The last few months have been slow in the shop – the normal summer lull. I’ve been unmotivated and quite honestly in a creative funk. Now that school is back in session I’m excited to get back into things and get pumped about the Christmas season ahead. Today I thought I’d share a few tips on how to kick a creative funk. Be sure to leave your own in the comments below.

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have an encouragement wall in your studio/office

I just recently moved my sewing/computer desk under my encouragement wall, so that when I’m working on the blog, shop or Natural Living Real Life, I can look up and see the encouragement of my family, friends & customers from throughout the years. It’s such a joy to look up and see these handwritten notes and it encourages me to keep moving forward with what I’m doing. I’d suggest that everyone have an encouragement wall or at least a box to keep cards in to revisit on a regular basis.

think outside of your normal box

For the last 11+ years I’ve created things that I like personally for my jewelry shop. Lately I feel like that mindset has been stifling me, so I’m working now to branch out and create some styles that might not be my cup of tea but that could be someone else’s. It’s fun to think outside my normal jewelry box (pun intended) and helps stretch my creative muscles. I believe we all need that. We need to be stretched and challenged to come up with something new and different.

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collaborate with someone else

Collaborating is so important! Of course, you want to be sure that you know who the person is and how they work before you collaborate to protect yourself. However, collaborations can help you get out of that normal box that I spoke about earlier and can stretch you to do something new. It’s also a great way to cross-promote and energize your creativity. I did this the other day with a friend who has a fashion blog. She and I came up with a Belle of the Midwest collection that we’ll be launching next month. At first I was nervous because it’s not necessarily the style that I’ve been doing in my shop, but then I got really excited about what this collaboration can bring. Finally I became excited to create again!

have an inspiration wall or binder (or pinterest board)

We all need inspiration! Creative funks hit everyone. So start saving things that inspire you or that you like. Clip things out of magazines, even if they don’t have anything to do with what you create in your shop. Clip out favorite colors, textures, ideas, quotes – and then put them up on the wall or in a binder that you can look through when you’re in a rut. If you’re more the electronic type, keep a Pinterest board. If you don’t want other people to see it, make it a hidden board that is for your eyes only. We all do it, no shame.

How do you kick a creative funk?

At our house, we really love having company over.  Friends, family, neighbors…we don’t really care, we just like having people over.  Now, I do, in fact, subscribe to that 3-day rule about fish and houseguests, but for a time, they’re fun, we love the newness, the laughing, late night card games, the schedule change, and fancier desserts.

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The thing about sleep-over company, though, is that after a little while, I need some space.  I need the freedom to be cranky for a minute, to make sandwiches tonight for supper, to stop washing towels for a day or two, and everyone to be quiet.  (My mom told me it gets easier, that I just need to “keep practicing.”  Then she quoted that verse about practicing hospitality and said, “It doesn’t say you have to be good at it, it just says keep practicing.”  Oh yes. Yes, she did.)

As I was thinking (and feeling kind of guilty) about this the other day, I went ahead and kind of heaped a little more on by realizing that I kind of treat God like company sometimes.  I’m glad to see him when He shows up, I always remember to be really polite and nice, I make sure to put clean towels out, but then I assign Him the guest room for Himself and His convictions.  I don’t really want Him roaming into the pantry, the master bathroom, my junk drawer, or thumbing through my journal.  Because those are none of His business, right?  Right?

We’ve had quite a bit of company this summer, and as I thought this through a little bit, I recognized that none of the company we’d had really gave a flying leap about the state of my pantry or junk drawer.  They were here to see me.  They wanted to spend time with me, play with my kids, talk to my husband, and love on our family.

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Last year, before I had our baby, my sister came and helped me clean out and reorganize all our dressers and closets as we moved kids’ rooms around and made room for another little one.  She didn’t once open a closet and scream or say, “WHAT in the world exploded in here?!”  She’d start throwing out junk she knew I didn’t want and moved and straightened up the rest.  She wasn’t judging me, and didn’t tell her friends about how obscene my dressers were afterward.

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At the risk of sounding like I’m diminishing God, I’ll say that’s the kind of company He is.  The kind that comes to love on us, bless us, take us out to eat, and bring us gifts.  If He gets here and that corner of your heart needs cleaned out, He’s happy to help with that too, without any histrionics.

1 Peter 4:8-10 – Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 

I’m Amber Pierre, mother of 3 (ages 3, 2 and 1) and expecting baby #4.  I love to sew, but I’m not that great at it, and I love to cook, and no one has had food poisoning yet, which is totally how I determine that I’m a fantastic cook.  I am home with my kids, and work part-time as a translator from home.  Sometimes the lines of my “work” get blurry, and I wonder if one more load of laundry is going to make any kind of eternal impact.  After doing some Bible reading, I’ve realized that it’s my attitude about doing the laundry (or whatever) that matters…

 

For the last few months, I’ve been in my slow season for the business. I’ve gone on this health journey and started a new blog since then so I have to assume God has allowed all of this to happen together knowing that otherwise I wouldn’t have had time to start sharing what I’m learning. I’ve been really excited to share with others about food and essential oils as medicine, which in turn has made me less excited about making jewelry. Which has made me sad to think about. I do feel like God has given me the gift of creativity, so I don’t ever see myself not being creative – I just think I’m in an uninspired place right now.

