Finding Voice

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I kept real quiet on here for a few months while friends and family would kindly ask, "where did you go?"

I’d smile and fidget awkwardly; my posture whenever someone says kind words. I felt so grateful they'd noticed I left but also so guilty for not coming back.

I’m sure you’ve felt this way before too - there’s something you used to do but stopped doing it because maybe life got too busy or hard. Maybe the thing you really loved started to feel like a silly hobby, taking you away from being a “real adult". Maybe it felt luxurious or selfish. Maybe it didn’t come easy anymore, it felt a heck of a lot like work.

And you believed the lie that if it’s hard, you should stop. Maybe you’re not meant to do it.

The juice isn’t really worth the squeeze.

Perhaps you desperately wanted it to become something and it stayed small.

My main reason for stopping was because I couldn't find my voice. Which seems like a silly thing to misplace. But it didn’t sound familiar anymore. Suddenly the voice I knew, the way I was writing, felt like talking to a friend I hadn’t seen in quite a while.

The friend you used to be really close with as a child but after high school, both went your separate ways. Her down one path, you down the another. And suddenly, all the things that seemed so similar before don’t really match up.

So you sit down for coffee, unsure of the best place to start other than at the very beginning, because you have to get to know each other all over again.

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So I stopped sharing because I figured voice was essential to this space. I had to find it.

Along the way, I learned the places you don’t find it.

You don’t find your voice by sitting on it.

You don’t find it by keeping quiet and aiming to please.

You don’t find it by changing who you are depending on who you are with.

You don’t find it by scrolling through instagram or checking facebook.

You don’t find it by choosing isolation in the midst of pain. Or saying, “I’m fine” when really you’re falling apart.

You don’t find it without crawling back into your past. You don’t have to stay there, you just need to visit and dig your feet in a little.

I can say these things with confidence because I’ve done all of them. Many of them I still wrestle with because I’m human. We get buckets of grace for being human. So voice has been the thing I keep coming back to and truthfully it’s been one of the hardest parts as a writer.

Because if it means not silencing it, it means we have to speak. It means we have to walk through the fear - even when we feel like someone else could write this piece way better or we believe the lie that it’s all been said before.

It also means we listen. We have to listen to find our voice. We have to be willing to be quiet and still and put our phones away or any other distracting device that pulls us from living in the present moment.

We have to be willing to go do things alone. Which used to be way easier for me before getting married.

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If I am learning anything, it’s that voice isn’t stagnant, it moves and changes and adapts. Because we change and grow. So if this space doesn’t change, I think I am doing an injustice.

And I’m certainly not being honest with you because the woman I was two years ago is different than the woman I am now. And those changes aren't always clear and visible. They're rarely flashy and instagram worthy. Often the change is grueling inner work, slow and steady.

Two steps forward, one step back sort of thing.

And the only folks who really notice are the ones we are doing life with day in and day out.

So I’ll probably be introducing you to a few more chapters of my story in the weeks to come. I’ll have you meet the person I was in order to truly understand the woman I am now - the woman I am slowly becoming. Because I can’t silence those stories or abandon my past.

And truthfully, I don't want to choose. I don't want to pick a voice and silence all the others. I am still growing in and through them. And I suppose I want to give you the push and encouragement to do the same - to be all the many parts of you. No matter how conflicting they might seem.

Because I think in that place, the tug of war, the walking through our past and touching the walls of where we've been, we just might find it. We just might find the quiet whispers of a girl we used to know and haven’t spoken to in quite a while.

We just mind find our most honest voice.

Photography: Amelia Schmid :: Website // Instagram

Airbnb Hosting Tips

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Ever since I was little, I’ve wanted to own a Bed & Breakfast, preferably in Ireland. Though I’m open to other places. And while that dream is on hold, the next best thing for me has been Airbnb. It’s what I was most excited about when we bought our first home - hosting friends and complete strangers.

Our love for hosting began as guests.

Matt and I have stayed in a cabin meets yurt in Asheville, a cozy studio apartment in France and a home with my family in New Zealand. We even used airbnb for our entire honeymoon in Germany because I wanted the real deal. I wanted to chat with locals and sip tea (or a large mug of beer) at their table.

