Monday, October 31, 2011

Days of Beauty: When My Eyes Are Open

Well, here it is - the 31st day of October. From the front side - I had ideas about beauty, but I had no idea how exactly God was going to lead for this entire month. I found myself afraid to commit to posting every day, because I was afraid I'd fail at following through.

But, as the days have passed - I have been led and my eyes and heart have been opened to beauty! Thank you for all of your positive feedback during this month ~ David has even commented that I've had some good posts this month. And, I wondered aloud to him if one reason could be that when we are writing from something deep within us - that comes across. When we are blah about a topic or not interested as much, it can come across as blah and not interested.

When it is from the depths of what makes us tick or feel alive, though, that is sensed from others. But I need to insert here that these words, these ideas for beauty have been His ideas!

One thing I've learned blogging is that there may be something I think I really want to write or share but when I type it out it isn't always sitting right with me. And, when I wait to hear what He would like me to share ~ it comes in His time. If I have to force a post to make it happen or come together, it is not likely something that I should be writing at the moment!

It has amazed me how many times I thought I had a post in my mind and then when I sat down to write it - it just wasn't right. And, it has amazed me how opened my eyes have been to beauty. I can't stop seeing it since I've been immersed in processing it. I've been looking for beauty among the ordinary every day-ness of life and I love it!

Not only that - but numerous times, I just shared my life and what was going on in my heart or home and found beauty in those times. To be able to look at my own life and the things I remember from the week before and share those in beauty - what a gift!

Thank you for walking this journey of beauty with me. I feel like we've barely scratched the surface of all that beauty encompasses. How is it possible that I could write something about beauty every day for 31 days? I'm in awe myself - of the only One who could make that possible.

The Author of beauty, the Creator of all beauty, the One who instills this need and love for beauty deep within. He is the only One who could do this and I am grateful for this beauty in and of itself.

"How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty."
Psalm 84:1

And, I love this quote my friend Angie sent in:
"The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely."
~Louisa May Alcott

And, from church yesterday - I appreciated this song, especially the last verse:

May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and power controlling
All I do and say.

May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His power.

May the peace of God my Father
Rule my life in everything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.

May the love of Jesus fill me
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self abasing,
This is victory.

May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.

May His beauty rest upon me,
As I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only Him.

** Photos: a spontaneous visit to the Pumpkin Patch ~ a very good decision which brought beauty! And, yes, Rachel's lip is swollen from an unfortunate fall into the side of the bath tub. Ouch!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Days of Beauty: Beauty vs. Pretty

The other day I happened to be out of town taking Samuel to the eye dr. (getting a second opinion) and we went to the mall for lunch. After lunch, I had a couple of places I wanted to go and it was just he and I so we embarked on an adventure through the mall.

What was coming to mind is that we cannot force true beauty. It cannot successfully be contrived or brought about through our human endeavors. True beauty comes from within and shines on our faces without.

While I was mulling all of this over - I happened to walk by the Bare Escentuals shop and saw this on the wall (I didn't have my camera, but found this on their website):

Now, I'm not saying I agree with every word here - but there is some truth to what is said. Pretty isn't enough. Someone can be very pretty and then open their mouth and have it filled with trashy talk and pretty soon they aren't so pretty anymore.

There are a couple of lines I love, one is this - "Pretty lifts spirits. Beauty makes them soar." That's a beautiful line! I can't say I support the last line - but when you invest in your inner beauty and are drawing on God's strength (Phil. 4:13) we can do anything through His strength and that will be beautiful.

Think about it this way - pretty can be made. We can dress up, we can put on makeup, we can set a fancy pretty table. Beauty is deeper than that. Beauty cannot only be made through external changes - it is something all together more than that.

As defined by the dictionary:
Pretty: artful, clever; pat, apt; pleasing by delicacy or grace; having conventionally accepted elements of beauty; appearing or sounding pleasant or nice but lacking strength, force, manliness, purpose, or intensity

Beauty: the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit; loveliness; a beautiful person or thing; a particularly graceful, ornamental, or excellent quality

You can see the difference even in those definitions! I'll leave you with this and would love to hear your thoughts on the differences between pretty and beautiful.

1 Samuel 16:7,
But the LORD said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height,
for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at.
Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.'"

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Days of Beauty: The Beauty of Giving

One thing that brings beauty to my life is to give. I love to think of something special or hear something mentioned and then make it or find it to gift to a sweet friend.

Here's how this one began:

I decided earlier this year not to go to Relevant this year. This is just the decision God gave me peace in - but as the time got closer for it, I was starting to wish I could go. Then, I found out my sweet blog-friend and kindred spirit Joy was going to speak. Oh, I really wished to go.

