Beautifully handmade for service

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” William Morris 

I am a self-confessed Pinterest photo-junkie/stalker. I couldn’t care less about making most of the things I find there (unless it is the food!), I just love looking at all of the beautiful photos. As a result of spending time there, I got one of those emails from Pinterest this morning suggesting that I check out some additional pics for one of my boards. Since that particular board is a collection of things that appeals to me “just because”…well, let’s just say that their selections were far-ranging. (ha!)

One of their suggestions actually led to a selection that made my board, but it took some time to find the article it was attached to and, though the photos were very nice, the premise of the article made me laugh a little. It was on how to make a shiny new kitchen look old–and that brought all KINDS of things to my imagination. (grin)

As I looked around my house, I saw some things that reminded me of my favorite William Morris quote and made me smile because they actually ARE old–not just made to look that way–and I am fast joining them as we gracefully age together! (insert chuckle here) In particular, there were two items that caught my eye: a small wooden stool and the wooden tray on my coffee table. (Nevermind that I needed help removing the dust DINOSAURS from around the stool before I could take that photo!–I can’t for the life of me figure out how they escaped the vacuum yesterday!?)IMG_20180426_063354990_LL

These two items are the first things I ever purchased just for me and “just because.” I bought them–and a handmade ornament that still hangs on my tree every year–at a Christmas craft fair while I was in college when money was beyond tight. (And I think that may be why I like taking my creations to Christmas arts and crafts fairs even now!) I can’t tell you how grown up I felt. I’m sure the vendor thought I would never make up my mind as I checked each item thoroughly and finally made my choices. It was important for me to get it right. Those few dollars had come to me dearly and I chose the spending of them to actually make them last.

IMG_20180426_063947191_LLIt worked. I still love—and use–these pieces regularly. The stool is held together with wooden pegs and made without any glue or even a single nail. It remains tight and sturdy after all this time and got dragged into service as a low coffee table the last time my sister-in-law needed a place to put her coffee cup. The tray has held everything from breakfast in bed to rocks shaped like hearts, drinks on the porch, and giant white seashells…and, obviously, my favorite red hymnal. Like the stool, it remains sturdy and ready for use at a moment’s notice.

I’ve often thought about painting these pieces and giving them a new look, but I always decide to leave them in the state that appealed to me originally: plain, servicable, and obviously handmade. They have a few dings here and there, but they still make me smile. They were a good investment for me then and I love them still.

They remind me that I, too, am handmade, bought with a price, and still able to serve in variety of ways. My Maker carefully crafted me–and you!–on purpose and carefully placed us for service and ministry to Him and those around us. He has a long-term plan for us that is for our good and, if we’ll cooperate, we get to bless others in the process.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)

It’s time to quit talking and get busy walking now. There’s work to be done. Let’s make God smile today!!

Grace and peace!

(P.S. A quick shout-out to my Mississippi friends Craig and Tracy Wilson at Poplar Ridge Pottery for making the gorgeous–and very functional!–coffee mugs that I love so much! William Morris would be SO proud!)

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My own New Year

I had another birthday recently and, as usual, began the process of evaluation for what I want to get accomplished the year to come. I’ve always ignored the traditional New Year’s resolutions in favor of starting my own New Year on my birthday. I’m weird like that. (grin)

What I found this year was a bit surprising: I don’t have as many new goals as I used to. I’m not saying that I’ve finally lived up to that “Most Likely to Succeed” superlative from high school, but I would say that I’m making progress–and most of it is in the direction that brings me joy. Hopefully, my progress is also making God smile a bit more than He used to, as well.

Sometimes we get all caught up in what other people expect from us or, perhaps more accurately, what we think they expect from us. I know I used to, anyway, but the older I get the more excited I am about my life. I’ve been blessed with a good one–despite the challenges, which we all face in one form or another. I’ve found that the best way to face them is to remember that those challenges are temporary and I am eternal, not because of anything that I have done, but by virtue of the very One who made me in His own image. By the way, the same can be said of you since the same God made us all.

