The Risk of a Hushed Room {OR: The Gray Chair Epiphany}

So. This whole risk-taking-in-the-home thing? It does actually feel like a risk.

I’m currently taking the Cozy Minimalist course via The Nester (because of course I am), and I wanted to share some of the process with you, for the following reasons:

  1. Taking risks (small and big) is what we’re all about here at Long Live Beauty, at least for right now.
  2. I want to vulnerably share the small wins along with the fails, and maybe even more importantly, the uncomfortable nature of the unfinished work in progress (that maybe doesn’t even feel like progress some times.)
  3. I would love your insight! If you have advice on some of this home-making stuff, I welcome it. Even if it’s not advice I implement, often just hearing others’ thoughts helps you get your brainstorm on, am I right? And if not advice, I’d love to hear/see your own story of something you risked trying in your home, whether it worked or not! Let’s encourage each other in risk-taking! (In the home and otherwise.)

So, for week one, the assignment was to choose a room for the course, and “hush” it. This means taking out ALL non-essential items, wall art, pillows, blankets, tchotchkes, anything that isn’t furniture or a lamp basically (and even then, I took most of the lamps out of my room so I could see what actually was there and try different things).

So, here’s the living room before:

curtains

pre hushed roomNot terrible, but tired.

Here’s the hushed living room:

thermostat wallent centerThen you had to live with it. For a week. You guys, it is SO uncomfortable living in a naked room. I was just sitting there going, “Oh, I actually don’t like any of this stuff and can we just go buy new stuff?”

But the point of the course (and one huge reason why it is 100% worth taking) is to love the home you have using what you have… not going out and spending a ton of money.

The worst discomfort so far was the time between hushing the room and then trying to rearrange it. Because I honestly didn’t think I could rearrange the furniture in my living room. All I could see was the plaid on the chair and just kept thinking I was so tired of seeing plaid but have no slipcover for it, and how ginormous the entertainment center is, and how because of living on the third floor, we can’t take off the side shelving units (which wouldn’t fit anywhere else in our apartment or storage unit anyway), and how because the dumb thermostat is in the middle of the wall above the couch, we can’t put the ent center on that wall, and a bunch of other excuses that just culminated in me feeling like I was destined to hate the room and the stuff forever Amen. (Can you say, melodramatic?)

If only I’d just gotten out of my head to begin with and just moved something! I could’ve saved myself the headache. Finally, after realizing I should just try something, and also talking with my mom (which nearly always clarifies confusion), I found that I actually could rearrange things! Huzza!

So, here’s what happened:

  1. Maybe if I pull the couch out and put that random bench I have behind it?

moving stuff 1

Nope. It’s weird and the couch ended up way too close to the TV. And it just felt like the room was full of couch.

2. The Gray Chair Epiphany: I can’t go buy slipcovers or new furniture right this second, but that plaid was driving me insane, because I felt like I had to only use the colors that I’m so tired of (I’m sorry, red, it’s not you, it’s me). BUT WAIT. Lucy has a gray rocker in her nursery- gasp! a neutral! This was the biggest epiphany of the day, I tell you. So, you can see through the door way that the plaid chair is in her room, now covered with various neutral and girly nursery blankets. (Could I have done that out in the living room? Maybe, but the gray chair doesn’t dominate the room like the plaid one.)

gray chair

Gray chair for the win!!! Someday, maybe we’ll get this gray chair that I love from IKEA or maybe I’ll learn how to make a nice slipcover for the plaid armchair, but for now, this is a lovely sigh-of-relief-for-now solution.

After the gray chair epiphany, I felt significantly more empowered; maybe I could find a nice way to change things up after all?

3. Maybe if I put that bench I have beside the couch? It’s cute, and that way it could also be swiveled around for extra seating when people come over.

4

bench seat

I actually liked this… I think. Sometimes you can trust your initial reaction to rearranging furniture, but for me it all just feels different and unfamiliar and I want to put it all back the old boring safe way it was!!! *Deep breath* Anyway, I wanted something different, and while this was kind of different, I wanted to go further.

4. Diagon Alley. Oh I meant, diagonally. Mom suggested trying this, and I had never thought of that before! So, I tried it.

Here’s kind of diagonal:

diagonal 2

And a little more diagonal…

diagonal 3

diagonal 1

I mean, I couldn’t believe it looked as good as it did! (Without me fixing all the stuff like the speakers and wires on the floor and lamps and whatnot.) I almost left it… almost.

