Delilah Dior Dominica
A woman's journey exploring her passion for Faith, fashion and travel.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Do You Love Me?


I am the first to admit that I am easily amazed. I use so many adjectives and descriptive words that my husband has practically banned me from 'amazing' and 'unbelievable.' It may sound dramatic, but to me the polka dot socks really were unbelievable! And the drapes inside the lobby of the W hotel? Amazing! Despite my exuberant nature, I can always recognize when something is really worthy of the descriptive words I crave. Yesterday in church was one of those moments. When the music grew quiet and we were praising the Lord as a congregation I was overtaken with gratitude. Here we were, listening to this great guitar and beautiful piano. The drums were on point and the background music as lovely as ever. But when the music stopped-the praise kept going. I kept my eyes closed and perked my ears up for all the different ways we can worship. Instruments are fantastic, but even if my six month stint with the recorder in grade school was the last time I ever touched an instrument, I could still make music. We have voices that harmonize and praise, feet that dance and stomp, hands that clap and reach for the heavens- we were created to worship just as we are. In my fresh revelation of the wonders of God's mind I was reminded that no matter how beautiful our singing voice or how fancy our footwork- our highest form of worship will always be obedience. 

Obedience is a spiritual discipline. It is not fun or easy, but it is absolutely essential to our walk with the Lord. Many of us were raised in Christian homes and can tell you all about Esther and Moses. We can explain to you the stories of Zacchaeus and Jonah (if not from reading then from Veggie Tales and Sunday School Songs.) We often pat ourselves on the back for how many Bible Trivia points we can score- but how often do we reflect on how we are loving the Lord? When my husband and I read the book 'The Five Love Languages,' I learned that I have three of the five love languages. My husband has two. The Lord has one. John 14:15 is simple: "If you love me, you will obey my commandments." 

We have it backwards, upside down and inside out because we are asking a Holy God to do all that we want without following the formula. The formula is indisputable: if we love Him, we will obey Him. Matthew 6:24 has been ringing in my ears lately and I just recently discovered what it means. It declares that "No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." I used to read that and think "Phew! I don't serve money, that's for someone else." But the more I read it, I realized it spans over much more than money. Anything we seek above the Lord is what we are serving- including ourselves. Choosing to live according to the judgement of our weakened conscience rather than by the leading of the Word is indefinitely serving ourselves. 

You see, We want the Lord to restore friendships and heal hurts, but we don't want to give up gossiping about them. We beg for God to give us clarity about whether a boyfriend or girlfriend is "the one," but we refuse to give up sleeping with them. We look up Bible verses on confidence and contentment, but we won't even consider turning from constantly comparing ourselves to others and lusting after what they have. He has given us his Word not as a suggested way of life, but the only way of life. Obeying His commands is not a nice way to show we love Him, it's the only way to show we love Him. Pleasing ourselves cannot come at the cost of obeying the Word. James 1:25 says "But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves."

When I was younger, I remember sheepishly saying "I love you" to my parents after scribbling on the walls or sneaking to watch the forbidden TV in the guest room. They would reply, "Don't tell us you love us. Show us you love us." I feel a tugging on my heart that The Lord is saying the same thing. Our love and reverence for the Him will be evident by our response to His commands. I challenge you to join me in making 2014 a year of obedience. Make a list of all the areas of your life that are disobedient to Gods Word and pray over it- asking for forgiveness and a way out. We are promised that we'll never be tempted beyond what we can bear- there is always a way out. Watch how your life transforms as you dedicate yourself to obedience. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Gift Guide: For Yourself

The Holidays are my absolute favorite time of year. That first chill in the air sends me digging through storage for cozier scarves, richer scented candles and twinkle lights. While it is the happiest time of the year, it can also be the most draining. Long days of traveling, facing the crowds at shopping centers and spending hours upon hours in the kitchen usually have me craving nothing but pajamas and bubble baths come January. If you feel the same way, this gift guide is for you! Now you can cheerfully accept even the most daunting of December tasks knowing that some of these goodies are waiting for you.




soap. nail polish. candle. chocolate. argan oil. pajamas. books. lip balm. socks. mug.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Faux-Pas



Growing up, I was aware I was different. I was aware I was different because my mom was white and my dad was black. Then I was aware I was different because my mom was white, my dad was black, and I was consistently a foot taller than everyone in my grade. Then I was aware that i was different because my mom was white, my dad was black, I was consistently a foot taller than everyone in my grade, and I had glasses.

