August 3, 2015

Sixteen Days

I haven't shared details with many people, but this last year was possibly one of the craziest, humbling, most stretching and surrendering years of my mid-40's-something life.

It was a year of obedience in the midst of questions, a learning to press on and lean in when I simply couldn't muster the grace to face another day.

It was a releasing of my preconceived ideas about order, structure and schedules, and a clinging to concepts much less tangible like trust....forgiveness.....gentleness....and mercy.

It was finding the strength to believe He is who He says He is, and truly believing that His plans are for good, providing a future of hope I could rarely see.

And oh, the deconstruction He did within my soul.

This summer we are slowly, hesitantly, peeking out of the fog after a very long nine months.  Re-evaluating goals, revisiting priorities, re-establishing systems.  In some ways this feels wonderful, almost a semblance of order again.  But we have learned that these days are never really ours, and so we handle them gently, like a fragile bird in our hands, so delicate, so fleeting.  We hold them with bated breath, slow our movements to gaze in awe at the intricate feathers, to feel the rapid pulse of a warm heartbeat, to praise God for His miraculous design, all the while knowing this bird is not ours to hold ~ only His ~ and that is the miracle of surrender.

In the midst of re-prioritizing, I feel compelled once again to get my house in order.  We have not deep - cleaned our spaces in a very long time, and in June as I walked from room to room, I began to notice all the areas needing re-evaluation.  Places we moved into five years ago and have never re-visited.  Are these pots and pans working for us in this cupboard?  Do we really need to save all those house-building files for a house we will now never build?  Where could we put a more efficient pantry?  Are we using each room to the best of its ability?  Should we hold on to the Polly Pockets, the Mr. Potato Head, the wooden puzzles ~ even though our youngest is now 10?

I know you can relate to these questions.

And yet in this, I found myself struggling.  Struggling with my desire to place priority on my house, struggling with my "need" to clean, struggling with my pull to always be tweaking something in our rooms.  Should I be focusing outward instead?  Is it okay to spend so much time tweaking and sorting and beautifying?  This is not a new struggle for me, but in light of our recent season, my need for resolution regarding priorities at home ~ specifically time spent putting our house in order ~ was very important to me.

Lord, may I hold my days lightly.

In the midst of this struggle, I was reading my Bible one day last week and a small, seemingly insignificant passage from 2 Chronicles 29 jumped out at me in a new light.  In brief, King Hezekiah has become the new ruler of Judah, and his heart is set on making things right before the Lord and His chosen people in Jerusalem.  His first order of business?  To put the Lord's house, the temple of Yahweh, in order.

They (the Levites) began the consecration (cleansing) 
of the temple on the first day of the month,
and by the eighth day of the month
they reached the portico of the LORD.  
For eight more days they consecrated (cleansed)
 the temple of the LORD itself, 
finishing on the sixteenth day of the month.
2 Chronicles 29:17

As I read these words, what stood out was the fact it took these men sixteen days to put the LORD's house in order.  Sixteen days were quite a lot of days that mattered, a lot of days worth recording in Scripture.  Sixteen days were a lot of days removing things that were unclean or unnecessary, re-organizing things that mattered, and preparing a place of cleanliness, holiness and order to the house of God.

What settled in my soul is this:  Order matters to God.

Please don't misunderstand me.  In no way am I comparing my home to the significance of the Old Testament temple of the LORD.  There were specific purifying steps and processes the Lord made clear to the Israelites about His holy temple and how it was to be utilized for worship of Yahweh.  Order, structure and ritual which all pointed to their need for God's beloved Son to come ~ the Messiah.  My home, although a haven and sanctuary for our family, is still only a structure of wood and stone.  Although Christ is present here, and I am so thankful that He is, its significance pales in comparison to the Old Testemant temple.  However, as I read that passage last week, I couldn't help but imagine all those Levites rummaging through statues and pottery and old bones and scrolls, sorting and organizing and throwing away.....all to restore order, cleanliness, and peace to a place long ignored.

Order matters to God.

And in His quiet way, as I lingered in His presence, I knew He was blessing my desire to get my own house in order ~ to bring cleanliness, structure and peace back into our home ~ so we, too, can find ourselves ready for worship, for service, for this next season of our lives.

