Makes Me Happy Monday : Soapstone Necklace

I spent my entire weekend in downtown Augusta at our annual Arts in the Heart festival.  This festival is over 30 years old and is one of the top festivals in the south with 120 artists sharing their wares, food vendors representing dozens of countries/ethnicities from around the world and continuous entertainment from beginning to end of event at each of the five stages. It’s quite a weekend to enjoy.

AITH Logo

I usually buy at least one or two little gifts for myself while visiting. This year, I spent my birthday money (Thanks Mom and Dad!) on a gorgeous soapstone necklace.

It was made by a new friend, Ajit Churrch. I met him through another friend, Gina, who has a great little eclectic shop downtown. Her shoppe is filled with all sorts of curiosities and vintage items, artwork she creates from found and repurposed objects and a huge number of awesome, funky paintings. You can find her HERE on Facebook.

Here’s a gorgeous treasure she made from an old tool that I’ve had for years. I knew she would do something spectacular with it.  Just look at those wings! That face! And that wonderful skirt!! I love it!

Wooden wings with a old soul

I’m always amazed at how quickly Gina can create. She’s not afraid. She doesn’t worry about messing up. She just creates. She picks up the brush and begins to pour out her heart in purples, salmon and green. Her paintings are fun and abstract. Here is a fun one that is on my Instagram feed. She is as talented with mixed media as she is with a simple brush and vibrant colors.

While visiting with Gina on Saturday where she was set up in the Augusta Market at the River (where you’ll find her every Saturday morning), I got to meet her friend Ajit who had paintings and necklaces displayed. Soapstone Necklace by Ajit Churrch

I was totally taken by his necklaces. You can see several of them HERE.  Soapstone Necklace by Ajit Churrch He said that he cuts the small pendants from larger stones and then fits them with wire, tubing, shells and found objects.Soapstone Necklace by Ajit Churrch Some have holes drilled. Some have added paint. I just loved this one so it was my splurge for the weekend.

Soapstone Necklace by Ajit Churrch

I love how there are so many textures and colors! Even the stone is multi-colored.
Soapstone Necklace by Ajit ChurrchWhile downtown, I just threw it on with all the other necklaces already adorning my neck.

My new necklace amongst the old favoritesI’m so careful with my money. We took sandwiches and fruit with us downtown. I could have spend 10-20-30.00 on food, but I chose to spend my birthday money on something that would last and last. I invested it into this beautiful necklace that I will enjoy for years and years to come.

It really makes me happy!

What makes YOU happy this marvelous Monday morning?

Makes Me Happy Monday : A Painted Snail

Chuck Hanes and Elizabeth Collins snails

These beautiful little creatures were created by Chuck Hanes and Elizabeth Collins. They are potter friends from Madison, Georgia. To be truthful, I don’t know who created which one and I don’t know who came up with the idea to begin creating snails. I expect bits of clay were left over after some clay making venture when … someone was doodling with clay and then … a handful came to life. I would guess that each of them made a few and they may have added glazes to snails that they didn’t create. They are a team. In some ways, it feels like their work even flows together, though they both have distinct styles as potters.  

I adore snails. I ooohed and ahhhhhed over snails that Chuck and Elizabeth posted on Facebook. When I went to their house a few weeks ago, Chuck gifted a few to me. 

And the little guy in the rear? Well …. his shell was just begging me to paint it … so I did. Painted Snail  Painted Patterned snail

window love Now, he sits on my kitchen window sill and
alongside drying brushes, a new favorite pine cone.
These friends keep me company when I do dishes. 

This little snail makes me so happy!! 

Some days … we have to look for the “happy.” Mondays can be tough. It’s hard to leave home and get back into the work week with responsibilities, deadlines and the scatter of family or the busy of just being home with all of those responsibilities. No matter what your life looks like, when we look for happy, we can find it. Make the effort to look for the joy today. 

What makes YOU happy this magnificent Monday morning? 
Have a marvelous week this week. 

 

- I can take it

I love how easily my perspective can be altered.
God speaks to me through so many conduit forms in life.
This morning, it was a HONY post.

