Let’s Share What We Learned in April

It’s the end April and that means it’s time to share what we’ve learned. If you’re new around here, this is a regular practice we engage in together, as we are learning the value of looking back before moving forward. We’re all at different spots on the journey, and these end of the month posts are a way to reflect, share, and celebrate on purpose – the fascinating, ridiculous, sacred and small.what we learned april 2015

This month I’m sharing six fun things I learned in April in no particular order:

1. Portland has a thing about carpet.

I visited the Portland, Oregon for the first time in April. Before I arrived, I had read about the 1980s carpet in the airport that has become an beloved icon by many – with its own Facebook page and active hashtag.

The old, loved carpet is on the left. The new, despised carpet is on the right.
The old, loved carpet is on the left. The new, despised carpet is on the right.

I also saw the carpet that’s replacing it that is evidently ugly and terrible and the worst thing that has ever happened. This was all very new and interesting to me.

2. Four day old kittens are no joke.

kitten

Growing up when our outside cats had kittens, they would hide them away in the deep darkness of our shed so we never saw them until their eyes were opened. But my sister’s cat had four kittens this month inside her house. And so we made a special trip down to visit them, hold them, and die. Because look.

3. Pink makes me happy.

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I’ve always known I like pink but I’ve never let myself indulge. It felt too . . . something. But then I saw this chair at World Market (our local store is closing so everything is on sale) and I went back three times before I bought the last one. Now I want it in every room in my house. Pink!

4. Chatting at the Sky readers feel strongly about their books.

Last week I posted about the 10 best books I’ve never read and had the most comments on that post I’ve had all year – lots of conversation about our beloved books. It made me so happy!

5. It’s important to watch TV with your people even if you have a lot of work to do.

A lot of deadlines have come at me this month and, more than ever, I’ve been tempted to lock myself in my office and not come out until all the lists are checked off. But if I’ve learned anything over the past five years of writing books, it’s that for me, evening times are best spent wasting time with my people, which is actually the opposite of waste.

6. I am a Cozy Minimalist (and you probably are too).

Over the past four weeks I took part in my sister The Nester’s online Cozy Minimalist course. I paid full price for it ($89) (she got mad at me when she realized I paid for it because she said she would have let me do it for free)(sister perks). I watched all four videos, doing my best to apply her advice, instructions, and universal decorating truths to my own room.

Of all the people on the planet who should benefit the least from this course it should be me – the sister of The Nester. After all, I’ve heard her say this stuff for years, years I tell you.

But as she and Megan walked through not just what Cozy Minimalism is but why Cozy Minimalism works, something clicked. I took pages and pages of notes. I finally feel like I understand why my gallery walls don’t look right and why my pillows aren’t working.

She didn’t just give nebulous ideas, she gave formulas, practical application, and ideas that will work for any room. I chose my sunroom office to focus on during the class, a room I knew was all wrong on every level but I didn’t have the energy or motivation to make it right.

For example, here’s my sunroom office before the class.

office before 1

And here is my office after the class.

3

Again.

Before the class:

office before 2

And after the class:

office after 2

One last time.

All together now . . .

Before the class:office before 3
And after the class:sunroom afterListen, you must know I don’t talk about things unless I love the things. And this course is one of my favorite things I’ve done for myself.

I already felt like I had some confidence in decorating (as evidenced in other parts of my house I promise), but this course took it to the next level for me – something about hearing it all at once from a woman a know, love, and trust.

Nester is now offering that same course I took but in a self-study version for only $39. But if you enter “Emily Freeman” at checkout as the one who referred you, then you’ll get it for only $29. You’re gonna love this.

Go here to sign up, enter my name, and start creating the home you’ve always wanted. Then one thing you learn in May can be that you, too, are a Cozy Minimalist!

I learned some other things in April, more soul-level things, but a lot of that is still percolating within me. I’m sure you’ll see evidence of that come out in my writing as that’s what always happens when our souls are poked awake in certain areas. For now, it’s time for you to share what you learned in April. Link up below (if you have a blog) or share in the comments.


