One Home Mistake You Don’t Know You’re Making

Cozy Minimalist

You know how sometimes you’re hungry for something but you just don’t know what? Or your foot itches but you cannot, for the LOVE, find the exact spot to scratch it?

About a year ago, that’s how I felt about my sunroom at. Something was UP with this room. I knew it was wrong. I didn’t know how to fix it.

The office Before

If you want to know the truth, I carried no small amount of shame about this room when it looked like this. It’s remarkable how creative shame can get with us – never daring to show up blatantly and announce he wants to steal our sense of self-confidence and personhood.

Instead, shame whispers failure to us when we look at the diaper changing table we bought at Babies-R-Us 12 years ago that we now use as a dresser in our sunroom.

Or he taunts us when we realize we have tried exactly 80 different combinations of plants, photo frames and trays on said changing table and can’t figure out why none of it looks quite right so we must just not be very good at styling things.

Instead of seeing it all for what it is – a room with lovely bones that is difficult to style because it has doors and windows on every wall – I saw myself as a failure every time I walked in this room.

It wasn’t glaring. It wasn’t obvious. I was hardly aware of that low-grade sense of failure at all, actually. But it was always there.

Around spring of last year, my sister designed a course called Cozy Minimalist and because she’s my sister, I signed up and took the course. I thought I would learn a few tips about house stuff, but nothing I didn’t already know. I mean seriously guys, my sister is The Nester. I have no excuse not to know house stuff, right?!

She challenged us to pick one room of our house as we went through the course so I picked my sunroom as it was the only room left that I just didn’t know what to do with. I had kind of given up on it, actually. It felt beyond help.

Sunroom Before

See? I had tried to put this little sofa everywhere but the ceiling in this room and finally I just gave up and left it here, like an awkward middle schooler at her first school dance. A sofa should say come sit on me! but this one just said Pay no attention to the sofa in the corner. 

During the first module of the course, The Nester gave us an assignment – quiet the room.

Basically you just take everything out of the room and off the walls except the major furniture.

After that first assignment, something happened that made all the difference for me.

Quieting the room brought quiet in my soul.

It shushed the voice of shame.

Until that moment, standing in my quiet sunroom, I hadn’t realized how loud shame had been in my mind and heart. I hadn’t realized how hard I had been working to ignore that voice. I hadn’t known I wasn’t free until I quieted the room and listened in the silence.

The mistake I didn’t realize I had been making in my home was letting shame boss me around.

For a week, I lived with the room quiet just like The Nester said to do. I couldn’t believe the power of a quiet room. It gave me permission to begin again.

What do I really love and what am I keeping out of obligation?

Why am I afraid of color and texture? 

What purpose do I really want this room to serve for me and for my family?

All of these questions and more I was finally able to answer. And each module of the course walked me through them.

sunroom after

I’m sharing this with you today because I don’t think I’m the only woman who has carried a low-grade sense of shame about my home.

The truth is, we have enough to fight against in this world. Our homes should be the last place on earth where we feel shame.

If there is even one singular room in your house right now that you feel a sense of shame about when you walk into it, maybe it will be worth it to you to take The Nester’s Cozy Minimalist class, too.

The course closes tomorrow (Thursday January 20) at midnight. But you can buy it now and go through it at your own pace. And if you’re a mom with kid clutter you don’t know what to do with, she has another course just for that topic. You can find both courses here – choosing just one or both.

For what it’s worth, my sunroom office went from being my least favorite room in the house to my most favorite room in the house and all it took was a change in perspective. I’m grateful to The Nester for helping me see my room with new eyes and, in turn, helping to release me from unnecessary shame.

sunroom after

Welcome to Chatting at the Sky. I’m glad you’re here! If you would like to receive regular reminders to create space for your soul to breathe, you can sign up here for updates.

