13 March 2014

on creativity.

I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity in the past few months and have felt a strong need to readjust my approach to art, crafts, and making things. For the past several years a lot of my creative energy went towards my Etsy shop. When sitting down at my craft table the prevailing thought bubble above my head was, “what can I make to sell in my Etsy shop?” When working on any sort of project I often asked myself, “could this be a new product in my shop?” 
That's not necessarily bad. I think there can be space for those kinds of thoughts in my life, but after a while I wasn't feeling creative and had little motivation to make anything at all. After Christmas, especially, I was feeling a little burned out (I made a majority of the gifts I gave) and I was generally uninspired. I didn’t like the self-imposed pressure to make something worthy of being sold every time I sat down to create. I had forgotten that the process of making things is just as valuable (if not more) than the end product. I didn't spend very much time making art or crafts during January and February, but eventually I started missing the creative process. So I decided to take a break from my Etsy shop and to try working on projects just for fun. 
And let me tell you it is fun to experiment with script art (I'm so inspired by Kal) and it's exciting to paint a picture I can keep, especially when it's a painting I love. My entrepreneurial spirit has not diminished; I just try to quiet it at times so I can lose myself in the wonder of painting, drawing, scrapbooking, taking photos, so on and so forth. Being honest, though, I've been really frustrated at times. I don't always like what I make. The vision I have in my head is not always so easy to put down on paper. I'm not as skilled at drawing and painting as I want to be. I know that I have a lot to learn and honing skills takes time. Nevertheless, it's encouraging to remember that I'm actually giving myself a chance to improve.
A few practical things have aided in this process:

1. I set aside specific time in my week for creative exercise. These times are flexible, but I try to sit down at my desk on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday either right after work or in the evening after dinner. Since I enjoy this creative stuff, I tend to make things at other times too. I just have these semi-mandatory times so that I will actually create and so that I can challenge myself to learn more about work in particular medium. 

2. I have a creative accountability partner. My good friend Kelly (who is an amazing artist) and I both need a little external motivation to get ourselves to spend time being creative so we decided to talk weekly about our creative processes. We are even giving each other weekly challenges, which acts as a deadline and spices things up. More about those weekly challenges later.

3. I'm co-leading an art group for high school girls. We meet weekly and do creative writing, different types of art projects, and talk about life. We're following a curriculum and I love that I have another creative outlet through this group. We work on projects that I wouldn't think of myself; it stretches and inspires me. A recent project at Girls Group sparked the idea to paint splashes (my favorite painting is above). 

While this personal reflection was largely a means to help me process my situation , I hope it encourages or inspires some of you out there. And if you have tips on being creative, by all means, share them in the comments! 

02 March 2014

our long weekend in seattle.

Josh and I were fortunate enough to travel to Seattle a few weekends ago. Our trip was a combination of investigating grad. school options/attending the discernment weekend at Seattle Pacific Seminary (SPS) and visiting Josh’s family. We packed a lot into our four days there, and while it didn’t feel like quite enough time, it was still amazing to see our far-away family in early February.
Neither Josh nor I are ready to jump into grad school immediately. Josh is currently finishing up his Master’s thesis from the University of Oslo, so he is eager to take a break from school. We do, however, both have some academic aspirations/interests and it was cool to take some time to investigate our options. I want to be an Elementary ESOL teacher, so I need to find a way to get my teacher certification. SPU has a Master’s in TESOL, which I could combine with a K-12 certification and an ESL endorsement. It’s kind of complicated and I met with four different people at SPU to talk about the TESOL part of the program, the Elementary Education part of the program, and about applying to grad. school in general. I learned a lot and feel better able to look around online at different grad. school programs. 
Josh is interested in studying theology, so he signed up for the discernment weekend at SPS. Each potential seminarian can bring along a family member, so I got to participate in the discernment weekend with Josh. Celeste has recruited a handful of Greenville College students to come to the discernment weekend over the past couple years; this time she just so happened to recruit our good friend Mikey Ward and my cousin Maria Koppelberger!  The discernment weekend was Friday afternoon through Saturday morning. We heard some interesting presentations and panels from professors and students from SPS, we went to a Taize prayer service, ate a couple meals together, and had a couple bible studies. It was good!

One of the most interesting parts of the weekend for Josh and me was a presentation/ discussion with an SPU professor Doug Koskela who talked about vocation and discernment. What we found really helpful was his distinction between the three categories of calling from God. 1) General Calling from God to all people to love and follow God. 2) Missional Calling, which is a person's guiding purpose, mission, or vocation and is usually connected to a person's gifts, talents and interests. 3) Direct Calling is a direct call from God to do a particular task and may not have any link to one's gifts or interests. It was really encouraging to us (especially Josh who doesn't have a crystal clear understanding of his vocation) when Doug said he believes everyone has a missional calling which may take time, prayer and some trial and error to figure it out. Furthermore, not everyone has a direct calling and this is not something that we should spend time seeking. Doug said, "with direct calling, it's best to think in terms of confirmation rather than discernment." With direct callings, God will make it clear to us (think of stories like Moses and the burning bush or Jonah and the Whale).  And that is a relief. As a young person I think there is some pressure to figure your life out and to be a successful, contributing member of society. It's quite a relief to realize that success in God's eyes (which is what matters to me) can mean doing something meaningful that I love and feel drawn to do. 
After the discernment weekend was over on Saturday we had the rest of the day to hang out in Seattle with Mikey and Maria. We walked around Queen Anne Hill, where the Cranstons live, and we hiked through Discovery Park, a huge public park in the middle of Seattle on the shores of the Puget Sound. Since I didn't take my camera to Discovery Park, I am borrowing some pictures from the internet so you can see this awesome place:

Do you see those mountains?! I just love mountains. A little side note about Discovery Park: when I first visited Josh in Seattle the summer after our sophomore year of college we spent a good three or four hours exploring Discovery Park. We hiked all over the trails and then scrambled down to the shore where we wandered for a while, only to try to climb back up to the trails by way of something that resembled a bluff.  We crawled up that rocky butte, which turned into a forest of tangled vines and brambles. We were hoping that our trek would led us to the trails, but it was all for not. We ended up sliding back down the rocky hill and found the trail via the well-traveled route, but for a while we felt like explorers. 

It actually snowed on Saturday night and didn't fully melt until Sunday, which is pretty unusual. There was some concern that our Greenville people wouldn't catch their flights home, but they made it just fine. On Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning we hung out at home with this furry guy below (who is quite hard to photograph!), Elliot, Josh's best friend from childhood, and with some extended family. We ate Sunday lunch with Grandparents Cranston, Christopher and Ali (cousins), Aunt Paula, and Uncle Frank and Aunt Rhonda. We hadn't seen most of the Seattle contingent since last Christmas and we hadn't seen Paula since our wedding, so it was a real treat to spend time with them.
Our little jaunt to Seattle was encouraging, invigorating and down right fun. We love you family; thanks for making our time in Seattle wonderful!

04 February 2014

mateskared & nostalgia.

This is MATESKARED, the cabin in Upstate New York where my Grandpa Matt spent his summers (as a young person and as an adult, I believe) and where now my extended Zahniser family gathers every summer. I've been at those gatherings a handful of times throughout my childhood and it was pure bliss. I first went to the cabin as a newborn. Although I don't remember this, rumor has it that my Uncle Dave held me for the first time and I pooped on him. I was off to a good start at MATESKARED. 
When I was old enough to remember trips to the cabin I recall that I absolutely loved exploring the barn and the nearby stream, getting our drinking water from the spring, and swimming at Minerva Beach and Giant's Bathtub. I loved getting to see my Great Grandma Z (Pally) and other Aunts, Uncles and cousins. I was thrilled to go hiking and to spend time painting, drawing and playing games with my sister. One summer I remember getting to go on the grown-ups' backpacking trip to Crane Mountain. I think I might have cried when I found out my parents would be hiking without me, so they let me come along. I remember that I insisted on bringing my teddy and that we swam out to an island not too far from the shore of a very chilly lake. I curled up each night next to my mom and had the lightest pack of the group! Seeing these MATESKARED pictures brings back sweet memories.
 I've actually never seen the cabin like this, though, blanketed in snow. Grandma Ann sent me these pictures recently and you know what came to mind first? Not time spent here in the summers, but Norway. Memories of skiing and cabin trips in Oslomarka immediately flooded my thoughts. Today is a snow day in Wichita and we actually have snow! We already have several inches and the snowflakes continue to drift down from the sky. Josh and I are just dying to do some cross-country skiing. And what makes it worse is that just the other day I received an email from my friend Jana (whom I met in Norway) describing her latest skiing expedition. Jana was my best skiing buddy and she recently skied a route that we often took together. (Jana, I wish we could ski together!!) When Josh saw these pictures he said, "we should move to MATESKARED and go skiing all winter long!" Of course, the cabin is not really livable in wintertime, but we like to dream. That picture above sure looks like a good place to ski.
I've haven't been to MATESKARED in years. Since we were dating I've always wanted Josh to experience the beauty of this place and to get a glimpse of some of my fondest childhood memories. I hope that someday soon we can make our way up there. By the way, MATESKARED is a combination of the names of my grandpa and his siblings (Matt + Esther + Karen + Edward = MATESKARED). I love this place and I'm grateful for the time spent there connecting with my family and with nature. I am hoping that some of my MATESKARED-going family members are reading this. If so, please feel free to share your memories in the comments!

I think photo credit goes to my Great Uncle Ed, but I'm not quite sure. 

19 December 2013

more photos of our home.

Our Upstairs Bedroom & Bathroom:

Downstairs Chapel:

Kitchen & Living Room:
Our home has come a long way since I last shared an update. We have carpet in our sink/closet area. We have a much needed new door in our room. Our oven actually works! Up until a few weeks ago we had been using our toaster oven for all necessary baking. That oven is small, so I'm thankful for a full sized working oven. Our house plants are thriving, too! Josh enjoys house projects a lot; he has put in a new window and fan in our bathroom, installed a new door to our room, and he's put together some temporary shelves for our bathroom.

