Alabaster Co.

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What is beautiful?

Alabaster Co. founders, Brian Chung & Bryan Chung seek to address this question through the creation and building of their LA-based company. Inspired by theologian James Choung’s Real Life: A Christianity Worth Living Out,  the co-founders came to learn that with each generation comes a culturally contextualized spiritual question. Choung explains that for millenials, the question was “What is good?” For the up-and-coming generation (generation Z), the question that many are asking when seeking out paradigms for life and faith, is “What is beautiful?”

With this in mind, the co-founders were compelled to start their company. “How do we show that the gospel is beautiful?” They sought to build a company around this question, looking to cultivate and engage in conversation around beauty, faith, art, and creativity. Out of this vision, came Alabaster Co.

The company’s name comes from Mark 14, when the woman with the alabaster jar breaks it to spread perfume on to Jesus’ feet. Those around her see this act as pointless and wasteful, while Jesus calls it “beautiful.” It’s one of the only times in the gospels that He uses such language. Similarly, in a world that deems creativity and the act of creating potentially meaningless, Alabaster Co. seeks to serve Jesus by artistically highlighting the intersection of beauty and faith.

Alabaster Co. launched its first kickstarter in October of 2016 – Alabaster: The Bible Beautiful. This first project consisted of a set of the New Testament gospel books (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) in a familiar translation (NLT), but a totally new and creative format.

Brian & Bryan didn’t intend to start a “Bible brand” when they began their company. They began the creative process brainstorming a range of different ways to engage in the intersection of faith and beauty. They considered starting with magazine publishing or beginning an online journal amongst other options, but Brian eventually posed the thought “actually…we should start with the Bible.”

Given that the current generation is said to be one of the most dechurched and biblically disengaged of the era, The Bible Beautiful seeks to “present visual imagery, interweave it with the text, and see how people respond to it.” This set of quality-created, printed, and bound books creates a new opportunity for readers to explore the intersection between creativity, beauty, and faith; all the while engaging with the ministry and words of Jesus via scripture.

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“It started with the Bible, but the conversation continues as we engage with real people trying to do real creative work in the world,”  Bryan explained as we chatted about Alabaster Co. over the phone. After the success in publishing their first project, Bryan & Brian continued to seek out new ways to creatively invite people to explore the intersection of beauty and faith. Alabaster Co. has since released an online journal, spotify playlist, A Liturgy for Creatives e book, and a rendition of the Psalms.

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The company is currently working on a couple new projects. The Notebook just successfully completed its kickstarter campaign, and will be released at the end of this year in December – just in time for the holidays! The Notebook began out of a natural progression in the conversation regarding creativity and faith. Brian & Bryan noticed that “conversation doesn’t just happen in scripture, but in real life things. One of the biggest scriptural practices today is journaling, writing things down, and sketching.”

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The Notebook is a perfect companion to Alabaster Co’s other products, and an excellent addition to the spiritual and creative practices one might already have in place. It’s hardcover, with a gray-paper interior that doesn’t yellow over time the way white paper tends to. The gray-paper interior is inspired by artists and painters from the Renaissance era, who used grey canvases and backdrops for optimal color contrast and visualization.

Alongside the creation of The Notebook, Alabaster Co. is in the beginning stages of a kickstarter campaign to produce and print a rendition of Romans. Romans specifically addresses the topic of  “division” as Paul calls for unification of the previously divided Jew and Gentile believers in Rome. The co-founders thought this to be especially relevant, as there are many questions amongst the current generations regarding what it means to be “evangelical” in today’s particularly divisive religious and political climate.

Throughout the process of creating and building Alabaster Co, Brian & Bryan encountered the ups and downs that many of us who pursue creativity and/or entrepreneurship face. When asked what’s been the most challenging about running Alabaster Co, Bryan explains “Everyday is different. You’re always making decisions. Personally taking ownership of all these decisions can be challenging. You have to take responsibility for both good decisions, and poor decisions; [even] micro decisions [regarding] designs, partnerships, website content, etc.”

Yet amidst the challenges, the co-founders have also really seen God work in through the company. They’ve heard encouraging stories about those who have painfully left the church then begin to re-engage with Jesus through the medium of art and creativity that The Bible Beautiful presents. They’ve also witnessed the visual communication of their Bible collection speak to readers about God in a way that the words alone simply could not.

