to see the response to them this year, especially after last year when we sold out of our 500 boxes in just 16 hours. (We were able to restock about 30 of them on February 5, and those sold out in 9 minutes!)

We’ve got a bunch of boxes ready this year, but I know the word has spread so if you want one you’re going to need to click here as quickly as possible and go through the checkout process – just having a Love Box in your cart will not hold it for you!

These Love Boxes first started out as a practical way for me to bless our customers and make some space in the studio. But as we launched them last year and launch them again today they have become about much more than that. 

We still love sending them out as a radical way for us to love on you for your incredible support all year round, but they have also become an incredible means of connection between people that we never could’ve imagined. 

Before we pack Love Boxes, we pray over them. We ask the Holy Spirit to guide our hands and get the right things to the right people. We don’t know what you need, but He does. And boy did He show up for us through the boxes last year. For an entire year we’ve been hearing stories from people who either purchased a Love Box or received gifts from it who were able to experience connection with the people around them in a beautiful way because of the physical gift that they were able to give and receive. 

Another story is of a family who had fallen on hard times, which had been particularly challenging for their teenage daughters who, like most teenagers, valued the way they present themselves and what others thought of them based on how they were dressed. There hadn’t been any new jewelry or accessories in the family for a long time because it wasn’t deemed as an essential, but a family friend bought the Love Box for them. Every one of the girls in the family had new jewelry they were proud to wear and filled them with hope. 

These are just two of the many, many stories that have been shared with us this year. And we can’t wait to see how God shows up in the stories of Love Boxes this year. 

The stories moved me so much last year that it became the launching point for our subscription box, the Joy Box, also based around creating connection through gift giving. 

Two core values of my company solidified in the days and weeks following our first Love Box launch last year – value and connection

We want to continuously provide you with excellent value so that you can both experience revival in your own life and create stronger connection with those around you, primarily through gift giving. This month, however, we are going to dive even deeper and explore other ways that we can foster connection in our families, communities, and churches in our regular Tuesday emails. 

I hope you pick up a Love Box today (before they disappear) and share it with someone you love.

Inviting Peace with Prayer and Curiosity

We’re coming to the end of our month talking about peace and I hope that these reflections have helped you reflect on where you were at with peace right now. (You can still grab the resource package right here!)

For Type A people/perfectionists like myself, reflecting on peace can be an anxiety riddled endeavor. 

Thinking about all the ways and places I don’t have peace can send me into a tailspin of even more anxiety and worry about why and what I need to do better to capture and conquer peace like it’s some kind of gold medal. 

That is, to put it bluntly, super unhelpful. 

On the contrary, peace is not something that we capture like a prize bird, but something we invite like a beloved houseguest. And that’s why I want to spend this last week talking about a few tools that you can use to both grow in peace and keep anxiety about it all at bay.

1. Curiosity 

Curiosity is one of the most helpful techniques you can keep in your arsenal of personal growth tools. Instead of panicking, getting anxious, or reverting to what is comfortable when you find yourself getting anxious about peace (or anything else you might be seeking or struggling with) you can choose to turn to curiosity instead. 

When you are curious about why you feel the way you feel, you open the door to God and yourself to move in deeper reflection that can lead to real growth. I find when I start to get that anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach if I stop and literally say out loud to myself “Why am I feeling this way?“ I am way more likely to be able to move through the feeling. This question keeps anxiety from seriously derailing my day instead of letting the feeling grow and fester in my stomach until it affects my head and every other part of my body in a tidal wave of stress.

Less stress tidal waves = happier me.

2. Prayer 

I have this weird notion that prayer is where I present my solutions to God, which writing that looks pretty hilarious because it’s so clearly wrong, but when I’m going about my day in my own little Jill bubble, it feels like that’s the way I act. 

A lot of times I don’t go to prayer until I feel like I have a good option for what to do – almost like I want to provide God side of the conversation in addition to my own. But that’s not the way it supposed to work at all. We only provide our side of the conversation. We can present endless problems that we face without solutions without repercussion – that’s what it’s for. 

Prayer is where we come to let God sort things out for us – not where we sort things out for ourselves. If you were finding peace to be particularly elusive in a certain area of your life, I encourage you to keep presenting a problem to God in prayer over and over again – no matter how long it takes. 

Do you remember the story in the gospel about the woman who bothered the godless judge so much that he eventually ruled in her favor? Jesus taught that if that judge who was unjust did that, how much more would your father in heaven respond to the perseverance of his children? 

Ask God for peace. Over and over again. He is the only one that will really give it to you and you can be assured in his promises that he will provide it to you – maybe not in that moment, that day or that week, but it will come. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed turning with me in this reflection on peace this January. I find that January is a time so full of aspiration when New Year’s resolutions are ripe in our minds, it can be hard to sit in peace with where we are at right now and what we already have. 

I hope that these posts have help to you even just a little bit this month to allow God to bring you the peace he so desires to bring you.

Following Peace

 

 

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got in college was to “follow peace”.

If I didn’t have peace about the decision I needed to hold off. 

I was told that God‘s will brings peace and so to some extent, although not infallible, we can use the sense of peace we have about things as a kind of barometer for whether or not it’s in keeping with God‘s plan for us.

Now, take that with a grain of salt because there have been many things in my life where it felt like there wasn’t peace in either option, the peace came instead with the decision making. 

There’s not always a hidden right answer – God is not a game show host with doors that alternatively hide our deepest desires or a pit of fire. He’s not sitting up in the clouds (like I think some atheists imagine we believe he must be) getting ready to zap us if we choose the wrong thing. There are many choices in our lives where God is happy to work through whatever we choose and we can have peace in our decisions knowing that the Scriptures will be fulfilled in us – God will work all things together for good for those who love and serve him. 

