Sunday, June 25, 2017

Faith & Light in the Dark

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Well hello hello!

Gosh, it's been a minute (okay, a few weeks) since I've been here. I usually like to write and post here more often, but life's been a learning curve the past few months, and I've found myself a bit busy. I'm learning (and re-learning) so, so much about reliance on the Lord and not myself through for strength in this thing called life. I've been meaning to get around to writing it on here like usual.

Right now, I'm working a full-time job for the first time in over a year: a pretty weird thing for a creative type like myself. The end of 2015 and all of 2016 was a period of life into which I poured myself primarily creatively: I quit jobs, moved states, gave up money and security for adventure and new horizons. I flew solo the whole time and I loved it. The journey and the growth were wonderful in every which way, spiritually, emotionally, and literally. In hindsight, I learned a lot in those months about trust, faith, living my purpose, and letting go.

But now, I'm working: in a city (okay, it's Asheville so it's really not that oppressive; and it's at Anthropologie, so it couldn't be more perfectly creative, but still...); I'm commuting, I'm 9-5ing and paying rent and saving money. Doing things that aren't quite like nomadic lifestyle I've become so accustomed to. I think if it weren't for a creative brain that explores and imagines so much within itself, I'd really be quite burned out. The story about how I found myself here is interesting and winding, but nonetheless, here I am.
Life always changes, but I know, and have been learning more, that part of me will always feel most authentic when I'm leaning into my free spirit, however I make that happen. Such a 'creative person' thing to say, right? But it's so true: we hate routine, we feel easily oppressed, we just want to make art, we fight to protect our craft and identity, and we need a life of passion, not the mundane. 

But I'll be thirty this year, which is a crazy thing to think about (and I usually don't) because for my whole life, I've felt either like I'm ten, or seventy. Life has been characterized by a desire to play, to wonder, to explore and learn with a childlike curiosity; and the desire to grow in wisdom, to be introverted and solitary, to focus on eternal things and not the trends of now. Some people call it having an old soul, and it's always been part of who I am.

Much of what I've really learned since coming to North Carolina (I got here in February) is that since having the Lord in my life (I came to faith since 2013), life has been something of a story. Less a matter of my own effort and more a reliance on my Creator, of looking not at the future but depending on my obedience to Him in the here-and-now and trusting that the best thing will happen because He is good, not because I am perfect, or sure.

Having my eyes fixed on an ultimate purpose has changed the steps I take, the decisions I make, and why I make them: there's an intention and direction in every action that leads in a particular direction. We're all on a road leading somewhere, and following Jesus, it's particular, intentional, not always easy, and definitely patience-inducing.

I live this life, but God orchestrates it, meaning the meaning comes from Him, not me. Things are less about what I want now, and more about doing what really serves the purpose I get from Him. It's funny how that basically is the Christian life, but we have to relearn it every. single. day, with each decision we make. It's this completely inner thing, and what people see from the outside is simply the fruit of closeness to Him, not personal effort. 
There's more at stake in life than personal happiness now: there's a specific purpose God needs me on a certain road of behavior, conformity to His likeness, and submission to His will to fulfill. It's nothing big or profound, just a simple way of being that He asks of each of us who will listen, and that He uses in obvious or subtle ways to call people to Him via us. We live now not for our own greatness, but for His, because we live in an ever-present awareness of ultimate faithfulness to a loving source. It's a big kind of love that still humbles me everyday.

Life in the light of the Gospel gives us the most profoundly unfathomable yet tangible model of sacrificial love, and that makes life harder and easier. Harder, because I can no longer think only about self-satisfaction in the present- I am now serving something bigger; and easier, for the same reason. We were designed to live the opposite of the way I've always tried and is probably pretty natural to most of us: independently, in our own strength, and I need to relearn that all the time. 

