Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Marriage Letter as we Approach my Brother's Wedding

This weekend my brother weds the woman he fell in love with while she was still a girl and him still a boy. They met before driver's licenses. They dated over high school dances and drama. They endured college distances. And now, they wed.

I'm over the moon in a way only sisters can be. This month's marriage letter celebrates the love they share, the marriage we get to witness, and the life that's about to explode in all its goodness.


Dear Bubba,

For the first fifteen years of your life, you were my sidecar. Everyone calls them sidekicks, but you weren't any less important than me, just an add-on to all of life's adventures. You were the extra bit of fun just like that second seat is on a motorcycle. You were always there to be the back-up, extra hand, listening ear.

And then, I went to college and three years later you did the same. We were the farthest apart we'd ever been and, while you were gone, our places changed. We didn't know it then, with our texts and phone calls and weekends home, but we were trading places.

You went away and became the leader. You went away and turned from gangling teenage bean-pole to filled out man. You transformed from the shy little brother to the hilarious show stopper. And I realized how fun it is to be a sidecar.

You are the bold, adventurous leader. I, the troublesome tag-a-long. And, I was grateful for the chance to ride along. I got married and you adopted my husband as your sidecar -a relationship that makes my heart flutter to witness. I'm lucky to see the two men I love so much be the meat sauce to each other's spaghetti.

But now, you have a new, better sidecar to call yours. A sidecar that is definitely greater than I, more kind and equally funny. A sidecar that's going to fit closer, better, stronger than any that came before her. And for always, I'll celebrate the plethora of ways I know she was made for you and you for her.

So, tomorrow, on your wedding day, I joyfully pass a baton. I celebrate the way the love you two share is brighter, bolder, stronger than any gold sparkle that is so lucky to embellish your wedding day. I cherish the chance to cheer on your marriage from now until forevermore.

I love your bride almost as much as I love you.
Sis

P.S. I cannot believe ya'll didn't consider fluffy wings for the bridal party.

Monday, December 28, 2015

#collaboreads: a friend's favorite

I want to say things like "good morning" and "how do you do?" because I've not been gone for a week from this space in I'm not sure how long. The space has been lovely and your sweet emails, kind comments, and support has been wonderful. I have so many things to say and not enough ways to say them.

What better way to end a week of silence and the year but with conversation about a book? There is none, that's the truth.

If you missed what #Collaboreads is, you can familiarize yourself here.

Short version: Rachel and I pick a random criteria for the book (i.e. Takes Place in Summertime). You pick your book and read it. Then the last Monday of the month we meet up and talk about our choices.

There's a R.E.A.D.S. review format that we've shared for suggestion's sake (shared in this post), but feel free to review however you're comfortable!

My pick for this month was actually from my Mama Bird who is the queen of reading (seriously she read 52 books this year), so when I needed a good recommendation I trusted she'd provide. I was thankful for her pick because it's outside of my (currently reading) wheelhouse, in that it's fun, easy to read, and the right kind of juicy.

Meet if you only knew by Kristan Higgins. I've not yet read anything by Higgins, but always notice how adorable her covers are... And this one certainly does her justice.

RIVETING. 
I only finished one book this month. Just one: if you only knew   It was a hard month for slowing down and sitting with a book so I was thankful when I picked up if you only knew  for #Collarboreads and it was an easy, catchy read. It documents the family drama between two sisters who's lives couldn't be more different, but who's psyches run along the same lines. It's interesting, juicy, and oddly perspective-giving.

I have always struggled to remember, though my siblings and I grew up in similar ways, our understanding and appreciation for certain parts of our raising are different. if you only knew seemed to remind me of this fact over and over and over again in the most humbly kind ways.

ELEMENTS.
This is a Pringles book; once you start, you just can't stop. Even in my most tired of moments, I'd easily knock out fifty pages of Jenny and Rachel's plots while struggling to convince myself the world won't fall apart if I put the book down for the night. The plot and it's tiny (but important) twists is addicting, nearly impossible to walk away from.

And the end, when it came, made me sad. if you only knew is one of those books you're going to miss because the characters are lovely. You are sad to walk away from what was a coming-of-age sort of tale and yet, you're thankful the end has drawn near so no further damage can be done. Oomph.

ASSOCIATE.
Well, this reminded me so much of Amy Schumer's Trainwreck. I know, huh? I guess mostly because when I started each I assumed I knew what was coming and how the storyline would go. And I did, but both surprised me with the depths of their moral, in that I walked away being (even the slightest bit) reflective on the way our childhoods shape our adult lives. 

I also couldn't help but think of Kristin Hannah and how similar the writing styles of Higgins and hers were alike. The content is similar, yet definitely different, while I felt at home reading. It was like pulling a new blanket made of familiar fabric over my weary soul. 

DESIGN.
LOVE. I mean teal and bright coral flowers. Love. I'm not sure that it really means much in terms of the novel's content, but it certainly would have drawn me to buy the book from Target simply because pretty is worth my dollar. 


I guess a few times throughout the novel I thought, "every rose has it's thorns" and that might be an important theme within the deeper conversation of the novel (if there's really a deeper conversation to be had). 

STARS. 

Four and a half.

Honestly, I loved this book. And I really hope the characters make a return in another novel of Higgins' later, though I know those wishes are often closer related to pipe dreams.

And now, it's your turn to talk about all the books that filled your month!


Next month, we're linking up on January 25th and we're reading 
Something to Make You Better
Think Big Magic, Anne Lamott, Brene Brown, basically anything inspiring to you!
See you in a month!

Friday, December 18, 2015

God is in this room with us three.

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He is in bed much more now. In a room all his own, he lays still and restful -the opposite of all the years that came before. We've spent so long chasing him to and fro on all the adventures he imagined that this stillness is sudden and confusing. We visit and he sleeps some of the time and we look at one another with question marks in our eyes.

We are used to his busy-making, to his walking to and fro, to his holding our hands and keeping movement alive. But now, there's a stillness forced upon us when we visit. He lays and we gather. Quietly we drag chairs to his bedside and sit with our hands on his thin frame. We duck our heads near to his graying hair and tell him stories in hushed tones.

We talk to him even if he's snoring softly. We talk with hope that our words penetrate the veil of his sleep and settle cozily into his heart. We update him on the house, on birthdays, on Christmas presents, on news. We tell him about our jobs, wishing he'd pipe up with a quick quip of advice. We remind him that he is going to be healed one day and speak out loud the ways we're going to miss him. We do this in reverent stillness.

