Happy Father’s Day!

This morning, the men of my church gave us such a beautiful gift. Several months ago, one of the men had the vision for a men’s choir. So at their last fellowship dinner (this past Tuesday) they rehearsed and this morning lead us in worship with How Great Thou Art! It was so incredible to see probably 75+ men singing with all their hearts, no matter their musical skill. What a witness to us of what it is to be a faithful, godly man! A role model to our boys, and an example to our girls (including this one) of what a husband should be. To God be the glory!

This evening I was painting tiles for Right Focus. One of the designs had III John 4 on it: “I have no greater joy than to hear my children are walking in the truth.” Y’all know, of course, that today is Father’s Day. As carefully painted the verse several times, I reflected that is such a blessing to be the daughter of a father (and mother!) for whom this is their greatest joy. All I have to do is follow my Lord and I will bring my parents’ joy. It doesn’t matter what job I have, or achievements I gain… if I walk in the truth, I know their hearts are full of joy. It’s not the reason to pick up my cross and follow the Lord, but it is a sweet benefit.

How do I know this is my parents’ greatest joy? They have shown me, in their attitude, teaching, and words to me, but also in the example of their own lives. I don’t have a perfect family; but walking in the truth has always been our family’s primary focus. From Sunday evening family devotions when I was little to daily Bible study before school, my parents have brought me up in the “fear and admonition of the Lord.” Our faith has always come before anything else. Before school (literally!), before material blessings, before entertainment. I have watched both my dad and my mom spend countless hours preparing and planning Bible studies, VBS programs, Sunday School projects, and youth group lessons, all for the purpose of sharing with others how to walk in the truth. Theology has always been as common a dinnertime conversation topic as the day’s activities or current events. My parents’ example has impressed their joy in my own faith as much as the times they have directly expressed that.

I am so richly blessed to have parents who have taught me and shown me how to follow Christ! It grieves me that many children, perhaps even you, have not had this jumpstart to walking in the truth. Even if you don’t have a godly father to celebrate today, you have a heavenly Father Who is the Truth, the one, perfect example. My own dad, as amazing as he is, is still but a dim reflection of God the Father. He loves you more than any earthly possibly could! Ask Him to give you earthly models… hey, if you’re in Memphis, come over to Advent. We’ve got a lot of men who can be as a father in the family of God!

xoxoxoxo,
Alanna

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Once Upon a Time: A Blogiversary

Once upon a time, year ago yesterday, I wrote my first post. I thought very briefly about doing a big celebratory post with a giveaway, like many other bloggers do. But it seemed a better fit to the way I’ve blogged this first year to just mark it quietly (and a day late)… and anyway, with such a small readership there wouldn’t be anyone to vie for the giveaway. Haha.

I’ve never been a cannonball-into-the-water type of girl. I always inch myself in slowly, one toe at a time. And so it’s been with blogging. I don’t think I’ve been so much a half-hearted blogger as a cautious and hesitant one. Testing the proverbial waters, so to speak. Seeing if it’s safe to plunge in. And with such a crazy, up-and-down year, blogging suffered. I’m a routine girl. I have a hard time being consistent and disciplined when life is crazy and all over the place.

But enough of that! Life is moving on and I’m slowly settling into a new normal, although there’s still some change to come in the next couple months. It’s time to get serious about the blog. So that’s why I planned to hash out The Plan for year number two on the blog. Perhaps I’d give you a bulleted list of Big Goals like new post ideas (and I have plenty), so many shop updates per month, when in my week I’m going to set aside time to blog, etc.

And yet… looking back over the past year, and looking towards the future, that’s still seems not quite the right thing. Before those Big Goals will work, I need one thing.

I want to blog with PURPOSE.

I don’t mean narrowing a focus for the blog. I don’t mean setting goals and keeping myself on track. Those are important and they will follow. But this is what I mean:

I realized recently that in the past year, I don’t think one single time have I sat down to pray over my blog. To ask God what HE would like to do with Charlie + Lu. 1 Corinthians 10:31 say whatever we do, even eating and drinking, should be done for God’s glory. Eating and drinking are basic survival tasks. If I’m supposed to survive for His glory, how much more so should something like blogging be taken seriously for His purpose! Before I get to any goals or to-do lists, I need to sit down and spend some time praying over Charlie + Lu. And listening. My hope for this blog is that what you see in the coming weeks and months will come from a heart guided by the Lord. That doesn’t mean every post is going to be “Christian-y”! But I want Him beside me as I blog. Every time.

