It is impossible to endure if you are under the impression that everything you need is just over the next mountaintop. To endure, you must believe you have access to everything you could ever need, right now in this moment. Then, if you know that you' lack nothing, you can say, "I can walk this path for as long as it takes; I am fully provided for."

You Have All You Need to Get Where You're Going

If you scroll through the last few months of my writing, or even the last few months of posts on social media, you’ll find quite a collection of thoughts on being in the valley season of my faith. It felt like far too much time spent fighting my way out of a place I so despised; I’d much prefer a constant mountaintop experience. The beginning of summer brought me from the valley season to one of rest. While I was relieved to head for new scenery, I was equally as much afraid of new ground. For as often as I cry out to God saying, “Let’s do something exciting!” I also cry, “Oh help, Dad, I’m afraid to go somewhere new.”

I love the story of the beginning of Moses’ ministry in Egypt, when God first calls him by name. Moses walks beside a mountain and the Bible says that an angel appeared to him in the form of the burning bush (Exodus 3:2, ESV), he notices the bush and resolves to turn from the path he was taking and take a closer look. This brief moment sets Moses toward a life of faith; God places Himself in the path and gives Moses the opportunity to know Him. The Bible then says, in verse four, that “when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, “Here I am.’” 

The Lord revealed to me through this story the pattern of seasons with God: it’s opportunity and response. By the blood of Jesus, we’re able to hear the voice of God calling us off our path, but we have the freedom to choose our response. What kind of lover would Jesus be if he forced us from one place to another without a say in the matter? It’d be like forcing your best friend to go to the place of your choice every time you decided to do something, disregarding their opinion altogether. Our Father, though, is the best companion; He likes giving you options because He knows love is only true when it’s given freely.

God gives you the option to say “yes” or “no” as you walk from season to season with Him, just as He did with Moses. As the story continues and God tells Moses of His epic plan to set the Israelites free from slavery, we witness one of the most amusing exchanges between God and a man in Scripture (or at least I think so). To paraphrase, God says to Moses, “Surprise, I’m the same God that your ancestors flipped their lives upside down to follow and you’re going to follow me too. I heard the cry of your people, the ones you once tried to defend back when you lived in Egypt, and I want to use you to bring them out of slavery and into a land flowing with milk and honey that you’re going to take from various intimidating people groups.” (That’s a rough summary of Exodus 3:6-10.) 

Moses responds, “Yeah, no. Wrong guy.”

God counters, “My child, you have nothing to fear because I told you I will be with you. It’s worth your time because, after you do this, I’m going to let you serve me for the rest of your life.”

Again, Moses questions, “As I play this out in my mind, I realize I’m going to look really stupid in front of all of these people if I can’t entirely explain who I am and what I’m doing nor justify every action. Did you think that through?”

I love God’s response. He silences Moses with the simple statement “I AM who I AM.” This exchange makes me laugh because I’ve had this conversation with God many times over the past few years, though outside of the freeing-the-Israelites context. This is, in fact, my most frequent response to new seasons with God. Some of my go-to statements of fear are, “They’re going to think I’m weird,” or “I don’t have enough faith to follow through.” For this newest season it was,“I don’t want to be lonely,” but they all fall under the general theme of, “That looks unfamiliar and scary and I don’t think I’m strong enough to handle it, let’s just not.” I’ve tended to push or pull or drag my feet when I realize God’s leading me somewhere new, somewhere not within the carefully constructed religious box. Each complaint I send at my Savior is met with, “But daughter, don’t you remember who I am?” As with Moses, my fear falls away and faith awakens when met by the Living God. His kindness, goodness and love are irresistible; He’s the very thing my heart was created for. 

In a life with God lies the satisfaction of everything our hearts desire. An encounter with Him sparks a fire in our souls, igniting the kindling He placed within us at the beginning. When you have gazed upon the perfect face of Jesus or heard Him call your name, when you recognize that He alone holds everything you’ve ever longed for, how could you move in any other direction than toward Him?

Knowing King Jesus nullifies the crippling symptoms of fear. Encountering God empowers us to step forward into whatever is next because His love casts out every anxiety. I always interpreted that phrase to mean that, if I truly loved Jesus and believed in Him, I’d never face something I was afraid of because His love would remove any feelings of fear. While He may very well cast out doubt, and those moments are incredible gifts, He is as equally likely to nudge us forward even when remnants of fear can still be found in our hearts. His “love casts out fear” because it sets us free from fear’s former power, loosing our feet from the shackles to which we were bound before we met Jesus. This freedom doesn’t guarantee you’ll never feel fear again, it guarantees that you are no longer bound by it.

