Friday, November 29, 2013

Small Business Saturday

Now here's a shopping event that y'all may not be aware of! Did you know that November 30, 2013 is Small Biz Saturday?

Here's a little update from my studio...

I sent this little beauty off on Wednesday. This painting of a stunning wedding venue is 5x7 inches on a 6x8 piece of watercolor paper. It was a custom order, and I particularly wanted to share it with you as a reminder of how much I LOVE CUSTOM ORDERS.

So, is there still someone on your list that you haven't found something for?
I'd love to paint or knit something special just for them! 
Visit my Etsy shop to make a request!

Three final thoughts:
FREE SHIPPING on everything in my shop. No code necessary!
Leave a request in the "note to seller" box when ordering, and I will Christmas gift wrap your order for FREE. 
$5 OFF your order of $25 or more! Use the code SMALLBIZ13 (valid thru 12/1/13).

Adventure well; Live fully.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! I am so thankful that you take the time to read my blogs, and I hope each and every one of you is as happy and blessed as I am today!

In honor of the holiday, I thought I'd list some of the things I'm thankful for!

  1. The gift, life, and death of Jesus Christ. Above all, I am thankful for a personal, loving God who gave his Son for me. (Sidenote: looking for a new, awesome album? Check out The Ascension by Phil Wickham. Makes me cry in all the best ways). 
  2. My Family: my Hubster, my parents, grandfather, aunts and uncles, cousins. I love you!
  3. Friends. I've mentioned my friends a lot on here. My girls, every last one of you, I'll never be able to say how special you are to me and how thankful I am for you. 
  4. God's provision for John and I to be financially independent and debt-free as newlyweds. 
  5. I started a company this year, and it's the best job in the world. I love my studio time, blogging, receiving custom orders, etc. And I'm already thankful for all the years to come with Mes Aventures, Crafts & Co.!
  6. Growing up at and going to school at Perimeter Church/ School. My Perimeter family is a treasured part of my life! I'll be a Perimeter Eagle forever! 
  7. Education--both formal and self-taught. I'm thankful for the means and opportunity to go to school through University and to own an extensive personal library for further study. 
  8. Travel. I've been to 46 states and 5 non-US countries, and every experience grew my thinking about the world and culture. 
  9. Senses. Eyes to see the beauty of creation, a nose to smell favorite foods and perfumes, a tongue to taste those same favorite foods, skin to experience texture and to feel loved ones close in tight hugs, ears to hear voices, music, and nature. 
  10. The daily surprises and adventures of life that keep things beautiful and interesting. 
There's ten. Just a few of many. 
Enjoy your family and friends today!
Love and hugs from not-so-hot-Lanta!

Adventure well; Live fully.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Faithful, not Perfect

"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor;
the enemy of the people.
It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life."
~Anne Lamott

Those of you who know me may be thinking, "Yeah, HAK, about time you figured that out." 
Yeah, yeah I guess it is. 
The greatest expectations I face are the ones I put on myself. I expect too much. I want to do it all. 
I still kind of want to do "it all," or at least a little bit of everything. But I'm learning to let go of the perfect part. 
I still want a huge mess of kids. 
I still want to teach--though I'm less sure of when or where or in what role than I used to be. 
I still want a lot of pets--though I think a cow and chickens might be added to the list. 
I still want to paint and write and knit--oh wait, I'm doing that with Mes Aventures, Crafts & Co. and this blog! :-) 
I still want to travel--though when and how is up in the air, but that's maybe half the fun...

But I know there will be days when I'm impatient with the munchkins...
...when I don't get my grading done or when, maybe, I don't make the grade. 
...when I want to turn the cow into steak.
...when I never want to put myself out there in an attempt to sell products ever again.
...when I don't want to leave the house. 

But I'm not called to be perfect. 
I'm called to be faithful. 

These last few months are maybe the first time I've started to be okay with that.

