Slowing Down & Celebrating Summer

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I’m going about summer a little differently this year.

Last summer was all about my book — writing, creating, producing. And it was good and fulfilling and challenging work that I was so thankful to be doing.

But in a few recent conversations and reflections, I’ve realized that I want this summer to be more about the living, rather than the creating. (And as most writers and artists know, it’s the living that produces the good writing and creating anyway.)

Part of my plan for this summer was inspired by this blog post from Braid Creative. I love the concept of capturing, shaping, and sharing and the way that simple sequence can inspire our art — and even our lives — in lots of ways. In a recent article I read, the author referred to writers as being sort of like professional rememberers. That’s a job description I can totally get behind, and my friends and family can attest that I love capturing moments and memories with my camera or phone whenever we are together. Those little snapshots later become opportunities for stories, blog posts, and even other creative pursuits. They also serve as sweet little reminders of what God’s doing in my life. Capturing, shaping, and sharing helps me more clearly see the work of God in my life.

So, my focus this summer isn’t to blog x number of times per week, or to create this or that. It’s to really focus on what I wrote my eBook about — living fully and creatively right where I am, right where He has me.

I’ll be reading books, shopping farmers markets, and walking and swimming in the sunshine. I’ll be creating memories with friends and family, and I’ll be abiding and resting in Him, making space for Him to recreate and renew me in preparation for the seasons to come.

While I most likely won’t be blogging every week, I’ll continue to capture my adventures on Instagram (follow me @aplacetodwell). And if you’d like to join me in celebrating this summer season and where God has us, use the hashtag #AnInspiredSummer.

(Pssst. I won’t be completely abandoning the blog, of course. I’ll be popping in here from time to time to share snippets and stories from the summer that are inspired by my Instagram updates.)

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So, will you join me?

Cheers to a summer of slowing down, being present, and living fully and creatively for Him!

3 Ways to Be a Dreamer Who DOES

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God made me a dreamer.

And not just a daydreamer, but an encourager of others’ dreams. I love to talk about God-sized dreams with the people I’m blessed to share life with.

Dreams and the inspiration behind them are some of my favorite stories to hear and tell.

But being a dreamer sometimes gets a bad wrap.

Those who dream aren’t always viewed as do-ers, makers, and chance-takers. Instead, they’re often thought of as impractical and unrealistic.

Being a dreamer doesn’t have to mean constantly living inside a world of make-believe and impossibility, though.

It’s possible to be a dreamer who DOES.

Practically speaking, what exactly does that look like? Well, in my own dream-DOING journey, here are three things I’ve found to be true when it comes to being a dreamer who DOES:

  1.    Start your dream with God.

Asking God to place His dreams on our hearts is truly the first step in becoming a dreamer who does. The dreams we could come up with for ourselves pale in comparison to the dreams He has for us.

I often dream with God on the pages of my journal, and as a writer and creator, I’m constantly seeking to keep Him at the center of my creative process — from the dreaming to the doing all the way to seeing the dream become reality in His perfect time and way.

Ask God what He dreams for you and your life and how He wants to use your gifts and passions and loves. Then quiet your heart to listen and get ready for an exciting new adventure.

  1. Take small steps with big courage.

Dreams aren’t chased and caught in a day. The biggest dreams become reality with small, but steady acts of faith and courage.

It took me almost a year to write my eBook An Inspired Life (a huge dream of mine!). When I started, I envisioned the whole process going much faster, but as I journeyed through the adventure, one of the biggest lessons God taught me was: don’t rush the process. There was purpose and value in each little leap of faith — from the initial idea, to the writing, refining, designing, publishing, and promoting. God showed me the importance of being present and focused during each of those phases. And rather than rushing to the end of the process with one giant and unsteady leap — or being too afraid and overwhelmed to even begin at all — He asked me to take small steps with big courage and let Him lead the way.

What’s the next small step you can take that will bring you one step closer to the dream God’s placed on your heart?

  1. Find your dream team.

We aren’t meant to journey through life alone, and I believe we aren’t meant to pursue our dreams alone, either. God’s blessed me with a precious community — both online and off — of friends and family members who are a regular part of my life and the dreams God has placed on my heart. They encourage, they pray, they advise. And I do the same for them. I also hope to have this in my marriage someday. I hope and pray that my future husband and I will be dreamers and doers together.