5. Perpendicular. Ish. As I was still chatting with my mom, she mentioned making the couch perpendicular to the wall. I’d thought of it back in the pre-rearranging, all-I-see-is-plaid-and-red-and-I-hate-it-all phase, but had immediately dismissed it, because I was being crazy.

bright

Huh. It’s kind of nice, right?

seats in the room

And there’s still plenty of room for the walkway behind the couch. I’m breathing easier already…

thankful couch

gray chair epiphany

Ah, gray chair. You’ve made my entire week. I am still deciding if I want the bench there. And I confess, I haven’t figured out what to with that speaker and accompanying wires by the bench… But one thing at a time, people!

bench

Why was I afraid again? I think it was because I thought I might be destined to one living-room setup and/or to just hate everything about the room forever and always. But I’m not and I don’t!

birds eye

It’s not perfect, and my gigantic entertainment center is still there, but for right now? It’s good.

couch edited

{Office & Bedroom: Part 3}

Last week, I shared about my spontaneous doily wall to add interest to the wall behind our bed,

Doily Wall 2as well as my “office” which is really just right beside the bed.

desk birdseye

office andmy side I just love creating this fun space that is really several intentional spaces now. (Or kind of. We’re getting there.)

Aside from those two spaces, there’s this other area in our bedroom that I have really been giving the stink-eye for a long time, because it mostly served as a gathering place for all the nomad stuff that didn’t have a home- anything from laundry to purses, to random bits of paper (what is it about paper that it’s always a primary contributor to places of chaos in the home?), to shoes that just got shoved under a chair, any and all throw blankets matching or otherwise which were layered over each other etc.

See it there, in the left-hand corner?

IMG_4854Well, no more stink-eye for you, weird chair/hope chest area! Now, it can breathe, and it actually makes me happy to look at. It’s not a big deal, but it just feels nice now. (The hope chest used to be my grandma’s; isn’t that cool?)

pink chair pink purse

I left one purse out to be an accent. Somehow I ended up with some soft pink things, and I really love them! So, I left the purse there to add to the happy pinkness.

chair corner best

This slightly smudged little coffee illustration has some happy pinkness in it, too, so I hung it above the chair. And now that everything in the world isn’t piled all over that chairmaybe I’ll- I don’t know- sit in it. (And drink some coffee.)

Coffee

I may have to de-smudge it and add it to the shop. What do you think?

Coffee closeup

It’s not a perfect room. But I still think it’s lovely. This Office/Bedroom/Happy Pinkness seating area might be my favorite room in our home.

Doily Wall {OR Office & Bedroom Part 2}

As of today, the doily wall is still up. I think I like it! And you know the great thing about it? If I get tired of it or the tape stops sticking to the wall and it’s annoying, I can just take it down. Low commitment levels all around. Isn’t that what life’s all about? (Kidding, I’m kidding.)

Doily Wall 2

It was pointed out to me by a certain spouse of mine who shall remain nameless, that along with my bullet points for this post, being:

a) we’ll find out if I still like it in two days, and

b) how do I cram an office/art space into this room and somehow remain organized so that my supplies are accessible?

that I should’ve added:

c) we’ll find out what my husband thinks about the doily wall.

At which point, I asked him what did he think about the doily wall, and he said he actually didn’t care because I’m being creative and nesting in our home and he already told me he wants me to feel free to do that, so just do whatever I want.

Sigh! Isn’t that so romantic? But seriously, aren’t those some pretty glorious words for a wife to hear from her husband? Especially when she’s just done something kind of odd and unconventional by taping paper doilies to the wall??? (Honestly, he’s probably also thrilled that I didn’t ask him to hang some heavy object like a mirror or something above the bed. I get that. Hanging stuff can be cumbersome and annoying… although it can also be super worth it. Right, husband??? Just planting the seed…)

So, back to the bullet points for today. The long, ambiguous, rambling bullet points.

a) Do I still like the doilies on the wall? I think so. For now, anyway. I’m going to give them a week and then see how I feel. Or a month. Or however long.

b) How do I cram an office/art space into this room and somehow remain organized so that my supplies are accessible?

Well, that’s the focus of the remainder of this post! Yay. You should know, this has been a very fluid, tentative type of situation- arranging my desk, I mean.

I used to have a desk like this:

11218094_632897198410_2974403298730874124_o-2But it was in Lucy’s room… which defeats the whole purpose of having a desk when your child is napping in the room where you’d planned on getting work done. (Man, there was a lot of stuff on that thing… It makes me feel cramped just looking at it.) So, for awhile I attempted to work at our kitchen table. I like that space; I’ve worked on it and made it cute enough for the time being. But it was problematic when it came to artsy projects, because of the dim lighting.

So, we got rid of that desk! YAY! You can’t imagine my jubilation of getting it out of my house. It was cute, but it was too clunky to put anywhere else, and plus we got to give it to friends, so it now has a happy home where it’s not collecting dust like it was here. (And as you may remember, I was able to use the space for the much better purpose of making Lucy’s toys accessible to her.)