I've told y'all before that I'm a business owner, (now) blogger, student, and wife. The Hubster and I got married 6 months and 1 day ago. I promised myself that I would do it all...perfectly. I would keep the house clean, cook, work, and study--and my GPA would not just stay the same, it would be better. After all, I'm only taking 14 hours, right? HA!
The house is usually picked up, but I don't mop every week any more. You know, we're all fine with that.
I do still cook, but more often in the crockpot. Again, no shame there. Crock pot soup is yummyyyy.
Work, hey, I started a company. I'm not a Fortune 500, but I loooove my job.
That GPA thing. It didn't get better, but it's still quite self-respecting. The perfectionist within has been screaming all semester that I'm a slacker and should get my act together. But, other than relatively minor bouts of stress where I've listened to that voice, I've taken steps toward more balance than I've had before.
I do what needs to be done. I do it well, but I'm not killing myself. And, do you know what, it's a wonderful thing to have time and energy to go to the gym, cook, create, even read a bit, spend time with friends, and babysit. I love it. I feel life my life is full and rich. I love that, once the hubster gets home, I pack all the homework up, and we spend a couple hours watching Burn Notice, playing games, and reading old favorites like Cheaper by the Dozen and My Side of the Mountain. And, perhaps most surprising of all, I sleep well and (usually) enough each night.

So why won't that little voice shut up?
What is it about our lives that is so out of whack that I feel a twinge of guilt when I choose to work on a painting or my knitting rather than putting those hours into writing the perfect Sociolinguistics essay?
Think about that, I'll get back to it in a second...

Until maybe a month ago, I assumed I would go to grad school as soon as I graduated with my BA. At one point I even looked at attending Oxford (and if spousal visas to England hadn't been so complicated, I might have spent last weekend in Atlanta interviewing for a scholarship, but alas, that opportunity ended before it began because you can bet your bottom dollar that I'm not going to spend months on end away from the hubster). But as the time came to apply, I became increasingly uneasy about the student debt that would be involved, the time, starting the school thing all over again, etc. After weeks of angst, a lot of time in prayer, and conversations with a few close people, John and I came to a place of peace. For right now, barring some variable we don't see at the moment, I'm going to take some time off after I graduate and see what life after school looks like--focus on Mes Aventures, Crafts & Co., maybe work at Barnes and Noble, get involved at church, breathe. Maybe the MAT will come in a year, maybe 25, I don't know, but I think that's okay.

But why was it such a hard decision?
Why have I struggled with guilt over, shall we say, "tweaking" my achievement expectations?
(here's a hint in case you've been up on the conversation at Covenant College this Fall--it has nothing to do with technology).

We live in a world where all of us are increasingly pressured to DO and BE something. And if our results, our DOING and BEING, cannot be measured in some way, we feel a twinge of failure. I probably won't achieve Summa Cum Laude next Spring. Two years from now, I probably won't be changing lives in a middle school classroom by being the best English teacher ever (haha). I wanted those things. Part of me still does. But I am not any less by not being or doing them. I'm still a child of God, and maybe His calling right now is more about living and learning than doing or being.

We are not called or meant to DO or BE in and of ourselves.
We are followers. Disciples.

I quit the rat race, y'all.
That doesn't mean I don't want to live life for all it's worth anymore--it means I DO want to live life for all its worth.
Sometimes that will mean hard work, stress, achievement.
Sometimes it will mean a cup of tea with friends when I "should" be elsewhere.
Remember what I said in my post about the old, comfy sweater? Stuff, even GPAs, don't last.
People do.
Invest in relationship, encouragement, growth.
Invest in love.

To tweak Steve Brown,
"Let's think about that. Amen."

Adventure well; Live fully.

PS I still teared up a bit when my French oral assignment was less than awesome this's a process... 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Fine Art and Mistletoe

It's been a busy day, y'all! I've worked on three very different projects, and I've had so much fun. 

WIP 1: A custom order 5x7 watercolor. 
It's still in the sketch stage (left), but in the next few days I think it'll develop nicely. I'm trying very hard to highlight as much as the house as possible and "erase" those middle trees. It's getting there...slowly.

WIP 2: Wire Mistletoe Christmas Decoration/ Ornament
Okay, I admit, I stumbled on this one. I was searching Etsy for some faux mistletoe to hang in our Burrow, but I just couldn't find what I wanted. I saw some wire, paper, and bead mistletoe for doll houses, and it occurred to me--I have green wire, pearl beads, and red yarn floating around, and I could make what I've been looking for! So I did, and I loved it so much that I made another one to put on Etsy! It's a bit different from anything else I found, and, well, viola!
Check it out on Etsy here!
(Remember: all domestic shipping from my shop is FREE!)

