Thoughts for Tuesday, October 30th

Outside my windows… we’ve had snow dust my yard a few times now, but it hasn’t stuck around for long. Yet.

Inside my house… the spot next to the coal stove has once again become everyone’s favorite place to sit!

Counting 1000 gifts… Beautiful things — and beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder.

Prayers of the heart… for wisdom and words in November.

What the (not quite so) little ones are up to… working on sewing projects and playing games while they wait for dinner to finish cooking.

From my playlist… today it’s just the sound of the coal stove and dishwasher humming away that break up the silence.

From my reading list… Little Book of Hygge. I’ll be chipping away at it as I have time in between life and writing this month. Interesting little read so far though.

From my needlework basket… fingerless mitts from my favorite pattern. The perfect project for a special ball of yarn, and tremendously useful to boot. They make lovely little gifts as well! You can find that pattern here:

In the learning room… we’re in our last 6-week block of school before Christmas break. The thing that I love most about year-round school is that it allows us to take an extra long break in December!

Random ramblings… NaNoWriMo begins on Thursday, and I’m looking towards it with a mixture of excitement and terror. I said at the beginning of this year that I wanted to “write the hard”. Ironically, I didn’t realize how hard it would be to write about hard things. (I know how foolish that sounds, but my brain works in weird ways…) Hard doesn’t always mean bad though. Doing hard things can be the most rewarding and make the most difference. Sometimes we say hard when we really mean “awful”, and perhaps it was a mistake for me to phrase things as I did. Maybe I should say, “I’m going to write about awful things that happened, and that will be hard to do.” It’s not the hard part that’s bad, because the hard part of that is what will help me find the beautiful mosaic amongst the broken pieces.

Profound ponderings… “The darkest day. The blackest hour. Chin up, shoulders back. Let’s see what we’re made of, you and I.” — The 12th Doctor

Caught on film…

A Thread of Grace

I want to chicken out. I’m berating myself for telling anyone that I was writing a memoir for NaNoWriMo this year because now I can’t chicken out. That’s why I told people, because I knew that my stubborn streak would kick in no matter how badly I wanted to bail if other folks knew my goal.

I’ve read and heard the suggestion in more than one place. Write out the story of the abuse to help you deal with it and heal the old hurts. Writing is how I process. But writing makes it real. If I don’t write it down, maybe I can pack it away into boxes and pretend that since it was in the past it doesn’t have anything to do with my present. The only thing that strategy has gotten me is a pile of health problems and a heart in turmoil over things that I never faced head on. Life throws enough at us without dragging around a bunch of junk from the past because you never bother to sort through it and let the stuff that you don’t need anymore go.

The times when I’ve written little bits and pieces of my story have done more than just allowed me to face the things I’d rather not. In the writing, I start to see the lesson, the miracles, and somewhere along the way, that piece of my past doesn’t seem to hurt me quite as badly as it used to. Some days I wish I was an artist or a musician who could translate all of it into a painting or music. I feel like those mediums can express deep feelings better than mere words. Words are my medium though, and so I pick up the pen or sit at the keyboard. I think it was Steve Saint who said, “God doesn’t waste hurts.” I hope that’s true. Humans are always searching for the meaning in life, and if there’s some meaning, some purpose to the hurts, then maybe it’s easier to make peace with them. I’ve seen God bring beautiful things out of terrible circumstances. There’s something about knowing that a struggle is not in vain that gives us strength and hope. I find myself in need of both at the moment.

And so I’ll write.

I’ll write a story that I desperately wish was fiction. A story not meant to be read by others or published anywhere. Somewhere in that story, I’ll find a thread of grace that runs through the whole tapestry – the handiwork of God in my life. Maybe there’s a reason after all.

I know that I’m not the only one walking around with a bunch of junk from the past. I couldn’t avoid it forever, and neither can you. But if I can decide to deal with it, then so can you. (Really, I’m the biggest chicken in the world, and if I can be brave enough to do this, then you definitely can!) Whatever medium lets you express and process all of the overwhelming feelings you have about what happened, use it. Find that thread of grace in it all, and you’ll find God’s fingerprints all over your life, even in the hard places.