Instead, the hubs had the idea of using this long, skinny table from IKEA as a desk, which was originally in the small studio I rented out when my full time job was running a direct sales business a couple years ago.

It’d been sitting in our storage unit for awhile (I hate and love storage units, don’t you? On one hand, you feel silly for paying for your stuff to just sit somewhere, but on the other, some of the stuff is actually important and worth paying to store...). I wasn’t sure if it would fit, and was worried he’d lug it all the way up to our third floor apartment and then it wouldn’t work.

But it did. It’s actually working really well! And I love that I still have a lot of space to work that doesn’t cramp the rest of the room! And it’s by a window!!! So many exclamation points!!!!

Then there were less exclamation points for awhile, because I just could not figure out how to organize all my art supplies. I didn’t want to blame the IKEA table; it’s not its fault that I am bad at organizing stuff sometimes. And when I got into the fury of Christmas projects, it looked like this

messy desk

and I was about to lose my mind. So, I worked on at least getting it livable.

less messy desk

So, basically, all the crap was stacked nicely… but there was still kind of a lot going on there, and I didn’t like moving that pile of books every time I needed to get stuff out of that girly hat box. (Plus, the additional stack of books and miscellaneous papers on my bedside table. So. Many. Papers.)

Finally, I feel like it’s organized in such a way as I can now find stuff. Mostly.

desk birdseye

Ta-da! (Isn’t the Netflix Fireplace is happy! That’s why I put it on the Winter Manifesto I made. Oh, didn’t you know? That was a free printable from last week!)

Why are there two chairs, you ask? Because we have an exorbitant amount of those chairs. Ok, it’s not really exorbitant; at least, it’s not exorbitant when you have people over and need 8 chairs. But the rest of the time, we keep trying to come up with places to put them where they’re not in the way. (Now that we’re moving other stuff around in our home and storage unit, it’s possible we might actually be able to put one of those somewhere else! So much rejoicing.) 

Although, I do kind of have two workspaces, which I had to explain to the husby-hus a couple days ago. He just wondered if I really needed that much clear space on the desk. I enlightened him to the fact that I use the left hand side of the desk for computer work (blogging, work for Wendy/ITM, anything officey) and the other side is for artsy stuff, especially watercolor pieces that need taped down to the table while I work on them.

Here’s another view:

office andmy side

See that ridiculously cute IKEA cart??? That was my Christmas present from that spouse I was talking about earlier. And I am still gushing over it!!!!!! 

That cart has basically saved my life, organizationally. I can pull it out when I’m working on stuff, and put it back later. Did I turn my bedside table the “wrong” way in order to make the cart fit better? Yes. But I don’t care because nobody sees that except me, and both items serve me better this way. (I love this cart so much, I pinned several pins with cute ways to use it, in case I ever decide to organize this stuff with something else. You can see all of those here.)

cart birdseye

Tombow dual brush watercolor markers, chalk markers, pens, paint brushes, envelopes, stamps/mailing stuff, and phone charger all live on this first level. (And a couple other things too.)

cart 1

Didn’t I say a long time ago that I’m kind of obsessed with those lace pots from IKEA? Because I am.

cart 2

You are now on Level 2 of the Awesome Cart, featuring the cupcake bag full of colored pencils, the orange bag of more colored pencils, chalk, pencil sharpener, and a lot of card stock. And also a couple other cute things.

cart 3

Level 3 of the Awesome Cart is much like the basement of any place: it contains stuff that’s too big for the other levels, or not as cute, or very practical, like my paper cutter, stamps, ink, oil pastels, rolled up bag of crappy paint brushes only used for certain things, and my redneck paper plate palate for watercolor paint. (I know I should just buy a real one. Give it time.)

unexciting

This stuff isn’t as cohesive or pretty, but it functions, and it all fits under the desk in the corner, so I’m ok with it. The black and white container is finished works 8×10 or smaller. The basket is finished works 12×12, along with mailers and a tin box of random other colored pencils and whatnot (I’m organized, but not that organized), and my water colors. Also parchment for letter-writing. Finally, the thirty-one striped container has any stationary, some notebooks, and… yes, that’s an Irish tin whistle sticking out of it, plus some glue sticks and scrap paper. Also a little trash can.

fireplace

This is pretty self-explanatory (see that beautiful letter from my friend? And the other beautiful card from a different beautiful friend?? Those were the two most encouraging notes/cards I’ve received lately!). That notepad is where I write down a daily to-do list. Because I rock at adulting.

I share all this with you because again- we’re taking risks this year! And celebrating small wins. I also share it because- do any of you out there have really well-organized AND accessible art supplies? Because I welcome your insight into other creative ways to arrange/organize them!!!

