Friday, September 27, 2013

Guest Room Makeover

guest bed

Okay, okay, I know. I promised you a big reveal on Friday. But today I ran across something that was so spot on for so many women I know, I thought I'd post it instead. So many of us have that one undone thing that is nagging at us. But what Beth Moore says in this video about not rushing to get a project done when the thing you are doing is your "happy place" hit me square between the eyes.  Here's the link to the video.

What's Undone

Now so as not to be a complete liar I am giving you a progress report. Next week I'll fill in the blanks and share details with you. I'll also give you a little insight into some of what is in store for October. Remember where we started?

Dirty, cluttered, and slightly smelly...

Fresh but boring...

Warm, fun, and cheery.

Stay tuned.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Empty Nest Nightmare

You think that title means I'm feeling useless and empty don't you? You must be new here. 

A couple of weeks ago my son moved out. Hello, empty nest. I've been told some women are upset about this turn of events when it happens. When you held that baby did you expect it to stay forever, Mrs. Bates? So unhealthy.

My husband has gone out of town for the weekend and I'm in the house alone with two dogs and a cat. I can have popcorn for dinner. Or chocolate. What's not to like?

Yesterday began the great upstairs clean out. Here's the ugly truth about an upstairs: When your kids are born you put them up there and you never go up there again. Okay, maybe if someone was sick. Then you're only thought is "How do they live like this?" My husband was a great fan of visiting them on their own little planet and usually came down the stairs with a look of horror and some complaint about something he observed.

My reaction? Why are you going up there?

But now everyone is gone and I'm seeing the second floor in a new light. A guest room. A beautiful landing. Possibly a little study for me. And miracle of miracles: a bathroom that will stay clean.

But first, I have to walk through hell. Want to see? Of course you do because these pictures are going to make you feel so much better about whatever state your house is in...


Gird your loins, Makeover Darlings.

I know. I'm scared too.

When kids move out they only take what they want. They leave everything else, then ask you not to have a yard sale. Okay, hello, Goodwill. 

She moved out several years ago but my daughter doesn't want me to paint over the palm tree from when she asked for a beach theme when she was twelve.

 My son is equally upset that this football stadium mural on his wall is about to go.

There should be a law about giving stickers to anyone under 21. On the ceiling fan? Really? I say we let them drink at 18 and card for stickers 3 years after that.

Oh, don't even get me started on the sad little bathroom...

Friday, September 13, 2013

Historical Contrast

When traveling I usually set out to have a good time, be flexible, and try to learn something along the way. On my recent trip to the UK , Northern Ireland, and France, it was often the contrasts that I was most struck by. Sharply incongruent images kept haunting my camera lens. A family style street festival just yards from a museum dedicated to the Titanic disaster and encompassing a memorial to the Lusitania.  Beaches famous for fierce fighting and massive loss of life are now strewn with running children spending the day by the sea with sunbathing parents. Photos of beautiful landscapes marred by barbed wire. A carousel at the site of more heroic deeds and loss of life. An idyllic country lane that leads to an underground hospital built by the Nazi occupiers using slave labor. I was fascinated by the honoring of the past combined with enjoying the present.

Memorial to the Lusitania

Irish rock band playing at the Regatta Festival (Think Mumford and Sons)

A family friendly atmosphere in Cobh (Cork, Ireland)

The Titanic Museum

 Arromanches-les-Bains (Gold Beach on D-Day)

At Normandy American Cemetery, Taps played and everyone paused...
As you walk up from the beach there's a reminder of where you are...

Below the cemetery, down a steep pathway lies Omaha Beach

Further down the beach older Americans, Canadians, and Brits spend time around memorials overlooking the site.
Walk down the steps toward the shore and young French families enjoy a relaxing holiday.

Strolling down a quiet lane on the island of Guernsey.

Just off the lane enclosed in an idyllic wood...

A German Underground Hospital.

The view from a German bunker at Pointe du Hoc.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Lessons From a Rocky Shoreline

I was sharing the pictures from my recent cruise of the British Isles with my daughter when we came to this picture.

"Mom, you took a picture of rocks."

"Yes, but look at them; they were so beautiful."

They were less comfortable to walk on but infinitely more interesting to look at than sandy white beaches (Unless you are using a microscope, then each grain of sand is strikingly unique). When she left I looked at this picture again and wondered what it was that I found beautiful. Here's what I came up with.