What to do When Someone Else Already Wrote Your Book

I’ve been listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic, in my car as I drive around town this week. She has a fantastic reading voice which is a relief after the last book I listened to in my car (Zero to One by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters – read by Blake Masters who is a brilliant person with a terrible monotone).

Big Magic

Swiping this image from The Nester since I don’t actually have the print book.

One of my favorite things Gilbert has said so far is this:

“Your fear is like a mall cop who thinks he’s a Navy SEAL: He hasn’t slept in days, he’s all hopped up on Red Bull, and he’s liable to shoot at his own shadow in an absurd effort to keep everyone ‘safe.’”

Her whole book is really just one long permission slip with big writing on the front that states: You Are Allowed To Be Here.

Barney Fife fear with the Jack Bauer swagger will try to convince us all that we are going to jail for showing up to the mall after hours, that our punishment will be steep and also who do we think we are anyway?

Fife and Bauer

It’s an easy book to listen to, mainly because I see myself as someone who is already living a creative life. Not every moment of every day, but the path I’ve chosen to walk is pointing in that direction. And while my own mall cop fear still shouts out warnings at me all the time, I’m mostly able to see him for what he is.

I don’t see my writing on the same plane as Elizabeth Gilbert’s by any stretch of anyone’s imagination, but as I listen to her read, I am pleased by this one thought: I’m so relieved I already wrote my own Big Magic.

It’s called A Million Little Ways and it came out in 2013.

Does that sound arrogant? Like I’m comparing my little book with her big book?

I don’t mean to.

What I mean to say is if I had not done the work to write A Million Little Ways, to wrestle it to the ground, to catch those ideas and put them into sentences and subject myself to the grueling editorial process; if instead I had considered how hard it would be to take those whispy, swirling thoughts I had about art and creativity and living our lives in the creative image of God and decided to put them in a drawer somewhere for “later” instead of writing them down and doing the work, then listening to Big Magic this week would feel very different for me than it does.

I would be angry. I would be sad. I would be whispering to myself, why didn’t I write this book when the idea came to me? Why did I let it go?

Every writer feels it at least once except a thousand times more than once, that someone else has written their book.

But while I listen to Big Magic, to Elizabeth Gilbert walk the same circles around creativity that so many of us have walked around and then written about, I realize I am deeply grateful.

Because while our perspective and world view are vastly different, while our personality and theology might not mix well, and while her book sits high up on bestseller lists while mine is mostly unknown by the majority of the population, I feel a certain kinship with Elizabeth Gilbert as I listen to her book.

And I am thankful that, at least this time, I do not feel threatened by the voice of another author who is saying similar things I’ve said.

The truth is, a lot of us have said these things. Pick up any book on writing or creativity and you will read about all the same themes – fear, resistance, permission, inspiration, motivation, all of it. It isn’t new.

But here’s something we often forget: most of us don’t want new, not really. We want true.

We just need to keep saying things that are true. To do that, we need to have other artists circle with us, artists who are different from us, similar to us, offensive to us. Artists we’re a little afraid of as well as artists who help us feel safe.

We need to circle around the difficulty of creating with other people who are doing it, too. And we need walk beside them with open hands, willing hearts, and a stubborn refusal to compete and compare.

That’s all. I don’t have a grand finale here. I wasn’t planning to post at all today, actually. But this morning on my way home from Target, as I listened to Big Magic and felt that profound sense of gratitude that I’ve already written my own version, I thought about you.

Maybe you have your own version of Big Magic lingering within you, too. Perhaps you have words you want to say, a story you would like to tell, a perspective you might like to share, but Barney Fife is screaming at you to stay safe.

Aren’t you tired of listening to him?

Here are three things that might help:

  • My friend Ed Cyzewski wrote this fantastic post about writing and publishing. He doesn’t cheerlead, sugar coat or pander. I would bet money on the fact that he doesn’t own even one single pair of rose colored glasses. Instead, he is honest about how much publishing hurts. How it’s hard. But how, if you can find a way to do it without crushing your soul, then it’s worth it.

