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!)

NCN 2017–Day 30

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Today is the last “official” day of our NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER challenge, but it doesn’t have to be the end of this practice in your life. I hope that you’ve had some fun and learned a little more about yourself… like, maybe, that you’re stronger than the circumstances that surround you and that choosing to be positive is something that can make you happier…and even healthier. I hope it helps you to look for the good in life. I hope it makes you look for GOD in life!

I’m a ginkgo fan. I look for these gorgeous fan-shaped leaves wherever I go. They remind me of the many wonderful friendships I made in college at Mississippi University for Women. Some of the most important relationships I have in this life are from there. I even planted a tiny little ginkgo here in the yard the first year we lived here as a reminder of those friendships.

Relationships are important. They can influence us in all kinds of ways. The best ones happen when you find “your people” in life. I found many of mine years ago on a beautiful campus under the cover of ancient ginkgo trees. These women have pushed me and challenged me, comforted and cared for me. They insist on the best for me and aren’t hesitant to say when they know best or expect differently. I like that. I depend on it. I depend on them and their prayers. They’re the reason for this challenge, so…in a way…they’ve become your friends, too.

They make the world more beautiful. They’ve certainly made this past month more bearable and, like some of us, they’re ready for their next challenge. I don’t know what that will be, but I’m absolutely sure that they’ll succeed with that, as well. These women are kind and funny and generous and they push me to know God more deeply. Mere words are enough to say how much I love them, but I think they know.

Yesterday, our friend Audrey (hey, 9!) shared with us how she’s made it through this month. When asked how things are going, her reply has become, “I can’t complain!” It’s both a reminder and a declaration…and I think I’ll make it mine.

Maybe you should, too.

Grace and Peace!–And NO Complaints!

 

 

 

 

Lenten Light

It’simg_20170301_092915249_hdr one of the first things I do every morning. I walk into the kitchen and I turn on a little lamp that’s been with me since I was a small girl.  As I flip the toggle switch, I tell God, “Thank you!” just like I do when I turn it off again at the end of the day. This lamp, and it’s twin which resides over on the butcher block that used to be a big part of my PawPaw’s store, was a long-ago gift from one of my mother’s college friends.

Her first name was Martha, but we just called her “Harris”–her last name and the one she had been known by in college at Mississippi State College for Women (now Mississippi University for Women) in my hometown of Columbus, Mississippi. Harris was an orphan who attended school on a scholarship and she never married. Throughout her life she educated and loved on other people’s children, and although she had a few closer to her home in Louisiana, I believe my Mama’s children were some of her favorites. It’s been years since she passed, but I still think of her when I turn on these little lamps and I miss knowing she’s in the world with us.

Harris was always full of fun and laughter. She loved wearing bright colored scarves and my Mama always got excited when she received a call or letter that said Harris was on her way and would be with us for a few days. She had lots of stories about “her children” and her church family. When she got tickled at her own stories, she would giggle and say, “Oh, Jes-us! precious Jesus!”, but not in a sacrilegious way–she was just including Him in on her fun the same way she included Him in every other part of her life.

I didn’t know it then, but I was being taught some incredible lessons about love and friendship and building a vibrant faith life. Today, on this first day of Lent, I’m remembering how God chose to shine His light on us in a way we humans could touch and feel and know in a personal way. I’m also reminded that He’s still in the blessing business and there’s still plenty to say “Thank you, God!” for today…including sweet memories of those people who have shown us how to make God come home to us in ways that make us want more of that–and more of Him!–in our lives.

It may not be a lamp on your kitchen counter, but what can you use this Lenten season to remind you of Him and cause you to express your gratitude for all the blessings He’s given to you throughout your life?

Grace and Peace!

(And for those of you who are wondering, that fabulous teapot was custom made for my husband by our friends Craig and Tracy Wilson, from Poplar Ridge Pottery in Mississippi! It gets used almost every day and we just leave it out because it’s too great to hide in a cabinet!)

 

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!

The W Women

It’s been several days since I was back on the campus of my beloved alma mater for a small arts & crafts show that was held as part of “Welcome Week” for new and returning students, but I haven’t stopped thinking about my time there.  A lot of the campus looks just like it always has to me:  the clock in the bell tower, Old Maid’s Gate, The Goose, the post office, Callaway Hall.  I’m very at home there.  I am considered a “legacy” there:  my mother, sister, a cousin and five aunts are also graduates of Mississippi University for Women.  I have a history with this place.

A lot has changed on campus since I was a college student.  There are new buildings and refurbished buildings–even missing buildings, new garden areas and several new functions for some of the older buildings.  However, I saw the biggest change in the faces of the new students.  Honestly, I’m not sure we were ever that young.  I know that we were once their age and I do have pictures, but I really do wonder…

The W, as it is affectionately known, gave me more than just a great education and preparation for a career.  It gave me some of the most important friendships of my life.  Though we are spread across the nation, the friends I met there form a core group for me and I hear their voices in my head when I work out a problem or celebrate a joy.  My life would be dramatically diminished if they were not in it. Throughout the years, we have played and prayed and chided and encouraged and just generally seen each other through all kinds of life issues.  I have a common history with these women. 

Throughout the years since my college days, God has been gracious to me and added other incredible women to my life—those whose prayers I also regularly seek and whose times I have been honored to share.  I’m not certain I would have been as able to appreciate their strength if I had not previously been blessed with the life lessons that strong women need not fight even when they disagree and that friendships and families are often forged in the fires of difficult days…and lots of laughter.

As I looked at all those fresh young faces, I reflected on the years that separate us and the common experiences that unite us.  I pray they find their ‘line’ in life and that God gives them the gift of friendship in the measure He’s given me.  That’s a really big prayer.  I’ve been truly graced.

 
BIA. Shall I forget, then, When I am old, I ever was a child?
     I tell you I shall never think of you
     Throughout my life, without such tenderness
     As breaks the heart,--and I shall think of you
     Whenever I am most happy, whenever I am
     Most sad, whenever I see a beautiful thing.
     You are a burning lamp to me, a flame
     The wind cannot blow out, and I shall hold you
     High in my hand against whatever darkness.

BEA. You are to me a silver bell in a tower.
     And when it rings I know I am near home.

–the last portion of Act 3, Scene 2 from “The Lamp and the Bell”, a play by Edna St. Vincent Millay