Cultivating Creativity

A big part of my process in “Making Things Happen in 2015″ has been carving out time to be creative and be inspired by others’ creativity. I don’t consider myself an artist or a designer by any means, but putting materials and objects together to create something beautiful and fun is an activity I very much enjoy. I have found that taking the time to exercise my creative side lifts my spirits, reminds me of the good and simple things in life, and spurs me on to encourage and help others find joy as well.

Here are a few ways I’ve been cultivating creativity this year …

Bible Journaling

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Using embellishments, stickers, markers, and washi tape to capture the truth of God’s Word in a meaningful and purposeful way.

Decorating

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I recently had the opportunity to move offices at work and decided to go for the one with the window. Even though the space is small, I’ve made it work, using the natural light and some fun, bright colors and accents to have it be a nice sanctuary for me to get my work done and have others come in when they need to take a break or meet. I’ve received a lot of compliments on my decor, and the freshness of a new space has done wonders for my spirits in what can be an often challenging environment.

Hand Lettering

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I started dabbling in hand lettering as part of the #letteritmarch challenge on Instagram after a fellow blogger and Influence Network member invited others to participate with her, and I’m so glad I did. I love to write, obviously, but I’m a sucker for markers and paper, as evidenced in home office where I have just about every kind of colored pen, sharpie, marker and type of paper you could imagine – it’s the inner child in me (LOL)! For the 31 days of March, we had a phrase we would hand letter in any way we felt inspired to do so, and then we shared our creations on social media. So fun!

Photography

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I had the honor of bringing two of my Pure Michigan photos to my friend / stylist’s salon to be put on display and advertised for sale. I so appreciate the opportunity to share one of my favorite places (Ludington) with others in this way, and am grateful to my friend for inviting me to participate in the decor of her beloved business. It’s so cool to walk in every six weeks and see my work on the wall!

PowerSheets

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I’ve mentioned on here previously that I received the 2015 PowerSheets from my hubby for Christmas and what a fabulous tool these have been to encourage me with accomplishing my goals for this year and bringing meaning and purpose to my days! There’s plenty of opportunity to get creative with writing and vision-casting each month, and I have really appreciated this process of being intentional to go after the desires that God has placed in my heart.

Style

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This year I’m also learning to be more creative when it comes to my personal style. Because I’m a person who LOVES bright splashes of color, I decided to be brave and add a little hot pink to my hair last week when I was at the salon, and I couldn’t be happier with it! It felt freeing in a way to do this, and it’s amazing how many compliments I’ve received, even from strangers, proof that boldness and creativity inspire others!

Travel

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Adventuring to places near and far (and capturing the world’s beauty via camera) always fuels my creativity. Getting away from the normal routine, seeing new places, and experiencing different things enhances my perspective and is just plain good for the soul. Whenever I return from a getaway, I’m always fired up to move forward in a more positive and productive way, and doing creative projects is often one of the results.

How do you cultivate creativity in your days? What creative projects do you enjoy doing?

Books I’m Loving

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Good morning, friends! I hope all of you are having a fabulous start to this Saturday morning! It’s been awhile since I’ve written a book post, so today I thought I’d share some of those that have truly encouraged my heart and inspired me in my journey so far this year!

31 Days of Prayer for the Dreamer and Doer

I very much consider myself a “dreamer” and “doer,” therefore I absolutely love, love, LOVE this treasure of prayers, scriptures, and devotions! I started this about a month into the new year, and each day’s reading resonated with me and where I’m at in my life on so many levels, with passages on things like freedom, rest and balance, wellness, simplicity, dreams, confidence, goals, creativity, online influence, and so many more.  I underlined, wrote out notes, and prayed over those things that God spoke to me through each page; engaging with God like this every morning over those 31 days has set the tone for how I spend my time with Him now. If you’re looking for the perfect thing to set the course for your day and awaken you to living more boldly and passionately for Him, this is it!

I Want God

I’ll be honest, it was the title of this book that got me. “I Want God” … “revival” … the very things I say and pray for on a fairly regular basis. Yet, this book challenged me. It’s not a very long book, and yet out of all the books I’ve listed today, this one took me the longest to get through. And that’s because it’s convicting. It made me think about all the times I say I want God and then how I actually live out my day-to-day life, not inviting God into all of the stuff going on, the good, the hard, the beautiful and messy. But it’s powerful what happens when we allow Him to challenge our thinking and take the time for self-reflection. The message of this book is life-changing if you allow it to penetrate your inmost places. It reignited a spark in my heart for going after the things that are most important to God and to living a life that has true Kingdom impact. If you want a book that pushes you a little harder and gets you out of your comfort zone, this is the one!

