for the house-lover

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.


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.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

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.



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?


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.


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.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

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.

Simple Gifts to Encourage the Soul

Simple Gifts for the SoulHere is a collection of some of my favorite things in my house right now. These are things that help my soul breathe, some in more obvious ways than others. But I wanted to share them with you incase you have someone in your life who might enjoy one of these simple gifts. Or maybe that someone is you!

Gifts to Create Space for Souls to Breathe

Seasons of Your Heart: Prayers and Reflections by Macrina Wiederkehr – My spiritual director reads aloud from this book nearly every time we meet. Macrina’s words have been a kind companion for my soul during this season, including this simple prayer, “O God, help us to believe the truth about ourselves no matter how beautiful it is.”

A bowl from the Goodwill – The easiest gift to find and give, a fifty-cent bow from your favorite thrift shop makes a lovely gift for someone who needs to remember their soul is made to receive from God rather than achieve for God. Hold it with both hands in prayer and remember to ask for daily bread.

Mortar & Stone by Jill Philips – Thoughtful music for anyone who needs to remember hope.

Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras – Taking photos helps me see. For anyone who wants to take a long walk without the distractions of their iPhone (and its handy camera), this lens makes for a nice extra set of eyes. I’ve used it for over seven years on my old Nikon d80 and love it. For the price you can’t really beat it.

To Bless the Space Between Us by John O’Donohue – This book of blessings makes a great gift for a new friend or family member, especially if they are in a time of transition.

Woodwick Candle, Medium, Evening Bonfire – My sister introduced me to these candles. They have a wooden wick so they make crackling sounds when lit. A simple pleasure with a fragrance that fills the house.

Monogram Mugs – I have a weakness for mugs, I do. This one is from Target but I haven’t seen the gold initials there in a month or so. The closest thing I could find are the ones I’ve linked to here from Anthropologie. They are a little fancier than my simple “e” but serve the same purpose.

Soft-bound black journal – Full disclosure, I haven’t used this one yet. But I have 2 of them because I know I’m going to love the soft-bound cover and the graph paper lines. My friend Kendra recommends these and I always love what she recommends.

Uni-ball Signo Impact 207 Pen – These are my favorite pens right now, perfect for morning pages. Make sure they say “impact” or they won’t have the same, er, impact. Trust me on this.

You may also want to check out this list from a few years ago: 10 Free Gifts to Give and Receive. And for the book lovers, here is an on-going list of some of my favorite recommended reads. Happy gifting!

*some affiliate links are included in this post

What Happens in Our Fields of Gold

13899866064_f32103f2bd_oUnless you’re driving to Wilmington or Charleston, there is no Interstate that takes you directly to the coast of North or South Carolina. Instead, you have to choose a back roads route. This drive to the beach is always one I enjoy because the smaller towns offer vignettes of life you can watch as you drive by. Be careful not to speed, though. The cops love to catch beach traffic speeding through the 35 mph zones.

We passed this house on our way, those yellow fields are straight out of Oz, as if the poppies and the yellow brick road had a baby. I had to take a picture because of course.

While we were at the coast during our short spring break, I thought a lot about the place in life where we are now. The end of April marks 10 months since John left his job at the church. Part of the fog I’ve talked about lately is I’m sure because of this time of transition we’re living in. It’s what we wanted and in many ways what we hoped it would be, but in my eagerness to leave the parts of the job that were taxing on my husband, I forgot to grieve leaving the parts that were good.

One of my own personal struggles is a temptation to always look ahead to the next thing, idealizing the other-ness of what is not rather than embracing the essence of what is. That’s not always bad, but it is a delicate kind of learned art to be able to look ahead while also celebrating now, to imagine what could be without discounting what is.

As I’ve been reading in the gospels lately, I’m reminded of how personal, present, and local Jesus was when he was here on earth. He didn’t teach about roads he hadn’t traveled on or cultures he didn’t live among (even though as all-knowing God of course he could have). Instead, he chose to sit with neighbors in neighborhoods, to walk with them in celebration and in grief, to eat meals and use the stuff of meals – bread, salt, wine, fish – in his conversations. He spoke of the future because that’s why he came, but he didn’t do so at the expense of the present.