Think about who your dream team is — or who you would like it to be. Do you make it a point to share your dreams with them — and listen to theirs? What’s one way you can be more intentional about time with your dream team?

I hope and pray that by sharing my experiences with you here, you’ll find even more passion in your heart to DREAM and DO. I hope you give thanks for your God-sized dreams.

And I hope starting right now, today, you’ll start prayerfully taking small steps toward them.

Weekending: Crafty Mart’s Mom & Pop Shoppe

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Despite the unpredictable (and mostly windy/overcast weather), I spent my Saturday surrounded by color and inspiration — eating good food, drinking hot coffee, and wandering around Crafty Mart’s Spring Mom & Pop Shoppe.

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As I mentioned in my previous post, I love the Crafty Mart events, because they bring together a unique group of local artists right in the heart of Akron. It’s such a joy to celebrate talent and creativity and support people’s passions.

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This is Ashley, the owner and creator of Truckshop. I fell in love with her creatively curated mobile fashion boutique (check out all of the bright color, sparkle, and polka dots!!). She was so much fun to meet and talk with, too. I loved hearing her business story, and talking with her further confirmed my dream to work with creators, makers, and dreamers to help them live and tell their inspired stories.

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So sad she didn’t have the polka-dotted number in my size. I was smitten!

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I did snag these sparkly earrings and fun black-and-white chevron scarf, though.

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Also, did I mention there were mini donuts?!

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I’m still regretting the fact that I passed up sampling some of these sweet treats from DonutLab. They smelled incredible! (And what’s a better pairing than coffee and donuts, I ask you!) ;)

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I also came home with this darling piece of art by Ivy Axe. It’s the perfect addition to my little gallery wall of art. Filling my home and life with beautiful art makes my heart very, very happy.

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It was a great day, and I think it was just what I needed. I feel refreshed and ready to tackle some new creative projects of my own!

The Endings That Lead to New Beginnings

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This was it. I was really leaving.

As I shut the door to my now empty apartment, looking around one final time, I couldn’t help but feel I was shutting the door to one season of my life, without knowing what the next one would be.

When I graduated college, full of dreams and passions and plans, I never thought I’d be 25 and unemployed.

But after spending three years writing and editing at a small arts and crafts magazine, I was packing up to head back to my hometown. The magazine that had sparked in me a love of art was shutting down, due to the economy.

And I no longer had a job.

So, on that hot July afternoon, with a car packed so full I could barely see out the rearview window, I set out for the four-hour drive back home.

While I knew the drive by heart, I felt a little lost — directionless — and as I drove, I let the tears freely fall.

What was next?

Where would I go from here?

When would God show up to bring new opportunities and dreams for me to follow?

Would He even show up at all?

For the time being, I was moving in my grandmother who had recently gotten out of the hospital. My family and I agreed that my moving in would help her adjust to being at home again.

I put most of my belongings in storage and moved into the family room of the old, quirky house that my grandfather built. It was cramped, but cozy, and perhaps the best part of my little space was the sliding glass door that opened to a tiny patio and swing. I spent many mornings and evenings sitting on that swing, holding my Bible and my journal, praying, dreaming, hoping — and sometimes pleading — for God to do something new.

There were certainly plenty of moments of despair and discouragement during those uncertain months of waiting. But each of those moments placed within me a deeper need for Jesus and a deeper reliance on God and His plan for my life.

I could apply for job after job — and I did — but what it really came down to was trust — trust that He would provide, despite the economy. Trust that He would lead me exactly where I was meant to go. And even trust that I was exactly where I was meant to be in those very moments of waiting and wondering.

That season built in me a bigger capacity to appreciate the work God was doing — even when I couldn’t see it right away. I was learning to hold things with open hands and to recognize that God is always renewing and redeeming — even in our losses and disappointments.

It’s hard to endure endings — but without them, there aren’t new beginnings.

That season of my life had to come to a close, so God could bring me to a new one.

Had I not moved home, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to love and serve my grandmother at a time she needed it most. Had I not moved home, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to explore new career paths. Had I not moved home, I wouldn’t be where I am today, writing and editing for a new company, living in a city that God’s given me such so much heart and passion for.

I’m learning that endings are a part of life, that change is inevitable.

And while that kind of knowledge is bittersweet, it is also impossibly hopeful.

