Celebrating the Season With Books

One year in middle school, I asked for glitter perfume for Christmas. I tried explaining that to Woodrow today as we discussed his Christmas wish list.
Huh? He said. You mean it sprayed out glitter with the perfume?
Yep. I don’t know how well it worked; I didn’t receive any that year and never saw it advertised again in magazines or catalogs.
Christmas with tiles
To look at Woodrow’s short list of wished-for presents, you’d think we were raising Tarzan:  a Gator machete (the junior version, that is); another knife along with its case; a Jungle Hunter II slingshot.
We had a long conversation about the machete, y’all. He’s more or less persuaded me. I also plan to get him a book of Ansel Adams photography, since Woodrow is a budding photographer himself. And for his stocking? A couple canisters of French fried onions. Yes, the kind that go on top of green bean casserole. He and I love to eat those things right out of the can.
Still working on ideas for Garfield…he often asks for money to buy more collectible Hot Wheels. And both boys have asked for dry sacks for outdoor adventure, particularly camping. I tell you, it’s almost dangerous to go to REI with my family.
Christmas cookies
Apart from gifts, we have other holiday rituals–including Advent giving, which I’ll blog about in the near future. Soon, I’ll pull out our stack of children’s Christmas books that we’ll read throughout the season. In case you’re searching for Christmas books to share with children–your own or others’–here are some we’ve enjoyed. Naturally, they cover different age and grade levels. 
These stories are oriented around giving, serving, family, love, and the Christ child. In other words, they are primarily “non Santa” books.
And every year I try to read (on my own) a collection of L.M. Montgomery’s, Christmas with Anne and Other Holiday Stories. Heartwarming, endearing, and predictable… Each one lifts my spirits year after year.
Happy holiday reading!
 
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Wear It Well Wednesday: Polka Dot Hoodie + Gray Jeans

I realized a few days ago that ten–TEN–years have passed since I was last pregnant, since we celebrated Garfield’s tenth birthday last week. An entire decade. There’s still a part of me that sits in disbelief that I’ll never have another baby. But, alas, that season has passed.

All those years ago, when I got dressed or picked out an outfit to attend some event, I asked–Can I nurse in this? A dress that zipped up the back, for instance, got relegated to the back of the closet until my nursing sessions were less frequent. Now, I don’t have to ask that question anymore when I choose my clothes.

And here are the clothes I’m choosing for today’s Wear It Well Wednesday post (awkward transition, huh?)…

gray jeans and polika dot top

Here, I’m sporting hand-me-down jeans and necklace (from family members) plus the thredUP [second-hand] sandals purchased a few weeks ago. I also bought the multi-colored polka dot shirt I’m wearing.

The top, bought at D’echoes Resale Emporium (I told y’all about that shop before), has several interesting features:  a hood, shallow pockets right on the front of the shirt, and sleeves that cuff up to reveal more of the red and white polka dot fabric.

Not all my consignment shop experiences have been positive ones, though. Not long after we got married, I took a few items to a local consignment shop in hopes of selling them. This particular store accepted certain pieces without paying for them up front. If they sold, the store would keep part of the profits, and the seller would get some, too.

So, I left a bride’s maid’s dress, a jumpsuit (that looked great on the rack for next to nothing at a salvage store but just plain weird when I got it home), and a mini-skirt from my sister at Bonnie’s (or Connie’s or something like that) and hoped to make some cash.

A few weeks passed, and I called the shop to find out if anything had sold. No. A couple more weeks passed, I called again, and I got no answer on the phone–during business hours. I called the next day, the next, and the next, not getting anybody on the phone for several days.

Finally, Bonnie–or Connie or somebody–herself answered and told me that, since the store hadn’t been making much money, she’d decreased the hours. Which sounded backwards to me, but whatever… Then, a week or so later, I drove by the location of her store on the way to a doctor’s appointment, only to find it completely empty. Empty of everything:  clothing, people, racks.

Apparently, Bonnie’s/Connie’s/Somebody’s had gone out of business and taken the rest of the merchandise with them. I never did get that bride’s maid’s dress, mini-skirt, or weird jumpsuit back.

