Thursday, December 27, 2012

Words for a New Year

I love words. 

Reading them. 

Writing them. 

Hanging them on my walls. 

That’s why I love the idea of choosing one word to focus on all year. Instead of making a new year’s resolution that may disintegrate in a few weeks along with the good intentions, I can try to remember one word all year long. 

Last year, I didn’t really choose a word as much as a word chose me. Two words, actually. 

At the end of last year I asked God a question. I wanted to know what to do. How to handle something that didn’t turn out like I wanted it to. Should I move on and forget it or keep a flicker of hope alive? 

The words “carry on” immediately came to my mind. They weren’t words I often used so I felt sure they were God’s words to me. But what did they mean exactly? I thought those words really didn’t answer my question. Or did they? I looked them up in the dictionary.

“Carry on: Continue an activity or task; continue to move in the same direction.”

As I continued to think about those words, the more they meant to me. I decided to carry on with seeking God in this situation. I continued taking all my concerns, worries and fears to him. 

I made up my mind that even though I couldn’t understand how God could work this disappointment out for something good, I would trust that he would. And then this year brought me some new things. 

When I decided to change my routine and get up extra early to spend time with God, even though I’m more of a night owl than an early bird, I wondered if I could possibly make it a habit. 

When I asked myself how could I write a blog when I knew so little about it, and wondered what in the world I would write about after my first post, I had no idea if I could continue. 

When I didn’t even own a camera and wanted to take my own photos for my blog, I wondered how I could learn about photography. 

When my plans for a trip to Paris seemed overwhelming, I wondered how they would take shape and fall into place.

But those words, carry on, whispered to me that I should keep moving forward. 

Keep stretching. Keep connecting. Keep doing the hard things. The risky things. The fearful things. The things I don’t like to do. 

Because I found sweet and gracious and giving friends, who were either experts in their fields or willing to share their knowledge of blogs and photography with me. And I found other friends who were happy to walk beside me and cheer me on as I forged ahead on these unfamiliar pathways. 

And as I decided to carry on, the embers of disappointment and fear were snuffed out and a dimly glowing dream of sharing my words with the readers of (in)courage started to flicker. 

I’m thrilled beyond words (actually speechless!) that in 2013, they will publish another article that I wrote. 

And when I carried on, the fear that made me say maybe someday I’ll travel, became a day last year when I flew across the ocean on a dazzling trip to Paris.

My word for 2013? It’s aspire

It speaks to me of possibilities. Things I can hope for, dream of and set my sights on. Things I might never even think of today or dream that I might love. 

To me, aspiring is not about having ambitious plans or meeting goals. It’s not about trying harder or expecting things to go the way I want them to. 

Instead, it urges me to reach for more. Of God. I want to look for him and follow him. To soar. Through doors that open to places I could never imagine.

If you’re interested in choosing a word for 2013, visit for inspiration and to connect with others who are choosing a word.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Keeping Hearts Aglow All Year Long

Holiday festivities are in full swing. My house is ready for the season. The candles are glowing, the tree lights are glittering, the punch is fizzing. 

This year I found the prettiest white tree branches twinkling with tiny white lights while I was in St. Augustine for Thanksgiving. 

The sparkly branches inspired me and I was excited to dress up my mantel around them with a new silver wreath. 

My tree is full of ribbons and garlands and mostly skating ornaments, given to me by family and friends over the years. The vintage figure skaters that twirled around the town under our tree every Christmas when I was a kid now strut their stuff and glide on a mirror at my house. 

When my sister and I were little, we were bothered that there were only three skaters instead of four so the skaters could happily pair off. 

Now I happen to think that the skater in the red dress is a lucky girl indeed to have two boys to spin around the ice with. Tiny skates, real-life skates and postcards of skaters are everywhere around my house at Christmas. 

Even a wreath with a pair of baby skates hangs on my door.

When all the holiday decorations are out and my house is trimmed in swags, skates and silver, I want to invite a few friends over. 

