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The War of Art

Recently I achieved a new status as an Austinite by finally going in to get a library card. I had a long list of books that I'd wanted to read for forever, so this was finally a good excuse to get it done. One of the first books I read was "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfield. If you haven't heard of it, please go to your nearest library or bookstore and pick it up NOW. I can't recommend this book enough people. It's not simply for artists, writers, and filmmakers. This book is truly for anyone who has ever had dreams or aspirations that they've never accomplished or have constantly put to the side because of this thing Mr. Pressfield likes to call "resistance". You see, resistance is a force that keeps us from doing the things that we want to do. It's a lot like writer's block, but it can really be summed up to a simple, internal struggle that prevents us from accomplishing our dreams. These dreams can be anything from artistic, to entrepreneurial, to even something as common as losing weight. Resistance loves to tell you you're not good enough to accomplish your goals and will do anything to procrastinate your efforts toward them. For me as a filmmaker, my resistance comes in the form of lack of self-discipline (I can't bring myself to sit down and do the work I know I need to do to become a better filmmaker), and in lack of self-confidence (I doubt my skills as a filmmaker, so I'm afraid of putting myself out there and failing).

Pressfield himself is a spiritualistic person, and even goes so far as to imply that resistance is of a spiritual nature. This point grabbed my attention. The concept that maybe resistance is not even simply my lack of self-discipline, but an actual outside force that is trying to keep me from using the skills and talents that God has given me. Satan loves to do whatever he can to prevent the kingdom of God from growing. What if part of that included keeping believers from using their God given talents for his glory? What if that lie from Satan that my work isn't good enough, kept me from making films that point people to Jesus and proclaim his gospel to people around the world? It seems that resistance isn't just a theory then. It's an actual, spiritual battle.

In his last page, his last push of encouragement to the artist, he reminds us of this:

"You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along its path back to God.

Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It's a gift to the world and every being in it. Don't cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you've got.”

And so that is what I'm trying to do right now. It's hard, and I'm still sucking at it, but I'm trying to pursue the gifts that God has given me. If he shuts that door and leads me to a different career, then so be it. But until that door is shut, locked, and dead bolted, I'm going to work at this because it would be a waste not to.

David and I recently had a conversation about our personal dreams, and our dreams for our future together. I felt kind of pathetic sharing with him because I ultimately didn't have any unique, personal dreams. My only dreams were to have kids, adopt, and eventually own a home. Nothing that out of the ordinary. I didn't have any idea what I wanted to do with my career, if I should continue to pursue film, or if there was even a point to having a career if we were going to have kids in a few years anyway. My sweet husband was so empathetic hearing me tell him all of this, he even started to tear up hearing me tell him how I had felt like a failure for not knowing what to do with my life. He told me he thought I was an amazing filmmaker, that he wasn't just saying it because he was my husband, but that he felt like I needed to pursue my passion for storytelling (which, truth be told, after so many months of unemployment and doing nothing, doesn't really feel like a passion at the moment). But hearing him say that and encourage me, after such a long battle of trying to find a job and not knowing what to do with my life, meant the world to me and really made me feel like it was the thing I needed to be doing.

So I'm going for it. Starting with these small goals:

1. Create a reel of my work (I have one done, I'm kind of just sitting on it now, wondering if it's finished and waiting to hit "export").

2. Learn Adobe Premiere and After Effects. Even though I'm a Final Cut snob, I'm tired of finding jobs I can't apply for because they require knowing Premiere over Final Cut (stupid as that might be).

3. Work on my resume. I want my resume to be a little more graphically appealing. It's not a priority, but something that I want to put the effort into at some point.

4. Write more. I used to write here all the time. Heck, I loved writing so much that I was accepted to UT's journalism program before immediately switching to RTF!

5. Get out of the house. I'm tired of letting unemployment kick my butt. It's taking a physical and emotional toll on me, and I can't live like this. If I can't find a job, I can at least find a purpose to get myself out the door each day.

That's it. Just a few small goals. I'm not going to let resistance win without a fight, because even though I know my goals are small and limited, God's plans are so much bigger if we're up for it.

