Last month, I started trying out new recipes (and inviting others to do the same) for Community Table, the first round of a blog series called Learning Hospitality. [Read why here.]
Then last week, I announced the beginning of Round 2, Meaningful Spaces. In the next four weeks, I’ll be doing something that helps add meaning to my home and I’m inviting you to do the same. [More here] This week, I’m designing my own fabric using Spoonflower.
Bonus: If you share what you do to your house in the comment of this post (or the ones to come), you’ll also be entered to win prizes. Last round, we gave away several hospitality and foodie-related books, two custom aprons and a $72 flower arrangement.
A Long Time Ago in a Life Far, Far Away
Ten plus years ago, I worked in a place (a church) as it designed its first building. There were hallway tiles created by the founding children and mosaics representing broken people coming together in a sacred space. [Here's an article Leadership Network wrote about it.]
The building blended values into decor. And the result was, well, meaningful.
It probably won’t surprise you then that while working here, I caught the itch to attach meaning to other life spaces. Hence, my husband and I spent a good amount of time personalizing our first house.
But our new place? Not so much. We rolled in the late heat of last summer while I was ridiculously pregnant and on the verge of producing Baby #2.
Believe me, decorating (with or without meaning) was ten miles from my to do list.
Life’s was a little more monotonous than all that: Nurse, change diapers, sleep. Repeat.
But now it’s time to remedy that.
Week 1: Meaningful Spaces from Spoonflower
This week’s project was inspired by a strange source (for me anyways): Project Runway (which I should clarify is about designers not super models). While I haven’t stayed loyal to the series over time, I once spent every episode fascinated by the thinking processes of these more haptic, visually-moved design-types who regularly shed tears over good design.
I was hooked.
I made a mental note to one day try one of their regular challenges: designing their own fabric. During several episodes, the designers would hand draw birds or flowers or some sort of vintage shapes, repeat it across a digital screen and then print it onto yards and yards of unique, custom-made fabric.
I was a little bit spellbound by that.
Today I made good on that notion to follow suit.
So here’s my process.
1. I opened up my trusty Photoshop Elements. It’s a scaled down (read: affordable) version of the more professional Photoshop. Sidenote: I haven’t found any design work I can’t do with it.
2. I saved a digital image of a map of our neighborhood (think lakes) and then used Photoshop to isolate and recolor the bodies of water in our area.
3. I saved the image as a .png and uploaded it to Spoonflower.com. From there, things got simple. I had a choice of how big I wanted the size of my map of lakes to be and a choice on how to repeat the pattern. After selecting those options, I ordered an 18×21 piece of custom fabric for $9.45 plus $1.00 shipping.
4. In a couple weeks, I’ll turn that into a living room pillow (pillows, buttons and sock puppets are the current scope of my seamstress abilities).
Pretty fun, huh? So what about it? Want to make your own custom fabric and post about your process in the comments? Or want to try something else (even something as simple as creating a wall or shelf of photos) to add meaning to your space? Come join me and add your idea to the comments of this post and you’ll be entered for the next giveaway.
Lastly, are you on Pinterest? I’m going to start collecting all the Learning Hospitality challenges on my Learning Hospitality board. So feel free to click over and rendezvous there as well.
How many books do you have inside of you?
Probably a few.
So start with the one you know. Your own.
Because more and more writing friends in my network have been asking me to help them take next steps, I’m going to offer a 4-wk online coaching course that will help you get your life story on paper.
It’s not exactly a business endeavor at this point, but I need to streamline it to serve people and still make the best use of my time as a mom.
Expect it to be personal. Not expert-behind-the-desk stuff, but common sense tips from a friend who has been there before you.
You’ll be able to work on your memoir through learning sessions designed to help you get the basic plot and key pieces of your story onto paper in four weeks.
There’ll be lots of daily opportunity for one-on-one interaction, as well as 8 learning sessions you can hold onto permanently and do at your own pace. And if you live in the Midwest, you can join me on an optional coached work day here in Michigan.
To get information, just go over the My Facebook Page and leave me a comment or send me an email (sarahraymondcunningham -at- gmail -dot- com).
The price point for the starter course is $119. I tried to make it accessible (less than traditional coaching services and less than even one credit of a college writing course), but I’m also making discounts available so leave your excuses behind and come write with me.