34136This past year, I’ve already seen progress in some specific areas that I’ve been focused on for the last several years. I’ve exercised my “no” a little more and created some necessary margin in my life. I’ve cleared out a bunch of “stuff,” opened up my home a lot more, and made some more room for the people in my life to kick back and relax here with me. As a bonus result, I’ve been able to breathe a little better, as well. I’ve chosen to be more deliberately creative–and yes, you can do that! I’ve dug deeper into my study of what God wants for me and loved it as He has continued to turn some of that innate stubbornness into a more tenacious faith-life. I’ve prayed more with and for others and celebrated more of the small things in the everyday schedules I make for myself. I’ve laughed more this past year and enjoyed my husband and our marriage more. I’ve made deliberate choices to look past the faults of others without unsolicited commenting, but more importantly, I’ve managed to give some more of that grace to myself. To be honest, I’m having a lot more fun being me than I used to…and I’ve always liked being me. (HA!)

As I look back at that last paragraph, I see that this past year could most accurately be labeled as “a year of more.” I want to keep going in that direction in the year to come. I like what God is showing me about what He can do when I’m more focused on enjoying Him and the life He’s provided than when I’m just trying to “do the right thing,” check all the right boxes, and being too concerned about pleasing others.

As in years past, because I’m an optimist serving an Almighty God, I expect this new one to be a good one, but I am determined that it will be a more-God one. I look forward to what my new year will bring. I’m fiercely resolved to be a better steward of the life God has given to me. The following verse just feels like what I’m hoping for out of this new year:

“Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12 (CSB)

Perhaps I should have just started–and stopped–with that. Oh, well. I didn’t say anything about this year being less “wordy.” Looks like I’m off to a great start there, too. (grin)

Grace and Peace!

25

I’ve heard it said that people only put their best lives out on social media. While there may be some truth to that, I’d prefer to think that most of us are just celebrating the good parts. What many people forget, however, is that we need to celebrate the ordinary parts, as well. My husband and I recognize a lot of those, so I guess that makes us “extra” ordinary. I’ve always loved seeing those two words next to each other because they remind me that when we choose to celebrate our all of our extra ordinaries, we realize that our lives have actually become extraordinary.

IMG_20180219_120533263A few of days ago, we packed up the big red truck and drove off the mountain on our way home. We took the scenic route: farm land, forests, majestic views, patches of daffodils at places we imagined long-ago homesteads, cows, and towns small enough to pass through in under a minute. No interstates crowded with commuter or big box stores and restaurant chains for most of the way.

Like our getaway, the trip home was a reflection of who we are:  generally peaceful, decidedly ordinary…and plenty ok with it. We’ve been celebrating 25 years of marriage this week. Actually, we’ve been celebrating all along the way for the whole 25 years. We learned to do that early on in this thing when with just a few months before our 5th anniversary, we heard the dreaded word, cancer. Since then, we’ve heard other dreaded words like infertility, job loss, heart failure, death of loved ones, and so much more. That doesn’t make us that different from you, does it? It makes us ordinary or maybe, even extra ordinary/extraordinary…just like you. We decided long ago to take each day as it comes, so our lives have been a reflection of just what Scripture tells us in Proverbs 27:1, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” 

We’ve also learned a little about the flip side of that verse from Matthew 6:34 (ESV) which says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” 

img_20180219_120424062.jpgWe’re a lot better about not worrying than we used to be. We’ve seen God show up and show out for us so many times that even those dreaded words don’t seem to feel as dreadful as they used to. We’ve learned the joy of being together and knowing that we both belong to God. Whatever else happens, we’ve decided that those things are our non-negotiables. We’ve gotten stubborn about them and that’s ok, too. It’s good to get stubborn about the things that are most important to you. By the way, being stubborn about knowing you’re completely loved and accepted by an all-powerful and all-knowing God has led to some pretty stubborn faith, as well, and that stubborn faith has stood us in pretty good stead.

IMG_20180219_121246248_HDRSome of what was important to us at the beginning has changed over the past 25 years. We’re more apt to focus on people rather than things now. We’re still learning to be good stewards of our resources and we’re choosing to focus on more of the little ordinaries and celebrate them rather than waiting for the big extraordinaries to come our way. Those are still happening, by the way, we’ve just learned that an impromptu date in the middle of the week with friends, an unplanned side trip, daffodils blooming in February, or taking the time to just sit and look at the mountains from a peaceful place in the woods might ought to be counted as one of them.