For us, I always like to feel out our guests and gauge their level of social interaction. For some, it’s clear right when you greet them and offer a glass of water or tea, that they’d really love to hear more of your story and share some of theirs.

Like the gal who arrived all the way from California, on a four month road trip and somehow landed in our small town. The three of us sat on our porch sipping wine and swapping travel stories.

Another sweet memory involved a mom and daughter relocating to a new city, we chatted about the hardships of life and the goodness of God over oatmeal bake at my kitchen counter.

And for other guests, it’s simply a place to lay their head.

Both are wonderful!

When it comes to making the space welcoming and inviting, there is a little preparation that goes into it for me - just so I can rest easy knowing folks are comfortable and happy.

Here are the tips/suggestions for you:

(Disclaimer: we are no experts just learning as we go.)

Before the visit

  • Check in with guests the day before just to confirm when they might arrive. That way, you can either make sure to be home or leave a key. We’ve done both.

  • If we’re home, we normally give guests a quick tour - we invite them to use the kitchen and gathering spaces as if it was their own. We'll point out where pots and pans live, mugs for tea and so on. We check in and ask, "How was your trip? Is there anything you need? Water, tea, glass of wine?"

  • If we’re not home, I’ll write a short message to guests about all the above.

Bedroom

Things I make sure to include in the guest room:

  • Two fresh towels on the bed for each guest (one large and one small for the face). I like to put 2 mints on each towel.

  • A pitcher of water and glasses

  • Granola bars and napkins

  • Box of tissues

  • Basket of pamphlets and magazines of local activities

  • Mirror

  • House key

  • Welcome book (that includes)

    • Check out procedure - where should they leave their towels? Do you want the bed stripped?

    • WIFI password and network name.

    • Local attractions and activities - coffee shops, best spots for breakfast, hiking trails, vineyards etc.

    • Cab services

    • Guest Book! (My friend shared this idea and I thought it was wonderful!)

Bathroom

We have one full bath...which means we share with our guests. I know, crazy? Matt and I are used to roommates so that part doesn’t really phase us though I make sure the space is super clean with a basket of extra toiletries in case our guests forget some.

If guests are staying for multiple nights, I’ll often pull some of my “getting ready trinkets” down to our half bath downstairs.

Kitchen

I designated a little corner of our kitchen for guests that offers:

  • Coffee pot

  • Ground coffee

  • Mug (sometimes I’ll put a treat inside)

  • Bowl of teabags (variety is good like decaf and herbal teas for folks who don't drink caffeine)

  • Honey and sugar easily accessible

  • Creamer in the fridge

  • Spoon for stirring

Extra Touches

  • A homemade treat or a few chocolates

  • Essential oils in the room (I like lemon) before new guests

  • Extra Blanket

  • A few pastries or breads for breakfast -- we found most of our guests weren’t staying to eat breakfast so this is not something we typically offer. It really depends on your home and space and what you want to do!

At the end of the day, it's all about how you make people feel. Folks want a clean room but they also just want to feel welcome and cared for - something every single one of us can do, no matter the space!

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is it weird having a complete stranger sleep in your home?

Honestly, no. I feel like folks who use airbnb are all so kind and welcoming -- it’s a culture all on it’s own. Also, Airbnb does a really great job making you feel safe because you review one another - we read what other hosts have said about all our guests and guests can read reviews about us.

You only have one bathroom. How does that work?

Like I said, this doesn’t really phase us. Normally, guests will ask when we need to scoot out in the morning and we all make it work. Matt typically gets up and out much earlier than guests are even awake. And I work from home so showering and “getting ready” for the day isn’t normally necessary.

Why did you start hosting in the first place?

I recognize we are in an ideal time to do this - no babies. I’m sure it would become a little complicated in a home of our size with a few littles running around or a baby crying in the middle of the night. Although, not impossible.

And at that point, we might rent the space only when we go on a family vacation - leave the whole house to guests. That’s the great thing about this, you decide what works best for your family!