And, while I cry tears thick with emotion, I think of the words of Rabbi Joseph Meszler as they appeared in Have a Little Faith:
"Ever since that night, I have had to believe that whatever room I find myself in,God is in that room with me, and we are all part of God's Oneness. I cannot prove it. I cannot explain it. I just believe it to be true."
In that room with my sick, sleeping father, and strong, sorrowful husband, I know another Man holds space for us. In that space He sets down peace and hope and strength and promise. In the forced stillness and the painful tragedy of losing a parent, the Father is present. 

There with my back burning as I lean over my father, the Father stands. I imagine Him strolling through the white framed door and placing His large, strong hands on the plastic of the foot of the bed. I imagine Him standing at the foot of the bed and breathing steady, measured breaths over the heart-shattering scene, just as Jason does when we arrive. I imagine Him keeping a warm, strong hand on the back of my neck as my father once did.

I know He is there. 

He looks on as we speak. He just watches, maybe extends His kind hands to rub one of dad's feet through the covers. And we continue -Jason and I. We tell dad about the wedding that's coming up, Jason's the best man and I a bridesmaid. We share with him about the dancing and know he'd love it so very much. We share how he's going to be missed there on that day, but remind him that we know he's going to be there in our hearts as he always is.

He's there too. Then on that wedding day and now in this memory unit. He's silent and patient and simply looking on the way only a Great Father is able to do. 

Sometimes I want to turn to Him and say hi, please help us. Sometimes I want to stand up and reach out, grab His hand and drag Him over to my father's bedside. I want to tell Him that we need Him so very much, but especially him, the sick man who sleeps. But I sit and I speak with the two men He's allowed me to call mine.

Because sometimes, being in His presence, means doing just what He walked in on. Sometimes it means continuing to grieve, to miss, to mourn, to lose. Sometimes it means letting the mess spill out of the closets of your soul and sit amongst the ugly circumstance. Sometimes it means, letting Him be in the room while you do your most private, sacred living.

And so, I cannot explain it or prove it or promise it, but I do believe it to be true. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Dedicated to Discovery - my 2016 Word of the Year


I really enjoy the challenge of One Little Word.

I like to think of the New Year through the lens of a particular goal, even if I'm not sure what circumstance might hold over the course of any 365 day period. I'm not sure if it's a personal dare or my attempt to avoid a specific resolution, but I'm fascinated by picking a theme for the year.

This year I struggled to come up with a word. Usually I spend a few minutes in December and the word just arrives, here and ready to be the keynote of 2016. But, it just didn't this time. I searched Google for interesting words, read over other One Little Word blog posts, wondered if it would be better to give up the idea.

Then self awareness arrived.

I listened to several different podcasts that discussed the importance of self awareness. Reflection and clarity are important parts of being self aware. While I wouldn't call myself particularly ignorant of my feelings and motivations, I do see gaps where I choose ignorance over awareness. And so, I'm spending the year to discovery in those "secret" places.

Part of getting ready for my year of discovery meant being honest about the way I approach my word which is HOT AS HADES for six months, then completely forgetful of my original intention. I love to work hard and engage in life, but sometimes I lose my way. I know that I get really passionately excited about things, but when the honeymoon period is over I set them at the wayside and ignore what I've learned. I want to be intentional and practical and logical and strong. This year was going to be self-defeating if I didn't make a plan, so I decided to approach my word differently.

So, I've given myself a focus for each month.

Each monthly mission is meant to give me a chance to practice discipline, incorporate reflection and, hopefully, gather a bit more awareness of my own emotions and thought processes. I'm hoping 2016 will be a year dedicated to discovering and then refining myself as a wife, friend, maker, Believer, and person.
JANUARY: Dedicate myself to bible study.
FEBRUARY: Develop core strength.
MARCH: Write 500 words a day.
APRIL: Organize and donate daily.
MAY: Use money meaningfully.
JUNE: Run 100 miles.
JULY: Shake up the echo chamber.
AUGUST: Paint a piece of art per day.
SEPTEMBER: Take analog weekends.
OCTOBER: Write out prayers.
NOVEMBER: Incorporate ten minutes of stillness daily.
DECEMBER: Leave notes of encouragement about. 
I'll check in with my focus point at the beginning of each month, reminding you (and me) of the heart behind the task at hand. I'll also do a little reflection on how the month prior fared and hopefully get to pat myself on the back once or twice.

Let's work together to revolutionize your word.


Amber Thomas Makes is offering a line of handmade one little word products for your 2016 success. Product packs vary in offerings and in price, but all pieces promise to encourage you in the process of making one word into a passionate pursuit. Check out the offerings and order now so you can start the year with all the bits of inspiration! 

Monday, December 14, 2015

a letter for you in the midst of our epilogue.



Dear you,

We signed up for too much this month didn't we?

I thought I'd write about December as an epilogue and then smile. I thought it'd be words on a screen or three and then it'd pass over the door to my heart. I'm old enough to know better than that now, but I tried.

Epilogues are my favorite part of books. It's the part where the moral of the story is strengthened and driven home. It's the part that sneaks into your heart and echoes through your mind for months to come. It's the nail in the coffin -as my dad would say.

And so, I wrote that post with an attitude of accidental begging for December to rock us to our cores. I wrote it in wishful oblivion about the way months can grab you by the hair and dunk you under the wild waters of life. I wrote it from a hungry, desperate place.

You see, I wanted December to wrap up 2015 in a clean and fulfilling way. I wanted to tie a bow about this year and call it complete. But the new hope that is 2016 is pouring in now and the messy circumstance that has filled 2015 seems to stretch over onto the blank canvas of New Year's. But the two years -one old and mucky, the other new and bright- are muddled in my here and now.

I want to be angry, to try and clean the mess before any one sees. But I'm too tired for that fight. I'm too tired for the bleach and boxes and dust and heavy lifting involved in separating out what's been divinely brought together. So, I pretend all the things covering the floor of this sacred time and space are confetti. I look at the sparkles and mud and know beautiful fruits will grow from the Light and the dirt.

I throw up my hands in two fists and pump them above my head like this is a party for one. I sing rap songs to myself and shake my hips till I can't stand the swivels any more. I celebrate the epilogue in it's ever after effect.

Friends, we asked for this. Let's stop fighting and start celebrating.

