Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Heart of a Home

Last summer I found myself standing in the entryway of Villa Monastero in Italy, a house constructed in the twelfth century and a former home to nuns, a noblewoman and a couple of businessmen. 

I'm here for a tour of the house and gardens and even though I live through Florida’s scorching summers every year, I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite this hot before. 

It seems I’m visiting Italy during a heat wave of historic proportions. The locals say it’s the steamiest summer they’ve had in more than a hundred years. 

And everywhere I go, air conditioning is weak or non-existent, especially in my historic hotel that never saw a need to install it.

I took a ferry to get to the villa, where I sat on the top deck in the blazing sun for the 20-minute ride from my hotel. 

I walked uphill over cobblestone steps and winding streets and I’m pretty sure sweat has glued my clothes to my skin {perhaps permanently}.

And now I'm standing in the muggy lobby where a grand staircase diverges into two flights to tour opposite wings of the villa. 

Even though traipsing through old houses is my favorite thing to do when I’m on a trip, the single thought soaking into my sweaty head is how much longer until I can get a cool, refreshing gelato.

Christie Purifoy writes about the heat and the cold and the changing seasons in her book Roots & Sky after she moves to an old farmhouse in Pennsylvania called Maplehurst. 

She first sees the house on a day of record-breaking heat. On that sweltering day, it didn’t feel like the home of her dreams at all. 

But she felt as if her dreams started rearranging themselves when she stepped across the threshold.

Chronicling her first year at Maplehurst, she slowly settles into the rhythms of the seasons, hosting her neighbors, planting her garden and savoring her ordinary days. 

When her son slides down the banister of the staircase, inflicting a long gash in the woodwork with his belt buckle, she realizes that her dream and everyday life meet head-on within the walls of the house.

Christie’s writing is poetic and lyrical, evocative and expressive, sometimes poignant and often elegant. 

The house is the constant framework, the abiding presence in a year, in a life of changes. 

The house inspires her journey home. 

It houses her growing family. 

And it opens the doors to usher her into God’s dwelling place.

Her first year at Maplehurst brings joy, heartache, the end of seasons, a new life and a new beginning. 

And for so many of us, isn't that what home is all about?

I manage to breeze {while dreaming of one!} through the villa’s rooms of ornate furnishings and head back through the cobblestone streets toward the ferry. I spot a sign for gelato on the shutters of a rather ordinary looking door. 

But as I step inside, I notice I’m in a little cove-shaped room with walls of gray fieldstone and white plaster and a white-bricked chimney in the center. 

Unexpectedly dangling from the wood beams in the ceiling is an elegant chandelier. 

It’s extraordinarily charming and I find it more enchanting than the grandiose villa I've just left.

Sometimes there's more to find inside than might be evident from an exterior facade. 

Our stories, our lives, our hearts -- much like a house -- are waiting to be shared, discovered, opened.

Longing for family, adventure, love. Willing to get a little dirty, weather scratches, show off a former grandeur.

Swing wide the doors, fling open the windows, unhinge the shutters. 

For I think there's nothing quite so inviting as an open heart and a welcome home.

My gelato revives me and I board the ferry for the ride back to my hotel. 

And for the first time on my trip, I found myself longing for my Florida home where even though it's hot outside, I can savor the frosty breezes of my trusty air conditioner.

I'm part of Revell publisher's blogger review tour for Roots & Sky by Christie Purifoy. I received a complimentary copy of the book, but the opinions are completely my own.

I'm having coffee with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart and with Bonnie Gray at the Faith Barista

Friday, February 19, 2016

All in Good Time

I noticed the clocks first, even before I walked inside the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. 

There’s a clock on the outside of the building that I could see from far away as I walked along the banks of the Seine. There’s a gorgeous gilded clock inside the lobby. And there’s a gigantic clock on the fifth floor of the museum that looms over the tourists who stand under it. 

The building was originally a railway station before it became a museum filled with art, so I’m sure keeping track of the time is pretty important when you’re waiting to catch a train. 

