Friday, September 26

DIY Fall Decor

With everything that's been going on in my life over the last few weeks, I've been slow to get Autumn decorating done.  So when I was given the chance to try some new FolkArt Stencils and Paints, I was thrilled!

Stenciling is one of my favorite ways to create custom decor items.  I got hooked on stenciling when I was a new bride and had very little money for decorating.  I would use an exacto knife to cut my own stencil designs from manila file folders, stencil those designs onto scraps of unbleached muslin and "frame" them in cheap embroidery hoops.  Instant art!

Stenciling products have improved over the years.  Stencils are now laser-cut out of heavy-duty mylar so they can be used over and over, which is a huge improvement over my exacto-knife creations!  One of my favorite improvements is the development of paints that can be used on just about any surface.  Another great development is specialized stencil adhesive that will hold a stencil precisely in place.  Stenciling is now so easy, anyone can do it!

I was tickled to try this floral stencil.  To me, the flower looks like my favorite mums.  Remember when mums were the flowers in Homecoming corsages?

My first creation using this stencil was a simple little chalkboard sign.  I had fun placing the flower in the corner of the sign and adding an Autumn message.  If you have any kind of chalkboard you'd like to customize for Fall, I highly recommend this little project.  Simply place the stencil in the corner of the chalkboard (the stencil adhesive makes it so easy to re-position!) and daub on your paint one thin layer at a time until you reach the saturation you like.  Easy-peasy!

I hung the little chalkboard on my mother's dough cabinet that stands in my breakfast room.

I knew the FolkArt multi-surface paint would work great on the chalkboard, but I wanted to try it on something a little more challenging, so I decided to see how it would work on burlap.

I've made burlap table runners several times before simply by cutting a rectangle of burlap and fringing the edges.  But this year I found a product that made the process super-simple: a roll of burlap runner.

I simply cut a length of the burlap and removed a few threads from each end to create a fringe.

Then I applied the FolkArt stencil adhesive to the back of my flower stencil according to the simple directions on the package.  The adhesive helps the stencil to stay precisely in place, even on a rough surface like burlap.  And you can re-position the stencil several different times--the adhesive keeps the stencil nice and sticky, then cleans off easily with soap and water when you're finished.  I tried several different placements before deciding on this design for each end of the runner:

In addition to the Stencil adhesive, I also used masking tape to cover up the parts of the stencil I didn't want to show up in my design.

The secret to successful stenciling is getting most of the paint off your brush and daubing on one thin coat at a time.  I use a paper plate as a palette for my paint.  The FolkArt stencil paint is nice and thick, so it covers nicely without running.  But do be careful: if you have too much paint on your brush, your design won't have crisp lines.  I applied three light coats of paint on the burlap to get the coverage I wanted.

After I stenciled both ends of my runner, I made a simple centerpiece by placing a pot of mums and some pumpkins and gourds on a tray.  Super-easy and so pretty!

Since FolkArt Multi-Surface Paints come in a huge variety of colors and work on just about any surface, creating cute, custom decor couldn't be easier.  And the best part is that FolkArt products are very affordable and readily available at Michaels stores.  I'm extra-lucky here in Durham: there are two Michaels stores within ten minutes of my house!

For more great craft ideas, check out the Plaid Palette blog, sign up for their newsletter, or follow them on social media:

Have you created any fall decor this year?  I'd love to see!

Disclosure:  This post was sponsored by Plaid with Blueprint Social.  All opinions are entirely my own.

Tuesday, September 23

Finally Autumn

It's finally here.  After a long summer, the first day of Autumn has arrived.

So many people say that Autumn is their favorite season, and I've been wondering why that is.  Is it because the cooler temperatures are welcome after a hot season?  Are we glad to put away the shorts and pull out the sweaters?  Is it because the air feels crisp and clean?  Because kids are back to school? Or is it because of Autumn's lovely holidays?  Its colors?  Its scents?

Perhaps all of those things play into our fondness for Autumn.  But at heart I think there's something more than that.

Of all seasons, Autumn is the one most marked by gratitude.  The fruits of a busy growing season are "safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin."

Isn't it interesting that we love Autumn so much, when we know that Winter is coming?  We're well aware that the colorful leaves falling from the trees are harbingers of winter storms right around the corner.  Yet Autumn remains our favorite time of year.

Maybe our souls know something that our bodies too often forget.

