Friday, August 30, 2013

shall we vlog? cha cha cha

My intention was to post this video this morning.  But then it took one million years to load. So, instead of morning coffee, let's have some evening coffee. It is Friday night after all!

PS- Do you even like vlogging (not the word, no one likes the word, but the concept??)


Happy Friday!


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

At the Intersection {Vol. 5} - Christa Wells


 Today's post is part of a  series I am hosting called At the Intersection, and it is all about how other gals out there -gals like me who are mothers, artist and followers of Christ-juggle all three areas of their lives at once. How they live at the intersection of art, faith, and motherhood.
I chose these three particular categories because they are the very three that I find pull on the same parts of my heart. All three demand of me the following:  time, creativity, the ability to listen, the ability to problem solve, and to think critically. And all three are rooted -should be rooted-in grace.

But instead of just listening to me talk about these ideas, I thought I would invite some friends into the conversation. To see if I was the only one who works to juggle all three, or if there might be others out there who face similar struggles, whose stories might shed a little light and provide a little encouragement for you and me.

I am also hoping that you, my most fab readers, will also offer encouragement to each of these lovely women, who, like you, are doing their best to live authentically in the present at the intersection of beauty and mess.

See me? Yep. That is me in the middle, being a total fan girl geek.
The gal on the left is Nicole Witt and the gal on the right is Christa Wells,  and their music, particularly Christa's, carried me through writing A Homemade Year. I listened to their combined work - More Than Rubies, and Christa's album How Emptiness Sings        from beginning to end as I tapped away on the keyboard, flung myself on the floor in anguish as I wrestled with recipes and sentence structure (I am only slightly kidding about the floor part,) and  pushed myself to go deeper.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to share about my book at the Wild Goose Festival. But, there was some confusion and miscommunication which resulted in my official invite not coming until just a few weeks before the event and I  wrestled with whether or not I could afford the trip-financially, logistically, physically. But then I saw that Christa would be performing on the same day I was presenting and I knew immediately that I would find a way to make to the Goose. It was just too good to be true. Her music is such a huge part of AHY in my heart, her voice my only companion throughout so much of the process, and I could not miss this opportunity to meet her and hear her play. 

Needless to say, it was better than I could have hoped. Christa and Nicole are incredibly lovely, funny, sweet, and amazingly talented gals. From the moment we met it felt as if we were kindred spirits, and I was very tempted to abandon the Goose all together and hop in their van and take off with them to their next gig.

Christa (who is the author of the song Held as recorded by Natalie Grant) has new album that has just released entitled Feed Your Soul (make sure to watch the video at the end of this post to get a taste of the album.) I am pretty sure her song  More Than I Am (featuring Carolina Story) was written just for me, and this entire album is keeping me company while I work on book proposal 2. And once again her lyrics, her music, and her voice are pushing me to go further, to dig deeper, and to keep tapping on those keys. And believe me, I need it. 

I am so excited to have to have Christa with us today for this edition of At the Intersection





 Name Christa Wells
Blog/Website Name  www.christawellsmusic.com
Art Form Singer/Songwriter
Kids Ages  7, 9, 9, 12, 15
Relationship Status  Married
Expression of Faith- Christian/Protestant - PCA
Where Do You Live? Raleigh, NC, house

Questions:

How did you find your creative niche? Was this something you have always done, or did you fall into it by accident?
Music is what I've always been most drawn to, and since probably about middle school, I've thought this would be a big part of my life.  I began by wanting to be Amy Grant.  As I grew, I discovered I didn't love performing and struggled with a great deal of performance anxiety. So I backed off that side of things and focused strictly on songwriting after college.  It's only been in the past 6 years that I began to share the songs with my own voice, and really only since 2009.




Where do you create? Office? Kitchen table? 
At the hand-me-down baby grand piano in the main living area of our home late at night.  Or I sneak away to our finished attic space where my keyboard lives.

