My life is a little weird sometimes. 

Ok.

It’s a lot weird, a lot of the time. Like the fact that it is my job to hang out with teenagers and eat ice cream and talk about deep things with them. It’s the best. Today I was sitting in the carpool line at one of the schools and I just started laughing: my life is weird

I am also deliriously tired from said-job so I have to laugh at myself or I’ll cry. Me! In a carpool lane! Listening to LeCrae’s latest and rocking my new most favorite sale rack find of all the ages amongst a sea of minivans and honor-student-stickered hatchbacks. Lack of sleep is a bizarre and terrible thing. But it can also make the world a little funnier. 

One thing I’ve put on the back-burner these last few weeks due to exhaustion is reading this devo series my friend Sarah told me about called She Reads Truth. I finally, finally opened it and, well…  It’s solid and wonderful and I am thankful that someone took the time to put this together. I’m also mad at myself for waiting until now to do so. 

If you’re like me and your tired and busy and don’t find enough time for yourself… promise me two things. 1. You’ll chose one new thing a week to care for yourself (like super silky night cream face lotion) and 2. You’ll start reading these*. (available for free via the iphone app) It’s a little like Rifle Paper (which I adore) and the Bible (which I adore even more) met and became friends. 

*I’ve always been a little hesitant about devotional books because I think, hey, why not just read the actual Bible? I like this one because it does just that— goes through whole books. Also… I’m totally for anything that actually gets people reading their Bibles. So. READ DAT TRUTH GURL.  

If you don’t like fall, you’re probably the worst person ever. Strong, yes. But so is my desire to walk on crunching leaves and say “but it’s PUMPKIN" to justify buying myself 8 bougie donuts. 

As I’m anticipating all things fall (the scents! the flavors! the foods! the parties! the bonfires!) I’m also mentally preparing myself to miss one of my favorite fall activities: Thanksgiving. 

Ok, “miss” is a bit unfair… but instead of setting a fancy table and gorging myself on perfectly brined turkey… we’re going to have more of a Traditional Thanksgiving. And by that, I mean we’re going camping. Like the pilgrims. Like the natives. With all of our possessions strapped to our backs and not one ounce of mashed potatoes stowed away in a Nalgene. (I am actually excited about this just gonna be grieving no gravy in my life.) 

To combat the loss of this glorious occasion and the chance to use full dinner place settings & silver, I’m buying myself a new Thanksgiving Sweater (just because we’re gonna be camping amongst wild horses doesn’t mean I can’t try to look nice. And nothing says ‘American Holiday’ like rocking a Fair Isle Sweater in honor of your Norwegian heritage. Trust me.) 

If you were going camping on Thanksgiving amongst feral horses and a crisp Georgia island breeze… which of these would you choose?

Only one way to close out the summer and beckon in the fall: An Anderson Valley brew and a fire!

It’s Friday and after the week I’ve had… the only Friday Mixtape I can think of is just this song over and over and over. BRB I’ll be dancing in my kitchen in my weekend sweats. Lather rinse repeat. 

Hey, you’re Morgan. You got fat.

Walking home from a downtown coffee shop this afternoon I was startled by a familiar voice. Hey, you’re Morgan. I turned around to see the face of a man I spent many months getting to know last year as he hung around the church office looking for company, a cup of coffee, or just respite from the Georgia weather. I had not seen his face since the day last winter that he had a meltdown in the parking lot one Sunday morning, told me never to speak to him again, and walked off in a wild rage. I had asked him how his week had been so far. 

This man— homeless, legitimately schizophrenic, a few years younger than I am— had a kind face. On a good day, he was funny. Interesting. Full of great stories and hopes and questions. On bad days, he was frightened. Unkind. Demanding. 

Hey, you’re Morgan. You got fat. 

I didn’t immediately react to his words as I had grown accustomed to taking them in with a grain of salt. I just smiled, said hello, and kept walking. But with each step I took, his words eventually echoed loudly in my mind. The smile faded from my face. 

