Thursday, February 11, 2016

Grace at Home No. 189

Hello, friends, and welcome to the Grace at Home party!

I so hope this party is a blessing to you. If you're a blogger, this is a place for you to share your posts. If you're not a blogger, this is a place for you to see some new ideas. I pray that this can be a place to make new friends for everyone. And no matter where you're coming from, I pray that this is a reminder for you to consider how you can make your home a place of grace.

Here are some links from last week's party that caught my eye.

Jamie from Anderson + Grant shared a brilliant tip for wintertime: keep a basket of socks by the door for guests. See her post to learn just how she came up with this lovely gesture of hospitality for just a few dollars.

Ashley from Vintage Refined created pretty cornice boards for her bedroom window, and she shared a full tutorial for how to make them.

Jolena from While I Linger had a decorating dilemma in her house: an old steam radiator. Look at how she used the top of an old hutch and two old porch pillars to create a custom cabinet for the space.

I'm always on the lookout for new chicken recipes. Bernadette from Barefoot Hippie Girl shared one I'm going to try: Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomato Cream Sauce. Yum!

As for me, I've had a busy but thoughtful week. I've realized that marriage is not quite happily ever after--would you agree? I'd love to know!

Those are just a few of my favorites.  A big thank you to everyone who joined last week's party!  I'm so grateful for each person who links up each week. If you've been featured, feel free to grab the "I was featured" button (the code is right over in my sidebar).  I'd be so proud if you displayed it!

Now for this week's party!  Grace at Home is a place for you to share anything related to making your home a place of grace. I invite you to link posts about
  • DIY projects
  • decorating
  • recipes
  • hospitality
  • homemaking tips
  • parenting
  • marriage
  • faith
  • self-care
  • soul care
Whatever you do to make your home a place of grace, I'd like to hear about it.  Here's what I ask of you.  Please include the permalink to your post, not your blog's home page.  Please let people know that you've linked up.  No more than three posts per person, please.  Note that if you link a post here, you are giving me permission to share your post, including a photo.  And visit at least one of the other party participants--that's what really makes it a party!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Why ashes on Wednesday?

For me to say "I grew up in the Bible belt" is akin to saying that the Super Bowl is a pretty big ballgame.

I was born in Memphis, Tennessee, where you could scarcely walk down any street without passing a church building. My family moved out to the country when I was about nine years old. The nearest town had only one traffic light, but it had several big churches. If you were getting to know someone, your first question was "Where do you go to church?" not "Do you go to church?" Everybody went to church. Most everybody went to church at least twice a week, and many of us went three or four times or more.

But for all my church-going, I'd never heard of Ash Wednesday. My family was part of a denomination that didn't observe any part of the liturgical calendar.

Then we moved to Mississippi. Now, I know that Mississippi is no less a part of the Bible belt than Tennessee. But we lived in the part of Mississippi that's close to Louisiana, and because of that proximity I was suddenly exposed to such ideas as Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday and King Cakes and more.

Then one day my one Episcopal friend (I also had two Catholic friends, but most of my people were either Baptist or church of Christ folk) mentioned that she'd given up something for Lent. "What's Lent?" I replied. I honestly didn't know.

To be honest, I still don't know a lot, but I'm learning. My brothers and sisters from liturgical traditions have kindly and patiently explained the traditions of the church to me. And over the years I've learned that many church traditions became traditions for very good reasons. Observation of the season of Lent, starting with Ash Wednesday, is one of those.

While the observance of Ash Wednesday is not obligatory in any way, for hundreds of years now many Christians have marked the beginning of the Lenten season (the 40 days before Easter, not counting Sundays) with a particular time of reflection and repentance.  The imposition of ashes upon one's head is symbolic, of course, but what a powerful symbol!  With the placing of ashes on one's head may come the entreaty: "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return," echoing God's words to Adam in Genesis 3:19. 