In second grade, I specifically remember sitting in the front of Ms. Engel's classroom, staring at the black board and thinking, "how are we supposed to read anything? It's all fuzzy!" When I squinted my little eyes, the blurry blotches of chalk became words. And I was overjoyed. This could only mean one thing: I finally needed glasses. Yes, I had already been looking forward to this moment for my entire eight years on Earth. My mom had glasses and they were glitzy and sparkly and she looked so smart in them., so I practically played blind at the eye-doctors to ensure I would be walking out with a sweet pair of spectacles. Just one week later, I picked out a pair of purple tortoise circle frames- and when I say circle, I mean Harry Potter circle. John Lennon circle. Just keep that mental image- I was so proud to be in need of visual assistance by way of Brooks Brothers glasses. That worked for a little while until 5th grade rolled along and I decided to play Basketball. My Dad ensured me that in order to play, see, and be safe, I absolutely needed a pair of prescription goggles. I assume I said something along the lines of, "I would rather never play a sport for the rest of my life than get prescription goggles" so we decided to give contact lenses a try. When I found out they came in colors and I could practically gift myself with a whole new eye I was thrilled.
   
As an insecure twelve year old, I cannot even begin to describe how my life was transformed by my first pair of green contact lenses. Sure, my hair was still a frizzy matted mess and puberty had hit in all of the worst ways and none of the good- but man, I felt like Sasha Fierce in those things. They became my armor. My eye sight has gotten progressively worse every year, so of course I needed contacts if I had any hope of seeing something beyond four feet from me, but more than that-I needed them for confidence. I went from being different weird to different good, and I liked that.

I began to notice though- whenever someone would compliment me on my eyes, a pang of guilt would jab in my stomach and I usually bluntly and awkwardly blurted out, "THEY'RE NOT REAL!"…which of course confused and alarmed whoever I was talking to, so I explained "I mean, they're real of course. These are my eye balls. But the color is fake. My real eyes are black. These are just colored contacts. But thank you." People usually responded with "Oh." and the situation was just about as uncomfortable as it gets. (I set those moments up nicely for myself.) I realized, they were completely uninterested in whether I was wearing colored contacts or not- it was just me who was, for whatever reason, ashamed of that truth.

When my then boyfriend, now husband, and I first started dating, we decided to go for a swim in my backyard. Water and contacts don't mix well, but this was technically a date and so of course I swam with loads of mascara and my contacts. Welp, fast-forward one hour later to me panicking over my contacts being suction-cupped to my eye and Oj prying my eyelids open to look for the contact on the back of my eye-ball (charming right? Another golden moment of pride for me) So here I was, without any of my armor. Mascara on my face surrounding my dark and naked eyes, totally unable to see much of anything but fully aware of my humiliation, and he looked at me for what seemed like forever before saying, "You have the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen." There was a freedom in that moment that planted a seed. The seed grew and grew until three months ago when it was time to re-order my contacts. I chose clear.

If I told you I still feel a bit naked, would you believe me? Because it's true. But once I became aware that I was putting my confidence in a material thing and my Spirit wasn't at peace with it, I couldn't continue feeding that reliance anymore. Green contacts are not the devil. They are lovely and beautiful and exotic and they did me well for ten years- but anything in our lives that we trust so much to make us feel beautiful is something to watch out for. I challenge you to take a moment today to ask yourself if there's anything you add to yourself that you absolutely couldn't go without. Then I challenge you again: go without it. He will meet you in that vulnerability and you will find freedom in knowing you succeeded. I'm curious to know, what are the "green contacts" in your life?


                                                                           Back to bare

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Unintentional

Something about crisp gray rainy days makes this mind of mine really sharp. Visions are clearer and ideas are louder…it's pretty stinkin' awesome. So on this particularly crisp gray rainy day, I have a thought that must be shared. On my way home from work, a strong and kind of scary word kept popping in my head. There was no elaboration or explanation for a while- it was just a word: unintentional. I rolled the word over in my mind and then said it out loud, confronting it and acknowledging it until it hit me.

In this generation we are so intentional about feeding each and every desire. We are intentional about watching our favorite shows every Tuesday or Thursday (or every day). We are intentional about making sure we are up on our blogs and websites, scrolling endlessly to keep up with people we only know through computer screens. We are intentional about posting photos, commenting on photos and setting up photos.  And with all this intentionality, somehow we become undeniably unintentional about our faith. We have our DVR's set so we never ever have to spend a moment without a guilty pleasure television show, but do we have a quiet time set so we don't ever have to spend a morning without the Holy Spirit? We are willing to drive halfway across town to satisfy a craving for something deep fried and delicious- yet our Spirit that is so craving the Word of God is only fed once a week. We know every single word of our favorite rapper's new album and shamefully can only paraphrase a few verses of the Bible… the ugly truth is that we are intentional about satisfying every possible desire in ourselves and have allowed our relationship with the Lord to just be left up to chance; hoping it will find some rain and a patch of sunlight to grow on it's own.

