The Paper Heart Diaries

On a regular day – a day filled with a long day at work, followed by making sure my children were fed, did homework, loved and ready for bed – I struggled to get the laundry done. I was just over it. The mundane. The every day chores. The keeping up with it all. Why did I do this every day? Wasn’t there a better way? Why are we called to feel like housekeepers for those that live in our house?  

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A Season of Family

This season in life – the one where we’ve been exhausted by a never-ending pandemic and are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, yet are hesitant to dive back into our “normal” – has been one of family.

Someone recently commented that they hadn’t seen me in ages – we went from seeing each other a few times a month to, well, nothing. I laughed, shrugged and chalked it up with my normal excuse of “being busy” – work, kids, travel, etc. But in reality, it’s been the opposite.

Don’t get me wrong. Work is busy. We have been in and out of town. But I’ve also be looking at our life, and our normal, a little differently.

I’ve been dwelling in a different way to approach this beautiful life God has given me. I’ve moved slower, savoring the days and the moments. I’m on my knees in praise and thanksgiving for this realization of a need to soak up everything that I have now.

I’m in a season of family.

Over the past two years, I’ve gotten to know my family in a way I could not have before – with the long work days, the commutes, the busy sports schedules and community commitments. The last two years have refocused my lens of how I look at this one life I’ve been given. And my family is first. They will continue to be first. The dinner around the table where we share the best part of our day with each other, the snuggles on the couch on a Friday movie night, the walks with the dog and the time playing together in the backyard – these are the things my heart finds true joy in.

I have chosen, rather unconsciously, to spend my time with my family instead of socializing and constantly trying to get to the next activity. I will continue to choose that over anything else. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely do love being with our circle of friends and sharing laughs and making memories. Some of those friends have become a part of our family over the past few months. But I want to be with friends in a way that celebrates our friendship, offers fellowship and thrives on the foundation of family. I want to be where my kids are seen for the absolutely amazing and precious gifts that they are, where my husband’s heart shines through as he slaves over a grill cooking a meal to share with our neighbors, where my deep belly laughs are echoing those around me and I have sisters, not just girlfriends, that I know I can call in my darkest moments. I want to be with my family where we become better people.

I will choose this new way of life. Over and over again.

Joy-Filled Morning

Joy-Filled Morning | 24×36 | Private Collection

Mornings are both hard and wonderful all at once. The alarms, the dread of the to do list, the day that lies ahead. So hard. But the wonder of a new day, the opportunities that are there. So beautiful. God gives us a new slate, a new chance, each day. This piece helped pull me out of a time where things were just hard. This piece is filled with joy – the joy of a new chance, a fresh day, a glorious morning. 

“Weeping may last through the night, but the joy comes in the morning.”

Psalm 30:5

Float + Soak | A Commission that Terrified Me

Y’all. This commission was one of the hardest, yet most fun, I’ve ever done (and I’m pretty sure I’ve lost some sleep over it).

Let me tell you a story.

I get a message in the fall from dear friends (Lori and Wes Tuttle) about a commission to add to their collection of art. I am so blessed to have worked with them previously on two separate commissions and was excited at the prospect of a third!

Here comes the plot twist…instead of working with them directly, as I have in the past, and getting direction and inspiration directly from the clients…I had the opportunity to work with their decorator and completely surprise them! The Tuttles had no say in colors, inspiration, look or composition, nor were they involved in the approval process at all. Their designer, Sarah Mickney of Design Envy, and I FaceTimed a few times throughout the process and she provided me with wallpaper and fabric samples, as well as the strict instruction to include just a hint of orange to tie in their love of all things Clemson (yes, this was hard for me to do).

I know Lori and Wes from way back when in Charleston, and knowing that they are both very sentimental, I knew I needed to focus on the Lowcountry, a place where they dated, married and lived before moving to Fort Mill. Before I knew it, the two blank canvases transformed into a flowing deep blue creek and green marsh scene, reminiscent of a hot Fourth of July day where Lori and I, along with some other friends, sat on floats in the creek outside of my parents’ house and yelling to Papa Joe to refill our floating cooler with Coors Lights when we ran low.

I had the best time delivering “Float” and “Soak” to Lori at a random Winnsboro truck stop off I-77 on a rainy Friday afternoon, and seeing her shocked face as she got to see not only the paintings for the first time, but hear the story behind why I chose this scene, I knew I got it right. These custom pieces will hang in the Tuttle’s newly-decorated dining room and I cannot wait to see them!

My Favorite Places Collection

This collection, painted from some of the sweetest memories, took me on a journey to places, that while far from each other in distance, have one common thread that travels through each of them – family. Each of these pieces embodies a place that is more than a vacation or a location. These pieces tell the story of my family and where our stories are written.

Available @ Christenberry Collection

Stealing Sunsets | 24×24 | SOLD

This piece captures the bright beauty that is seen in a fall sunset in the Lowcountry. Growing up on the marsh was a treasure for me, and now I am able to share that with my husband and children every time we visit my parents.