Refurbished Particle Board Dresser Tutorial

Let me start by saying that everything about this refurb project was pretty much a disaster. Most of the process was incredibly frustrating and I don't recommend trying it without knowing what you're getting into (like me). I've now sworn off all laminate/particle board furniture, even though I'm sure I'll find another piece of free laminate furniture that is "worth refurbishing". (Note to self: it's not.) Also for those who don't want to read on, but are only interested in results and pictures, here you go:

BeforeDresser

AfterDresser

I received this sad little dresser as a freebie from my sister-in-law, who's best friend had had it since childhood. When it was given to my sister-in-law it was painted white with ivy on it. For obvious reasons, she decided to lose the paint job and attempted to sand and stain it. The dresser is laminate particle board, so as you can probably guess, stain plus laminate do not a good pair make. On top of that, it was missing nearly half of its drawer pulls. So, of course, when my husband was helping my sister-in-law move and texted me to ask if I wanted it, I, like a fool, said yes.

If only I'd known...

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I decided that I wanted to paint the dresser a rich gold tone, with an antique finish (like the Anthro dresser below) to give it a rustic look, without the typical distressed, chippy look.

anthrodresser

I started off with a quart of Behr brand's premium plus interior paint in Midsummer Gold with an eggshell finish. I picked this up at the Home Depot for about 12 dollars I think, and by the time I finished (including trial and error) I had about a fourth of a quart leftover.

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Everything after picking out my paint color was pretty much downhill. I've worked with furniture already coated in polyurethane, so you think I'd have learned my lesson on the importance of sanding and priming. But I'm an impatient person who is still growing and learning in this particular area, so I have to learn this lesson a few times over for it to stick (in this case, literally).

You see, I hate sanding. I loathe it. I will do anything I can to skip over sanding, even if it means my final product isn't totally perfect, which is saying a lot coming from a creative perfectionist. So my first mistake was in thinking that because my sister-in-law had sanded the dresser previously to stain it, that it was ok to paint it directly since it had kinda, sorta once been sanded. My second mistake was forgetting to care that the thing was laminate. This should have been a huge red flag at the beginning of the process, or even when I decided to take the thing home, but the dreamer in me only saw the beautiful gold dresser to come.

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Two coats of paint later, I knew I had a problem when I could scratch and peel off a whole section of paint just with my fingernail. From there it was back to the store to pick up a putty knife, sanding sheets and primer.

Two hours of scraping later...

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Once I had the dresser close to where it was before, I whipped out my sander (a Black & Decker Matrix with sander attachment), and went to town. I used a medium 120 grit sandpaper and went over everything just enough to rough it up so it wasn't smooth to the touch anymore. You don't want to sand it too hard or the particle board can actually start to split. My sander isn't very powerful, so this really wasn't too hard and didn't take very long.

Once I had it sanded down, it was time to prime. I used Kilz brand interior oil based spray on primer. I found this particular primer to be highly recommended by the pros, as it's extremely effective when working with laminate furniture. Plus at about $6 a can, it was definitely worth it for cutting down paint and dry time. I used about a can and a half of this stuff to cover my entire dresser and it was AMAZING! The whole process was so quick and it gave me a beautiful, clean slate that made me forget all of my past failures and the fact that my arm might, in fact, fall off at any moment from all the scraping and sanding.

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The thing that makes this primer so perfect for laminate furniture is that you can actually feel the roughness of it once it's dried. It clings to the laminate and has tons of texture to help the paint stick. Once it dried (about an hour), I noticed the top was a little too rough, so I went over it again with my sander (still 120 grit). After wiping down all the sawdust, I was finally able to paint my first real coat.

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The difference between that first coat and my original paint job was night and day. The paint stuck to the primer beautifully and the dresser actually looked yellow when I was finished! At this point, I'm feeling like I'm the best thing that ever happened to home improvement. Where is my HGTV show?? Martha Stewart ain't got nothin' on this!

I let that coat dry overnight (only because we went to bed, I'm not that patient, if my first attempt at painting this didn't indicate that to you). The next morning I went over the whole piece, looking for rough spots to sand out. These spots I sanded by hand, using a finer 220 grit sandpaper and sanding block.

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By the second coat of paint I was almost giddy. It was gold! Gold I tell you! (This is the first time in this entire process that the dresser hasn't looked like a highlighter.)