Party on,
amber

Friday, December 11, 2015

coffee date | 19




This month's coffee date is coming early. That's because tomorrow is my Mama Bird's birthday and she loves coffee dates. Also, she is probably the most dedicated reader of this space. I blame her for my love for coffee because (believe it or not) I didn't drink any before I graduated from college. Yep, I just never got into the habit and now, DAILY. Happy birthday Mama Bird.
- - - - - - - - -
If we were on a coffee date, I'd be drinking a chestnut praline latte with some whipped cream on top. I am not big on the holiday drinks because they come and go so quickly and they're all the kinds of sugary sweet, but not the chestnut praline latte. I love, just deeply, truly love the chestnut praline latte. So, I'd be sipping on one, hot or cold depending on the weather outside, while I talk your ear off.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd suggest to you the Nars Audacious mascara. I'd tell you that I am a fickle mascara user because my lashes are short but thick and curly, but Audacious has won my heart. It's dark and thick, voluminous and lengthening without being clumpy and messy. It doesn't flake all over my face and it stays put for a whole lot of hours. One thing I don't want to worry about is touching up my mascara and Audacious definitely doesn't need touching up.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd brag about my Home Team. I am profoundly lucky to call the world's most amazing people my family. These people -related by blood and marriage- know me and my heart better than I do most days. I'm floored at the way they think of me, develop me, change me and I will admit: I don't tell them their value enough. But truth: I don't have the words. God gave me good people.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd ask if you've heard the new Sara Bareilles cd. You'll probably say no because she released it under the radar. It's different for her, more of a narrative set of songs that sing to a particular tale, but it's delightful. It's beautiful and delightful and makes me want to make an art series that screams out the narrative that's my life right now. (Also, have you heard of Kristene DeMarco? AMAZING.)

If we were on a coffee date, I'd whip my Hazel ornament out of my pocket and tell you that I'm in love with The Pastel Pug. I'd share how Etsy shop ownership is lovely and wonderful, but also entirely exhausting work. I'd point out the shops that have influenced me (and they don't even know it) in the last six months of making my way through the beginner's muck. I'd be honest that I'm thinking about specializing in watercolor and journals with no other offerings. I'm thrilled at the chance to hone my skill, but scared to narrow my offerings down.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd tell you about my new love for savory oatmeal. I know it sounds odd, actually sort of disgusting, but please wait and listen. I use chicken broth instead of water or milk. Then I put a dollop of Greek yogurt among the oats. Microwave for two minutes but top with cheese for the last 30 seconds. Sprinkle with garlic salt, drizzle with sriracha, and add avocado slices. Holy delicious.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd confess that I'm doing what feels like hard work on my soul. I've found a few flaws in my heart that are just really ugly and I want to clean them up. I'm working on what that means, trying to follow His advice rather than my own inklings, but the heart is a fickle place, isn't it? I'm pouring myself into His words more and less into social media and the rat race. My heart needs a break to refocus, but the pace is so much slower when He and I sit down.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd beg you to remind me that He's hellbent on blessing all circumstance. Sometimes I get caught in a rut of right and wrong answers to big questions. I get caught because I'm afraid that if I go one way and it's wrong, the other will be impossible. Life's not a binary. And He's got my back. But I forget that, I forget and I struggle with how to remind myself in later days. You'll remind me, right?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

P.S. My Shelter Dog Soul


I shared a tiny room with another girl in college. We were eighteen years old and crammed on top of each other. We each had lofted bunk beds with our desk and closet underneath. All my belongings managed to fit in the twenty square feet of stacked room that I could call mine. And it was there I learned to abhor mess.

It was in that tiny space that I realized clutter means chaos and chaos isn't comfortable. It was there that I realized clothes needs to be folded and filed, hung up and tucked away or they're going to be tromped upon. And it was there I came to appreciate a nicely made bed. Comfort meant cleanliness and organization. It meant making a small space feel less crammed full and more thoughtful in its contents.

My soul feels tiny lately, like that stacked living situation.

It feels tiny and cluttered and terrified. It feels like all the messy things are shoved into a closet too small and I'm afraid to move from the front of the door because the contents will explode out. It feels like a notebook full to the brim, crinkled and coffee stained. There's pages and pamphlets and probably a lot of church flyers tucked so deep in the pages that the binding is about to break. My soul's restless and chaotic and aware of the mess.

And lately, my soul sees piece of itself that it truly doesn't like. Those pieces make me feel wild and caged and pacing inside. Those dark corners and rough edges are part of a soul I don't entirely recognize and yet, the comfort of it all have me positive it's mine.

- - - - - -

Sometimes I lay in bed at night and imagine my tireless self as a shelter dog. You know that one's they show on that commercial with the Sarah McLaughlin song that makes you want to cry. It's locked in a cemented cell with a chain link door and it's terrified. My dogged soul was picked up off the street and recognized for its potential, but first there's the mange and the fleas and the itch and the matted fur. There's the ribs that poke out and the tail too thin like a whip. It's an ugly shelter dog that needs more love than the world's got to offer sort of soul.

Thankfully, there's a Father larger than this world who sees potential rather than hopelessness. He sees the bald patches and knows fur grows back. He looks upon the mange and seeks out a salve for me. He watches me growl, bare sharp teeth at His healing hands and feels a sorrow for my scared aggression. He knows better than me.

I want to wait for a blank page. I want to sit back and see January 1st as the day to dive in to soul work, but I know that's not the point. I want a clean start and a perfectly black slate upon which to write out the chalky plans for this next chapter of life.

And yet, He is calling me, reaching out in the throes of Advent. The timing isn't accidental.

- - - - - -

Jesus was born in his day's equivalent to the shelter. He was welcomed by shelter dog souls and celebrated by other lost seekers. Donkeys brayed, camels rested, sheep bleated aside Him in the flesh. It was dark, cold, a starry sort of night in the middle of a desert place. If I can't see the tattered pages upon which was written Christ's tale, I'm blind.

He's not asking for my fresh start. He's not pushing me to wait until 2016's fresh promise on New Year's Day. He's here in Advent, in mess, in the tiny space that can't offer Him more than a cramped doorway. But, that cramped space is enough. That cramped space is hope for this shelter dog soul.
- - - - - -

These notes from the Epilogue of 2015 come with prayers. 

Don't let my bared teeth distract you God. 

I'm scared, uncomfortable, nervous; not mean. I won't bite, but be gentle with my ragged soul. Let your workers come in and remodel the walls to let in Light. Let words rearrange the clutter, toss out what's hindering me, and tear down distracting decorum. 

I trust your process even if I resist it vehemently. 

Don't let my bared teeth distract me God. Bring down the tight chops and let the open spaces you provide be my land of coconut milk and honey. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

what i read in november




It feels like November just disappeared into thin air. I suppose that's what happens with these later months when the time changes and the sun seems to go into it's own form of hibernation. (Was Daylight Savings particularly challenging to adjust to for anyone else?) I struggled reading this month, mostly because I was exhausted by the seemingly midnight dark now characteristic of 7:00PM.

Alas, I did finish a few reads PLUS an eBook that I felt like you NEEDED to know about.

