Happy 2017- Wait. Let’s Try That Again.

The month of January was a month of false starts. After traveling for two weeks with our little girls, we got home. Ahhh home.

After we unpacked and ever-so-promptly did all the laundry and cleaned up the assorted Christmas debris, I prepared to settle in, get a new calendar, arrange my life in ever-so-orderly a fashion.

Focus, I thought to myself. Focus shall be my word for this year. I will cultivate true presence with my husband, with our children, in our relationships. I will engage in the varied jobs and responsibilities I have with humility and attentiveness. I will be patient with where we are in life and savor the season with gratitude and joy. I will practice listening to the Holy Spirit and quiet my chatty soul.

And all in all, I shall transcend the heretofore tolerated messes in my life and failures of character into a rosy, glorious existence of serenity and wisdom.

I mean. So much serenity, you guys.

These are the things I considered with much anticipation as we undecorated in the last day of December and first of January. And then, January second arrived, and I’m pretty sure Peeves the Poltergeist was lurking somewhere  enjoying the coming upheaval, cackling in delight. He was probably also eating popcorn…

First, I got a cold. Then, in those first days of January, Ryan asked me, “Where’s your wallet?” I unconcernedly assured him I didn’t know, but that I’d find it. Fast forward to a week later, by which point we had ransacked all of our earthly possessions and even gotten so desperate as to call the Cracker Barrel we ate at on our way home from Christmas traveling. No luck.

On top of that, one of my big toes started hurting. Real bad. It started as a minor annoyance that first week of January, but by the end of the second week, I was limping around pathetically, with a swollen, gross horror movie of a toe. I decided I was probably dying.

So, we paid the urgent care $100 only to have the doc come in and say, “Yeah, I don’t do toes. That’s infected. You should go to a podiatrist.” And I was like, “Greeeaaat. Would you like to tell me any more obvious things while I light some more money on fire?”

Later that week, we went to the podiatrist. Let’s just leave some mystery there. I don’t think you really want to know what they had to do to my toenail… Regardless, it was expensive. So, you know, a really good time to lose my wallet (and the extra Christmas money we’d received which was inside it).

“Focus.” I flinched as my glowingly good-intentioned word for the year arose in my mind. The irony was not lost on me.

Meanwhile, marchers protested and blew up the internet with their signs and their rage and their holy hashtags. What was all this about? I wondered. I looked into it and was kind of like, “Wait, so what are they marching for again? Did Trump like, veto women’s rights to vote and I missed it??? Oh. They’re just…preemptively protesting. Got it. Well, they’re allowed… Oh, and pro-life groups were removed from the list of protesters. Okay.” I felt increasingly disconnected from this group. Which is weird, since I’m a woman.

But I say this because the holy hashtaggers flooded social media, and subsequently another wave in the onslaught of political arguments resulted across the board. Friends I know deactivated their Facebook accounts. (I didn’t. Because cute pictures of other people’s babies, you know.)

So it felt like I’d stumbled into 2017, into a loud, distracting mess. I wanted to back away slowly- back into 2016. Maybe no one would notice?

But we can’t run away from our messes. Does that mean we join protests? Do we take the bait and follow the crowds? Follow the popular instagrammers, YouTubers, some who used to be pillars of faith and now have decided a deep end of half-truths is a better place to dive than to face the hard things- minor or major- head on?

Clearly, I experienced some disillusionment as these things transpired. Not that I now despise anyone who is well known or think blogging is a waste, or that hashtags are evil. (They’re not necessarily. They’re fun, and I usually overuse them.) But I just reminded myself that I’m not one of their “followers.” I am a follower of Christ.

No, I’m a disciple of Christ. And that means certain things for how I view the world.

For one thing, it means that when a mini-maelstrom of minor calamities befalls me, I don’t feed my fearful, suspicious side. You know, that ominous voice inside that says, “It’s a sign. Doom is at hand. This will be the year of crap.” 

