Monday, March 13, 2017

Contentment + Change

Last night the sky opened up and dropped layers of white into my March 13th. Something about the cozy brightness of it this morning, awakened a section of my brain that's been sleeping lately-- the part that writes.

The current season that I am in has been one of the shortest in recent memory, one of those periods of time with a marked end date.  And new beginning.  It's been a remarkable season, both of dreams and challenges, and gained perspective that I didn't expect.  Lately I have been making lists, checking spreadsheets, planning, traveling, unpacking, writing checks, packing, generally dropping balls, and not really living life the peace-filled way that I love to.

I know that this season of excitement and activity, leads to a season of peace and building, but I am not there yet.  So this morning the white-blanketed landscape drew me in, and told me to rest, unpack and frame the memories that I have been sprinting past in this season, that are truly worth documenting.

First, going from a seven year single streak to being engaged within five months of meeting, has been amazing!  Hear me when I say that I know that's not for everyone, but that it was specifically designed for my heart by God.  This has given me a great deal of perspective, both for those single (regardless of age or season) and those who are married.  I used to understand almost nothing about "coupledom", living totally in a world of dinner with my lady friends and trying to figure out what work God had for me here on earth.  In truth, I probably was a little insensitive to married people, out of sheer ignorance.  How glad I am, though, that I am bringing my single experience into my married life! That I'll have fully experienced both.  Perhaps we (in our culture and in the Church) don't do the best job of valuing that single season before marital intimacy, but I cannot underscore it enough.

If both Saturn and I had not been single for a good chunk of time before meeting each other, I'm not sure it would have worked-- and even if it had, we would have both been less health-seeking individuals who would have hurt each other more. There are so many things that I have learned about myself, and ways in which God has grown my character these last seven years, that would have been much harder to learn within the context of marriage. Singleness, while lonely feeling at times, is the most effective environment for building a foundation of emotional and spiritual health, in my opinion-- you can't point fingers, or blame anyone but yourself. In singleness, we are forced to look at ourselves.  This song comes to mind. ;)

When both people have been through this, even to the point of surrendering entitlement to a spouse, the growth and submission to Christ that happens is beautiful.  Because this is the nature of the relationship I am in, even seven months in, both Saturn and I are completely overwhelmed by how good God was to plan this the way he did.  Because we both were forced to develop positive autonomy that led to self awareness, we appreciate the mutual support, encouragement, challenge and insight of our love that much more.  We don't need to be completed, but our partnership makes us both better-- in our hearts, in our work and in our relationships with others.

My current challenge (because there always is one) is in saying goodbye to some really great things at the end of May.  When we gain, there is always loss involved.  I only wish that this season allowed more time in a given week to process those things-- less other responsibilities vying for my attention.  Time to savor the amazing female friendships I have enjoyed here over the past seven years (including with my Mom!), to let those people know fully how much I value and want to continue my friendships with them.  Finding the balance between my excitement for my future with Saturn in a new city, and full expression of how much I will miss my sweet community here, is hard.  All wonderful things, but you just can't have everything.

All in all, I count myself ridiculously blessed.  If anything, that seems to be the theme of this season: contentment. 

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." - Philippians 4:11-13

Monday, January 23, 2017

Show > Tell

Arriving home last night, from the weekend cap to a two-week-long series of travel, has left me both tired and inspired.  There's something about the chaos that's left in the wake of leaving home, that when returned to, serves as a prompt for fresh starts-- for creating anew. 

That's the mental space that I find myself in today, and it is good.  For two weeks, I have had only my iPad and iPhone to work off of-- while that forced me to be creative, grow in patience and to do without, it has also made returning to my normal resources extremely sweet and gratitude-filled.  Funny how that works, isn't it? I am thankful for this laptop that I currently peck away on, in a way that I wasn't two weeks ago.  How amazing, the way that God uses scarcity to strip away our entitlement.  

Ha!  I may have just called having only iDevices, scarcity.  Clearly, I am not done growing yet.

Boy has it been awhile since I shared an outfit post!  As I gradually lean more towards writing about ethical style, I'm very excited to share that through what I'm actually wearing!

