On Fight & On Grace.

 “All is grace in our one brutal and beautiful life.” - Ann Voskamp

 One of my very favorite places. Someday, I'll have an epic party on that rooftop.

One of my very favorite places. Someday, I'll have an epic party on that rooftop.

I wonder if grace is written in the sunsets and the clear blue skies and iced half-decaf mint lattes by the pool and clothes that are not maternity but still miraculously fit. I wonder if grace is found in quiet mornings by the ocean, the perfect glass of pinot noir rosé, and running into friends at the farmers’ market.

I wonder if grace is holding both the light and the darkness, what is and what isn’t, the homecoming and the ache. I wonder if grace is being showered with love that you don’t deserve and never asked for.

Jen Hatmaker wrote a book about fighting for grace. I haven’t read it. It seems like an oxymoron – like fighting for peace, which doesn’t seem to make sense until you look back at all of human history and see that all peace was hard-won and paid for in blood, tears, and loss.

Maybe what we need is a little more fight and a little more grace. Maybe it’s in the juxtaposition that we sense more clearly, like with bitter and sweet. In Come Matter Here, Hannah Brencher describes fight songs as reminders to keep going.

She writes:  “I just hope you always know you deserve beautiful things. You deserve the chance to close chapters and write new endings and cry loud and not be sorry for whatever makes that wild heart of yours beat. (Fight Song #4).”

Here’s to reclaiming that wild heart and letting it beat, for the fight and for the grace.

Summer: Rhythm

We’re officially in the throes of summer. When July 1st rolled around, it might as well have been January 1st in my book, with all the excitement of a fresh start for the second half of the year.


I’m deeply grateful for how my year has looked so far. I’m thankful for how I’ve spent my time – from the drawn-out mornings to the nighttime rituals. I’ve accomplished fewer concrete things, but I’ve established better habits, which really, has been the goal all along.

In books that I read and messages that I listen to, I’m reminded over and over to number my days. We have approximately 1,000 weeks with each of our children before they’re grown, and as scary as that sounds – I haven’t even calculated the weeks that have already passed with my littles ones – there’s magic that happens over time, the magic of a “strong, regular, repeated pattern.” Rhythm is the pattern that happens over time, like a house built with bricks laid one on top of the other.

Rhythms change by the season. Summer doesn’t carry with it the allegro of fall or the adagio of winter. It’s speed is just right – a happy andante like the continuous lapping of ocean waves or the steady, circular pedal strokes on a bike.

The rhythm isn’t the color of our days, but the bones. Our habits and routines are the steady drum, the beat that holds constant so that the melody can sing.

In this season, I’ve found that my rhythm looks like this:

Daily, I find that the best mornings are the ones where I’m up an hour or two before my crew, and I have some time to be myself before I’m mom and wife. I try to start the day off with coffee, a few books, Scripture reading, journaling about goals, and 5 minutes or so of centering prayer. This self-care time is so crucial in helping me be fully present and attentive to my family's needs. I aim for at least 40 minutes of creative time like writing or putting together design boards and no more than 30 minutes of personal housekeeping – ordering groceries, scheduling appointments, or checking in on our finances on Mint.

Sunday mornings are my absolute favorite. I try to wake up around 5 or 6 (if I’m not already awake thanks to my pregnancy insomnia) to have the quiet time needed to write out my plans for the week. Practically speaking, I use Moglea’s letterpress notepads and a ultra fine-point Sharpie for my brainstorm list, then transfer the priorities for the week to my Passion Planner. I’ve just started using the Passion Planner (it was gifted), but it seems to be great for connecting the week’s work with the month’s goals and giving space to reflect upon priorities and lessons learned. I’m never without my Day Designer for the day-to-day, and I’ve found their Intentional Living Worksheet and the Goal-Setting Worksheet to be enormously helpful as well.

I make a pot of coffee, and we eat a lazy breakfast at home. We put on music, strip the bed, and tidy the house. It feels so good to start off the new week with a (relatively) clean house. We head to church at 10:30, and then take it easy for the rest of the day.