One of favorite quotes from Margaret Drabble says: “When nothing is sure, anything is possible.” And like so much in life, it comes down to our perspective. We can choose to live from a place of hope, or from a place of fear. And while it might take a little bit of grit and grace, every time we choose possibility and hope, over fear and defeat, we open ourselves up to the work of God in a powerful way.

Because when nothing is sure, we can be sure that God is up to something. And when God brings about an ending, we can be sure that in His perfect time, He’ll bring about a new beginning.

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Editor’s note: This was written for one of my freelance gigs, but didn’t end up getting picked up. It’s something I really needed to read this week, so I thought I would share it with you, too. Just in case you also needed a reminder. }

 

Adventures in Art: Akron’s Crafty Mart

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I went to my first Crafty Mart show (and the very first Crafty Mart event!) about 4 and a half years ago, shortly after moving back to the Akron/Cleveland area. It was the start of a new season in my life, and I loved connecting with and supporting other local artists. It was a chance to rediscover the area, as well as explore a new dream of mine — selling my art locally.

Crafty Mart  offered me that opportunity, and since attending that first show, I’ve sold my collage art at three of their events.

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While I’ve since taken a little break from participating in craft shows, I’ve continued to be a regular at the Crafty Mart events, and I’m excited to announce that the next Crafty Mart is this weekend (Saturday, May 3 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.!).

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If you’ve never been, I recommend making an afternoon of it. Grab lunch at Urban Eats — and a coffee for dessert — (I love the caramel soy latte!), and take your time exploring the more than 50 vendors being showcased. Crafty Mart takes place at Musica, an awesome venue in the heart of Akron, and the urban atmosphere really adds to the event.

Oh, and don’t forget to snap a few photos in the photo booth — silliness is encouraged! :)

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Curious about the back story? Crafty Mart was established in 2009 (that first show I attended!) to feature uncommon, quality-made, local arts and crafts. In 2013, it was voted one of the “Best in the City” by Akron Magazine. (Yay, Crafty Mart!)

And bonus: This Saturday’s Mom and Pop Shoppe will also have two mobile fashion boutiques — a new addition to the event!

How cute does this boutique look?! I am in love with all of the colors and patterns. In fact, I’ve already spotted a polka-dot dress I can’t wait to get my hands on! (No pun intended!) ;)

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If you love to support local artisans and are looking for a colorful, inspiration-packed afternoon, this is an event you won’t want to miss. I hope to see you Saturday! :)

2014 Making Things Happen: Spring Update

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Whew.

I have not been doing very well with the whole keeping up with blogging thing. I have a notebook full of ideas, but just haven’t been able to devote the time or energy to develop and share them. I suppose there are seasons like that, and we have to be okay with the ebb and flow of creativity in our lives. I’ve never been someone who posts just to post. If I don’t feel I have anything to share, I don’t share.

I’m also at a bit of an in-between season when it comes to blogging and creating. As I do every so often, I’m re-evaluating the heart behind the blog and where I want to take it next. That’s definitely a process, but it’s a good thing, and I’m excited to see where God leads me next!

Anyway, I’m writing tonight (accompanied by a bowl of cheddar/caramel popcorn!) to share an update on the goals I set at the beginning of the year as part of Lara Casey’s Making Things Happen series. (It’s hard to believe it’s almost May, right!?!)

Here’s a brief recap of this year’s goals (as well as my updates so far):

