Decorating With White - and GK Chesterton!

(my dining room chandelier)

(image from the blog "Dreamy Whites")

My love for a white "canvas" in my home, and my love for the writer G.K. Chesterton actually go together more than I ever thought. Look what I stumbled across in my reading today:

" not a mere absence of colour;

it is a shining and affirmative thing,

as fierce as red,

as definite as black...

God paints in many colours; but He never paints so

gorgeously, I had almost said so gaudily,

as when He paints in white."

-- G. K. Chesterton

More Underlined Bits - Give Them Grace

More underlined bits from the book by Elyse Fitzpatrick, "Give Them Grace" - a book about how the gospel of Grace (New Covenant gospel) applies to raising children.

"Our salvation (and our kids' as well) is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Grace alone.

Most of us are painfully aware that we're not perfect parents. We're also deeply grieved that we don't have perfect kids. But the remedy to our mutual imperfections isn't more law, even if it seems to produce tidy or polite children. Christian children (and their parents) don't need to learn to be nice. They need death and resurrection and a Savior who has gone before them as a faithful high priest, who was a child Himself, and who lived and died perfectly in their place. They need a Savior who extends the offer of complete forgiveness, total righteousness, and indissoluble adoption to all who will believe.

This is the message we all need. We need the gospel of grace and the grace of the gospel. Children can't use the law any more than we can, because they will respond to it the same way we do. They'll ignore it or bend it or obey it outwardly for selfish purposes, but this one thing is certain: they won't obey it from the heart, because they can't. That's why Jesus had to die."

These bits are all from chapter one! Just the first chapter. If you are a parent, you might already be feeling a strong sense of conflict, deep inside. I assure you, this isn't a book that lets you or your children off the hook, in terms of obedience. But if you have been mixing law with gospel, as most of us have in our generation, this book will totally mess you up, and rework the basis from which you expect obedience, and even the methods you use to train obedience into your children.

If your children are grown, as are mine, I would still jump on this book, as I did. Because older women are mandated to teach the younger women, and I want to teach them properly! I don't want to give them the same right-sounding rhetoric that I was given...rhetoric that didn't actually work for me in the long run, and won't work for them in the long run. Law is always, always a short term solution, but at least it feels like a solution, and therein lies its subtle deception.

I will say this: the law was a way easier means of relating to my children. No nuance, no wisdom, no relationship necessary. And it felt so satisfying to the flesh, when I invoked the law as a parent. It won me accolades and admiration, up to a point.

But only the long story tells THE story. Today, I thank God that He awakened me to the Gospel in all its glory, and I began to apply it to my relationships with my children. The Gospel thoroughly addresses both legalism and license, and is a perfectly safe foundation from which to parent in rest and confidence.

It ALL Begins at Home

"Let them first learn--to show piety at home." 1 Timothy 5:4

The Christian is first to manifest godliness in the family circle. We would especially press this upon the attention of those who are so anxious to engage in what they term "service for the Lord" (evangelism).

The "service" which God requires from all of His people--is not a running about here and there, asking impertinent questions of total strangers and prattling to them about Divine things--but to be in subjection to Himself, and to walk obediently to His Word.

To talk to other people about Christ, is far easier than the task which He has assigned to His people--to deny self, take up our cross, follow Him, and to show piety at home. For if there is no piety in our home life--then all our seeming piety in the Church, and before the world--is but hypocrisy and self-deceit!

(Arthur W. Pink "First Things First")

Book Review

I have a gem of a book to share with you.

No, the grace message isn't anything new. No, it isn't an "off" message preached by wonky Bible teachers, whose churches are in danger of becoming "cult-ish". It is rather the very Gospel of Christ! But it is so little preached that when a pastor preaches it purely, without any mixture, legalists and legalistas get all tore up and suspicious.

We've been fed a diet of decades of topical preaching, our spiritual foundation being built on the doctrines of dead moralists. The Gospel of the scandalous grace of God is almost never systematically taught, week in and week out, for as long as it takes.