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Until the other day. I have had a vision for making some diffuser necklaces for a while now, at least the last month or so. I’ve searched and searched for another design that I have in my mind but was so excited when the idea came to me to use my wax seals to make wax seal diffuser necklaces. The perfect mixture of both of my worlds. And I was excited again. And the response on social media was awesome. Other people were excited about it as well.

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I’m going to be really vulnerable and honest (and borderline TMI) with you guys today. I always think it’s helpful to hear from someone who has gone through something, instead of just believing someone who is trying to sell a book or program. I’m going to give you a bit of history, and I can hardly believe that I’m posting this next sentence but here goes…

Back in February I became constipated for the first time in my life. Nothing would really help and I’ve been taking miralax since. I had some nights where the pain in my gut was so bad that I just had to lay on the floor with my belly on a pillow because that was the only comfortable position to be in. My doctor referred me to a GI, who said “just eat more fiber, this is very common.” I have been exercising and watching what I eat since mid-January so truth be told I didn’t believe her. I have been on a steady track to my healthiest body yet so I was confused about what could be going on. I tried so many different things – essential oils to help with digestion, enzymes to help my colon, probiotics, eating crazy amounts of grains to get more fiber (more on that later). I’d have crazy gas pain most evenings and things just weren’t right. There were times that it felt like my colon had sores on it or something. My GI ordered a CT scan because of the pain, and it came up clear (except that I was constipated – duh).

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 4.35.00 PMMeanwhile, my friend Elizabeth said she was doing whole30 to help with some stomach issues she was having so I texted her right away to ask her about it. When we were in Florida in June I decided that I’d had enough – 3+ months is long enough to not know what’s going on. I have always been a healthy person with very few health problems (praise God). This is just not like my body. And I didn’t want to resign to the fact that I would have to live like this for the rest of my life. I was done. So I decided that whole30 would be a great way to heal my digestive system and see what foods might be suddenly causing me pain. (my assumption was the grains of some sort were the culprit, the pain seemed the worst after those foods)

For those of you who don’t know what whole30 is, you basically cut out anything that can cause inflammation in the body. No dairy (no ice cream for 30 days? what?!). No grains. No added sugars (even the healthier ones like honey and maple syrup). No legumes. You can read more about specifics here. If you’re seriously considering the program or just want to learn more about food, this book is invaluable. It has opened my eyes to much to what food does to the body and quite frankly I’m scared of what they put in “food” these days. Reading the labels makes me understand why there is so much cancer and other diseases running rampant these days. But that soapbox can wait for another day.

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a typical whole30 meal: chicken sausage (with no added sugar, date wrapped in coconut, salad with homemade ranch, water to drink…this would keep me full all afternoon until dinner)

So I started whole30 on June 9, after a nice “last meal” at Olive Garden the day before. I think I ate my weight in breadsticks. Here are a few of my thoughts while going through the program:

day 2 – Woke up with another headache today and a cranky mood because I just don’t want to do this for 29 more days. I sure hope it’s not this hard for the entire time because I don’t know if I can make it. Are you kidding me that I can’t have some grilled chicken from Chick-fil-a because they add sugar to it? I guess I’ll just sit here then.
day 4 – Hallelujah for Target having a brand of lunch meat turkey with no added sugar. I never thought I’d be so excited about lunchmeat.
day 6 – I didn’t realize what a fog I have been in for the last 3.5 months. I’ve been so consumed with the pain I’ve been having and trying to remedy it that I haven’t thought about much else. Today was one of the first days where I walked around the house and got stuff done. So grateful for 6 days pain free.
day 9 – oh, now I remember what bloating and constipation feels like. Gratefully I knew this was coming from the timeline…just hope it ends soon. (it did, the next day I was back on track)
day 17 – today marks day 5 with no miralax (hallelujah). the hardest part of today and my least favorite thing about this program is going out to eat. I packed my salad (which was super yummy) and watched my family eat noodles & co. they also went to my favorite ice cream place so instead of watching them eat that too, I dropped them off and went to target and found some yummy dried cinnamon apples. still feeling good in my gut.
day 24 – things are moving right along…I’ve gotten in a good groove. I’ve been able to stay off miralax without issue (although I know my gut is still not healed yet). After the 30 days and reintroduction I think I might have to do another 30 days to continue the healing process and I’m okay with that. I’ve been so encouraged by people interested in learning more about Whole30 and am excited that I can share that path to wellness with them.
day 25-26 – so maybe I threw myself under the bus with my comments yesterday. These were horrible days…the only things I can think of to cause my pain and bloating are that for breakfast day 25 I had something with almonds in it (that can cause irritation in the intestines) and for the past 5 days I’ve had a big fat salad full of raw veggies for one of my meals every day. Raw veggies can be harder to digest. (so day 27 I had only cooked veggies with my meals and virtually no nuts…feeling much better)
days 31-40 – reintroduction has been so eye opening. it’s different for everyone so I won’t go into too much detail, but my main problem area seems to be grains. They’re the ones that caused the most discomfort (and constipation) of the foods that I reintroduced. The hard thing is that the issues didn’t show up for me immediately. I had problems 24-36 hours after eating them. This is why it was so important to wait 3 days between reintroducing each good. I’m so happy I now know my body better and what foods are doing to it. I’m 100% happy that I did Whole30 and would recommend it to anyone I know – health problems or not.