Let the record state: I adored What Alice Forgot. That made me nervous to dig into this novel. When I read one thing by an author and adore it, I then fear nothing else will measure up and I will come to hate the author for giving me one great read then falling short. BUT, that was not the case. In fact, I really, truly enjoyed the "moral" of the story that is Big Little Lies.

I struggled with the format at first -the perspective comes from several of the characters- and transitioning from one family to the next, but I also found myself involved in the drama of the plot quite quickly. I feared the book would feel TOO LONG coming in at 440 pages of elementary school mama drama, but it didn't. There's substance in those pages even if not obvious in the first 50.

I was thrilled with Big Little Lies (thankfully) and say, go and read.

This book couldn't be a simpler read. Really, it's predictable and obvious and screams Chick Flick (in the best of, I want to see this movie, kind of ways). It felt so good to have a happily ever after book in my rotation this month.

I ended up listening to this on Audible and oh how much I deeply loved the narrator. Lou, the main character, was relatable, someone I wanted to have as a friend and who I think is much like myself. There's something about a reflectiveness in characters that keeps me deeply engaged and interested in the happenings of their plot. And this book definitely kept my attention rapt. Plus, the food descriptions were divine.

I do wonder if the physical book has the recipe for the coconut cake in it because I want to make it and eat it and share it with special people who mean the world to me just the way Lou did.






**I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.**  

The outset of the book seemed so promising: soon-to-be Harvard alumni reminiscing on their last four years in college as graduation approaches when the murder of a classmate disrupts all festivity. I was thrilled with the rich plot moves and thick character development (because what's a psychological thriller without rich characters?) but was met with disappointment upon diving deeper into the book. While the characters are developed and their flaws revealed, the plot becomes stagnant in a swamp of annoying people. The richness of the cast seems to trap the plot, requiring it to dance around the whims of its subjects which lends to a plot that doesn't move or twist, dip or dive, but instead sits passively. 

I wanted to drop the book, to set it down and not pick it back up, but I was terribly hopeful the ending would offer me redeeming value. Unfortunately, not so much, the questions left open at the close of the novel made me further annoyed, not hungry for more of Kirman's work.

I read this for #Collaboreads. You can see all my thoughts here.


Social media marketing works for me and I picked this up after seeing it on one of Hannah Brencher's Instagram shots. I fi"m completely honest, bible study has fallen flat on it's face this year. I'm just really struggling to get myself into a quiet place regularly... Even occasionally. I'm determined to make a difference next year and to pursue Him in a more relentless way, but I need help and this was it for me.

It's only 41 pages, so nothing overwhelming. It's not going to revolutionize your life with no fail bible study tactics. BUT, it's going to make approaching the bible easier, less intimidating, more wonderful. Johnson uses lots of tools to assist her in her bible study time and, well, I need those. She's not peddling some ten day bible study plan that you've got to follow, but instead points you in the direction of long-term books and references to help you direct your path through the bible.

Friday, December 4, 2015

on living grace.

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My dad loved grace.

Growing up he'd say we just need to be more graceful. He used to tell my brother and I that our mom was a glowing example of grace. He'd look at her hosting dinner groups and welcoming rowdy teens into her home and making meals to drop on porches of new parents and he'd say she was grace. She was, she is. And yet, I thought grace meant saying sorry and extending forgiveness. It did -it does-, but it means more than that.

- - - - - - - -

Yesterday we all watched as a tragic shooting took place in San Bernardino. We live not far from there, we know people who work there, we run in circles with people affected by the tragedy. And we are angry. We are angry that sin abounds, that terrible things happen, that brokenness pours out in such terrible ways.

We are watching the news with gaping mouths and sad hearts. We're wishing for answers and terrified of what they might mean. We're heavy with disgust, frustration, grief. Even our town, our small county, is no longer sage.

And in the midst of the dark, deep emotions, we seek light. 

- - - - - - - -

It was sitting on our coffee-colored couch that I remembered all the childhood days my dad spoke of grace. I watched the hourly press conferences, waited for new information, live streamed the breaking news feed and I knew this was the place for grace.

Not the forgiveness kind of grace. But the grace that acts, that lives, that wipes our wounds clean and bandages them tight. Grace that pours out steaming hot like soup, warming the coldest parts of our souls on the way down. Grace that's pursuing one another rapidly, that's responding to the emergency, that's not afraid of how this will all play out.

It's grace that establishes community in our human experience. 

- - - - - - - -

Grace for the victims. Grace for the families. Grace for the community. Grace for the first responders. Grace for the locked down neighbors. Grace for the wounds. Grace for the brave.

Grace upon grace. 

- - - - - - - -

This isn't just about San Bernardino or guns or dying. It's not just about shootings or tragedies or death. It's about each of us -in our places and with our purposes- seeking opportunities to crash a wave on the dry shores of our fellow human souls.

Because we're aching, sore, scared. Because we're broken, damaged, wishing. Because we're seeking, weary, heavy laden. Because we're hungry, shivering, lonely. We're suffering in silence and daring our community to be graceful. Yes, there's a double dog dare issued to help, to share, to drop the attitude and seize the opportunity.

- - - - - - - -

Maybe it's a plate of cookies, a text message, a bowl of warm soup, a pair of gloves and a scarf, a litany of prayers, a heartfelt email. Maybe it's less honking, more smiling, less hurry, more holding doors. Maybe it's letters to your congressman, trimming the neighbors' bushes, holding vigil with a sick child. Maybe it's long phone calls, tight squeezes, an unexpected coffee on the desk of a coworker.

Maybe it's a thousand other actions. Definitely it's a light only grace can shine through the dark. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

the post script: a promise in the epilogue


December always functions as a month of surreal sparkles and rowdy family gatherings to cap off my year. It's as though November 30 is, in fact, the end of 2015 and until January 1st, I remain in a suspended period of pine-smelling wait. It's blessed, this month of wide-eyed wonder, but it's exhausting too. It's hustle and bustle and rushing to and fro.

I realize that in the quick pace of this season, I start to tally my year now. I find myself marking down the big pieces I can't dare forget and the small details I want to store away for later days. It looks like a list of dates and counts, but December turns into a tally.

- - - - - - - - - -

December marks six months of shop ownership. It marks six months of breathing life into a new dream and enjoying every moment of it. It's marked by a survival through my first launch season and a deep-seated confidence in my talent.

December marks three years since he left our home. It marks three years since the painful day that dementia was too large for us. It marks another year of suffering alongside him. It marks yet another period of waiting complete. It's been three years of learning about His presence and it's quiet solitude. Three years of begging Him to welcome dad home.

