Sunday, December 23, 2012

Hostess with the Mostess--or not

December was crazy this year.  I'm  not going to lie.  I hosted a boutique at my home on December 2nd, so that consumed much of the beginning of December.  In mid-December, we were planning a large scale ministry, Christmas celebration for about 250 people.  Last Thursday we decorated, organized and planned to throw a Christmas dinner for 70 people on a ministry's leadership team. 

What great opportunities to be thankful, to serve others and to demonstrate the love of Christ!  That was my goal, but, sadly, I failed miserably at times.

I'm not going to lie and pretend I did all that without sinning.  I had moments of complaining and stress.  In fact, even if we get through an event we are hosting with grace and joy, we have to look at our attitude when we had to run to an overpopulated Costco to pick up food for the event or how we felt when we finish the night and have hours of dishes and clean up to do.  Are we filled with joy, sacrificial love and thanksgiving then?

I was reading 1 Peter 4:9 this morning.  It says it pretty clearly:  "Show hospitality to one another without grumbling."  Wow.  There isn't any room for excuses there.  Thanks, God, for putting that mirror before my, at times, grumbly heart.

If you are in Christ, sisters, I urge you to align your thinking to God's like I am having to do.  It is SO easy to get overwhelmed and stressed, but remember that every imperfect detail is allowed by God to grow us, prune us and test us--even the failed centerpieces, missing guests and parking lot mishaps.  He doesn't want us to have the perfect, Martha Stewart Christmas party.  He wants us to grow into the likeness of Christ Jesus, the Savior we are celebrating.

This was just in time for those of you hosting Christmas Eve or Christmas.  When the turkey burns, someone spills on the couch, guests don't show, or you realize you forgot to buy the butter, just stop and pray.  Thank God for the growing lesson and extend grace and patience because we have been shown much more grace and patience than we are ever asked to give.

Merry Christmas, my fellow hostesses!  Our Savior is born!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Violent Crime: More than Conquerers

Genesis 50:20   As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

My closest friends and family know that I was a victim of violent crime in college.  I will share the details of the story some day, as God has been putting it ever more on my heart to have Him redeem my experience and story to minister to others. 

Briefly for now, one morning in June, a man I had known well for two years in the dorm (and a friend of my boyfriend at the time) knocked on the door of my dorm room, asking to borrow my phone (this was before cell phones) and use my bathroom.  He said his roommates were hogging the phone and bathroom, which he had to use before he ran to class.  He lived two rooms down from me.  As I said, I had known this person well for two years, so I let him in without a second thought.  My roommates had just left for class, so I was alone, but he would surely be on his way in a couple of minutes and I could finish getting ready for class and work that day.

Indeed, a couple of minutes later, he did emerge from our bathroom, but with duct tape and a hunting knife that he had brought in his backpack. He attacked me, tried suffocating me, and put the knife to my throat, attempting to rape me.  Again, I will get into the story another time, but, in this case, God intervened and stopped evil, and I truly witnessed unchecked evil on this man's face during the attack.  However, God gave me grace.  I wasn't raped.  I didn't die.  My attacker was put in prison.  I had small knife cuts and some physical bruises and lacerations from the attack, but the greatest injuries were to my sense of trust and "innocence."  At that time, I thought people are basically good and trustworthy, right?  I was so confused.  How could this happen?  This confusion was the beginning of God calling me to truly understand the right gospel.

Because of my experience, when there is a violent crime in the news, like in Conneticut, I am saddened deeply.  I mourn the evil that exists.  I weep.  My heart breaks for the teachers, students and families.  I am not surprised by the evil though.  In understanding scripture and the gospel, I know man is ultimately evil, and we shouldn't be shocked when evil makes a horrific appearance. People respond quickly to say that we need to show love and prove that people are more good than evil.  We do need to show love and compassion--this is good.  Man is not good, though.  Satan would love to promote this lie that we are more good than evil, but we need to look away from ourselves for hope.  The promise of salvation, rescue and hope is not going to be found in us.

Genesis 6:5  The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Mark 7:21  For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts

Jeremiah 17:9  The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Where is the hope then?  What discouragement if the story ends there, but it doesn't.

God created us, but we chose to disobey our Holy, righteous Creator.  We ALL foolishly chose the yoke of slavery under sin.  We ruined our relationship with our Maker, because a holy, perfect God cannot have fellowship with evil, sinful people who despise His commands and choose to glorify themselves.

Romans 3:23  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

In fact, because God is holy, He must be just and give us consequences for sin--separation from Him and an eternity in Hell.  Though, in our human minds, this sounds harsh, imagine how angry we would be if the attacker in Conneticut had lived and the jury and judge who were presiding over his trial excused him with compassion?  We ultimately understand justice is good.  We just don't want it for ourselves.