When I got home, I looked in the mirror. I put my hands up to my cheeks and cradled them, turning from side to side and wondering if what I saw was indeed fat. I concluded that my face probably was a little rounder than when I last saw him, but I couldn’t be sure. I noticed the fine lines that have appeared by my eyes; the dark circles from being exhausted rounding the splashes of bright green beneath my glasses. Standing there, face to face with myself, I wondered if there was any truth to what he said or if he was just being mean like he had been many times before. I took a deep sigh and walked away from the mirror. 

It’s not exactly common knowledge that I struggled with my weight in high school. And by that I mean I had a problem. It started out innocently enough: all it took was one comment during basketball season and I was hooked. You look really good, Morgan. You working out? I can tell! One conversation and I was hooked. Hooked on the approval of others. Hooked on measuring up to someone’s idea of looking good. I started running, a lot. I stopped eating, a lot. Most of my calories came from Gatorade and most of my afternoon were spent sprinting in the silver and black cave of my high school gym. That same year I went on my first date. I could finally wear the jeans I’d always wanted to wear. People complimented me on how skinny I was. I craved their words and their admiration. I felt in control of something in my life. I, the nerdy funny girl, felt powerful. I felt loved. I felt free.

But I wasn’t.

College did its best to unhinge me from all those things: friends who liked to eat, a community that pushed me to seeing God and myself more clearly, a newfound appreciation for breakfast food, not spending hours in the basketball gym. The freshman 15 was something I secretly celebrated; it was my freedom from guilt and the need for approval. I was finding my true self, and all as a result of seeing myself as God sees me: as one who is deeply loved and approved of by Him. He is in control, not me. I began to see that I was actually in bondage to food and it’s in Him that I am free. 

Today on the street, those simple words you got fat slammed a lot of forgotten thoughts back into my mind: You’re not good enough. You’re not pretty enough. You’re not skinny enough.

Now, it is true that I need to take better care of myself (I admitted as much in my last post) but what I quickly realized was that I needed to think about my motives and what I am truly worshipping. Standing in front of that mirror this afternoon, thoughts of I could be skinny if I really tried. I did it once. I can run more. I can eat better. I can be better. People think you’re fat and fat is garbage. Do you want to be garbage? I want people to like me. I want someone, in particular, to like me enough to want to marry me and spend forever with me. I want to be loved so badly. I want to be approved of, I want to be in control, I don’t want random people on the street to think of me as fat. 

In truth, I know that that mirror lies. Not that it isn’t an accurate visual representation, but what it tells me about myself is not the truth. The truth is that Lord is bigger than all of my doubts. He is bigger than all of my fears. He is greater than all the amount of praise I think I could garner by being thin. I am not identified by my weight or attractiveness or even how secure I feel: but I am known by a God who loves me and who wants to see me trust Him— with every thing and every thought and by every piece of food and truth I put into my body. 

I read an article recently on Hello Giggles (ok ok I know it’s not the NYTimes or anything but IDONTCARE! Girly blogs are my Fantasy Football and I will not apologize!) that made me pause and do some major thinking AKA check-yoself-before-you-wreck-yoself. 

I have always been a fan of letting myself fall by the wayside. I have no idea, and I mean literally, not a clue on Earth, how to look after myself. But I am slowly trying to remedy that, because I’ve finally realized that if I don’t start doing better for myself, I will never stop thinking the worst of myself. This is a tricky truth and it’s easy to miss. (via Hello Giggles)

It’s always the most bizarre feeling when you read something and I have to pause a moment and think Wait what? Did I write that or am I reading it? I was definitely just reading it, but the words rang so true: I am terrible at taking care of myself. I never go to sleep at a good time. I often don’t think about what I’m going to eat until I’m already hungry. It had been months and months since I had gotten a hair cut, been to the doctor (ok YEARS) or made an appointment with the dentist. The last time I went for a run I nearly died of heat stroke and vowed to never ever do anything crazy like running in Georgia ever again, ever ever. On my list of things to do (that is an ever-growing, relentless beast) taking care of myself is near the bottom or, more accurately, non-existent. I’d rather let myself fade to the background. Somedays it seems like I’d rather be a supporting role in the story of my own life. 

