Home » Creativity

Category: Creativity

5 Easy Ways to Create an Inspired Home

moroccan-teapot-with-mint-tea-glasses

I think I have always been equal parts nomad and homebody. I get this giddy high off of travel and have a sick love of getting up before dawn to catch a flight. But returning home to a clean house, carving out space for my travel finds, and printing photos from my trips is equally satisfying to me. And yet, long after the dust settles on my luggage and the novelty of homecoming fades, I have found that I truly love my life at home just as much as on the road. But it has less to do with easing into the comforting routines of domestic life and more to do with the desire to find inspiration all around me, whether trekking across the world or padding across my living room.

The thing about inspiration, is that even the smallest detail can awaken big changes, fresh thoughts, and enlightening experiences. A new spice inspired by a past trip can lead to a new meal, which can become a family favourite and eventually be passed down to the next generation. A collection of bud vases on a window sill can act as a rotating seasonal display, beckoning us to stop and observe the subtle changes in nature’s shifts. An old book, a printed photo, a fresh scent or a new album on repeat can alter a room’s ambience in a heartbeat, or modify our mood in a second. Done intentionally, the results can be far-reaching and inspiring on so many levels.

Here are 5 ways easy ways I use regularly to create a more inspired home. My hope is that these suggestions will serve those who pass through your home as well, inspiring everyone long after they’ve lingered in the space you’ve created.

The thing about inspiration, is that even the smallest detail can awaken big changes, fresh thoughts, and enlightening experiences. 

olive-boughs-in-lebanese-pitcher

1) Bringing Outside In

There are a variety of ways to bring the outdoors into our homes, and I enjoy many of these at different times throughout the year. Here are a few:

  • Clippings from your yard, garden, neighbourhood or regional parks (when legal). Use at a place setting, in a vase, hung with twine, or placed on a mantle or shelf. Observe what happens to the piece over time. Don’t hesitate to bring in something that is dead! My dried up hydrangeas have an old-fashioned sepia look that I love. Dry dillweed from my garden has a spindly, delicate appearance that never fails to fascinate me.
  • Live plants, big or small, edible or not, healing or just lovely to look at. At this very moment I’m eyeing a terra cotta pot filled with mint in my garden that I’m tempted to bring in and set by my kitchen sink where the light is good and the aroma will serve as a fragrant pick-me up. Also a reminder of the months I spent sipping sweet mint tea in Morocco! Living plants can require anything from minimal effort to a mountain of care, so pick something that works well (as in, won’t die easily) within your space, is suited to your lifestyle, and gets you excited to enjoy it.
  • Nature finds like shells, rocks, driftwood, even bugs! My kids love adding to a revolving collection of natural elements (revolving because eventually I throw pieces out that have become dusty or broken) and observing them at the table or on a shelf. Last winter while up in the Sierras, I came across monstrous pine cones that reminded me of the hefty sort found under the pine trees at my Grandparents’ prairie property. I hauled an arm-full down from the snowy hillside and used them in my winter decor at home. Every time they caught my eye, I recollected fond memories of my childhood on the Canadian prairies.

An old book, a printed photo, a fresh scent or a new album on repeat can alter a room’s ambience in a heartbeat, or modify our mood in a second. Done intentionally, the results can be far-reaching and inspiring on so many levels.

2) Coffee Table Books

Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved coffee table books. Whether they were filled with fine art prints, photographs of exotic locales, or detailed illustrations, these hefty tomes filled with rich visuals transported me to other worlds and eras. While I own a number of cherished coffee table books, I really enjoy the act of borrowing half a dozen or so at a time from my local library. Whatever topic might be of current interest to me, I often go in search of beautifully designed books that nurture my curiosity of that field. I tend to seek out books that focus on photography, culture and place, nature, gardens, architecture, fashion, home decor, and food. I find that having books like these in my home keeps me from becoming bored and reverting to my phone for visual distraction. There’s just something about turning the pages of a book that scrolling down a screen can’t beat. The inspiration is curated, the tangible quality of the books is enticing, and the fact that they can be borrowed for free is a temptation worth indulging in.

Roman-forum

view-of-orvietto

3) Dress up Your Meals

If you are not an owner of easy to use, minimal fuss table linens, you are missing out! I bought my first linens and tableware (tablecloths and wooden napkin rings) while traveling in Russia when I was 16. I gifted the table cloths to friends and still use the hand-painted napkin rings every fall. Whenever I travel, table linens are an easily packable find that I can use every day and won’t collect dust on a shelf. They remind me of my past adventures and flood my home with inspiration. But I also have really inexpensive table linens from Target and World Market (napkins specifically) that get used more than almost anything else. Cloth napkins remind me of my Grandma who, when I was a child, always had a drawer of beautiful cloth napkins that elevated even the simplest of meals. We switched over to cloth napkins a couple of years ago when I realized how easily they altered my kids’ attitude at the table. Fabric feels special and offers an opportunity to take more care during a meal, linger over a dish, or engage in meaningful conversation. I make sure to have darker hued napkins to use with my kids, and throw them in with daily load of laundry. Nicer napkins are pulled out when we have guests or I want to use something other than the basic cotton versions we use as a family. Even if you are just sitting down to dinner on the couch with Netflix in front of you, a cloth napkin will instantly elevate the experience!

bread-with-oil-and-rosemary-in-a-basket

blue-napkin-with-Russian-napkin-ring

bread-and-rosemary-in-dough-bowl

4) The Sound of Music

Wherever I travel, I always purchase local music. It’s an easy way to recall my memories and the experiences I’ve had while on the road. But more often than not, I find myself using music to set a mood in my home. Classical at breakfast and while the kids do morning schoolwork, jazz in the evening especially if I’m cooking with a glass of wine in hand, old hymns on Sunday that not only turn my heart heavenwards, but remind me of late family members who have left a legacy of faith behind them. I also use music to compliment whatever we are studying with the kids for school. History, cultural, and geography studies are all enhanced with music. Music helps us focus, inspires us to create, stirs up memories, nurtures relationships, and makes even the most mundane tasks feel just a touch indulgent. Music heightens the senses, and when harnessed with purpose, can bring new inspiration our way no matter how uninspired we feel.

garden-string-lights-in-olive-tree

5) Substitute a Staple

I’m a creature of habit, and once I like something, I’m hooked. For YEARS. It takes a lot for me to change, but I know that trying new things inevitably leads to a more fruitful creative process and inspired life. One of the easiest ways for me to infuse my life with fresh inspiration is to try substituting a staple ingredient with an alternate variety or one of a higher quality. Take salt for instance. I’d been using pink Himalayan sea salt for years. Nothing wrong with that, in fact I still use it from time to time. But when one of my friends introduced me to Maldon Sea Salt as one of the few ingredients used in the simplest of green salads, I was mindblown. I couldn’t believe how distinctive the flavour was and now use it in everything from homemade sourdough bread to stir fry to salad greens. It’s amazing how one small shift in a staple ingredient can make me want to eat simpler and allow the salt to enhance the flavour of very simple ingredients. Now I tend to use minimal spices because of how just a small pinch of Maldon salt can wake up a dish without hardly even trying. If you prefer not to swap out your staple blindly, ask friends or family what brands or versions of kitchen staples they use and ask to try a sample. You might be surprised and find yourself both inspired and converted!