I’m loving this office area, because it’s made great progress. But the great thing about creating intentional and beautiful spaces in your home is that it’s ok to be a fluid process. You can change things. So, for now this works, and I am so thankful for how this area is serving me and our family.

It means a lot that you stopped by! By the way, if you want to encourage someone to take some risks and celebrate their own small wins today, I’m totally ok with you sharing this post.

 

Doily Wall {OR: Office & Bedroom Part 1}

In the spirit of risk-taking, I took- well- a risk. Not a huge one, but a risk nonetheless.

You know how The Nester made her bedroom look so cute and chic and lovely by putting white duct tape all over the wall behind their bed? Well, I just love the unexpected brilliance of that idea.

It’s one of those giving-yourself-permission-to-try-something things. And again, shouldn’t our homes be safe enough places to risk and be vulnerable and put duct tape on things just because we can in order to see what the effect is???

Currently, I’m reading this book called Creating Space: The Case for Every Day Creativity by Ed Cyzewski, and he talks about this same theme of permission and safety within creativity, how it’s crucial for most if not all creatives.

It’s hard to give yourself permission when you are so used to striving for perfection. But for one thing, imperfection, taking a risk, “failing”… aren’t those all part of the creative process? Cyzewski declares that they are. And I agree. Plus, isn’t imperfection far more achievable?

“…failure is not the same as a waste. Every attempt to let your creativity out is vitally important practice.” – Cyzewski (Page I-don’t-know-because-I’m-reading-it-on-my-iPad. But it’s in the section on safety.)

So, I risked taking a risk this week by doing something imperfect: I made a doily wall. Which is pretty much what it sounds like, insomuch as there are doilies on my wall.

I’d stop ever-so-briefly at the Target $1 spot (which is one of my favorite places) the other day, and managed to not spend a million dollars. In fact, I only spent $1 (plus tax, obviously) and bought a bag of these mint green doilies. I thought to myself, “Self. Those are some adorable mint green doilies. And they’re a dollar. Treat yo’ self.”

Doily

And thus began my brilliant scheme to do something awesome with them. It’s simple. I literally just took several pieces of scotch tape and applied to the back of each one like this:

doily tape

(Am I a DIY pro or what?!?!) And then I just stuck them all over our bedroom wall behind the bed. Sort of with the idea of grouping them closer together in the lower left corner and then scattering up and outward.

Doily Wall 2

We don’t have a headboard or cool, rustic window frames or anything like that at the moment, so I thought this might be a fun way to do something interesting behind our bed.

It’s kind of fun, right? And it only took me, like, 20 minutes total. I probably could’ve spent more time figuring out spacing and whatnot, but I’m ok with it being imperfect.

office andmy side

Here’s sort of a different view.

IMG_4854

Remember, folks, we live in an apartment, so we’ve had to be creative fitting lots of furniture in this space. The bedroom also doubles as my office, as you can see here.

Later this week, I’ll be sharing Part 2 of these Doily Wall shenanigans! Namely:

a) we’ll find out if I still like it in two days, and

b) how do I cram an office/art space into this room and somehow remain organized so that my supplies are accessible?

So, stay tuned!

I’m still deciding if I even like these doilies on the wall, but man it’s gratifying to do something fun that is possibly THE CHEAPEST update of any kind that I could do. What do y’all think? Is the doily wall heinous? Sort of pretty? Janky and redkneck looking? The most brilliant breakthrough of design history thus far?

And do you have any brilliant design breakthroughs you’ve employed in your space? (Also, if you live in an apartment or small space and have awesome organizing skills- specifically as it pertains to art supplies- let me know, k? K.)

Free Printable: Winter Manifesto!

YAY! It’s Thursday, January 14th, everyone!!! Why all the fuss and excessive use of exclamation points? Because WINTER is here!!!!!!!!!

…Wait, are you not excited about winter?…

Ok, maybe I’m kind of with you. I confess, I enjoyed fall and Christmas time to a very full extent, much like the consumption of a very delicious cupcake. However, this was the first year that knowing winter was coming scraped all the metaphorical icing off of the metaphorical cupcake, and replaced it with a gnawing dread, and me wearing a hateful glare as January threatened to arrive.

Apparently, neither January nor winter is intimidated by my hateful glares. Because they’re both here. (If you didn’t notice.)

The first really cold night of winter? That was a few days ago. When our heat went out. Figures. (Thankfully, we still have this little fake fireplace heater thing which we put in Lucy’s room for the night, so she was thoroughly cozy.) 