……

I was in the kitchen emptying the dish drainer when I heard the familiar movement yesterday afternoon.
The handle turned, the hinges silently allowed the door to glide open as the solid plank of hardwood slid from the tight frame.
“Hiiigghhhhheeeeee” I sang. “How are you?”
My song was met with silence
. footsteps .
… then an exhausted “fine.”

My youngest is like my oldest – a die-hard introvert.
At the end of a school day, I know she is drained
by being under authority, beside living bodies and immersed in noise.
Today was no exception.

She began with an accusation that I called her principal that morning.
I had, in fact, spoken with her principal … a good three weeks earlier,
but not that morning, I defended.
Next? “Would you fill my cup with water?”
I didn’t know WHAT cup she was asking me to fill.
Her water “bottle” was on the counter and dirty.
I needed clarification and she balked.
And as is her standard, she did not add “please.”
As I stepped into the adjacent utility room,
I emptied fluffy, fresh towels from the dryer,
she emptied her backpack and
we both filled with frustration.
I think I then reminded her that she had neglected to order a Kindle book for school.
I moved back to the kitchen to finish popcorn that I was preparing for a snack.
I believe I was defending why the refrigerator was in the middle of the kitchen floor
when I began to prepare to melt butter for the popcorn.
“NO. Butter can’t go in a bowl!”
She wanted me to microwave-melt the butter in a coffee mug … her preferred method.
My hands went in the air – truce style – and I said, “That’s it. I’m done.”
I verbally listed the contentious topics of our ten minute conversation,
I told her she could finish the popcorn
and I went back to my sewing project.
Yes. Those are bird feathers on the floor beside the bird cage. And I didn't edit them out ... because real life is rarely neat and tidy to view.

I was thankful that I did the right thing.
I set a boundary.
This is new for me.
For decades, I have let someone else make all the decisions
about how they should treat me.
I didn’t get angry or hurt.
I set a boundary.
And I walked away.
I did well.

……

This morning, when I saw this HONY post, I could relate to this woman.

She is a director at a children’s refuge center in South Sudan. She told Brandon about the children’s backgrounds. She said, “Many of them were malnourished, abandoned, or regularly sexually abused. Some of them have witnessed extreme violence.” Then she said, “Often their trauma is so bad, that when the children first arrive, they can be very hateful toward me. But I feel blessed by the hate. Because I know it’s part of the healing process. And if they need someone to hate so that they can heal, I’m glad it can be me.”
Isn’t that beautiful? She does not expect to be appreciated. She does not require that she is respected.

She understands that … hurting people … sometimes hurt others.

Please don’t be misled. I am not relating my daughter’s struggles with those of these children. I am relating my parenting to the mentoring of this beautiful woman.
I k.n.o.w that my child has not lived the life of these children who are growing up in dire, dangerous circumstances. Our struggles here pale in any form of comparison.
But, everybody on earth has struggles. And we each have to learn to work through our hurts.

From the most tragic situations of terror
to the simple, growing pangs of my teen,
people need unconditional love to heal from their personal wounds.
They need to know they won’t be pushed away
when their healing is messy and uncomfortable.

I parent alone. Parenting alone is one of the hardest parts of divorce for me.
Glory doesn’t live at home any longer and James is not home very much.
So, life is Joy.and.me.
Sometimes it’s … NO …. Often it is difficult to absorb all the blows
that parenting dishes out
and make all the decisions that must be made.
I’m thankful that God gives me the stamina to stand.
And I’m thankful for His direction daily ….
His altering of my perspective.

In thinking about yesterday, I have realized
that I neglected something important in yesterday’s interaction.
Before I walked away,
I should have brought awareness to the conversation.
I should have said,
“Ya know, I understand that you’re probably tired. I know that you’re hungry. And I realize that you may even be angry because I talked to the principal about a topic that you and I struggle over. But, I’m on your team. I am for you, not against you. I love you and always want the best for you. So, I’m going to step away and give you some space.”

That is what I should have done.