Guys, we are lost. We are self seeking, only existing to satisfy ourselves. So how, then, are we to glorify our Creator? As I bubble over with passion for intentionality I will share that I feel a deep responsibility to call people, including myself, to step up. To make a commitment. To sacrifice and really do this thing. Because at the end of the day, it's what we were created to do. I don't have the answers or the remedy, but I am studying discipline until it is just so deeply woven into me that I don't know anything else. The goal is to be intentional to turn from satisfying our own pleasures in order to line up our desires with His. It's a life long process that is certainly a challenge but man, eventually we have to just jump feet first. So here I go. With both feet in. Will you be intentional with me?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

In My Dreams: When it Rains




What was supposed to be a sunny, Indian-summer-esque weekend has turned to rain, rain, and more rain. Something about a rainy forecast makes me swoon. I actually am most inspired when rain is hitting the windows and just love the excuse to wear my rain boots every day. I am currently wearing Lululemon leggings, light layers and a puffer vest because today's agenda included a dentist appointment and a trip to Target, (fancy, I know...) but I think dressing for rain is no excuse not to be stylish. My favorite rainy day staples are: lightweight layers to avoid bulk under a raincoat, a chic umbrella, cozy knee socks to keep toes warm despite the rain boots and a casual dress or skirt- because what's worse than soggy, wet pants? I also recommend Sleepless in Seattle and sketchbook time but hey, that's just me.


Burberry coat

Monday, October 7, 2013

From the Inside Out


I absolutely adore my wedding ring. My husband designed it himself and every time I see it, I feel special and giddy and loved. When my husband proposed three and a half years ago, I remember treating my ring like it was the Holy Grail. I was so careful to take it off for everything- washing my hands, stirring soup, styling my hair…I was committed to keeping it sparking and bright. As time went on I became more relaxed and noticed myself slathering on lotion, cooking dinner and even working out with my ring on. I observed that when my ring is clean, people are drawn to it. It's like a light and people compliment me to the point that I often find myself thanking the Lord that a piece of jewelry could bring so much joy. Over time, it still looked nice and pretty, but it didn't look anything like when I first slid that beauty onto my finger and truly protected it. This really got me thinking the other day, There is something so irresistible about us as believers and as women when we shine from the inside out, rather than trying to make our outside do what it was never intended to do.

You see, when I noticed my ring had been dulled, I set aside some time to clean the diamonds. I used the little microfiber scrubber, careful not to miss a single stone. I soaked it in a special solution and polished it up expecting it to look just as beautiful as I remembered it in all its glory, only to find it was still dull. Confused, I showed my husband and asked how it could just be so cloudy when I just spent an hour cleaning it! Turning the ring upside down, he showed me that if the base of the diamond was dirty (guys, it was pretty gross…) then it could never reflect purely. I had to take the ring to a professional so he could carefully clean the part of the diamond we don't see in order for the part we do see to shine the way it was intended to.

So often, we focus on our external beauty, letting our inner selves get away with things here and there until before we know it, we are unrecognizable. We may look pretty, but our spark is lost because something underneath needs to be thoroughly transformed. Just as I was scrubbing away at the top of the diamond expecting that to take care of the dull shine, we are putting so much pressure on our external beauty to make us desirable. The secret is: it will never work. At some point the choice must be made to hand ourselves over to a professional to be cleansed from the inside out. I challenge you to sit in the presence of the Lord and ask Him to cleanse you. To cleanse your mind, cleanse your desires, cleanse your words and cleanse your heart. Ask Him to show you the residue that is dulling your shine so you can let your physical beauty just be a vessel for your inner light to pour out. You will be absolutely irresistible. That is a promise.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Weekend in New York


One of my favorite things about living on the East Coast is knowing I'm just a train ride away from New York. My best friend lives in NYC so once I coordinate with her, all my husband and I have to do is book the train tickets and pack up a suitcase and before we know it, we're in the Big Apple. Today, I'm sharing our typical to-do list for a weekend in the city.

1. Have brunch at Park Avenue. A good friend of mine took me here last summer and I have returned three times since! Everything on the menu is delicious, but my favorite part about the restaurant is its uniqueness. The decor and menu changes every season. That's right- everything in the restaurant from flowers to lighting changes four times a year. Park Avenue Summer literally feels like dining inside summertime and the chicken and waffle sandwich is heavenly. 


2. Set aside a day for Brooklyn. We usually stay in the Upper East Side (this time we spent the weekend at the beautiful Surrey Hotel.) The long cab ride to Brooklyn is well worth the treasure. Brooklyn has a more artsy, creative feel and I am so inspired by everything in sight. Peter Pan's Doughnuts is a must!!





3. Wander. Explore. My bestie and I walked around all day, stopping into every store and market that looked interesting. New York is much like a treasure chest- the best stuff isn't out in the open. You have to dig for it.


4. Research for an adventure. Once I begin planning our trip to New York, I begin my research. I read articles by New York natives, search through the archives of Fashion Editor's interviews and hunt down things the locals recommend doing. This way, I know I'm getting a true experience rather than just a touristy experience. We decided that our "out there" indulgence for this trip would be a morning at Aire Ancient Baths. This spa offers different luxury baths such as a sea salt bath, ice bath, hot bath and steam room to perfectly relax the body. The ancient method made us feel like we found Ancient Rome in the middle of the concrete jungle! I highly recommend it for the relaxation alone.


