Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Full Plate

I joined the ranks of vacation visitors to Orlando {for a few hours anyway} when I became a tourist in my own hometown.

My mother, sister and I took a foodie walking tour of the neighborhood of Winter Park, and I asked my sister if she thought we should get a ticket for my niece Devon, who is nine and an extremely finicky eater. 

She said Devon really wanted to go with us and she pledged to try something new at every stop. {Devon later downgraded this optimistic outlook to 40%, worried she had set too ambitious a goal for herself.} 

Our foodie maps in hand to navigate the way to six eateries, we kicked off our tour at a wine bar with mimosas and slices of artisan bread spread with basil pesto, topped with buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes and drizzled with a balsamic reduction.

Devon was served a very tall glass of orange juice {instead of a mimosa, of course} and I immediately thought we might be off to a less than desirable start.

Even though she's never wanted to taste orange juice in her life, she took a sip, shrugged and took another sip.

So far, so good. This might turn out better than I thought.

We moved on to the Ancient Olive, tasting premium olive oils and balsamic vinegars, with exotic flavors like fig, chocolate and lavender. The owner quizzed us on which country we thought made the most olive oil. 

Our group included a well-traveled couple who were also posing as local tourists for the day, but only Devon was brave enough to venture a guess from three choices offered by the shop owner.

She said Spain. 

And she was right.

As we slurped our olive oil samples {as instructed} I wondered how she knew. 

Later she told me after listening to my stories about traveling to Italy, she’d never heard me talk about seeing olives, so she figured there must not be any or I’d have mentioned them. 

That made me laugh.

But it seemed as if all of a sudden I noticed how much of a grown-up Devon was becoming. 

She walked beside our tour guide, chatting about her favorite foods, strawberries and chocolate {eaten separately, of course, never together}. 

She told our fellow tour-goer {who was an airline pilot} about her school project on the Wright brothers.

And when she was a little disappointed to see the chocolate and ice cream stops were the very last on our tour, she waited patiently while we tasted tea at a spice shop and sampled pizza topped with chicken and catupiry. 

{Have you heard of catupiry? I discovered it’s a mild Brazilian cheese developed by an Italian immigrant, which explains its puzzling heritage.}

We finished our pizza and wine and kept on walking to the fudge store, where we sampled apple cobbler ice cream and then made it to our last stop at Peterbrooke Chocolatier.

Finally Devon could enjoy something she liked, chocolate covered popcorn.

I loved how this tour gave me a fresh perspective on all that seemed so familiar. 

And it left me feeling pretty full. But not just with flavorful food and divine drinks.

For a while now I’ve been praying to live my life abundantly, despite what my circumstances might be saying to me.

My prayer is for a life filled with joy, hope and faith. 

Yet, sometimes it seems that what I’m experiencing is the exact opposite of what I’ve been praying for. 

Or is it?

How else could I establish unwavering faith in God’s goodness, unless I find myself believing it despite the little carrot dangling in front of me that's yanked away just when I reach for it?

How else could I expand my narrow definition of what makes me happy unless I determine to find joy even when I'm disappointed?

How else could I redefine what’s hopeful to me unless I see past what’s making me feel downhearted and seems so impossible?

And how else could I get filled up unless I first realized I was empty?

When I feel a little panicky about time or the future or my purpose or place, I'm going to remember these words that were were impressed on my heart by God:

{And maybe you could use them too.}

There’s still plenty of time, but I don’t want you to miss this.

I think my delicious plate right in front of me is already abundantly full.

I'm having coffee with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. Click the image to visit the posts of my blogger friends!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Restoring a Lost Art

I think the first job I ever had is now extinct. Technology has wiped it out.

Once upon a time before computers and desktop publishing ruled the world, I worked in the advertising department of a small-town newspaper. 

I used ancient tools like typewriters and X-Acto knives and jars of rubber cement. 

I'd leaf through glossy pages of clip-art books, looking for pictures to illustrate my ads.

As the new girl in town I had all the accounts my colleagues didn't want. I mocked up ads for weekly sales at the hardware store, lunch specials at the greasy-spoon diner, and discounts for TV repair.

I knew very little about sales so my style was nonchalant and apologetic. 