Do you create best in solitude or in the middle of chaos
I've realized over the past few years that I'm more introvert than extrovert, but I live in a very full house and homeschool several of our kids.  So I crave solitude and find it very hard to focus on artmaking unless I get alone.  I can do business work in the noise but not the songwriting.



How does your faith influence your creative process?
My faith is the lens through which I see life and the world and relationships.  So I don't see any compartmentalization between faith and creativity, but I do feel a strong sense of accountability in my art making that I attribute to my faith.  It's not just about me or my desire to express myself about following Jesus' example of really seeing people, looking into their eyes and speaking truth in love.  

How does that process influence or enrich your faith?
My writing is my way of coping and processing everything, so when I enter into the writing of a song, I begin to see connections and patterns and light that I may have been unaware of before I sat down to work. This happens intuitively, so all the elements were already in there somewhere but they rise to the surface as the music is born.  That makes my faith feel like the living, breathing thing it is.


Sometimes I feel as if writing, parenting, and the practicing my faith are all drawing from the same well inside me, that they tax the same part of my heart. This means that quite often I find that I have depleted all of my resources pouring into just one of the three, leaving the other two wanting.  Do you have this same issue, or is it just me? 
Ha ha, it's definitely not just you.  I joke and lament that I feel like I'm always doing everything halfway.  In particular, I feel the pull between music and homemaking.  I like the IDEA of being Martha Stewart and my husband laughs at my ability to fool myself into thinking I'll get around to doing this or that.  I'm an idealist and hate to admit I cannot do it all. But I obviously can't.  I planted a garden (against his advice) in the spring and haven't set foot in it since.  I see from the window there are green bean plants and tomato volunteers and a lot of weeds, but all I see is a lot of work I do not have time for.  So I pretend it's not there.  I can't do the same thing to my family.  They actually do need to eat at least once a day.  But yeah, it's very hard for me to pull out of my head and do those sorts of things.  When they were smaller, it was the reverse - I knew they were absolutely dependent on me, so I didn't carve out the time for music often.  


What do you do to recharge, or refill the well,

In your creative process? Listen to other music, read books, collaborate.  Get alone.

In your parenting? Hang out & trade stories with other parents, especially my sisters.  Go out of town for a couple of days making music. I come back happy and ready!

In the practicing of your faith?  Read great books of all sorts.  Have lunch with a mentor/friend.  Listen to sermons.  Wake up for morning solitude, Bible and prayer.


Do you have any advice for other mom's out there who are also trying to learn how to live out their callings as artist, mothers and followers of Christ? What is something you wish someone had told you earlier on?
Someone did say this to me:  "This is just a season."  When I had 5 kids ages 7 and under and could barely breathe, I clung to that.  Also, every little thing counts!  If you are a writer at heart and you write one line on a steno pad today, good for you!  You made something!  I wrote precious few songs over those baby years, but "Held" was one of them.  You never know what might come from those desperately weak and weary times.

What are some specific challenges you are facing right now in all three of these areas? 
Our season of having all the kids in one place & my husband at home (he worked from home for two years) has come to an end.  We have one on traditional calendar, one on year-round, and three at home/online.  Husband is working full days away from home.  At the same time, my performance and overall music work load have ramped up.  I'm not sure how we're going to do it logistically.  We're figuring that out as we go. That's the big one!  Striking the right balance and hearing God in it...discerning which opportunities are right for us.  I want to say "yes" to everything at home, community, church, and work.  But we need to be wise.  Toby helps me with that. ha 

How can I, and my readers, pray for you?
See above. :)

Is there anything else you would like to share with my readers regarding the interplay of art, faith, and parenthood in your life? Any experiences or practices you would like to share?
Oh, if we could sit and have coffee, there would be so many ideas and insights we could trade!  I've learned most of all to be brave in all these areas, to try something and see if it works.  If it doesn't, try another way.  I'm learning to let it all mingle together in the way that is natural for me and my unique family.  