One of the great things about writing in the field of friendship and connection is that feel good stories–yep, even-so-sweet-they-hurt-stuff like this–are fair game.
Zach Sobiech, the teenager in this video, got a life-ending prognosis. He spent it launching a music career to will some powerful lyrics to this world. He passed through this life on May 19th.
Congratulations Zach on using your short time on earth to stir good for so many others.
And then there were three.
We’ve now covered seven ideas for helping churches take “first steps” to go beyond their building to the surrounding community. The exercises– What If Your Church Burned Down?, Community Stations, Would You Let Your Families Intermix, Walk a Mile In Their Shoes, What We Say In Public, Truth About Money and A Monopoly on Empathy– are taken from my new book, Portable Faith: Taking Church to the Community.
We’ll be sharing three more excerpts from the book and discussing them in the next three weeks. Today’s follows.
To What Degree, Do We Control Our Lives?
Read the following excerpt from the book There Are No Children Here [Get or Explore Book Here] as an individual or aloud as a group. If you have time, obtain the movie made from the book and watch it together for an even fuller illustration
On June 13, a couple of weeks after their peaceful afternoon on the railroad tracks, Lafayette celebrated his twelfth birthday. Under the gentle afternoon sun, yellow daisies poked through the cracks in the sidewalk as children’s bright faces peered out from behind their windows. Green leaves clothed the cottonwoods, and pastel cotton shirts and shorts, which had sat for months in layaway, clothed the children. And like the fresh buds on the crabapple trees, the children’s spirits blossomed with the onset of summer.
Lafayette and his nine-year-old cousin Dede danced across the worn lawn outside their building, singing the lyrics of L. L. Cool J rap, their small hips and spindly legs moving in rhythm. The boy and girl were on their way to a nearby shopping strip, where Lafayette planned to buy radio headphones with $8.00 he had received as a birthday gift.
Suddenly, gunfire erupted. The frightened children fell to the ground. “Hold your head down!”
Lafayette snapped, as he covered Dede’s head with her pink nylon jacket. If he hadn’t physically restrained her, she might have sprinted for home, a dangerous action when the gangs started warring. “Stay down,” he ordered the trembling girl.
The two lay pressed to the beaten grass for half a minute, until the shooting subsided. Lafayette held Dede’s hand as they cautiously crawled through the dirt toward home. When they finally made it inside, all but fifty cents of Lafayette’s birthday money had trickled from his pockets.
(Alex Kotlowitz, There Are No Children Here (New York: Anchor, 1992), p. 9)
1. Ask each person present to draw a circle about the size of the mouth of a coffee cup on a sheet of white copier paper. This circle represents Dede’s surroundings–the context in which she is being raised. Based only on the information presented in this story or movie, instruct participants to draw a circle inside the larger one representing how much control they estimate that Dede has over her surroundings.
A small circle would clearly represent very little control, while a larger circle might represent more control.
2. Now instruct participants to draw a second circle the size of the mouth of a coffee cup next to Dede’s. This one represents their own context wherever it is you live, taking into account their environment and the resources they do or do not have, support systems, and so on. Then instruct participants to draw a circle inside their circle that represents, on an average day, how much control they believe they have over their environment.
3. Looking at the inner control circles, how do they compare? Did you make them the same size? Is one bigger than the other? Ask for volunteers to explain why they drew theirs the way they did. If you’re participating with a group, feel free to let others disagree or debate. If you are working on this exercise alone, try to imagine how someone might argue with your answer. Could someone create a case for taking the opposite side?
So Really…What Can We Control?
The point of the exercise, of course, is not to make a judgment about someone different than ourselves but to consider how a human’s ability to make decisions society might see as “ideal” might be hampered by environment, circumstances or personal hardship. This could also lead to talking about whether society’s “ideal” values are always really ideal.
In the groups who’ve done this with me, for example, some people have adamantly insisted that Dede has a large degree of control over her environment. The same or very similar to what they had living in the comfort of white suburbia. They further assert that all people have the same amount of control–that we can all make good or bad choices despite hardship and that we can choose to work hard, educate ourselves and move away from an area or participate in certain threatening functions less.
Others, of course, end up arguing this point, insisting that certain environments are so impoverished and insecure, and certain personal hardship is so consuming, that it is unrealistic to think a person who has to walk through a crime-ridden neighborhood to get to a laundromat has the same sort of control as someone who walks through their own kitchen to an attached laundry room.
