Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Twenty Nine

When I was younger, I often looked at women past young adulthood and wondered if they longed for the youth that was behind them. I've never felt negative about my own age, and I'm starting to realize that the wise ones don't.
Not that wise women actively resist some sort of temptation to feel bad about aging, but that they truly feel alive, lovely and wonderful in the season they are in. I would have been hesitant to label myself as such in years past, but have finally developed enough of a balance between humility and confidence to say that I do consider myself one of the wise ones-- not wise on my own, but wise enough to embrace my circumstances and let God's sovereignty rule in my life.

It's not always easy in this life to look around and feel like you are doing enough of what you believe life is really about-- dissatisfaction is an easy trap to fall into. Somewhere over the expanse of my twenties, though, God has changed something in my heart. Explicitly at the hands of loss, being without and failure, God has mercifully humbled my heart to a place of knowing that whatever he has given me is enough, and exactly what I need-- knowing it in a way that doesn't pass in one ear and out the other, but really sits in my bones. He has many times, given me no other option but to find joy in the little things-- and in that, showed me that doing so is the highest form of gratitude that there is. It's funny how hungry humility brings about thankfulness for the smallest morsel, and develops eyes that can see hidden beauty.

Hey, little-easily-overlooked-wonderful-thing, I see you and value the beauty you exude.

Just to have a moment like that, with moth, child, forest or random occurrence, is to see the value in every moment. I think, especially in this place and time, we all need that.

So it was with this posture that God ushered me into the twenty-ninth year of my life-- expecting nothing but unexpected goodness in my trials, without criteria, from a God who taught me what good is. Little did I know (as if we ever do) the ridiculous joy that past year would entail. I've not done much to process it because it's been such a whirlwind, so I'll attempt to do that here, as I'm entering my thirtieth year.

Photos were fewer and further between in the joyful chaos that filled August '16 through June '17 in my life. Between Jon and I flying to visit each other every month, family holidays, continuing to pour into my work and maintaining friendships, my usually-reflective nature just honestly had less time to capture moments via photograph! Still, I'm glad for the ones I have. For the sake of entirety, the below are from 6.16 through 6.17.

June and July in hindsight have become symbolic to me of my singleness, both triumphant and poised for transition-- more than I could have known then, but looking back I can see it.  I was so content and full of joy in my own journey, but open to people and new friendships all around, in a way that I never had been in years past. I wouldn't have had my transition into marriage come from any other state of heart, soul and mind.  All creatures are different and individual, but I'll go as far to say that I believe humans are most ready (emotionally, spiritually and mentally) for a committed romantic relationship when they are content and alive right where they are, in singleness.  And oh, how I was! It's been beautiful to see how God has used this to make my transition to marriage just as content and alive.

At the end of August, Jon entered stage right :)  Once we met in early September, it didn't take long for us to realize that this might be serious-- and it was. Still, we both had very full lives and lots of work to do, so between visits and letters, lots of life continued to flow.  This is something I'm so thankful for, to this day. We work so well together because we each know who we are and know whose we are: God's.  For me, this meant many things, but most of all honoring commitments like leading my High School senior girls' small group through the end of the school year-- call it funny, but this is actually what determined our wedding date (literally the weekend after).

I even began to find that being in a relationship with this godly, intelligent, funny and caring man caused my horizons to further expand.  I began reading more to pass time on the plane trips, became aware of the awesome thing that is AirBnb (I know, I am slow), and began taking a couple of my more creative pursuits more seriously because of Jon's encouragement.  In November, we spent Thanksgiving with my family in Chicago.

Christmas put both of us on a plane to North Carolina to spend time with his family, which was full of wonderful moments, including a proposal and a very earnest and excited "yes".  Both then and now, amazement and gratitude are constant emotions-- that God would create such a man for me, and that my dreams and desires for a balanced counterpart weren't in vain after all.  I pray that for every single lady who desires marriage.  My road of singleness was a long one, and I don't ever intend to forget it or the value of that time in my life-- I am a stronger, more mature, capable woman because of that time that God had both Jon and I becoming who he desired us to be to each other.

The new year felt newer to me than almost any has, as my mind bubbled over with all of the beginnings and ends that would take place ahead.  I began planning our wedding, which felt incredibly strange and wonderful simultaneously, and spending as much time with Illinois loved ones as I could-- for I knew I would be moving to Phoenix in the Spring.  So, so much good mixed with the gentle sadness of a closing season has made for such a gratitude-full close my twenty-ninth year of life.  For Jon and I, the Spring was honestly hard. We wanted so much to begin our lives together, so each day was filled with prayer and encouragement, "it'll be here before we know it", and reminding eachother that God's timing in perfect-- and oh, how it is!  In hindsight, I'm so glad that God had us both pretty busy during that time.