Truthfully, it wouldn't be a good time for our family. I don't know how we'd swing it financially and it's been sold out for months - so doesn't really matter anyway. But, I didn't want to wallow in this regretful feeling.

God gave me the idea of making something for Joy to send to the hotel and surprise her. I saw a number of pallet art wall hangings on her Pinterest board and wanted to make something like this for her.

David helped me scrounge the most weathered pieces of wood from back by our shed and I cut them in half and nailed them to a board in the back. Now, what should I put on it? I didn't want to directly copy the words of a sign off Pinterest, yet wanted it to be special and meaningful to Joy.

So, I headed to her blog and found her life verse and instantly knew that would be a good choice. I just free-handed the lettering and then sanded it for some aged-look. A little pennant garland out of scrapbook paper allowed me to include more of the verse on the sign.

Joy - I hope you love it! It was beauty to me to spend part of a lovely afternoon making it for you and imagining how it might bless and encourage you.

How can you give a little beauty today to yourself and someone else?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Days of Beauty: Listen to Little Ideas

I wish this wasn't true - but so often I hear myself explaining why a certain suggestion or idea offered by a young member of my family won't work. Lately I've found myself more aware of their ideas and trying very hard to try something if I can!

Saying no is so easy - it takes less time, energy, adjusting, flexibility. But, can't that get discouraging after a while?

It seems that once I try one idea it is easier to try the next and the next. When a child asks for a certain thing for dinner - if I don't have the things on hand to do it that night, I can make it a point of serving that very soon.

Some ideas that have come up in our house lately:

"Can we have chili for supper?"

"Can we go to the boat landing and lay down on a blanket and look at the stars?"

"Can we make sprinkle donuts?"

"Can I share one of these donuts with our neighbor?"

We've made all of these happen so far except for the star gazing. And, that one is forefront in my mind to make it happen very soon! None of these things was earth shattering. None took a whole lot of extra time.

In the case of the donuts, I was making them anyway (recipe here) and had never tried them with sprinkles before - but really, why not? By the way, they were so good!

I am an idea person and ideas are beauty to me. Carrying them out is even more beauty. What if that is true for my children as well and I'm saying no to their ideas? It is extinguishing beauty in their lives.

Giving credit to the Holy Spirit for the inner prompting - I'm saying yes to more ideas. And, guess what? It is adding beauty to my life too!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Days of Beauty: Finish Something!

It has been weighing on me that our couches have been unfinished. I started the first one in August and up until about two weeks ago - one couch has been done for a while, but the other has sat absolutely untouched.

Projects are like this - they often take longer than we think or we lose steam on something. But, what kind of beauty is it adding to my life to let it sit there unfinished?

Um, none. An idea can be beautiful. But, an idea carried out and completed is even more beautiful.

For curious minds - here is a before picture:

I had sort of set a goal for myself of getting the smaller couch finished before Emily's birthday which is November 2nd. A friend and I traded sewing for child care - so I sewed that day and cancelled school one day just to get it nearer to completion.

And, I don't know about you - but often the enormity of the feeling of the project is worse than actually doing it. Have you ever had something you needed to do for a long time but when you finally did it - it took less time than you thought it would and wondered why you put it off for so long? Yeah, me too.

I am excited to share that I finished several projects last week including the couches!!!! Yippee! That job is ALL done! I made a Christmas garland and two scarves as well. More details on the couch project in a future post!

Honestly, though - I must admit that I have at least two other unfinished projects that have been shelved for the time being. I'm working on a third blog book and have an unfinished afghan that really isn't that far from being done. I'd like to get both of those things done before Spring. I was going to say the end of the year - but right now I'll be in birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas mode so I know that is not realistic.

What unfinished project is not bringing beauty to your home? Can you nibble away at getting it done and enjoying the beauty of knowing you completed something?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cookies for Prison Ministry Update

A couple of you wondered in the comments about how we got the cookies delivered and how to do something like this.

Someone at our church coordinated this for us - so I just dropped my cookies off at church during the Wednesday evening service. However, you might appreciate knowing about Kairos Prison Ministry. The cookies we took were for this ministry and they have programs nation-wide.

They are so serious about the cookie baking, they provide guidelines, recipes and all kinds of helpful info for your baking. If you click on Locations - you can choose your state and be taken to the personalized web page for your state ministry locations.

It was interesting to note that the prison where Brittany's mom was listed as one of the participating ones when I checked another state. You just never know how this will bless a family even down the road!

Days of Beauty: Service

For a long time, I've desired to instill a servant's heart in my children. And, I know sometimes it can seem difficult to find ways for very young children to serve.

Recently I heard on the radio about a prison ministry desiring to have home baked cookies to distribute to participants of a Bible Study and even to every inmate in the prison. I put a lot of thought and prayer into how to make this a fun experience for my children and even who else to invite to join us.