Ordinariness. There aren't any precious or rare gemstones here. No diamonds, pearls, or even semi-precious stones. But often the most beautiful things are less than perfectly polished. The same goes for people.

Brokenness. I'm sure the original shells, stones, and bottles and pottery were very nice things in and of themselves. But it was in the being broken that a new beauty was found. And while I'm sure that these fragments were useful in their original forms, they would not have been able to be combined together to form a very nice beach. A collection of empty bottles on a beach is called trash. But with the pressure and constant tumbling of the sea it is reduced and refined to something called beach glass, so beautiful that people collect it and make jewelry from it.

Individuality.  These rocks and shells, picked up and examined one at a time, have beauty of their own. Each one has its own unique history, it's own story of how it came to be the way it is. Every unique item could tell how it was crushed and worn over time through the experiences of its life to end up exactly as it is now. No two of those stories would be the same.

Combination and Diversity. The different colors, sizes, and shapes. The very different-ness of the stones, shells, and sea glass was what made the beach so eye catchingly stunning. It is seeing the pieces together contrasted against each other that emphasizes the beauty of each piece. I picked up a few bits from this beach and brought them home to place in a wooden bowl on my coffee table where they are combined with other things collected from my travels. The combination is beautiful in a different way. It is now contrived (by me) as opposed to the natural and random combination which was far more organic and aesthetically pleasing.

Setting. When I looked down and took this picture I was standing on a rocky coastline, under a grey sky, with an ancient little town in the distance. Where the rocks were, added to their beauty. The dampened light, the water, the mystery of the town added to the beauty of the stones were all elements that worked together to heighten the pleasure of the moment. The backdrop had its part to play.

How often is our appreciation for life a combination of the elements of the beauty I found on this beach?

As an art lover, often I would deem beautiful something skillfully arranged or assembled. Good room design or a beautiful work of art is contrived carefully to be aesthetically pleasing. It may be one reason we struggle with events in life or our relationships with others. We want a certain amount of order and control. But our control is limited, our knowledge finite, and our understanding of how things can be arranged for the most beautiful effect is warped by our love of the easy to grasp and our short term thinking. The complexity of randomness makes us feel small. But like the stones on this beach, life may be more beautiful because of our lack of power to arrange it as we see fit.

While we all avoid pain and brokenness with every bit of energy we have, we appreciate the beauty of it in light of context. The successes and triumphs are sweetened by it. How often have a person's actions made no sense to us until we heard more about their life. With context comes understanding.

We can control a lot. About our decisions, attitudes, and circumstances to a great extent. But we cannot, for all our planning, and thinking, and worrying make the life we want. Things happen. Good and bad will befall us and our attitude will play the biggest part in whether or not we learn and grow from those things. But instead of being filled with fear and distress about the uncontrollable, perhaps we should embrace the beautiful randomness that life sometimes sets before us.

Which stone has the more exciting life? The diamond in its perfect setting, under beautiful lighting, polished to perfection? Or these stones tossed about by wind and sea out in the unpredictable world of nature? It looks pretty exciting compared to a velvet box under a glass case. We so often choose the sheltered space, the safe bet, the comfortable and familiar. The beauty in the photo above is a result of the adventure each individual stone and shell has been on.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Does Your Lifeboat have a No Tresspassing Sign?

At the dawn of humanity the good ship Eden went down in flames and we've been struggling to get people into the lifeboat ever since. We should be hauling them, wet and struggling aboard with all their injuries and weaknesses. Instead many Christians today would rather argue with the victims about whether or not they agree with us on how the boat was made or give them a political questionnaire.  Those of us in the boat already are distracted from the screams of the drowning by our own arguments about who is in charge of rations within the boat or which direction we're heading. Many of those treading water watch us and wonder if there isn't another boat they can get into. Because the bobbing raft of modern American Christianity doesn't look all that enticing from the water level.

We've lost our understanding of the point of a lifeboat.

Our mission is to haul people, in all their misery, into the vessel. It is not to say to entire groups of people that we don't have room for them and then chide them when they get into another boat with holes in it. "Look at that boat! It's full of those misfits! Surely it's going to sink, why would they get into it?"

Because we wouldn't let them, let alone help them, get into ours. At some point we'll be called to give an account of our actions. What we did. Why we did it. Did we love God with all our heart, soul, and mind?

