Water Wings

By Rachel Dowda

When I moved home two summers ago, I started seeing a therapist; the room was full of dollhouses and barbies staring at me and it just didn't work out. I cancelled the next appointment because I was "out of town" and never rescheduled. I was never too great at goodbyes.

I found another lady and liked her immediately. She didn’t have cliche quotes hung up, creepy statues of angels, or throw blankets. And no dolls. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch her name, and after two visits I felt like it was late to ask. I couldn’t say, "Excuse me, I just told you all of my secrets but I didn't catch your name a month ago". Too late, should have thought of that sooner. 

One day, while I was talking to the nameless therapist, she told me about water wing friends. As she was talking, Spirit whispered, "pay attention Rach, this is big".

I had just finished telling her how the previous week I had messed up in an area I'd messed up hundreds of times before. I felt embarrassed and angry at myself even though the friend I'd wronged wasn't angry. I felt like that should have been it, that there shouldn’t have been any more chances, because I kept trying but kept failing. This friend responded with such graciousness and honesty; in a way where I knew I'd be loved even if I repeated the mess over again. The nameless therapist answered, "well it sounds like you have a water wing friend!"

Water wing friends are full of love and grace; friends who give you the chance to change and try new things and mess up while still being loved, still feeling safe. Some parents throw their kids in the pool and say, "better learn quick or you're going to drown," and the child's experience is fear and perfectionism. Other parents put water wings on their kids and say, "you can use these for as long as you need. When you're ready, we'll take them off". This takes away the pressure of unmet expectations and gives room for growth and trust.

Some friends are like this. They are the water wings to your weakness, holding you up, letting you enjoy the freedom of swimming without having to be completely ready to dive in. They give you the chance to swim with everyone else, to be included, instead of always sitting alone in the shallow end. By the end of the summer, you're able to swim on your own. And it feels so good.

It reminds me of something Anne Lamott said: "Grace is buoyancy, when we feel we are going under. Grace is water wings--"floaties", like little kids wear for courage."

These kind of friends are courage with skin on. 

A month after that conversation, I visited my spiritual family at Legacy School of Discipleship and went swimming with all of the students. It felt so good to be back to the place that's full of the people who are my home; I felt so loved and cared for those few days. We swam as the sun was setting and the backlight made everyone glow, like I was seeing a hint of how glorious we truly are. My friend, Trent, was smart as usual, and grabbed a life jacket to hold on to while I just jumped in. Five minutes later, I was tired of treading water. I'm a decent swimmer, but can't do anything special except stay alive, which I guess is the best thing you can do. My legs were getting tired though and I was swallowing a lot of lake water. Trent saw me and tossed me his life jacket. "You can use it for a while, I'm okay, " he said as he began treading. A few minutes later, after I recovered, I threw it back to him and was able to tread again. For the next forty five minutes, we passed the life jacket back and forth between us. 

resting, treading; resting, treading. 

I didn't see it until ta few weeks later, but that is such a picture of grace, such a picture of community built on vulnerability, which is the biggest pair of water wings you'll ever see. Sometimes I need people to lift me up under my arms, pull me out of the mud I created myself, and toss me into the water which is freedom and love and courage. 

giving grace, receiving grace; giving grace, receiving grace. 

Right now I'm using water wings for sure. I mess up all the time, and desperately need them to keep me from swallowing gallons of lake water. Then I feel terribly guilty for messing up, and I need them again. Then in my guilt I do something or say something and I need them once again. Grace upon grace. Except this house of grace isn't like a house of cards, which is fragile and easily blown over. Grace houses are more like the legos that can't come apart, even if you use your teeth or almost rip off your nails. They're stuck. And this house shelters me and keeps me warm and becomes a place of safety.

So that day I decided to go to Target and buy out all the water wings they have, and then make my way to Walmart and do the same thing. I needed to pass them out, and tell people to make sure they share them with each other.

resting, treading; resting, treading. 

giving grace, receiving grace; giving grace, receiving grace. 