One of the first realizations I made when I truly understood the gospel was that my own attacker and myself were both guilty before a holy God.  Though I had never attacked anyone with a knife or tried to rape someone, I had "murdered" by hating, I had injured through gossip and slander, and I had despised the Holy Creator who made me by choosing to obey my own desires over His commands.

God is loving, though, and He told us early on that He would conquer evil and sin.  He would give us hope and freedom from our sin.  He had a plan--a good plan.

Genesis 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

Christ was promised even in the third chapter of the Bible.  A Savior would have to suffer for our sin, but He would ultimately give the fatal wound to Satan, ultimately overthrowing sin and evil.  He would conquer them for us and bring us hope.

Romans 6:23  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

While God patiently waits for as many as possible to come to repentance over their sin and trust in the gift of Christ's righteous life and substitutionary death to reconcile us to God, He restrains evil all the time.  It is amazing in the fact that God loves us enough to give us all consciences and moral compasses that check the sin that plagues us. 

He restrained evil from killing me in June 1994.  I saw and experienced it.  Because of that attack, I lost my trust in man and misunderstanding that man is basically good, but I gained an unconquerable, steadfast trust in God for my salvation, for sovereignty over each day He has ordained for my life.

So when evil does emerge violently and glaringly, I am not surprised.  It drives me to thankfulness that God restrains evil often and, when He allows evil to temporarily happen, He does so for a purpose only He, as God, can understand.  Perhaps He will use this to bring people to eternal salvation.  We don't know His plan.  I do know that evil cannot and will not triumph.  He has conquered it.  He will judge those who practice it who are not found in Christ.

Such instances of evil, such as the attack on me or the shooting in Connecticut, drive me to the foot of the cross--clinging in absolute amazement that God could look upon such a wicked people (all of us) and, while we were still His enemies, love us enough to die for our sin so we could be free from that sin and evil and reestablish a loving relationship with Him. 

Romans 5:8  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Though the shootings in Connecticut were all the more awful for happening at Christmas, a time of joy and family celebrations; yet what comfort in the fact there was a fulfilled promise and hope at Christmas--a baby lying in a manger, denying His glory and power in order to be born in humble, human form so that He, truly innocent and perfect, could face that pure evil, pay for all of it on the cross and conquer it--crushing its head, as God, in Genesis, fortold.

Evil is horrific, but it has a determined ending that is quickly approaching.  When I am overwhelmed with sadness and grief at evil, I remember that my God is greater than any circumstance and, because He is loving, He restrains evil every day.  Ultimately, the hope we crave is not found in sinful men or good works, but in Christ Jesus.  He has made us conquerers with Him if we truly repent of our sin and trust in what He has done for us in His life and His death on the cross.  Then, if we truly trust this, whatever we face in His sovereign plan will not shake us.  We are conquerers with Him.

Romans 8:35-37  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas Boutique

The Christmas boutique I hosted last Sunday was a fun success.  My favorite part of the day was just seeing all the friends coming over and getting to chat with people I don't see all the time.  I won't bore you with too many words--the pictures tell it all. 

I only got pictures right before the boutique since I was busy during, but it was packed and busy.  I didn't get pictures of my friend Tracy's beautiful wrap leather bracelets that she was selling.  They are beautiful!  I wish I could go back in time and take a picture.  Here are some other pictures from the event. . .

It was at my house. 

Here is my little table area.  I sold banners and canvas art.

Next, my friend Beth of Sew Blue Boutique.  She sells fabric flowers, clips, applique t-shirts and name signs on wood.

Her cute wood signs.  I bought a JOY sign.

Her flower necklaces, clips and t-shirts.

There were beverages and food--OF COURSE!

My friend, Lillian of Lil Desserts, made pinnk velvet maccaroons and

chocolate peppermint cake balls. . .

My friend Lisa sells Premier Jewelry.  She came to sell items too!

Denise made homemade prayer journals in beautiful patterns.  I got one to make a journal for my son and I to write back and forth to each other.

Sarah, of I.B. Spoiled, makes hair clips and headbands for little girls.  She had SO many beautiful products.

Cami, of MillaTuelle, sewed beautiful bags and coin purses, crafted tie necklaces and made homemade canvas art. . . Amazing!

My friend, Meredith of Simple Purity, brought her homemade lotions and skincare.  She also sews and made BEAUTIFUL table runners.  I got one in black and white chevron.  Love!

The event was busy and blessed.  I can't wait for the next one.  Thank you to all who stopped by and to all the amazing, creative ladies who sold items.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions. . .

I apologize for the lack of posts.  I have some good reasons.

First I got a bad cough/chest cold two weeks ago.

Then I got the stomach flu over Thanksgiving break.  (From what I hear, about half of America had it).

Then I was getting ready for the boutique I'm hosting at my house this Sunday (I'm still busy).

