Kelly Lee-Creel

The Making of an Online Conference

This is the story of how a few friends and I took what was supposed to be an in-person event and turned it into an online conference…in the middle of a pandemic.

As you know, 2020 was a year of crazy adjustments and Zoom calls. That part of the story will be familiar to you already, but first, I want to back up and take you to a relaxing summer book club where this whole thing began.

A couple of years ago, I was knee-deep in a writing project and needed feedback. The Life-Giving Path started as a book, and it was time to test the things I’d written with real people. My church, Westminster Chapel, graciously allowed me to host a summer book club in the Fireside Room.

Since nothing is more awkward than hosting a discussion about your own book, I found a friend to help facilitate. I think in most creative partnerships, there’s one person with the outlandish ideas, and the other’s job is to pull the space cadet back down to earth. Well, Gina and I don’t work like that. We spent the summer racing each other to the rocket ship.

We dreamed up different methods to bring our discussions to life and crafted props, interactive decorations, and round-table exercises. We loved finding new ways to surprise our ladies when they walked through the door. When I think on that time, it was sheer joy. Writing is often solitary, lonely work, so sharing the journey was a balm on this writer’s heart.

I loved our discussions and was thrilled when the church asked me to speak at Westminster Chapel’s annual women’s conference. I started meeting with a team and figuring out how to take that intimate book club experience and translate it for a bigger audience. Gina and I brainstormed ideas for activities and decorations with the team. I got to work designing the conference booklet.

Everything was set for April 2020. (You see where this is going, right?)

It’s hard to remember those first days when Covid-19 hit, and we were all sheltering in place. I was fairly confident the conference would be canceled, but I couldn’t afford to stop working on it—just in case. If we did decide to meet, I had to be ready with two days of content.

If I could go back in time, I’d give myself a reassuring pat on the shoulder. Those were hard weeks of trying to concentrate amidst worries about life + family + news. I’m sure you can relate.

We had a few meetings to decide what to do. In one of those first Zoom calls, another woman suggested we have it online. If we’d been meeting in person, I would’ve kicked her under the table. I knew she was right, but I hated the idea.

There are some people who do online live events well, but I didn’t know if I was one of them. Zoom fatigue was already a thing, and we’d wanted this to feel soothing—like a retreat.

It took me a while, but finally, I accepted that online was our only option. My husband got out the video camera and set it up in the living room. After some convincing, I filmed a test video.

There is a verse that says we were created “to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).  I started to see glimpses of this in my life.

The video camera we’d purchased but never really used

The hand-me-down tripod waiting in the coat closet

The extra memory card sitting unopened in its package

Each time I ran up against a roadblock, I’d find another piece of equipment or a forgotten skill tucked away in some back drawer.

I started to have fun with it. Filming and editing the videos, which I’d been dreading, turned out to be my favorite part. Collecting imagery and finding music felt playful and brought the whole thing to life. We decided to break up the content into short sessions, so that everyone could go at their own pace. It felt risky and somewhat unexpected, but I hoped it would help us hang on to that retreat-like feel.

I wasn’t entirely sure that our efforts had worked until I received an email from a friend a few weeks later. She told me that she’d been “filled with anxiety and headed down a slippery slope of depression.” Originally, she’d been disappointed that the conference was going to be online, but she enjoyed being able to pause, rewind, and consider what God was saying to her. The experience felt peaceful and calming.

Like a retreat.

I’m so excited to be able to share The Life-Giving Path Online Workshop with you. It’s my hope that this workshop will be a safe place for you to reflect on your path and to be refreshed, refilled, and renewed for the next step on your journey.

If you’d like to learn more or sign up, click here.

Secrets of Creative Collaboration

I’m continuing my month-long series on creativity! Last week, we talked about boosting your creativity by having a private space to practice (writing with the door closed). This week, we’re talking about creating in a shared space (revising with the door open).

What do you do when it’s time to get feedback on your ideas? Let’s talk about creative collaboration!

I thought it would be fun to share visual aids of the creative process. I dug through my archives and found some old sketches I made while working with my sister on Handmade Hostess.

