Rejoice!

This is one of my favorite words. I love it so much I painted it into some watercolor steam from a watercolor coffee cup. But it’s one of those that I selectively favor, you know? Because rejoicing “always” like Paul says (and says again) often does not feel natural.

Especially when it’s snowing and you were hoping to wear something breezy and springy. Like today.

Or when you are STILL getting over a cold that it seems you’ve had for a month. Like me.

Or when all you want to eat is a cranberry-orange muffin from Panera and they’ve been out of it two separate times in the past week. Like this week.

I was thinking over my thoughts and had to laugh a little bit at myself. Really? You’re upset over a muffin? (To which my inner drama queen tossed her hair dramatically and replied, “Certainly, a muffin. Is there any pastry more significant or perfect than that?!?!”)

Really, those examples are silly, and I know it. Those aren’t real struggles to rejoice; they’re just me not getting my way. (Except the muffin… and I ask for prayers that Panera will get it together and have enough cranberry-orange muffins to go around next time.)

Really, I know plenty of people that are in the midst of actual struggles. Mind-numbing, head-swirling, heart-breaking struggles. Circumstances that I can’t pretend to understand. You know, the ones that leave you so altered that you can’t remember a time when you didn’t operate from a place of fight-or-flight mentality.

Rejoice

Maybe you’re there now. And if so, this one goes out to you. May Christ sustain you. May the Spirit renew you. May God fight for you. Actually, he’s already doing all of those things. So, I pray that you will be confident in him, and that he will restore your rejoicing.

Even now.

If you’re like me, and just struggling to get your own way sometimes, let’s just simmer down and settle into the love of the Lord together. Let’s rejoice like pretty lavender-y steam rising from our collective coffee cups to heaven.

It’s audacious at best to admonish anyone these days, and often considered insulting. But Paul says in his blunt, unaffected way- REJOICE. He doesn’t care what you think. He just loves the Lord, and desires that you love him too. Probably because he knows that loving the Lord will always yield rejoicing.

So, I audaciously remind you (and myself) wherever you find yourself:

Rejoice!

Rejoice 2

How to Breathe Spring Air in Mid-February

It seems like all I want to do lately is google pictures of beach desktop wallpaper. I settled on this one:

beautiful-beach-wide-hd-wallpaper-for-desktop-background-download-beach-images-free

I think it’s because I’ve officially reached my winter quota.

I know, I know, I made my manifesto printable last month, but still. It’s been snowy and cold enough that I’m starting to go a little stir crazy. And is it just me, or do things seem more difficult to accomplish in winter?

Everything feels more cumbersome. Driving is precarious and slow-going, it’s really hard to wake up because you feel cocooned in your plush comforter (and also, the dark and cold makes it feel like the middle of the night even at 7:00 AM)… even clothes are uninviting! In the fall, I rejoice to get out my sweaters and boots, but come February when I’m still wearing the same 3 sweaters all the time, it just leaves me feeling frumpy and blah.

Spring! my soul cries. Spring should be here now! Ah, but not for another month, says the annoyingly cheery weather man. Fine, I reply icily, putting my chunky sweater back on.

Sometimes life fields as unwieldy as mid-February in the midwest. Nothing works quite right, you’ve forgotten what the sun looks like, and you are desperate for the new air to breathe.

That’s why this verse has been such an anchor for me lately.

Lengthen the steps

I had to paint some springy flowers and happy polka dots on it. Don’t they seem hopeful?

The two phrases that I’m especially leaning on are “Your answers make me great” and “You lengthen the steps I can take.” Have you ever heard this before? Whether you have or not, let it soak into your soul, because who else’s answers can make you great? Sometimes people offer nice answers or okay answers, but the only One whose answers make me great- filled with hope and goodness again- is the Lord.

That is a breath of new life in this stale winter air.

And so is the second part. Sometimes we don’t feel like we can take another step. But Jesus. Even now, he helps us move our feet forward in faith, and and we look behind and see that a small step turned out to be a leap.

Thank you, Lord for this. This love letter of yours is making me great. It’s filling me up with spring time even as the earth remains in winter’s wait.

I hope this feels like breathing new air for your soul today. At least for a moment. Hang on, kindred spirits. Spring is only a month away!

Owning Your Home {Even If You Don’t}

As I keep saying, this is not a home decor blog exactly. Except maybe it is, kind of. Because I keep posting home decor stuff. So, whatever. I love decor.

It’s not just because it’s pretty. It’s the feeling of ownership it gives me over my home. It’s a dream of mine to cultivate a home of abundance, joy overflowing, and safety along with risk-taking.