 WIP 3: The Mystery Project
The challenge is still on, y'all! The Prize: A coupon code for 20% off any purchase of $25 or more in my Etsy shop! Leave your guesses as a comment below. The first to guess wins. Here's one hint: it's a women's accessory. The deadline is Tuesday because the coupon expires on Wednesday. Cast your guess!

There they are, y'all! I hope your Saturday was as fun and productive as mine! I'd love to hear about it. 

Adventure well; Live Fully. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

That Old, Comfy Sweater

I was in a rush this morning. I don't know how the time got away from me, but one moment I was puttering happily along, and the next I was running late. I needed a jacket, a sweater, something to run out the door wearing. It was drizzly, and I wanted something more casual than my leather jacket but nicer than a sweatshirt. I grabbed that old, comfy sweater. 

I got this sweater in 7th grade. Unless my memory is dreadfully mistaken, it is the oldest item in my closet. If you could see it in person, you'd be doubting my judgement that it's nicer than a sweatshirt--I really need to buy a sweater shaver....

I got it on sale one weekend, wore it to school on Monday (somehow it was allowed by dress code), and was delighted to discover that my math teacher had bought the same one in gray (and probably a size smaller). Now, I am not fashionable, but at that moment, I thought there might be hope. "Miss S" is pretty much a walking Banana Republic model, she believed I would be a good teacher someday, and today she has two beautiful children (and I chose my college largely because she went here, too). Bless her. To this day, I smile every time I think about her. 

Anyway, all of that helped make this sweater special--in addition to the fact that it is warm, comfy, and, at one time anyway, looked pretty nice. And so, I've worn it every winter since (9 years, in case you're counting). 

I want to draw some sort of thoughtful analogy from the sweater, but I'm not sure I have one. I do know, though, that it's made me a bit reflective today. What else has been in my life for 9 years? That's a long time after all. A lot has happened: I'm a lot different, and hopefully a lot more mature, than I was then. I have some books that have been around for 9 years--though my library was a lot smaller then. I might have a pair of flipflops that I've had that long (that's a bit embarrassing); some paint brushes and beads, maybe some yarn... but, mostly, it's relationships that stick around over time. Stuff comes and goes, but friends, real friends, last awhile. 

I am unusually blessed in the friend department. I am part of a group of girls that was in the church nursery together. I was looking through photos of them today, and I was reminded of all the ups and downs we've walked together (and how much blackmail we have on each other. Photos from middle school--yikes!). Sometimes we don't touch base so much--we're a bit scattered these days and life gets busy. But when we're all home, dinner dates happen. And when push comes to shove, we show up for each other. It's kind of like having a half dozen Diana Berrys. 

There are newer friends, too, special ones. One's from high school and a couple who only showed up in the last year or two. But I forget that they haven't been around just as long. Fristers are Fristers, man. (haha. I just made that up: Friend+Sister. I'm going to go giggle at myself...). Just last night one of these newer additions to my life joined me for supper at the Burrow. Those couple hours cooking, eating, and talking about life--they kept me warm all the way through today's drizzle.

It's not just time and camaraderie though. These are the girls who push me to grow. Who call me out when I cross the line, encourage me when I'm down, and remind me to laugh at myself when I say things like "suBtle" and "Oh, like cardstock?" By God's grace, I hope I am the blessing to them that they are to me. 

So what's up with the sweater? Nothing, I guess. It's just a sweater. It's not magical traveling pants or anything like that. But it reminded me today to be thankful for the blessing of these ladies in my life. I am proud and delighted to have called them friends for as long as they have been in my life, and I'm glad we've all grown and are growing up together. 

So, my girls--I love you!

Adventure well; Live fully...with good friends in old, comfy sweaters. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

WIP: Handwarmers and...

If y'all have been following my Facebook and Twitter, you know I've been knitting handwarmers like it's my job. Oh, wait--it is! I have the coolest job ever! My most recent pair of handwarmers was a special order. I had a week to knit, and yet, somehow so much time slipped away from me, so I had one night and a whole glove to week. Stress story? No, not really. I knit for several hours last night while watching Burn Notice with the Hubster (and eating Mojo Burrito queso. yummmm.). This morning I got up early to finish up. I thought I'd be groggy and a bit resentful at myself for not knitting up sooner, but I really enjoyed my early morning knit session--hot tea, my quillow, and yummy tweed yarn (tweed is the best, for the record). As it turns out, I had a fabulous Wednesday, and I think it's at least partially due to such a lovely start to my day. 

