Monday, November 30, 2015

#sistersofinfluence: Kai Dickson

Y'all I am so excited to tell you about something I have had on my heart for a while now. It is no secret around here that I love how the body of Christ can encourage one another and build each other up. No man is an island, especially as a follower of Christ. I especially love how women can work together instead of compete; how they can embolden when there is the temptation to compare. It is so imperative that we remember that God has given each one of us a race to run; a purpose to fulfill. He has placed each of us where we are for a specific reason, and there are no coincidences about our families, jobs, and homes. That's why I am so excited to begin a new series called Sisters of Influence, where I'll be featuring women I know that are living intentionally right where they are. No two women have the same story, and yet each one is running their race and glorifying God in their own way. 


{Elissa Ewald Photography}
Today, I have the privilege of introducing you to my dear friend Kai (Ky-ee) Dickson. She and I go waaaaaay back. The following events are true:

Freshman year at UGA, I was an obnoxious loud but friendly girl who just wanted to be friends with everyone. Kai lived in my dorm and also attended BCM (Baptist Collegiate Ministries) with me. We had a lot of friends in common, and I tried to be her friend and say hi to her when I saw her on campus, but she would avoid eye contact with me and keep walking. I just figured she didn't see me at first, but then I thought that she didn't want to be my friend! One Saturday at a party hosted by the Christian fraternity BYX, we were next to each other, and I said, "Hey, Kai, take a picture with me!" and the rest is history. We lived together for a year and a half, have traveled together, and she was a bridesmaid in my wedding. Plus she's a boss. For reals. She's insanely smart and it is kind of ridiculous. I'll stop blabbing and get to the good stuff, though.



Tell us about yourself. Who are you?

Hey y'all! My name is Kai J. Dickson, and I'm a 26-year-old living in the east Atlanta suburbs. I'm an attorney, and I work as a prosecutor for my local solicitor-general's office. I'm part of the family of Passion City Church, where I get to serve in the student ministry as a seventh-grade leader. I'm a HUGE introvert, but one of my giving love languages is quality time, so I love that I get to spend time with my mom and sweet dog; my amazing small group Bible study members; friends from college, PCC and elsewhere; and students from a local middle school where I serve as a WyldLife leader. I love books, reading recent Supreme Court decisions (I cannot believe I just wrote that), live music, email, rain, and road trips to Athens to see my friends and watch the Dawgs play between the hedges.

How did you come to know the Lord?

I grew up in church, but I never believed that God really liked me. I felt like I was constantly letting Him down, and even though I accepted Christ when I was 11, I never fully trusted Him. College was an amazing time of growth for me- I learned what it looked like to be a consistent and obedient follower of Jesus, but I didn't fully learn who I was in Christ until really about 18 months ago . My mom (with whom I live) was dealing with some medical issues, we were struggling financially, and I was dealing with the stress of taking the Bar Exam and searching for a job, while also carrying the remnants of a heart that had been badly broken from a bad relationship and poor choices. I realized that if I was ever going to heal and find hope, I would have to confront the lies that I had believed about myself and about God and figure out what truth was.While I can't say that I'm all fixed and everything is perfect, I can say that Jesus has revealed himself to me in beautiful ways. He is good, faithful and kind, and I cling to that truth- His truth- every day.

What do you think it means to be a woman of influence right where you are?

One of my favorites verses is Colossians 3:23-24: "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ." I think that's exactly what being a woman of influence right where you are means: doing the work Jesus has called us to and working with heart and vigor. I love looking around me and seeing the work that my female friends are called to: some are teachers; some, event coordinators; others accountants, artists, coaches, counselors, designers, moms, ministry leaders- the Lord lets us do such neat things! But I think so often we look at what someone else is doing and become a little envious, and we question God, asking why we can't do something as cool as what they're doing. What we- and I include myself in this, because I have been guilty of it as well!- have to do is look back at what God has called us to, and focus not only on doing our jobs and living our lives well, but living in a manner that attracts and points people to Christ.