Just RISE UP!

This gem of a book was written by fellow Influence Network member, Sarah F. Martin. After meeting Sarah at the Influence Conference last September and hearing about her book, I knew I had to add it to my list of “books to read in 2015.” I love Sarah’s heart for Jesus and her passion for women to make Him #1 in their lives. The chapter entitled “Our Dreams, Purpose, and God’s Agenda” really encouraged me as I intentionally seek Him for what He’s wanting to do in and through me, and as I put the skills, talents, and education He’s blessed me with to use each day. It was also a good reminder to me that everything I have is from Him and all that I do is for Him. This is such an important truth to keep in the forefront of my mind as I navigate this thing called ‘life.’ Bravo, Sarah!

Make It Happen

This. Book. AWESOME. I strongly recommend this read to any woman wanting to let go of the “perfection trap” and go after a life of meaning and purpose. So much of what Lara shared from her own life, as well as the truth and wisdom from God’s Word, made a significant impact on me as I am making a concerted effort in 2015 to live a life that matters. This book has inspired me to live life more transparently and openly, giving and sharing more of myself to those in my sphere of influence. If you’re a goal-setter like me, this book is a great companion to assist you in your journey of making those things burning deep in your soul happen!

The Fringe Hours

I heard about this amazing book from some of the writers I follow on social media, and after listening to Jessica N. Turner’s episode on The Influence Podcast while at the gym one morning, I decided this too was a “must-read” for 2015. I think any woman who has ever felt overwhelmed, burned out, or too busy and tired to make time for themselves needs to hear this book’s message: It’s okay to make time for YOU. The Fringe Hours is about self-care, essentially carving out space and time to do those things that are life-giving and soul-filling to you, resulting in living in freedom and grace, and with passion and purpose, and therefore becoming a better woman in all areas of life. If you’re a person struggling with balance and feel like you’re lacking in self- and soul-care, this book is for you!

What books have you read and what are you focusing on and learning this year?

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Easter Wishes

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See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:19, NIV

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Just a quick post today to wish all of you a Happy Easter (on Sunday)!

Praying all of you know the love, joy, peace, and NEW LIFE this blessed day affords!

May you be refreshed and restored in this spring season!

Happy Easter, friends. <3

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And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

 Revelation 21:5, ESV

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Welcome, Spring!

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Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party!”

Robin Williams

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It’s officially Spring in the mitten state and this girl could not be happier! Following some pretty bitter cold days, I am ready for fresh air, fun in the sun, and the warmth that this lovely season brings!

Although I appreciate experiencing all four seasons here in Michigan, I really have come to love spring, and here’s why …

Spring signifies fresh starts and new life. That which was dead and barren just weeks before comes to life and brings with it the feeling that anything is possible and the hope that good things are in store.

Spring ushers in sunshine, warmer temperatures, and the opportunity to open up the windows and enjoy the outdoors. I love the warm days and cool nights, perfect for backyard bonfires and peaceful sleeping.

Spring means baseball. (Go Tigers!) To me, baseball is one of the most relaxing and family-friendly sports. I love going to games, watching games on tv, or even just having a game on for background noise while I drive or do work around the house. There’s something about it that I find calming, and it plain just makes me happy!

Spring is also exciting because it means it’s time to start going back up north and living the weekends up at our “home away from home.” There’s nothing better than escaping town at the end of the week to our little slice of paradise, being near the beauty of the Lake Michigan, and taking the time out to focus on what matters most in life.

In the days, weeks, and months to come I look forward to the little things – driving with the windows rolled down, grilling out and reading on the back deck, planning out the arrangement for my flower beds and pots this year, and wearing skirts and flip-flops again.

Spring brings with it many little joys and I intend to make the most of this season, enjoying every moment, the big and small.

What does spring mean to you and what are you looking forward to most in this season?

Colorado 2015

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For those of you who have been following along with me for some time now, you know that travel is a huge part of my life. It’s a necessary component to my self-care and well-being. For me, there’s nothing like breaking away from the routine, escaping the demands of every day life, and venturing out into new territory to refresh my soul and renew my perspective. It doesn’t matter if it’s an overnight trip, a long weekend, or a whole week away. I’m a woman who needs the occasional breather and change of scenery to stay grounded and keep my focus on what matters most.

