Meeting Myself

[I feel the need to apologize when I haven't written in awhile, and then I feel silly because this is MY blog and I can do whatever the heck I want... So. I'm sorry, but I'm not sorry.]
The lesson at church today reached down deep into my gut, grabbed something, and ripped it out so I could look at it and realize how ugly I was becoming. Thank you for that, Dave.
We're going through the Old Testament and we talked about Judges today and the cycle of the Israelites. First, they start taking God's commandments as mere suggestions, then they start worshipping false gods because they stray from the truth, then they become oppressed by their gods, and finally God sends a rescuer to lead them back to home.
Oh, how deeply this hit my heart.
Dave said his mentor once told him that you can identify gods in your life by examining what you run to when you feel lonely or upset or out of control. You can find them by looking at what you do when you don't have the energy to do anything - and what makes you come alive in those moments.
Like. A. Ton. Of. Bricks.
I have house fever, in case you didn't know. I've really tamed it and come a long way in the past year - from an impatient urgency to a quiet, growing excitement, but despite the location on the spectrum it's just plain old house fever. And lately I just obsess over the money we're saving and how much Lemon Tree is making me and are we meeting our goals and how much more can we save and do we really have to spend money on that because we could instead put it in savings... and when Dave said that this tiny, timid voice for a split second wanted to say "No.. a house is different." but before the thought could even form my heart knew the truth.
And when I can't do anything about getting a house - when our savings goals are met and I don't have more Lemon Tree money to allocate and our budget is caught up - instead I obsess over nesting and fixing up our little apartment. And it's just the same.
So, I was convicted, and I am convicted, and I am deleting the Zillow app off my phone and I will limit the time I spend on our banking and budget.
But it goes on.
We learned about the cycles of the people in Judges and how their children were impacted by their parents' lack of faithfulness. One generation would begin to fall away, and the next would 'divorce' God altogether. The thought of divorcing our very creator is disturbing and frightening to me - and to think that if I don't take my relationship with Christ seriously, I could indirectly CAUSE my child to DIVORCE their creator is terrifying! And humbling. And altogether motivating.
--- Enter, title.
So we got home from church and I've done the things I need to do today and I've been aching to sit and read my Bible and pray, because I do want to take God seriously and I know we will probably have children in the next few years and I don't want to wait to take Him seriously.. And I decided to go revisit my old blog from college, which I merged with my old blog from high school (yes, I blogged in high school.. I was a dork).
I can't even begin to express the way God has used those old words to stir my heart. It was like He knew I was feeling empty and amateur and I read words I wrote in high school and especially college - and I was so filled with peace. I have a long way to go, I always have, in my relationship with Christ, but seeing my heart through my words during years that I look back on and feel that I wasted was so reassuring. I'm not completely lost. I have grown, and I was growing then - and I don't know why I so easily forget where I've been, but sometimes I just feel like I haven't moved in decades.
So I pledge to take my relationship with Christ more seriously. And I am thankful for His affirmation in showing me that I have grown, although I have a lot more growing to do.
And hopefully I can break the cycle of the Israelites as it appears in my life - and I can show my someday children what a mighty, awesome, and loving God we serve.


Looking Back on 2012, Looking Forward to 2013

As with everything in my life, this post is probably a little late. At this point, I've come to accept that as a daily reality and I can roll with it.

I feel the need to do a "Year in Review" post just for my own memories, but honestly, I'm ready to look forward. 2012 was a ... different year for us. It certainly wasn't hard, but it wasn't easy either. I think it's those transition years that can seem the dullest and end up being the most fruitful when you look back.

Our year was characterized by studying, late nights of designing and managing our small businesses, studying, hours of TV-watching and couch cuddles with laptops and blankets and spots, and, well, studying. Although my masters was a million times easier than my undergrad degree, I didn't anticipate the incredible relief I've felt being done with it. Just the mental energy it takes to have your heart and mind in one extra place is exhausting. That just-graduated feeling still hasn't quite worn off. I hope it doesn't for awhile.

Logan's masters is WAY more rigorous than mine was. He took 15 hours his first semester (August-December) and if you know anything about grad school, that's A LOT! I took 9 hours at the most, and usually 6. He has been working his tail off. I'm pretty sure he's started keeping a highlighter in his shirt pocket just so he can catch up on his reading homework every second he has a chance. Amazingly, he will be done with his coursework in July/August and will graduate in December so we're praying the good Lord will bless him with an industry-related job around Fall. And then... who knows!

