better off without it

our month-long “fast” on facebook and other social media is only about three-quarters of the way through, but already i’ve drawn some conclusions. already, and in spite of the fact that i haven’t been very pure in my keeping of this fast, i can see that my life is not made better by facebook or the reading of blogs. in some ways, it is probably made a touch worse.

i can see already that without it as a fall-back activity into which i rush at those moments when i’m not sure what to do next, i choose things that have more life and more fruit. i have been more creative in these last three and a half weeks. and more present. and my mind less noisy. i have made things, both good things to eat and things out of fabric.

i have been outside, eating meals or sipping a beverage on the front porch or in the yard, sometimes alone during hazel’s naps, sometimes the tree of us sharing a meal, and sometimes outside with friends. watering the garden and spending many moments examining the soil for the first signs of seedlings, which always thrill me to discover. outside holding my baby’s hand as she walks more and more like a big girl, side-by-side with me, up and down the sidewalk and through the grass.

and my business has not, i don’t think, suffered form my facebook absence. i’ve popped onto facebook here and there to address business messages, to update a business status, or to upload a photo. but i don’t think it’s made much of a difference. i am more confident in my identity as a creative artist now, more sure of the product that i offer and the heart that i carry into it that makes my photography its own, valuable thing. that tends to make me strive a little less to “sell” myself and my work. still, i’m not sure it is a prudent thing to ditch facebook and other social media altogether when one is trying to build and maintain this sort of business, so i know i won’t be giving into that unthinkable dream of going off the facebook grid.

and i have found that pinterest actually hold potential to enhance my life a bit. for instance, it taught me how to make my own deodorant and “beach hair” hair spray, both of which i did this week. and it’s brought me to many delicious and wholesome recipes that i’ve been trying out. and it has given me inspiration and guidance in making a crafted present for hazel’s first birthday. pinterest, if you actually step back and DO the things it aims to inspire you to do, can enhance life. a bit.

and blogs. well, there are probably only a small number that actually are worth sticking to. and they are the ones that talk to me about how to be a whole-hearted and present mom, and how to press into Jesus for each day’s needs. i sense that a purging of blog subscriptions might be in order.

facebook. oh, love and hate mingled! what an ambivalent relationship. but i’m thinking that keeping it within the confines of one, maybe two, days of each week will be the new normal. because i love the freedom of mind and time that has come from keeping it within bounds this month.

so there’s where i’m at. and here’s some of the beauty i’ve been indulging in and creating during this fast:

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6 (a lovely sabbath day)

in our house, saturdays are sabbath days. they are the days that we avoid housework and intentionally put ourselves to the work of resting. yes, i DO think that resting is work for most of us modern americans who are so accustomed to running around in endless circles of productivity and efficiency!

some weeks we do sabbath well. other weeks it seems we waste it. but today we spent it well, i think.

this morning we had cinnamon rolls. i haven’t ever made cinnamon rolls before. they were gluten-free. and we ate them after we had put hazel down for her morning nap, so that she wouldn’t grunt and wave her arms with demands to be allowed to partake (why taunt her with something she cannot have anyway?). paired with a particularly smooth cup of french press coffee made by tim, it was a real treat, and the end to our lenten fast.

we went to the tenderos house mid-day, along with the hammonds. our little played together on the floor while we talked about church and continuing in prayer, and the building of kingdom family and how to discern God’s guiding. it was rich conversation, followed by a delightful potluck lunch composed of fresh and real foods from three women who love to cook, then listening prayer.

this afternoon, tim and hazel and i went to Blandford and had a long walk on the Back 40 trail. the weather and the light were perfect. i left my camera at home because sometimes when i want to be the most present to my life, leaving the camera behind is best. we sat a while in the grass afterward, appreciating the quite of that space compared to our own backyard, flanked as it is by ally and street with many passers-by. hazel was so very content; being outside does something to her.

how to thrift

i don’t mean to be presumptuous, but i consider myself a bit of a seasoned expert on the art of thrift store shopping (hereafter referred to as “thrifting,” a word not found in any dictionary). i’ve been doing it for well over a decade now. most of our home, and our bodies, are outfitted with thrift-store finds.