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” — Goethe

Want more inspiration to help you THRIVE no matter where you are? Click HERE to get my FREE guide featuring 12 Prompts to Nourish Your Creative Spirit.

homegrown-olive-oil-in-small-jar

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

How I Stopped Technology from Taking Over My Natural Rhythms

Between the ages of 7 and 17, my parents owned and operated a fly-in fishing lodge in the remote reaches of northern Canada. This meant that I spent a large portion of every summer virtually cut off from the rest of the world. Until I was in my mid-teens and wanting to spend more time with friends, and also be more independent of my parents, I don’t remember feeling particularly phased by this annual period of isolation.

During the early years while my parents were building up the camp and the business, our family shared a one-room cabin that lacked indoor plumbing. Electricity was generator-powered, but at night we lived by the light of our trusty Coleman lanterns. My younger sister and I spent our days exploring woods and beaches. We fished and read and played games. I think we each had a walkman and I had a film point-and-shoot camera. We were living out the creative, curious childhoods I desire for my own children.

“the ebb and flow of each day was free from distraction, hurried schedules, and…technology.”

Even once the camp gained more luxuries (indoor plumbing, round-the-clock generator power, and our family’s personal 3-bedroom cabin), our days weren’t much different. The long, often sweltering, northern summer days were sometimes punctuated with trips to sit in the tiny laundry cabin where my sister and I would watch the ice machine produce massive sheets of cubes while we munched on bowls of ice to cool down. The occasional evening in late summer provided us with a spectacular display of northern lights. That was about as exciting as things got, and I don’t mean that in a negative kind of way. During those long and lingering summers, the ebb and flow of each day was free from distraction, hurried schedules, and what stands out most to me now, technology.

“I let technology override my natural rhythms.” 

Now that our family has been mostly at home for the past month during the Covid-19 pandemic, I’ve noticed that life has still felt stressful in terms of the amount of things I expect to accomplish on a daily basis. While most external obligations have fallen away, the internal pressure to ‘keep up’ with school, cleaning, meals, relationships, exercise, yard work, extracurricular activities, and my own business, have almost seemed to ramp up.

Since I haven’t been busy with things like errands or playdates, I haven’t been entirely sure why I’ve been so overwhelmed. We already homeschool, sit down together for three meals a day, and consciously keep our schedules free from too much ‘programmed’ activity. And yet, something felt distinctly ‘off’. Yes, we were without the support of our normal community and were thrown off our typical rhythms, but we were experiencing far less disruption than many of our friends and family members. So what was triggering my heightened state of overwhelm? After taking some time to reflect, here’s what I’ve concluded:

I have let technology override my natural rhythms.

Instead of listening to my body cue me as to when I’m tired, when to be quiet, when and what to eat, how to relax, who to connect with, what task to work on, etc., I’ve allowed technology to drown out my internal nudges. 

Since being in isolation, my online presence has increased tremendously. During the first couple of weeks, my inboxes exploded with texts and emails, and online shopping carts bulged. I had to limit time spent on Google or news sites because my brain felt like mush and my nerves were frayed. But then I moved on to courses and conferences, Zoom hangouts and sermon streaming. All good things to help my mind stay engaged and stimulated. And yet it felt like too much because I wasn’t maintaining a healthy dose. On top of this, I still had to work, which required me to be in front of a computer and on social media a fair amount.

In response to the technology consumption that has made me feel so distracted I couldn’t tune into my own needs as well as I would have liked, I suggested we return to something we tried two summers ago. Saturday technology sabbaths.

See, in spite of my Christian faith and practice, Sundays have never felt like a Sabbath, or day of rest for me. As an introvert, albeit a social one, I find myself happy yet exhausted at the end of a day often spent with a lot of people. I also typically use Sunday afternoons and evenings to plan and prepare for the week ahead, which while helpful, isn’t exactly restful. So we made Saturdays our Sabbath and included a break from technology into the mix. We kept our phones out of sight for the most part, went to bed when it got dark, and in general, used as little technology as possible. We weren’t legalistic about it, just trying to give ourselves and our kids a break from digital distraction and our bodies a chance to reset based on nature’s rhythms. I was in my third trimester of pregnancy with my youngest, yet felt the most well-rested of my entire pregnancy.

And so, we recently returned to Saturday sabbaths that include a break from technology. Our first one was incredibly restorative and not near as difficult as I anticipated. I’ll share more about what those Saturday technology sabbaths look like in the future, as we plan to keep them going even once the quarantine is over.

What I’m most excited about, is that I realized a one-day break from technology is enough to shift me back to a place of listening to my internal cues. And because right now we work and school from home with very little external expectations placed on us, I have a unique opportunity to try and live every day according to natural rhythms. My guess is that once I am more attuned to these cues, my kids will also feel so much more stable and settled.

I want to thrive during this time of isolation, and I want that for my family too. I know not every day or week will feel upbeat or pleasant, but I don’t want something I can control (my use of technology) to prevent me from living as abundant a life as possible, one full of beauty, purpose, and adventure. Just like the one I experienced during my rural, remote, childhood summers.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

How I Found Inspiration & Restoration in the Cotswolds

Cotswold-village-upper-slaughter

When I embarked on an 8-day walking trip through the Cotswolds, I had reached burnout in my career and exhaustion in my personal life. I’d been attempting to juggle running a photography business and an online wedding publication with a toddler and a baby clamouring for my attention. My work seemed strained and uninspired, and I felt my creative coffers had been drained. I was attempting to do too much, with too little rest. As a result, I felt like a mediocre mom and businesswoman.

Sound familiar? I think it’s something many of us women struggle with.

I decided that the best thing I could do for everyone involved was take a yearlong, self-imposed creative sabbatical in order to focus on rest and restoration. During that time I delighted in spending more focused time with my family and creating for creation’s sake. Around 9 months into my sabbatical, I traveled to England where I traversed the English countryside with two dear friends. I spent the first 4 days with my friend Jody from California, and the second set of 4 days with my friend Mandee from Canada, who now lives in the UK.

I’ve traveled to many countries, and have traveled by numerous means, but never had I traveled on foot before. The act was transformative and powerful. 

Interior-church-window-and-sill-with-flowers

Before my trip I’d anticipated that the experience would reignite my creative energy, but what I didn’t expect was how the act of walking–daily, and for miles on end–would restore me physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I’ve traveled to many countries, and have traveled by numerous means, but never had I traveled on foot before. The act was transformative and powerful.

Each day began with a hearty breakfast, the donning of my daypack, and the wide-eyed wonder at whatever landscape might slowly unfurl before us. I was both unplugged and yet deeply present, lost in the beauty of the place and the pace.  