Blueberry Dreams | 24×24 | SOLD

Blueberry Dreams: While visions of gorgeous lakes come to mind when one thinks of Michigan, I remember a misty, cool morning where our family packed up and went on a walk a few blocks away from our family’s house to pick blueberries. I still remember the joy in our children’s eyes, who were still in their pajamas, as they giggled and ate the blueberries they picked off the bushes.

Mountain Views | 24×24 | SOLD

Mountain Views: An escape to the mountain lakes and streams does the heart and soul good. Time spent fly fishing in the peaceful nature helps restore the broken pieces of our lives.

Bahamas Blues | 24×24 | SOLD

Bahamas Blues: What better place to remember than wading in the blue waters on Tahiti Beach, basking in the glorious sunshine. 

Mornings on the Canal | SOLD
Downeast Maine | 24×24 | SOLD

Downeast Maine: For a place that seems so serene, I am often reminded of nature’s power and fury. With the jagged rocks and the waves crashing on them, I am reminded how very small I truly am. 

Be Brave.

Be Brave | September 2020 | Available – Art for the Home

“Mom, you’re so brave,” he said, looking up at me with those big blue eyes. “You’re not scared of anything.”

Oh, sweet boy, if only you knew. 

We’re now into this pandemic. Six months in. We don’t know when it will ended or what the future will hold. We don’t know when my fifth grader will see his friends in person at school instead of over Google Meets. We don’t know when I can set foot in my four-year-old’s preschool classroom to kiss him goodbye instead of at the front door. We don’t know when I’ll actually be able to go into a grocery store and smile a smile at the cashier that they will be able to see. 

Brave. It’s something we’ve all had to dig deep to find over these past few months. Fear, anxiety and grief have gripped our hearts and souls. But, sweet friend, bravery is in there. We all have that brave somewhere deep inside. You are brave – whether you’re a teacher working twice as hard to support our children both academically and emotionally, whether you’re considered an essential worker and put your health at risk every single day – you are brave. To the mamas and daddies that are making gut-wrenching, difficult decisions as to how to provide for families and the best learning environments for our children when there is no good answer – you are brave. To those who spend day-in and day-out in solitude to protect themselves and their communities – you are brave. 

Each and every one of us has found the courage deep within. Yes, it’s hard – so very, very hard. But we are all brave. And we can do this. So, sweet friend, be brave.

Settle In

Settle In | September 2020 | SOLD

“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”

– Brene Brown

Settle in. Settle in to who I am, who I’m meant to be. Break free from who I “tried” to be or “thought” I should be. Focus on what is good, what is right and what is well. Throw out the social norms and the boxes that the world tries to put me in. Break out of the boundaries and the invisible lines drawn in the sand. 

Settle in. Settle into strength and bravery. Acknowledge my fears and face them head-on. Settle in to who God made me to be. 

Cherish the Together

Cherish the Together | September 2020 | Available – Art for the Home

When the world shifted in a matter of 24 hours, our lives changed, perhaps for the better. We went from running to meetings, checking emails at all hours, racing to get the children home in time for dinner and bed to a slower life. Instead of a before-dawn alarm jolting me out of bed, I have a slower morning, share coffee while studying His word and snuggle with my children before we start work and school. We share lunches at the kitchen table and take afternoon golf cart rides. 

We’re together. We’re sharing life and we are connecting in a way we’ve never connected before. I don’t want to go back to “normal” – I’ve embraced this slower way of life. This feeling of “togetherness” is one I’ve never experienced and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m soaking up every minute of it, knowing it won’t last forever. I’m cherishing this time together.

The Beautiful Breakthrough

The Beautiful Breakthrough | September 2020 | Available – Art for the Home

“At the most precise moment – exactly in God’s timing and not a second later – the most beautiful of breakthroughs will come through if we don’t give up and keep seeking him.” 

– Hannah Brencher

Burden is such a heavy word. Such a heavy load. But it’s the best way to describe these past six months for me, for you you, for our neighbors, for our communities. Whether the burden is nourishing both the body and soul of your children, supporting a loved one through an illness or fighting to work hard every day in a world that completely tilted on its side, that burden is heavy.

As I began this series I call “Settling In,” I struggled with my own burdens. The year started with the loss of someone very dear to me, and quickly followed with a global pandemic and a uprisings that continued to bring to light the racially unjust world we live in. Decisions I faced when it came to my children and my family weighed me down. Juggling a career and a family – all under the same roof, all at the same time – put a strain on my wellbeing. The weight of questioning my self-worth, my ability as a mother and a wife and whether I was truly made to get through all of this – that burden truly weighed and dragged me down.

I finally gave that burden to the one who best to carry our weight. Jesus asked to take it off of my shoulders, to give me that much-needed relief. He replenished me after months of exhaustion.

And because of Him, I broke through that burden. And it was beautiful.

At the Well Collection

Tired. Anxious. Thirsty. These past few months have been filled with so many trials and emotions that none of us ever imagined experiencing. Jesus promises to make a path for us – one of righteousness and love, goodness and joy. Jesus promises those who drink of his living, eternal water true and real grace. He gave it to a woman (yes, a woman!), a Samaritan and a sinner – and he gives it to me, to you. So let’s meet Him at the well. Let’s fill our cup. Let’s drink. And let’s be refreshed and renewed. Rejoice, sweet friends!

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