Our souls are in need of nourishment, and nourishment doesn't always come in exactly the same way for each person. But traditions rich in symbolism are deeply nourishing to me. When I first wrote about Ash Wednesday a few years ago, a reader of mine commented: "I have always celebrated the liturgical year and could not imagine it any other way. It adds a richness and spirituality to church that I could not do without. I've often found it funny when "non-liturgical" friends assumed that in my church we weren't really experiencing God or worshipping when we said rote prayers; they felt it just didn't mean much. After many years of Bible study, I see that practically our entire service is straight out of scripture. . . the ashes are just a symbol, or as I learned as a child, an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. I need the signs, and the grace too!"

I'm with her. I need the signs, and the grace too. 

So I'm grateful for this tradition, and for the gracious people who have taught me about it.

Do you observe Ash Wednesday? Do you find such traditions nourishing to your soul?

Monday, February 8, 2016

Master bathroom update

It's been quite a while since I've written about what I've been doing in our home, but today I'm glad to share with you the updates that we've made to one of the rooms we use the most: our master bathroom.

Isn't it funny how long it can take us to get around to working on spaces that aren't in the public eye? Yet room like this play a major role in our daily lives.

Here's what our bathroom looked like before. Not horrible, but a little dated and a little too much on the brown side.

The tumbled marble tile work was fine with me, which was a good thing since our budget wouldn't accommodate such a big change.  But I wanted to de-emphasize the brownish tones, so I painted the walls with Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter.  This "greige" color still works fine with the tumbled marble; in fact, it's a close match to the groutwork in the tile. 

Once the room was lightened up with new paint, we could move on to other changes. The one element of the old bathroom I really disliked was the shower door, so changing it was the biggest priority.  I really like the new glass door.

Unfortunately, replacing that door ate up most of our budget, so we had to prioritize other changes. I would have loved to have a beautiful claw-foot tub, but decided that the existing jetted tub was fine for now. I still love the Lichtenstein-style portrait of me that my husband had made (you can read the story behind this portrait here).

I also considered replacing the countertops, but ultimately decided that the Corian was fine. It's in excellent shape and is very neutral. But the sink faucets were in pretty bad shape, so we replaced those with these lovelies:

The new faucets are from the Cassidy line by Delta, and we're very happy with them.  The faucets for our shower and tub were fine, so we just replaced the sink faucets. We stuck with brushed nickel so that the new faucets would play nicely with the old ones.

The other big change was the mirrors.  As you can see above, we had huge expanses of plate-glass mirror. They were in fine shape, but I was ready for a change. I considered framing the old mirrors, but ultimately decided against that. I was especially tired of the L-shaped mirror over my sink and vanity area. After measuring three times to be absolutely sure of the dimensions, I chose a fairly inexpensive but substantial-looking molding and had the mirrors custom-made at my local frame shop.  I think the new mirrors make a big difference in the look of the room.

The other changes I made were all very inexpensive or even free.

I simplified and updated the accessories around the tub.  I filled one of my apothecary jars with gorgeous lavender bath salts that a friend made for me; aren't they pretty? They smell heavenly. The white soap dish I found at the dollar store.

I re-used some of my old houndstooth fabric to cover an inexpensive X-leg ottoman from Target's Threshold line.

My vanity chair got recovered with some fabric left over from another project, and  I re-used my old lamp after spray-painting it with Valspar's Secluded Garden.

I'm so happy with our lighter, brighter space! The only big-ticket item in our mini-remodel was the shower door, but I think we succeeded in updating our space significantly with several small changes.

What do you think?

I'm joining these fun parties:
Wow Us Wednesday at Savvy Southern Style
Brag-Worth Thursday at Bless Er House

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Sunday soul care

Just one week now until Valentine's Day. Everywhere you turn, people will be talking about love.

They'll say "love," but often they'll mean something different.  Of all words that get bandied about, perhaps love is the most often discussed--and most often misused.

Against that backdrop, it helps me to reflect upon God's love.  My heart is helped as I consider the words of John the apostle:

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love" (I John 4:7-8).