Ultimately, that’s where the peace comes from.

It’s not necessarily in making the right choice every time with a perfect record – it comes from trusting that God will do what he said he would. 

I’m finding this January to be a wonderful time to reassess whether or not I really and truly trust in God. Our holiday season here at the shop was not quite what I had hoped it would be. I had bigger goals and grander plans. When they did not come to pass it was a true opportunity to reflect on whether or not 1.) I really did have peace about running this company and 2.) did I really trust that God would provide for my family and the way he said he would. 

So I invite you to reflect on your own life – where do you not feel peace? Do you really trust God with that area of your life? 

If you’re anything like me, those areas that are our biggest sources of anxiety are likely the things that we’re kind of keeping off to the side for ourselves to deal with and not allowing God to be in control of.

But we can trust him. 

He is the only one truly and endlessly worthy of our trust. 

I invite you to give those areas of anxiety to God this week.

The Bear Hunt for Peace

God desires peace for your heart. 

Do you believe that? Do you experience that? 

My answer is both yes or no if I’m being honest. Sometimes it seems like peace is extraordinarily elusive, almost like God is making it intentionally hard for me to find. It seems like the harder I think it the harder it runs away. 

There’s a short story I love about a boy hunting for a bear in the woods. He hunts unceasingly for the bear, looking every day and believing that he will eventually find it. Along the way he catches glimpses, things that keep him going on his quest to find it. And then, when the bear decides it’s time, the bear reveals himself. All the while he’s been drawing the boy deeper into the story – deeper into the forest. 

The search has drawn the little boy into a kind of closeness with the bear that never could have occurred if the bear had been easy to find. When it last they stand face-to-face it is as if they are old friends – both shaped by the dance that led them to each other. (As a sidenote, I’ve completely forgotten the name and author of the story amongst the thousands that I read while completing my English degree in college, so if this rings a bell please hit reply and remind me of the authorship of story so I can share it with everyone next week! It deeply pains me to send a synopsis like this without being able to refer everyone to the original.

It’s that way with us and God I think. He could just show us himself and his full glory, which would flood our souls with peace and wonder, but he does not. He allows us to seek him alongside the peace that comes from knowing him and trusting him. 

So that’s my challenge to you this week – reflect on your life. When have you seen your own glimpses of the bear – moments in God‘s presence where you have felt his peace? If you have a story you’d like to share I’d love to hear it – just hit reply and let me know.

If you’ve peeked around the shop lately you might have noticed some changes. We are moving to a simplified shop model in 2020, keeping a much smaller stock of items in our core, always available collection, and having several special limited edition items available each month for just that month that related to our theme for the month – for instance we have several “Peace” themed items in the shop right now that will go away January 31. 

To check out this month’s limited edition head right here and watch our “Limited Edition” category for new items every month!

Driving in the Fog – a Lesson in God’s Peace

The morning of my planning retreat for 2020 it was extremely foggy. I live in the city, so typically there’s not low hanging fog the way that you would expect in the country. But on this particular day there was thick white fog everywhere making visibility only about an eighth of a mile or so – you couldn’t even see a whole block in front of you. 

And so as I was driving to work that morning I was struck with a thought – there’s really only two ways to drive in fog- stressed and anxious about what it is that is out there that you can’t see or thankful for the visual quiet that allowed you to see only what you needed to see. 

When I pulled up to a stoplight I could see it clearly, as well as the other cars in the intersection. I was never in any danger. But the rest of everything that usually clogged my commute was stripped away – no billboards, no storefronts, no lights far up the road. It was just peaceful. 

So as I was driving through this fog I begin to reflect on how living the Christian life, a life entrusted to God, is so much like driving through this fog. We can only see what we need to see it any given time, but how much do I frequently let that be an impetus of fear and anxiety instead of an opportunity for deep peace – knowing, without a doubt, but I can see you what I need to see, no more, no less.

It was a peaceful revelation, but it was also a punch in the gut. 

Why was I allowing God‘s grace of only giving us the unobstructed present to be a source of such anxiety? Why could I not trust that I could see what I needed to see? 

It was so fitting that this drive was the starting point for my planning retreat for 2020. 2019 was a year decidedly marked by a lack of peace. It got so bad in the last months of the year that I begin to doubt my plan to write about peace this January because I couldn’t imagine how someone who sought peace but found it to be so elusive could ever share thoughts on it in any kind of helpful way. 

But the fog showed me that I lack peace because I haven’t really wanted it – on God’s terms. If I want to embrace it, it’s right there. God is taking care of everything – limiting my vision with the love of a father so that I need not be overwhelmed, but there I was in the midst of the fog imagining what grotesque monsters and giants could be lurking just outside the field of my vision. The peaceful place God has prepared for me had become a nightmare – stalked by the worst imaginings of my troubled heart.

I had been actively rejecting peace. It brings tears to my eyes to say that because I felt that is all I’ve been seeking, and therein lies another problem – the very hunt for peace had become yet another source of crippling anxiety for me. 

I let the anxiety about the fact that I could not find it fester and infect other parts of myself. I drove through the fog peopled with all of my worst fears, beliefs, and thoughts, putting them there myself with effort when God has already provided a small bite-size chunk of reality for me to deal with.

So now I still know that I am probably not the right person to talk to you about peace, but I think for the first time I really understand how much peace is acceptance of what God gives us in the present moment. 

And so that’s my quiet fight for 2020 – to not fill the fog with things that may or may not be there, but to live in the space that I can see because God has allowed it to be in front of me.

Here’s to embracing the peace God has for us in 2020. Let’s do it together, shall we?

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