Bathing Beauteas

Mental health and wellness have been both trendy and controversial topics throughout 2018. New studies and perspectives on what it means to “treat yo self”, and practice “self-care” give us data and opinions all across the map, leaving many (including myself) confused as to what it really looks like to live a healthy, balanced life.

Bathing Beauteas co-founders, Joyce Tang and Stephanie Mai, were ahead of this health & wellness trend when they decided years ago that they wanted to start a business which specifically sought to empower women by integrating rest and rejuvenation into a routine lifestyle.

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Their entrepreneurial journey began in high school, where the two met in Business Leadership class. Both women were (and still are) big travelers, with even bigger hearts to love and serve both Jesus, and the communities that surrounded them. Having grown up in the greater Seattle area, the two of them noticed a growing tension (within the cultural climate, particularly for millenials) between work and rest, oftentimes eliminating rest all together for the sake of working harder, doing more, and hoping to achieve success.

Joyce and Stephanie were students at the University of Washington when they had the unique opportunity to “Create a Company” through a 2-quarter-long class which equipped them to start a student-led, school-funded business. Any profits made were to go directly into funding the following year’s cohort. Having been given such an incredible opportunity, they channeled their passion to love the people around them into what became Bathing Beauteas, with the mission to combine historical bathing traditions with modern ingredients to empower the modern woman.”  Joyce and Stephanie built an ethical company that uses locally sourced ingredients to create loose-leaf tea-infused baths. They seek to empower women (and men too, really) through small, routine self-care practices that allow them to reach their highest potential through leadership, creativity, rest, and action.

One can see this investment in leadership, creativity, rest, and action in the 4 top tea bath products that Bathing Beauteas sells:

  1. Cleopatra Chamomile: Cleopatra historically represented female leadership and strength. This blend is specifically meant to empower women to lead – in the workplace, in their friendships and relationships, and in the various places that everyday life takes you. It’s made with milk, honey, and rose/chamomile tea, rooted in Egyptian ancient bathing tradition.
  2. Geisha Green Tea Before Geisha’s were glamorized as prostitutes, they were originally well-respected Japanese artists and entertainers. This blend is meant to promote creativity, and emphasis on artisan-made goods. Rooted in ancient Japanese tradition, this tea bath includes jasmine green tea, rice, and essential oils.
  3. Persephone Pomegranate: In the Grecian story of Persephone, she is tragically taken against her will. However, despite her pain, she is continuously a radically nurturing woman to those around her. This blend is representative of a persistent nurturing spirit, encouraging holistic rest that bubbles up from the individual to those around them. In Ancient Grecian culture bathing was thought to encourage holistic beauty and wisdom. This blend energizes, refocuses, and revitalizes with pomegranate tea, spearmint tea, honey powder, epsom salt, and essential oils.
  4. Lady Lavender: This tea bath is modeled after historical suffragettes in London who took action regularly, ensuring that civil rights were accessible to all. This blend is infused with a soothing lavender tea, reminding one to engage intentionally in both rest and action.

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Bathing Beauteas’ impact on those around them doesn’t stop at their product. Since Joyce and Stephanie both have a heart for justice, they’ve intentionally partnered with non-profits over the years, such as Unbound Seattle, and REST; both local organizations that seek to fight against sex-trafficking. As the company continues to grow, female empowerment remains key to the heart of the company as they work toward hosting entrepreneurship and leadership workshops for young girls. Their socially conscious business model has created curiosity in the Seattle community, even leading to an interview with a local evening news television station!

The company has grown quite a bit over the years, as the Seattle community has received their kind-hearted entrepreneurial spirit gladly. What began as a simple class project, has grown into a thriving business that simultaneously sells their product while hosting events for local creatives and business-owners to build community across the Puget Sound area.

There are exciting things on the horizon as Bathing Beauteas transitions into wholesale selling, while relaunching calligraphy classes, and other Seattle-based events. Although their products are currently sold solely online or in local Seattle shops, Joyce and Stephanie plan to expand the company nationally and globally in the next couple years. Both Joyce and Stephanie have incredible love for the people around them, those that purchase their tea baths, and even those they are yet to meet! This is evident in their product, their socially conscious business model, and the contagious spread of community-building through their events, and daily interactions.

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If you’re in search of a thoughtfully-made, ethically-sourced, wellness-minded gift for yourself or a loved one, check them out at www.bathingbeauteas.com. You can read more about their story, see what new products they recommend, and get connected to the upcoming events they’ll be hosting in the months to come!

// Article by Mariko Sandico

A Lament for Hope

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The prophet Jeremiah, sometimes known as the weeping prophet, felt deeply, saw clearly, and understood the true context of placing his unreserved hope in Jesus.

In his book Lamentations, he withheld nothing from his true sense of being. What he felt and experienced, he wrote down using the rawest form of honesty in doing so. He writes in Lamentations 3, “I am the man who has seen affliction . . . he [God] has made my skin and flesh waste away; he has broken my bones; . . . my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.”

Jeremiah feels as though the Lord has saught him out like a bear or lion waits for their prey (vs. 10-11). In this passage, one would notice that the writer does not hold back anything; there is complete vulnerability. He describes this season of his life as a time where he felt abandoned, a slave that could not get away, and utterly bitter. Can you relate to such a time as this; a time where you felt as though a target was on your back and you kept getting pierced in the dead center time and time again?

For some of you, you may read this passage and ask yourself, “Wait, is that even okay to speak about God like that?” I know that I was taken back when I first read Lamentations. It catches most of us off guard because, for our entire lives, we have lived under this expectation that we are not allowed to tell God our true feelings. We are only allowed to praise Him for the good and tell others about the “mountain” moments that He brought us to.  We’re taught that we can’t be truthful in our pain.