Red Lipstick

Grammy Vivian was a tall woman with dark hair, and I’m told she was always stylish. She passed away when I was only two, and the only memory I have related to her is the hospital bed at our house. Still, I imagine her as one of those tall, effortlessly elegant women like you’d see in the “golden age” of films. My sister is like that too. Tall, gorgeous dark hair, blue eyes, and definitely stylish!

I’m sort of the exact opposite. At 5’ 7”, I’m a tall-ish woman, but not remarkably so. My once-red hair has faded to more of a medium brown with a healthy dose of gray thrown in! If I have a personal style, it’s closer to weird and quirky than effortlessly elegant. I’ve made attempts to look more “grown-up” over the years, but it always left me frustrated and feeling like I needed to be someone that I wasn’t.

Now, I’m a firm believer that Mom was right in the sentiment, “Beauty is as beauty does.” It’s far more important to cultivate our faith, and to be kind to people, than it is to look pretty. We can definitely go overboard and become too obsessed with appearances too. On the flip side, I don’t think there’s anything at all wrong with taking some care in our clothing. While I don’t agree with the sentiment that makeup is necessary for all women, there’s certainly nothing wrong with wearing it if you want to. (If you feel like you have to, then I think it’s a good idea to explore why you are so uncomfortable if you’re not wearing it.) Like so much of life, there’s a balance to be found!

I find myself wanting to make an effort in this area again. Blame it on the gorgeous red lipstick that I got a week ago. My mom’s makeup routine consisted of Oil of Olay and bright shades of fuchsia or mauve lipstick. She totally rocked the bright lipstick! In a fit of nostalgia, I decided that I was going to try wearing red lipstick. I hate having to fuss with touching up typical lipstick, not to mention lipstick smudges on my teacups! That led to trying out a popular brand that a number of friends had raved about because it truly stayed put. It’s a bold lip color, but I really like it! Maybe it’s OK to put a little bit of effort into how I look after all. My goal is to develop a simple, pared down wardrobe and a basic makeup routine that doesn’t make me feel like I’m trying to be someone I’m not.

My makeup routine is never going to be complicated. My eyeshadow palette and this stay-put lipstick are the only things I’m interested in keeping in my makeup bag. If Mom could get away with Oil of Olay and lipstick, then just pick the makeup I like to use and skip the rest.

My clothes style is going to be a bit harder to figure out I think. I can’t even walk on high heels. Skinny jeans are absolutely not going to make an appearance in my wardrobe. I don’t like most make-up. When it comes to jewelry, I’m definitely a minimalist. I don’t care if chocolate brown and pumpkin orange are my most flattering colors, because wearing them doesn’t make me smile. If it can’t be tossed in the washer and dryer, then it doesn’t belong in my dresser. (Hand knits are the exception to this rule!) I’m definitely keeping my bright teal crocs, tie-dye, and my favorite graphic tees. Most fashion trends end up looking ridiculous on me. Can we talk about the lack of any kind of rhyme or reason to women’s clothing sizes?!? Not to mention the appalling lack of decent pockets…

As you can imagine, I’m no one’s first choice to take clothes shopping. Unless you want someone to commiserate with you about how much we both hate clothes shopping while on our way to the ice cream shop, that is. In that case, let me know when we’re going out for ice cream!

The idea of these capsule wardrobes where you stick with a limited color scheme and fewer clothes appeals to me though. I prefer to keep my wardrobe pared down enough to fit in just one dresser. Sticking to colors that will pretty much go together has a lot of advantages too. It would be nice to be able to pull together either a casual or dressy outfit out of the same few basics. I’m still not touching skinny jeans or heels, and as much as I’m told I should pick “flattering colors”, I’m going to pick the colors that make me smile when I wear them instead. When I started pruning the clothes in my dresser, I saw a bit of a color scheme emerging. It appears that most of my clothes are black, gray, or navy, with a splash or two of red. I think I’ll add a few basic pieces following this color scheme. Maybe a couple of teal or deep purple items too because those are colors that make me smile!

