Our Weekend (aka That Time I Decorated)

Autumn is coming, people!!! Are you as ridiculously excited as I am?! Has your Pinterest begun to burst with DIY pumpkin projects, visual shrines to pumpkin spice lattes, that Anne of Green Gables quote, and impossibly gorgeous wreaths that claim to be easy to construct, but which we all know none of us really has any time to make???

((What?! TWO Lord of the Rings references??? She is out of control...))
Seriously. (And I’m totally ok with it.)

 

I know. And it makes my heart glow positively gold, then orange, then red in anticipation!!! Even though it is still utterly summery outside (thanks a lot, August…) I still could not resist getting out our fall decorations this weekend… And while we’re on the subject of August, for which I’ve explained my general feelings of disdain here, I must add that there are 3 reasons August is redeemed in my mind. They are as follows:

1) my most excellent friend, college roommate (who shares an understanding of the trials of naturally curly hair), and co-creative, Heather, was born this month.

How cute are we?
How cute were we?
Yes. One night at college we were board and dressed up like pirates. There may be an entire Facebook album about it.
Yes. One night at college we were bored and dressed up like pirates. There may be an entire Facebook album about it.

2) my other most excellent friend, letter-writer, and co-adventurer, Brooke, was also born this month. (And probably more of my most excellent friends were, too. However, my brain is selective with whose birthdays it remembers…)

Billowy sleeves= Me. Arms jubilantly in the air= Brooke. Circa 2006?
Billowy sleeves= Me.
Arms jubilantly in the air= Brooke. Circa 2006? Just admit you’ve always wanted a dress with billowy sleeves like that… And cool friends who will dress up and geek out with you.
This is from Ryan's and my wedding day in 2010. So... we're slightly more grown up here. (on the outside)
This is from Ryan’s and my wedding day in 2010. So… we’re slightly more grown up here. (on the outside)

3) As Brooke so eloquently put it: “[August] is the month of quiet haze that stretches itself out on lavender horizons. Everything hushes. It’s the only time of year you can hear the last of the plants growing in their dirt beds. They are amber days with caramelized sunsets.” Isn’t that the most beautiful, Anne-of-Green-Gables-ish way to describe it? (I know what you’re thinking: “Man, SHE ought to be writing a blog…” I. Completely. Agree.)

So. Even though I must even begrudgingly like August (because I am determined to discover beauty no matter how hot it is, or how comparable getting into a new schedule may be to putting on a stiff, scratchy sweater, or how many buzzing, stinging wasps/bees still patrol the air), I still am excited about August and decided to put up my fall decor.

But before I show you pictures, let there be no false pretense between us- this is NOT a place of perfection. My home is a place where dishes run amuck, where piles of laundry seem to breed like unwanted vermin, and where certain corners of the fridge are best left undisturbed. Sort of like this scene in the Fellowship of the Ring…specifically, the first 20ish seconds, then skipping to minute 1:52. ((What?! TWO Lord of the Rings References?!?!?! She is out of control…)) Except of course when my husband and I go on a 5-day cleaning rampage and get it all swept away where it belongs… which then seems to last 5 minutes before the disarray returns.

 

Speaking of imperfection- are you ready for my fancy, schmancy iPhone pics??? [insert cheers of jubilation here] Now, now. Calm yourselves…

fall table centerpiece apples just pretty 1

 

All the flowers/garlands I got last year from- are you ready?- the dollar store… The Dollar Tree specifically, because it’s the Target of dollar stores. All others are Walmarts.  If you attempt assembling your own dollar store decor fabulousness, I recommend that, where garlands are concerned, you select multiple colors and/or types of leaves, if your dollar store is snazzy enough to stock different kinds. It looks more realistic (to me, anyway). And isn’t there something extra-lovely about apples in autumn? Those are real btw. I draw the line at fake fruit…

 

What’s that? More, you say??? As you wish…

 

just pretty 2 island centerpiece pray

 

 