Any questions that I didn't ask that you think I should have? If so, what are they and what are your answers? :)
Do I like Thai food?  
Answer: Yes.  ;)





Thank you Christa for coming to hang out with me today! I am going to find a way to get you to Arkansas somehow ; )

Happy Wednesday friends!
J

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

drug induced randomness


Guess what? I have strep throat! Yay me!
So, in the past thirty days I have had the flu, a sinus infection, and now strep. 
Gotta love my immune system. What there is of it.
So I am home in bed, quarantined for 24 hours, and hopped up on meds. 
To celebrate I thought I would share just a random scattering of photos and thoughts.


This is Brian. Technically he is Miles' fish. But really he is mine. I once kept a goldfish alive for over two years. And then my little sister Jemimah fed him MagicSand. Do you remember magic sand? That was the end of Sam the fish. 
My tip for keeping gold fish alive: don't wash their bowls with soap. Ever. Only with really really really hot water.

 If you have ever been to my house and sat in these chairs and worked the entire time to keep from falling out of them my apologies. It only took me a year but we have finally fixed the seats and the height and they are one hundred percent more comfy to sit in. In fact, once I am over this crud, you should come over and give them a test sit. I will make cookies.



Miles had a sleepover Saturday night with his friend Haden. Haden is our life saver because he and Miles were instant friends the moment they met at church. Miles has never liked change much and he pretty much basis his opinion of things like school and church on whether or not he has friends there. So it was a huge blessing that when we began attending our church, Miles and Haden found each other almost right away. This past Sunday was the big kick-off for the upcoming Sunday School season and we had Haden over the night before so that the boys could get excited together about meeting their new teachers and the new year.

This is what our living room looked like the next morning and I can't help but wonder... Do all sleepovers involve snare drums, brooms, slingshots and mallets , among other wacky items?


This is a Zinnia that Speck picked at small roadside farm and market. I love Zinnia's. I am thinking I should grow some next year... Have you ever planted any??

Ok, back to bed for me. I gotta get well! September is a busy month for me!

xoxo
J

Friday, August 23, 2013

Doodle Wisdom



This past Monday night Jeanetta and I were invited to the home of Sarah Frost, one our of very favorite costumers from our Shoppe days, so that I could share the story of A Homemade Year with her and a group of her friends called the Doodles. We were invited to share the evening with this group of friends who meet once a month for dinner, sharing, occasional crafting and cooking and other various adventures. The eight gals take turn hosting and there is always a theme to the evening- which is often a surprise! Monday's theme was "Back to School." This was the perfect theme because a)School started for most districts in our area that day and b)Several of the gals are school teachers. Sarah herself just retired this year after 32 years teaching. 




Sarah's house is adorable, classic, fun, and a great mix of new and old. The house is a new build in an adorable little "village" style neighborhood. Sarah and her husband Jack did a great job creating a home that feels timeless despite it's newborn status by using all sorts of vintage and unexpected fixtures and  treatments. Even though I was at Sarah's house to share, I felt as if I was really there to learn. To listen.

I am going to share all the photos I snapped with my phone of Sarah's adorable house, but I also want to talk about the all the goodness and wisdom that Sarah and her friends passed on to Jeanetta and I that night. Because I think you will love them as much as I did.