But I tend to let details consume me. I want to make all my favorite desserts. I want to experiment with a new appetizer recipe. I feel compelled to clean spaces I ignore the rest of the year. 

By the time my guests arrive, I'd rather collapse in a chair with a cup of coffee and not talk to anyone. 

Acting the part of a chatty hostess is the last thing I feel like doing. 

I'm dizzy trying to see whose glass needs filled, if the dip could be refreshed or if the appetizers should be reheated for latecomers.

But then I stop. And remember. What the season is for. 

The gatherings, the gift exchanges, the holiday cards that arrive in the mail. It’s all just an opportunity to connect with those who happen to be in my life. By choice or by chance. Family and friends I’m blessed to know. 

So I take a step back. To lean into the sparkling conversation. Wrap myself in the dazzling cheer. Drink in the glittering ornamentation. 

It's only for a season, after all.

In the twinkling of an eye, the celebration is over. The gifts are unwrapped. The lights are unplugged. The baubles are packed away. 

My house will look sparse after the tree is hauled out. 

The spaces will seem empty after everything is stored until next year. 

But not just yet. For now, the spirit glimmers and glows. May it last all year long.

Today I'm linked to Emily's Tuesdays Unwrapped.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Fragments of a Family

I have a stack of cards from the Ward family. I don’t know them, but I feel like I do just from reading the bits and pieces of their lives. The cards were jumbled in a drawer in an antique mall and as I started leafing through them, I noticed they all seemed to be from the same family. They're from the early 1900s, and I think they were originally pasted in a scrapbook but to sell them individually, the antique mall had ripped them out. I wish I could have seen the entire scrapbook but from what’s left, I like to imagine that these odds and ends of their lives tell the family’s story.

There are gift tags to children Helen, Edwin, Kenneth, Marion and Winifred from Auntie Kate and Auntie Belle. Bookmarks and bridge cards, a Christmas place card with an address in New York City, notes and invitations to birthday parties. A poem written in 1881 to a young Marion from Mr. Ward while in Washington, DC. Beautiful, colorful images with gorgeous penmanship. I like to think the fragments seem to say that this family celebrated the events of their lives. I like to think that Auntie Kate and Auntie Belle doted on their nieces and nephews. And that someone in their family cared enough to commemorate the events of their busy lives by pasting a memento in a scrapbook. Just when I think I have all of the pieces that the Ward family left behind, I’ll open a note from my mother to find another card from their scrapbook. Somehow she unearths one last remnant when she visits the antique mall and sends it to me as a surprise in the mail. 

It seems sad though, that the scrapbook ended up in an odds and ends drawer in an antique mall and not with a friend or family member. I don’t want the Ward family's carefully pasted memories to be lost and forgotten. They tell a story of a family, and as I read their words, it makes me want to tell my own story. So I keep their beautiful cards. Slid between ribbons on a memory board hanging on my wall. And I remember them. Even though I never knew them. 

In my own odds and ends drawer, I have a card my dad gave me on my very first Christmas when I was three months old. It's the first card in my story. It has a darling poem about Santa on one side and on the other my dad wrote, “The most precious and joyous bundle of all! Love, Daddy.” And on Santa’s fur-trimmed coat, he wrote, “You make our Xmas complete.” Maybe someday my cards and notes and letters will end up jumbled in a box in an antique mall, where strangers will casually rifle through them. But these fragments are just a suggestion of the story of a life. A life that has the opportunity to encourage, support and give. A life full of celebrations, love, faith and a whole lot of joy.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A House Adorned for the Holidays

A lady I didn't know stood in my house and asked me, “Do you mind if I give you a helpful hint?” 

Somehow I was sure that I probably would mind. I was also quite sure that whatever she was about to say wouldn't be all that helpful. 

Her comment came a few years ago when I agreed to host my house as part of my historic neighborhood’s annual holiday tour. 

Although my house wasn’t historic, it was built in the style of a 1920s bungalow, with arched doorways, hardwood floors and a big front porch. Tour organizers wanted to show how a new house could still look old and settled, and they wanted some holiday cheer in every room. I wasn't sure I was up to the task but I agreed to do it since the tour raised funds for improvements to our neighborhood.