But my recent trip to D’echoes resale shop proved more successful than the unfortunate experience with Bonnie’s, because I do like this shirt. I hope you’re having fun putting together your fall wardrobe and that you’re finding opportunity to include some second-hand pieces, too.

 

 

Wear It Well Wednesday: Shorts + Sandals

As a teenager, I loved putting outfits together that would tell the world about me. Do you remember when tags on clothing and purses was a trend? As in, tags intentionally sewn all over the outside of a garment? I wanted to copy this trend when I was 14 or 15, so I cut tags out of the inside of some clothing already in my closet and then carefully stitched those tags onto the outside of a baggy white blouse. Which I wore buttoned all the way to the neck, with jeans of the palest blue (tight-rolled at the ankles, of course) and penny loafers.

I suppose my look back then could be described as “preppy.”

Today’s WIWW look is not what I could call “preppy,” but I do think it tells the world about me.

The message today’s outfit sends? I don’t like wearing baggy clothes anymore (I’m on the short side, so I’m not sure why I ever thought baggy was a good look for me). And I like to dress frugally.

new sandals

The cantaloupe-colored shorts came from my recent thredUP purchase (cheaply, because they–like the navy skirt from last week’s WIWW post–were on final sale) as did the sandals. This is the first pair of dressy (not just functional) sandals I’ve had in many years. They were the most expensive piece in the thredUP order at about $10.

I received the t-shirt as a cast-off from my sister-in-law, and the necklace was a gift (from a second-hand store) from years ago.

new sandals 2

And you get to see not one but TWO photos of me in this outfit, because Garfield got a bit disgruntled that I always seem to ask his older brother to take these pics for me. I told him I didn’t even know he liked taking these pictures. But he wanted his opportunity, so I’m using one photo from each of their efforts. Because:  fair. A pox upon you, Mother, if you dare to let anything ever be unfair.

One more tidbit:  My nail polish (worn only on my toes) is a navy-blue shade named Sailor. It’s sold by a cosmetics company called Zoya, which produces safer, healthier alternatives to conventional nail polish. I just have the one bottle, and I’ll use it until it runs out (or gets too gloppy to use).

There you have it, folks…another ensemble brought to you by second-hand pieces, and photography brought to you by my sons. Happy Wednesday!

Wear It Well Wednesday: Navy + Gold

As promised in my last WIWW post, today I’m sharing with y’all one of my recent thredUP purchases. I’ve sold quite a bit to thredUP in the past, when I received more hand-me-downs than one person needed from family or friends. The money made from those sales went to help support people in need both near and far.

anchor doors

I always appreciate an opportunity to donate to a reputable, quality organization (such as Compassion International). But I like it just as much when we can give directly to an individual whom we actually know who’s facing a struggle.

This time around, though, I bought from thredUP, instead of sold. I ordered 4 items for a total of $22.06, including shipping. The navy skirt in the photo below is one of those purchases, at just $1.99 on final sale.

gold cardigan navy skirt

The pic looks a bit blurry–sorry! In addition to the skirt (which fits great and has pockets), the rest of the outfit includes a navy top cast off from my aunt; a gold-colored cardigan picked up from the give-away table at the Cru offices (another hand-me-down); and the boots I got for Christmas almost 4 years ago. My friend Heather gave me the necklace worn here a few years ago, and the bracelet came from Thailand and was another gift.

I paid a flat-rate shipping fee for my items, which I like (of course). It’s a bit of a risk to purchase something without trying it on first. For this skirt, though, I knew what size I wore in this brand, so it worked out. Various brands size their clothes differently, so it helps to know that prior to ordering. Plus, thredUP offers many options for shopping; they even offer the opportunity to buy their rejects in bulk.

Years ago, I adopted the personal motto, If you love God’s earth, buy second first. I try to employ that concept as often as possible, and–when the hand-me-downs have dried up–I’ll probably continue shopping through thredUP. It may just be clothes, but it’s also stewardship.

Wear It Well Wednesday: Autumn-Hued Shorts

Today’s edition of Wear It Well Wednesday is the first in months. But I am happy to share this one. And, like all my WIWW posts, this edition features second-hand items. All put together, the whole is certainly greater than the sum of its parts.

