{Site currently under construction. Grace for my mess?}

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Finding Home

I am learning, very slowly, to find home here amongst the brush and young aching hearts that surround me.  It’s been an intense sort of awakening, of late.

The truth is, I have struggled against this ministry since the moment we arrived.  I wanted to love every minute of it.  I (foolishly) anticipated this whole experience to fill me with wonder, to carry me through every difficulty with a spiritual high that found me on my knees, hands lifted high, surging with joy.

No one tells you how hard you will have to fight to keep your faith when you lay it all down, for Faith. 

Of course I didn’t really think I’d soar with happiness all the time, but deep down I believed that saying a big, fat “yes” to the God of All Good Things would free me up to experience a resounding confirmation that I Can Make a Difference in These Lives. 

And friends… it’s been hard.  Soul-ripping, head-pounding, gut-aching.  Difficult.  And the world we’ve shifted to, here, has seemed so… barren… that the rusty deadness creeping through the poverty in this map-dot town has crept right into the heart of me and dulled it down to shades of brown and beige and rust.  I have been, here, as brittle as the dry grass that swallows up this place, swept harsh by wind and the pain that beckons or keeps each one of us in this place. 

I have lived decades in the last six months.  I wasn’t sure I’d make it another six.

But it occurred to me, recently, that surrendering to this ministry – to loving and serving and giving it all for these kids really means surrender.  It means vulnerability and (gulp) sacrifice.  It means embracing all that is foreign about this life and the living of it, and emptying all that I think I need in order that I might be filled.  It is only when I am filled, filled with Grace and Gratitude and Real Love that I can spill over and bless these kids, these wounded hearts that I am here to nourish. 

It is only when I fully receive the gift of God’s presence that my presence can be a gift to God.

And little by little, grace by grace, the grass is beginning to grow.  My feet are steadying, here, and my heart is sewing strong stitches to the hearts of these seven little strangers that honor me and call me Mom, though we are still new at learning each other.  And learning to love is always a wild ride.  


"The ransomed of the Lord will return.  They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads.  Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.  I, even I, am he who comforts you..."/"I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadows of my hand -- I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth..."  Isaiah 51:11-12; 16

Friday, February 25, 2011

She Art Workshop!

Ahhhhh!!  I am SO excited.  I just signed up for The She Art Workshop by Christy Tomlinson here, at Scarlet Lime.  Her quirky creations make my heart sing, and I am so thrilled to overcome my reluctance to attempt to "create art" and just have fun with this.  Step aside, kiddos... it's play time for mommy!

This is a big leap for me, because it requires overcoming self-doubt.  I have never been able to even draw a stick figure correctly, which pretty much disqualified me from ever taking an art class or considering myself an artist.  But I love paint and I love paper and my creative brain just loves the freedom found in mixed-media art, so why not?  Maybe I'll be terrible at it, but it's high time I get my hands dirty with something fun, so... here goes nothing.  At the low, low price of $35 for the class... what a deal!  Care to join me?  Click the link above!

I can't wait until class begins on the 28th!  In the meantime, I'll be writing up a storm as I have been all week, and enjoying the four days off that started yesterday, not to mention this beautiful, sunny February heat wave that's upon us.  Ahhhh, this may just be... bliss.  (Ok, so there are mountains of laundry and kitchen organization and packing-list-making awaiting my attention, but for the moment, I'm choosing to linger in this blissful moment of joyfulness). 

What are you joyful about, today?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why I Don't Mod Podge and Other Confessions of a Wannabe Craft Blogger

Here's the deal, friends.

Time is at a premium for me these days (isn't it always?).  And I love me some crafting, and I lie awake at night dreaming and drooling and obsessing over home decorating, furniture painting, and all things DIY.  I secretly wish that I was born Miss Mustard Seed or Ms. Funky Junk Interiors or Jen at Tatertots and Jello or Layla Palmer or Martha Stewart for crying out loud, or any of the rest of you other insanely awesome creative masterminds.  I do.