How does the Lord allow you to shine His light through the practice of law?

I work in the area of our office that prosecutes traffic violations and county ordinance violations, which means that most of the defendants I come across are people who've just made poor decisions, such as running a red light, speeding, or drinking alcohol in public. One of the things the Lord has shown me is just how much grace we humans need, and I get the opportunity to extend grace to people so much while practicing law. I'm a firm believer in law and justice, and for protecting my community, but I'm also a huge proponent of grace and straight-up kindness. I'm still trying to find the balance between being faithful to the law and pursuing justice while also doing my job in a manner that exemplifies grace and Jesus, and what I'm finding is that it's literally a case-by-case approach. Sometimes more grace is needed; sometimes more punishment is needed- but what's always needed is me treating defendants, defense attorneys and my colleagues with grace and kindness.

What is your favorite verse or passage of Scripture?

Seriously, how much of a law nerd am I that my favorite passage of Scripture is talking about the law?!
Hebrews 7:11-28
 "Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron?  For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him,
“You are a priest forever,
    after the order of Melchizedek.”
For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him:
“The Lord has sworn
    and will not change his mind,
‘You are a priest forever.’”
This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.
The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost[b] those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.  For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever."

What is one truth you want others to remember and cling to?

That we are so incredibly loved by God. That He sees us, adores us and rejoices in us. He calls Himself Father and calls us His daughters and sons, His beloved children, and oh goodness, He is so very good.

And last but not least: coffee or tea?

Coffee, all day, every day! (Literally.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

For When Thanksgiving Seems Too Difficult

{via}
Sometimes being grateful seems fake and forced. It feels silly and senseless in the midst of trials and tragedies. And yet it can be our lifeline. This month I've been attempting to document my thanks via Instagram. It's been a fun exercise to look around each day for the things I am thankful for and see the little (and big) ways that God is working in, through, and around me. It would seem as though the enemy does not want me to be grateful for anything, but rather to sow seeds of discontentment and feel justified in doing so. But God, in His rich mercy and grace, has been so faithful to remind me of the importance of having an attitude of gratitude. An attitude of gratitude turns what I have into more than enough. An attitude of gratitude says that God is faithful and rests in His provision. An attitude of gratitude doesn't seek to compare or criticize, but rather to accept and rest in what He has done. 

The other day at work I was trying to print something, and the printer said that it was in a state of error. For a while now I've been living like I'm in a state of error. The enemy has tried to make me think I'm in a state of error. But God makes no mistakes. His creation is perfect and good and serves a purpose. I am His workmanship, His poema. He has made me in His image and I am to bear good works as a result of that. I cannot bear good works and love others if I believe that something is wrong with me. How can I preach His truth to my kids everyday when I have trouble claiming it for myself? His love is so much more than happy slappy five steps to heaven. His love is infinite and wide and food and it never fails. His mercies are new every morning and His grace is sufficient for me. 


About a week ago, the Lord finally allowed some of the things I have been praying find their way from my head to make it to my heart. I was sitting in Bible study, and a friend shared how she turned her thoughts around by saying, "But Jesus" whenever she was faced with an untruth. Oh how simple, yet powerful to call upon the name of our sweet Savior! The verse in the picture above is written in my prayer journal, and it suddenly hit me that when there are hard trials, we overcome by our faith in the only One who is able. That means that even when we don't feel like making much of Jesus, we beg Him to be in us what we cannot be.

When I choose to sow seeds of discontentment and neglect to look into the face of the One who sees me, made me, and chose me, I miss out. I miss out on the depths of His love and the riches of His mercy. When I allow the lies of the enemy to trump the truth of God's word and rest in my feelings, which are not always trustworthy, I allow myself to sink into the depths of deception and can no longer walk in the abundant life Christ has called me to and provided for me. 