It seems our world has been consumed by assignment deadlines, papers, and text books so once he's done with his classes it feels like we can finally start our lives. That is so dramatic, but really. That's how it feels.

I'm not sure why 2012 was lackluster. We have absolutely nothing to complain about, and I won't complain about 2012, but suffice it to say I am full-steam-ahead and already excited about the glittering possibilities of 2013 and beyond.

This year will still be categorized for us as a "transition" year, but not in the magnitude of 2012. We are both ready for a fresh start, and I think just a new year in general holds that for us. Logan will hopefully be officially closing his design business this year (providing he is able to find a new job), and forging into the world of information security. We're both really excited about this for a variety of reasons, but most of all I am so proud of him for following his heart and taking the plunge into a new career field. He is an incredibly hard-worker, and I have so many dreams for him as he continues to grind through these last few months of school. I know his hard work will pay off, and that God is guiding him through these tireless months, and I am just dying to see what comes next for him.

Lemon Tree is still thriving, and I'm still trying to whittle down my list of Lemon Tree goals for 2013. 2012 brought a lot of unexpected (good) change, and at this point I'm not exactly sure where to go next. I've recently hired a good friend to handle administrative work, and so far the future is looking bright. Barring some unforeseen drastic change of heart (or accidental pregnancy - HA!), I will definitely be staying in my Lipscomb job this year and continuing to pursue Lemon Tree on the side. I go back and forth between wanting to do Lemon Tree full-time, but I think I've finally resolved that until we have kids, I'm sticking around at Lipscomb. I love it so much, and I want to take advantage of the people, environment, work, and pay for as long as I possibly can. I don't think I would ever regret staying longer at Lipscomb and pushing back a full-time Lemon Tree career until kids. It makes a lot of sense to me I guess. So that's my story and I'm sticking to it! :)

Beyond our jobs, it's hard to say what else is in store for 2013 - which is what's so exciting. At this time next year, we would be happy to be in the exact same "place" as we are right now, or in a completely new one. We're leaving that up to God for now, and I guess we'll see what happens.

In all things, whether good or bad, I hope God is glorified in 2013, and our lives only point more towards His goodness and mercies. 2013, get at me!


Our (Spotted) Baby

[No, no babies yet. Hence the (disclaimer) in the title. Those will come in time, but please do not misunderstand the content of the post. That, my friends, is how rumors get started.]

I know you could never tell on Instagram, or Facebook, or Twitter, but we really do go through seasons with our dog. Just like relationships, sometimes it's just awesome and sometimes it just feels a little... off.

People told us before we got her, when we (Logan) were weighing the options (I was really just weighing the pros and ignoring the cons and begging Logan with cost projections and pictures of the cutest rescue puppies I could find online - even if they were in Arizona), that getting a puppy is a great introduction to parenthood.

I can say with full confidence that this is 100% true. If you are a dog person, in the slightest, I highly recommend getting a puppy (young, so you have to wake up and lose sleep to take it out in the middle of the night and train and discipline it from an early age) to test run your parenting skills with your spouse. Not that we'll be parents any time soon, and not that it's the exact same by any stretch of the imagination, but I am so thankful for the problems and lessons we've worked through that we wouldn't have otherwise before having kids. (Do you go through seasons with kids, too? I wonder...)

But I digress.

Like I said, we go through seasons with Gracie. I think on the part of all three of us - sometimes she's just more loving, sometimes we're just more interested, sometimes we're busy and she's mad at us for it... and any combination thereof. But lately... Lately we are just smitten all over again.

I mean - how could you not absolutely melt over that precious little face? (For the record, the Hartline household does not condone clothing animals but I was playing a joke on Logan and let me tell you... it was worth it.)

When Logan walks in and her first instinct is to crawl up on the couch with him and bury her face in his chest - how can your heart not grow a couple sizes?

It doesn't help that I bathed her last night. So her precious spotted fur is as soft as her puppy fur was, and smells like Johnson's baby shampoo. I contemplated skipping work this morning so I could just curl up on the couch with her and watch TV all day. It's just that great.