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I did a third and final coat for good measure, allowing each coat to dry overnight, about 24 hours in between each coat. My two day project has now turned into five days...

Next it was time for the antique glaze. I used Valspar's antiquing glaze in Asphaltum, available at Lowe's for about 9 dollars. I'd read a lot about the glaze and done my research, but I have to say I wasn't impressed with it. I think this strongly attributed to the wood type combined with the paint type, but it didn't stick or absorb the way all the tutorials described it to.

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The basic concept of the glaze is that you paint it on lightly (a little goes a long way), let it dry for a few minutes, then rub it off. Magically, your furniture will be transformed into a chic, adorable vintage piece that will fool even your grandma into thinking it's from the 1920s.

WRONG.

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I encountered either one of two problems: either all of the glaze would rub off, or none of it would rub off, prompting me to use a damp rag, which would rub everything off.

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After spending nearly three hours glazing, rubbing and starting over, I finally got it to where I wanted it, though it wasn't what I expected or had envisioned.

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After I let the glaze dry another 24 hours, I sealed it with a coat of satin polyurethane (Minwax brand), since at this point I didn't want all of my hard work to chip off from wear and tear. I really wanted to try a finishing wax, but since I've never used one I've read that it can be difficult to get the hang of, plus I was unsure about how well it would seal and protect my fragile paint job. And since I already had some extra poly from a previous project, I slapped it on there.

I then added these lovely knobs that I bought for half off at Hobby Lobby ($2 each). I think they're so pretty, and they remind me so much of Anthropologie!

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And here is the finished dresser!

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I wish I could say I absolutely loved the way this turned out. Don't get me wrong, I do like it, but there are a lot of things that weren't what I envisioned. The color is far too yellow for me, even though I still look at the paint sample and it's totally gold. The antique glaze is sort of black, making the dresser kind of look like it's covered in ashes, which I don't like. I wish it were more of a brown. And finally, I really hate the poly seal I put on it. It came out looking high gloss, which I think is a result of the paint, since it's very muted on the other piece of furniture I've used it on. So I hate the glossyness of it, which made it even difficult to take pictures of since it reflected light from almost every angle.

BeforeDresser

AfterDresser

All in all, this was a cheap fix and easy alternative to buying a new dresser. It's not perfect, but it's beautiful and will hopefully fit our style for many years to come.

Becoming Satisfied

Soundtrack: Sleigh Bells - Reign of Terror For the last few weeks I've been taking a new Get Trained class at the Stone called "Satisfied". This is the first semester the class has been offered, and I think it's the best class for women to come out of the Get Trained ministry. If you are a women who wants to love Jesus more, TAKE THIS CLASS. It will ruin your life for good.

I will admit I had some pride going into this class (yet another reason why I needed it so badly). Having taken so many GT classes in the past and with the connections I have to staff, I assumed I would probably get asked to be a table leader. No big deal. I lead tables like it's my job. So I waited for that email asking me if I would oh so humbly step up and lead my table with all my Godly wisdom, theological knowledge, and general Proverbs 31 Woman-ness.

Then the email went out reminding us 1.) class starts this Sunday and 2.) there is a missional community component Wednesday nights and if you can't participate you need to switch to the non-mc version of the class.

Wait... WHAT?!

First of all, clearly the Get Trained ministry hated me. How could they have not asked me to lead a table? Am I not humble enough? Gracious enough? Are strength and dignity not my clothing? Is the teaching of kindness not on my tongue? My non-existant children don't rise up and call me blessed and my future husband doesn't praise me? Is my clothing not fine linen and purple? Because I will wear purple if that's what it takes! (If you don't get these references, you are clearly not a Proverbs 31 woman. (P.S. I think I hate that term. More on that later.))

Second of all, I signed up for a missional community? That was definitely NOT on the website when I signed up or I never would have... oh wait, yep. It's there. Curse you asterisks!

So I was upset and feeling pretty darn prideful for a good 24 hours before I got the friendliest email I've probably ever received (if you are friends with Theresa you know what I'm talking about) asking me if I would lead a table and missional community for Satisfied.

I felt like a butt head. Thank you God for showing me this about myself.