Honestly, my main reason for doing this was to welcome folks into our home and make them feel cozy. That brings me so much joy. I love being a small part of each others story. And the fact that we're able to make a small side income for things like house projects and date nights is an extra bonus.

Interested in being a host? Head on over here.

Have a question I didn't answer above? Comment below! Also, if you're an airbnb host what's the experience been like for you? I'd love to know.

the space we create

It seems we have to carve out the space, write it in pen in our new planner from Target. The one we anxiously checked the mail for everyday and almost feels too pretty to write in. We have to tell our spouses before we get out of bed, even after pressing snooze twice, “Hey I’m writing at 7am. I won’t be available after that time.”

Because maybe if I make it out of bed and in front of my screen, the guilt will subside. The guilt when I sit down to write and realize the dishwasher needs emptying and the sink is overflowing. When I realize there are random odds and ends to eat - that could somehow form a lunch if he really tried. And so I hear him scrambling to get his lunch made and feel, you know, guilty (even though he's capable, so capable).

I feel guilt when he eats his eggs alone, after I stole some from the pan.

I feel guilt when I ask him for more coffee, that he made, while I sit on the gray couch by the Christmas tree (we still haven’t taken ours down. another thing, right?).

So it seems much of my hesitation with writing doesn’t have to do with writing at all - it’s about guilt and feeling like I should be doing all the thousand other things than fueling a passion.

And goodness, we don’t even have babies yet. Mamas how do you do it?

I used to think writing was like building a house. Even though I have no idea how you actually build a house - a girl can imagine, right? I used to think each word was like a pretty brick or slab of foundation, gradually growing vertically, until you have something people can walk inside and press their hands against. Normally, you’d wait until it’s structurally okay before inviting folks in, because then it’s safe. You wouldn’t want it to collapse or anything.

So different from writing.

With writing, that lot sits empty for a while as you survey the land. You might walk around the block, observe the neighborhood, say good morning to the little old lady on her front stoop, shop at the local convenience store for a pack of gum, before getting back to the lot to do any groundwork or bricklaying. And then all of a sudden an idea hits, a big bag of bricks and tools and nails tumble to the ground. Though they don’t entirely connect, so you’re stacking them slowly but have to keep running out to the store for more supplies. And sometimes you start over, completely, you’ll build a wall or roof and it will be demolished, maybe used for later. Maybe not.

And despite all of that, you have to invite people in. Because that’s what writing is all about - inviting people in to your messy, broken, beautiful heart.

We have to be brave enough to let people in when the foundation isn’t set and the walls aren’t up - you still have to show people what you’re making because while it might look unkempt, that is holy ground you’re walking on. It’s vital for the story. And it might not feel safe to enter, it might feel terrifying and shaky and hard to sit back down and keep typing but you have to do it. We have to do it. If we ever want our story to come to life, if we ever want the words on our heart to live long after we’re gone, we have to do this - over and over again.

And so I’m here writing, without much sense of which way is up or down. Despite wanting a fresh, new look for this space and not being tech savvy enough to figure it out. Despite being unsure of what I want the essence of this space to be other than what it's always been - a retreat for the heart. I have no clue where the words will take me. But I persevere, I sit down long enough to create.

I offer in the becoming. I welcome people in like I would a home that isn't finished yet.

I carve out the space to write even when chores and my own inner critic taunt me. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s really about time, a lack thereof and rather a problem with I how I use it and fill a day.

Do we simply let the dishes be while we hone our craft? Do we say no to things we really shouldn't be filling our schedule with?  Do we take off the superhero cape and stop being all the things to all the people?

Lately, I’ve been making decisions through a filter. 2017 is my year to simplify - simplify my stuff and my schedule. I’m a “yes” person. I like to help. And while I know there will be things we just have to do, commitments we have to make - I’ve decided to try and make most choices through a simple filter: Does this draw me closer to God? Does this help me go deeper with the precious few? Does this support my love for writing and hospitality?