Acquiring the wisdom of Scripture means we ultimately have to apply it, and much of that application comes from trusting God's will, from giving the circumstance to Him where I fail to see how I can work it out. To my independent sense of personal stability and wisdom in my own eyes, it rarely makes much sense, that my desires have to die to the will of Christ all over again every day. Where my personality is independent, my soul must be dependent. Submitted. Obedient. Faithful. That's how God works in us: when we're out of our own way. 

But it is true that it's so hard (messy, confusing, doubt-inducing) to step out in faith when my faith is in myself. When we put our faith in ourselves, we sometimes never go anywhere because of fear. Feelings and emotions wind up overruling right action and, ultimately, giving the respect and love the Lord wants me to show myself and other people. But to step out in faith when my faith is in God- well, it's not always easier to do, but it is always affirming. And it always reminds me of an important reality: that the depth of my relationship with Him is the gauge and foundation on which every other relationship in my life will succeed or fail. Knowing Him intimately affects how able I am to accurately see- and love, and truly know- other people. I think it's a very important thing.
It's temptation of happiness outside of joy in Him that makes us want to rebel and work things out as we want to. Resting in God is a safe place, always. Trusting even when it doesn't make sense is a good thing, always. Obedience and submission is a sign of love, and obedience- faithfulness- always yields the better result, even if it seems like a blind, illogical leap where we can't see the bottom.

There's something about not just trusting Him, but being obedient, that I'm learning in every arena of life right now. The more that comes up, the more opportunities we have, the more we are tested. I find myself having to remind myself to ask a lot now: does this- whatever it is- optimally serve God, or is it just what I seem to want? Does this opportunity (or relationship, or situation, or pattern of behavior) really help me get in line with what God wants from my life and character, and does it allow space for Him in my heart? Does it draw me closer to Christ, the direction in which I'm ultimately moving?

Does this road run parallel to where God is taking me, or am I self-interested? And we only ask these questions when God is saturating our minds and hearts most prominently, and that only happens when we're diligent in Him above all things. That's an active, dedicated process, but it's hard when your plate is full: to read Scripture, to engage in discussion and community, to go to church, to utilize resources... life gets busy. But in the words of Charles Spurgeon: "if Christ is to be anything, He must be everything."
I'm learning that obedience is not perfect behavior, but a constant return to where He wants us when He calls us there. It's okay to fail. It's okay to fall when life starts filling with challenges and more to do. But to paraphrase C.S. Lewis: "we all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means turning around and walking back to the right one. The man who turns back soonest is the most progressive." To be progressive in faith, and thus in life, we have to listen to His voice over our doubt and fear, and constantly return home. 

Not the man who gets ahead quickest, or looks the most perfect from the outside, but the man who's on the right road to begin with- and moves himself there when he's not. It's not about judgement or self-righteousness, but about prioritizing that inner relationship we have with Him on which we've committed to building our life. Saying 'no' to the job that's maybe going to distract you from more important things in life. Turning from relationships that violate boundaries. Ending conversations that indulge in gossip or negativity. Having the courage to leave what is comfortable for what grows us in the right ways.

I'm learning that a life of faith is a life of little things done not always well, or perfectly, but obediently. A full life of faith is fully submitted. And the joy is actually in that totality. Religion finds God useful, and calls on Him sometimes, but Christian life finds Him beautiful, and relies on Him daily, even when things don't make sense. It is at times a surreal battle to be fighting. Trust is such a difficult thing, but the lesson is always the same: God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him. I'm learning, always learning. We don't know where the road goes, but if we're going where He intends, we will have more than what we want: we will have what He wants for us, which is the richest thing of all.
xoxo

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Studio Space

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Today I finally got to work on setting up a painting space that's not my kitchen table. I moved into my new little cabin the same week I started a new job, so time seems to have been tight for me the past few weeks. 

