Wednesday, October 21, 2015

How to Make Your Life Beautiful


When I asked my 11-year old nephew to help me paint my desk chair, I wasn’t expecting the free pointers on my painting style I got in return.

“Spray paint?” his eyes lit up. “If you’re talking spray painting, I’m your man!”

When I informed him it was the old-fashioned kind of painting —- with a can of paint and a brush — his enthusiasm quickly dimmed. {But I added a little cash incentive and he reluctantly agreed.}

My chair is a 1940s model that I’ve recovered and been meaning to paint for years, with wood that’s dark, scratched and uneven. I am a rather sloppy painter who just wants to get the job done, not bothering with a drop cloth or tape.

As we work my nephew studies my painting technique for awhile then offers some advice. “You know if you wiped the brush off against the can like this" {he demonstrates for me} "and painted on the chair in a straight line, it would be neater and look a lot better.” 

He shows me his brush strokes on the chair’s arm. “See? None of that crazy back and forth and swishing around that you’re doing.” {He waves his brush in the air haphazardly slinging paint around to make his point.}

I tell him it’s a little easier for him to paint the flat chair arms tidily than it is for me to paint around the curvy chair legs. But I say that hopefully when we’re finished, maybe we won’t notice a few bare spots and messy brush strokes because all we’ll see is the entire chair that looks a lot prettier painted than it does right now.



If only that were a foreshadowing of our lives - - a blessing of sorts. 

And maybe it is. 

A complete life that looks wholly beautiful the farther into our journey we travel. Isn’t that what we want?

The wounds of our life journeys inevitably leave scars, but they lend an air of wisdom, grace and a sort of unconventional loveliness to us. 

All those people and places and plans that create the experiences of our lives rarely allow us to follow a straight line or tie up loose ends neatly. 

There are drips and puddles and missed patches and color in places where there ought not to be. 

{I'm sure you can relate?}



When I was in Italy this summer, I walked over a myriad of bumpy cobblestones on skinny streets, some that dead-ended into doorways or walls or curved around a corner I couldn’t see past.

I climbed steep stairways with what seemed like a thousand steps, out of breath when I reached the top. 

I followed pathways down hillsides with sheer drops into what looked like oblivion. 



Touring around Lake Como, I was so hot and tired, I’d wonder if I’d ever make it back to my {unfortunately un-air-conditioned} hotel room to rest and put my feet up. 

These steps I walked through Italy painted a picture for me of the scenes of my life. 

There have been plenty of dead-end opportunities that seemed so promising but went nowhere, relationships that heart-rendingly didn’t work out, friendships that painfully grew unrepairable, and bewildering experiences that left me wondering how I could ever pick myself up and move on.


But in Italy just when I thought I couldn’t take another step, I’d find myself in a clearing with a breathtaking view of a lake. 

Or in the midst of a garden with a feast set out on a table for us to enjoy lunch on the lawn under the shade of the trees. The 24 of us in our retreat group sat exhausted, but savored the food, the drinks and the company. We all knew we'd probably never be together in this place again.

And only afterward did I realize the difficult journey had been worth it.



It was true in Italy, just as it is now, and just as it will be true for all the days yet to come. 

Every paint stroke brushed on the canvas of our lives through our experiences and relationships and circumstances transforms us. 

Making us beautiful beyond our blemishes. Content yet incomplete. Hopeful yet unfulfilled. Peaceful yet unsatisfied. Redeemed yet imperfect.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. - Ec. 3:11



After the paint dried on my chair and I assessed our work, I had to admit my nephew’s painting efforts did look much better than mine did. 

So I took some sandpiper and roughed up the arms a little to match all the spots I missed on the legs. 

I wonder if this chair could be the start of a beautiful painting partnership between my nephew and me? 

He's got lots of free tips to offer and I've got a lot more furniture to make beautiful.




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




19 comments:

  1. Good Morning, friend ...

    I'm sipping a hot cup of tea as I sit with you this morning. I'll never tire of your gorgeous shots of Italy ... or your nephew's very fun view of life!

    It's good to be here. You make me smile and think all at once. I like that.

    Nice chair ...

    ;-}

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    1. Hi Linda,
      I'm delighted to know I was with you in spirit as you had your morning tea! I only wish I could have shared a cup with you as we chatted about our vintage treasures! The more I look at my photos of Italy, the harder it is to believe I was really there! So grateful for your kindness about my posts -- always! xo

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  2. .... From the mouths of babes....! : ) I think y'all did a lovely job! But I'm partial to imperfect things ♥
    This I love: "Content yet incomplete. Hopeful yet unfulfilled. Peaceful yet unsatisfied. Redeemed yet imperfect." I think we're all searching for the secret on how to go about all of that... Thanks for making me relax and think this morning and put my worries into the right perspective-- taking the eternal view. ♥♥♥

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    1. Hello dear friend! If you scrutinize the photo of my painted chair, you'll see all the spots I missed. I really thought I'd care that I was so sloppy but I look at it in my house and it doesn't bother me at all! Even though I love the vintage chippy look, sometimes the craziest imperfections bother me . . but maybe that's a blog post all on its own! :)

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  3. I'm so sorry for the relationships and friendships in your life that left you broken-hearted, Valerie. Thank you for, as always, this insightful, inspirational post. I love how you find spiritual lessons in the everyday events - "Every paint stroke brushed on the canvas of our lives through our experiences and relationships and circumstances transforms us. Making us beautiful beyond our blemishes." Thank you for this encouraging reminder. Blessings and hugs!

