10 ways to create community

10 ways to create community

Have you ever felt alone? I sure have. Let me tell you about it.

I felt alone at times throughout high school, in between friendship groups, trying to figure out where I belonged and whom I belonged to.

I felt alone at church. In the midst of doing, doing, doing, it seemed like community was sadly put on the back burner.

I felt alone in creating an online course – all those 5am starts and 1am bedtimes, building something around my full-time job. I loved it, but it sure got lonely sometimes.

I felt alone while creating, dreaming and planning new ideas for She is Light. While I had a fantastic network of fellow young female entrepreneurs, the people closest to me didn’t necessarily understand what I was doing.

How a snowflake reminded me of my purpose

How a snowflake reminded me of my purpose

Do you remember, as a kid, making those paper snowflakes to string up around the classroom during the holiday season, or to decorate wintry windows with at home? I was never particularly good at this. I’d fold my little paper the requisite number of times, and slice eagerly into it with scissors to create haphazard geometric patterns I hoped would look purposefully abstract. But somehow they always ended up with gaping holes and shapeless attempts at intricacy

When surrender seems impossible

When surrender seems impossible

Following Jesus means learning to die to a whole slew of things — self being one of them.

Sometimes dying to self means releasing yourself from a relationship you’ve held onto and with it, the future you’ve imagined, as it’s suddenly ripped from underneath your feet.  Sometimes it’s letting go of timelines you’ve envisioned, and giving God the pen no matter how attached you were to the story in your head.  Other times it’s surrendering dreams in discovering that God’s call on your life does not match your own.

Tapestries, not blueprints: What it means to live out God’s Plan

Tapestries, not blueprints: What it means to live out God’s Plan

I am a rather, shall we say, dedicated planner of my life. I equate being without a plan to floating adrift in the middle of the ocean, with no trace of land visible for miles around. I colour code activities and events in my planner and could win an Olympic medal for crossing items off lists. And I don’t at all like the idea of leaving the importance of my life’s purpose and journey to something as wayward and irresponsible as 'chance'.   

6 truths that help me love my body

6 truths that help me love my body

I’m not one for new year’s resolutions. They always seem a bit cliché to me. To me, the important thing is to be growing the whole year round - not just making the decision once a year to change one aspect, and then not even sticking to it. But something about making goals at the start of a new year of life seems different. It feels more personal in a way, and more private. Like on Oct. 20, I'm the only person making a resolution.

I was not made for loving him

I was not made for loving him

Driving down the road a few months ago, fresh spring air whipping my hair a mess, and spirits high, I sang along to Tori Kelly’s 'I Was Made for Loving You'.

I was made for loving you
Even though we may be hopeless hearts just passing through
Every bone screaming I don't know what we should do
All I know is, darling, I was made for loving you

6 ways to savour each day

6 ways to savour each day

We humans are funny creatures. We’re blessed with an entire lifetime to enjoy, and yet we only practice really appreciating small portions of it we call 'weekends'.

What’s wrong with us? We love to say that life is a gift, but it seems we really only mean that about the time we don’t spend at work. And I get that. Work isn’t necessarily enjoyable, and celebrations should be reserved for the joyful extraordinary. We can’t go around all day, excited about everything, unless we want to look absolutely ridiculous… right?

The importance of mentors

Imagine this...

Life is throwing curveballs, and you don't quite have all of the answers. You've tried one thing and that didn't work, tried again - same result. Feeling stuck and unsure of what to do, wishing a manual would pop up in your mailbox, you re-awaken from that nightmare to feel yourself falling into the same monotonous pattern all over again.

Sound familiar?

There are so many times in my life (correction: so many times a day) where I feel stuck and not sure what my next steps should be. I keep doing the same things thinking I will get a different outcome (insanity), and still…. nothing. Enough time doing all of these things had me really start praying about any underlying issues that kept bringing me back to this spot.

Over the course of my 23 years, I think about the specific areas where I really struggle and my sin becomes so apparent, and it is in the area of being corrected. For so long, I saw any type of correction, accountability, and/or criticism as a personal attack on my character.

Jesus has done so much in my life to really take the fog away from my eyes to show me a greater picture of sitting down with someone, and truly listening to their words of truth and wisdom. (Note: I have by no means perfected this, I am a work in progress! ) Much of my acceptance towards mentorship started later in college. This is when I met a wonderful group of women going after Christ, with a lot of experiences to speak about.

I would sit around the table at our Bible study and sit in amazement, as they each would share their week, and talk about the areas where they felt stuck and not sure what to do. One day I decided to speak up and be honest about where I was, and you know what? I have never gone back.

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
— Proverbs 27:17 (ESV)

That very day, I met a handful of women who started to pour into me the truth and wisdom that I was seeking. For me, those nuggets of pure and honest wisdom came straight from the red letters found in my Bible. They kept bringing me back to the words of Jesus. From that point on, I started meeting with women who were older than me. I was becoming so hungry for wisdom and truth, and learning that the willingness of being vulnerable and transparent can completely change your life.

Mentorship became the pathway that God used to open my eyes wide as I became acquainted with the idea of accepting my brokenness. He also used this to show me the beauty in grace and truth-filled correction.

Seeking out mentorship is such a rewarding habit to get into because it allows us to see the areas that need improvement, and encourages us to run to God for both help and a reminder of where our identity truly lies. When mentorship is done right, there is a healthy balance of both truth, love, and grace.

Is there a woman in your life who you can think of who could do these three things, and do them well?

GO CALL THEM. INVITE THEM INTO YOUR LIFE. Let them pour into you. It can be totally scary at first, but eventually it becomes normal. Sharing becomes less awkward, and the bumpy walk becomes more paved as the truth begins to set you free.

 
 
 
 

MELANIE CASTANEDA
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I am from Chicago, Illinois and am a lover of anything coffee. How cliché, right? I love Jesus and my life would not be the same without him. Growing up I was a fan of him and loved his story and his strength, but continued to live my life in the flesh. As I grew up I became a follower of him, and his strength, mercy, and grace was something that would eventually bring me to my knees in awe of his glory. I am a full time photographer and love capturing beautiful memories. I look forward to sunny days and warm nights, preferably with a nice cup of tea and an episode of Downtown Abbey.

 

Does your job define you?

Does your job define you?

I come from a highly successful family. My youngest sister was just inches (literally) from making the US Olympic team in swimming this year, my other younger sister also qualified for the Olympic trials in running, and my older brother is a brilliant violinist.  My dad is a well-accomplished surgeon-turned-iron-man triathlete, and my mom raised a bunch of hooligan kids who turned into rockstars. On top of that, there is a deep level of humility rooted in each and every one of my family members that doesn’t focus on the achievements, but rather the significance of hard work.

Seriously. I could go on forever about how insanely talented my family is - and then there is me.