When asked what advice Bryan would give to other creatives, he responded, “ Don’t be afraid to put your work out there, even if you think it risks others naming it as ‘heretical’ or ‘different.’ I genuinely think there’s a real fear for Christian artists to really put their work out there, because there are invisible walls that are up (whether we’ve defined them or not) that define what can, or cannot be deemed as ‘Christian Art.” As mentioned before, there were (and still are) many risks that had to be taken in order to begin and build Alabaster Co. However in the midst of that, lives are being touched, and the Gospel is being shared in new and transformative ways. As the co-founders continue taking risks in starting new projects and creating new products with Alabaster Co., Jesus only increases and deepens their personal faith and discipleship as Christian creatives.  

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“Putting your personal work out there is a risk…art is your personal interpretation, and learning to be okay with that and live with the fact that this is the way you experience God is key. Trust that God sees it as GOOD, even if others may not understand it fully.”

From first-hand experience, the Alabaster Co. founders have exemplified just what it looks like to trust God in the creative process, and step out in faith by artistically sharing the beauty of the Gospel with others. It will be inspiring to see how Jesus continues to reach and transform those that engage with the company’s work in the seasons to come. If you’d like to learn more, or take part in the Alabaster Co. community, check out what they’re up to at their website: www.alabasterco.com. (For our A|S community, Alabaster Co. is graciously offering a 15% off discount code for use at checkout: ArtfullySeeking).


// Written by Mariko Sandico

Truer Truth

There is truth (our present circumstance) and there is truer truth (the history of God’s unwavering, faithful, covenant relationship with His people). Call it ‘the grand scheme of things’ if you like, but I believe we make a big mistake when we trust God only based on what He’s done for us today, or even in our lifetime.” – Raechel Myers

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There was a time as a child when I was playing at my friend’s house, and she had one of those huge plastic tubs of Double Bubble. She poured all the gum onto the floor and to my 5 year old eyes, it was purely magnificent. My little heart was overwhelmed with the hundreds of pieces of sugary goodness before me.

As I reached to begin unwrapping a piece, she said, “Actually Casey, you can’t have any of this gum. I’m saving them.” Saving them? I thought. All of them?! That’s ridiculous. That’s rude. That’s unfair. But, being the well-mannered child I was, I smiled and said, “Oh, okay. Sorry.” And then, being the closet cleptomaniac that I was, when she turned around, I stuffed all the gum my little grubby fingers could grasp into the pockets of the outfit that my Build-A-Bear was wearing. You can’t make this stuff up, people.

When my mom picked me up, I very proudly told her what I had done. I truly thought her response would be something along the lines of, “How clever of you, Casey! Your friend not sharing was unfair, and you were totally warranted in what you did. Justice!”

But she did not say that. Before I even knew what was happening, I was back at my friend’s door, crying and having to apologize for stealing, and returning those little means of 10 seconds of sweetness back to their owner.

It was a humbling realization to me when I saw that in many ways, I still function out of the same place 5-year old Double Bubble stealing Casey did.

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If you’re anything like me, you can easily try to rationalize many of the things you do merely as a response to what’s been done. And often, l get stuck in this “that’s just the way the world works” mindset. If someone doesn’t share like they should, I can steal. If someone thinks only of themselves, I can look out for myself. If someone hurts me, I can build walls to protect myself.

And here’s the thing that’s really annoying, it’s not like I’m 100% blind here. My friend not sharing her gum with me was her being selfish. Losing someone you love is unfair. Getting lied to does lower your trust. Someone walking away from you does say, “you’re not good enough.” Feeling rejected does make you insecure.

In a sense, those things are true – I truly feel those emotions and things truly happened that led me there. But in Christ, l find real Truth worth holding onto.

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I recently looked back at Hebrews 11, the chapter that depicts all these heroes of faith in the Bible, and these verses stuck out to me:

“And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” Hebrews 11:39-40

“All these did not receive what was promised.” Moses never entered the promised land. Abel brought a better sacrifice to God and got murdered. Abraham never actually saw his descendants numbered like the stars.

In each of these people’s perspective, God’s promise seemed left unfulfilled. Truly, in their eyes, it easily could’ve looked like they were forgotten, missed, abandoned. There’s no way on their own accord that they would understand fully what God was doing in real time.