But it is being preached and taught, more and more. I've said it before, but it bears repeating - my Preacher and I have, in years past, refrained from name dropping as we've labored to bring the saints along in the gospel. Why? Why not invoke a name here or there, to support what we are teaching? Well, because in our experience, when people don't 'get it', after long and patient labor, it is because they don't want to get it - they prefer the veil of the law. They enjoy the feeling of superiority the law lends them. Dropping a well known name or a waving a book will not convince them, if they are refusing to receive the message from their own pastor, who has always loved them and shown them nothing but integrity and faithful relationship.

However, those of us who have repented of our law-addiction, who have forsaken the veil, it is good for us to read and learn all we can. We live for this gospel! We devour it from our Bibles, from our pastor, from our relationships with one another.

The number one question I have been asked, as Tim and I have been teaching the Gospel over many years is, "How does all this grace I am learning about apply to my parenting?"

I want to enthusiastically recommend to you a book by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick. ( Christian author and speaker. Internationally recognized. Not your "cult" material. Will legalists please, please get intellectually vigorous, do your homework, and get a clue?)

The title is "Give Them Grace - Dazzling Your Kids With the Love of Jesus".

The forward of this book is written by Tullian Tchividjian. (Billy Graham's grandson, and pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian. in the Coral Ridge Presbyterian. Not exactly a "fringe movement". Clues, clues, people. They abound if you would but recognize them!)

...and the forward, all by itself, is an education in theology. Here are some underlined bits:

"The biggest lie about grace that Satan wants Christian parents to buy is the idea that grace is dangerous and therefore needs to be "kept in check". By believing this, we not only prove we don't understand grace, but we violate gospel advancement in the lives of our children. A "yes, grace, but..."disposition is the kind of fearful posture that keeps moralism swirling around in their hearts. And if there is anything God hates, it's moralism!"

When Elyse, (a woman with three grown children, six grandchildren, and her Master's from Trinity Theological Seminary), when she takes over in chapter one, it gets even better! Her premise is that the only change-agent for our children, is the only change-agent that works in our lives as parents - the Gospel. Only the Gospel will raise children that radically love God.

Proof: the law, or even more likely a mixture of law and grace, has held sway in our churches, for the most part, for more than a generation. The result is that 60-88% of our children are forsaking the faith when they leave home. Our kids are leaving the church in droves, because all we have had to offer them is an anemic Jesus who cares about behavior modification, mostly. Jesus wants them to be good, work hard, have the right friends, go to college and get a job.

The Jesus we've been presenting our children cares about the same moral modification that the Mormon Jesus cares about, and that Allah of Islam cares about. New Covenant Christian parents often don't deal with their children in any way that is radically different than a hasidic Jewish father (which is a term not to be confused with a Christian father...). Yet the way we relate to God changed utterly, under the New Covenant.

Aw, just get the book. Please, please. If you are a parent, it will educate and bless and challenge you.

Weekend Ramblings...

Rambling around this weekend, collecting random beauty, and a few interesting somethings to show you...

I love the idea of this flannel and cotton print "memory game". This is from my all time favorite sewing/knitting/crochet blog called Purl Bee. If you have never visited Purl Bee, it is worth a visit just to see the colorful blog header - it is eye candy of the best sort. And prepare to find at least ten projects that you will want to do, because this site is a treasure chest.

This is also on my list of things to try this summer: hand quilting. The picture above is from the sewing blog of Anna Maria Horner, and all those stitches you see are hand-done, with batting in between two layers of fabric. I want to start out small, like this, with just a pillow. I need to find the perfect graphic print fabric...the above fabric is absolutely beautiful. Makes me want to be a textile artist/designer.

I have a wooden toolbox almost just like this. And I have hydrangeas. This image is from the blog Dreamy Whites.

I threw this image in just because. Because I love the gray yarn. And because I am totally enjoying knitting, even in the summertime, which surprises me because I thought I might only enjoy it in fall and winter, but I am loving working on my fall and winter gifts ahead of time, and yes, I just made a massive run-on sentence on purpose....

Oh, those plank walls. I want them. I seriously want them.

I'm making gifts like this - just finished one, in fact. I think this ear warmer headband thingey is adorable. Can't remember where I found this image, though...I do know that Rachel at Maybe Matilda sells headbands like this, and the crochet pattern to make them. And Maybe Matilda is my favorite new discovery...such a delightful blog! My daughter Hannah found her first, and now I love her too!