And what I’m finding is that these three, simple questions apply to so many things. So really, it hasn’t felt limiting, it many ways it feels like I am widening my reach without running ragged. It feels a lot like freedom. But it also feels scary as I swim into uncharted waters and say no to things I might really enjoy.

Sometimes, the writing process feels romantic - candle lit, hot cup of tea, essential oils diffusing, and quiet home. And most often, it feels a lot like right now, greasy hair, coffee that is now lukewarm, pajamas (okay, I changed from last night's yoga pants to yesterday's yoga pants) and a mascara smudged face. If only you could see this.

But this, in my tired eyes and messy hair, is offering what I have as best I’ve got.

And that’s all we can give most days.

So here’s my offering, my pouring out, my laying of bricks. It’s yours to take and walk inside and press your hands against. While it might be messy, I hope you feel welcome and necessary. I hope you know you’re enough and that I’m really glad you’re here.

This space already feels more cozy with you in it.

more than an ashtray

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The summer before I got married I took a pottery class in an old dairy barn.

It was something I had always wanted to do and felt a season before great change was ideal to press into creativity and art.

Truthfully, I needed something to ground me before such a huge transition.

So I took this class because I love the way coffee and tea feel in a handmade mug and because like you - gardeners, painters, bread makers, writers - I crave to use my hands to make something beautiful.

The class was small. I was the youngest by about twenty years. They were a tight knit group and often wondered how I even found this little dairy barn.

There is technique to wheel throwing but I discovered so much of it is in how you feel. It's a delicate balance and movement, a dance of sort, of keeping your feet firmly planted, elbows by your side, and arms relaxed as your hands and body apply pressure to a piece of clay in hopes of turning it into something durable and lovely.

And there's a whole other dance to pull up the sides so a mug or vase or bowl can actually function.

Often I'd be strong and focused with setting the clay and softening it on the wheel. I'd carefully maneuver my fingers and thumb to make the piece come to life. Until suddenly, I'd push too hard or not enough. One side would collapse and I'd have to start all over again or grab a small knife to cut the top.

My mug would become an ashtray.

It became our running joke.

Let's not make any more ashtrays, yeah? How about we go for something different today. 

In so many ways, this season feels a lot like that piece of clay on a wheel.

Maybe life always will?

We're constantly being molded and shaped and cut to form something durable. I can feel my God applying pressure to one side, an area of weakness, and sometimes it's so tender and fragile that it collapses.

And it feels like we're starting at the very beginning.

A new bud growing on a branch.

Though His work is very different than mine. You see, He doesn't strip things away, start anew and leave me there to dry and crack.

A piece to place on a windowsill, that while beautiful, has no real extra purpose or ability than holding small coins or rings. 

No, I think He's much more creative. I don't think He keeps us there - even when the journey is long and we're stuck in the waiting room.

Slowly, with time, an empty vessel becomes something that carries weight and isn't so afraid to take up space.

He turns what was once broken into something useful and plentiful.

I've met women in my work who wonder if they are too far gone. Women who have seen and experienced too much to believe that redemption is possible. I have friends who feel stuck in negative patterns and are covered in fog; who feel the weight of anxiety and discontent and not enough.

I've been there and am there. I think maybe we always waver in the in-between.

They'll be those days we think the potter is done.

So you're just going to make another ashtray, are you? 

And the human element might think: well, would it really be so bad? I mean, an ashtray can be used for beautiful things too. It's okay if you stop right there and keep me where I'm comfortable.

Please don't push or pull any further.

I don't know about you friend, but I get antsy in that place. Like a child sitting inside at school on a really beautiful, sunny day.

I really want to swim out further. I want to enter the place where I have to cry out for something bigger than just me. Because in that place of discomfort and fear, what I trust is actually happening is the potters finest work.

Something that was once sitting on a windowsill collecting dust is reborn and used for more. 

And in this space, we're able to hear a soft whisper, close enough that it tickles our ear: Don't be so afraid to take up more space dear one. I designed you to be filled up, poured out and deeply loved.