Weekly, I aim for three workouts a week (Intervals & Arms on the Peloton is my go-to), ideally first thing in the morning before the boys wake up. Planning a date with my husband was on my weekly list for the first half of the year, but I’ve since removed date-planning from my to-do list, and now it’s on Dave’s! Mama has enough extra weight to carry, you know? I bullet out a few meal ideas for the week, usually on Monday, and make sure that the boys’ weekly calendar is populated.

Monthly, I’ve found that the month feels just the right amount of full when it includes a girls’ night, a dinner party, a lunch or coffee date with work friends, a dedicated beach day, and a family adventure day (for July, we’re heading to a butterfly farm!). We make time to stroll the farmer’s market and peruse the library at least a few times a month.

In her latest book, Off the Clock, Laura Vanderkam writes that people who feel like they have enough time “let go expectations of perfection and big results in the short run. Instead, they decide that good enough is good enough, knowing that steady progress over the long run is unstoppable.”

I’m learning that establishing a healthy rhythm takes the burden off of individual days – I can offer myself grace when I sleep in that one day after a few combined late nights and early mornings. I can say yes to rest, knowing that I’m playing the long game. I still pay attention to whether I’ve hit my day’s priorities, but more importantly, I’m moving to my beat.

Powder Room Design

I’ve come to the conclusion that the rooms that I create inspiration boards for are actually going to be the rooms that get done last. Nevertheless, here’s my vision for our downstairs powder room, which – fingers crossed! – we can have done by the end of summer.


This bathroom gets a ton of use, as we spend most of our time downstairs. It is also probably one of the ugliest rooms in the house – I’m talking a vanity that looks like it was decoupaged with dried blood, wall lighting circa the mid-1980s, and tiny rhinestones on the walls. It is literally bedazzled.

Since the room has no natural light to begin with – and because I want to have one darkly painted room in the house – I decided to capitalize on that and go moody and dark with black shiplap (Benjamin Moore Soot). My husband thinks shiplap will be easier to install than tile (the other look I was leaning towards), knock on wood. I’m still debating horizontal or vertical installation.

With statement walls, we can keep it simple with a pedestal sink rather than a full-fledged vanity, which helps keep the cost down. There seem to be an infinite number of hardware options (just see my Pinterest board) – do I pair polished nickel finishes with a brass pivot mirror? Or chrome finished hardware with a round oak mirror? I ultimately decided on a rattan mirror with polished nickel and a touch of white porcelain because the scale of the mirror I found was just right.

I love the idea of showcasing art in various places throughout our home in untraditional places, like the bathroom or the laundry room. I’m eyeing a piece like this one from Laurie Anne Art for above the toilet, but I’m not opposed to a Rose Bowl flea market vintage find either.

I’m rough estimating our budget to be around $3,000, but I think we’ll get it done under that amount. I stalk sales, free shipping promos and cash back deals like my second job. Also, we’ll do the labor ourselves – you can bet that I signed Dave up for the upcoming How to Install a Toilet workshop at our local Home Depot.

Side note: I'm completing re-doing my laundry room design because turns out, it's been done! (Unbeknownst to me at the time I published). Sorry, Hartley Home, I promise I wasn't trying to pose! I have another idea in mind, and the wallpaper was going to be a hassle to put up anyway (and probably a little bit too girly).


Note to Self.

I had a student at work ask me recently for advice. I gave her the advice that really, I needed for myself. What I said:


Intentionally develop your voice. I love how Sheryl Sandberg (my patron saint of all things business) says it: “People aren’t brands. That’s what products need. They need to be packaged cleanly, neatly, concretely – I don’t have a brand, but I have a voice.” Practice pitching ideas – in meetings, but even with friends. Practice disagreeing with people – forcefully or sweetly. Practice writing on a personal blog because you are the boss on that blog (side note: Learn to be the boss. Own your decisions). Know the rules before you break the rules, so to speak. Practice and refine, so that your voice can bend to accommodate the audience or the topic, yet still stay true to your essence.