  1. Make space for God to move. The biggest way I’ve been seeking to do this is beginning each day in the Word. I want to hear from God and know what He’s calling me to. Now that the weather is getting nicer, I’m looking forward to taking prayer walks again, as well. They really clear my head, allow me to worship, and just take time out to really share my heart with God. They refresh me in a way that just reading my Bible or praying inside cannot.
  2. Invest my time and heart into building an encouraging creative community that blesses others and brings God glory both online and offline. It’s been pretty amazing to see God moving in this area. Even though we are only a few months into 2014, I’ve already been blessed to build community in quite a few different ways. I had an incredible experience hosting the An Inspired Life book club, and I’m excited to host more of them in the future. I’m also looking at possibly offering eCourses that would create a similar community and experience. I met miss Kelsey of Pinegate Road, and we’ve been collaborating on some branding stuff that I’m excited to develop, as well as resources/events for local creative folks in Cleveland. I know I keep using the word excited, but seriously. I’m really excited!! ;)
  3. Live a full and inspired life in 2014 — and encourage others to do the same. So many things could be listed here, but basically, I’m trying to live intentionally, with purpose and with passion. I’m identifying what’s important to me and determining how I can make those things a priority in my life. I even did what Shauna Niequest wrote about in her book Bittersweet and made a list of What I Do and What I Don’t Do. As Shauna wrote, it’s easy to decide what we want our lives to be about, but it isn’t easy to figure out what we are willing to give up, in order to make those things happen. Maybe that’s a future post, but that exercise really helped me find focus and direction (and do less comparing). Some of the things that have been priorities so far this year that are helping me live an inspired life: reading lots and lots of good books, taking ballet barre classes, starting to run again, and creative collaborations with others.
  4. Date intentionally — with courage and with hope. I’m praying this simple prayer and trusting God to take care of the details. I’m taking chances and being open to God’s plan. And I’m learning A LOT. It’s a good season, and I’m hopeful for what’s to come.
  5. Explore new possibilities. Lots of new possibilities on the horizon: the branding of this blog (working with Kelsey and taking Braid Creative’s personal branding eCourse, etc.), further developing my idea of helping others live and tell inspired stories, and learning hand lettering. We’ll see what else gets added to this list as the year continues! I’m really trying to live in such a way that I look for even the little possibilities in each and every day, too. That might be a future blog post, as well… :)

Since this update is starting to get pretty long, I think I’ll wrap it up, but I feel good about the progress I’ve made and everything God is doing and teaching. I really believe in Lara’s advice to focus on the small, but steady steps we take. Dreams aren’t chased and caught in a day. The important things in our lives take time and faithfulness. I want to be okay with the pace God sets for me and enjoy the journey.

What about you? Did you set goals for 2014? How have they been going? I’d love to hear from you.

 

Rivet & Sway Review

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Last week, I got my home try-on frames from Rivet & Sway. I had such fun trying on the five different frames I picked out and trying to decide which were my favorite (with the help of friends and family, of course!).

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I recorded this video to share the five frames I selected, as well as my thoughts on Rivet & Sway’s home-try on process.

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Peet’s Coffee is my new fave (hello, almond milk lattes!). I wish EVERY coffee shop offered that in place of soy. Also, I am loving this Punchline frame in Neapolitan (how can a girl resist a pair of pink specs?!).

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While helping me decide, my sister even tried on a few of the pairs. Aren’t these such a fun look for her? :)

*NOTE: Rivet & Sway did not contact me about doing this review. I wanted to share this company with you, because I was inspired by their products and because I enjoy reading others’ thoughts when I am considering trying a new company or product. 

Weekending: A Spring in My Step

It is an incredible Saturday morning.

I’ve thrown my windows open to let in the fresh air and sunshine for the first time this spring, and my  heart couldn’t feel happier or more refreshed.

This perfect weather has me dreaming of summer, farmers markets, and tall icy cold glasses of lemonade and Izzy sodas.

Ahhhh. :)

I’ve  also got a new Saturday routine that’s putting a bit of extra spring in my step! ;) (Pun intended!) I’ve been waking up to attend an early-morning Saturday ballet barre class, coming home, turning on the tunes, and dancing around the kitchen, while fixing breakfast. This new rhythm starts my day with intention and energy, and even though getting up so early on my day off is taking some getting used to, I’m looking forward to continuing this new routine of mine. Once the farmers markets start up again, I plan on heading to my favorite one after class to stock up on fresh fruits and veggies for the weekend/week ahead. If you’re local, stay tuned, because I’ll be sharing some of my favorite local markets.

P.S. Speaking of farmers markets and morning work-outs, did you catch this post from Kendie Everyday about workout style that can transition to other lovely Saturday activities like farmers markets and brunch?       

Fun, yes?! I love colorful workout wear (no surprise there!).

Well, as soon as I finish my last few sips of coffee, I’m off to tackle some Saturday errands before a little sister time this evening. Yay for the weekend! And yay for sunshine!

What’s your favorite way to kick off your weekend?

Hello, Spring (A Let’s Catch Up a Bit Post)

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Things have been a bit quiet around here lately (no posts in two weeks!). Whoops.

But my heart hasn’t been quiet — I’ve been working and praying through some new dreams and ideas.