Big Magic and A Million Little Ways

hopewriters

  • And now this. If you are tired of listening to fear and want to write words that matter, perhaps you’d like to join our growing community of writers like you. It’s a commitment – $15 a month – but if you’re serious about your writing, it’s well worth the investment. And if you join us by 9pm EST Saturday (12/5), we’ll send you a signed copy of one of our books for free – including A Million Little Ways – and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of all of our books (8 print books + 2 ebooks). Here are a few of themFree Books for Hope*Writers

If you don’t like the membership site, at least you’ll get a book out of it. All the details are here – we’d love to have you join us.

December might seem an odd time to talk about this – it feels more like a January topic, doesn’t it? But for me today, it’s just right.

No more waiting around for the perfect time.

No more coddling shame and embarrassment about our art.

No more hiding behind comparisons and excuses.

December reminds us that Love came down to be with us. And not just to walk beside us, but to live within us.

What beautiful ways He wants to come out! What a unique filter your personality is!

May we walk in freedom and confidence that we are made in the creative image of God, and he has made us to make art.

On Learning to Leave Things Behind

Sometimes you need a lot more margin than you plan for and last week was one of those times for me. I went dark online as I prepared to serve at a conference here in my hometown.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

I fight this inability to multi-task better. I mean, I had two babies at once! I could make grocery lists and nurse babies and breathe all at the same time. I am a professional multi-tasker. But when it comes to writing a talk to deliver to local women I know and love, the preparation took on a life of it’s own. And that life was bigger and heavier and more all-consuming than I expected.

Part of it was that I was hopeful and the other part was that I felt afraid. Before I could embrace the hope part, Jesus and I needed to work through my fearful obsession with myself.

There have been some things I’ve been holding on to for many years, hurts and expectations of myself that, though I’m not sure exactly where they have come from, I definitely know they need to go.

One catalyst for this letting go came several weeks ago as I watched the live-stream, along with many of you, of Christine Caine speaking at the IF Gathering in Austin. Something she said poked  me awake.

“If the horse is dead, it’s time to dismount.”

I have many dead horses I’ve been trying to ride and when I heard these words, I sensed a quiet whisper – or, more accurately, the voice of a tiny Australian woman – inviting me to let some things fall gently away. Like the Dowager Countess on Downton Abbey said to Edith, “You must learn to leave some things behind.”

The last several weeks have been for me a tangible practice of learning to leave some things behind.

Now that the conference is past, I’m looking back thankful for the opportunity to speak, but more I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the kind, talented, prayerful women who I’m a privileged to call friends here in Greensboro. I’m thankful for the lessons they have taught and are teaching me, about love, support, prayer, and friendship.

Beautiful Life with Angela Thomas

I hope to settle back into a rhythm of writing and yoga and hanging my clothes up instead of flinging them all over my room like Nellie Olsen. And hopefully the movement will be a little lighter this week as I’ve decided to leave some heavy burdens behind.

The Spiritual Discipline of Wearing Better Pants

When I graduated from high school, my youth pastor gave all the seniors a book on the spiritual disciplines. Good girl that I was, I marked that book up in all the best ways, purposing to tackle a discipline a week for however long it took to become the best possible version of myself – prayer, scripture reading, fasting, etc.

Bible in the Sunroom

I knew I couldn’t be perfect but I thought it would be alright to get closer than anyone else.

Several years of Bible college, marriage, and mothering later, I realized that good girl in my head was a perfectly annoying mirage and if I wanted to really know Jesus and BE A SANE PERSON, I had to go let go of my constant attempts at trying to earn my way and performing for acceptance.

One of the casualties of my good girl detox was shedding my misconceptions about the spiritual disciplines. I needed to give myself permission not to practice them for a while because I couldn’t figure out how to do them without thinking I was earning something.

The past several years have been a re-entry of sorts into the world of the spiritual disciplines. It’s different now – kinder, gentler, tender, and more free. My definitions have changed as has (I hope) my demeanor.