Since the class has started I can honestly say I've felt convicted of something every single week and that those convictions go beyond just an epiphany in the class room, but God is actually changing my heart and mind more each day. Somehow, the women who wrote this curriculum seem to have captured these major sins, lies that Satan feeds us to believe about ourselves and our worth, that burden every woman. I can say that they are a burden for every woman because of those in my group no one has ever had an "I don't struggle with that" moment. In fact we've mostly felt the opposite, "How did they know I feel that way? Wait, you think that too? Is it even possible for a woman to not struggle with this? Can we do a case study on women who don't struggle with this? Something is wrong with them." With that said, if you have ovaries and think that you don't need this class, I will fight you.

Some of the subjects we have been tackling include being happy, being special, and what it means to be fully known and loved. These have wrecked me every week. I see more and more clearly the lies that I've believed for probably my whole life. The ways that I've believed I'm special according to the world and not through the lens of the gospel, or the ways my actions are always driven toward my happiness being found in the world and not in relationship with the Lord. It's literally called me to a new way of thinking about myself, others, and the world around me. It's called me to take 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 as more than just a cute little suggestion, and put it into action.

"For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ"

I'm not great at this. I'm not even good at this. But God is good at this. He loves shaping our hearts, even if it's the teeniest tiniest bit and it feels like nothing's changing. I've seen changes not just in myself, but in every woman in my group, some by leaps and bounds. Together we are learning what it looks like to love God more and to change our thoughts and actions by tackling sin head on, in and through community.

If you are a woman, I urge you to take this class. I promise it will challenge you, it will probably hurt you, but God will change you. And it will be wonderful.

Pessoptimist

Soundtrack: Andrew Bird - Break It Yourself I can never decide if I'm a pessimist or an optimist. I've been told before that I'm an optimist, but it doesn't really feel that way. I most often doubt people's motives, struggle to believe their intentions aren't just for selfish gain, that they can do something genuinely good out of selflessness, etc. Now before you go calling me out on how I don't love God because I don't love/trust people yada yada yada... hear me out.

Philosopher, mathematician, and overall bad A (and you know that "A" stands for apple), Blaise Pascal once said:

"All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. This is the motive of every action of every man, even those who hang themselves."

I love Pascal. This quote blows my mind every time I read it because it's so darn true. Every human action is rooted in the desire and pursuit of happiness, even for the man who thinks the only means to happiness is to kill himself.

  • "I like to dress really cute because... people thinking highly of me for being fashionable will make me happier."
  • "I like to watch loads of TV because... ignoring my current reality will make me happier." (This is strictly a hypothetical example. I like my reality, and I love me some TV.)
  • "I lie to my roommate about something bothering me because... I'm not happy being in the middle of conflict."

Happiness drives every action we take whether we realize it or not, and our happiness sometimes takes priority over others, even those we love most. Is happiness a good thing? Totally. God wants us to be happy and find joy in Him (John 15:11). But does our pursuit of happiness lead us to do things that aren't good? You betcha.

I literally can't think of a single sin that I've committed or struggle with that doesn't in some way trace back to me wanting to be happy. I believe that what the world tells me will make me happy, will in fact make me happy. So I try to be successful, beautiful, likable, funny, etc. - all these things the world says will fulfill me that somehow inevitably lead to sin. Can those things bring me happiness? Yes, but only temporarily.

The only eternal joy is in the only eternal God. And while I have to admit I suck at believing this, it's true. John 15:11 says, "These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full". God wants us to be happy because it brings him glory, and he is most glorified when we are happiest in him. Kapeesh?

So I've decided I'm both a pessimist and an optimist. I'm a pessimist about people - everyone's out for their own happiness and their own gain. I don't expect the best out of people because I know that we're all broken and looking for happiness in the wrong places, which leads us into a crap ton of sin.

But I am an optimist in my God. He has never failed me and never will fail me. I can trust in him because I know that every word spoken in scripture is true and every promise he has made will come to pass. I have no reason to believe in the goodness of man, and every reason to believe in the goodness of the cross. Jesus is the only goodness found in us and the only reason I can be optimistic that my God works in and through people.

With that said, I may have to rethink this whole pessimistic thing...