Makes Me Happy Monday : “Weird” Gifts

When the children were younger, Christmas gifts were more plentiful … but money was, as well. Now that I’m a single mom, I’ve had to make some major changes. And like so many things that come with divorce, these forced changes
have proven to be very, very good.

My two oldest children are adults on their own and my youngest is working now and making a wage. So, the biggest change we’ve made in gift giving is that we now draw names for gifts. Each person draws one name and we focus on creating a special gift for the person that we choose. My oldest received a huge stash of socks, boxers, t-shirts and pajamas for Christmas. They were deeply and enthusiastically appreciated because they were thoughtful to his needs and desires. My youngest got an amazing jacket that has been on the wish list for several years. It is a perfect fit and was excitedly received. My gift will be a tattoo that I’ll be getting after the start of the year. Rather than having no gifts to open, Glory gave me a few smaller items, too.

Our sweet little tree with a few, carefully chosen gifts beneath

Glory went to Final Cut to shop. Final Cut is a dumping-ground, so to speak. I say that with the idea of a grand, exciting treasure hunt in mind.

It is a huge store full of boxes and piles of home decor, rugs, kitchen accessories, jewelry, shoes/boots, furniture, clothing, bedding and window treatments. All these items come from Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, Free People and BHLDN. My understanding is that some things are overstock, some are from runway shows, some are from store displays and some are clothes that were being fitted and altered before mass production. But … all are at excellent prices!!

And Final Cut is the only store of its kind on the east coast. I don’t know if there is anything like it in other parts of the US, but it’s the only one like here in the east. I’m SO excited we have it here … I love to shop there! You are guaranteed to find something interesting … if you have the time to dig.

If you know anything about the stores that supply Final cut,
you know their items are unusual.
So …. Glory said, as she was out shopping
she decided to head to Final Cut to “look for weird stuff.”

And she bought me this incredible plate.
Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s green
(“autumn” is my favorite color … but any shade of green is my favoritest).
It is clay (my favorite dish type).
And it looks organic and natural *swoon.*

It reminds me of a lily pad.
Lily Pad plate

But, when it is stacked
it reminds me of a leaf of cabbage.
Cabbage plate

It is stunning to me.
And Glory knew me well enough to know that
I would love it.

She also bought this little metal grid. She said
“I don’t know what you’ll do with it, but I know it’ll be neat.
Use it in art. Or hang it like an ornament. Or do whatever you want.
I just knew you’d like it.”

One of my "weird" gifts - a 3x3 metal grid

And I do! I love it.
Right now, it’s on a wooden crate with other things I adore
so I can look at it all the time
until I decide how to work it into a piece of artwork.

I think I’ve done well when I have been able to impress upon my children
that gift giving … like so many things in life …. isn’t about you and your likes and your desires …
it’s about the recipient.
To love on someone else,
we must figure out what they need to feel loved and seen.
Do they need to be heard? Touched? Receive a physical gift?
A letter? An act of service  … like a dirty job they keep procrastinating?
We all receive love with the most ease
when the gift given speaks to our heart, our soul, our spirit … our needs. 
My daughter knows me well and she “sees” me for who I am
so she gave me unusual gifts
that she knew would bless me.

I am so thankful for”weird” gifts this Christmas
and children who can see and understand what others need to feel accepted and loved.

Yes, weird gifts make me happy as I look back our Christmas.
What about you? What gift did you give or receive that made you happy this year?

Makes Me Happy Monday : Pillow Talk

I have learned to love my weekends.
In fact, I look forward to  the weekend all.week.long.
My weekends are now about wonderful outdoor adventures
or house chores and projects  … the ones I want to do
rather than the kind that I need to do or have to do.
After becoming a single-mom who owned a home,
all the responsibility of every.thing fell upon my shoulders.
After my move in February of 2015,
it is such a relief to be in a much smaller home
with a landlord who keeps everything up and running.

