Love= Living in The Tension Between Grace & Truth

Last week was the annual North American Christian Convention, which as you may remember is usually a great and also exhausting-napping-for-several-days-afterwards type of week for us (since the hubs works for the NACC). It really was a such a good week! And such a full one.

Full of walking, trying to find my people (and them trying to find me), working If Then Move’s booth in the exhibit hall, pushing the stroller (and Lucy’s emotional limits- there were a few meltdowns, though all in all she was awesome), full of coffee, cliff bars, and awesome screaming-with-excitement-friends-rushing-toward-each-other moments. (That was mainly with my Aimee and her brood of wonderful people. You figured that, right?)

I was spoiled by Aimee’s giving me a surprise bag of goodies including…


That mug. I can’t even… It just speaks to the core of my being- like if there were a cozy corner in the heart where my soul could sit and read and drink coffee, it would be drinking it out of this mug.

And there were quieter moments that happened- stillness in the midst of the busy buzzing atmosphere all around. Moments when I got to clasp hands with friends in ministry who are struggling with finding beauty where they are and finding purpose when they don’t encounter results. Moments when I got to learn by watching giants of the church love on those who feel forgotten, and when all of us gathered to hear what God has to say about how what, when, and where we speak as the body of Christ.

This year was by far the craziest for me. For one thing, Lucy is much closer to the toddler stage than the infant stage, and therefore requires a lot of entertaining and attention, versus last year when she mostly slept and drank bottles all the time… Then I had guests staying in our home (we stayed downtown by the convention center), which I absolutely love! However, I didn’t register that it would be me- just me- cleaning our entire apartment. You wouldn’t think a two-bedroom apartment would be that big of a deal. But it was.


This is what it looks like when your 15-month-old helps you make the bed.

It didn’t help that the week leading up to convention week, I got sick with some kind of nasty sinus infection-cold-sore-throat thing, which was still hanging on up until a couple days ago. (Yeah yeah, I know I should’ve gone to the doctor. Next time.) So, I ended up trying to do everything in like, two days. Not to mention a vengeful mouse (whom I’ve dubbed “Mitzi”- she’s mad because we’ve already extricated her mouse husband, Ralph) who for months has been pooping and scurrying all over our apartment, waging a passive-aggressive mouse war upon us and our edible goods- including pooping in my purse- MY PURSE, Y’ALL. Good times.

Then I worked the booth with Wendy, which was awesome!!! If any of the wonderful people who came by our booth are reading this, you are our new best friends and we love you! Wendy and I talk about how that’s usually our favorite part of conventions like this- because God gives us this opportunity to overlap the stories of others with our own and let them be woven together.

I loved getting to reconnect and know the girls at the byTavi booth even more this year! Please go check out the awesome work they are doing!! (Not to mention, the faaaaabulous clothes, bags, and designs they create!)

Here is one such fabulous design I purchased:

bytavi top edit

close up bytavi shirt edit

(This pattern isn’t on the website, as far as I can tell, but I almost bought this fabulous bunny-patterned one- click the pic to go see it better on their website:)

CGI_Spring_14DSC_4171__30196.1398192635.1280.1280

It was a week full of beauty. Not just the beautiful goodies I came home with and the beautiful moments I lovingly store in my heart, but full of Jesus. One of my favorite moments was listening to Jodi Hickerson, when she reminded us that our primary goal, our constant message, our only glory should be in Jesus. She shared about a quote that someone said to her husband years ago- something like, “It’s going to be a long road for you if you try to convince people that you’re awesome and God’s awesome at the same time.”

And she’s right! How Satan loves it when we get side-tracked by all things we are doing for God, by building our own little, crumbling kingdoms than when we concern ourselves with building God’s. It’s Jesus that makes us different- it’s his grace and truth together that set us apart from everything else.

I’m not the best writer, or artist, or mom, or… a lot of things… that’s ever lived. But I was reminded this week that God doesn’t call me to provide results. I’m not supposed to change someone else’s soul. In fact, I don’t have the power to do that. That’s His job. But I am called to show up. 

As Rusty George said,

“Tiny beginnings are our business. Magnificent endings are His.”