Instead, I say, “You know what, no.” Just because January threw a fit and marched in protest of not being 2016 anymore doesn’t mean it’s worth coloring all the other months in similar hues. I am not the victim I once was. Not that I’m not weak, but that Christ’s strength is growing inside me. This is a time to be a victor.

So, whatever, January. You sucked and you’re over. Also, you didn’t suck because the Lord helped me drive a stake in the ground and declare that even times of losing my wallet and subsequently our Christmas money, times of stupid toenails and stupid toe infections, times when I have a cold on top of all the other stuff and can’t take any normal decongestants because I’m nursing, times when half-baked opinions and wholehearted unkindness is rampant- in the midst of times like those, I can be joyful. Because the Lord is sufficient in all things; he always gives us what we need.

And he did.

Aimee always says that laughter is usually her default. I decided that was a better plan than implosion. So I tried laughing at all the distractions. I asked God to help my trust sing louder than the noise- trust that he would provide, that we could handle this, that light is still brighter than darkness, and that darkness is paltry and puny in comparison.

It worked out well. Because you know what? Someone left a Walmart gift card with a hefty amount on it anonymously at our door. Ryan ended up receiving a chunky check for some work he did recently. And several other providential, out-of-the-blue things like that happened. In fact, only a few hours after my procedure at the podiatrist, we received word about that check. Hours, you guys.

God is good. He gives us everything we need. And I realized these distractions were just opportunities- to focus. So that’s still my word for the year.

Therefore, I will not be joining the ubiquitous tantrum that everyone is throwing about how terrible things were in 2016, or will be in 2017, or whatever.

Instead, let’s throw a party. Or at least have some cake pops. Let’s be people who add flavor to the world. It’s February. Happy New Year!

Imperfect, Artful Living. {Sweet Days + iPhone Memories + Art}

Man. I can’t believe our 2nd baby girl is about to join us. Any day now… Really. Any day. *AHEM.*

I was looking through my phone and the RIDICULOUS amount of photos there, and saw the increasing fullness of this year- from my belly to our schedules- and back to my belly. It’s been dizzying (sometimes downright nauseating- ha), unexpected, miraculously productive, risky, and so good.

 

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I’ve been so blessed to work on multiple custom orders for the shopnew exciting illustration projects that hopefully you’ll hear about some time, whimsical thank you cards, and of course the autumn pieces I shared recently which are my happy place. All of this means I’ve not only created more items for the shop, but I’ve had more business- real, actual business- from the shop this year! Easily more than double last year! That’s such a huge blessing.

 

Beyond work or the shop or any measurable productivity, as summer wraps up- ANY DAY NOW please– I find the deluge of iPhone photos reminding me it hasn’t been all to-do lists and travels (though often it felt that way). 

There have been coffee shop visits, in which much prancing around in tutus occurred:

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There was the annual weekend lakehouse trip with our small group:

 

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There was the incredible and unexpected experience of getting to perform 8 months pregnant at Gospelfest in Kettering, Ohio alongside 9 other artists (and Sidewalk Prophets!)- all of whom had to audition back in June (except Sidewalk Prophets…obviously). That process alone was a risk for me, and definitely a challenge, considering Ryan had to take the afternoon off work and lug a keyboard and equipment and our toddler across town to make that even happen!

It was one surprising moment after another- not the least of which was being asked by one of the audition judges to be on her radio show the day before the performance! I’ve definitely never done that before. Lucy enjoyed it, too!

 

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Oh, don’t mind my crazy eyes and dorky face. I was just freaking out a little…

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The concert happened the next day in an outdoor venue. Naturally, the weather decided to helpfully be either 91 degrees with 200% humidity or crazy thunderstorms that caused a 45 minute delay- RIGHT before it was my turn to perform. So, just more time for me to feel nauseous backstage, no big deal… (My husband was so awesome; at one point during our wait, he said, “You’re gonna Adele the crap out of this place.” I just love that man.)

 

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In case you’re wondering what love looks like? It wears a raging bright orange poncho. And it runs through the rain to make sure all your stuff is okay.