I’d tell clients I was only asking them to buy bigger ads because my boss wanted me to. This approach must have worked since I was shocked to discover I'd sold the second highest number of ads for our holiday issue, right behind the department’s top saleswoman.

That job wasn't a great fit for me and I eventually quit, but for a long time I kept a little folder of my ads, not realizing they were relics of a bygone era.

Last summer during my art class in Italy, I found myself once again cutting and pasting words and images on to a board. 

Except now I was making a travel journal and it was called mixed-media art.

Pictures and words, written on a page or artfully arranged -- they always have been pieces of my story.

But what happens when we lose pieces of ourselves, our work, or our hearts, thinking they are outdated, extinct or worthless? 

It's the losses -- of a friendship, a dream, a paycheck, good health, a love or a loved one -- that can knock us off balance so all we see are wilted and worn out days in front of us. 

We need the perspective of fresh expectancy for the future and the hope that lovely and delightful things still await, no matter the age or stage of life.

But maybe that's when we're ready for some good news.

Sometimes when we've lost something precious to us, we have to let ourselves be found.
For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.-Ez. 34:11 (NIV)

Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. 
Maybe some pieces of what we think we’ve lost along the way during our seasons of life are just lying dormant, waiting to reemerge in a different form.

The revival might cause it to look altered and have a new name but when we take a closer look at what we found, we see it's familiar. 

The beauty's revealed, the purpose comes into focus and little flutters of joy stir within us. 

We will never completely understand our circumstances and losses in this life, but I think we have to be at ease in the not knowing.

And welcome the restoration of our lives, hearts and minds for the work of something new.

I still think about the march of time and technology, though.

I wonder if all the gadgets we use so faithfully now will someday be as ancient as newsprint and typewriters?

I'm not sure that would qualify as breaking news. 

But it just might require quite the artful sales pitch.

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

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Walk of Life

Milan, Italy
I’m a huge fan of walking tours. 

When I travel, I think it's the best way to explore the tucked away corners and hidden pockets of a city.

And if it's a foodie walking tour with a sampling of snacks along the way, then I'm ready to walk for miles.

{Just so you know, I like to walk but I do not like to wear shoes that are comfortable for walking. 

This refusal to give up my stylish shoe wear causes a myriad of fashion dilemmas for me. 

Along with packing predicaments since I can't decide which shoes to take and a need for an abundance of band-aids for blisters.}

The hillsides of Bellagio, Italy

It's taken some experimental tour excursions but I eventually figured things out.

In Paris, I got off the plane after flying all night and embarked on a five-hour city tour that included travel on foot, by boat and by bus. 

I thought riding in an air-conditioned motor coach would give me the first look at this enchanting city while I relaxed in comfort. Instead I felt nauseous from staying awake all night and somewhere around the Arc de Triomphe I fell asleep on the bus. 

I ended up with one wobbly photo of the Eiffel Tower taken from my seat {complete with the window reflection} and very little recollection of my first drive around Paris. 

I realized bus touring wasn't really my style. 

On a visit to New York City a few years ago I wanted to walk everywhere, but my hostess laughed at me and told me it wasn't possible. 

I gave in and rode the subway but took a foodie tour of the East Village. That's where I learned it's not so easy to walk, eat, listen to the guide and take photos all at the same time.

I juggled my camera while I ate compost cookies and ice cream made from green peas at Milk Bar Bakery. 

And I learned that what may appear to be destined for the rubbish heap can often be repurposed for something unexpectedly delicious.

It’s when I'm walking that I always notice more. 

My pace is slower and my attention is drawn to a surprising sight or a different perspective that I might not have noticed if I were moving at a faster clip.

And I guess that’s how this walk of life is too, sometimes.

Not all that long ago, I thought I had my running shoes tied tight, ready to take off. I felt as if an air of excitement swirled around me and new adventures awaited. 

But I’d barely left the starting blocks when I tripped over my own feet and before I knew it, I'd stumbled and was out of the race.

New York City

Not so fast, it seemed as if God were saying to me. Walk here with me for awhile and enjoy what’s right in front of you.

I stayed there in the slow lane, waiting, sometimes patiently and sometimes not, until I eventually decided to get back in the race. And now I don't think I even want what I so desperately set my heart on.

This walk of life is funny like that, isn't it?

