Happy Birthday Dad

I showed up to preschool without my clothes on backwards. Yes, you read that right. Apparently it was backwards day and we forgot. My buttons lined the front while everyone else's lined their back. I’m not sure why I remember this, but I do.

I remember the sheer panic and embarrassment as all these tiny humans with big round eyes stared at me. I looked up at you, probably with tears to say, "What do we dooooo?? Dad, you have to fix this."

And so you got to it. You helped me swap my clothes so I’d fit in with my class. You kept me calm. You diffused a serious situation for my four year old self. Of all the memories I have with you, this was my first of being your daughter.

And I’m fairly certain I knew, in the way you responded, in how you were genuinely concerned (even though the matter was really quite small) that you were a person who’d be there. That you’d remain through all the seasons. That there would be nothing I could say or do that would push you away.

I was right.

And while I didn’t know it then, I'd keep looking up to you for help and support, for the big and little stuff and you’d treat it all the same. It was all significant. All of it mattered to you.

When thinking of how to celebrate you, besides a warm apple pie, I thought of the things you've taught me over the past 28 years. I’ve learned a lot from you but these come to mind first.

  • A hot toddy can cure most ailments. If you've never made one, go ahead and get started here.
  • End the day with a really good song, turned up loud, and a cup of tea. Maybe a few graham crackers. And all shall be well.
  • You must visit Ireland. Your heart will never be the same. And if you haven’t been, chances are my Dad would love to take you.
  • When planning a trip, invite family to come. When hosting a gathering, make room for one more.
  • Don’t wait for some perfect version of a man to fall in love with. It doesn't exist. Find the one who is willing to change and be better.
  • You're never too old to pick out the biggest Christmas tree at the lot. And once that tree dries out, invite family & friends over for a bonfire.
  • The key to making a perfect pancake every time -- the one that’s fluffy in the center and crunchy around the edges -- is butter. Always more butter.
  • You are never above any kind of work. If part of your job is to sweep the floors and scrub the toilet, you do it. You show up the next day and you do it again.
  • When your daughter straps a backpack to her back, almost as big as her body, and buys a one way ticket to Nicaragua, let her go. Let her discover that no amount of travel will ever cure the restlessness. She’ll have to figure this one out on her own.
  • When your daughter returns from that trip and has a minor meltdown about a friend inviting her to get a pedicure because it just seems so lavish & unnecessary, don’t tell her to calm down, just hug her. Don’t tell her she’s acting crazy, just give her a hug.
  • When you go out to eat, order a round of appetizers. Ask the server to kindly put in your dinner order once the apps are all done. Don’t rush a good thing like a meal around the table.

Here's to you Dad, I raise my glass. I'm so grateful for you & so proud of the man you're becoming. In the spirit of our favorite place on earth, I'll leave you with this:

May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Love,

your daughter.

Unravel to Begin

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I started the wee spoon after getting married. It was a blog I wrote on for a while and then took a pause. What began as a season of quiet, turned into a chapter of being afraid to ever begin again.

So I waited.

I waited for some big moment or plot twist to let me know it was time to start. Sometimes it’s not so much us waiting on God but rather us needing to take the first step forward while scared.

Sometimes, it’s about putting our butt in the chair and carving out the space.

It’s about finding our voice again. 

I waited so long that the spiritual piece of abiding wore off. Put plainly, I was scared and paralyzed by fear.

In this story, there was a plot twist, it just didn’t look the way I thought. It was a Saturday. We were hosting friends that night so I was busy in the kitchen making stew, roasted potatoes, and whiskey bread pudding. Two loaves of soda bread were fresh from the oven. Matt and I took a pause from cooking and cleaning to sip coffee on the couch. Quality time and honest talks keep me well. I was tired from the week, feeling depleted, and emptied out. It wasn’t the kind of empty where you filled up to pour out. I was numb and ached to know why.

"You haven’t been writing", he said. You need to be writing.

I became defensive and explained I had been writing. There were countless ideas brewing in my head, thoughts scribbled in journals, and notes on my phone. I’m always argumentative when I know something is true. He was right. I hadn’t written something real in months. I was hiding behind fear, self doubt, and my own inner critic.

I was pointing the finger at circumstance and timing rather than my own discipline and effort.

And then he said it. The sentence that changed everything for me.

“I’m just waiting for the day you wake up, walk down the stairs, and call yourself a writer.”

If you know me, you know I cried.

That’s what you’re waiting for?

He shared how he thought it all along, from the very beginning of our dating. He knew it while sitting in my tiny D.C. bedroom, as I read short stories from the future novel I hoped to write. That was four years ago.

He said he knew it right then and there -- I’m going to marry a writer.

He didn’t tell me because he really wanted me to find it for myself. He wanted me to wake up and walk down the stairs all on my own.

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I didn’t know it for myself though. I hopped from job to job those next four years - baker, server, college admin, counselor, baker again, and fundraiser. All the while squeezing writing into the margins and assuming it was a silly hobby and selfish ambition. I never once thought it could be my job. I didn’t think I was good enough, I figured there were enough voices in the crowd and I wasn’t qualified to be one of them.

It wasn’t until I sought the counsel of a writing coach and she asked me if I ever thought of my writing as a responsibility to steward. Like maybe the selfish thing wasn’t writing but choosing not to write.

Thus began the unraveling and the fact that writing was not merely a “thing” I liked to do but a way in which I viewed the world. The way I offered and received. It was my ministry and prayer and act of worship.

But back to my husband and this ordinary Saturday.

In that moment, he saw me. He reminded me who I was. I felt known and fought for. It was as if someone had holding in the palm of their hand the most sacred and hidden parts of my soul that were thirsty and tired. They pulled them up and out so I could see just how withered they had become. They weren’t dead or gone just in need of space, water, and air to grow.

The people who love us will speak truth and powerful reminders and get frustrated when we don’t follow through. Out of the belief we are sitting on something precious that needs to be shared.

So when my husband said this to me, it was as if he called me by name. It was as if he reminded me of the person I had always been and needed to fight to keep.

It was that loose string dangling on a sweater. The one that makes the whole thing come undone into what it was before someone molded it into something they thought it should be. In that moment, I unraveled. I felt raw and exposed. Not in the way when you share something vulnerable and wish you hadn’t but rather when someone looks you in the eye and reminds you to listen to God’s whispers. When someone takes you back to your roots and the places that need pruning and tending.

I know I keep starting and not following through here. I know I’ve written and then kept quiet.

I want you to know I’m here to stay. I’m not going anywhere. I’m scared but hopeful. Now is the time. I’m all in.

I want you to know you belong here, please pull up a seat to the table. This is more than a blog, it’s a space for us to gather. A place to encourage and equip us to run after the dreams on our hearts. A place to practice relentless hospitality and listen to each others stories. A place to slow down and be still amidst the chaos and hustle of life.

This space is my full heart and offering. I’m so grateful to be back & I’m so glad to have you here with me.


Photography :: Hilary Hyland // Styling :: Margaret Dodson

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.