Just look at that tweed: 

You can probably tell that I like tweed. In fact, I loved this yarn so much, that I started a new WIP with it. Here's a sneak peak (don't worry, I have more yarn): 

 You guys want a challenge? First person to guess what this project will be wins a coupon code for 20% off any purchase of $25 or more in my Etsy shop! Here are the rules: Leave your guess in the comment section below, and be sure to leave your email address so I can send you the code if you win. Check back frequently--I'll announce the winner as soon as we have one! Spread the word, and start guessing--the coupon expires 1 week from today (November 27)!

Adventure well; Live fully.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Thing About Art

I think I repeat this to myself every day. It's very, very true. Any of you ever wonder what it is like for me to be a newlywed, painting and knitting my heart out, and owning my own company? I'm scared to death. Every day I think, "What if I don't turn a profit by the end of they year?" Or, equally terrifying, "What if I do?"I don't really have an answer to either of my scary questions, but that's okay. That's part of it, too--I plunge forward (somewhat wildly at times), and pray I'll figure it out as I go.

But why is art so scary? I think all of us recognize that it is, that's why, when I taught nature study in high school, I heard more parents say "I can't paint" than I heard first graders say the same thing. As we grow up and become self-concious, we realize that art is scary. I don't know who Chuck Palanhiuk is, but I think he said something valuable:

"Your handwriting. The way you walk. Which china pattern you choose. 
It's all giving you away. 
Everything you do shows your hand.
Everything is a self-portrait. 
Everything is a diary."

Art gives us away so much that we feel the vulnerability. Every brushstroke, every stitch in my shop gives me away. Gives away that my strength is in details--not motion--when I paint, that I knit too tightly, that I'm more "classic" and less "trendy" (I try, really I do. Ask my best friend about my new leather moto jacket).

But does my art show that I am a business woman, a professional, a skilled artisan? Sometimes I don't know, but I sure hope so. While I love and respect the thousands of "hobby" sellers on Etsy, I do want something bigger. This is my job. And a lot of times, I'm scared to death. But I want it to be more than that, too...

I'm an English major with a streak of teacher in me, so I love to summarize. Here we go:
1) Art is scary. 
2) Art gives us away. 

But that's not all (if it were, we'd crawl into our fear and never create again, right?).
3) Art is valuable. Because it gives you away, it also gives your audience a way to connect with you more deeply. We artists take a big risk, and sometimes it hurts, but sometimes we are given the chance to speak from where we are or have been to someone else who really needed to hear what we had to say. 

Sidestory: I have this friend named Melissa who is a wonderful and insightful artist. One time, when I was 15, she showed me a painting of a large English cottage. Something about it struck deep in my soul, and I knew, in that moment, she had done more than paint stones, water, and grass, as beautiful as they were. In that painting, this house was hope and Home (for more on those themes, go here). I wrote on my bucket list that night: "Live in the house from Melissa's painting." I meant this figuratively in the keep-my-eyes-on-Heaven sort of way, but I also meant this literally in the visit-that-house-in-the-Lakes-District way. Have you seen these?

 See that top left card? That's the house I was talking about. It's called Stepping Stones (the stones across the river are the ones Wordsworth wrote about), and it's about a mile outside of Ambleside in the Lakes District. About 5 years after I first saw Melissa's painting, I spent a week living in the Garden Cottage of Stepping Stones after 5 weeks of studying at Oxford. And why was my heart set on spending time there? Because of ART. Because a painting grabbed me and wouldn't let go.

I hope I can paint things that inspire hopes and dreams like that someday. 

Finally, Wordsworth's "The Stepping Stones:" 

          THE struggling Rill insensibly is grown
          Into a Brook of loud and stately march,
          Crossed ever and anon by plank or arch;
          And, for like use, lo! what might seem a zone
          Chosen for ornament--stone matched with stone
          In studied symmetry, with interspace
          For the clear waters to pursue their race
          Without restraint. How swiftly have they flown,
          Succeeding--still succeeding! Here the Child
          Puts, when the high-swoln Flood runs fierce and wild,
          His budding courage to the proof; and here
          Declining Manhood learns to note the sly
          And sure encroachments of infirmity,
          Thinking how fast time runs, life's end how near!