While it was still summer, I started shopping for holiday décor. 

I studied decorating magazines for ideas. 

Before it was even Halloween, I started decking the halls. 

It was a huge undertaking to adorn every room inside the house, swag both of my porches, and have my landscaping not look dead the weekend of the tour. 

I hung wreaths on mirrors, lit dozens of candles, adorned tiny trees on tables, and was still tweaking and rearranging right up to the last minute. 

I had more than 500 tour-goers parade through my house the weekend of the tour. Many were complimentary but what I remember most was the lady who was intent on giving me some decorating advice with her helpful hint. 

“Next time,” she said, pointing to a cord from my lamp that was dangling behind a table and trailing along the baseboard. “Use a cord cover. It looks so much better and gives everything a finishing touch.” 

As I stared at her, she added, “But you have a lovely home.” 

Her last comment was lost on me because all I heard was her critique. That she might have kept to herself. Or shared with her friend after she left my house. 

But her comment got me thinking. 

Of the incredible power words have to uplift or deflate. 

Of how many times I feel compelled to share a comment that would have been better left unsaid. 

Of how often I feel the need to show my superiority or share what I feel is my expert knowledge, oblivious to the effect it will have on someone else’s feelings. Of the conversations when I need to listen to the nudge to pause instead of rushing ahead to say something I think is witty or catty.  

This weekend, I'll be heading back to my old neighborhood to tour this year's homes decked out for the holidays. 

I'll see some old friends and neighbors. 

I'll get to peek inside a few secret gardens and I'll poke around the houses of the brave souls who put their homes on display. 

I'll ooh and ahh over their homes and wish I'd thought of some of their clever styling tactics. 

I'll gush and admire and compliment. I might even steal a dazzling idea or two. And I'll be sure to tell them. 

I now realize the monumental work involved to have the homes show-ready. Although every home won't be decorated to my style, our shared experience gives me a new appreciation of their decorating endeavors and their willingness to share their homes during the holidays. 

Now, that’s a helpful hint I could really use all year round.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Cooking, Conversation & Kinship

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. 

I liked it even more than Christmas because it was at my aunt's house. My aunt Shirley and my mother struck a deal that my mother would always host Christmas dinner if my aunt took Thanksgiving. 

My mother thought baking a ham was easier than roasting a turkey and Aunt Shirley was far and away, a better cook. 

At Thanksgiving, her kitchen was a place of controlled chaos with my cousin beating up mashed potatoes while asking my aunt how much milk and butter to add, my mother saying she needed room in the oven for her sweet potatoes to warm, and my uncle plugging in the electric carving knife asking when the turkey would be ready to slice. 

Every year, as my aunt carried the baked-to-perfection turkey into the dining room, she’d apologize that it was probably overcooked and too dry. As we took our first bites, she’d disparage her hours of culinary excellence by saying, “It’s not any good, is it?” We’d all chime in how delicious it was, even though she didn’t seem to believe us.

I solemnly watch my mother goof around in the kitchen
with my aunt and grandmother.
What I loved about the holiday wasn’t just one particular dish or a certain tradition, it was the feeling it gave me. 

The feeling that I was part of a fascinating family. 

After dinner, I’d listen to my mother, grandmother and aunts talk. It didn’t matter what they were saying, I was always immensely interested in the conversation. 

They told stories and joked and bickered and gossiped and laughed. I thought they were the funniest women around. 

I was proud they were my family. 

Even though I didn’t say much, I felt included in the circle of their sisterhood gabfest.

As the evening wore on, the turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes disappeared from the dining room table and desserts appeared in their place. 

Nut rolls, chocolatey Texas sheet cake, an array of Jewish cookies, thumbprint cookies, Russian tea cakes and the always-present jello salads were laid out. 

I never wanted dessert to end because I knew very soon my dad would announce, “Well it’s getting late and I have to get up for work in the morning.” 