thrifting is wonderful for so many reasons. it saves money. it allows you to get a unique collection of things with which to beautify yourself and your home. it feels like treasure-hunting.

but the purpose of this post is not so much to sell you on why thrifting rocks. in fact, part of me would rather NOT sell it because i’m a little protective of my favorite thrift stores, and don’t want competition. but the fact is that we’re living in a depressed economy and lots of us can’t run right out to department stores and target to purchase the things we need for house and home. because of that — and because (cringe!) the thrifty “look” seems to be rising in popularity — i’ve been getting requests from people asking me how to “teach” them to thrift. so this is for those of you who’ve asked, as well as whomever else is reading.

Step 1. Prepare Your Mind. yes, you have to get your head in the game. it starts long before you actually walk through the door of a thrift store.

  • know your style — have inspiration boards, color palettes, and an ability to recognize something as “you” or “not-you”. this allows you to go in and sort through all the racks and shelves of things with a compass. it’s not like retail shopping, where you can pick a store/company whose style resonates with you and so you know that almost everything they sell in their store will be something you like. this is like ALL the retail stores of the past 3 or 4 decades piled up in one place. you have to know how to sort through that. and you can’t sort through it unless you have a vision of what you’re going for. if you’re shopping for things for a room in your house, you should already have a vision of the feel, style, and functionality you want in that space. if you’re shopping for clothes, you should know what kind of image you want to portray, and what you’re comfortable in or not comfortable in.
  • reduce the amount of ads and television you watch. if you are getting lots of exposure to shows/publications that would try to inform you of what the current/best styles are, you’re going to end up with a bar set so high — or just so differently — that you won’t be able to appreciate what’s right in front of you in the thrift store. don’t do things that keep you fixated on a pottery barn dream land because you probably won’t be able to make you house look quite like a pottery barn catalogue by shopping at thrift stores.  so keep your mind  uncluttered with things you’re “supposed” to want/need, and go with your gut, instead.
  • keep a running list of things you want or need. this list might be a mental list or actually on paper or your iPod. but the list will contain things like a small container to hold your chip clips in a drawer in your kitchen, a basket to store some smaller baby toys on a shelf, a binder for the papers that you’ve been meaning to organize, a chair for that empty corner of the living room, a black dress coat to wear to work in the winter, a throw blanket in an accent color to enliven your living room, etc. now, rather than running out to Target to buy all of those things…
  • be patient and wait for it! eventually most things on your list will appear, but you have to be able to delay gratification and know that the process of outfitting yourself or your home to exactly your taste will take months if not years. it’s a slow process, but that’s part of what makes it delicious. it’s like an ongoing game to find the next perfect piece for the artful landscape you are creating in your home, or the wardrobe that will feel, at last, like it’s really you.
  • map out area thrift stores and notice which ones tend to be the best places to find certain genres of things (e.g., one is best for linens, another for clothes, and another for second-hand furniture). i have a list of about 7 that i frequent, plus a handful of others i occasionally pop in on. and no, i’m not going to give you my list. find your own. 😉
Step 2. Go in Armed. 
  • bring your list with you. yes, jot down on a small piece of paper the items you’re hoping to find and keep it in your pocket. it’s your shopping list. only you may not be able to find everything on it during one shopping trip.
  • don’t buy it just because it’s cheap. it’s so tempting, particularly at first, to become so overwhelmed with happiness at a price tag that says .49 cents for a plate or $1.99 for a shirt, that you just want to purchase it all. but pause long enough to ask yourself if you really like it, or if it’s really just a rush because it’s such a good deal. if it’s not really for you, leave that great deal for someone else who will truly appreciate it.
  • be honest with yourself. ask yourself, “will I actually use/wear this in the next 3 or 6 months?” and “do i already have a purpose in mind for this?” and “do i gravitate toward this shirt? will i want to put it on when i wake up in the morning?”  if the answer to those questions is no, you should probably put it back down and walk away. otherwise you’ll end up with a house full of clutter and your house will look like a thrift store, too. thrift stores are awesome, but not as a decorating theme.
  • see potential, not just actuality. i have this sister-in-law (you know who you are) who is really crafty. when she shops at thrift stores, she is looking for raw materials for her projects. she’ll buy an old, ugly wool sweater so that she can cut it up, felt it, and turn it into a mug warmer or a diaper cover. she calls it repurposing and upcycling. i love it. it seems sort of in line with Kingdom values, too, i think. additionally, you have to sometimes take a minute with a thrift-store object in hand and begin to imagine what could be done with it if you altered it slightly — add a coat of paint? remove part of it? use it for something other than what it is intended for?
  • bring a bag/box of items you’re done with and donate them. this is how we keep the thrift store love going… AND it’s how we manage to maintain simplicity in our home and lives. if we only shopped and accumulated we’d essentially be doing the same thing that retail-shopping addicts do: becoming materialistic. so we have a box or bag around the house at all times into which we deposit items that we’ve suddenly realized we aren’t using anymore, are tired of, or that doesn’t fit any longer. and then we take the bag/box to the thrift store and donate it before we shop.
  • find out if the thrift store has discount days and take advantage of them. many thrift stores will have one day a week when everything is 50% off, or perhaps every Tuesday a certain color tag is discounted. so if you want even deeper discounts, intentionally shop on those days.