More gray yarn beauty...and that antique much to love about this image. Great hand made blanket and pillow, and even better photo composition.

I hope you are enjoying your Memorial Day weekend! We've a full house over here - along with the joys and the trials inherent to that scenario. Mixed bag, lemme tell you. Easy it is not. Without the gospel perfuming our ways and informing our decisions and affecting the very seat of our emotions, we would have kicked one another to the curb a long time ago. Our family is no different than yours.

The gospel affects not just my destiny, it affects my day. It makes me hang in there, because Calvary love is my example. "Tough love" is important - been there, done that, got the T-shirt. But "tough love" is only as effective as the tender Calvary-love that supports the whole relationship. If there is no relationship, "tough love" is a moot point. No one cares. No one is listening.

So, like I have said many times before, don't picture life here at the cottage as "Leave It To Beaver". We are more like "The Waltons", only with a heavy dose of dysfunction, and the momma is a crack head, and John Boy can be mean as hell sometimes.

But at the end of the day, we are still together, and we will stay that way if it kills us.

Indeed it may.

Where Does Inspiration Come From?

I aspire to inspire you.

1. Direct one's hopes or ambitions toward achieving something.

1. Fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, esp. to do something creative.

It is my dream and my ambition to fill you - yes, you personally and specifically - with the urge and the ability to do something creative, and to feel something sweet. If I can do that with excellence, I can die happy...someday...a long, long time from now.

Where does inspiration come from? Think about that, because it is a great question. The etymology of the word means to "breathe in Spirit".

Obviously, I think in terms of Genesis, when God breathed into man's nostrils the breath of life, and he became...

He became.

Before you can become anything - really become it - you have to be inspired. And all inspiration comes from God. There are avenues and means to be inspired, but the source is God, always. You see, He does not grow weary because He does not grow bored.

He is intensely interested in flowers, cooking, birds, motherhood, gardening, marriage, business, art, writing, and grand babies. He continues to maintain every created thing simply by the power of His word, and He delights in all of it, but most especially in the children of men. If He were to take just a thimble-full of His passion for His creation, and pour it into your heart, you would be inspired for a lifetime.

I am asking Him if I can, please, be His thimble.

Already Thinking Ahead - Handmade Gifts

In the odd spare moment, I am already working on my handmade gifts, so I'll have a small stash of pretty things come this fall.

Working on some felt baby blocks for a baby shower this weekend. These are for a boy baby. I made some girly ones for Gabbi Grace's baby shower last year, and Mommy Megan says they are Gabbi's favorite toy right now...

The pumpkin-spice colored yarn is another project I'm working on...when I am done, this will be a winter headband, with its own crocheted flower, and will keep the ears of a special friend warm and cozy.

I've already finished something really cute - made out of this pink chunky yarn...

And you won't believe what I made Tim for Father's Day! Look at this:

::giggle, choke::

Not really. I ran across this picture somewhere in blog land, and saved it. I could not resist punking you with it.

Seriously, if you ever catch me crocheting a pair of men's shorts, shoot me on sight.

Taking the Grandbaby to Cracker Barrel For the First Time

I think we've dreamed about taking a grandbaby to the Cracker Barrel for years, Tim and me. Even before there was a grandbaby, we would go to this quaint restaurant chain for breakfast, look around at all the grandparents there with their grandbabies, and say to each other, "Someday, that will be us."

This weekend, those dreams, years in the making, came true. We must have been stopped on the way in three times by people admiring our grandson's total cuteness.

We strutted with him.

We preened.

We were proud.

It was such a good day.

Our Niece Graduates...and Slices of Garden Life

Our niece Erica, who I home schooled through the first grade, has officially graduated from Bearden High School, as of yesterday evening. This was extra special to me, almost as special as my own kids' graduations, since I - with her momma's assistance - taught her to read, and write her first letters and numbers, and add and subtract numbers through 10. Once she started public school in the second grade, I had her every summer after that, until she was old enough to be home on her own.

I hope that gives you enough background. She's like my own.

The graduation was held at the venerable Thompson-Boling Arena, where the Basketball Vols play...
...and win lots of championships, particularly those Lady Vols...

All the seniors...

...the commencement speaker, talking about the fact that we are not our abilities, rather we are the sum total of our choices!