I’ve heard people talk about becoming paralyzed
by perfectionism.
Sometimes, trying to do “the best” you can
gets in the way of just doing good.
In this case, I think a “good” response
got in the way of the best response.
But, another saying I like fits in this case;

Do the best you can until you know better.
Then when you know better, do better. – Maya Angelou

I am thankful for the stamina
and that I am here – albeit alone – to absorb the blows.
Next time, I hope I do better.

Makes Me Happy Monday : Kindness

This last week was …. uhm ……. full of uncertainty.
The south-east was drenched with rain on Tuesday
then we had a flash-freeze on Wednesday
that brought life to a standstill.
Over a hundred thousand people in our immediate area lost power.
We were without for four days.
It was returned to us sometime after midnight Sunday morn.
Flames in the fireplace

During those four days,
I had one friend bring us a gracious amount of  firewood,
one friend to text me to check on me every day
and another one call from out of town to ask if he could help us in any way.
And as I walked into a store last night,
I had a gentleman hold the door open for me.
I told him “Thank you so much”
and as I walked past his graciousness, I felt the tears coming.

Kindness is so rare.
It feels as though people don’t pay attention to people around them.
We can’t save every lost puppy, heal every wound or comfort every soul.
I want to do so much more than I am physically, emotionally or financially able.
Sometimes, we’re doing what we can just to keep ourselves in motion
and life often feels isolated.
And honestly, even small acts of kindness can be monumental.
The man who held that door open for me …. saw me.
He saw that I was near him.
He saw I was walking in the same direction.
And he offered the kindness of simply opening a door.
Even a small kindness is anything but small.

Yes, simply, earthy kindness makes me happy …
the sort of kindness that “sees” people and extends a hand.
What makes you happy this mild Monday morning?

Grace for Single Mothers

Glennon at Momastery posted this on her Facebook wall the other night:

“You guys, it was one of those nights. Too many kids crying and whining and flailing and fighting and just ALL MY SENSES on overload and I finally had to tap out. I just said – Craig, you gotta take one for the team tonight- and I came to hide in my closet/office. My cloffice.

And now I’m sitting here listening to the lingering carnage and thinking about you single parents who can’t tap out. Who never tap out. Who keep showing up when you’re weary or angry or lonely or all of the above. Single parenting is simply one of the most tremendous acts of sheer will and love I can imagine.

Anyway- whether you’re single parenting tonight due to deployment or divorce or death or illness or non-involvement or some other circumstance – ALL MY AWE AND LOVE AND RESPECT AND ADMIRATION . . . ALL OF IT – goes out to you tonight. #carryonwarrior

I zoned out when I got to her words,
“I just said – ‘Craig, you gotta take one for the team tonight’… “
That’s the point where I wither and slink away in any blog post or status update.
It’s the point that I remember, “Oh. She’s on a team.” *looks away*
So, I usually stop reading.
Most of the time, the woman is just being honest and vulnerable
about a struggle in their life …
And what I know is … I can’t help them
and I don’t even walk in the same style shoes. anymore.
And their mentioning a helper and a safe place to hide,
reminds me of my lack of both.

It reminds me of an example I heard  years ago
of the woman in a grocery store who teasingly offers to give her badly behaving child away.
She is overheard by the barren woman who pines for a child, but doesn’t have one.
So, the mom who is sharing her struggles in a comical way … laughing to keep from crying …
is heard by someone who would LOVE to have those struggles
because the source of her frustration  … is a child.
We interpret every situation according to our own perspective.

When you are talking to a single mom and  you’re sharing that
your grass is tall because your husband is working late and he can’t cut the grass until the weekend,
or you can’t wait until your husband gets home so he can take your kids off your hands
or you’re mad because it takes your husband too long to pack the car for a trip
or you don’t like the way that he folds the towels,
she may very well be thinking, “Well, at least you have a partner. You have a team.”

Just because I don't do it your way doesn't mean I am doing it wrong.

