Thursday, September 27, 2012

Homemade Handprint Owl Art

There was a blank wall right by my kitchen that I had been wanting to fill ever since we moved into this house four years ago.  The empty space was in perfect view from my green chair and once I put my cozy fall decorations up a couple weeks ago, the spot seemed extra empty!  I was having no trouble finding artwork to put there, I was just having trouble finding funds to pay for it!  So I went to Hobby Lobby with a 40% coupon, came home with a pack of two large canvases for $4.79, and decided to try to make something creative using the kids' handprints.  I am not an artist by any means, but I looked online for inspiration, used little hands and paints supplies we already had, and came up with this very simple owl painting...

And I really love it!  It was incredibly easy.  I started by painting the canvas yellow (my favorite color) and painting owl forms, one brown and one gray.

I then painted white circles for eyes and orange triangles for beaks.

I added dots in the center of the eyes for pupils, and painted two simple branches for the owls to perch on.

Then came the fun part.  I used Trevor's handprints to make green feathers on the gray owl, and Madi's handprints to make orange feathers on the brown owl.

Our handmade, handprinted artwork is now a charming addition to our autumn nest!

Jimmy hung it up in that empty space and it fits perfectly!  Now I have the sweetest view from my green chair!  After we made our owl art, Madi also painted a picture for her teacher, who loves owls and decorates their classroom with them.  It was just precious and painted with much, much love.

It is now hanging on the wall of her classroom!

Speaking of classrooms, I spent my morning subbing in 4th grade.

My entire afternoon teaching back to back piano and vocal lessons.

And my evening at church for band practice.

I'm a tired girl!

So, goodnight!  Sleep tight!  Do something creative with your kiddos this weekend to add color to your home!  They'll feel so special being a part of it.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sacred Scars And Faces Of Grace

It's interesting how some of us, whether by nature or nurture or some complex combination of both, live as pursuers of perfection and pleasers of people, carrying the heavy weight of expectation on our shoulders but wearing the brightest of smiles on our faces.

We were the girls with straight A's, the girls who actually cried when we got the occasional B and marveled how some could float through school just passing by yet seemed so unworried and free.

We were the mediators of our childhood friendships, trying to keep everyone happy. Trying to keep everyone happy would be a frustrating but constant companion of ours.

We were involved in everything, and excelled at much.  We received many ribbons and awards.  Ironically, in our own heads we never quite measured up.  We were incredibly aware of second place ribbons and first runner up positions.  Those were failures rather than successes in our minds.

We grew up to be women, women who wanted to excel and most of all, women who wanted to please.

God has been teaching me just how deep my desire to please people runs.

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, 
I would not be a servant of Christ.
Galatians 1:10

I always dreamed of being a wife and a mother.  And my dream came true, beautifully true.  I am a wife to a wonderful husband and mother to two incredible children.  It is bliss, passion, teamwork, belly laughter, adventures and outings, creativity and color, magical moments.

But sometimes it is not.  

And sometimes at the end of the day, no one seems to be very happy with me at all.

So I internalize and strive and sometimes unexpected tears fall onto my pillow.

Cease striving and know that I am God.
Psalm 46:10a

Not only am I a wife, I am the wife of a pastor.  I count it a privilege to be a pastor's wife.  I have led people to worship, I have led people to Jesus.  I have mentored, taught, helped, given, counseled, and enjoyed the sweetest of fellowship.  It is a noble and beautiful calling.

But being a pastor's wife is not always easy.

In fact, sometimes it is very hard.

And any of us could tell you that we privately carry the weight of heavy burdens and a load of secret hurts.  Our pain is very personal, often handled undercover and stamped confidential.

There came a season when I started to come undone.  So I would cry in the shower for after all, isn't that the safest place to cry? And it was excruciatingly painful but it was also exquisitely beautiful because for the first time this pleaser realized that my most sincere and valiant efforts were futile, and in my brokenness and helplessness I experienced an unbelievable intimacy with my Savior.

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, 
and familiar with pain.
Isaiah 53:3a

I would start to understand that God wanted me to cry out to Him like a hurt little girl to her daddy, to run sobbing into His arms.  I experienced His sweet comfort and presence.

"So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”
Romans 8:15

I would bear wounds from others, but God would sovereignly turn them into sacred scars.  I experienced His gentle healing.

 For I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus.
Galatians 6:17b

I would begin to face the day's responsibilities and complexities with more inspiration than expectation.  I experienced His unspeakable joy.

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.
Psalm 28:7

I would forgive others, and I would also start to forgive myself for not being perfect, which in clearer terms meant I started accepting Christ's finished work for me on the cross.  In this finality I would experience His breathtaking freedom.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
John 8:36

Then I would experience some of His richest blessings when I least expected it.  I would open a wounded, weary heart up to a few friends, old and new.  And these women would become the faces of grace to me.