Even if we don’t “own” our apartment, we can still own our home. We own our responsibility to fulfill the role God’s given to each of us, and personally, I’m hard wired to create a space that’s full of tangible lovelies like accent pillows as well as full of abundance and joy and whatnot. I even think accent pillows and such can accentuate (see what I did there?) the purpose and intention we bring to our homes.

Now, having finished The Nester’s Cozy Minimalist Course, I’m loving the freedom I’ve found in rearranging, in risking new nail holes and switching up lamps. Simple changes that left me breathing a sigh of relief! And I didn’t break the bank, you guys!!

accent pillowsYeah, the couch is diagonal now. I still like the earlier arrangement where it was more perpendicular, but I think it’ll stay this way for awhile. And look at the accent pillows!!! No red, people!! (All the red in my house has been grating on me for awhile, in case you didn’t know… this excludes Valentine’s decorations of course.)

Mom may have taken me shopping for the pillows… We found the aqua-ish one and the grey-square-patterened one at Bed, Bath, & Beyond on megasale- yay! And the other grey one and the big neutrally one came from this glorious warehouse store called “At Home” here in town, and they were also on the cheap. (The far left one I already had.)

back of couch better

This bench made it back to the back of the couch. I just like it! Plus, the blanket-covered basket next to it on the floor hides a bunch of wires. Yay, hidden wires!

The Nester always says (and which I repeat seemingly once a post), it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. Whew! Amen. Isn’t that wonderful? Aren’t you breathing a little easier? Because I am.

Today, I’m clearly sharing some further rearrangements we’ve made to the living room, which is the room I chose to focus on for this project since it vexed me the most.

Even if we don’t “own” our apartment, we can still own our home. 

I know a couple weeks ago I shared my new arrangement of the room, without any extras like wall art or anything on shelves etc. But then my mom came for a visit and our wheels got turning (and we shopped for accent pillows obviously) and we changed it again. And that’s ok, friends! Did you know you’re allowed to change stuff around in your house??

gallery ish wall closer

My very first gallery wall. I mean, I think this is technically a gallery wall, right? Well, whatever it is, I like it. And as I create more springy items for the shopI’ll probably switch out what’s in the frames for those things (however, both of those framed pictures are available for digital download from my shop if you like them). Eventually, I’ll also paint over that flowers-in-the-water piece, which I’d painted back in college and forgotten about. I mostly put chose it to fulfill the need for a wider/more landscape layout type picture, but also because of the color.

You know, the thermostat is still there, but it’s not that big of a deal. Plus, when there are so many other happy things to draw your eye, who’s complaining?

gallery ish wallAll this time, I treated the stuff in my living room like it was bolted to the floor somehow, and that there was just no other possible way to situate the furniture, and that I had no art that would look good on the walls, or anything. (Gosh, don’t we get melodramatic when we’re dissatisfied? Or maybe I should just say “I” instead of dragging you into it.)

I didn’t do much besides just shift things around that were on the entertainment center shelves. I pretty much liked everything there already, but it feels freshened up now.

ent center

Still tweaking the area on top, but I’m ok with it for now.

shelf left side 1

I still love showcasing things like my letters which just bring me joy every time I look at them.

shelf

And “You are my sunshine” is a phrase you can find in several places around our home, mostly because my husband sings that song to Lucy every night before we put her to bed. (It’s pretty much the sweetest thing ever.)

sunshine

In the course, we talked about utilizing different shapes and textures in the room in general, but also in vignettes like these, so here I obviously have a few different shapes/textures/colors/neutrals that I think are pretty happy together.

clock

And then there’re plants… Of course, it’s no secret that I kind of have a grey thumb, so these flowers are fake. But I love them! And I love this box, because it stores stuff and it’s cute and sort of neutral but stylish at the same time.

orange flowers

Did you see the happy lamp? Well, the happy lamp shade? Actually, I think the shade makes the lamp happy, so it is a happy lamp…

lampAnd I know Valentine’s day was two days ago, but I still have a couple really cute decorations up… Nothing over the top, just this heart pillow (I don’t count the XOXO pillow, which is going to be out all the time.)

xoxo chair

I know. The chair doesn’t have a real slipcover; it has a fuzzy cream-colored blanket. We haven’t been able to find one for it that isn’t exorbitantly expensive. So, my mom and I might attempt to make one?? Maybe? Or we’ll just switch out chairs? Or something.

xoxo chair close up

I love banners, don’t you? And I love this Be Mine banner I hung on our mirror. Between that and the roses, it feels pretty Valentine’s-ish without being Party City in my dining area.

be mine wall

But I come back to accent pillows… Because oh! how I love them.Other accent pillows

Especially the aqua one… I think he knows he’s my favorite.

accent pillows yay

 

Like I said, none of this is perfect, or even finished! But that’s the other thing we learned in the Cozy Minimalist course: a room is never quite finished, because our families change and seasons change. Our home needs to continue serving all of us, which means it will look different at different times.