Art on, mes amis! :-)

Adventure well; Live fully,

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Burrow

We call our home the Burrow. Isn't that quaint? 

For those who were wondering, yes, it's from Harry Potter, home of the Weasleys:

We chose it because it's fitting. My little Etsy shop is run from our own humble Burrow:

As you saw in the "Fun Facts" post, we have a lovely little library, and we also have lots of great food. Sometimes, our windows are pretty like this, too:

 It's not much, but it's home, and I think it's Brilliant. :-) 

Adventure well; Live fully. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

WIP: Christmas Whimsey: DONE!

I know, I know... I'm a couple days later than I had hoped, but this little beauty is DONE. It will make a lovely hanging in your home or special cards to send to friends and family.

It is  available as a custom print here: 

And as greeting cards here: 

Sample customizations include:
 "The Knights," "The Knight Family," "Merry Christmas," 
"Happy Holidays," "Merry Christmas from the Knights."  

Like this:

Adventure well; Live fully. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Fun Facts...

How about a little "behind the scenes" tour at Mes Aventures, Crafts & Co. tonight? 

Let's already know that I'm a newlywed finishing up an English undergrad, but I guess that's just about about it. For starters, here's ten fun facts about me:

1) I live on top of a mountain. My school is the highest point of the mountain accessible by car. Yes, by Georgia standards at least, it is colder up here than in the valley.  

Covenant College. Lookout Mountain, GA. 
2)  I love fish. Yes, I enjoy eating them (remind me to post about how I bake fish sometime), but I'm talking in general. Not eating, not fishing, just fish. I'm absolutely in love with the Tennessee Aquarium. Also, I've had 5 goldfish, a betta, and a tank of guppies (that was for quite a few years). I tried to get another betta this summer, but it turned into a cat. That's a whole 'nother story, though. 

The Proper Care of Guppies
by Stan Shubel
Don't ask how many times I've read this. 
3) I'm mostly a self-taught artist and knitter. I've had a lot of nudges along the way and some good tugs to get me un-stuck at times, but I don't have an art degree, and I've never been to a knitting class.  
Many thanks to whoever created this little 
gem of brilliance! 
4) I love Burn Notice. a lot. I would say "too much," but I'm in denial. If you don't believe me, go back a couple months on my twitter to the time of the season 7 finale. In a perfect world, Fi would be my alter ego. 

5) Speaking of Burn Notice, I don't look like Gabrielle Anwar when I paint, but I wish I did. 

6) I really enjoy cooking. And the best part? So does the hubster. He makes awesome bread that looks like this: 
 7) This is harder than I thought, y'all... let's see... I've been to 46 states and 45 state capitols. We have Utah, Idaho, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii left. Which state do you think I've been to but not been to the capitol? 
 Thank you, Robert Quigley of
8) Most of my overseas travel has been to South East Asia: India (3 times), Indonesia, and Cambodia (I've also been to Guatemala and the UK). 
 9) I have far more books than the average person. You thought I was exaggerating.... Those wood shelves are 6 feet tall, built by the hubster (and this doesn't include the majority of my children's lit books...).

10) I'm a Christian. That may be kind of obvious if you a) know me or b) have been reading these posts regularly, but it's something y'all should know. If it bothers you, I'm going to do my very best not to make you feel uncomfortable on here. If you want to challenge me, please, I'd love to talk. But I'm not going to avoid it. I'm going to be real about my faith, just as I would expect you, dear readers, to be honest about yours. This is a safe, fun place. Let's be honest with each other. 

WHEW! Ten things was more of a task than I expected! I don't know if that means I'm super interesting or super 
Anyway, I was going to also share about our little Burrow, but my list ended up being a bit longer than planned. Maybe next time! :-)

Until then, Adventure well; Live fully. 

PS Pretty please leave your comments below! (Like what you think the answer to the question in #7 is!) :-)

PPS Bonus Fact: 11) I speak French, well, a little. I'm taking classes. I love it more than I am good at it. haha.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Cha-Ching: On sales, custom orders, and knitting

“I still find each day too short
for all the thoughts I want to think, 
all the walks I want to take,
 all the books I want to read,
and all the friends I want to see.” 
~John Burroughs

I shared this quote with y'all on Facebook earlier today. Indeed, my day was too full--too full for my SIP and my Shakespeare essay and my date with all those loose papers that desperately need to be organized into my binder. But it was full of delights and surprises, and I'm thankful for every last one. 

