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Christ

Be A Lamp

I just sat down at my desk.  It’s an antique secretary desk in a heavy, dark wood with a hinged, fold down writing surface covered in black leather.  It’s a real treasure, one I found while doing display design for my friend’s store, Imagine, many, many moons ago.  Several of the pieces Laura (beloved friend, sister and store owner) used to display her fabulous inventory was purchased from the same antique store just a couple blocks west of her boutique in Terrell, Texas.  I bought the desk and a beautiful wood keepsake frame from there.  It’s made out of comparable heavy, dark wood and sits open for me to place my inspired finds in.  But, the desk sits empty and the keepsake frame does, too.  

One of my goals this year was to reimagine the space it was in.  I wanted it to be set apart from my actual office, peaceful and free of anything that could take my attention.  No mail to open, no orders to fulfill and no clutter to procrastinate decluttering.  But, as I type these very words, I sit at the desk and under the keepsake frame that have yet to be filled with things that inspire me.  There’s a bag of River’s hand-me-downs that I need to deliver to his friend sitting in the chair behind me, and, laying over it are six coats I wore to brave the winter here in Texas that I’ve been trying to get into the downstairs coat closet for more than a week now.  

Generally, I’d not dare sit down and get to work until I’d gotten things in perfect order.  But, here I sit at and among three unfinished projects, with my son singing “Jesus Loves Me” from his bedroom just one door down and my husband preparing for a video conference call downstairs.  On top of my desk burns a fragrant honeysuckle and davana candle and the low light pipes through the window to my right as chirping birds and blooming trees boast of spring.  

All seems right in the world yet it’s not.  The global pandemic, COVID-19 has us all reeling.  It’s like something from a movie or bad dream.  How will it end?  What is the reality we’ll wake up to?  Nobody can answer those questions.  The top ranking officials of our great nation are working tirelessly to get on top of what’s already here.  We’re up against the unknown, something that we cannot see or know much about.  We’re urged to do something we’ve never been urged to do before- flatten the curve.  By staying isolated or somewhat isolated, washing our hands and not touching our faces, we’re likely to reduce the rate of infection and not overwhelm our hospitals, thus decreasing deaths caused by this horrendous virus. 

It sounds so simple, but it’s challenging to do.  Isolation is not something most of us do well for long.  So, this will be a test.  But, we do have multiple ways to interface with those we like and love safely.  Thank God for technology.

The last few mornings, I woke up to my alarmed husband who is not at all an alarmist which is extra alarming.  He debriefs me on all things he’s learned about COVID-19 via social media, the news and his favorite radio show, 1310 The Ticket.  Then, he goes to get Riv from his bed and takes him downstairs.  Meanwhile, I get down on my knees beside my bed and pray to God for protection.  And, you know what, in my plea for protection, something stirred my heart.  God is in control.  His resolve is unwavering.  He is the one we must turn to.  As Psalm 46:1 assures us, “God is our refuge and strength; an ever-present help in trouble.”  

In times like these we take refuge in our Creator and find strength in Him.  If you feel weary, go to His book of promises and be reassured by the scriptures.  Then, carry your weary hearts worry to God in prayer and remind Him of His promises.  It’s a powerful combination that withers worry and illuminates hope.

As you all know, I’m not a preacher or teacher.  I’m an ordinary person created by an extraordinary God.  And, I’m in the business of hope.  Our Sparrow Project collection was designed with the intention of fostering hope through infusing beautiful things with scripture and giving back to help domestic violence victims transition out of horrific situations.  My life, though imperfect, is Christ centered.  My business, though small but mighty is Christ centered.  I feel compelled to share more, and I want to be obedient to that calling.  

In the words of Rumi, “be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder.” We could all use that right now, right?  So, if you already subscribe to our Divine By Design blog, get ready to see us a bit more regularly.  And, if you’re not signed up, simply go to jlparish.com and click on the Divine By Design blog and sign up.  It’s easy, I promise.  In addition, we’ll work to keep our social media outlets bright with hope and possibility.  Follow us on Facebook (JL PARISH) Instagram (@jlparish), Twitter (@JLParish) and Tumblr (jlparish).  

Now, chin up buttercups!  God’s got this!

Stay Divine, 

JL PARISH

It Doesn’t Have To Be Big

Last Monday morning early, my husband was off to work, and I was at home with River, getting him ready for his swim lesson. That hour before swim is a hectic one because I’m getting River ready, getting his bag ready and getting 8,000 dishes in or out of the dishwasher before we set sail for the Landry Center. But, this particular Monday morning, right as the door closed behind my husband, River says, “Mommy, I’m not feeling good. I feel sick in my mouth.” I think, “Oh, great, are we in the throws of step throat, again?” Then, he scurries over to me and says, “Mommy, hold me.” And, before he could tell me he was sick again, he vomited down the right side of my face, hair and body. If this has ever happened to you, you know the drill. First, you stand there freaked completely out. Second, you mentally devise a plan of how to remove the articles of clothing that were effected. Third, you check to see if your child is, in fact, ok.