Munchkin was intrigued by this capsule wardrobe idea, so we spent Sunday afternoon going through her closet. We cleared out a LOT of outgrown clothes, and pared the rest down to reflect her chosen color scheme and a good variety of pieces that she could easily mix and match. It was surprisingly fun, and she was thrilled when she discovered how much easier it was to find the items that she really liked to wear when we cleared out the rest.

I started thinking about what kinds of messages about beauty that I want to pass along to her. I want her to know that you don’t have to have a huge wardrobe with lots of fancy and expensive clothes to look nice, because a few carefully chosen pieces can let you put together an outfit appropriate for just about any occasion. I want her to enjoy experimenting with makeup and hair to find what sort of style she likes, but I don’t want her to ever feel like it’s necessary to wear makeup daily. I want her to be comfortable letting her personal style reflect her personality. I’ve taken a page from Mom’s book too and told her often, “Pretty is as pretty does!” I’ve told her that the prettiest women aren’t always the ones who look traditionally beautiful, but are the ones who have a beautiful faith, and show kindness and compassion to others.

Ultimately, our outside appearance is of much less importance than how our heart looks. It’s our heart that God looks at after all! And while we should take the Bible’s warnings about vanity seriously, thinking a bit about the clothes we wear and using makeup doesn’t automatically mean that we’re flirting with vanity or obsessing over our looks to a sinful or unhealthy degree.

Now I want to hear from you! What’s your favorite wardrobe or makeup tip? How do you keep a balanced view of beauty in your life, and keep it from taking over your life?

White Shores

This week will mark nine years since we celebrated Mom’s last birthday, and also nine years since we said goodbye. I can’t help but be a little sad this time of year. Sometimes more than just a little.

Yet, as the verse in 1 Thessalonians says, I don’t sorrow as one who has no hope. I was reminded of this just a couple of weeks ago when watching Return of the King with my older kids. There is a scene where the hobbit Pippin and Gandalf the White are in the midst of a battle they have little hope of winning. Pippin remarks, rather sadly, to Gandalf that he didn’t think it would end this way. What Gandalf said next has stuck with me.

End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path. One that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass… then you see it! White shores… and beyond. A far green country, under a swift sunrise.

That sparked my imagination and painted a lovely picture of Heaven in my mind’s eye. Hope. And in Mom’s case, I could quote A Tale of Two Cities, “…it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

If I must miss my mother, then at least I can take solace in knowing that she is at rest, in a place that I could only begin to dream of. That’s why we don’t sorrow as those who have no hope.

As for me, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Philippians 3:12b NIV) I’ve been redeemed for a reason, and there’s still more here that He would have me do before I reach the white shores. I will press on, missing Mom, yet reminded that her journey didn’t end here nine years ago.

Top 3 Albums that I Get Sentimental About

It’s been a really long week, so I feel like writing about something completely fluffy!

Am I the only one who misses record stores? Flipping through stacks of CDs in search of just the right one, and then the excitement of pulling off the shrink-wrap and popping it in your CD player? Admittedly, it’s wonderfully convenient to be able to download just about any song instantly onto my phone. There was just something fun about visiting your favorite record store though! Since I’m feeling sentimental, I’m going to list the top 3 albums that I’ve got a sentimental attachment to. Be sure to share your own top 3 list in the comments too. I want to see what other gems my readers listen to with fondness!

3) Apollo 13 Soundtrack – James Horner

This was the very first CD that I ever owned. I was in a records store with my mom, and couldn’t seem to decide which album I wanted. Until I saw this one! I fell in love with the movie the first time that I watched it, and it remains a favorite to this day. The music by James Horner was perfect for the film, and only ever enhanced the movie. This is one of those soundtracks when just listening to the music evokes the same feelings as watching the movie did. I fell asleep listening to this album many times in my teen years!

2) The Rocketeer Soundtrack – James Horner

Are we sensing a theme here? Another soundtrack by James Horner! Again, I love the movie, and the soundtrack is just amazing. The opening credit sequence involves an airplane taking off. The music that accompanies the takeoff is exquisite. I can’t listen to it without a sense of wonder and excitement. The reason why this album is on my list though is because it’s the first CD that Aaron gave me. A group of us friends had gone out together to see a movie and stopped by Boarders after getting out of the theater. Aaron and I were both looking though the (rather skimpy) section of movie scores and I mentioned that I’d like to find the Rocketeer soundtrack someday. Lo and behold, he came across the CD and purchased it for me. At that point, we were still only friends, so it seemed like a particularly thoughtful thing for him to do. I love the music, and listening to it always makes me think of Aaron!