But a creative space has been essential, so I took today to get it done! (Well, started at least.) Studios seem to be ever-evolving works in progress always, and since I've only just learned where the nearest TJ Maxx, thrift stores, and antique stores are, it's been a slow go getting anything set up. I'm looking forward to continuing! 

xoxo

Sunday, April 23, 2017

All Things New: an update from North Carolina

My new, sweet little Carolina cabin!
Well, a lot has changed since my last post about life in North Carolina. Just a month ago it felt like not a lot was going as planned or expected (not that it ever does...), but more than that, I was just experiencing a season of feeling a little 'off:' wondering what God was doing in my life, wondering if I'd find a sense of peace, place, or community, wondering if the right people and relationships would come into my life after choosing to move to a place where I didn't know a soul.

Slowly but surely, I'm learning. 

I spent 2016 traveling a lot: I got to live and work in Colorado, a decision I'll always cherish because it brought me in touch with not only the best parts of my creative and spiritual self, but also in touch with some of the most amazing people I've ever met. Last year was really beautiful in so many ways, a sacred span of time in my life I know I'll always look back on so fondly. 

But I'd also always had it- contentedly and knowing it would happen in time- in the back of my mind that I wanted a space, both a home and a studio, of my own. It's funny how there are some seasons in which freedom looks like a life of leaving home- exploring new places and caravaning the open road- and some in which it looks like staying, like putting roots down somewhere, and building up.

My heart has by no means lost the desire to expand and explore, but I've been craving the happy responsibility of cultivating a place of my own, and with that, my business and development as an artist. There is something about having one's own place that gives life a centeredness and grounding, and I've been desiring that for a while. 
And of course that's where my new home comes in. I moved to North Carolina in February with the idea that I wanted very specific things in the space where I lived. I made a list of wants and desires that I'd been adding to for months prior: a small, quaint, secluded cabin in the woods; near a creek, somewhere I could wake up to birds singing and trees blooming; somewhere close to nature that could inspire me.

On this list, I wrote everything I wanted: from the essentials (a bedroom, lots of windows, a small kitchen) to the dreamy and unlikely (a claw foot tub, a loft space, something charming and quirky that wouldn't cost an arm and a leg). When I arrived here about ten weeks ago, I wandered into a funky little shop and got to talking to the owner- I told her about my cards, my art, and that I moved to Appalachia to expand my business and sell my work in a new place. Eventually I brought her some card samples, and she wound up becoming my first North Carolina client.

In my frequent travels to her shop we found we were kindered spirits, and I told her I was looking for a place to live. I told her what I had in mind, that I knew it would be easier to find a generic, cookie-cutter apartment in the city, but that I was really holding out for something that truly felt like home to me. Within a few days she put me in contact with a woman who has become my now-landlord, and I arranged to come visit the cabin. 

It hadn't been used in awhile, and it was unclean and full of old stored furniture, but I knew at first sight that it was exactly what I was looking for. It felt like home, and I could see myself living and creating there; it was the manifestation of everything I imagined I wanted in my home and studio, and I knew it was meant to be.
My sketchbook, with a personal list of what I've wanted in a home. I had been adding to it for months.
I just didn't know how. I left the property that day with a smile on my face and said a prayer in my car: 'God, I don't know how, but I know this is it. If it's meant to be, please let it be.' I knew then, back in March, that on the salary I was making at the job I moved down here for, I couldn't (wisely) afford it. I wanted to be mindful not to pour all my money into housing. Although a space of my own had been on my mind for some time and I did have money saved, I wanted to keep it that way. After my first visit I was excited, but a little discouraged because I just didn't know how I could make it work. 

Bearing in mind that hours (and therefore paychecks) at my first job were inconsistent, I had earlier that week applied at Anthropologie. If you know me, you know it's the company I've worked my whole adult life for in various roles, starting as a Display Intern in Chicago six years ago. I always find my way back somehow; no job I've ever had (not surprisingly) has ever fulfilled or satisfied my creative side like working at Anthro, and it's also the place that has brought into my life so many of my best friends and women who inspire me in so many ways. 