So when Thanksgiving feels too difficult and it seems easier to believe lies rather than fight for truth, remember these things: God is for you, He is control, and He loves you. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tuesday Ten: The Best Marriage Advice

It's been really fun and cathartic for me to write about marriage in this little space, and I have so appreciated all of the wonderfully kind words from you, my reader friends. Today, I wanted to share my favorite marriage advice so far. These words are not my own, but I added my own little comments to share about how each tidbit applies to me and Rory. A few months ago at the Influence Conference, I attended two revival (breakout) sessions- marriage and writing. The following tidbits are from my notes from the marriage revival, led by the amazing Kristin Winchester. I hope these little insights bless and encourage you as much as they did me!

{Elissa Ewald Photography}


1. Talk and listen.
- For us, this means that when there's something important we want to discuss (or maybe just when we get home from work) we put down the phones, turn off the tv, and look each other in the eye. It makes a big difference.
2. Date each other.
- When we were dating and engaged, we made sure that Tuesday was our date night and that it was set aside. Now it's different, because we live together and see each other much more often, but we still try to set aside Friday nights as time when it is just us.  It usually involves food. :)
3. Get creative.
- This can be applied in oh so many ways. I think that for me, I try to come up with different ways to encourage Ror and tell him I love him, because encouragement is one of my gifts. It could be leaving a sticky note in a place where I know he'll see it, or it could be baking his favorite treat just because. The little things make such a big difference and aren't that difficult.
4. Have an accountability partner.
- This has been so huge for me. While we were dating and engaged, one of my best friends, Teresa and I, got so much closer as we began to talk on the phone weekly (sometimes biweekly) and talk about prayer needs in our lives.
5. Pray together. Apart. All the time.
- We try to pray each morning before work and every night before bed. I love hearing Ror pray for me and for others in our lives, and it is another way that we stand together in unity.

{Elissa Ewald Photography}


6. Have sex.
- I'm not going into specifics here because my mother reads this blog, but um...make this a priority. For reals. A friend once said to me that before you get married, Satan wants you to have sex, and after you get married, he'll do what he can to make sure you don't have sex. It's a big deal, peeps. So...do it.
7. Give a lot of grace.
-This one is one that I will learn every day for the rest of my life. It feels wonderful to be on the receiving end of it, though.
8. Love each other where you're at.
-Again, one that I am learning very slowly, but oh so important. I think that this one is very closely related to expectations and assumptions. It's not my job to change Rory, it's to love him and help him as he continues to grow into the man God made him to be.
9. Don't try to pull each other over to the "right" side.
- This is sooooo important. Whenever Rory and I have a "growth opportunity" (what author Lysa Terkeurst affectionately calls arguments between her and her husband) I sometimes can bury my head in the sand and want to somehow force him to come my way. Let me just tell you that that strategy does. not. work. Plus it's super disrespectful and selfish.
10. Learn how you communicate.
- I feel like communication was something that Rory and I (well definitely I) prided ourselves on before we got married, but again, it is something we are learning each day. It is really easy to assume that the other person knows your intentions, but again, friends, it just doesn't work like that.

And a freebie bonus from my sweet, dear friend, Suzanne Chambers.

11. Cultivate a grateful heart. 
- This piece of advice is not only good marriage advice, it is good advice for life. As a follower of Jesus, my life gets much grander in my perspective when I take a step back and remember that the Creator of the universe is on my side. I can be much more grateful when I realize that I've pretty much got it made compared to millions around the world that live on less than a dollar a day. Seems dramatic, but when I get frustrated with my husband, kids at school, or just various trials, the Lord so often speaks to me and reminds me that I need to get a reality check. Because reality is that He is good all the time. I could compare everything in my life to the nth degree and constantly want for more, or I could give thanks for what I have and for what the Lord is doing in and through our marriage. Lord, help me choose the latter over the former.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Monster in My Mind, Part II

Y'all, expectations can be so very good and so very not so good. I know that for me, it helps to trace the root of my expectations so that I can better understand my heart and then be changed for the better. Today, I want to take a look into where exactly those monsters expectations come from and what to do when they so subtly (or not so subtly) creep in to our realities.