(Light fixture made from Sarah's grandmothers egg basket)

1) It Keeps Getting Better
A few weeks ago I was able to go and participate in the Wild Goose Festival, and while I was there I got to hear Glennon Melton speak twice. I knew some of Glennon's story, but I have not been an avid reader of hers until now. Glennon is on a 40 day media fast, but this week she had her sister put up a post for her on her blog where she says "it's gets better!" She is talking to mother's of babies and toddlers and preschoolers who are drowning in midnight feedings, diapers, ear infections, the constant need for sippy cup refills and complete meltdown fits in the middle of Target. Glennon's youngest child started school this week and she is giving a shout out of hope that if the baby/toddler stage isn't your favorite, just hang in there - it will get better.
Sometimes Jeanetta and I look at each and wonder if we will ever get to do all the creating and traveling we dream of. Will we ever have the energy to throw the sort of gathering that Sarah threw. Will we have weekends to spend trekking all over Texas in search of the perfect kitchen table. Will our kitchens ever stay clean? 
Monday night I think we got a little glimpse into our future, and y'all, it looked oh so lovely. 
It makes it a little easier to just rest and enjoy this stage with our kids and hang in there as we juggle their busy big-kid schedules and changing emotional needs. Just having a small taste of the next season of our life is a comfort for those frustrating days when we want to toss everyone out the window and lock the doors.


 (Sarah and her friends found this vintage school table in Canton, TX. 
There are three drawers on each side. Isn't it the best?)

2) Start Something
Towards the end of 2009, Doodle member Pattie decided that she wanted to do something in the next decade to "become a better woman." So she gathered some friends - some who knew each other and some who didn't - and asked them if they wanted to form a group who would meet monthly to learn, encourage, create and share with each other. In essence she formed what I call  "intentional friendships."  She had the courage to step out and invite others into her life in a way that was very purposeful. She and the other Doodles made a commitment to each other to meet once a month, to walk through life together.
If you read this blog ( if you read A Homemade Year)  regularly, then you know how I have a thing for intentional friend groups. That I believe strongly in stepping out of my comfort zone in pursuit of community. I love that Pattie decided to do this as well. Sometimes friendship groups sort of spontaneously form, but more often then not, they have to be intentionally created and this means someone has to be the one to step up and invite others into community.
I also love that Pattie challenged herself. That she wanted to "do something to make myself a better woman." How brave and kind she was in this. And I am pretty sure that each of the Doodles would agree that this group has made each of them a better woman.

(party favors of homemade jelly!)
 3) Keep Learning
For some of the gals gatherings they give each other lessons. Cooking lessons, canning lessons, stamping lessons. Sometimes they have other people come in and teach them things. I love this. I have a hard time being teachable (just ask Sweet Man.) I hate looking stupid. I like to figure things out on my own, with no one watching. Of course there is tons of research to support that people learn better in groups. That encouragement and healthy competition is good for learning. I want to be like the Doodles. I want to keep learning and I want to be willing to do it, even if it makes me look silly or goofy or just plain inept, in front of my friends. Because really, who better to fail in front of then the very people who will help pick you up, laugh it off, and start again?


4) Keep Creating
 The Doodles are so creative. And listening to them talk you could tell that this is something that help encourage in each other. Sarah is a grandmother but her house is still so fresh and vibrant and full of things that are "out of the box" design wise. She is changing and creating and experimenting and stretching herself still. I want to be like that no matter my age, no matter my situation.




5) Laughter Never Goes Out of Style
We should never feel that we are  too old, too mature, too cool, too sophisticated, or too pious to laugh. Really, really laugh. Laugh till we cry. Laugh all together. Laugh at ourselves. Put down the phone, the tablet, the computer, your cynicism, your expectations, your disappointments, and look up. Look into the faces around you. Listen to their stories. Tell your own stories. And laugh. A lot.


(map from Contented Sparrow

6) Be a Cheerleader
We cannot fix other peoples marriages, heal their children, pay off their debt, cure addictions. But we can cheer them on as they work these things out. We can tell them that they are strong enough, brave enough, tender enough, smart enough, beautiful enough. kind enough, tough enough. We can tell them that they are enough just as they are. We can tell them that we will be here the whole time. That we are not going anywhere while they walk through the fire. That we will walk beside them and whisper reminders of their enough-ness in their ears when they forget.That we will move boxes, and wipe tears, and break plates on the cold hard concrete if that is what will help.  That we will stand on top of desk and tables and hilltops and roofs and shout Friend, My Friend, if that is what is required of us. 