Perhaps our souls know that Winter is a time for rest--a time when daylight is in short supply, when the ground lies frozen and fallow.  As Autumn signals the approach of Winter, maybe our souls are grateful that rest is coming.

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
"In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength."
Isaiah 30:15, NIV

How about you?  Is Autumn your favorite time of year?  Why?

Tuesday, September 16

The scariest week

My friends, I am so grateful for the online community!  My heart is brimming with thankfulness as I write to thank you all for your prayers for my son, Preston.

Long-time readers will remember that Preston has a complicated medical history.  When he was 14 years old, he had major open-heart surgery which entailed replacing his ascending aorta with a graft and his aortic valve with a mechanical valve.  Mechanical valves are amazing, but they carry a danger of forming blood clots. 
Preston is now 21 years old and is a senior at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.  He's amazing--he's strong, smart, funny, kind--everything I could ask for in a son.

Last Tuesday, as Preston was riding an exercise bike, his artificial valve threw a clot and Preston had a stroke.

I asked for prayers for Preston, and so many people responded.  A friend of mine remarked that heaven has probably been overwhelmed with the number of prayers lifted for Preston.

Preston gets a visit from a wonderful therapy dog.  She made Preston smile!

Thanks to the healing hand of God and the diligent efforts of God's friends the physicians, nurses, and other health professionals, Preston is doing well.  He was discharged from the hospital on Thursday evening.  He continues to recuperate at home (where it's a lot easier to rest than at the hospital!).

Please keep praying for Preston.  We are asking God that he will be completely healed, and we would appreciate your prayers for that, as well.

And look how he smiled when they brought his discharge papers!
Meanwhile, please join me us thanking and praising God for Preston's progress.  This wonderful son of mine is alive and well and has a very bright future.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!

Tuesday, September 9

Time for a reset

Last week I celebrated my birthday.  Just a regular old birthday--no balloons, no fanfare.

Last year, on the other hand, I celebrated a big time birthday.  A milestone.  The big 5-0.

To be honest, turning 51 is a lot less exciting than turning 50.  All that fanfare was fun.  But turning 51 is a whole lot more like my real life than turning 50 was.

Real life, as it turns out, is not so much about the big, alert-the-media events as it is about the ordinary, everyday stuff.

This non-milestone birthday has prompted me to do some deep thinking about my blog.  I started blogging back in 2007.  I knew of only one other person who blogged.  I wrote a few posts, but then life got in the way and I stopped.

I re-started blogging in 2009.  By that time I'd read several other blogs and found them to be helpful and encouraging.  That inspired me.

To be helpful and encouraging.  That's exactly what I wanted.

And I loved it.

So long as my focus was on being helpful and encouraging, I was free--free to be my true self, to make Imparting Grace an extension of my home and my heart.  Sort of a front porch with a lot more places to sit than I'd otherwise have.

Over time, though, the blogosphere changed.  Suddenly there were hundreds of thousands of blogs, and thousands of those were so much better than my blog.  They had professional-quality photos, exciting headlines, streamlined sidebars.  I was amazed and a little intimidated by them.

I knew I needed to get with the times or be left behind in the dust.  So I made some changes, joined some networks, hired some expert help.

The problem is that somewhere along the way, the idea of making my blog a success became more important than my original intention of helping and encouraging.

Honestly, having a successful blog is not a bad thing.  I now know lots of highly successful bloggers, and they're great people.  I rejoice with them.

But for me, the lure of success ended up being a tool in the hands of the enemy of my soul.  "If you're successful, you'll be able to help and encourage so many more people!" he whispered.  "You're just enlarging your platform so that you can do more good in the world!"

That sounded plausible.  And maybe there's some truth in there. But the more I got wrapped up in striving to be a successful blogger, the less satisfaction I found in blogging.  What was once a source of pleasure became a source of pressure.

I've decided that I need to go back to my front-porch approach to blogging.  My original intention was to impart grace to my readers.  Simply trying to help and encourage was good for me, and I hope it was good for you, too.

Blogging has brought me all kinds of opportunities, but what I value most is that blogging has brought me the opportunity to get to know people.  Strangers have become friends, and friends have become family.  And every single one of you is more than welcome here on my front porch.  Y'all come and sit a spell, won't you?

I'll be here, being my true self.  We'll share what we've learned and what we're learning.  And if I can be helpful and encouraging to you, I'll count that plenty successful.

What about you?  Do you ever need to stop and re-evaluate whether what you're doing is reflective of who you truly are?