Wear It Well Wednesday: Fancy Attire

“Can you please find me some non-ugly shoes?” 

Woodrow asked me this during our shopping trip to buy the boys some suitable dressy shoes for my cousin’s wedding. Eric (and his wife Elicia) got married in February in New Orleans. Our whole family planned to attend, which meant I needed to sort out our outfits for the occasion.

So, off we went to Once Upon a Child (Do you know about this store? It’s a national chain second-hand shop for kids’ clothing and gear.) I dug through the shoe bins and offered Woodrow and Garfield pair after pair and heard in response:  I don’t like square-toed shoes. Those are ugly. And then came the request for the “non-ugly” shoes.

Perseverance prevailed, though, and they each came home with shoes that I liked and they liked. Bonus:  Woodrow’s actually fit me! He’s almost as tall as I am now (and will be 13 years old in April). I might show y’all those shoes in a different WIWW post–on my own feet, though, not his.

With the boys’ wedding attire arranged, I focused on my own outfit for the celebration.

outfit for Erics wedding 2

For this ensemble (I can’t help but think of saying that word with a phony French accent), I bought only one piece myself:  the pale gray tights. Both the dress and shoes came from my Mama, who wore them a few times and then passed them to me. A local friend graciously loaned me the cape/shawl I’m wearing to add a little warmth for the outdoor ceremony and wedding reception. Thanks, Deidre!

OK, y’all…The shoes killed me. I’ve worn them on several occasions, but this time they just did me in.  My sister even laughed at the way I walked in them by the end of the evening. So, feast your eyes, because the shoes won’t be making another appearance on my blog.

outfit for Erics wedding

Eric and Elicia held their ceremony at the Tree of Life in Audubon Park, and then we went to the most interesting, special location for the reception:  Paradigm Gardens. 

Situated among raised garden beds that grew the herbs and greens used by the chefs here, we sat at cozy tables and watched goats play in their pen. We ate scrumptious food like goat cheese grits and artichoke flat-bread pizza while we listened to a live band. And, of course, we all marched a few blocks behind a small brass band playing quintessential New Orleans-sounding music (When the Saints Go Marchin’ In, for instance) while waving handkerchiefs in the air that had been monogrammed with the new couple’s names.

If you’re thinking Huh? this wedding-reception parade is called the second line, named for those who follow a marching band just to enjoy the music. This is the second wedding I’ve attended in New Orleans and the second time I’ve marched in this kind of wedding parade. And my feet were not having it, y’all, not in those shoes. But still, it’s so fun, and I flung my handkerchief around with the best of them.

So…although I did purchase one item for this dressy outfit, the base of it arrived to me second-hand. Another WIWW win, I think.

In February, I also received a copy of the magazine in which my thrift-store outfit appears (the one I posed for just before Thanksgiving). If you’re in Orlando, you can probably find a copy in a downtown coffee shop. Here’s a picture I took of the picture…

magazine photo

One more clothing-related tidbit:  I’m currently reading Over-Dressed:  The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. The book addresses the rise of “fast fashion” produced almost exclusively in overseas factories and how the American consumer has come to expect–and to buy heaps of–cheap clothing.

As I write this, I’m wearing the same skirt and leggings I wore yesterday along with a t-shirt Woodrow no longer wanted. But it surely is fun to dress up sometimes!

 

 

 

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The Christmas Day Explosion

I blew up at my children on Christmas morning.

For nearly a week this past Christmas season, my family of four (along with a heap of aunts, uncles, and cousins) had been staying with grandparents for the holidays. We had slept in various rooms, including a tent in the backyard (our two sons with two of their cousins). When other relatives had come to visit and the house had begun to overflow, we set up cots, sleeping bags, and a small heater in my parents’ workshop and slept out there, too.

Now, after all the over-stimulation that accompanies present-opening combined with no alone time for many days, I felt sapped. And I snapped.

red and black presents

My two sons got into an argument with some cousins over a television show. The boys wanted to watch a reality show about offshore fishing, while the girls wanted to watch a cartoon. When my younger son tried to commandeer the TV remote, I pulled him and his brother into the bathroom.

I hated appearing out of control of my children’s behavior to the rest of my family, although I do ponder how much a parent can actually control a child’s actions. But I just wanted my boys to be calm and not stir up conflict. I wanted things to go smoothly. I wanted easy.