5. Head to Barneys. A trip to NYC is not complete without a day to wander through Barneys. The rooftop cafe was the perfect end to our shopping day. (My husband and I have a pretty good system down. I can shop...he'll hold the bags and happily approve or veto in the dressing room as long as he knows there's an eating schedule.)


Some of our other favorite places are:

Midnight desserts at ChikaLicious
Dinner at Nobu
A walk in Central Park
Interior shopping in SoHo
French toast at EAT
Getting my regular trim at Edris Salon

 And of course, no trip is complete without macaroons from Ladauree. 


I'm curious, what are some of your favorite spots in New York City?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

In My Dreams: Autumn Cravings



Now that fall is officially here, I can whip out some items on my dream wishlist! To me, there is nothing more fun than trying out a moodier look for fall. My favorite ways to embrace the vamp trend is by coating my usually natural nails in navy or oxblood polish, trying a deep burgundy lip and becoming instantly more mysterious in an oversized hat.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

What Happens In Vegas

I find myself studying peace often, mainly because it is something we are called to live in and it's more of a challenge for me than other things. As you know by now, one of my biggest temptations is fear.  Fear is the big guy that stomps on and destroys any existing ounce of peace, which is exactly why I have to seek God for peace. On. the. regular.

I find that most times, I lose peace because I choose to do something that wasn't God's will for me in the first place. After the fact, I'll be sitting there lost like, "why did I even go there?" "why did I watch that movie?" "why did I read that article?" Almost always, I ignored the small feeling in my Spirit telling me not to do it,  writing it off as a voice from me and overlooking the fact that it was a voice from God. When we become believers, we become home for the Holy Spirit. I think one of the enemies tricks is making us believe that when God is speaking to us, it's really just our conscious. We take God completely out of it and assume that we are leading ourselves. So we sit, waiting for a huge deep audible voice to yell, "Jill. Do not eat the Pinkberry. It will hurt your stomach. You will be on the toilet for the better part of the evening. God has spoken." When really, before I ordered the Pinkberry I didn't feel all that right about it…but I wanted it so I ordered it anyway. The more we grow with the Holy Spirit, the more we're able to recognize that "not feeling right about it" is His way of saying no. He guides us and speaks to us, but we have to tune our ears to Him. I got so sick of screwing up that I began praying this prayer daily. "Lord, please speak to me. If you don't want me to go, please don't allow it. If you don't want me to have it, please make it impossible for me to get it. If you don't want me to say it, please stir up my Spirit. I only want to do your will." I have found that the more willing I have become to submit my wants in exchange for God's will, the more He has led me loud and clear.

Last weekend, my husband and I were supposed to head to good ol' Las Vegas for the Mayweather/ Alvarez fight. For those of you not interested in boxing (like me) this is like an NSYNC and Spice Girls reunion all wrapped up in one. It has been long anticipated and much planning had gone into this three day event. The night before we were supposed to fly out, we were carrying on with our normal pre-trip routine. I was knee deep in clothes planning both of our outfits, we had checked in for our flight, the toiletries were all drained into carry-on-size bottles, and the alarm was set for our 5am departure. As I washed the last dish in the sink, I felt an immediate and confident feeling in my spirit that we weren't supposed to go. This had never happened to me before so I was confused and started sorting through my emotions to figure out where this was coming from. "Am I afraid? Do I not want to travel? Are the tickets too expensive?" The check list did nothing but prove that the Lord had spoken to me, and I had no choice but to tell my husband. Oh my goodness. That part was tough. Surprisingly, when I sat him down on the bed and tried to explain exactly what I was feeling and hearing, he closed his eyes for a while and said, "Okay. We won't go." It is such an incredible blessing to be able to trust one another and know that the Holy Spirit speaks to us through each other. He told me later that just two minutes before I broke the news to him, a thought popped in his head saying, "I wonder what Jill would do if I told her we weren't going." He had written it off as a random thought, but it was confirmed in me. It was a little bit crazy, totally unexpected and a little heart breaking for my husband-not because he was going to be missing out on the fight, but because his character and integrity mean everything to him. The fact that he had already given some friends his word that he would be there and had to call that night and try to explain that we can only follow where the Lord leads just shattered him.

Two days later, we watched the fight from our home-theatre. In the end, the flight we were supposed to be on didn't explode…there were no shootings at the hotel we were to stay in, and the boxing match wasn't taken over by terrorists. Sometimes it's easier to understand why we were shielded from our own plans if tragedy takes place. But even without seeing what we were protected from, just trusting that we were protected is more than enough for me. God loves us enough to speak to us and protect us from things that aren't in His will for us. He is always speaking, and the more we tune in, the more clearly we hear. How awesome is our God? He loves us that much.  I challenge you to always follow peace; to perk your ears up and really pay attention to that funny feeling in your chest. Submit all your plans to the Lord and be truly willing to let them go! He will lead us so much better than we could lead ourselves. I promise.