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    1. Trudy,
      Thank for your understanding and oh-so-very kind words! I try to look at all that's in my life -- not as rubble or discarded relationships or experiences but as the very things that have helped shaped me to better reflect the image of God -- the one who oversees our lives. I think broken hearts are a little better because they're stronger, don't you?! :) xo

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    2. Yes, I do believe they do make us stronger even though it's difficult to see at the time. It's so encouraging that every experience shapes us to better reflect the image of God. That makes it all worth it, doesn't it? xo

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  4. I truly believe, God puts people in our lives for a reason, a season, and for eternity. And I've tried to learn from those lessons. I know they've truly made me who I am today and they've definitely helped me discover myself all over again. Thank you for writing such wonderful post. They really make me reflect and keep moving forward.

    Kia / KTS
    www.houseofkts.com

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    1. Hi Kia!
      You speak truth! I find it so interesting how our relationships and friendships evolve and grow and when people move in and out of your life. I often don't see things clearly until I'm a little further away and then the truth is evident! Everything in our lives does shape us and I'm so glad you're the lovely person you are that shares your artistic gifts with us! xo

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  5. Don't you just love when kids give advice! :) And when they are RIGHT?!

    My biggest fear sometimes is that I'm going to look back on life and still be in the same spot, emotionally or spiritually that I was years ago. I want to always be moving forward.

    And that spread of food looks amazing. I do hope Italy is in the plans for me one day... You've written beautiful, reflective words

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    1. Hi Alecia,
      Isn't that true? Kids usually do hit the nail on the head and you wonder how they can be so perceptive (or tactless!) I can't imagine you being in the same spot -- I have the same concerns but I've discovered it's impossible because only we look back will we see how far we've journeyed and how faithful God's been and where he's brought you! Alecia, in the short time I've known you, your writing is much deeper now and I feel certain you're moving forward! And yes, that lunch was truly scrumptious in Italy!

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  6. Hi Valerie- This is so beautiful as always- I love how you are able to weave spiritual truths with such beautiful stories. I love the chair- :) and your thoughts on life and thinking of it as a work in progress. That is one of my favorite verses-and has encouraged me- that God promises to make me beautiful in his time:) because lots of times I feel like I need a new paint job-:) He is faithful to take the parts of my story i don't like much and weave them into beauty :) What a wonderful father we have! :) sending hugs tonight!

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    1. Susie,
      Isn't that verse so beautiful? I can see why it's one of your favorites! There's so much beautiful truth is those three little phrases. I'm trying to convince myself (and I have to believe it!) that those parts of our stories that are difficult are just open invitations to experience more of God -- every single one of them! I think someday we will be surprised at those wilderness spaces and all the things we thought were worthless and we'll see that those were the times that were the richest when they seemed empty and priceless when we thought they were rubble! xo So grateful for your warmth and friendship here!

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  7. Valerie,
    I love your auntie stories. I so appreciate my sister's roles in the lives of my children. That sounds like fun! Do you "chalk paint'? I have been wanting to try it! Haven't been so brave yet.
    Valerie, I have always wanted to go to Italy. Of any place in Europe it is the one for me. The pictures are breathtaking. That feast looked amazing. Look how blue the sea was! WOW!!
    Also I really liked your lines about how each situation and relationship even if it turned out bad or was confusing and a mystery can be used to make us into the person we are to be. I like that. Sometimes we really are in the dark as to why? Especially when the relationships are broken and tug at our heart to be bitter! I also really liked the lines about being redeemed yet unsatisfied and really unfinished just yet. Beautiful! And so true. It's like this Holy ache we will live in til we get to Heaven.

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    1. Somer,
      I'm so glad we are kindreds on the auntie/sister connection! No, I have not done any chalk painting yet! I think we should try it! I never thought I'd say it, but I almost loved Italy more than I love Paris - -Italy was so beautiful and peaceful and so rich culturally -- it was a dream come true to be there -- I hope someday you will have your God-sized dream come true! As always I am so grateful and encouraged when you share your thoughts here, Somer! xo

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  8. Isn't it those scarred places in our lives that make us beautiful? If only we could see it that way at the time!

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    1. Sarah,
      So true! Scars sometimes can be the reminders that we are beautiful!

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  9. Valerie - the chair looks GORGEOUS!!!! GREAT JOB!!! You'll have to come check out all my "not so new" painted pieces. I've been on a painting frenzy these past few months. Of course I keep telling myself that I don't want you to see it until everything's perfect - but that may be a while so I just need to get over it - LOL. :) - Shawna

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    1. Shawna,
      That is high praise from such a painting expert as yourself!!! Just don't look too closely at it the next time you're over! I can't wait to see your new place -- and I will patiently wait until you're ready!! xoxo

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