Realities of RV Living

We are 23 days into our RV adventure. There have been highs and lows. The first week I was convinced that we wouldn’t make it. It was sweltering hot in Texas, we were still figuring out the new lifestyle and there were so. many. tantrums. My 3 year old is not making the transition easy.

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At least by now, Kent and I have figured out that we need to communicate 20x more than we were, have way more grace for each other and just work together as a team. I understand that I show alot of the perfect, serene moments on my instagram feed, but what you don’t see is just as important because it’s reality.

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So there are upsides and downsides, as with anything new, and some of them are not mutually exclusive – each point is beneficial on it’s own but there is hardship that comes with even good things in life that are really valuable for growth. Living a life of terrific ease and comfort all the time never really taught anyone anything (that I know of). Here are the top 10 observations from a newbie traveler:

DOWNSIDES

1. Tight space = loss of dignity and personal space

2. Less time to work (for me)

3. No consistency

4. Nowhere to put a screaming child

5. Carsickness :( Anyone have any tips on remedies?

6. One wrong switch flipped in the RV while driving into a gas station, we all blow up. For realz.

7. Um, I ran out of “downsides” :)

UPSIDES

1. Meeting new people

2. Seeing new places

3. Building love and togetherness as a family

4. A Simpler life

6. Clean the whole house in an hour or less!

7. Flexibility

8. Focus on priorities in life – relationships, food, water, shelter, work – that pretty much sums it up

9. More time to read, write and journal!

10. A stronger, more intense season of walking with the Lord, listening and abiding

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We shall not cease from exploration and at the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. -T.S. Eliot, “The Four Quartets”

We are in South Carolina right now, soaking up some quality time with my older sis and her family. It’s lovely to be in the south during the fall season. The trees will be turning soon and life is really, really sweet. More updates to come!

 

Circles 2013

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Last week was Circles Conference 2013, and just like last year, I left feeling charged, full, and energized for the creative journey ahead. My favorite talk, and most applicable right now, was Ben Jenkins from One Fast Buffalo. Six years ago he traded his overdone life for the bare essentials life of living in an RV. Kent and I got talk to him at the speakers dinner and pick his brain. The main takeaway from our conversation, was, “it’s all about togetherness.” We are 12 days into our journey on the road and that is for sure what I’m seeing. But, more about that later.

He talked about what is essential in life and what is not – and for our journey of simplicity right now, it resonated in a big way. I’m totally stealing this from his talk, but here it is.

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The way he sees it there are 24 hours in a day – 8 hours for work – 8 for play – and 8 for sleeping. His best work is done in solitude and he believes that every artist needs solitude  plus participation (exploring, interacting with people, etc) for the best work to come. There definitely was a common theme through a lot of the talks about creating more with love and integrity and simplifying so you can experience more and focus on relationships. Lotta Nieminen talked about this when she realized she felt more like a factory than a designer, and she was just crossing projects off the list, not doing them with love.

Too tired and too busy is very American. Slow down. Slow is better. -Ben Jenkins

I also got to meet a designer I admire very much, Megan Gilger. Her talk was wonderful and her slides were just delicious. I love everything she creates, right down to the life that her and her husband lives.

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Photo from my Instagram feed

It was so fun to be with other creatives, but not just creatives who are ambitious and talented, but Circles attracts a very special crowd that seems to want more from creativity than just big name clients, money or building a big name. It might sound cliche, but there is definitely a commonality in wanting to use art and creativity for good and to bring change in the world. That is what I love about this conference. I walked away with a lot to process and a lot to build upon.

Art & Practicality

I recently finished up a 6-week acrylic painting class with instructor and painter, Bert Seabourn. I’ve loved his work since being introduced to it about a year ago, and my husband thought it was high time I take his class at City Arts in OKC. Bert is awesome. A color and composition genius. He works really hard at his craft – working at least 8 hours a day. He’s 82 years old now and he will tell you the best thing about this point in his career, is that 9 out of 10 paintings he creates are good. His skill is so consistent, that you can bet on a masterpiece every time he’s put down the last brush stroke of paint.