Rachel Dowda

Rachel Dowda

You are Exactly Where You Need to Be

By Natalie Davis

You are exactly where you need to be. 

In your hurt. In your confusion. In your happiness. In your joy-filled mornings. In your darkest nights. You are exactly where you need to be. 

If you are struggling to believe that today, let me just tell you friends, you are not alone. It is so easy to compare the life you live to someone else’s. Someone who looks like they have it all together. But I want to remind you, you are exactly where you need to be. 

If you are in a good place right now, that is amazing! Soak it up. Take in everything you see and feel. Capture the moments in your mind and never let them leave. You are exactly where you need to be. 

If you are struggling to see any sort of hope in a situation, keep your head up. Allow yourself to feel and cry and laugh and scream. Seek counsel. Use this time and this situation as a time for growth. A time where you can grow and a time where you can help others grow. Step outside and talk to a stranger. You are exactly where you need to be. 

If you are in a job right now where you question everyday, ‘is this all you have for me?’ Work harder than you ever have. Seek relationships with the people you are surrounded by daily. Remind yourself every hour that you are exactly where you need to be. 

If you are sitting in a hospital room waiting to hear news, pray. Know that you are never alone. Even if the news is not what you wanted to hear. There is hope. There is light. Seek it. You are exactly where you need to be. 

If you are in between seasons or soon approaching that path, pray for guidance. Be brave. Take a leap of faith and trust that the Lord is with you always. Rest in the truth that you are exactly where you need to be. 

If you are dreaming a dream that is so big and you have no idea where to start, dream bigger. Take action. Make your dream a reality. Do something amazing. Be patient. Never get discouraged. You are exactly where you need to be. 

Life is full of seasons. I have no idea the season you are in right now. But I am confident that you are exactly where you need to be. Pray that the Lord will reveal that to you every single day. 

1 Corinthians 7:20 (Read full context here.) 

"Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them."

Matthew 7:7 tells us to ask and it shall be given, seek and you shall find. Ask the Lord to reveal exactly where you are today and pray that He will show you why. You will find your way when you are lost. You will find joy in your sorrows. You will find forgiveness in the unforgivable. You will find freedom in your chains. You will find life when you feel suffocated. You will find heaven when you feel like you are going through hell. 

Don't let this season pass without knowing why or who you can impact. Because friends, if you have the Spirit inside of you, you have the power to change the world. Not because of anything you can do. But because the Giver of Life has covered you in grace and love and He is walking beside you. He is with you and He is for you, whatever season you are in. 

‘Lord, why have you put me here today? What can I do to glorify You today? Who can I share Your light with today?’ 



Natalie Davis

Natalie Davis

Pressing Pause

Maena St. Paul

I am a control freak.
Now I say that, knowing that no one in my circle of family or friends would label me that way, but I am.
And I didn't realize it until I was forced to surrender all my limited ideas of how things should turn out. And it is a frustrating thing to claim how clueless you are.
I think that's where I am now.
In a labeless space where I can't tell you if the door in front of me is an entrance or an exit
or if it's an old outline of what used to be there.
But what I do know is that this room I find myself in is home for now.
There is a bed for when I need to rest, a work station for when effort is demanded and a kitchen stocked with every encouraging word and ounce of grace I can fill myself with.
And I know that my hands are asking me to keep them open and to hold people tightly
but to never forget how to extend grace by stretching my fingers and letting them go.
And I know this place is working because I finally understand leaving.
That when someone purposely forgets their keys to the space you've shared,
it will always have more to do with them than you.
That maybe leaving is their declaration of self-love and deciding that they have done their best here.
We have to be willing to celebrate people when they move on.
It is not because they've stopped finding reasons to stay.
It's that they have given all they were meant to and there is fresh soil in other places for them to grow.
Know when to fight and know when to let go.