And then our wedding day arrived, with my 29th birthday following closely after (on the honeymoon actually).  What a wonderful day it was, but I think I shall have to chronicle that in another post all together-- this thing is ridiculously long as it is!

My 29th year was nothing short of amazing, and really there are so many other moments that I would put here if I had room-- so much good, both the hard and easy kinds.  My thirtieth year brings quite a bit of change with it, but oh what exciting horizons too!  More on that as we go...

Friday, April 28, 2017

To Bend or To Break?

That is the question. And of course, I mean The Rules.

I've long dabbled in personal style, which is kind of like fashion but without adherence to trends. I suppose that I've just never been one who colors in the lines because I'm told to. Sure, I'll crayola nicely if that fits what I'm going for, but never explicitly "just because". Creative expression is just far too big for that, and innovation demands risk.

On learning that I deal in vintage clothing, many men over the years have asked me if I buy/sell menswear-- my reply has always been that I don't, but would someday like to. Perhaps most women wouldn't have an interest there, but I've long had a unique relationship with suits, velvet smoking jackets and wingtips: Most who know him, would say that my instincts towards style come from my Dad. Through him, I've been around the menswear block a time or two, spending quite a bit of my growing up years wandering through racks of jackets and ties while he browsed. Perhaps that's also where I've gotten my aversion to conventional shopping-- I pretty much never shop in malls or chain stores. Mostly this is because I discovered that I could find basically the same thing at Goodwill or an Estate sale. Really the only time I'll pay full price these days is for handmade or fair trade-- which proves to be more unique, more cost effective, ethically responsible and better quality in the long run.

Somehow in all those years of menswear exposure though, I've only recently started thinking of  men's fashion in the same way that I do women's-- that if there are Rules, they should at least be bent a little. These recent thoughts stemmed naturally from now having a man in my life, one who blessedly has a style of his own. We were having a conversation about his wedding attire, and I mused about whether a short sleeve dress shirt could be worn under a suit jacket (because I really like his half sleeve tattoos and think it might be nice to see them in some of the pictures).  The truth, as always with clothing, is "of course you can!". But is it good, beneficial, pleasing to the individual in question? That's the real issue that remains to be seen.

Sidebar disclaimer: I've always found the practice of women dressing men, to be distasteful. Just as it's distasteful for men to dress women. To each their own. Though I'm excited about his choices, Jon's attire for the wedding has indeed been his choice. I always want to honor that in him. :)

After some quick Googling, I came across several sources arguing a resounding "No." to the short sleeves topic (well la-ti-da!), and one on the opposite side, titled, "Don't Fear the Short-Sleeved Shirt". Wow, this sounds like a serious phobia that needs cracking!

The negative sources were mostly menswear forum posts about the topic-- at least someone asked the question, so I'm not alone! Most of the responses were snobbishly negative and sounded a lot to me like, "never wear white after Labor Day". Give me a break. Somehow I thought menswear wouldn't be quite as chock full of silly faux paux rules as women's, but it seems I was wrong.

For most of my life I've had to weather morning comments like "are you really wearing that?", or "but those don't match". But once I walked out into the real world, I found that there are others who get it, or at the very least found my style refreshing. There are also those that don't get it, and that's okay. At the end of the day, who are we getting dressed for? Why do we wear what we do?

The sad truth is that often meaningless "because that's the way it is" statements rule our culture. I think perhaps (in style and other things) we need to delve deeper into the why. Some of those guidelines do have substance and worth, but others don't. As I always seem to come back to: balance is everything.

D e t a i l s
{ jacket } - thrifted
blouse } - vintage, for sale at Novel Nellie
{ skirt } - vintage, coming soon to Novel Nellie
{ heels } - vintage, thrifted

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Note To Self

I just came across one of my journal entries from January, that proclaimed this to be the year (for me) of Sharing.  This morning when I read that, and my thoughts around it, I felt so frustrated with myself-- basically because I've not done a great job of focusing on that ideal, and the year is almost halfway over!

Perhaps I'm also feeling frustrated for a myriad of other reasons (read: I am), but I thought I should address that goal here to keep myself a bit more accountable to it.  As I've chronicled here at least a handful of times, I am not great at sharing certain parts of myself with the world around me.  Don't get me wrong, I'm the first to share my areas of suffering one on one or in a small group, or to be honest about my shortcomings, but I am decidedly challenged at sharing my gifts.  Heck, I'm bad at even letting them out into the light at all.  Over the past few years, I have identified, called out and tried to zero in on this problem, and little by little I have started to make progress.