But the truth is, I'm a crafty wanderer, and an obsessive decorative mind-changer.  I love these things like I love the air I breathe, but I am not the crafty blog goddess that I often deeply wish I was.  In fact, I've probably put way too much pressure on myself lately for not being able to carve out time for these pursuits.  Partly because I don't really know what my craft niche is yet (and any given month I sort of lollygag and roam around between re-purposing and quilting and painting and vinyl and art and baking and paper-crafting and knitting and vintage and modern and this and that and the other thing... and I love every bit of it.  I'm truly a jack of all crafts, and master of none.  Creativity makes the blood coarse through my veins, truly.  But I torture myself over imperfect photographs and imperfect projects and I dread the proper way to link-party-till-my-eyeballs-pop and it's all just really too much... which is partially why I've sorta disappeared the last little while, while I pondered and considered all of this and what I really wanted this place to be about, if I was going to spend precious time here.

The truth is... when everything else is swirling and changing and I want to be one thing and I sometimes force myself to be another thing... what I really, really am, in the depth of me, is a writer.  This is the passion that God knit into my very fiber... my real first love.

Surprise.  I bet you hadn't noticed.

This blog was started when my little DIY business was launched over a year ago.  Since then, life has moved on and the business was paused to pursue this residential care ministry I'm living and loving and learning in, right now.  But I was deeply hooked in this creative blog world, and I plan to stick around, but I've realized that I avoid any real writing, here, because, let's face it... you're all really here to see what I can do with a jar of Mod Podge and some vinyl scraps, right?

Well... it's time for a bit of transformation, just for me.  And while I'll still post my creative projects here, I'm hereby releasing myself from the pressure to have a "thang" and just go with the flow, and sprinkle some inspirational words here and there, all in the name of creativity.  This is my corner of the internet and if this blog winds up being as mish-mashed as the rest of my life... well then, so be it.  Because the truth is that I think Mod Podge is magical, but I hate using it because its messy and sticky and real craft bloggers just don't say those sorts of things on their blogs 'cuz its bad for business.  I also only sew in crooked lines and I don't wash my paintbrushes out as well as I should.  So there goes that. 

Instead, I'm going to let my heart roam free and let this place be full of words when I need it to be, and void of them when appropriate, too.  And if y'all stop reading, that's okay too.  I just need to be me for a bit... and let it all come as it will, 'stead of trying to force the juices to flow and my end results to "fit" here as well as they seem to for you "famous" bloggers.   Real artistic genius is all about creating that which makes your heart soar.

So, Whimsy, here's your permission.

Soar.  Write.  You have the word tattooed on your wrist, for crying out loud, so... do it already.  And while you're at it, stop talking to yourself on your blog.  It's weird and creepy and probably not doing much to attract readers.

Anyway, can y'all give me the grace to let this place gel for awhile while I make some changes in the name of honesty and real-ness and honoring what I'm really all about, deep down in the heart of me?  Thanks.  I knew you'd understand.  You are just that awesome.

And you probably make all kinds of nifty things with Mod Podge, dontcha?  Thought so.  :)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Hi!  (waves enthusiastically)  Nice to see you again!

I've been MIA for a bit... lots happening around here and my attentions have necessarily been focused elsewhere for awhile.  Such is the life in residential group care.  It's been quite a week -- teenagers sneaking out, cheating on tests, assaulting other kids, injuries, messes, and all the usual chaos.  We had a new boy move in, which always changes up the dynamic in the house for a bit, so bear with me while I get my feet steady again and find some time for blogging and creating new treasures!

(That's me, up there.  Except I haven't found the time to dress quite so cute.)