One day I would even find myself sitting make-up free across from one of these women, sharing coffee and hidden heart places while a baby fussed and cooed, and I would tell this friend I sometimes cry in the shower and instead of being disappointed in me, I would see her eyes fill with tears because, guess what, sometimes she does too.

We're all in desperate need of a Savior.

Even those of us with a pile of almost perfect report cards and dusty ribbons tucked away in some corner of our home or hearts.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
John 15:5

And when we start to taste and see, when we cease striving and start receiving, when we accept the grace of Jesus we tell others about as being for us too, brokenness tears apart a seemingly seamless place inside us.  It gets a little messy. We start to allow tears we've held back for far too long to flow.  We discover the open arms of our Abba Father.  We discover the open arms of a grace-filled friend.

Honestly, we discover grace.

The wonderful and matchless grace of Jesus.

The one that, like we sang about as children, is broader than the scope of my transgressions.  The one that is deeper than the mighty rolling sea.

The one that can take away my burden and set my spirit free.

This is my story. This is my testimony of grace.

The wonderful grace of Jesus is reaching me.

And His grace can reach you too.

Yes, you - beautiful, broken you.

One day, your scars will tell a story.

Your story.

Your own unique testimony of your journey towards grace.

Open your arms wide in surrender and let Him take you on the journey.

Oh, if there is one thing in life I could help encourage you to do, here it is.

Let Jesus take you to grace.

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Taste Of Maryland

I know I've told you before how growing up a Maryland girl created in me a love for all things crab, shrimp, seafood, and Old Bay Seasoning.  There is nothing quite like the taste of Old Bay!  My cheeks pucker a little as I type this just thinking about its unique savory and spicy goodness.  Pass the steamed shrimp and vinegar, please!

A couple months ago my mom introduced me to a fabulous use of Old Bay and I have been meaning to share it with you!  If I remember correctly it may have been one of her Weight Watchers recipes, and it is an easy to make treat that is not bad for you!

You start by popping popcorn kernels in one of those microwaveable popcorn bowls where you don't have to add any oil or fat.  I put in a 1/3 cup kernels.  The thing is, you have to stay close by to listen for the popping to slow down because it can burn fast! In my microwave I figured out it takes about 2 minutes and 50 seconds, but yours could be completely different so don't leave the room or your house could smell like burnt popcorn in no time flat!

Once your popcorn is popped, put it in a large Ziploc bag or mixing bowl then either shake or stir it with a drizzle or two of olive oil...

Then sprinkle on some Old Bay and shake or stir until the popcorn is coated.  You can add just a pinch or be a little generous if you love it like I do!

This is a low calorie, high fiber, flavor loaded snack!

A little taste of Maryland, no matter where you may be!

Thanks, Mom!  You are still teaching me new things all the time.

A Taste Of Florida

A few weeks ago, my mom had us over for the most delicious fish dinner.  She served tilapia with homemade mango pineapple salsa, avocado and tomato salad, and other lovely sides.  Everything was incredibly fresh and delicious.  The tilapia was seasoned so beautifully, and it turns out it was thanks to this taste of Florida...

I had never heard of Everglades Seasoning.  My mom discovered it when she asked some questions while purchasing fish at Publix and they recommended it.  It is made here in the Sunshine State and has incredible flavor!  Tuesday night she made tilapia again, this time with rice, broccoli, and wedge salad.  Once again, the meal was fresh and delicious and the fish was seasoned to perfection.  After trying Everglades Seasoning a few weeks ago, I liked it so much I went to Publix and bought some.  I discovered that if you mix it with this...

And a little of this...

It makes for a quick and healthy but very tasty lunch!

I have no idea if you can find this in other states but it's sure worth looking for!  It looks like you can buy it online here. And locals, many of you have probably used this for years but if not, you're welcome!  ;)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Autumn Indulgences

This is absolutely, positively one of my very favorite indulgences this time of year.

I didn't even like candy corn until I tried it with peanuts and now I can't resist little handfuls of this perfectly sweet and salty combination!

Of course, I also can't resist baking a fresh loaf of pumpkin bread this time of year...or baking it into flowers and trains for a special after school snack!

The other night I savored a warm bowl of butternut squash bisque, and I have already enjoyed two pumpkin spice lattes from Starbucks which were divine.

Now if the stores would just start stocking the pumpkin spice coffee creamer.  Where are those little plastic bottles of happiness, anyway?!  I check every single time I go to the store, which let's face it is practically every day...  

Oh, I forgot to mention the pumpkin doughnut from Dunkin' Donuts.  Be still my heart.

