Friday, September 6, 2013

Faithful Friday: Celebrate It All

Recently during one of my {many} restless moments, I found myself sifting through a box of images  and words cut from various magazines.  As I dug for inspiration I stumbled across some very challenging words:
Celebrate it all

In that moment I felt the full force of conviction in these words.  Here before me, three little words of challenge that dared to cut through my self-pity and ambivalence with a dramatic emphasis on "all."  The message wasn't simply to celebrate choice events.  No.  It challenged me to celebrate everything, the summation of God's work in my life, the triumphs and the tears- and it made me think:

What would it look like to celebrate it all?

My first thought was of celebration as a rejoicing and from that- thanksgiving.  How beautiful a life wherein one constantly finds things for which to give thanks, to foster an attitude of gratitude!  Not just praising the desirable, but the unforeseen and troubling.  This reminded me of Job, how in his testing as each of his blessings were taken away he praised God for what he still had until all that he had was God.  This righteous man once rich in blessings of wealth and relations is stripped of everything and lastly his health, finally overwrought by his unprovoked losses he becomes despondent.  In the depths of Job's despair we come to passage 38:1 "Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm."  God speaks and His presence is known and we learn of the greatness and might of God and His limitlessness.  We learn how God made the earth and set its limits, swaddled the newborn ocean in a blanket of clouds and ordered the dawning of the day.  The poetry of it all leaves me breathless as I remember the greatness of the Lord and my small place within His creation.

Thanksgiving in everything would be good work on its own.  Rejoicing in all things would be a fine interpretation of this challenge.  A woman who gives thanks in good and difficult times is a woman I would like to be, but let's look deeper to other meanings of celebrate.  

Webster's first definition of celebrate is: to perform (a sacrament or solemn ceremony) publicly and with appropriate rites.  This too is appropriate.  Sacraments are all encompassing of life- from baptism to death, and they recognize the bittersweet mysteries of life and death.  In baptism there is sweetness of new life, often literally as a newborn, but also spiritually as a newly born Christian, and in the latter there is the bitterness of dying to oneself and departing from the former comforts of one's sinful ways.  Then again at one's death there is the obvious bitterness of leaving family and friends and even coveted possessions or unchecked bucket-list items behind.  Yet as Christians we can embrace the sweetness of knowing this earthly life in a broken world was just temporary and our true business begins in our reunion with the Lord.  This then begs the question:

How do we celebrate it all with sacramental spirit?

Honestly, I'm not entirely sure, but I think the big clues are "publicly" and "with appropriate rites."  

Publicly doesn't mean depressing or provokingly vague facebook/social media announcements that draw pity and unproductive attention, but rather may simply mean telling friends and loved ones.  Truthfully, I struggle with this when it comes to bad news because I get self-conscious about "dumping" my unsorted mess in front of unsuspecting friends.  But here's the thing I need to remember, relationships are a gift to bless us in good times and protect us in bad.  In my fear of my emotional mess exploding in my relationships, I risk implosion by unexpressed mess.  

We are made relational creatures, so "publicly" sharing our triumphs and trials make sense so that we can get support when we need it and rouse a chorus of praise for times of jubilation.  I believe this is where "with appropriate rites" factors into the celebration- use good judgement.  We may ask ourselves: Am I celebrating or gloating?  Am I using my good news to build up or tear down by making others feel lesser or jealous?  Likewise am I wallowing or celebrating?  Am I wanting company or help in my misery?  Ultimately asking, are my actions {rites} appropriate to the situation?

It's a heavy lesson, a big challenge to set one's heart right without denying pain, repressing it until it festers into anger and resentment.  I'm still learning and the best part is- I'm neither the first nor the only one to face this {or any} lesson.  What's more there are millennia of theologians and texts to help, not to mention living guides.  And perhaps the best cure for my navel gazing, self-pity, or conceit is to remember how small I am in the greatness of God's creation, yet how loved, by revisiting the stories of people who came to the end of themselves and found God.

So I challenge you to read Job 38-39.  Read the various translations and maybe you'll share Job's reaction in chapter 40:3-5.  See that God is strong enough to handle your questions and your anger; rejoice with the angels at how lovingly He created the world, and find peace.

I'd love to know what other stories put you in awe of the Lord?  Which ones have made the largest impact on your life- the stories you turn to time and time again?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Labor Day Weekend: Creative Frenzy

Well folks, Labor Day weekend came and went and boy did it ever spark some creativity.

First, we kicked off the weekend with my birthday party- a 1940's theme.

I was incredibly blessed to have so many of my friends come dressed to the nines in vintage {or vintage-styled} threads and do's.  Our tiny house, built in the 40's, was bursting at the seams with 40's dames and gents. 

