Friday, September 23, 2016

A Fresh Look at Failure

Failure is a hated, dreaded word. It suggests a dead end, the end of the story and a bad one at that. It’s very painful to admit to failure because our world applauds success. Failure's the opposite of that and admitting it sounds like a ball and chain being clicked shut around your leg. The ball is shame and you feel sure the line between it and you just disintegrated. How can you extricate yourself then? You can’t see where your shame stops and the You before you felt such shame starts.

Recently, there’s a new dialog about failure. People point to Inventors who failed multiple times before the “ahah!” Businessmen who went bankrupt over and over before creating a solid corporation. We begrudgingly admit it’s necessary, and then go back to avoiding it.

Generally, we all want to do well and continue to become better all our lives. I do and I wonder why it can't be a tidy progression like stair steps that take me up and up and up. I don’t look forward to face-down moments, but I’m learning failure is more than necessary. It’s the dirt success grows out of.

Doesn’t that sound hopeful? It also sounds romantic and a little na├»ve, but I read a story that gave me pause in the book Rising Strong by Brene Brown. A man failed his coworkers and felt like a screw-up. He's wise to shame’s game (thanks to Brene's other books) and called a friend to help him get out from under it. The friend asked how he’d treat a colleague if the situation were reversed and he realized he’d be understanding. Hmm. This helped him do what he did next.

He apologized to his team. He told them he made a mistake and hoped he could regain their trust. The spirit of their workplace changed from that day forward. “The levels of trust, respect, and pride within the team skyrocketed after that experience…We worked together. We fell together. We climbed up together. That changes people.” For the better.

Why did that end well? Failure’s reputation is bad because it can kick-start a downward spiral. First, the guy decided against setting up camp in Shameville and did what he had to do to leave. Second, he chose to be honest. When his self-protective instincts probably screamed for distance, he took a step closer to his coworkers and talked to them.


And look what happened. Good grew out of it.

That’s redemption. Taking something bad and dead and making it alive and good. Sign me up. I’ve got some dead ends right now. From where I stand, I've been feeling pretty stuck.

Breathe some life into my life, Jesus.

Let’s see where these stories can go. 

P.S. If you know someone who's recently fallen on their face, feel free to share this sweet picture of my daughter a while back. It reminds me of the age when we accept falls as part of the growing process. 

Monday, September 12, 2016


My husband and I went to see the movie Ben Hur and I found myself envying Jesus. I asked myself why because hiding under envy is always a longing for something we need. Of course the object we envy is often just a symbol of the need. "I wish I could sing like Jayna Brown," may just be the need to know we have something special to offer the world. But back to Jesus.

Jesus' appearances in the movie were short, but rung true to what I've read and it was jaw-dropping. Director,Timur Bekmambetov and actor Rodrigo Santoro did an incredible job portraying Jesus' ability to remain autonomous. He didn't bow to or fear anyone, but there wasn't trace of rebellion in him either. Actually, an inordinate amount of submission and service surrounded him. It was otherworldly...kingdom of heaven kind of stuff. 

What would it be like to be unafraid of people and their opinions? To be beholden to no one? It's initially unnerving when you read how very free he was. It seems unnatural to shrug off the authority of one's church, one's culture, the scary Romans, and even one's family. He moved in and out of these groups, but never belonged to them by accepting an obligation to behave a certain way. 

He felt free to break any rules necessary to do what was right. If he lived now, he'd be written off for talking to Muslims, getting lunch with a crooked business woman, ignoring popular ways to keep Sabbath, and forgiving a cheating husband. He thought for himself, wouldn’t be quiet about injustices and never overlooked the lesbians, the bisexuals, the transgenders, the gays, the queers, the questioning, the homeless, the bald cancer patient, the hippies, the hipsters, the women or the kids. 

I want that. I long to move that freely, to be true everywhere I go. Sometimes I feel like a radio. People can turn the dial til they find the station they want and that’s what I’ll be. I’ve always had a deep sense of who I am, but placing too much value on keeping everyone else comfortable has felt like I should play to the crowd, at least a little. Meanwhile, I chose them over me so many times I'll never know my own value. I can preach it all day long, but if I never practice it, I'll never believe it.

So I envy Jesus, which means I long for his freedom. I long for the truth I believe to be the same colors no matter who I'm telling it to. So how did he do it?! It's so freakin' hard for us.

Be true to yourself, unless you're sitting next to that person. Then just keep quiet. 

Let yourself look like you might agree. 

It's not polite to disagree. 

Jesus' freedom came from only answering to one boss, his father. That was the opinion that mattered. So all the fickle people (including himself, I'm sure, sometimes) could just say what they required and he could stay off their mad roller coaster. Some of them were startled when he wasn't intimidated, but he just kept on. His mantra may have been, I work for God, I work for God. Being misunderstood and judged still hurt, but it didn't play into his decision making. I can't imagine how much simpler and quieter things would be without trying to please everyone.