I know. People think we're crazy. People think "it's just a dog" and I get that. She is just a dog. She will die some day (Logan reminds me every day so I won't need extensive therapy from the shock - I probably still will), and life will go on. But unless you have felt and known the love and loyalty and affection of a dog, I don't expect you to understand. I'm sure once we do have kids our love for Gracie will pale in comparison to the love of a child, but for now, she is our baby. And we love her. And we spoil her and we plan our schedule around her, and she is our family.

And I wouldn't have it any other way. She was one of the best decisions of our marriage.


The Power of a Desk

I know. It doesn't look like much. It isn't much, really. But I can't begin to tell you how this cheap little desk has completely changed my perspective on our life right now. (I took that five minutes ago, by the way. Sorry for the mess.)

Somewhere around a year ago I could feel the house fever setting in, and before I knew it I was having full out heated arguments with Logan over whether or not we could buy a house. It was silly. I was just overcome with this longing for an office to house my crazy supplies and creativity, and it grew into the house monster.

So after finally admitting to myself that Logan was, in fact, right, and we shouldn't buy a house just yet, I decided to make some changes. We gave away our old (wonderful) couch to make room for a smaller leather one. This was a huge facelift for our little apartment. We got a cool rug. We rearranged. I refinished our TV stand. We got some decorative shelves for the living room.

It was all coming together.

But for some reason it just didn't quite feel finished, you know what I mean?

With the smaller couch, we moved it further up in our living room so I could have a lot of space behind it (next to the big, beautiful window) to work on Lemon Tree stuff. My printers already had their own buffet back there, and the console table behind the couch serves as my work area when cutting and packaging... but I felt so discombobulated constantly hiding my supplies in the closet or buffet and digging them out again two days later.

I needed a desk.

I took off work the Friday and Monday of my website launch weekend (oh yeah, that happened!), and when I came home on Thursday our house was COVERED in boxes. I ordered loads of supplies so I could get all the upfront costs out of the way, and I had planned to clean out my craft closet and store everything in there - but, as usual, time had gotten away from me.

In a last minute panic and moment of sympathy for Logan, I decided to clean the house and organize all the closets before the launch. This was probably the stupidest decision I made that weekend - next to maybe going out in public after four days of sitting at my computer, unshowered, in my pajamas. In my naiveté I thought it would only take a couple of hours.

EIGHTEEN hours later I was STILL trying to get things organized and put away. It should have been a week long project. But I had started and I wasn't going to leave it unfinished before the launch (let's be honest - under normal circumstances I probably would have... Logan can vouch for this), so I kept begrudgingly plugging away. And amidst that hectic day of dumpster runs and breaking down boxes, I discovered I had the perfect place just begging for a desk. So I bought one.

I learned that long weekend that a desk was all I ever needed to feel at home here. A space where I can spread my stuff, work through my thoughts, write, design, answer emails. A space that is MINE (and Logan's if he needs it) and doesn't double as a console table, a kitchen table, or my lap. I don't ever want to leave now. Since we got the couch I've felt like we'd finally really moved in but the desk really did it. The desk finished that process. We're here. We've nested. We love it, and we're not leaving any time soon.

Thank you, bargain desk. For providing a place for me to be creative and feel wholly at home. Thank you for teaching me that the grass can be just as green where I am, if I just look in the right places. And thank you for helping me get my act together before my website launch, when nothing else really could.

I love you, desk. Thank you.

(Oh, yeah, and Gracie proved early on that she loves the desk, too.)


My Better Half

Sometimes the only thing that will make me feel better when I'm not feeling like myself is not a hug, a prayer, or a word of encouragement. It's not a warm cup of coffee or a slice of pie or a phone call from a long lost friend. It's not new clothes, a clean house, or my dog (yes, I do mean that).

It's just my husband. To sit the corner chair in my office and remind me why I do what I do and that I am doing it as best I can.

It's just him. How did I ever get so lucky to have him?


Just As I Am

[Disclaimer: I should be working on two assignments right now - both requiring a lot of research and writing, both due in within 48 hours, both yet to be started. But there is something about sitting outside on our patio with a glass of water and a cup of tea, listening to the birds and the animals and the wind that just makes me want to write about something other than educational research. It's so healing, sometimes I just ache to write. I'm not very good at it, and I don't have very important things to say, but it helps. So I do it. Even when it's inconvenient.]