This lifestyle has created such an issue for Christians. By not allowing ourselves to grieve over the trials and tribulations we are facing, we miss out on the opportunity to truly experience the greatness of God’s faithfulness even in the face of our darkest days.

We just throw ‘bandaids’ on our deepest hurts and then expect them to heal on their own without any tender care. Friends, consider this, if we continue to just temporarily deal with the hurt we have, we will never be able to have healed ‘scars’ that show of the grace and mercy that got us through the heart-throbbing moments of pain. The hell-like moments are meant for growth, for a strengthening of heart, and ultimately to bring you closer to the Father.

What I love most about this passage in Lamentations is that it does not end with the destruction of Jeremiah, but rather it drastically takes a 360 degreee change.  Lamentations 3: 21-25 says, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.”

Jeremiah, even in that moment when he doubted God, was able to call to mind all the times that God had been faithful to provide, deliver, and free him in the past. Friend, the truth is that we are a unfaithful people by nature. BUT, I have some awesome news! Even in the midst of our adulterous hearts, our unfaithness to His love, He is faithful to follow through on His promises to never fail us or never leave us. He hears your cries and he counts your tears as they fall from your cheeks onto your pillow. He knows you and sees you and will not leave you alone. He is with you and He just wants you to be real with Him.

We must deal with our hurt. Let it matter. If your heart is broken, let it shatter, then watch God heal it to where is 110% stronger than it was before.

Not only this, but I urge you, if you are not in a season of lowness, to remember those low moments and let it produce a remembrance, a humility that guides your every day activities and leads to a continuous remembrance of God’s faithfulness and the mercies that are new every morning. He is our hope for tomorrow.

// Written by Joy Payne
Republished from Joyfully Living

Wander By Hand

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Wander By Hand is a small business that puts to paper hand drawn and written breaths of fresh air for the soul. From weddings, custom work, prints, to handmade pieces each one piece is uniquely created. Michelle Enrique, The Founder and Artist of Wander By Hand, grew up with love for art deeply rooted in the essence of who she is, but was first inspired to take on calligraphy when a fellow classmate in college wrote her name in such a beautiful manner. A simple moment breathed to life an intricate passion in her heart. Since then, a dream, “to fill homes with beautiful words, weddings with the perfect touch, and hearts with the beauty of creativity” has begun to flourish.

As I have begun to know Michelle via email, I have been privileged to witness glimpses of God’s heart.

He is relentless in His pursuit for not only our hearts, but for us to behold all the goodness He has prepared for each of us individually.

From her life story to her journey as an artist, God’s hand is evident in a powerful, meaningful way. When God has called you to something and you step into it in obedience, there’s no limit to where God will take you and this is only the beginning for Wander By Hand.

ABOUT MICHELLE ENRIQUEZ

Her story as a creator and Christ follower go hand-in-hand. Growing up, she loved creating. She grew up with loving parents, who divorced while she was young. During this time, her mom soon took her family to a non-denominational church in the Chicago suburb. It was there that she accepted Christ.

Growing up she continued to paint, draw, color, sculpt, and invest her time with anything and everything art related. Furthering into high school, her desire to create broadened into the admiration of visual arts and photography.

I loved the quiet of the darkroom, the process of capturing beauty through my own point of view, and the challenge to see beauty in all things.”

Transitioning into her college years, her artistic journey takes a turn into a dark valley as her heart drifts from the Lord. But God is faithful and even through the darkness that enveloped her during this season of her life His light still shone, His hand was always at work, and His heart was always for her. It wasn’t until a much-needed breakup with a 4 year relationship that her search for the Lord reignited as she refocused her heart and mind on the Lord.

To touch on that story, this breakup is one of my all-time favorite stories on what restoration looks like…because now, I am married to the man I had been dating and it couldn’t be better! He found the Lord, and I re-found the Lord, and now he’s a Youth Pastor…I genuinely love how God pieced together our story!

After college, she started to tap into her creativity once again. What began as a hobby has turned into a heartbeat.

I love championing on the creative in all of us. It’s so wild how artwork flows out of what the Lord is doing in my heart.”

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For the first few years of taking on this artistic endeavor, she felt extremely foolish. Foolish that she wasn’t utilizing her degree in Spanish and Global Art History and silly that she thought she was even good enough to pursue this. It wasn’t until she fully humbled herself to the Lord that she was finally comfortable identifying as an artist. When she finally identified as an artist is when she finally felt empowered to pursue art as something more than just a hobby. While there are times where she doubts if she can do this, she is reminded that being an artist is not so much about where your finances come from; but about identity. As an artist, she has been equipped for this very thing to create.

Wander By Hand started up in 2014, and until recently she only invested part of her time into it. As of now, she is working on Wander By Hand full time. This huge leap of faith is only the beginning for how far God is going to take not only this small business, but this artistic soul. Michelle is not just an artist. She is a masterpiece and each piece she creates has not only glimpses of her heart, but God’s heart in her. The genuine love flows from her hands to paper to your hearts.

Q&A WITH MICHELLE ENRIQUEZ

What would you say are a few of your struggles?

Comparison. Crossing the street on foot. When my love language of affirmation becomes a source of validation; I have to always be careful with that! Mental math. Discontentment I’ve got the heart of a world traveler. Over analyzing myself and all that I say to people….and many more.

What motivates you?

Having TIME; coffee; and Jesus.

What is your favorite medium to work with?

My favorite medium is ink and watercolor. With calligraphy, I love not tracing my words. There’s a beauty in knowing I’ve only got one shot to create the lettering. With watercolor, I love how it allows me to slow down. The two combined is like a rush and a meditation all at the same time.

What does your creative process look like?

My creative process 100% of the time begins with my face in the Bible, or in another theological book. My ideas always stem from there. Some sort of word or phrase will always speak to me, and from there I letter that word/phrase in a couple different ways. I’m also very inspired by the kitchen, the garden, and nature. So, I study a lot of florals, fruits, herbs etc. and like to use them in my work.