So often when I have conversations with people about dressing more consciously, they seem to see it as a daunting change to make-- this couldn't be further from the truth!  My experience with ethical consumerism has been so positive that I can't help but share it.  I have realized, though, that ethical style is much more effectively shown than simply told. Hence sharing examples like this one, of ethically sourced outfits that I wear in everyday life. I have been so excited to share this scarf specifically, because Saturn's parents (so thoughtfully) gave it to me as a gift over Christmas-- and it's Fair Trade!  How they knew that this was important to me, I'll never know, but I was blown away by the sincerity and care reflected in such a gift! :)

Just a note that I want to stress: very much like the post I just wrote about how to start going ethical in the New Year, I totally still own garments that I've bought in the past, or that were given to me as gifts, that don't pass as ethically sourced!  The Cole Haan boots in this picture are a perfect example.  Ethical consumerism is, in my opinion, about the decisions we make now, not about creating more waste out of an item that you actually wear.  I talk more about this here, if you are interested!

D e t a i l s
{scarf} - gift, Grace & Lace
{thermal} - thrifted
{wool skirt} - vintage 40's, via Comet Vintage
{shoes} - Cole Haan, gift
{tights} - Target

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

First Steps to An Ethical New Year


Is "ethical fashion" something you have caught wind of, or have known about, but can't wrap your mind around what that change in your life would look like?  If that's you, feeling stuck in making the switch this new year, I'd love to lend some personal advice on how to take the first steps. 

1. Choose. Whether going dairy free, implementing weekly exercise, or starting a job search, we all know that making any sort of positive change in life requires a choice. As for myself, I seem to be far more successful at starting and sustaining a change if I've made a decision to do it.  Don’t sit on the fence in an apathetic culture that constantly RSVP’s Maybe to Facebook invites.

Tip:  If you want to be successful at changing your consumer choices, share your decision with friends and family! Accountability goes a long way in motivating us towards our goals, especially when we know that it's written plain as day on our Instagram. ;)

2. Inspire. Yourself, that is! It takes very little time these days to search and find tons of gorgeous Fair Trade, vintage, handmade and other ethically produced products on the Internet.  Even if you aren't in a place to buy anything new at present, I totally encourage browsing in order to expand your horizons about what's available! Following ethical bloggers is also a great way to see how stylish responsible consumerism can be! If you have some feelings of separation anxiety from your favorite brands, they will quickly melt away when you see the unique and quality crafted, ethical items that are available!

Tip: Start a Pinterest board for the gorgeous ethically made items that you might invest in down the road-- believe me, it makes Target and Modcloth seem much less tempting.

3. Clean. Now, don't misunderstand. I believe that ethical style means moving forward, not looking back.  That said, when sweaters at H&M are $8 a pop, some of us may have been guilty of getting twelve different colors (when we actually only wear three). Do not, by any means, feel like you need to get rid of already purchased items that are quality and/or that you wear often-- you'll notice in my posts, that I have kept certain items purchased unethically long ago, because they are high quality staples in my wardrobe. That dress that you always try on but never wear, though? Maybe that one needs to go, to make space for something better.

Tip: Know that by recycling things you don't wear, to places like Goodwill or independent thrift shops, you are making another form of ethical consumerism possible: Thrifting! That perfect red J.Crew cardigan that you found at Savers for $7  last year would not have been there, if Jane hadn't admitted that she never wears red. Donate and thrift, thrift and donate-- it's a pretty amazing, sustainable cycle. :)

4. Save. Time and money, that is. Are some Fair Trade, vintage and handmade garments going to be more expensive than Walmart? Yes, but most are actually on par, or cheaper than popular stores like Banana Republic, Anthropologie or Urban Outfitters. What's more, ethically made products often have far more attention to detail and high quality craftsmanship than their non-ethical counterparts.

One thing has surprised me more than anything, that ethical style is extremely fun! Not only can you be rest assured that your dollar is doing good, but shopping thrifted, handmade, vintage and small, ethically produced brands generally ensures that your wardrobe will consist of unique items that can't be found in your average shopping mall.

Have you successfully made the switch to shopping ethical? I'd love to hear if there are any tips you would share, or how you've maintained the decision to be an advocate of slow fashion. :)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Inspiration {Main Bocher}

Over my very dear friend Sabrina’s birthday, I had the opportunity to spend a few delightful hours at the Chicago History Museum. Admitting that I've never been there feels like sacrilege, but it's the truth.  Of the many beautiful and interesting exhibits, one (very predictable) display caught my interest: the work and life of America’s first couturier, Main Boucher.