This weekend embraced several projects.
I wanted SO BADLY to join in a MeetUp adventure
that involved kayaking on the Augusta Canal!
The weather was in the 70’s this weekend .. with cloudless skies. *swoons*
That would have been the perfect trip to close out the fall and start the winter.
But, my common-sense gene over ruled and I stayed home to finish projects.

Woven, appliqued, rag-strip Magpie pillow

One little project was finishing up the pillow that I mentioned last Monday. 
I would have finished it quicker, but I ended up making two runs to two stores
to secure a good match on thread that needed to hide the closure stitching.

Woven, appliqued, rag-strip Magpie pillow

I love how raw strips of different patterns look when they are woven together.
I’m all about loose ends, frayed edges and lots of pattern.
It’s so intricate and interesting!

Woven, appliqued, rag-strip Magpie pillow

This pillow fits perfectly in the sitting area in my bedroom …
and it makes so very happy.

What about you, my friend?
What makes YOU happy this marvelous Monday morning?

May your weekend be filled with what your soul needs

Downtown Augusta, Georgia, JB White's Building, New Moon, Book Tavern

May your weekend be filled with exactly what your soul needs
whether that be
hiding within the shadows to draw you to stillness,
standing with a scattering of nature at your feet,
walking within an outlined path to show you where to go,
relaxing with sunshine warming your front
or gazing upward where you can see blue sky.
May you find what your soul needs exactly where you are …
in your home, while you are out and about caring for errands or
on an intentional outing to a place of adventure.
May your weekend be lovely and filled with
exactly, precisely, specifically what your soul needs.

{{{hugs}}}, blessings & peace to you,

-|<@ren

There is no “Complete obedience”

A sweet, young friend posted this on Facebook recently.

“The past week has been so horrible. I’m ready to leave behind all of these mistakes and failings once and for all. It’s times like these you realize what is truly important and fulfilling- what your heart really needs. I don’t even want to imagine the utter hopelessness and horror that my life would be without Jesus. I am so thankful for His grace and mercy that have carried me this far, and I trust and believe that He will be faithful to keep on picking me up and keep on forgiving me. I pray in 2016 that I will be able to trust Him more and be completely obedient to His voice in the ways that I have failed this year.”

Boy, do I know this place. Many of us have in our heads an idea of what things should look like and how everything will be good if we just obey or perform or love more. We get hung up in OUR role in having our “good” life.

P4107830

Let’s stop beating ourselves up. There is no “completely obedient.” Never.  And think about it …the ONLY way to live without struggle, peril and difficulty is to live in a perfect world .. and that’s not this earthly place.

Whatever you’ve been through, it has taught you more about empathy, compassion, understanding and mercy. It has taught you more about trust, faith, and keeping your eyes on Him.

I have a friend who says “hope can be a dangerous thing.”( I wrote about that here) Think about that. It’s SO true. When our hope is in God alone, we are strengthened. BUT ….. when our hope is in some idea of what things SHOULD look like, how we SHOULD feel, or how things SHOULD turn out, we will almost always be sorely disillusioned. Vacations, nail polish colors, marriages, friendships, iPhone screens, kittens, dating websites, dentists, children, new ice cream flavors, church sermons and darned socks can … and will disappoint us.

This world offers us an idea that includes a picket fence, a new car, a dog and cat, kids that immediately apologize after a fight and a loving, kind spouse. It’s a facade … a front with no follow through or guts behind the scenes. It’s like a movie set or a theatrical stage or Disney World. The fence will eventually rot, the car will break, the cat will have fleas, the dog will have an accident in the house,  kids rarely apologize without being prompted or forced and spouses disagree and hurt each other with or without intention.

And these things happen whether we are completely obedient or not.

IMG_0078

SOMETIMES … our grandiose ideas of what things SHOULD be are even based on scripture. But, I think we miss the mark e.v.e.n in using scripture as our guide for SHOULD.  For example, God told Abraham to sacrifice/kill his son. Rahab lied and it appears it was a good thing. David killed a man with a rock (and a slingshot). The Bible is full of things that you would think would be “should nots.” But, God used them for good.

