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!

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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. 

 

Contributions Seen and Unseen

Last week, I detoured on the way home from the boys’ dentist appointment and made a drop-off of donations at Good Will. In this box I’d included all 4 of my college yearbooks. I’d offered them to other people, particularly one woman who creates paper flowers. But she had more than enough paper resources and didn’t want the yearbooks.

Perhaps somebody else will have a creative impulse to make use of those heavy tomes. And perhaps if I’d known at 20 that I’d get rid of them at 44 I wouldn’t have cared so much about how I looked in those pictures.

shoes on street

I wrote a piece to be included in one of those yearbooks–which I always called “annuals” growing up. During  my junior year of college, I served on an honor society as the reporter (or secretary, maybe?) and had the job of composing and printing out the agenda before our meetings. I also had the responsibility of submitting an article to the yearbook staff about what our honor society accomplished over that school year. It would join some photos of our organization on a two-page spread.

So, I wrote it. I described the service projects we’d done, the induction of new members, election of new officers. I handed in the piece before the deadline. Then, at an unrelated reception in the student union late that spring–for a different group; maybe the biology student society? Memory fails me here–one of the yearbook staff found me on her way out of their office.

She apologized and told me that they’d lost the article I’d submitted about our honor society–of which she was a member, too–and said that somebody on their staff had written up a piece to go in its place. But they’d give me the byline, she said, since it’d been their fault that it had gotten misplaced.

Distracted by the biology student event, I think I just said “OK.” I felt touched that the yearbook staff still wanted to credit me with the piece, even though it wasn’t mine. Later, I wondered if I shouldn’t have been willing to take credit for something I didn’t create myself–even if I’d created it originally. When I picked up my yearbook months later, I read that article, the one that carried my byline but didn’t actually get written by me. And I felt absolutely sure I would never again willingly accept credit for something I didn’t do myself. (True confession:  I thought the article was underwhelming and felt my original story was better. Overflowing with humility, wasn’t I?)

On some level, I suppose I thought I “deserved” that credit–but the decision to receive it didn’t feel like integrity. Recently, though, I felt I deserved credit that I didn’t get.

wallpaper and book

At our church, several people have been involved with the Jobs Partnership ministry with which I helped back in the spring. Those people have been acknowledged for their service at our church. But I wasn’t one of them. We’re still relatively new at our church, so perhaps the right people didn’t realize I’d been involved, too.

At first, I felt left out about this, overlooked, wondered if I should contact somebody in leadership at church to set this right. But then I clearly sensed the Lord tell me:  Not being acknowledged for your work doesn’t in any way diminish the value of your contribution. 

He’s right, of course. The joy I derived from participating with Jobs Partnership, the fruit of that labor…that can’t be taken away, no matter who did–or did not–recognize me for that.

Perhaps you, too, have felt your own work and service have been overlooked lately. Maybe you feel devalued in the efforts you make at home or in your office, wondering if anybody notices, if anybody cares.

There is One who sees, and your efforts matter to Him. As His people, when we serve others, we get to be like Jesus–regardless of whether our contributions are acknowledged.

 

 

A Little Risk Brings Sweet Reward

A certain Ukrainian proverb goes something like this:  He who doesn’t risk, doesn’t drink champagne. In English, we’d probably say Nothing ventured, nothing gained. 

Either way, the point seems clear…If we take no risks, we’ll have no reason to celebrate.

champagne

Which is why I listed Write + submit, submit, submit! as one of my 2018 goals. Every time I offer something I’ve written for publication–whether for a paying market or not–I’m risking rejection. I recently started some additional work with Cru, and it involves writing (and being edited by other people). I’m still rounding the learning curve in both these new roles, so I make mistakes. Of course. 

I took a risk in raising my hand to volunteer for this ministry work, just as I take a risk in submitting my writing.

The risk pays off, even if only in experience gained. But sometimes the risk results in other gains, too.

mug and magazine

Woman’s World magazine published a little blurb I wrote in their “Circle of Kindness” feature; you can read it in the June 11 issue (see it up there?). I’ve often written stories about kindness, and this one tells of a good deed performed as a service to me. I’ve sent at least 7 stories to the “Circle of Kindness” feature; now I get to see one of them in print.

The other little present in the photo? A gift from the Distinguished Young Women of Mobile County scholarship program I judged (along with 4 other individuals) this past weekend in Alabama.

