Create beauty each day

A pretty breakfast setting
My pretty breakfast setting this morning

“My mother created a beautiful home environment, which helped me to learn how to see and how to live. Writers have to find their own voices. I had to learn how to see. Mother’s innate aesthetic sense affected everything she did. When I think back to the meals we ate together as a family, I remember the fresh flowers on the table, the food attractively arranged on the plate and planned partly with color in mind. To Mother, truth was beauty lived every day. Not only did Mother did me to appreciate beauty by her example, she also taught me an invaluable lesson–the importance of creating beauty each day, and how to do it.” ~ Alexandra Stoddard, Living a Beautiful Life: 500 Ways to add Elegance, Order, Beauty and Joy to Every Day of Your Life

I love beautiful things. In fact, unexpectedly someone told me today that my Facebook posts sometimes remind her of Anne Ortlund, author of Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman. I was shocked, as she was a great woman of God, and her husband Ray was a great man of God. What a huge compliment!

I believe that it’s so important to notice and surround ourselves with beauty every day. A vase of fresh flowers. Fragrant candles or Scentsy warmers. Pretty paintings. Strawberries in a bowl on the kitchen counter. A crystal glass of your fave drink. A hand-made quilt and freshly washed sheets on your bed with fluffy pillows.

A cute coffee mug (maybe with some chocolate!). Lavender bath salts and unique scented shower gels like honeysuckle and jasmine in the bathroom. Soft pillows on couches and loveseats. Happy family photos. A friendly welcome mat at your front or back door and invite friends over and order pizza (or enjoy Ray’s infamous, mouth-watering Cajun chicken on the grill!). 

dolphin Image source: http://www.defenders.org/
dolphin
Image source: http://www.defenders.org/

When you look at creation, you can see that God loves beauty, too. A bright red male cardinal. The moon and stars shining luminously. The glorious rays of the sun. The sound and beauty of the amazing ocean waves, on glistening white sands and the wind blowing through the palm trees. Majestic blue, snow-capped mountains. Orange desert cactus blooming. Sunrises and sunsets, each one different and breath-taking. Dolphins, sharks, stingrays, lions, tigers, black panthers, elephants, zebra, giraffe, kangaroo, wolves, butterflies, kittens, puppies, all that has been created by God with a word.

The Bible tells us to focus on what’s beautiful. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” ~ Philippians 4:8, KJV

Image resource: Pinterest-woman and coffee
beautiful woman writing with coffee
Image resource: Pinterest

God sees you and me as beautiful. In Song of Solomon 2:14, NLT, it says, “My dove is hiding behind the rocks, behind an outcrop on the cliff. Let me see your face; let me hear your voice. For your voice is pleasant, and your face is lovely.”

Our enemy Satan does all he can to mar our beauty and the beauty of this world. From pollution on this earth to pollution in our souls, the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. (John 10:10)

He wants our marriages, families, physical bodies, homes, environment, work places, walk with Christ, and attitudes as ugly as possible. He is the author of lies, confusion, and destruction. I was about to Skype my sweet friend last night, when she texted me. “Hold on. Coming. We are having chaos.” In the other room of her house, there were shouting and angry words between her husband and her son. 

happy couple
happy couple

The enemy never stops. He won’t until he’s burning in the Lake of Fire. (Revelation 20:10) Because he’s so relentless, we as believers in Christ need to do all we can to display God’s beauty and create it in our lives. 

  • We can be beautiful women of God by obeying and serving Him with our time, our resources (such as money, our work, or other physical resources), our spiritual gifts and our lives. As we spend more time with Jesus each day, we become more like Him, by God conforming us into His image. (Romans 8:29)
  • We can bring beauty to our relationships by loving and forgiving others, encouraging them daily, and helping them. Each day we can wipe the slate clean. God’s mercies are new each morning. (Lamentations 3:23)
  • We can make our homes beautiful, a place of safe refuge and comfort, by keeping it clean, organized, and beautifully decorated with the resources we have“I suddenly realized that God’s beautiful Proverbs 31 woman was the sparkling jewel in her husband’s life! She brought the love, the color, the joy, the life, and the energy to the home!” (Elizabeth George, Beautiful in God’s Eyes)
  • We can have an impact on this world and make it beautiful by sharing the good news of Jesus and our powerful testimony. Tell your story with others. Allow God’s anointing to flow through you as an open conduit of His power. (1 John 2:27)
  • We can have a beautiful attitude by being positive and faith-filled, instead of being negative, complaining, criticizing, or being ungrateful. (Philippians 2:14) Ask God to heal any wound in your heart that prevents your utmost, inner beauty from shining forth. 
  • We can visit beautiful places, traveling to new towns, states, and nations, eating new foods, meeting new people, and making new, beautiful memories that last a lifetime. 
  • We can leave a beautiful legacy with our children and grandchildren by fulfilling the calling and purpose God has assigned for our lives, and by showing them Jesus through our godly example.