Now, please don’t read this as I AM BETTER THAN ALL OF YOU BECAUSE ALL I DO IS THINK ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE. I wish! As I’ve been examining my life and priorities and the way I think about myself and other people… well, I don’t really like to think about myself all that much. I see myself as so fragmented sometimes it’s hard to imagine doing things that make me feel whole.

I know I know. That sounds suuuuper dramatic. But hear me out.  When I think about all that it takes to take care of a human being, even just oneself, it’s overwhelming to me. (I cannot even imagine throwing in kids or a husband or any other such thing into the mix!) If you can’t exist on limited sleep and bagels, then I’m probably not going to be much help to you because that’s just how I live my life. And because I am overwhelmed… I just don’t deal. At all. With any of it. And that… is not OK. I need to care enough about myself to want to deal with it. 

Where do I turn to when don’t want to deal? Netflix. Instagram. The latest novel craze. Endless house projects. But God wants us to deal. He wants our lives to be more than just a To Do List or the answer to the question how am I gonna make it to tomorrow? And I realize that includes things like, I dunno, packing a lunch or going to bed at a decent time. 

So, my question to all of you is this: how do you deal? What are priorities in your life so that you care for yourself? This could be as simple as, like, taking the time to remove your eye makeup before you crash into bed, as a random, not-at-all-something-I-have-a-problem-doing thing. Yeah?

“When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.”
— Shauna Niequist

(via knotformation)

In college, there were days that I operated on nothing more than popcorn and adrenaline. Doing that these days would cause me to feel like 1 million marbles are being systematically thrown at my brain but alas… every once in a while you just gotta do whatcha gotta do.  This was one of those times. 

This weekend’s fuel of choice was Coca Cola and nostalgia: I drove down winding Georgia backroads in the dark of the night to the beaches of South Carolina for a reunion weekend with camp friends, some of whom I’ve been pals with for almost 20 years (which in itself is a statement that makes me feel utterly, ridiculously old.) After two days splashing and reminiscing on our skinnier and wilder days, I drove through the breaking light of the morning to get back to Athens for church and Sunday festivities. A whirlwind, for sure, but when is life anything other than that, really? 

Five hours by myself in a car with no other vehicles in sight, music loud, caffeine pumping through my body, feeling like the only lonely girl in the world… I can only say this: There is not much that listening to Usher’s Yeah can’t fix. Especially after shuffling into Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide on a particularly open stretch of open road…

All that to say… I am in need of someone to make a mash-up of these two songs please. 

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! 

Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
'Cause I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older too

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! 

Pre-Terrible-Acting-Performance as Anakin Skywalker, Post-Teenage-Druggie/Heartthrob in rehab-drama Higher Ground, a young Hayden Christensen was in a little film called Life As A House with Kevin Kline. This movie spoke deeply to me— with all my teen angst from freshman year of high school— and made me surprisingly and truly appreciate the blunt/overbearingly obvious titular metaphor: Life, as a house. It’s something we build and something we toil with and sometimes things are crooked and costly… but ultimately it’s where we learn and laugh and cry and eat and sleep and work and play. 

Since moving in to my new house, the spare hours have been filled with countless projects: painting walls, chairs, picture frames. Installing shelves. Organizing the laundry room. Trips to Goodwill. Whittling down boxes of junk and piles of clothes. I’m on a first-name basis with a woman at Home Depot (sup, Darlene?) 

Suddenly, without warning, my House Project Stamina wore out. Whilst trying to hang curtains, I realized I was attempting to drill into solid brick. Standing on a ladder, pushing against the drill with sweat dripping into my eyes, I knew it wouldn’t budge. From my stance,  I realized our old house’s foundation must be crooked because though the level reads straight, the beam look crooked. At that moment, the sky opened up and dumped buckets of rain on my freshly painted chairs. Life, as a house. 

At some point during the drilling fiasco and the thunderous rain, I gave up. I left the curtain hanging halfway secure on the wall and curled up into a ball on my bed. Yep. That’s it. Done. Nope. No more. I’m eating a huge bowl of popcorn and calling it a night. Calling it a week. Calling it, never to return. I left that half-hanging excuse for a curtain for a few hours, wishing it would magically fix itself or some boy would appear out of nowhere and do it for me. I think I binge-watched 3 episodes of Breaking Bad before emotionally surfacing from the storm. 