Here is our bedroom that night, featuring our normal sheets and comforter, the quilt that always lays on the end of our bed in case, plus a lovely thick knitted blanket which was a wedding present, my pink fuzzy blanket, and Ryan’s childhood quilt made by his grandma. We’d like to thank all the people who made warmth possible for us that night. You guys rock.

cozy bedroom

I used to love winter. No, I’m serious. I really used to love winter. I thought it was beautiful. And I thought to myself- am I really such a boring, typical adult that when winter comes I regurgitate the same droning complaints and exude the same Bummer McBummerson attitude as everyone else??? Creativity doesn’t drone, people! And if I have any creativity or joy for that matter, shouldn’t I be using it to make things beautiful… even and especially in winter?

I’d like to think I’m better than Bummer McBummerson. But I haven’t been. Because just like everyone else, I hate driving when it’s snowmageddon outside. Especially now that I have a little one, I easily feel on edge trying to operate heavy machinery around a lot of other people whom I don’t trust to operate their heavy machinery and who also feel on edge (and some of whom still insist on driving normal or even high speeds. like, what’s wrong with those people?! is where they’re going REALLY that important? I promise you, snow can beat your truck, reckless sillyhead). 

Because I AM better than Mr. McBummerson, I started thinking about what I used to love about winter:

  1. Everything looks like Narnia, and therefore one’s scope for the imagination is inherently broadened.
  2. You get to wear lovely coats and scarves and lots of layers, which makes it ok that you gained weight over Christmas.
  3. You suddenly savor everything that’s warm, like coming inside after walking in 20 degree weather and the heat is on, which feels like walking into a giant, soft blanket.
  4. Hot chocolate tastes like, 80 thousand times better when it’s cold outside.
  5. Seeing branches on trees.
  6. Snow days. (Side note: can we just admit how stupid it is that children in school get snow days BUT ADULTS DO NOT? Hear me out: where is the logic in saying, “Oh, for safety purposes, we won’t have the children go to school. But parents, you all should definitely drive your sedans on the interstate in the snow and ice with a bunch of other vehicles operated by other stressed out drivers who aren’t paying equal attention to their surroundings and/or don’t know how to or feel comfortable driving in snow. Oh, and you can’t bring your kids with you, so figure it out, parents. Because we’re adults and that means snow will submit to us. So, keep the children safe, but let’s risk our lives because we’re grown ups and we don’t have any way to get our work done outside of an office.” If only something existed that enabled you to communicate with others and access your data remotely????????? Clearly, I don’t have strong feelings about this. Side note/soap box/rant over.)
  7. Coffee. I don’t think that needs elaboration.
  8. Fuzzy socks.
  9. That magical, rosy light that happens sometimes in the morning and around twilight and illuminates everything after a really good snow
  10. My hair isn’t frizzy like in summer time. (This is further down on the list, but still highly important.)

Since I really would prefer not to feel stressed every time I get in my car for the next 2-3 months (let’s pretend it’s 2), and I’m determined to enjoy life in spite of the cold, frosty nature of things, I decided to create a Winter Manifesto… and share it with you all!

Winter Manifesto

I couldn’t decide which version I liked best, so I thought I’d just include all three and you can pick.Winter Manifesto Snow BackgroundWinter Manifesto Snowflakes

To download, I guess just right click and save, or you can click it and then save it, though that’s one extra click of your life you’ll never get back…

Other ideas I had to make winter better? Have a soup party. Have a pajama party. Have a hot cocoa party. Have a party that involves soup, pajamas, and hot cocoa. Oh! And everyone is required to wear fuzzy socks. I have lots of ideas… I’m basically a Leslie Knope that isn’t as intense or driven to compile binders of my ideas. Or Buddy the Elf. I’m not sure which one… If I could be Leslie Knope but wear a cute elf costume that would probably be ideal. (Am I drinking coffee while typing this? Yes.)

And how can you not enjoy winter just a little bit when you look at this puffy-coated, pajama-clad, blue-eyed preciousness?????

lucys puffy winter coat

I hope this is helpful for you, if you’re kind of feeling like Bummer McBummerson about winter. Maybe you could write your own Winter Manifesto??? If you want to design it for free, I used picmonkey.com which is fun and easy.

If you do make your own, comment and share it with me!!!

Artist of the Month: Brooke Reed!

Kicking off the new year is our Artist of the Month for January, my dear friend, Brooke!!! Some of you may remember a certain post describing our kindred-spiritedness and mutual love of fancy-letter-writing and other things  last summer. (It was possibly my favorite post. Ever.) 