How do you overcome a creative block?

I’ll read more, look at others’ art to get inspired, not paint for a while, and/or try something new. Often, I find if I’m stuck, I need to do something different.

When did you realize that you could make a career out of your art?

I didn’t start to truly create at all until after college. It began as creating calligraphy pieces of quotes and scriptures for friends and family. I do remember my first sale. It was to my former employer (my boss at Lululemon) who was gifting our team with cards. I’ll never, ever forget that. It was the first time I thought, wow I can actually make money with this?

What advice would you give to any creative?

We are ALL called to be creative. This is the advice I would give to anyone who is struggling in their identity as an artist. We are made in the image of a CREATOR. He wove this into our SOULS! Whether you are in business or hold a paintbrush in your hand, you have the ability to think creatively, create artistically, or converse with creativity. Alongside this truth, I would encourage every creative to continue to dig into Jesus. He is a never ending well of creativity. There’s a TON of beauty in a relationship with the Lord, and that will outpour from you the more you press into Him and your relationship with Him.

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How did you come up with the name Wander By Hand?

I’ll never forget it. I was sitting on my parent’s couch; the sun was beaming through their big front windows and I just sat there and prayed. It kind of just drifted into my mind. I then texted my brother, my now husband, and sister-in-law. Each of them responded “YES”, and I knew it was the one!

What is your vision for Wander By Hand?

This is a big one, and a really vulnerable one. I would love to be full time with this. And not full-time in the struggling senses, but full-time to the point where I can financially support my husband and I and our future family.


Since I stumbled upon Wander By Hand on Instagram a few months ago, my life has been extremely blessed with not just words of encouragement but a sister in Christ. Michelle is such a genuine soul and getting to know her even if just through her art is a blessing in itself. Her genuine heart for the Lord and purposeful way of living is inspiring and contagious.

I am ever amazed by how a few words can make such a huge impact on a bad situation and in one’s life. They are indeed “sweeter than honey” like Psalm 119:103 states. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Psalms 18:21) and what better way to bring life into your workplace, special event, or home than by including some meaningful written art by Wander By Hand to not only decorate and inspire but to bring about change in your life and in the lives of those around you.

By Maali Padro // Photos courtesy of Wander by Hand

Living with the Rug Pulled Out from under my Feet

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My eyes watched the city skyline until it faded from the rearview window. I’m learning to pull on traveling like a necessary coat. It’s my lifeline. I need the detachment. I need the rug of my own head pulled out from under my feet. I need to be drawn into the very alive, very breathing present. Traveling helps me fill my space unapologetically, helps me throw my weight around a little, kind of like a boxer. I’m slowly becoming a little more confident, decisive, known. And when I’m wandering around a new city with no agenda other than to take it all in, I know exactly who I am. I appreciate without comparison, I smile without suspicion, I am without hesitation.

I need the adventure to pull me out of my head and into my body. I need the mental health break. We throw around the words “self-care” a lot these days. For me, self-care is looking a lot like boundaries, like giving both my introversion and extroversion the gift of acceptance, like finding little ways to be brave. Finding little ways to have faith. Finding little ways to reach deep down inside and bring to the surface whatever is there, pretty or not.

I took a trip to Philadelphia last week and I spent every day walking as far as my feet would carry me. I joined a protest. I got lost. I breathed deep. I had aching feet. That trip brought me home with a heck of a lot less anxiety than what I had left at home.

I think we should do that more. I think we should throw ourselves into the things that scare us. American culture has taught us all to be safe, to not take risks. Especially when it comes to our faith. We’re so quick to deny anything that makes us uncomfortable, anything that rebels against the teachings we were taught when we were little. I think sometimes the church itself can become a barrier keeping us from Jesus. I think about my own church upbringing and realize the freedom I have desperately needed, as a twenty-three year old, as a woman, as a wife, has stayed just outside of fingertip reach because of institutions placed around my wandering curiosity. But God loves the person more than the institution. And he isn’t intimidated by our questions.

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I’m disheartened by the American church. We’ve failed each other, other races, women. I grew up in a church where women were not pastors, were not worship leaders, were not teachers. And it’s tired. I don’t know what the answer is and I don’t know that the answer is very clear. But I do know this conversation needs to start showing up in big and loud ways.

What I do know is that women’s voices have been hushed for generations. I know Jesus went out of his way to empower women. I know when women were unreliable witnesses in court, he entrusted the proof of his resurrection to a woman. I know in a society where women couldn’t speak to men, he sought one out at a well. I know when a woman chose to sit at his feet and not in the kitchen, she chose the right thing.

I think sometimes we’re afraid to lift our voices too loudly, because somewhere in history we’ve been painted as hysterical, women with uncontrollable emotions. We’ve been painted as witches. We’ve started wars over golden apples. We’ve been the temptress. But freedom demands that we throw those things off. And maybe it’s uncomfortable, maybe even scary. But I think we need the escape, the detachment, the rug of legalism pulled out from under our feet. We need the freedom to fill our space well, wherever that may be, and to box a little with the things that scare us, take a little risk. And I think it’ll feel a lot like traveling. With lots of rest and little anxiety.

“Of course if no one had ever been exposed to dangerous ideas from scandalous women, Christianity itself would not have had its unique beginning nor its glorious history, but whatever.” – Nadia Bolz-Weber

// Words & Photos By Jess Meko
Republished from jessicameko.com

Farewell, Fear.

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Fear. It’s like a forest hiding our hearts from the light of Love with all its branches and leaves that make up tall trees. It feels safe, secure but what it doesn’t show is all the lies keeping us captive in a false sense of protection and confidence. Lies that say, “We aren’t good enough; so why bother trying?” Lies that say, “We are better off alone and in our own little cave within that forest.” And it hurts, the deceiving words that convince us to believe “We will always be alone because we aren’t special enough to be loved”, or  “We are too broken to mend.

