Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Painting with a Broad Brush

I’ve asked my friend Shawna to paint some more of my furniture. Last year she transformed my French couch with a creamy linen color she custom-mixed with Annie Sloan chalk paint. 

Then she coated my dresser in a dreamy color she suggested: Paris Grey. 

{She didn't even need to show me a paint swatch since any color with Paris in its name is chic enough for me.}

I love everything about Shawna’s decorating style. 

When she moved a few doors down from me, I couldn’t wait to see what she did with her townhouse since it’s exactly the same as mine. 

When I finally wrangled my way in {pushing aside her protests that she wasn’t ready for tours yet}, I found she fashioned drop cloths into curtains for her bedroom windows, hung a turquoise cow painting on her wall, placed French champagne buckets as centerpieces on her tables, and of course filled her house with her own painted furniture.

So a few weeks ago, she came over to take a look at my vintage buffet and a chest of drawers in my bedroom. 

Both pieces look dark and dated {and I’m refraining from exiling them to the resale shop} so I thought maybe paint could bring them back to life.

We talked colors and I told her I’m thinking of shades of creamy white with a dash of Provence blue to highlight drawers and doors, but I’ll leave the details to her. 

I completely trust her style and artistry.

Which is kind of surprising since trusting isn’t all that easy for me. 

When someone says, "trust me, you’ll like it," I tend to think that's a sure sign that I probably won’t.

But it seems that relinquishing control of some parts of my life is what God’s been proposing to me. 

He doesn't force his way into my heart, but he leaves it up to me, asking, “Trust me with this?” or “Why don’t you think about loosening your grip on that?”

No matter how hard I try to figure things out, I'm not heading in any particular direction, I'm not leaning toward any certain solution, and I've not come up with any type of a plan.

I’ve let the pieces break and scatter and I’ve watched God put them back together. 

I’ve watched the cords unwind and unravel and I’ve seen God restring them into something altogether different.

And I've stood before the mountain range of impossibility and I've watched God make a way where there wasn't one. 

{I’ll bet you've got some of these similar mountains in your life too?} 

So I've decided to camp here a while. I've pitched my tent. Unpacked my suitcase. And I'm making myself feel at home.

This is where I'll be waiting when God comes down from his holy mountain. Because there is one thing I am sure of: I don't want to miss him.

Years ago, I was fresh out of college and mired in a job search that went on for months, full of dead ends and brick walls. 

The internet didn’t exist then {it's hard to imagine a life without Google} and I was in a new city with few networking connections. 

It was the most hopeless year of my life. 

I was living with my parents who were going through their own financial and business difficulties. I knelt on the shag green carpet of our rental house praying for a job, praying for hope, praying for an upswing in our circumstances.

Back then, a career, my own home and a car seemed like a far-off dream.

But that hard year was my first experience to really know more of God than I ever had before.

He was laying a foundation of trust in me that I could look back on through the years as a remembrance of what he had done and to see how far he'd brought me. 

I finally found a job that allowed me to buy a car, but it took several more years before I could afford my own apartment.  

And eight years and three jobs later, I finally landed the very job I'd prayed for and dreamed of during that first difficult year out of college.

My experience has been that God does not move quickly in my life. He’s much more interested in slowly doing a work in my heart and securing my trust than in giving me what I’m asking for when I want it. 

And it’s taken me a while to realize it, but I want that work in my heart more than I want the change in my circumstances. 

So I'm waiting for Shawna to show me a few more furniture paint colors on Pinterest because she wants to be sure I'll like what she chooses before she gets started. 

She really doesn’t need to because even if she wanted to paint my furniture frog-leg green {my least favorite color}, I have a feeling it would still look lovely. 

She has a way of giving dreary old furniture a new lease on life even though they’re on their last spindly legs.

I know I can trust her.

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. Join me there for more inspiring posts!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

An Amazing Guide for the Tour of Life

I often wish I had the insight and knowledge of an expert guide to help me map out and navigate the journey of my life. 

Wouldn't that be amazing?

Whenever I plan a trip, I search out tours that can give me a taste of the local culture and a guide who can show me a city's hidden gems that tourists might not discover on their own.

In Paris, I took a walking food tour of the city from a long-time Parisian who opened locked gates to secret courtyards of her friends and introduced us to her favorite shopkeepers. She advised us not to believe the tour books but to take her recommendations for the best chocolate and pastries in Paris.

