Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Not what you expected

Pain during the holidays. 

It's pretty common from what I've observed, these past forty years, though nobody would seek it out intentionally and add it onto their already over-filled life plates.  It's one of those things that can come in all kinds of forms and show up regularly like clock-work, or out of the blue in a way that takes your breath away.  It can come from relationships, plans turned sideways, jobs lost, finances in a tangle, or betrayals of many kinds.  It can come from expectations not met or no will to have expectations period, based on pains of the past.  It can hit you so hard that you sink into a depression, or make you want to run from all social obligations.  Pain during the holidays can load your shoulders down so that you can't focus on the Reason for the Season and you end up missing the entire point while you're left with your head down, sorting details "just to get through."  

I haven't gotten to Christmas yet but our small, extended family is dealing with the pain of Alzheimers.  It's hard to see that blinking at me, in black and white.  If I could, I would single-handedly banish it from the planet, I hate it SO MUCH.  I want my old daddy back and I don't want to see my mama hurting and being strong for all of us.  I want life to be what I expected it to be and go how I expected it to go... not this... this crappy new plan. The truth is, it's often... not what we expected. Pain comes in many shapes and sizes, and sadly, we can all relate. 

It's so easy to get caught up in life, thinking about what "we're going to do" and "where we're going to go" and then that awful driver, pain, slams his car into you from the side, or rear-ends you when you're not looking and suddenly you're hurting and dealing with the extensive damage. The other day, I heard a friend say, "I just want to get through the holidays already."  Pain was taking it's toll on her heart and the holidays ended up being the thing on the plate that was overwhelming her, when really, it was the pain itself that was causing her overwhelmed state of mind.

It made me pause and wonder.... what if... we're supposed to let pain push us toward God and into His arms during this chaotic season.  What if we actually did that?  What if we spent more time than normal talking to Him, thanking Him for all things good and bad, laying our troubles at His feet.  Would our holiday have peace, even in a sea of questions and "not what we expected's?"  If nothing else, it wouldn't hurt, right?  Press in.

The truth is this; God never wastes our pain- He promises that He doesn't.  He holds every tear, knows every hair on our heads and loves us unconditionally in spite of the pain we ourselves have caused!  He allows the hard stuff for His reasons, not because He is an awful God who loves it when we suffer. Especially at Christmastime.  We are always a part of His grand plan, a thread woven into a far bigger, more beautiful picture and the only part we can see are the tangles on the backside of the tapestry we're being worked into.  I said this on Instagram last night... "Staying soft takes work but it doesn't drain us the way bitterness does and in the end, it is always worth it!  I loved the verse Lamentations 3:22-24 in the Message version- "God's loyal love couldn't have run out, his merciful love couldn't have dried up.  They're created new every morning. How great is your faithfulness!  I'm sticking with God (I say it over and over). He's all I've got left."  

I don't know where you're at in life.  Maybe you're blissfully pain-free and all your details are lining up just how you expected them to.  But... if... just maybe, you're in the boat alongside me, and it's not what you expected, let's make a pact, you and I.  Let's press IN.  Let's press deeper than we ever have.  Let's lay it ALL down at His feet and let Him do as He wants with us and within us.  Someone hurt you?  Pray for God's blessing over their life right now.  Even if you have to grit your teeth to get the words out. Something went sideways on you? Thank God for it right now, even if your words don't match the feelings in your aching heart right this moment... ask Him to change the feelings.  He has always done that for me when I've asked... sometimes it's taken a little time, but He has always been faithful.

Let's press in to HIM, and away from the pain.  We've got this, because He's got us. 

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Sunday, December 6, 2015

A few holiday touches in our home

I so appreciated being able to blog my heart out in my previous post about finding peace within this often chaotic season.  I wanted to share a few photos of our home with you after the sharing of my heart.  Like I said, I have tried to make sure that Jesus is very present throughout our decor, so we remember to focus on Him all season long.  Mostly, I went a little buck wild with fresh greenery.  Trader Joe's supplied the majority of my treasures in tiny wreaths, cedar garlands and mistletoe.  I couldn't help myself.  I even went back for seconds on a few items! But truthfully, it's my favorite way to decorate.  I also raided my son's feather collection, used several of own art pieces, a few other precious art pieces, some magazine pages that I clipped and framed (hello gorgeous red barn from Country Living), and some special items from Ever Thine Home + signs from Between You and Me and House of Belonging.

Our house configuration changed since last Christmas (we moved the family desk into the dining room, and then we purchased a bookcase/tv unit from Ikea) which made it difficult to find a perfect place for our small faux tree.  Actually it made it impossible. In our small, open concept space, there was NO place for one.  So... we moved it into the master bedroom, and Ava decorated it with whatever she wanted, which cracked me up completely because she found some photo ornaments that I haven't seen for about a decade, along with some other items.  It makes me smile every time I'm in my room.  Then we bought a three foot fresh tree at the grocery store, and plunked it into a bucket on the side table.  Ava insisted on us using the vintage mercury glass ornaments that Adrain bought me for our anniversary last year for it and it is so sweet.  (I might show it later if the sun ever shines again and I can get a decent photograph.)