It’s like a powerful wind howling in our hearts. It has the power to keep us to a halt, and from moving forward as it pushes us down to the ground. It has the power to keep us enslaved to all its lies because the truth may be too much to bare or maybe it seems too far-fetched to even be true. It has the power to keep us from our future as it sweeps away all hope. It has the power to keep us from reaching our dreams as it washes away possibility with a rainfall of impossibility. It has the power to determine how meaningful our short life on earth will be or the lack of meaning it will have as it holds us captive. It has as much power over us as we allow it to, and that’s the thing about fear, it convinces us with one lie that “We are powerless under its power.” And it’s right. On our own, we are powerless, but what fear forgets is that we are not alone.

Love is with us.

Love. It’s like the calm after the storm. After fear is done raging, God’s gentle voice that has been whispering to us in our hearts all along is heard loud and clear. Its truth starts to soothe our soul as its light enters in revealing what is real, what is honest, pure, and true, that He loves us. Those three words break fear apart revealing what it truly is, a lie. His love for us is more powerful than any fear in us. Our God frightens away fear with His love. Yes, fear has its own fears.

There is no fear in love;
but perfect love casts out fear.

1 John 4:18

Love will make all the storms of life with their lightning and thunder and howling winds seem less frightening. It’ll give you the strength and confidence you need to face it all, and remind you that in the end there’s no need to worry, everything is going to be okay— even more than okay. It’ll reveal to you the greater purpose within it all leaving no room for fear because your trust, your faith, your confidence is in the One who is in control of all. Within this confidence is the ability to live life to the fullest. Within this confidence is the strength to shut down the noise of the world and of our own selves, the lies we allow to be fed with and in turn feed ourselves with, and to turn up the voice of our Father telling us that we do fit in, with him, and that we are created in His image, we are more than good enough, but most importantly that we are loved, by Him.

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The only thing between who we know we can be, who we are supposed to be, is ourselves. God has given us the power to tear down those walls that fear has built around our heart and soul with His mighty Word. Word by word, praise by praise, prayer by prayer, with His love the walls can and will be torn down. The question is “Are we willing to uproot the foundation of those walls?” What caused them to be put up in the first place. I don’t think that fear is what we are really afraid of, but the lack of it; we are afraid to be vulnerable. So, we mask the fear we think is keeping us from being vulnerable and protecting us with a false sense of confidence, but fear is not protecting our vulnerability, Love is, God is and He always will. He won’t use our vulnerability to tear us down but to help those who, like we once were, are trapped by fear and to tear down their walls. Love and fear are not the same. Fear likes to make us believe it is, but it’s not. Fear can’t give us the freedom that Love does. The freedom that Love is.

Run past the trees and out of the darkness.

Follow the light, run towards the arms of Love, dance in its freedom, and bid fear a forever farewell because there’s no room for it in your heart.

Love has taken over.

Written by Maali Padro // Photos by Olivia Douglas

Continuing is Harder than Starting

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I started Wildflower Roots jewelry back in 2015, right after I spent a year living in India working for a social enterprise, Purpose Jewelry. That year in India was spent designing jewelry lines for Purpose Jewelry and working alongside women who are survivors of human trafficking. I had never “designed” jewelry or possessed many jewelry making skills when I arrived in India, but when I left I knew this would be a craft I couldn’t give up. Designing jewelry for me was the creative challenge I needed as an artist. I had painted, crafted, sculpted and dabbled in every other artsy category you can think of most of my life. Discovering jewelry design was the greatest by far. Coming home from living abroad, especially India, was an adjustment, but deciding to keep making jewelry by starting Wildflower Roots was my best decision yet.

Wildflower Roots is simple, everyday jewelry for the everyday woman. The everyday mundane can feel unglamourous at times and yet seasons of life can alter, shift, and change in heartbeat. I live most of my life thinking about what season I am in and miss the unexpected everyday moments of joy, love, and kindness around me. What I love about wildflowers is that they bloom in unexpected seasons, they have roots that are often tough and strong, they are flexible with the wind, populating everywhere. Wildflowers are mainly weeds but they are beautiful ones. My season in India had me clinging to my roots and holding even more tightly to my ultimate root, Christ. During the hard seasons, fun seasons, and seasons of big uprooting change, my roots were what mattered the most. And I can tell you from my professional, plant lady experience (insert sarcasm here) that roots grow inch by inch, steadily and slowly, everyday. I want Wildflower Roots to be a reminder that goes beyond the art of making jewelry and to actively represent the beauty in the mundane of everyday life.

After a couple of years of working part time with Wildflower Roots, I wasn’t able to pay for my bills solely on jewelry sales. I got a full time job working at FLDWRK, a local coworking space in downtown Fullerton. I fell in love my job at FLDWRK and did my best to keep moving WFR forward as much as I could. Last year, I was engaged, planning a November wedding, working a fulltime job and trying to keep up with the demand of WFR. Once December 2017 arrived I was done. I needed a BREAK from WFR. I can’t tell you how guilty I felt. How immediately I felt behind in the jewelry business world, no longer able to keep up with those doing their businesses full time. My husband is my biggest fan and was worried I was quitting, but I felt peace that it was only for a season. The Lord provided a house for us to rent (and we left behind our teeny, tiny one-room backhouse for good). Not only did this new place have all that we had prayed for, but it had one additional blessing. In this house was a spare room and I excitedly began dreaming of creating a new space for Wildflower Roots.