And I sing to myself an old hymn, penned by John Bowring in 1825:

Father and Friend! Thy light, Thy love,
Beaming through all Thy works we see;
Thy glory gilds the heavens above,
And all the earth is full of Thee.

Thy voice we hear, Thy presence feel,
While Thou, too pure for mortal sight,
Involved in clouds, invisible,
Reignest the Lord of life and light.

We know not in what hallowed part
Of the wide heavens Thy throne may be,
But this we know, that where Thou art,
Strength, wisdom, goodness dwell with Thee.

Thy children shall not faint nor fear,
Sustained by this exalted thought;
Since Thou, their God, art everywhere,
They cannot be where Thou art not!

Since God is everywhere, there is no place where His love does not reach.

This is how I need to start my week.  How about you?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

A super Super Bowl

Of all the NFL fans in the country, I think we're the luckiest as we look forward to tomorrow's Super Bowl 50. (By the way, am I the only one who finds it weird that this Super Bowl is not denoted with Roman numerals?)

Why? Because we can't lose.

We're big Broncos fans in this house. Last summer we vacationed in Colorado, and a highlight of our time there was the day that my husband and youngest son got to attend Broncos training camp and tour Sports Authority Field.

I have a friend who worked for the Broncos in the 1990's, and last fall, I got to hold a real Broncos Super Bowl ring from the 1997 season (the year my youngest son was born).  Here's the photo I texted my son, with whom my street cred went up considerably:

And here's a close-up of the beautiful ring:

Even more precious, here's a photo of my son taken on the day of Super Bowl XLVIII, two years ago. Pictured with Lee is Clyde Christensen, who at that time was Quarterbacks Coach for the Indianapolis Colts. Christensen, a wonderful Christian man, is the father of a dear friend of mine. He was part of the Colts' coaching staff from 2002 through 2015, so he worked closely with my son's all-time favorite player, Peyton Manning.

Super Bowl XLVIII didn't turn out well for Broncos fans. We're hoping for a different outcome tomorrow.

But since we live in North Carolina, we're also excited that the Carolina Panthers are headed to their second Super Bowl appearance.

So no matter how the game turns out tomorrow, one of our favorite teams will win! How exciting is that?

Do you watch the Super Bowl? Are you excited about the Super Bowl 50 match-up?

Friday, February 5, 2016

Not quite happily ever after

Today is a special day at our house: it's my husband's birthday.

Jack and I have been married 30 years. Can you believe it? Here we are on the day we got married:

Obviously, we were only 12 years old.

Seriously, I never would have thought that 30 years could pass so quickly. So many milestones celebrated together. For 30 years now we've been together for every birthday, every holiday, every celebration. So much to celebrate together!

And for 30 years now we've been together for every bad day, every argument, every illness, every death. So much to suffer together!

Because both the good and the bad are part of life together: the happy and the sad, the peaceful and the angry, the elated and the devastated.

Little girls like fairy tales, most of which begin with "Once upon a time" and end with "they lived happily ever after." Unfortunately, many of us grow up without realizing that real life can't be a fairy tale--not even if we have a handsome prince.  "Happily ever after" isn't reality.

But today, on my dear husband's birthday, I'm thinking that "happily ever after" is close to the truth of a good marriage. Change one little letter and you've got the secret.

How about this?  "They lived happily even after."

In marriage we pledge to love and to cherish one another "for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health."

Perhaps you've heard the old joke that goes, "I took her for better or for worse, but she's worse than I ever took her for." Yes. Well, aren't we all?

But by God's grace, we can live happily even after. After sickness, after poverty, after worse difficulties than we ever imagined.

Even after whatever comes our way, whatever we stumble into, and whatever we bring upon ourselves, we can live happily. It's not just another fairy tale, it's not. For we "can do all things through Christ who strengthens us" (Philippians 4:13).

Are you living happily even after?

I'm joining:

Thought-Provoking Thursday with Lyli Dunbar
Tell His Story with Jennifer Dukes Lee
Coffee for Your Heart with Holley Gerth