As a high school student, I competed in this program (called Young Woman of the Year back then) and earned enough to pay for 2 semesters of college. I’ve judged programs in Florida and Georgia and invested thousands of hours volunteering for this program over many years in Florida. Although I no longer serve any particular program, I always appreciate an opportunity to judge.

There was a bit of risk involved with this, too. Months ago, feeling that I needed to unearth more outlets for myself (apart from serving my family and serving with Cru), I contacted a volunteer with the Distinguished Young Women program in my hometown. I asked her if she would mention me as a potential judge if she interacted with volunteers from other programs in need of judges (so far I haven’t been able to judge in my hometown).

That request could have come to naught, but she did pass my name along, and, in March, I received a phone call asking me to judge in early June this year. If you’re reading this Ms. Audra, thank you! 

If we take steps of faith in obedience to God’s leading, that’s the victory. Obedience in itself is a blessing. This weekend, God heaped on a few extra blessings, too. Now I’m off to celebrate–not with champagne but with herbal tea in my new Distinguished Young Women mug.

Cheers!

 

 

Raising Money as an Act of Faith

Mike and I are currently, as we say, in a season of raising support. This means we (mostly Mike at this point) contact people we either know or who have been referred to us by current ministry partners, asking them to contribute to our ministry. “Ministry partners” are those who commit to pray and to give financially to our mission work with Cru. To continue as full-time missionaries, we must not only have a consistent amount of incoming financial support; we also need to increase the amount of monthly giving we currently receive.

Almost 5 years ago, we lowered our salary due to a shortfall in the donations we were receiving. That decision kept our Cru staff account in a healthy range, but we now earned less money than we did prior to having children. But God sustained us, as He does. And since last October, we’ve seen significant amounts of new financial support committed. Mike has worked consistently on our ministry partner development, pursuing new supporters and increases in monthly giving.

Just this month, we are bumping our salary back up! I have not felt deprived during this season, and transforming into a one-car family over 6 years ago definitely reduced our expenses.

black and white calendar

So we’re thankful. Thankful, sure, for extra salary as a missionary family. And thankful for how the Lord constantly provides.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to raise money for your salary by asking others to contribute? Not just for a week-long mission trip or a summer of serving others, but for decades?

In a nutshell, it’s a wild ride demanding we act on our faith. After I returned from Romania as a 23-year old, I didn’t anticipate continuing to serve with Cru–at least, not for the foreseeable future. I looked for a job at the end of 1997 and early 1998, without the help of the Internet. I substitute taught; I worked for 2 weeks at a children’s science museum in Alabama. (That’s a whole ‘nother story.) Then I decided to return to full-time ministry; I wanted to invest my  life, and Cru was what I knew.

After completing a summer of staff training, I got back on the support-raising trail. I’d had to raise funds to cover my year of ministry in Romania, but that goal was short-term (just one year) and much lower. Now, I needed to ask people to commit indefinitely to joining my ministry partner team. This was much more difficult.

But it happened quickly, within just a few months. Then I reported to my ministry assignment at Mississippi State University. I had actually exceeded my monthly goal by $50.

It lasted only a brief time, though. Within a few months, I had lost a big portion of my support. One individual, who’d committed $60 in monthly giving, donated one month–then nothing. When I called to check with him, he replied that he didn’t realize the extent of the financial commitment he’d made and could no longer give.

red phone

Another family, who’d offered to give $90 each month, contributed one month. I contacted them, too, to be sure they had the necessary paperwork–only to hear the husband declare, “We’re doing the best we can!” and then hang up the phone.

Yet another couple, for whom I’d worked briefly during high school, committed to a $50 per month donation. They gave one month, skipped the next, then gave one more month. I remember contacting them about whether they wanted to continue, but I don’t remember the conversation. They didn’t make any more donations.

A different couple committed an amount that finished my monthly goal–and they gave it in a large lump sum to cover the entire year. “Come back and see us next year,” they said. I called them when I returned to my hometown a year later, and they informed me they’d decided to give toward other needs instead. That dropped me down another $72 per month.

There were others, too, who gave a bit, then stopped within a few months. Or who told me later that they’d only intended to commit for a year. Within one year of reporting to my assignment–by the fall of 1999–I began receiving short paychecks. I had my bottom wisdom teeth extracted at the end of 1999 (the only time I’ve been under anesthesia), and hadn’t even come close to reaching my insurance deductible. That $900 expense cut into savings at the same time I was receiving 2-digit paychecks.