How appropriate that the theme for this year’s NACC was “We Speak,” and that often the messages throughout the week dealt with how we speak as much as what we speak, when the last day ended with a significant and very polarizing political moment in America’s history.

If we’re not speaking Jesus, if we’re not living in the tension of both his grace and his truth, then we’re not speaking his message. We’re speaking our own.

I hope that this encourages you. I hope it disturbs you as it does me. Speaking all grace and no truth, or all truth and no grace- neither works. Like a rubberband- it doesn’t work if it loses its tension. Plenty of religions out there cling to one or the other of these concepts. Christianity is the only one which proclaims both.

We heard one of the speakers say that the definition of Jesus’ love is this- this living in the tension of grace and truth. May we not hold that lightly; may we never take for granted that we too live in constant need of both.

Love

My Own Little Corner

Sometimes you just need something pretty, a little corner of loveliness to give your eyes a respite of beauty.

Well, here’s mine.

corner straight on

It’s basically a mini-command center. You know those things, right? On Pinterest? They look very intense, which I think is because normally moms of multiple children use them to maintain order and sanity in their homes. I love the idea, and was mildly fixated on having one of my own for awhile.

But then I realized- I don’t really need a full-blown, takes-up-an-entire-wall type of situation.

What I needed- really? Just a place to keep our mail.

And also cute things we receive in the mail. And/or save the dates for things. And just any cute piece of paper I deem worthy of being seen almost nearly right after you walk into my house. Because it’s visible from the front door.

Thus, that fabulous bulletin board that I’d fallen in love with a couple months ago.

Want me to break it down? (Because it’s soooo complicated?) Ok.

but first coffee light Because always this…

corner straight on Because seriously, aren’t those things all so harmonious together?? The basket isn’t my favorite, but it’s what we had. And sometimes you don’t want to or simply can’t just go out and buy “the perfect basket”… and mail fits in it, which is the real purpose anyway.

happy light

I mean. Cavu Coffee is my happy place, but this little speckled container + the glowy lights inside it- is my spirit animal. (I’m such a complex being…) I think my mom found it somewhere… She has magical powers of finding these things.

corner mail

Here’s what it looks like with cute mail in it… like pretty letters from a kindred spirit, etc. (Obviously, the addresses aren’t accurate anymore. I wouldn’t put that info out on the interwebs for just anybody. I’m looking at you, adoring fans…)

Normally, it’s still not totally organized. (See earlier photo where the basket is on the verge of exploding.) But there are enough lovely things- “arrows” as The Nester calls them- to distract from my basket of mail.

Plus, I love that little table, which I’m pretty sure used to be my mother-in-law’s awhile ago. I love how rustic it is! Then some random notepads that don’t exactly go together. But, It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.” 

So, there’s my little corner of practical beauty. Loveliness with a purpose. I’m still learning all the countless ways beauty can have purpose in life. Do you have a little corner of your own? Or an example of beauty is practical? I’m all about that!!! Do leave a comment and tell your story, too.

P.S. I linked up this week at the House of Hipsters Linky Party! Come check it out here!

How to Host a Fabulous Girls Weekend.

Every year- I think- since my sophomore year of college (so like… seven years. sheesh, that makes me feel old) a group of kindred spirits including myself, have gathered for what we dubbed a “roadtrip.”

This is how we normal.
This is how we normal.
This is how we pretend to be snobby... Except Bethany in the middle, who doesn't know how to be snobby.
This is how we pretend to be snobby… Except Bethany in the middle, who doesn’t know how to be snobby. I think it’s an eyebrow thing mostly.

Technically, it was only a road trip for those of us who, you know, drove somewhere. But every year it is magical and lovely and thoroughly soul-filling.

This is how we keep it real. Aka how we are most of the time.
This is how we keep it real. Aka how we are most of the time.

* These black and white photos featuring an excessively attractive group of ladies were generously supplied by our resident fancy-schmancy photographer, Kara.

This year was no different. Except that this time, I actually planned and organized the way a real, live hostess might do for a girls weekend.