We went to Tallahassee's speakeasy to continue the fun.  Definitely try Alchemy- you enter through a "secret" door, then get treated to jazz and classic prohibition concoctions.  Just check that you follow the rules.  My friend snapped this photo of me there, and despite not being able to use flash photography-I'd say it turned out pretty well {and extra vintage}.

Sunday after church we kicked back and watched the final season of Lost. {I never watched it when it was on- so I had a lot to catch up with!}  I worked on finishing some paintings my sister commissioned a few weeks ago for my nephew's nursery. 

She wanted a red crab on a white background, and two others to match the nautical theme.  I hope he loves it!  A little clean up and finishing yet to do, but I'm happy with the turn out.

Monday we met up with some friends of ours for brunch.  We had a lovely meal and chat and then I pulled out my cell and coerced my dear friend, to whom I owe many a high school adventure, to go with me to Havana to check out some thrifty finds.  

Look at those lines!  That detail! That price! Who can resist all that potential for only FIVE DOLLARS?

So the great chair recovery project began.  We went home and changed, and then she picked me up in her car which has substantially more room to haul our treasures.  After a brief introduction to the great town of Havana and all its quaint shops, I called this guy and arranged to meet him on the north side of town, at an old mini storage facility behind a closed liquor store.  

This is why you ALWAYS take a friend thrifting. Not only will they help you see the potential good in a find, they'll also help you judge situations.  Luckily, this guy turned out to be legit and very friendly.  

We ended up taking the lot of chairs and splitting them between the two of us.  They smelled terribly of dust and they were in obvious need of some TLC, but seriously guys- look at those lines!

I disassembled the seat, then wiped the grunge off the frames with a mix of soapy water and vinegar.  After drying I took my sanding block {what a God-send} and lightly sanded the varnish down.  

I was initially hopeful that I could reuse the foam pad of the seat, but as the smell set in and the old vinyl seat flaked away, I suspected new foam was a must.After removing a GAZILLION staples, I was pleased to find that the seat board itself was fine.  More on that process later, but I happened to be in luck that for Labor Day foam was on sale 50% off at Joann's, plus an addition 15% of my entire purchase- yahtzee!

So after a solid few coats of white primer, {sweating like a beast in my front yard} I went off to the store to get the good for reupholstering the seat.  That left sufficient time for the primer to dry on the first chair {I didn't fully tackle the second chair since I ran out of primer on the first}

I had almost a full can of satin finish "pistachio" paint by rustoleum so ta-da! That's what I chose.  Turns out- the husband actually approves the color, and that man cringes at the thought of painted wood furniture.

About the time I finished painting the chair green it started getting cloudy and buggy.  I dragged the pieces in and sat the chair out on my front stoop to finish drying.  It was a good time to begin working on the seat {and finishing some lost}.  I used a serrated knife to cut the foam leaving about a half to a quarter inch around the seat board.  It wasn't the prettiest cutting job, but I figured the fabric tension would hide it.

I ironed some pre-washed canvas I happened to have and cut it to a square about 24x28, leaving enough around the edges that I could pull the fabric taught beyond the original staple holes.

As with stapling canvas to a frame for painting, I rotated the piece as I stapled, starting in the middle on each side and going around until all sides were stapled flat. The fabric pulled so that the foam was slightly rounded on each edge.  I pleated the corners and stapled them last.

I'm no expert at this.  I've never done anything like this so I just intuitively did what I could to make it look nice.  My mom's taken reupholstering classes {cause she's a domestic genius}, but I neglected to consult her.  Hence, another process might work better for you.

Have you noticed the five evenly spaced holes in the bottom of the board?  I did and what an inspiration that was.   Hello tufting?  Yeah, never tried that before, but a little pinteresting gave me the general idea.  I bought a button kit at the craft store and used some navy fabric with orange circles to contrast the plain canvas.  

The button kit was pretty easy; tufting was an adventure. My foam was 2" thick, but my needle was not.  Oh and if you try to tuft with just thread...forget that! 

Pinterest suggested anchoring the tufts with regular buttons.  Once I tried that it got easier.  I tampered with my technique and of course my final tuft was better than any of the others, but it was too much work to fix the others and the difference wasn't too significant.  I'll repeat that process with the next chair.

So here's the long awaited {nearly} final product:
I haven't yet attached the seat because I'm questioning the need for another coat of paint.  There are a few patchy areas I found when I moved the chair to different light.

Unfortunately, there was only enough canvas to make one seat.  I had some spare duck cloth in my sewing basket that is a lovely bold shade of yellow.  It doesn't exactly match the pistachio so I'm considering other chair colors that would look nice with the pistachio and the yellow.  

I bought a medium gray patterned fat quarter for the buttons and I'm thinking dusty cornflower-y blue, mode, or maybe even a light gray or ivory for the frame.

So there's your psuedo-tutorial on my chair project.  Feel free to make suggestions for the other chair.