Kind of like how there’s nothing on my coffee table. I always loved putting cute stuff on it, but I have a toddler so cute stuff has to live in other places. I’m actually enjoying this cleared-off-coffee-table season! Turns out you don’t have to have cute stuff on every surface in your house.

I feel like I learned so much through this course, and strongly recommend it to you, if you are someone who wants to love your home as it is and doesn’t have a lot of time or money, or who has lots of both but struggles to take risks in their home, or someone like me who is a combination of all of those things!

Thanks so much to The Nester (who doesn’t know me or know that I’m posting about this course, fyi) for creating and generously sharing this course with the world. It’s well worth the cost, especially when you feel like a good friend is stopping by to help you with your homemaking struggles.

That’s one room down (sort of) and several to go at our house. But now, I feel like I can tackle all the others, too.

Don’t forget, friend, we can own our homes!

Artist of the Month: Humilitea Design {by Kara Cline}

For February’s Artist of the Month, we are featuring Kara Cline of Humilitea Design!!! This post has been a long time coming, and I’m so excited that Kara is sharing her heart with you today! I met Kara when I was a freshman in college and have counted her one of my dearest friends ever since. Almost immediately after meeting her, I experienced her decided spiritual gift of hospitality; even in our crumbly dorm rooms, hers always felt like someplace homey and peaceful, where there was always a cup of hot tea in your hand practically right after you set foot in the door.

Kara is multi-talented as a gifted photographer, potter, writer, painter, hand-letterer, and musician (and probably something else she hasn’t bothered to mention to me), with a deep and abiding love of Jesus and every person she meets (with whom she is immediately friends).

I can’t say enough about Kara’s generous and perceptive heart, nor her overflowing creativity, nor her gorgeous flowing locks of golden hair. (I mean, seriously people, no one has hair like hers…) So, I’ll just stop saying things and let her take over. I’m sure there’s enough hot tea or coffee- or both- here for you and enough good words for your soul, too. Enjoy.

windblown Kara

Hello fellow artist hearts and kindred spirits. Allow me to share a cup of coffee with you for a few moments, welcome you to my kitchen table as the snowflakes swirl outside, and be vulnerable with you.  I want to share something I struggle with every day.  You see, I’ve been procrastinating. Procrastinating to write this blog post, and, really, to create in general… because I’m afraid.

green vine

If I take a long hard look, I’m really astonished at how fear has managed to snake it’s way into my heart.  Entwining it’s coils around every beautiful young plant that God has intended for good and for strength. It suffocates delicate shoots before they even press all the way through the soil, and chokes the light out of things that my Creator desires to use to help bring about wholeness and healing in this broken world.

yellow leaf

As an artist I look at the tangled mess in my spirit and a voice slithers out and says that I am alone in this. The voice mocks and claims that God cannot use anything that comes from these two hands.  The voice reasons that I am ugly through and through, and that no beauty can come from such a jumble of insecurities and half-hearted attempts at creating.

snow on red

But, dear children of the Living God, I say this to myself as much as to you. That voice is a liar.

statue

Christ has rescued me from the power of sin and death. Through His blood He has transformed me from a charred sinner into His holy and beautiful daughter. He has completely changed my life! Why, why, WHY then do I insist on viewing His gift of creativity in my life as a filthy rag?  Why am I ashamed of it, holding it at arms length and desperately searching for a place to hide it lest people discover I’m a fraud?  Why am I terrified of practice and of falling down? Why am I so prideful that I allow fear to keep me from sharing such gifts?  Why do I say they aren’t good enough?

chimney

I’m rejecting His gifts and I’m making the Holy Spirit heartsick.

Friends, even though that deceptive voice keeps telling me that I’m alone, I know that I’m not. Once you dig through the surface, so many of us artists struggle with the exact same thing, but we’re fighting a battle that has already been won on our behalf.

“… for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

“ Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

For so long I have let this fear and procrastination prevent the use of so many blessings. I can make excuses and put off sitting down to my pottery wheel, picking up my camera, or pressing my piano keys, and I usually do. I envision myself in an imaginary future where I am suddenly adept at all of those skills, or I look through my Instagram feed and fuel the consuming fire of comparison until I am immobilized. The real tragedy of this though, is that my days on this earth are passing more quickly each year, and I am wasting the precious time that my Father has given me.  It may sound dramatic, but it is nonetheless true.  We are eternal beings, yes, but our time in this world is not infinite.