Our process for writing our craft book looked like this:

  • We wrote an outline.
  • We made a list of projects for each chapter.
  • I made a TERRIBLE sketch of what the chapter would look like. I mean TERRIBLE.
  • I took a picture of the sketch and sent it to her along with any fabric swatches. (We lived a few hours apart, so we each worked on our projects separately.)
  • Finally, we stuffed our cars full of props, projects, and children and met somewhere in the middle. (Okay, truthfully, I didn’t put any children in my car. That was all her.) We drove a couple of hours and took pictures of everything. Photo shoot day was the first time we saw everything set up together.

Let’s talk about those terrible sketches for a moment. Somehow, when I sent her a drawing that looked like this:

She understood that what I actually meant was this:

As you can see, that takes a special kind of vision.

Here’s another example:

I’m not even sure what I was drawing in that picture! If I saw this sketch, I would not think, “You know what? That looks great! Let’s do it.”

When you’re working on a project, so many things can go wrong! However, as I look back at these pictures, I remember some of the things that went right. I had a fantastic brainstorming partner.

I’ve been fortunate to have several people in my life like that. I made a list of some of the qualities I most appreciate in a creative partner. (In full disclosure, I don’t have all of these qualities! However, this is the kind of friend and collaborator that I aspire to be.)

Hallmarks of a Good Creative Partnership

  • A creative partner can look at something that’s very rough and imagine the possibilities. They ask questions that help the idea grow rather than shrink. They take time to understand the phases of a project. (They might help you edit your idea later, but in the beginning, they’re willing to dream big.)
  • A creative partner has confidence in YOU and your creative ability. They might not like the specifics of your idea or have suggestions about how it might work better, but they believe you can work through those issues and pull off something amazing.
  • A creative partner doesn’t get distracted by the potential pitfalls or things that could go wrong. They will brainstorm risks with you, but they don’t feel the need to warn you about every imaginable danger. They don’t throw water when you’re trying to kindle a fire.
  • A creative partner is encouraging! After you talk with them about your idea, you are MORE excited than before. They spot ways they could help—often by contributing their own creativity, resources, or organization.

Things I’ve Learned the Hard Way

Sometimes, you end up with what I call the right person / wrong timing. I have a few friends who are really good at spotting problems. (I’m sure you have friends like that, too. We love these friends. We need them!)

However, we also want to invite their feedback at the right time. In the beginning stages of a project, too many opinions can be overwhelming. One thing I’m learning is to clearly express which phase of the project I’m in and clarify what kind of feedback would be helpful. I’ve also learned to be more honest with myself about how much input I’m ready to process.

When you find the right person at the right time, everyone benefits.

Alright, now it’s your turn! Do you have someone you love working with? What do you appreciate about this person?

P.S. If you feel discouraged or run down from too much criticism or a difficult working relationship, you might need time to recover. Even after a successful collaboration, it can be helpful to create solo for a while. (You might even want to revisit Part 2 of this series—creating in a private space.) Next time, I’ll be sharing some ideas for when you feel stuck.

Boost Your Creativity with This Simple Tool

Last week, I kicked off a month-long series on creativity. If you missed Part 1: Developing Your Curiosity, you can find it here: The Rainbow’s End: 3 Ideas to Help You Find Your Creativity.)

Today, I’m sharing my favorite tool for boosting your creativity. It’s inexpensive, easy to use, and you probably already have one. I’m talking about a notebook!

Now, before you run away—if writing things down isn’t your thing, I promise to give you a bunch of alternatives. You don’t have to use a literal notebook! What you need is a safe place to gather ideas and experiment.

…Everyone who is human has something to express. Try not expressing yourself for twenty-four hours and see what happens. You will nearly burst. You will want to write a long letter, or draw a picture, or sing, or make a dress or a garden.” —Brenda Ueland

Here are 3 reasons to keep a notebook:

1. Give yourself the opportunity to practice, not perform.

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being just for you…” —Stephen King in On Writing

We have more opportunities than ever before to share our work with others. However, sharing your work too soon (or too often) can drain your creative energy.

We need places to practice without feeling pressured to get everything right the first time. This gives us a chance to develop our instincts for what we consider good work rather than relying solely on other people’s reactions.

