Wednesday, January 25, 2017

For All Who Stumble Along

I seem to have a history of stumbling around. 

This somehow happens to me frequently and it's always cringe-worthy. I can say with complete certainty that I will never trip the light fantastic.

This scenario played out again this week as I was running late to meet my handyman after work. He was waiting for me to tell him how far I wanted my new chandelier to hang from the ceiling. 

Scurrying up the stairs in the parking garage of my office complex, my high heel caught in the leg of my floppy pants and I found myself laid out on the cement floor.

My iPhone took the brunt of the impact as my hand hit the pavement, cracking the screen.

Maybe it’s the shoes. Maybe it’s the wardrobe. Maybe I’m just clumsy and I really did need those ballet lessons I begged for when I was eight. 

{So surely this is all my mother's fault, right?}

I seem to be prone to tripping, stumbling and falling.

Like when I fell down the stairs at work {different location, same result} tripping over my heels and bumping down each step, the contents of my purse spilled out around me. 

That episode took effusive insisting that I didn't need to file an incident report to our vice president who came rushing to the bottom of the stairs when she heard the commotion. 

And to take stumbling to an international level, I twisted my ankle on cobblestone steps at a restaurant in Italy, falling on top of my camera and ending up with a gash in my knee and a ruined skirt.  

But my shoes weren't to blame then since I was wearing flats, but I told myself that my feet were so used to high heels they didn’t know how to walk without them. 

{This makes perfect sense, doesn't it?}

But I so often feel as if I'm stumbling along toward God, too. 

I'm walking just fine, moving forward, until I lose my footing. 

Then I'm startled by words I didn't expect to hear, taken aback by an unfamiliar situation, or dazed with uncertainty that paralyzes my decision-making ability.

And I wonder what made me so sure this was the way to go, and what I should do now? 

I'm shaken up a little and trip over my own two feet, lose my balance and find myself flat on the ground.

But for all of us who feel as if we stumble along, there's hope.

I've taken the liberty to change the pronoun from he to she in the verses below. I love to think of them this way and maybe you will too:

The Lord makes firm the steps
    of the one who delights in him;
though she may stumble, she will not fall,
    for the Lord upholds her with his hand. - Ps. 37:23-24

So I take heart knowing that while one of my hands is busy picking up the pieces scattered in my tumble, my other hand is held, tucked in his. 

But occasionally I stumble upon something that's surprisingly delightful

I wrote about one of those times over at Culture with Travel when I happened upon an honest-to-goodness diner in Paris serving American breakfasts, just a few blocks from my hotel. 

After reading the menu posted on the sidewalk, I couldn't wait for breakfast so I could enjoy what I was missing the most about home. 

{Hint: If you follow me on Twitter, you'll know it's my favorite topic to tweet about!}

Then last year I discovered a book was written about that very restaurant I'd eaten in. So if you'd like to read about my American breakfast in Paris and see photos of the diner, click here.

I've come to realize that my stumbling doesn’t always result in insult and injury, although it's sometimes rather expensive as the bill for my new iPhone screen will attest.

I guess I should just add that expense to the bill for my handyman to hang my new chandelier. If you read last week's post, you may remember he said it would be a complex job with insulation falling from the ceiling while he was precariously positioned on an extra tall ladder. 

Well, it ended up not being as messy as he thought and the ladder made it in and out of my house without breaking anything on the way. {And my handyman made it through okay, too.}

It wasn't cheap but I sure do love the chandelier.

Now when I climb the stairs in my house, I’ll have a lovely, graceful light to guide me. 

And hopefully keep me on my feet.

I'm having coffee with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. That's where my blogging friends and I hang out every week. Join us there!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Seeing in a New Light

Chandelier in Hotel Florence in Bellagio, Italy

I’m kind of in love with chandeliers. 

{You might be able to tell from my blog header photos.}

Especially vintage, French-inspired Italian-esque, chippy-painted white ones. 