Yeah, the first one is just another angle of the mason jar centerpiece on the table. I just think it’s pretty. Also, the chunky, dark shape in the bottom corner is the word “Faith” if you can’t see it. The second 2 pictures are what’s on our island. I’m not counting the verse on the prayer stand as one of my pieces for the Reclaiming Abundance Project, in case you were wondering. (You weren’t? Oh. J/k.) Though, it is on my list, because I love that verse… (Psalm 37:4). I also wrote 1 John 3:17-18 at the bottom, because it’s the foundational verse for If Then Movement. And here’s a garland I wrapped around our family tree picture frame above the couch:

family tree

Complete with the ever-trendy thermostat. (Someone wasn’t thinking that through. I’m looking at you, Apartment Complex.) This is obviously more of a subtle nod to autumn, and this mostly because I didn’t have any more garlands left. 🙂 Still…

 

And here are two drawings I finished:

Lady of Autumn

This one is called “Lady of Autumn” and it’s 11×14. (Not that this is the purpose of this blog, but if you’d like one for your own, it’s $30 per print plus shipping costs, and/or $60 for the original. Email me at hallcott2020@gmail.com to purchase!) Oh, what I would give for my hair to be perfect swirliness like that! Makes me think of this that I found on Pinterest.

Harvest Pumpkins

This is called “Harvest Pumpkins.” (Did I blow your mind with that ingenious title? Yes. That’s why I’m a blogger, everyone…because of my literary prowess. I wield each keystroke as a mighty blow to mediocrity.) Sigh! Ah, sarcasm. How would we get through life without it?

harvest lamp

This picture is a bit dark, but since I had no frame, I glued the Harvest Pumpkins picture (as in with a glue stick, y’all- kindergarten style) to a piece of scrapbook paper and set it on a cookbook holder I have (because we all know I’m not using it for cookbooks). And in front of it, of course, is our utterly unlovely landline… Why we even have it I’ll never know…

darth vader

And what fall decor could be complete without a Lego Darth Vader key chain?! Just kidding, he’s there all the time. Isn’t he so cute and tiny and evil? I put him- erm… I mean Santa- put him in Ryan’s stocking one recent Christmas.

 

And the final, pinnacle piece in my parade of autumnal decor is…

cutiepants

THIS little cutiepants!!! (Don’t worry, I didn’t leave her alone on the couch. She’s rolling around a lot, these days.) She makes any room look a zillion times lovelier. Which was, of course, the whole point of having a baby…

So, there you have it! An entire post basically rambling about my excitement about autumn and my dollar store decor. You’re welcome. Maybe I was motivated to write it because I’m So. Stinkin. Proud. of the fact that we cleaned (most of) our apartment. But mainly, I just wanted to share a little of my joy- my thankfulness- over these little things. They’re little reminders really- fake garlands bear a paltry beauty compared to real autumn leaves, but they still help me participate in my mission to seek beauty, to live it. And in that way, I suppose they are part of Reclaiming Abundance. Though they are fake, they are also- somehow- real. (Feel free to borrow this paragraph when you need to explain to your spouse why you had to buy out the Dollar Tree’s fake flower section.)

 

How do you like to seek and live beauty?? Do you like dollar store decor, too? (And/or do you know of other equally cheap and fabulous places where I might find other goodies?)

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Reclaiming Abundance: May You Have Good Eyes (week 1!)

That’s my prayer. “May you have good eyes.” Specifically, it’s my prayer for my husband. So, that was where I decided to begin Reclaiming Abundance- by claiming words from the Word for him. Because he’s the head of our home, and that means a unique set of responsibilities rests on him. Because as his wife, one of my responsibilities is to fight for him in prayer, to cheer him on, because we’re in this adventure together. And how we experience the adventure before us is determined heavily by our mentality, our mindset, our “perspectacles” as Glennon calls them.

work in progress...
work in progress…

So, what happens when a family is struggling financially? It’s hard for everyone, but I believe men tend to battle shame more than women when it comes to providing for their family. And sometimes it’s just as bad when you’re not struggling financially! When enough is never enough, when other people have houses, or buy schmancy organic hipster groceries, or expensive electronics, or what have you.

Our culture (and really, our world- because come on, people, America isn’t the only place on earth you can find materialistic consumerism; I’m fairly sure that existed long before us- human condition and all that…) Where was I? Sometimes my parenthetical thoughts run down rabbit holes… Oh! Yes.

Our culture ascribes to the standard that having certain things or positions is not only the gateway to happiness, but they are milestones in a life. No wonder shame runs rampant in our world! And I know. It’s so easy when things are tangible and are accompanied by lots of legal paperwork to think this way. Who wouldn’t feel important buying a house??? And I’m not saying you shouldn’t; that’s super exciting! And if you just bought a house and are planning a housewarming party, invite us so we can come eat your food and I can make notes about your fabulous decor!

