April 30, 2015

Four Decorating Tips I've Learned

Decorating has been one of my greatest passions ~ as well as one of my greatest frustrations ~ over the many years of owning a home.

I began back in 1996 with great enthusiasm and NO skill.  Oh, the bliss of naivete!  I was certain I had such great ideas, but I look back at pictures today and cringe.

Don't you love that?  That being alive always means growth...and change? 

I've learned so much along the way, mostly through reading magazines, blogs, and studying others' homes.  I've made many, many mistakes (mostly with paint colors!), but I've also had magical moments where I declare, "I think I may be getting this decorating thing!"  and suddenly I'm high-fiven', squealing, and hugging-the-closest-family-member in sheer joy.

Not often, but that DOES happen every now and then.

So today, in the spirit of learning and simple solutions, I thought it'd be fun to share with you a few decorating tips that have been a consistent win in my home.

1.  A Pair of Lamps

Never underestimate the usefulness and longevity of a good pair of lamps.  Not only are lamps important on nightstands, they can also be used in the living room, on a sofa table, flanking a buffet, gracing a hallway console, or adding height to a dresser.  More than any other single accessory, my several pairs of lamps (I think we have six total) have worked hard for us year after year after year.  If I change things up in a room, a fresh coat of paint and new shades instantly transform any pair of lamps inexpensively.

Each set of lamps pictured above I found at thrift stores, then repainted and added new shades (I did not paint the ceramic lamps in our master bedroom).  It would kill me to pay full price for a lamp (have you SEEN those prices?)

This lamp in our hallway used to be terra cotta orange.  I painted it a greige color, then dry-brushed white over the top. I found the shade at Lowe's, then added a grosgrain ribbon ruffle along the bottom with hot glue.

This lamp used to be dark brown.  I painted it white, distressed it with sand paper, then rubbed on/rubbed off Dark Walnut stain to antique it.

The new shades were upgraded with fringed trim from JoAnne's, and voila ~ a unique, customized pair of lamps.

2.  A Cute Tray

I've learned that trays, like lamps, can be used over and over again.  There is always a place in the house for a cute tray, and if you don't have an available flat surface at the moment, hang it on the wall!  I found this tray in the clearance section of Hobby Lobby while on vacation several years ago and brought it home in my suitcase.  It's been all over my house.

Trays are a wonderful way to corral and 'ground' accessories, to give them definition in a space so they don't seem to be floating all over.  Use them on coffee tables, countertops, dressers, in closets, on console tables, or on a bathroom vanity.

3.  Dried (Silk?) Flowers, Especially Hydrangeas

Take a few artifical (yet well-made) hydrangeas, place them in a pretty thrifted vase, and there is absolutely no limit as to where these flowers can go.  They will gracefully bless any surface on which they're placed.  Hydrangeas are a surefire way to add 'life' to a vignette quickly, inexpensively, and with no watering required.

Yes, please!

4.  Family Photos

I know some decorators believe family photos are best left in more personal spaces like bedrooms or family rooms, and that original art is a more authentic means of decorating. 


Not me.  I LOVE to see my family's faces all over my house, and when you visit, you will see them all over my house, too. (Yes, even in the bathroom, I'm afraid.)  But we've noticed, when guests are here, our family photos draw them again and again and lead to fun conversations about back-flips, hair styles, growing up too fast, and the joy of large families.

So that's it.  Four of my tried-and-true decorating tips that actually work for me every single time.

Hopefully you'll find something you can use, too, as you continue to change and grow in your own home.

April 25, 2015

On Scorning

The spring sun warms my face as I walk toward the front doors of the junior high.  7th and 8th grade students fan out from the doors, their childlike faces filled with joy and relief as they escape the structure of yet another school day.

I quickly catch sight of him, strolling out in his black school-logoed hoodie, his trendy, over-priced backpack slung over his right shoulder.

I raise my hand to wave, the usual thrill of seeing him each afternoon overcoming any protocol, eager to connect with him and hear the details of his day.

As he draws near, I notice he is not smiling.  Matter of fact, his face reflects....What is that? Aggravation?  Or wait just a moment.....Could it be (by golly I think it is!).....scorn??

And before I can even say hello, he grumbles, "Mom, what are you doing?"