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I’ve been feeling super excited about a new venture/idea/dream God has placed on my heart. I want to take the whole idea of #AnInspiredLife to the next level. I want to help you live * AND TELL * inspired stories! I’m in the brainstorming, dreaming, praying phase of what this could look like…but thinking about possibly working with people on an individual basis to help them discover the heart of their story and then how to tell and share it creatively. Thinking this could translate to working with you to write your mission statement, web site copy, etc.

Over the last few years, I’ve realized how much I love celebrating others’ stories and how inspired I am by what God is doing through each of our stories. I’m also a big geek when it comes to branding and creatively telling our stories, so I’ve realized doing more with the writing side of branding might be a perfect fit for me.

So, YAY!

Spring is such a good time to explore new hopes and dreams, yes??

More on all of this very soon.

In the meantime…

A few random, hopeful, springy things: I bought some blueberry coffee (undecided on whether or not I like it); I’ve been filling the house with fresh flowers (makes my heart SO HAPPY); I’ve been reminding myself to be brave (we could all use a reminder sometimes, eh?); and I’ve been searching for the perfect neon yellow polish.

It’s the little things sometimes, huh? Okay, many times. :)

What’s new with you?

Using Photoshop Actions: A Review of the New ABM Collection

I have long been a fan of Photoshop Actions. I’ve been using Rad Lab from Totally Rad Actions for a few years now. I love the vast array of looks I can create with actions, as well as the consistency they allow me to achieve with each of my images. Using actions has helped me to establish a certain look for all the photos I use on A Place to Dwell.

I’ve been extremely happy with my Rab Lab actions, and I know they will continue to be a staple in my blogging process, but when I read that the A Beautiful Mess gals had created their own set of actions, I was super excited to give them a try (their photography work and photo editing is some of my favorite in the Blogosphere). Plus, I knew that having a whole new set of actions to play with would be a great creative challenge for me that would breathe some new life into my photography.

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I decided to invest in all three collections, given how often I use Photoshop Actions (every time I create a blog post). Actions were also a huge help in creating my eBook, because they allowed me to achieve a consistent look/feel/tone and style throughout.

I love that the three ABM collections have such variety (from the everyday versatility of The Signature Collection to the moody drama of The Folk Collection to the bright, fresh pops of color offered in The Fresh Collection).

I thought it would be fun to put together this post to show you some examples of photos I’ve edited using actions from each of the three ABM collections. (Little tip: When using actions play around with the opacity. I rarely ever use an action at 100% opacity.)

I’ve also used the guide on the ABM Action site to help me determine which action I might want to play with, depending on the mood I’m trying to create. (And their descriptions are just super fun. For example, here’s their description of Scout from the Folk Collection: Scout—It’s like a hot cup of cocoa for your photos! Inviting and rustic. I mean, who wouldn’t want a hot cup of cocoa for one of their photos, right?! ;)

Playing with the actions gave me an excuse to take new photos, as well as go back and re-edit some old favorites. (Yay!)

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Alice is one of my very favorites from The Fresh Collection. The soft pastel wash it creates is completely dreamy! Using it on this photo of lavender syrup I picked up at a farmers market last spring makes me long for those sunny Saturday mornings spent browsing the market for food and inspiration.

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Hazel added a beautiful warmth to this photo taken during a brunch date with a sweet friend. I love the way it brought out the glow of the twinkle lights and summer sunshine.

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The actions I chose for this photo were selected to create a soft, quiet, contemplative tone. Actions are such a great way to add an extra layer of emotion to your images. They really do help you tell stronger stories with your photography.

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Editing this photo took me back to celebrating my 30th with my nearest and dearest. It feels so cozy and inviting, doesn’t it?! Just like the evening itself! :)

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Aubra is another one of my favorites. It was the perfect choice for these beautiful tulips that are brightening up my living room this week.

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And finally, a photo from earlier this evening. I layered a few different actions to create this look. I wanted the overall effect to be soft, but with a pop of color. (And yes, these dairy-free “Shamrock Shakes” were quite the St. Paddy’s Day treat!) ;)

What are your thoughts on using actions? Do you have any favorites?

P.S. If you have any questions about using actions, I’d be happy to try and answer those, as well. The ABM gals have a great tutorial for their actions on their FAQ page, too.