Celebrating Smallness

Celebrating Smallness || Little House Studio

Small.

It’s my “one word” for this year…one thing I’m continuously going back to and leaning into…one word that is changing how I see and experience and process my days.

I’m embracing small moments, small beginnings, small steps.

I’m pursuing smaller instead of larger, slow instead of hurry, secret instead of spotlight.

I'm focusing on the everyday routines, the often unseen rhythms, and watering the hidden places of my soul.

I’m celebrating smallness…in my life, in my work, in my days.

And it’s in a large part due to a book I read over a year ago that continues to resonate in my soul. Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman has become a dog-eared, marked-up, well-loved favorite of mine. There are so many beautiful nuggets of wisdom in its pages…so many words that speak to my heart and challenge me to see the world and the purpose of my days from a new perspective, with Kingdom eyes that notice the small hidden things, that see beyond what is temporary and visible to what is eternal and invisible.

Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman
“Tuesday reminds me to accept the beauty of smallness, hiddenness, and the secret work of Christ in the deepest part of who I am.”

“There is a daily-ness to my work, a small-moment perspective that whispers for me to connect with the work in my right-now hands, not because it’s going to become something Big and Important, but because Someone who is Big and Important is here, with me, in me, today. I can exert the effort and risk of moving, choosing, and releasing because he is with me and the outcome rests safely in his hands.”


“We don’t have to fear this small way. We don’t have to worry that embracing smallness will shrink our impact...
When I’m small, I know I can’t control opinions, manipulate outcomes, or force my agenda on others. When I’m small, I can move into the world confident as the person I most deeply am because I know I don’t move into the world alone.
If this is true, then small is my new free.”


- Emily P. Freeman, Simply Tuesday

I just completely love this book.

So when I was asked last year if I would be interested in illustrating the pages of a coloring book based on quotes from this book, I was completely humbled and absolutely thrilled!

And then, almost immediately, I was extremely nervous and began feeling totally unqualified and inadequate to do the words of this beautiful book justice with my simple illustrations.

But then I remembered…

“We don’t know where these moments might lead, what we might grow into, whom we might influence, what impact we might have. That is not our business. Instead our job is to stay right here with our friend Jesus. To know he is with us and within us, and he’ll stay no matter what.” -Emily P. Freeman, Simply Tuesday

Over the last three years especially, God has proven to me, in very clear and humbling ways, that His plans for me are far more than I could ever dream or imagine. He has shown me that I don't need to worry about where the path might lead or whether or not I am equipped to handle what is coming around the corner, because He has been with me and He has been preparing me every step of the way, even when I didn't even know what He was doing.

I can trust Him.

And so I gave Him all my doubts and my fears and my anxiety, and I trusted His plan, and I got to work. As I worked, I prayed. Each time I began a new page, I prayed for Him to guide my pen and to allow the work of my hands to bring Him glory.

I worked quietly, secretly, one little illustration at a time. Months of moments. And then a quiet waiting.

“I can plant seeds but I can’t make them grow,
I can create art but I can’t make it sell,
I can act in faith but I can’t determine the outcome.”
-Emily P. Freeman, Simply Tuesday

And now here we are, a year later, and I have a stack of these books sitting in my dining room.

“I’m thankful we have a God who sometimes chooses to tell his big story in small, delightful, quiet ways.” -Emily P. Freeman, Simply Tuesday

It’s just pure grace. And ALL the glory and praise goes to God alone.
All of it. Every bit of it.

This project was truly a labor of love. It was such a humbling grace to get to be a part of it. I just know that the words on the pages of this book, both Emily’s beautiful words and the Scriptures that she shares, will be like a breath for your soul and will encourage your heart.

A little sneak peek inside at a few of the pages:

Some illustrations have lots of little details, others are a bit more simple with larger spaces to color in or to add your own patterns and designs. The pages are nice and thick (I love them!), and they are each perforated, so they can be easily removed to hang on your wall or frame as a gift. The cover is just beautiful and soft, with touches of gold (SO pretty!). The designers at Revell and Baker Publishing did an amazing job putting this book together...it truly is lovely. And Emily's words and the Scriptures inside are what make it absolutely beautiful!

