Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Couched in a French Patina

Six years after I bought my French-style couch at a second-hand furniture store, my dream of what I thought it could be finally came to life. 

My friend Shawna spent a week painting furniture at my house. She transformed my couch, a French provincial dresser and a hall table, working her magic with chalk paint and wax. 

Shawna lives in my neighborhood but I didn’t get to know her until she read my blog and we discovered we both love all things French. We got together over the holidays and I showed her everything I wanted to paint but didn’t know where to start. 

When I pointed out my 1950s French provincial dresser in my bedroom that is solid but beat up with plenty of gouges, nicks and dings, Shawna started talking colors. 

Her eyes lit up as she described the softest ballerina pink. Then she said but pale blue or dove gray would be great too. 

Wait, she said, she knew just the color. Annie Sloan’s chalk paint in Paris Grey. 

That was it, of course. A little Paris in my bedroom was exactly what I wanted.

I showed her my French couch. I told her how I once tried to paint it but I panicked that it wouldn't turn out  {since I didn’t know what kind of paint the glossy wood needed} so I wiped the paint off before it dried. 

And now six years later, the couch was still unpainted. I told her how I had high hopes for this couch.

Six years ago, I was living in uncertainty after I’d sold my darling bungalow house, put my belongings in storage and moved in with my parents while I waited for the bank to close the short sale on my new townhome. 

I wondered if it would ever work out, as one day looked promising with approvals, while the next day all progress ground to a halt with some new contractual snag.

Instead of being grateful that I had a place to stay rent-free, I worried that I'd made the wrong decision. I was impatient in this temporary limbo and irritable with my parents. 

I was flipping through decorating magazines, wondering if I would ever have a home of my own again, when a French couch caught my eye.

Not long afterward I was surprised to find a similar couch at a resale store but with a dark wood frame. I thought if I painted the frame maybe it could look like the one in the magazine. 

My sister and I drove my brother-in-law’s truck {in a rainstorm} loaded with the French couch straight to my storage unit. 

Weeks afterward, when I’d swing by to check on things, I’d spot the French couch against the back wall with tables and chairs stacked on top of it. I’d hope that someday I’d be able to curl up on it, a book in my hand and a cup of coffee sitting nearby.

As Shawna looked at my furniture and excitedly talked about the colors she would paint it to let the original finish shine through, she envisioned it how she thought it could be.

And as I listened to her, suddenly I could see it like she did.

Isn't that how God sees us? 

He calls things that are not as though they are. 

Our scars, scratches and difficulties don’t mar our beauty in God’s eyes. What we’ve been through and what’s happened to us along the way don’t detract from how he sees us.

Our experiences have marked us, possibly forever, but the way God weaves what has happened to us into our stories to add a different dimension is stunning and alluring, if we choose to see it from his perspective. 

And the only way to explain it is because our plans are not like his plans and our ways are not like his ways. 

We can let our hurts and pain and brokenness leave us in those places, cowering and huddled, without hope. 

Or we can with great effort draw ourselves nearer to him, up very close, where we can begin to see the hidden beauty in ourselves, just as he does and hear the life-giving words he is speaking over us.

“ . . . even God, who gives life to the dead, and calls those things which are not as though they were.” Rom. 4:17

Shawna painted my furniture all week while I was at work. Every night I couldn’t wait to see the progress she made as she revived and renewed their tired old finishes.

On Friday, I came home to find my couch finished, paint and drop cloth gone and my pillows arranged on the couch. 

It looked like it belonged in a Parisian parlor.

It only took six years but somehow it seemed to be perfect timing for Shawna to make my dream come true for my French couch.

She dropped by on Saturday to hand me back my key, and said she was sad that her week at my house was over. I felt the same way. 

But I’ve been thinking.

She mentioned something about painting my piano {if I’m daring}. But I think I have some ideas for paint colors for my dining room buffet.

Coco? French Linen? Or maybe Antoinette or Versailles?

I think I'll ask her to pop over so we can chat about colors while we drink some coffee sitting on my French couch.