Then Blogger told me I had reached my free photo storage capacity, and I couldn't write any posts with pictures.  I spent most of today researching the migration from Blogger to Wordpress--the complicated migration where I attempt to keep my subscribers and reroute to the new web address.  For now, I have upgraded my photo storage plan, but I have e-mails into friends to get me onto Wordpress soon.  It's time!

Another decision I'm pondering: Should I focus on celebration banners and scale back my scripture signs?  They are beautiful, but they are super time consuming for the price I charge.  I need to constantly pray about keeping a Biblical balance of ministry, family and creative business. 

After my tummy flu settled down a bit, we did a few, fun family outings this weekend.  Here are some pictures of our outings. . . (I can finally add pictures again!  Yay!)

They look like little angels here.  The posing lady made them fold their hands.  This cracks me up!

A family pic

Posing with my boys

Carter and Micah

The Christmas tree at Fashion Island Shopping Center in Newport Beach.  It is REALLY tall.

The fountain in front of Neiman Marcus.  The water changes colors, and the boys were fascinated!

We always end our Christmas at Fashion Island night with hot cocoa or coffee(me) at Roger's Gardens, a posh nursery in Newport Beach where they put up thousands of decorations and millions of lights every year.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Some Design Rules for a Gallery Wall

I am in no way a designer.  I wish I were, but I do know when I look at something if it is right or wrong aesthetically.  I know what is pretty or what looks "off."  Technical terminology, I know, but stay with me.

This gut instinct served me when I was creating my gallery wall for our living room.  Here are some "rules" from a non-designer. 

I knew that when the TV was turned off, we had a huge negative space black rectangle on our wall on a neutral colored paint, so, in order to soften and meld with the large, black TV, I did black and white objects all around.  When we first moved in, I had bought a large colorful painting for the side of the TV, and it was SO busy.  When the TV was off, it wasn't a balanced look--your eye was drawn to the large, black hole of a TV on the wall, and when the TV was on and had colors moving all around, it was a busy, competing, mess of a wall design.  I make mistakes and I learn.  Maybe it was just the colors and pattern I had, but it definitely didn't work.

If you have a large flatscreen on a neutral wall, I personally recommend using black and white pieces around.  The white softens the negative space of the black and the united colors tie it together, almost creating art out of your TV.  If you do splashes or pops of color to tie into your room, that works too--just keep it balanced around other neutral shades.

I am using color (shades of light blue and rust) in the chair pillows that will be on the chairs I will place on each side of the console below the TV (still to be found and bought), in drapes on the other side of the room, and on the couch pillows on the other side of the room.  A canvas artpiece next to my fireplace wall (adjacent to this wall) has oranges and blues in it too.

I also knew that with that large of a wall, I needed weight in the size of my pictures.  When you get too many small pieces, the wall gets busy and cluttered--floating all over with nothing centering and weighing the space down.  So, my frames are mostly large (they don't look huge, which shows you the size of that wall!), with one or two small accents thrown into the grouping. 

(We have a big slider behind me that causes glare, so I apologize that some of the pictures have that glare)

I also wanted a set of "three" (that perfect design number we hear about) look of appearing on my wall since it is long and narrow.  I essentially used the TV as my center and then two clustered groupings on each side--connecting it all with the top photos above the TV.  The color is uniting it all together as well.

Side grouping on one side of the TV

A closeup of the other side grouping on the other side of the TV.

Today, I also learned a rule from Sarah 101 for gallery groupings.  I actually followed this rule unknowingly.  Pick either the bottom or top of the gallery wall to be lined up.  The opposite side can be at different heights.  As you can see from my pictures, I, in essence, unknowingly lined up the top of my gallery wall in a line (with a slight alteration in line above the TV, which works with the long wall and high ceilings we have).  The bottom is all at different heights, which works since the top is structured.

See how the top is in a straight line (with a purposeful rise in the line just above the TV) but the bottom is at all different heights. . .  The line on the top or bottom helps anchor the gallery.

You want to keep any groupings equally weighted but not too matchy matchy.  Each side of the TV is in a different grouping, but they have equal "weight" and substance to them.  You can see in my pictures above that each side is in a different formation, but they each have 6 pieces and have something centering the "circular" arrangement around them.  On one side the "H" is anchoring the group and, on the other side, the canvas topography is centering the grouping.

I've tied all these "pieces" together to avoid a cluttered look.  In my gallery, the colors of black and white, the lined up top, and the two topography canvases tie the sides and groupings altogether. 

I explained how I figured out my design here.  In summary, I cut out pieces of paper the size of my frames and TV and practiced the designs on the floor until it looked right.  Then I taped the papers on the wall to see it there and just attached the frames by removing one paper at a time. 

Happy gallery wall planning!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Christmas Pictures with Letter Props

Last year we took our pictures with letter props.  I highly recommend it if you have kids.  It gave them something to hold and keep them focused, and it keeps the picture fun and fresh, so it still looks in theme if one of your kiddos is doing his or her own "look." 