How to Stay Calm in the Midst of Big Projects

“Instead of trying to accomplish it all — and all at once — and flaring out, the Essentialist starts small and celebrates progress. Instead of going for the big, flashy wins that don’t really matter, the Essentialist pursues small and simple wins in areas that are essential.”

Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

If you’ve ever been guilty of biting off more than you can chew or of expecting too much too soon, then perhaps you will resonate with Greg McKewon’s encouragement to start small and celebrate progress.

In recent years I’ve come to value and even cherish the art of the small start in my work, my friendships, and even in cleaning the house.

But it’s a fairly new practice for me to begin to celebrate the progress that comes as a result, especially when that progress is unimpressive.

What does celebrating progress look like?

progress

Today for me, it looks like this round rug in my sunroom office.

I’ve wanted a round rug in there for, oh a few years maybe? I’ve waited because I didn’t know exactly where to shop, wasn’t sure what style I wanted, and I didn’t have the room the way I wanted it anyway. Besides, I already had a rug that kind of worked and I was convinced a different rug wouldn’t make much difference.

But I’ve been dedicated to making small changes in this sunroom over the past few weeks and the small changes are adding up to nice progress. I took some time looking online and found this simple jute round rug, ordered it, and it arrived on my doorstep this week.

Now, my tendency is to continue to look for the next small change I need to make or obsess over lists of what has yet to be done.

Instead, several times since that rug arrived, I’ve sat in my sunroom and looked around, snapped a few photos, and spent some extra time reading in my favorite corner. In short, I’ve celebrated progress by actually enjoying the room. And this simple act of appreciating the progress on purpose has brought a lightness and calm to my soul.

celebrate progress

These have been ways I’ve celebrated progress rather than looked in disdain at the still unfinished room. I moved my desk! I picked out a rug! Is it finished? Not yet. But I celebrate progress anyway.

This week at (in)courage, I’m sharing what starting small and celebrating progress has looked like for me in the area of personal health, both for my body and for my soul.

I also have a conversation with my dad and my sister on this month’s episode of The Hope*ologie Podcast about what celebrating looks like in our own lives and how we think it’s important to mark progress even if it’s small and even if it’s silly.

There are 3 ways for you to listen to the podcast: At Hope*ologie (including show notes!), on iTunes, or here on Soundcloud.

Today I hope you’ll save yourself from overwhelm in the midst of big projects by embracing the days of small beginnings and celebrating the progress that comes as a result.

I’m So Glad You’re Here

Results are rolling in from our 2015 reader survey and already I’ve learned so much from you! (By the way, there’s still time to let your voice be heard – simply fill out the survey questions here.)

Here’s one result that doesn’t surprise me:

men and women

(Insert cry-laugh face).

But one interesting outcome so far is that 60% of those who responded to the survey have been reading here less than 2 years. I’ve been writing for over 9 years but most of you haven’t been around that long. I thought today would be a good time to give an introduction (or for some of you re-introduction) to who I am, who my family is, and what jazzes me these days.

the-Freemans

This is our family – our son is 8 years old and in 2nd grade and our twin girls (this photo is from Halloween when they dressed up like hippie fairies) are 11 and in fifth grade. Next year they’ll begin middle school which is bringing all sorts of excitement, angst, and decision-making conversations around the dinner table these days.

john and emily

This is the most recent photo I have of my husband John and I, taken 2 weeks ago. We’ve been married for nearly 14 years and he’s my best friend. He worked as a youth pastor for 12 of those years and, 20 months ago, quit his job without a clear idea of what would come next. In May 2013 I wrote a post about why my husband quit his job but I haven’t given much of an update on that here since then.

Part of that is intentional. We’ve needed some time to gather, to huddle in close, to listen and simply be. But there has been movement in the past several months and tomorrow I’ll share that with my newsletter subscribers and probably in several weeks I’ll put it here on the blog as well.

By the way, you can sign up here if you’d like to receive that Note From The Bench, a slightly more personal monthly letter I send out with updates on family, books I’m currently reading, and other first-word news and encouragement.

painted brickWe live in Greensboro, North Carolina and have lived in the house where we are now for seven years. It was built in the early 1960s and we’re slowly bringing it into this century. We started with painting the brick on the outside and haven’t regretted it for a second.

