Friday, July 31, 2015

The Art of the Journey

A few minutes ago I shared this on my Instagram and Facebook pages.  I can't get it out of my mind, so I thought that I'd share it here as well and maybe talk a bit more about it.  I have a bumble bee themed baby shower cookie order coming up.  I had decided two weeks ago to use a square cookie cutter and since they said it was a burlapy (word?) rustic theme, I went with an ivory/gold base and planned to put a bee hive on half of the order and a bumble bee on the other.  I'd maybe use the airbrush to add some shading around the edges and interior, trim it out and call it done.  Cute right?  But then last week I thought about how great it would be if I had a honeycomb stencil to use as a background.  I even went to a few stencil websites to look and came up empty handed.  Plus there was no guarantee that I'd even get it in time.  So I dismissed it and moved along.

This wasn't my original plan and I was quick to be disappointed. (which is so often the case) When encouraged to look at it through different eyes, I saw it as something acceptable, exciting, a possibility that I couldn't see on my own.

It immediately reminded me of God and how His plans are rarely what we see for ourselves. We make plans, and when they don't work out we are quick to be disappointed.

We must realign our vision with that of Gods. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. His plans are always much better than ours.

Creativity/art can't be contained in our best laid plans, just as God can't be contained. So thankful for this unexpected lesson.

I had to make a trip to the store yesterday for some supplies and even my plan with that shifted and changed as I went along.  I didn't originally plan on going to Michaels, I was just going to go to Hobby Lobby, but like I said, plans changed and I found myself at Michaels.  We were on a time schedule and needed to get in and out of these stores (which is a task, if you know me)!  Luckily for me, Jessica was with me and she is a no nonsense kind of girl!  I did manage to slow my pace as I passed their clearance bin........something caught my eye!!  A honeycomb rubber stamp!  Not was I was looking for, it wasn't even on my conscience radar but there it was!  On clearance!  I grabbed it up and figured there was no better time to try my hand at stamping on cookies.  It's something that I've wanted to do but never took the time to try......until now!  

I am reminded of so many times that my plans changed and I grumbled and complained, even threatened myself to quit!  But I am also reminded of all of the times that, even when I did grumble, God took over and created an end result that was far better than my original plan.  I see Him work in this manner in all sorts of ways, from large dreams to small steps in a day or moment.  When I am willing to approach my day, circumstances or dreams with open hands, heart and eyes, I allow God the room that He desires to work in my life.  Trust me when I say that His plans are ALWAYS, INFINITELY BETTER!!!!!

A creator knows his created like non-other - even better than the created itself in some cases- why oh why do we INSIST that we know better.

Psalm 139 is a beautiful reminder of "how" He knows us:

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.
19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

I am on a journey of entrusting my moments, my thoughts, my dreams and plans into the ever capable hands of The One who created me, The One who knows my inmost being, The One who calls me by name.  I can look back and see where His plans have far outweighed my own and many others who have gone before me, as well as those that walk beside me even today.  I pray that this encourages you to open up your hands and mind to The One who calls YOU by name.

Side note:  I decided to jump into water coloring a weeks ago and I'm so glad that I did!!  It's teaching me so much about myself, God and life!  I have a long way to go, but again, I'm enjoying the journey!

Where do see you see God teaching you a lesson?  Do you have any creative outlets?  I'd love to know!!

God Bless

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Table Time

Some time last week, my daughter, Jessica was trying to coordinate a get-together with her friends before they left for college and a friend/previous youth leader/mentor.  They were discussing different places and days that they could meet.  Being who I am, I threw out the option of them all coming here!!  (ha-ha-ha)  At that moment, the plan was set into motion.

Fast forward to Monday and I realized that the plan that I instigated was for the next night.  Thankfully, I didn't have to do anything to get ready for this, as Jessica is as much of a gathering planner as I am and she was set in motion.  I've been working on an order that's due this weekend and literally stopped and cleaned up my mess less than an hour before anyone arrived.

Jessica had already made banana cupcakes and took off to the store for ingredients for spinach artichoke dip, chips, fruit for fruit salsa and ice cream for milkshakes.  I had a few fleeting thoughts about set up and decorating but they left my mind as quickly as the minuets left my day!!  Ha!  Over the years I have learned a very hard lesson, but a lesson that I am so glad to have learned: a gathering is only a gathering when you have people to gather -not cute decorations and table settings!  Even the food doesn't have to be a big deal! 

We cleared the table except for a pink cake plate with a burning candle on it.  All of the food went on the table in the containers that they came in, the friends gathered and the night was a success!  We ate until we were sick, we laughed until it hurt and we gathered past our bedtimes.  I don't know why we don't stop more often, even in the midst of our busyness, and just gather.  I'm always hoping that one day I will do that more often, that it will just become a way of life.  Sometimes I believe that if I change my location, it will just naturally happen, but I know that's not true.  What needs to change is my attitude, thoughts and perspective on what it means to gather.