We walked each day through small sections of the Cotswolds, an idyllic patch of English countryside just a couple hours west of London, that boasts of sleepy villages, hillsides dotted with sheep, honey-coloured limestone cottages drenched in roses, and rolling woodlands that make you feel like you’ve stepped into A.A. Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood. I paused to watch an earthworm wend its way up from the rich soil of a farmer’s field, knelt to brush the soft petals of deep red poppies. I stopped for breaks of tea from my thermos and to use the loo in a handful of cozy pubs. Those pubs offered us a range of local, seasonal fare that warmed us from the inside out: hearty tomato soup,  flaky pot pies, and amber pints of ale. There was no agenda but to eventually arrive at the next village, where drivers from our walking company would deposit our bags at our next farm stay, boutique hotel, or pub inn.

Cotswolds-sheep-in-farmers-field

hailes-abbey-ruins-cotswolds

The act of following directions and maps provided by our walking company served as a giant scavenger hunt for adults. Seeking out field gates and trekking across farmer’s fields, scaring up a bouquet of pheasants, and spotting the spire of the nearest church were all part of the day’s events. The intimate connection with nature was restorative in every possible way. My body felt strong and healthy as I strode up one side of a verdant hill and then down the other, my lungs took in the fresh clean air and lingering moisture that followed a rain shower, my eyes gazed upon the beauty of God’s green earth instead of staring blankly into a screen, and my mind turned to thoughts of gratitude, prayer, meditation, and dreams for the future. When we turned in each night, following a hearty meal and a hot shower, my body and brain fell into deep slumber as the down pillows and duvets enveloped me in a snowy cocoon. I missed my husband and kids, to be sure, but I knew that the rest and restoration I was experiencing would linger long after I returned home to them. I knew that this experience was a gift and something I would cherish forever.

 

pink-roses-in-the-cotswolds

white-bed-cotswolds-accommodations

arched-tunnel-greenery-in-the-cotswolds

What I didn’t realize then, was how everything I’d seen, eaten, felt, and experienced while walking day after day, would impact and inspire me daily in the years that followed. I know now, from both my own experience and from all the reading and research I’ve done on walking, that walking has the power to stir the creative juices in ways that sitting and brainstorming cannot. So now when I need to rev my creative engines, I find time to walk in nature. I also know that dreams need mental and physical space to be nurtured before they can take root. This walking trip enabled small seedlings of dreams to rise up within me and be nourished while experiencing local culture and landscapes. I was inspired by everything I saw, and that served as the catalyst for dreams I’m pursuing even today. I also know that creativity is something that can be spent, but need not evaporate if we tap into our creative roots for sheer pleasure on a regular basis. This trip invited me to indulge in photography again for the sheer enjoyment of it, to journal and write for pleasure, and to cook potpies through every fall and winter since I’ve returned! The creative juices that began to flow during and following this trip have not been staunched. Instead, they are constantly renewed because of the lessons I learned on that walk, about how to keep my creative edge.

view-of-naunton-cotswolds

The other takeaway I experienced following my walk through the English countryside was how much I needed to share this place with other women. I knew in my soul how many women could experience restoration and inspiration if they joined me on a walk through the Cotswolds, and so I set out to craft a retreat that would enable them to do so. In June of 2020, I’ll be leading two groups of women through this tranquil region, and have designed the retreat to incorporate both content and opportunities to help each woman tap into her creative roots. If this sounds like the very thing you desire, I want to encourage you to dig a little more and see if this retreat is right for you. Just click on Cotswold Women’s Walking Retreat and I’ll send all the details your way! You can also email me at: hello@bringinginspirationhome.com

“This walking trip enabled small seedlings of dreams to rise up within me and be nourished while experiencing local culture and landscapes. I was inspired by everything I saw, and that served as the catalyst for dreams I’m pursuing even today.”  

I cannot wait to hear from you, and I am so looking forward to guiding you on this journey into restoration and inspiration as we walk through the Cotswolds next June!

view-from-broadway-tower

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

5 Easy Ways to Exercise Your Creativity at Home

If you’re overwhelmed by the thought of trying to find time or motivation to exercise your creativity, you are not alone my friend! As a mom of 3 littles attempting to run a creative business, homeschool my kids, and juggle life without any family around for thousands of miles, I am pickin’ up what you’re puttin’ down!

But in the same way that I feel kinda gross if I don’t make enough time for physical activity, healthy food, good sleep, or time with God and my family, (not all of these every day mind you, but at least a few times a week!) I know I’m not functioning at my best when I let opportunities to create find their way to the back burner of my life. So how does one integrate ONE. MORE. THING? By making sure creativity isn’t one more thing. By incorporating creativity into the everyday.

Here are 5 of my favourite ways to exercise creativity at home even in the midst of sleepless nights and zombie-esque days! Each of them make me feel vibrant and a little less frumpy. And they all require less than 15 minutes of my time.

“Perfection is no small thing, but it is made up of small things.” —Michelangelo

1) Bring nature into your home.  

Grab a glass, jar, or vase and find something natural to fill it with. Even if you don’t have flowers, clip a branch filled with leaves (or a barren one when that time of year comes). Dried dill from your garden, a handful of rosemary sprigs, twigs filled with pods or berries. Don’t feel like fiddling with an arrangement? Fill the glass with pebbles, pods, seeds or shells. The act of handling, arranging, and sorting is an easy entry point for tapping into your creativity and flexing some unused muscles. The practice also enhances observation skills, offers moments to revel in nature’s most minute details, get kids involved in creating their own visual inspiration from nature, and perhaps prompts a sketch or watercolour rendering if you’re so inclined. Notice I said ‘inclined’, not ‘gifted’. Practicing observation and focus through sketching or quick watercolour journaling can lift the soul, remind one that happy accidents and imperfections make life more interesting, and can be a fantastic alternative to meditation if you don’t do well with sitting still in silence..like yours truly!

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” — Maya Angelou 

2) Juxtapose books with household treasures. 

Peruse your home library and pick out a stack of books that have similar coloured spines, interesting text, or feature the same subject matter. Find a place in your home (coffee table, kitchen table, kitchen counter, shelves, bedroom dresser, nightstand, guest room, entry table) for the mini collection and arrange them in a pleasing way. Top off the stack with something of interest, or use an interesting piece from your home as a bookend. A sculptural rock, bud vase with single flower, an artifact from your travels, an heirloom such as an old camera. Perhaps the item relates to the subject matter, then again, maybe not. Let whimsy and intuition be your guide. Don’t worry so much about following rules, concern yourself more with what you find aesthetically-pleasing and thought-provoking.

3) Refresh what you wear.

Plan an outfit. For tomorrow, a special occasion, your next date night. Go through jewelry you haven’t worn in a while and pick out something you want to wear and then design your outfit around it. Or do the same with a pair of shoes you love but haven’t had an excuse to wear. Don’t worry about what’s fashionable, consider what feels the most YOU. Or just put together an outfit for fun that you might never wear outside your house and see if some new combination strikes a chord and resonates with you. Experiment if you have the wherewithal, or just freshen up your everyday outfits.

4) Enhance your dining experience.

Set your table for the next meal. Choose linens, dishes, and decor (vases, napkin rings, candles) that make you happy. If you can’t match it, clash it. Mix up patterns and pieces if you just need to break out of the mold and reject the norm. Switch up your typical seating arrangements. Do it alone or with your loved ones, just elevate the everyday by doing something different. If you have young children and butcher paper or wrapping paper, create a look that’s fun and festive

5) Use the written word to encourage, motivate, and inspire.

