Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Restoring a Lost Art

I think the first job I ever had is now extinct. Technology has wiped it out.

Once upon a time before computers and desktop publishing ruled the world, I worked in the advertising department of a small-town newspaper. 

I used ancient tools like typewriters and X-Acto knives and jars of rubber cement. 

I'd leaf through glossy pages of clip-art books, looking for pictures to illustrate my ads.

As the new girl in town I had all the accounts my colleagues didn't want. I mocked up ads for weekly sales at the hardware store, lunch specials at the greasy-spoon diner, and discounts for TV repair.

I knew very little about sales so my style was nonchalant and apologetic. 

I’d tell clients I was only asking them to buy bigger ads because my boss wanted me to. This approach must have worked since I was shocked to discover I'd sold the second highest number of ads for our holiday issue, right behind the department’s top saleswoman.

That job wasn't a great fit for me and I eventually quit, but for a long time I kept a little folder of my ads, not realizing they were relics of a bygone era.

Last summer during my art class in Italy, I found myself once again cutting and pasting words and images on to a board. 

Except now I was making a travel journal and it was called mixed-media art.

Pictures and words, written on a page or artfully arranged -- they always have been pieces of my story.

But what happens when we lose pieces of ourselves, our work, or our hearts, thinking they are outdated, extinct or worthless? 

It's the losses -- of a friendship, a dream, a paycheck, good health, a love or a loved one -- that can knock us off balance so all we see are wilted and worn out days in front of us. 

We need the perspective of fresh expectancy for the future and the hope that lovely and delightful things still await, no matter the age or stage of life.

But maybe that's when we're ready for some good news.

Sometimes when we've lost something precious to us, we have to let ourselves be found.
For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.-Ez. 34:11 (NIV)

Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. 
Maybe some pieces of what we think we’ve lost along the way during our seasons of life are just lying dormant, waiting to reemerge in a different form.

The revival might cause it to look altered and have a new name but when we take a closer look at what we found, we see it's familiar. 

The beauty's revealed, the purpose comes into focus and little flutters of joy stir within us. 

We will never completely understand our circumstances and losses in this life, but I think we have to be at ease in the not knowing.

And welcome the restoration of our lives, hearts and minds for the work of something new.

I still think about the march of time and technology, though.

I wonder if all the gadgets we use so faithfully now will someday be as ancient as newsprint and typewriters?

I'm not sure that would qualify as breaking news. 

But it just might require quite the artful sales pitch.

I'm having coffee with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. Join me there by clicking the image if you want to read more posts from my blogger friends!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Walk of Life

Milan, Italy
I’m a huge fan of walking tours. 

When I travel, I think it's the best way to explore the tucked away corners and hidden pockets of a city.

And if it's a foodie walking tour with a sampling of snacks along the way, then I'm ready to walk for miles.

{Just so you know, I like to walk but I do not like to wear shoes that are comfortable for walking. 

This refusal to give up my stylish shoe wear causes a myriad of fashion dilemmas for me. 

Along with packing predicaments since I can't decide which shoes to take and a need for an abundance of band-aids for blisters.}

The hillsides of Bellagio, Italy

It's taken some experimental tour excursions but I eventually figured things out.

In Paris, I got off the plane after flying all night and embarked on a five-hour city tour that included travel on foot, by boat and by bus. 

I thought riding in an air-conditioned motor coach would give me the first look at this enchanting city while I relaxed in comfort. Instead I felt nauseous from staying awake all night and somewhere around the Arc de Triomphe I fell asleep on the bus. 

I ended up with one wobbly photo of the Eiffel Tower taken from my seat {complete with the window reflection} and very little recollection of my first drive around Paris. 

I realized bus touring wasn't really my style. 

On a visit to New York City a few years ago I wanted to walk everywhere, but my hostess laughed at me and told me it wasn't possible. 

I gave in and rode the subway but took a foodie tour of the East Village. That's where I learned it's not so easy to walk, eat, listen to the guide and take photos all at the same time.

I juggled my camera while I ate compost cookies and ice cream made from green peas at Milk Bar Bakery. 

And I learned that what may appear to be destined for the rubbish heap can often be repurposed for something unexpectedly delicious.

It’s when I'm walking that I always notice more. 

My pace is slower and my attention is drawn to a surprising sight or a different perspective that I might not have noticed if I were moving at a faster clip.

And I guess that’s how this walk of life is too, sometimes.

Not all that long ago, I thought I had my running shoes tied tight, ready to take off. I felt as if an air of excitement swirled around me and new adventures awaited. 

But I’d barely left the starting blocks when I tripped over my own feet and before I knew it, I'd stumbled and was out of the race.

New York City

Not so fast, it seemed as if God were saying to me. Walk here with me for awhile and enjoy what’s right in front of you.

I stayed there in the slow lane, waiting, sometimes patiently and sometimes not, until I eventually decided to get back in the race. And now I don't think I even want what I so desperately set my heart on.