It’s possible that I may have been a little obsessed with the sheer funity (as in fun…ity) of the concept a girls weekend anyway, ever since I read this post from The Nester.

I mean, seriously… Look at one of the pictures from her post:

DSC_0182-550x588 DSC_0227-550x365

DSC_0255-550x355

Can you blame me?

After I first read this post last spring, a seed was planted in me, which found the fullness of its flourishing throughout most of the month of April… and all of May… leading up to the event itself.

What I love about The Nester’s post is the sort of guidelines she shared about how to enjoy hosting people and cultivate a no-stress atmosphere. Isn’t it the worst when you are positively bubbling with anticipation for some party you’re hosting, and then are so preoccupied with the details and the agenda that the enjoyment is sucked out of it?

So, along with being inspired by the sheer prettiness of her pictures, her tips helped me gear up for the weekend, without becoming a joy-sucking perfectionist. Here are the ones I found most helpful:

1. decide on a theme based on something general or an overall feeling- 

Our theme, as decided by myself, was- wait for it- Pretty Comfy Coffee Togetherness Weekend. Pretty much genius, right? It was the first thing that came to me, and I loved it. If you visit The Nester’s post about this topic, you’ll probably notice some similarities in the types of decor and theme choices I made; so if you think it’s a rip off of her stuff, then it probably is. 

I have no shame in that, because she brilliant, and why reinvent the wheel? And as far as picking a “theme” goes, I love this quote from her:

 LOVE for my home to look festive, pulled together and extra special when I have a get together but, I learned long ago not to try to come up with some elaborate theme, although having a general theme or purpose can be helpful. When I hosted my sister’s book signing party the theme was simply book pages.  This time I wanted the theme or feel of the weekend to be girly, fun, and relaxing.    That doesn’t mean we all have to bring our ball gowns and bring in a manicurist and masseuse to come for the weekend.  Oh no.  When you choose a theme you want it to be something that will be a workhorse for you, not something you have to be a slave for.  I used a few five-minute ideas that quickly added some whimsical girliness into my house.

2. decorate with inexpensive yet WOW factor ideas- Ok. The Nester’s WOW factor decorations were on a whole different level of WOW than mine. Plus, her idea of a “five-minute idea” is my idea of a five-hour idea. So, for my two-bedroom apartment, and my limited resources I decided to focus on a couple simple spots for decor and do things I a) could actually do and b) would actually do:

* The entryway- By “entryway” I here mean “the entrance to our apartment” which consists of like, 3 steps. STILL. I wanted some WOW and I wanted it right when they walked in the front door…

Pink Pom entryway Pink Pom Entryway!

So, obviously, I went with giant pink poms and white lanterns. (The lanterns were left over from Lu’s 1st birthday party, the poms were from Party City- $12.) Then I added some white tulle Ikea curtains (intended to be hung in Lucy’s nursery… that hasn’t happened yet) and some random other pink tulle that my mom gave me, and voila! 

To me, it’s like a fairy princess welcoming you to a magical realm with beautiful, long, tulle-Ikea-curtain sleeves. If the girls had been like, “Gee, I wonder what the theme is?” They would’ve just looked at the pinkness and frillyness and figured, “Oh. It’s clearly Pretty-Comfy-Coffee-Togetherness.”

You should’ve seen me trying to put it up. Hanging things is not my specialty. But I figured command hooks were elementary enough… And they would’ve been, had I not initially purchased outdoor command hooks, which did NOT stick to my drywall. This, children, is why you read things like labels.

* The Guest Bathroom- I wanted it to be lovely, girly, and welcoming… but also practical. I mean, four women were going to share it. This is not the place to use up valuable counter space with lots of tchotchkes. (Is that how you spell that word???) That said, I still had a couple things I wanted in there, since I didn’t have time to hang things that I’d originally planned to.

bathroom EDIT

bathroom EDIT 2

Those paper muffin cups and me? We fell in love at first sight. I knew I had to use them for something fun, and though there were muffins, these were used for mini-makeup-goodie bags instead, using some fabulous, extra Mary Kay products I had.