I'm so drawn to the title "A Place to Gather" and yet I don't often create space for that in my life.  When I do, I fully cherish those moments, no matter how few and far between they may be.  I have to learn to not look to the future full of "if onlys" and look to right now and the moments that I have right in front of me.

I woke up to one mess of a kitchen, I couldn't see the bottoms of my sinks and there were dishes precariously perched on top of one another.  Counter space?  Forget about it!  As I forced myself to deal with the mess, I took charge of my thoughts and instead of grumbling about the mess, I relished in the memories of the night before. I thought of the faces that sat around my table, how my life has been impacted by each one, of how God is shaping and molding them and using their young lives to further His kingdom.  Dish by dish, I was thankful; thankful for each plate, each cup and utensil, each baking sheet and bowl, each food item that was prepared and purchased (man did we have some good eats), thankful for the young women that gathered at my table and thankful that God gave me a desire for gathering.

I only took one picture last night and it wasn't even thought out or staged.  Just a random shot of a messy table full of half eaten food and that was good enough.  Sometimes we need to keep these special moments just for ourselves and not worry about capturing every second for the world to see.

 A gathering of 8th graders and their small group leader and friend, Erika who is headed to serve in Ecuador for a year!

 I'm guessing that this was from a Mother's Day.

 A girls retreat gathering!  The weather didn't cooperate and our party was forced indoors!  Thank God for the lessons that I've learned.  The chaos of my home didn't bother me one bit!!

 A small, spontaneous gathering with one friend and whatever I had on hand!

 Another small gathering with a friend, last minute, I am sure!!

Big or small, if you put more of your heart and less of your stress/energy, you're guaranteed a sweet gathering!!  Here's to taking those moments captive and making the most of what you've got and even more of the people that have gathered in your life!!

Share with me:  Does hospitality come easily for you or is it a far off dream?  What are some of your go to pieces when gathering friends or family?  I'd love to hear from you!!!  Tell me about your table time!!

God Bless

Friday, July 24, 2015

South Bound!

Hey friends, we're getting geared up to head south in TWO WEEKS!!  You may remember the trip that Bill and I made to Montgomery, AL last November over Thanksgiving.  We got to meet some Instagram friends, deliver cookies to the governors mansion and help Evan G. Cooper.  Bill took care of some renovation projects that Evan needed done and I got to lend a hand with some flower arrangements!  The week went way too quickly and we knew that we would have to get back there sooner than later. We're heading down for Evan's #bigtopbirthdaybash and decided to make a family vacation out of it.  The kids weren't very happy that we left them behind the last time, so we really didn't have a choice this time around.

There seem to be so many things that need to get done before we leave on the 7th; getting the camper ready, which due to a mouse family taking up residence, it needed to be completely emptied, stripped and scrubbed down with a bleach solution),  packing, filling orders, Evan's birthday cookies, not to mention the daily things that need attention.  I don't want to get there and realize that we have no idea of what to do or where to go.  So, I thought I'd ask for your opinions. 

Like I mentioned, we will be camping for the week (we have a large pop-up with air conditioning) and our children's ages are 18, 15, 13 and 11!  So with six of us, we need to do things as cost effectively as we can.

We do plan on eating out once or twice, but intend to prepare most of our meals at the camper.  So, here are my question(s) to you or ya'll:

What are the "must see" attractions in or around Montgomery?
What things aren't really worth the time or effort?
Where do you go for some family fun at a fair price or free?
How do you beat the heat?  It gets pretty hot up here, but I understand that it's a whole different kind of hot in 'bama! 

We did follow a link that a follower shared on my facebook page and it looks like there are plenty of things to do!!  Which is awesome, but a bit of feedback from you would be awesome!

We are hoping that this trip brings a bit more clarity for us.  We are ready for a change and God has seemed to plant a seed in our hearts of Montgomery.  Honestly, we'd love to open a shop there and become part of the community.  There are still quite a bit of unanswered questions and obstacles to get through, but we are seeking the Lord's will and just doing what we believe is the next step.

We are looking for "less house, more home", in other words, we are ready to downsize our home, property and schedule.  On our last visit, we spent quite a bit of time with a realtor and saw many homes that we loved.  We get updates on new homes that hit the market and are keeping an eye on a few that we would purchase right now if we could.

Even is Alabama isn't a part of the plan, it's been fun exploring what we want and where we want to be.  It's led to lots of conversations about what it is that we're looking for out of life and how we can best impact the world around us.  We feel that God has given us the gift of hospitality and would love to share that.  Montgomery seems to be bursting at the seams with creative business owners and that excites me - there doesn't seem to be much of that around here.

So, I better get back to filling those orders and prepping for this trip!!!  Can't wait to get down there and see you all (hoping to meet some new friends -let me know if you'll be around that week)!

God Bless