To celebrate the release of It’s Simply Tuesday, I’m giving away some fun bonuses to the first 40 people who Pre-Order a copy of the coloring book through my shop. (Of course, you can order a book on Amazon or just about any place that you buy books, but these free bonus goodies are only available for orders made through my Little House Studio shop. ;) )

The first freebie you get when you Pre-Order is a hand-painted watercolor and line ink drawing, specially made to celebrate It’s Simply Tuesday. Each 5x7 piece is signed and numbered. I created each piece individually, so although the basic design of each piece is the same, no two are exactly alike and each one is unique.

The second free bonus you will get is a “Mustard Seed Charm & Bookmark”:

I love what Emily writes about the mustard seed in Simply Tuesday:

“We plant, trusting God for the growth.
We act in faith, trusting God for the outcome.
We build, trusting God to fill.
We offer, trusting God with the response.
We remember the mustard seed that is like the kingdom of God, the seed that will grow anywhere and everywhere even without our help. We remember this is a ‘hardy seed that remains viable for years—even centuries.’ “

This handmade bookmark with a single mustard seed in the charm is a simple reminder of the significance of small things, and that even a tiny amount of faith has the power to move mountains.

It's Simply Tuesday Pre-Order Bonuses || Little House Studio

And the third freebie you get when you pre-order is this hand-lettered 5x7 print:

I was inspired to letter this verse after I read Emily’s words in Simply Tuesday:

“This day belongs to the Lord…This is the day the Lord has made for me to rejoice and be glad in. This is not the day Emily has made to toil and strive and earn.
Today, the banquet table is laid out for me in my soul. And it looks like meetings, deadlines, and a few household chores on the outside, but on the inside I know that my Father is very fond of me, and he has plans I know nothing about, and this is the day he has made. He invites me to come and sit at his table and pull up a chair made for small legs. He invites me to surrender myself to his agenda and trust that he intends good things.”

I hope this little print will be a reminder to you, that every ordinary Tuesday, and each day of your life, is a day that the Lord has made…a day to rejoice and be glad in...a day to notice the small moments and celebrate the little gifts that God gives…a day to celebrate His grace.

It's Simply Tuesday Pre-Order Bonuses || Little House Studio

Pre-Order your copy of It’s Simply Tuesday to snag these bonus goodies! But hurry, I only made up 40 sets of freebies…order your book today to make sure you get yours! :)

And if you’re in the Greenville, SC area next Friday, April 7th, I’d love to meet you! I’ll be joining Emily for a fun little coloring night and book signing event at the Barnes and Noble on Woodruff Road at 5:00pm. See the event page for more details. I’d love to see you there!

Because it's simply Tuesday...

I picked up my mom early this past Saturday and we headed off on an adventure to North Carolina. I had won free tickets to a book launch party for Emily Freeman. She wrote this beautiful book called Simply Tuesday and she had invited all her readers to put their names in the hat for a random drawing to win free tickets to the celebration which was to take place at her sister, The Nester’s amazing white barn. I have followed both Emily and The Nester for quite some time…I LOVE their books and their blogs…so on a whim, I put my name in the hat.

But I never win anything. Ever. And I honestly did not expect to win this.

But then…I did!

And then I about had a panic attack. Silly, right? I mean, I WON…I should have felt excitement and elation, not stress and fear. But you see, I struggle a bit with social anxiety…and sometimes it can be quite paralyzing. I blame it on being an introvert and a homebody, but really it boils down to insecurity and fear. I like being alone, I like the safety of my people and I avoid situations where I am surrounded by a lot of people, especially people I don’t know. Because usually in those situations my tongue gets all twisted and my words come out all weird and I usually end up sounding and acting like a complete goofball who can’t even get a thought out straight.