This can also lead to discussions about not assuming just because someone is raised in a rough environment that they cannot acquire good thinking skills or make great decisions.
The point, again, is not to declare one idea “right”, but to expose people to a variety of perspectives to perhaps evaluate their own sense of judgment when critiquing someone whose life has unfolded differently than theirs did.
What do you think? If you sprung this activity on the people in your Sunday School class, small group or other gathering, would they participate? Would it cause tension? Do you suspect there’d be open conversation or new awareness?
Attention to Detail
Today I continue the Attention to Detail series, that gathers behind-the-scenes recommendations from authors, bloggers and other influencers. Learn what they’re reading and doing when they’re off-stage.
So far, we heard from Brad Lomenick (of Catalyst) and Tim Soerens (of Inhabit), blogger Ron Edmondson and notable writer Cathleen Falsani, writer Jonathan Merritt and church leader exec Jenni Catron, conference and media influencer Scott McClellan and writer and blogger Doug Pagitt.
Today, we’re pulling back the curtains and learning a little about theologian Scot McKnight and author Rebekah Lyons. Thank you to both of them for taking the time to do this.
Sarah: So I know you’ve been writing, Rebekah. But what about when you’re on the other end of a book? What are you reading?
Rebekah: Domino Magazine‘s spring issue for small spaces. The Happiness Project…though I’m stuck on month 3. Trina McNeilly’s blog, LaLaLovelythings.com. She has a killer eye and is a quirky & fun writer.
And KelleHampton.com. I love her honesty, and generosity toward all things…and her PHOTOS! They exude light. Plus she’s a fellow Down Syndrome mama.
Sarah: That’s two new websites for me to check out. Maybe I’ll get some good music recommendations here too. What are you listening to?
Rebekah: The Lone Bellow. They’re long time friends from Trinity Grace Brooklyn. So fun to see their gospel themes of beauty, redemption & grace spilling all over the place right now. I think they are playing Leno in a couple weeks and touring all over. Check them out if they are in your city!
Then there’s Sleeping at Last. Ryan O Neal is a friend that has inspired me the past several years. He’s always challenging himself to write songs…All. The. Time. He wrote a 36 song project 2 years ago called “Yearbook” and now working on another 36 song project. He just released Darkness, and is almost releasing “Light.”
The Brilliance. I listened to them a ton writing Freefall to Fly. They just played our venue at QLA too. I highly recommend checking them out. My fav song is ‘Does your heart break?’ and ‘Breathe’.
And Young Oceans. They write worship music for our church in NYC, Trinity Grace. They wrote both Lent and Advent projects in 2012.
Sarah: Okay, still taking notes. What are you watching?
Rebekah: When I have time to catch up on things: Downton Abby, Greys, Modern Family, New Girl (Schmidt!) My movie favs for 2013: were Argo, Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty.
Sarah: Where are you going?
Rebekah: Just returned from 2 weeks on the road launching and talking about Freefall to Fly. Met some lovely folks in Chicago, Rockford, LA, Carlsbad, Newport Beach, etc. So happy to lay my head back down in our two bedroom apartment in NYC. Will be heading south in late May but for now, I’m taking in all the spring tulips in Manhattan!
Sarah: Busy lady! And who am I likely to find you with?
Rebekah: Gabe Lyons, my hubby of 15 years. We’ve weathered so much, I can’t believe his patience, grace, humility and teachability in our relationship. He’s an amazing daddy too.
Sarah: That’s sweet. Okay, last question. What are you cooking?
Rebekah: Right now I’m on a daily diet of tomatoes, basil leaves and buffalo mozzarella. I’m tempted to try Shauna’s Blueberry Crisp in Bread and Wine…as soon as they are in season. ;)
For the kids I make chocolate chip pancakes more than I ever thought I would. (Homeschool!)
Rebekah Lyons is the co-founder of Q, author of Freefall to Fly. She is also a mother of three, wife of one and dog walker of two. She lives in New York City.
Sarah: Hi Scot. I know this is a dangerous question to ask a theologian, but what are you reading right now?
Scot: I’m reading books on Paul for a book I’m writing about Paul, The Hobbit by Tolkien and Martin Buber, I & Thou.