                        Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.
                                                                      Proverbs 16:3

    I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.
                                                                        Psalm 32:8

     Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it,' whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left
                                                                        Isaiah 30:21

Saturday, August 24, 2013

For Real, Chill.

This morning I woke up so cluttered. Frazzled. We are in our first week post one-month-trip and the desire to do nothing but relax has worn off. My desk is cluttered, our suitcases are spilling out at the foot of the bed, waiting to be unpacked, our pantry that was my pride and joy upon embarking on this vacation is now a mess, and when I woke up I decided that all of these things had to be addressed. Immediately. And preferably all at the exact same time. Needless to say, I lost all inner peace, and it must have shows on my face because as I stared into the pantry (saying evil things about it in my mind including it's poor ability to stay organized) my husband said, "don't lose your peace, love." He's a mind reader, that one.

In my quiet time I realized that I become so stressed and anxious when I look at my to-do list, but the solution is to look at the Lord's to-do list and not my own. In Philippians 4:6 He says "Do not be anxious for anything, but in every situation, through prayer and petition, present your requests to God. (Insert request.) Then the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." There! I feel lighter already! (That is my go-to verse in life, by the way. I suggest memorizing it as soon as possible and carry it around on a neon post-it until you do. For real. ) So yes, I have clients waiting on their artwork, I have sisters waiting on their things that somehow made their way into my suitcase to be sent back to them, I have thousands of photographs begging to be edited…but this is still the day that the Lord has made. I will still rejoice and be glad in it. My husband reminded me this morning that we can be in peace even though we're not at peace. Everything can be in shambles and we can be smack dab in the middle of disaster, yet still be in peace. He's a peace snob. He doesn't really let anything steal his peace, which of course makes me furious sometimes, but it is so admirable. I truly want to be there.

So from my cluttered desk and my cluttered mind, I urge you to take a minute with me to stop thinking about what has to be done and list off a few things that have already been done. "Lord, I thank you that I woke up healthy. I thank you that we went to the Container Store so we can organize our bathroom today. I thank You for this beautiful home and the urge and ability to take care of it, and I pray that I would not be overwhelmed, because You have given me everything I need to accomplish all that You want me to accomplish today. You're my favorite. I love you."

I'll leave you with a random collection of photos from August because, well, who would I be if I didn't?











Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Proper Begininning



I think it's time I tell you guys- I'm in the process of building a new website and blog. A place where all my inspiration and passion can be found in one place, and also where my illustrations can be shared and purchased. I am so excited about all that this teeny little outlet has become and I'm giddy at the thought of its next steps. I came across this quote posted by a friend of mine this morning and it literally (note to self: work on proper use of the word "literally") shot straight to my spirit and soothed it like honey soothes a sore throat and The Pointer Sisters soothe a bad day. This blogger world is a big place. My daily reads are brilliant, witty, inspiring, beautiful, and so ahead of the game that picturing myself and my lil' ol' blog growing makes me want to run and hide in the corner. Even though I'm stepping out of my comfort zone, I know that we have been called to be a light in whatever way we shine brightest. Artwork, fashion, and faith aren't generally found in the same place, but that's me. It's all who I am, and if I can inspire just one person then everything will be worth it. 

Comparing is just one of the worst choices we can ever make. It either leaves s feeling a little too prideful, or bawling on the couch, fist deep in a pint of gelato. Though it's tempting, let's just not do it! We don't know the full back story or just how much time and behind-the-scenes work it took someone we admire to get where they are. Wanna know a trick of mine? Shh, it's a little sneaky. When I'm trying to get inspiration and a boost of motivation about taking the first step of this new site of mine and I get blindsided by the perfection of a fellow blogger's site, I dig through their archives. And when I say dig, I mean dig...all the way to back their first post. Being able to see the process from Start to Success is so encouraging! So starting right now, I'm deciding not to compare my beginning with someone else's middle. You with me?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Aloha

 I have a sensitive stomach, sensitive skin, and a sensitive spirit; I am a sensitive person. With that being said, I have a bit of a tendency to get sappy quickly so here I go: My heart is never more full than when my entire family is together. As the third oldest of seven children and the second of five girls, our family dynamic is one that has been intentionally and strategically built. We are the product of very few television privileges, even fewer sleepovers outside the house and two big cross country moves- we have always had no choice but to choose each other. Summers used to represent game nights, so much time playing outside that I'm surprised we still enjoy grass and trees and such, and annual family vacations to the Lake House, Wisconsin, Texas and Disney World. But more often than not we would find ourselves on a long flight to Hawaii, unaware of the rare luxury this tropical paradise was and just how few people get to spend time there. We had our favorite restaurant, our favorite hotel, and our favorite traditions.