I want to be a beautiful woman, inside and out, and to surround myself with beauty, don’t you? 

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” ~ 1 Peter 3:3-4, NIV

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Promises In The Dark: One Woman's Search for Authentic Love

You can read how God made beauty out of the ashes of my life in my memoir, Promises In The Dark: One Woman’s Search for Authentic Love. Click here to find out more. 

 

 

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The little things

It’s the little things. It doesn’t take much to make me happy (Ray might debate that!). But simple pleasures give me great joy.

When Ray and I recently traveled to Texas and went through what seemed like the storm from hell, Ray’s mom Judy and his step-dad Leonard had a bird feeder and a hummingbird feeder on their back deck at their house by a beautiful lake.

lake by Ray's parents' house near Quitman, TX
lake by Ray’s parents’ house near Quitman, TX
bird and hummingbird feeders on back deck
bird and hummingbird feeders on back deck

I loved getting up early, sitting on the deck praying, enjoying the lake, and watching the birds. It was the first time I’ve ever seen a hummingbird in person and I was so excited. They are tiny and so adorable! I decided when we came home, that I was getting a bird feeder and a hummingbird feeder, too.

Yesterday, I went to the dollar store and Walmart to hunt for the perfect feeders. I found black shepherd hooks to hang the feeders on and bags of bird seed at the dollar store, and the bird feeder and the hummingbird feeder at Walmart.

The hummingbird feeder came with a kit, which included 2 bottles of nectar. Leah said it smells like Kool-Aid.® I told her NOT to drink the Kool-Aid!®  🙂

bird feeder and hummingbird feeder
bird feeder and hummingbird feeder

I’m going to have to go back to Walmart today to get a bigger bird feeder. At lunchtime, I noticed that some of the bigger birds are falling off the tiny ledge of the feeder when they try to eat, so they need a bigger ledge to be able to sit on it and eat. 

bird & hummingbird feeder in our yard
bird & hummingbird feeder in our yard

 I also bought a few new things for my sunroom, one of my fave rooms in our house: a red geranium, a green (golden pothos) plant, and a red flowered cactus with a white ceramic pot with blue and purple flowers on it. I love it!

My sunroom: red geranium, green plant & red flowered cactus
My sunroom: red geranium, green plant & red flowered cactus

One of the reasons I bought the geranium is because they are so hardy. I didn’t inherit my grandmother Moore’s green thumb, so I didn’t want to kill another house plant. Give a geranium some light and water, and it will love you forever. 

red geranium
red geranium

Same thing with the golden pothos plant and this red flowered cactus. I mean, how hard can it be to kill a cactus? Actually you can. The name of the cactus is a ruby ball cactus or moon cactus, and apparently they only live a few years, so they’re ideal for apartment dwellers.

Since they normally don’t live long, I better start preparing for its funeral. It depresses me when my house plants die! But it’s cute for now. I love the pretty ceramic pot. The blue in the dragonfly goes perfectly with my blue chair.

 You have to keep the moon cactus lightly shaded, protected from the full sun. The sunroom should be perfect for it. You water it thoroughly and let it dry out between waterings.

Red flowered cactus
Red flowered cactus

Right next to our sunroom is the utility room, where we hang our jackets and take off our shoes to keep them from muddying the beautiful wood floors in our house. I decorated the utility room with butterfly art Ray bought for me when he went on one of his missions trips to Haiti and birds that Ray’s mom Judy gave us. Her mother (Ray’s grandmother Hutchins) hand-stitched these.

hand-stitched bird pictures
hand-stitched bird pictures

These are the beautiful butterfly art pieces that Ray bought me as a souvenir in Haiti, which are on the other wall in the utility room. I love butterflies. 🙂 

butterflies from Haiti
butterflies from Haiti

The adjoining wall to this one with the butterflies just has a side window and a tiny bit of wall space, so I hung up these brass butterflies, that Ray’s mom also gave us. 

brass-butterflies
brass-butterflies

This morning I sat in the sunroom, praying, journaling, drinking my hot chai with heavy creamer (my little indulgence now since I’ve stopped drinking Cokes®), and watched the birds. I love listening to the sound of the mourning dove. 

chai tea with creamer
chai tea with creamer

Yes, it’s the little things. 