When I find myself brewing with anger over circumstances that don’t measure up to the calm-and-easy flow that I crave, I recognize the idolatry present in my heart. I see how much I look for inner satisfaction in outer peace—instead of resting in the One who is my peace.

colorful canoes

So, there we are, in the bathroom, where I whisper scream at them. I shudder to imagine the expression I wore on my face at that point. They explained their position in the argument, which I hadn’t fully known when I ushered them into the bathroom for the scolding. We came to an understanding, and I apologized profusely. I felt thoroughly ashamed for losing my temper with them, and I brooded over it—flying off the handle with them at Christmas–the next day, too.

The day after the TV argument and fussing in the bathroom, my family and my sister’s family loaded up and went to shop at a salvage store in our hometown. We typically stop by there on each of our trips to see my parents. As my boys wandered the store with their cousins, I browsed in nearby aisles. I stopped in front of one display, barely noticing what was right in front of me. Cereal? Make-up? I don’t remember.

With slumped shoulders, I actually hung my head as I reflected on the poor parenting choices I’d made so recently. Then I sensed the Holy Spirit’s nudge:  Obedience always matters.

Last fall, I’d read the Old Testament story of the Israelites demanding that God give them an earthly king. They wanted a king to lead them and to fight their battles. Even though God had been their King—protecting them and providing for them—they still clamored for a king like other nations had. Eventually, God gave them what they requested, and He led the prophet Samuel to anoint Saul as their king.

king sculpture

In 1 Samuel 12, Samuel made clear to the Israelites that they had done evil by asking God for a king. And yet…Samuel reassured the people even as they trembled with fright about the consequences of their sin. He exhorted them not to fear, telling them that as long as they and the king who ruled over them faithfully obeyed the Lord’s commands, it would go well with them. Their obedience—even after declaring that God was insufficient to be their king and insisting on a human king to reign over them—still mattered. Their obedience still mattered.

I contemplated that truth, the assurance that our obedience always matters, even right after our sin. Even after my explosion on my children that had more to do with my comfort than their cooperation, my obedience still mattered.

The Spirit’s reminder of this lifted my head, quite literally, that afternoon in the salvage store. Instead of shuffling along in guilt, I looked to the Spirit to fill me and empower me to love God and follow His commands. Which, of course, include loving my children. Right there in the after-holiday hubbub of that store, I trusted God more for His forgiveness—and for His strength to obey, no matter where I had to sleep that night.

 

 

 

From Plenty to Rest {My New Word of the Year}

For 2018, I chose plenty as my word of the year. In years past, I didn’t give much thought to verses from the Bible that might help me grow in the area of life pertaining to my word of that given year.

But for last year, I sought out Scripture that reminded me of all the “plenty” Jesus has for His followers. Here are a few that especially connected with me in 2018:

candles lit for praying

2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

Everything we need for life and godliness? He has given it. Whatever we need for life and godliness, He has given plenty.

Deuteronomy 2:7 “The LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast desert. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything.”

God has been faithful to me in all the years that have felt like “deserts.” And in each season of life, I have not lacked anything. In the land of nothing, God still gives plenty.

And one more…

Psalm 37: 18-19 “The days of the blameless are known to the LORD; and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.”

This passage actually contains the word “plenty” right in it. I love the verses that remind us not only that God provides plenty, but that He can give plenty in the midst of famine and disaster.

These verses, and many more, provide so much reassurance. And they’ve been good reminders of the plenty that God has in store for me, no matter how my circumstances look or feel.

As we’ve rung in a new year, I’ve chosen a new word for 2019:  rest.

red chairs

The idea is that I’d do restful things (not just actual sleep but refreshing things, pursuits and experiences that restore me) and that I’d rest in the Lord. Simple as that. The verse about “rest” on which I’ll hang my hat this year is Matthew 11: 28…“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

This month, I’ve carried a few burdens–not earth-shaking ones, just the normal weights of life as a parent and adult making decisions that impact the future. And I’ve pictured myself sitting with Jesus and talking to Him about these issues and then placing them into His outstretched hands. He cups His hands around those needs and promises to hold onto them. He’ll give the decisions back to me when it’s time to tackle them, but, until then, I can rest that He takes responsibility for them.