Sidebar: After typing that sentence, I find it imperative to note that I have never written the word “couturier” in my life, and generally do not give a hoot about "couture fashion".  Main Boucher, however, has proven to be an exception (forcing me to, yet again, face the anti-conformist hypocrisies that I sometimes am guilty of believing) .  Truly an artist of many media, what I found most striking about Boucher, were actually his drawings and paintings.  As a struggling, multi-faceted artist myself, I often feel the burden of focus-- how does one choose a favorite child, or give enough time to only one creative outlet? Seeing the variety of Boucher’s work was so encouraging, in reminding me that a successful creative is one that focuses on expression regardless of medium, and is at peace with fluidity.

On a more practical note, it was quite fun to see that some of Boucher’s beautiful gowns actually resemble ones that I have in the shop! It's a bittersweet realization, as I imagine many people swoon and idealize these museum dresses, but fail to see the value and identical quality of vintage specimens that they could purchase from any number of sources-- people are peculiar, but such is life.  I must say, one of my favorite details of the exhibit (that I didn't capture well in the photos) was the way the curators stylistically taped the feet of the manikins to symbolize shoes!  Very clever, indeed! 

Something that I and both of the ladies I went with, mused over, was what amazing fun it would be to work on some of the exhibits we saw!  The artistry involved was undeniable. All in all, I definitely left the museum a bit starry eyed, brimming over with renewed enthusiasm for my own creative pursuits. Isn't it amazing how God can use such unassuming things to refresh our hearts?  Over and over, I hear him whispering freedom to me-- that that is his main desire for me, and for all people. That fear (whatever of) would not cripple or hold us back, because he can make good even out of failure-- so how can we justify fear of failure?  We cannot.  I cannot.  And so, all that we can do is to choose freedom. Freedom in our individual forms of expression, to use them from a place of joy and pure wholehearted-ness. Freedom to disregard what others might think of us, and to let things happen.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2017 Calling

And it is, isn't it?  

2017 is calling each of us to be who we are supposed to be, in the right place at the right time.  If that thought produces anxiety in your heart, I have good news for you: 

Rightly timed things, happening in the rightest of places can only occur when we let go.

If you, like me, have learned this the hard way, you know that the precious time and pride that's lost in the process of resisting surrender is not worth it.  This generally involves resisting your purpose or the circumstances of life because maybe they are terrifying, boring, or seemingly nonsensical.  "That's not really what I had planned." is the basic thought that goes through our self absorbed minds when faced with things that we would rather not engage with.  

Isn't it funny that people who believe in God seem to forget that they/we are merely the created, not the Creator? Within the very concept of God, is the assumed notion that he knows everything and we don't.  And yet, we live with the entitled notion that we know what is best for us.  How much smarter would it be to allow the Creator of Everything to steer our ships, with all of the infinite insight that we believe he has.  Can you imagine the Peace that would bring?

Be it medical news that you never expected, engaging kindly with a person you dislike, or feeling prompted to put yourself out there in vulnerability, we are all faced with moments that are challenging.  When we are challenged by life, we can either resist or surrender.  In recent years, I've had to go to bat repeatedly with my areas of resistance-- things that God has asked me to surrender him, that have been hard.  So hard, that often my response has been a conditioned, fear-based Deer in Headlights moment.  It seems that depending on our wiring and life experiences, there are two possible kinds of resistance to surrender: avoidance and control.  I think our options when it comes to challenge in life, look something like this:

Whichever response you are currently dealing with, avoiding the challenge in your life or attempting to control it, I truly believe the best thing we can do is to surrender to life. For me, that means surrendering to the plans of a God who sees so much further down the road than I ever could-- a God who uses that knowledge for good.

So what does this have to do with calling and purpose?  The greatest callings and adventures in this life, lay just beyond challenge.  Great minds have told us as much all throughout history, that "nothing easy is worth doing", or that  "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I? I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."  In order to answer the calling God has placed on our lives, then we must make friends with surrender, and become comfortable with choosing it in the face of challenge.