I have felt happy today. Here I am in a new, warm-weather outfit…peach tank, white wrap, and a long, beautifully-colored skirt. Ray said it’s pretty. 🙂

me in new outfit
me in new outfit

What little things mean the most to you? What makes you feel happy and content? Leave your comments below. 

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What family and home mean

“Home wasn’t a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.” ~ Sarah Dessen, What Happened To Goodbye

Today I read and loved Emilys post, How To Make a House Into a Home. It made me think about what “home” really means.

For me, home is about my family – those beautiful, spiritually gifted, intelligent, talented, hilarious, wonderful, and, yes at times, totally frustrating, people, who God so generously blessed me with to make me grow up and be more. 

Our family
Left to right: oldest daughter Heather, me, youngest daughter Leah, Ray, and middle daughter Eden

 

Our grandchildren: Eden's son Jacob, Heather's daughters Annabelle and Violet
Our precious grandchildren: Eden’s son Jacob; Heather’s daughters Annabelle and Violet

Home is also about the little things, like decorating the dining table with bright, cheery sunflowers that I got on sale at Price Chopper.

You only live once and I love sunflowers.

Sunflowers
Sunflowers

It’s also about the big things, like the birth of a baby sister or brother, a husband’s new job, a new move (right now we’re trying to buy our rental home and I’m praying we don’t have to move again!), a car accident where God protected your family, or a dream-come-true trip.

Home and family are at the forefront of my mind, since our youngest daughter Leah’s birthday is tomorrow. It’s so hard to believe she’s almost grown. It seems like yesterday she was a baby in a pink gown at the hospital. Ray loves to tell the story of how we “stole the pink gown from the hospital.” The hospital staff told us we couldn’t take the gown home as it belonged to the hospital to provide for new baby girls, but I loved seeing Leah in it – she was so cute! Ray said it would be okay and we packed it in my suitcase to take home. For years I felt so guilty about that pink gown and repented to God…but Ray loves to teasingly remind me every once in awhile.

Leah with violin
Leah with violin

I’m baking a yellow cake with chocolate frosting for Leah, and we have a couple of gifts for her (but this isn’t a spoiler post! I can’t say what they are yet!).

Yellow cake with chocolate frosting www.bakingthroughmsbh.files.wordpress.com-2010-03-slice1
Yellow cake with chocolate frosting
www.bakingthroughmsbh.files.wordpress.com-2010-03-slice1

I’ve always believed that everyone’s birthday should be a special day where that person’s life is especially celebrated. To know they are loved and their life has meaning and purpose.

I had a friend in elementary school named Angie, who told me her birthday was that week, but she’d never had a birthday party in her life. I could hardly believe this, as our family always celebrated birthdays and holidays. I told my mom this and we planned a surprise party for Angie with cake, ice cream, balloons, and a gift. She cried and was so touched by our love. 

Despite my dysfunctional family of origin, which I share about in my book, Promises In The Dark: One Woman’s Search for Authentic Love, this memory of what we did for Angie is one place I am revisting and dusting off to find a hidden gem.

Mother Father Son and Daughter (8-11) Having a Picnic and Chatting

Ideally, as Emily writes, “Family should be a safe place, a haven, a house of laughter. It should be unguarded and free, a refuge where Mom and Dad rejoice in their kids, and where the kids feel delighted in.”

That’s my desire for my family and home. 

“God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. But he makes the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.” ~ Psalm 68:6, NLT

I like Emily’s questions on her blog post and am going to re-post them here for you and me to think and journal about.

Feel free to leave your comments below.

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:

  1. What does “home” mean to you? Does it conjure up cozy feelings, or feelings of loneliness and isolation?
  2. Do you feel you’ve been homesick or homeless your whole life? Why/why not?
  3. Hospitality means helping someone to leave your house feeling better about themselves than when they came. How should we live, knowing this world is NOT in fact our home? How can we practice hospitality –in our daily lives, whether it’s at high school, college, in the business world or in a house– in a way that represents the kingdom of heaven?
  4. What do you picture when you think of heaven? Does it feel “homey”?
  5. Are you wanting to revisit the past and dust off places that “home” means to you? If not, why?

 

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