1) The Heart of Chicago – Chicago

This is another album that’s on my list because it was a gift from Aaron! He’s given me quite a few music albums over the past 20 years. This particular one was a gift for my 19th birthday, and the first one he gave me after we started seeing each other. I’ve always secretly thought of “You’re the Inspiration” as a perfect description of what I thought of Aaron, even then. I will always sing along with this song, very loudly. (Much to my family’s chagrin considering my utter lack of vocal talent!)

I think I’ll go listen to some music with my evening cup of tea! Don’t forget to share your favorites too!

Thoughts for Tuesday, September 19th

Outside my windows… everything is halfway between summer and fall. The changing of the guard is upon us.

Inside my house… hot tea and fall scented candles can be found on my desk daily right now.

Counting 1000 gifts… reading my great-aunt’s old journals and getting a glimpse of family history.

Prayers of the heart… that our busy fall will go smoothly.

What the (not quite so) little ones are up to… a fall scavenger hunt was on the agenda for today, so now they’re making leaf rubbings with the treasures collected.

From my playlist… a track from Future World Music’s newest album titled “Look to the Stars”. No wonder it’s my favorite track from the album!

From my reading list… Finding Spiritual Whitespace and for fun, Aye Robot.

From my needlework basket… lace knitting with Christmas gifts in mind.

In the learning room… our first block of school weeks will be half over by the end of this week. The kids have really gotten back into the rhythm of school days a little easier than I have this year!

Random ramblings… Sometimes the things that you can do are not the things that you should do. Letting go of those things is a hard battle some days, and letting go of the guilt harder still.

Profound ponderings… “I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people.” – Isaac Newton

Caught on film…

It may be in the 70s outside, but I'm embracing fall at my desk! #reasonstolovemaine #grovecollaborative

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Summer Goals

If you read my blog or follow me on social media, then you’ve probably heard me mention Powersheets a few times this year. It’s a goal-setting workbook that I’ve really enjoyed this year. I absolutely won’t get all the goals I set at the beginning of this year done, but as it’s printed in big letters in the workbook, “Progress, not perfection.”

In addition to my regular Powersheets goal-setting, I also made out a list of Summer Goals and included some ideas from the kids:

Summer planning! #fruitfulsummer

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  1. Order school books.
  2. Tear up living room carpet.
  3. Paint living room.
  4. Make s’mores with the kiddos.
  5. Plant something!
  6. Sort through books.
  7. Camp out in the back yard.
  8. Write a short story.
  9. Paint and re-cover the dining room chairs.
  10. Go out for ice cream.
  11. Visit a lighthouse.
  12. Replace the kitchen sink.

The lighthouse trip was added because Mr. Q requested that we visit a lighthouse for his birthday. Since we live in Maine, that’s a pretty doable idea. The biggest problem will be picking which lighthouse to go see!

Getting rid of the living room carpet is going to have to be put off due to some things that have come up. It might even be next year before I can tackle it, but I still may end up painting the room anyway. We’ll have to see. The dining room chair project is the last bit of my refresh of that room. I use laminated cotton to cover the seats of the chairs because it’s got to be something that’s easy to keep clean! The chairs are actually much older than I am, bought sometime in the 50s with green stamps I believe! I just use spray paint on the metal, and I like the color from my filing cabinet so much that I think I’ll use that. The kitchen sink replacement is a must before winter though. Drains can definitely freeze up here, and leaky faucets will make it happen that much faster.

Oh, I had grand plans for raised beds this summer… If nothing else, I want to put some pansies in a planter outside though. Mom always loved pansies and planted them just about every summer when I was a kid.

Writing a short story? I want to write something fun and short that’s a cool sci-fi adventure. Something that the kids will enjoy reading too. I’m going for a Tom Corbett: Space Cadet feel to it. (The books are out of print, but you can find them for Kindle. Completely dated science and a distinct lack of girls flying rocketships, but still great fun to read!)