Now that we are older, real life has set in and summer is no longer what it was. The three golden months that used to serve as a shrine to sunshine, smores and sleep have been overtaken by work, summer school, sports schedules, and adulthood. Some of us are married and building our own family memories, and since we are scattered between Minnesota, Chicago and Virginia- planning whole family get-togethers isn't as simple as it used to be. But like I said earlier, this family dynamic has been strategic and intentional, which is exactly how we approach family time. Our family vacation to Hawaii has been in the works for a year, moving schedules around, setting aside dates, and booking villas large enough to accommodate a party of  14. With lot's of phone calls and plenty of God's favor, the two-week, two-island vacation was a success. And by success, of course, I mean the best time I could have ever possibly imagined.

It took us about a week to adjust to the time change (Virginia is six hours ahead of Hawaii) which left us zombies by 9pm and wide awake at 4:30am. Being able to see the sunrise and play with my precious niece, Brooklynne, before the rest of the world woke up made me filled to the brim with joy. My husband's parents joined us for the trip and I was so blessed by the joy their first trip to Hawaii gave them and just how beautifully our families have blended together. My husband learned to surf, we all learned to paddle board, and each day felt as if it were an entire summer. We spent time at the beach and pool of course, and we ate practically non-stop (something Singletary's are very good at) but mostly, we laughed. There is something so nostalgic about being back on the islands we pranced around for so many summers as children, but the most beautiful part is that we could have been in a trailer in my parent's backyard and those two weeks would have been just as magical. That's the thing about our family. We make magic out of nothing but jokes and stories and conversation. And even though we are growing up and ever evolving, our bond is stronger than distance and stronger than change and I already can't wait to do it all again.














Sunday, May 12, 2013

To Mama Bear

My mother is a superhero. A real life Wonder Woman. She was a stay at home mom for all of our lives, but somehow when my friends and teachers asked me what my Mom did, it never satisfied me to say that a woman raising seven kids to love each other and love the Lord was just a "stay at home Mom". She is one of God's most astounding creations, but I didn't always see her that way. My Mom and I have two polar opposite personalities. I am emotional, impulsive, passionate, creative and forgetful. She is realistic, a planner, determined, logical and more organized than you could imagine. These character traits led to a little mini tornado in our house-hold often. Yes, she drove us everywhere, cooked us dinner every night, hosted our birthday parties, kept the house stocked with food and toys, planned our vacations, loved our friends, and loved us. She divided her time evenly amongst the seven of us, attending every game, play, classroom presentation and field trip she could. She gave, and still does give, the best gifts. Every Sunday she washed, combed, and braided hair so foreign to her- kinky curls we all obtained from our father- and learned to style five girls hair that each made it a point to have different taste. "I don't want pigtails anymore! It's too tight I have a headache! My bangs are too puffy! Can't you make it straight like yours? I want long yellow hair!" (She should also receive a medal for the particular time when she spent a week combing through the heads of all seven children with a comb so fine that it looked like strings of floss held it together, because my older sister came home from camp with lice. Those memories will haunt me forever.) Though she was all those things, the time she spent with us day in and day out as my dad worked or traveled for work really and truly made us numb to her super-hero nature. Somehow, we were under a spell, blinded to all of her magnificence, only able to see her negatives. She became the bad guy, and I would complain that she told me to go change at least three times a morning because something was too tight, or too short, didn't allow me go to parties where she didn't know the parents hosting and when she told my dad what a challenge I had been after I had ferociously disobeyed and disrespected her all day (guaranteeing a serious spanking when he got home) I accused her of "telling on me." Growing up, the only time we really and truly could grasp just how much we loved and needed our mother was on the very rare occasion that she had to go away for a weekend. 

It only happened about once a year, but when news broke that she had a trip coming up the word spread through the Singletary house like a wildfire. Terror would show on our faces and we practically hung from the hem of her pants as she walked out the door, begging her not to leave. Why, you ask, was Mom's lovely weekend trip such a panic inducing feat for us? Because my dad loves my mom more than I had ever known a man could love a woman. He spent every day making sure that we respected her the way she deserved to be respected. Some days we didn't get it, but the days we finally understood were the ones spent with Dad in charge. He had painted a picture in his mind that when Mom came home, the house should be clean and homework should be done so she wouldn't have to lift a finger. We would come downstairs the morning after her departure to find a large white-board with a list of instructions on it, the first of which being "No one is allowed in the kitchen until this list is finished. You. Will. Not. Eat. Until: your rooms, bathrooms, and closets are spotless, The laundry is separated and in the laundry room, Your lockers are clean, and the first floor is swept and then vacuumed. I have a fun day planned for us, but we can't have fun until after we work." After hours of cleaning and nights of waiting on Dad's cooking (he is a fabulous chef, but a perfectionist through and through…he once spent all day on a stew and poured it down the drain at 10pm because it wasn't right…oh our grumbling bellies) and being woken in the middle of the night because a task wasn't done correctly, we had a deep longing and appreciation for the woman who brought us into this earth. I am so sorry I spent so much of my childhood pushing you away, Mom, but here 23 years later I can see exactly why Dad loves you so much. You deserve the world, because you have so willingly given your world to us

The summer before I left for college, my dad sat me down with a very concerned look on his face. He said, " You have lived in the same house as the most amazing woman in the world for 18 years and haven't learned a thing. If I were you, I'd spend this summer asking questions. And listening. It's time to make up for those years." I have spent my days doing just that ever since. 