Shawna Lieberman's painted furniture can be found here on Facebook

I'm linking up with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for Your Heart and Bonnie Gray's Faith Barista. Read more inspiring posts from my blogging friends!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Why Words are Like Water for a Writer's Soul

Over a family celebratory dinner, my sister announces that my 11-year old nephew has joined the drama club. He is preparing for his first role in a skit at school. 

We all raise our eyebrows, surprised my outdoors-man-hunter-bow-and-arrow-slinging-brother-in-law is okay with this. {He nonchalantly looks the other way.} We had expected to hear that my nephew was joining the wrestling team, but we're all ears about acting.

My nephew tells us he is playing the part of Water Droplet #6.

We ask him how many water droplets there are. He says just six. He is the last and final droplet to appear. He says he is the water droplet a dog shakes off of its back, sending him {the droplet} sailing through the air. 

We speculate on the preparation and wonder if he should spend some afternoons in the pool or a maybe follow their family dog around observing how he happens to shake off water droplets. We wonder, would channeling the dog help or just muddy the waters? 

I love that my sister encourages my niece and nephew to try anything that sparks their interest so that eventually they’ll find what they love to do.

My childhood days were filled with keeping diaries, reading books and writing stories. 

I mailed my stories off to children’s magazines, receiving polite rejection letters that encouraged me to keep writing. 

I entered a writing contest at my church and when I unexpectedly won, I was terrified to learn that the winners had to read their stories in front of the congregation.

I filled notebooks with my grade-school crushes and yearnings for a best friend, confiding my girlish secrets to my diaries. I continued to journal my thoughts until a decade ago, when I sputtered, the entries growing sparser until finally I stopped. 

Somewhere along my life’s journey between moving into a new house, growing settled into a career choice, and assuming a new role as an aunt, I quit chronicling my days. 

I told myself, who keeps diaries anyway? Aren’t diaries and notebooks for young girls with hopes and dreams and girlish fantasies and wishes upon stars? Aren’t the words I’ve written still-secret in my journals just mocking me? 

I’ve been writing them since I was the fourth-grader who scribbled her first name with someone else’s last name, when he liked my best friend instead. 

I’ve been writing them since I cried tears over the college-boy who didn’t take me to the game while spurning the one who followed me all over campus trying to get my attention. 

I’ve been writing them while wondering why the perfect fix-up date didn’t ever ask again while the man I steadfastly ignored across the complex invented ways to cross my path.

But I discovered that my heart had to journal. That all these days of my life, when strung together, one after the other, were the framework that God was building to make himself known to me.

When I scribbled words when I didn’t understand, when I was disappointed, when I was tired of hoping, journaling helped me frame my words to God. 

And when I spoke those words to him something changed me.

I didn’t pick up my journaling pen again for seven years. But when I started writing in my journal again, it was different. 

I no longer recorded the trifling irritations of my workday or the conversations that hurt my feelings as I outlined how I thought I was so right. 

Instead I journaled my questions, even if there were no answers. I reflected on what God was showing me by the words I wrote on the page.

God was slowly refocusing my heart and redirecting my thoughts. I discovered him anew, like I had never known him before. And it was changing how I thought about his place in my life and how the seemingly-random threads were part of a life-pattern he was weaving that had a very beautiful design.

Now my journal pages hold a new story. 

Not because my life is so vastly different on the outside than it was before, but because I’m different on the inside. 

Now I write to connect the days of my old story with the days yet to come in my new story.

All those days of reading books and practicing my writing weren’t wasted. They helped me decide that I wanted to study journalism and pursue a career in communication. Even now in the time that is all my own, I still love doing what I did when I was young — reading and writing. 

If you think that your days are simply random experiences or a series of inconveniences, I can assure you that they are not. They are part of your story of unique passions that God is writing on the parchment of your life.

As my nephew continues to prepare for his stage debut as Water Droplet #6, I hope it’s just the beginning of a lifetime of interesting pursuits where he can make a great big splash. 