The little desk in the guest room, though tiny, was my primary wrapping spot.  I stocked all the drawers with lots of tape, tags, scissors, spools of ribbon and twine, stamps, pens and my address book.  (It's also my packing spot when my shop is open.) It's small but packs a punch when organized well and I love the quiet of that little corner.  Plus I can spread out on the guest bed when I need to and lay all the gifts and boxes there.  The advent bucket countdown calendar was made by me last year & you can see the DIY here.  The Fall on your knees sign was from Tiffini, the O come all ye faithful sign was from Tara.  The beautiful ribbon I wove around the cedar garland came from Ever Thine Home, here, as did the metal nativity. (found here.)

Okay friends, I think that's it for now... here are some of the holiday touches in our home.



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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

easy going...

Happy Thanksgiving dear ones!!

Lately, I have an obsession with Nordic, Scandinavian and Swedish decor influences.  I love the wood tones, the white, the touches of candlelight and clean lines.  It's the simplicity that calls to me.  I can look at soothing images of Nordic homes for hours, no kidding.  (It's made me yank things off walls and re-think a few spaces too. Ha!) 

Somehow the craving for a soothing color palette made it's way into my Thanksgiving table decor (which I set about five minutes ago) and I ended up with my favorite place settings of all time.  (So of course, I grabbed my camera, snapped a few pics and had to share.  Its the blogger in me.) Last week, when Adrain and I were headed off on our weekend away, we stopped in at Ikea for a champagne bucket and a few of their dotted flutes.  I was sad when I saw that they were out of stock, but thrilled when a sweet worker took apart the display and gave me a discount on six of them! (Happy heart moment!)

 I used creamy, frayed burlap for the runner, which is both cheap and easy, Ikea linen napkins, wood slices under a few white candles, along with a string of wire lights that I got last year at my grocery store.  The plates are all our everyday dishes, even the gold dotted plates. (We found those last Christmas at Marshall's and have used them all year.) The other goblets are almost as old as my marriage, and the sea grass chargers were from Ikea years ago. A simple pheasant feather (found years ago- maybe JoAnns?) topped each plate and that is it!  

Oh and I bought my pies this year because... yes.  I'm going the lazy hostess route with most things and all I really have left to do at this point is make some gluten free stuffing and pop the turkey out of it's brine and into a roasting bag. (My hoodlums named him Chuck.  So weird, yet so funny.  They name the turkey every year.)

For those of you who have been buying up the prints from my six day pop up shop... I LOVE YOU!!  You make my whole family cheer every time an order goes through, because my phone makes a "cha-ching" cash register noise that makes our day!!  (If you have already ordered, your items just shipped this afternoon and if you order between now and Sunday night when I close, your items will ship on Monday, first thing!)  This cute card is going into all of your orders! (Click here to shop)

I feel like I can't go without saying this, so if this is for you, then it's really from God because I didn't plan on adding this part, but I feel like I'm supposed to...  There is always something to be thankful for, even if your teenager is slamming doors and saying things that hurt, your baby is up all night crying and you're exhausted, your loved one has a life-altering illness or you're life is up in the air with a job situation, finances, cancer or any other unknowns.  God doesn't take breaks and He is faithful and can be trusted, because He never leaves His watch over you.  Don't give up or let your weary heart or fears overtake you.  He sees YOU.  No matter where you're celebrating or who you're celebrating with this weekend, or what you're facing beyond this weekend, He is your resting place and safe harbor in every storm.  We can thank Him for that, if nothing else.  And a thankful heart, is a peaceful heart. 

Psalm 62:8 (MSG) 
 "My help and glory are in God
    —granite-strength and safe-harbor-God—
So trust him absolutely, people;
    lay your lives on the line for him.
    God is a safe place to be."

Happy Thanksgiving, 

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Saturday, November 14, 2015


  The other day I sat in a coffee shop with my girlfriend and we commiserated on our desire to stop all the pre-thanksgiving Christmas overdrive.  (We blame the violent blast of cinnamon scented air as we enter all craft and home improvement stores. It flips some kind of instinct in me that makes me want to run.)  True story, I actually walked into Pier 1 the other day looking for simple white cloth napkins for Thanksgiving (harder to find than you might think) and walked immediately back out.  Christmas and Thanksgiving decor were competing so hard, that there was hardly room to walk around and the whole place felt too much of an overwhelming thing.  I couldn't do it. A little overlap is fine and totally acceptable... but it's getting to be too much out there!

Then my girlfriend and I laughed, because we both sounded like old grinchy ladies.. and then I realized that maybe it was just because we might only have five or six more total Thanksgivings with things "as they are".... and then I wanted to cry because well...I only have five more Thanksgivings (INCLUDING THIS ONE) until my boy is in college... wahaaaaa!

I can't even.

So I planted my paper white bulbs and shot some pretty pics in the soft morning light.  I enjoyed the peace of the quiet morning while a very tall boy clad in flannel pajamas, ate a huge bowl of cereal at the same counter that he once wasn't tall enough to see over. And I didn't dwell.  I just savored.  Because it's precious and I want to do my best at savoring right now.   