The going for ice cream thing may happen more than once, but we’re definitely getting ice cream this weekend! I promised the kids a fun treat this week, and what’s better than ice cream?

So, have you set any goals for the summer? What are you doing while the weather’s nice?

Finding Your Own Way…

When I was 15, my mom was in a near-fatal car accident. For the first week, the doctors weren’t certain that she’d survive. She did survive, but recovery was long, hard, and never quite complete. The next two years were some of the most grueling for our family, and I suffered through months of depression as a result. I tried to confide in someone about it and was promptly told that if a Christian was depressed it was because they weren’t praying hard enough. The guilt that single comment heaped on me did nothing to help me get better, and discouraged me from seeking the counseling I desperately needed.

The internet is filled with people telling us how to do everything from mopping to moving the “right way.” Christians experts are eager to tell us how to do things the “Christian” way. There’s nothing wrong with seeking advice; but it’s easy, too easy, to get stuck in the idea that there’s just one way to do things. Very few things in life are truly one size fits all.

I don’t think any of us would argue that we each have a different combination of talents, personality, and interests. Why then, is it harder for us to accept that we also have different ways of making decisions and dealing with what life hands us?

Practical Things

I’ve been told that my grandmother kept an immaculate house and vacuumed her carpets daily. Balancing work, my husband’s travel schedule, homeschooling four kids, and general life means that my house is not quite as immaculate as Grandma’s. I have tried many methods that promised to be the best way to do things, and none of them really worked out. I finally settled on a compilation of ideas that fits our family. It’s not the way that everyone else does it, but it doesn’t have to be.

Whether you’re figuring out a solution for Mt. Washmore, or picking out a math curriculum, it’s okay for you to toss all of the “shoulds” nagging you and do what works for you and your family. Start from scratch and consider all of the options. Write out a pros and cons list if that helps you think through things. If what you pick isn’t quite right, tweak things until it is, or try something else. Go with what’s best for your family and let go of the guilt!

Faith-Related Things

I always envied the super-spiritual Christians – people who spent two hours a day in prayer, or read the entire Bible in a month. I knew that a daily quiet time was important, but no matter which reading plan, Bible on tape, devotional book, or study guide I tried, I couldn’t seem to figure out how to do it “right.” A year and a half ago, I stumbled upon a blog post about writing out Scripture passages in a journal each day. I enjoy writing things out by hand, and it helped me to connect with the Scriptures in a way that I’d struggled to do before! I’ve even started writing out some of my prayers.
There’s nothing wrong with any of the other things that I mentioned; it’s just a matter of each of us finding out what helps us to grow in our faith. There are foundations of faith that remain constant. We’re all sinners and can only be saved through Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. But, my spiritual growth won’t happen on the same timetable, or even through the same methods, as yours. What’s important is that we cultivate our relationship with God and keep growing!

Hard Things

Life isn’t always easy. As Christians, we have hope that can only be found through our faith in God. As powerful as that is, we can lose sight of it because we’re focused on putting up a good front. We think that Christians shouldn’t feel angry, scared, or depressed. We’re afraid admitting that we do will make people think less of us.

We all have to process and deal with things in our own way. Some need to do this quietly and on their own, some need the support of friends and loved ones who will listen and encourage, and some need the help of a professional. None of these options are any holier than the others. The important thing is to process what has happened and deal with how it’s affecting us. When we stuff all of this down deep instead of facing it, we deprive ourselves of seeing God’s grace in the situation as we work through it. There are things that I don’t think I’ll understand this side of heaven, but I can still see glimpses of God’s hand in my life. That alone is worth the pain of facing the hard things.

“For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.” Philippians 2:13 (HCSB)

DIY Filing Cabinet Upgrade

Red Green might call duct tape the handyman’s secret weapon, but spray paint is definitely the DIY decorator’s secret weapon! A couple of cans of spray paint can transform just about anything. There’s not much that I haven’t tried spray painting, and I’m usually quite happy with the results.