To me, one of the keys in a successful service opportunity for children is making it smooth and very organized so they feel needed.

I prayed, I organized and I invited. Three families came to join us and we started with prayer. Then, I shared about what we were going to be doing for the morning.

And, I shared a little bit about Brittany. I don't think I've ever shared this here on my blog - but when I was in 7th grade, we had a little girl named Brittany come to live with us. She was four at the time and her mother was in prison. She lived with us for two years and over the years, I have appreciated the opportunities to be involved in ministry to families of those in prison through Angel Tree mostly, and now this cookie baking opportunity.

After that, we talked about people in the Bible who had been in prison. And, then I posed this question, "Do you think God loves people who are in prison?" I wanted to remove a barrier in little minds that these people were bad or unlovable. We talked about the thief on the cross next to Jesus and how Jesus forgave him and promised to see him in Paradise.

I read Matthew 25: 35-45 and we talked about why we serve. I was wanting to plant the seed in their minds that we aren't serving just to look good, nor to earn our way to Heaven but in response to our love for God. To show His love to others and pray that someone else may come to know God.

After reading a book and singing a song, we divided up into groups. I had stations set up for baking and mixing dough, drawing pictures and packaging the cookies in dozens. We ended up making 19 dozen cookies! And, after they were all baked and packaged we prayed over them together.

I haven't said anything about beauty yet - but, serving others does create a beauty that comes from Him. It is beautiful to us to do something for others, it is beautiful for God that we extend ourselves and share of what He has given to us.

Romans 10:15, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news."

And, before I wrap up this post - I have to share another amazing and beautiful provision that I witnessed this week.

I was out of butter. Out of butter and wanting to bake, hoping I could find some on sale somewhere. The weekend passed and David called from work on Monday saying that there had been some sort of fundraiser at school and they had leftovers - so he would be bringing home a bag of butter. Like 6-8 pounds of butter!

{Gasp!} Really!?!? Yes, really. Many of those cookies were baked with free butter ~ straight from His hand.

The next day we had fun shopping for groceries to donate to the Food Pantry at our church. Out of the overflow of our blessings, it is a pleasure and beauty to be able to extend service through a heart of gratitude to others.

How do you cultivate servant's hearts in your children?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Days of Beauty: For the Senses

To make your home smell divine: Christmas Smell

Beauty for the eyes and lots of inspiring ideas: Follow me on Pinterest!

For the ears - listening to lovely music. My current favorites are Christmas music and always worship music.

Make something lovely! I've admired all the fun ruffly scarves all over the web and I read several tutorials, but ended up making this up as I went along.

David donated the black t-shirt and I had a very loved grey t-shirt that I've been wearing since before I got married and that had tons of holes in it which made a perfect scarf!

All I did was cut three bands off the bottom of a t-shirt and cut one edge to make it a long strip. I sewed these together to make one long strip. Then, I ran a basting stitch down the middle of the scarf and pulled to gather. I sewed twice over the basting stitch with a regular stitch to hold the gathers in place.

That's it - two cast off t-shirts and about 15 minutes a piece - and voila! I love them! Most of the tutorials on line use elastic thread which intrigues me, but I didn't want to spend anything and wasn't sure enough about how it would work in my machine.

Read something inspiring or relaxing. I've been reading lots of Karen Kingsbury lately!

Bake something lovely ~ anything with pumpkin is top on my list right now!

What will you do to add beauty today?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Days of Beauty; When Beauty is Hard to Find

It had actually been a really good day. We had a great school time, which almost always means my house is going to fall apart shortly thereafter.

I started to feel a little behind by mid-afternoon as I was hurrying to put chili in the Crock Pot and take Emily to ballet. And, I got home in good time feeling great that dinner was ready - and feeling optimistic about the open time ahead in the evening.

But, stress found its way in through a host of needs my family had. And, as I felt the pressure of the needs, the clutter around me seemed to multiply instantly. Of course, this multiplied my stress and so continued the downward spiral.

In the midst of this, I was feeling anything but beauty around me. It seemed everywhere I looked was work waiting for me. And, I simply could not keep up with how fast it was accumulating.

I quickly ran outside to put something away noticing tons more work that needed to be done. And as I scurried in quickly - my eye caught something in the dirt. Yes, nothing around but dirt and this one pretty leaf.

I know that God brought my eye to this for the restoration it would provide me for even a few minutes. Just getting a glimpse of beauty did lift my spirits. I grabbed the leaf, thankful for the distraction and for something beautiful to gaze upon. To be able to forget my previous struggle for a moment and to have my focus adjusted.

Just looking at the beauty of the leaf helped my attitude and outlook. Yet, it reminds me that I don't want to come across that life is always perfectly beautiful and should look like a magazine. Life is messy. Beauty is messy.