Did we love our neighbors as ourselves? The sum of the law and prophets according to Christ

"Well, no, God but did you see all the amusing Facebook memes I posted? Did you follow me on Twitter? I was hilarious. I was really clever and put those (fill in the blank: gays, Socialists, liberals, people who believed in evolution, professors, scientists, people of other religions, gun control advocates, hippies, vegetarians, people who wanted to legalize drugs, people who wanted to tax the rich, the anti-war crowd, and everyone else who didn't think like me) in their place."

I like to imagine God thumbing casually through his Word. "I don't recall where I commanded you to do that, but hang on, I'll keep looking..."

Can you imagine squirming there and realizing perhaps you are the one who missed the boat?  

I'll bet He won't even ask how many "likes" those posts got and how many followers you had on Twitter. He's all old school about that love thing. What's more, Jesus never came across as smug or self righteous. And he actually could have rocked self righteous. Sinlessness could do that to you. But he didn't. Yet we do. All the time.

 Imagine all the things we would wish we'd done instead.

I'm pretty sure we'll be regretting not rationing out a little more love to everyone out here on the high seas. I for one, am sure I'll be wishing I'd shared more compassion and kindness to those around me at least as often as I thought I needed to share my opinion. It's something I'm working on. 

Lots of people miss the old hymns in church and I guess there's something to that. Here's one that came to mind as I was writing this post:

Rescue the Perishing
1. Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
Weep o'er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.

2. Though they are slighting Him, still He is waiting,
Waiting the penitent child to receive;
Plead with them earnestly, plead with them gently,
He will forgive if they only believe.

3. Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter,
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness,
Cords that are broken will vibrate once more.

4. Rescue the perishing, duty demands it
Strength for your labor the Lord will provide;
Back to the narrow way patiently win them,
Tell the poor wand'rer a Savior has died.

Rescue the perishing, Care for the dying;
Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Beatles, Braveheart, and the Greatest Generation

princess cruise line
Professor J,

Leaving Dublin, we sailed across to Liverpool,  the the next stop on our magical mystery tour. I'd booked a Beatles tour and we were met at the ship's terminal by our taxi driver, Rob. A knowledgeable and affable fellow.  Our 3 hour tour included stops at the childhood homes, Penny Lane, Strawberry Field (actually a girls' orphanage where John use to climb a tree to watch them undress), the church with Eleanor Rigby's grave out back, the church where John and Paul first met, and endless trivia and stories shared by our cabbie. Naturally between locations he played the song that best connected to our next stop.


 I was fascinated by the fact that Paul claims he made up the name Eleanor Rigby, that he'd never seen the gravestone or heard the name at all. That her name on that marker is a coincidence. Yet, given what we know about how much information the brain takes in that we are unaware of it seems very likely he saw it at some point and registered it in some unconscious way.

Then it was on to Glasgow, Belfast,  Edinburgh, and Invergordon:

touring scotland  
There is one stop left on the places list, Normandy. As if to match your post about your visit to Arlington National Cemetary, I have the transatlantic companion. There aren't really any words to describe the feeling of the place. But my experience was profound in ways I didn't expect.  Beaches famous for fierce fighting and massive loss of life are now strewn with running children spending the day by the sea with sunbathing parents. Photos of beautiful landscapes marred by barbed wire. A carousel at the site of more heroic deeds and loss of life. 
 Arromanches-les-Bains (Gold Beach on D-Day)  

normandy beach

beaches at normandy

normandy beach

At Normandy American Cemetery


normandy american cemetary guidelines

american cemetary at normandy


 Omaha Beach. The tour buses are lined up and tourists, mostly of a certain age visit the site and read the memorials. Pictures are taken, with no one exactly sure whether or not it is appropriate to smile in them. It seems like a sacred place.

d day landing site

Then just beyond where you see that stone monument there are steps going down to the beach. It took me by surprise to see these happy French families enjoying a holiday, children running and playing, parents laughing, sunning. I stood on the steps and looked up at older tourists, mostly American, pointing and discussing the historical significance of the place. I looked down and saw what could easily have been any beach in the world. I wondered what those men who died here would think of that. I could imagine that they might tell us that was exactly what they'd fought here for. After all what better memorial could there be than those free French children. I couldn't help but think that if they are aware of it, it would surely make them smile.

normandy invasion beach

 The following pictures are taken in and around the machine gun nest at Pointe du Hoc:

point du hoc

nazi machine gun nest

beaches at normandy

nazi machine gun nest

point du hoc