Even for a purposeless, hesitant first year of blogging, it’s been a good one. I wrote some heartfelt posts about things like Honduras and a special birthday. I participated in an art journal challenge, Indie Christmas, and the Spring Fling Blog Swap. I showed you a lot of Instagrams. I am beginning to meet some sweet and amazing fellow bloggers.

I’m excited just thinking about what another year could bring when I blog with purpose. For Him. Soli Deo Gloria!

xoxo,
Alanna

A dream that will need all the love you can give

“April showers bring May flowers,” so the saying goes. April 2011 certainly brought more than showers… a seeming monsoon in the form of being fired from my job (although I soon realized that rain can be a good thing). In terms of employment, it took a full year of rain for those May flowers to bloom. Here I am, May 2012, just over one year from being fired, and one week into a job I didn’t imagine filling 365 days ago, but one I am now incredibly thrilled to have.

I’m a nanny. I’ve mentioned that one of the ways I’ve stayed afloat this year is short-term and part-time nannying. But now it’s turning full-time. I am taking over for one of my closest friends as she steps down from her nanny position to have her own baby. My new charge is “almost two,” as he’ll tell you. I couldn’t ask for a sweeter, cuter, more enjoyable little companion. The family is wonderful and I feel so blessed to have such great employers (it feels weird to call them such a former title). May and June are transition months, as A and I work together to make sure everything goes smoothly.

Days are filled with trips to playgrounds and parks, finger painting, snack-eating, and playing ball of any kind. Singing songs and pretending. There’s a carseat installed in my car. It’s not where I imagined God would take me after this year of pondering and praying over my future. But let me tell you, it is 100% right and I truly could not be happier. I honestly couldn’t imagine anymore going back to an office job. Maybe some day again, but for now I find this a million times better! I guess the Father does know best, doesn’t He?

For obvious reasons of privacy and safety, my little buddy won’t be appearing on the blog, nor will my job be much of a central topic. But as I’ve shared some of the trials and blessings of this past year with you, I wanted to tell you this great joy! I kept having moments last week where I reminded myself just what amazing things God has done and I felt giddy. I had almost stopped believing that my life would have an upswing and yet now I’m back with a steady salary and making plans and dreams again.

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. – Psalm 40:1-3

xoxo,
Alanna

P.S. Gold star to you if you know why I picked the title of this post.

Masterpiece

Back in 2008, I took a dream trip to Italy for 10 days. Probably 10 of the most intensely beauty-filled days of my life. I spent much of my time in Rome but I feel as if I barely scratched the surface of all the amazing art there was to see in that city alone. One of the museums I picked to see was the Musei Capitolini. It housed several sculptures I was eager to see in person, although sadly Bernini’s Medusa was on loan to a museum in Venice. I didn’t realize, though, that there was a very nice collection of paintings on the top floor. Paintings are not its primary focus, so I did not expect to see the likes of the collection at the Galleria Borghese (which sadly I did not visit). But then I stopped in my tracks… a Caravaggio! Not one, but two! And… was that what I thought it was? A real Rubens! Cherubic Romulus and Remus in all their characteristically-Rubens, rolly-polly glory.

There were many other paintings as beautiful as the Caravaggios and the Rubens, and perhaps some I liked even better. Yet there was something special about seeing these. To stand a foot from the canvas (yes, there isn’t near the security in Italian museums as here in the States) and examine the brush strokes of these masters whose names had been part of my earliest, grade-school art history lessons. I think I got goosebumps, it felt almost surreal. Little me, standing in the same spot these men had stood when they painted these pictures. Certainly… these weren’t the most famous paintings these men had done. But they were works of the masters!