Curious once we got back home, I looked up the yellow-brick-road poppy field house on google maps. Here is a screenshot of what I found:

house on hwy 38

Maybe the woman who lives in that house looks forward to those yellow flowers blooming every year. Maybe that field is the first thing she looks at when she walks outside no matter what time of year it is, remembering the beauty that was before and the promise of beauty to come again. Maybe “beauty” is a terrible word for what I’m trying to say here. Maybe she doesn’t divide it up like that at all – the beautiful and the not beautiful. Maybe I don’t get to say what’s beautiful since I don’t actually live there.

As a traveler with a curbside view, I notice her house because of all the pretty color, snap a photo and that’s all I see. But it doesn’t always look that way and the people who live there know that. They embrace the yellow when it comes but they don’t leave with it. They continue to live there, among the brown fields with their golden memory, beneath the sky when it’s blue and when it’s gray, within the little white house on the vast green lawn at the end of the gravel driveway.

Home isn’t either beautiful or not, happy or sad, full or empty. Home is both and home is and, whether home is church or family or a cul-de-sac. Home has good parts, hard parts, marvelous and miracle parts. Home is where we celebrate and where we grieve, where we are broken and healed, hurt and made whole again.

 And if this is your house? Please tell us about the fields of gold in spring and how it feels in winter, about the distant tree-line and living off the highway and if you always have that Sting song in your head. Or this Eva Cassidy version (thank you Katie Reid!):

(email subscribers click here to listen)

To have these posts delivered into your inbox, sign up with your email address right here. I post a few times a week as well as a short Saturday post. Always glad to have you.


My recent Stitch Fix pants are fitting a little snug this morning, which can only mean one thing: we need to get a new dryer.

Seriously, though, it was a great weekend with family. And also food. I hope the same can be said for you and yours. (And by ‘yours’ I mean your family, not your pants.)

sister's house

John by the fire


on the farm

If you’re just now coming back online, we have been sharing what we learned in November here on the blog – the linky will be open until Friday so there is still time to add yours.

Today is the last day of super deal savings at DaySpring. There is a lot already on sale, including A Million Little WaysIf you use the code ’30SPECIAL’ you get an extra 30% off, which makes the book only $7. If your whole cart is $50, you also get free shipping. Just wanted to be sure you knew about that.

Finally, tomorrow I’m looking forward to brining back Tuesdays Unwrapped for December. I hope you’ll join in during the season of Advent as we celebrate on purpose the lovely, the messy, and the unexpected gifts of our daily rhythm. Choose one gift of your ordinary day and find the miracle secret it holds. Write it out, breathe it in, capture its image, see it new.

As you prepare your post for tomorrow, you can hopefully find answers to any of your questions here. I hope to see you then!

Now I’m off to do something about these pants.

When My Soul is Truly at Rest

While looking through an old journal yesterday, I came across this statement I had written at the top of one page, dated February 8. The year was 2005.

if my soul were truly at rest

Below that statement, I listed out what I thought would be true of me if my soul were at rest (here are the answers I gave in 2005):

  • I would enjoy my daughters more completely (they were 13 months old at the time)
  • I would not hold John to unrealistic expectations (we had been married 3 and a half years by then)
  • I would not dwell on all my life is lacking
  • I would like myself

Yesterday, I asked this question on Twitter. Here are some of the responses:

If my soul were truly at rest, I would . . . 

  • worry less.
  • dream bigger and expect more.
  • make peace with disappointment.
  • be peaceful without anxiety.
  • love more people.
  • smile more.
  • create and risk more.
  • stand taller and hold my head up more.
  • think of others before myself.
  • breathe deeper.
  • notice more.

Then, I asked on Facebook, too. Here are about a third of the responses:

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 8.46.45 AM

I’ve thought about this question over the past 24 hours a lot, and I’m pleased to say I would answer it differently now. I don’t feel pressure to enjoy my girls like I did then. I don’t hold John to impossible standards – at least, not to the extent I did before. Sometimes I think about what I’m lacking, but not in the same way.

And now? I like myself. Sure, I get on my own nerves sometimes. But in general I pretty much like myself.

In those areas for the most part, my soul is at rest. Today, I would answer that question like this:

  • If my soul were truly at rest, I would laugh more, I would stop making so many lists, I would be able to sit still for longer periods of time, I wouldn’t make decisions out of fear.