When we first moved in I wrote a lot more posts about our house because 1) it was fun at the time and 2) it’s all I thought about because of course we were just moving in and getting settled. You can read more house posts by browsing the house category but a lot of those photos are outdated.

I think it will be fun to post some more photos soon of what the house looks like now. Here’s a few more updated shots.

my house

I started college as a piano major at Columbia Bible College in South Carolina. That’s where I learned how to study the Bible and also where I learned that piano was not something I wanted to major in. I transferred after my sophomore year to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where I graduated with a degree in Educational Interpreting for the Deaf.

John and I were married after I graduated from college and he finished seminary. After receiving my national certification in sign language interpreting, I worked as an interpreter for several years until I had the twins. I started this blog in 2006 and re-discovered my love for writing.

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I’ve written four books by now, three of which are available in bookstores and one that will release in August. I am, this very week, working on my second round of edits for my newest book, Simply Tuesday, and absolutely can’t wait until it’s available to you.

Most of all, you need to know that I’ve been stunned by the Gospel of Jesus. John and I are building our lives on the foundation of hope that can only come from him. Everything I write or speak about comes from my deep conviction that every need, desire, and expectation is ultimately met in God even though it may take a lifetime to work out what that looks like.

Writing helps me work that out. And I hope something of what I offer here might help you work that out, too.

I’d love to know what you’d love to know, if anything. If you have any questions, ask in the comments! I hope to write a few more posts like this so if you give me some ideas of what you might like to know more about, I’m happy to hear it.

I would also love to know your answers to the survey if you haven’t filled that out yet. I’m so glad you’re here.

the kind of movement that makes a difference

On a whim last Saturday, we decided to move the furniture around in our living room. This is a fairly familiar event in our house but the difference this time was John. Normally when I move furniture I wait until he’s gone, mainly because I work well with deadlines and I know I have to be finished before he gets home.

by the fireplace

But having him there meant I could bark orders instead of doing all the work myself. I found out I get really bossy and know-it-all-y when I’m moving furniture.

The thing about moving the TV to a less important wall is you also have to move the sofa.

When you move the sofa, you have to move the rug.

greensboro

Then the chairs need to go somewhere else and now there’s a big blank wall you need to fill and before you realize what you’ve gotten yourself into, three rooms of your house are completely different. (Cue mouse holding a cookie.)

living room

It feels just about right, now – an appropriate way to usher in a new season of change. I like how it fits.

My sunroom office is a little more full but I like it that way. It’s just the right space to settle in with Brennan Manning’s Souvenirs of Solitude in the mornings. His chapter called Really Human, Really Poor has been my morning reading for several days just because I can’t get over how true it is. He speaks of being poor in spirit but of resisting self-hatred, something I have struggled with understanding.

He tells this story and had me laughing outloud:

Distracted after a disturbing phone call, I left the monastery to give a talk to the inmates of Trenton State Prison and began with the outrageous greeting, “Well, it’s nice to see so many of you here!” And so it goes.

Frequently not in form, on top, or in control. That is part of my poverty as a human being, and self-acceptance without self-concern simply expresses a reality. An impoverished spirit prevents the poor man from being a tyrant to himself.

-Souvenirs of Solitude, page 92

His reaction to himself in that awkward moment caught my attention. There was no wringing of hands or heavy anxiety for having mis-spoken. There was only an acceptance of the reality of his own frailty accompanied by his refusal to hate himself for it.

And so I recognize a longing in my soul for this kind of lightheartedness. It helps to listen to Ellie Holcomb and Jillian Edwards sing With You Now. As I do, I take a few deep breaths in. It is in the delicate place of embracing my humanity without despising it – there is union with Christ in this space.

My to-do list is bulging, each task more time-consuming than the one I just finished. I have work to complete and a mounting sense of shame that the reason I’m unable to finish is not because it’s too much work but because I am lacking something vital to continue – organization, creativity, skill, the ability to focus.