Or maybe he'll decide to test the waters elsewhere, like on the wrestling mat instead of a stage production with the drama club.{Where my brother-in-law admits he is a little like a fish out of water.}

I'm linking up with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart and Bonnie Gray's the Faith Barista. Join me there for more inspiring posts!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Things We Keep

Halfway through January, I’m still renewing {my word for 2015} the decor around my home. I don’t want to call it decluttering exactly, because it's more like streamlining and rearranging what I already have. 

But as I'm renewing, I'm finding that the things I thought I couldn't live without, aren't really missed once they're gone. And when I decide to part with them, I suddenly see them with fresh eyes and wonder why I even had them at all.

I wonder if you feel the same way about your stuff?

I feel as if I’ve been actually streamlining for the past year, but I don't want you to get the wrong idea. If you were to visit my house, you'd probably think I still have plenty of things displayed. I've heard the comments. 

"You sure have a lot to look at."
"You certainly don't need to shop for anything else."
"You have so many little things around, I feel like I'm going to break something."

From the time I had my very own place, I've treasured my things, remembering where I got it, who I was with, and what memory it sparked. Although I’ve moved numerous times since then which forced me to scrap rather than pack, I’ve still managed to maintain a fair amount of stuff. It’s organized and neat, but there’s a lot of it.

I feel like I have these treasuring tendencies because my family {except for my mother} doesn't treasure. My live-in-the-moment grandmother threw away everything. To her, vintage meant garbage, and she liked everything new. 

I remember asking her where all her keepsakes were from years gone by, and she laughed and said why would she ever need that old junk? 

My other grandmother died when my dad was a small child and he says my grandfather threw everything away that belonged to his mother so he wouldn’t be reminded of her.

So since I came from such an unsentimental family of trashers, I became a saver. 

I’ve always dreamed about discovering an attic full of treasures, or a trunk filled with vintage clothing, or a desk with a diary from long ago locked inside.

But last year for the first time, I was inspired to streamline. I replaced lamps, swapped out mirrors, and rearranged pictures on my walls. I got rid of some furniture that freed up empty space and I resisted the urge to fill it back up. I packed up boxes of dishes I never used and empty frames waiting for pictures.

I asked my sister to tell me what should go since she hauls away my cast-offs to a resale shop that supports my niece and nephew’s school {which gives me extra motivation to donate}. 

She told me I have too many figurine lamps, too many candles, and pointed out an angel candleholder she particularly disliked.

I told her I liked that angel candleholder and was keeping him, but in my rearranging, I accidentally knocked him over, breaking his wing and arm. 

I thought I would feel sorry to lose him but minutes after his untimely demise, I felt a strange sense of relief that now I had a valid reason to discard him as I packed up his pieces and carried him {gently} to the trash. 

When I texted my sister the news that he was gone, she sent back an {inappropriate and insincere} emoticon of a smiling, happy angel to celebrate my loss.

But in all this renewing, I think I'm discovering that I’m the one being refurbished, not my house. 

When my nephew broke a favorite glass that was part of a set of fashion drinking glasses and handed the pieces to me so contrite and apologetic, I immediately realized I didn't care about the glass. All of my self-imposed structure and order and rules about where things belonged was actually just selfishness. 

I don't want to value order and stuff and trinkets over the people in my life. 

It was painful at first to give stuff away, but it got a lot easier as I realized I didn’t miss them nearly as much as I thought I would, and instead of regretting what was gone, I found that many times I didn't even remember it. 

And this gives me hope.

Because I can be different than I thought I could be and realize that adjustments and transformations are possible, and heading in a new direction is needed, and things not looking like I imagined them are still very good.

So I let my niece and nephew eat their McDonald’s happy meals {with plenty of ketchup} while sitting on my white couch. 

I don’t mind if my niece spreads papers across my desk and writes in my notebooks and colors on my printer paper while she pretends she's a grown-up working at an office. 

I’m glad my nephew can flop on my couch to read a book and toss around my throw pillows and walk through my house leaving wet flipflop prints.

Those are the memories I want to keep instead of the things that don't matter. And I guess an angel had to lose its wings to prove it to me.

Is there something that can look different than you imagined it? Are there things that could be changed that could end up stretching you?