So I applied looking for not just another job, but also for that sense of community, motivation, positivity, and place that a healthy, happy, creative work environment affords you. I felt good about the fact that Anthro feels familiar, like home. I knew I was needing a place to go to work everyday that was consistent, inspiring, positive, and full of encouraging people and good attitudes. The store in Asheville opened just over a year ago, and I was rehired. It was looking like maybe I was getting some positive footing here, and my little dream cabin, with two jobs and my business, could become a reality. 
Move-in day: lots still a mess, but she's coming along... 
And slowly but surely, things got even unexpectedly better.

When I started at Anthropologie, after college, I was a Display Intern in Chicago. Each Anthropologie has a Display Coordinator, basically a visual artist that brings the Anthro aesthetic to life. They build, paint, and install all the beautiful things you see in any Anthropologie store, that make the brand so unique. My younger, career-oriented, post-grad self had always imagined that being a Display Coordinator would be my dream job. 

But in the years that followed after my internship, it never worked out. For one reason or another, God was always directing me elsewhere. Either I applied for positions in my early twenties and didn't get them, or the timing to apply to smaller-volume stores where it would have been more realistic to begin was never right. In hindsight, I know I would never have thrown so much into my own personal creative endeavors if I got a full-time creative job when I was younger. A Quartzy Life probably would never have been.

But over the years, in every Anthro I worked at, I've always been vocal about loving the creative work of the company in addition to sales and management, and I've frequently helped out doing our displays on days when I'm not on the sales floor. It was no different when I came to Asheville, except for one little factor: I happened to arrive three weeks before their current Display Coordinator was set to go on maternity leave.
 After some discussion and a call back to my old store, Anthropologie in Asheville offered me, at least temporarily, my dream job: acting Display Coordinator- about five years later than I thought I would have liked, but exactly when I needed it most. For the next three months, when I'm not busy decorating my sweet new home and studio, I'll be working there and making art and displays full-time.

I'm learning that it's funny how things work out- and how they don't. God's timing is never our timing, and if there's one lesson I've learned in the past two months, it's that sometimes when it seems things aren't working out, they're falling apart for something else- something better- to come together. I have to say, I'm honestly not used to learning this lesson with as much clarity has I have the past few months, but it's been a great season of learning and deepening faith.

I generally feel that life is smooth and kind and sweet, and though there are bumps in the road there is a general sense of peace and groundedness I am used to feeling despite circumstance. I know I'm very lucky: I do work hard and diligently for what I have, but sometimes fitting all the pieces in place to get to where you really want to be- living a creative life, following a passion and a purpose- takes time, patience, and commitment that can't be rushed.

So, in time, it's all worked (or, is working) out down here in North Carolina. There's no magical formula for creative success, only the real act of commitment to both working and waiting when things seem uachievable or unforeseeable. For now, I'm just learning to enjoy what I have and cherishing it all the more.

So thanks for following along and supporting always. More creative goodness and inspiration to come :).
xoxo

Monday, March 27, 2017

Wedding Season



Custom art is still my favorite thing to make. I love taking peoples' ideas and turning them into just the right painting, card, or piece of art that will add joy and happiness to any occasion!

And with wedding season just around the corner, I am currently taking requests for custom wedding art for bride & groom gifts. Contact me and let me know what I can create for you!

xoxo

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

States & Places




Some new state related goodies in my shop now: cards and stickers

Click images to buy and check more out here.

xoxo

Friday, March 17, 2017

When Life is Less-Than: the Perfect, the Ideal, or the Desired

Journeys can be hard to talk about when they're non-conclusive, and challenging, and less than perfect. 

No one wants to talk about life when it's vulnerable, or imperfect, or things aren't going 'right' or 'as planned' or as 'expected.'

We don't mind revisiting those states after the fact, once the loose ends are all tied up and we can present our story, neatly, tidily, and linearly. When we can see how it all worked together for good. How 'in hindsight,' as the saying goes, it all makes sense now.