Using a wet or dry erase marker, write out favourite verses, poems, or quotes on mirrors throughout your home to inspire, encourage, or make laugh. Try a new font, add a few flourishes, and add some design elements. Erase and start over if you don’t like the look or leave it up and see if it grows on you. Messages to your loved ones can be just as meaningful and fun.

“There’s the whole world at your feet.” — Mary Poppins 

I truly believe that creativity is something we are all gifted with. That doesn’t mean we’ve perfected a specific skill or even yet tapped into our true gifting, but it does mean we are all imbued with a sense of creative spirit that can be exercised even in little, everyday ways. 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

We Bought A Garden

I gasped the first time I saw our back garden in full bloom. It was not long after our offer on the house we now live in was accepted, when the owners had us back for a more detailed tour. Stepping into the garden I truly couldn’t believe my eyes. Roses in full bloom were spilling out everywhere and tree blossoms hummed with bees. A jasmine border lined the entire back fence. A pair of meyer lemon trees (more like large shrubs) were blossoming. There was a raised garden bed constructed of stone and a massive olive tree arching over a significant portion of the back yard. In spite of being set smack in the middle of a suburban neighbourhood, it felt as if I’d stepped into my own personal secret garden. It offered not only complete privacy from the surrounding homes, but had been designed as a delightful sanctuary appealing to all the senses. I was awestruck. We hadn’t just purchased our first home, we bought a garden!

Growing up on the Canadian prairies I was influenced by three garden spaces belonging to my parents, paternal grandparents, and paternal great-grandparents. My parents owned 30 acres only a few minutes’ drive away from grandparents’ own rural property, and some of my most enduring childhood memories include spending time in the vast vegetable garden and walking through the fields to find wild roses. We could never have much in the way of flowers in our home due to my mom’s allergies, so   I vowed that one day my future home would be filled to the brim with flowers (except when my mom visited of course!).

In spite of being set smack in the middle of a suburban neighbourhood, it felt as if I’d stepped into my own personal secret garden.

My Grandma was forever harvesting fresh produce and flowers from her gardens and us grandchildren always delighted in the tart, puckering promise of a crunchy stem of rhubarb or crab apple plucked from a tree.

My grandparents’ home featured expansive country gardens that included a crab apple orchard, multiple vegetable gardens, an exceptional range of flower beds, and views of a pond filled with geese and ducks that my Grandpa tended to. My Grandma was forever harvesting fresh produce and flowers from her gardens and us grandchildren always delighted in the tart, puckering promise of a crunchy stem of rhubarb or crab apple plucked from a tree. My grandparents’ home and gardens were probably my greatest influence on my passion for the harmonious blend of architecture and nature.

While I didn’t spend near as much time at my great-grandparents’, their home in Winnipeg was situated on a large lot in the city. My memory of it was that the back yard was a magical oasis. My Opa was a skilled wood worker and filled the rolling property with wishing wells and enchanting niches that looked as if fairies and elves dwelled there on a permanent basis. It was a backyard that beckoned a child’s imagination to take flight and I always delighted in allowing mine do so.

By the time we moved to British Columbia just before I turned 13, the joys of the garden, no matter what the style or size, were permanently rooted in my psyche. From then on, I was obsessed with how nature could be mindfully cultivated in order to bring both beauty and bounty into one’s everyday experience.

As a young artist and photographer, I sought inspiration from the blossoms of the Okanagan Valley’s myriad of fruit orchards. In university I indulged in purchasing my first store-bought bouquets from the flower stalls of Vancouver’s Granville Island market and Kitsilano’s neighbourhood shops. During the summers I returned home to the Okanagan to plant flowers for the city, hauling and planting hundreds of flats of marigolds and zinnias every May and June. I traveled to Morocco and found myself mesmerized by the lush courtyards of Fez and Marrakech, and to the English countryside where chocolate box cottages spilled over with a riot of colour and fragrance. An Eden of my own became my goal and that was realized the moment we closed on our home. I mean, our garden.

Over the past five years, Will and I have both flourished and floundered as eager, beginner gardeners. We’ve celebrated bumper crops of lemons with pies and daily honey and lemon tonics, sat lazily under the arc of the olive tree while sipping local white wine on hot summer days, and filled our home with a rotation of blossoms, unfurling roses, and vessels filled with olive branches. We’ve also battled typical garden pests, made poor planting calls (my succulents and a couple of finicky shrubs still irritate me but I don’t know when I’ll have time to uproot them and replant something else in their place), struggled to get cucumbers to taste just right, and let our garden run out of control following the birth of each baby. But it’s ours and it’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a secret garden.

I also love that our children are going to grow up smelling jasmine and citrus and roses, with those scents imprinted on their psyche, taking those fragrant memories wherever they go. It’s the perfect backyard paradise for painting, flower picking, and planting their first vegetables. This garden brings inspiration into my life on a daily basis, no matter the season or the weather. It has taught me how to bring inspiration into my home and find beauty in every day no matter what challenges we might face as a family. Nature brought into our home feels like a soothing balm when days are tough, and a source of inspiration when the routine of motherhood feels a bit mundane. We bought a house, for sure, but the garden will always be our most cherished part of this place.

“I also love that our children are going to grow up smelling jasmine and citrus and roses with those scents imprinted on their psyche, taking those fragrant memories wherever they go.”

 

Nourishing Your Creative Spirit

Do you feel like you’re not enough?  Too much?  Never quite hitting the sweet spot of where you were truly meant to be living?  I’ve definitely felt and believed all of these things—sometimes individually, but often all at once and for long periods of time.  The sheer existence of these questions combined with the pressures and expectations of reality can easily force our creative spirit underground.  A trove, buried for years, waiting to be uncovered, rediscovered, perhaps unleashed for the first time in our adult lives.

“We are powerful forces for inspiration and yet we are often trapped by our own lack of inspired living.  Surviving rather than thriving.”

Often this unwitting burial takes place in our younger years, when vibrant, creative dreams are squashed due to the attitudes of others who sneer, scoff, or raise skeptical eyebrows in the direction of our passions or attempts at creative endeavours.  Many of us are encouraged to sideline our creative play or pastimes in favour of academic pursuits or practical responsibilities without being taught the value of integrating these creative ambitions into our adult lives.  How many of us still sketch or paint for fun?  Take regular dance classes or music lessons?  Invest portions of our lives into a creative hobby that doesn’t revolve around our family?  And yet we assume we’re serving our kids through the relentless shuttling of their imaginative souls between similar endeavours, exalting the importance of creativity and passion.  Anyway, right now I’m talking about you.  About us.  About the busy moms and career women and empty-nesters who have lost their creative spirit somewhere along the way and don’t know if they’ll ever scratch the surface of what it means to thrive in a manner that unleashes their God-given creative gifts and lands them smack at the centre of where they are most inspired— producing beauty in the world around them and nourishing creativity in others.

“Abundant life might seem most attainable for women who have the support of many, bodies that perform or look a certain way, or financial freedom to live as they choose.  Abundant life according to Scripture, however, does not come with these qualifiers”.