Thank you for helping me find my jerseys that always seemed to disappear the night before a game. 
Thank you for paying for some serious orthodonture, and replacing my retainer three times.

Thank you for not letting me wear outfits that revealed things that only my husband should see.
Thank you for praying for me every night since before I was even here on this Earth.
Thank you for giving me a love for fashion and deep appreciation for the ability to travel the world.

Thank you for not kicking me out of the house when I had the nerve to utter the words "I hate you." 
Thank you for not giving up on me in high school because you knew I was so lost and desperately needed Jesus.

Thank you for giving me an example of how a wife should serve, submit to, and respect her husband.
Thank you for spanking me, grounding me, taking my phone away and washing my mouth out with soap when needed.

Thank you for being a perfect balance of strength and meekness.
Thank you for being my mother and dear friend.

Blessed beyond measure, because you make every day better.

Love, Jill




Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Introduction to the Conclusion

-->
I had a very different college experience than I imagined I would. The daughter of two college sweethearts and Baylor alums, I spent much time on the Baylor campus frolicking around the football stadium and pressing my face against the glass of the Bear cage. When my older sister confirmed she would be a Baylor Bear come Fall, I realized that in four years, I would follow in her footsteps and put on the green and gold as well. When my older brother committed to play football for Baylor, it only solidified my fate. I had always been more interested in Art than anything else, and I was nervous that maybe this wasn't exactly Baylor's specialty, but I never paid much attention to the knot this tied my brain into- I was to be the next Singletary graduate, and I would surely continue the trend. 



I spent the last two years of high school making terrible decisions, spending all my time and energy on a doomed relationship rather than my studies. All the free space in my brain was taken up by the enormous effort it took me to lie (and remember a lie, and not mix up a lie.) Needless to say, my grades quickly started to slip, and I began to worry for the first time if my GPA would even grant me a chance at the school of my dreams. By senior year I had really taken to Volleyball and spent my time in a three way split: volleyball. boyfriend. art. At this point, my main concern was making sure my grades were enough to get me out of that school, and earn me a ticket to my destiny for a grand chance to start over and continue my family's legacy. Sic' Em Bears. 



As you can probably tell from the build up, this "continuing my family's legacy" did not happen. Not at Baylor, anyways. In late Spring of my Senior year I found a letter addressed to me from Baylor University Admissions. This was it! I ran upstairs and closed my bedroom door, sat on the bed, tore open the envelope and began reading. "Dear Jill, we regret to inform you…" 



Regret? 



Wait.



Is this happening?



I had so heavily fallen into the comfort of my last name still ringing through the campus years after my Dad had graduated that I didn't take the time to notice that my last name wasn't strong enough to bridge the gap between my high school performance and what Baylor looks for in a student. I was crushed, humiliated, and so instantly lost with the realization that the only school I applied to had rejected me. This, friends, is not a great feeling. 



In the next few weeks I was offered a Volleyball scholarship to San Jose State and a chance to pursue my dreams of being a Fashion Designer in Chicago. The scholarship offer was nice, but I had to get out of California, at least for a little bit, or I am confident I would have destroyed both myself and my future. After an underwhelming visit to the Illinois Institute of Art with my mother, I was discouraged but determined to succeed. So in August of 2008, I left home in need of fixing. I had a broken heart, a crushed spirit, and a complete loss for who I was in Christ and what He had in store for me.



The nine months I would spend attending school there would be the most transformative nine months of my life. (Except for my forming in my mama bear's womb, I guess.) I lived on my own for the very first time- which was a huge adjustment coming from a family of nine. It was very quiet, and very strange. But in that quiet I was able to find out who God was and that He loved me. I had been a believer my whole life, but I had always known God through my parents.  Those nine months taught me to love Him, seek Him, and know Him for myself. I met my best friend in class, because at a wildly liberal Art College, we were both the only people looking for a church. I met the love of my life and learned how to build a Christ centered relationship. And after those nine months, I was offered another volleyball scholarship- this time at The Academy of Art University in San Francisco. I had soaked up all the knowledge, wisdom and experience Chicago had to offer me, and I was headed back to California a new woman. 