We’d beg him to stay just a little longer but the conversation became rushed. The leftovers were wrapped for the drive home. We’d head out into the night. And Thanksgiving would be over.

All those Thanksgivings are just a memory now. My aunts, uncle and grandmother have moved on to heaven. 

As I grew up, I learned that the women of my family were far from perfect. I realized that each of them had chapters of their lives filled with pain and brokenness that threatened to overwhelm them at various points in their lives. But they were redeemed by God’s love and accepted the mercy and grace that only he can extend. 

They worked hard to recover and reclaim their lives. The scars of their mistakes didn’t define them because they were willing to exchange them for beautiful gifts. 

Gifts and talents that they crafted out of what remained. Out of the ashes and the dust. Remarkable gifts of love and generosity and hospitality. This is their legacy for their nieces and daughters and granddaughters to remember them by. 

Now my family goes out to a restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner. 

Someone else cooks the meal. There aren’t any leftovers. But we still gather around the table. 

We will laugh and bicker and chitchat. We will remember those in our family who came before us. And each year we will tell a little more of their stories to those who come after us. 

To write new chapters of our family's story. I’m grateful for the goodness God has poured out on my life and for the extraordinary blessing of my imperfect, but perfect for me, family.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Something Borrowed

My library card has been recalled. I got an email saying I had to verify my address to renew my library card or it would be disabled. There’s just one problem. I'm using a library card from the county where I used to live and I guess I'm supposed to use the library of the county I reside in. It’s just that I don’t like my county-designated library all that much. There’s not a location convenient to me. Parking is a hassle. So to avoid these difficulties I just kept using my old library card. At my old familiar library.

I love the library. I’m a bookworm at heart. Every few weeks, I set aside a weekend afternoon to browse the shelves, checking out new titles. I don't always understand the logic of the Dewey Decimal system, so I prowl around my favorite sections, discovering books only faintly related to how they're catalogued. I'm always surprised by the unexpected titles I stumble upon. I usually check out a stack of books that I can hardly juggle on my way to the car. I sneak peeks at the dust covers on my way home and settle down to leisurely peruse the stack to decide which books I'll read first.

So I devised a plan for this expiring library card business that threatened to interrupt my library junkets. Awhile ago, I asked my dad to get a card since he lives in my old county of residence. He doesn’t use the library so I wanted a back-up card exactly for this situation. At first, I nonchalantly checked out a few books on my dad’s card to make sure it was in working order and I didn’t have to show ID. The clerk barely glanced at the card as she scanned my books. Even though I was prepared to answer why my dad would want to read a biography of Chanel or the history of interior decorating, she didn't seem to care. I had to then return all the books I had checked out on my own card before it was so unexpectedly revoked, most of which I hadn't read yet. I wrote down all the call numbers so I could check them back out after they were reshelved. After a few days, I returned to the library, retrieved my books and re-checked them out on my dad's card. Success!

Maybe my obsession with the library seems a little crazy. Maybe I should let my regular plans be interrupted for a new experience. Maybe I should venture out to a different library to discover a new treasure-trove of books I haven’t read. I guess if I have to, I will. But for now I’m prepared. I told my dad to be ready at a moment's notice to show up at the library to verify his address. So I can keep on borrowing books on his library card. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Taking Inventory

A few years ago after selling my house, I found myself between homes while I waited for the bank to process the short sale on the townhome I was buying. I had to put my belongings in storage and move back in with my parents for three months. The storage unit was chock full of my furniture so I stowed all of my pictures, mirrors and lamps in my parents’ garage. While I bunked with my folks, I decided some things my mother had around her house might look nice in my new house. I went treasure-hunting through her discarded box of pictures and found two French-inspired bird illustrations. I decided her dancing girl figurine lamp would look nice in my new place. I asked her if I could have her hall table. And her yellow chippy kitchen cupboard. Along with a shabby picture frame with no glass, a few pieces of her vintage china and some magazine illustrations. I moved so many of her things to my stockpile that she said if she noticed something was missing, she would just start looking for it in the garage.