The blaring battle cry charging from behind my teeth has been one of dismissing fear and taking bolder steps.
“what do you have to lose?” i speak out.
because sometimes we put valuables on the line
convincing ourselves that walking away with lesser weight is a bad thing.
thinking we will be defeated if we dare to take a risk.
but the only risk is not speaking up.
it’s not taking the next step and missing out.
it’s letting your finger hover over the SEND button because you’ve come up with ten millions ways it could ruin you.
it’s letting the assumptions be bigger giants than their actual small frames.
here’s the truth you don’t tell yourself enough:
it will always be scarier in your head.

as i said,
this space is teaching me more than i had hoped
and if that means pressing pause so the best can play,
i’m okay with that.
i just hope you’d be too.

Maena St. Paul

Maena St. Paul

A Poem

By Courtney Walters

i slipped my head over the water, 

the first time in months

that i could reathe without almost drowning. 


the air tasted stale. maybe it was me, 

maybe i just wasn't used to being alive. 


my limbs kept moving though, 

i made my way to shore and felt solid ground, 

so firm under my feet, 

holding me up as i stood in awe of golden hour, 

the first one that brought me joy. 


i had a thought, so fleeting, 

i am not even sure it was real: 

you deserve to be here

Courtney Walters

Courtney Walters

Planting Seeds

By Rachel Dowda

I remember the day I planted a garden.

I was trying to let love take over the spare bedroom, put her things in the hall closet, and fill up the refrigerator with her favorite foods; because love and fear can’t exist in the same place, and love is a much more considerate house guest.

That day I made some choices that hurt my body, still struggling with my eating disorder. Afterwards, I felt guilt and shame. I wanted to be distracted, and since I was curious as to where everyone else was, I started looking around. I found them outside, planting a garden. The kids were running around barefoot, and when they saw me I was knocked over by hugs. Jimmie greeted me, wearing his straw hat and said, “Hey Rach! Will you help us plant?”

I was put to work, planting beans. 

Isn’t that grace. I had just made choices that hurt my body, and then I was asked to plant. The sun was bright and the wind felt so amazing. I breathed in the fresh air and it filled my lungs with peace and goodness. I got on my knees and started sowing the most beautiful purple bean seeds I had ever seen. My fingers ran through the cold earth, and I planted good things in that garden. The kids helped me and Rachel and I laughed and Jimmy brought us water. Light shined through their faces, healing me. The shame-filled words from earlier that day started to wash away, and truths were planted into my heart, as this precious family shared their love with me. Love walked into my living room, kicking Fear and Shame off the couch, and demanded that they either help plant the garden out back, or leave. I felt their fingers poke holes, but then Love filled them with seeds of truth and purity and wholeness.

This past Monday I planted seeds with six girls. Beautiful girls, who are me when I was in high school. Who are me now. Madeleine Le’Engle, the author of some of my favorite childhood books, said, “I am still every age that I have ever been.” Its true. I am still a curious child who is also afraid and needs protection and comfort; I am still a searching, moody teenager who thinks she knows everything; and sometimes I’m an adult who doesn’t feel like one. So I’m learning to take care of this child in me, of this adolescent, and then this adult. And it’s a full time job.

But Monday we planted seeds. And seeds are pure magic in a shell. Planting seeds is a holy moment for me, because here I am holding something that has the potential---no, not even the potential, but already has a beautiful flower stuck inside of it. Inside the seed is already a fully matured flower. And you have to see the flower before you plant it; it’s an act of faith knowing that there’s something beautiful living in there. And even though it looks like I’m doing the exact opposite of what I should be doing, because I’m shoving it deep down into darkness, into the ground, planting it deep; I know that it’s going to bloom. I know that the flower inside of the shell is going to come out. So I’m going to trust, by doing the hard work of pushing it deep, deep, down--its going to eventually show, even if it looks like I’m killing it now. And then you start seeing a bit of green. Its hard to see at first, but it’s there. And then a little shoot pops up, and then a leaf or two, and next thing you know, you see a flower. It’s a miracle really, that something that appeared to be dead, showing no change or growth for the longest time, is now a beautiful flower. 