I believe that women were designed to breathe life into the world around us.  No, not every one of us is going to procreate and birth a literal life into the physical realm, but each one of us is in possession of the ability to build up or break down the creative spirit of others through our words, our attitudes, our actions, and our own ambitions.  We are powerful forces for inspiration and yet we are often trapped by our own lack of inspired living.  Surviving rather than thriving.  Just getting by.  Depressed by the doldrum of daily routines, severed at the creative artery by schedules and to-do lists, not to mention the needs of everyone else around us.  What about our story?  Our strengths?  Our need to thrive and cultivate a life of beauty, adventure, and purpose?

This is within our grasp more so now than at any other time in history.  At no other time have women in the west been so free to pursue their purpose, their passions, and the promise that God gave us in Christ that we might have abundant life.  And yet we are pinned down by duty and the pressures of society, which leaves us wondering where on earth we would find the time, muster the energy, and nurture the space in which to dredge up more than a pot of homemade soup, a Pinterest-perfect birthday party, or the most flattering Christmas outfit.  On any given day, those are often the outer limits of our creative attempts.  And we wonder why we are so tired, so frustrated with ourselves, so spun out from the swirling world of social media and societal expectations.  Abundant life might seem most attainable for women who have the support of many, bodies that perform or look a certain way, or financial freedom to live as they choose.  Abundant life according to Scripture, however, does not come with these qualifiers.  No, we were born with something innate, unique, and discoverable, and given the freedom to pursue that magic within us when Christ came to set us free from the tyranny of our sinful selves.

Nourishing the creative spirit within begins with believing that doing so matters, that we even have a creative spark to fuel, and that our busy lives can actually hold space for us to pursue what will truly enable us to thrive.  Ever since I was a little girl, I have been fighting for my creative life in spite of numerous odds thrown my way.  But somehow God has given me the desire and drive to persist in my passions and hide them under a bushel – NO!  I believe part of that purpose is to fan the flame of creativity and ignite inspiration in the lives of other women who doubt their dreams and don’t know where to start when it comes to reviving their creative gifts and nourishing their creative spirit.

If you feel like your creative life is lacking or you’re in need of creative nourishment, I’ve put together a free resources outlining 12 of my favourite prompts that help me revive my creative spirit.  Rather than sap my strength, these actions have bolstered my energy, enabled me to thrive, and encouraged me to pursue creativity on a variety of levels.  You can download this free resource right HERE.

Do you know another woman or a group of women who could use some encouragement in their creative life?  Feel free to share this post and free resource filled with inspiring prompts.  And then come join me  for more inspiration through my email updates that include links to my videos, more free resources, my favourite inspiration, and photography tips.  I can’t wait to connect and encourage you to THRIVE. 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

How to Create More than We Consume

Every woman juggling all the things knows how tempting it is to start the day off scrolling before we’ve even left our beds and our feet have hit the floor.  But do we know what that’s doing to our creative spirit?  Do we realize how much the constant content consumption is depleting us of our creative juices and replacing our ability to generate authentic ideas with copycat material?

As a creative entrepreneur and homeschooling mom, I’ve come to recognize just how necessary it is to safeguard my brain from consuming too much content if I want to nurture my own creative spirit, inspire my kids, and live a life that feels free of Pinterest-pressure.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Pinterest, Instagram, and easy access to family and friends through Facebook, texting, emailing, and every other communication app. But I also know that these tools can add pressure to my day, drown out the needs of the loved ones directly in front of me, and sap my creative energy. The sheer amount of time I spend staring at a screen directly correlates to both my desire and ability to create and inspire.

The sheer amount of time I spend staring at a screen directly correlates to both my desire and ability to create and inspire.

Trastevere-Rome-Blue-Door

So what does it mean for me to both avoid too much content consumption and actively create things that inspire me and serve others?  Well, I’ve developed a two-pronged approach that incorporates both defensive and offensive strategies which I’ll share below.

Defending my brain and body from an overload of consumption includes the following habits I try to maintain:

1) I avoid starting my day off with scrolling, email checks, and text replies. 

It’s easiest if my phone is kept in another room instead of by my bedside, but that doesn’t always happen.  I’m working on that one!  I know that beginning my day with prayer, devotions, a workout, or some tea in a quiet space is far more invigorating than lounging in bed staring at a dark screen. Will and I have started to get up to pray together at 6am every morning before the kids are up/allowed out of their room, and the days when we do this always leave us feeling more alive and excited to start our day…which is saying a lot especially for Will because he is NOT a natural morning person!

2) I respond to emails and messages in bulk and at times that suit me best. 

Once I’ve gone through some more natural, organic rhythms to start my day, I’ll usually do a quick check of my emails, texts, and messages at which time I’ll move emails into folders to deal with later and make a list on paper of correspondence to attend to later in the day unless something truly requires my immediate attention.  I don’t like messaging in front of my kids if I can help it, and also don’t thrive when there’s a message thread building up all morning while I’m trying to accomplish other tasks.  Plus, messaging and emailing tend to require less creative energy than a lot of other things, so I’d rather tackle those during quiet time or after my kids have gone to bed.

3) I’ve turned off notifications on my phone.

I’ve turned off all notifications on my phone so I’m not constantly being made aware of every attempt to reach me.  In truth, I generally have my phone on Do Not Disturb, but have enabled specific contacts to reach me even if my phone is on silent.  Again, this helps me to stay present, efficient, and protective of my mental space.

Now that those defensive tactics are in play more regularly, I’ve been developing my offensive strategies to find more time to create in ways that are meaningful and fulfilling.  This is the fun part!

If you don’t believe you’re the creative type, I encourage you to try experimenting with some new hobbies or potential interests just to see if you can nudge those creative juices into motion!  It might be a slow, uphill struggle, but the benefits are beautiful and I can guarantee will absolutely lead to more thriving instead of surviving. 

 

olive-grove-umbria-italy

View-of-Orvieto

*Disclaimer – If you don’t think of yourself as the creative type, I would challenge you to reexamine that mindset.  I believe we all have a creative bent, but for some it’s never been nurtured and for others, it’s been buried so deep for so long that it feels impossible to discover/recover.  That’s a different topic for a different post, but if you don’t believe you’re the creative type, I encourage you to try experimenting with some new hobbies or potential interests just to see if you can nudge those creative juices into motion!  It might be a slow, uphill struggle, but the benefits are beautiful and I can guarantee will absolutely lead to more thriving instead of surviving.

 

So here is what I’ve been doing on a regular basis to spark creativity:

1) I find ways to implement creative activity, no matter how simple, into most days. 

I thrive on visual creation.  Whether that’s arranging a vessel filled with clippings from our garden, or putting together a cute outfit complete with accessories for an event coming up, or laying out props and details for a flat lay shoot I’m assembling, I have lately realized that my best days are ones in which I’ve spent some period of time creating something of beauty that brings inspiration into my home or enlivens my soul.  That could be as ordinary as dusting and refreshing a bookshelf, playing with watercolours at the table with my kids, repotting a plant or pruning the roses, or laying out a super simple charcuterie platter for myself at quiet time. I realize that not everybody has an aesthetic bent that needs to be nurtured in order to access their creative side (my husband is certainly not moulded that way) but for me I thrive best when I’m incorporating some element of aesthetic creativity into my day.