Sarah: Mental note on the upcoming Paul book. (One I remember most was Wangerin’s. Remember that one?) So when you’re not reading, what are you listening to?
Scot: The Cubs game. I rarely listen to music, not even in the car.
Sarah: What about watching? What would I find on your TV screen?
Scot: The Cubs. And some golf.
Sarah: My husband would like these answers. Have I mentioned my dog is named Wrigley? Next where are you going?
Scot: To Dallas to speak to the Episcopalians. Then Vancouver in July-August.
Sarah: Alright lastly, everyone is dying to know (maybe…)–what does Scot McKnight like to cook?
Scot: Salmon and sweet potato fries, and a big salad. Kris buys the food; I prepare dinner.
Scot McKnight is the author of more than thirty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL. He also runs a popular blog called Jesus Creed which is named after one of his books by the same name.
Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going
For the last four weeks I’ve been trying out new recipes (and inviting others to do the same) for the first round of a blog series called Learning Hospitality.
We’ve given away copies of Bread and Wine, Lifegiving and Eat With Joy. And today, I’m announcing the winners of two aprons made by Love to Sleep and Charming Apron. They will go to Hilary Perkins and Kara Hubbs.
The Next Round of Learning Hospitality
So we’ve been focusing on preparing food for the community of people that gather at our homes. We called that the Community Table.
Now we’re turning to the home itself. This month, each week, I’ll be doing something that helps add meaning to the spaces where people gather in our homes. I’m calling this round Meaningful Spaces.
Creating meaningful spaces could include actions like:
- Creating a collection of framed pictures of loved family and friends
- Posting inspiring or value-driven art
- Incorporating objects or symbols that represent family or community memories
- Involving family or friends in creating something useful to guests
- Improving the experience of guests by adding items useful to them
- and so much more! It’s open to your creativity.
Once again, starting next Thursday, anyone else who tries to add meaning to their space over the next week and shares it via the comments will be eligible for the weekly prizes. Can’t wait to see what you come up with.
Humans Need Social Connection
Meditation isn’t enough. You also need connection.
You maybe already figured that out from ordinary life experience. But it’s also scientifically provable. Or so that’s what a new study from Psychological Science claims, adding more information to the growing pile of research that suggests social connectedness improves a person’s well-being.
The Most Recent Study
This latest study involved 65 university staff and faculty members, half of whom were given an hour-long class on meditation and told to think compassionately about others. This exercise included returning to phrases like “May you feel safe, may you feel happy, may you feel healthy, may you live with ease.”
After 61 days of this practice, participants who both meditated and engaged positive feelings of social connection, improved their heart rate variability.
In plain English? Heart rate variables measure the responsive of a specific nerve called the vagus. And here’s the big deal: when the vagus is functioning well, the person’s risk for cardiovascular and other fatal health issues is lowered. Even better, it may also positively impact immunity and glucose levels. In other words, when they felt connected, their bodies functioned better.
To those of us not deeply embedded in science, studies like this might be a small thing. But scientists expect this and similar findings to lead to much more.
Be on the lookout for follow up studies because in addition to obvious health benefits (lowering heart disease risk etc.), the vagus is also in some ways responsible for how people connect with each other. For instance, it connects to nerves that coordinate eye contact, allow us to hear humans talking and impacts emotional expression. It also can prompt the release of oxytocin, a hormone proven important to human bonding in the past.
Researchers suggest that we know about the value of friendship, from a scientific perspective, is only the beginning.
Steve Jobs vs Bill Gates?
As Microsoft and Apple squared off around technology, did it extend into a relational boxing match: Steve Jobs vs Bill Gates? Gates doesn’t seem to think so.
This week, Charlie Rose interviewed Bill Gates and it produced another rarely-seen display of the lasting connection between Gates and his favorite and most feared competitor, Steve Jobs.
Steve Jobs and Bill Gates
Here, Charlie Rose shares photos and highlights from Steve Jobs and Bill Gates history which includes an unlikely journey of friendship. In it, Bill says,
He and I, in a sense, grew up together,” explained Gates. “We were within a year of the same age, and we were kind of naively optimistic and built big companies. And every fantasy we had about creating products and learning new things– we achieved all of it. And most of it as rivals. But we always retained a certain respect and communication, including even when he was sick.”
Want to read other unique stories of friendship? Go here.