OOTD - White Hot Collar

If you guys remember my outfit post from last week, then you know I might have gotten a little hot under the collar about a certain 'do not wear' list.  A friend of mine told me after reading, "I hope I don't end up making you mad, I don't want to be on your bad side!"  I somehow doubt that would happen, and even if, I'd hope I'd be a bit less passive aggressive about that than putting a blog post on the internet about it! :-P

This week, my "Over 30 Don't" wear item is a short dress.  Now, this dress isn't *that* short.  I do have a few I've put on where my hubby looks at me and asks if I forgot pants, but this isn't one of them!  But, even if it was, I would think I have the right to wear it, regardless of age.  Don'tcha think? (also, little tip: I wear bike shorts under all my dresses and skirts.  I happened across a few pairs on a clearance rack for $1 a piece, and they're perfect for avoiding *ahem* embarassing situations.)

OOTD - Stubborn

Lately, I've been noticing a lot of the awesome that goes along with being over 30, stuff like maturity and a more-defined sense of self.  Not that I have everything figured out, I'm still basically wingin' it in my daily life!  There's some not so awesome stuff that goes along with being out of your 20's too, though, and the biggest boogers of them all are the various fashion articles that show up constantly, telling women about all the things they CAN'T wear now that they're no longer 29.  This is where my stubborn streak shows up.  I mean, really Ms. Random-Chick-On-The-Internet, I CAN'T wear that?  Really?!?!

You Are Loved.

When I was pregnant with Little A, my middle kid, I was preparing for a week-long mission trip to NY, NY to help with a church's summer program for kids in their community.  Just before I left, I had a Sunday where I was helping to sing in our church's praise band, and almost passed out.  It sounds a lot more dramatic than it was, trust me.  Basically, I got overheated, sat down in the middle of a song, and had at least three kind people bring me water all at the same time.  That week, we had a guest pastor who spoke so much truth, even if I've forgotten what exactly he preached on.  All I really remember was that at the end, as he closed out his time of teaching and called us all to a time of reflection, singing, and prayer, I broke down into tears and sought out trusted people to pray with (unlike my normal habit of 'excusing myself' to the bathroom and leaning against the wall in the handicapped stall while I have an emotional breakdown by myself.).  I was terrified of not being changed by this mission experience; scared that I was going to come back and re-start in the same daily routine without experiencing any lasting impact.  It was during this time of prayer that a church elder said, as my mother-in-law, he, and I stood huddled in a group, "God, I don't know exactly what Grace needs, but I know that she needs to know this today: she is loved.  Grace, you are loved."  I nodded and tried to slow the tears from escaping my eyes, and croaked out, "I know.  Thank you."

This is the part where I say, yep, I came back from that trip, and immediately started my own Christian summer camp program for kids here in Arkansas.  Right?  {you can insert any other success story here if you'd like}

Here's the rub: I didn't do that.  I had an incredible time in New York, and if I hadn't been pregnant with a husband and kid waiting for me at home, I would seriously have considered 'missing the bus' and staying in the city that never sleeps.  It was awesome.  But, instead of running off to start some new life in a giant city, I came home.  I settled in to the house we'd moved into that summer. (I say we, Daddy A and some family actually moved in while I was out of town.  Not that I would have been able to help anyways, but I lucked out on that move!)  I prepared to have our second child, and got busy with the lofty yet exhausting task of raising the next generation.  I've done countless loads of dishes, changed even more countless diapers, broken down into tears on the bathroom floor while potty training my oldest, had a third child, made grocery lists, potty trained a second kid without any tears (Mine, not hers.  She still cried about it at times), and basically gone into mommy survival mode.  All the while, though, the phrase "you are loved" has been growing in the back of my mind, waiting for me to embrace its' truth and live it out.

Because really, what could be more basic, and yet more important and impactful, than knowing that you're loved by the God that created everything.  Even on days that you're so busy you can't even acknowledge His existence, you are loved.  Even if you know that He's seen your entire history, good and bad and mundane and exciting and everything you've ever done, you are loved.

Even if there were times that you refused to acknowledge his existence at all, you are loved.

Even if there are days that you still struggle with sin after being redeemed, you are loved.

Even if you've been hurt by people, some of whom might even claim God's name, you are loved.

Last Sunday the same speaker, who prompted my tears by his now-forgotten message four years ago, came to speak at our church again.  Man, it was good!  There's usually a podcast available that I'd direct you to, but technical difficulties have kept it from being posted, although the one that's on the website now is also excellent and deserves a listen.  There's also a link to a book study I'm participating in, and man, it is GOOD!  In one of the early chapters of "The Good and Beautiful God," author James Bryan Smith challenges the idea of God as the 'angry judge' who is sitting and waiting for his tiny human creations to screw up just so he can zap them, a fickle Creator who is only happy with you when you follow all the rules.  Instead, he offers this simple-to-say-harder-to-grasp idea instead: God is Love.  In one exercise, he suggests reading a familiar (to most) passage on love, while swapping the word 'love' with its replacement, 'God.'  Since God is Love, it reads seamlessly and beautifully:

"4 [God] is patient,[God] is kind. [He] does not envy,[He] does not boast, [He] is not proud. 5 [God] does not dishonor others, [He] is not self-seeking, [He] is not easily angered, [He] keeps no record of wrongs. 6 [God] does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7  [He] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
[God] never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, edited)

It makes me sad to see how widespread the idea of 'God is an angry judge' really is, both in Christianity and other religions.  I understand it though; the idea that 'God is nothing but the creator of a bunch of tedious rules that all of us sinners are incapable of following anyways' is one of the ideas that prompted me to leave the church.  I wish I had understood sooner the God that Jesus presents in the gospels, the Father in the prodigal son parable expectantly standing day after day in his doorway, his eyes scanning the horizon, hoping beyond hope that today is the day that his beloved son comes home.  I wish I had believed that I was loved.  I wish I had embraced GRACE, God's Riches At Christ's Expense, as Sunday's speaker had said.
Most of all, I wish that everyone I come into contact with could know that they are loved.  Not because of their social status, or waist size, or bank account, or race, or belongings, or symmetrical facial features, but because they exist.  I might only occupy one tiny little corner of the internet, but this corner must scream that truth.  I'll still share outfit posts and the like, but most of all, my little online life needs to point to God, and I hope to share more about His story through my life in the future.  If you're a long-time reader, or a new one, I hope that the only real take-away you get from my blog is this: you are loved.  Reflect on that, absorb it, believe it, write it on your mirror if you need daily reminders. (I did!)  
via Instagram
I welcome discussion, so comments and e-mails are welcome, and I'll do my best to respond in a timely manner.  Tomorrow, I'll be starting a new outfit photo series of sorts, so I hope you enjoy!  Thanks for reading.