Here it is!!! Isn't that frame fabulous?
Here it is!!! Isn’t that frame fabulous?
Those are glasses... get it? Eyes? Glasses? Perspectacles? Genius, I know.
Those are glasses… get it? Eyes? Glasses? Perspectacles? Genius, I know.

photo 7

This is why I chose Matthew 6: 19-25a, 33 as my first week’s project. Jesus is talking (so that’s a good sign it’s important), and he says:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”

Yes, I'm taking pictures of this on the carpet... with my iPhone. Schmancy, yes?
Yes, I’m taking pictures of this on the carpet… with my iPhone. Schmancy, yes?

Okay, so technically, that’s Matthew 6:19-34, but I couldn’t fit all of it in the frame I chose, and there were a couple chunks of it I really wanted just for Ryan, so I tweaked it. Here’s where my mind was blown recently, and why I had to use this verse for my hubby. My dear friend, Wendy (yeah, the one I keep talking about who is amazing) brought up this section in the last few weeks when we were talking about battling with worry, money, etc. She pointed out that when it talks about the eye being healthy/unhealthy, we typically think about it in a be-careful-little-eyes-what-you-see kind of way. HOWEVER, it makes a whole lot more sense if you think of it as your perspective- your perspectacles (can you tell I love that?)- your abundance or scarcity mentality. Therefore, if you have good eyes, or healthy eyes, your whole body will be full of goodness and light. And if you have bad eyes, or unhealthy eyes, you survive life instead of living it. DOESN’T THAT BLOW YOUR MIND?!?!

photo 6

This also gives the part that says, “No one can serve two masters… you cannot serve both God and money” even more meaning, because when you dwell in scarcity, status quo, and paltry standards of the world, you are a slave to the dollar. Your future hangs on measly, finite resources, instead of on the Almighty, Infinite God’s provision. When you dwell in the abundance of Who He Is, you remember that his grace is sufficient for you; when you are not enough (i.e. all the time), he is more than enough. So, rejoice! When you come to the end of your bank account- rejoice! Because it’s an opportunity to realize when you come to the end of your money, you haven’t come to the end of you. You get to see clearly (if you choose to) where your identity is- in Christ and the fullness of the salvation he brings, both for your eternity and your now. Celebrate if you know that you’ll have something to eat for lunch. And if you have seemingly insurmountable bills to pay next week, forget about them once you’ve done what you can. God has taken care of it all.

photo 7

As I thought about good eyes this week- about seeing well- God let me see this quote from one of Ann Voskamp’s blog posts this week, “We get to surrender to the glory, to the weight of it coming through the thinning sky, and there’s nothing in this world that’s normal — there’s only growing blind to the glory. There’s only growing blind to the injustice, to the blood on our own hands, to the love we could make, to the One who says, “Holy Father, keep them in Your name…. —- that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:11) (Go read her posts, by the way. So. Good.)

So, that’s why I claim this verse for my husband. Because my prayer is that he has good eyes, that he will see the glory, the beauty, the abundance around us, and that this will translate to me and to our daughter, too. I pray hard to train my own eyes to be healthy obviously; I mean, I am responsible for my own relationship with God. But when it comes to making that the standard in our family- not just a milestone, but the cornerstone of our lives- I need a partner in crime. We need a unified vision. After all, you can try to go it alone- live abundantly. But we’re not meant to. It’s called the “family of God” for a reason.

photo 5

So, my plan is to hang this by Ryan’s side of the bed, so the words hover near him, to guard him when we go to sleep and when we wake up. Even if he doesn’t stare them down every day, I believe these words have power that transforms even subconsciously over time. “Here I raise mine Ebenezer” as Come Thou Fount says. (If you are one of those people who changes that line in that song, I brandish my fist at you, sir. “Ebenezer” is awesome because it means “Stone of Help.” Go read about it here and sing Come Thou Fount the right way.) Up until now, the Lord has helped us; we will tell our souls to be faithful and rejoice.

I pray this for you too! May you have good eyes.