In late August, I bought some new clothes–well, new-to-me clothes, that is. I got a good deal on several things at D’echoes (a resale “emporium” here in central Florida). I purchased 2 pairs of shorts, although one pair literally fell apart within a couple of weeks. The other pair you can see on me below. And photo credit goes to Woodrow (who’s now officially 12 and 1/2).

dechoes shorts wiww

The tank top I’m wearing came from my sister:  free to me and a genuine hand-me-down. The bracelet and necklace were Valentine’s Day gifts from the boys several years ago, purchased at Plato’s Closet–another second-hand shop. I’ve worn this jewelry in other WIWW outfits, too.

Also? This haircut (which I got in late August) is the first professional one I’ve had in over 6 years.

I wore this get-up last Saturday at Garfield’s final soccer game of the season and the end-of-season team party afterwards. Then, after all those festivities, I stopped by the Winter Park Autumn Art Festival to visit an artist friend showcasing her own work. Yes, it’s October, but we’re still wearing shorts here. And hoping for cooler weather!

Earlier this week, I received my first purchases in the mail from thredUP. I’ll be sharing those second-hand items in upcoming WIWW posts soon. Stay tuned!

Surprise in Color

A couple of weeks ago, we waved buh-bye to the drab tan/brown/yellow paint on every single wall of our home’s interior. The real estate flipper who had purchased the home, refurbished it, and then sold it had coated almost every surface with this mostly nondescript neutral.

We’d considered re-painting for a while, and, after three years, decided to pull the trigger on that idea. So I cut loose. I picked color, color, and more color.

In one bathroom, we have Jargon Jade; in the other, Aquarium. The boys’ bedroom boasts Blue Mosque. The hallway and 2 accent walls in the living area are covered in a more subdued–but very classy–Attitude Gray.

For the master bedroom, we selected Blithe Blue. Take a peek…

ballet program on blue wall

On the wall, I hung the framed cover of the program book from a ballet competition my sister, mother, and I attended (one night of it) back in 1998. Since the time I was a dreamy ten-year-old wannabe ballerina, I’d hoped to visit the International Ballet Competition held every 4 years at the Thalia Mara Hall in Jackson, Mississippi.

During the summer of 1998, Mama, Rachel, and I went to Jackson for a soccer tournament for my sister. After the tournament, we changed clothes and headed to the hall for the event–which happened to be taking place the same week. As a Christmas present that year, Mama had a program book cover framed for Rachel and for me.

And in the kitchen, we have Forever Lilac.

plates on kitchen wall

I hung these plates (two from Spain; one from Turkey) on the lilac background. I chose the purple for these walls because this shade appears in a beautiful framed print from painter Walter Inglis Anderson my parents got us. Anderson, a Mississippi artist from last century, painted elaborate coastal scenes. The print we own features an alligator, fish, butterflies, and plants. I love how the lavender on the walls highlights the same shade in the print. Which I should have shown here, huh?

Purple for a kitchen does seem an odd choice, right? When I saw it on the walls, I thought about Corduroy, the stuffed-bear in the “Corduroy” stories. He says, “Is this a bed? I’ve always wanted a bed!” and “Is this a mountain? I’ve always wanted to climb a mountain!”

I said, “Is this a purple kitchen? I’ve always wanted a purple kitchen!” Only I didn’t know it ’til this month.

Some other color appeared in my life recently–but in an entirely unexpected way.

Garfield has played YMCA soccer this fall, while Woodrow elected to skip this season so as not to miss Boy Scout monthly camp-outs. I carved out a little tradition for us this season. After Garfield’s practice (which Mike coaches), we find a picnic table overlooking the river that runs alongside the park and have a picnic.

During the hour-long practice, Woodrow usually fishes on his own while I walk for exercise. I go miles on my feet and spend time in my own thoughts.

On one of these walks, I spotted in the sky an aqua-colored airplane. I’d never seen one before. I watched it intently, for nearly a minute. It wasn’t a trick of the sunlight, wasn’t caused by the changes of light as the sun set. I had laid eyes on a genuine turquoise/aqua/robin’s egg blue jet liner.