Other things are still the same…or at least so slightly changed that they appear that way. We still crack each other up, finish each other’s movie references, and love getting off the beaten path and “eating local” when we’re out on the road. We’re aware that showing love is even more important than just saying it…and that still saying it, is critical. We still have times when we agree to disagree and when that happens, we both walk away KNOWING we’re the one who has it right and being ok with being married to the one who got it wrong. (grin) Home is still our favorite place to be…and home is generally wherever the other one is. We still value the family and friendships God has blessed us with and we’re still newlywed enough to hold hands most of the places we go together.

In short, we’ve been blessed with a most ordinary life filled with the most extraordinary gifts from an even more extraordinary God. May we all be so blessed. Here’s to the next 25!

Grace and Peace!

 

 

A rose is a rose is a…

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IMG_20171129_104111525_HDRI transplanted a couple of roses earlier this fall. Actually, I pulled up two that bloomed only once a year with little-to-no scent and replaced them with two that have a much longer blooming season, amazing scent, and a special place in my heart. The new roses have acclimated beautifully and even began to throw some blooms my way late in the season. I’ve been sharing pictures of one of the later blooms with a nearby friend. It’s been too beautiful to keep to myself. She saw it in person at about the third-photo stage.

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I told her that it would change colors as it matured, but even though I’ve seen it over and over again, I’m absolutely certain that I didn’t communicate exactly how much the change would be or how much it always delights me to see it happen.

Some things have to be seen to be believed.

This rose (“Rio Samba” by Weeks Roses) changes size, shape, color, and the scent–which they mistakenly call “light”–seems to get a little “louder” the more time it spends on the bush. (kind of like me! Ha!) The late blooming season isn’t unusual for this rose. One year, my mother and I decorated the wedding cake for my Cousin Reyna and covered it up with blooms grown at the corner of my house in Mississippi…on Thanksgiving DAY! (We had to thaw out the water they were held in overnight with a hairdryer, but the blooms–and the cake!–were magnificent!)

Just for your reference, these photos are of the same rose! The first photo was taken on November 15th of this year right after my friend Linda headed back to Mississippi. The final photo was taken on December 3, 2017, once I returned home from my last show of the season. I missed the one where it was covered with snow…because the snow melted almost as quickly as I noticed it and Georgia snow isn’t much for hanging around waiting on me to take my photo op! (grin) Finally, just today, I pulled the spent petals from the bush and flung them into the air where they landed in a perky array of color all around the mulch underneath the rose bush.

I always do that. It’s kind of like making a wish or sending a prayer for more. Flinging the spent, but still colorful petals is pointless to accomplish “the more”, but it always makes me smile…and that’s enough.

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As the petals arced upward today, I thought about my recent visit back to Mississippi to see family for an early Christmas. We missed having my husband and my brother with us, but my parents are doing as well as can be expected. It’s only been a few months since I’ve seen them, but the nephews are smarter, taller, and stronger. My sister and brother-in-law remain busy and productive. In short, things are going pretty much as they should be. We’re all getting older and, hopefully, wiser. We’re all changing…and we’re all the same. We still have things to accomplish and though we’re not as young as we used to be, we’re still busy “becoming” what we’re all called to be.

There’s something to be said for that.

Change doesn’t have to be scary. The same God who was in control at Creation is still busy creating. He’s still giving us opportunities for growth and watching over us as we deepen, unfurl our petals, and find our voices. I see the physical changes most in my parents and the nephews, but I know it’s happening in all of us.

Lest you know them and become alarmed, rest easy. The parents are still lively and hysterically funny. They work together to accomplish what needs to be done and continue to bless and encourage others along the way. It’s just easier to see the changes when we’re all seated at the same table these days. Each of us still has work to do and we’re going about it the best we can. The start of a life, the middle, and the winding up of it are all a part of the Plan and the Planner.

No matter what stage you find yourself in today, I hope you’ll join me in praying the verse that’s been posted around our home for over a year. It’s over the sink and on the lamp, by the desk, and in my heart:

“And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, And establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands.” Psalm 90:17

The sticky notes and the one in my head are from the NKJV translation, but I also want to share the AMPC version with you, as well.