Sometimes I wanted things she wasn't ready to discard. Like the chippy pink paint-peeling dresser she had in her guest room but was reluctant to give up. It was literally falling apart but looked nicely shabby on the outside. The sides are split, the paint is peeling, and you can’t open the drawers since they are jammed shut. She finally said I could have it and when my movers unpacked it from my storage unit, I cautioned them to be careful that it didn’t collapse into a pile of boards and nails. One of them stared at its dilapidated condition and said, “You know, it really wouldn’t take that much work to make this dresser usable.” I know he thought I was crazy to keep it. Someday I might get it fixed, but I’ll certainly never paint it. I love the pink peeling paint with bits of green flaking through. The paint tells its story. Remnants of what it might have been. To cover over that would remove its history. I can buy a shiny new painted dresser anywhere. This ramshackle, broken-down dresser is one of a kind.

I often wonder about all of the places in my life where things are a little off-kilter. Those things that I can't seem to get straight. Like how I dearly desire to avoid conflict with friends and family yet get so worked up over something trivial. How I want to extend grace and be tolerant to everyone for just one day yet get so annoyed by people’s quirks and unique habits. How I know in my heart that God wants to work all things for something good in my life yet I doubt his delicate mastery over the details when something unexpected messes up my schedule. Those parts of me that don't quite make me a nice, shiny, new person. The splinters, flaking paint and rusty nails that cobble it all together. I have to realize that all those old, broken parts and pieces are part of me. To work with. To continue trying to smooth out. To accept. It's after all what makes me who I am. I'm grateful. And I'm learning to say it, out loud, to God, because it changes me.

I actually felt pretty good about taking my mother's stuff during my extended stay at her house. I figured that it was just my way of helping her move a few pieces of clutter out. Whether she wanted it or not. Until she said that all my efforts to weed out her overstocked objects only gave her some additional space to bring more stuff in. I guess that means one thing. There will be some new inventory arriving soon for me to browse through.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fear That's Scary Good

A sweet friend gave me tickets to a ballet last weekend called “Vampire’s Ball.” Although I’m not into the current craze of vampire-genre books and movies, I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. The dancing was fun, exciting and just a little bit scary. Good scary. The dark costumes and set designs were the perfect blend of elegant artistry with a dash of the spooktacular. In one scene, dark drapery panels hung from the ceiling, gathered in the middle, where every so often what looked like a disembodied skull would peek out with ghoulish eyes and stare at the audience. The effect was startling yet so intriguing, I forgot to be scared, wondering how they did it. Then the curtains rose and revealed dancers seated on chairs, wearing the ghostly masks. I was fascinated to see the stage secrets. A little fear mixed with wonder is a good thing.

It’s kind of like stepping out with God. Realizing that every day is a dance of uncertainty, trepidation, daring and exhilaration. When the future seems uncertain and filled with frightening goblins that make me cower in fear. When ghosts of regret appear to taunt me saying that I can never change. That I'll always say things I wish I could take back. That I can't move past small slights without retaliating. I remember that every day is a new opening night. That the curtain could rise on new opportunities. On another chance to be gracious and unselfish. On a future that might be scary but good. So I have fear mingled with anticipation. Fear alongside trust that it’s all in his plan for me. Fear laced with the excitement of something new. When fear of the unknown tries to trip me up, I remember this promise that I am never out of his sight. "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

I have a pair of ballet slippers hanging from my dresser that I bought at a vintage shop. Even though I’ve never been a dancer, I like to look at the ballet shoes. They’re worn from use, but I think they’re pretty. They speak to me of hard work, courage, strength and determination. And a lot of grace. I’d like to have the effortless grace of a ballerina, dancing through the scenes of life. Especially when it’s going to be a little scary but so worth it. Scary good.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Falling for Pumpkin Cookies

When the calendar says it’s fall – or when the nighttime temperature drops below 70 degrees in Florida, whichever comes first – I think about baking pumpkin cookies. They were one of my grandmother's specialties and she would send a batch of them to me every Thanksgiving, stacked in a sweater box, separated by layers of wax paper. The cookies are delicate, more like tiny little cakes than cookies, filled with raisins and topped with a caramelized frosting. They’re so light that the first bite just melts in your mouth. Then just as you’re savoring the next two bites, the cookie is gone and the deliciousness is just a memory. You have to have another. And another. The cookies remind me of fall, the holiday season and my grandmother.