Lucy

How can we let such gifts stagnate when this globe is crying out for hope and purpose? It is no coincidence that the favorite tools of the enemy against creatives are fear and discouragement.  The liar wants to keep us deceived.  We have been blessed with creative voices.  They are voices that are meant to be used, and used right now.  Yes, we will create countless things that are far from perfection, but our God is a God who takes broken things and makes them beautiful.

Psalm 139 14

 

So please, be encouraged from someone who is still fighting those lies.  Whether your gifts are music, sculpting, homemaking, writing, painting, conversation, or a myriad of other combinations, don’t listen to the deception anymore that you have no place in the world as an artist.  Turn your attention to the one who gave you such wonderful gifts…and pour out.

gnarledtreePour out to the One who has made you, dear friends.  Pour out healing beauty on this fractured earth, and be not afraid.

watercolor pottery

 

I’m so thankful for Kara stopping by to share these vulnerable thoughts that so often plague us as artist, and for sharing a sampling of her beautiful photography with us!!!  (Remember back in October when she did our family photos? She captured us so perfectly!) You can see more of her photography here. Coming soon is her Etsy shop of her gorgeous, rustic pottery creations! I’ll be sure to share the link with you all as soon as it’s up.

 

How to Make February Lovely

For the last couple of years, I’ve been really excited about Valentine’s Day. I think it’s mainly because Valentine’s Day provides something to celebrate in the middle of February, when winter seems to reign supreme and it feels like spring is never coming.

However this year, I’m actually enjoying winter, you guys. Maybe it’s because I have been working to intentionally shift my perspective regarding this frigid season (by creating that Winter Manifesto free printable a few weeks ago), or maybe it’s also how mild our winter has been so far… I’d like to think it’s some of both.

Winter Manifesto SnowflakesMy surprising enjoyment notwithstanding, I still love that Valentine’s Day is something special to look forward to while the world is still brown and/or snow-covered and bundled up.

Maybe we don’t have a big party, or a even a big fancy date night, but Valentine’s Day provides a chance to create something beautiful in the midst of what sometimes feels like an unbeautiful season. Which is the whole reason I made that Winter Manifesto in the first place.

I don’t know whether you like to decorate for Valentine’s Day, throw parties, or just sit at home in your pjs watching a girly movie with your man (who we are assuming in this scenario loves you enough to watch girly movies… or secretly likes them himself), but here are some fun ideas I found lately that might help you emerge from the wintery stupor of February:

  1. This party (It’s elaborate, it’s pretty, and I want to go to there. Click the pic to go there yourself.)valentines-day-party1-640x640
  2. This simple adorable mantle (click the pic to find the post featuring this and a bunch of other really cute Valentine’s Decor ideas… some are over the top, but it’s still fun!)a7ca6fa6b98e853e3aeac39ed77e0f73
  3. This just looks fun, and you could use these any time- not just for Valentine’s.0ec07e8b6b51c18261085a790fbfbd77

Those are just a few fun ideas to brighten your day and maybe get you a smidgen more excited about life. But if you need some real loving, some true encouragement, here are some links to things that have encouraged me lately:

  1. If you haven’t visited gracelaced.com and heard from Ruth Simmons, go read about her story of visiting Ecuador, children sponsored through Compassion International, and watching a Quechua girl get her first set of paints: What+Every+Mama+Dreams+{Compassion+Bloggers+Trip+Ecuador+2016,+Day+4} Ruth paints beautiful pieces herself, and I love reading her posts on Instagram. You can find her at @gracelaced. Look at this gorgeous print! Anyone who sponsors a child during the Compassion Bloggers trip to Ecuador gets this print for free!!! (Go to her post and scroll down to the bottom for the details.)Screen-Shot-2016-02-03-at-10.08.20-AM
  2. I love this list of prayers by Emily P. Freeman at her blog, chattingatthesky.com AMondayPrayer
  3. This print from my shop. I don’t know if it’s weird to share something I created as encouragement, but I recently caught the last 75% of this movie on TV, which was like, the highlight of my week. It’s a bold message. And really, it’s a biblical message. We are to be courageous as disciples of Christ, and full of love and kindness for others. That’s hard to do, but it’s good. CinderellaQuoteMockup2 It reminds me of Colossians 4:4-6

And pray that I may speak, as I should, in a way that makes the message clear. Behave wisely toward outsiders, making full use of every opportunity- let your conversation always be gracious and interesting, so that you will know how to respond to any particular individual.”

I don’t always feel equipped to respond to every individual, but trusting in the Lord gives me courage, knowing that my job is to be kind and godly towards everyone. Not that I always do a great job of this, but that through his grace I get another opportunity to do so.

I hope this was a mix of frivolity and encouragement today. And I pray that you will feel some light trickle in to your soul today, so you can go out and be courageous and kind, gracious and interesting.

Let’s make February lovely together!