(Sarah's jellies and jams. She hadn't put them up yet because "they look so pretty when the light comes in!")

Jeanetta and I both loved getting to spend the evening with these lovely gals so very much. We both felt so inspired, encouraged, and loved on the entire evening. Through encounters like these I continue to be reminded that there is such wisdom in the generations ahead of us, and I am trying to do a better job of being on the lookout for it. I may even have to be more intentional about this. I may have  step out of my comfort zone again (which is always scary, no matter how times I have done it before!) and ask someone outside my peer group, "will you be my friend?" 

Hmmm. Thoughts to ponder.

Have a lovely weekend friends! Thanks for walking this journey with me and for showing up here time and time again!
J



Wednesday, August 21, 2013

At the Intersection {Vol. 4} Laura Tremaine, Hollywood Housewife

 Today's post is part of a new series I am hosting called At the Intersection, and it is all about how other gals out there -gals like me who are mothers, artist and followers of Christ-juggle all three areas of their lives at once. How they live at the intersection of art, faith, and motherhood.
I chose these three particular categories because they are the very three that I find pull on the same parts of my heart. All three demand of me the following:  time, creativity, the ability to listen, the ability to problem solve, and to think critically. And all three are rooted -should be rooted-in grace.
But instead of just listening to me talk about these ideas, I thought I would invite some friends into the conversation. To see if I was the only one who works to juggle all three, or if there might be others out there who face similar struggles, whose stories might shed a little light and provide a little encouragement for you and me.
I am also hoping that you, my most fab readers, will also offer encouragement to each of these lovely women, who, like you, are doing their best to live authentically in the present at the intersection of beauty and mess.

Today's guest is someone whose life is very different from mine.I found Laura via her pal Shauna Niequist and fell inlove imediately.  She is a bonafide Hollywood housewife who gets to attend red carpet events, hobnob with people "in the industry." and she lives in an amazing house that has a dreamlike pool area.  But despite how different our life circumstances may be, Laura is still a gal like me. She is a writer, a mom, a wife, a creative soul, a Christ follower, a daughter, a friend, a sisiter.  And just like me she is on the journey of finding out how to live life in a meaningful way, being present to the moment, and courageous with her words. 

So, with further ado, here she is!




Name Laura Tremaine
Blog Name Hollywood Housewife - http://www.hollywoodhousewife.com/
Art Form (writer, designer,painter, seamstress, baker, etc.) writer/blogger
Kids Ages 3 & 1 (wheeee!)
Relationship Status married
Expression of faith- I don’t currently have a church home. I grew up charismatic non-denominational. 
Where Do You Live? I live in a house in the east Hollywood hills of Los Angeles. 

Questions:

How did you find your creative niche? Was this something you have always done, or did you fall into it by accident? 

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I declared it as my chosen occupation before I started school and never stopped saying it until I graduated from college. I took a career detour through television in my 20’s, and didn’t start writing regularly until I started a blog in 2009. So it’s been a longer road that I would have anticipated, but I’m finally in a place where I feel like I’m doing exactly what I should be doing. 



Where do you create? Office? Kitchen table? 

I’m lucky enough to have a gorgeous “room of my own” in our home. I do most of my blogging in that office, but I like to change it up sometimes. I’m a fan of taking my laptop to the park. I also travel a lot, and I love to write on the airplane or in a fluffy hotel bed. 

Do you create best in solitude or in the middle of chaos

For serious work, I must be in solitude in silence. I like the romantic idea of writing in a coffee shop or with moody music playing, but it doesn’t work for me.

How does your faith influence your creative process?

Honestly, I’m still figuring this out. As my faith changes and my writing changes, I’m trying to understand how it all works together. I know it does.

How does that process influence or enrich your faith?