During the spring of 2000, I remember getting a $24 paycheck and discovered I had $19 in my Cru staff account. I’d paid off my used car, didn’t have school loans, and had few expenses. Still, I dragged my wet laundry back from the washing machines in the apartment complex, draping it over kitchen chairs and open cabinet doors to dry. I saved several dollars a month that way.

laundry between buildings.jpg

Eighteen years later, I continue to serve with Cru. How did I come back from all that? I raised support. And raised more support, and raised more support. And as I stepped out in faith to do the work God had given me to do, He was faithful to provide.

I pray that God will make me as faithful to Him as He is to me. 

Our Frugal Fast From Netflix

In January, I persuaded my husband to commit to a Netflix fast for one month:  from January 13 to February 13. Our subscription payment came due on the 13th of each month, which determined the dates of our fast.

We don’t have cable/satellite/dish and haven’t since 2004. If I had my preference, we wouldn’t own a TV. But since we do (and I don’t think it’s all bad), I want us to consider how we use it–and how much money we spend on it.

black and white 2 boys in flowers

Our family possesses one TV–only one–and we’ve never had a TV in our bedroom, save for a few weeks during our first year of marriage, before we sold a small extra TV Mike owned when we got married. We limit screen time for the boys; they have a budget of 4 half-hour shows from which they can choose during the week.

Most weekends, they watch no TV–and they don’t own or use tablets, iPads, cell phones, or the like. Although Woodrow has learned to use my phone to take photos, mostly of the fish he and Garfield catch…Once in a while, we allow them an extra half-hour show on a weekend afternoon. Or even a movie, such as the one we watched on Mother’s Day evening.

We have an Amazon Prime membership, and with that comes access to Prime Video:  movies and TV shows we can watch at no extra charge. During our Netflix fast–which, incidentally, stretched from one month to a total of 4–the boys used Prime Video to view Popular Mechanics for KidsWild Kratts, and Thunderbirds Are Go. And the Mother’s Day movie? The Nut Job, also accessed via Prime Video.

board cinema

As we neared February 13, and the end of our one-month Netflix fast, we easily decided to extend it for another month. Then another, and another. May 13 approached, and I understood that my husband hadn’t committed to an indefinite departure from Netflix. So, that day, Mike reinstated our membership (for streaming videos only, the only Netflix subscription we’ve had).

For those 4 months without this service, we saved over $40 in a painless way. And I have to say, I didn’t miss the extra TV options. It actually felt freeing. A couple of times during this season, Mike and I found a movie on Hoopla (a free service provided by our library for e-books, audio books, movies, and TV shows). This gave us extra entertainment choices, all for free.

colorful guitars

Entertainment deserves a category in our budget, but a small (and sparsely funded) one, I think. For now–this month, at least–Netflix gets a spot in that budget. While we have it, we’ll enjoy it. Going without it for a time makes us more appreciative of it now. Just yesterday, the boys (gratefully) watched an episode of Magic School Bus that they’ve gone without for months.

Have you embarked on a “frugal fast” from anything in particular lately? Did you save for a special goal–or simply to spend less on luxuries?

Wear It Well Wednesday: Little Black Dress

Typically, my WIWW posts celebrate hand-me-downs as the guests of honor. Today, though–because I’ve kind of run out of cast-off outfits to showcase on the blog–I’m sharing about an outfit that I actually DID purchase.

The black dress I’m wearing in this photo still fits the bill, though, because I bought it secondhand at a local store (“resale emporium”) called D’Echoes. I’ve also sold some items in the past at this particular shop. They carry a range of more high-end designer pieces, as well as funky retro stuff that’s actually old. This dress falls into the “funky retro” category, at $20.

little black dress

It came home to live in my closet back when Woodrow was 1–which means I’ve had it 11 years. The skirt is pleated, and there’s a cute little bow on the side. This is how I do LBD.

I’m also wearing the heels I purchased last summer in Colorado for $8 at a thrift store. My jewelry:  bracelet–gift from the husband; necklace–gift from my sister; watch–last year’s anniversary gift, also from Mike (of course, nobody else buys me wedding anniversary gifts). 

I notice now how much the shoes show off my tan line (such as it is) that ends at the ankles. Last year, Woodrow looked down at my bare feet in the pool where we were swimming that day and declared, “Your feet are glowing!” Yep, they’re pretty pale.

black dress hands
Aiming for “elegant hands” here

I’ve worn this dress to judge a scholarship program, to church, to an evening  wedding…and I plan to continue getting my $20 worth out of it.

*For more info on how I spend almost nothing on clothes, check out this post of mine.