This walk of life is funny like that, isn't it?

Even though I still don’t have it all figured out, I don’t think I have to. 
Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. - Is. 26:8


I'm not sure if you're racing or waiting during this season of your life. 

Maybe you've got the sun in your face, enjoying the ride and adventure. Or maybe you find yourself stalled temporarily or facing a dead end, wondering how to get started again, holding a suitcase full of questions.

Where do you go from here? And how do you even get there?

All I know is eventually you just have step off the curb, keep an eye on the traffic and keep walking.

Until one day you'll look back and see just how far you've traveled.

So when my sister asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday next week, I told her I’d found a local foodie walking tour and wondered if she was game.

She said sure, her boots were made for walking.

I have no idea what shoes I'll wear though. 

I know I won't be wearing the funky-blue-flats-quasi-tennis-shoes I took to Italy {and never wore again}, and I'm sure I won't be wearing the too-high wedge heels I wore around Paris.

But whatever I decide to wear, I’m sure hoping the tour will be a cakewalk. Literally.

{I'm in the pink shirt, in case you can't tell by the shoes, taking photos in Italy.}

A little note on the photos: thanks to my mother for always walking behind me and snapping photos when I least expect it.

I'm having coffee with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. Click the image if you want to read more posts from my blogger friends!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Falling for September

I rarely look forward to the arrival of September. 

I wish I liked pulling out sweaters and boots or walking in chilly air or on crunchy leaves, but I don't. 

I do, however, love pumpkin spice coffee. 

So that's reason enough not to write the entire season of autumn off as a loss, don't you think?

And there's Steelers football, too, {which I love} but that's still not enough to make me love fall.

I love summer instead. 

In my girlhood, I dreaded September’s appearance that ended my favorite season and forced me to embark on another school year. 

My hometown of Pittsburgh was rather gray and dreary in the fall and winter and I was glad when I moved to Florida where summer unabashedly overstays its welcome right through the holidays.

But these days, the month of September also marks another year at my job. Nineteen years, to be exact.

That milestone seemed an unlikely longshot when after college I job-hopped to three companies in five years, always keeping an eye out for something new when I grew tired of where I was.

I never decorated my workspace with framed photos and coffee mugs. I liked to think I was traveling light and would have less to pack when the right offer arrived to move on to pastures far lusher and greener than where I was.  

But I've eventually come to realize that no matter where I am, there can be divine purposes in what I'm doing.   

During my art retreat in Italy last summer, instructor Jeanne Oliver gave us handpainted cards with a verse from scripture. 

It's the passage where Esther's uncle Mordecai presses her to have courage and stand up to the king, asking her to consider her place in history.
"And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” - Esther 4:14 {NIV}
All year long I've looked at those words sitting on the little easel on my bookshelf, beside a few grains of sand from the Italian beach and the tiny topiary tree that marked my spot in art class. 

And I think those words are really for us all, wherever we are and whatever we find ourselves doing.

With the clarity that only comes over time, I now see there was much to value during the years I thought I was just in a holding pattern, holding out for something better. 

It was the time and space I needed to learn new skills in technology, design and layout that shaped my ideas and gave me the confidence to create my own blog. And it was where I met the savvy millennials who became my cheerleaders {although it felt more like arm-twisting} as I jumped into social media.

Pursuing opportunities is good and new horizons may be exciting, but there’s also something valuable about settling down to the ordinary and routine that's hard at work shaping our lives. 

There’s always something remarkable to be noticed in the ordinariness of our days, isn’t there?

And there's one more thing about September. 

It's my birthday month. 

Usually it falls {pun intended} on the first day of fall and this year is no exception. 

{I think it unfairly mocks me just to be sure I acknowledge its presence since I'm a little chilly  -- even downright frosty -- toward it.} 

But since turning a year older isn't quite as exciting as it used to be, I might as well warm up to it, shouldn't I?

So welcome, September. 

After all, the first Steeler game of football season is almost here.

It seems I do have several reasons to celebrate, so maybe I'll turn the entire month into a party or gala or bash or some such commemoration. 

{If you have any ideas, let me know.}

So as I reset the clock on the countdown to next summer, I'll be heading out to grab the season's first pumpkin spice latte. 

To go with my slice of birthday cake.

Tell me what you love about September {and maybe I can learn to love it too}!

I'm joining my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. Join me there to read posts from my blogger friends!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Brewing Up Some Piping Hot Doubts

I met Nicolette on Twitter. 

{Somehow that still sounds funny to me.} 

She’s a social media consultant in New York City and I answered her tweet for guest bloggers to write for her travel website. She liked my query and published my post, then invited me to join her weekly Twitter chats.

At first I observed the action from a safe distance, because I really had no idea what to do on a live Twitter chat. 

I finally figured out that the tweets fly fast and furious as travelers check in from all over the world to answer questions on a predetermined topic using the group’s hashtag. 

