chocolate + paper + scissors


A life of more passion

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.

I will see you on the journey.


On living beautifully

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.  



Beauty matters.

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.

Thank God for beauty!



On order and passion, part 2.

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.

Print image from the Lovely Pen, Meet Paper Etsy Shop


On order and passion, part 1.

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.


Nature = rest

And He said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while." 
-Mark 6:31


Creativity amidst chaos

This week, we've had a few curve-balls - unexpected happenings that weren't on the calendar.  Sweet Boy was under the weather and has been home since Wednesday.  Next: fever, doctor appointment (hand sanitizing!), pharmacy visit. I’ve been under the weather and have been super tired (which = patience shortage).   We are low on groceries.  Our home is out of order (and my desk is missing). Daddy has been out of town.  And Sweet Girl was upset that she had to buy her lunch for the last two days because Mommy hasn't been to the store. 

Things can't always be neat and clean.  Thankfully, we're all doing fine.  It's all about perspective, really.  When you're super tired, things seem much more chaotic than they really are.  So, in the midst of chaos, how do you think creatively when you can barely take care of the basics?

Set all of your expectations of yourself down and allow yourself some grace.  These are some things I find helpful, in completely random order:

Fuel the well.   Rest.  Take a nap.  Eat well.  Hydrate.  Drink hot tea.  Listen to your body.  Lay down with your children when they lay down.  Until you are rested, look away from disorder.  Handle this when you're feeling more rested.
Image from Handmade by Is
Fill yourself with good, happy things.  I remember once that Oprah said, "We are what we read.  So put good things in there."  Read some inspiring words.  Review a favorite book you've read before.  Look at your favorite cookbooks, or cookbooks you've neglected.  Peruse some lovely catalogs.  Flip through your favorite magazines.  Cut out clippings of things that inspire you.

Enjoy being creative with your little people!  Yesterday afternoon, it was a lovely fall day in Texas. We went outside, got out some white paper, crayons and scissors, and we made tons of Halloween decorations.  It was so much fun to color and cut with Sweet Boy!  We laughed and colored and enjoyed ourselves, even being under the weather.

Go on a digital creative excursion.  One of my favorite suggestions from Susan Ban Breathnach in Simple Abundance is the idea of personal creative excursions:  taking time to visit places that really light our creative fires.  But, if you can't get away (or are homebound this week like we have been), do it online!   Visit and catch up on your favorite blogs.  Visit Pinterest to find some new recipes, craft projects or quotes.  (Just beware - don't get overwhelmed with too many projects you want to do.)  Watch some t.v. shows that inspire you - or give you some mental escape so you can take a break.  (Have I mentioned my obsession with Friday Night Lights?)

As part of your digital creative excursion, visit Instagram. Look at the people you follow...and observe who they follow.  You may find some new inspiration immediately!  Instagram is one of my very favorite apps - it's a wonderful collection of visual inspiration + personal storytelling.  I look forward to my Instagram time every night.  

Try to make time for yourself.  Remember the battle of the early birds vs. the night owls?  Keeping rest a priority, try to carve out some quiet time for yourself, morning or night.  Each morning this week for me has been an important time of prayer, writing and mental rest.  And, when your children are awake, I like to save their technology time for when I need productive time.  Right now, Sweet Boy is saving the world on his (very loud) Angry Bird Transformer game on the iPad.  We're cuddled up together in a big fluffy chair in our office (which is totally worth the very loud noises).

Reach out to others.  If you're feeling a little isolated and need some connection today, be sure to reach out to others.  Reach out to your friends and neighbors.  Or, comment on some amazing blog posts you've read recently.  Offer some words of encouragement on Twitter.  Or comment on some photos on Instagram. 

One thing today:  Take time to do any of the above tips.  Even if you have no little people at home today, they still apply!  Don't forget the importance of rest!
Image from Erin Ulrich

Creative resources today:
Simple Abudance by Sarah Ban Breathnach
Your cookbooks, books + magazines
Quiet devotional time


Creativity + Exercise

I was reminded yesterday while I was on a run that creativity and exercise go hand-in-hand.  We can't really talk about creativity without mentioning exercise.  Exercise has a profound effect on one's creativity.