Did God answer those promises? Yes. But in His timing, in His perfect way – so that not only do those promises bless Moses and Abraham, but me and you. That’s insane. That’s wonderful. Abraham could have thrown a fit about God not fulfilling His promise to Him, yet he chose to trust God anyway. There’s a reason the people in this chapter are commended for their faith – they looked beyond their circumstances and believed what God had spoken to be truer than what the world and their own hearts spoke to them.

Because ultimately, our experiences are not the truest truth. God’s story, His character, His promises, His word, His love for us – those are the truer truth.

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The truest truth is that God’s Truth surpasses what I know based on my own experiences. And while what I know based on my experiences isn’t all necessarily wrong, those “truths” are, at the minimum, significantly incomplete and lacking of full perspective, hope and meaning.

I can’t rewrite my life or even what is happening to me right now, as I sit here writing this. But I can choose to believe that God is who He says, and that He loves me the way He says He does.

Learning this is easier said than done, but trusting Him is always worth it. God promises to bless us as we trust in His truth over our own.

Dare to take God at His word, and trust Him beyond what you can see. He loves you and cares for you immeasurably more than what you can fathom. Because believing that without seeing the full picture – that’s real faith, and it’s the truest truth you can find.

Not to mention, it’s better than all the Double Bubble you can get your hands on.

“But blessed are those who trust in the LORD, and have made the LORD their hope and confidence.” Jeremiah 17:7

Written by Casey Cappa // Photos by Olivia McCash

Meet Our Interns

From writing blog posts, to creating newsletters, to designing marketing graphics, and staying up-to-date on our social media platforms, our interns have been working very hard, all summer long, to provide the A|S community with new, helpful, and original content. We’re honored to work alongside these talented individuals as we feature makers, build community with our followers, and continue to strengthen artists in their pursuit of their passions and Christ.

We hope this post will help you get to know these humble women a little better, and maybe it could even spark some new friendships! Either way, we want to honor them and thank them, with this post, for volunteering their time to helping others and benefiting the Kingdom.


Mikaela Hershock – Graphic Design

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What are three interesting facts about you?
I was born with three kidneys. I know all the lyrics to Lose Yourself by Eminem. I love sour cream on french toast.

Who has impressed you most with what they’ve accomplished?
Mother Teresa is a huge inspiration of mine because of her vulnerability and rawness through times in her life when she did not always feel the Lord’s presence. I recently read Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light which is a collection of some of the letters that she wrote to spiritual advisors in her life. While they were not originally intended for the public, it was remarkable to realize that a woman who did so much in the line of God’s work still struggled with self-doubt and depression.

What is your favorite Bible verse and why?
My favorite verse is Matthew 6:34 which says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” This verse has helped me through some very hard times in my life. Times when I feel hopeless and like there is no way I can accomplish all that I wish to or that my life will get any better. This reminds me to take things on step at a time and that God ultimately has a plan for everything.


Sarahgrace Sharp – Graphic Design

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Who’s your go to band or artist when you can’t decide on something to listen to?
Over this year I have found myself going back and listening to Rend Collective’s album Good News. The album is packed with uplifting music that brings a smile to my face and joy to my heart. The lyrics are beautiful reminders of God’s love for us that we can so easily forget. I have clung to the lyrics during times of joy as well as times of sorrow, either way I love the album and it has become one of my favorites to jam loudly to.

What’s your favorite show or movie on Netflix and why?
Friends! For sure!! The first time I started watching Friends, I watched the first episode and just wasn’t feeling it…I then picked it up again a few months later and could not stop watching until I finished it. Whether I was intently watching episode after episode or playing it in the background as I was getting ready for the day, I loved following the storyline, the humor and watching each character develop over all 236 episodes (and yes, I watched every single one over the span of about 3-4 months).

What’s your favorite Bible verse and why?

“And Jesus replied, ‘You do not understand what I am doing now
but someday you will.'” – John 13:7

This verse has kind of been a life verse for me over the past several years, ever since I stumbled upon it. I have gone through several phases during my life when I cannot make sense of where the Lord is leading me and not understanding His will for certain things that have come my way. This verse has encouraged me so much to trust and have faith in Jesus and His big picture during those unsettling times.


Darby Trask – Social Media

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What would be your ideal way to spend the weekend?
My ideal way to spend a weekend would be lazy and happy. Lately, my husband and I have loved dates that start at a coffee shop and end up curled on the house with a pint of ice cream and a movie. I think my ideal weekend would look a lot like that. Community, coffee, movies, ice cream… and cat cuddles. Oh, and napping.What are you interested in that most people haven’t heard of?
I teach yoga and it has had a huge impact on my life. Breath control or breath regulation (known in yoga as pranayama) has also had a huge impact on my life. There are so many types of pranayama, and I would 100% recommend to do some research on them! Learning the techniques can help with anything from anxiety to digestion. I’ve seen the benefits and they have personally changed my life!