The Reclaiming Abundance Project

Since the start of 2014, I have prayed with purpose over our family in a way I never have before. I don’t know exactly where it began, but one of the sparks that lit the flame was this post on Ann Voskamp’s blog. She created an in-depth list of sorts of her “sanity manifesto”- called A Grace Plan. (Doesn’t that just sound wonderful?) And then she included this beautiful, simple printable sheet with her Grace Plan mapped out upon it. Here it is:

 

A Grace Plan for 2014

 

You can download your own and print it if you go to the post. 🙂 Anyway, she expounds on what each things means, and that’s where the wheels of my brain began to turn. I thought about what want for 2014. What did I want to see in my life, in my family, in my home this year? I didn’t come up with nearly as elaborate of a list as this, BUT I did come up with two words: Peace. Abundance. My desire was that we would be filled with the peace and abundance of God. Too many people- too many believers- look out at the world with scarcity lenses; they only see not enough, instead of more than enough. And I don’t even mean possessions or money here. I mean, those things are involved for sure, but I mean being abundant people. Isn’t that what we’re promised in John 10:10 when Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”?

 

So, if that’s true, what’s my problem? I’ve been asking myself that for years now. To be completely honest, since the beginning of our marriage. Don’t get me wrong; our marriage is fantabulous!!! But when we got married, that was the first time in my life I really had to think about money. And by think about money, I mean solve the grand mystery of where it might consistently come from in the future, via finding a service I could provide in exchange for it on a weekly basis, which would yield a Check-a-la-Pay to use for such necessities as bills, rent, food, products of the hygienic variety, and most importantly, coffee. Grown-up style.

This is a quandary for all of us at some point in life, and since I’m in my mid-20’s, this is especially common among my peers. Except this small percentage- let’s say… 5%? (Based on my sophisticated guestimating system. Aka I made it up.) Anyway, this 5% of people around my age that seem to be transacting such illustrious purchases as buying a house, owning pets, going on vacations. Yup. They’re just American-dreaming it up over there. And somehow, I totally got sucked into the mindset that these are the prize, the goal, and- as cliche as this sounds- the gateway to happiness. Intellectually, I know those things do not yield happiness. However, my track record of allowing my joy to be snatched away merely by the Have vs. Have-Not tension in my spirit reveals that I have only known the right answer to the Sunday school questions; I tried to start with the roof instead of the foundation, which is the real right answer.

 

Ok, enough nebulous metaphors. What am I trying to say? What is the foundation? If you said “Jesus” and then snickered, you’re still in Sunday School mode- specifically youth group Sunday School mode. Thing is, Jesus IS the foundation. (That whole house-on-the-rock-vs.-sand thing?) But, I’ve realized I had no idea what that meant. I thought it was just a wardrobe, but turns out there was a whole world inside. (Just kidding!! More metaphors…)

NarniaWardrobe

Anyway, I had to break down the foundation I made up about Jesus, and let him rebuild it. This rebuilding began when I first read 1,000 gifts by Ann Voskamp.

1000-Gifts

(Go and buy it and read NOW.) I related so much to her journey of a skewed idea of gratitude, of God’s love, and how I could pave the way back to a greater understanding of both of those things through counting the gifts- counting my blessings. At first, this idea sounded just as platitudinal (is that a word?) a Sunday School answer as any. But it’s not just a lip service kind of thing. When I started with the simplest thing- even counting the beauty of light through a window, the steam from my coffee- it was like peeling back layers of a veil, and realizing that God surrounds me with his love; he delights in me- AND he delights in delighting me! Wow. That was a game-changer to begin with. And here’s the song I wrote inspired by reading this book:

 

That’s when I saw the battle for what it was: abundance versus scarcity. To either choose life or choose the lie. It’s up to you. We are not victims- we are victors. Do you realize how HUGE that is?! That means the following: I have victory even when my bank account is overdrawn, victory when my child is in the hospital, when my car breaks down. I am victorious. Because Christ is victorious

 

That was the first thing. The second is much more fluid, much less pin-point-able. (Yeah, that’s definitely not a word.) When I began my home business in January of 2011, it provided a place where I was challenged to live victorious. It was the most amazing thing- like a physical exercise in faith, trusting God for sales, being told “no” by people, stepping outside my comfort zone, testing my mettle. And I heard such things as “you can be pitiful or you can be powerful, but not both” (aka victim or victor) and “What you think about, you bring about” and such a wealth of illuminating wisdom that I can’t begin to describe. It was like- life education… which they don’t teach in school. Whether I made a million dollars or nothing at all, I’d still say this experience has been priceless.