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Over the course of June and July, I created my own little business plan to utilize Instagram in a new way. I turned the spare room into a mini studio and started sketching. Continuing is harder than starting. But I am here showing up as much as I can. Wildflower Roots doesn’t have a website or a Fall/Winter product line, but what Wildflower Roots does have is limited edition jewelry pieces and Instagram Story Pop-Up Shops that happen twice a month. I am so glad to be putting myself out there again designing and making jewelry, all while at my own pace. That break was exactly what I needed in a season where I thought I was done. I’m so glad I stepped back and took a new creative look at my business. In doing this, I realized that instead of trying to keep up with what everyone else is doing, I can go at my own pace, in my own way, and it doesn’t have to be BIG or wow everyone all the time. Whenever, I get caught up in seeing others smashing the jewelry game, I celebrate and admire them all, while reminding myself that I am in a different season. It’s good to feel my roots growing again.

– Meredith Galipault
Founder of Wildflower Roots
(Photos by Kayci Decker)

Keep Families Together

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But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” I’ve been watching as America wrestles with refugees and immigration and with letting the children of immigrants call this place home. As a twenty-three-year-old learning to fill my space in the world, I have needed to step off the sidelines. And so I participated in a march. A march for keeping families together. And as I marched, hot indignant tears rolled down my cheeks while I watched the protesters symbolically pile children’s shoes high on the sidewalk, watched them spilling over onto the road. Later, as I carried my sign, an elderly man stopped me, placed his hand on my shoulder and said, “Thank you. It’s getting harder to be an immigrant in America every day.”

I think sometimes we get paralyzed by the thought of being wrong. But I’m learning to invite grace in because I know God will meet me there. When I think about that man, I see a human being. Somebody told me once that God loves the person more than the institution. And right now, the institution is looking a lot like America telling us what safety is, what safety isn’t, and what should be ours. But I’m here to gently remind us of something. I’m here to remind us, Christians, that when we became Christians we gave up our rights.

We gave up the right to safety, the right to owning things and putting up walls around them, claiming them as our own and shutting out the hurting.

Paul said to die is gain. When we became Christians, we said we would lay down our lives for our neighbors. And I think that means our neighboring countries too. Jesus said pick up your cross and follow me. And when I watch what scripture tells us our crosses look like, I remember we don’t get to sit back. And what better way to live out His kindness, His mercy, then with open arms here on this earth crying out, “not my will, but yours be done Father.”

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As He died for the least of these, let us die too. Whatever that means. If that means giving up my home, giving up my rights, giving up my safety, then so be it. I refuse to store up my treasure here on earth. I want to be the kind of Christian storing up treasure in heaven.

We’ve become too comfortable in this world we claim as our own, over and over and over again.

But this world isn’t ours. It never was. This is not our home. And we have no right to tell human beings that they cannot find refuge here with us. We are made in the image of God. And if we are to be mirrors of Him, then we are to be mirrors of hope, shelter, rest, and strength. We are to look more like Him every single day. And I could never wrap my head around the picture of a God who doesn’t put out a welcome mat, a God who doesn’t invite us in. I can’t imagine a God who doesn’t say, “let the little children come to me.”

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Christians, we have got to start bringing this conversation out in big and bold ways. We have got to start leaning in to our identity as a lighthouse, a city on a hill, a home filled with hope. Let’s wrap that identity around ourselves. Because we too are immigrants, we understand what it means to love, and families belong together. And if I could say one thing to you, it’s this: wipe your feet on the Father’s welcome mat and come on in. We’re all welcome here.

// Words & Photos by Jessica Meko

Interview with Anna Laura, Founder of White Flag

White Flag is a home decor company aimed to spark conversations about Jesus Christ through simple designs inspired by biblical truths. It is an organic way to help you share what you believe with the people who visit your home or office. Their flags are designed to beg the question, “what does that mean?” and open the door for a conversation.

You have a story to tell, a testimony of where you have been and where God is taking you. When you purchase and proudly hang one of their flags, you are opening the door to conversation – be brave and share your story.

IMG_1706PC: Robbie Norris

Anna, we are so excited to hear your story! Tell us a bit about yourself.

Thank you so much! I’m so honored you asked me to be a part of Artfully Seeking! I’m Anna. I’m originally from Kansas City, Missouri but grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. I currently live in Nashville, Tennessee with my husband, Andrew, and my three kids – Brooklyn, Justice, and River Wilde. My home is a revolving door of animals and is constantly full of plants and books. Handwritten letters, flowers wrapped in paper, sleeping with the windows open, French oldies music, and Autumn are a few of my favorite things. I’m an 8w7 on the Enneagram, I ask a lot of questions, and I love to tell stories. And finally, I’m the founder and creative director of White Flag — a lifestyle, home decor company that makes handmade, linen flags aimed to spark conversations about Jesus Christ through minimal designs inspired by Biblical truths.

How did you develop as a creative throughout your life?

I grew up around music. My dad is a professional musician, so creativity has always been a part of my life. I started playing piano and taking singing lessons when I was younger. I used to love writing poems and songs. I also loved to draw and paint, and had sketch pads nearby throughout most of my teenage years. I experimented with videography and photography, as well. Really, whatever I could get my hands on! I moved to Nashville in 2012, and then started gravitating towards creating apparel and accessories, something I had never done before. At the time, it was just a way to make a little extra money, but it ended up turning into a clothing line that focused on custom denim and t-shirts. Eventually, I burned out and ended up laying that company to rest in 2015 during a really difficult season of my life. At that point, I spent a bit of time just focusing on my family until White Flag came to life in 2017.

I don’t think there’s any rhyme or reason to my creativity. I don’t gravitate to one form or stay in one lane. I just enjoy creating, whether it be music, drawing, taking photos or creating tangible products, like clothing or home decor. The art of creating and bringing something to life is a beautiful process and I’ve always chased after it.

IMG_1715PC: Chrissy Irvin

How did the idea for White Flag form?