What are your favorite Autumn Indulgences?!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Dance

I can't remember if it was last week or the week before, but I know it was a Wednesday morning.  As usual, I was up before anyone else and turned on some lights in the kitchen because these days the sun takes longer to rise.  In the dark of morning I spread peanut butter over his favorite soft cinnamon bread and poured a glass of orange juice so his breakfast would be ready and waiting.

Like every morning, I hated to wake him up.  He always looks so warm and comfortable, nestled in perfectly and enjoying the best of sleep.  If only I could let the sun wake him, but kindergarten calls so I must instead.  As for kindergarten, he is loving every minute, his eagerness exceeding any expectations I had for him.  God is faithfully answering the quiet prayers of a mother.

After he was uniform clad and mostly awake, he sat down at the table.  In quietness he ate his breakfast as a few shreds of light came through the window.  The day would be a cloudy one, so the morning was bathed in gray shadows.

I was scurrying about the house and the kitchen, doing the fast paced dance of motherhood that somehow gets a family out the door on time.  I was working at the counter after he finished his breakfast when he walked over to me and said simply, "That was good, Momma," and reached out his arms.  I scooped him up and for a moment the frenzy stopped, and suddenly the dance was sacred as I stood in the kitchen swaying back and forth, back and forth, silently holding a boy who will soon outgrow my arms but will always fit in the deepest places of my heart.

He held on tightly, and so did I, and then it was time once again to let go and release him into a world of learning and lunchboxes and all things new and exciting to his earnest little mind.

In the letting go my heart was somehow full.

And as summertime turns into autumn, I am reminded anew that seasons will always change...

There is a time for fast pace and a time for stillness...

That mornings sometimes begin in the dark and sometimes in the light, but every day is a gift...

And while the tempo and time may vary, when given the opportunity, 
always dance.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Gingerbread And Grace For Our Best And Worst Moments

She was sick when we picked her up from school yesterday, with an out of the blue fever that I think was the worst part of an old-fashioned cold.  Her tears fell from discomfort, and I put her immediately in the bathtub and then in fresh pajamas on the couch once we arrived home.  She stayed there most of the evening while I stayed close by, putting out our fall decorations.  She slept with me last night and at 4:30, her restlessness woke me up.  The fever was climbing again.  A dose of medicine, some water, and a little while later, we both got a bit more sleep.

Once the boys were off this morning, I had the unexpected treat of spending the day uninterrupted with her.  Errands would have to wait, for she needed to rest at home. With all the sights and scents of autumn surrounding us, there was a tangible warmth and coziness in the air.

I mixed up some gingerbread batter and put it in the oven to bake.  We looked at her American Girl catalog, dreaming and wishing.  All of a sudden she said, "Something smells like Christmas in here!"  Her surprise and delight when I showed her the warm-out-of-the-oven treat made me smile on the inside.  I made us a tray of gingerbread and cinnamon tea, and we sipped and savored while watching Little Women, being transported together again into the enchanting world of the March girls.  We laughed, cried, imagined, and were mesmerized by the beautiful musical score.  The moment was real, it was alive, it was sugar and spice and everything nice, just how she is.

Well, how she is most of the time that is.  And when she isn't we learn together, for sometimes I guide her gently with wisdom, and other times I am impatient.  Sometimes neither one of us are sugar or spice or as nice as we should be in our responses and reactions and on the harder days, when I lay my weary head down and wonder why on earth do I yell, I ask God to forgive me and guide me gently and give me wisdom.

"He will feed His flock like a shepherd; 
He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry them in His bosom, 
And gently lead those who are with young." 

Isaiah 40:11 

You see, I am still learning of grace, both how to give it and how to accept it.  Accepting grace isn't always easy for a girl like me.  It is far easier to believe God loves me when I am the happy mom pulling the surprise pan of gingerbread out of the oven than when I am the exhausted, crabby, overwhelmed mom.

The mystery is that He sees both and loves me still.

Just as I know her best days and worst days, yet love her more than a heart can contain.

And just how God knows your brightest and darkest moments but loves you. He extends His grace to you.  At your best, and at your worst. That's the whole point, really.  We are not sufficient of ourselves, no matter how good we are.  We need Him.

"Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God..."

2 Corinthians 3:5

Today was a good day.  The sweetest of days.  One of those days you want to memorize, tuck in your back pocket so you can pull it out and remember clearly the warmth, the closeness, the tenderness, the scents, the softness, the sounds, the serenity.

The love.

The moment.

The beautiful, remarkable grace.

"And it's only time, but it flies right by, 
and today is sweeter than we know..."

Francesca Battistelli

"When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half-done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father's full giving is only begun.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power has no boundaries known unto men,
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again."

Annie J. Flint