Awhile ago I was reading an interview with a very well-known and talented artist whose work I really admire. I won’t quote his name out of respect for him, but something he said really bugged me. The question was, “What does art do for the world?” His answer was puzzling. He said, “I don’t believe that art does anything for the world, just consume resources like every other human activity.” What??! I wholeheartedly disagree. Art can transcend cultural barriers. Art can move and inspire. Art can convey truth that sometimes words alone fail to do. Art is just as much a journey of discovery for the artist as it is for the viewer. How can that be in vain?

While I’m sure many can argue the practicality of art, for me personally it is an essential tool for discovering the world and the Creator. Without art, I would shrivel up, the world would seem dull and lonely. Without encountering and engaging beauty, I’m not sure that my faith would be so strong. This is why I’m seeking to improve my skills – so maybe I can communicate the holy creativity of God that much better. I may not be able to put in the hours that Bert does, but I’m certainly going to be disciplined to put in more than I have in the past.

Bert is someone that will contend for art and the practicality of it. Through his example, my love for art has grown even more. After ending the course, in between meeting so many new friends while talking and drinking wine and sangria, there was definitely a confirmation in the discovery that I love painting portraits. I have always been drawn to portraits. Actually, painting anything else feels like mundane work, but painting people – there is something so intimate, raw, familiar and spiritual about painting a human that keeps me coming back to it again and again.

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An interest in the subject; something you want to say definitely about the subject; this is the first condition of a portrait. Completion does not depend on material representation. The work is done when that special thing has been said.
-Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

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Anyway, these are a couple of mine that came out of the class. I hope to be painting while on the road this fall. I’m sure I will encounter plenty of beautiful subjects while on our travels. My hope is that our lives and stories will intertwine with many along the way, and much “impractical” art will come out of it.

On the Road Again, Naturally

I can’t help but laugh at how our time frame for living anywhere has gotten shorter and shorter. When 10 years ago the big dream for my life was to buy a nice large house and settle there for 30 years or so, now that that dream has changed drastically, along with our square footage. Even our last home in mid-town, which I was sure we would put down roots in, I felt in the first month that we moved in that I shouldn’t get too attached. A short year later, we moved downtown.

We’ve been in this missional community for almost 8 months now, and through prayer, we feel God is calling us on a new adventure. One that again, feels scary and weird and full of unknowns.

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We are going on the road – and living in an RV.

We will have a home base in Tulsa where we have family, but will likely be living most of  life on the road, seeing the world God made, meeting new people and forming relationships for the non-profit we formed 2 years ago.

The world seems to me made to wander in, rather than to abide in one corner of it and never see what the rest has in store. -Henry Van Dyke

 

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The Blue Flower is what I long for. I can think of nothing else. The place where I must abide is the place where the Blue Flower grows, and when the call comes, I must follow it. -The Blue Flower

There is a treasure of a book I read recently, an allegory called The Blue Flower. In it, the main character is given a glimpse of  a Blue Flower in a dream, the most beautiful one he has ever seen, and his heart is set on finding it.

I set out on my journey, and my home is at the end of the journey, wherever that may be. -The Blue Flower

This is an allegory for our faith – the kind of faith that forsakes all else for seeking the beauty that abides in it.

Jesus tells a similar parable of hidden treasure buried in a field, a man finds it, then sells everything he has to buy the land and get the treasure (Mt 13).

The RV is a step in this direction. Finding the treasure in the field. Knowing that it’s worth giving up comforts and permanence and lots of other things for. Finding beauty along the way, and teaching our children to do the same – and hopefully revealing more of the Father as we go. I don’t know how long we will have this lifestyle, and perhaps life overseas is next. I don’t know.

I’m just glad I follow a God that calls us out on the water for a really great adventure.