Tips on doing Whole30:
– don’t be afraid…it’s hard at first and mostly mental, but so worth it in the end
– plan and shop before you start the program. part of my frustration on day 2 is that I didn’t have a good meal plan
– research before you try to go out to eat. many places add sugar to their meat (hello chick-fil-a). veggies are sautéed in butter. I learned to pack myself meals when we’d be away from home at mealtime.
– you can do anything for 30 days. even if you don’t have digestive issues or diabetes or arthritis or high cholesterol. this program can (and I’d bet that it WILL) help your body in some way.
– it’s not forever, you don’t have to give up your favorite ice cream or mashed potatoes forever. but doing the program will make you think a little differently about the food you put into your body.
– find meals that you like and make them in bulk. save yourself time by making double batches of things you enjoy. for me this was cauliflower cilantro lime rice. yum. I think I could eat a whole head of cauliflower prepared this way and I don’t like cauliflower. another is zoodles – get this julienne peeler and you’ll be all set.

(By the way, for those who are interested in more than just how I felt while on Whole30, I lost 9 pounds in 30 days)

My friend Elizabeth just posted her experience with Whole30 on her blog, Hello Apricot so be sure to check hers out too!

Any thought not centered on Christ is stolen from Him.
St. John of the Cross

There’s this old story in the Bible – it follows a really well-known, pizzazz kind of story, so this one, it’s easy to miss.  You’ve probably heard about the Israelites – God’s people – finally getting ready to enter the Promised Land, and the first city they’re going up against is Jericho.  God tells me them to completely destroy everything – every single thing – in the city, except things made out of silver, gold, bronze or iron.  Those were to be consecrated for the Lord’s treasury.

Turns out, they didn’t even have to fight the people of Jericho, they just march around the city for seven days, the city walls fall, they rush in, take the city and victory! – they won.

The follow-up story is the one that gets me, though.  This man named Achan, an Israelite, disobeyed God’s command, and when they went in to destroy the city, he kept some gold and silver for himself.  Some of the special, set-apart-for-God treasures, He found, took back with him, and buried under his tent.  Well, it just all falls apart then – the Israelites go fight another battle, they lose, and God reveals that they lost because someone disobeyed and stole consecrated things.

So I read this story and I ask myself how I am Achan.  What am I stealing, what consecrated thing, what set-apart treasure do I steal and keep for myself?  And then I stumble on this St. John of the Cross quote – “Any thought not centered on Christ is stolen from Him.”  Boom.

All day, every day, I steal my thoughts.  I assume the worst about someone.  I stay mad in my heart about something.  I entertain sin.  I practice in my head what I would say to someone if I had the nerve.  I keep thinking about something I should just get over – a sadness, someone else’s good fortune, a perceived slight.  And then I wonder why I keep losing other battles to sin in my life.  I’m slowly coming to see that I can’t keep stealing from God and expect victory in battles.

Now I get that thoughts come into our minds unsummoned.  I heard it compared once to birds swirling over our heads.  They can swirl, but we don’t have to let them land.  We don’t have to let all that come nest in our minds, burying it there for later.

So here’s what Paul says about it – 2 Corinthians 10:5 – “We capture [our] rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.”  No one’s saying, or even thinks it’s possible, to just empty your brain of evil, negative thoughts.  You’re going to think about something.  But we teach our rebellious thoughts to obey Christ.  This is where I give someone the benefit of the doubt.  Where I forgive.  Where I pick up my Bible.  Where I practice a kind thing to say.  Where I pray.

Verse 4 of that passage of Paul’s says, “We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments…”  I don’t know about you, but I’ve lost too many battles to think that my stealing has nothing to do with it.  It’s time I stop stealing what God has consecrated for Himself.  It’s time I gave them back.