Brooke is a 6th grade language arts teacher, as well as being in charge of theatre productions where she works. (Basically, she’s the coolest ever.) If it weren’t for the fact that being best friends with her is LITERALLY THE BEST then I would want to be able to somehow go back to junior high and have her for a teacher. (And that’s saying something.) She epitomizes a crucial aspect of what I look for in an artist to feature: she is doing noble, creative work- a daily chiseling away at a mountain to find the masterpiece. She boldly creates beauty out of her life, and comes alongside little not-quite-people in their stories, and pours into them inspiration and exhortation to the same excellence she achieves and pursues.

Her creativity, brilliance, humility, and passion for Christ set her apart. When she speaks, people listen. And you should too. Today, she puts into words what I keep trying to over and over. This is why we need each other as creatives/people/children of God. Enjoy.

10262231_10202928670434466_7941292855457927778_n

Standing in the park, I looked at the tulip trees towering above me, golden and beaming, clapping their branches, and I imagined the gates of heaven are tulip trees. My inmost being cried out, “I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart! I will enter His courts with praise!” I prayed to see the courts of the Lord, and I gave thanks. I remembered that Christ has overcome the world and that he has loved me with an everlasting love, and I felt exuberant.

5

Beauty does it to me. It bends my soul to the light of exuberance. The beauty of a cello solo moves my heart fibers like plucked strings. The beauty of the bend in a creek turns me to water and makes me long to transform into my namesake (Oh, that I could become a babbling brook for a day!).

The terrible paradox about me and beauty is that I crave it so badly I cannot savor it when it finds me. I want to capture it, bottle it, and keep it to myself that I might have it all the time, safe and secure whenever I need it. I want to steal that beauty; I want to ensure a way to hold it and use it to banish all the ugly, impure, and horrid in this life. Tragedy upon tragedy, in my thievery of beauty, I lose what was already mine. Beauty showed itself to me as a gift, but I was so busy trying to put a cork on it that I missed it: the music ended or the sun went down and I didn’t soak it in.

Beauty begs enjoyment, not ownership.

4

I am ashamed of my selfishness for beauty. When I can’t enjoy a sunny Saturday because I’m wishing my whole life could be sunny Saturdays and never cloudy Mondays, I know I’ve missed the mark and lost out on a beautiful day. Why can’t I soak the day in and be content?

But how can we be content in this life and yet yearn for something much more beautiful than this life? Why must I crave MORE?

Stories of Beauty

Stories might be my favorite beautiful thing. Stories get right at the core of something sacred. They shake a person from within.

letters 2

In third grade, my teacher read portions of Treasure in an Oatmeal Box to the class for fifteen minutes everyday before school let out. By the time we got to the end of the book, she cried so much she could barely read the words. We passed the tissue box to her, the air hanging heavy with depth, and everyone felt changed–even the boys who liked to staple their own thumbs were moved. I thought: stories can DO that. I remember the day in fourth grade I spent devouring A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I had to stop every few pages to stare at the wall in awe. I could feel the words sink straight into the slivers of my soul and change me. I knew that stories like this were more: they cracked open the universe. They ripped open the ceiling of your bedroom and poured down the depth of a thousand histories and opened portals to a thousand futures and made you forget your singular self to become part of something bigger. It was a MORE that brought unspeakable joy.

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There’s a beauty in story that invites me to enjoy it rather than try to capture it.
Maybe that’s because the Great Stories reflect the light of something I cannot keep all to myself. Maybe that beauty needs to be shared instead of bottled.  

I’m sharing C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair from The Chronicles of Narnia series to my sixth grade classes. We turn on all the cozy lamps and switch off the fluorescent lights. I sit in my reading chair. They sit on the floor. Together, we leave the world for a while and traverse through strange lands with Jill, Eustace, and Puddleglum.

I’m tempted to read a bit slower these next few days so our time in that story can last a little longer. It’s just so good. Sharing this story with a group of eleven-year-olds who get it–who understand what Aslan’s about and who see their own stories through Jill’s–is an incredible privilege I will never forget. And here’s what those kids understand: at the beginning, Aslan sits with Jill on a mountain top far above the world. He gives her a quest to carry out far below the mountain in the land of Narnia and beyond. He tells her to remember four Signs that will guide her on her journey. “Don’t forget the Signs,” Aslan cautions. The Signs are meant to make her journey better.

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The Signs will guide her. Aslan tells her to repeat the Signs to herself when she wakes up in the morning and lies down at night, and if she wakes in the middle of the night she should repeat them again and again lest she forget them and lose herself along the way. Aslan reminds Jill that up on the mountain the air is clear and it is easy to remember the Signs, but down in Narnia and beyond the air is not so clear, and her mind will not be so clear.

If Jill does not take care to repeat the Signs, she will soon forget them and lose sight of the quest. Jill, as one might guess, soon gets selfish and greedy. She starts thinking about what she wants and forgets the quest. She muddles the Signs. The sixth graders understand that we are all a bunch of Jills.