We're pretty happy living here; our home if functional and cozy and we have great housemates!  

18 December 2013

project life in 2013: august.

weeks 1-4
What happened this month? The first half of August we were in Greenville. Many of our friends had left, so we hung out a lot with family and a few friends still in the area. Josh and I helped Caitlin move to Springfield, Illinois, and my parents and I helped Layla move to college at Trinity International University in Chicago. Then we moved to Wichita, Kansas! 
Anything special in the spread? I included an insert with my summer reflection from this blog post. I formatted the text in PSE and printed it out at home. On the back side of the insert I included some “before” pictures of our room in Wichita.

Overall thoughts? With so much moving going on in August, I decided not to stick to a strict week by week plan for project life. Instead, I took pictures when I felt like it and mashed two weeks into one spread. The pages are mostly chronological, but I didn’t bother with too many dates. I’m happy with it!

Supplies and Tools: American Crafts thickerswashi tape, paper source labels, pretty paper from Dick Blick, random paper from my stash, Design A and B photo pocket pages (this variety pack), Seafoam core kit, Kraft core kit, Cobalt cardstock, black sharpie, black steadtler fineliner pen, slicker writer pens.

Project Life is a simple scrapbooking system by Becky Higgins.  I am using this system to document our first year of marriage with photos, words and other fun paper stuff.  You can see my other project life pages here.  

15 December 2013

our thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving highlights just in time for Christmas! I'm a little behind on the blogging, but I thought it's never too late to share gratitude. 

Last Thanksgiving Josh and I cooked all day to have a Thanksgiving meal with some of our European friends. We had fun preparing the meal and hosting friends, but my favorite part was going around the table to share what we were each thankful for in the past year. Our friend (and Josh’s advisor) Martin said he hadn’t shared his gratitude like that in two years. I found it really special for a diverse mix of people (a Swed, some Germans, a Ugandan, and two Americans) to gather around the table and express our thankfulness. This year I found myself thinking a lot about Norway. When I reflected back on what I'm thankful for in the past year I couldn't stop thinking about the people who became our close friends and for the challenges that brought Joshua and me closer together. Thank you friends and Norway for a good year!

This Thanksgiving we were surrounded by our family in Wichita, Elise (who came from Greenville), and some new friends. It was wonderful and restful, but also quite active; somehow I felt sleep-deprived by the end. I made rolls for the Thanksgiving meal; we all gathered at the Overholt's house. The JRLD household, plus Elise, did a Turkey Trot run. (Let me explain JRLD. It stands for Joshua, Rachel, Lauren and Daniel and it's pronounced "Gerald." It's a whole lot easier to give our house a name than to say Lauren and Daniel's house, where Josh and Rachel live.) On Thanksgiving day we enjoyed delicious food and copious amounts of pie, played games like "Dictionary" and "Off the Wall,"took an afternoon walk, and played with sparklers. Throughout the weekend we spent a lot of time with family, I did a little Christmas shopping (NOT on Black Friday- I refuse), we ate dinner/watched movies with friends, played disc golf, and skyped/phone-talked with our parents. There's a lot to be thankful for this year like a good job, a cozy place to live, great housemates, new friendships, old friendships, family, and God's love. I'm feeling very blessed.

And thanks to you for reading what I write here! 

25 November 2013

cabin trip with my parents!

This was SO fun. Over the long Veteran's Day weekend Josh and I met my parents in Lake of the Ozarks State Park in Missouri for some hiking and general spending time together kind of stuff. We rented a cabin , cooked our meals outside, played Nerts and Scattegories and hiked around. 
We hiked around Lake of the Ozarks State Park on Saturday. We went on one of the “wildest” trails, meaning it was not groomed, and it was very loud and crunchy due to the massive amounts of dead leaves on the trail. We took food, a pocket rocket, and a pan with us to make quesadillas on the trail for lunch! Later we meandered around the shore of the lake before heading back to our cabin to rest and make dinner. I love the combination of physical exertion, time in nature and relaxation on trips like this. 
 We started Sunday with a cozy breakfast in our cabin and a prayer service. My parents made scrambled eggs in a plastic bag in a pot of boiling water. I was so impressed; the eggs looked a little weird, but tasted super delicious! We prayed and sang, which is always wonderful to do on a Sunday morning.
A random guy at the visitors center had recommended that we should try hiking at Ha Ha Tonka State Park, so after our prayer service we drove there in about 20 minutes. It was another beautiful and warm day; we enjoyed hiking to an old castle, a natural bridge, and a beautiful blue spring. We stopped for lunch on the trail again. We heated up left over Moroccan stew and ate it in a tortilla. Yum! In the late afternoon we played more Nerts and went on a sunset walk before my parents had to leave. My dad had to work Monday, so they needed to get home on Sunday night. It was sad to see them go, but Josh and I had a nice, quiet evening of journaling and singing in the cabin. On Monday morning we ate breakfast, packed up and headed back to Wichita. 
 If you're interested in cabin trips in the Missouri area, I do recommend the outpost cabins at Lake of the Ozarks State Park! Thanks Mom and Dad for making this trip so special!!