I am thankful that God provided me a deep breath, a sigh of relief in seeing a lovely leaf. And, I remember that it was simply lying in the dirt where He opened my eyes to its beauty. No, to even noticing it existed and then to its beauty. Amid the grime and grit of life - may we allow Him to draw our eyes Heavenward, upward and toward small glimpses of beauty.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Days of Beauty: Family Traditions

October 22. It is a special date on our calendar each year for it marks the day that David and I closed on this, our first home. We weren't married yet, living at separate addresses and this house was a wreck needing so much work.

But, this day was special! And, even though our house was gutted, had no electricity and only concrete floors - we embraced the moment and picked up Chinese food. Bringing it to our house! We found a blanket in the back of David's car to picnic on and maybe scrounged up a candle or two.

And, in those few moments - a tradition was born. We have done this every year since then and this was our 8th year to carry it on. I can't wait for the year we get to do this and celebrate that our house is paid for - we're eagerly working toward this, but it will still be a while.

Having our own little family traditions and moments like this are beauty! Maybe no one appreciates it but those who live within our walls, but it is special and unique and just for us.

Creating family moments like this don't have to take a lot of time or energy. The beauty is often in the tradition, in the being together and in the memories made. Making memories beautiful is one thing that I strive for, love doing and enjoy remembering! The extra details and frills are heightened in our memories making them even more beautiful and a joy to recall.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Lunch Box Jokes Winner: Lisa

Pumpkin Prayer: Kristin Eason

Smack Dab in the Middle of God's Love: Lee

Gabby, God's Little Angel: Heather

Days of Beauty: Following Your Lead

Rachel came running in one morning last week with a beautiful leaf that she had found. She was all excited and waving it around and ran up to me to show me what a treasure she had!

You know what? I love that!

My girls have watched my love for beauty and have since taken great enjoyment in finding beauty and bringing it to me or bringing me to it. They have helped me experience even more beauty because we have opened each others eyes to beauty.

Our children learn to notice and appreciate beauty partially by how we respond to beauty. By how we treat beauty. My girls know that if they spy something especially beautiful, I will stop everything and usually grab my camera before running to see what they've found!

It is a connection between us. Something we're both interested in. And, truly I think they love it because I love it. They want to make me smile and see that I'm pleased with what they've found. And, it is creating a love of beauty in them as well. It is something we can share!

My girls and I love to stop and watch butterflies, smell flowers, look for pretty leaves or see the rays of the sun filtering through the trees. We delight in pointing these things out to one another and these things remind us of our Heavenly Father!

I saved this leaf all day in a glass of water by the sink so I could enjoy it again later in the afternoon and evening. It's an opportunity for me to show them that God's Creation is beautiful and special. Yes, it is external beauty and it is not as important as our hearts - but it is more important that how we physically look to praise Him for His great creation!

What are children learning about beauty from you?

Friday, October 21, 2011

First set of winners!

Thanks for all of your great comments this week!

Winner of the Gooseberry Patch Cookbook is Katie!

Winner of the Slow Cooker Cookbook is Lisa!

Congratulations, Ladies!

Winners of the next four giveaways will be announced this weekend.

Days of Beauty: Beautiful Words

Proverbs 25:11,
"A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver."

I sat at our kitchen table to write one of our Compassion children and noticed how pretty and colorful the paper they sent this time was. I loved the little artwork of a bird and a woman tending a garden and I wrote to this sweet girl about how God tends our own hearts and how He cares for even the little birds - how much more His people?! (PS: You can now write letters to your sponsor children online creating your own stationery and uploading your own pictures!)

Later in the day, it took me no more than five minutes to haul a few things out in the back yard to set up this cute writing spot. I was just wanting to create some beauty and capture some beauty in photos. And, I did sit in this place and write a note to a new friend.

And, I just have to say that in the creating of this little piece of beauty to capture in photos - I was so energized and refreshed. I had that alive feeling again. It was so worth the few minutes I spent doing it!

Back to words though, words can have such a beautiful effect on us can't they?
We can read something that really hit home with something that has been fresh or heavy on our hearts. We can hear a snip of encouragement that can carry us though. We can receive beautiful words and yes, we can give them!

I have a big stash of beautiful DaySpring cards - remember when I won a bunch of them? I love to look through that growing-smaller-stack and be reminded of a sweet certain friend who may be blessed by the words it provides.

And, to include a handwritten note. If you are like me, you open a handwritten piece of mail before something computer generated! It just creates a little more excitement - it is more personal and someone took the time to write or speak or share.

These kind of words are beautiful indeed! And, a phrase jumps in here from something a friend shared years ago possibly from the Five Aspects of Woman Bible Study.
But, I'm reminded of words that are life-giving.

Life-giving words?
Oh, what sweet beauty!