If you ever visit the Etsy forums, you will see lots of sellers talking about the "cha-ching." Apparently, that's the sound the Etsy app makes when you get a sale. I don't cha-ching, but I did have two sales today--three this week so far. WOW. I'm still new at this whole small biz thing, so every sale feels like the very first one. I dance like a little kid! But you know what? I hope I never lose that feeling. I hope that as long as I am a business woman, be it 1 year or 100, that every single sale feels like the first one. 

Why? you might be asking. It's actually not about the money, though that is a very important part of the business. It's about the delight that I made a product that a customer is willing to spend their hard earned money on. It's an affirmation of my skills and artistry. It's like making a new friend. 
Today was full of running to the post office (twice), writing notes to customers, and reading little blurbs like, 
"I purchased some of these and they are WONDERFUL! Great job, HollyAnne!" 
and "I agree, [creating a custom order together] is FUN." 
It was full of connecting with a former neighbor over a yarnation (that's my brand new word for something created out of yarn. Be impressed--that's pure genius. ;-) ). 
I'm thankful, and very blessed. 

Today was my first day as a truly busy business woman. Maybe I grew into that role a little more over the last few hours. It was a new step of my adventure. 

I want to hear from YOU! 
What was your day full of? A new book? Too much to do at work? Snow? 
Was there an adventure hidden (or not so hidden) in it?
Please comment and share your story! :-) 

Adventure well; Live fully. 
Love these? They are SUPER COZY. 
Request a custom order in your
favorite color and fiber at
or by clicking on the Etsy Mini on the right. 
I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.

Monday, November 11, 2013

[Not a boring] Salad

As a general rule, I cook an astonishing amount for two people. What can I say? We love good food, and we love feeding our friends (I can hear you all rushing to knock on my door at mealtime). I love to cook, too, and I especially love to experiment. Now, it's true, I developed my salad making technique through experimentation, but my Mom deserves a lot of credit, too. We made salads for lunch together nearly every day of my four years of high school. Mother-daughter bonding, making a healthy meal, not too much clean up... it was a win all around. 

My general method is pretty simple: Open fridge and pantry. Dump everything on a plate. 

You think I'm kidding. 

I've had everything from cold peas and broccoli to cottage cheese to banana (it's awesome) to parmesan to leftover spaghetti in my salads. Soup is about the only thing I exclude, mostly because I'm terribly messy, and I don't want to deal with the splatter. It's bad enough that balsamic stains, and I loooove balsamic vinegar. 

John and I had salads for lunch yesterday. (Before you think we really are that healthy, the salad was largely inspired by the chocolate chip greek yogurt oatmeal pancakes we had for breakfast and the rotten coconut cake I had made for small group later in the afternoon). We really did need to eat our vegetables. 

So, after church, I started pulling things out of the fridge and washing veggies. 

There's something earthy about cutting raw veggies. It gets me every time, and I wonder why I don't eat salads like it's my job. The preparation and the satisfactory crunch of each bite is refreshing, calming. There's a peace about eating something so healthy. Something closer about God's provision of the food. 

Yesterday's salad: romaine lettuce, cucumber, carrot, tomato, celery, mushroom, apple,
 banana, almonds, sunflower seeds, raisins, dried cranberries, and feta cheese.  
Dressing: balsamic vinegar.
Adventure well; Live fully. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

"All Shall be Well…"

All shall be well 
& all shall be well 
& all manner of things shall be well.

My favorite authoress, Madeleine L'Engle, penned these words inside the cover of my copy of her book, The Summer of the Great Grandmother. I actually didn't notice the autograph till after I had bought the book second-hand, and it was a delight to find. But this isn't about her lovely handwriting or even the thrill of having her signature in one of my books. This is about the wise reminder of those words and the wise words within the covers of the book she signed. 

A month ago today my best friend's mama went Home to be with Jesus. A month ago I was sitting in the hospital with my friend and her family--overjoyed that she was back from Africa and delighted more than words can say to hug her again, and yet devastated by the reason for her return. The drive from Lookout Mountain to Atlanta was so long that night. Before I even turned my wheels south, I knew I was going home to grieve. I ate chips and a Mojo burrito as I sat in traffic leaving Chattanooga. How did I do that so calmly? Just afterward the tears started. There were and have been a lot of tears. 