There is, of course, much more to living a life of calling. This, though, is (I believe) the first step to truly unlocking and embracing our individual purpose. :)

The other steps, I'm still figuring out.  Haha.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Year's End

What a simultaneously short and long time it seems since my last post here, in April.  So much has happened, but really-- sitting in that sea of Siberian Squill outside of my old workspace, seems such a very short time ago.  

My 28th birthday has passed, the first in six years that I haven't documented with a blog post-- funny, that.  How easily I could have thrown one together back in June, but for some reason, I felt at peace with not having one.  Perhaps I was a little preoccupied with my newly opened business, Novel Nellie-- imagining what it might become.  It hasn't really lived up to those early thoughts of mine, but I know better than to admit defeat so soon.

Small business ownership is hard, especially alone.  Now, in hindsight, I'm also pretty sure that it's better to produce a product than it is to be the retailer-- at least, if you are me.  Most days I long for collaboration, for collective brainstorming, and for some equally passionate person to bounce ideas off of, and share work with.  Praying for the right business partner is definitely something that I'm doing right now.

Among other things, I believe 2017 will bring more organization for me-- I've already purchased and begun prepping a planner to start in January.  Funny how such a small thing can make loads of difference.

Life has been injected with blessings lately too, one very much in particular-- a tall, scruffy, intelligent, sincere, Jesus-loving man who values ideas (+ forests, books, old film, adventure, freedom, intensity etc.) as much as I do!  We'll call him Saturn for now, as I'd like to respect his privacy when mentioning him here-- and I surely will be, since I'm positive that he will be around for a long time to come. :)

With the strong gust of encouragement that comes with sincere love, I've been continuing to explore ways that I can dive deeper in my current vocational pursuits-- numerous as they are. I'm hoping to unpack that in a New Year's post soon, for myself, but also to help anyone that might be reading this, to sort out their own purpose and gifts.

The way God has designed the past month has left me so ready for the renewal of the changing year-- a new year, a new season.  I'm very excited to host some close lady friends on New Years Eve for good food, good conversation and dreaming about the coming year.  As 2016 comes to a close, all I can feel is deep thankfulness: for the blessings that have been dropped into my open hands, and for the trials that forced my hands open in the first place.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Happy Interruptions

The sun woke me up this morning, and for the first time in a while, it held both light and warmth. After a satisfyingly resourceful breakfast, and truly abandoning tights for spring air, I tra-la-la-ed to my workspace all set to take in the sea of Siberian Squill that are blooming outside my workspace door!  I even planned to title today's post "True Blue Content-mint".  For real, that's what a cheeseball, joyful mood I was in.

Yep, I said was.

In hindsight, I'm glad my happy gait was interrupted.  Not because cheesy joy is bad (far from it, this girl needs to allow herself more), but because the realization that stalled mine was worthwhile.

Not long after my arrival, I went to check an Instagram notification only to see a new post by an inspiring person that I follow-- the post, and the little face pictured in it, were beautiful and heartbreaking.  Joy-giving and convicting.  Inspiring and frustrating, because I feel stuck where I am, and long for opportunities to walk alongside hurting people.  

The picture was of a little girl named Angali, at a school in Bangladesh-- brilliant, full of life, but held down by the socioeconomic plights of her reality.  The post went on to express the true, true thought that our belongings and money are really not our own, and that they exist merely to meet our needs and to overflow into those who are without.

It's reminders like these that help clear the fluff from my vision.  I war with myself on a pretty regular basis about my existence and involvement in the complacency of our culture. Day in and day out I'm shocked to see people around me content in (and distracted by) a life of the corporate rat race, entertainment and good food.  I love fresh produce and a mean burrito like the next person, but I've reached a point in my life where my hunger is really for purpose-- for these hands of mine to do work that lasts, and the only things that do are the hearts of people.

These thoughts have been ever before me lately, and with them opportunities to go.  It's unclear yet where I'll end up, but I have such peace in the process, and confidence that the Father will show me when it's time.  Australia, California, Colorado, or here in Chicago-- I'm praying over these places at the moment, and being as present as I can be where I am. 

I think that's the biggest challenge, at times: to know that whatever work we are currently doing (even if it feels not 110% full of purpose), that it does not go to waste if we do it in love.