I am an early-morning exerciser.  It's how I start my days:  my energy is highest in the morning, so it's a time when my body can have fun, while my mind rests a bit.  Cross-training, running, and even walking - whatever it may be that gets the blood flowing through our bodies and to our brains - provides a natural means of 'lifting the mental fog."  Exercise brings new life through our bodies and minds.  And it helps me greatly reduce my amount of mental clutter - the type of clutter that keeps me from thinking clearly and creatively!

A friend asked me the other day if I was training for anything.   No, I said.  But actually, I'm training for a vibrant life, and to put my best creative foot forward.

We have been given these glorious bodies that were made to move so that we can fully experience life.  Our bodies, as well as our minds,  are our blessings to appreciate and nurture.  I feel like the only way I can put my best foot forward creatively is to take good care of what I’ve been given by eating well, exercising and resting (which is tough sometimes).  Trying to maintain some type of balance allows me to be healthier for myself and my family.  And it opens my channels of creativity to hear what God has intended. 
Regular exercise also helps us sleep better, which results in more rested minds.  And more rested minds = more clarity, more productivity, and sometimes, less emotional upheaval (and as a mama who wrestles with her emotions, I am very grateful for this!).

I like to think of exercising as the equivalent of cutting off the stems of flowers before we put them into a vase of water.  Exercise allows us to remove our “stale” stems and allows us to soak in the water:  to fully take in what God wants for us for the day and to bring His desires into reality.

One thing today:  Pick a time when you can begin some form exercise if you don't already.  Walking is a great option...a 30-minute walk will make you feel amazing!  Start out gradually - then build your way up.  See if you feel better and have more clarity.  Some days I wear headphones.  Some days I don't. Listening to podcasts is really enjoyable.  But, sometimes I just need really fun music to allow my body and mind to have some fun!  See what works best for you. And don't forget to drink more water!

Great resources:
Another Mother Runner: A Virtual Aid Station - All things running for busy mamas.  Be sure to check out their podcast!


Honoring our King of Creativity

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. ~Romans 12:2 (ESV)

God is our Creator.  And we are His creations.  He created us to live out His great plans.  We know that He loves us, as children of the Most High King.  He creates new days each morning for us.  And His creative spirit lives in us.

Each night, we lay at the foot of our children's beds with them as they drift off to sleep.  This is a tradition (some would say "habit"!) we started when they were little tiny bitties.  And now, at 9 and 6, my husband and I still take turns switching each night.  It's a special time of night - I love it!  But most nights, if I don't concentrate to keep myself awake, I'm asleep within minutes.

One night, when I was laying at the foot of Sweet Boy's bed, all was quiet.  As I kept trying to focus on the quiet (without falling asleep!), I felt brushed by the Spirit, and I was reminded, simply:  if God is ultimately creative, we are, too!  This moment sparked one of my favorite meditations that I play through my head at bedtime to stay awake and to be inspired:
God is beautifully creative.  God's Spirit lives in me.  I am beautifully creative.

Or, in the form of a math statement:  
If God = beautiful creativity and God lives in you, then you = beautiful creativity.
(From yesterday:) Creativity = new life.
Therefore...creativity is super important!

There are so many spiritual elements of creativity, which is why I think I'm so attracted to it.  God wants us to be close to Him and to experience the creative energy that He has given to us!  Sometimes, though, in an information-driven world, we need to remind ourselves that we are, in fact, creative beings.  We do have lovely ideas that no one else has thought of.  There may be millions of Pinterest pins, blog posts, and other ideas floating around out there, but there is only one of you - and God speaks to you and inspires you differently than anyone else.  Your creative ideas are so very important to this world!

Taking time to be creative is important - as is acknowledging any creative efforts in my day that I may not have perceived as "creative."  Taking time to be creative is taking time to be with God.  All good things come from him - as well as all good ideas.  Taking time to be creative fills up our cup.