Oh yeah! I had a booth there too… that’s the stuff to which I’m referring. All the artists had the option of utilizing a booth, and this was my very first time actually having all my Etsy shop stuff out somewhere for purchase!

 

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(Hey look- Bethany is totally hiding in the background! And WOW I’m so pregnant in this photo. Who knew I could get even more pregnant than this?)

That whole weekend was filled with such meaning and encouragement! Dear friends rode over with my parents- a 2 hour drive one way- to come and see me perform (and get totally drenched in sweat followed by torrents of rain). Not to mention people from our church who came out to support me, and even other extended family who I rarely get to see! I felt overwhelmed with encouragement and that they all took the time to come and be part of such a great experience with me!

Then, the last two weekends were occupied with two separate women’s retreats…at which I led worship. Because I’m super good at planning. Yet, in spite of how exhausting it is to really do anything at this point, all of those endeavors were such a blessing! I’ve prayed for God to open doors and provide opportunities for me to utilize the abilities I have, and I’ve even prayed for opportunities to risk!

This year has been chock full of those. Throughout the summer, I’ve just prayed desperately that God would help me get all the work done I needed to before Evie is born! But now, other than my desire for her to arrive, I’ve prayed that he would help me savor the sweetness of these days, of these answered prayers, and especially this time with Lucy before we go from a family of 3 to a family of 4.

Yesterday, I told Lu we were going to have special Mommy + Lucy time and do fun stuff. “Fun stuff!” she gasped, “For us??” Just like that, which was the cutest ever. I kept it simple, which is pretty much all I have capacity for anyway, and documented our “fun stuff” as follows:

  1. Fall Coloring Pages- free via Google!

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I decided to make it feel semi-preschool-ish and talk all about fall, because obviously. So, after we talked about pumpkins and acorns and leaves and colored several pages, we watched some youtube videos for kids about fall which she loved. (Notice: she is looking super adorable in Ryan’s old Cubs t-shirt from when he was a little boy! How cute is that?!)

2. Making Peanut Butter Cookies! This was a brave activity for me to do with her. It was the first time I’ve ever had her help me make anything, thus I picked the easiest thing I could think of that was also cookies. My mom’s PB cookies have literally 3 ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup peanut butter

Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes and BAM! Peanut butter cookie deliciousness. There is no possible way you can mess these up. Oh, and you can sprinkle sugar on the top of them if you want. That’s optional. However, making a criss-cross pattern with a fork on each one is mandatory. I’m pretty sure that’s what makes them so good…

 

Lucy was a great helper! She helped dump the sugar in:

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Then she got to help stir with the bright green “fa-tchua!” which pretty much made her life.

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And then that 10-minute wait, in which we could barely contain our excitement as the cookies baked… Then they were done!

 

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Then this happened so fast, I’m pretty sure she just inhaled it.

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These aren’t perfect pictures. They were not carefully curated to be part of a blog post. But they’re here because this is part of living beautifully.

This is part of leaning into the art made in the imperfect moments: when you still have storage bins in the middle of your living room that have been there for weeks or your little one is in mismatched pajamas, or you find yourself wearing the same top and leggings all the time because literally nothing else fits because of the new life preparing to arrive (as evidenced by this rare photo of my prego-profile… I don’t typically post lots/any of those).

 

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I’m happy sharing our moments of imperfect art with you. Freshly baked from my iPhone. With a criss-cross pattern and sugar sprinkled on top.

For a little while, I’ll take a breather from writing here. But rest assured I won’t be able to stay away long! See you soon- most likely with lots more iPhone photos. Much Love!

 

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P.S. I almost forgot!!! 4 of my original songs are NOW AVAILABLE on Noisetrade!!!!! Eeep! I’m SO excited about this!!! CLICK HERE to go visit the page and download them!

Day 6: A Creative’s Playlist

Welcome to Day 6 of the On Being Creative series! You’ll find links to all the posts as they’re added on the series’ homepage here.

Day 6

So far, we’ve talked practical questions about creativity and our purpose as creatives, we’ve talked about some of the deep aches and struggles of the creative soul, and what kills our creativity and what cultivates it.