 

“And let the beauty and delightfulness and favor of the Lord our God be upon us; confirm and establish the work of our hands—yes, the work of our hands, confirm and establish it.” Psalm 90:17 (AMPC)

I hope you view these photos of the changing rose and see some of the same parallels I do with whatever season of life you’re in right now. It’s ALL beautiful! May the beauty, the delightfulness, and the favor of God be rich within you and evident in your own life as He directs the work of your hands today.

“The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8

Grace and Peace!

Kicking off the heels…

I used to love wearing high heels. I can close my eyes and still smell the brand new leather as I opened the box…oh my…wow…yes, moment of silence for that. And, since we have LONG since established my little bit of OCD-ness, I can admit that opening closet doors to see all the boxes lined up with their labels facing outward…

(Ok, I got a little lost there for a moment. Suffice it to say that I loved that image.)

Image. That says something to me about the heels, as well. As a teenager, they said I was growing up. As a college student, they said it was time to dance. As a young professional, they said I was making it on my own. Quite the talkative things, my shoes…and they always came with a lot of attitude–some of it good and some of it not so much.

After I got married, my husband was surprised to learn that he had to move a whole refrigerator box full of shoes to our new home. Work, church, and in between, I had at least several pair to choose from and I couldn’t imagine life any other way. I had other styles, too, of course, but the heels always made me feel special…almost like social armor, which really isn’t often necessary when you’re almost 6′ tall and know who you are. (grin) Well, maybe I just thought I knew some things back then.

I pared down over time. Styles changed. Life changed. I bought more flats, wedges, tennis shoes, and fewer heels, though I always kept a few in the back of my closet. In fact, I’ve had three pair that have survived the multiple purges over the past several years as I’ve gone from acquisition mode to the search for space and the peace of “less.” At first, I stopped wearing heels after I took a tumble down some stairs and needed some recovery time. After that, I just never went back to them. I found other options that suited me…and weren’t as perilous.

That’s not all that’s changed over the years. You know, Saul’s armor didn’t fit David…and not because it was too large, but because they had different battle styles. That’s true of me, as well, now. I’m still me, of course, but my life is different and my current battles aren’t the same ones I used to fight. That means some wardrobe changes are in order. I’ve decided I no longer need to hold on to things that don’t fit the life I’m living now, so I’m finally letting go of those last three pair of heels…and a whole lot of other things like attitudes and life strategies that haven’t always served me well. I’m a lot less rigid these days, a lot less judgmental, and I’m a lot more at peace. I find I laugh more–mostly at myself!–and I like me a whole lot better, too–and that is really saying something. (Ha!) I’m free to be ME: the one GOD knows and loves, and I can rest in that a lot more than I used to. I find I’m less concerned about any images that might be held in other places when I focus on HIS image of who I am. I’m more grateful for little things and I’m more aware of my gifts and limitations without being hampered by either thought. God is good and I am His. It is enough.

Oh, by the way, I tried those 3 pair of shoes on and I loved the way they looked. I almost put them right back in the closet! They felt ok on my feet and I found I could still walk in them just fine…for a little while. Then I tried on a few other styles–and my back gave an almost audible sigh of relief and my feet did, too. There are better things out there for me than the things I once held onto “just in case”, you know…so I’m making room for the now and finding that memories take up less room in the closet. So, out go the heels–gorgeous as they are –along with a pair of Keds and 2 pair of flats! Today, you’re more likely to find me in tennis shoes and they suit me just fine…in fact, it’s a lot easier to kick up my heels than ever before.

Question of the day:  What are YOU holding onto that you need to let go? Make room for the life GOD wants for you now. You just might be amazed at how great it can be!

 

 

Away with friends…

Right now I’m away with friends. This is the “mumble-something-th” year” we’ve done this since our college graduation from our beloved Mississippi University for Women.

There are just seven of us on the retreat this time due to jobs/moving and family health concerns. We miss those who aren’t here, but we are valiantly “retreating” just the same. (…and hoping they can come to one in the fall…if we can manage another quick one…in the fall? We’ll talk…)

The food is abundant. The laughter near constant. The joy of being together deeper than we’ll ever be able to vocalize or write. All these years together mean there are few silences and even fewer topics off limits (are there limits?) in our fellowship. We’re here to see, to shower with love, to lift up and empower.  We’re here to be reminded of who we REALLY are in a world where we each wear many hats…and, though we’re grateful for each hat, when we’re together, the hats come off and years fade…and we are just US.