All of those may actually be true.

But I’m learning my relief will neither be found in continuing to chase an ideal of my productive self, nor in hating myself for my inability to get everything done.

Rather than resenting my weakness, I believe Jesus is asking me to embrace my weakness. Being poor in spirit doesn’t mean despising self but releasing self from the expectation of being anything but poor. Small. Helpless. Worn.

My soul needs to remember the kind of movement that will make a difference:

Don’t try to handle your anxiety. Bring your anxiety into the presence of Christ.

Don’t try to fix your loneliness. Bring your loneliness into the presence of Christ.

Don’t try to hide your addiction. Bring your addiction into the presence of Christ.

Don’t try to change your attitude. Bring your attitude into the presence of Christ.

Don’t despise your humanity. Bring your humanity into the presence of Christ.

There is still responsibility, there is still action that comes from me. But my action is not to make right, to make whole, or to make better. My action is to usher my abilities, inabilities, failures and successes all into the presence of Christ.

Lord Jesus, remind us of your presence with us as we do the next right thing that makes sense. And may you keep our hearts light along the way.

let your home be your canvas

As we continue to consider the new year we now stand in, The Nester has turned the conversation about goals around to the home. I have a strange and fickle relationship with my home. It brings me a great sense of comfort – family, love, holidays, normal days, the kids toys, my pillow. I write from home, so I can walk into nearly any room and remember – there in the dining room was where I sat and labored over chapter 6, and then wrote it all at once in a flurry of inspiration. There in that chair at our Kmart kitchen table is where I cried in the middle of chapter 11, because I realized again that God is real and he want us to know it. For me, the rooms matter. The colors and the lighting matter. And putting energy and time into making home is a great joy for me.

But. Home can also be my greatest source of shame. When I have ideas to pretty her or to clean her, sometimes it seems I stop just short of making a real difference. Even though we just had a huge yard sale in October, it seems I all of a sudden have piles of things I no longer want or need. Why does this always happen?! And immediately the critical voice pipes in – Hey you there with all your January intentions – I know you want to be more organized, but it’s impossible. So give up already.

Shame doesn’t have to speak too loud. A whisper when I open the junk drawer is enough – failure. And I grab the gum I’m looking for and chew it hard and angry, wishing I could get a handle on that drawer but believing the voice of shame instead – impossible.

And so my goal for my home this year? I want to change the voice I listen to. And I want to change my mind about “organized.” I don’t want to just get rid of stuff in order to be organized, I want to get rid to make room for something else. Namely, the art.

I believe this year will be one of creativity, of daring to let go of the burden of my own insecurities and allow God to uncover the imprint of his image on me. It is easy to compartmentalize goals and to think that this pull I have toward making art this year is unrelated to the desires I have for my home. But I think that would be a mistake.

Thinking of it this way changes the conversation for me. When my stuff is cleared out, my head is cleared out, too. If I think of it as a clearing out for clearing outs sake, I will lose steam, and fast. But if I think of my home as a canvas for the art I want to create, well that’s another thing altogether. I want to make time and space for the art, and that means getting rid of some scissors.

As we think about the coming year, it is good to remember that January is no different from November. That worry and fatigue and the ever dreaded funk will show up in even in the middle of the best intentions. It helps me to remember Natalie Goldberg, who made it a goal to write everyday. But also said, if she doesn’t meet that ideal, she is “careful not to pass judgement or create anxiety” because no one lives up to their ideals. We don’t have to live up to them perfectly. But it helps to have them. Thanks to my sister for giving me the opportunity to think this one through.

paint avoidance

Last year, we painted our kitchen cabinets black. I do not regret painting them, as I like them much better than what they were before. Still, I have been thinking about how I might like to have the top cabinets painted white while leaving the bottom ones black.

But I am a lazy girl with two books to write. So instead I changed the curtains.

In the two years we’ve lived in this house, the curtains in the kitchen have been changed three times. Currently, they are dressed in this buffalo check from Country Curtains. They have brightened up my writing space quite nicely. And it has been a much easier change than re-painting the top cabinets.