We'll have a few much needed days off beginning Thursday, then we leave on the 4th for 11 days in Oregon.  It will be so nice to be back "home" and have time with family and friends.  I am quite literally counting the days and hours until we make our great escape.  It's nice to have this to look forward to, for sure.  Mr. Smitten is already worried about how he'll get me back on the plane home!  I told him to tuck a picture of our boys in his pocket.  As much as I'll want to crawl in a hole and stay in Oregon, I know that many days away from our kids in care will begin to tear at my heart.  In any case, forgive me if I'm sparse around here for the next little bit.  Lots going on.

I've been writing a lot and still making creative time whenever possible, its just not as frequent, and finding the time to take photos and post has been hard.  Don't give up on me, though... I'll be back!  

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Kind of Tears I Need

I just ordered this book:

by Ann Voskamp

I've seen the cover here and there and... well... I could use a lesson in living fully, where I am, these days, instead of merely marking time or considering what will come tomorrow.  I figured nine bucks was a splurge I could afford in the interest of real life, real love, and this real faith that is having its day in the fire, in this season.  
I looked up the author and visited her page, here: www.aholyexperience.com
I read.  And cried.  And appreciated her words so much, because of the gentle conviction about my selfishness, all wrapped up in the reminder that grace and truth can make me better... that all the kinds of love I'm wrapped up in every day can be better, with the deliberateness and attention they deserve.

So, thank you, Ann, for the words I needed to touch my heart today.  I can't wait until the book arrives.

Edit:  Looks like I don't have to wait.  I have several Audible.com credits waiting for just such an occasion, and this wonderful book is on there.  I'm probably unreasonably excited about the amount of housework awaiting me tomorrow, since it means I can spend several hours zoning out to this on my iPod.  Still excited about getting a physical copy, but I am so in the mood to hear more of what all this lovely lady has to say.  Yay!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Camera Curiosities

I can breathe!  And it feels like a miracle!

I've been hanging out miserably in bed for days upon days now, but it seems as though I'm actually on the mend, and feeling like I may survive this horrid bronchitis/sinus infection/asthma flare up/king of all colds/black plague after all.  I'm still not quite 100% -- more like 60%, really, but with the way I've been feeling... 60% ain't bad, and I'm ready to put some real clothes on and attempt to get this place back in order today.   (Leaving 12 boys and a 7-year-old girl to their own devices for about a week hasn't resulted in a very tidy home, as you can imagine).

There's something on my mind though, that I hope you lovely readers and bloggers can help me with.

Image courtesy of http://news.cnet.com

Several years ago, I had a decent camera, a Canon something or other, that I purchased for around $500 at the time.  It was a point and shoot, but a very high quality one and I loved everything about it.  Unfortunately, there was some chip malfunction that caused the shutter to stop opening and that was the end of that.  Canon recalled the first version of this camera with the bad chip and replaced those, but mine was the second version and I was on my own.  It was a $200 fix, for a several-year-old camera, so I opted to put the money into a new camera instead.  Fast forward a few years and I've been through a few $200-range cameras, and I hate them all.  By necessity, most of my photos are taken indoors, and I really need something that can get a decent image, which I'm finding harder than it sounds.

In the coming months, I'll have the opportunity to finally invest a chunk-a-change into a real camera again, but I'm kinda clueless about my options.  Requirements are that 1) it costs less than $1000 (including any additional lenses I will need for basic indoor shooting), 2) it has some "auto" settings for basic, run of the mill photos before I learn to really use the thing, and 3) (obviously) the flash can be turned off easily.

I'd love to have an ever-coveted DSLR camera, but not entirely sure whether I need one or if having one with my limited skill will mess me up even more.  I consider myself to have a decent eye for photos, but I know *nothing* about cameras and lack the option to take a class on how to use my camera (a "how to" book or other DIY tutorial has to be the most education I can devote to it, for now).  I avoided buying Canon for awhile because I was so slighted by the way they handled the bad chip thing, but I'm over it enough to realize that it was the only camera whose performance met my expectations, and I've tried a few Kodaks, an HP (which was REALLY terrible), and a Sony something or other, so I'm probably partial to a Canon or Nikon, for those reasons.