December marks our ninth month of trying to be more than Mr. Thomas and me. It marks wild joy for the friends who are expecting, deep love for the babes we get to call family, and a mild fear that we won't have the chance. It's been nine months of learning to wait on His promises. Nine months of begging for a bundle of joy to grow inside of me.

- - - - - - - - - -

But this year, I've embraced December as an epilogue. December will function as the Post Script to a year that's rocked my soul and deepened my person.

- - - - - - - - - -

I wanted this December to hold the magic, the happy ending, the beautiful ever after. I wanted to come to this December believing that He will pull together all circumstance in my favor. I wanted to know 2016 would start without tarnish, it would breathe crisp, fresh air into my life, overflowing with promise.

But this year, December functions as an epilogue, reminding me that His greatest gift started as a tiny babe born in the depths of night. This epilogue holds the wildest, boldest form of hope -begging me to watch those tiny buds growing in the soil of my soul. those buds will grow, just like that babe did. They will grow and offer life, just like the babe.

And so, I lean into December and all the promises it holds. I lean into the Advent season, marvel in the way He's provided over and over again, and write out the way He will do the same for me. I know He's made the promises to me, pinky-swear and all. He's poured out promises of peace, of wisdom, of newness, of healing, of good.

- - - - - - - - - -

I bask in the hope written on 2015's final pages. His hope.

I bask in the way it's overwhelming, overflowing, all-consuming. And I find myself entrenched in these last thirty days, chewing on the inside of my cheek while I work desperately to glean the wisdom knitted into their depths.

Monday, November 30, 2015

#collaboreads: The Bronte Cabinet

It's the end of November and what way to end a month of thanks than with a FABULOUS conversation about books? There's no way. So, we're here gathering and writing about the nonfiction reads that made our month more interesting (and educational).

If you missed what #Collaboreads is, you can familiarize yourself here.

Short version: Rachel and I pick a random criteria for the book (i.e. Takes Place in Summertime). You pick your book and read it. Then the last Monday of the month we meet up and talk about our choices.

There's a R.E.A.D.S. review format that we've shared for suggestion's sake (shared in this post), but feel free to review however you're comfortable!

My pick for this month is fascinating because it combines #Collaboreads and the Semi-Charmed Winter Book Challenge together into one which brought me to a surprising pick for my read. It was as though serendipity stepped in and said "Amber, this is your book" while I stood reading over all the titles on the Featured shelf in the entrance of our library.

Meet The Bronte Cabinet by Deborah Lutz. It's just as the title suggests: a look into the lives of the Bronte sisters through nine of the things they owned.

RIVETING. 
I've always had a bizarre fascination with the Bronte sisters. I've only ever read Wuthering Heights, and, if I'm honest, struggled to understand what allured so many people to their novels. Up until now, the words and fancy english have been allowed to confuse me, distract me, and bring me to a paralyzed pace as I try to work through the words.

BUT, now I've read this. And in reading The Bronte Cabinet, I get it. These women, sisters, lived a rich (and not specifically in money) life. They saw opportunity and abundance in every ounce of their surroundings. They were makers, creators, imaginers from the moment they could conceive ideas and that fascinates me.

ELEMENTS.
The book is dry, really dry. It's thick with history and all kinds of information about the time, culture, place in which the sisters lived. At times, I felt like I was dragging through the details, but the narrative was fascinating. Some of the objects (dog collar, walking habits, small handmade books) were interesting and easy to read through while others felt oddly obsessed over... As though only six objects were going to illustrate the three lives of the sisters, but nine was a rounder, better number.

The piece that kept me moving throughout the book was finding the sisters so approachable, so like me, so modern women in their own rite. I recognized myself in the way they turned childhood fantasy into life-fulfilling dreams. I saw how their family and socioeconomic status and happenings influenced their characters and their work. I felt refreshed to know that I'm like them, that the creative process -though always unique- is fundamentally the same.

ASSOCIATE.
Here's where the Semi-Charmed Winter Book Challenge comes in: I chose this book because Katherine Reay's The Bronte Plot was released in early November. I wanted to read the book this month (haven't yet) because I adore all of Reay's other work, but wasn't able to squeeze it in to any of the categories. That is, until I ran to the library to pick up a book on hold and found The Bronte Cabinet. There's an obvious connection between the two and their subject matter while one is fiction, the other nonfiction. 


But, I also have to say, the lines and associations between the history of the Bronte sisters and their books are drawn in bold, clear lines. It was fascinating to hear about the influences of their family and friends and circumstances in their writings. Very specific connections were drawn between characters, rooms, events in the books and their lives which gave life to what can feel like antiquated, old literature. 

DESIGN.
The cover screams traditional England with it's gold frame and elegant embellishments. It's straight-forward, no nonsense in the same way the book presents the history of the Bronte family. But it's beautiful too, just the way any big picture presentation of life can be beautiful. 


STARS. 

Three point seven five.

I wanted to give it four, but it just didn't move from one detail to the next quite as quickly as I'd have liked. The book was dry and sometimes tedious in the way it ran through parts of the sisters lives... I guess in reflection to the way life can be in its slow, mundane movements.

But, more than that, I was fascinated and even opened up to the richness that is the non-fiction, biography genre. I've always tended to steer away from them because of the matter-of-fact writing within their pages. I've always opted for novel or memoir and tI need to expand my horizons even if not necessarily simple to do.

And now, it's your turn to talk about all the books that filled your month!


Next month, we're linking up on December 28th and we're reading 
A Friend's Favorite
Yes, for December ask a friend what book to read. 
See you in a month!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

this is how i thank you. (plus a shop coupon code)

We have a policy in the Thomas House that no Christmas decorating is allowed to happen prior to Thanksgiving. We believe in the power of thank you and that it's the perfect primer for the Advent season. But, the moment Thanksgiving closes and Noemvember 27th dawns we are Christmas Elves

Literally, we open the Christmas tree lot with smiling faces and take down every pumpkin as we sprint around the house. Sparkles and twinkle lights and all kinds of ornaments bring smiles to our faces and twinkles to our eyes. And why, why is there something so delightedly magical about this time of year? 

What's this got to do with now? Well, it's the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and you're busy planning out ALL THE SHOPPING that you need to do. I get it. But I'm not great with the mad crowds and crazy lines that come with shopping in real life on days like Friday. So I provided a way to get some handmade, heartfelt art for your (or your friend's) home 

Let's not waste time with words and things, but instead get to the good stuff. Good stuff like DISCOUNT CODES

Keep an eye out over the weekend for Small Business Saturday's sale as well as Cyber Monday's final code!