So when I got that email saying I had won the tickets, I hesitated. It sounded like fun, and it would be so cool to meet these authors that I have read and followed…and well, it was at The Nester’s barn (!!!). But I hesitated because, I mean, really, who in the world am I to get to hang out with these “cool” people who write great words and are so witty and beautiful and awesome? I hesitated because I didn’t think I would fit in very well…I’m nobody special from nowhere really. I hesitated because I was afraid.

But I’ve been really working on that fear thing…because fear is not from God, especially not this fear that stems from worry over what people will think of me or how they will perceive me….that’s a selfish kind of fear that I have been fighting and laying at the feet of Jesus over and over again. I don’t want to continue to allow fear to keep me from experiencing life to the full. Because a life lived in fear is no way to really live at all. I know. Because I've been there.

And so...I went. And boy am I SO glad I did!!

Even though my hands were literally shaking as I walked up to the barn, and even though I know I sounded like such a goof as I fumbled over my thoughts and my words came out a bit wonky...I had such a wonderful time. The whole place was so full of warmth and grace…it was beautiful and cozy and not at all as scary or intimidating as I had feared. In fact, it felt a lot like home. And Emily and Myquillyn were both just as sweet and kind and gracious as anyone I’ve ever met.

It’s really hard to put the evening into words. I just don’t know that anything I would say would do it justice. Not even my photos quite capture the beautiful spirit of that night.

I think my favorite part of the night was when Emily read from her book, Simply Tuesday. I have only made it about halfway through reading the book, but I can already tell it will be a favorite. Here’s just a little excerpt, about benches and taking time to sit down and embrace the simple moments of an ordinary Tuesday:

"The benches didn't give them something to talk about. The benches weren't fancy, expensive, impressive, or flashy. They weren't a complicated solution to an unsolvable problem, and they didn't offer answers to difficult questions. The benches simply gave us neighbors a place to be, a place to rest, a place to come together on an ordinary day.
I've thought of this often in many areas of my life when I try to make things too complicated. When I feel myself getting carried away, when I feel tempted to turn and build a city rather than accept my right-now home, I ask this simple question:
Where is the bench in this moment?
In my work, when I see all the reasons why what they’re doing over there is more important, impactful, and effective than what I’m doing over here, I’m tempted to make the platform wider and put brighter lights in the bulbs because I have to dazzle, you know. I am determined to make my work the best, the most excellent. When I want to climb the ladder, what if instead I tore the ladder apart and used the wood to build a bench?
In my relationships, when I see a need I think needs fixing, a conversation I don’t know how to tackle, a grief I have no words for, I’m tempted to make things complicated and fast-moving – let’s pull out the city plans, build the roadways and sidewalks straight to your heart. But people don’t need fancy and flashy, they probably just want regular. They don’t need a fixer, they need a journeyer. They just need to sit on a bench with someone else so they know they’re not alone. I know this because it’s what I need too.
In my own soul, when I feel the need rise up in me for recognition, appreciation, and validation; when I feel my soul grasp and grope for worth, significance, a city to call my own, I want to look for the bench instead. How can I sit down on the inside?”

- Emily Freeman, Simply Tuesday

I’ve been asking myself that question a lot the last few days…How can I sit down on the inside?

So today, I am practicing the art of sitting down on the inside…I am embracing all the small Tuesday moments that I often overlook in my hurry to something bigger and better. Today, I am thankful for a wonderful weekend that reminded me that the extraordinary moments are often pretty ordinary…and ordinary moments with my Tuesday people are actually rather extraordinary…and every moment is a gift, with absolutely nothing to fear, because I get Christ right here with me through it all.

Have a beautiful Tuesday, friends!

(And you should totally get this book, Simply Tuesday...you'll be so glad you did)

Our perfectly imperfect glamping adventure

The girls are starting back to school next week (seriously, how in the world is summer already over?!?). I'm so glad we were able to squeeze in one last family adventure before it’s back to the regular school routine…we went “glamping!"

Honestly, we are not really campers. I’m not a particularly super “outdoorsy” person (though I do love nature). I really don’t like to sweat. And I don’t like bugs. And I like my soft bed and fluffy pillows. And up until last summer (when we went on our first ever “glamping” trip), I had no clue how to even start a fire (sad, I know).