Frankly, sometimes I scratch my head when I read scripture.
But rather than filling me with doubt,
the stories of the Bible remind me that
I can’t possibly understand God
and the crazy that is in this world.
Sometimes I will do things
that other people will question,
but I should keep my eyes on God
rather than making sure my actions please other people.
Sometimes, even God’s promptings won’t make sense to us.

The thing is; He knows our hearts.
When our motivation is to please Him,
He sees that.

So, let life happen and don’t fight it. There will always be complicated, messy … let’s call it what it is …. really shitty stuff. There will be SUPER hard things. There will be disappointments from people.There will be tough situations when you feel alone. Expect it. KNOW that it’s coming and just let it all be okay. It’s going to happen and it’s not YOUR FAULT … it is more like a gift for you … a gift to help you grow, to further your maturity and to draw you to God.

I-20 W... the road from Augusta to Stone's house

As Christians, it would be foolish for God to protect us from the gunk. THEN people would want to be saved JUST SO they would be protected. No. He wants us to turn to Him so He can comfort, teach and guide us … not to place us inside a gated fence (Eden) to keep us from tangled brambles, pokey stickers and pits of sticky mire.

Keep your eyes on God and let Him direct how you d.e.a.l with those situations … but don’t expect that your obedience to Him will keep you from those difficult places. If He protected us from all the junk, we would have the idea that our performance and obedience is where our security lies.

dirtroad

In reality, we don’t know what is around the bend. We will walk through storms, darkness and fire. And each of us has a different path to walk. Don’t compare your path to someone else’s.

Our security lies in knowing that He loves us through it. He steadies us through us. And He teaches us compassion to minister to others through it. I say … 2016, Bring It On! Teach me, Lord! Work in me through my struggles so I can be more like you and love others with great compassion, mercy and empathy.

 

 

Photo credit: Picket Fence, Maggie McCain via Flickr, Creative Commons

 

Makes Me Happy Monday : Play

Do you play often? Do you play “well?”
I don’t really do either.
I have to make myself play.

In my head, I hear those voices that remind me
there are jobs to finish, things to do … tasks to complete.
Somehow … for some reason ….
washing the dishes is of more value than crafting a card,
vacuuming carries more weight than painting on canvas,
and working for an hourly wage is more valid
than crafting for a by-the-piece income.

So, I have to MAKE myself stop and play.
I have to MAKE myself exercise or paint or create.

I made time for that this weekend.
For several years, I have had an idea for a way to embellish a pillow.
The pillow was a cast off from Glory before she moved away.
She left two behind. I took the covers off and washed them … and I stalled.

Yesterday afternoon, I pulled out my scraps

Woven pillow embellishing - gathering fabrics

and quickly ironed and cut strips
then wove them together and pinned them in place.
Woven pillow embellishing - sewing into place

I used my machine to run back and forth to hold each strip in place.

Woven pillow embellishing

And now I’m in the process of pinning the finished woven mat onto the pillow.
I should be able to finish this project today or tomorrow.
And I’m just thrilled.

This will be one more unfinished project I can check off my List-of-things-I-have-wanted-to-create. It will be one more item I can pull off the to-craft pile. But, so much more than that, it will be one small investment in time spent well to make me happy. This project was an investment in my well-being. This is important … just as important as washing dishes, vacuuming or working for income.

I’ll post a follow-up, finished-product photo on Instagram later and add the link below.

Making time to play, craft and create makes me terribly happy.
What about you? What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?

Bandersnatch – Book Release and Guest Post

After 25 years of trying to become someone who I thought I should be,
I found myself divorced
and wondering how to regain my bearing.
Truth be told, I probably never have had my bearing.
As a child,
like many teens, I wanted to please my parents.
At college, I was learning to embrace my true self,
but surely allowed outside influence and people-pleasing
to too heavily influence the unfurling of my true self.
And then I got married.
The more time I spent in church,
the more I heard about submission, being a help-meet
and how a Proverbs 31 wife should behave.
The more I learned to die to self,
the more my “self” died.