I now understand the fundamental truth beneath the spiritual disciplines, that “if a discipline is not producing freedom in me, it’s probably the wrong thing for me to be doing” (John Ortberg).

Reading about the disciplines in Living in Christ’s Presence, I was further struck at this perspective:

“Discipline depends on what you are training for. If you are training to win a pie-eating contest, what discipline will you have to engage in? Pie eating. If every day you eat as much pie as you possibly can, a year from now you’ll be able to eat much more pie than you could eat today.

So, what counts as a discipline depends on what I am training for . . . The whole purpose of disciplines is to enable you to do the right thing at the right time in the right spirit, so if something doesn’t help you do that, then don’t do it.”

In short, practicing a spiritual discipline is not about trying to earn something, prove something, or win.

Practicing a spiritual discipline is more about receiving power to live in the kingdom. It’s about training my mind and my will to practice what my heart deeply believes. It’s about knowing that each moment is packed with grace but sometimes I need practice to see it.

It’s about becoming the person I already am in Christ.

Really anything can be a spiritual discipline when we recognize the presence of God with us in it.

Last week I had a full day of work in front of me, but I decided when the kids got home, work would be put aside and I would practice the spiritual discipline of presence.

I recently wrote a post about the spiritual discipline of learning nothing. John Ortberg may not write a chapter about that particular discipline, but there it is, and it was good for me because it produced freedom in me and helped me to live more fully in the invisible kingdom of God.

A spiritual discipline may be something we do, but it may also be something we abstain from doing. For years now I’ve been writing under the tagline creating space for your soul to breathe, and I’m finally beginning to understand what that means. With the discipline of silence and solitude, I abstain from worry and hurry, teaching my body what it feels like to undo rather than always do.

But y’all, this weekend I took the disciplines to a new level as I began to sift through my clothes. I found some jeans I love in the bottom of my drawer, pulled them on and continued to tidy up around the house.

Ever so slightly, my mood began to shift. I started feeling irritable, discouraged, and not great about myself. When I retraced my steps, I realized why. My jeans were making it hard to breathe.

And because I’ve been thinking about my tagline a lot lately, and because I’m always aware of how the outer life affects the inner life, I quickly made the connection between breathing in my soul and breathing in my body.

In order to let my soul breathe, it’s good to be able to actually breathe. Literally. In my diaphragm.

Y’all, I’ve been wearing clothes that hurt me and it has got. to. stop.

IMG_6578

So I had a DTR with my closet and we came up with an understanding we could both live with.

I will keep her clean and organized if she will stop harboring the enemy in the form of clothes that are too tight.

“Isn’t it amazing what we will do at our own expense? I’ve decided that even if I have to wear something with a  stretch waistband the rest of my life, I’m not going to demean myself by wearing clothes that hurt me . . . No more bad pants.”

Leeana Tankersly, Breathing Room

I started to make a pile of pants (and some shirts) that either physically hurt me to wear or caused me to feel badly about myself. As the stack grew, so did my confidence. I even logged into Stitch Fix to inform them I have moved one size up in pants and I may not be going back.

In those few moments in my bedroom, I was profoundly aware of the kind presence of Christ, that he doesn’t stop being relevant just because I’m cleaning out my closet. And while I still value taking care of my body and engage in other practices to maintain my health, I also want to be honest about my own expectations of myself and be careful not to compare my health to someone else’s.

I struggled with feeling oddly guilty about making something as trivial as getting rid of pants that are too tight into a spiritual practice. But then I remembered how life with Christ is about being a whole person, not pieced out into important parts and non-important parts.

In this one day I can carry both serious concerns in my soul and a pile of old clothes to the car.

clothes

Making that pile of clothes was a spiritual practice for me that day, finally taking the time to honestly confront some of the small ways I’ve been disrespecting myself by keeping clothes I don’t need and that don’t fit.