That's our girl, our niece, walking off the platform after getting her diploma. She's just to the right of the white flowers, there...(and oh. my. word. Jesus wants me to have a zoom lens. Amen.)

And, just now, I realized that I hadn't shared my garden pics with you yet, this year. Perish that thought! So I threw the Nikon strap around my neck and got busy...just in, like, ten minutes ago...
Some of the basil coming up...we live for pesto in the summer.

The "salad pot"...lettuce, grown from seed weeks ago, finally ready to eat, and a tomato plant tucked in, after some other lettuce was done...

More of the lettuce...

Tomatoes (and we have a big patch of heirloom cherry tomatoes coming up at the side of our house...they originated in the garden of our elderly neighbor's mother, years ago, and he gave us some little starter plants about three years ago. I let them go to seed at the very end of the season, every year. The following spring, they come back. Effortless.)

Oregano, chives, and thyme...the oregano and thyme will get really bushy, and take over this planter in about a month to six weeks...

More 'maters....cause we're bruschetta fiends.

My pots of petunias in the front...always petunias. This has to make the 8th year?? At least?

Several pots of this n' that, here and there.

This is our vintage Radio Flyer wagon (it once belonged to our elderly neighbor's grown daughter...a woman older than me.)

The firepit. Come by sometime, and sit with us, right here. We'll break out the guitar and a glass of whatever blows your dress up.

Another pot...not as full as I'd like it to look. There just wasn't as much money in the budget for plants this year. (As always, keepin' it real. So many in blogland don't do that. I always will. Promise. It isn't Utopia here...) But this pot will fill out, eventually. Usually, I'd have two in it, so it looks fuller, right from the very start.

And there's several pots still sitting empty. I'm going to plant some things from seed in them. Talk about NOT your instant gratification. That's what $4 a gallon gas, higher taxes, higher food bills, and more expenses in general, will do to your garden.

You, girlfriend (or sir...I know I have some guy readers, and you are absolute dolls to put up with me!) are not alone. I'm even thinking about starting a regular weekly post on economizing - with real life examples, recipes, and just stuff that we do around here when the belt needs tightening.

There's nothing to really show you yet, with the Kentucky Runner pole beans. Hopefully soon I will have some sprouts to show you, because I dearly love me a mess of beans.

Have a blessed weekend.

Beautiful, Feminine DSLR Camera Bag - Hand Made!

I wish I had some bright sun today, for photographing "The Big Reveal"...

I commissioned Hannah to make me a DSLR camera bag. First, I showed her a picture of my "inspiration bag", and then told her the things I wanted for my bag that this bag doesn't have.

Here is a photo of the inspiration bag (not Hannah's bag - the bag I used as inspiration, to give her an idea of what I wanted):
This is the Ellison bag, by Jeanne Oliver Designs. Beautiful, beautiful camera bag, designed by a beautiful lady. Please do check out all her designs - her aesthetic is well curated. She sells mixed media art, jewelry, her own clothing line, and her own line of bags. I love everything she sells in her online shop!

I wanted a camera bag that doesn't look at all like a camera bag. I didn't want something ugly. I definitely didn't want something that screams, "There must be a decent camera inside, so steal me!"

Here is a shot of the inside of the bag Hannah made for me:

Mustard yellow graphic design, well padded pockets. There is room in here for my textbook (or my little Gateway netbook) my camera, an extra lens, all batteries and cords, and someday a boot flash. I can even slip a wallet in this bag, and carry it as a purse/camera bag.

I wanted more than one ruffle...but I think the slate gray color keeps it from looking too frou frou...
The rosette is detachable, and there are two pockets on either side! I keep my phone in one, and sunglasses/reading glasses in the other. (Or keys in one, phone in the other...)

I told Hannah, in detail, what I wanted. I showed her the inspiration bag. I chose the colorway and bought the fabrics. She totally took it from there. She nailed it, spot on! I am in love with this bag. I wish you could feel it...the padding, the sturdy, yet cushy cross-body strap, the way the bag balances out when it is fully packed...

Hannah is going to do a product launch of this bag in her online shop soon! She will be offering for sale either the bag, custom made just for you, or the pattern that she has developed for it. I don't know what the name of the bag will be yet, but I cannot begin to tell you how cute and perfect it is. If you are a woman who loves DSLR photography, you will want this bag.