In God’s magnificent, patient, kind, gracious way
He has slowly shown me
it is okay to be me.
In fact, He WANTS me to be me.
He created me with my unique talents, quirks and creative bent.
He gifted me with the ability to
feel empathy easily, connect with others quickly
and see spiritual truths everywhere in our physical world.
HE
gave me my insatiable thirst to question absolutely everything
and my passion for mixing three or four or seventeen different patterns
in a single outfit, piece of artwork or design.
And He wants me to have the desires of my heart
when I’m doing my human best to align those with His desires for me.

It has been a rocky, breath-holding, white-knuckled ride
since my divorce,
but I see His hand guiding my way.

After choosing the word of the year “desire” and working my way through
Danielle LaPorte’s fabulous book Desire Map,
I now find myself working my way through another guide-book, Bandersnatch.

So, I offer to you a glimpse into Erika Morrison’s book
and a bit of her story as she guest posts today on her book release day!
(Be sure to watch the book trailer at the end. Erika has the most ….
energizing, embracing and refreshing voice … a encouraging message.)

Congratulations, Erika! Thank you for sharing here in my little corner of the world.

* * * * * * *

“In July of 2000, when my husband and I got married, I was the ripe old age of nineteen and he was a seasoned twenty-four. Six months later I found out there was a baby in my belly, not on purpose. Then shortly after, another baby got in my belly not on purpose; then even less shortly after another baby got in my belly not on purpose.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: somebody needs to check the date on her birth control! But I promise you that nothing short of a medieval chastity belt with a rusted-shut lock could keep this Fertile Myrtle from getting pregnant. I don’t even trust the vasectomy my . . . never mind, I digress.

When our last boy was born in the left leg of my husband’s pajama pants (I should probably mention I was wearing them) while we rode the elevator up to the labor and delivery floor of Yale-New Haven Hospital, I had just birthed my third baby in three years. I’ll go ahead and do the math for you. I was twenty- three years young with a three-year-old wrapped around my thighs, a sixteen-month-old in one arm, a newborn in the other, and a godforsaken look of “Help!” writ across my face.

It was about this time that, as mentioned in the previous chapter, our marriage dove headlong into mess, we lost our income for too long to hang onto our home, and we experienced religious restlessness and a whole heap of other life challenges. Those early years redefined my own terms for what it meant to be drowning in the lifeblood leaking from every pore on my body. My internal equipment just wasn’t mature and qualified enough for my external reality, a reality that was demanding more of me than I could bear

What happened to me is what some psychologists call an identity crisis, a term coined in the early 1950s by Erik Erikson to refer to a state of confusion and unhappiness over one’s sense of self. If anyone had thought to ask me “Who are you?” in my good and lucid moments—which were few and far between—I could’ve answered with just about nothing.

Erika Morrison, Bandersnatch

I don’t know if you’ve ever felt the pain of not knowing who you are or if you feel that pain right now, but what can easily happen in that place of ache is that you start looking at other people, extracting the qualities you like about them, and injecting those qualities into your person as a substitute for what you don’t understand about yourself.

This is no bueno and that was what I did. In my naivete, I saw the people around me as more inherently gifted than I was, so I decided that self-fulfillment meant adopting their God-given gifts as my own. I looked at this person’s way of socializing and that person’s version of hospitality and another person’s artistic expression and began mimicking their nuances. Before I knew any better, I had squeezed my shape into several different ill-fitting molds at once, while cramming my own personhood into a tiny, overlooked corner in the nether regions of my body.

What I didn’t realize at the time was how devastated my spirit would become under the influence of everyone else’s borrowed qualities. Other people’s gifts and character traits are designed to enhance, enrich, and complement our own, but never act as substitute for them.