I went to Michael's and bought J, O, and Y from the wooden letter aisle.  That's it!  You could spell out your last name, you could spell out NOEL or MERRY.  Think about the size of your family and that will help you pick out the length of your word.  Go early to get your letters, though!  Christmas crafters come and take the popular Christmas letters.  I had trouble finding some of the letters for crafts later in the season.

Have fun with it!  This year we are taking a year off from a formal picture session and just making a card with pictures from the year.  Here are some poses from last year's photo session . . .

My youngest is 2 and 1/2 here, and he was acting very much his age that day.  We had to tickle him to get a smile.

Here is what to be careful of avoiding--having your kid cover his or her face with the letter. 

It's a wrap!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Memory Ornaments

I have seen those pretty ornaments on Pinterest with the curled pieces of an invitation or birth announcement in a clear glass Christmas ornament.  I have always wondered how you can easily read it all, though.  There are just some things you want to be able to revisit and read!

This year I decided to make memory ornaments for my boys.  I bought clear plastic ornaments at Michael's and then wrote out memorable moments for each boy over the past year.  I Mod Podged these onto the outside of the ornament and then stuffed the clear ornament with Burlap.  The top will have a tag eventually that says, "Carter 2012" or "Micah 2012." 

A burlap ribbon tied at the top would be pretty, but I didn't have any at home.  White ribbon looked nice too.

Carter had a fun year of firsts:  started first grade, learned to read, lost first tooth, played baseball/t-ball for the first time. . . Micah also had some fun things to remember:  Potty trained, started preschool, started speech, and learned his ABC song. 

I also added likes and dislikes to the lists.  Since all this is pasted on the outside of the ornament, I easily can go back and remember the highlights of each year as these ornaments dot our tree.

Start your own family memory ornaments.  They will be fun to revisit each year and the beginning of a fun family tradition.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Beautiful Decline

Romans 8:18-25
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

It is getting scarier and scarier to look in the mirror in the morning.  Wrinkles, skin splotches, gray hair--things aren't staying put together the way they were fifteen years ago.  I have daily medicine for my thyroid and vitamins to help keep the germs at bay.  I am reminded often that this physical shell is not going to work forever.  Even with exercise, diet and hard work, we all fade physically.

My husband made the observation that we hit our peak physically in our teens and twenties, and the rest of our lives are a slow (sometimes fast) decline.  Rather than be depressed by this, he pointed out the positive to what God has put in place.  Because we age, we spend most of our wiser years being reminded by God that this earth is temporary, that our world and our bodies are cursed with sin and death, and that we need to focus on eternity and the more important eternal status of our souls. 

Through aging, God motivates us to have faith in Jesus as our Savior.  Our mortality and physical failings should prompt us all the more to know we cannot rely on selves and our good works.  We are incapable and frail.  If we can't keep our health and physical appearance in check, how can we save our souls?  It reminds me of the Matt Redman song, You Alone Can Rescue, that opens, "Who, oh, man, can save himself, his own soul can heal?"  No one.  We can't.  Thankfully, Christ gave us righteousness and paid for our sin on the cross if we repent and have faith in what Jesus did.  Our souls can be saved through Him.

I often think that this fact explains why the world is so obsessed with physical perfection, makeup, cosmetic surgery and youth.  The world does not want to dwell on God, the sin plaguing us all, and the need for a Savior to repair the separation we have from God.  Blemishes, wrinkles, gray hair, extra pounds, and disease are reminders that we die and physically fail because of sin.  We are cursed by sin and separated from our Creator.  Such physical problems remind us we need a relationship with God.  We need a Savior.

Though it is painful and hard to age, as Christians we can find hope in the experience.  We can realize the world is slowly fading away, just like our bodies.  It is a beautiful decline to those in Christ, to those with the promise of Heaven.

Hebrews 6:19-20   "We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek."

Monday, October 8, 2012

Birthday Flight

My birthday was at the end of September, and my sweet hubby surprised me with an afternoon flight to Catalina for lunch and pictures.  Our sweet friend, Jason, has his pilot's license and offered to  fly a rented plane for us. 

We took off in a rented 4 seat plane from Orange County and landed in the "airport in the sky" for lunch, a short hike and some picture taking.

What a fun hubby I have!  He completely surprised me, and it is a birthday adventure I'll always remember!

Enjoy the pics!

Getting ready for our adventure

Flying in the cockpit

The beautiful coast of Catalina Island

Twin Harbors, Catalina Island

Enjoying lunch on the patio at the airport in the sky

Taking a mini hike and enjoying the island

Airport in the Sky with my sweetie

The historical hanger at the Catalina Airport

The controls were so interesting!

Our thoughtful pilot, Jason
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