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Last weekend marked my annual trip to Colorado. This year, I traveled with my dad and step-mom, in order to spend quality time with my brother and nephew. As much as I wish we lived closer and could see each other more frequently, I appreciate the opportunity to be able to visit them once or twice a year in a state so rich in beauty and things to do! And this year’s trip, for being only three days, was full of fun and activity!

As usual, the weather was absolutely gorgeous – more spring-like already than my beloved state of Michigan is currently – with temps in the high 60’s and 70’s, bright blue skies, and sunshine. Because the weather was so perfect, this gave us the chance to go explore quite a few places, including the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, Cave of the Winds, Rainbow Falls, Manitou Springs, Royal Gorge Bridge, Phantom Canyon, and the panoramic views of Cripple Creek. We also got to eat at one of our most favorite places, Hacienda, the BEST Mexican food you will ever eat. Period.

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Getting away last week was just the thing I needed after a very busy and bitter cold month at home. It felt so good to be outside in the sunshine, to take in the amazing view of the hills and mountains, and to snuggle with my nephew, listening to him talk and having him hold my hand as we walked around the various areas we visited. It was also good to see my brother and reconnect with family in general. I cherish these few times a year we can all be together and certainly do my best to make the most of every minute of our time together. And I feel all of us did just that!

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While it’s never easy to leave, I’m so thankful for the time each of us had to be together. In coming back home following the short break, I feel lighter and better able to focus on what’s ahead for me in the coming weeks, personally and professionally. As winter turns to spring, I feel the winds of change coming in my own heart and life, and although I don’t know all that the future holds, I feel confident that what is in store will be good and purposeful, and for that I am grateful.

I look forward to more getaways in the coming spring and summer months, but in the meantime, will treasure this past weekend and all of the memories that were made with my family. Thank you, Colorado, for sweeping me off my feet once again! Until next time … <3

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This Lenten Season

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This Lenten season, I’ve been working my way through the #NTDLent devotional, a collection of writings and verses to read and meditate on over the 40 days leading up to Easter. Each section begins with a devotional and is followed by five days of Scripture with space below each passage to brainstorm, create, pray, and/or write. What I’ve appreciated about this process thus far is that its relaxed and it allows for open communication with God – for me to present my heart to Him and for Him to in turn reveal Himself to me – just between us. In this way, I’m not simply reading another’s revelations, but am receiving my own. I’ve enjoyed beginning my days like this – drawing close to Him, inviting Him into my heart and life, and letting Him speak His promises and truths over each day.

While Lent is most commonly marked with the sacrifice of things in order to facilitate increased closeness and devotion to God, I decided to use Lent as an opportunity to take something on (vs. giving something up) to express my adoration and worship of Him instead. That something is ‘bible journaling.’

I’ve always been a note-taker, as evidenced by numerous journals on my book shelf and composition books from college, as well as folders and files I keep both at home and at work. As an avid studier of God’s Word, I have never hesitated to highlight scriptures and write notes in the margins, inside the covers, and on the blank pages at the beginning and end of each translation / version I own. Putting prayers, thoughts, revelations, and insights into writing on the pages of God’s Word somehow makes the Bible come to life for me, as well as applicable to my every day existence. As a girl who also enjoys making my own cards and who also used to do a lot of scrapbooking, it’s probably no surprise then that I’ve taken my love for creativity and writing to spend time with God and learn from Him in this season.

There’s a whole community of women artists out there on social media who are doing bible journaling, and I am in awe of some of their work. I am by no means a drawer or painter. My style is more in line with paper crafting – using embellishments and stickers and markers to further capture the beauty and essence of God’s truth.

Here’s a peek at what I’ve been up to …

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My ESV Journaling Bible (custom cover made by me).

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A full pack of supplies to get me through the 40 days of Lent, complete with stickers, embellishments, washi tape, arrow shaped paper clips, and markers.

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Some of the passages I’ve captured in the past couple of weeks.

So far, it’s been a fun adventure in exercising my artistic spirit. As you can see, my “art” isn’t anything complicated, but it does make opening my Bible more thrilling as I work on crafting together pages of reflections and statements that are both colorful and inspiring.