A healthy sense of self-identity seemed to be a luxury I didn’t have the currency for . . .”

(Excerpt from Erika Morrison’s book, Bandersnatch: An Invitation to Explore Your Unconventional Soul.)

Bandersnatch by Erika Morrison

The cardinals make it look so easy. The honeybees make it look so easy. The catfish and the black crow, the dairy cow and the cactus plant, all make being created appear effortless. They arise from the earth, do their beautiful, exclusive thing and die having fulfilled their fate.

None of nature seems to struggle to know who they are or what to do with themselves.

But humanity is the exception to nature’s rule because we’re individualized within our breed. We’re told by our mamas and mentors that–like snowflakes–no two of us are the same and that we each have a special purpose and part to play within the great Body of God.

(If your mama never told you this, consider yourself informed: YOU–your original cells and skin-print, guts and ingenuity–will never ever incarnate again. Do you believe it?)

So we struggle and seek and bald our knees asking variations of discovery-type questions (Who am I? Why am I here?) and if we’re semi-smart and moderately equipped we pay attention just enough to wake up piecemeal over years to the knowledge of our vital, indigenous selves.

And yet . . . even for all our wrestling and wondering, there are certain, abundant factors stacked against our waking up. We feel and fight the low ceiling of man made definitions, systems and institutions; we fight status quo, culture conformity, herd mentalities and more often than not, “The original shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead we live out of all our other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather.” ~Frederick Buechner

So, let me ask you. Do you know something–anything–of your true, original, shimmering self?

I don’t mean: Coffee Drinker, Jesus Lover, Crossfitter, Writer, Wife, Mama.

Those are your interests and investments.

Erika Morrison Bsndersnatch

I do mean: Who are you undressed and naked of the things that tell you who you are?

Who are you before you became a Jesus lover or mother or husband?

Who are you without your church, your hobbies, your performances and projects?

Erika Morrison, Bandersnatch

I’m not talking about your confidence in saying, “I am a child of God”, either. What I am asking a quarter-dozen different ways is this: within the framework of being a child of God, what part of God do you represent? Do you know where you begin and where you end? Do you know the here-to-here of your uniqueness? Do you know, as John Duns Scotus puts it, your unusual, individual “thisness”?

Bandersnatch - By Erika Morrison

I can’t resolve this question for you, I can only ask you if you’re interested.

(Are you interested . . . ?)

Without being formulaic and without offering one-size-fits-all “how-to” steps, Bandersnatch: An Invitation to Explore Your Unconventional Soul is support material for your soul odyssey; a kind of field guide designed to come alongside the moment of your unfurling.

Come with me? And I will go with you and who will care and who will lecture if you wander around a little bit every day to look for your own and only God-given glow?

If you’re interested, you can order wherever books and ebooks are sold.

Or, if you’d like to read the first three chapters and just see if Bandersnatch is something for such a time as the hour you’re in, click HERE.

All my love,

Erika

Makes Me Happy Monday : Bandersnatching

I follow Erika Morrison on Instagram. I don’t know how I found her. But, I have highly admired that she is comfortable enough in her own skin to wear her hair in a fairly unconventional cut. This drew me in … and I have loved her feed.

Yet, my favorite IG images have been those involving her children. She encourages her children to explore themselves and the world.
Click here  to see a perfect example of that parenting style in action.  She says,

“i’ll give him any haircut, hairdo or hair dye he asks me to.
i’ll hold his hand when he gets his next piercing,
because i want to be present when he’s self-exploring,
because self-exploring is best anchored in unconditional love.
and yet, it’s wisdom to tell him
to wait on getting that tattoo until his skin is done stretching:
“we wouldn’t want the depth and design to lose its integrity as you grow.”

This is how I relate to my own children. Children begin to assert their independence as soon as they have the strength to do so. An infant will turn her head away from someone in her personal bubble.  A toddler declares his dislikes with a strong “NO!” Middle schoolers become dishonest when they believe their actions will not be embraced. And high schoolers may simply rebel … and close you out.