And all of us Jills are really just a bunch of Israelites. Deuteronomy 11 opens on a group of Israelites who had forgotten God’s promises. They forget what he had done for them–how he scooped them out of Egyptian slavery and brought them into a covenant with him. They forgot that in the desert wasteland, God gave them manna from heaven so they would not starve. The Israelites forgot the commands. They forgot the promises. They forgot whom they served.

They forgot the story.

letters 1God commands the Israelites to remember the story of what he did for them–to never forget that he was faithful, is faithful, and will always remain faithful.

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth” (Deut. 11:16-21).

Don’t forget the Signs.

I have forgotten the Signs too often to admit, and it shames me. I have forgotten God’s promises. When God says, “I have kept my covenant to you” and “in this world you will have troubles, but take heart, for I have overcome the world,” I blunder about and wonder why my life cannot always be beautiful and why must I tarry in this ugly world AND I MISS IT. I miss the beauty in God’s kept promises that he has plastered all over this place. Infinite beauty lies in the written Word and yet many days I neglect to read it and wonder why I’m yearning for something MORE. I miss the beauty of a life well lived that sees God’s faithfulness in all things and accepts him like a gift, palms open wide.

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In the park, under the tulip trees, God reminded me of his faithfulness, and
it was beautiful. I read a story in those trees and the words said, “Remember the Signs!” I remember that the Lion is good. I remember that he is beautiful.

There is boldness and might in the beauty of his love. He draws our eyes up to the treetops and down to the pages of a story and asks us to drink in it. Soak it up. Savor all this beauty. Share it with another because there’s so much of it to go around. Know that the Lord is beautiful. And if he is true Beauty, I cannot possibly hope to bottle him up and keep him for myself. Rather, his beauty is so vast the whole earth cannot contain it, not even in the pages of a book.


When You Just Have to Try Something.

Sometimes, my husband doubts my ideas.

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And by “my ideas” I mean “my concept of how many pieces of furniture can fit and/or look good in a room.” (Admittedly, a legitimate concern of his… sometimes.)

ponies 3And really, I guess it wasn’t so much doubt as mentioning he wasn’t sure if this organizational cube(s) thing would fit in Lucy’s room with this pretty, old wooden crib his mom gave us.

Lately, I’ve been trying to figure out how she can find and enjoy playing with her toys in a more functional and less making-me-crazy way than just leaving them all scattered all over her floor (this is child #1, and as such, this is the first time we’re having to deal with the whole toys-everywhere situation). 

toys close upI’ve had this white cube thing for a few years now, and just knew it’d be a great way to store everything in a more accessible way for her (while also fixing the mess issue, which just makes me want to either a) throw all the toys in the closet, or b) throw them away period. What can I say? I’m a purge-er).

However, the crib is big enough that it didn’t look like there was enough room for it and the magical-organizational-sanity-restoring cube thing. (Also, my piano is in there too; it doesn’t really fit anywhere else in my apartment.) Plus, she loves putting her toys to “sleep” in the crib, so I wanted her to be able to play with it.

All this to say, I just wanted her room to feel a) pretty, b) organized, and c) like it looked intentional (you know, versus a here-are-all-the-things-we-couldn’t-fit-in-our-storage-unit look). 

So, I just did it. I took that cube-thing out of her closet where it was only semi-purposefully storing some stuff, and put it where I’d been thinking of putting it for months in her room.

lucys room 2

And you guys. It totally works!! So, what that the crib is now in the middle of the room? I’m totally ok with it. Lucy is playing with all her toys so much more now because of this set up.

little crib

Frankly, I can’t believe I waited this long to try risking putting this in her room! And I can tell it’s serving both my sanity and her playtime well. For one thing, within a minute of having set it up, she picked up something she hadn’t played with in weeks (because it was either in the aforementioned mess of stuff in her room/under her crib or in her closet).

cubesAnd maybe I’ll move the crib/other furniture around in her room some time. That’s the thing: it’s not permanent. If you move your furniture and don’t like it- you can just move it back. I know it sounds obvious, and yet somehow it still took me several months to just try it.

leiaP.S. My super amazing and talented sister made those two adorable little critters!!! She has a fabulous Etsy shop called All on Hooks and Needles which you really should check out!

While this is not a home decor blog, and while the pictures aren’t fancy, and while a billion people have a cube-thing like this in their homes (and have done so for years), this was a small risk I took this week.

teacup

Not all risks paid off, but it’s nice to at least start with a couple of easy wins like this one (I would say “and the curtains, too” but my husband might beg to differ since he’s the one who had to take down the blinds and install the curtains).

Sometimes, you just need to try something. I’m glad I did. Especially because I could’ve just put it back where it was, if it didn’t work out. But small wins, people!