I’m a very visual person. For some people, God speaks audibly…for me, I think God speaks through vision. I’ll have ideas or I’ll see a glimpse of something and it will plant an idea or seed in me that slowly comes to life. White Flag was one of those visions! I remember vividly seeing a man walk into a room with a white flag hanging above a mantle and being overwhelmed with the love of Jesus. Truthfully, it didn’t make sense to me at the time, so I let it sit. A few months later, that vision was still present in my mind. I remembered a story my grandmother told me about her childhood during the war in Germany, and how she had to wave a white flag to surrender to the bomber planes above her home. When that memory came back to me, I connected the vision I had to that story. White flags are the universal symbol of surrender, and when I think of surrender, I think of Jesus. How we surrender to Him and the story He creates for our lives. In that moment, I knew I wanted to create white flags that symbolized surrender while sparking conversations for people to share their stories.

What I didn’t realize was that it was subconsciously rooted in my own desires as a kid, which is absolutely crazy to think about, because it’s proof that Jesus was laying the foundation for White Flag long before I knew it. It’s something I wished I had had when I was learning about Jesus for the first time — a gentle and organic way to ask questions and experience God through storytelling, rather than preaching at people or sharing the Bible verses we have memorized.

I think storytelling is the most powerful vehicle to share Jesus! Mark 4:33 says, “He was never without story.” I’m terrible at memorizing anything, but that verse has always stuck out to me. Jesus was the master storyteller, and I think there’s something to be said for that! When people ask me about White Flag, I always say this — you can argue with someone’s faith, you can argue with someone’s religion, but you can’t argue with someone’s story.

IMG_1726PC: Amber Rulmer

What has running White Flag taught you about entrepreneurship?

Self-care is important. Entrepreneurship is a constant hustle. There will be days where work needs to be done, but you can’t do that work well if you’re running on empty. Take time for yourself, even if the decision feels unnatural and forced. You, and your company, will be better off because of it.

What is the most difficult thing about running a business?

I think it’s different for everyone, but for me, it’s always been the numbers. Spreadsheets are not my spiritual gift and I get overwhelmed pretty easily when I have to do payouts or budget for the business. Haha!

Thankfully, my husband just joined the White Flag team and has taken over that aspect. But that has always been something I’ve struggled with.

What is your favorite part about what you do?

The unexpected. I love that every day looks and feels different. I also love meeting new people and hearing stories of how White Flag has inspired them or brought joy to their lives. There’s something so magical about being WITH someone as they share their story with you. These days, those kinds of moments are few and far between, and happen mostly on a screen. I never want to take those for granted.

IMG_1718PC: Krissy Leigh Creative

What is your vision for the future of White Flag?

I’m so excited for the future of White Flag! I have a little notebook, I carry with me everywhere, that I write all of my ideas in. I can’t give away too much, but we’ll be doing limited edition partnerships with musical artists, taking on some new, non-profit partners, and working on a coffee table book of stories rooted in White Flag and surrender. There’s also some branding changes happening in the near future that I can’t wait for everyone to see.

Do you have any advice for creatives trying to make their dream happen?

Welcome change. When you’re creating something from the ground up, you can be so protective of it to the point that you sometimes prevent it from growing and evolving organically. What you thought it was supposed to look like, may not be what God had in mind at all. I’m learning to trust the process and welcome change, even if it feels uncomfortable. That’s where the beauty happens — if not in tangible ways that you can see at first, it’s certainly happening in yourself. And lastly, remember the “why.” Sometimes, all the elements of owning a business or chasing a dream can get a bit overwhelming and it’s easy to lose sight of the “why.” Remember WHY you are chasing this dream and why you started this business. Staying rooted in that is so important and will keep you connected to yourself, God, and your purpose.


IMG_1702Connect: instagram.com/mywhiteflag // Shop: www.whiteflag.org
– Written by Olivia McCash

A Gift of Love

Written by Maali Padro // Photos by Arianna Taralson

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It’s like a bouquet of flowers, a beautiful array of colors and textures arranged to complement one another. A sweet fragrance that calms the soul when nurtured with love and whose thorns fall off with each kind word. It’s an art, a masterpiece that takes time to perfect, creativity to resolve conflicts, and sometimes just a clean canvas. It is something to be admired and passed on through the ages. It’s like rain, a giver of hope when dry seasons come.

It can be like a bouquet of dried flowers, with time the colors may fade becoming one in the same. The sweet fragrance it once emitted turns bitter and sour causing thorns to sprout up once again. It can be an art piece gone wrong, a disaster that no matter how much time is allotted cannot be perfected, with creativity that is nowhere to be found, and no matter how many redos it just doesn’t quite come together. Something that dies as time flies. It can be like thunder and lightning, as it tries to cover up the hope within the storm. Like the day after it rains, it can leave the air muggy and sticky making it hard to breathe. It can be like summer coming to an end, slowly the sun is covered with clouds and the air becomes cold, filled with tears and sadness from what it once had, but it can also be much more than flowers, art, rain, thunder, lightning, and summer or the end of it. Friendship in its purest form is a gift — a gift from above given to us by the greatest Friend anyone can ever have. How does one obtain such a gift?

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights…” James 1:17

Friendship is more than the desire and want of companionship inhibited in the human heart. It’s a need rooted in the essence of who we are. To live within our humanity, to our fullest potential, we need each other. The only time when God described His creation as not good was when He realized Adam was alone.

We all need a friend.

Even God Himself wasn’t alone before He spoke the beautiful universe we live in into existence.

In the beginning, was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God” John 1:1

Jesus walked among the waters with God. Together, they thought about us and smiled as they sketched a mental image of what we would each look like. They laughed at the humor that some of us would possess and were in awe of the beauty we would hold within our artistry. God, Himself, needs companionship and although Jesus might be His best friend alongside the Holy Spirit, His greatest desire is to have a relationship with His creation as more than Creator and creation. He wants you to know Him like He knows you.