2. Give yourself a safe space to be honest. 

One of the reasons creativity is so hard, is that we’re not safe even from ourselves. We’re afraid to make a mistake or be found out. However, learning to communicate authentically is a first step in creating better work.

In The Life-Giving Path online workshop, I encourage people to try spiritual journaling as a tool to uncover their honest thoughts. A notebook can be a place to listen without judgment and practice telling the truth.

This can be difficult at first. We’re terrified someone will come along and read what we wrote. However, over time, my journal has become a freer place. It’s filled with typos. Grammatical errors. Sometimes, when I can’t choose between two words—I’ll just write them both down smack dab next to each other in a completely nonsensical way.

Occasionally, I’ll admit to being really annoyed with people I care about! For me, this is a creative and spiritual practice. In my notebook, I lay it all out there so I no longer have to use so much energy covering it all up. Then, I’m free to listen and gather inspiration. When I’m stuck, I ask for help.

3. Give your ideas a place to gather.

Once you begin gathering ideas, more will start to find you. They’re like cats. Word starts to get around that you take good care of strays. Pretty soon, you’ll wake up in the morning and find a whole herd of them waiting for you just outside the door.

“Ideas are like rainbows, we need to record them with a pencil or they soon fade right out sight.” —Kathy Liden

If there’s something you daydream about—opening an art studio, writing a book, starting a podcast—give yourself a place to start making it real, if only on the page.

Some of you may be saying, “Notebooks aren’t really my thing. Now what?”

Here’s a list of notebook alternatives:

  • A sketchbook.
  • A camera (or the camera roll on your phone).
  • A closet where you stuff your latest paintings.
  • The notes app on your phone.
  • A scrapbook.
  • An Excel spreadsheet. (Beautifully-arranged data can be a work of art!)
  • A secret Pinterest board.
  • A portable moodboard (or an envelope) where you stick fabric samples, pieces of trim, or design inspiration.

What creativity tools would you add to this list? I’d love to hear them!

Next up: creative collaboration! What to do (and not do!) when it’s time to share your creative ideas + a few things I’ve learned the hard way…

The Rainbow’s End: 3 Ideas to Help You Find Your Creativity

I’m excited to be kicking off a month-long series on creativity! Today, we’re searching for the rainbow’s end—finding that place where every creative journey begins. Curiosity.

My birthday is in March, so I’ve always thought St. Patrick’s Day was secretly about me. This only got worse after my grandmother introduced me to the color, Kelly green. “They named a shade of green after you!” I thought that was marvelous even though it was obviously not true.

When the grocery stores starting putting away the red and pink hearts and bringing out the shamrocks, rainbows, and pots of gold, I knew things were looking up. For me, all those green and gold glittery decorations signified hope and possibility.

I never found a four-leaf clover or a leprechaun’s shoe, but believe me—I tried. I still remember spotting a rainbow while driving in the car. “Quick, Mom. Keep going! Let’s drive to the end so we can get the pot of gold,” I said.

“I’m sorry. It doesn’t work like that, dear.” It turns out that statement applies to a lot of life’s mysteries.

Still, I don’t regret any of the time I spent searching. Creativity starts with curiosity. It’s the sense of anticipation that gets me out of bed in the mornings. It’s the belief that God has hidden delights in the world for us to discover. For me, creativity is a path that draws me closer to God.

Some of my favorite people—the ones who are the most wise—are also the most childlike in their excitement and wonder. They receive every flower, every sunrise, every rainbow as a gift. Recently, I listened to a friend tell me about a doe in her yard. The way she marveled over the deer, she might as well have been describing a unicorn. Some things are better than a pot of gold.

Next week, I’m going to share one of my favorite tools for boosting your creativity. However, it may help to simply indulge your curiosity first. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

3 Ways to Develop Your Curiosity:

  1. Try something new. Make a list of 5 things you’ve wanted to try. (It’s okay if your list doesn’t sound particularly “creative.” Taking action on something you’re curious about—even if it’s just rearranging your pillows—can put you on the path of new ideas.) Can you try one of the things on your list?
  1. Spend time with joy-filled people. Do you have a friend like the one I described? Sometimes, it’s helpful to let someone else’s excitement wash over you. Can you text or phone that friend this week? Let them know how much you appreciate them.
  1. Refresh your reading (and watching) list. I’ve heard a lot of friends talking about their reading habits over the past year and how it’s been difficult to concentrate. I can totally relate! One thing that’s helped has been setting aside time to find new books and be honest with myself about the kinds of things I want to read.