Because …
Who makes the appointments and takes the kids to the doctor?
Who cuts the grass, weeds the flower beds and edges the sidewalk?
Who blows off the roof so it won’t rot? Or repairs the hole when a limb falls?
Who keeps track of money, pays the bills and saves for the future?
Who plans out meals, does the grocery shopping and puts away groceries?
Who prepares meals and lunches for school and then cleans up afterwards?
Who washes, dries, sorts and disperses laundry?
Who is responsible when the toilet leaks, the heater quits or ants invade, dryer quits?
Who makes sure the trash and yard waste make it to the street?
Who replaces broken windows? Repairs fallen gutters or deck? Re-glazes old windows?
Who protects you when hear someone walking on your back porch?
Who makes sure that there is firewood? Moves it from the yard to a covered spot, as needed?
Who makes sure homework is finished? And meets with teachers? And signs report cards?
Who finances this? Who is responsible for the income into your home?
Who plans your trips/vacations? Who plans the stops, figures out the cost and packs everything?
Who buys the presents at gift time? Who remembers birthdays? Who mails cards and thank yous?
Who stops the fighting/bickering? Who helps settle sibling disagreements? Is the mediator?
Who is the bad guy and makes the decisions of “No” that crush your child, but are needful?
Who vacuums floors, wipes down baseboards, dusts tables and changes sheets?
Who makes the 30-60 minute phone calls to the cable/insurance/phone when bill is incorrect?
Who changes the oil, rotates/buys the tires, makes sure there is anti-freeze in the car?
Who puts out decorations for holidays and celebrations so your home is festive?
Who keeps the records and files the taxes in your family? Who pays the monthly bill, if you owe?

She does all of these. She does all the jobs you do and all of the jobs your partner does.
Some may be  delegated to children, but she must still oversee that they get accomplished.
And the more children she has and the younger they are, the more difficult her job.

I have a tax guy do my taxes, but I have to keep all the records and make the payments
(Because, yes, I owe. I had never done my taxes or chosen my withholdings before my divorce
and didn’t pay enough in and I’m still trying to catch up.)
But, every other job above has been mine since my divorce.

And this is true for most single moms. I am surrounded by them.  They are exhausted.
They don’t want to ask for help because they’ve done it so many times. They save “asking”
for the “really big stuff”  … when they are completely out of ideas, time, resources and money.
But, a movie night, a note of encouragement, a phone call to say, “You okay?,” a Starbucks card,
advice on a house repair or the offer of some help with a home repair job would mean SO MUCH.

Your husband may do some things that you don’t like.
He may even do some things that are immoral in your eyes.
Maybe your weakness (gossip? gluttony? impatience? selfishness?)
is as unseemly in his eyes
as his weakness (pornography? bitterness? anger? dishonesty?)
is in your eyes.
Maybe …. a lot more grace needs to happen.
Trust me. I’ve offered it and I’ve been extended MUCH more than I could ever deserve.
But … he’s there. He hasn’t quit. He hasn’t walked out.  He hasn’t said,
“I don’t want to be on your team any more.”
There is still hope.

I beg you, offer support to your team member. Don’t fuss about him.
And know that there are others around you
who would prefer your style shoes for walking.
But, for whatever reason, they were removed.
Encourage those around you in whatever way you can.
For we could all use a bit more grace.

(Let me add here:
For all you sweet married mamas
that answered “Me” to most of the “Who?” questions above,
I commend you.
I know it’s tough to have the appearance of being on a team
when you are isolated, alone, battling and weary …
for your marriage, your family, your self-worth
and possibly your physical, emotional and spiritual health.
I think this is prevalent in our society …
and when it happens to women in a church, you are expected to
publicly and privately
support, respect and encourage your husband … even if he pours himself into
work or some outside investment
when in fact, his first priority (after God) should be family.
I commend you and pray for your strength, stamina and joy in this season. {{hug}}
I know the anger, frustration and weariness that you wear. I weep for you, dear one.
I have no “#7 Steps …. ” list to fix your situation, but I understand and you are “seen.” )

- Knots & Hard Places

So, I’m working on this project and I am reminded
once again
that knots are gnarly and tough. wood knot

I learned this lesson when working with pallet wood.
I am reminded of the lesson as I work with these Grade #2 wood 4x4s.
Both wood types are messy and slightly imperfect … like people … and life.