{Elissa Ewald Photography}

YOUR UPBRINGING

Every one of us was born into a family that was not of our choosing. This fact brings with it various challenges. Your family may have been overly affectionate and encouraging, or it may have been cold and uninviting. You may have a background of Christ-centered marriage, or you may have experienced the pain of abuse, divorce, or neglect. Whatever the case, each one of us has a different paradigm according to what life has handed us, and whether we like it or not, this paradigm influences and can even dictate our responses to our spouse's paradigm.

Ex: Rory likes for dishes to be washed in the dishwasher for sanitary reasons. I don't mind doing a combination of both dishwasher and handwashing because I like the kitchen to be clear at the end of each night. Right? Wrong? It's neither. This expectation is tied to upbringing and preference. So we talk about it and figure out a middle ground.

PEERS

Y'all, this one is a toughy. It is a good thing to look to other married couples to learn from them and glean wisdom. It is not a good thing to look to other married couples and think that you have to do exactly what they do. It's just not healthy. We've all seen the "comparison is the thief of joy" quote milling around the internet these days, and friends, it is true! When we look to others and feel we have to copy them in order to be successful, we've taken it too far and aren't allowing ourselves to walk in the identity God gave us.

Ex: In talking with friends I learn about how another couple does their finances and think "We're doing it ALL WRONG! In order to be successful we have to do the exact same thing as them!" LIES.

MOVIES/TV/BOOKS

This one is a big soapbox for me, because I think it is one of the most detrimental areas in which we as women are suckered into false ways of thinking and thereby disappointed. As a child, I was a voracious reader. I still love to read, but I just don't have the time I used to have in order to devour books as I would like to. Movies and television are also a way of escape for me in which I can just relax and enjoy a good story. Hear me when I say that I absolutely do not believe that movies/tv/books are the devil. There is nothing inherently evil in these things. However, I think it is imperative that we realize just how much the stories and thoughts expressed in these media outlets forms our thinking. I remember hearing chick flicks likened to "girl porn" once. And while the comparison seems harsh and crass, I believe it is spot on in that romantic comedies and the like warp our thinking. We begin to believe that we deserve the fairy tale and the perfect ending. And friends, life just isn't like that. With the Lord, it is so. much. better. And it is often not tied up neatly in a little bow.

Ex: Every day my husband should bring me flowers and little surprises because that's what so-and-so did in such-and-such movie. LIES.

SOCIAL MEDIA

So we have media where the stories are obviously not real and written by paid Hollywood screenwriters and acted out in front of us by gorgeous celebrities, and then we have social media. We can scroll through Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and see friends with whom we attended college or youth group and wonder how their lives seem to be so perfectly curated all. the. dang. time. But we forget this one simple fact: social media is a highlight reel. I often have people tell me how adorable the videos of my kids are that I post during our "brain break" dance times. What they didn't see is how I "raised my voice" at a kid minutes before for disobeying. Social media is an incredible outlet, but it still isn't the end all be all absolute truth.

Ex: My friend posts a picture of her awesome date night, and my heart twinges with jealousy. "Why don't we do things like that? They're so cool." BAD PATH. LIES.

Friends, let's pause and think about where our expectations come from and how to make a mental shift. It takes time to unpack our expectations and to truly allow the Lord to renew your mind. But when we allow Him to show us the evidences of His grace, we can slowly begin to be grateful for every little thing and outsmart the monster in our minds. Don't allow your expectations to get in the way of your reality.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Tuesday Ten: Verses of Gratitude

{via}

Well, friends, like it or not, it is November. We are in the final months of the year, and Christmas is just around the corner! However, it would be a travesty if we looked forward to Christmas so much that we neglected to acknowledge Thanksgiving. This month, I have been participating in an Instagram challenge with the hashtag #getaftergrateful in an effort to recognize and thank Jesus for the work He's doing in my life, big and small. It has awakened me to look for the things that I can be grateful for in the likely and unlikely places. Today I thought I would share ten of my favorite verses that the Lord has used to remind me to keep a thankful heart.


