A couple of weeks ago in January's deep-freeze, my daughter's church sponsored a ladies brunch to kick-start their women's ministry. Rachel was responsible for decorations.
Her handiwork reminded me of my mother's decorations for the annual mother-daughter banquet in our church basement when I was a girl. Now my daughter has replicated what she saw me model when she was in junior and senior high school.
How special to see this third generation use her artistry to serve others.
Here is what the room looked like when Rachel started:
First, her team emptied the room. Then they brought in tables, covering them with long, white linen cloths and pink toppers.
She had purchased chinese lanterns in three sizes...
and had her husband space the lanterns over top each table.
Rachel added the pink rose center pieces she made for each table.
With the tables set, the over-all effect was very pretty.
Men were recruited to serve.
Friendships were reinforced as the ladies chatted.
After brunch, a lady from each table gathered a basket of paper and pens to elicit suggestions for the new women's program.
At the end of the morning, Rachel felt all the effort was worth it, because everyone got exited about opportunities to serve and gather again. Besides, the morning provided a middle-of-winter pick-me-up for nearly sixty women.
Fortunately, my Christmas decorations are nestled warmly in their beds, because the calendar reads January 17, and our neighborhood is frosted with a crystalline coating of snow.
The air brittles with cold; light pierces with precision, and the startling beauty of the luminescent landscape sucks breathe from my lungs.
Winter's beauty awakens the inner poet in many writers. Shakespeare described leafless trees as "bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang" (Sonnet 73).
David Guterson's novel, Snow Falling on Cedars, winner of the 1996 American Booksellers Book of the Year, succeeded in getting his reader to feel, hear, and smell the loneliness amplified by a winter scape.
"Beneath the stars, with his overcoat on, he wandered out into the cold. His feet took their own direction through the cedar woods, and underneath the canopy of branches he smelled the old fragrance of the place of his youth and the clean scent of the new fallen snow. Here under the trees it was fresh and untouched. The branches of the cedars were hung with it and beyond them the sky lay immaculate and decemviral, the stars chilled points of light. He followed his feet to... the hollow cedar tree of his youth.
Ismael sat inside for a brief time with his coat wrapped tightly around him. He listened to the world turned silent by the snow; there was absolutely nothing to hear. The silence of the world roared steadily in his ears while he came to recognize that he did not belong here, he had no place in the tree any longer. Some younger people should find this tree, hold to it tightly as their deepest secret...For them it might stave off what he could not help but see with clarity: that the world was silent and cold and bare and that in this lay its terrible beauty" (443).
Using winter's beauty to prove the world is silent, cold, and bare is Guterson's perspective, but I prefer C.S. Lewis' thesis: addiction to self leaves the world "always winter and never Christmas". Read how he describes Edmund's misery as he searches for the White Witch's Turkish Delight:
"The first thing he realized when he got outside and found the snow falling all around him, was that he had left his coat behind in the Beaver's house. And of course there was no chance of going back to get it now. The next thing he realized was that the daylight was almost gone for it had been nearly three o'clock when they sat down to dinner and the winter days were short. He hadn't reckoned on this; but he had to make the best of it. So he turned up his collar and shuffled across the top of the dam... to the far side of the river."
"It was pretty bad when he reached the far side. It was growing darker every minute and what with that and the snowflakes swirling all round him he could hardly see three feet ahead. And then too there was no road. He kept slipping into deep drifts of snow, and skidding on frozen puddles, and tripping over fallen tree-trunks, and sliding down steep banks, and barking his shins against rocks, tell he was wet and cold and bruised all over. The silence and loneliness were dreadful..." (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 72-73).
Thankfully, Lewis doesn't leave Edmund cold and miserable, he introduces the Christ-figure, Aslan, who sacrifices himself to redeem Edmund and begin to unthaw the earth's and Edmund's personal tundras.
Scripture explains how Christ's death in our place provides the bridge of forgiveness from the misery of the self-serving life.
The Savior offers a warm home which stands in relief against the cold, bare realities of life without him.
He also promises us hope of eternal Spring.
To feel hope's reality, read the apostle John's description of a new heaven and a new earth in the book of Revelation, chapters twenty-one and twenty-two:
"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth...And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, 'Behold the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people...and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain'...The city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb...Only those (shall come into the city) whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life. And he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb...And on either side of the river was the tree of life...yielding its fruit every month" (21:1, 3-4, 23, 27 and 22:1-5).
What a lovely, welcoming picture of our hope of heaven where the Lamb's sacrifice will warm our cold, selfish hearts and place us in a home where it is eternally spring.
This week I made a fatal mistake; I meandered through a furniture store advertising their post-Christmas blow-out sale. Well, wouldn't you know, I spied something I had been looking for off-and-on for some time: bedroom lamps.
Nothing was wrong with the Waterford crystal lamps I had in our room, except they really belonged in the bedroom with the Victorian-era spool bed and spool bedside tables. I have known it for some time, but never quite found the right lighting replacements to warrant a switch.
I needed something up-to-date, with some character, and fabricated out of materials appropriate to my furniture. As I perused the sale inventory, there they were: a pair of bone Theodore Alexander lamps.
Instantly, I knew they would be perfect on the shagreen boxes my husband got me for my birthday a couple of years ago. (I had an Amish craftsman make Federal bases for them.)
Here's the complete picture.
The mellow lamp bases complement the vignette, don't you agree?
I got a kick out of finding the lamps and moving the crystal lamps to a more appropriate spot. What's more, I found a creative way to finance the new purchases.
When visiting friends, they mentioned their difficulty in finding chairs to match their home's decor. Afterward it occurred to me that I had a pair of chairs that would be perfect. I called my friend, offering to sell her my chairs while emphasizing that they were under no obligation and could return the chairs, if they didn't work in their home.