I'm linking up with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart and with Bonnie Gray at the Faith Barista. Click the images for more from my blogging friends!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

2015: Let the Adventure Begin

I {resolutely} intended to ignore all the hoopla about resolutions and choosing a word for the year. Even though I love words and usually get excited about pondering one for an entire year, I didn’t have one. 

I thought about it for weeks but nothing came to mind. I prayerfully asked God if he had a word for me. 

Silence. Nothing.

So I figured this year would probably be just fine without a word. No one I knew was making resolutions or choosing a word so I didn't feel out of the loop.

Instead I thought about how I could approach the year to cultivate new habits and practice some improvements. 

I’m slowly becoming more attuned to how God is illuminating the places that need growth, the rough edges that need smoothed, and the dull spots that need shined, but I get discouraged when I fail.

I wondered if maybe a year was too long. What if my mindset was to enjoy all a day brought to me, even the not-so-good parts? Maybe I could restart every 24 hours with my good intentions and begin again the next morning. 

What if I also extended a little grace to myself during that day so I could repeat my attempts at what I wanted to change with every sunrise and every nightfall? Maybe this resetting could replace my outlook of wanting to give up when I stumble.

And since I especially liked this idea of replacing, I extended it to include the decor in my house. 

I’ve been thinking of modernizing {just a little} my vintage scheme. I don’t want to move out of vintage-ville completely, but I’d like to head in the direction of trendy-town for a more contemporary flair to my house.

Years ago when I rented my first apartment on a tight budget, I filled it with hand-me-downs from my mother, thrift store finds, and contributions from friends. 

Some of this stuff was still hanging around my house and needed replacing, so my sister and I made a trip to HomeGoods. We took our time deliberating over our selections and couldn’t wait to see how they looked. 

When we got home, my brother-in-law asked where we went. We said HomeGoods. He said yes, he knew that’s where we started, but where else did we go? We said nowhere. He said, “You were there for four hours?”

We looked at each other. Were we gone for four hours? We shrugged and said we guessed so. He asked what on earth we did.

We said we circled the store, assembling a group of tables to evaluate. We parked the cart in the art aisle to weed out the pictures and mirrors we had pulled off the shelves for consideration. We rested on chairs in the furniture section so we could discuss the pros and cons of everything we were buying.

“Huh,” he said, shaking his head. “I guess it was a perfect day out for you girls.”

It really was. So far focusing on embracing just one day and all it offered was working pretty well. 

But just when I thought I wouldn’t have a word for 2015, on the second day of January a word came to my mind. 


Renew? It kind of sounded like a miracle cream to chase away wrinkles {which I am all for, by the way}, so I wondered if maybe I should focus on younger-looking skin for 2015. 

But when I typed the word in my online dictionary, I read this:

I suddenly realized that word wrapped up all the ideas that had been twirling around in my head. 

And then I remembered. 

During the past few days I’d read the verses in Romans about being transformed by the renewing of your mind. 

And through this renewing, you’ll be able to test and approve what God’s will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will. 

And I didn't just read those verses once. They kept showing up over the next few days.

The Message version puts it this way:

Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.

That is what I want for 2015.

I want to take my ordinary days and enjoy them and invite God to be a part of them. 

My word for the year was a little late in coming, but it actually arrived right on time. I hadn’t known it but I’d already started the new year replacing, repeating and resuming -- much of what my one word will inspire me to think about as I travel through all the days of this year. 

The word renew will be my guide.

And I eventually did find someone who made a resolution for the new year. 

My nephew who turned eleven over the holidays, got an iPod touch for his birthday. With just three numbers in his contact list – his mother, dad and me –I’ve been the recipient of his fledgling texts from his very own device. 

When he sent me a Happy New Year’s text, I asked him if he’d made a resolution.

He texted back yes, he sure did. He planned to eat more pancakes. 

I think that sounds like a very delicious plan for a new year, don’t you think? The perfect treat while I arrange my new purchases to adorn my home.

Did you make a resolution or choose one word for this year? Share it with us in the comments!

I'm linking up with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for Your Heart. Hop over for more inspiration!