I'm Heather - lifestyle photographer & homeschooling mama. We choose simple and slow. Freedom and fresh air. And I like to make things beautiful.

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Distill. Be still. Awake.

As January burns away, so have my formerly earnest desires to reflect and get inspired for the year. I never really got on the New Year Resolution or Lent bandwagons, or even into lengthy introspection. I love the idea of it, but for whatever reason I just can't force myself to jump in. If I'm honest, I'm more of a spontaneous accomplish-er of things that come up in their own time, learning and failing and winning in equal measure. Sure, I clean non-stop. I take satisfaction in crossing things off of my grocery list. I'm "particular" about everything in my house having it's own place. These all seem like traits that lead up to a big planner. So why don't I? I have always seriously admired people who sit down at the end of every year to wrap up their thoughts and lives, take stock, make changes, and then proceed to actually make their dreams happen (e.g. Megan Hunt, The Inspirer - that girl has her own blog post coming up). How very motivated and ambitious these people are! It is all a great mystery to me, but now I find I might be ready to become more than an admirer. Perhaps I'll plan a little. (*For my friends who know I'm Blue-Gold, this is probably a little shocking.)

So I brainstorm: What do I want in this new year? What can I give? Paint? Build? How can I keep transforming the little corner of my world? How can I encourage the people whose lives interweave with mine? What does God want to do with me? How can I live with more integrity? Character? Purpose? How can I be a better mom? Wife? Friend? These are probably questions I will ask for the rest of my life, so I suppose starting now is a good idea.

As far as goals are concerned, I don't have many. I am again reminded while writing this of just how unambitious that statement really seems. There are things I want to do. God-willing, we want to grow our family this year. I want to build a dining room table. I want to paint a masterpiece for the space above our fireplace. I want to photograph a few weddings. I'd like to teach Alice the little wonders of the world, like planting seeds and watching them grow or the joy of finding a really pretty rock in a pile of ordinary gravel. More than anything, I want to be intentional about cultivating a life of marveling over the mundane in addition to a compassion for others. Vague? Maybe. Achievable? I think so. The point is that it touches every part of my life, and not just the few goals I've set out to do.  Instead of focusing on what to do, I want to focus on how I do it. Lifestyle stuff. Perception, motive, heart stuff.

This last year, I've come to love our life of less, simplicity, and contentment. I want to live this way for the rest of my life! (See post here.) We haven't mastered it, but we will always try for it, and while we've adopted this lifestyle, there are new mantras I want to rally to when I'm muddled with life. Not necessarily to take the place of our previous ones, but in addition to. Words and concepts that get me on fire. Words that invigorate me. Words that give me clarity and focus when my world gets cloudy.

Distill. Be still. Awake. These are the words that I want to practice this year.

Distill. Edit. Purge. Refine. Shake off the entitlement of excess and indulgence. Cook with simple, fresh ingredients. Distill everything down to what I actually love and use, especially with physical trappings: mainly, wardrobe and toys. While I've ruthlessly cut my closet by at least 60% (see post here), I know in my heart of hearts I'm still hanging on to things I don't wear. We recently decided to put away all of Alice's toys and only let her have a handful out downstairs for play. And you know what? It's soooooo much better! She is more busy playing with a whisk or measuring spoons and a bowl of water or reading than being overwhelmed by the mountain of toys she has. I even wish we could get rid of most of them entirely, but I'm still struggling with the guilt over having received them as a gift from a friend or family member. And the distilling doesn't stop there. Oh no, it moves on to digital clutter. I want to take a hard look at what I allow to influence me and cull what doesn't bring me joy or inspiration. If I heave a heavy sigh upon seeing an issue of Vogue in the mail or that I have 10 posts to catch up on from one blogger, that's probably a sign I should unsubscribe. Not to mention the dozen emails I get from different stores everyday about new deals to entice me to browse online. While I enjoy seeing lovely products, I know which ones I automatically delete and which ones are just plain tempting. They are little pixelated carrots dangling in front of my Pinterest-trained nose and it leads me to discontentment with the wonderful things I already have. Enough. Enough, I say.

Be still. This translates into a lot of areas of life, but I'm referring to it in the context of "Be still, and know that I am God" Psalms 46:10. I know that if I want a healthy relationship with God I need to spend time with Him - that principle is the same for any relationship. So I finally decided to just do it. Before Alice wakes up, I get ready and sneak downstairs to my studio where I stretch, plank, stretch, and talk with God (like, I actually talk out loud). There are a lot less hurdles to go through every morning. I feel cleaner - with less baggage and dirt - every time. It's amazing what constant confession can do for your spiritual life. I don't have this mounting roadblock of a wall to tear down every morning which makes our time together something to look forward to instead of something to dread.

This is where "be still" comes in. While this is light-years ahead of me before I started setting aside time to pray, it's still not enough for our relationship if I do all the talking. If I am having a hard time settling myself until I get everything off my chest, I unload first. But as I praise and confess and yield all of my struggles and requests on a daily basis, I find my spirit growing calmer and willing to listen and trusting the God I'm giving all of this to. And as I see over the course of days, weeks, and months how God has really answered me, it gives me confidence to continue trusting Him. He is so faithful! Even when the answer is "no," or sometimes even worse - "not now." (Ugh, darn you American culture of instant gratification...) But it's not until I'm done talking that God really starts to reveal things to me. Answers, or thoughts, or impressions. I can go to the Bible - they call it "living" for a reason - and He answers me with something I read. Blows my mind! Or maybe He'll guide me through the wisdom of a friend. Or maybe when you're feeling apathetic and discouraged, a random lady at the Blair Maple - whom you have never seen in your life - will walk over to you and out of nowhere say "you have the Spirit, don't you?!" What? God is always talking to me. God speaks. Period. I just have to quiet myself to listen.

Awake. Aware. Present. I want to really live right now. I want to see what Alice is doing next to me and how I can play with her and teach her. How to run over and "catch" the little rainbows that dance on our living room wall in the afternoon when the sun hits the glass just right. How to really listen to a friend that is hurting more than she's letting on and slowly lift her up and shoulder her burdens with her. How to see that when my man walks in the door from work, he doesn't need to hear all about my day yet, he needs to make an espresso and tackle his daughter for a tickle fest or blow raspberries on her soft Buddha belly. How to see that our retired and probably very bored neighbor is outside washing his truck for the 4th time this week because he doesn't have anything to do and just wants to be out to chat for a bit with any passerby, so maybe I should strike up a conversation instead of avoiding him on our walk home. How to hear God whispering to me to drop the "God"-bomb with a stranger I'm talking to, just to see if it opens up any doors to talking about their spiritual life (9 times out of 10 it is very fruitful and I can visually see how relieved they are to talk about it with someone because they usually just don't). This is the kind of "awake" I want to be. I want to be so attuned to God and the need of those around me that being "awake" becomes second-nature.

It goes without saying that all of this will require practice. Lots of it. And probably divine help. But I think I'm ready to set some goals and start going after them.

Distill. Be still. Awake.

That's what I want this year.

January | 2014

December | 2013