Fortunately, my friend said, "I couldn't have found a more perfect fabric, if I had searched the world."
What's more, my friend passed on her other chairs to a Haitian family in their church. I was thrilled at the win-win-win!
As this lighting project was "going-down" in my house, my daughter sent me pictures of a lamp she was working on for her office. She purchased the lamp at Target, but wasn't thrilled with the shade. So, she fabricated her own by purchasing grey fabric and some black leather trim with silver grommets. With an iron, scissors, and spray adhesive, Anna made her own shade.
We both got a charge out of our decor- improvement projects.
Furthermore, our complementary projects reminded me of two passages of Scripture applicable to all women. An entrepreneurial woman, who buys and sells and works with her hands, is complimented in Proverbs 31 as the ideal prototype for all women. A corollary passage in the New Testament (Titus 2:3-5) reminds older women to encourage younger women to be workers at home.
Truth-be-told singling out entrepreneurism or home improvement diminishes the rich picture these two passages paint. The portrait of an ideal woman is a layered canvas idealizing a woman who, besides buy and selling and undertaking home-improvement projects, opens her mouth in wisdom and speaks kindly, is self-controlled, sensible, pure, hard-working, concerned about the poor, and is God-fearing.
Bottom line: If I want to measure up to the ideal woman, I must do a lot more than decorate!
Janette Godfrey, a ministry partner (http://graciousinteriors.blogspot.com/2010/09/announcing-new-speaking-service), updated her family room and kitchen this past fall. Their transformations are show-stopping.
Designer Susan Sheren worked magic on Janette's family room.
Susan had ten years of experience in interior design and fine art before moving to Lancaster county. She had worked at Leonard's in New England and at a gallery in Key West before joining the design team at Buck Home.
With her well-trained eye, Susan had Janette's walls painted a softer shade--Benjamin Moore Monroe Bisque. Window treatments were replaced by plantation shutters. A wool carpet simulating sisal was installed wall-to-wall and topped with an oriental area rug with a light field.
Painting the floor to cathedral ceiling brick fireplace brightened the room immeasurably. Susan chose Benjamin Moore Navajo White to match the woodwork. The mantel she had stained a darker shade to repeat the mahogany-stained furniture. Janette's collection of blue and white porcelain is displayed beautifully in a white etagere.
The designer's aesthetic which she describes as "updated traditional, transitional, and soft contemporary" is evident in the changes to this room.
Susan's expert space planning is also obvious as she tucked an L-shaped sofa into one corner and a game table which folds to desk-size in the opposite corner of the room.
You can see Susan's work 's in Fine Living Lancastermagazine.
Playing off the colors in the refaced family room, Janette also updated the adjoining kitchen. (Notice the formerly natural-brick fireplace through the doorway.)
The same Benjamin Moore Navajo White now lightens the wall cabinets, while the walls repeat the Monroe Bisque. The island disappears painted in black to match the appliances. Janette also unified her above-the-cabinet items, using only silver or pewter.
Don't you wish you could take years off your appearance in only a matter of weeks?
The good news is we can: "But we all, with uncovered faces beholding the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:18 in the Douay-Rheims translation).
Further on, in the same letter, the apostle Paul encourages us further: "Wherefore we faint not; but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day" (2 Corinthians 4:16 American Standard Version)
Take heart; get an interior refreshing by daily relating to Him.
After Christmas my husband and I visited our daughter, her husband, and their little boy.
The day before we arrived, my son-in-law had moved his office. Previously, he had worked from a downtown corporate building in a generic small, square young-associate-attorney's office. The move took him to a suburban office with great views of small pond and grassy lawn. Best of all, his new office is next door to his dad!
The office came with a desk and office chair, built-in bookcases, and two side chairs. But, Curt needed a small sofa and a work-table. After listening to his style preferences (no frills, lots of plants, and decidedly masculine) and price guidelines (barebones), my daughter and I embarked on a hunt.
We looked on Craig's List, took a spin through a furniture store, and scavenged through a used-furniture emporium. Because it was on our route, we stopped at TJ Max thinking we might find some planters. As we were about to leave, we spied a small section of furniture. Amazingly, there was the perfect loveseat: leather, chocolate brown, without frills except for a tasteful bit of saddle-stitching. And the price was unbelievable!
Smiling, we stopped by a craft store searching for planters. Nothing fit the bill, but on our way out we spied a bin of containers at forty percent off. We found six woven crates of various sizes--all in chocolate brown webbing. Bingo!
To fill the containers, we went to Walmart's garden department which was transitioning between Christmas and spring. Our coup there: three large philodendrons, a corn plant, and two smaller planters of mixed foliage--all drastically reduced for clearance!
The table for work space was almost as much a challenge as the loveseat. Curt wanted a sturdy auxiliary work space to accommodate documents for client review, space for a chair on either side so he could face his clients...all within the budget.
We paid a visit to a favorite haunt, an antique mall, where we scouted out an antique drop-leaf table. We checked it against the "wish list". Sturdy--check. Large enough to lay plats on for client review--check. Space for a chair on either side, so attorney could face client--check. Affordable price--check!!!
The piece-de-resistance was a dramatic oil painting of a sunflower, state flower of Kansas. The frame matched the table, and the price wouldn't have paid for the frame!
On his way home from work yesterday, Curt called. "Maurie, I've had no less than nine or ten people stop by and admire my office. It's perfect."
You can't do better than leaving a client happy, especially when it's your son-in-law!
…a wife, mother, and homemaker …a writer and reader who lives across a covered bridge from Amish farms…formerly, a newspaper reporter, a foreign missionary, and a college professor…a lover of hospitality, interior design, and antiques…who finds comfort and hope from Bible reading and prayer.