Dang. We sound smart, right?

And since we’ve talked at length about our doubts and discouragement, giving ourselves permission to dig deep and know that a breaking heart can provide breakthrough for our art, let’s take a breather today.

We’ve thoroughly acknowledged our struggles with darkness, so let’s just as ardently and bravely celebrate the light.

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I recently created a playlist on Spotify specifically for encouragement as a creative and to remind me to live life palms toward heaven, continuously worshiping and surrendering. And today I’m sharing the link with you.

Here it is!

It’s a mix of worship and folks songs by some of my favorite artists. Here are my top 10 must-hear songs from the list:

  1. Fool with a Fancy Guitar by Andrew Peterson
  2. Shine by Christa Wells
  3. Meant to Be by Carrollton
  4. No Longer I by Matt Redman
  5. Many Roads by Andrew Peterson
  6. I Shall Not Want by Audrey Assad
  7. The Sower’s Song by Andrew Peterson
  8. Warrior by Hannah Kerr
  9. Break Every Chain by Jesus Culture
  10. Grow by Kolby Koloff

Fool with a Fancy Guitar, Shine, Meant to Be, and Many Roads are especially relevant to the heart of a creative, and if you’re limited on time, I’d at least listen to those first! In the video I linked to Fool, Andrew explains he wrote it after reading someone’s negative review of one of his albums. I love that! Because it’s good to experience a piece of art created in response to struggle, isn’t it?

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I hope this gives you some beauty, some truth, and some powerful encouragement. I hope you can take some time to yourself when you can really pay attention to the lyrics of these songs; let them sink in.

(Did you know that I have my own music page here on the website? It’s at the top of the page under “Music.” Or you can just click here.)

 

 

 

On Being Creative {A Series}

Welcome to the homepage for the “On Being Creative” Series!

On Being Creative: A Series for the Hearts and Minds of Creatives Everywhere

 

This has been on my heart for awhile, because of what God’s been doing IN my heart. Writing for this series feels like I’m stretching some shaky, uncoordinated mental and emotional muscles with shaky, uncoordinated words to match.

 

But if you’re willing to walk a tremulous bridge of vulnerability, I welcome you into a deep and secret place where all my thoughts and desires regarding creativity live. May my pain meet yours where it’s at, may hope chase close behind, may my fumbling words say something good (may they say something period), and where you and I encounter my limits, may we see beyond them to the limitlessness of God, the first and greatest Creator.

 

You’ll find links to each post as they’re added. Come back any time! And please, I welcome your own contributions to the conversation. As we’ll see, stories build stronger bridges between us, and yours is no exception.

 

Day 1: Creativity: Practicality + Purpose + Place

Day 2: The Impossible Ache of the Creative Soul

Day 3: The One Word That Kills Creativity

Day 4: Five Tips to Cultivate Creativity

Day 5: Why Believing in Yourself Doesn’t Work {For the Creative Who Can’t Right Now}

Day 6: A Creative’s Playlist

Day 7: Minstrels and Bards {That’s What We Are}

Shop Feature: Armor of God + Warrior Princess

I mean, who doesn’t like a warrior princess??

Armor Shop Pic

This might be my most favorite thing at the shop yet! It was commissioned by my mom to give out to her Bible study group, who just finished Priscilla Shirer’s study, The Armor of God.

 

That’ll preach.

And I don’t think I’ve ever had so much delight doing a custom order for the shop as I had doing this one. My feisty, redheaded, swirly-haired warrior princess girl is basically who I want to be when I grow up. (Why can’t my actual hair look like hers???)

The bravery I imagine this girl to have somehow, magically inspired me to be brave as I drew/watercolored/inked her into being. Don’t you feel that way sometimes? That it’s entirely hit or miss whether what you create, work on, put out into the world will be good? Or perhaps even more accurately- do you worry it won’t be an accurate representation of the glory you envision for it?

I think God uses the creative process whether or not we feel up to the task and whether or not we feel that the result is whatever we are defining as “worthy.”

But this time? I just felt joy. No silly preoccupations wondering if it was good enough. It just is. And it was fun! I remember that this is part of my worship. I’m wired to create things, whether I think they’re my best work or an insignificant, unremarkable doodle on a napkin. When I’m settled into this place of remembering- or worship- my creativity comes from a strangely humble and yet confident place. (Can I just think/feel like this all the time? Wouldn’t that be a relief?)

Here’s some joy from me to you! This piece is in the shop now, available in 3 different sizes- 4×6, 5×7, and 8×10. Click here to come visit Ebenezer Designs on Etsy and purchase your own downloadable, printable!

Welcome to Our New Home! {On the Interweb}

welcome to the website

That’s right, folks! My little blog has moved here- to an official website!!!! I’m SO UTTERLY EXCITED about this!

It’s a huge step for me, and really for us (aka for me and my husband, without whose magical techno-powers none of this would be happening). 

DSC_0720I started the blog to be a place where I could not only share my heart and never ending hunt for beauty (and moreso for the Originator of it) but as a place to foster community- a safe place for all creatives (whether you consider yourself one or not) to come and explore beauty and the part it plays in their lives as well.

At this new home, this website (oooohhh it’s so fun to say), you’ll find the blog of course, but you’ll also find a page devoted to Ebenezer Designs, as well as a page for- wait for it- music. WHEW! That’s the hardest, most vulnerable sharing for me- songwriting is like emptying the contents of my heart into verse and melody. But I believe in sharing it with you nonetheless.

Bear with me as we get all the kinks worked out and polished over the coming weeks. Moving from my free little wordpress site to an official website is like moving from an apartment to a real, live house. (Or, that’s what I imagine it to be like… I still live in an apartment. HA.) Lord willing, loveliness will fill up the corners of this new home…

I encourage you to share this {exciting, scary, crazy, amazing} new endeavor with everyone you know!!! I covet your prayers and your encouragement as we take this brave new step!

Thanks for continuing with me in this journey.

Now that you’re here- take a look around! I can’t wait for you to see what’s going on around here! Pardon our dust… we’re still getting settled. (You understand, right?)

Love,

Haylie

 

P.S. Come back tomorrow for November’s Artist of the Month!!! It’s a good one.

Abide Vs. Strive

I picked this verse. During this series called “Brave,” we were challenged at one point to first choose a verse that stuck out to us from among a handful, then memorize it. Additionally, we were challenged to take a “brave new step” towards something called our heading (i.e. where we feel God is calling us to be brave/grow/etc). 

God of Hope

So, I picked this verse. My method of memorizing it was to swirlify the letters and words and doodle all around them, forcing me to face each word with whole-hearted attention.

And it actually worked! This isn’t the first time I’ve done that. It’s actually one big reason I started my shop. Because if I need the Word to have pockets all over my house and my life, then maybe someone else does, too. “Out of sight, out of mind” is a very real thing for me, friends. (You can see it on Etsy, here if you need this print for yourself.)

Over the past few months, the Lord has persistently laid this word “abide” before me, along with Jesus’ words in John 15. I realized it’s because I was running on the fumes of other things, rather than the fuel of the Spirit’s love and abundance.

What does it actually look and feel like when God fills you with all joy and peace? Or when you overflow with hope by the power of the Spirit?

I desire to know and experience those things for myself. And sometimes, I’ve wrestled with feeling like I couldn’t fill up with God’s joy and peace on my own. Which I then realized is absolutely right.

We can’t do that on our own.

And I gained hope again, because there’s a key phrase in the middle of all those swirls: as you trust in him.

The only way I can fill with joy and peace instead of my own striving is to trust in the Lord. I guess it’s part of the whole relationship thing. But I forget that Jesus desires a relationship, not a checklist.

I’ve been reading 1 Samuel, quite frankly because my mentor was reading it and kept telling me how she was wowed by seeing the difference between David’s heart and Saul’s heart, and how David’s exemplifies a heart that is seeking (emphasis on the “ing”- it’s a continuous process) God.

The crazy thing? It goes completely with this whole abiding vs. striving thing. (Also, the reason I named the shop “Ebenezer Designs” is because of 1 Samuel 7:12)

I’m desperate to learn what a truly abiding heart- like David’s- looks like, and though I’ve read it before, it’s almost as if I hadn’t really. Remember this verse?

 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” -1 Samuel 16:7

It hit me hard this time around. Because it turns out that a war of Appearance rages in me. More often than not, I overflow with appearance-driven striving instead of hope.

It is- quite literally- a look-alike hope. A counterfeit abundance that leaves me with mountains of not-enough. A joy-stealing wreck.

Saul knew this struggle well, I think. He was a striver. Constantly, exhaustingly, indomitably striving, his white-knuckled reign fostered a nation filled with fear; his leadership- though often performing the outward actions of worship- in reality sacrificed all on the altar of Saul.

David was a shepherd, a true leader filled with bold humility (most of the time), a psalm-singer, a friend, who- instead of chasing after his throne (he was anointed king after all)- chased after God. He was still human, of course, and made some pretty big boo-boos (that whole Bath-Sheba debacle for one), but his heart was always the most important part of him. Even after he sins, he repents, he returns, he remembers who is truly King, and finds God can redeem and sustain him still.

Reading through 1 Samuel has revealed multiple instances where it talks about David finding his strength in (trusting in, putting hope in) God. He didn’t just strive for joy, peace, hope. He couldn’t manufacture them. He trusted in God first.

So this week, I’ve begun to navigate a little more slowly, more intentionally in the things I do, in the people I’m with, in moments God gives.

I’m letting myself abide.


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I pray this prayer for you- that God will fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Day 7: Enjoying Surrender.

31 days of Enjoy square

As Communications & Events Director for If Then Movement, I have had the privilege of attending and helping with a few ITM events since I took on the job almost a year and a half ago. (I usually just say Communications Director… but the official title sounds schmancy right?) Each one I go to speaks to me differently, as I see God working in both my life and the lives of those who attend.

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(Their decor was ON POINT, people. It was a fabulous fall explosion. But in a good way. Though, come to think of it, I can’t really imagine how fall could explode in a bad way…)

This weekend’s was no exception. It probably held greater depth for me in part because it took place at the church where I grew up, watching my parents minister on staff. I love that place!

And I love seeing what God does through our retreat called “So Be It: Brave Surrender to God’s Call Every Day”.

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This is my favorite retreat that we do. Because it gives women a chance to dig deep and let their hearts open up to the truth that surrender is how we experience the goodness God intends for us.

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Sometimes I have a hard time yielding to that process. Sometimes, all I can do is put one foot in front of the other, rejoice in simple things like autumn wreaths, incredible things like God’s grace, and continuously surrender moment by moment. And sometimes, surrendering is putting pieces of a necklace together that function as a small, beautiful, brave stake in the ground for the kingdom of God.

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That’s what attendees got to do together this weekend. My dear friend chose this necklace, and I confess that the phrase is one of my favorites. (I have a necklace with this same artwork in it… because we’re the same person. We even wore matching colors.)

people 1

What you don’t see in the picture is the small piece of paper that gets buried behind the artwork and the glass tile; that piece of paper serves as a place to write something you feel God laying on your heart to surrender to Him, or a verse He’s leading you to cling to, or a person you need to keep praying for, etc. I love that it’s a tactile, tangible representation of the message.

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The other thing that gets buried in this necklace is a tiny seed, which represents the fact that in order to bear fruit, the seed itself must die. This stands out to me especially, because God has been reminding me that even if I’m afraid of losing or surrendering something to him, doing just that is what bears fruit.

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(This is a candy bar. Get it?)

For someone who professes to be a creative person, I can be really uncreative when it comes to looking past what I think is good and instead trusting that God’s best is better. (Or best… or something.)

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Later in this series, I plan to dig up what God says about enjoyment, but for today, I end with this verse:
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.
                        – Psalm 36:7-8