Do you have other ideas to add to this list? I’d love to hear them!

Celebrating Small Beginnings (+ Taking Better Breaks)

Sometimes I forget how close we live to the water.

This week has been challenging (in both good and bad ways), and I realized how much I needed a change of scenery. In my earlier post about my 2021 goals, I talked about wanting to take better breaks. On Wednesday, we had a rare moment of sunshine, so I grabbed my big camera and headed to the lake.

If you follow me on Instagram, then you already met my new best friend. (This duck.) It’s hard to tell in the photo, but he has a blue streak on his head—as if he was kissed by a peacock.

It’s amazing how quickly nature works. There are plenty of heartbreaks that all the sunsets in the world can’t cure. However, sometimes watching the light reflecting on the water is prayer enough.

Small Beginnings

I sent out a newsletter today with a personal update. (If you’d like to receive these emails, you can sign up here.) This one was all about celebrating small beginnings. So often we feel ashamed or discouraged because we’re not making progress as quickly as we’d like.

One of the kindest things we can do for ourselves (and one way we set ourselves up for future success) is to learn how to celebrate first steps.

What small step can you celebrate this week?

Making Valentine’s Day Cards with Scratch-Off Sticker Paper

Some of my favorite childhood memories took place around Valentine’s Day. I loved sitting at the kitchen table with Mom, a freshly-opened box of valentines, and a copy of the class roster. (It was important to Mom that we didn’t accidentally leave someone out.) While she checked off each person’s name, I shuffled through the cards and stuffed them in their tiny envelopes, triple-checking to make sure I didn’t give a mushy sounding one to a boy by mistake. I don’t know if the other kids spent as much time studying the wording on the cards as I did, but what can I say? I was studious even then.

While I don’t have kids, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been tempted to buy a box of valentines—just for old times’ sake. This year, I decided to indulge myself by making cards for my nieces and nephews.

The kids in my life range from toddler to teen, so I tried to come up with an idea that would appeal to a wide range of ages. I decided on scratchers so they’d be more interactive. I’m not going to pretend that these valentines are going to impress the teens and tweens. However, they’ve been putting up with my oddball sense of humor for a long time, and this is pretty much what they’d expect from Aunt Kelly. 

If you want to try making your own, I’ve included some details below. You can also see a video I made of the scratch-off stickers in action right here.

P.S. – I know some of my mom friends might read this. Let me tell you—if I had kids, I would 100% head to the grocery store and buy a pack of ready-made cards for $3.99 and feel GREAT about myself. However, sometimes it’s fun to embrace my role as Aunt Kelly. The kids will be the first to tell you that I’m known more for my crazy ideas than for being practical.

Project Instructions:

  • I designed the cards in Adobe Illustrator using jokes I found on the internet. If you google “kids Valentine’s Day jokes,” you’ll find the same dozen or so puns over and over again. I tested them out on my husband and then chose my top 4. When I printed the cards, they looked like this and included the answers:

The scratch-off part of the card (in gold) is made from Silhouette Scratch-Off Sticker paper. You peel the scratcher off the backing and apply it just like you would a regular sticker. If you don’t have an electronic cutting machine like a Silhouette or Cricut, you can buy scratch-off stickers on Etsy in simple shapes like hearts, circles, squares, etc. For me, the fun part about using the Silhouette Cameo for the project was being able to do special sizes and shapes.

  • Silhouette Cameo Settings for Scratch-Off Sticker Sheets: These are the default settings for Scratch-Off stickers recommended in the Silhouette Studio software. If you need more help, there are lots of similar projects and tutorials on Pinterest.
    • Blade: 2
    • Speed: 7
    • Depth: 14
  • I was pretty excited when I found this Silhouette Sticker Sampler Pack, since I only needed to make 10 scratchers total. The sampler pack came with a variety of other sticker papers that I plan to experiment with for future projects. Please note: There is a pretty strong chemical odor when you first open the package, so I let mine air out for a while.