Similarly to Mary's verse that I wrote about recently, I've had another thought stirring lately. It stemmed from a conversation Logan and I had with a couple of friends of ours, but I don't actually remember what we were talking about. I remember sitting there, pretending to be listening but really just scanning my brain for the thoughts that currently persisted. I thought to myself, "Wouldn't it be funny if I was pregnant right now and didn't know it?" and, "What if tomorrow these dear friends of ours are gone - killed in a terrible car accident? How would we feel?" and, "I need to exercise more. Her arms look great... my arms don't look all that great. But, then again, they never really have. I should exercise more. Oh well."

From those thoughts, I started thinking of all the things I want to be but I fail at, but how these friends of ours and Logan, sitting in front of me, don't care about all of that. They just love me.

I realized in a moment of fleeting clarity that all I have to offer is here. Now. Just as I am. I can't offer the things I haven't done yet. I can't offer something I don't have, or haven't started - and no one is expecting me to. Sometimes I feel like I try to force change on myself by setting a milestone in place regardless of my progress. An analogy to this would be I buy a pair of jeans two sizes smaller because "I'm going to lose that weight." Does that make sense? Signing up to lead a Bible study isn't going to make me more spiritually mature. I'll just end up leading a Bible study when maybe I wasn't ready to.

Right now, just as I am, is all that I have. So what if I am pregnant and don't know it? The point is I don't know it, so it doesn't matter. If our sweet friends tragically lost their lives tomorrow (God forbid!), what does that matter right now? It doesn't because it isn't true.

I don't know if I'm making sense at all - in fact I'm confusing myself a little, but like I said before, I write because it helps me work things out. You guys just get to see the gritty process of that on paper. (My apologies.)

At any rate, I feel freed in that realization. I am here, now, with who I am with and I am who I am. That's not to say I don't need to grow and get better at certain things, but that is a process - and the present is not. I'm going to start operating on who I am instead of who I want to be. I think that maybe in doing that, I will, over time, become who I really want to be.

There. I feel much better now.



I'm not sure why, but for years now this verse has stuck with me. I never really felt connected to the nativity story until a couple years ago when I guess I was just finally woman enough to identify with Mary. I was about to be married (that's the only reasonable explanation I have for suddenly feeling very connected to Mary) and for the first time in my life I was really contemplating the idea of giving birth to the savior of the world and how Mary must have felt.

I think this verse struck me because I am the queen of TMI. I mean, there's merit to being an open book, but I compulsively tell people about things they a) don't care about, b) don't want to know about or c) all of the above. Logan used to get frustrated in college because if I got him a really sweet/funny card, I would write my message to him in it and then show all of my friends how sweet/funny the card was. There was no privacy in the message I was sending him. That was a valuable lesson.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

She was visited.. by an ANGEL.. and her response was to treasure everything that happened and ponder them in her heart. Not run and tell the first person who came to her mind, but treasure it. And ponder it. I would have put it in the newspaper for crying out loud!

The few times in my life I have mustered the self-control to keep something private I have felt enormously strengthened by it. Pregnant friends, conversations between Logan and I... It's empowering to have knowledge that is just your own, and it becomes so precious and valuable to you.

The few times I've done this, even if it's just something small, there is peace and understanding that comes as you contemplate something without sharing it immediately. In my experience, it allows time for God to speak to you about it before someone else taints it with their own opinions and perspectives. Or, worse, makes you feel dumb for even treasuring it in the first place.

As is the case with most of my blog posts, there's really no earth-shattering point to this post beyond just my own way of working through my thoughts, but lately I have felt convicted to treasure more things - to ponder them in my heart instead of yelling them to the world.

It is a wise and godly trait to choose your words and stories carefully.

When God gives me little gifts by way of nature or kind words, my immediate reaction is to pull out my phone and tweet about it. Why is that? Today I caught myself doing that and instead I put it back in my pocket and actually took a moment to take it all in, and enjoy the secret that God and I could share together. No one else in the world knows about it. Treasure.

In some way it makes me feel a little closer to Mary when I treasure things and ponder them in my heart.

What are you treasuring?