Not seven months earlier we had all gathered when another dear friend's mama went Home. Two mamas. Two friends. One year. The weight of grief is so very heavy. 

For nearly a month now a beautiful, young face has smiled back at me from the front of the binder where I keep my school notes. She was so healthy, so full of life. None of us have answers for the questions feel, the questions we carry with us daily like jewelry made of lead. 

I go searching for her, Madeleine wrote, describing her struggle to remember her mother even as she watched her mother waste away with age. We've all gone searching this month--searching our memories, digging through years of photos, finding videos that captured the laugh that any one of  us could have picked out of a crowd. We've gone searching, too, for each other. Searching for the arms of friends who can grieve well with us. As I told still another friend (there's a generous handful of us who might as well be sisters), "This is why we have each other. We do life together."

Hope. We search for hope. At our home-church, we don't have "funerals" in the dirge-y, morbid sense. We celebrate lives lived for a King and Kingdom of Hope. We all wore bright colors and red toe nails to the celebration last month. Without the hope of Home, life and love are meaningless. 

Ousia. Madeleine's word of choice that summer all those years ago. The essence of being, that which is really real. Only by dying do we see the really real. Those of us who are grieving now are growing a deeper Hope than we had before. Madeleine would say that we're practicing dying. To die well, she says, includes dying to ourselves in bits even now. "It has nothing to do with long-faced self-righteousness, with pomposity or piously. It does not preclude play or laughter. It is light, not heavy; merry, not sad; and it is realistic and never sentimental." As we practice dying, we realize that our eyes are more Homeward than before.

My friends' mamas died well. From our eyes, it was far too soon, and they are too well loved and needed here to be gone. But their days were measured before they breathed their first. They were ready; they knew the glory that was waiting. I want to be ready like them. 

Let my last breath here
Be my first with You
Where You rob my fear
And You make me new
So whatever comes
Whatever I go through
Let my last breath here
Be my first with You
I'll join with all the saints
And lift my voice
When I see Your face
Through tears of joy
~Phil Wickham, "Tears of Joy"

WIP: Christmas Whimsey

One of the things I'm hoping to share with y'all on here is my work: even my work in progress (WIP).  Today's WIP is a whimsical Christmas print or greeting card design. When it is finished, the ornaments will be brightly colored and surrounded by snowflakes, and the box at the bottom will be topped with snowy evergreen boughs and a red bow and will be fully customizable with a family name or message, something like "Merry Christmas," "Happy Holidays," "The Knight Family," or "Merry Christmas from the Knights." I'm hoping to have it up on Etsy the first part of next week: both as an 8.5x11 print and in packs of 6 greeting cards (about 5x8 inches when folded). What do you think?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

An Unexpected Journey

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began. 
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
~JRR Tolkien

It probably says many things about me that I'm beginning my blog with a Tolkien quote. I've already given away my love of books, especially excellent fantasy, all things Oxford, and, hopefully, my desire to look at life as an adventure. Every day is a gift, and, to borrow from Oxford University: "Dominus Illuminatio Mea"-- "the Lord is my Light"--and the Giver of each glorious day.

So why a blog? Well, on Facebook I love to promote my shop and other Etsy shops; on Twitter I, well, I guess I reveal a bit of my own silliness. But here-- here I want to tell a story. The adventure of my life includes my art, my faith, studying, exercise, and more cooking than one would expect for a family of two. I want to share about those things and invite y'all to share stories, too--whether they're a lot like mine or very different. 

Mes Aventures, Crafts & Co. has been an unexpected journey for me. I was working at a TV station, finishing my English Lit undergrad, and enjoying newlywed life....Well, my hubster accuses me of being a "now" person. I try to think things through...I pondered this blog for a whole month! At the end of the day, though, I think John is right. My Etsy shop came rather suddenly, but I'm so thankful for it. It's the best job in the world! I love creating and connecting with other artists and my customers. I love the challenges of developing my artistry and learning business skills (and still balancing studenthood and wifery). I hope that writing here will help me process all of those things even as I'm sharing with y'all, and I hope that we will all be encouraged to adventure well and live fully. 

Carpe Diem.