I don’t even care if they work. If there are a few sparkling crystals with a hint of a Parisian flair, I’m tempted to buy one solely for use as a decorating accessory.

I’d actually like to replace the ceiling fans with chandeliers in every room in my house, but living in Florida without ceiling fans isn’t really a cool idea. 

{Just a little Floridian humor.}

Chandelier in a historic villa in Bellagio, Italy

I have vintage chandeliers in my living room and entryway and a crooked one hanging near my kitchen, that swings wildly no matter how much I tilt and straighten it. 

But I’ve long thought about getting a chandelier to hang over my stairs.

Since I live in a townhome and there aren’t any windows near the stairs, it’s a perfect space for an interesting light fixture to light the way up and down the stairs.

So last weekend my sister took me to a designer lighting store where she’s had success unearthing great deals. Her latest steal was a showroom model fully assembled chandelier for her entryway.

While I was still in the first room staring at the ceiling, she crisply inspected the entire store, pointing out several to me that were on sale.

I couldn’t make up my mind.

As soon as I saw one I thought I loved, there was another one I liked even better. 

The lights and crystals were a little blinding.

I was overwhelmed by all the dazzle and when I become unsure, I tend to think I should do {and buy} nothing.

My sister said I should just choose one I love and decide later where it should go.

Then I found a chandelier in the back corner of the store she hadn't noticed. 

I wasn’t sure about the best place to hang it in my house, but I knew it was the one.

There's nothing like a lighting store to get you thinking about all the places in your life that could use some illumination.

There’s a decision I need to make soon. 

And an emotional strain I’m thinking about unloading. 

And there are a few dreams I’ve been carrying around that I’m close to putting in cold storage.

For all of these and a few dozen other large and small concerns, I wish I had a big bright light to show me the way to go, what to do, or how to act. 

Inside Notre Dame in Paris

We want a light to show us the way forward, but God wants to be our light.

We want the light-bulb moments to understand the circumstances that don't make sense, brilliant insight into the difficult decisions, and dazzling clarity for the heart-wringing wrestles in prayer.

But instead we have the luminous light of God's presence.
He is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings grass from the earth. -2 Sam. 23:4

For it's those of us who are searching in the inky-black starless night, seeking answers to our deepest questions, and pursuing fulfillment of our still unmet yearnings who get to see God in a new light.

When there's just a shadow showing us there's light off in the distance, illuminating only the next step forward, we learn to trust that what we have is enough and believe what he says is the truth.

Here in our mostly ordinary days, he is the glorious light to our lives, through his words, among those around us, and in between the darkly difficult trials and the magnificently splendid seasons.
The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. - Ps. 119:130
Knowing and seeking and finding are a lifelong pursuit, but enlightenment along life's journey is really God's gift to us, isn't it? 

St. Paul's Chapel in Manhattan

Since I wasn't lucky enough to snag a display piece like my sister's, my new chandelier is spread out in pieces on my dining room table, waiting for my handyman to assemble it. 

He's not all that excited about hanging it in my stairwell.

He says it needs an electrical box installed through the attic and maybe a covering over the ceiling light that's already there. 

{He said a few other things too but I lost track of it all, except that it sounds tricky.}

He says the main thing is his ladder. He doesn't know if it will reach to my ceiling and it will be hard for him to work perched over my stairs, but he says he’ll give it a try.

{I'm just not sure exactly when.}

And by the way, if you’re easily swayed by the names of items like I am, I discovered as I opened the box that my chandelier is from the Venice collection. 

I think that might be an enlightening illumination straight from Italy, don't you?

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

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Tools of the Trade

My nephew wanted a foam hammer for his birthday. 

A few days before he turned 13, he sent me a link on Amazon for this $35 tool that’s not really useful for pounding nails or repairing anything.

I asked my sister what it was for {and if she really wanted me to get this for him} and she said it was a movie prop for the videos he shoots on his iPhone.

I know that my nephew loves concocting movie scenarios, texting his friends in the neighborhood with his latest cinematic ideas and having them all show up on my sister’s doorstep, ready for action.