I also made these pretty spiffy little cards on picmonkey.com (it’s free, people!!! so fun. so much funity.)

cards 2cards 3

You might think these were supposed to be- I don’t know- name tags, or something… However, I decided their purpose was just to be pretty. And I decided to draw tea cups on them. The crazy thing was, each person TOTALLY picked the one I thought they would… Epic.

tea cup cards 3tea cup cards 1

3. cook something I’ve made before and only cook for the first meal and also make a few things ahead of time

I sort of did this… Mostly what I took away from it was to keep it as simple and yummy as possible. So, I created a general menu, which I ran by the girls for approval and/or edits, and then just kind of went with it once they all got here, because of #4…

4. say yes when someone offers help- I like to think I took this tip, and helped it become the greatest version of itself. By straight up asking for help. Because people, I have a baby, and I’m not the type of woman that likes to do absolutely everything, especially when it comes to cooking (as my husband can tell you). It’s just not one of my strengths. Really, as long as there were muffins, I knew everything else would be perfect. And oh, the muffins. 

tranquil muffins

… Kara made them and they were SOOO good. So good, in fact, that I’m leaving the recipe for them down at the bottom of this post. There was a lot of other deliciousness going on, too…

pasta 4 Healthy pasta. Also made by Kara. She made a lot of food, actually… We all pitched in at varying points, but I seem to remember a lot of work as far as actual food prepping and making goes being done by Kara and Heather. (THANK YOU, ladies. Just in case I hadn’t already said it 8 million times.)

tranquil pizza

Homemade goat cheese & turkey bacon pizza with pineapple and red onion on honey wheat crust. This one I did make. BAM.

5. enjoy the people when they are here and don’t worry about cleaning every part of the kitchen to perfection–I can do that when they leave

It’s so true, right! I mean, some cleaning had to be done at times, because well, the kitchen is visible from 75% of the rest of our apartment. But my goal was that I would neither clean obsessively, nor obsess over cleaning. I didn’t want the honored guests to feel like that was a bigger priority than enjoying the rare and precious opportunity of just being together.

6. Keep a loose hold on your agenda. Plans are good, but not when they hijack the fun(ity).- This tip is my own. (I think… though I’m sure it is not original.) There have been some roadtrips where we did something really wonderful and memorable- like the very first one when we went to Symphony on the Prairie and heard the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra play Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. And there are general things we love to do, like go to local coffee shops (or just Starbucks- we’re not picky). For example- for the second year in a row we all went to Cavu Coffee (aka my happy place).

Cavu Them at Cavu Me at Cavu

*These 3 photos also generously supplied by my exceedingly talented friend, Kara, who is a fancy-schmancy photographer, in case you didn’t click the link the first time.

I also had everyone bring 5 “favorite things” to share with the group:

five things EDIT

So, we all ended up with goodies to take home… And no, my tea-cup-cards don’t count as my favorite thing. Obviously, that’s the lace Skurar planter thingys.

But mostly, we like to drink copious amounts of coffee and tea, eat dark chocolate, and talk. We talk life, catching up, job stuff, etc. But even more than that, we (is there a non-cheesy way to say this?) soul-talk. It’s something we desperately need, as people, as friends, and especially as artists.

This is what's actually normal for us.
This is what’s actually normal for us.

*I’m not posting the link to Kara’s page again. Just scroll up for like, a second, and click one of the other links to her page I’ve already posted! Gosh, you are just so demanding sometimes…

Maybe an articulate way to explain it is what The Nester says about her girls weekend:

And of course it’s impossible to capture the very best part of the entire weekend.  The real connections, risky sharing, tears, laughter, vulnerability, and true friendship that continues to grow.

Of course, we may also have watched the 7 hour long BBC Pride & Prejudice, too… But even watching that together takes on a beauty all its own. For my part, I plan on volunteering to host next year too… because you know, then I don’t have to go anywhere. And also, I do love those poms.

Do you love hosting stuff? Do you have pretty pictures??? I want to see them!

Artist of the Month!