But what I do love is creating memories with my family. And I do like trying new things and seeing new places. And there’s just something about getting away from the noise of reality and being surrounded by nature and trees and the open sky…it just stills my soul. And I’ve been needing some soul-stilling lately.

So we packed up our little car and headed to a state park (this time we went to Fort Yargo State Park here in Georgia), and we spent a couple of days “glamping” (fancy camping) in a yurt. If you’re wondering what in the world a yurt is, don’t feel bad…I had no idea what it was either until last year when we stayed in one for the first time. Here’s what our yurt looked like:

 Some twinkle lights, a bit of bunting, and some pretty quilts and candles are how we put the "glam" in Glamping :)

Some twinkle lights, a bit of bunting, and some pretty quilts and candles are how we put the "glam" in Glamping :)

It’s basically a giant tent with electricity and a wooden floor and furniture inside. There is no air conditioning, no bathroom (we had to walk to the “comfort station” for that), and we had to cook our food over a fire, so I say it totally qualifies as camping…right?! Well, it’s about as close to camping as we’re probably ever going to get anyway. ;)

And we had a really great time. We played games and laughed together more than we’ve done in a long time. Our yurt was right on the lake and the view was amazing, especially the sunsets. The girls held butterflies and chased fireflies. We made s’mores and hiked around the park. We paddled in a canoe for the first time together…and we didn’t fall out! We hung up twinkle lights and read books late into the night…it was a bit magical, really.

We made memories that I will cherish forever.

But it wasn’t perfect.

It was hot. Really, really hot. And an animal of some sort (we’re thinking a squirrel maybe?) got into the yurt through a hole in the screen window…it chewed through our bread, half of our hot dog buns and a package of donuts. And the girls annoyed one another and got quite cranky…several times. And the futon sofa was pretty hard and uncomfortable. And there was a giant (and I mean GIANT) spider in the bathroom sink. And there were bees that kept buzzing around my head as I tried to cook outside. And I ran into at least three spider webs while walking through the woods on our hikes. And I sweated. A lot. Did I mention it was really hot? Oh, and my coffee maker didn’t work. It was tragic. *sigh*

It would be easy for me to list out all those things that weren’t perfect, to focus on everything that went bad or wrong or not the way I wanted or had pictured in my head…and I could let that list taint my memory of those days with my family and keep me from doing anything like that again.

But I don’t want to do that. Because I actually think that it is ALL of the moments – the great and the not-so-great, the beautiful and the messy moments – that grow us as a family, and make our time together so important and meaningful.

I think a lot of times we set our expectations for family time way too high. We stress too much about trying to make our family nights or our vacations reach some illogical level of perfection. We try to create these “perfect” moments together and in the process we miss the wonderful imperfect moments we already have…the messy moments that give us opportunities to live out what we say we believe about love and grace and forgiveness and redemption and joy…together.

I believe with all my heart that it is important for us to be intentional about our time together as a family, and to set aside focused time to be together. Whether it’s a family game night or taking a walk together or going on an adventure in a yurt, spending time together is so important…time when we are not just together in proximity, just sitting in the same room breathing the same air, but together on purpose, actually talking and interacting and building relationships with one another.

But life is busy, and it seems to be getting increasingly challenging to snag those kinds moments as my kids are getting older and busier with their own friends and activities and plans.

And yet…maybe it’s not.

Maybe I just need to stop weighing some moments heavier than others and embrace that every moment we have together has the potential to be significant. Because every moment is like a little drop of water…it may not seem like much on its own, but over time, moment by moment, drop by drop, they create a river of influence in my kids’ lives.

I’m so thankful for the times we can get away as a family…those are memories that I will forever cherish. But I also want to be more intentional about embracing more of our everyday, unplanned, completely imperfect moments together. Because growing a strong family doesn’t just happen on a once-in-a-while family getaway. It happens in all of the moments we are together, even in the messy imperfect everyday moments…

...maybe especially in the messy imperfect everyday moments. 