So I’m calling a truce with my jeans and practicing the spiritual discipline of wearing better pants. Is there anything you need to call a truce with? It’s Tuesday, so maybe it’s a good time to remember how Christ is with you in every ordinary moment, no matter how small. Are there any unconventional spiritual practices you might need to engage in to remember that?

I’ll be on Instagram sharing some of my own moments using #itssimplytuesday. I hope you’ll share yours, too.

After you get rid of some tight jeans, perhaps you’ll want some ideas on how to let your soul breathe. Join The Bench (my monthly newsletter) and you’ll receive a free copy of my ebook, Seven Little Ways to Live Art, practices to help you take a soul breath today.

How I Plan to Stay Sane on the Internet in 2015

Over the past year or so, I’ve been listening to the low, rolling hum around the Internet. It comes in as a wave on the shore of the cyber beach every few years, depositing questions and doubt like flotsam after a storm. You’ve heard it, too: the whispered rumor that blogging is dead.

It’s an important conversation for those of us who read and write blogs. It feels a little like that first time we watched The Sixth Sense – wait, he was dead the whole time? How did I not see that?! There’s a little niggling in the back of my mind – Does all this still matter?

How I Plan to Stay Sane on the Internet

Though I know people have been asking the question for years now, 2014 was the first year I began to wonder if they were right. Is it over? Have we been dumped for Instagram and are too stubborn to admit it?

As I’ve been working on this post for over a week now (does that tell you anything about my process? I need blog writing to stay alive! I can’t think fast enough for anything else!) I saw a post Tsh wrote on this very subject in her state of the blog address. I almost considered scratching this half-written post and just telling you to read hers because she says everything so well.

Instead, I will tell you to read hers and read mine, too.

I needed to take the time to work through this in my own way. So I did the opposite of the Internet and took a walk on New Year’s Day, looked up and down and all around and thought about some of these things.

Now I want to think through them with you, okay? Okay.

Regardless of what changes, grievances, or transitions we might need to make, here are some things I know for sure about us (and by us I mean you and me):

We want more connecting and less competing.

We want more laughter and less shame.

We want more love and less fear.

Did I get that right so far?

This January marks the nine year anniversary of Chatting at the Sky. I started quietly writing here  when I was pregnant with our third baby, in the cracks of time I could find while taking care of twin toddlers. I needed an outlet for my scattered brain, a place to put thoughts I knew wouldn’t disappear, and to connect with a few friends who had blogs, too.

the girls 2009 and 2014

Now nine years, three books, and a lot of blog posts later, here we are.

I know a lot has changed in these nine years, both among blogs as a whole and here in this space. I know we aren’t going back to the old days when the comment box was filled with chatter, when you could write something online and know you had a good chance of being heard, and when most of the blog posts you read sounded like real humans wrote them.

With all the noise, we have to work harder than before to remember why we do this.

First, though, I wanted to say this: I’m hopeful about the future for blog writing.

How I Plan to Stay Sane on the Internet

Call me a romantic, but I still think writing on a blog is one of the most important things I do as a writer.

I still think it’s the greatest medium for communicating, for story-telling, for writing through what you think about things.

I still think it’s one of the most lovely outlets for an extraverted introvert like me who loves people but needs a little time to think before I say words to them.

This is where I discovered that I am, in fact, a writer. This is where I work out what I believe. This is where all my books were born and how I’ve met some of my favorite people in the world (the world, I tell you!)

Though it may seem like an oxymoron, consistently writing and reading blogs can offer kind company for our souls and help to encourage intentionality, slowness, and listening.

Here’s why.

Early last month, Steff Green wrote a post on ProBlogger giving examples of how blogging is changing and what you can do about it. This observation of hers stuck out to me:

“With social media platforms becoming the online communication too du jour, and with smartphones and other devices becoming for many the preferred platform, blogs have fallen to the wayside in favour of shorter, punchier messages specifically tailored to hit a reader’s buttons.” – from Is Blogging Dead?