Although I felt intimidated, I told myself if I answered just one question, I would consider my effort a success. Then one week as I was liking other travelers’ tweets and they were retweeting my photos, I realized I was actually having fun. 

Maybe this foray into the Twittersphere wasn't so bad.

I wrote a few more guest posts and it didn't really strike me that they all featured what I cooked or ate during my travels until Nicolette asked me if I’d like to be the travel website’s food correspondent and contribute monthly posts.

That sounded like an assignment that could really whet my appetite! 

But before she got the wrong idea, I confessed that I wasn't much of a world traveler. France and Italy were the only stamps on my passport. 

She said that qualified me as far as she was concerned but then I didn’t hear from her after submitting some recent posts.  

I’ll admit I spent some time fretting that my writing wasn’t travel-worthy after all. Maybe my photos were too amateurish and maybe Nicolette just didn’t want to hurt my feelings.

So this month I wrote about coffee and when I submitted it to her I included a little note that I’d be happy to write about any topic she suggested.

She replied promptly that she didn’t know how it happened but during an unexpectedly busy summer, she’d somehow overlooked my last few posts in her email box and they'd completely slipped by her.

She said she was excited to share them soon. 

So when doubts about what you’re creating start brewing in your heart, when you aren’t sure you should press on, and when you think you have nothing to say or give or share, can I tell you this?

Keep doing what perks up your heart. Be faithful in your daily grind.

Because maybe everything doesn't look as muddy as you thought.

Maybe what's leaving a bitter taste now will sweeten over time. 

And maybe when you wake up and smell the coffee, the delightful aroma of something delicious brewing will revive you.

So grab a cup of coffee and come join me over at Nicolette's site, Culture with Travel

I'd love it {a latte!} if you checked out my post on how I break the international coffee commandments when I travel abroad. 

{Click the image below.}

I'm having coffee with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart, where my blogger friends are sharing their posts.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Making Space to Soar

“This clutter is really bothering me, do you mind if organize it?” 

I wondered what in my rather tidy house could be offending my nine-year-old niece so much that she wanted to clean it. 

I walked into the kitchen and found her standing in front of my refrigerator, studying the shelves. She didn’t like how things were arranged. 

I was a little surprised because honestly, there’s not much in my refrigerator. 

Some containers of strawberries, packs of yogurt, a carton of eggs and about 15 jars of jam is pretty much the extent of it. 

There aren't any abandoned takeout containers hiding in the corners or condiments that are years old.

But I told her to go ahead and move things around however she liked. 

She methodically checked the expiration dates on my cartons of half-and-half and moved the oldest items to the front. She organized my cheese by type and put all the jars on one shelf. 

I asked her why she didn’t tackle the refrigerator at her own house {since I was sure my sister would welcome the help}. She said hers is stocked pretty full but since mine was sort of empty, it was easier to move things around.

I guess when you or your life {or your refrigerator} is fairly empty, there’s room to be filled up.

I’ve been thinking about giving God access to move things around in my life. 

Oh I know he can move in our lives however he sees fit, but there’s something about offering ourselves to him and letting him rearrange those things that we hold on to and letting him rearrange us.  

Because there are so many preoccupations that vie for my attention. 

There's the job-stress {exasperating and recurring}, nagging worries {insignificant and vast}, and perplexing decisions {bulky and trivial}.

But mostly there's the continuous stream of a thousand thoughts that constantly call my name and never have an off-switch.

I'm not sure there is a serene and quiet place where all of it dissipates and unruffles and I feel unflustered and composed.

Life won't linger until everything is organized and sorted through and neatened up, will it? 

So maybe it’s time to make some space in our lives now.

Space for the ordinary and the extraordinary. 

For a blaze of color and creation; breathtaking bliss and wonder; exciting enrichment and adventure; the familiar and unknown; for stillness and sweeping swaths of silence. 

Those are just a slice of the million and one things that are waiting for us to offer space and make room.

So when we fluff the cushions, take a seat and look out over the scenery of our lives, all that clutters is just waiting to be moved around. So we can spread our wings. 

And soar.

Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or, whine, Israel, saying,
“God has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
    He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
    And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
    They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.
-Is. 40:27-31 (MSG)

My niece was quite pleased with her work on my refrigerator shelves and turned her attention to the bags sitting on the floor we’d just brought in from the grocery store. 

“Now I’ll unpack all of these, arrange them in categories and I’ll hand them to you to put away,” she told me.

As I followed her direction, I thought that maybe since I've got more space in my refrigerator, I ought to do some cooking so I'll have leftovers to stock my shelves with. 

Or I could always just call for takeout. I've now got plenty of room for those cute little containers.

A little note on the photos: Thanks to my mother for the Valerie Market photos from her trip to Los Angeles and thanks to my sister for the veggie bar photo from her trip to Rancho Palos Verdes.

I'm having coffee with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. Join me there for more encouraging posts from my blogger friends!