But of course sometimes we {his family} show up in his moviemaking projects, too, and we don't even realize it. 

He’s filmed his dad in the garage building something out of a stack of wood, moving frenetically in super-fast motion, and he's constantly recording his sister in daredevil snippets, dangling from rope swings, swinging from trees and laying under a platform as he rides his bike over her.

Then there was me, an unlikely star, of course. 

I saw a photo of myself as the screensaver on his phone and I thought it was awfully sweet that my nephew wanted to look at me every time he picked up his phone.

Until I realized it was a video of me.

Apparently he sat across the table from me at a restaurant as I chatted away to my sister, unaware he was recording me blissfully eating a French fry. 

And I do mean blissfully. 

I dipped it ketchup, dangled it in the air, popped it in my mouth, and reached for another one. And another. And another.

All in super-slow motion, set to appropriately ridiculous music. 

It was the most unflattering, unbecoming thing I’d ever seen. 

I asked my sister if I really looked like that when I eat. 

She assured me I didn’t {although I’m not sure I believe her} and she told my nephew to delete it.

He said sure, no problem, but he already showed it to all of his friends and one of his teachers at school and they all thought it was hilarious.

What an inauspicious movie debut. But quite fitting, since my days are as far from a Hollywood star's as Florida is from California.

This time of year seems especially lackluster to me.

Such a long span of workdays ahead without holidays, yet the days are clipped short with nightfall arriving before I’ve even pulled my car into the garage after my evening commute. 

I have less than sparkling motivation for any activities other than what’s absolutely necessary to get by so I might as well turn in early with a book and hope no one wakes me until spring arrives again.

But what if I shine a different light on these winter months that seem cold and quiet? Maybe this is the time to enjoy the solitude and silence to search out more of God.

I spend so much time reading about God -- what writers and authors have to say about him -- until my head gets a little foggy and I wonder whose opinion holds more truth. 

But it's his words through scripture I need to hear more than any other words, for there lies the truth I'm seeking.

This kind of search is a contemplative journey, leading away from the spotlight, where I'm looking for scenes of perfect peace, lasting love and true joy that don't come from center stage.

The tools of the trade for a life deeply lived are introspection, consideration and adoration of God, that take me to places yet undiscovered, where no matter what the season, I can wait on him for more. 
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. -Ecc. 3:1
Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. - Song of Songs 3:1

My nephew was delighted with the foam hammer and hit me on the head with it just to prove how harmless it was. {It really wasn't all that soft.}  

But I've learned that from now I will only eat French fries when I'm alone and in the privacy of  my own home to protect myself from my nephew's pranks.

Which reminds me that I also bought him a prank kit for Christmas, complete with itching powder, fake blood capsules, and an amazingly realistic-looking rubber cockroach. 

After the video escapade I'm not sure why I thought this gift was a good idea.

But I guess it's just more tools of the trade for a freshly-minted teenager.

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

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

When There's Nowhere to Go But Up

I didn't really have to be at the airport on New Year's Eve since I wasn't traveling anywhere, but here I was standing in an elevator, going nowhere.

That was when I wondered why I thought this was a good idea. 

It all started when I decided to enroll in the security pre-check program offered by TSA, hoping to make my travel plans for 2017 a little less stressful.

I filled out the online application and searched the calendar to schedule the required in-person appointment. 

I was pleasantly surprised when a window popped up with the first available slot for the very next day, which was New Year’s Eve, but I would have to go to the airport. 

I live close to the Orlando airport and although it's a busy place with challenging parking, I thought I could handle it.

So bright and early on New Year’s Eve morning, passport in hand, I headed out for my appointment at the TSA office.

I thought things were going splendidly as I navigated traffic and managed to nab a parking space on the second level of a full 6-story parking garage.

I headed to the ticketing terminal, where the directions I was emailed said the TSA office was located on the third floor.