This is one of my biggest motivations to keep writing on a blog.

Continuing to write here at Chatting at the Sky is my soul’s own quiet rebellion against the fast-moving world.

I write because I need room for my soul to breathe. And sometimes I have to write my way into that space.

I need a steady, consistent, and reliable online place that will serve my own soul in this quiet way. I bet you need that, too.

For me, that means embracing the short, punchier forms (because they’re fun and a great way to connect) but not at the expense of the longer-form blog writing, my first writing love.

But that doesn’t mean I plan to party like it’s 2008. I want to move with the changes rather than fight against them.

Here’s what staying sane on the Internet means for me, both as a reader of blogs and a writer of one:

As a reader:

  • Unsubscribe: I’ve unsubscribed from everything except my top, most favorite, can’t-miss blogs. That means I only regularly read less than 10. And it’s delightful.
  • Round Ups: I glance at weekly roundups to see what other writers have found that I’ve missed in various spaces.
  • Fun: Pick the shorter forms out of love and fun, rather than fear of missing out. My favorite is Instagram because 1) I love photos  2) It’s a great way to stay connected to friends and writers alike even though I may not read all their posts 3) It’s fun!
  • Rescue Time: I’ve installed Rescue Time on my computer so I can easily see how much of my time online is productive vs. distracting. Super helpful.
  • Identify panic triggers: When I’m online and feel my soul start to shake on the inside from a low-grade scattered panic, I ask myself why. I don’t have a great solution for this yet (sans shutting off the computer) but I’m starting to pay attention. For those of us who work online, turning the computer off isn’t always an option. So I’m paying attention to the panic triggers.

Those are a few ways I’m practicing sanity in my online reading habits.

When it comes to actually writing online, I started to record some tips that help me but discovered after listing them they felt hollow. Instead, I took some time to really listen to my desire, to the why behind this blog, and what that means for me as a writer. Here’s what came up to the surface:

As a writer:

  • I will tell stories.
  • I will be myself.
  • I will remember it’s “better to write for yourself and have no public than write for the public and have no self.” (Cyril Connolly)
  • I will refuse to romanticize the writing life.
  • I will write to connect, not compete.
  • I will remember fear is a normal part of the process, but courage gets the final say.
  • I will remember how ego feels pushy and afraid but calling feels kind and free. Most of the time.
  • I will remember people write online for a million little reasons and I will respect them theirs.
  • I will practice writing words I can’t take back.
  • I will refuse to write from a frantic place of hurry.
  • I will be gentle with myself when I choose to hurry anyway.
  • I will be relentlessly helpful to the souls of others.
  • I will write as a kind companion rather than a truth machine.
  • I will let love lead.
  • I will not be a jerk.

Though these are personal to me, perhaps they resonate with you as well. If so, I’ve included them in a simple PDF for you to download or print as you wish: A Manifesto – How to Write on the Internet Without Losing Your Mind. Maybe they’ll help you stay sane on the internet, too.

A Writer's Manifesto How to Write on the Internet Without Losing Your Mind

Blogging is only as dead as you treat it. I plan to have many more years of writing here, of carving out a little space in the corner to sit on a bench and connect with you. So here’s to 2015 – the year we learn to stay sane on the Internet. I hope you’ll continue to join me.

I want to be kind company this year, both for your soul and for mine. Sometimes we forget to be kind to ourselves, don’t we? If this sounds good to you and you don’t want to miss a post, you can sign up here to get them delivered directly into your inbox.

If that makes you feel crazy, maybe you’d prefer something a bit more infrequent but equally as encouraging. If so, you can join me on The Bench and receive my once-a-month newsletter (2nd Tuesday of the month).

Both options come with a free copy of my ebook Seven Little Ways to Live Art, sharing one way every day to take a soul breath.

I would love to hear how you’re staying sane on the Internet, both as a reader and a writer. Leave a comment here or join the conversation on Facebook.