So, I freaked out, threw my vomit drenched pony tail over my shoulder, pulled both mine and River’s shirts off, and grabbed that sick little cutie to make sure he was ok. Then, I hurdled the vomit on the floor en route to my iPhone so that I could text Riv’s beloved swim coach, Cameron, and tell him we couldn’t make it and why. But, as I picked my phone up, I noticed that someone was at the door on my doorbell/camera/thing-a-ma-jiggy app. Like a ninja (that had been vomited on), I eased toward the door to see if it was someone who needed something. But, it just looked like two young guys who were contracted to do work in the neighborhood and got the wrong address.

So, I go back to caring for my sick child and cleaning up the vomit (let’s see how many times I can say that in one BLOB) when, this time, I actually hear the doorbell ring. I think, “They’re either at the wrong house, or my husband has hired them to do something and didn’t communicate it to me.” So, I grab River, mainly to cover myself, and hide my body behind the wall. Then, I open the door partly and stretch my neck around enough to gently holler, “Guys, can I help you?” They begin walking toward the door and I shriek, “STOP! I’m topless!” With a terrified and somewhat curious look on their faces, they stepped back. And, through the crack of the door I say, “I mean, I’m not topless. I do have on a sports bra. I’m also holding my child to cover me.” They, gently replied, “Ma’am, we’re just here to clean your windows.” I said, “Ok, carry on.” And, as I closed the door, I got so darn tickled. So, I cracked the door open and hollered once again, “Hey, Guys.” They said, “Yes.” I said, “There’s nothing quite like being greeted by a topless mom first thing in the morning, is there?” I couldn’t see their faces, but I could hear their smiles in their voices as they replied, “No, ma’am.”

Then, up the stairs, River and I go to shower, put clean clothes on and relax. And, as I sat beside my son, all snuggled up on the “heavy” bed (that’s what he calls the bed in the master), a surprising smile stretched across my face. I was both exhausted and elated. Exhausted, of course, after a marathon of mishaps and elated that I- have a son (even when he’s vomiting on my hair), a house with windows that need washing, a husband with the foresight to get things done that would never cross my mind and the kindness and grace that two complete strangers showed me in a moment of chaos. It’s pretty amazing when you start that little mental gratitude list. Because, what looked like a few things becomes a few thousand.

In this season, there’s so much pomp and circumstance. We can’t just put a pair of warm mittens under the tree. No, they have to be Gucci and wrapped to perfection. By the way, if this was anyone’s gift idea for me, please do not return it. I’ll make do, I promise. It can’t just be a simple salad that we bring to the family dinner. No, it better be congealed to perfection, in the rightful Christmas wreath jello mold form with maraschino cherries for the holly. And, your Christmas card can’t be a candid shot from your summer vacay developed at your local CVS. Heck no! Your whole family needs to be photographed in the Swiss Alps, wearing coordinating tartan plaid, smiling like you’ve all just won the lottery, foil stamped and bathed in potpourri before being mailed to two hundred family members and friends. I mean, it has to be BIG, or it’s meaningless. Isn’t that sort of what the world tells us?

The truth is that it doesn’t have to be BIG for it to be a blessing. Let that sink in. We don’t remember the Gucci gloves. We remember the loving intention of the person gifting us. We don’t remember the Christmas wreath congeal salad. We remember the community that comes with gathering around the table to share a meal with loved ones. And, we don’t remember what the card looked like. We remember the love we feel toward the person who sent the card and their significance in our lives. What I’m saying here is, it doesn’t have to sparkle to be gold.

This season is about our Savior. And, you know the story. He wasn’t the son of a mother and father of means, born in a private hospital suite and swaddled in bamboo. He was the son of two ordinary people chosen to carry out an extraordinary mission, born in a manger which was used to hold food for livestock. There was no meal train or sip and see. But, there were three wise men who traveled from afar to bestow special gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh upon this little baby and, then, his ministry unfolded for all the world to see. And, this unsuspecting child became God’s greatest gift to humanity.

I hope that in this Savior Season and, really, every single day, you’ll make seeing what’s big in the small things a top priority. In doing so, the gift of gratitude is promised to multiply like mosquitoes in the Texas heat. And, if you’re like me, a real rascal at times, I hope you’ll remember that God’s gift to humanity in our Savior isn’t exclusive to the righteous. It’s available to ALL. No age, no color, no gender, no political affiliation, no sexual preference, no debt unpaid, no sentence served- nothing, and, I do mean absolutely nothing can take God’s gift of grace through Christ Jesus away from you. If you believe that Christ is the Son of God, then you receive Him as your Savior. You are saved. Can I get just one AMEN!

Ephesians 2:8 NLT “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And, you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Merry Christmas, my friends!