I got into the first elevator I spotted, along with another couple and their luggage, and I hit the button for the third floor. 

It took a few minutes before we noticed we weren’t going anywhere. The button for the third floor wasn't even lit up.

I hit the button to re-open the door and nothing happened. That was when I started to panic a little until the nice man from Ohio told me he was pretty sure I’d hit the door-close button instead of the door-open button.

{There's nothing like an elevator experience to help strangers become friends.}

We all breathed a sigh of relief when the doors opened. The Ohio couple and I then moved onto the next elevator and headed to the second floor, where a load of people and their baggage joined us.

Then the elevator took us right back down to the first floor. We hit the button again for the third floor and nothing happened.

Baffled, the couple from Ohio and I looked at each other. Were we in some sort of twilight zone and hadn’t realized it? 

Once again, we got out and headed to a third elevator when we finally noticed the signs.

The first two elevators had sheets of notebook paper taped to the doors saying neither of them would access the third floor. 

Of course when the doors were open, the paper disappeared.

I guess I’d walked into the open elevators and never saw the signs that were only visible when the doors were closed.

Apparently just one elevator could take us where we wanted to go. 

And it took three tries to get there.

It reminded me of the times in my life when doors inexplicably open and close, delays unfold, and confusing directions don't quite get me where I want to go.

There was the year after college when I took a job I didn't like just to get my foot in the door. When opportunities failed to emerge, I wondered why I had to stay at that unchallenging job much longer than I wanted to before I could shut the door on that season and move on.

I recall the year I was so excited to plan a new house, shrugging off my builder's advice on what to consider for resale value, so sure it would be my forever-home. But years later I sold the house and reluctantly locked the door for the last time, not entirely certain where I'd live next.

And the time a door opened to the possibility of a promising new relationship, only to realize we were headed in different directions and the door swung shut, painfully closing on my hopes and dreams too.

I can imagine you too have probably had doors unexpectedly close or stay tightly locked, no matter how hard you pounded your fists on them or tried to jiggle the handle.

But sometimes a door is cracked and we get a glimpse of what's ahead. Sometimes it takes more than one try to get where we're going. And sometimes out of the blue, a door miraculously reopens that long ago was closed.

Maybe when the way ahead confuses us or the crowds and uncertainty overwhelm us, up is the only way forward

That's when we raise our desires, hopes, petitions and even the questions, up to God.

"For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." -LK 11:10

And maybe it’s the doors that catch our fingers in them as we try to keep them from closing -- the doors that we try to pry open but can't, that bring us what we didn't know we needed. 

That's when we realize that only God can open the doors.

We might think we have the talent, the confidence, the skills to open all the doors we want to walk through, but really it's up to God. 

He is the one who calls us, tenderly allures us and leads us  --even if it's to the wilderness -- and there he will provide himself as the hope, the strength, and the guidance that we need.

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope." - Hos. 2:14-15

So here in the fresh new days of this year, I have to think there are doors of hope yet to be opened for all of us. 

It might not be time for it to fully swing open yet but maybe there's a little grate in the gate, giving us a glimpse of days that await, flowering with new adventures and friendships, and a space to breathe, rest and savor life’s pleasures.

{I'm wondering if you can see it too?}

I’m really not quite sure how I managed to find the TSA office. 

On the third floor I finally got out of the elevator and randomly headed left, even though both directions held what looked like miles of airline check-in desks. 

I rounded a corner and there miraculously in front of me was the landmark banking center sign I was looking for with the TSA office across from it.

I got my fingerprints scanned, answered a few questions and paid the fee. 

The agent told me I’d be approved in a few weeks and receive my traveler number.

He wished me happy future travels.

I retraced my steps back to the elevators and out to the parking garage. 

I looked at the garage elevators but I knew I was parked just a few flights up from the ground floor.

So I opted to take the stairs. 

A little note on the photos: all the doors are in St. Augustine, Florida.

I'm having coffee with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. Click the image to join me there to read posts from my blogging friends.