When I finally slid my sweaty sad self out of the bed (to get more popcorn, obviously) I noticed the flowers on our dining room table— colorfully and meticulously perched in a jar for no other reason than my enjoyment. I went outside and listened to the rain. I listened to it splash the fresh paint off the wooden chairs. I looked at my half-finished coffee table project and a yard littered with paint cans and mud. I stepped out into the rain and stood there for a moment, letting my glasses fog up and obstruct my view. I turned and faced the house, looking at its quiet red hue through droplets on the frames. It was messy and serene in the backyard mud and quiet except for the plink plink of rain hitting my face and shoulders.

Life, as a house.  

As the house projects are slowly taking over our lives… things are also coming together. I’m thankful for a day off to to spend with these jokers painting and getting our House more like Home. 

To help along your weekend projects, here’s a Friday Mix. May your day be productive and exciting! 

++As always, you can listen and subscribe to all the Friday Mixtapes here!

PS. Family & Friends are playing Georgia Theatre tomorrow for all you Athenians looking for a good show this weekend… 

Here’s To French Toast, Kortney Kardashian, and 60s Chart-Toppers!

I took an impromptu trip to Atlanta to have breakfast with a dear friend at one of my favorite ATL morning establishments (I see you, West Egg. I see you.) Right from the start I thought I was being cool and ordering my new favorite caffeinated bevvy (come to me, delicious cortado) when my friend informed me that Kortney Kardashian has been rocking them on her show for quite some time. 

Defeated by unintentally keeping up with the Kardashians, we moved to more pressing issues like life, love, and the pursuit of normal adulthood— All things we seem to be failing miserably at! 

There is something quieting about splitting a meal with someone who gets you and can talk sense to you and humble you when your “coolness” is on par with a Kardashian. I am thankful to have friendships that dig deep and span many years of collected laughs and heartaches and joys and sorrows— it certainly makes french toast even better. 

One of my favorite parts of our conversation was, of course, about the elusive creatures that are Men and our inability to make one love us. It’s tragic and at the same time ultimately freeing! For two independent ladies, it is a great reminder that I am not in control like I think I am or would like to be— not being able to make a certain gentleman fall in love with you reminds me that any sense of control I feel is an illusion— only God truly knows anything about what our lives will look like and who, if anyone, we will end up with. That reminder was like salve to a burning wound, and I’m thankful for the harsh reality and laughter that came from that conversation. 

I got back to my car to drive home and within a few minutes, The Supreme’s “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” came on the radio… fully engulfing me in laughter and reminding me again that God must have a great sense of humor.

Here’s To French Toast, Kortney Kardashian, and 60s Chart-Toppers!

I took an impromptu trip to Atlanta to have breakfast with a dear friend at one of my favorite ATL morning establishments (I see you, West Egg. I see you.) Right from the start I thought I was being cool and ordering my new favorite caffeinated bevvy (come to me, delicious cortado) when my friend informed me that Kortney Kardashian has been rocking them on her show for quite some time.

Defeated by unintentally keeping up with the Kardashians, we moved to more pressing issues like life, love, and the pursuit of normal adulthood— All things we seem to be failing miserably at!

There is something quieting about splitting a meal with someone who gets you and can talk sense to you and humble you when your “coolness” is on par with a Kardashian. I am thankful to have friendships that dig deep and span many years of collected laughs and heartaches and joys and sorrows— it certainly makes french toast even better.

One of my favorite parts of our conversation was, of course, about the elusive creatures that are Men and our inability to make one love us. It’s tragic and at the same time ultimately freeing! For two independent ladies, it is a great reminder that I am not in control like I think I am or would like to be— not being able to make a certain gentleman fall in love with you reminds me that any sense of control I feel is an illusion— only God truly knows anything about what our lives will look like and who, if anyone, we will end up with. That reminder was like salve to a burning wound, and I’m thankful for the harsh reality and laughter that came from that conversation.

I got back to my car to drive home and within a few minutes, The Supreme’s “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” came on the radio… fully engulfing me in laughter and reminding me again that God must have a great sense of humor.