On a side note, my 50mm lens stopped working when Adrain and I went to Mexico last spring.  I was so upset over it, that I hadn't really used my camera since. The 50mm is my favorite lens and takes the best photos with the best light. I never felt very inspired with the big, huge lens on the camera.  It wasn't the same.  Well, anyway, a few weeks ago I dug it out of my camera bag, cleaned it really well and prayed over it and it worked!  I nearly cried.  I was so thrilled that I've been photographing life up a storm again so be warned... image overload coming this way again. Ha! (I think I'll savor that too.)

Before I go, (and at the risk of bringing up too much Christmas before Thanksgiving... hahaha!) I wanted to say that after much encouragement from you guys, tons of discussions and prayers on my part, I have decided to do (hopefully) quarterly one week pop up shops for my Etsy shop over the course of the next year! I will hopefully have a few new items each opening and a week seems to be about all I can handle with my limited time.  So.... I have one more week-long pop up shop coming on November 23 and I would LOVE to have you stop by! 

I will be selling all the old favorite prints you've probably seen, along with these four brand new pieces, just in time for holiday gift giving or home decorating! (I am seriously so in love with them I can't even stand it.) So be thinking of that, and as always YOU guys are the reason I can do this, and I love you all to pieces!!  Without you, I'd have no shop.  

Okay, I'm doing something amazing with 60 lemons in my kitchen right now so I can't chat anymore...  but, it smells like heaven in here!!  You'll have to wait and see what I'm doing.  It's going to be goooood!


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Monday, October 26, 2015

For this, I have Jesus.

I have been dying to get a little quiet computer time to share (document) some of the encouragements I have been finding lately as I battle fears.  Just the other day I was particularly worried and fearful about this "thing" I have been blogging vaguely about.  It's looming ahead of me over the coming months, and the majority of my fears center around the questions, "Will God provide and can He be trusted to lead me the best way?"  I've mentioned this all before, and at some point I'll give more details.  (Sometimes less details are nice though, aren't they?) 

  Anyway, I stopped drying my hair (I was getting ready and worrying, as the two seem to go hand-in-hand on some days) and I prayed, "Okay God.  Are you listening?  I need some immediate reassurance in this whole providing for my needs fear." And then I stood there in my bathroom, silent hair dryer in hand, and I waited.  In the still moment, I suddenly remembered that in my morning rush, I had forgotten to read the Daily Bread.  I skeptically muttered, "Oh okay whatever... is that You God... or just me?"  (But regardless, I grabbed it and opened it, because if that thought to read it WAS prompted by God, why not?) I'm sure you can surmise what happened next.  The daily bread that day spoke on the topic of God's provisions. Tears fell. I read, "God knows exactly what you are facing today.  Isaiah reminds us that God's knowledge of us is so intimate that our names were written on the palms of His hands (Isa. 49:16).... God is aware of every detail of our lives.  And He has given us His Spirit to guide, to comfort, and to strengthen us. Think of the challenges you face at this moment, and then write these words beside each one as a reminder of His faithfulness and care: "For this, I have Jesus." 

The reminder that God has engraved my name on the palm of His hand has followed me around everywhere.  I can't escape it.  But that's really the point.  We are never far from His thoughts because he carries us everywhere, along with all our details, our messes, our failures, our strivings, and successes.  He is for us.  We can give thanks for that one fact alone, if nothing else!!

 Then I went to church and hey... guess what the sermon was about?  Yep.  Being fearful versus being thankful.  (I pulled grammies hankie out of my purse and I used it.)  Our pastor spoke on the scientific side of what being thankful does to our brain chemistry and it was fascinating!  You can read a great article on it here but the bottom line is that the act of expressing thanks for things in our lives, reduced depression, helps us sleep better, improves health etc.  I loved this excerpt; "They found that subjects who showed more gratitude overall had higher levels of activity in the hypothalamus. This is important because the hypothalamus controls a huge array of essential bodily functions, including eating, drinking and sleeping. It also has a huge influence on your metabolism and stress levels. From this evidence on brain activity it starts to become clear how improvements in gratitude could have such wide-ranging effects from increased exercise, and improved sleep to decreased depression and fewer aches and pains. Furthermore, feelings of gratitude directly activated brain regions associated with the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine feels good to get, which is why it’s generally considered the “reward” neurotransmitter. But dopamine is also almost important in initiating action. That means increases in dopamine make you more likely to do the thing you just did. It’s the brain saying, “Oh, do that again.”  Gratitude can have such a powerful impact on your life because it engages your brain in a virtuous cycle... So once you start seeing things to be grateful for, your brain starts looking for more things to be grateful for. That’s how the virtuous cycle gets created."

Being thankful in an unknown life moment or a deep ocean of fear is like a life raft headed toward safety. No matter what we face, no matter how afraid we are, He is for us and He knows our details. We can be thankful for His provision, and for this... all our moments, we have Jesus.
 P.S. (How cute is this photo I took over the weekend of my husband reading Green Eggs and Ham to our niece?) Coming soon, I am going to share a few darling things for your Thanksgiving home, from Ever Thine Home!  Stay tuned!
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