I think He wants to remind me that He does the work; my job is to rest. To show up, be present with Him, and pay attention…because I will want to see what He’s up to as He works.

 

 

Pro-Life Movement, Here’s What We Got Wrong

Scrolling through Facebook a few days before Christmas, I came across a post from a pro-life group I’d followed on social media. They shared a news report about a young woman who’d become pregnant and, after being pressured to abort the baby by her boyfriend/father of the child, she chose nonetheless to carry on with her pregnancy.

But the story didn’t end there (or else it wouldn’t make much of a story these days). After discovering that his girlfriend refused to go through with an abortion, the young man murdered the pregnant teen–thereby killing the pre-born child, too.

He allegedly told police that he “took action” and “took her life.” You can click here to find the article and read more.

This certainly seems an apposite type of article to share on a pro-life site. But what didn’t seem fitting were the comments from Facebook followers of this organization.

backlit boys

Some responders–self-professed pro-life proponents themselves–pointed to this murder as being consequence for the young woman’s sin; another suggested her death might be punishment for sexual immorality. Others commented about the need for “young girls to stop giving themselves away” and instead to “have some self respect.” They blamed her; men and women alike blamed this woman for winding up murdered (and her baby, too). The number of people chiming in with these kinds of comments left me bewildered.

The young woman–cheerleader, athlete, high school student–consented to have sex; she did not consent to be murdered. God created us and gave us beautiful gifts–and He instructs us in how to use those gifts. Sexual purity matters. But so does championing a young woman who finds herself pregnant and, despite pressure, chooses to nurture her baby instead of end it.

There was one reason and one reason only that this woman was murdered:  Because another person murdered her. What could have prevented the murder? If the murderer hadn’t murdered her.

Pro-life movement, I’m afraid this is what our pro-choice counterparts mean when they accuse us of not caring about the mother. Next time, we need to get this right.

 

 

New Things Conquered in 2018

I’m a list maker. Not only to-do lists or grocery lists or prayer lists, though… I keep lists of books I read each year, lists of goals I set, lists of new things I’ve tried.

In 2018, I tried my hand at a few new experiences:  baking Arnold Palmer cupcakes (that tasty mix of sweet tea + lemonade) for a family member’s birthday; fermenting watermelon rind (for the pro-biotic value); and making homemade biscotti–to name a few. I also baked sweet potato bread for the first time–for a friend’s birthday and then also as a gift to my spiritual director, Elaine.

pickled watermelon rind

Watermelon rind in the fermenting process

All those new attempts were food related, weren’t there? Well, here’s one more new-to-2018 experience that also took place in the kitchen:  making my own Amish Friendship Bread starter.

I first heard of–and baked with–Amish Friendship Bread starter a few weeks before I gave birth to Garfield, when another mom gave me a batch. I let the process of feeding and dividing the starter–and then sharing and/or baking with it–fall by the wayside, though, once I had a newborn and toddler. {I also had two children in cloth diapers for three months.}

Then I read a sweet novel called Friendship Bread last year and started thinking of baking with this concoction again. The novel garnered such a following that it spawned a website–www.friendshipbreadkitchen.com. Since I now had access to many recipes utilizing the starter, I thought I would give it a try.

I followed the site’s instructions to create my own starter (yeast, milk, flour, sugar) and, within ten days, I had many cups of the starter to use for baking. I also learned from a former church friend (still my friend, just not at the same church) that I could freeze the starter so I wouldn’t have to use or give it away all at once.

blurry fireworks

I’ve had active starter since early this fall and have baked it in pizza dough, snickerdoodles, sandwich bread, blueberry muffins, strawberry bread (not nearly as good as it sounded), another batch of biscotti, and chocolate mint cookies. The cookies tasted good but had a face only a mother could love. The six dozen I baked yielded only about two dozen pretty enough to offer at a cookie exchange, but the boys scooped the rest up throughout the following week and let nothing go to waste.

But my favorite way so far to use this starter has been cinnamon rolls. They need a night to rise, but they are worth the wait. After making them once for my family, I decided I’d contribute these to Christmas festivities at my family’s home back in Mississippi. They were well-received there, too.

You can find more recipes at the friendship bread kitchen website, but not all are equally good. I did share one batch of starter with my friend Lauren, so hopefully she can begin creating her own AFB starter delights, too.