Us-ness in a world seemingly committed to uniformed individuality. Celebrating our uniqueness and also our chosen togetherness is a marvelous gift we give to each other. No pressure to conform, but encouraged to be who we were created to be by the One Who loves us best…the One who has a way with friends who are away with friends.

Grace and Peace!

Learning New Old Things

As odd as this sounds, I think I may have grown up a little bit this past week. A few of my friends are snorting hysterically right now because they think  I may or may not have been “born old” and, maybe (again, Ha!), I’ve acted like that ever since.

I was (AM!) the first-born. A daughter.  A responsible one. The oldest female of the second set of grandchildren on both sides of the family—after a few years break—so I got plenty of attention for just by showing up in the world. That attention came with a lot of expectation, as well, because they seemed to think I could do anything and everything well and, with that much focused attention and instruction everywhere I turned, I learned a lot and I learned it fast or I kept at it until I was satisfied. Sometimes that took awhile, but I’m also stubborn, so that time element never really got in my way other than making me impatient with myself, because—truth be told?—my own expectations for me were even higher than theirs for me.

Knowing how to do things made me more independent and made them excited to see their instruction pay off, so it was a win-win situation for all of us. I just automatically assumed it was my job to keep on meeting  those expectations as I got older, and so I did so…on the surface, at least. I’m grateful for those expectations. Personally, I think they were good for me. I KNOW that the people who expressed them love me and are good for me and that was enough to make me just go DO whatever goal was set… sometimes without even thinking about whether or not it was I really wanted to do or something they had suggested for me.

On the inside, I wondered sometimes what it might feel like to not have those expectations, but then, I’d usually pick up another book and lose myself in the words and find new worlds to conquer and new things to learn and more expectations from myself that came with having all that information up in my brain. You can see where this is going, can’t you?  I come from a long line of seriously capable people and I suspect this pretty much describes their path, as well.

Stubborn, firstborn, introverted-yet-over-achieving female with a large built-in encouraging support system…yes, I was born old…and that’s not a complaint for me, just a comment…and more of a blessing than I’ve given it credit for being until just recently.

I’m not the smartest person I know—not by a long shot!—but I can hang in there with them for awhile and finding out what I don’t know has been as valuable to me as gold over the years. That information helped me focus on what I wanted to learn next, do next, be next.

In fact, I’ve often been so focused on that “next” part that I ignored the “now” part of life. That has been a mistake. I don’t often admit to making those (Mike, quit grinning!), but that’s one of my biggies. All of that go and learn and do has gained me skills, but often left me wondering what I planned to do with all of that…and feeling more than a little frustrated when I couldn’t fill in the blanks for those questions. I still don’t have all those answers.

This past seven months, however, of having the most definitely unplanned luxury of being with my husband and choosing to slow down and enjoy our unexpected time together has taught me a lesson I hope I never forget:  how to just BE in the moment.  I realized just this week that I’ve finally learned that those skills and that knowledge don’t have to be put to work every single second. There are times when you just need to breathe, times when you can fill a whole day (or weeks or months!) with counting the blessings God has poured into your life, times when gratitude for every single thing—good AND bad–about your life needs to consume you and put you on your face before God.

I don’t want to lose that knowledge going forward! I don’t want to go backward and be so determined to know and go and do that I forget to just BE God’s grateful child. I’ve always said that being stubborn was both my worst characteristic and my best—especially as it pertained to my faith!—but now, I want to apply it to this filling gratefulness; this drenching awareness of the goodness and grace of my God. I want to be stubborn about holding on to and living THAT out for the rest of my days.

I almost wrote that I wish I’d learned this lesson earlier, but on second thought, I realize that God’s timing is always perfect. All the steps that led up to now and made me who I am today give me an amazing list of things to be grateful for right now. I may have been a little bit slow (it’s only taken me over 50 years!), but as for tomorrow, well, I plan to know more then, so I expect to be more grateful then…and I plan to be stubborn about that in the future, as well.

“Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;

Praise him, all creatures here below;

Praise him above, ye heavenly host;

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.”

                                                                         ~Thomas Ken, 1674

(1674! And still worth singing.)

Go, GOD!