I’ve had some wonderful highs over the past couple of weeks. Here are 5 of them . . . .
Dining room art
I have a really hard time putting holes in my walls. Once I commit, that hole isn’t going to disappear unless I haul out the sparkle and paint to make the wall blemish-free again. I know this really isn’t a huge hassle, but in my mind it always makes me think for a second, third, even fourth time before pounding the hammer to the nail. I want it to be perfect. So, I repainted my dining room last August, as in August 2012 and, that’s right, my large dining room wall has been empty for a whole year. That wall is a large expanse of space and I really haven’t known what I wanted to do there. Then, I saw this painting in a local store over the summer and loved it. I went back to the store and visited it several times before purchasing it and taking it home with me Labor Day weekend. It is absolutely PERFECT! Love the colors, love the size, love the way it makes me smile just looking at it. Worth the wait and definitely worth putting some holes in the wall!
An excuse to buy jewelry
A dear friend introduced me to this sweet little gift shop. It’s located inside an old house at a crossroads out in the country just north of where I live. It’s in a somewhat random location out there all by itself, that I wonder how they stay in business. I think that’s what gives it such great charm, like a diamond in the rough or seeing something beautiful where you don’t expect it. This little shop sells precious home decor items, candles, kitchen goods, and jewelry, lots of beautiful jewelry. I can see why my friend loves it so much. This bracelet is my beautiful memento from our time in this special place and it will always remind me of time spent with one of my besties.
Pool time with the fam
Although I was certainly happy to see August go, I’ve been a little nostalgic this week over the fact that pool time for the summer is officially over. It became real today when I drove by my community pool on the way home and a big, red ‘pool closed’ sign hung on the entrance door. I had a very challenging summer in my personal life, but throughout that journey, a wonderful constant was spending a lot of quality time with my family. We made it a regular routine to go to church together on Sunday morning, then head to the pool to swim. I will never forget playing in the water with my two little nephews and enjoying time floating and talking with my mom and sister. You know how you can just feel that certain experiences will be etched in your memory for all time? That was what time with my fam this summer feels like to me. It resides in a very special place in my memory. Those experiences were greater than my struggles. I think it was God’s gift of love for me during a time when I desperately needed to be loved.
Ocean = JOY
Imagine my surprise when in the middle of the children’s sermon in church I hear my name referenced. A friend from my women’s circle at church was giving the children’s message. The theme of her message was joy and she told the children that something I had said has always stuck with her. She told the children that I explained that the ocean is just the beginning of Gods love for us. That even though that ocean seemed endless and huge beyond words, that God loves us even more than the ocean is deep and wide. This was a blessing I gave to her, but in that moment, the joys and blessings of those words I shared with her several years ago flooded right back to me.
I was going through some books on my nightstand looking for my Sunday School journal to bring to church on Sunday. I found it, thumbed through it, and realized I had used it a couple of years ago to start recording 1,000 gifts in my life, based on Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts (if you haven’t read it, you must!). I glanced through the gifts I had recorded, but one gift really stuck out to me and made me smile:
gift #111: The way Gpa’s smile lights up his whole face.
My Gpa passed away earlier this year and in that moment, I feel like I was directed to read that blessing and that he was there. Thank you Lord for that gift.
“Dear God, thank you for princesses and hair bows and toys and glitter paint and books and Mommy and Daddy and shoes and bikes. God, thank you for everything! Amen.” – Piper, age 4
My prayer life has never been very strong. I’m great at saying grace at a meal and quick “Help, Lord!” and “Thank you, God!” moments during the day, but settling myself to pray for even a short period of time is not my strength. But, I find that I’ve been talking to God a lot lately. I’ve been praying to God most evenings right before falling asleep. It’s the last thing I do before my head hits the pillow. I turn off my bedside lamp, sit cross-legged in the middle of my bed and talk to God…out loud. That’s really all praying is, isn’t it? Talking to God? I talk to God out loud, as if I’m having a conversation with another person. I used to think my prayers needed to ‘sound good’ and carry the same formality I experience in Sunday morning worship services. That the only way to pray was to rehearse and use ‘big’ words. But, praying is just being real. I mean, God already knows what I’m going to say anyway, doesn’t He? When I stopped putting pressure on myself to have perfectly worded prayers, I realized how organic and unrehearsed and even messy my prayers can be. They’re authentic and beautiful and exactly the way God wants me to talk to Him.
In my prayers each night, I first thank God for all of the joys from the day. Even when I think I’ve had the most ordinary day, reflecting on specific events and interactions helps me remember small moments that made that day unique. I often take these gifts for granted, but God lives in the ordinary. These moments are the very essence of God at work in my life. Pausing to recognize them has been very powerful. For keeping me safe on the road; for a productive day at work; for a sweet note from a friend; for the blessing of making music; for time set apart to relax and recharge. This is a time of praise; a time of worship. Prayer is worship. Laying this foundation of gratefulness helps to center me and see God at work in my life.
I then transition to prayers for others and concerns in my own life. Who in my life has a prayer concern? Who has God placed on my heart? What am I struggling with? Doing this at bedtime is wonderful because after I say my amens and my head hits the pillow, my prayers are repeated in my head as I drift off to sleep. I breathe them in and out. Repeating prayers for peace and healing for loved ones and their loved ones brings me comfort as I drift off to dreamland. I feel most connected to God during these moments in my prayer time.
I’ve painted a beautiful picture here, but this is not an every-night occurrence for me and the length of my prayers varies greatly from one night to the next. I’m talking to God more than I used to, though, which is the goal. Some nights I’m just so tired and can barely utter an ‘amen,’ let alone reflect on my thanksgivings and burdens from the day. At these times I just check in and tell God that I’m tired, pray for a good night’s sleep and for renewed energy to greet me the next morning. Some nights I don’t know what to say about a person or situation. I simply bring it forth as a prayer request and tell God that this person or situation is on my heart and I just wanted to tell Him that. I think He gets it. I think He understands me even when I pray and can’t find any words to pray with. I think praying through sighs and tears and balled up fists are just as powerful as having the rights words to express what I want to say. Often, this is when I’m being my most honest. That’s what God wants. Honesty. Authenticity. All of me. What a blessing that He understands me no matter how I communicate with him.