Small wins.

Risk in 2016. Start with Curtains. And Read This Book.

It’s a new year, and there are TOTALLY curtains in my house, you guys. What can I say? We know how to kick off the new year right.

curtains

I know curtains aren’t exactly on the top 10 most exciting things in the universe list, but for me, the whole process has been a rush.

Oh, you thought I was kidding? Well, this is awkward. Let me explain.

For Christmas, my brilliant mother used my brilliant Pinterest Wish List board as my Christmas list (aka the whole reason I made it up! well, mostly it was intended for my hubs to nudge him in the right direction should he need such a thing…) and the brilliant result was her brilliant purchase of the brilliant book, The Nesting Placeby The Nester (aka Myquillin Smith).

nesting place

If I didn’t already love The Nester, than I am over the moon about her now. (Nester, if you’re reading this, I promise it’s in a totally non-creepy, you’re-my-new-best-friend-whether-you-like-it-or-not, super chill kind of way.) 

I love her philosophy on decorating your home… because it’s not just decorating your home. It’s working to create a place of beauty, love, connection, fun- a safe place for your family to dwell and grow and live. “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful,” as she says.

The biggest thing I took away from this book? Permission. To make mistakes. To try rearranging stuff- maybe even to (gasp!) spray paint something.

To take risks.

Risk. 

Ah, that beautiful, terrible word. Something I’m altogether abysmal at most of the time. (Remember this?) I’m not sure if I was always this bad at taking risks, or if being a “grown-up” has just thrown my fear out into the open where everyone (or at least I) can see it.

maywerisk

Reading The Nesting Place just proved to me how bad I’ve gotten at it, because I realized I’ve been somewhat afraid to try things in my own home. And if you can’t take risks in your own home, then where on earth can you?

One of the best things about Myquillin’s book is that she talks frequently- and creatively- about living in rentals. There is this one part where she talks about how renters are the “unreached people group of the design world” and I totally agree!! My favorite quote from that section is this:

Sure, there are all sorts of inspiring ideas for those singles in New York City leasing tiny lofts with exposed brick walls. But what about the suburban mom? What about someone like me who struggles with feeling second class as the renter in the subdivision with the HOA full of homeowners? What about the military family or the missionaries or the pastor’s family living in the parsonage sometimes referred to as “the dilapidated shack next to the church?” – Smith, p. 21

(Incidentally, how do you cite quotes from books in a blog post? I’m sure someone out there is grammatical and anal enough to know the answer… Watch my husband correct me later… Love you, babe!)

That part about the pastor’s family in the parsonage/shack? I’ve lived it, folks. (And admittedly, it wasn’t as dilapidated as some parsonages out there are. Still… I think it was built in the sixties or seventies when apparently no one wanted sunlight in their homes because the windows were small.)

And the part about NYC tiny lofts with exposed brick walls? I literally yelled, “Preach!” when I read it, because seriously- go look on Pinterest right now for aparment decor ideas. I guarantee that among the first few pins you find there will be links that feature apartments Just. Like. That. I’m over here like, yeah, if there were exposed brick walls and hard wood floors in my apartment , I’m sure it would look that awesome too! Meanwhile, most apartment-dwellers in the country live in the spectrum of crappy carpet with ominous/ambiguous stains and weird-cream-ish colored walls (and that’s if you’re lucky).

But I digress.

The whole point is that I’ve decided- this year we’re going to take some risks. And since I’m out of practice, they’ll probably be smallish risks, comparatively speaking. And yes, a number of them will be risks in our home- which right now is an apartment. (Really, a pretty nice apartment compared to a lot that we could be living in… and/or have lived in.)

I wish I could remember where it is in the book, (you know, so I could improperly cite it) but one of my favorite things she says is something to the effect of: don’t cheat on your current home by dreaming about your dream home or “the next home” etc.

I took that and thought of it in terms of life, too. Dreaming is healthy, but I want to be excellent at loving the life we’re living right now. As Aimee Brown says, “I’m so glad it’s right now.”

That’s how I want to be. Don’t get me wrong- I still love Pinterest and daydreaming in general, but I want to be fully present in the gift of this moment, because that’s all I truly have.

The Lord holds the rest. As for taking risks in the right now, I’m starting with little ones, like putting up curtains in my apartment. And people, they were 10 bucks at Walmart, and they’re super neutral. But they look 5 times more beautiful than those heinous vertical blinds that were there before. (Seriously- WHY vertical blinds, I ask you, apartment complexes of the world?)

It only took me three years to take the risk of putting up curtains. If anyone has tips for taking risks in your home, or just how to rent beautifully, I’m all ears!

 

Welcome 2016! Let’s risk together.