But most importantly, thank you.
Thank you friends for supporting me, 
for believing in me, 
for encouraging me, 
and for coming back to buy from me 
time after time. It makes my soul soar. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

marriage letter: the power of missing

Welcome to you, to you and to your words today. 

The Letter Link-up | Mr. Thomas & Me

This letter is part of the letter link-up. While I am spending my letters documenting moments within our marriage before children for our children because they won't know us without them, but you are allowed to write your letter to anyone, on anything with the prompt being simply a starting point.

This letter is one in a series of letters I write to remember mundane moments of my marriage that would otherwise slip away. I write with a dedication to hold tight to him and to remember how life looks right now at this very moment. The chance for these letters to shed light on our marriage before children for our children because they won't know us as newlyweds is a much loved and added bonus. 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Dear Jason, 

I went away for a long weekend last month. It was lovely, refreshing, and full of adventure in a city I didn't know. But I missed you. 

I missed you in the way that a little kid misses -not aware, but then undeniably. It started as being busy with the fun of San Francisco and distraction from your absence. I biked and dined and wined and danced. I giggled and slept in and drank too many coffees. I shopped a bit, talked a lot, and made my first ever 40,000 step day. It was lovely. 

The weekend's fun would subside in small dips of restful quiet and I would miss you like a preteen boy. It was an indignant miss that pretended not to be mushy or quaint, only empowered and strong. It was a secret miss that even I couldn't recognize. But it was there, latent. 

As we ran from Union Square to Chrissy Field, I celebrated the freedom you give me. The freedom to go and do, to be and see, to travel and to miss. And there, in the realized identity of growing up, I missed you in an intense way that only a teenage girl can manage. In a way that dances on the line of dependence and individuality. 

And then we celebrated. We sat in a dark, dusty bar and tried egg white cocktails. We swiped through our roll of photos from the weekend. We talked about the city, the way it's different than our small town. We had dinner, walked some more steps, celebrated our weekend with an ice cream Sunday and wine. Early bed times beckoned because of our predawn flight and I missed you as a wife. 

I missed you and wanted work to let you off early so I could wrap my arms around your neck. I missed you while I did the laundry that smelled of you, while I made the bed that hadn't seen anyone but you, while I bathed the dog who spent the weekend being yours. And in the depth of coming home to an empty house, I knew I was made to spend my life loving you when you're here and missing you when you're gone. 

I will love you and miss you as long as my heart can live, 
Amber
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Date for December's Letter: 
Monday, December 21st
Topic: 
When Your Light is Brightest
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
And now, the important part, YOU: 

Friday, November 20, 2015

the balance between dreaming and doing [with a giveaway]

*I received Dream It. Pin It. Live It. from The Fedd Agency in exchange for a review.
All opinions and views are expressly my own.

My word for the year is savor.

Initially I wrote about it in hopes to slow, be more engaged, grow my appreciation for life as it happens. I imagined I would be more joyful, less busy, and in a similar place I was nearly eleven months ago. But life, as we know, never happens in the way we imagine and here I am in a new, blessed place.

The book was set aside. The shop was opened. The home "finished". The running remains. The To Do Lists growing. The husband a glorious gem. The blog continuing and gaining direction. The dreams rampant in my soul.

Savoring is still important, but it's no longer focused on the main dish life has plated for me; it's now about the zest. It's about the nuances and herbs and sweet little details in each proverbial meal that's graciously given to me. It's, as so perfectly said by Terri Savelle Foy in her new novel, Dream It. Pin It. Live It., about a new focus on fulfillment rather than futility:
"The focus is on your zest for living life to the fullest and fulfilling every dream God has put in your heart to do. Plan the highlights of your life. Live on purpose. Remove limitations. Maximize your moments." 
As I'm blessedly drowning in shop work, I became daunted by the idea-making process. I was accidental in creating and fearful about the next custom order request to arrive. Thankfully, Dream It. Pin It. Live It. by Terri Savelle Foy came alongside my creative process and helped me to grow my small hopeful visions into beautiful works of art. While I work to develop and market piece by piece, Foy's words often echo through my mind. Her words were balmy encouragements, spreading a kind light in the darkness of a busy, doubtful mind. Her concepts aren't life-altering, but instead beautiful reminders of your own knowledge.

She's a gentle Mama patting your shoulder and reminding you of the strength in your own soul. Like Mama, she's right and convicting when you're really not interested in hearing her. Like Mama, she is sweet and cheesy. Like Mama, you love her in all her goodness, but you disagree with bits and pieces of her advice too. Like Mama, she keeps talking all the same. Like Mama, she makes you better at what you already do so well.
"Remember, what you achieve isn't nearly as important as who you become while you're working toward the goals..." 
Like I said, cheesy, but convicting. Cliche, but deeply true.

When the year started I was sure I'd be querying agents by the end of the year. I knew I'd need a team of someones to go through my manuscript and letter with me and I was thrilled at the idea. I planned to be a part of #NaNoWriMo once again this year. And then November came. I skipped #NaNoWriMo (after a successful completion of it last year) because the shop needed me. I am thankful for the busy of art making, but I miss my words. I was angry on November 1st when I wasn't feeling the writing burn.

But, for now I'm wearing the artist hat. I'm covered in flecks of acrylic paint and my soul is smiling as it is so. I know there will be a lull in shop business in just a few weeks which will give me time to recuperate from the making season that proceeds Christmas. And in that place, I can only imagine the words. So, in preparation I've started setting priorities for myself. Ones that say rest, relax, reward. And still being sure to include WORDS in bold, bubbly letters.
"We have to remember that there will always be an unlimited list of goals we need to accomplish, 'priorities' are always fighting for our attention; but if we really want to reach our goals, we must learn the skill of saying no." 
And while I've said no and savored the shop, I'm thrilled at the opportunity to say yes in the coming weeks. I'm laying awake at night with ideas and ruminating on the possibilities that bounce around in my wild mind. I'm hoping on all hopes to come back to my 50,000 words. I miss the book and all the thoughts that sit around anticipating the day they walk through the world between two covers. And so, I will begin again.

And as I close, I offer you a copy of Dream It. Pin It. Live It. to help with your own dreams! I will include a surprise item from AmberThomasMakes to keep inspiration on your walls.

Simply drop a little glimmer of your current work 
on your dream in the comments section below 
and you'll be entered into the giveaway!

Extra entry in giveaway for sharing about the giveaway in a tweet or sharing your dream in an Instagram photo (remember to tag me: @mrthomasandme).

A random winner will be selected on Monday, November 23th at 9:00am PST and notified via comment reply and email. Upon notification, winner will be asked to provide current mailing address. Should winner not reply, a second winner will then be selected. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

the importance of saying "you are welcome".