And while fear and doubt and insecurity press holes into our heart, we can choose to plant beautiful flowers in them. It hurts to touch these places, but by pushing the seeds in, you’re hopeful of redemption. Because life produces life. If I put life into something, it’s going to grow. But in the same way, if I put fear into something, fear is going to grow. But once life starts growing, you can’t stop it.

And every stage of the flower, every age it will ever be, is already contained in that seed. 

A few years ago, I remember feeling discouraged because I wanted to love more. I saw the people around me, how well they loved and received love, and all I could do was sit and think of how terrible I was at relationships. I wanted to see beauty in people, but my heart felt hopeless, like I didn't have the right parts or the instruction manual to make it happen. My friend, Jimmie, happened to come into the room I was sitting in, and asked how I was. I told him what was going on inside of me. He told me that his wife, Rachel makes a salad dressing he loves, and it has all these amazing ingredients in it. They just sit at the bottom, though, until you shake them up. He said I have all the ingredients to love well. I don't need to ask for anything else, they are just stagnant; I need to be shaken up.

It felt so good to be told that I was already enough, that I wasn't lacking but contained everything I needed, just in the wrong form. Life moves and shakes and I can already see myself loving better since that day last fall; being more conscious of people's needs.

So we might be hurting now, but we already contain healing and power and greatness and bravery and beauty. Doing the work of planting truth deep down, of making whole decisions, plants seeds. And these seeds produce what’s already inside. 

The experiences you own and the victories you’ve accomplished are places where you have authority. You can speak into other people’s lives. You own that place of overcoming. And now you can help them plant seeds.

Rachel Dowda

Rachel Dowda

Hiking is a Bit Like Life

By Katie Lipsiner

*All graphics/photos provided by author

*All graphics/photos provided by author

I took a philosophy class in college once. Of course, I was totally enthralled by it all. The intricate discourse of wise philosophers constantly arguing on the virtues of happiness and how life is just one big never ending roller coaster? Sign me up.

Things were different back then. I was younger. More naive. Less afraid.

Life: A concept of constant frustration and gratitude.

I’d like to take this time to make my point: Hiking is a bit like life. In the simplest of terms, you are required to move one foot in front of the other in a consistent fashion. Up and down. Right to left. Continuously moving forward. And by choosing to be present in this process, you are not only witnessing beauty at your final destination, but you are gaining insight to the journey and the surroundings that adventure provides as well.

Whenever I’m hiking the Appalachian Trail, for example, I realize the philosophy of life the most. The AT is vast and various in its presence. Whenever on its trails, the constant feeling of moving upwards and downwards keeps this energy going. The knowing of a destination gives a freeing feeling to the journey. I feel smaller. I feel safe. It’s not about me. It’s about the environment around me and how I play a part in it all somehow. I see and smell the trees. I watch as animals interact or don’t with one another. I run into spider webs constantly.

Everything seems to have a purpose more clearly than I see in my own life sometimes. Bustling around the city. Going out with friends. Trying to figure out my next career move out of college. Trying to date men and open myself up to vulnerability. It’s not that easy sometimes, but you must try to find the time to remind yourself. This reminder is key.

Scan 24.jpeg
Top: Somewhere in North Georgia. Bottom: Somewhere in Colorado. Bliss.

Top: Somewhere in North Georgia. Bottom: Somewhere in Colorado. Bliss.

This chaotic journey all comes to a calm when I remember why I love to hike. Why I love to be outdoors. I am left yearning for more growth, more challenges and more trails to follow. 


On A Whim

By Natalie Davis


This word has come up many times in my vocabulary lately.

If I had a dollar every time someone asked me what I want to do after the summer, I would never have to work a day in my life. I like to refer to myself as a dreamer. My mom called me this once and it just stuck. I have these massive and somewhat unattainable dreams that I want to see happen in my life. (I say unattainable because I cannot adopt all the babies in the world. I would if I could, trust me). 