5 ways to kick "writers block"

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I  once heard that writers block is a myth. That it isn't really a thing. That if we are waiting for the moment to write - mug of coffee in hand, candle lit, no clutter or mess - we'll just be left waiting.

I wholeheartedly agree.

I didn't always believe this to be true. I've had what I thought to be "writers block" countless times, each more restless and frustrating than the next.

Though what I began to realize over time was that it wasn't a matter of having nothing to say. I actually had a lot to say. I just wasn't sure how to say it. And the deepest, hardest part to recognize was that my inability to write stemmed a lot from fear. I feared that my thoughts and feelings weren't enough.

Like maybe it had all been said and done before (way more eloquently of course). So why say anything at all?

I think a better, more practical name for this feeling is being stuck. We're stuck in our head, our mess, the weight of the day. And we need a way to unravel.

Because that's what writing is for me; a way to come undone.

It's like suddenly, all the chains and links and filing cabinets in my brain that make so much noise are able to be still. And the quiet thoughts, the ones I have to get down with my ear to the floor to hear are free to swim and spill out of me.

Suddenly the muck turns into something durable and creative and fruitful.

Something in the dark comes into the light.

Something that was once ignored or misunderstood is heard and accepted.

Writing might not be your thing, and that is okay. But I think we all need a way to come undone. We all deserve space to make sense of the joy and pain.

So what do we do when we're stuck?

I thought I'd share what's worked for me. This list is alive and active, it'll change and grow with each season. Dig deep and make your own list when you feel stuck.

Write down the things that help you unravel or loosen the reigns.

Time.

I have to give myself time. Like freshly baked bread, you can't rush a good thing. I believe in slowing down, abandoning your to do list and walking away from the screen or blank white page. If we're rushing to every little thing, if our days are marked by google calendar, we have no room left in the margin for creativity.

So much of my writing involves fully living in the world, observing interactions and finding patterns or connection. It makes sense of something that seems so complicated. We need time to observe and process, we need space to daydream and ponder.

“If you are a writer, or want to be a writer, this is how you spend your days--listening, observing, storing things away, making your isolation pay off. You take home all you've taken in, all that you've overheard, and you turn it into gold. (Or at least you try.)” - Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

PC: Peter ᴳᴱᴼ Kent
PC: Peter ᴳᴱᴼ Kent

Get Away.

If the sun is out when it rains usually you'll find a rainbow. Sunflowers ache for light, they actually look up to the sun. A tree so mighty and tall can grow from one small, single seed. Creation is a beautiful, amazing thing. We're living inside a masterpiece, a miracle really, that can so often be overlooked. Breath in the air, take in the season, savor the colors and light and smells.

Find a friend.

Writing doesn't happen in isolation. It happens in community. And that can feel so strange because the actual act of writing feels so personal and private. But the truth is, I'd have nothing to say here if it wasn't for the people around me. My ideas and words flow after a really great coffee date with a dear friend. I am able to say out loud to her what I can't seem to write down. And the way she interprets the world offers inspiration and clarity.

Friends make sense of all the many thought bubbles in our brains and give us a gentle nudge or push to keep working through it, to come out on the other side.

Be your own friend. 

When I really have nowhere to start and I can't seem to make sense of the connections and patterns, I talk out loud. I have a date with myself. A blank white screen is terrifying sometimes, it stares us down and intimidates. It causes us to place more importance on filling space over feeling - over asking how we're doing and what we're carrying.

Sit down with a cup of coffee, hop in the car - when you think you have nothing to say just start talking. You always have something to say. It just might not be what you originally planned to sit down and write.

The Golden Rule.

I think this one hits closest to home because I have to tell myself it on repeat: your story isn't plain or ordinary. Your voice isn't too much or too little. No one experiences life the way you do. No one sips coffee, stirs soup, gathers people like you. You are different than the human next to you. And while so much of us is similar, our hopes, wishes and desires - the ways we interpret life, meaning and love is our own. And that's a beautiful thing. So you don't have to worry if it's been said or done before because until it's been done by you - it's never been made that way before. 

Friends, what do you do when you're stuck? What helps you come undone in the best way?

xoxo