Is there a more creative title for this? I’m open to suggestions!! Ok, ok. Here’s the backstory…

Once upon a time, this blog was created to feature beauty– the longing for it, the living of it, and how we as artists (whatever THAT means) or just as people in general have such a need to create it. And ultimately- that we are longing for something whole and beautiful to come and save us from what’s ugly and broken in and around us.

Artist of the Month

“It’s a fine goal, to be sure,” as Jack Sparrow says.

Why is he so devilishly handsome??
Why is he so devilishly handsome??

And in spite of my somewhat pell-mell (that’s right. Pell. Mell.) and ADD style of posting for the last 3-ish months, I still intend to make that the purpose of this blog! But I can’t do it all by me onesies, savvy?

Therefore, I will be calling on the help of some dear friends, exemplary artisans and fellow creatives to share with us over the next few months. (She said, leaving the timeline intentionally ambiguous…) 

I am SO excited about this!!! I have long known some pretty genius people, and the world ought to be a little more familiar with them. If my blog could do anything, I hope it would be that.

So. Prepare yourself for Artist of the Month! Every secondish Tuesday of the month, there will be either a guest post or an interview with one of these wonderful people. Come hear their stories, which may sound very like yours, and be inspired and filled up with some extra beauty!

Mixed in there will be months where I will choose an artist I love- and with whom I’m sadly not friends, or even remotely acquainted- so in case you’re in need of good music, or good illustrations, or good food etc. you’ll find some of my favorites featured here as well. I may even share some of my own work… You know, if I can get my courage up.

Our first artist will be featured next month! Are you excited?!

P.S. If you know of someone who creates beauty, whether through traditional art, or the art of loving people, loving Jesus, or some combination of those and other gifts, you can nominate them for Artist of the Month! Just go to the Contact page at the top and drop me a line! I’ll be sure to take a look.

Shoes. Ikea. Imperial Star Destroyers.

What do all those things have in common? Birthdays. That’s what.

And you might be thinking, “Gee, I thought you were going to say ‘Reasons why I’ve been MIA from my blog for a month…and a half.'” And you’d be right about that, too.

No, I didn’t just get back from a vengeful quest with Darth Vader in my Imperial Star Destroyer. Although, I did disappear down a rabbit hole into a vortex of swirling tasks and to-dos and travels. (And alliterations… ooohhh yeaaaah.)

But don’t worry, I won’t be annoying and list all the things in the vortex. I’m not that self-absorbed. I will say, however, that April is a very busy month by nature in our household.

First of all, Easter often happens in April (is it always in April? isn’t it sometimes in March or something??) and you may or may not know that we went on a trip to Texas over that weekend to visit family. Secondly, both mine and the husband’s birthdays are in April, which makes for an eventful couple of weeks. Thirdly, I worked a crap ton of hours at the day care, which resulted in a major case of deadness, and when you’re dead, you can’t write blog posts…

But this post isn’t to bore you with details about being dead from 15 kids hanging/spitting up on/cuddling me for a lot more hours than normal (suffice it to say, the remedy is copious amounts of binge-watching “Once” on Netflix- aka my favorite show of all time… or at least right this second). They did revive me every so often with their cuteness and saying adorable and hilarious things. Which was fun.

Instead, I thought I’d share the ever so exciting barrage of pictures of Things I Bought with my Birthday Money!!! (Because I’m still 12 years old and we live in the 50’s when candy only cost a nickel or something… And no, I didn’t spend it all on candy, much as I would have liked.) By nature, I’m not a planner. But I can tell you, I was possessed with a steely determination to maximize this golden opportunity to just go out and buy pretties.

Are you ready for the pretties??? OK! Heeeere they are:

IMG_1151

IMG_1152 Those are for days when I’m pretending to be a hipster…

IMG_1149 IMG_1150 I think of these are my happy fairy princess shoes. Appropriate for every moment of every day of every year forever and ever amen. Didn’t you know? 27 is the shoe birthday… or at least, it was this year. There was also a pair of tennis shoes, but those were a necessity, and one that I have put off for as long as possible.