He wants to be your Best Friend.

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There’s a lot of give and take when it comes to friendships. We could even say compromises that a lot of times grow into sacrifices. For example, Jesus dying for all of us. Relationships aren’t easy. I have learned that it takes one person to love but two or more to have a relationship. It’s a multi-way street, a dance of sorts full of stepped on toes when wrong steps are taken, a fall here and there, and with time it becomes a waltz danced by two people in tune with each other’s beats and can grow into something like the Macarena – a party celebrating life. I would say one of the biggest struggles with friendships, in general, is finding the patience to reach that perfect balance. It’s hard to grow a relationship. It involves putting oneself out there, being vulnerable and honest, being selfless, and being intentional to mention a few. To love is hard, but that in itself is the key to maintaining any relationship.

A relationship with Love will flow into every area of your life. It will place your focus on the Giver so that in turn you can see what He sees and give from within yourself. It will replenish your soul with a joy rooted in gratitude that will overflow into the hearts of every person you encounter. It will cover you with peace, and regardless of the conflicts that may arise, you’ll have the clarity of mind to make proper decisions. It will give you the courage you need to take the steps that may need to be taken, and sometimes that means saying “hello” first. It will give you a sensitive Spirit that will keep you in tune with the needs of others and more importantly your own needs. It will create in you a selfless heart — a heart after God’s own heart.

To love someone, one must first love themselves. To befriend someone, one must first befriend themselves.

Out of every struggle faced in a relationship, I believe accepting the flaws first within oneself and then within others is the biggest struggle. Within community and relationships, our flaws — jealousy, pride, selfishness, a judgemental attitude, low self-esteem, etc. — are exposed. Becoming aware of the flaws we have can be daunting and hard to come to terms with. If not in the right mindstate or state of heart, it can overwhelm a person; which is why I also believe that it’s within community and relationship that as we are pruned, we grow the most. Within relationships, we find strength through to face anything. Time and time again, friendships are a reminder that we are not alone in this life. They are a glimpse into the heart of God towards us and a constant reminder that He will never leave us. He finds every way to make Himself known to us; how sweet that He uses the human race as a way. Even when our friends do fail us or we fail them, God is there to catch us as we fall. As He picks up pieces of our broken heart, He begins to craft something new. He gives our brokenness purpose. He restores what we deem as over.

Friendships may not last forever, people change, and life gets hectic; but God and His love are eternal and He is so in love with you. For some, it may feel like you are going through life alone, and, if this is you, I want to encourage you to be the friend you need and to accept the friendship of the one who died (He literally did) to be your friend. Physically you may be alone, but spiritually you are never alone (He rose back to life).

We are only as alone as we want to be.

Sometimes, we need to be the ones to make the first move — say the first “hello” and give the first smile. Other times, we need to step outside our friend group and extend a hand of hope to the person next to us. Friendship boils down to one word, love, and in this is the key ­— to accept love from Love and to live like Love — to obtaining such a good and perfect gift.

Receiving a Restful Burden

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A few months ago, I left my job. I stepped down from all positions of ministry leadership I’d once held. As someone with a high value for productivity, purposeful work, and efficiency, it was an extremely counterintuitive step to take. I had been on staff with a campus ministry for about 5 years and felt that I’d invested all I possibly had to give into the students, the ministry, and the work that God invited me into on campus. Why should I leave now? I’ve already invested all that I have into this ministry, to start over elsewhere would be foolish.

Initially God’s invitation to enter into vocational ministry begun as a life-giving pursuit of partnering with Him to expand His Kingdom on campus. However, as the natural ups and downs of ministry (and let’s be real, life in general) came into play, I found it difficult to experience the same joy and renewed vision He had given me from the start. By year five, I found myself burnt out, jaded by the concept of ministry leadership, and barely able to get out of bed each morning to face what felt like an impossible day ahead. It felt as if I’d lost my purpose in life, as my soul’s tiredness created a barrier in being able to grasp God’s vision for His work on campus. As I’d lost vision, I lost the necessary passion for the day-to-day. As I lost passion, I began losing hope that Jesus was in it with my students and I at all. Before I knew it, my personal sense of value and worth had plummeted as I’d entered into a never-ending downward spiral of exhaustion and feeling that all I had to give was simply not enough.

In Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV) Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

I’ve heard this scripture quoted time and time again, and in theory love the concept: follow Jesus, let Him take care of you (cue, Jesus Take the Wheel). However, more often than not, I found myself in a regular state of stress and anxiety…Yes, I know that I’m socially exhausted and need space to recharge…but if I could just fit in a couple more coffee meet-ups, perhaps newcomers in our ministry will feel more welcomed. Yes, I know that my schedule is so packed that I’m skipping meals here and there, but if I don’t get tasks A-Z done then everything will fall apart.…the list of self-created obligation goes on and on.

I’ve heard more than a few times that our generation (i.e., millennials) have an ever-increasing likelihood in experiencing mental illness – particularly in the forms of depression and anxiety. I myself have had my own battle with the two over the years, and only recently began seeing a therapist to gain clarity in how to acknowledge and address it.

In John Koessler’s Radical Pursuit of Rest, he claims that anxiety is not a result of misaligned priorities, but misaligned confidence. When we place confidence in ourselves and our ability to manage or control our lives rather than trusting our Creator to lead us through life, we curate anxiety due to the fact that we will never be able to control the outcome of our circumstances.

I’m not trying to make any claims about clinically diagnosed mental illness, and I acknowledge that appropriately addressing mental illness is not as simple as changing one’s spirituality or mindset.  God calls some of us to become therapists, psychiatrists, and counselors for good reason – there are certain situations in which seeking professional help truly is the most appropriate next step.