I set boundaries for the children under my authority, but if their square corners won’t fit into my round, preconceived ideas of fashion or opinion, I have made the decision that I will allow them to make their own choices. I don’t think it is my personal job to smooth and sand their square edges into the pretty, little circles that I have fashioned.  Why would any parent want to force a child to behave in a way that the child absolutely rejects (speaking, of course, within legal and moral boundaries) ? If they cannot stretch their wings during their teen years, they will early adulthood. And by then, they will be long gone from my nest of influence. My clout will be lessened and they may stretch their boundaries much farther and wider than they would have had they had the opportunity to do a little exploring while still at home. We’ve all known the kids who left home and “went wild.” Or the children who struggled because they were “never good enough” to please their parents.

I don’t want to be that parent.

I have to admit that I’ve often looked at Erika and wondered how does she “do it?” How does she walk in her own uniqueness with such confidence? How does she so bravely wear her hair like that? And be a mom like that?  Doesn’t she … worry about rejection? How does she embrace herself?

And now I know.

Like me ….
and probably like you …
she has struggled.

And she has written a book with stories
and encouragement
to help us excavate our uniqueness
as she explores hers.

She recently mentioned that her new book will be released tomorrow
so I went to Barnes and Noble to pre-order it …
and it was already on the shelf waiting for tomorrow’s release date!
So, I bought a copy right then!!

Bandersnatch by Erika Morrison

You KNOW how much I love questions.
I thought I might burst wide open
right there in the parking lot as I peeked at the introduction!
With line upon line of poetic prose
and probing, revealing ideas for personal examination,
my interest was stirred.

I headed home, opened the cover and began the journey.

Bandersnatch by Erika Morrison

I read
and I highlighted.

Bandersnatch by Erika Morrison

I read
and I decorated.

Bandersnatch by Erika Morrison

I read
and I took notes.

Bandersnatch by Erika Morrison

Her questions
somehow felt like a catalyst
untangling the few remaining messy feelings that I still have about myself.
With my word of the year, “desire”
and my searching to uncover
what I really want or desire (rather than what others expect of me),
this has been a good year
for discovery.

My youngest and I sat at the table Saturday morning with coffee and pound cake
and I read several pages of Erika’s book out loud.
I found myself being asked, “So Mom, do you think
the goal in life is to find yourself
or create yourself?”
These are my favorite mornings  … the ones that involve my children
and deep conversation,
sharing opinions and ideas
investigative query
and an open back and forth of dialogue.

Erika says she wants to make the word “bandersnatch” into a verb.
I’m looking forward to reading this wonderful book
and learning
how “bandersnatching” can be a positive thing.

Bandersnatching is bringing me joy right now.
What makes you happy this marvelous Monday afternoon?

Makes Me Happy Monday : Caramel Candy Corn

Candy Corn is one of my favorite fall indulgences. I buy a bag or two every season and do my best to make sure the bag lasts at least a few days.

My treat list is fairly limited since I have a chocolate allergy. You’d be surprised, for example, how many granola bars, candy bars and trail mix flavors have chocolate in them. Until you’re searching for chocolate-free treats, you don’t realize just how common chocolate is in treats and desserts.

I know many people who dislike that seasonal items are placed in store aisles more and more early each year. I don’t mind that I can find candy corn in the Halloween candy aisle as early as the start of September!

Brach's Caramel Macchiato Candy Corn

And this year? Brach’s has brought out a new flavor : Caramel Macchiato Candy Corn. It is scrumptious, I’m telling you. It has the coffee flavor and the caramel flavor blended so deliciously perfect that every.piece of candy is a fabulous treat in your mouth!!

If you haven’t tried it yet and you’re a coffee or caramel lover, you need to buy a bag. You won’t be disappointed!

Caramel Macchiato Candy Corn makes me exuberantly happy this fabulous fall morning.
What about you? What makes YOU happy on this marvelous Monday morn?