How do you like to spend your free time?
Ah, the elusive concept of free time. I’m kidding (mostly). I prioritize self-care and taking time to propel yourself to healthy habits. That being said, I love having free time and I think it is SO important! Some of my favorite things to do are practicing meditation and yoga, reading biographies (and other things), curating and creating playlists, spending time in intentional community (I love having people over for dinner at my house!), spending time with my husband (we are about to celebrate our first anniversary), and cuddling with my cats. And I will always spend an afternoon on a Pinterest project of any kind!


Olivia McCash – Public Relations

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What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Live abroad! I can’t recommend anything more highly. I’ve had the opportunity to live in so many places long and short term, and those seasons have always been such powerful and transformative chapters in my story. Living abroad has always stretched me and broadened my view of God and His children. And I love that you end up with families all over the world.

What would be your ideal way to spend the weekend?
Oh man, the ideal weekend would start with a big quality breakfast and lots of coffee. There would be some adventures: maybe a camping expedition or a hike or just exploring a new place. Definitely some donuts and wildflowers thrown into the mix. And time spent working on different projects, testing new recipes, reading, and spending time with my people…and spontaneous dance parties & movies. I think a mix of adventure & rest is the ultimate combination.

What are you interested in that most people haven’t heard of?
I just got into this concept called “hygge.” It’s basically a word that describes the Danish way of living. It focuses on cultivating feelings of safety & belonging, rich community, atmosphere, and presence (amongst many other things) in a really intentional way. I’m trying to be more mindful about how I incorporate that into my life, and it’s been so fun. Highly recommend reading about it!


Maali Padro – Public Relations

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What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Everyone should at least do once in their life the one thing they are afraid of doing and give their dreams a chance regardless of how big or small they may be. At least once in your life, live your life to the fullest. Give your life the opportunity to be the best life possible. Give yourself the opportunity to live the best life possible.

Who has impressed you most with what they’ve accomplished?
I love scrolling through Instagram and reading and seeing about the small accomplishments that everyone has had. Whether finally starting to workout, or putting their artwork on display, or finally cleaning their room. I’m impressed by every single person who wakes up, shows up in their lives, and works towards something bigger than all of us. I’m a amazed by how connected the lives of those around us are connected to ours. One encouraging post on Instagram can uplift a person for a life time.

What is your favorite Bible verse and why?
This is a hard one. There are so many verses that have played a significant part in my life. If I had to choose one well two, it would be 1 Peter 2:9, “
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”, because it is a constant reminder of who I am, whose I am, why I am here on this earth. It gives me purpose and brings me back to my roots whenever I start to get lost.


Mariko Sandico – Public Relations

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What kind of art do you enjoy the most?

I love art in the form of photography or writing. It’s amazing to me how beautifully photographers can capture real-life people, places, or things through their shooting and/or editing style. Similarly, writing can communicate powerful messages through a gentle medium.

Who’s your go to band or artist when you can’t decide on something to listen to?
Beyonce, always.

What would be your ideal way to spend your weekend?
Sleeping in, eating LOTS of brunchy foods and drinking moderate amounts of coffee. Ideally, doing this in a new city or unfamiliar place so David (my husband) and I can explore throughout the afternoons and evenings.


Casey Cappa – Public Relations

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Which podcast(s) can you not get enough of?
I’ve been LOVING both Personality Hacker and Typology for a long time, now. If you are interested in understanding yourself and others, growing your self-awareness, more clearly seeing your blind spots, and loving others where they are at, these are gems.

What kind of art do you enjoy most?
Poetry is my absolute favorite medium of art. I love how the human experience can be told so profoundly in a few lines. Poetry requires honesty, creativity, analogy – but mostly, the courage to tell your story. (My personal favorites are Morgan Harper Nichols, Cleo Wade, Rupi Kaur, and Nick Miller, just to name a few!)

What would be your ideal way to spend the weekend?
I love slow mornings with lots of coffee, journaling and praise music, afternoons of quality time with friends, family, and all the animals, and evenings filled with food, music, laughter, art, exploring and making memories in the everyday.

 

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