She didn't use cookbooks or have a recipe box. She kept her often-used recipes in her head and never wrote anything down. When my mother cleared out her house after she died, there was a worn Metropolitan Life insurance envelope with the words “favorite recipes” written on it in her handwriting. I leafed through it, thinking in there would be the secrets to her favorite dishes. But that’s not what was in the envelope. Instead, it held recipes clipped from the newspaper from the 1960s and 70s. They weren’t really any dishes I remember her making. I think she must have cut out recipes she thought she might try one day. There were several recipes for sauerkraut as a key ingredient. A few recipes for jello, pies and cakes with strawberries. There was even one in her handwriting for ginger cookies and she noted “delicious” at the bottom. She baked from memory and experience. Thankfully, the recipe for pumpkin cookies was well distributed throughout the family, as I remember my mother making them for Halloween and my aunt making them for our Thanksgiving dinners. 

My niece Devon and I made pumpkin cookies last weekend. She couldn’t wait to taste them, sniffing the pumpkin, vanilla and cinnamon as we mixed up the batter. Since she only likes chocolate chip cookies, I was pretty sure pumpkin would be an acquired taste for a five-year-old. She took one lick of the icing and a tiny nibble of the cookie and proclaimed it the worst cookie she’d ever tasted. I told her that someday she just might like pumpkin cookies when she was a little older. She frowned and said she sure doubted it. She walked off leaving me with the plate of pumpkin cookies all to myself. As I savored the heavenly little puffs of deliciousness, I knew I'd keep the recipe for her. Maybe she'll remember the smells of fall and pumpkin and warm gooey frosting in her aunt's kitchen. And I hoped that maybe someday in the not too distant future, she too would fall head over heels for pumpkin cookies.

Pumpkin Cookies
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup pumpkin
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
¾ cup raisins
1 tsp. vanilla

Cream butter and sugar well and add the egg. Beat in the pumpkin and salt. Cream well. Sift together rest of dry ingredients and add to mixture. Add vanilla and raisins. (Plump raisins first by soaking them in a bowl of very hot water for 10 minutes.) Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

Mix 4 Tbsps. butter and 4 Tbsps. milk and ½ cup brown sugar in medium saucepan on stove. (I use ¼ cup of dark brown sugar and ¼ cup of light brown sugar.) Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Let cool (place in freezer for a few minutes.) Add 1-2 cups of powdered sugar (depending on thickness) and 1 tsp. vanilla. Beat well. Frosting should be medium thick (not too thin or it will drip off the cookie). Spread frosting while cookies are still warm. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A New Frame of Reference

I can’t believe I’m so crazy about it. 

The Eiffel Tower. 

I’d gotten used to seeing its image everywhere -- from notecards to dish towels to wrapping paper. 

I wondered what was so special about it. I certainly didn’t expect to be so impressed by seeing it in person. 

But the minute I caught a glimpse of it, even from a distance on my first day in Paris, it took my breath away. 

I couldn't wait to get closer to it. To experience the scale of it. When I stood under it, looking up at the ironwork, it was beautiful and remarkable and extraordinary all at the same time. 

I was stunned by its magnificence. And the enormity of it. 

It looks so small from a distance. And it especially looks small on notecards and dish towels and wrapping paper. 

Even though I knew it was one of the world’s tallest structures, I couldn’t imagine the beauty of it from photographs until I experienced it.

As I crisscrossed the city, walking from one tourist attraction to another, every time I saw it peeking through the trees or hovering over a bridge, my heart skipped a beat. 

There it was. 

I took tons of photos of it. From far away. From a boat on the river. From right underneath it. 

During the day with the sun glinting off of it. 

At twilight with a sliver of the moon just visible rising over it. 