This has been a very refreshing process for me the past few weeks, as it has allowed me to intentionally make space and time for those things that fire me up – faith, creativity, and writing – and spur me on to live life with purpose each and every day. It’s soul-care in the very deepest sense of the phrase and it’s been oh so good for this girl who desperately wants to cultivate more of this in my life.

There are many ways to commune with God in the Lenten season. I’d love to hear how you’re drawing close to Him in these weeks leading up to Easter and what things inspire you in your faith.

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I’ll be back on the blog in two weeks following a trip to Colorado to visit family.

Have a blessed week, friends! <3

The Call to Wholeness

At the start of this new year, I felt God speaking the word BRAVE over my life as I thought about the previous year and what I wanted to work toward in 2015. In meditating on what it means for me to ‘be brave’ in my life, I’ve been reminded of these words from the book Daring Greatly

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As I talk with other women – family, friends, co-workers, clients – I’m learning the truth of this quote. To ‘be brave’ is to be authentic and vulnerable in telling our own stories, which in turns invites others to tell theirs, allowing for connection, healing, and ultimately, opening up the path toward wholeness. I don’t exactly know where to begin today, but I have felt God urging me to write about a part of my life that I have only recently begun to share with others. My prayer is that by telling the truth of my story, it will help someone out there to know they are not alone and that it’s okay to be honest about who you are and where you are in your journey. So here I go …

I’ve mentioned before that I am, by nature, a Type-A, perfectionist. I’ve been this way my entire life. I’ve held myself to a very high standard for years, and when I do something, I do it with everything I have within me. There is no half-way. It’s all or nothing.

In some ways, these are great qualities to have as I’ve accomplished a lot in my thirty years of life and have a lot to be proud of, shown by two degrees and several medals hanging on the walls of my home and work offices, just to name a couple of things.

In other ways, these qualities have been a major stumbling block as I’m often my own worst enemy, beating myself up for “not being enough” or “being too much,” and holding myself (and others) to impossibly high standards, which causes the endless cycle of doing and going and trying and working to be the best, all of the time.

The truth: Type-A and perfectionism is exhausting, and it’s not working for me anymore.

A few months ago, this happened …

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A Monday morning meeting out-of-town turned into me driving myself to the emergency room of the closest hospital because I thought I was having a heart attack. Upon walking in, tears streaming down my face, and telling the medical receptionist what was going on, I was immediately rushed back to a private room where I was hooked up to a bunch of machines and would be evaluated for the next four hours. The diagnosis: a severe panic attack.

Let me back up …

I think it would be safe to say that I have struggled with anxiety for a very long time. Anxiety is what drives the Type-A, perfectionist personality in the work to accomplish and succeed and ensure you absolutely do not fail. Ever.

But if I had to pin-point when the symptoms of my anxiety started to manifest themselves, I would say it was the summer of 2010. At that time, my current job was at-risk of losing all of the funding that supported my position and if we lost those funds, I would be laid off. We had just moved into our new house, so the pressure was on to stay financially secure. And following a period of unemployment after grad school in 2008 due to being “overqualified” and yet “not qualified enough,” I was terrified to go back to square one and have to job search again. I couldn’t sleep, I could hardly eat, I stopped running for a short time, and I didn’t want to do anything. On one of my worst days, I came home from work at 5:30 and got into bed, in my business suit and dress shoes, and just laid there exhausted but unable to sleep.

I went to the doctor and in describing my fears and symptoms, was diagnosed with anxiety. I believe “common and manageable” were the words used to give me comfort that this too would pass and I was indeed, okay.

I did end up getting laid off, by the way, in the fall of 2010. After six months of tireless searching (including a month’s sabbatical to Florida to get my head together) I finally found another job. I was doing well, feeling great, and eager to get back to work after the time off at home. Things were good for about four months when one day at work I wasn’t feeling so well and decided to leave early to get some rest. On my drive home, I started to feel a tingling sensation all over, and then I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and then everything went black. When I ‘woke up,’ I was pulled over in my SUV on the side of the two-lane highway, with absolutely no recollection of how I had gotten there and completely freaked out at what was going on. I called my husband, not making any sense and sobbing, who came and picked me up and rushed me to my doctor, again.

This time, it wasn’t just anxiety. It was a panic attack. And it felt like death. And this girl was not okay with it. At all. But I went on living life like I always had, believing that if I could just “get it together” I would be fine.