I'm looking for recommendations on cameras that an average Joe can figure out how to take a normal photo with, and particularly something that can help me get better quality indoor shots.  I know the trick to indoor photography is lighting, lighting, lighting, but I kind of live in a dark shoe box with a few overly-saturated-with-light rooms, so this is much trickier than one might imagine. 

Anyway, recommendations are appreciated.  I'm not married to the DSLR idea -- a nice point and shoot might do the trick, but if I'm investing the money into a nice camera, I'd like it to be one that can serve as my standby and sidekick for several years to come.

Anyone?  Bueller?


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Mr. & Mrs. & other cuteness

Today, I'm supposed to be hosting the 2nd Annual Super Bowl Party and Craft-O-Rama (us non-football fans get crafty while the others scream and holler at the TV all afternoon), but I'm still horribly under the weather.  Our neighbor has graciously decided to host the footballers later today, and my husband hauled 10 of the 11 kids with him to church this morning, leaving me to sniffle and cough in peace.  I've barely emerged from my bed the last few days, but I'm trying hard not to let that interfere with my creative blitz (a girl's gotta have her priorities, after all).  :)

Some of you know that I'm undertaking a slow-but-sure master bedroom redecorating project.  I'm working with a neutral palette and sort of a "burlap and ruffles" mentality, so I threw together these pillowcases for the bed last night.  I absolutely love them -- this may be one of my favorite projects ever.

They'll look much cuter on the bed, but the bed is not in show-able condition, quite yet.  Here's a shot of them together:

Do you love them?  This is a great motivator to get the room done, so I can throw these little finishing touches around.  The ampersand pillow is actually a throw pillow that came with our old couches, which we have since sold but still had a few of the extra pillows lying around.  It was the perfect size and gave the set some variety, even with that mute color scheme.

I wish I could say I just whipped these up in no time at all, but honestly, this setup took me most of the afternoon, mostly because of my severely lacking sewing skills.  Here's how I did it:
Step 1:  Used my trusty Cricut to cut cardstock stencils in the font I wanted on the pillowcases.
Step 2:  Used a permanent fabric marker to trace stencils and fill in the black letters. 
Step 3:  Heat set the lettering by ironing with a press cloth.
Step 4:  Cut linen fabric & burlap pieces.
Step 5:  Made ruffles and gathered them. 
Step 6:  Sewed the burlap, then the ruffles on to each pillowcase.  Voila!

I wish I could say that Mr. Smitten just adores them as much as I do, but he gave me a sideways look and asked, "How long until you think I throw that pillow out the window?  Once my ear finds that burlap, it's all over." 

Ok, so they're really more throw/decor pillows than ones we'll actually lay our heads on, but I still love the look and think it will be the perfect touch on our as-yet-to-be-completed neutral master project. 

In case you need some color after all that beige, here's a look at my just-finished Valentine's "mantle"(which is really a thrift store sideboard and a dining room window, but it'll have to do).  

Happy Super Bowl Sunday, for those of you sports fans... and I hope the rest of you get a nice, long nap, instead. 

Have Fun and Get Smitten!

Linking to:

Saturday Soiree at A Little Lovely 
  UndertheTableandDreaming mmm button
Visit thecsiproject.com

Thursday, February 3, 2011

You can't win 'em all

Anyone that's ever taken the time to make/create/upcycle/redo something knows that not every bright idea comes out quite as wonderful as the initial plan.  Because I think those "fail" projects are good for the soul to share... here's my latest version.

I love anything with letters and numbers -- I'm a word girl (in case the tattoo on my wrist that says "write" didn't give me away).  I've had this computer armoire sitting around forever.  The thing's had a variety of different lives -- computer desk, crafting station, sewing table, man cave bar, homeschool central, and currently big piece of furniture to stash all the clutter I can't find a place for.  TMI?