She was sophisticated and confident and I felt very French just accompanying her through the city streets {although I made sure to walk a few steps behind her}.

I spent three hours touring the Louvre with an elegant guide in her 70s whose knowledge of art, history and religion was spectacular. I could have listened to her talk for days, she was so interesting and well-informed.

I couldn't help comparing that visit with my day at the Musee d’Orsay, Paris’s treasure trove of Impressionist paintings, where I opted to just read the placards as I strolled around on my own. 

I missed the insight and stories that guides reveal, and when I got home I realized my experiences with a tour guide were often my favorite memories of my trip.

So I’m welcoming the You’re Already Amazing Life Growth Guide by author and (in)courage founder Holley Gerth as much-needed inspiration for my life's journey. It's a companion to Holley’s previously published book, You’re Already Amazing, and offers six sessions:
  1. Who God Created Us to Be
  2. What's True No Matter How We Feel
  3. Our Amazing Journey with Jesus
  4. God's Plan for Our Relationships
  5. God's Purpose for Our Lives
  6. How We Can Thrive for a Lifetime
Holley takes us through exercises that identify our strengths and skills as she shares truths that will help us recognize God’s purpose for our lives. 

Since we can sometimes become mired in details that are overwhelming or challenging, she invites us to map out where we are on our journey by creating a timeline of our lives. This offers a big picture view so we can better understand how far God has brought us.

For my timeline, I was tempted to include every monumental moment {my first pair of high heels certainly ranks right up there or surely decorating my first apartment?} but I limited myself to a handful of life-changing events that truly changed or impacted my journey.

I realized that five years ago I couldn't have seen myself writing a blog, exploring Paris or making art in Italy on a retreat with 24 ladies I'd never met before. 

I saw my natural tendency as a settler in Holley's descriptions of how we react to change in our lives, yet I somehow {for a short time} became an explorer and traveler, when God said it was time for a new adventure.

Holley inspires us to identify all that's already amazing about who we are and to set our sights on looking at our lives through God's perspective of us, which is wonderfully unique, creative and loving.

Realizing who we are is the first step to living out God's beautiful purposes for all of us.
“All we are, everything God created us to be, becomes a gift when placed in his hands. There’s nothing he can’t mold, shape, redeem or form into something beautiful. We don’t have to be afraid or hold back — we can just hold out our hearts to the one who promises to complete the good work work he’s already started in us." - Holley Gerth

In Italy last summer, our local guide Rita toured us through the village of Bellagio. She was passionate about sharing her love of the area with us.

She took us to her father-in-law's house and invited us to view the lake from his yard. After leading us on a several mile walk, she arranged for us to have a lunch spread in the alcove of the gardens {where the public isn't normally invited} so we could recline on the lawn with our Italian sandwiches and fruit.

On our last night in Bellagio, she scheduled a private concert of a local choir to serenade us as we looked out over the lake for the last time before heading for home.

These talented tour guides I met on my trips shared their gifts to create treasured memories for me that will last a lifetime.

In Paris, after my tour of the Louvre ended, I went up to the woman who led the group and told her the evening was unforgettable and I was so grateful she shared her knowledge with us. 

In true French fashion, she shrugged, smiled politely and said she was glad I enjoyed it. 

I wonder if those women realize how truly amazing they are.

I'm part of Revell publisher's blogger review tour for You're Already Amazing Life Growth Guide. I received a complimentary copy of the book, but the opinions are completely my own.

I'm having coffee with my friends Holley Gerth at Coffee for your Heart and Bonnie Gray at the Faith Barista. Join me there for more posts from my blogger friends!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Bring the Joy

It’s March and I need a new game plan. {This has nothing to do with March Madness.} 

And I need some fresh flowers for my courtyard. {This has everything to do with spring.}

I talked my niece, who is 9, into going flower shopping with me. She was reluctant until I said I’d buy her any flower she wanted. 

I told her how when I was little {in the olden days}, I’d go shopping for flowers with my grandmother and aunt and it was an all day expedition as they compared and deliberated and drove around town to all the flower farms. 

But they always bought me a flower to plant in my backyard and I realize now how much fun it was.

She listened politely then said, “Hey, did you ever have a thought come into your head while you were thinking about something else and then you can’t remember what you were thinking about first because you’re thinking about what came second?”