One time an aunt gave me a beautiful tea cup. She said she knew I collected them and that she wanted to offer it to me. I was floored and complimented and flushed with joy. I told her thank you over and over. And she told me it was no longer special to her. She said she was going to give it away but wanted to see if I was interested first. I cupped my hand around the fragile bowl of that tea cup and blushed to the depth of my core.

Now I think about that interaction over the tea cup and realize: it wasn't about her, but about me. 

I was so thankful, so prepared to give that beautiful cup a safe home and those two facts were enough. It didn't need to hold meaning on both ends, it didn't need to be defined as relationship changing for both of us, it just needed to be what it was. But there's days when I see the tea cup holding my bracelets in it's china hull and I wish she'd said, you're welcome. 

Because we love to be welcomed. We love an open door -even if it's metaphorical and in our hearts. We love a quick embrace -even if it's proverbial words wrapped tight around our souls. When times are tough, life is trying, our soul's home is missing, we ache for a warm welcome. And so our blessed friends extend themselves, opening up a safe space in which we lay down, we mourn, we rest. We know the importance of being welcomed. And we admit how deeply we love to be welcomed.

And yet, my spirit isn't welcoming. It wraps it's arms tight, rocks to and fro protecting itself from the bumps and bruises that life promises to hold. It isn't interested in trying, but prefers what's done. It ignores the invitations to gather, to come together, to commune for fear of emptiness. But this place -with its safe promises and careful controlled circumstance- isn't fruitful or vibrant or fun. It's dull and boring and sheltered.

I'm learning to say, you are welcome. I'm starting with Him. It's hard. It's scary. It leaves me feeling raw and humbled. But I will continue to tell Him, He is welcome. Because as I welcome Him, I have the opportunity to welcome you too. As He opens bits and pieces of my sealed-off heart, my life will grow wider, larger, grander. So hear me please: you are welcome.

Welcome speaks love and worth and belonging. Welcome is a gentle flood over our souls, a care-filled overwhelm that refreshes what's dry, a spray of hope when dire darkness abounds. Welcome is a choice, not always easy or fun, but surely rewarding. Here me please: you are welcome. Your mess and chaos, your beauty and strength, your tears and fear, your sureness and doubts; it's all you and it's all welcome.

You are welcome.

Monday, November 16, 2015

coffee date 19


If we were on a coffee date, I'd be drinking something hot, hot, hot. It's finally cold here in California, like really cold (by California girl standards) and so I went from flip flops to boots, from lazy short pajamas to flannels with socks. The fireplace is going each night and it's got me really hankering to decorate for Christmas. We decorate after Thanksgiving (literally, the day after), tell me about when your red and green goes up. 

If we were on a coffee date, I'd share this recipe for a Kale-Gnocchi-Butternut Squash bake. It's simple and easy and takes 30 minutes after work, but yields a delicious beyond compare dinner. I make it without the ham (because I'm lazy) and Jason loves it. This is a big deal because Jason is always repulsed by meals that do not include some form of meat.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd wonder what you're aching for right now. I'd ask you about the good parts of the ache and the bad parts too. I'd encourage you to ache for a while, to let the muscles of want work themselves out because, like being sore after the gym, relief is coming (even if you and I are both completely unaware of what that looks like).

If we were on a coffee date, I'd confess I saw The Martian. It was on a Sunday night date that Jason and I are working intentionally to have each week right now. He really wanted to see the movie and so, I caved. It was good. It really, honestly was good. I still have a preference for the book and the tale of how it came to be published. But I wasn't as angry or disappointed as I thought I'd be. Thank you, Hollywood.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd tell you that I'm hopeful and afraid about Christmas. This is the time of year when the biggest piece of my dad disappeared and with this season comes so much emotional heavy. But I've been playing this Christmas concert (from the beloved church we attended during college) for myself all the livelong days. I sobbed in a packed auditorium of a San Diego high school while this concert played out and these songs, the paper chains, the voice of Juanita rock me all the same. 

If we were on a coffee date, I'd shyly share that I wrote words for the book. Yes, I wrote for the book and I cried a lot, but it felt so good. I sat and sipped coffee and bared the little broken pieces of my Popsicle-missing heart. It made me feel less afraid of what's to come this Advent season and in the months beyond. It made me thankful to be here where we are and not back there where we were so long ago.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd have my Uggs on. I know it's not really that cold in California (except it does drop to below freezing regularly here already), but my feet have been SO COLD when I wake up in the morning and I just can't get them warm. So, I'd have on my Uggs and I'd be shameless about it because the toes might fall off if they get any colder (or at least that's how it feels to me).

If we were on a coffee date, I'd ask for tips on gathering. I'd want to know what makes gathering easier, more fun, deeply engaging for you. I'd want all the details about savoring who's in your presence and how you make such moments full of joy. You'd share all your tips and I'd write them down because 'tis the season to gather for me. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

when the world runs dry


I had a visit with my dad yesterday. It was just me and him among the other residents and staff. It was me and him in a bubble of faux-familiarity while the chaos of memory illness whirls madly around us. This place is uncomfortable, deep and threatening, while safe. It feels like panic in the middle of the ocean though I'm hanging tightly to a night raft. I'm not sure if I should be more terrified of drowning in this disease or what lurks beneath the dark surfaces of the water.

But yesterday it was the moment I saw him for the first time in a few months that brought me here today. 

I walked in to his room and found a thin, run-dry shell of a man. A man I can hardly bear to call my father because of the immense void. I stood still and silent as I stared at his chest rising and falling under a few blankets. I saw the emptiness in his small square room and thought of the desert place in Isaiah. I thought of God's promise to flood dry places with water, bringing pools of refreshment over the barren ground. I stood and I watched and thought of all the parched nooks and crannies within my soul.

I know of His promises, but I feel so desperately afraid they weren't meant for me. 

When the room is so quiet and still, only his breath and mine to be heard, His presence is haunting. He's there, with us, and He's making me edgy. I want to move, to make myself busy, to keep my hands occupied with real things. I don't want Him to touch me, to reach out, to acknowledge me because I fear the answers He has. I'm terrified He will tell us to walk further, swim deeper, trust harder. I want to present Him with the Big Questions, but can't breathe at the idea of the Big Answers. I try to bolster myself with our endurance over the last six years of change, but I as I stand in the door frame of the small, square room fear shakes me.

I know of His promises, but worry they aren't the same as what's grown so deep in my heart. 