As Moses considers where God has asked him to go, he lists off his insufficient talent or intellect as reason to abandon the cause (Exodus 4:1-13). In fear, he tells God, “Please send someone else.” The Bible then says that the Lord’s anger was kindled against Moses, but His love provides the measure of faith necessary to prepare Moses for the journey ahead. In order to protect the relationship between them, God produces the resources needed for Moses to obey His command; He provides faith, dressed as Aaron, for the task ahead. God says to Moses, “I will provide Aaron as a mouthpiece for you. You’ll do what I’ve asked, but He will be your voice.” (Exodus 4:14-17) God meets Moses in his small faith and provides what is needed for greater faith to arise. You see, had Moses disobeyed God because of his fear, it would have affected their relationship. In His compassion and kindness, God provides a way for Moses to step into the season where he has been called and to continue in relationship with Himself. 

If we believe God is who He says He is, then we believe that He provides. The core of Christianity is that, no matter the cost, God always rescues His children. God will not ask you to step into a new season with Him and then set you up to fail. He’s a good friend, father, companion, lover—His kindness never runs out.

And He gives us the measure of faith necessary to step into the land He’s called us.

"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way." (James 1:2-4, MSG)

Afternoon Coffee

You make me think of drinking coffee
Mid-afternoon in my favorite chair.

I sit and I sip, expectation of quiet now satisfied.

Being with you is the pause I scramble to obtain
Because there's no greater peace than the freedom to just be.

So, when I think of you, I think of my afternoon coffee in the blanket-covered chair.

Your only expectation is that I show up,
And you're always waiting for me.

You don't require deep or productive commentary,
But you love to hear how my mind wanders.
You love to watch me simply be free.

You're like afternoon coffee in my favorite chair,
You're the quiet my heart needs.

He Called Me To The Valley

My life in the past few (many) months has felt like a constant battlefield. Perhaps this is the life of the Christian, a brutal fight for joy and peace in all times. The greatest battle in a faith-filled life seems not to be the one against the things that oppose us from the outside, but the one against the emotions, doubts and fears that oppose us from the inside. 

But before I address what feels like the war in my heart, I think it’s important to remember that I’m fighting from victory. All my life I’ve tended toward a poverty spirit and desperation mindset, something that is so common among God’s children when they find themselves in a dark season. In my own life, the poverty spirit appears first as an adoration filled cry of a child to her Father, asking Him to visit her because she feels alone and far off. Based in the truth that our hearts are designed for God’s presence, this cry isn’t sinful of itself. There’s so much beauty in a heart that cries out for God, broken, desperate, and needy for His presence. However, when I feel that my Father has not answered my cry, I assume an increasingly desperate posture. I ask, “What have I done wrong?” and “Why have you taken your presence from me?”. My mind confesses every possible error or misstep. And again, while there is beauty in desperation, there’s also forgetfulness. The moment I begin obsessing over my sin, neediness and insufficiency, I forget my adoption into the fold of God. It becomes an issue of my ability to right myself before God, when in fact “it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:21). The belief that I can somehow make myself clean enough for the feeling of God’s presence to return rejects my identity as his child. This poverty spirit is no more righteous than a Pharisee’s loud and pretentious prayer. A poverty spirit is a spirit that has forgotten who God is.

All that to say, what, then, are we to do when our souls are lost and lonely and our spirits feel faint? Is the painful season of quietness or dryness punishment from God? Does He send me through this because I have failed Him? No. I know the Father’s heart is good, and He doesn’t wreak havoc to punish us for not meeting expectations we’ve set for ourselves. Why, then, does he allow for the valleys of the soul? I think because we need to see the valley before we can truly thrive on the mountain top. The valley is where we recognize that the only dependable thing in this life is the goodness of God. It’s here where we learn the necessity of His presence but also the truth of His steadfastness despite our wavering emotions. And then, on the sweet day when He moves us from the valley and places us atop the mountain, we will be certain that no striving of our own brought us there. We owe it all to the hand of God.

I arrived in this valley after a series of obedient “yes” statements, where God asked me to lay down the things so tightly grasped in my hands. It was a series of conversations between my Father and I, questions of Where are we going? and Where have we been? With every desire laid down—the shiny college experience in New York City, an independent and self-sufficient lifestyle, the summer spent in Europe fulfilling lifelong dreams, and even one of the dearest relationships—the words were always Do you trust me enough to follow me? Do you know I have something better for you? You see, my Father knows my heart, He knows my only desire is to be where He is. The losses and unmet expectations of myself and my life were and are painful. I never expected following His word would lead to a season of feeling so lost in the wilderness and so doubtful of His presence. My only consolation is that I know I followed Him here, and therefore, I am right where I should be.

The one walking through the valley—though susceptible to despair, doubt and confusion—is not there for punishment or to receive the scorn due them. Though I feel winded from the painful blows of shattered expectations, hiding hope and scarcity of joy, He brought me here to prepare me for the increased measure of grace He is about to pour out. I am not forsaken, and I am not defeated. The valley is my victory because it is where He has called me.

“He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away his hand; and if only the will to walk is really there he is pleased even with their stumbles […] our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do [God’s] will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.” C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters.

The Capsule Wardrobe | Spring Core Pieces

After two very-long weeks of midterms and the general college overwhelm, I’m back with the next part in my mini-series on my capsule wardrobe. Hi ya, friends! I hope you’ve been so well. Let’s jump in, this is the fun stuff!