This is my favorite color. I have a board on Pinterest I call “Aqua Love” dedicated to this hue. Seeing that plane in the sky that day felt like a little nudge from God, a wink, even a valentine (had it been February). God seemed to be reminding me of some important truths:

  • He knows me and knows how to encourage me.
  • He takes notice of me. I’m not overlooked or forgotten. I am seen by the Father.
  • He gets involved in the details of my life.

This was no actual miracle, a plane flying in the sky. That happens every day. But the aqua-colored plane, at just that moment, on just that day…I view that as a God-surprise and a cause for thanksgiving.

You can see God anywhere if your mind is set to love and obey Him. — A.W. Tozer

I hope you have eyes to see God and His hand in your life today, however He chooses to grab your attention. 

 

The Value of Simple Obedience

Early last spring, I inadvertently learned of some unsettling, sad news:  A woman I’d met once and long admired had reached the end of her battle with cancer and was moving into hospice that weekend. She would leave behind her husband and their 6 children, all of whom had been adopted.

I read this announcement on Facebook, posted by a mutual friend, and experienced this news like a punch to the gut. I’d never seen, spoken with, or kept in touch in any way with Cathy after our one and only meeting. She wouldn’t have remembered me, not from our one interaction in the summer of 2000 in Chicago.

Back then, Cathy–a single white woman–had embarked on the journey of foster parenting. She had adopted an African-American little girl and was fostering another, going on to adopt three children while single and then three more once she married. I just happened to be along for the ride in this conversation that summer, 18 years ago, tagging along with other people who actually knew Cathy. Then I never crossed paths with her again.

hanging baskets

But her life, her love, left an indelible mark. I spent the rest of my 20’s and almost all of my 30’s envisioning myself as a some-day foster mother, an adoptive mother, primarily because of Cathy’s example–one she never knew she set for me.

Cathy didn’t approach me with a challenge to love the poor or serve the needy. She just lived her life in obedience to God, to the invitation to be part of His work that He’d extended to her.

About five years ago, I gave this dream of fostering, adopting, or both back to Jesus. Those means of caring for children are not part of my life and probably won’t ever be. But Cathy’s influence wasn’t for naught. Over the years, I’ve attempted to serve children in need through supporting orphan ministry in Russia and Moldova; by supporting a child through Compassion International; by purchasing (along with my former women’s service group) over 1000 diapers for a local rescue mission. Taking God up on His invitation to be part of His work to care for those in need. Like Cathy did.

grateful heart

I read the story of Joseph recently, in the book of Genesis. Some of his many brothers wanted to kill him, but Reuben convinced the others not to kill Joseph. Instead, he suggested they place Joseph in a big pit and leave him. Reuben planned to return and rescue his brother, but before he could, the others sold Joseph into slavery. He ended up in Egypt, where later he played a significant role in saving many lives–including those of his brothers.

Had Reuben not persuaded his siblings to leave Joseph alive, Joseph wouldn’t have been in place for the life-saving work God had planned for him. In some ways, this hinged on Reuben’s obedience–on his simply obeying in a complicated, dysfunctional situation. Like Cathy did. 

baby feet with hearts

Today, at church, our body welcomed a handful of individuals into new leadership roles. Before they officially took on those responsibilities, other members spoke in support of these folks. One of the women beginning  her role as deaconess today–a friend of friend–has faced mind-bending tragedy in her life, part of which involves the loss of her husband due to disease. The member sharing about this woman’s qualifications for deaconess spoke some powerful words, so striking that I wrote them down on the bulletin:  He stated that she possessed “strength full of mercy, forged in the fires of pain and loss.”

How did she get there? To this merciful strength after disaster and grief? I haven’t asked her, but I think I know–obedience. I think she must have regularly–perhaps daily–made a choice to trust God more than she could feel, more than she could see, and to keep doing that, over and over and over.

Simple obedience that adds up over time. 

Obedience can preach a sermon, save a life, change the course of history. Let us never discount the value of simple obedience.

“Never doubt that God uses small things for all eternity.”–Jennie Allen