When we're in the thick of uncertainty or change or the unexpected, why admit to anyone (other than our anxious, under-confident, over-thinking selves) the messiness of life?

Well, here goes nothing.

It's really easy (on social media particularly) to present a very specifically curated life. To share only good and glamorous things. Not that that's bad. Not that focusing on the good is bad, of course. But here's something I'm often thinking about: authenticity. 

Social media, relationships, art... anything I put into the world... being honest. Each and every method of expression or presentation in life being an avenue to express not what I want life to look like, but who I actually am. It is a matter of integrity: literally, an integrated self. To live an honest life, we all get to be just one person. As I get older, and closer to the Lord, I am learning to be ever-more responsible that reality.

Consistently, on every road, high and low, being exactly what and who I am, going through whatever I am actually and really going though, with transparency. Which does not always look like being a walking success story.
Maybe it's age, maybe it's faith; maybe this stage of my life, maybe self-acceptance, maybe (a hesitant but ultimately accepting) okay-ness with things being imperfect, but I'm very beyond the responses 'everything's fine,' or 'great!' or 'good, how are you?' in response to 'how's it going?' when those answers aren't really the truth.

Sometimes those responses work, in brief. The show of life must go on after all, no matter what the circumstances, disappointment, or hurt. But we do it all too often. And it's all too easy to hide: texting back a generic 'it's going good,' in response to 'how's it going?' You can leave it at that, if you want. You don't have to step up and deepen your relationships, or learn yourself how to have the selfless ability to listen to other peoples' commiserations in life.

But is that real? In seasons where things are not ideal, generating generic responses that hide what's really going on in our inner lives don't help in the long run. Doing that deprives of us actual authenticity, and intimacy. And growth. Doing that moves us in circles, but not forward.

It's important to find, and be, a genuine, real, authentic, deep, listening ear- and open mouth. The best relationships in life are few and far between, but I've found that they're the ones between people who actually want to listen to, pray for, reach out, support, go deep, and be honest with each other. My best relationship with myself is the same way. 

It's harder- but better- if it's okay that things are not okay all the time, and I'm real and honest about that, and I walk through those feelings in trust, faithfulness, and prayer- versus anxiety and feelings of fatalism or failure.

I've found this well-practiced secret that genuine authenticity goes hand-in-hand with admitting struggle, and owning life's less-than-perfect seasons with honesty. 

Otherwise we talk ourselves into certain falsehoods that can actually disintegrate our identity when things start to feel like they're going well again. I'm not sure we're really designed to sidestep anything on the spectrum of discomfort, from seasons of minor inconveniences to those of deep, painful suffering. It's easy to say that 'the only way out is through,' but it takes a lot of courage to be open in saying, 'things are not that great right now.'
Which is why I'm writing this. Because why not? Sometimes life feels like it's going, overall, well. And sometimes life feels like it' going, overall, just okay. Sometimes thrilling, sometimes great; sometimes very sad, sometimes stagnant, sometimes disappointing. It's always going somewhere and it's always taking us with. 

And- though I actually cannot see how admitting the uncertainty without there being any resolution yet- will be helpful, I know it will be. It's very, very counter-intuitive, to the point of, literally, not making any sense at all. 

That's what faith is: the truest truth that's way beyond what we see right now.

So, there's the concept for this post. The thoughts behind. And if you follow this blog with any regularity, you've probably noticed that I haven't really written much in the past month. That's because I'm navigating all of the above- plus, a new space, new relationships, new inner desires (that's a big one); I'm becoming something else in a new place, in new ways, with a new job, and new fears; I'm learning where and how (and... the scariest... if) my work, art, and life fit in this new groove of life. 

I'm a lot better at seeing how God is using my life than figuring out what I personally am doing with it. There hasn't been much certainty to write about at all. 