And outside the kitchen… I got published in two new-to-me periodicals (Woman’s World and Purpose magazines). I made bracelets for an outreach to party-goers attending a local rave. I performed two new roles for Cru, one of which finished in October. I volunteered with Jobs Partnership and re-purposed new cakes of soap from soap crumbles. Along with my family, I experienced a Jewish Passover Seder just before Easter.

The Lord has been so, so good to bring such sweet gifts into my life. I’m trusting that there will be more sweet things to taste, to experience, and to bake in 2019.

There’s Victory Within the Almost Success

During 2018, we went without Netflix for 6 months:  4 months from mid-January to mid-May; then again from mid-October to mid-December, we bypassed that subscription. In the absence of Netflix, I watched several TED talks {for free} on Youtube.

One of those centered on the topic of achieving dreams by setting goals–but flipped that concept on its ear. Tim Ferriss’s talk on Fear Setting addressed the need to define our fears instead of our goals.

black and white antique car

After listening, I jotted down a few notes in my journal (I have a few of those–this particular one I’m referencing is where I write notes from books I read, among other ideas). I didn’t pay much attention to those notes, though, until recently, when I turned to that journal to write down something else.

And this caught my eye:  When considering setting and working toward a new goal, he suggests we ask ourselves this question:  What might be the advantage of the attempt or partial success?

monopoly car and game

The advantage of the attempt? I pondered this skeptically and thought I’d better talk to Jesus about this. Lord, is there success even in the trying–in the taking of a step of faith? Is THAT a success, really? And partial success–that can be counted victorious, too, Lord? 

Sounded too good to be true. And yet… This idea settled inside me. I reflected on the dreams I’d pursued over the past few years that fizzled or never came to fruition at all, and I let myself follow God’s grace to celebrate the attempts–stepping out in faith and trusting the results to God–and the partial victories:  My women’s service group closed after a year or so, but before it folded, we raised funds to help women, children, and families both in the U.S. and abroad. I never got to serve with GAiN and the Luo Pad project, but the presentation I gave on this program at my sister’s church resulted in LOTS of pads being created and donated.

This concept–that trying and that achieving some success can actually be called a triumph–is liberating for me. And it helps me dig deeper into this truth that I sensed God teaching me earlier this year:  The fact that Christ is worthy means He’s worthy of broken dreams and confusion and uncertainty as I try and follow after Him.

The defining question for those of us who belong to Him becomes not, “Is this worth it?” but “Is He worthy?” And asking that question can lead us to abundant victory in the small steps of faith and the almost-successes along the way.

 

 

The Loaf of Christmas Bread

Standing on our neighbor’s tiny porch (although still bigger than our nonexistent one), I wondered how long we’d stay and chat. We needed to finish cleaning the kitchen, to do our Advent reading with the boys, to get them to bed.

I’d baked a loaf of homemade bread as a gift to our neighbor, a single woman living alone, last year. She appreciated it tremendously, so I thought I would make one for her this year as well. I’d like to think of this as a new tradition–sharing bread when we celebrate the birth of the One called Bread of Life.

By the time I finished baking, cooling, and wrapping it in foil, the end of the evening drew near, and there were chores to do.

bread loaf in hands

But I wanted to give the bread to M. while it was still fresh, so the four of us trudged to her house together once I had our gift for her all prepped. As we handed over a Christmas card and the still-warm loaf, we struck up a conversation. As she stood talking with us, wearing her bath robe, she began to share more and more about her life.

M. explained how she’d almost lost her job this year, but in the end, she’d held onto her position as the company where she worked got bought by another one. She spoke about work she’d had done on her home, the surgery she’d had last spring…In all this, she expressed gratitude. At one point, she began to cry, overcome with emotion about the ups and downs of 2018.

Looking at the bread, wrapped in aluminum foil and nestled in a bag, I idly wondered if she would eat it. Then I remembered. The bread isn’t the important part of this budding Christmas tradition with our neighbor; it’s the visit. The conversation. The intentional step to bake something good with her in mind and then deliver it to her.

M. didn’t stand out on her porch talking with us about the time she got robbed at gun point or the transitions she’s experiencing at work because we brought her bread. She engaged with us because we shared ourselves.

It’s true, y’all. Presence trumps presents. Every time.