If you decide to make your own scratch-off cards, I’d love to see them!

Putting Love in the Mail (Plus a FREE Printable Card)

A few years ago, while lost in Wonderland (also known as the Bullseye’s Playground / Dollar Spot section at Target), I found a set of note cards that said Hello Beautiful on them. I immediately snatched them up. I think they were supposed to be for Valentine’s Day, but I loved using them for all sorts of occasions (birthdays, encouragement, thank you notes, etc.).

Well, the day has finally come. After years of carefully rationing them, I used up my last one.

The good news is that I decided to make my own and share them with you! I used the same wording, but a different color scheme and design. If you’d like to send someone a note, you can download a FREE copy to print at home. (Click on the link below to download a PDF.)

I’ve learned a lot about writing meaningful notes from some of my friends. Sending a note can be an opportunity to reaffirm someone’s identity and point out their best qualities. This is how I see you: as beautiful, lovely, full of possibility.

I think most of us could use more reminders like that.

Free Download:

Click here to download the Hello Beautiful Card.

Printing Tips:

  • I printed the cards at home on plain white card stock (8.5″ x 11″). The folded card measures 3.5″ x 5″.
  • If you don’t have a color printer at home, I’ve had good experiences sending things to Staples to be printed.
  • Feel free to print as many as you’d like. These are for personal use only. Thank you!

2021: Goal Setting When You Don’t Know What Comes Next

This year, I find myself both more hopeful and more uncertain than I have been in a long time. I’ve always loved setting goals, and I’m not ready to give that up—even in the face of uncertainty.

For the past five years, I’ve been using the PowerSheets Goal Planner from Cultivate What Matters. I love the questions at the beginning and the monthly planning pages. Over the years, my goal-setting process has evolved, but at its heart, I want it to look like this:

  • Less of me trying to force my vision on the future.
  • More soulful listening.
  • Less wanting a fresh slate so I can do everything perfectly this time.
  • More being open to change.
  • Less copying ideas that seem to work for other people.
  • More taking ownership of my life and making choices that resonate with me.

Giving Myself Some Extra Time

One thing I’ve learned (through trial and error) is that I set terrible goals when I’m tired. It’s hard to dream big when you’re worried about how much gas you have left in the tank. After the craziness of 2020, I knew I wanted to give myself some extra time.

So here it is, the end of January, and I’m just finishing up my list. I promised myself that I would share my goals publicly, and now, I’m almost embarrassed. These are the simplest, most bare-bone goals I’ve ever set!

However, I’m going to post them anyway, because I think it’s a good reminder that it’s okay to have goals that look unimpressive, simple, or even “obvious” to someone else. The only important thing is that they matter to you.

My No-Frills, No-Fuss Goals for 2021:

1. Set clear daily priorities and reachable goals for each day.

I’m a list-maker at heart, but this year, I want to make a fundamental shift in how I decide what to tackle next.

In the past, I’ve tried the advice of identifying 3 things you want to accomplish each day. But I’ll be honest: I was always sneaking extra items onto the list OR putting entire multi-step projects that were completely unrealistic to accomplish in one sitting.

I was trying to “shoot for the moon, but reach the stars.” Well, after missing the moon repeatedly, I’m completely exhausted! 😉 I don’t want to get to the end of the week and feel demoralized, because I didn’t cross everything off the list.

Over the break, I re-read the book Organize Tomorrow Today by Jason Selk, Matthew Rudy, and Tom Bartow. (The title may sound basic, but I found it to be practical and insightful.) The authors suggest putting 3 ambitious but small, carefully-chosen next steps on your list.

My goal is to get better at identifying and flagging the next step in whatever project or task I’m working on. I’ve started doing this over the past few weeks, and it’s already making a big difference. I’m setting 3 clear priorities that are 100% possible for me to cross off each day.

2. Take regular breaks on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

Before 2020, I used to be much better about taking breaks. Even if it was just running a quick errand, I made it a point to step away from my desk and use a different part of my brain for a while.