The Fasting and the Feast

I recently finished Jen Hatmaker’s book, “7 – An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess” and just had to share something with you. If you aren’t already familiar, the book talks about how she did a 7 month fast, exploring 7 different areas each month – clothes, shopping, waste, food, possessions, media, and stress. It’s very anecdotal, to which I probably skimmed through half of it, but the point was good – an intentional reduction, a deliberate abstinence to summon God’s movement. That’s what a fast does – it creates margin for God to move. Here is a rather long, but beautiful excerpt from the chapter on spending that resonated with me.

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Calligraphy and Artwork by evie s. (ie. this is not the cover of the book :)

Sunday at church we sang: ‘God, may we be focused on the least, a people balancing the fasting and the feast.’ I almost came undone. That statement sums up all my tension and hopes for the American Christ follower, the American church, the American me. With good intentions but misguided theology, the church spends most of our time, energy, resources, prayer words, programs, sermons, conferences, Bible studies, and attention on the feast, our feast to be exact.
Now certainly there is a feast, and thank you God for it. Where brokenness and starvation once consumed us, God sets us at a new table:
“Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O Lord, you preserve both man and beast. How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” ( Ps. 36:5-9)
This is the feast of the redeemed; Jesus made it possible for the wretched to dine with the Most High, neither offending His holiness nor compromising His justice. For those adopted by grace and faith, He no longer sees our failures or omissions; He only sees the righteousness Jesus covered us with. We stand safely behind Christ, made white-as-snow perfect from His substitution on the cross.
The currency of salvation includes blessings, redemption, fulfillment, peace, healing, sustenance, forgiveness, and hope. Its a spiritual jackpot. For those salvaged from the gutter by Jesus, these are new mercies every morning. We are easily overwhelmed by the goodness of God, which knows no bounds. The gospel is so liberating it is worthy of adoration every single second of every single hour of every single day forever. We will never be the same. This in indeed the feast, and to celebrate it is utterly Christian.
But the feast has a partner in the rhythm of the gospel: the fast.


Its practice is unmistakeable in Scripture. Hundreds of times we see reduction, pouring out, abstinence, restraint. We find our Bible heroes fasting from food- David, Esther, Nehemiah, Jesus. We see the Philippian church fasting from self-preservation, sending Paul money in spite of their own poverty, a true sacrifice. John the Baptist says if we have two coats, one belongs to the poor. The early church sold their possessions and lived communally, caring for one another and the broken people in their cities. We see God explain his idea of a fast: justice, freedom, food for the hungry, clothes for the naked. This balance is a given in Scripture.
If we ignored the current framework of the church and instead opened the Bible for a definition, we find Christ followers adopting the fast simultaneously with feast. We don’t see the New Testament church hoarding the feast for themselves, gorging, getting fatter and fatter and asking for more; more Bible studies, more sermons, more programs, classes, training, conferences, information, more feasting for us.
At some point, the church stopped living the Bible and decided just to study it, culling the feast parts and whitewashing the fast parts. We are addicted to the buffet, skillfully discarding the discipleship required after consuming. The feast is supposed to sustain the fast, but we go back for seconds and thirds and fourths, stuffed to the brim and fat with inactivity. All this is for me. My goodness, my blessings, my privileges, my happiness, my success. Just one more plate.
I think the early church would cover their heads with ashes and grieve over the dilution of Jesus’ beautiful church vision. We’ve taken His Plan A for mercy to an injured lost planet and neutered it to clever sermon series and Stich-and-Chat in the Fellowship Hall, serving the saved. If the modern church held to its biblical definition, we would become the answer to all that ails society. We wouldn’t have to baby-talk and cajole and coax people into our sanctuaries through witty mailers and strategic ads; they’d be running to us. The local church would be the heartbeat of the city, undeniable by our staunchest critics.