There was that musical that I forced myself to audition for, times that I've given artwork as gifts, and even deciding to design all of the paper goods for my wedding in May (I'll definitely do a post on that after the fact!) I used to even stop myself from simply humming/singing softly to myself in the presence of other people-- sounds silly, but it was mostly for the fear that someone would think I was trying to get attention.  I've allowed myself to be crippled by those fears and lies in more areas than I'd like to admit, but I've found that putting myself out there to be so beneficial!

But for the past six months or so, I've grown a little lax in that area of growth.  Perhaps it's because I've been a little distracted by the mountain of responsibilities that I've gained in several areas over that time, or by the ins and outs of maintaining a long distance engagement-- but whatever the reason, I am so glad that I stumbled on that January journal entry again, so that I could read my own words.

There is such power in reading our own words. 

It's very much like recovering a Note To Self-- you know, "remember to wear sunscreen", or in my case "please remember what a shame and waste it is to hide".  And so, I have been reminded by the wisdom of my January self, that God is calling me to grow better at sharing in this season: my gifts, my ideas, my passions, and to do so without holding back.

Ha, and so I am here, sharing. ;)

D e t a i l s
{dress} - Dee & Ray, thrifted via Poshmark
{shirt} - J.Crew, thrifted via Goodwill
{necklace} - handmade, Seven Finches
{coat} - vintage, Novel Nellie
{boots} - Frye

Friday, April 7, 2017

Truth + Gratitude

As a human, I experience some days that just blindside me before I'm even dressed. Usually, these days are not experienced at the hands of tangible tragedy, emergency, or unforeseen circumstance.  Usually, they are simply at the hands of the mish-mosh of thoughts and feelings in my head. 

But this post is really not about the down morning I have had-- better, it is about how I found myself sitting here, about an hour later, feeling ready to face the day!  Over the years, I have built up a tactical fortress of go-to methods for dealing with these bouts of the feelz.

Sidebar for those of you who don't get the feelz: though I am technically a "feeler" (wooo, MBTI), it is only by a couple of points.  Often, I think we make the mistake of looking at people as one or the other, instead of "somewhere on the spectrum" of thinking and feeling.  I, my friends, am smack dab in the center-- so if you are a "thinker", you stay right here.  You experience this stuff too!  Perhaps instead of "feelz" for you, though, it's anxiety or overthinking.  Right?  Well, lucky little me, I experience some of both.

So back to that tactical weaponry.  It boils down to this: remembering what is true, amidst untrue thoughts.

For myself, my greatest ally in doing that is my faith, and quite literally, The Creator of The Universe.  Still, even with the Big Guy on my side, the main challenge is in remembering what he has said is true about life, about me and about himself-- in short, The Bible.

Many days, I go straight to my little pocket sized scripture, Bible.com or my YouVersion Bible app.  Let's be honest though, sometimes we are too crippled by our mood to take the initiative to do so-- this morning was one such morning for me.  These moments are when I am most thankful for fellow creative believers, and the Truth-injected media that is readily available to us!  These are my top go-to sources of scriptural Truth (not necessarily in this order), when I'm feeling too *bleh* to move (literally or metaphorically).

Ooo, aptly named, right?  I discovered SRT several years ago as a bible plan option on the YouVersion Bible App, and pretty quickly began reading directly on their website (this is pre-SRT app).  Having that daily rhythm of both reading scriptural Truth, and having a place to process my thoughts, or read the reflections of other women, was awesome!  Still to this day, I try to start my mornings with SRT-- and when I do, I have to say that my day is definitely begins with more gratitude and a more peaceful spirit.

PS - There is also a He Reads Truth for the gents!

My main source of this is Spotify, where I've built different playlists over time.  One of which is a list that I call Contemplative, that is where I go when I "just can't even"-- that happened this morning.  In all seriousness though, there is nothing like hearing truth aloud, and music that proclaims Biblical Truth is a wonderful way to experience that, and to remind our hearts and minds of what is true.  These are some lyrics from a song that really struck, and brought me out of the fog this morning:

Prayer is both an opportunity to communicate directly with God, and more of that hearing/seeing scriptural truth concept-- praying aloud or in written form really helps solidify the reality of God's Truth in a tangible way!  Sometimes you just have to talk/write it out. If that sounds silly, I dare you to try it in earnest the next time you are feeling glum! I usually end up potently reminded of the gratitude that I have for everything I've been given in this life, despite my struggles. :)

Despite the fact that these are my personal go-to's, I'm sure there are many other forms of effective weaponry against spiritual/emotional/mental turmoil-- I'd definitely still learning what works best, but am confident that it's always recalling Truth in some way. Truth gets to the core of things in a way that chocolate, that favorite old movie, or puppy kisses just can't-- except maybe the puppies. ;)