I have experienced soul rest more completely now at 36 than I did at 28. I hope that continues to be true of me as I get older.

As I read your answers on Twitter and Facebook and as I thought about my own, the phrasing started to grate on me – to ask if your soul were truly at rest implies it never is. It keeps soul rest somewhere out there, beyond my ability to grasp. It could even bring shame and discouragement to consider all the ways your soul isn’t at rest and all the peace you lack as a result.

So I decided to re-phrase the statement.

I would rather take out the “if” altogether and replace it with “when” –

When my soul is truly at rest, I laugh more, I stop making so many lists, I am able to sit still for longer periods of time, I don’t make decisions out of fear.

Do you feel the difference there?

It feels kinder now – possible, livable, hopeful. It feels true.

Rest - Chatting at the SkyAsking myself questions that matter are important for my own spiritual growth. But equally important is the tone I use when I ask the questions. I want to cast a hopeful vision, not weigh myself down with despair.

When Jesus invited the weary to come to Him in Matthew 11, it was an invitation to wear the light burden of love, not the heavy burden of shame.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me – watch how I do it.

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28-30, Message

Instead of finishing this statement: If my soul were truly at rest . . .

I would stop searching.

I would take the risks I’m afraid of.

I would stop worrying.

Now, let’s finish this one: When my soul is truly at rest . . .

I stop searching.

I take risks.

I trust.

See the difference? I think it matters.

What about you? What is true of you when your soul is at rest? Let’s practice remembering in the comments:

When my soul is truly at rest, I . . .

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.


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.

when the light shines differently here

For two hours I sat by the pool in the shade and still came home with a tan line. That’s how it is in the South – even when you sit in the shade, the summer sun still finds you there, hiding in the shadows.


We moved to Detroit from South Carolina the summer after I turned 17. I worked at a kids camp that year, earning $80 a week. Well, at least I’ll get a tan working outside all day.

But I didn’t. Not like I expected.

Turns out the sun hits at a little different angle in Michigan than it does in South Carolina. And time spent outside that would have caused a sunburn in the South turns a barely-there brown in the Midwest.

That’s one of my first memories of Detroit – how the sun shines differently there.

I think of some girl friends in Ethiopia right now, there on the east side of Africa so near the equator. Haley at The Tiny Twig and Shannan at Flower Patch Farmgirl are traveling along with a whole team of women to see what The Mocha Club and FashionAble are doing for Ethiopian women – rehabilitation from the sex trade and employing them in the sustainable trade of weaving. I’m following their trip and you can, too.

They walk under this sun today, the same light landing on shoulders at a different angle during a different time zone.

But the same light, nonetheless.

My kids start school two weeks from today. I feel myself grieving the closing of the season. It seems impossible since they are still little tiny infant babies, but my twin girls will start fourth grade and our son will start first grade and then it will just be John and me home during the days.

In a month or so we’ll begin to notice the light fading earlier in the evening and rising up later in the morning. We’ll all adjust to this new kind of rhythm that comes around this time every year.


This sweet couple had their wedding ceremony in the bride’s grandmother’s front yard, white chairs on grass, programs fashioned into fans to fight off the still air of early August. John officiated the wedding, one of his favorite jobs as a pastor.

But technically he’s not a pastor anymore as today marks six weeks since he left his pastoral position. This will be our first fall as a married couple without the bustle of welcoming a new class into the youth group.

We are a strange mix of thankful and thoughtful.

As we continue to wait, we also move forward into what comes next: a new school year to start, a new book to launch, a new season to embrace.

For now, though, we still have two weeks left of the summer sun and all the ways she casts her light.

What kinds of changes or transitions are you anticipating this fall? How is your soul adjusting to the idea of it?

Artists & Influencers :: they’re teaching me about home

Last Monday, I introduced a series inspired by this question: What do you know for sure?

I tried to come up with a response to that question, but instead of a list of answers coming to mind, I kept seeing a list of people.

And so I bring you week 2 of Artists & Influencers.

For the next several weeks I will continue to share with you some people who are helping me uncover and affirm those things I know for sure about a variety of topics and challenge you to identify and celebrate who those people are in your own life.

Last week we talked about writing.

Today, let’s talk about home.