When it comes to structuring my capsule wardrobe, I prefer Jennifer Scott’s method—the 10-item wardrobe. In a nutshell, you have ten (or so) core pieces and a few extras. Core pieces are your dresses, pants, skirts, blouses—the more focal items of the wardrobe, perhaps higher quality too. Extras consist of tee-shirts, outerwear and accessories that round out and work with the core pieces. I’ve added another category on to this: incidentals. This is where I file my work uniform, running shoes, and other things that I need in my wardrobe for certain tasks but don’t consider part of my core collection.

Today, we’re focusing on core items. To parse this concept into something a bit easier to chew, let me divide it into what I believe are the three fundamental characteristics.
Core items are versatile, they fit your life & style, and they make you feel beautiful.

In a smaller wardrobe it makes sense that all of your items, extras included, ought to be mix-able for lots of variation. Most of the articles I’ve read on capsule wardrobes tend toward very classic, simple items in neutral colors because they are easier to mix. I don’t really believe in simple clothes and almost everything I own is printed, brightly colored, or attached to some sort of ruffle. I think versatility really depends on your willingness, or unwillingness, to mix prints and layer various items. Do you lean toward solid, neutral colored items? Wonderful, they’ll mix beautifully and no, your wardrobe is not boring! On the other hand, if you’re obsessed with prints and you really like bright colors, then wonderful! Challenge yourself and see which combinations surprise you. 

The question of whether or not your items fit your style is really covered in the process of cleaning out your wardrobe. For more on that, you can click here. To boil it down, why would you keep things in your 10 (or so) core collection if you don’t actually enjoy them? Sounds like nonsense to me! Additionally, do your core items work with the things you encounter everyday? This includes the weather, your career or school, the ways you choose to spend your free time. 

Finally, do your core items make you feel confident? This is one of those trial-and-error sort of things; you learn as you go. Learning which shapes and colors flatter your body is yet another important aspect of developing your style and self-confidence. I’ve discovered that I feel most confident in dresses and long flowy skirts and I incorporate them into my wardrobe year round. Red, white and blue (and their various shades) are my favorite colors to wear and my wardrobe often reflects this. Red and blue suit my dark hair and fair skin best, while earthy tones like olive-green and rusty-pink make me look a bit sallow and sad. Experiment here, it’s fun—you’ll likely find that the colors that suit you best become your favorites. Try on your clothes and see if they bring out the color of your eyes or make your skin look like it’s glowing. If you’re stuck, a quick Google search for colors that suit your skin tone will yield countless charts for you to look at and take into consideration. It’s a science.
Now that we've discussed the general outline for curating the core items of a capsule wardrobe, let's talk through my spring core pieces!

Above, the riviera print dress from Boden. I've had this one for 4+ years and it's still in wonderful condition. It's lightweight enough to work through the miserably hot summer here in Texas, and it's pretty. 

My favorite rosette skirt, such fun and comfortable. I wear it with tee shirts and flats, and always get so many compliments. Jeans are fairly straightforward, I like these high-waisted skinnies for everyday wear. And my blue and white pinstripe button-up, it's probably on it's last leg but I love the colors and I'll often layer that under my black dress (below). 

This flowery dress is from Target, and is one of my favorites for summer. Sometimes I layer it under my rosette skirt for a fun combo. It's bloomin' awesome! Ok, lame joke. Moving on.

Navy and white polkadot shift dress, easy to throw on and cute with flats or tennis shoes (those ones I am teaching myself to wear). I love this white peplum, that is all. A classic, midi, black dress. It has a fun texture (hard to see in that picture, sorry), and is very bouncy--again with the twirling in public. The red-ish, orange-ish midi dress is one I've debated saving until later in the summer when it's a bit warmer. I love it, but may consider switching it out for one of my heavier dresses (like the navy and white polkadot) come July or August. Though I generally stick with two seasons for my capsule wardrobe--spring/summer and fall/winter--occasionally I will switch out a piece or two if the weather has changed. 

It's a bit difficult to tell, but the above skirt is actually a navy, midi skirt with sequin stars on it. It's so fun! As with the other midi skirt, I usually wear this with a simple tee shirt and flats. My shorter, flower print skirt is from a boutique in New York City that I visited--it makes me feel très French, which is obviously my goal in life. And finally, this navy, flower print tank. I'll wear it with jeans, or with skirts. It's fun and floaty and I like it very much.

I feel as though my descriptions are a bit silly (I just like it!), but here's what I'm wearing from now until the fall. This is my favorite of the capsules, and I'm so excited to kick of spring this Monday (YAY!). 

What are your thoughts on the capsule wardrobe? Have you tried it out? I'd love to hear from you.

All the best,

Mary Grace

P.S. I'll be talking more about the "extra" and "incidental" categories as well as dressing to suit your body type in the next few articles. Is there anything you'd like to talk about? Let me know in the comments.