With my husband and I both working at home, it’s easy to fall into orbit around his schedule. This year, I want to create some better habits and routines. I especially want to find a way to take a short, enjoyable break after lunch so that I can do better quality afternoon work.

3. Create content that I’m excited to share on a cadence that works for me.

I’m looking forward to this one! Last year was so busy with The Life-Giving Path Conference that I didn’t have much extra bandwidth. For 2021, I have some fun projects up my sleeve.

One thing I know is this: on the internet, it’s easy to find examples of other people who seem to be doing more, sharing more, or creating more. However, I want to find a steady rhythm that works for me. This looks like: keeping my eyes on my own paper and remembering to be my own pace car rather than trying to match someone else’s speed.

4. Writing Goal: Focus on process + preparation.

I always try to have one goal that’s just for writing. This year, I’ve decided to focus entirely on effort instead of word or page count.

For me, this looks like:

  • Marking up the next day’s work, so I know exactly where to begin when I sit down.
  • Taking a moment to visualize the scene I’m writing about before I start.
  • Nurturing my creativity by planning some adventures and personal retreat days that re-inspire me.

5. Create sensory-rich memories and moments with my husband.

Lately, we’ve been recreating meals we’ve eaten on trips and creating new dinner themes.

For example: We kicked off this year by celebrating “Jam-uary” and experimented by making—you guessed it—jam. I hope to share more about our adventures in a future post!

6. And finally—the last one: Get back to basics at home.

Like many people, we’re using our home differently now. While some of those changes have been great, others could use a few tweaks. This year, I’ve decided not to tackle any huge projects. I just want to focus on basic cleaning and maintenance.

I suppose this goal might sound anti-climactic, but when I wrote it down, I felt nothing but RELIEF. I think some of the best goals are like that.

Well, there you have it! If you haven’t set goals this year and still want to, I’ll tell you what I told myself: it’s not too late.

In addition to answering the questions in the PowerSheets, I always ask myself some version of the following:

  • What is something I loved doing last year that I can’t wait to do again?
  • Is there something that I didn’t finish that I still want to work on?
  • What do I absolutely NOT want to do ever again? (If I can’t get out of it, is there a way to make it more pleasant?)
  • Have I created any arbitrary rules for myself about the way something has to be done? Are those rules serving me or is it time to let them go?
  • Have I filled my calendar with the people and projects most important to me? If not, can I clear some space by saying “no”?

I hope this helps!

Like everyone else, I don’t know what to expect this year, but choosing goals puts me on the path of discovery. For me, goal setting is about prayerfully choosing a direction and then starting—even when I’m not sure how it will all work out.

If you have a goal you’re working on, I’d love to hear it!

Hope for Christmas

I wrote this for last year’s Christmas newsletter. Despite all that has happened in 2020, I think it still applies, so I decided to share it again. If you’re not quite ready for Christmas, you’re not alone! I hope this helps.

Thoughts on Faith:

When I sat down to write this month’s newsletter, I’d planned to talk about the New Year. December is my favorite time for dreaming and reflecting. Outside, nature slows down, reminding us that it’s okay to pause, too.
However, over the past few weeks, I’ve listened to friends and bumped into strangers who are struggling with Christmas. While I hope this letter finds you full of joy and good health, I’m sure you wouldn’t have to look too far to find someone in need of kindness.
There are broken hearts. Family rifts. Disappointments of every shape and size.
At church, we talk about Advent being a season of preparation. We prepare our hearts to receive the gift of Jesus.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about Mary on that first Christmas. Mary had many wonderful qualities, but when we picture her placing baby Jesus in a manger, the word “prepared” doesn’t exactly spring to mind. Nesting probably looked different back then, but even so, no one wants their baby’s nursery to be a stable. I’m sure she would’ve preferred to be near her family instead of 70 miles away from home.