I do believe my desire and aptitude for writing is a specific gift. Quite by accident, my blog has led to some of the most influential spiritual relationships I’ve ever had. After years of purposefully drifting in LA, it was my writing that brought me back into contact with my love for a faith that sustains me. It’s as if my writing reminds me who I am, and from whom I came. When that happened, people of faith just started showing up.

Several years ago I started reading bloggers like Rachel Held Evans and Sarah Bessey and I felt like I had finally found people - women, in particular - who were asking the same questions I was, writing about the same struggles I was having. I had been out of the church game for so long that I didn’t even know these cultural discussions were really out there. I thought I was alone with my questions and my doubts. These women, these various online communities, made me realize you can be publicly unsure and still love Jesus. This was a break from what I had known.

For the most part, I just read and take in a lot of these discussions. It’s not something I envision writing about much. But threads of my faith are woven into my day, whether I’m fully aware of it or not. At least I hope so. 



Sometimes I feel as if writing, parenting, and the practicing my faith are all drawing from the same well inside me, that they tax the same part of my heart. This means that quite often I find that I have depleted all of my resources pouring into just one of the three, leaving the other two wanting.  Do you have this same issue, or is it just me? 

That’s an interesting thought. I’m not sure I’ve ever thought of it that way. In my childhood home and in my family today, my faith is my own. It’s a private, mostly solitary piece. So for me, I don’t tie them up in the same package. I probably compartmentalize this too much. It’s my way.

I do think women underestimate the toll it takes simply keeping it all together. I’m talking heart stuff, but also just life stuff. For each convenience that has been invented, we’ve filled that space with ten more activities, projects, and To Do’s. I’m a productivity junkie, but I’m not sure we were meant to live this way. I’m still learning.



What do you do to recharge, or refill the well

In your creative process?
 I read. No single other thing makes me want to write as much as reading. Lately I’ve found great benefit in taking a break. For years I thought that writing every day was the only way to move forward. And while I do think writing begats writing, a complete break is often the best way to remember your enthusiasm.

In your parenting?
This is the hardest one. Right now I think a solid night of deep sleep would work wonders. 

In the practicing of your faith?
 I don’t currently have a church home, and that has been a void in my life. I should probably say something pious here, like claim a love for contemplative prayer, but that’s not the truth. God reveals himself to me most when I pay attention. Which isn’t enough.


Do you have any advice for other moms out there who are also trying to learn how to live out their callings as artists, mothers and followers of Christ? What is something you wish someone had told you earlier on?

It’s okay to wander a bit. You might find yourself when you’re young and fresh-faced, but then you’ll have to search again. Then later, again. Then dig deeper. Your faith will probably change some. Your parenting, marriage, and art will definitely change as the years go by. 

I’ve made myself miserable by digging my heels in and refusing to budge. I wish someone had given me permission to actually take the journey. 


What are some specific challenges you are facing right now in all three of these areas? 

There’s so much pressure to keep all balls rolling all the time. It’s not enough to be a solid wife and mom, one has to be arm-candy and PTA president and host weekly Bible study. Unknowingly, I fell into some of these traps in the last year while my husband was very busy shooting a movie. I felt like I had to keep up all appearances, look great daily, and impart regular wisdom to my kids and my blog readers. 

I never thought I was the type to fall for these picture-perfect lies, but I did. After a confluence of events, this summer almost broke me. I’ve had to re-evaluate how I spend my days and the priorities of my heart. It’s been a lesson in saying “no” and “delete” and “it’s okay.”



How can I, and my readers, pray for you?

Practically, my extended family is battling disease on both sides. We pray desperately for peace and healing for their bodies.

Personally, I want my words to be more meaningful and I also want them to be enough.

************************************************************************************************************************ 

If anything Laura said struck a chord in you, please say so! The great thing about blogging is that we can encourage each other, right her in this little online space, from wherever we are, no need to even put on make-up or brush our hair. So please, leave Laura some love in the comments!



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