(See my hideous carpet?  I know I mention it in just about every post, but... it's just that bad). And the photos in this post will be horrible -- this room has no windows whatsoever and fluorescent lights that make photo-taking difficult at best.

Anyway, I took some chipboard I had laying around from a grab bag I purchased last year at CHA.

Picked out a variety of letters in different fonts/shapes/sizes, and painted half of them silver and half gold, with metallic craft paint.

And attached them to the inlaid doors of the computer armoire.  That sounds waaaay simpler than the task wound up being, since I could simply not find any type of glue that would keep the letters in place.  Hot glue dried too quickly, the letters were too heavy for liquid craft glue and the letters just slid downwards, tacky glue made the corners turn up when it dried, and on and on.  I finally got them pretty secure with glue-stick style craft glue, but this was no easy task, since the glue caught in all the corners and each letter needed to be cleaned with a Q-Tip.  Ugh. 

Here's the finished project:

Cute enough, but my husband and son both smirked at me when the saw it and after about 10 minutes, I decided it wasn't my thing.  I wound up removing all the letters and we're back at square one.

The funny thing is, those bare panel doors don't bother me nearly as much anymore.  Hah!  Since I'll be moving this into my neutral/peaceful master bedroom redo, I think it will do just fine as is.  Somehow, I still see myself hot gluing burlap to the doors or something, but I think for now, good enough is good enough.  

Now, go check out my not-so-fail-riffic dresser dress up project in my last post.  That one came out great! 

Linking to:  Typography challenge at:
Visit thecsiproject.com

Fun With Numbers

Hey friends.  I haven't been around much the last few days, thanks to what the doctors call "acute asthmatic bronchitis with moderate toxicity and severe dehydration".  Yuck.  I'm still coughing up a lung, but I ended up at the ER yesterday and got dosed up with fluids, antibiotics, and some breathing treatments that have me a lot more functional today.  I'm still hanging out mostly on the couch and trying to take it easy, but I didn't want my creative blitz to get too far behind, so I managed to pull myself together for a bit and hop on my Cricut for a few projects.  The first, which I'll show you today, was part of my long-in-the-works master bedroom makeover.  Because it's hard for me to find time to work in there, I'm giving myself until the end of the month to have that whole room completed, but I'm trying to work on things here and there.  I'm usually more of a whirlwind re-decorator -- throwing together a new room in a day or a weekend, but this is going to require more patience and methodical work.

For those of you that don't know, I live and work at a Christian children's home as a housemom.  This means that we live in a big house on campus with lots of kids (at the moment, we have 8 boys + our 3 kids, for a total of 13 people living in this house).  Since we live in provided housing with most of the furniture already existing here, my decorating freedom is limited by 1) not being able to do anything permanent like paint, upgrade furniture, take out the ugly carpet, etc., 2) working with a vocational ministry budget (funds are always tight, as is space around here), and 3) having to work in the few pieces of furniture we brought with us into this place and make it look alright with the outdated donated furniture that fills up most of the space.  Anyway, there is always a design challenge to work around here, which is both fun and frustrating, at times.  Vinyl is proving to be a great medium for me to dress things up, since it is both long-lasting and also easily removable.  Here, I used my Cricut to make Vinyl cutouts to dress up this ugly dresser.

After.  Well... kinda.  More like, in process.  
I still have to replace the knobs on this bad boy before it's truly finished. 

Isn't it fun?  Since the carpet is a not-so-wonderful greenish-turquoise color, I'm going for neutrals in the rest of the space.  I thought the black vinyl on the wooden dresser made a cute touch for the look I'm going for.  Can't wait to finish the room and show you when its done!

Whatchu working on out there?
Whatever it is, Have Fun and Get Smitten!

Linking to:

This week's typography challenge at:
Visit thecsiproject.com
Beyond The Picket Fence