Step 3. Repeat. 

thrift often. you certainly shouldn’t feel compelled to buy something every time, but the turn-over is frequent, so keep stopping in to take a look.

 

may you be met with success!

🙂

these days

these days

  • we are soaking up the sun for as long as we can, taking near-daily walks around our neighborhood with hazel in the ergo-baby, stepping prayerfully past all the grimy houses and their hidden stories unfolding inside.
  • we are discerning what may be a calling to something that seem impractical and big, and we’re holding our hands open to God as if to say, “you can put here whatever you like, and we will receive it from you.” this something is so sweet an expression of the central message of the gospel that it seems it might be impossible to say no to, in the end. 🙂
  • i am finding Scripture tastes like honey once more. i approach it not so much to study or analyze it, but to be moved by it.
  • i am craving baked goods and feeling thankful that due to amazon subscriptions i now have an ever-present supply of gluten-free all-purpose flour in the pantry that make all my baking desires possible to fulfill.
  • we are spending lots of time sitting or laying on the big floor rug we brought up from the basement to cover our wooden floors on these colder days.
  • hazel is discovering her feet and gifting us with her laughter and grabbing at food from the table and nose-diving open-mouthed into our faces to “kiss” us.
  • i am often photographing the joy and play of families in their own homes or in lovely outdoor spaces. i want to do more of this.
  • we are watching our little collection of TV shows on hulu.com in the evenings after hazel has gone to bed and we can’t go anywhere. we watch The Office, Modern Family, Parenthood, and The New Girl (in case you were wondering).
  • we are sharing meals with the boiler room family two to three times each week. eating together knits hearts together, we find.
  • tim is practicing repentance in the form of  “tweeting” (unlikely form of repentance, i know!) as well as Project Wake Up Before Dawn.
  • we are planning trips to WI in both November and December, anticipating the cuteness of our nephews there and lazy afternoons in the living room of the Collier homestead.
  • we are intentionally interviewing each of the 12 (!) houses full of Jesus-followers who’ve moved into the Boiler Room’s neighborhood in the last year, and asking God how He might want to connect us to one another and send us out for more of His Kingdom come.
  • we are eating good food again, as my energy for creatively cooking returns.
  • i am beginning to image having energy and impulse to do things like disciple women and reach out to my neighbors once more (for a while there, all my energy — ALL — was pointed at preparing to become a mother and then becoming one).
  • we are preparing a 6-week Discipleship Intensive to study The Vision & The Vow and Orphan Slave Son that we’ll facilitate at our house on Monday nights this winter. (if you want to join us, you are welcome! email us).
  • i am enjoying visits from various friends and neighbors, and marveling about how rich a collection of people and stories can come to our very own doorstep when i am not as able to be out and about as i was pre-baby.
  • we are eating the last of our garden’s harvest — the carrots, the squashes, a tiny head of broccoli — and learning about what we’re supposed to do with all the plants before the snow falls.
  • we are content in the shelter of one another, caring for one another in small ways and having hearts full of gratitude.