But what tickles me is this:  Sixteen days.  It took sixteen days to get the Lord's house in order.  No more, no less.  What if I, too, gave myself sixteen days ~ no more, no less ~ to get my house in order? Something about the finality of it, the boundary of it, that appeals to me.  Sixteen days seems reasonable, not too consuming, enough time to be thorough, and it offers a deadline.

Deadlines have always appealed to me.

So this is what I've decided to do.  Over the next few weeks, I will be plotting out my sixteen days of ordering my house.  Cleaning it, organizing things, restructuring systems, and re-evaluating spaces.  My goals are to 1) Complete projects that are half-done, 2) Restructure a few things to work better for our family, and 3) Better utilize our spaces to be as effective, practical, and pleasing as they can be. 

In the process, may I be a wise steward in determining things we no longer need, best utilizing the things we do, and ultimately recognizing our home's purpose for His kingdom.

So......Sixteen days.  Here we go ~

July 25, 2015

Painting My Shutters Scared

You might think that for a paint-lover like myself, there wouldn't be anything I would hesitate to paint, but this isn't always true. 

These dark shutters are a good example.

We purchased these beautiful shutters in Homer, AK, the year after we moved into our house, and for a long time they hung in our entryway.  Rustic, full of texture, and very heavy, these shutters are authentically genuine in every way.  What a shame for ANYONE to cover up all that authenticity with paint! 

Just this winter, Fireman hung the gorgeous shutters in the living room for me after I had an epiphany that they would be WONDERFUL on our tall window wall in there.  I hung scroll-work along the side, and stepped back to look.

We had one, very big problem.

The shutters, lovely as they were, were way too dark up there.  They looked like a big rectangular hole in my wall.

And yet, I really liked them in the space.  Deep, deep down in my heart, I knew I was mentally and emotionally preparing to paint them, but it took several months for me to admit it to myself, and even longer to take the leap.

Earlier this week, I was driving home from dropping one of the kids at church and had three hours until I had to pick him up.  On the drive home, all alone in my Yukon XL, I made a decision: Today is the day to paint those shutters.

My heart actually began beating faster.

As soon as I got home, I took inventory of my paint stash because, if you must know, I have so many colors of paint I may not need to go to the paint store for a very long time.  

I knew I wanted to try a layering technique to add depth and dimension, and hopefully bring a lighter wood-tone into the space.  Truthfully, I had this picture of a beautiful home designed by Georgia Carlee in my mind and used it as inspiration.

I came across a Ralph Lauren paint in a tannish-caramel color (See?  It was so old it didn't even have a label on it anymore!), took the leap, and painted those authentically dark shutters like this:

I did not opt for complete coverage as I liked how the dark texture was still exposed in places.  My brush stayed rather dry throughout so the paint did not go on heavy.

Now, you may be wondering why I did not remove the shutters in order to paint.  There are several reasons, the most important being that 1) Fireman was not home, and 2) Even if Fireman was home he would not be happy about moving them for the third time, and 3) I only had a few hours, and 4) I'm fearless now, remember?

At about this point, after painting the caramel color on, my 14 year old walked in and shrieked.  I am not exaggerating.  He was quite alarmed at what his mother was doing to those beautiful shutters.  But I (trying hard to convince my OWN self this would be okay), told him to please not judge until I was finished.  He kindly agreed, and even offered to take a few pictures of me in process.

After the tan-caramel step, I poured a very small amount of white paint on a paper plate, and using a dry brush technique, carefully highlighted all the edges and texture with a very light coat of white.  My brush this time was even dryer than when I painted on the tan-caramel color.  I'm talking very, very dry brush.  Apply, lean back carefully so you don't fall off the ladder, and see if you like the look.  I was going for very uneven coverage here.  This following pictures show this dry-brush technique up close.

I love how the dark texture of the natural wood shows through the paint. Here's a side-by-side of one shutter that's dry-brushed white and one that's not.

My final step, once I was happy with the texture, color-tones and white dry-brushing, was to apply a coat of Annie Sloan dark wax (mixed first with clear was so it wasn't so scary to use ~ it's VERY dark) to help tone down the white and add some age.

I am SO happy with the results of my new shutters!

No longer a big dark hole, now they draw your eye in a pleasing way and add such character to this room, don't you think?

Every now and then, even with painting, I need to take a risk and try something that makes my heart beat fast.  I'm thrilled this risk paid off in a beautiful way.