The other day I was watching The Brady Bunch with my kids. It was the one where Greg is a man now that he is a freshman in high school so he totally needs his own space.

After much sweet talking from Mrs. Brady, Mr. Brady reluctantly agrees to give up his den where he does all his architecting so that Greg can have his precious space.

“Now don’t go and do anything drastic,” Mr. Brady warns his man-child Greg, “No nail holes or paint on the wall.”

Oh Mr. Brady. How much you have to learn about home.

Tim Keller says this about home in his book, The Prodigal God.

“Home, then, is a powerful but elusive concept. The strong feelings that surround it reveal some deep longing within us for a place that absolutely fits and suits us, where we can be, or perhaps find, our true selves.”

Home is a powerful concept, one that is hard to define in a way. Is it a house? A family? God alone?

Still, here we are. Living fully on this earth, within these walls painted Sea Salt and Svelte Sage, among these people who look like us but who are also other than us. I’ve been thinking about home this week, about what it is an what it isn’t.

Here are some artists and influencers who are teaching me about home:

1. My sister.

I used to be like Mr. Brady, thinking drastic meant a tiny hole in the wall. I cried real tears once trying to hang a picture and realized it was crooked so I had to hammer a *shudder* nother nail in the wall so the picture would be straight.

Real tears, I tell you. For the love.

my sister’s living room

My sister has always influenced how I think about my home, but since she started her blog, her encouragement has become even more bold. Not only does she remind me that paint and nail holes are the least risky thing you could do in your life, but she also consistently reminds me that the imperfections in my home may actually serve a greater purpose.

“I’ve decided not to wait until my house is perfect to share it, use it and love it.  I regret those years where I spent my time wishing my home was something more and not enjoying what I had.” – The Nester

She is the home evangelist for real people and she’s teaching me about home – she’s teaching me that it’s okay to want to make your space beautiful, but it doesn’t have to be perfect to be so.

2. Shannan Martin.

I don’t know what it is about this girl. I read her blog for a long time and then I met her in real life and we hung out until the wee hours. And then when I read posts like this one, about The Golden Globes mixed in with words about poverty and about how she is embracing them both?

from Shannan’s house

I feel like I’m home. Every time I read her.

I can’t explain it, but aren’t some people just like that? Shannan is one of those people. She puts into words things I didn’t even know I needed to say.

She asks bold questions about home and family that she doesn’t always have the answers for. But she is brave enough to work on living the answers instead, no matter the cost.

I’m learning from Shannan about home because she has a lot to teach about it, though I’m not sure she knows.

3. Edie.

I still remember the day we found out Edie’s house had burned to the ground. It was December of 2010, right before Christmas.

Edie had already been such an encouragement to me (and so many others) through her blog, Life in Grace. We had all read about their adventure of buying this beautiful home on the lake and designing and decorating it to reflect the personality of their family.

So when that house burned down, it was hard to get my head around. I remember scrolling through her blog at old photos of her home thinking, those drapes burned. That kitchen sink, that owl on her bookshelf, all of her beloved books.

Edie’s house

But they rebuilt, both home and heart. Here is a peek, in her own words:

“While we worked hard to rebuild the bricks and mortar, He went to work on our stone hearts. The truth is, we don’t have to lose everything to feel our poverty.  We sense it in the depths of our souls.

It’s all just rubble.  And our card houses teeter on disaster. We’re all a mess, house fire or not. We know we need  someone—someone who knows us and loves us in spite of ourselves.

That is the hospitality of scripture.”

Don’t you want to read more from her? Me too. She has a new e-book that releases today: 31 Days to a Heart of Hospitality.

There is often a real struggle within me – a longing to fill my home with beautiful things mixed with a desire to live more simply. These three women are teaching me that those two desires don’t have to be mutually exclusive.


I have more I want to say on this topic, but it’s already Tuesday and seeing how this is a Monday series, I’m going to go ahead and post it. For now, I leave you with the obvious theme song for today’s post:

These are some of the artists and influencers who are helping me uncover what I know for sure about home. What about you? Who are the people in this season of life who are teaching you about home? What are they saying?

So far we’ve talked about writing and home. I have an idea where I’m headed next, but do you have any requests for the series? Is there a topic you would like to explore?