One of my favorite ways to think of God is as the Great Artist. When I see a brilliant sunset, I see a watercolor He’s splashed across the horizon. The craggy peaks of a mountain are His sculpture. Yet His grandest work… it’s His people. And the amazing thing about the Great Artist is that He creates no minor works. The thrill I felt standing before a small painting by Caravaggio or Rubens, not well known at all… that should be multiplied many times over when we look at His handiwork. Every one of His creations is a masterpiece!

Every one. I’m sure you can agree that your loved ones – your friends and your family – are masterpieces. But what about YOU? Do you believe you are God’s version of the Sistine Chapel? You are a signed, authentic work of the Master. You bear His image. You are His masterpiece.

Caravaggio - St. John the Baptist

Every now and then, a story makes a headline when someone discovers a great painter’s work in a forgotten attic or behind a less valuable painting. Can you imagine what it would be like to find a long-lost, perhaps never-known work of Monet or Rembrandt? Oh, the care that would go into restoring it! Millions of dollars… it would be stored in perfect conditions; many artisans would spend countless hours in painstaking, tedious restoration work.

We live in a fallen world. Every one of God’s masterpieces is in need of restoration. Good thing the Master Painter is ready and willing to breath new life into His creations. Sometimes it’s almost impossible to recognize His marred and damaged works. Yet… the brushstrokes are there. The signature is always visible. You may have to look closer, but it’s there. Nothing, not all the grime and filth and fading in the world can erase the Master’s touch.

Do you see the masterpiece? Let it thrill you when you look in the face of your wife, your boyfriend, your roommate, your son. Take a good look in the mirror and recognize His handiwork. But even more… I challenge you to look for the masterpiece in every person you encounter. The less-than-cordial clerk at Wal-Mart. The students misbehaving in your classroom. The coworker who you know will stab you in the back when you leave the break room. The homeless man panhandling at the busy intersection.

As you begin to see the masterpiece in those around you, open yourself up to the prompting of the Spirit. You never know when God will choose you as a tool in the restoration of another. And you just might find your own colors brightened and a layer of dust removed in the process!

xoxo,
Alanna

Cozy

Yesterday, I spent a sweet and cozy afternoon with one of my besties (yes, I am blessed to have several!). Before I moved in with M. this summer, L. and I had lived together for two years. We’ve got carbon copy personalities and she’s just one of those friends with whom I feel very comfortable. We curled up on the couch with tea and fresh scones to watch Babes in Toyland. Both of us had watched it as children but could barely remember the story.

Mary and Mr. Barnaby

It was so adorably kitschy and far cheesier than we remembered, but we loved it even so. There was a sweet sort of innocence about it, too. The movie begins the day before Tom and Mary’s wedding, yet that evening she’s far too shy to kiss him yet. Sweet. And Ed Wynn? Awww. He’s so cute!

We had fun remembering all the older movies we’d loved as a kid. Long ago we’d discovered we both love The Sound of Music, but yesterday we discussed Old Yeller (actually I hated that – too sad!), The Swiss Family Robinson… it made me want to dig up a lot of the old favorites.

We hadn’t been together since before Christmas and we spent a lot of time catching up. She’s one of those friends with whom I can be honest and know that she’ll listen, support, advise and love me without judgment. It was just a very filling time, ya know?

I’m so glad God blessed me with a sweet afternoon yesterday because today I certainly needed that extra bit to get through a really tough day. To explain briefly, a promise was made to me earlier this week and then broken today in a surprising and hurtful way. It’s got some tough repercussions for my life in the next few weeks. God knew what today would hold for me and although He knows the big picture for my life, how things will unfold according to His plan for the best, He knew I’d need some extra help. He is so sweet to meet me in my limitation with blessings in His hands. Although I know He has great plans for me (Jeremiah 29:11), it’s so hard to trust that sometimes. Yet, instead of getting irritated with my feeble faith, He chooses to bless me in a special way.

Sometimes I miss these little “above and beyond” demonstrations of love. But when I stop to evaluate my life as guided by my heavenly Father, it’s so clearly criss-crossed with His love. I pray you’ll stop a minute. Look at the past few days? I know you’ll find evidence of His love.

xoxo,
Alanna