Jesus said we can’t serve two masters. Or five or a thousand. He challenged us to choose. He wanted our insides to quiet down and he wanted our hearts to stop hustling and relax. 

You don't have to make everybody happy. 

Just follow me.

Um, okay.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Mix & Match Dining Chairs

I've long been a struggler when it comes to dining room decor. I think it's the hardest room by far. I like color and texture and fabric in a room, but dining rooms offer a lot more solid surfaces. Anyway, I struggle.

But I've spied a dining room trend that helps with that dilema and gives play for those of us who are decorating on the cheap. It's the trend of mixing dining room chairs. And while it's not an easy thing to do, you can make it a lot easier if you simply choose a different kind of chair for the ends of your table, than you use for the sides. This works in formal settings as well as casual and adds the layered, collected over-time look that makes a room comfortable.  

Think about it...if you have kids you don't trust on fabric chairs, but want more fabric or pattern in your dining room, you can have some wingbackish fabric chairs as captains chairs and wooden washables for the kids. Or if you're head over heals for some statement chairs, you can splurge on two of them and fill in with cheaper, vintage chairs. 

I've put together idea boards for a casual eating area and a more formal one to give you an idea how I'd mix chairs around a table. Also, keep your mind open to using a bench on one side of the table to add a third element. Just don't put a high-back one on a side that will block the view of your table, since that breaks up a space. 

earthy dining

refined dining

The side chairs in both idea boards are from Chairish, an online store that has so many options for vintage furniture and decor. You can see all their dining chairs here. And yes, the second one is a spin off of my own dining room as I am still in love with blush and grey woods and gold. Those blush chairs...sigh. 

So I hope this inspires you if you're looking to change up your dining space. If you went the route of a formal set, but you're sick of it, consider painting the table and adding some mismatched chairs! 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Family Room Reveal

A while back I mentioned how I updated our family room out of desperation to see something change for the better. Well, today you get to see it. 

Our new arrangement was inspired by needing more floor space. Our sprouting gymnast alerted us to the fact that there's no place in our house to do gymnastics. So the front half of this room is now empty and she can do back-walk-overs to her heart's content. She and her brother like to play games on the floor too. It's just nice to have open space. So we concentrated our furnishings in the TV area and love how cozy it is. 

Moving our TV out of the cubby meant that it was suddenly obvious it wasn't a flatscreen. But a new TV is not on our radar, so I got creative to reduce the attention our TV's huge backside would normally draw. We positioned the buffet a little away from the wall with the drapes on either side, so it's not obvious, and pushed the TV back as far as we could on the buffet. Then I grouped larger items on the sides, coming just in front to look meant-to-be. I'm amazed how natural it looks. It's no longer an eyesore - yay! 

Here's my one tip for coffee table decor. Leave room for cups or bowls or remotes. It's tempting to fill the whole space with pretty trinkets, but it renders the thing useless. The more practical people in your life will likely gripe about it and you yourself will have to admit to the problem when you wish you could just put your cup down. So lets let the real world be real and make some space for the necessities. I think it still looks alright. : ) 

This is one of my favorite things about this room. It's an old screen we found, but you could make one with a window frame and chicken wire. Tiny clothespins clip our Christmas cards to it and camouflages the electrical access behind it. Since we occasionally need to get into that, I love that it's not too heavy and easy to rehang. We can't fit all the cards up there, but collect the overflow in a wooden bowl on the end table until the season's over. Eventually, all our cards get cut to 4x6 so they can go in a photo album. It keeps them in order and I add any baby announcements or wedding/engagement photos too. The album ends up being a sort of flip book of our friends lives. 

Here's an overview of the whole room. To see how I originally decorated this room (6 years ago) and why the orange hallway, you can go here. After a couple years I got tired of the colors and took out anything colorful. It stayed neutral with no direction for a long time. Then came a light-bulb day when I realized my friend's house (which I adore) could be inspiration for this room. She uses the most interesting mix of glam and rustic. She has colorful pieces grounded by neutral walls and furniture. So I began. 

I collected art, painted walls and found an antler (harder than you'd think in Nebraska!) The orange hallway will get a fresh coat of neutral paint, though I may paint the wall opposite the same confederate blue I used on the family room accent wall. Also, the old TV cubby will someday have matte black shutter doors we plan to build. Until then...I spy...our camping stuff!