That was five years ago. When I was a young girl, I had only been able to paint the image of the college experience I could create in my head. I pictured football games and parties, sororities and enormous lecture halls, dorm rooms and letterman jackets…and even though that is what I thought I wanted more than anything in the world, as always, God had a better plan for me. His plan was terrifying and confusing, unusual and uncomfortable, but here, on the other side of it, I can say that though it was all of those things, even more so it was purifying, gratifying and empowering. The way that a diamond sits stubbornly nestled in stone, unwilling to budge, hiding it’s unmatchable shine under the dirt and grime has become the illustration of my life, and the perfect illustration of my college experience. My father has called me his diamond in the rough ever since I can remember, encouraging me that even though I saw myself as dim and hidden, one day I would shine for all to see. The Lord mined me out of the stone, ever so gently, and allows me to look back on what I went through and proudly say, “It was so worth it.” This is my reminder to never fear when our plans don't work out, because God is always preparing something so much better than we can comprehend. 



I will share a little more of my college experience in the next couple weeks, as I am currently preparing for my last string of college Finals. Now that is a sentence we can celebrate. 



"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

 Jeremiah 29:11



In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. 
                                                                                       Proverbs 16:9


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Faith in Spring and Everything.




(March 2013)
 
My husband and I spend the month of March in Windsor, Canada in what we call our “lake house.” As we packed up the car and pulled up the navigation for our long road trip up north, my husband reminded me that when we returned home, there would be flowers blooming and sun shining everywhere we looked. It was hard to believe while watching snowflakes form crystal patterns on the windshield, but we all know that after Winter (no matter how long it lasts) comes Spring. Well, March came and went. Our drive back to Virginia was easy and sunny, just as my husband had said. We enjoyed our first day back in our home and spent the night enjoying a full DVR.

            The next morning when I was getting dressed for the gym I realized something wasn’t as it should be. There was no sun pouring in from behind the curtains, no sound of lawn mowers and kids playing, wasn’t this Spring? I peeled back the blinds only to find white as far as the eye could see. The neighborhood had been blanketed in snow overnight, and it showed no sign of stopping. Where there should have been daffodils and cherry blossoms, buzzing bees and birds chirping, gloom stood in its place. It was freezing, it was icy, snow was falling, and the trees were bare. Nothing outside resembled Spring, and it certainly didn’t feel like Spring, but it was Spring.

            So often what we believe to be true is based off of what we see. Around the country, and particularly in places that see all four seasons, there was a unanimous excitement for the arrival of springtime. We were preparing for it physically and emotionally. When the weather-man announced it was officially Spring while we were still wrapped in blankets, sipping hot chocolate and scraping ice off our cars, we weren’t too happy. All corners of the nation began to cry, “Isn’t it supposed to be Spring?!” “It’s not Spring, it’s snowing!!” “Spring isn’t coming this year!” Sadly, we fall into this trap of unbelief in all areas of our lives. There is a battle for our faith. There is a battle for what we will believe and who we will trust. At some point, the battle became far too hard for us to fight, and we succumbed to the temptation to only believe what we can see and prove.

            I have been struggling with back problems since 2005. These disc issues effect my ability to live every-day life the way I’d like to. I am not able to exercise without pain, I can’t plan ahead for trips and adventures because I don’t know how the pain will be at the time, and I have acquired a lot of fear over the years as it relates to me getting older. As much as I try to avoid thinking about how many years have been spent in physical therapy and on chiropractors’ tables, I still spend far too much time wondering why it hasn’t gotten better. Confessing my healing and praising God for healing my back while I can’t feel my legs from the swelling in my back is challenging. It seems unrealistic and backwards. I desire so badly to be healed, and then to thank and praise the Lord for healing me. I will shout it from the rooftops! I will throw a party in celebration! I will never stop proclaiming how I was delivered from my pain! After walking with God for so long, I know good and well that is not how He works.

We are to have faith in His word despite what we see, think, or feel. Hebrews 1:11 says “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” I want to share the Amplified version to really paint a picture here: “Now Faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses] (emphasis mine.)

We all want to have faith, and most of us really believe we have faith, but if we let our actions speak over our words, and our words speak the truth…do we really have faith? Isaiah 53:5 says, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” The Word says that I am healed. So as I sit here with throbbing discs poking into my nerves, I can say with confidence that I am healed. God wants to know that we trust Him when it doesn’t make sense. He wants to know that even when our circumstances are the complete opposite of what He has promised, His Word still stands.

And as I look outside my window now, I know that we have made it. My nose is itchy from all the stunning flowers growing, children are throwing a kick-ball across the street, our neighbor is mowing his lawn, and I finally had to turn the air-conditioning on. My latest grocery store run included lemons, cucumbers, colorful place mats and Zyrtec. The sun is shining, and though the winter was long and at times it seemed as if it may never end, it did end. It always does.

Even if you still have pain, have faith that you are healed because the Word promises it. Even if you are still depressed, have faith that you are joyful, because the Word promises it. Even if you have failed, have faith that you will have success, because the Word promises it. Even if you still have temptations, have faith that you can triumph over them because the Word promises it. And even if there is still snow outside your window, have faith that it is Spring, the Word promises it.

 for behold, the winter is past;
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.
The fig tree ripens its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
and come away.

(Song of Solomon 2:11-13 ESV)

 (April 2013)