Engage in the disciplined work of moving towards your goals (and be ok with your goals changing). For a few different seasons in my life, my priorities did not revolve around creative practices. I needed international experience, so for over a year, my discipline revolved around the daily study and practice of Chinese. My “creative” practices felt to the wayside. They felt fluffy and less important. There are seasons – with a newborn or acclimating to a new country, for example –  when it can feel impossible to create, but totally possible to observe. So observe, instead. Progress can come in different forms.

Read, as much as possible. This is something that comes naturally to me, because I’m a librarian’s daughter, because I consider myself a curious person, and because I love words and ideas. I’m an ENFJ, and I especially love how words and ideas act as the inputs that allow me to draw connections across genres and disciplines and areas of learning. It may take 4 months to finish reading a single book. Or you might juggle between 18 books at a time (me, currently). Reading is like eating your veggies. It makes you healthier.

It’s ok to be “behind.” I recently completed – and I use the term completed loosely – a writing workshop. “I’m so behind!” I emailed to the instructor. She replied, “There is no behind. There’s just where you are.” I love that. Start where you are, with what you have. Jess Connolly wrote, in my new favorite devotional, Always Enough | Never Too Much: “Maybe it’s time we look down at what He’s given us and get busy multiplying it. Maybe we should stop thinking about when we’ll get more and start thinking about how about how we can give what we’ve got.”

Make time to appreciate art in community. In my 20s, I was part of a book club where we not only read books together, but we cooked together and ate at the cutest cafes. I am one thousand percent a goals person, and the working life comes easily to me. In other words, I can be overly pragmatic and very intent on “accomplishments.” Communal appreciation of beautiful and interesting things pulls me out of that tendency and brings much needed balance and richness to my life. Don't sacrifice joy on the altar of work.

Leave room for white space. This has been a game-changer in my life. Since I’ve started the practice of a “daily office” – regular time for Scripture reading, centered prayer, and silence – I’ve noticed that the days I practice are more balanced and more centered than the days that I don’t. Also: margin is everything. Silence and margin are two sides of the same way of being that have been hugely impactful in my journey to maintain healthy habits, develop new insights, and engage in purpose-driven growth.

Laundry Room Design.

For the last six months, we’ve done very few home improvement projects. The constraint has been budget, mostly, but also energy. When you don’t have the money to go shopping, it’s a bit of a buzzkill to even be looking, am I right? I’ve been following all the designers (and design bloggers) on Instagram, bookmarking inspiration and a few products, but mostly I’ve been on hiatus from all things house.

Until – a few things happened recently. First, I started scheduling “creative” time in my day – a 40 minute minimum where I write, practice hand-lettering, dream up room designs, etc.  Second, I came across the perfect wallpaper, and the inspiration started flowing. My creative time took a design turn, and here I am now with a laundry room inspiration board.

Side note: this wallpaper (Orange Crush) was the one that started it all. Orange groves have a special place in my heart, and I thought, we should put this in our house somewhere! But our house has its own personality, and Orange Crush in Onyx did not fit it.

No 17 Ridge House Laundry Room

Then I came across this Lulie Wallace wallpaper on Anthropologie, and it was the one. I love that Lulie Wallace prints are pretty, with spunk. The muted tones of blues and grays with pops of green better fit the aesthetic of our house, and since laundry is primarily women’s work (ha!), the laundry room was the perfect place to embrace a more feminine look.

For this room, I wanted to balance the floral print with a touch of galvanized steel, birch butcher block, clean cabinet lines, and classic marble (with a more whimsical honeycomb design). Initially, I thought that we would spend $1,000 tops on our laundry room, but then I started running the math. With the cost of materials and labor, even with DIY-ing several things, our budget now is a more realistic $3,500.

The breakdown:


Add about another $1,000 for labor to install the tile and the wallpaper, and that brings it to about $3,500. I hope we spend less than this, of course. I almost always buy things on sale – like the wallpaper, which I purchased at about half of the regular price.

We’re going to tackle this project in bite-sized pieces along with a powder room renovation (black shiplap! brass light fixtures!) across the hall, also with a $3,500 (I hope) budget. I wish we were DIY geniuses, but the whole renovation process is so new to us (and there’s the whole full-time jobs, businesses, toddlers, baby-on-the-way thing too). For now, the plan counts for something, right?