Summer’s been good to me but there’s been a slight fall-ish breeze making its way through the streets of Athens that makes me long for a new season. I’ve also realized that with summer craziness I’ve neglected Friday Mixtapes! So, in honor of the end of summer days, here’s a lot of good tunes. 

++As always, you can listen and subscribe to all the Friday Mixtapes here!

I recently took a break from blogging because I was just having a hard time with it. I felt like I wasn’t really living my life and I had become hyper-focused on the approval that the little Heart Button can give. And then Real Life crashed in hard like a downhill cinder block on rollerskates and I didn’t have time to do anything online anyways.  

I’ve just finished what has felt like a perpetual month of moving— mostly because it was only a few blocks away and thus a gradual process— but also because I am lazy and a procrastinator. And now… I’m finally here, finally settled(ish), and finally feeling like my head is screwed on tightly (somewhat) again. 

It’s been a weird summer, to be honest. There’s something exceedingly odd about packing up your whole physical world into boxes and then trying to arrange them to fit into a new space— these past few weeks I’ve felt displaced, free, confined, exhausted, and excited… all in one swirl of a day. It’s enough to make anyone feel a little off.

But now, the dust is (literally) beginning to calm. Clothes are in a dresser. Pillows are on the bed. Books are neatly stacked on the shelves. And in a way, it’s renewal. It’s white walls and blank days. A chance to do things better. A chance to love people well. A chance to plant things and grow things and rearrange things and be all together new. 

Summer is over. And life at The Plaza has just begun. 

My Idolatrous Digital Life: Part Two

(Read Part One, Introduction)

The first thing I check in the morning is my phone. Sure, it’s mostly because I have to turn off my alarm, but checking Instagram and Facebook and my email is not, last time I checked, required to turn off my alarm. The last I thing I check before I go to bed? My phone. When my phone fell into water (read: dropped it in the toilet) I didn’t have it for a week. Imagine! Someone so addicted to their phone that it comes with me into the bathroom (yech) being without for a WEEK! I was like an addict, jonesing for my next touchscreen fix, forced to stare at the car in front of me at red lights and have no idea what anyone was eating for lunch. It was unbearable.

Last week, we took took a bunch of high schoolers from our church to the beach for an annual youth summer conference. I have deep love and appreciation for teenagers, so what may sound like a nightmare to you was actually one of the highlights of my summer!

Part of the week-long conference involves a main speaker and the other parts consist of elective classes and, of course, the beach. With hundreds of youths. I was mostly looking forward to the main speaker (and he was awesome) but I was shocked by how much I enjoyed one of the elective classes: ‘Digital Christianity’ taught by a youth pastor from Alabama named Kurt Cooper. What I’m gonna expound on over the next few posts is a brief, totally not-as-winsome recap of his 3 talks. If ever the conference posts his talks online, everyone should take a listen.

"Man’s nature is a perpetual factory of idols." While this was said originally by John Calvin, anyone who has ever met or has ever been a teenager knows that statement personally. And while we’ve been perpetuating idols since long before Calvin wrote those words, nothing highlights these little idol factories quite like technology and namely, social media.

Technology is anything created to fulfill God’s creation mandate— that we are to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” Tech can be anything from the alphabet to medicine to boats to your smart phone. We create things as humans in order to subdue, conquer, and navigate the earth. And because these creations help us fulfill our mandate… They can easily take on monumental roles in our lives.

Tim Challies wrote an incredible book several years ago about technology and its effect on our faith (“The Next Step: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion”) and in it he describes something called Mythic Tech. Mythic tech is tech that is so ingrained in our lives that it seems to have always existed and is impossible to change. When something is mythic, we think the tech itself can’t be wrong. Mythic tech takes on a god-like role— we have to adopt to it. We have to serve it. We can’t live without it. This is the definition of idolatry.

Back to me and my phone addiction. All the ease and convenience of that phone… It has a cost. I am always connected (I’m never alone.) I am constantly reminded of what I’m not doing/capable of/achieving (hello Instagram weddings/babies/dinner parties/lake trips!) I am able, at the push of button, to see how well received I am online (Likes! Favorites! Reblogs!) The cost is that I now worship a device. I worship my online persona. Technology shapes us. My phone has taken on mythic proportions.