Even though I still don’t have it all figured out, I don’t think I have to. 
Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. - Is. 26:8


I'm not sure if you're racing or waiting during this season of your life. 

Maybe you've got the sun in your face, enjoying the ride and adventure. Or maybe you find yourself stalled temporarily or facing a dead end, wondering how to get started again, holding a suitcase full of questions.

Where do you go from here? And how do you even get there?

All I know is eventually you just have step off the curb, keep an eye on the traffic and keep walking.

Until one day you'll look back and see just how far you've traveled.

So when my sister asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday next week, I told her I’d found a local foodie walking tour and wondered if she was game.

She said sure, her boots were made for walking.

I have no idea what shoes I'll wear though. 

I know I won't be wearing the funky-blue-flats-quasi-tennis-shoes I took to Italy {and never wore again}, and I'm sure I won't be wearing the too-high wedge heels I wore around Paris.

But whatever I decide to wear, I’m sure hoping the tour will be a cakewalk. Literally.

{I'm in the pink shirt, in case you can't tell by the shoes, taking photos in Italy.}

A little note on the photos: thanks to my mother for always walking behind me and snapping photos when I least expect it.

I'm having coffee with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. Click the image if you want to read more posts from my blogger friends!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Falling for September

I rarely look forward to the arrival of September. 

I wish I liked pulling out sweaters and boots or walking in chilly air or on crunchy leaves, but I don't. 

I do, however, love pumpkin spice coffee. 

So that's reason enough not to write the entire season of autumn off as a loss, don't you think?

And there's Steelers football, too, {which I love} but that's still not enough to make me love fall.

I love summer instead. 

In my girlhood, I dreaded September’s appearance that ended my favorite season and forced me to embark on another school year. 

My hometown of Pittsburgh was rather gray and dreary in the fall and winter and I was glad when I moved to Florida where summer unabashedly overstays its welcome right through the holidays.

But these days, the month of September also marks another year at my job. Nineteen years, to be exact.

That milestone seemed an unlikely longshot when after college I job-hopped to three companies in five years, always keeping an eye out for something new when I grew tired of where I was.

I never decorated my workspace with framed photos and coffee mugs. I liked to think I was traveling light and would have less to pack when the right offer arrived to move on to pastures far lusher and greener than where I was.  

But I've eventually come to realize that no matter where I am, there can be divine purposes in what I'm doing.   

During my art retreat in Italy last summer, instructor Jeanne Oliver gave us handpainted cards with a verse from scripture. 

It's the passage where Esther's uncle Mordecai presses her to have courage and stand up to the king, asking her to consider her place in history.
"And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” - Esther 4:14 {NIV}
All year long I've looked at those words sitting on the little easel on my bookshelf, beside a few grains of sand from the Italian beach and the tiny topiary tree that marked my spot in art class. 

And I think those words are really for us all, wherever we are and whatever we find ourselves doing.

With the clarity that only comes over time, I now see there was much to value during the years I thought I was just in a holding pattern, holding out for something better. 

It was the time and space I needed to learn new skills in technology, design and layout that shaped my ideas and gave me the confidence to create my own blog. And it was where I met the savvy millennials who became my cheerleaders {although it felt more like arm-twisting} as I jumped into social media.

Pursuing opportunities is good and new horizons may be exciting, but there’s also something valuable about settling down to the ordinary and routine that's hard at work shaping our lives. 

There’s always something remarkable to be noticed in the ordinariness of our days, isn’t there?

And there's one more thing about September. 

It's my birthday month. 

Usually it falls {pun intended} on the first day of fall and this year is no exception. 

{I think it unfairly mocks me just to be sure I acknowledge its presence since I'm a little chilly  -- even downright frosty -- toward it.} 

But since turning a year older isn't quite as exciting as it used to be, I might as well warm up to it, shouldn't I?

So welcome, September. 

After all, the first Steeler game of football season is almost here.

It seems I do have several reasons to celebrate, so maybe I'll turn the entire month into a party or gala or bash or some such commemoration. 

{If you have any ideas, let me know.}

So as I reset the clock on the countdown to next summer, I'll be heading out to grab the season's first pumpkin spice latte. 

To go with my slice of birthday cake.

Tell me what you love about September {and maybe I can learn to love it too}!

I'm joining my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. Join me there to read posts from my blogger friends!