But when you’re waiting for the monumental events of life to arrive and time keeps marching on, it’s hard to ignore the sound of minutes ticking away on the clock of your life. 

I'm excited to be guest blogging over at {in}courage today. Click here or click the image below to read the rest of the post!

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More Reading for Your Weekend

And if you'd like an extra read for your weekend {while you relax with a cup of coffee and an Italian biscotti!} a few weeks ago I was thrilled to guest blog over at Culture With Travel about my love affair with the food of Italy. 

Click the link above or the image below to read my post!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Love for the Sweetest Days

I’m waiting {not with bated breath since I have a feeling how this will turn out} to see what my niece thinks as she takes her first taste of a macaroon. 

We’re in a little sweet shop of petite pastries where the owner kindly offers Devon any flavor of macaroon she wants for her introduction to this stylish Parisian cookie.

Devon chooses a strawberry one and studies it. 

I’m actually surprised that she’s even trying a macaroon since chocolate chip has long been her only cookie staple. But she really wants to like macaroons. 

Her American Girl doll Grace peddles tiny boxes of them from her {very expensive} French bistro cart. 

When she’s at my house she asks if we can whip up a batch of macaroons in my kitchen. {I haven’t admitted to her that I’ve never actually made a macaroon.}

She loves all things Paris {as does her auntie} so she believes she should love their favorite cookie too.

So I watch as Devon takes the tiniest nibble. Annnnnnnndddddddd . . . 

It’s definitely not love at first bite. 

She’s disappointed. “I thought they’d taste good because they come in so many colors and they look so pretty.”

Isn’t that the way it is sometimes? 

Whatever it is that beckons me from afar to a different sort of life — an exciting relationship, fresh new friends, more engaging work-- {you can name yours here} — I know it must be so sweet and happy and lovely. 

I long to be there. {Wherever there is.} 

I think how nice it would be not to worry about that. {Whatever that is.} 

I think it must be exciting to know them. {Whoever they might be.}

I imagine how happy I'll be when I get to the next stage of my journey. {Whenever that is.}

I’m dazzled by the sweet and colorful visions I’ve conjured up.

But whether or not a sweeter day arrives, there's something to be found in the days that are here now.

They hold a sweetness of their own.

It's obvious to me that I need patience and faith to trust what I cannot see. 

I know that perseverance is necessary on the days when I question my trust and hope, to find the determination to take one more step. 

But what I need on the days when everything feels like it's falling apart, is a little attention. A nod that I'm noticed. Maybe a love note of sorts. Or even a song.

From God.

In the middle of the night I woke up with these words ringing in my head, as if I'd arrived in mid-verse. I’d heard this song before but not often and certainly not that night before I fell asleep.
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place;
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held.
I’m not usually one with a song in her head in the middle of the night. But I’m discovering that there’s more of God to uncover; sometimes at strange times and in unlikely places. 

I've found these little love notes before, hidden under rocks and buried deep in the gritty dirt and sand of my very ordinary days. I know I have to look for them or I'll miss them. 

As I continued to think about the words the next morning, I thought of this verse in Zephaniah.
The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. -Zeph. 3:17

Maybe God was singing a song over me. He promises us his love in our midst. He promises to delight in us. He promises us that he’ll lovingly quiet our fears and questions. And he even promises to sing over us. 

Maybe that's the sweet love note I need, delivered in the night, for whatever days are ahead.

I have to agree with Devon about macaroons, though. They aren’t one of my favorite cookies either. 

Even when I had some in Paris, they underwhelmed me. Maybe if I’d made it to the world-renowned Laduree for their famous macaroons instead of sampling some miniatures at a little cafe across from the Louvre, I’d think differently.

But in the bakery with Devon I spy a tray of tiny eclairs underneath the macaroons. I tell the owner I’ll take one of those.

The chocolate, pastry and cream are more my style than any macaroon, no matter how pretty they might look. I taste my eclair.


Now that is love at first bite.