Listen, ok. I love my phone. It’s probably not going anywhere. I love Instagram and blogging and seeing my friends and their beautiful babies on Facebook (seriously I love them babes.) I’m not going anywhere. But we need to remember that we were created to hear the words “well done good and faithful servant” from our Lord and not from our screens. Everything has a price— what are you willing to pay?

My Idolatrous Digital Life: Part One (introduction here

I once broke up with a boy because he “wasn’t that into the Internet.” Read that sentence again and if that’s not the dumbest thing you’ve ever read in your life, you need to make better book choices. It should be the dumbest thing you’ve ever read because it is the dumbest reason to do anything, ever. (There was, of course, more to the story… but that was the crux of it. Commence cringing.) 

It was the time of my life when I felt “internet famous” in my own little way because of this blog. I can’t even write that without feeling incredibly lame and squeamish, but it was true: I would often meet people who would say things like “Oh, I know who you are. I read your blog!” or “Oh! You’re Morgangster! Cool!” Much like any compliment, I liked the sound of those words… and those deep, dulcet tones of self-importance drove me into a pit of narcissism: I am important. People listen to me. People know me. I’m not fleeting or worthless. I matter to these people. I am somebody. And it was honest-to-goodness total self-righteous garbage. 

Around the same time the Self-Delusion Train was pulling out of the station, a met a Great Guy. When I tell stories about past relationships and I get to This Guy, I refer to him as my “List Guy.” A List Guy is the guy who completes whatever arbitrary list you’ve made in your head (or possibly actually on paper) about what kind of partner is ideal for you. This Guy was my List Guy. He checked off all the blocks of everything I thought I ever wanted. He was perfect, really, save for one thing: He just wasn’t that into the Internet. 

And that was a problem for me, as I was really into the Internet. And what I mean by that is… I was really into who I was on the Internet.

It seems weird to me now that I didn’t see the complete stupidity of my thoughts and actions towards The Guy. Here was this Flesh-and-Blood-So-Called-Perfect-For-Me-Human who didn’t give a crap about my Internet persona but in turn actually liked my Actual-Flesh-and-Blood Self. My actual face. My actual sense of humor. He liked spending time with my actual person in actual places having actual conversations. But I felt like since he didn’t care about my online life, he didn’t really care about me.  I didn’t see the error of this thought process: Who I am on the Internet is not Actually Me. (I’ll be addressing this problem another day as it’s a doozy.) I wanted him to like the Perfectly-Crafted, Humorsly-Self-Depricating, Online-Version of Morgan… but he didn’t care about her because, well, she wasn’t real. She was a shade of who I really was, and he liked the real me. And yet that wasn’t enough. Who I was online was a growing, hungry monster and he wasn’t feeding it, so I wasn’t feeling it. I ended things because my ego couldn’t handle it. I needed him to approve of me— in real life and online.

I now see just how crazy that all is. Like, an actual crazy person might read this and think “wow, that’s messed up.” It is. My online persona was so important to me that I couldn’t fathom sharing life with someone who didn’t care about it. What’s even crazier is that it didn’t seem crazy at the time but instead totally justifiable! I could no longer separate my online life from my real one and so it felt like a denial of some deep part of me that he didn’t follow me on Tumblr. Do you understand how insane that sounds?! And yet… I still want people to like and envy and adore my perfectly crafted online existence. That was years ago, and how much different do I treat my social media now?

You see, idols aren’t necessarily bad things. In fact, they’re often good things (which makes them sneaky and hard to miss sometimes.) But idolatry happens when we take good things (or bad things) and make them Ultimate Things. Anything we worship, love, and adore more than God himself is an idol, plain and simple. I broke up with a boy once because he “wasn’t that into the Internet”and this is the story about how I realized I needed to break up with Internet because I was too into myself. This is the story about how I became an Idolator of Self, of Approval, and of Pride. 

And List Guy… if you’re reading this: I’m sorry. But you’re probably not reading this. Because you’re probably still just not that into the Internet. And I commend thee for that.