My latest spray paint project was a 2-drawer filing cabinet. It all started when I came across the cute filing cabinets by Poppin. I love the combination of white and a bright pop of color for the drawers! But… I don’t need a new filing cabinet, and at $250 for the cute Poppin version…

Krylon to the rescue! I used spray primer leftover from a previous project. As you can see from the photo, this isn’t the first time that I’ve spray-painted this particular filing cabinet…

It looks pretty rough at this point, but don’t panic! Spray painting takes a lot of coats. Many light coats works better than trying to use just one or two heavy coats. My boys helped me decide which color to use for the drawer fronts, and I think they picked a good one…

I realized at this point that I should have bought an extra can of white because the coverage would have evened out a little better with another coat or two. (I should know by now that it always takes more paint than I think it will!) Even so, now that it’s inside and next to my desk, any unevenness in the white isn’t horribly noticeable. There is a drip on the bottom that I could have sanded out once dry and fixed. Since you’ll only see it if you’re on the floor looking right at the filing cabinet, I opted to let it go.

So, for the cost of a couple of cans of spray paint, I have a cute filing cabinet that matches our school/office/dining room’s new color scheme!

I used Krylon spray paint for this project, but I’ve use Rustoleum in the past as well with good results. Pick whichever one has the color and finish that you’re looking for. (If you buy the 99 cent cans of paint, keep in mind that you’re getting what you pay for in this case…) Here are a few tips to get you started with your own spray paint transformation!

  • Use several light coats as opposed to a heavy one.
  • Paint outside on a good day, preferably with little to no breeze.
  • If there is rust or a shiny finish, use some steel wool or sandpaper before priming.
  • You can skip the primer, but it’s helpful when covering a dark color with a lighter one, on unfinished wood, or when you have a surface that the paint needs a little extra help “gripping”. When in doubt, prime first.
  • Buy an extra can or two of paint because it always takes more than you expect…
  • Follow the directions for re-coating and then let the finished product sit for at least a day so that the paint really has a chance to harden before setting anything in/on it.

What cool projects have you used spray paint for?

Oh, check out what I found in said filing cabinet:

Cleaning out the file drawer and I realized that I’m a bit of a fangirl… #wellplannedgal

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January Goals Check-in

January didn’t go quite the way I planned it… Actually, that pretty much describes my life!

IMG_4827In any case, I had nice, lofty goals and plans for January. Some things came up that did require me taking a step back, but I also discovered that I didn’t break some of my goals down far enough. For example, I wanted to work on novel re-writes. I did work a little bit on that. However, since it was a monthly goal and not something I had listed to work on daily, it was too easy to keep pushing that back instead of making even a little progress. The same thing happened with my reading goals. This lead me to tweak my February goals by adding in 30 minutes of writing and 30 minutes of reading daily. Naturally, if I get into the writing groove then I’ll write longer than that, but the point is that I need to make working on writing daily a priority. NaNoWriMo showed me how powerful working every day on something can be!

I was most consistent with Write the Word in January. Write the Word are the guided journals that I use for my daily Scripture writing. I’ve found that copying scripture into a journal is the most effective way for me to slow down and ponder it. I stumbled across the idea last year and it’s been so helpful!

IMG_4828I wanted to establish “Morning Time” with my kids this year as well. That’s something else that needs so tweaking. Mornings just get busy for us. The kids are all jumping into their studies, I’m getting some work in, and on the list goes. Afternoon teatime work out better for our family. So, I’m working to get that into our routine. We’ve been memorizing the Westminster Shorter Catechism and using a great devotional book, Training Hearts, Teaching Minds, to go along with it. Each week covers one question, so it’s going to take us a couple of years to work through the whole book, but that’s OK. We also read a poem from Favorite Poems Old and New. I’ll add in a few more things as we get into more of a routine with this.

I really like the Powersheets workbook because instead of just setting yearly goals and stopping there, I set specific goals and action steps for each month. Then, at the end of the month, I can re-evaluate and change things as necessary. I work better with things broken down into more detailed plans than just a single big goal. Also, purposely re-evaluating each month makes me feel free to change my approach or even tweak my goals without guilt. Previously, I equated changing my goals/plans with failure. This tool is just one of the things that’s helped me to see that making adjustments is still positive progress.

So, what about you? How are your goals for the year shaping up?