what a life has been given us.

thank you, Papa.

a full life not written about

for several days it felt like a february spring. tim played frisbee in the yard with cooper and took a bike ride. we didn’t wear coats when we went to the division avenue thrift stores. we slept with our bedroom window open.

but today fell maybe six inches of snow and the world has gotten all still and whitewashed again. we called off house church so that no one would venture out and end up in a ditch (which is exactly what happened to our friend from another house church). tim has been walking back and forth to the boiler room to switch over loads of laundry because feet work better in deep, fresh snow than does a car with bald tires (ours).

our little niece claire is asleep in the room that will be our baby’s in just a few short months. her noise-making machine is pumping out the serene sounds of a gentle ocean wave. her parents are up north skiing.

it has been so long since i’ve written in this space. it’s been just long enough that i begin to wonder if maybe it’s time to put an end to the loose-ended commitment of blogging. but then, here i am.

it’s not that life hasn’t been full, and our hearts, too. it’s been very full, and of very good things. we’ve been learning about healing prayer, exercising the gifts of the holy spirit, seeing our little babe on ultrasounds, thrift store shopping for baby clothes and new coats for tim, preparing meals for Love, leading worship at our tiny church, discipling and mentoring two young men, taking trips to kansas city to visit [spiritual] relatives, attending birthday parties for members of our community, hosting pilgrims, eating good food, making homemade kefir and creating lush smoothies with it, taking photographs, booking wedding photography gigs for this upcoming summer, patiently enduring the no-shows of a client, having friends over to dinner, making coffee dates, planning 40 days of 24-7 prayer, rearranging the community floor of the boiler room, trying to turn worry into prayer as it pertains to the financial situation of the boiler room and our paychecks, eating far too much ice cream, babysitting for our niece, going out for beers at the newest brewery in town, painting the nursery, reading in bed, catching up on episodes of The Office and Modern Family, beginning a new house church, napping, reading about childbirth and parenting, trying to get a washer and dryer hooked up in the basement, playing worship music on pandora.com, dreaming with God and the leadership team about what 2011 will be like for the boiler room, and so much more.

whew. i’m out of breath.

in short, we’ve been living. and that has been very good.

so maybe i’ll start popping in here from time to time to get a little more in depth about some of living adventures, or some of the inner processes we’re going through with God and each other in this season of our life. but i don’t think i’ll make any promises. it feels good to be living without thinking about what a great blog post this or that would be. 🙂 so i’ll run with it for a while.

love,

b

snap shots (october – december)

carousel + ice cream

i could have sworn that this was on my 101 in 1001 list, but as it turns out, it is not. still, it probably ought to have been. it is one thing i’ve been telling t we need to do before we move from madison: ride the carousel at ella’s deli.

for those of you who don’t live in madison, ella’s deli is a carnival of a delicatessen. it’s walls and ceilings are crowded with moving, mechanical toys of all sorts. they scoot across wires spanning feet of ceiling. you can hear the whir of their motors beneath conversations. at ella’s, they serve mostly, well, deli-like things: sandwiches, burgers, fries, malts. and chocolate shoppe ice cream (hooray!). and, outside there is a carousel. a darling little carousel shining its cheerful glow at you as you drive down the otherwise drab stretch of East Washington Ave.

tonight, with our pal jake, we rode bikes down the brief stretch between our house and there, with the intention of ice cream cones and carousel rides. both were very good.

here are some shots to show you the fun that we had:

those who follow wedding photography (are you out there?) will know that this shot is mimicking a popular wedding-day bouquet shot. hehe.

i think that this one of me and t looks like an engagement photo. don’t you love how our facial expressions are completely mismatched to our surroundings?

and a couple more:

and if you care to see more, you can take a look here.