God is beautifully creative.  God lives in you.  You are beautifully creative!

One thing today:  Unplug from your productive pace today for a few minutes and ask for God's guidance in your day.  He wants to help you and wants you to be creative!  Have your pen and paper ready to write down any ideas.  Then, set a little bit of time aside this week (or weekend) to do something different + creative.

Amazing inspiration:
A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman
...And, a good, hot, strong cup of tea.


Creativity = new life.

"This, then, is the beginning:  to know that we have a right to the creative and to follow it where it leads.  Why should that be so difficult?   ~Deena Metzger

Creativity is one of my very favorite topics - yet a giant, broad topic.  There are endless sources on creativity online.  So where in the world should we begin?

With you.  Do you have a creative outlet?

If you have a creative outlet, do you take the time to exercise this gift?  When was the last time you felt like you were thinking of new ideas?  If you feel you don't have a creative outlet, let me remind you that creativity is everywhere.  You're probably being quite creative on a daily basis without even realizing it.   Yes, really.

The book Nurturing Creativity:  A Guide for Busy Moms by Renee Tougas is a wonderful, reassuring resource that reminds us that creativity can exist anywhere in our day.  As mothers, we don’t always have the luxury of large blocks of time to allow us to create.  Some days it’s a few minutes here, 15 minutes there (or as long as your child’s favorite television show!).  But Renee reminds us that creativity can live in our everyday tasks.  And, we can even plan creative works around household items and tasks.  This concise book is lovely, simple and insightful - I highly recommend taking some time to read it.

Creativity doesn’t have to be researching Pinterest for hours and then finding a perfect craft (although that would be okay - no judgement).  Creativity doesn’t have to be spending a small fortune on craft supplies (although that can happen sometimes).  Creativity can be as simple as looking around your home and asking yourself – how can I make things different here?  How can I change the way the kitchen looks?  Or, how can I rearrange items in our laundry room to make room for backpacks and shoes?   

Creativity can be how you think - how you look at things.  How you address challenges.  How you keep your desk organized.  What you cook for a meal or a snack.  How you organize your time.  What you choose to wear (this is a great creative outlet!).  The jewelry you choose to wear.  How you decorate your home.
Simply, creativity = new life.  

Creativity brings something new to the world, be it a product or process.  And the act of creativity also creates new life in us:  after using our creativity, we are changed, different.

One thing today:  Think about your creative interests.  Make a list of all the things you love to do - and see how many of these are creative acts.  Pick one thing to focus on this week.  When can you take a few minutes to think about this creative outlet?

Creative resources...
Nurturing Creativity:  A Guide for Busy Moms by Renee Tougas
What I'm Wearing - Artisan Lisa Leonard shares with her customers/blog audience her wardrobe picks!  She has inspired me to pick one day during the week (Sundays don't count!) to dress creatively and boldly.  (Thank you, Lisa!)
Where Women Cook - An inspirational journal about women and cooking.  This always lights my creative flame.


Listen to the quiet (part 2): On reducing mental noise

Yesterday we covered the concept of using boundaries to remove ourselves from the physical noises of our hopes of focusing better. Today...let's talk about mental noise.

According to the super cool and fascinating Visual Thesaurus, other words for noise include interference, disturbance, dissonance, racket, haphazardness, randomness.  These words often describe my mental state (!), which happens for various reasons, such as when I've... a) taken in too much new information, b) haven't had any time to myself for processing or writing, c) have had very little downtime with too many commitments, and sometimes d) when I'm tired/a little foggy and really just need a very strong cup of coffee.

Sometimes, too much mental noise = total overwhelm.

This topic is quite timely for me this week.  We are in full fall mode down here with Sweet Boy's birthday last week, our elementary school's annual fall festival today, continuing to post each day during this month, volunteering for this past week and the coming weeks, thinking ahead to November and the holidays.  I have been in survival mode a bit this week - I can always tell this because of the stacks of papers and books that accumulate.  And - much of my to-do list comes at me here and there - and sometimes I write it down, while other times I don't because I think I'll remember (which I don't recommend).