2) Creating before consuming has a positive affect on the rest of my day. 

Creating before consuming sparks ideas for other aspects of my day.  If I spend a little time doing something creative first thing in the morning, be it in my office or at home, I find the rest of my day is inspired.  I have more verve and excitement for homeschool lessons and cooking, seek out small ways to make errands and menial tasks more fun, and in general, have a more pleasant outlook on life than when I’m not accessing my creative side.  I also tend to be more thoughtful and intentional with my email and text responses, which is never a bad thing!

3) I try to avoid going online for inspiration–at least initially.

If I’m stuck and have no natural inclination to create anything, be it a journal entry or our next meal, I try to avoid going online to look for inspiration.  Sometimes just reading a chapter from a book, looking through old photos, taking a walk, eating something refreshing, or honestly, taking a nap (I’m not usually a napper except for when I’m pregnant) can be all I need to jumpstart my creative juices.  I usually tend to hop online for further inspiration once I already have an idea in mind and need to flesh out the details, but try to avoid this as my first stop.

ancient-ruins-in-Rome

Sometimes just reading a chapter from a book, looking through old photos, taking a walk, eating something refreshing, or taking a nap can be all I need to jumpstart my creative juices.  

Do any of these seem like options that would prompt a more creative, inspiring lifestyle for you?  If you want to be more intentional about finding rhythms that lead to more creativity and inspiration, I would love to be a part of that journey.  Just hop over here and subscribe to my newsletter updates where I’ll provide you with fresh ideas and creative prompts on a regular basis.  These updates are succinct, yet filled with rich nuggets meant to revitalize your lifestyle and refresh your creative endeavours so you can lead your life with beauty, adventure, and purpose.  And really, who doesn’t want that? 

laundry-line-in-Orvieto

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Embracing the Beauty of Boredom

Have you ever wondered how we as a society have become so dependant on mindless scrolling that we take our phones into the washroom with us?  I’m not talking about slipping your phone into your back pocket (in which case you’re definitely tempting fate with the high probability of your phone plunging to the depths of the toilet bowl!), rather, I’m recognizing the fact that probably most of us have succumbed to the ‘squat and scroll’.  Am I right?  Definitely some cringe-worthy guilt over here!  Have we really become so averse to the possibility of being bored or left with our own thoughts for a few moments that we are habitually inclined to take our phones to the toilet??

I don’t know about you, but I’m on a mission to alter my scrolling habits. When left with a few moments of potential boredom, I want to seek opportunities that result in creative, imaginative thinking, problem-solving, and greater awareness—of my inner self, the world around me, and of God’s Spirit speaking to my soul.  Doesn’t this sound like something we could all be refreshed by and excited about?  What sort of ideas and possibilities might be sparked if we were using brief fragments of time to create rather than consume?

“Have we really become so averse to the possibility of being bored…that we are habitually inclined to take our phones to the toilet??”

If you long for a more creative outlook or are unsure of how to initiate more opportunities to integrate creativity into your daily routine, look no further than those moments of boredom that so easily beckon us to our phones for a small sliver of mindless scrolling.

If you long for a more creative outlook or are unsure of how to initiate more opportunities to integrate creativity into your daily routine, look no further than those moments of boredom that so easily beckon us to our phones for a small sliver of mindless scrolling.  Whether you’re just waking up, hanging out in a waiting room, or are waiting in the car, I’ve outlined 3 ways that you can utilize boredom as a catalyst for creativity.

1) Transition from scrolling to another activity.

First, we need to kick the habit of scrolling when we’ve got a few minutes to either wait or busy ourselves, and I think one of the best ways to transition from scrolling to intentional, imaginative thinking, is to read something tangible that does not require a screen, nor your thumb’s ‘scroll function’.  Author, podcast host, and speaker, Sarah Mackenzie (of the book The Read-Aloud Family and the podcast Read-Aloud Revival) suggests simply keeping a book with you.  Her straightforward suggestion has prompted me to keep a smallish piece of light reading material in my handbag at all times.  You’d be amazed at how much reading you can accomplish with just five minutes here, or ten minutes there.  Now I wouldn’t recommend Dostoevsky’s War and Peace, or anything else that’s a) cumbersome and b) needs some time to access with focus, but I would recommend anything from a self-help or business book to a children or youth novel that you could read either silently or aloud to your kids.  If this seems too daunting, keeping a couple of magazines in your car, or a crossword puzzle or sudoku book on hand might be a great alternative for you.  Start with what is most accessible and gets you in the habit of doing something other than turning to your phone for entertainment.  I’ve kept a crossword puzzle book in our master ensuite for years and it’s the one washroom I’m almost never tempted to take my phone into.  A devotional, magazine, or piece of light reading by my bed—something I’m eager to delve into that doesn’t take much brain power either first thing in the morning or later at night—will often persuade me to read tangible material rather than scroll through my phone.  This bedside habit has resulted in both better sleep at night and a more positive outlook first thing in the morning.  Win-win right?

2) Stir the creative juices with prompts.

If you want to take things to the next level and stir your creative juices up a bit, I’d recommend keeping a notepad or journal with you, along with a short list of prompts, perhaps penned at the back at the top of a few blank pages.  Here are a few prompts to get you going:

  • “If I could design my dream house, what would I include?”  Keep a running list of design and landscape elements that you come across that you’d want to integrate into your dream property.  Mine would definitely include complete privacy, acreage, lots of big windows with sunlight streaming in, rustic wooden beams, and pretty Mediterranean tilework. 
  • “If I could spend 10 days in one place anywhere in the world, what would that look like?”  Would you spend your time exploring a Caribbean island while staying in a jungle or beachside bungalow?  Driving the backroads of Tuscany and sipping wine in the local piazza every evening?  What would you pack for a trip to Thailand?  Would you find yourself walking the Cotswolds or the Scottish Highlands, or roaming the plains of the Serengeti?  Let your imagination wander and try to envision what you’d wear, how you’d travel to and from your destination, what the weather would be like, and who your travel partners would be.  You might find yourself staring off into the distance instead of writing…a fun and essential part of becoming lost in creative thought!
  • “If I could plan the ideal dinner party/Sunday brunch/high tea, who would I invite to join me?”  Let yourself think beyond the box of close friends or potential acquaintances.  Consider a mix of people from history, or an assortment of creative minds and talents, along with the meal’s setting and menu.  Every time I delve into this daydream, Queen Elizabeth is definitely at the table, but we’re at Balmoral in Scotland where she’s on holiday and more relaxed.  Then I fill in the gaps with an eclectic mix of friends, family, and famous figures from throughout history.  

3) Consider your surroundings and tap into a deeper awareness.