There's still time to join me and my friend Heather at Recollected Design via a Facebook group beginning Feb. 15 to study Angie Smith’s Seamless, to see how the people and promises of the Bible fit together and what they mean for our lives. Get a copy of the book here or here and come join us on Facebook! 

I'm joining my friends at Holley Gerth's place for Coffee for your Heart and with Bonnie Gray at the Faith Barista.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Making Peace with Art

I haven't picked up a paintbrush since I traveled to Italy last summer for an art and faith retreat. 

{Unless of course you count the mirror I painted a few weeks ago}.

I certainly intended to paint. Maybe even regularly.

I carefully brought home all the art supplies the instructors gave us in Italy. I artfully arranged all the paintbrushes in a little vintage vase and put them on display. I even set my little sketch of a face I drew in Italy beside my brushes.

But I haven’t attempted to paint or draw or do anything at all with them. 

Eventually I moved them out of sight into my sideboard, where now I’m surprised when I encounter them as I rummage through the drawers. 

That's when I remember I had good intentions to keep painting.

So when a friend invited me to one of those paint nights where you follow along with an instructor, I thought I’d give it a try. 

It's supposed to be so easy to create art at these festive evenings, that practically anyone can take home a masterpiece.

I figured the birdcage swinging from a tree with a little red bird perched inside didn’t look all that complicated to copy, but I made sure to keep my expectations in check.

I’d just begun to apply paint to my canvas when I ran into a snag. 

My globs of paint must have been smaller than recommended because I was completely out of my blended mix of colors long before I'd covered even half of the canvas. 

I ended up with uneven shades of blue instead of the nice, all-over turquoise shaded canvas of the instructor, but I wasn’t worried.

I soon realized I didn’t have an eye for scale either since my bird was quite tiny compared to the example. But I figured my diminutive bird could just enjoy a much roomier home instead of a cage that was far too small for him to stretch his wings.

{Admirable way to look at it, right?}

For most of the night, I listened to the women around me lament their painting skills to their friends. 

It was all good-natured but as I gave a critical eye to my work of art, I felt a little like an art-sophisticate {if there were such a thing}.

I’d been where they were. 

I had high hopes to create some sort of art in Italy but I was disheartened that I couldn’t replicate what the instructor showed us and I was intimidated by what I thought I was lacking instead of embracing an extraordinary adventure.

But I’ve decided to make peace with my artful endeavors. 

This word -- peace -- has been ringing in my ears lately. Maybe this is the New Year's resolution I've been waiting for, showing up a little late but welcome, just the same. 

{Is it too late for peace to be my one word for 2016?} 

I think there’s something artful about making peace with the pieces of your life.

I might be painting a picture with watercolors or with words. I could be cooking up a new dish or a new business idea. I might adorn a room in my house or a blog post with my photos. 

All of it's art. These endeavors will move me to future undiscovered places -- peculiar and quirky, strange and unfamiliar, exhilarating and exciting, and even uncomfortable and awkward. 

Maybe it shouldn't surprise me that peace about all of it is upon me these days. 

Peace sometimes comes quietly, after hard work and a long fight. After a wrestling with expectations and ambitions and hopes, peace softly settles in.

It joins these cherished gifts, with a beauty we yearn for:
 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness. - Gal. 5:22

So I took my painting home and wondered what to do with it.  

I thought if I set it next to my candleholder that has a similar design it might look as if it were a source of inspiration for my art. 

What do you think? {Hmmm, I wasn't so sure about it either.}

I think I'll get out those brushes and paper I brought home from Italy and practice making some more art.

And maybe I should just put my little bird on canvas in the closet and let it rest in peace.

There's still time to join me and my friend Heather at Recollected Design via a Facebook group beginning Feb. 15 to study Angie Smith’s Seamless, to see how the people and promises of the Bible fit together and what they mean for our lives. Get a copy of the book here or here and come join us on Facebook! 

I'm having coffee with my friends Holley Gerth at Coffee for your Heart and Bonnie Gray at the Faith Barista