I am however, wanting to highlight the paradox I find myself in quite often…

If Jesus calls us to trust in Him because His yoke is “easy”, why does life (and even ministry) still feel so draining and impossible? How do we address the disparity between the rest Jesus promises, and the seemingly endless burnout so many of us find ourselves in?

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I’ll find myself reading article after article on social media about the latest local or national tragedy, natural disaster, or current political issue. At the same time, I can’t scroll through my feed without seeing at least half a dozen recommendations regarding the latest “self-care” tip, new experience to try out, or eatery to taste. In the very media I consume, the call to action and engagement is in tension with the rest and pleasure to be had. The concept of balancing “work” and “rest” is confusing, to say the least. It seems that in order to work, one sacrifices rest. In order to rest, one has to set aside work.

But I believe the rest that Jesus refers to in Matthew 11 gives a paradigm to realign our soul such that responsible rest and purposeful work are integrated, going hand-in-hand with one another. That we should not “labor in vain” but take on the yoke of Jesus and partner with him in His good work; all while being in a position to receive His grace.

The rest that Jesus invites us into consists of more than an isolated activity, specific meditation, or even physical sleep. He offers rest that shifts one’s entire soul to orient toward His purposes, His way of pursuing those purposes, and His power fueling that pursuit. When our soul is oriented toward Jesus and His way of life; our mind, body, and heart are able to experience full rest. It is when we pursue purpose without the guidance and empowerment of God’s spirit that we spiral into never-ending discontent and eventual burnout.

I’ve had my own struggle embracing Jesus’ restful yoke, as my meritocracy-based spirituality has led me to burnout time and time again. When I decided to follow Jesus wholeheartedly mid-college, I immediately jumped into every opportunity I could find to “serve” Him. Well-intentioned enough, right? What I didn’t realize was that in the process of doing so, I subconsciously replaced Jesus’ gift of partnership with Him in His work, with my own means to “earning” His love.  I really took to heart the whole “faith without works is dead” concept. In retrospect, I don’t believe that devoting my life to serving Jesus was misaligned. I do however, see how in attempt to serve Jesus primarily through action, I disabled myself from letting Him align my soul in a way that both purposeful work, and responsible rest were integrated.

A meritocracy-based spiritual mindset speaks discontent and discouragement. It perpetuates the need to always be doing. You’re not enough. You need to do more. You need to do better. A spiritual mindset that embraces Jesus’ yoke speaks life. You are enough simply because you are created by God. He is already in control of orchestrating all that needs to be done. You are invited to partner with Him in what He’s already doing to better the world around you.

So where does this leave us? What do we do to position ourselves to give Christ our burdens, and receive His easy yoke?

Perhaps the issue at hand is less about answering this particular question, and more about the belief that there’s something we can do to experience the restful life that Jesus promises. Our culture praises the doers of our society, and it’s no surprise that it has inadvertently become ingrained into our understanding of faith and life with Jesus.

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In Matthew 11 Jesus invites His followers to take His easy yoke, and light burden. This means that though there is certainly work to be done, Jesus invites us to put our confidence in His wisdom, and His power to complete what needs to be accomplished. It means letting go of our ego and self-made yoke of obligation to earthly things, in exchange for the vision and direction that Jesus will regularly renew in us. It’s something we must to choose to do daily and even hourly. It means that rather than starting the day with “Okay Marky, here’s the list of all that you need to get done today,” we begin our day asking, “Okay Jesus, how do you want my soul to focus its attention today?”  We must position ourselves to listen and humble ourselves to respond appropriately. Sometimes response will require action. Sometimes it will require refocusing our thinking. Other times, He may ask us to simply “be still, and know that I am God.”

When God’s spirit stopped me in my tracks halfway through year 5 of campus ministry and encouraged me to leave all positions of ministry leadership I’d held, I was shocked. Why would God ever ask me to stop serving Him? What is faith without works to validate it? I couldn’t fathom a life with Jesus in which He would ask me to stop doing all that I could to “do His kingdom work.” But as I heard His call to step away from “work”, I knew I needed to respond in obedience regardless of how little it made sense to me.

Responding to Jesus may not always be the most productive way of life. It may not be the most efficient. But Jesus prioritizes people over productivity. Unlike the culture around us, He would rather cultivate healthy souls than produce a large volume of church-goers (though I’m sure if the church were consisted of mostly healthy souls, the volume of church-goers would also significantly increase).

In repositioning our purpose to simply being with and responding to God’s spirit, we can experience the rest that Jesus’ yoke is meant to bring. Our value and worth are no longer in what we do or create, but in who we are as the created. As our sense of value and worth shifts, our priorities shift. As our priorities shift, our soul aligns with Jesus and His vision for our lives. As we align more deeply with Jesus’s vision, we experience the integration of purposeful work in Jesus’ yoke and responsible rest for our souls.

In the months following the decision to leave my job, Jesus began doing an incredible work in me as He restored my sense of self-worth, and what it meant to cultivate a healthy spiritual life with Him. Though I wasn’t doing or creating anything that the world might deem as purposeful and productive, He began helping me see the value I had for simply existing as one created by Him. He equipped me with a stronger sense of inherent belovedness, and spiritual disciplines that will be necessary to remain focused and rested, even when life’s busyness inevitably kicks in. As I enter into a season of doing, creating, and producing again, I’m sure that I’ll continue to struggle with prioritizing Jesus’ restful yoke above my self-created one. However, I’m grateful to serve and know the gracious God that I do, and I’m humbled that He will forever value who I am more than what I think I can produce. I trust that despite my own tendency to attempt to “earn” His love through works, He will always bring me back to the easy yoke He has for me to carry.

Words by Mariko Sandico
Photos by Sarah Mohan