Twelve years...

Today I am feeling all the feelings. It’s Emma’s birthday today.  She is 12 years old.

I’m not really sure how that happened.  ;)

Sometimes the day this photo was taken – the first day I wore the name “mom” and held this new little soul in my arms – seems like a lifetime ago. But sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday. Time is funny like that. All these moments, one after the other…and before you know it, you’re looking back at a lifetime that feels like just a breath.

Because somehow, it’s been 12 years.

TWELVE.

Twelve years of days lie between those two photos. Twelve years of good days and hard days and days I didn’t think I would make it….days full of joy and laughter, tears and exhaustion, challenges and uncertainty, smiles and adventures…twelve years of days full of moments and memories I honestly wouldn’t trade for anything.

It’s been twelve years full of gifts. Twelve years full of grace.

I haven’t been perfect at this mom thing. Not by a long shot. Motherhood is so much harder, and more wonderful, than I had ever expected it to be. I had no idea what I was getting into when they put her in my arms for the first time. No. Idea. I have fumbled and stumbled my way through this thing…and this “tween” stage is stretching me and challenging me more than ever. There are so many days I feel so inadequate to do this great thing of growing another human, of leading this other soul through this crazy broken world.

Because I’m so broken myself. I’m so banged up and bruised up and messed up.

But I just keep leaning hard into Jesus…I just keep trusting His grace to fill in the gaps.

And somehow we’ve survived twelve years.

And with Jesus, we’ll make it twelve more. (Only by then, she could very well have a little one of her own…but oh my word, I can’t even begin to go there! At this point, we just gotta survive middle school ;) )

But I know that day will be here before I know it…the days seem to be moving faster, the weeks are flying by.  Which is why I am more passionate than ever about making the most of every moment I can…seizing every opportunity to intentionally invest in our family and in our girls.  Because even though one single moment may not seem like much…it all adds up. One little conversation, one little family night, one little prayer before bedtime, one little heart-to-heart talk, one little snuggle or cuddle, one little game, one little devotion, one little act of kindness, one little hug, one little word of encouragement…one little moment by itself may not seem to make much of an impact…but together? Day after day, year after year? Each moment is like a little drop of water. One drop may not make much of a difference…but drop after drop after drop, over time…all together, those drops add up and become a raging river.  All those moments we have with our children have the potential to become a river of influence in their lives.

Even the moments when we mess up. Even the drops that are tainted and colored by our mistakes and our sin…those drops add to the influence too. I don’t know about you, but I am so not perfect. I don’t have it all together. Not every drop of influence I give my children is good. Sometimes they see me mess up, they see me fall apart, they see me fail. But I wonder if these moments - the not-so-pinterest-perfect-moments - may possibly have an even greater impact on them than all the “good” I do...because humbling myself and asking forgiveness, being forgiven and still being secure in God’s love for me, leaning into Him and trusting Him even in my brokenness, and finding joy and comfort in His grace…that’s a powerful thing for my children to see.

Our moments matter. What we do with our moments, what we do with our days...how we forgive and how we love and how we talk and how we act…it all matters…it is all making an impact, it is all adding up. The good, the bad, and the ugly...all weaving together into a beautiful tapestry that tells our children the story of God's love and grace and redemption.

So today, on my “mom-iversary”, as we celebrate this sweet, precious, beautiful soul that is my Emma girl, I am recommitting myself to parent intentionally. Even though the days may be exhausting and the challenges are changing and I still don’t know what I’m doing half the time, now as much as ever my daughters need a mom who is leaning hard into Jesus and who is consistently and intentionally adding drops of influence into their lives, who is modeling for them what it is like to live for Jesus, and who is present with them in this moment (not afraid of the future or regretting the past, but fully here right now), finding joy in the middle of the crazy and grace in the middle of it all.  Because this life? It really is just a breath. A precious, fleeting breath. And I want my breath to breathe life and love and joy and grace into the lives of the people God has given me, for as long as He lets me have them.

morning fog