I tend to do things on a whim. As you probably have already guessed, I like whimsy. I think that life is too short to get comfortable and never at least chase after your dreams. I like to succeed, just like I am sure all of you do too. Someone the other day told me, "hey Natalie, I just want to let you know that it is ok to fail."  My thoughts exactly: I am sorry, WHAT!! No sir, it is not ok to fail. Failure is never an option.

He told me that the only true failure, is the failure to try. Smart guy. 

I have had this dream for a while now. This dream often gets interrupted with inadequacy. I am not good enough. I am too young. I don't have the resources. This dream is way too big. Unattainable(I am not referring to adopting all the babies, FYI). My hope of being vulnerable with you is that I, and I invite you to as well, will keep myself accountable to always be willing to try. I am still in the adolescent phase of this dream and honestly, most of it is just now getting from my brain to paper. So stay tuned. 

Have you ever found yourself dreaming? Dreaming of changing the world? Writing a book? Becoming a pro surfer? Going to Mars? Becoming a doctor? Do you often times get discouraged and believe lies? This dream is too big. I can't do it. What if it fails? What if I fail? 

I have three words for you. 

Chinese Bamboo Tree.

Before you think, you had all the words in the world, and you chose those three, seriously? Let me just explain. 

Once this tree is planted, farmers nurture and water the seed for five years and see no growth. Five whole years and nothing to show for it. They could choose to stop watering the plant. They could lose faith and give up. BUT if they choose to continue to tend to this tree, something miraculous happens. On the fifth year, the tree grows 80 feet in six weeks. It does not take this tree six weeks to grow. It takes five years and six weeks. In the five years of waiting and what I am sure the farmers think of as a waste of time, growth was happening. The roots had to become strong enough to hold 80 feet of bamboo.

Maybe the Lord is working on your roots. Consider this a blessing, friends. If the tree started to grow when the roots weren't ready, not good news for the tree. 

Even when we can't see growth right away, keep being faithful. Don't give up. Who knows how long it will take. You might not even be alive to see it through. Still, do not give up. Try. Go out on a whim. Step out. Further the Kingdom in the name of Jesus. And do not be scared of failure. 

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

This is for my fellow dreamers, keep dreaming. Let's change the world. 

xoxo, nat

Natalie Davis // http://whimsicalsomethings.com

Natalie Davis // http://whimsicalsomethings.com

Unapologetic Self-Care

By Sarah Hively

It is only the third week of my new job, a job I truly love with all my heart, a job I actually look forward to every morning, and today, I called off.

I told my boss I was taking a personal day, and even more surprisingly, I did not say sorry. I say sorry more than I say “hi” or “I love you” or even more shockingly, “I’m tired”. I say sorry when I have nothing to really be sorry for, I say sorry if I’m in someone’s general airspace and almost bump into them, I say sorry so much that I once had an employer get legitimately mad at me everytime I said it.

But I am not sorry for this. Not even a little bit. Yesterday, I came to work a perfectly happy human being. One little thing sent me spiraling, crying in the Detroit Planned Parenthood bathroom, and then just 15 minutes later, into a full blown panic attack in the middle of the streets of Detroit, in my co ­ worker’s car. I haven’t been well the past two weeks. A co­-worker has told me several times that “I need to slow down”. So I am not sorry. And I’m grateful for co ­ workers and a boss who don’t require a sorry, who respect my needs.

A close personal friend texted me earlier this year, a page long message that I received unexpectedly at work and made me tear up and blush. In this message she told me “[I] do a really incredible job of taking care of [my]self ... [she] truly believes [I am] able to love other people well because [I] see the value in loving yourself well. [I] take what [I] need, and then [I] give love away out of that overflow.”

I printed this text out, hung it by my bed, and regularly look at it. Because everyone needs reminders to take care of themselves. I’m not sorry for taking care of myself, because when I am my best self, I am able to love others so well. No apology necessary.

Kayla closed the text by telling me I am worth it. I’m going to do the same ­ because I am worth it. And so are you.

Sarah Hively

Sarah Hively