For an even more ‘advanced’ attempt at pushing the boundaries of boredom, even if just for a few brief moments, I like to consider my surroundings and tap into what my brain and body are experiencing.  This not only prompts me to reflect on my current needs and desires, but also on my preferences and opinions.  Taking a few deep breaths and noting how my body feels as I wake up, or how it settles into a chair, what the light around me is doing, or how other people are responding to our surroundings, helps me be more attuned not only to myself, but also to those around me.  This process enables me to be more open to hearing the Spirit of God speak into my life, often compelling me to meditate on Scripture or extend love, patience, or compassion to someone else, whether they are physically present or not.  I believe that intentionally seeking opportunities to be aware of one’s surroundings can have a beneficial effect on one’s mental and physical health, relationships, and spiritual growth.

The great thing about embracing the beauty of boredom is that it opens up opportunities for growth and enrichment, fulfillment and peace that trolling the internet never can.  That’s not to say we shouldn’t spend time online or use our phones for pleasure or purpose, but the more that we view boredom as having the potential to cultivate creativity, (and less as something to avoid) the more our scrolling habits will find an appropriate place in our lives—preferably not while in the loo!    

“What sort of ideas and possibilities might be sparked if we were using brief fragments of time to create rather than consume?”

If you are struggling to draw creative ideas from a wellspring that starts with scrolling, the results will be largely inauthentic and even less gratifying.  Visual inspiration is important, for sure, but I would argue that it’s vital to engage in observation that takes places offline if we want to produce results of the highest caliber.

Are you an entrepreneur or aspiring creative looking to take your ideas to the next level and really grow as an artist, business person, or influencer?  Let’s set up a time to chat and discuss the possibilities for your future success.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Pursuing Rest and Creative Renewal After Burnout

You know those people who set their minds to something and churn out beautiful work with stunning results just as naturally as the sun rises in the east?  Well I’m not one of them.  And the more I hear their stories, it turns out they aren’t either.  In fact many of us creatives, entrepreneurs and dreamers tend to mask the inner struggle that come with striving, by burying our insecurities under the motto, “Fake it, ‘till you make it”.  I subscribed to this soul-sucking way of life for far too long, but found hope after my body hit burnout and I succumbed to a year of rest.  Along the way, I discovered a number of methods that helped me incorporate restorative rest into my lifestyle and continue to serve me well now that I’m back to work.  If you’re approaching burn out, are struggling to juggle too many responsibilities/opportunities/possibilities, or just need to develop habits that refresh your creative spirit on a regular basis, I hope my journey will inspire you to integrate restorative rhythms into your pursuits.

As a perfectionist by nature, ambition has been the ever-present monkey on my back. 

As a perfectionist by nature, ambition has been the ever-present monkey on my back.  And yet, I’ve never become successful in the way I’ve hoped for.  I could never make the top grades, turn my business into an industry game-changer, or truly excel in my hobbies.  The culmination of decades’ worth of striving to succeed was burnout, and I knew I had nothing left to give in terms of creative efforts or entrepreneurial drive.  With a growing family needing me, I felt like I hadn’t been giving them my best either.  Everything I pursued felt like a mediocre version of what I longed to accomplish.  I had become consumed by my fear of failure and the burden of comparison, both of which were holding me back from thriving, not just professionally, but personally.  I needed to put the breaks on everything I was doing in order to gain some clarity, not to mention rest.

In January of 2017 I embarked on what evolved into a one-year sabbatical from all paid work.  I decided to focus on my family, as well as personal creative development, which had taken a backseat during my career as a photographer.  I also needed to slow down and rest without professional pressures bearing down on me. 

Fast forward 9 months later and here I sit, right smack in the heart of a new business launch and entrepreneurial dream.  I honestly never saw this coming.  However, I often find that when I release my grip on something, it is returned to me in a new form and with less pressure attached.  As my year-long sabbatical came to a close, business ideas began to flood into my rested and restored imagination, and it seemed like every other night I was going to bed saying to my husband, “Sooo, I have this idea…”.  And for some reason, he didn’t think any of them were crazy.  (Believe me, I’ve watched his eyebrows raise with incredulity at my hair-brained schemes many times over the years, so this time, his lack of scepticism just served to fuel my passion!)  Something was different.  This time I was determined to pursue my career in a way that would serve me and our family, not the other way around.  There was no way I was going back to being a slave to my work or jeopardizing our family’s best interests in order to have a career.

Once I returned to work, the effects of the sabbatical really kicked in.  For the first time in years I felt like I could evaluate my career priorities and preferences with clarity.  I delineated strong boundaries between my work time and my home time, (even while working from home…but you can read about that here). I began to make business decisions that reflected my passions instead of those that would lead me back into the trap of comparison.  Original, creative thinking began to flow, and my focus became less about success and more about pursuing what made me come alive.  I came to the place where I finally believed that the success would come if I were using wise business strategies, trusting my creative abilities, and relying on God to keep me humble and at the centre of His will.

One of the biggest challenges I faced with returning to my career after a sabbatical has been how to implement periods of rest into my current lifestyle.  After all, I don’t see another sabbatical like that coming down the pipe for a long time!  I think the answer has come down to knowing what the most effective rest looks like for me, and how to ensure it happens.  While rest looks different for everybody, our bodies require it and our spirits are nourished by it.  When we rest, (and not just sleep) we give ourselves the opportunity to thrive, create, grow, and nourish others.  These elements are essential to living an abundant life, and who doesn’t want that?

If you are craving a period of rest in your life, or want to replenish your creative source, here are 4 things I did throughout my sabbatical that you can do to help achieve the restorative rest you need:

1) Evaluate times in the past when you’ve felt the most rested, inspired, and creative. 

Also consider those periods in which you’ve been the most burnt out, exhausted, and stressed.  Study your schedule in advance and decide how often you need times of rest that really refresh you, limiting the situations that burn you out and deplete your wellspring of rest and creativity.  Block out your times of rest according to your needs first and your lifestyle second.  Of course that doesn’t mean spending money on a luxury retreat if that’s not in your budget, but consider planning your calendar year with your physical, spiritual, and emotional needs first, before you fill up the blank space with activities and obligations.  I know that I need at least a couple of days a week at home without running errands or having to meet people.  We also like to have one weekend a month that is left completely unscheduled so we can be as spontaneous as we please.  I know I need alone time every day and time in nature on a regular basis.  Scheduling these times into my calendar helps me honour the time it takes for me to be restored and rested.

2) Consider the source of rest. 

Where is your true source of rest?  What have you discarded that might bring you ultimate peace in your life?  Seeking these truths out on a daily basis will result in the most restorative rest and life-giving freedom one could ever imagine.  I believe that God the Creator designed our bodies to rest on a habitual basis, hence the tradition of a Sabbath, or weekly day of rest.  I also believe that His Son Jesus Christ offers us rest for our souls when we are weary and burdened.  Spending time lingering in His presence through prayer, time in nature, meditation, the reading of Scripture, and journaling was a deep source of revitalization and inspiration for me.

3) Spend time in nature

Look for little ways to be outside on a daily basis and drink in your surroundings.  Schedule times in your calendar to be in nature that are longer and more lingering, especially while walking.  Keep a nature journal and document your surroundings.  If you can, seek areas of nature that are grand, isolated, and rich with inspiration.  The sound of freeways and crowded parks do little for our mental refreshment and creative enrichment.  During my sabbatical, I had the opportunity to spend 8 days walking through the Cotswolds with a couple of friends, and was invigorated by the very best of what rural England and its vast countryside have to offer: endless quietude, idyllic scenery, and hearty, farm-to-table pub fare.    