In a split second I understand.  Unlike all the other moms and dads who are waiting patiently in their cars in the parking lot, this mom actually had the audacity to get out of the car and stroll, nonchalantly even, into his junior high world of insecurities, fragile identities, and uncertain expectations.

Right out in broad daylight!

My son's two worlds were about to collide right before his eyes, and the very thought of such a catastrophe was bringing on intense fear and trembling.

His instinctive response?  Cut mom off on the sidewalk and get her back to the car asap.

A knife stab to my mother's heart.

At that moment, I have a choice to make.  I could choose to calm my hurt by instead embracing the truth of unpredictable hormones at 13 years of age, his known sensitivity to unexpected change, my knowledge of the caring, thoughtful young man he is on any given day.

I know full well how often this 13-year-old boy still calls me mommy and hugs me spontaneously at random moments.  How just last night he flopped on my bed, concerned about a friend at school whom he feared was cutting himself, and then asked if we could pray about it together.

I could decide, in this unprecedented moment of 'scorn,' to see my entire son ~  the loving, complicated, insecure, compassionate, opinionated boy who brings us joy each and every day ~ and choose to simply let the hurt go.


I could choose to have that little "heart-to-heart talk" with him about sensitivity to others, about the importance of making others feel valuable (including one's own family members!)  I could insist that moms get hurt feelings, too.  I could point out that no one deserves to be scorned like that ~ ever ~ and that to treat someone this way reflects primarily on the character of the one scorning.

I could say all of this.  And yes, I would be correct.

Matter of fact, as we drive along in the car, my "mom-speech" continues gaining momentum in my mind as I brew on the injustice of his criticizing my very presence in his day.

But I say nothing, not trusting myself yet, and as the miles go by I notice he is silent, too.  And because I know him as well as I do, I recognize this silence as regret....and I find small comfort in this.

At one point he attempts small talk about his day, hoping the flurry of words will drown out those first few in greeting....But then he quiets again when I fail to respond.

I'm not trying to punish him.  I'm just needing a little time to recover my heart from the stab.  I haven't quite figured out how to be.

As I drop him at the church for practice, he's extra careful to be accommodating and helpful as we plan logistics for pickup.  And for a moment, in the every day planning of our time, I begin to see the kindness of my son returning.

Oh, how I love him!  Every last painful, endearing, aggravating, heart-breaking part of him.

How many times will I graciously forgive this boy simply because of this love?  Because I know, as a forty-something mom, that growing up is just plain hard, and that the flesh wars with the spirit mercilessly each and every day?  And how desperately we all fall short of His glory?

The next morning, as only God can orchestrate, I come across this passage in Isaiah, chapter 45:

Woe to him who strives with his Maker!
Shall the clay say to him who forms it:
'What are you making?'
Or shall your handiwork say,
'He has no hands'?
Woe to him who says to his father,
'What are you begetting?'
Or to the woman,
'What have you brought forth?'

And just like that I begin to connect some very painful dots in this story of my son and myself.

Suddenly, he is no longer the one scorning, the one in focus, but rather, it is me.

I crumble under the burden of pain my Heavenly Father must feel in the poignant, precious way He anticipates meeting with me each day ~ to reconnect and delight in daily details ~ only to be pushed aside for reasons unworthy.

How have I responded, as His child, when circumstances aren't my choosing?  My design?

Have I, too, expressed scorn during certain seasons of my life, in this story He has lovingly written and choreographed, personally, for me?

Have I ever inquired grumpily, deep in my spirit, "God, what are you doing??"

Oh, how humbled and broken I am then, deeply ashamed of scorn I have shown my own loving Creator in matters both great and small over the years.

But of course He is not done with me.  Does He ever leave us in this place of brokenness?  As I sense the burden of scorn in my own heart, I become cognizant of the tremendous grace and love He bestows on me today and every day in spite of myself.  Not because I deserve it....oh, not at all.  But because He sees the entirety of my whole self: the ugly, the opinionated, the judgmental, the striving, the insecurities ~

And oh, how He loves me anyway.

How quick I am to judge my own heart on my intentions, yet to judge others on their actions.

Perhaps, I, too, can learn to love my son as my Heavenly Father so graciously loves me.

Bearing all things, 
Believing all things, 
Hoping all things, 
Enduring all things.

A love that is never failing.