Thankful People

I learned you can’t be successful in anything (wealth, your marriage, parenting your children, your relationship with God) without thinking abundantly- being an abundant person- first. All of this exposition to explain that this year, I finally decided that we were going to be powerfully intentional in reclaiming our abundance, rediscovering victory, rebuilding our foundation. (Did you know that the word “decide” means to cut off? As in, to cut off all other options? Something else I learned in my home business journey.) As my beautiful friend Aimee’s eldest son Jackson once said,”The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.” (Wow. How many 15 year olds do you know that pull that kind of wisdom out of their brains???)

 

Of course, when you decide to intentionally grow in your faith/relationship with God, you immediately open yourself up to attack. Of course, once I decide that this is the THE year- the year we’ll be abundant, peaceful, strong people- it’s also THE year for physical expenses…. i.e. having a 9lb. baby, painful recovery preventing me getting back to work as quickly, taking said baby back to the hospital a week and a half after her birth because she’s down to 6 lbs. 9 oz. and being there for 5 days, deciding to rent a studio space in February for my business, traveling across the country in May for a special, 24-hr-long training with my husband and baby, and on and on… (Thank the Lord we have REAL insurance that ACTUALLY pays for things… our bills were hugely less than they would’ve been, though they’re still a lot.)

 

However, I’ve gotten so much confirmation from the Lord about this, because everywhere I look, someone else is talking about gratitude, joy, peace, abundance, and in all seriousness- Jesus. Just look at this amazing mom, Glennon Doyle Melton’s blog post I found the other day- click here– my fav quote from which is, “In terms of parenting, marriage, home, clothes – I will not be a slave to the Tyranny of Trend any longer. I am almost 40 years old and no catalog is the Boss of Me anymore. I am free.” Seriously, go read that post and then come back… Okay, now read this one, by another gal named Hannah who’s in her 20’s like me. I love where she says, “…our life is not anyone else’s. And we chose this life, this little apartment big-city life, and I have to remind myself how much I love it. Because the rest might come, someday, even if it feels like it never will. But it probably won’t come here, in this city, not unless we change careers or become involved in shady dealings that make big profits. And when it comes, we won’t get this back, this life where we have so few responsibilities and such freedom.”

 

Whether you are in the same phase of life as either of these women or not, can’t you so relate to this fight- this choice- to either have a grass-is-greener complex, or to put on “perspectacles” as Glennon calls them? And if you’re wondering, being courageous is not only a choice; it’s a command. Here’s Joshua 1:7-9 in case you don’t believe me, “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

 

Fear is about who you are. Courage is about who God is. I love this truth, but I have a habit of forgetfulness. I need instead a habit of remembering. So, to help me win this battle, to help us be a household of PEACE and ABUNDANCE, I’d decided to fight. To remember. I will fight with the words of the Word of God. I’m going to build our house upon a foundation of beautiful words that remind me who we are and Whose we are. Deuteronomy 11:18-21 says, “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.”

 

So, here is the official launch of the Reclaiming Abundance project, where I will be taking God at his word by taking His Word and posting it all over my home. Because of my propensity for swirly writing, as well as the unused picture frames and scrapbook paper I have, I will take these words of life and make them my own- binding them to our walls, to our fridge, by our coffee maker, and so on. I will post images here each week, as well as to Instagram with the hashtag #reclaimingabundance… and I’d LOVE for you to join in too! Sometimes I won’t use schmancy paper… sometimes I might use sticky notes. The point is to be intentional, and use something I LOVE- aka doodling- to do it. My goal is to create 5 per month for the next 6 months.*

 

I CAN’T WAIT to share this part of the journey with you!!! Launch Sequence activated… Reclaiming Abundance in 3…2…1…

 

How are you creating abundance in your life? Tell me all about it!!! Inspiration please…

 

 

*However, this is in the same spirit as Jesus said in Mark 2:27, “… The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” This isn’t just a project for project’s sake or to gain any earthly recognition or fame etc, but to cultivate an abundant spirit in myself, in my husband, and our family, being filled with the Holy Spirit so we can be generous with our lives.