Here are some marketing photos Hannah and Jonathan took yesterday. These will go up on Hannah's online shop. Her twin sister Sarah was the model...

(That is my brown leather vintage suitcase...I use it to store all my yarn stash. Love that case!)

As you can see, Hannah is also a talented visual merchandiser. If she can do this, on the spur of the moment, in my back yard, you can imagine what she did as a visual merchandiser for a large (now out of business) clothing store chain.

Please spread the word, and let your friends know about this beautiful camera bag! Other than the Jeanne Oliver bag (which is sold out right now) there just are not any beautiful DSLR camera bags out there. Not like this.

Almost Time for the Reveal

Yesterday, I tweeted about a project I commissioned Hannah to design and sew for me...

She got started right away...

...she designed the pattern herself, from concept to completion. All I did was show her my inspiration photo, and I chose the colorway, and the fabrics. She did the rest.

The colorway is slate gray, with mustard yellow. I wanted a graphic print, and I wanted the solid slate gray to be linen...100% linen.

Hannah sat down with graphing paper and laid out her pattern. Then she sewed a mock-up out of muslin (so as not to make any mistakes on the expensive linen), then she started on the actual __________ . She worked at least ten hours, from start to finish yesterday, and is finishing up today.

Sneak peek...she labeled all her pieces...

This has been a very detailed project, her most challenging so far, but I have to tell you...

She's nailed it. She's almost done - she's well past any danger of messing it up. I can clearly see that the outcome is going to be perfectly, exactly what I hoped for. I cannot wait to show you the finished product!

Today is Special

...because at about 5:30 this morning, I became conscious of New Mercies. (Meaning: I woke up. I didn't get up, but I woke up. There is a world of difference.)

Because this is a Tuesday like no other that has ever been, or ever will be.

Because God does not grow weary because God does not grow bored or indifferent to my ordinary Tuesday. He keeps cramming the day brim-full with tokens of kindness. He is eager to hear and be heard, on this day called Tuesday, May 17th. What in this world does He have to say to me today? Whatever it is, it will be a life giving word. Even His discipline (and oh, have I been receiving it lately!) is because of His love. I'd say I'm in a win-win position.

Tokens of His kindness to me, on this ordinary Tuesday, yet a day like no other:

The Preacher's first appointment wasn't till about 9:30. So he had time to make me a late-ish breakfast.

Big Band Swing on the vintage turntable. And I'm practicing my bokeh. (Google it, if you must...) This is bad bokeh, but bokeh nonetheless.

From where I sit, the world looks like this. (Oh, and that is the galvanized tub we use for ice and drinks for parties. Think Justin's college graduation. Would you believe there are still some cans, sitting in water, in that tub? Of course you would.)

The youngest son is going to appear in court, to try to keep his first speeding ticket off of his driving record. Just keepin' it real. This is his reminder.

The Preacher, making me the perfect cup of morning coffee, with the perfect amount of Bailey's Irish Creamer in it. The creamer, not the hooch. I am not drunk as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day...

"Come to momma..."

The King of the Cottage woke up wanting to play with Poppy, so I set the shutter speed to 5 per second. Good shot, and better bokeh. Can I hear an Amen?

Don't hate on me because I eat gravy and biscuits for breakfast. I live in the south, for crying out loud.

Ignore the mint condition antique typewriter, still in its case. Ignore the Mother's Day cards from husband and children, each one with a long message inside from someone declaring my worth and beauty. Ignore the beautiful painting, a Jonathan Howe original oil, on the wall. What I want you to focus on here, is the sketch in the center. Jonathan sketched Timothy, as a college graduation gift to Justin. It is Justin's picture...I'm just babysitting it. And the real baby, too, come to think of it. (His momma made a quick trip to the store for cookies, just now...)

He caught Timothy's essence, spot on!

I love this baby so much. I'm living a dream I don't deserve and have not earned. Grace, grace, gracegracegrace. Unmerited gifts. I am rolling in them.

This child is always thinking, always curious. Can you see it in his eyes?

This day is full of His mercy, and it isn't even lunch time yet.

Look over your ordinary Tuesday. I promise, you can find extraordinary gifts in it.