From then until about 8 months ago, I actually had managed to keep the anxiety under control for the most part. A few minor panic attacks at times – nothing to the extent that I had before. I had what I needed to take care of it if I felt it coming on in the course of a day. Some days were good. Others not so good. Such is life.

This past summer marked a year in my new (and current) job. Those first twelve months were an up and down series of events as I learned the dynamics of not only a new position, but an entirely different culture of work and of the community in which I was serving. I was putting out fires left and right, fixing things that had gone wrong in the past, and working to establish myself as the leader of this organization and department overseeing services in three different counties. But I was doing this thing, day in and day out, giving it my all, and just keeping my nose to the grindstone, trusting that eventually things would level out and get to normal.

And things did settle down. For a little while. It was during this time that one day I woke up with a headache that started at the base of my neck and worked its way up, covering the entire top of my head, and with it came horrible bouts of anxiety. This lasted for a month. No joke. The pain, tension, and panic felt debilitating and for the first time, I can honestly say I was depressed. I was so ashamed that I was feeling this way. I couldn’t understand how I felt so out of control on the inside, and yet everything on the outside was fine. It was the worst feeling in the world and it took everything within me to get through each day.

At this point in the story, I can hear you saying, “Hannah, enough already. Get help.”  But when you’re a Type-A, perfectionist, the lie you believe is that you have to keep it together and that to admit this is an ongoing problem is to admit that you are a failure, confirming your very worst fear. And for this reason, it took me awhile to admit that I had a problem and that I needed help. I’m a Social Worker by occupation – I work with people all of the time who deal with things like this and give out the best advice and support I can – and yet, I wasn’t living by what I preach to my clients and staff – the concepts of “self-care” and “self-love.” The truth of it hit me like a terrible smack across the face. I was lying to myself. And if I wanted to get better and work on overcoming this, I was going to have to do the honest, messy, and hard thing – talk about what I was experiencing and commit to the process of transformation for the long-term.

After talking to my very loving and supportive husband (he’s a saint, truly), I made the decision to call and make an appointment with a counselor. I also went back to my doctor. I explained to both that I could not live anymore with this weight of anxiety and panic on my shoulders, never knowing when it was going to happen, and that I wanted to change. For good. I also went to God about all of this, and instead of asking Him to take away the anxiety and panic, I asked Him to work out His good in the face of these challenges. I confessed my lack of trust in Him and His control over my life and that I knew the path I was on was leading to death and not life in Him. I asked Him to come and change my heart and my life for His glory and purpose.

And since taking these steps, I haven’t looked back. The very thing I was afraid to do – own up to this issue and face it head on – has been the very best thing for me to do. It’s not like all of my problems went away. But through small steps, I’m learning to cultivate grace over perfection and love over fear. I’m feeling more at ease and more like the self I want to be – a woman who is alive and free and full of life, in whatever comes my way, the perfect and the imperfect.

These days, in 2015, I’m trying to live by this …

purpose over perfect

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I am learning to let go of things that are not important in the grand scheme of life, and put my focus on what matters each and every day. I’m working on being gentler with myself and others, and embracing the imperfections of life as opportunities for God to come through in amazing ways. It’s a changing of perspective, a process of being made new, and a refreshing way of doing life because I’m realizing I can’t be and do it all, and that if I say “No,” everything will still be okay.

I know now that I’m not alone in my struggles with anxiety, panic, and even depression. I’ve talked to enough women recently – some of whom may be reading this blog today – and have been surprised to find out that many of them have faced the feelings I have. And as we talk to each other and tell our individual stories of this issue we’re dealing with, it’s been amazing to see and feel the relief that comes from opening up this part of ourselves and the connection that is made as we share our hearts with one another.

I’m still a work in progress and have a long way to go in my journey. But me writing this today is my way of saying it’s time to throw off whatever is holding us back and follow the call to wholeness. Let’s stop playing perfect and let’s just be us. Let’s be kinder to each other and to ourselves by being honest about our lives. Let’s love like never before – right here, right now – the good and the bad. And let’s live out loud, showing the world who we really are – brave, confident, lovely, wild and free women who have purpose and are not afraid to look adversity in the face and go after the abundant life God calls us to with everything we have within us, even if it means a complete 180 degree turn from where we were before. It’s time to take our joy back and live with reckless abandon for His glory.

There is hope. And it really will be okay.