  1. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name! - Psalm 103:1
  2. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever! - Psalm 118:1
  3. The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. Glad songs of salvation are in the tents of the righteous. - Psalm 118:14-15
  4. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. - Psalm 118:24
  5. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:4-7
  6. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. - Romans 16:20
  7. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. - Ephesians 3:20-21
  8. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. - Philippians 4:11-13
  9. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
  10. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. - Romans 12:12

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Currently: November

Well, friends, it is November, and I am so excited for all that the next two months hold. The last three months of the year are sometimes the craziest, but they can also be the sweetest. Here's to the holidays, and here's a glimpse into what's going on in this neck of the woods.


At the pumpkin patch with my seester this past weekend. :)

Cooking: chili, apple crisp, pumpkin seeds...all the fall things!
Planning: This weekend we are going to Atlanta for our one year anniversary! Ok, so we haven't been married for a year. Hardly. But in October we celebrated the first anniversary of our first date, so that's kind of a big deal. I am so pumped for all the fun things we will get to do together this weekend!
Smelling: Fall. candles.
Appreciating: I am so appreciative of a simpler life. We've got a lot going on, but at the end of the day, I'm just grateful to come home and chillax with my boo thang.
Anticipating: I. love. Christmas. So I am most definitely anticipating the most wonderful time of the year.

Linking up with Anne and Jenna today!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Tuesday Ten: NYC

A couple weeks ago, the staff at Downtown Academy had the immense privilege of attending the ACSI Urban Christian Education Conference in Queens, NY. This trip was more than a dream come true, seeing as most of us didn't even know to dream that big. I honestly still cannot believe that it happened, but it did. We flew in on Wednesday evening, and then we flew out Sunday afternoon. The conference was all day on Thursday and Friday, and we had the evenings to ourselves. It was so wonderful to be able to spend time with my co-workers, who are also real friends, and we were able to see so many different parts of the city.

The conference was so encouraging, and we learned a lot and were able to connect with other educators who are in the thick of it each day. I was able to take away many new things to implement and also was challenged spiritually. Praise the Lord for #adultfieldtrips! Here's some of my favorite memories from our few days in the city.
A selfie with my work BFFs in Union Square. Obvi. We missed you that night, Andrea!
The New York Public Library-- I completely geeked out here.

Brunch at Le Pain Quotidien in Manhattan

9/11 Memorial- so beautifully done.

Trinity Church in the Financial District.

View from the Staten Island Ferry


Rockefeller Plaza

Anthropologie in Manhattan...three.stories. high.

Beautiful Central Park

The best musical I have ever seen. Ever.

NYC, you are magical, and I love you.

Monday, November 2, 2015

It's Chili Weather

Y'all, it is officially chili weather. Chili and cornbread is one of my very most favorite meals for the fall. My mom makes the best chili, and she so graciously shared her recipe with me. I doctored it up a bit after living in Mexico, and I'm sharing it with you today. It is super simple, hearty, and delicious. My husband gives it six stars (out of five!). :)

Chili Con Carne



Ingredients

1 lb. ground turkey or ground beef
1 minced garlic clove
1 cup chopped onion (red or white, take your pick)
1 cup chopped bell pepper (green, red, yellow, whatever floats your boat)
2 (14.5 oz.) canned diced tomatoes
2 small cans tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 large can pinto beans
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 pickled jalapeno, chopped
salt to taste

Directions

Brown ground turkey. Add other ingredients and simmer for an hour. Serves 6.



My favorite ways to serve this chili are to eat it with Jiffy cornbread (obvi) and also to top it with shredded cheddar cheese, chopped avocado, and then scoop it up with some yummo tortilla chips. :)


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