Sitting down for a brain dump on paper helps.  Cleaning up paper clutter and giving the old desk a good scrubbing definitely helps!  So, if you need help reducing your mental noise, start with restoring order somewhere in your life.

You know what else helps?  Not taking in so much random information.  I have several friends who (lovingly) tease me about not "being on Facebook."  (For the record, I'm on Facebook, but I'm just not active.)  Every now and then I use it for getting some information - but it's not my favorite.

Let me repeat that, because it feels good to say it aloud:

Facebook is not my favorite.

(Facebook = total overwhelm.) 

I think much of my discomfort with Facebook has to do with my INFJ-ness.  (Not that all INFJ's dislike Facebook.  But, many of my personality traits conflict with the social nature of Facebook.)  Once I read a handful of status updates,quite a bit of mental space gets occupied.  At that point, I have so much mental noise in my head, where I'm thinking and re-thinking about what people are doing, how they are doing, what I'm not doing enough of, guilt for not posting more photos of my children (which I don't do because I'm super private), who I'm not keeping up with regularly, who I should be messaging more, how I can't believe that person is traveling there...the list goes on and on.  The rabbit trails continue on the screen, and then later, in my head.

Also, if I'm consuming too much digital information, I sometimes forget what my own thoughts are.  Sometimes I can't remember which thoughts are mine - and which ones came from someone else.  (Did I have that idea about nutrition?  Or did someone else tweet that earlier this week?)  We have to be in touch with our own thoughts - which inevitably means unplugging from everyone else's.  (And by the way, if you have an amazing thought, write it down! But just because you have an amazing thought, don't feel pressured to share it on Facebook.)
This summer, when I took a break from being online all the time, I was reminded to look within.  To find my own thoughts and experiences.  And to let these guide me more than others' words.  And that was uncomfortable in the beginning, but now it's normal.

If we maintain a connection with ourselves, despite the very social and information-laden world we live in, we can maintain some boundaries for our minds.  And it should result in a more peaceful, productive, more relaxed and happier version of ourselves.

How do you reduce your mental noise?


Listen to the quiet (part 1)

I don't know about you, but experiencing quiet is at the top of my desires each morning when I wake up.  And maintaining quiet while everyone is sleeping is pretty easy to do in the morning.  (Mid-day quiet, or even yet, after-school or before-dinner quiet are completely different challenges.)

During the day, I find it hard to exist quietly.  I love podcasts and all types of music - they move me through the day.  On most days, when I hop in the car, I always have music playing.  Periodically, though, I will get in the car and desire to have total quiet for a few minutes - time to be alone with my thoughts.  (But some days, this is super uncomfortable!)  And without thinking, I'll turn the radio back on.  Have you ever paid attention to your media habits?  Sometimes I wonder why I try so hard to find just the right song.  Am I trying to distract myself from something? 

Ironically, as I type this, I just returned to my desk with my earbuds, so I can listen to some music while I type this post.   My husband and I share an office, and at this very moment, he is talking on the phone with a client.  He speaks pretty loudly - and it makes concentrating almost impossible.  So, my earbuds and Pandora (usually classical or instrumental) turned up pretty loudly give me a "quiet" space - where I can block out the world and focus on my work.  Mozart helps me write better...he allows me to leave this world and transcend to a timeless place, unreachable by anyone.  Just me and words exist there.

I have a lovely friend I used to work with years ago who only listens to wordless music when she writes.  She used to listen to jazz quite a bit.  And I think of her each time I sit down to write with my earbuds. She taught me the art of zoning everything out and concentrating on the task at hand.  (We also worked in cubicles, where there was no privacy.  Headphones are a great solution for this!) 

It's good to create an environment where you work well.  Even if it's not completely silent - you can still have mental "quiet" by creating boundaries.

What quiet boundaries can you create today?