This little grouping is in the corner left of the camping stuff and helps that open area feel decorated rather than forgotten. So that's my effort at marrying Mexican blankets and gold mirrors and antlers. If you see anything you'd like to know more about, let me know in the comments! I will talk more later about how to put together an art grouping like the one over the sofa. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Judging People

So I talked about how I get judgey toward anything and everything that comes my way and sometimes people come my way. Lord knows they’d turn around and go the other way if they knew what I was thinking. I want to see them like Jesus does, but sometimes I get planks in my eyes that make it impossible.
The easiest way I've found to remove the planks is to ask myself two questions. “Are you happy with how you’re living life?” If I’m upset about how someone does something, it’s often because I don’t like the method I’ve chosen or haven’t spent any time thinking about it so I feel defensive of my MO. If I answer 'no' to this question, I know I need to spend the time, pray and follow the path that’s right for me. If I love how I’m living, I don’t feel the need to pick other people’s lives apart.
If I said 'yes' to the first question, I ask, “Are you beating yourself up about not living up to your standard?” So when you have given it thought and you’re on a path you believe in, sometimes the ire comes from failing to follow through. Maybe you mess up more than you don’t. Anyone? That's when I have to open my heart to grace. It's always been there, patiently waiting for us to stop thinking it's a cop-out. Grace for the mess ups. Forever tries. It's the reality and it's the only thing that propels us towards our goals. The danger of shutting grace out is, we train our eyes on other people’s flaws like our life depends on it. 

Let Jesus love you, and you’ll find the compulsion to judge others dissipates. When we’re aware that we all fit under God’s love umbrella, we can pocket our measuring sticks and love our neighbors like ourselves. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

I Get a Bit Judgy

(Quickly about my absence...I started a job where I work more hours and hardly knew if blogging would ever fit again. Now I'm finding a glimmer of a routine, so I think it might. Here's a little something to get us going again.)

One pitfall I fall into regularly is judging. I'm not talking about the people-judging problem, though that could offer a part two to this judgy post. I'm talking about judging my every move. Jesus asked me not to. Wise people say the mind gets quiet when you aren’t constantly categorizing everything as right or wrong. 

Which must be nice. It’s a freakin’ whirlwind up in here. Lies swirl when you go at a crazy pace. In the middle of the madness of a busy day, I lose track of reality - the reality that says God is big, I am small, but I matter because I work for God. To do lists get loud. Phones ring. Texts buzz. I remember something I forgot to do yesterday and now I’m late. I get confused by everything coming at me and I start throwing guesses at stuff. “Yes! That’s the right thing to work on now,” though I’m not really sure. I guess at what I can leave for later. I guess at how important a lunch break is. I guess that it’ll be better to push through than to take a break. Right, wrong, wrong, wrong, right. It’s frantic and it’s because I don’t know. I don’t know which end is up.

But we don't have to be stuck in the lost, confused, STRESS whirlwind. That time I took an hour to pray, things got really quiet. I got to see what “being still” can do for us. Everything that had toppled down in the mayhem, Jesus set back up.

God at the top, me under his wings.

God in charge, me trusting.

God ruling everything, judging everything, so I don’t have to.

Once we're quiet we can ask, “What’s the next right thing?” and we’ll hear the whisper. I believe we can learn to maintain an inner quiet so we hear this all through the madness. I think that’s how Jesus followed his Father non-stop. Not asking himself what he thought was right or wrong or good or bad. Not guessing. Because if we learn to be quiet, we can hear the quiet voice of the Spirit. Jesus sent him to live inside us so we don’t have to guess. We can know. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Music Room Reveal

I have big news to share with you today! My dreamed of, long-awaited, hoped-for rug has finally arrived on the floor of our music room side of the living room. And the only reason it happened is because we did a little No-Spend month in February (which is crazy because I felt like we were No-Spending ever since we started spending so much on healthcare), but we managed to set aside enough to buy this beauty. 

You may also notice the different piano. When my mom moved back from Oklahoma, she needed a place for hers and we were more than happy to have one where all the keys came back up after you played them. Also, it sounds ten times prettier when the kids play! So we gave the other away and brought more neutrals into this room. The piano's cranberry color didn't work well with turquoise and chartreuse all around it. 

Isn't it great? It's from Lowes and while it's not plush, it's soft. Working in a home decor store taught me a lot about quality rugs and while this is in the cheaper range of rugs, I believe it'll last better than some. The room was so dark before, I wanted the rug to lighten things up and chose the silver color first. It didn't even look gray next to our dark floors. So we returned it and ordered the same rug in gray, which is just right. 

I ran into trouble arranging items on the top of this piano because of the hinge that runs all the way down the center. In the photo above, I just placed smaller objects in front of and behind it, but for my ginger jar, I cut a Real Simple magazine in half (about the height of the hinge) and set a couple books on top of it. The books don't rock and no one looks close enough to see the magazine isn't whole. #sneaky

This little dresser got a makeover too, with different art, a different lamp (which needs a shorter harp) and some new accessories. The lamp and art that were here found better homes in the basement. And do you know what I've found my dresser by the door really needs? Coasters. I'm always setting either a drippy water cup or cold smoothie or hot coffee on it and I used to have to hope there'd be a stray piece of paper or book to put it on. Then I went to a super trendy mom's group where these were the craft! Mine are far from perfect, but I love the mix of colors. And they keep ugly water rings off my dresser and they aren't fragile. (Things can get crazy in our entry way.)

So the music room feels finished. I'm proud of myself for waiting so long to get a rug. I was tempted many times to settle and get something so-so. I even bought an oriental rug and tried to bleach it in our kid pool. It didn't change the color one bit. But maybe those six years of waiting make today even sweeter.