I think it says a lot about God that He didn’t wait for Mary to get herself organized or “more together” before Jesus arrived. God could’ve chosen a different time and place. Instead, He picked the moment before she was ready when she probably felt like a failure.
That’s the thing about Jesus. He doesn’t wait for us to sort things out before He arrives. He shows up here. Now.
Preparing our hearts is a noble idea and a worthwhile way to spend our time. Still, perhaps it’s comforting to know that there’s nothing we can do to be fully prepared.
Jesus is not waiting for you to finish decorating so you can put your feet up and start thinking holy, spiritual thoughts. He’s not waiting for your family to reconcile, so He can finally show up and bless your celebration. He’s not holding out until good news arrives in the mail.
He is Emmanuel. God with us. He shows up in the middle of the mess.
Things might feel chaotic or stressful or disappointing right now, but Jesus says, I’m here. “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (Revelation 3:20)
As Christmas approaches, I don’t know what you’re facing—great joy or mind-numbing sorrow or, most likely, something in-between—but if you can still fumble your way to the front door, there’s one guest you might want to invite in early.
He won’t mind that things aren’t finished or perfect. He’s not bothered by stuff that’s tarnished or broken. And He’d never ask you to put on a brave face and pretend that everything’s okay when it’s not.
In fact, He’d love to show up early and help you with all that. I’ve needed His help this entire season. This has been my prayer (and perhaps it’s yours too):
Lord, I’m so grateful that You don’t wait for us to get our acts together. Instead, You offer us the gift of Yourself. Help us to be willing to acknowledge the things that are broken or imperfect and release them into your care. Above all, I pray that You would give us the courage to leave the doors of our hearts unlocked.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year! I’m taking a few weeks off so I can rest, play, dream, and plan. I look forward to seeing you in January.

Thank you for being here!

P.S. – Want to join the mailing list? You can sign up here.

Making a Wreath: Following a Floret Flower’s Tutorial

One of the silver linings this year has been learning to use and appreciate what I have. 

When I thought about my Christmas decorations, I started craving something fresh. I remembered this tutorial for an evergreen wreath in Erin Benzakein’s book, A Year in Flowers. I’d always wanted to make a fresh wreath, but growing up in Southern California, it wasn’t something I’d ever tried.

Every now and then, there are benefits to hoarding craft supplies. I found a 12″ wire wreath form and some floral wire tucked in the back of the closet just waiting for this moment.

At first, I was intimidated by the list of ingredients. Could I really find that many different types of branches? However, it turned out that the hardest part of foraging for supplies was changing out of my pajamas and putting on my gardening boots. Once outside, I found more than enough variety.

In the book, Erin talks about selecting unusual ingredients like ivy berries and seedpods. She has an eye for using unexpected, textural elements, so her wreath is a mini work of art. Since this was my first attempt, I kept things simpler, replying on battery-operated lights for some extra sparkle.

When I look back on this season which has felt bittersweet, I hope I always remember making this wreath.

Here, at the end of the year, I’m tired. I’ve been trying to be intentional about only choosing activities that speak to me. This one hit the mark. I loved being outside in the crisp air and slowing down long enough to notice the difference between a spruce tree and a cedar.

And the smell! You probably don’t need me to tell you that, but all those pine-scented candles have it wrong. My laundry room is now filled with a sweet citrus scent that smells like Heaven.

If you want to try making your own wreath, I added a few notes below. I also made a very short video that shows the process start to finish. (Confession: I’ve watched the clip 83 times now, because I love pretending that it only took me 30 seconds to make it. HA! You and I both know that it took slightly longer than that.)

Supplies I had on hand:

  • Wreath form (12”)
  • Floral wire
  • Wire cutters
  • Something to cut branches with (not pictured): I used various tools I found in the garage plus some hand-held pruners for cutting the branches into smaller pieces.

Practical matters:

I won’t repeat all of Erin’s instructions here, but I did learn a couple of things:

  • The secret to the wreath is to cut your branches into pieces 8″ long and create miniature bundles wrapped with wire.
  • I used 4 types of evergreens I found in my yard plus some fern leaves and holly.
  • Full disclosure: The fern leaves didn’t last very long without water, but while they were fresh, they were showstoppers. It’s possible that there’s some special trick I missed. However, if you want something extra special and lush for a day or two, they might be worth the trouble. You’d probably want to swap them out later for something else.