Sparkling with white twinkling lights at night. 

I am reluctant to admit it, but I’m in love with the Eiffel Tower. 

Now I’m the one buying the notecards, the dish towels, the wrapping paper. I can’t get enough of the Eiffel Tower. 

My experience changed everything. I stood under its shadow. I was surrounded by the intricate web of its latticework. When I saw the tower in person, it changed how I thought about it. 

I saw God from a new vantage point this year, too. 

In fact, I don't think I would have found myself standing under the Eiffel Tower if I hadn't said yes to looking at things differently. 

I’d always known God but the way I thought about him was transformed. I grasped how I could have a deeper relationship with God. 

To understand how he wanted to work in my life. To discover how he could take my faith and make it stronger, richer, bolder. 

A changed perspective helped me see God in everything and trust that he will bring good from the events and experiences in my life. Even when things don't turn out as I think they should. 

God sees my life much differently than I view my life. He sees above and beyond, deeper and wider than I ever can. 

A verse in Psalms says God is our refuge, like a strong tower against what we’re facing in life. 

I want to stand in the shadow of that tower. In awe of his wisdom. 

His beautiful graciousness. His remarkable faithfulness. His extraordinary mercy. 

I am stunned by his magnificent love for me. And I'm crazy about it.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

What Are Your Assets?

With rates at historic lows, I’ve decided to refinance my townhome to a lower interest rate. On a conference call with a loan processor and a bank representative, they asked me all sorts of personal and income information. It felt a little invasive. I wondered why they couldn’t just look it up since I’m refinancing with the same bank. Nevertheless, they proceeded to ask me questions they clearly already had the answers to. Credit score. Employment verification. Then they asked me, “What are your assets?” Hmmm. Well, I have a savings account. Two, in fact. A 401k account I never look at since I can’t do anything with the money anyway until I retire. Hmmm. Not much, I jokingly tell them. But what I really wanted to say was that I had fine investments. They just happen to be in beauty products.

If they could only see that I have a treasury of MAC eyeshadows in every color combination in the rainbow. I have Trish McEvoy’s newest planner in a spiffy pink quilted case, with a specially fitted silver bag for foundation and lipstick. And my newest acquisition straight from Paris, a sweet little Dior touch-up kit for my purse. This particular ensemble is endowed with a secret resource of three lip glosses under the tiny Dior door. What value! I wonder if they would be interested to know that I do plan to make an addition to my makeup portfolio with a Chanel red lipstick just as soon as I raise enough capital. At $34 for the shade of Coromandel, I can wear a color named for the famous lacquered screens that graced Coco's Rue Cambon apartment in Paris. I must liquidate some funds, though, if I want it before the fiscal year ends.

I wanted to tell them that I have accumulated all the best hair products on the market. I have giant-sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner that promise a great return on my investment to make me look like a fashionista on the catwalk. As an extra bonus, these top-notch products also make my hair smell like blueberries. I have an excellent repository of hair paste to separate my hair into pieces for an edgy style, oil from Morrocco to make my hair super-shiny, and hairspray that is made from fresh kiwis. I want them to know I spent my research and development funds carefully before selecting this light, brushable spray that does not leave hair feeling like it’s glued. This value on the balance sheet is important.

I wish they could see my collection of perfume, like liquid silver and gold in the form of flowers from Vera Wang and blackberry and vanilla from Trish McEvoy. However, for this division of my portfolio I look for other investors. I am prudent with my funds by asking for the perfume for holidays and birthdays. I even assist my investors by forwarding the necessary financial information from the discount house of to help them purchase the items at a reduction. Whatever I choose to call them -- assets, strong points, blessings, resources -- I actually do have lots of them.

So I’d like to tell the finance gurus that although I might not have a portfolio of high-yielding investments, I do indeed have assets. But maybe they're more of the intangible sort. I have an unending supply of grace. I know where to find overflowing peace. I can opt for unlimited joy. And all free for the asking. From God who generously lavishes these blessings on those who ask. And I think that might be the most valuable investment I can make.