When the fast, the death, the sacrifice of the gospel is omitted from the Christian life, then it isn’t Christian at all. Not only that its boring. If I just want to feel good or get self-help, I’ll buy a $12 book from Borders and join a gym. The church the Bible described is exciting and adventurous and wrought with sacrifice. It costs believers everything and they still came. It was good news to the poor and stumped its enemies. The church was patterned after a Savior who had no place to lay his head and voluntarily died a brutal death, even knowing we would reduce the gospel to a self-serving personal improvement program where people were encouraged to make a truce with their Maker and stop sinning and join the church, when in fact the gospel does not call for a truce but a complete surrender.
Jesus said the kingdom was like a treasure hidden in a field, and once someone truly finds it, he will happily sell everything he owns to possess that field. a perfect description of the fasting and the feast. It will cost everything, but it is a treasure and an unfathomable joy. This is the balance of the kingdom; to live we must die, to be lifted we bow, to gain we must lose. There is no alternative definition, no path of least resistance, no treasure in the field without the sacrifice of everything else.

Oh Lord, may we be focused on the least; a people balancing the fasting and the feast.

What is Beauty?

There are some whose idea of beauty is just too small. We tend to make snap judgments about what is beautiful, and what is not. But beauty can be strong and astringent, disturbing, shocking and dark. It can also be  easily overlooked and ignored. I am tired of our culture creating a formula for beauty and dictating it to the masses. Recognizing beauty is not about having good taste. Tastes change as we evolve as a civilization. Trends come and go. Beauty can be a constant. A sunset will always be beautiful, a new life entering the world will always be beautiful.

As a designer, you learn that certain compositions, colors, lines and placement make a better design. If you stick to these basic proven principles, your art should be timeless. Contrived rules without scientific merit should always be questioned. Rules like, “Don’t wear white after Labor Day.”

Explore the perimeter of “good taste.” Don’t get stuck in the rut of trends and fads.  Because while I’ve found that beauty is subjective and depends on the person, it usually stays the same. If I learn to recognize on my own what is beautiful, it doesn’t change. And if I train my eye and heart to find what’s beautiful in even an ugly situation or environment, no matter what happens, that is my constant.

I don’t want to be known for my “good taste.” I want to be able to recognize beauty in unexpected places, and invite others to see it too. Maybe give what’s repulsive a second glance. Great art hasn’t always been in good taste. Before the avant-garde art movements of the twentieth century, it would be interesting to hear the Authority on Good Taste’s response to Picasso’s Guernica. In my view “good taste” can be so confining and restrictive – to the point that it isolates true beauty. 

And here is the moral here. God doesn’t really have good taste when it comes to us.

Picasso said that good taste is the enemy of great art.

Good taste has everything to do with being cultured and refined. Art has everything to do with being human. That’s why I love the Bible. The humans in the Bible are not very refined. And neither am I.

People would always say when I was a kid and say cheer up, God loves you. I would say big deal, God loves everybody, that don’t make me special. That just proves that God ain’t got no taste. And I don’t think he does. God takes the junk of our lives and he makes the greatest art in the world out of it. If God was cultured, if he was as civilized as most Christians wish he was, we would be useless to Christianity. Because God is a wild man, and I hope that over the course of your life you encounter him. – Rich Mullins

Here is what I think – things are lovely not because they are beautiful, they are beautiful because they are loved.  There is something about the things or people you love that you are attracted to and find appealing. But I think we need to enlarge the circle of what we deem beautiful. Love is the vehicle for this. Love invites us as artists to take things that would be considered without value and give it value. Art can be just as much about creative solutions for our world as it is for our own enjoyment and to the glory of God.

What are your thoughts?

Illustrations for Henry Happened

A few months ago I got an email from Stephanie of HenryHappened.com asking for some custom illustrations for her blog. Here is how they turned out – she wanted to go for simple black and white ink drawings for each category.

Go check out her blog, she has some great DIY tutorials and great style tips for your home and your wardrobe.

Happy Monday ya’ll!

Illustration for Emma Magazine

Have you heard of Emma Magazine? It’s like Martha Stewart Living, but young and fresh. They call it “A How-To Guide for the Modern Domestic.” I got to contribute to their January issue with an illustrated recipe – check out the issue, they make it available for free online.

I’m really not sure how I became an illustrator after all my years in graphic design, but in the last year that seems to be a niche I’m falling into, and I really love it.

Oh and Happy New Year! I hope to be back soon with some new content, that’s one of my goals for 2013, to write more. What are some of your goals for the new year? I would love to hear!