{I guess we were done talking about family history.}

Devon wanted a blue flower but couldn't find one so she settled on a ruffly marigold instead. 

Just then, a black and gold butterfly alighted on a flower next to her. It flew a little too close to her and we laughed as she realized she was running from a butterfly.

The butterfly is hard to see, but it's at the extreme left in the photo on the left.

Part of my spring game plan is a quest to unearth little handfuls of joy during my day. 

I’m digging deeper underneath the routine things that I enjoy every day without much thought.

Ordinary things like the aroma of my morning coffee reaching me upstairs from the kitchen, noticing the birds or deer on my evening walk, and anticipating reading the next chapter in the book on my bedside table. 

They’re not exactly excuses for exuberance but I’m savoring them as though they were.

It seems so obvious. I know to appreciate what’s in front of me is the avenue to abundant living, but those humble delights get buried as I wait for {one or two} big blasts of bliss to sweep me away. 

Maybe like a tiny seed, I need to cultivate joy, coaxing it to grow and bloom and then it will multiply. 

Maybe joy comes in the morning as a sweet talisman of hope that we made it through the dark night of whatever is wearing away our happy intentions.

I am making this my prayer.
Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you. - Ps. 86:4

Maybe joy isn’t something we find in the dawning of a new opportunity or art or endeavor, or in a budding relationship or the glowing expectation for any of a hundred things we hope to find joy in. 

Maybe that’s far too much pressure for those fragile gifts. Joy is much more than that.

Joy is already with me. It’s part of me, actually. 

My middle name is Joy. And it’s my niece Devon’s middle name too. 

We searched throughout my house for all the ordinary things that had the word joy on it. We found a book, a plate, a postcard, a frame. She loves to remind me, “There’s our name.”

And after we were done planting the flowers, Devon suddenly remembered.

“Hey, I brought an extra shirt in my bag that I got in New York City at the Rockettes show and look what it says!” She pulled it out. There it was in big red and white letters, staring back at us.

Bring the joy.

I think this new game plan will carry me through to the end of March {and all its Madness} and right up to the cusp of summer.

Tell me what’s bringing you joy this spring?

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. Join me there for more posts from my blogger friends!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Plumbing the Depths

I wish I were a DIY sort of girl. 

Just to make little repairs around my house, nothing too ambitious. It seems that something in the bathroom always needs attention.

I’d like to figure out how to clear the drains in my sink. Or find a better way to change the lightbulb in the fixture above my shower without teetering on a ladder and getting doused by plaster from the ceiling. Or even how to install a new shower head.

I know there are a plethora of YouTube videos that might show me how, but it took me five viewings of one before I had the strap attached to my camera correctly so I can imagine how long it would take before I could make a home repair.

I do have three toolkits, though, strategically stashed around my house should I need a wrench or a pair of pliers or a teeny-tiny screwdriver. I even have a level. Which I’ve never used because if I wonder if anything is straight, well, I just tilt my head and eyeball it.

My limited success at DIY projects has been sewing little fabric flowers to a lampshade {which took much longer than I thought and looks messy}, or ironing tape on the hem of my pants instead of sewing {since as the lampshade project proves, I can’t really sew}, and leaning two panels of shutters on the windowsill {instead of attaching them to the wall}. 

So when it comes to changing that ball and chain thing on my toilet, I call my handyman. But installing a new toilet seat? I think I’ve got this. 

Last year {to my immense surprise} I successfully installed one, so the second time around should be a breeze, shouldn’t it? 

The instructions said to attach the bolts with a wrench until the bottom of the bolts broke off. 

I didn’t remember using a wrench or tightening bolts last time, and I know I would have remembered practically standing on my head to get a grip on the bolt, with my hair sweeping the toilet. 

I think this job would have been easier with a little help. 

Maybe instead of going it alone, some things are meant to be done in tandem. 

I’ve spent a lot of time lately wondering how things work when we partner with God. I wonder how much work God wants me to do when I bring him my problems and concerns. 

It seems impractical — and also a little lazy — to say, “It’s up to God.” 

Maybe I’d rather do it myself, because to leave it to someone else makes me look weak and needy and helpless. 

I’ve fallen for the myth that I’m strong enough to figure life out and make it work on my own. After all, I’m a career woman, responsible for myself, aren't I?