4) Create for creation’s sake

Find ways to create that have nothing to do with work or an audience.  Seek opportunities to indulge in creative activities for the sake of sheer pleasure and discovery.  While on sabbatical I had the pleasure of using a camera just for myself with no clients to impress.  I rediscovered what it meant to slow down and shoot in a way that was exciting and meaningful to me.  I fell in love with my favourite art form all over again, and experienced the joy of photography as it became more of an extension of who I was and less of a tool to earn an income.  Now that I’m back to work I have so much more of a reverence for my camera, the film I use, and my time spent behind the lens.  It’s a special relationship that I cherish now more than ever.

Whether or not you consider yourself a creative type or someone who has succumbed to the hustle of our fast-paced society, we are all beings in need of rest and inspiration. 

Otherwise our bodies cease to function well and our desire to live dissipates.  We were designed to need rest and regeneration, to cultivate our creative spirits, and nurture the gifts we were given, but we cannot do these things if our well has run dry.  The Psalmist knew that being lead to still waters and having our soul restored was essential to well-being.  I’m so excited to return to those waters again and again, knowing now what it is like to thrive in the midst of striving.

If you long to be encouraged by other like-minded women who long to seek restful rhythms, pursue their dreams while living practically, and develop their creative gifts while sustaining their ambitions, I’d love to have you join us for a retreat in the fall of 2019.  As we develop and plan for this time of restorative rest and encouragement, click here to let us keep you informed!

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

How to Cultivate Dreams While Living Practically

For much of my life, my mom has oft repeated the little phrase “Dreams are free”. She predictably uttered this line whenever an idea for something grand was met with scepticism, and I believe it bred in my sister and me the concept that dreaming was a free gift we could indulge in, whenever and wherever we wanted. I spent much of my time growing up with my head in the clouds inventing future plans out of nothing but scraps of inspiration. I’ll admit that sometimes it got the better of me as I struggled to live in the present, or accept dreams that couldn’t come to fruition. Even now, though I’ve honed in on the type of dreams I want to indulge in and pursue, I still find myself struggling to be released from unrealized dreams. However, the pros of dreaming big have far outweighed the downsides of broken dreams, because sometimes the results are even greater than I could have imagined.  To me, that’s part of what makes life exciting and worth striving after.

“the pros of dreaming big have far outweighed the downsides of broken dreams, because sometimes the results are even greater than I could have imagined.”

My husband Will and I have always spent a lot of our time together dreaming. Plans for the future include his spreadsheets that outline how we could achieve our goals, and my sketches and lists that incorporate dream homes, renovations, and trip plans. We actually have a name and design for a Cajun restaurant that will likely never happen. Whenever we get the opportunity to sit down for a Cajun meal in the Deep South, we always revert back to dreaming about our imagined eatery and what it would look like. Let me tell you, the po’boys would be off the hook.

As I continue to pursue big dreams, the older I become, the more scepticism I encounter. I think in my 20’s people were content to raise eyebrows and say things like, “Well, anything’s possible”, as a polite way of responding to my grandiose ideas. But now in my mid-30’s the responses I receive are usually sceptical doubts regarding the practicality of dreaming.

I keep hearing things like, “What’s the point of even pursuing my dream?” or, “There’s no way I could do that when I have everything else to juggle,” or, “I have no idea what I would even want to do!”.

This has gotten me thinking, and I’ve begun to wonder how much time women my age actually spend dreaming. And not just busy moms with kids to raise, but full-time career women who have devoted their adult lives to becoming financially and professionally successful, and have sacrificed many of their passions in the process. It makes my heart ache as I long for women to spur one another on to pursue their passions and cultivate dreams that make their hearts beat fast and their eyes widen at the prospect of imagined possibilities becoming reality.

If any of this resonates with you, and you have dreams that you desire to realize, or you just want to cultivate long-buried ideas that could potentially enrich your life, here are three things I do that help me to nurture the seedlings of dreams into beautiful harvests.

1) Create a physical space that inspires your dreams.

I collect inspiration like it’s going out of style— decor, books, art, music etc. that allow my mind to shift into another time or place. If you would love to travel to Italy one day, start filling your home with art prints, books, and decor that invite you to dream of Rome or Tuscany or Venice. Hit up the library and check out a stack of travel literature, cookbooks, and beautifully illustrated coffee table books that prompt your mind to wander. Declutter your home of the things that stress you out or provide function only, and slowly incorporate pieces that make your eyes light up and your heart sing every time you open the front door. Bring in florals and music, create food and watch movies that tantalize your senses. The dreams don’t have to be specific, like an ideal job or a travel destination. They can be a sense of something, a coming together of things that help to dust off your imagination and spark a fire in you. Your home is a haven and a space that can allow you to be free in thought.

2) Designate mental space that enables you to awaken your imagination.

Within our busy days, it’s not easy to find time to experience the quietude necessary to let our imaginations run wild, but even if it’s for five minutes upon waking, cooking dinner, or driving the kids around, I intentionally devote small slivers of time to allow the seed of an idea to blossom into something more substantial. As an added bonus, these bite-sized ‘dreamlettes’ offer a far more life-giving escape from the stresses and pressures of every day life than a quick scroll through the internet. Find someone to talk to who won’t scoff at your ideas and instead will serve like a bellows to ignite the coals of your passion. Protect and kindle the dream in your mind, building confidence and desire before allowing just anyone a glimpse into your embryo of an idea. Dreams are tender and need a bit of coddling in the early stages. I love using small spaces of time to let ideas build momentum and weight.

3) Carve out calendar space that allows burgeoning dreams to ripen.

Whenever I schedule time to myself, I ensure my time allows for dreaming and scheming. Sometimes I plan on a long walk, or a morning at home alone, or even a weekend away once in a blue moon. No matter what you decide works best with your calendar, bring along journals, books or other media that captivate your imagination. Perhaps invite a friend or loved off of whom you can bounce ideas. Dreams need to be cultivated and visualized if they are going to manifest as realities. Never have I had a goal in mind or a dream on the horizon that hasn’t happened without spending a substantial amount of time crafting a visual of what that reality might look like. Pray, seek wisdom, and define your dream when you have scheduled time to clarify what your preferences and parameters are. Once these are in place, you’re well on your way to moving forward and pursuing your dream with fortitude and focus.

I believe we were all created with a purpose, and even if we don’t know what our truest passions are, there are are tried and tested ways that can help you uncover your desires and bring them into the light. As the traditional spiritual says,

“Hide it under a bushel, no. I’m gonna let it shine.”

What is beneath the surface of your everyday routine that is ready to burst forth and serve as a light in the world around you?

I want to encourage you to discover your gifts and desires so you can truly become who you’ve been designed to be. In fact, this is such a strong desire of mine that I’ve written an entire manifesto on this, specifically for you. If you’d like a free, beautifully-designed copy for yourself or to share, you can download a copy here.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave