I woke up very early this morning with a few important things to do: getting our day started, finishing up Sweet Boy's costume for his kindergarten book character parade today, getting everyone up and ready for a Halloween Friday. And in the middle of it all, realizing today is the last day of the 31-day writing challenge, the phrase that quieted my mind was a soft place to land.
This is what we all need. A soft place to land.
This blog space - my tiny piece of real estate in this giant digital world - has become my soft place to land at the end of each day (or the beginning of each morning). Although posting each day takes much time, planning and execution, I knew that at some point in each of the 31 days this month that I would get to have creative time. I would return to my blog space and get to have reflective time, time to think about what drives people to live more creatively, more beautifully, more passionately.
Where is your soft place to land? What creative efforts do you return to each day? In the business of the everyday, how will you step out into the creative realm? Or, perhaps you've figured out a way to combine the two?
Writing is my favorite craft - it moves me, it energizes me, it stretches me and makes me grow. I've been able to see things so differently this month with some clarity that has been missing. Photography is my second love. Photography and writing together have reminded me that it's our privilege to get to illuminate God's world. As a creative being and a child of God, I have the unique opportunity to serve as a mirror by receiving His light and shining it back to the world.
This month, I've touched on the importance of creativity quite a bit. I hope I've inspired you and introduced you to a new blog, podcast, book or artist that perhaps you didn't know before.
I hope that you've taken time to be creative this month. Or, in the coming days, I hope that creativity becomes part of your regular routine. And I hope that being creative and pursuing a craft to get to know yourself better will lead you to a more passionate place.
This month, I hope you've found time for some quiet. And I hope you've heard God's whispers a little more, and the many conversations in your mind a little less.
Remember that the Oxford Dictionary defines passion as strong emotion or
enthusiasm; eagerness, intensity, zeal, mania, obsession, craze, hunger, itch,
yearning, longing, desire. I hope that this month, you're a little bit closer to having one of these words in your life that = something special to you.
Today is a lovely, beautiful day. Today is a day of being reminded that we can complete something. We can put our minds to creative efforts by moving one foot in front of the other, one day at a time. We can run the race set before us. We can fight the good fight!
I'm extremely thankful for the special people who organized the Write for 31 Days effort. Writing for 31 days is a wonderful metaphor: we've been in the wilderness, hunkered down, listening closely and sharing for 31 days. Now, it's time to decide how we will maintain this for the coming months.
This past summer, our family had a chance to visit a special place for a good six-week block of time. Our special place is a tiny beach town in coastal Oregon. And on that beach there was a house. And in that house there was a huge library of many books. And in that library was a book that would restore my faith in beauty and its importance. And in that book were simple words that served as good reminders, such as these opening words:
"Making the things you do every day as beautiful and pleasurable as possible is a way to live a happy life. Yet many of us don't seem to do this." - Alexandra Stoddard, from Living a Beautiful Life
She goes on to explain in her note to the reader that her "aim is to inspire you, by useful examples, to go ahead and create beauty an ease in the areas of life that mean the most to you, day after day...I'm trying to provoke and inspire you to set up your daily life for effectiveness and grace."
Having had a busy season heading into summer, these words were like honey to my soul.
One of my goals for the New Year was to bring more beauty into our home and our lives - to focus on the whimsical and lovely, rather than just the practical and functional. I felt like this book had been placed in my path!
As I made time to read, I wanted to take notes on every chapter. It was an answered prayer. How do I make our home more beautiful? I love that she used her words and examples to educate the reader on a how-to topic. No photos, no magazine spreads, no Pinterest pins. It was just her words, her heartfelt advice, her experiences and her successes with friends, colleagues and clients.
Chapters two, three and four were my favorites. Chapter two focuses on creating the special from the ordinary, chapter three is my absolute all-time favorite, which covers the ktichen, where I spend much of my time: The Kitchen: Enhancing the Flavor of Good Eating. And, chapter four covers the balance between busyness and solitude...which is a constant struggle in this season of life for many mothers.
I also love that it was published in 1986. Things have really changed since then...but then again, things are still the same.
If you plan to pursue a path to finding your passion, I highly recommend this book. This will certainly not be the last time I mention it.
Making things look and feel lovely is a gift that comes naturally for many people, both women and men. These individuals are definitely artists: they bring beauty and aesthetics to our worlds to stop us in our tracks and make us think - or more importantly, to make us feel.
In this season of my life, much time has been spent raising little ones, trying to keep up with their needs, their growth and development, their rest - all things that occur in the every day. And in keeping up with these sweet ones, I've noticed in the last year how much our family's home reflects a very simple pattern: all function, sometimes clean, sometimes chaos, then clean again, with very little focus on color or decor. We have a few pieces of art on the walls and some photography - but we don't have much decorate-y-ness going on.