When working with these, you must choose your cuts carefully
and be intentional about the choosing the places to drill holes.
If wood is thick enough, down deep inside the piece of lumber
may be a tough, dangerous knot …. one that can’t even be visually located.
And when cutting with a saw, a knot will definitely slow you down
with its dense, dark blemish.
In fact, you may be moving through the wood easily when
*BAM* you’ll hit the knot and it will
GRAB the tip of the bit or the blade
in a way that will make you lose control of your tool
if you don’t have a good grip and aren’t anticipating
that  sudden change in fluidity in of smooth movement.

Though, some people particularly like the way that knots look in wood.
They give wood more personality and character.
But, personality, beauty and character … are not without danger.

As a tree grows, branches sprout out from the trunk.
Sometimes a branch will break off. Bark will then scab over the open wound
and create a knot. wood knot

As I drilled three inches into the four-inch wood,
my drill bit began to spin without moving any deeper.
I could force the bit with some pressure,
but this would more likely damage my bit
more than it would move the bit deeper into the stiff, amber and wood lesion.

Looking for parallels in the spiritual physical world .... As I watched the bit spin round and round,
I thought about how much
we are like this piece of wood.
We are knotted with scars, scabbed over and stiff.
The more someone tries
to push through that tough spot with some instrument
that is intended to create something new and better,
the more likely that person is to be injured …. their blade dulled.
And, oh the friction. In dry, parched wood …
enough sawdust and friction
could cause a fire that will burn everything right down to the ground.
1" drill bitI pull out my bit. It’s brand new … right out of the package. I have drilled fewer than six inches into wood with this new blade. The tips are sharp. The edges still keen. I will have to be careful and patient as I drill, waiting for the bit to do its work inside that dark hole.

How often do I push away God’s drill? Ask Him to put it down? Tell Him I don’t want to be something “new” and different? My knots give me personality and character, but the presence of those tight, dense knots surely gets in the way of  changes that need to be made. One at a time, He bores them out … and I am better because of it.

Makes Me Happy Monday : Snow Memories

Parts of the south froze over last week without the joy of snow to make it feel worthwhile.
But, Augusta enjoyed a few inches.Our "Snowmageddan" of 2014Our city and county, much smaller, of course, than the metropolis of Atlanta, planned ahead and told us Monday that schools would close on Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday was an extra gift.
So, for three days, our city sat still …
Children laughed and ran about in yards, on sidewalks and at our park where there is a slight little hill that at least offers a toddler an enjoyable quick slide on a make-shift sled.

Yes, my kids were the ones that were loud and outside at 10:30pm throwing snowballs on Tuesday night. Accumulation My two introverts (oldest and youngest) played outside a bit on Tuesday,
but huddled inside for most of the rest of their break. Snowball, anyone? But, this girl ^ would have none of that.
My more extroverted, middle child decided to play outside off and on all day Wednesday.
She made snowballs and threw them at anyone who dared venture out of the house.

Snow happy

She made pretty little snowgirl. Glory and her SnowmanIn fact, she crafted several snowmen around the yard.
Making a second snowmanIt brought me such joy to see her really play …. with her 22-year-old self.

Glory's snowmanRight after ^ this photo, her sweet little snowgirl came apart. The snow was so light and fluffy that it didn’t pack well.
Alas, we enjoyed her in pieces for the next few days.

Oops. Snowball partsAll that is left of her now is a memory.Snowman remnantsBut, memories are sweet and to be treasured.
We enjoyed almost a full week of homemade chocolate with real whipped cream,
damp hats, gloves and shoes drying by the fireplace
and warm homemade soups and chowders.

Chicken and dumplings

Everybody in the family was in the same home
and there was laughter and joy.
Our week was Snow Much Fun!
Yes, snow memories from last week make me happy!
What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?

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