AN ASIDE ABOUT TENNIS SHOES:

I’m just not a tennis shoe kind of girl. I know some of you girls out there like them and even (inconceivably) feel cute in them, but tennies just make me feel like I have man feet. And that’s just unacceptable. However, being on your feet all day makes you do lots of rational and practical things like, you know, wearing shoes that actually support your arches, etc. But it makes me sigh with chagrin as I feel myself entering- or at least wandering dangerously near- to that unknown and notoriously all-consuming section of mom world known as the province of Soccer Mom. Not that being a soccer mom is bad… But you’ve got to admit, the stereotypes are kind of ominous. I just don’t want to be frumpified over time in the name of practicality and not even realize it… and tennis shoes just seem like the first step down the dark road to Frumptown. But. My feet hurt. So, tennis shoes are now part of my life. Hopefully, they will just be reserved for daycare days and exercising.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program…

As intentional as my spending was, I didn’t exactly intend to buy 3 different pairs of shoes… But how could I possibly say no to those mint green ones????

Bulletin Board I’d basically been salivating over this bulletin board at TJ Maxx for weeks, resisting the urge to buy it, but I could resist no longer… I mean, it’s just so happy!!

Flowers These fake flowers from TJ Maxx… I mean, fresh flowers are always ideal, but I have a gray thumb, and these can’t die and look pretty fab for being fake. Don’t you agree?

lace tray

I’m also Ob. Sessed. with pretty much all the lace “skurar” stuff (just try to say that out loud right now- I dare you. It definitely doesn’t sound like a line of delicate lacey-looking planters and trays)  at Ikea.

skurar

See? I bought like, 5 or 6 of these “planters,” most of which I use for not plants. I’m pretty excited about the many places in our apartment that are now filled with a little more flourish thanks to these things. It’s like happiness is winking at me…

I would seriously use them in every room in my apartment if I could… Never for real plants though. (That would just be cruel. The plant would be like, “Oh, I’m in this pretty planter! My caretaker must be really diligent and intentional with her plants…” and then eventually, as the plant was shriveling and gasping for chlorophyl- or whatever a plant gasps for- it would cry out in one of those scream-whispers, “What is this treachery!!! This woman is the killer of all that is green and growing! Aaaaagghhh…” That’s the plant dying. In case you didn’t get that.) Mostly just lipstick, or pens, or pencils, or sometimes all three.

But the Biggest, Best, Most Fantastical present was the one I gave to Ryan. It WAS his 30th birthday. So, it had to be epic. Thus, for about a month I plotted and planned, schemed and searched for what was to be the single greatest gift I’ve given him in our entire marriage… The Star Wars Lego Millennium Falcon. I MEAN, HOW AWESOME?!?! (It’s more awesome if you know that to say my husband is an avid Star Wars/Star Wars Legos/Star Wars Books fan is a cosmic understatement.) 

However, in arguably one of the most tragic moments in the history of tragedy, when I went to search the internet for said epic gift, it was UNAVAILABLE.

EVERYWHERE. 

Either that, or it was like, 4 times the original price. It was kind of like this:

So, I went with the next best thing, which I only knew was the next best thing because Ryan had mentioned it in the same breath as the Millennium Falcon before: an Imperial Star Destroyer. Ooooohhhh yeeaaaahhh.

Check it out.

IMG_1146 IMG_1148 IMG_1147

Epic, right? It only took him a total of 6 hours to build. Here is a highly unprofessional-looking-but-awesome progression of photos from when he first opened it:

10920908_633013086170_1755020194256999634_n

11141724_633013111120_1297769080970711287_n 11208675_633013141060_6344648113119585378_n

My favorite is the one with the crazy eyes… My husband is fairly reserved, so I consider crazy-eyes face to be a big win.

And that’s basically it. Our birthdays rocked, in the midst of an exceptionally full month and a half. That’s all.

What do you buy with YOUR birthday money?? (I need ideas for next year.)

Oh yeah!! And somewhere in there, we visited all the wonderful ladies of the maternal variety in our life, and I brought each of them this doodle I made for Mother’s Day:

Your Mother Quote

P.S. Next week (or month… year… whenever I get around to it) stay tuned for tips on having a fabulous girls weekend. Spoiler alert: there will be pink involved.