For our family, order = beauty.
Over the last few years, I think I've had a chronic insecurity with feeling like our home isn't as "grown up" as other neighbors' and friends' homes. But what I've learned is that we don't need giant, elaborate pieces of art. We don't need perfect home accessories. We just need the presence of creativity and real life.
It's amazing how bringing order to your home, then adding a small accent here and there - like some new throw pillow covers, or a tiny candle, or even setting out a snack for your children before they come home from school is a small act of beauty, gratitude and celebration. It helps our home feel warm - and we feel God's presence. And experiencing beauty, which I have found brings God's peace, allows us to feel more alive. And to reflect upon why we're here. And to think about our priorities and what truly matters.
Beauty in our environment comforts and grounds us - and keeps us true to our path.
Yesterday I touched on the importance of order in our environments, and it went something like this:
Order = harmony.
Ain't nobody got time for that.
Today, the order-ing in our home continued. Today I put up several large loads of laundry, cleaned out and ordered our master closet (which is awkwardly large and more like a storage room than a lovely dressing place), and set aside piles of clothes our children have outgrown to go through tomorrow. And, I have three more loads of laundry to fold tonight, which I will do while watching...Friday Night Lights (Season 4!).
The point of sharing all of this housework with you is not to give myself gold stars. It's to let you know that although housework isn't my favorite thing, it's absolutely necessary to stay on top of - or it will snowball - and you'll be spending hours putting pieces back together like I have the last couple of days (and, more to come tomorrow). Going through extreme nesting like this is my brain's way of saying, "I can't think clearly about anything else until all of this chaos goes away." I love it when my brain functions this way because it gives the housework-procrastinator in me a swift kick in the pants and helps me get our house back in order.
Hopefully things in your home aren't too out of order. But if you live in some type of space with a few belongings, be it a house, apartment, a spare bedroom...keeping it orderly will keep your mind sharp.
My husband, who is slightly obsessive when it comes to cleaning, grew up with a father who constantly repeated the mantra, "a clean house is a clean mind." I like that very much - and it's so true. Sweet Boy and Sweet Girl mentioned yesterday when they got home that it seemed like I was "turning into Daddy." (I took that as a compliment!)
If you keep things in order here and there, and clean as you go (another mantra my husband loves, which is nice, except for when I'm creating something in the kitchen), you'll save yourself some time. Taking multiple days out of your week to re-order your home is alright every now and then, but in reality:
Ain't nobody got time for that.
So, cherish your space. Have respect for yourself and your environment. Keep things in order. Have your children help you tidy up at the end of the day. Don't do it all yourself. Give yourself grace when things do get out of order, and just move forward and do the next thing - and take charge to let order prevail again.
Protect your time - it's important. We have been given time as a precious gift by our Creator to use carefully. He has trusted us with it, so use it well. Create art. Love your family. Help others. Pursue a dream. Love yourself.
You are a lovely and beautiful being. Don't let anything distract you from putting your heart where it's supposed to be.
This morning, I sat down to write about the importance of order and beauty when it comes to taking a step closer to living a more passionate, creative life.
But, I just couldn't write about this when I was literally hiding from all of the chaos that was our house this morning on the other side of our office walls. Last week was one of those weeks where routine was turned upside down. Although Sweet Boy was at home sick, I still loved having him home. We rested, played, and I was lazy with the dishes. The weekend came, and we played with Sweet Girl. We made Halloween decorations. We hung out in our yard. We went for walks. (Our dishwasher stopped working on Saturday.) Sunday night, we had a cozy night watching a sweet Halloween show: Curious George! Then, this morning when I woke up, I felt like everything was out of order. It was like I had blinders on last night. Ugh.
How did our morning go? I'll spare you the details. But after the bus picked up our children, I wanted to cry. I used to be a very focused, organized person. But getting everyone ready and out the door for school seems so challenging some days. Many days.
My point is that order = harmony. When our home gets out of order, our children are never really unhappy (though my husband and I get extremely irritable)...we all just keep moving forward. But - when things are put back in place and floors are cleared and vacuumed and beds are made, there is a beautiful calm that exists, followed by an amazing energy. Our children are definitely more productive and happier when our home is in order.
I cleaned all day. I went from room to room, purging, sorting, laundering, making beds, washing dishes, putting away toys. And things. (And wanting to throw the things out the door!) All of the chaos, anxiety and frustration I was feeling this morning had melted away. And although I didn't get much sleep last night, I could think more clearly than I've been able to in the last week. It was lovely.
And when our children came home from school, they came home to peace and harmony again. And that's all I needed as a mama today.