I take a lot of journeys in life, as an artist and as a person. It would definitely have been easier to stay where I'm from, in Illinois, close to family and familiarity. But I want my craft to grow, as well as my character. Right now, I can't exactly see how that's going to happen, to be honest. I mean, I never really can: no one knows the future. But it's a different kind of free-fall when you're following a dream, or a calling, or a purpose.
There's been a lot of instability here regarding work (other than art, into which I have been, maybe obviously, pouring much of my time and all of my heart and soul), and it's never just easy to move to a new place where it takes time to develop or find a true community. I know it will happen and I know I will stay, get settled; in time have a totally different story to report. I don't know when, or how, obviously, but it will. I know it will. Things always change. And I'll always give my all to what I set out to do. Even if it takes a long time to do it. 

But sometimes that looks more like planting seeds than harvesting fruit. The former of which is equally (more, really) important. A lot of work for a little yield- right now. That happens sometimes; I have a feeling as I get older and pursue more, new, different goals, it will happen a lot. 

To feel like you're constantly, constantly working toward somethings you haven't reached yet- or are trying to extend further... maybe that's just the way growth and development go. Be it something as tangible as finding a satisfying job, or college major, or a place to live- life gives us both seasons of searching and trying, trying, trying; and then also seasons of settledness and peace. 

To someone in their twenties, which I am, five years seems like a long time to have a business and craft it takes so much singular personal effort to see grow. I might look back on life when I'm fifty and laugh: 'remember when I thought five years was a long time to see something bloom?' Who knows. Not me right now, I'll be honest. 

But I've seen it before: faithfulness will be met with positive results. Eventually. But that's the thing about faithfulness: it isn't really about results; it's not for itself, for it's own yield. I understand literal, practical concerns- and I have them. But being faithful- to God of course, and to a calling, to my life, to doing the things necessary for the shaping of my character and personhood- there's no guarantee that life will be easy or comfortable with those criteria as primary desires. 
I know the cause is worthy, that the things I'm literally spending my life on are worthy. Knowing the overall goal of life- the purpose- that does alleviate any deep sense of panic over physical, worldly, literal things that are unknown. That does alleviate a sense of ultimate turmoil over things like a job, money, or stability being in question. Anxiety creeps in (I'm human, after all), but it doesn't stay very long. In those moments when it does, well, I write it out. Paint. Pray. Make some attempt at honesty about it- on here, with friends, in talking about it, in being transparent somehow.

Journeys can be hard to talk about when they're non-conclusive, and challenging, and less than perfect. Hard- and somehow, eventually, in time; maybe when we least expect- beautiful too. 

I don't know when, but I'll keep you posted.

xoxo

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Oregon!

Next state up: Oregon!

If you love it here, get a print at my shop! Cards and post cards coming soon.

xoxo

Sunday, March 12, 2017

T E X A S


Happy Sunday y'all!

This Texas print is now available in my shop, and postcards will be coming soon. This is one of the most fun state paintings I've done so far, hope you enjoy it- and pass it on to a Texan who would too!

xoxo

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Tea Time

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Having the flu stinks. I'm sick with it today, but at least have been intermittently painting my favorite remedy between napping and drinking tea and orange juice all day.

xoxo

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Grow your own garden

A new print now in my shop: grow your own garden.

Get it here.

xoxo

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A-Frame in the Woods

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Anyone who knows me knows I dream often about cabins, and tiny houses, and tree houses, and other small spaces of many kinds.

This little A-frame scene came to my mind a few days ago on a run through Black Mountain, North Carolina (where I'm currently living), inspired no doubt by the ample number of adorable vacation rentals scattered throughout this area. Not sure where the water and the Redwoods came from, but hey, that's the creative brain for you. Always building a world of its own.

I'll make this for sale as a print and card when it's finished!

xoxo

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Seeing Green

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Walking in these lush green Great Smoky Mountains is like walking through the biggest whimsical greenhouse. So that's what my imagination is painting. Thinking about turning this one into a print and a card.

xoxo