But when I lay the things in my life before God, it's not a faint-hearted act. It's actually knowing where my strength lies. And it's not in myself.  
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. - Eph. 6:10
But he’s kindly and tenderly showing me — with the things in my life that I can’t control or fix — that I do need him. There’s a point when only God can bring the change or make the shift or turn the tide. 

I do my part of the work that I can do. And I pray. 

He guides, directs, suggests, nudges, whispers.

God certainly doesn’t need us to pray for him to act, but sometimes — maybe more often than we think — he extends the opportunity for us to join him in his work. Maybe that’s when we step into a new chapter of our relationship with God to experience him like we haven’t before. 

And that's when I see what's in front of me couldn't have been accomplished on my own and I know I'm living in faith.

After an hour of wrench-turning, the bolts on the toilet seat finally broke apart, signaling that I’d successfully completed my installation.  

For a prim and proper girl like me, I don't relish the idea of blogging about toilets {and I considered flushing the entire idea}, but somehow writing this has shed a little more light on the way things work. 

For it’s here in this space for words that God meets me and does a little restoration work on my soul.

How about you? Are you a handywoman or DIY-girl? Tell me your secrets! 

And if you're in partnership with God about something, I want to hear about that too!

{Art photos are from San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore church in Milan, Italy}

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. Join me there for more inspiring posts!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Keeping the Peace

A few months ago I found myself wandering the streets of St. Augustine, camera dangling from my arm, feeling anything but peaceful. 

The brick and cobblestone streets are as familiar to me as my own neighborhood. I usually look forward to this relaxing, fun weekend but I feel a little disheartened this year. 

To lighten up, I set out with my nine-year-old niece to capture some of the town's scenery. Excited to be a photographer's assistant, Devon pulls on her boots and chooses one of her tiny purses to double as her camera bag {but all that fits inside it is one of my lens caps}. 

We've just gotten started on our photo junket when she asks for my camera. I hand it over, resisting the urge to warn her not to drop it. 

She runs ahead of me snapping photos. 

She shoots cannons and chains linked to parking lot posts, birds sitting on dead branches in scraggly palm trees, or anything else she thinks her older brother might like to see.

When I wrest my camera back, I shoot houses and doorways and waterways. 

We turn down a street and I spot the bay ahead of us. We walk beside the peaceful water filled with sailboats and my emotions suddenly change. I feel a tiny wave of hope. 

I know that while my eyes are only seeing the sea in front of me, my heart is craving something in the future that only God can see right now.

Maybe things aren't quite as impossible as I think.

Lisa Murray, a licensed marriage and family therapist, writes that’s it’s possible to cultivate inner peace while living in the midst of everyday circumstances and life’s challenges. 

In her book Peace for a Lifetime, she says peace isn’t just a fleeting feeling but a way of life. 

She shares her personal journey of understanding her emotions and learning to view them in a different light by welcoming and enjoying them. She eventually discovers the path that leads her to a life of hope, harmony and peace.
"Something happens when we leave the safety and comfort of home and go out to build our lives, to pursue our dreams and to conquer the world."  - Lisa Murray 

I know that in calm and difficult seasons, peace can be found. But sometimes it just comes a little later than I'd like it to.

At the end of January, maybe even in February, I finally chose my one word for this year. 


I wasn't sure this was really the word for me since my emotions haven't been particularly peaceful of late. Neither have my work, friendships or circumstances.

But maybe that's why I need it so much. To replace what I'm feeling about these storylines of my life with what I know to be true.
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. -2 Thess.3:16
I need to feel peace, keep the peace, and make peace.

{Maybe you can relate?}

Sometimes peace comes only after you face what you’ve been fearing. 

When you decide to bravely walk through the door toward what you've long ago closed off and make your peace with it, it's a liberating sort of peace. 

When you realize you're stronger than you think, it's a powerful peace. 

And when you resolve to keep your heart open and tender, despite all your misgivings, it's a graceful peace.

So that day in St. Augustine when I went out with my camera in search of some peace, I found it, along with a morning full of happy memories shared with my niece to tuck in the scrapbook of my life. 

And as Devon so often tells me with all the wisdom of a nine-year-old, peace out.

I'm part of Lisa Murray's book launch team for Peace for a Lifetime. Learn more about the book here

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