If I left him last night and we got the call that he'd passed away, I'd be thrilled for his precious soul to finally be free. But I know with his death will come change. We will transition from going to gone. And with that change comes new life, comes After Dementia. The After portion of our stories looks full with joy, family, faith. It looks wide and broad and tastes of honey. It's warm and comfortable for us to embrace.

I know of His promises, but, more important, He's handling their realization. 

He will bring forth great life -green, joyful, vibrant- from what, today, feels near dead. He will hand my life's dove a branch and drop a rainbow from the clouds to draw me into His presence. He will lift me from the valley in which we're trapped and let us enjoy the view from a grand, holy mountain. He will grow cedar and myrtle and olive trees in the places I've cordoned off as hopeless.

The flood will come, just as He promises, and barren days will be buried in bygone days. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

bullet journaling: an update on my process

Six months ago I posted about my new planning fascination: bullet journaling. I shared about the way I was nervous because bullet journaling is so open-ended, but that I was sure I could wrap my mind around all the blank pages of my Moleskine. And I did. 

In fact, I have used a bullet journal for the last seven months and am now eleven days into my second one. It's so manageable. Actually, it's more than manageable and is perfect for my lifestyle. So, the day is finally here where I share the new and updated ways that I'm using bullet journaling to organize my days! 

I am still using a large Moleskine journal, but instead of the original format of lined pages, I'm using ones that are dotted. They remind me (very loosely) of the boxes game we played at restaurants when I was a kid. I am enjoying the freedom that the dots give me in comparison to the lines (which made me feel like I needed to stay between the lines), but it did take a second for me to get used to them. 

Like last time, I am including a table of contents BUT this time I have allocated three pages to the content cause. This is important because last time I didn't give myself enough space to put down all the things that I included in my journal over the last seven months. I thought it'd be no big deal, but I'm planning on keeping the journals and for the sake of returning to what I wrote, having contents would be easier. This is one part of the bullet journaling process I really need to work on, but for now the three page approach will have to work.

I wrote in my last post that I wasn't a fan of the way the creators of bullet journaling set up their monthly calendar format so I started drawing out my monthly layout in the traditional calendar format. I loved working with it in this way, but because I didn't know how many pages I'd use in a given month I would only draw out one calendar at a time. This meant that I was still carrying a monthly planner in my purse. (Talk about defeating one's purpose.)


I got to thinking I could put together a "planner" style calendar section in my bullet journal as I neared the end of my last one. I realized I can fit about six months worth of content in my journal and so, I drew out monthly calendar pages from November to April. Drawn and dated from now until Spring of 2016, I feel more organized and comfortable.

And what about the important dates that go beyond the six month span (like the dentist)? I left a blank page open for me to be able to add in the things that might fall outside of the six months of calendar space I've created. I actually had this in my first bullet journal (at the very end) and found it so helpful for the lack of monthly planning ability, so I'm confident in it now.


Now that whole journal set-up is covered. I'll let you in on the monthly, more functional, details of my bullet journal. I am continuing to use tabs at the beginning of each month for ease of movement through the journal. There is the ribbon that Moleskines' come with, but I like to have the little tabs as a means of flipping from one month to the next. Plus they're sticky so you can move them and add them however you might wish to do.

There's a newly added monthly goals section (as seen on the top of page 17 in the picture above) that I've added above my lessons list. These are helpful to focus my efforts as the month starts and progresses. As bits and pieces of my days feel chaotic and overwhelming, I can continue to bring myself back to the goals for the month instead of panicking.

The lessons list turns into my What I Learned post that goes up at the end of every month. It's basically a free blog post as the days tick away off the calendar. (Completely unrelated note: At the end of the month I go through these and my Instagram pictures and that's how the What I Learned posts come together.)
                                                                                                             
I am trying to be more intentional in including everything in a single journal for the next six months. This is challenging for me because I love to break things out into a whole bunch of different journals in the name of organization. What this really, truly does is make me lethargic and frustrated in locating and using said journals. Lethargy and work is not really motivating and creative so bringing it all together for the sake of big creative magic.



Daily task lists and grocery lists remain important and included because, well, life. I have stopped working with a list of specific symbols because I found they -for the most part- confused me. But, I am using a highlighter or two to draw attention to things that I love. So, you'll see the little highlighted $ sign on page 22 above and realize that it's hanging out next to a really lovely Picasso quote. This is meant to be motivational and special to me, but is also a possible inspiration for another piece in the shop!

The keep it all together rule means my bible studies are now being conducted in my bullet journal. This is partly (and for the sake of transparency) because bible study as a daily habit has taken a large hit in my life. I am struggling to sit down and write things out so instead of worrying over the little details and all the note-taking opportunities, I am often just reading. But, when I do want to write down some thoughts or verses or poignant moments with Him, they go here.


In addition to including my bible studies, I've started Weekly Podcast Notes for myself. They're basically small paraphrases of concepts and quotes that were poignant to me while I was listening to my favorite podcasts throughout the week. I'm a huge fan of listening while I walk or paint or work which makes it hard to be writing things down word for word. These often are pieces of podcast that I can't stop thinking about in my day to day (which to me makes them more important to document).

A few things I used to do that I don't anymore:
  • Tracking my "dailies". I'm trying to afford myself a greater sense of spontaneity for my creative process and being rigorous about my dailies doesn't help that. So, I've retired the process of tracking and organizing them so that grace is greater than routine. 
  • Listing every possible thing I can think of doing.
    Now I write down my three most important things (MITs) to do in a single day and then have a couple bonus points to check off if possible. I don't want my planner to be what determines all the ways that I live, instead I want to live with the help of my lists. 
  • Sticking to small print, line-following writing. 
    Without the lines I have the opportunity to make larger shapes and sketches. I can dedicate an entire page to writing out a beautiful quote that just rocks my soul. This is more reflective of my personality and process, so it's a win. 
A few things I want to incorporate but haven't yet:
  • Listing my miles.
    I participated in a running challenge last June that required one to track their miles ran daily. I loved having the mileage add up over the course of the month and I'm still confused why I haven't continued to do it. 
  • Adding a daily writing chunk.
    I write down quotes and words from other people that are special to me. But I never write down sentences that I wrote and love. Somehow I feel ridiculous having spent so many years celebrating the words of others, but not cherishing my own. 
This is a lot of information. As always happens with creative processes and journaling and planning. BUT, you've got yourself an update. And, with an update, comes a coupon code for the custom painted moleskine journals that I sell in my Etsy shop! Yes, you read that right. Use code "ROUNDTWO" for 10% off your custom-painted bullet journal for the rest of this week ONLY.

And now head down to the comments section and 
ask me all the things that I've forgotten. 
I promise to respond and (possibly) to update the post to fill all the holes that I've left! 

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