Stay Divine,

JL PARISH

‘Tis The Season

Well, here I sit on the best bed in the house. It’s an antique iron bed with a Tempurpedic mattress and elegant, floral Pottery Barn bedding from throw pillow to sheets. It’s also the bed that our Welsh Pembroke Corgi, Connah, sits on and peers out the window to the city street we live on. He barks and carries on like no other at the sight of passersbys, but we’re mostly unfazed by it because he’s a great back up to our existing alarm system. Nevertheless, as I sat down on this bed to get comfortable, Connah’s dog hair began to levitate. The sun was coming in, the dog hair was going up and I thought, well, he is a dog… he is going to shed… this is just a bed and his command post… nobody ever died from a little (just kidding, a lot) dog hair.” And, right after I gave myself that little “talking to,” I turned to my left to find barf on that elegant duvet I spoke of just a few sentences ago. Lord, deliver me. Now, the duvet is off and in the wash. And, here I sit, on this bed as I write my 50th blog. Dog hair, barf and all, I’m one happy camper.

My Mom never fails to remind me during this time of the year, that, of all the gifts that Santa brought me as a child, I was most interested in the box one of my gifts came in. Not the gift but the box. You know, that box that Santa’s Helper (love you, Mom) probably saved her coins up for, made the long trip in to Dallas from the country for, searched the mall over for, stood in a line a mile long for, paid for, made the long trek back home for and wrapped it so that it would be ready FOR Santa to place perfectly under the tree.” Yea, that box!

As an adult, I search for the perfect gifts for my loved ones. Sometimes it’s a hit, and sometimes it’s a miss. But, I’m forever diligent in my pursuit of picking out the perfect gift that my loves ones will, well, LOVE. Today, I thought, “What do you remember getting under the tree as a kiddo?” Before I could recall a handful of things under the tree that I loved so, my mind wandered to other things that were most memorable to me. My Maw Nalls always made a fruit cake. I never ate it. In fact, it might be the one dessert other than mincemeat pie (which she also made) that I didn’t eat. But, she made it one time each year, and it was celebrated and special. My Mamaw Lide had a gumdrop tree. It was old, broken, held in one place with masking tape and was usually comprised of gumdrops she would refreeze (if even freezing gumdrops was imaginable), but I loved that gumdrop tree. And, I ate the gumdrops off of it like it was my job. My Mom would hand my sister and I cash from the calves sold on our behalf to finance our Christmas shopping as kiddos. Generally, Eckerd (now, CVS) was my first choice for shopping. And, I used every cent to buy something there that would, once again, “wow” my loved ones. Then, there was the note to Santa and cookies that he was sometimes “too full to eat.” There was also the caroling with my Nalls’ cousins on Christmas Eve. Oh, and who could ever forget, the virus that swept though our home like a hurricane, compliments of my loving big sister who I could not celebrate Christmas without. The Christmas songs on the radio, ice cycles in the tree, turkey and dressing with all the fixings, stockings stuffed to perfection and the list goes on.

You see, it wasn’t necessarily the gifts under the tree, it was the collective magic of Christmas. And, it’s different for us all. The things I spoke of aren’t really things that can be bought, rather things that are created from or are felt with the heart.

First thing this morning, Patrick, Connah, Peaches and I received a box filled with Christmas treasures from The Ogle Family in Virginia Beach, VA. We loved everything in the box, how it was gift wrapped, the thoughtfulness of it all, but my favorite gift of all was the gift tags that were written by my youngest goddaughter, Avery. I’ve looked over every inch of both tags. One was attached to Peaches gift (our other fur baby) and the other was attached to a gift for yours truly. It didn’t cost anything per say, but it was worth gold to me. Above all the precious gifts, that one will long be remembered by me.

So, you didn’t get that YETI Cooler? Write that person a note, and tell him how much he means to you. The Apple Watch was out of stock? Make time to spend with the intended recipient of that gift instead. And, your holiday cookies you baked for your neighbor didn’t quite look like something famed pastry chef, Dominique Ansel would create? Take them anyway and create your own comedy hour for your neighbor compliments of your “cookie fail.” These are the things we remember fondly long after the season has come and gone.

As Dr. Seuss would day, “Sometimes you never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory. Friends, ’tis the season to make good ones! I wish you all joy this Christmas and in the coming New Year!

Stay Divine,
JL PARISH

This Christmas

Before the month of December rolled in, we’d already had Black Friday (that now starts on Tuesday), followed by Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. I don’t know about y’all, but, by the time Giving Tuesday came around, I was in a full blown panic. And, to top it off, Giving Tuesday marked the first day of December and the realization that I had twenty-four days to get one million things done before Christmas Day.

For me and countless other retailers, it’s our busiest season. In fact, a great number of businesses make the bulk of their sales in the fourth quarter of the year. It’s a make it or break it time for many small businesses like lil’ ole’ JL PARISH. Then, you add in all those extra things that come with the Christmas Season and, honey-bunny, it’s enough to send Santa straight down to Dallas, Texas with a chill pill for, well, ME!

I thought back upon my Christmas experience as a child. It was the most magical time of the year. I waited and waited and waited for this time to come. Cutting down and decorating the Christmas Tree, delicious homemade candy from the heart, fun holiday inspired programs at school like Wills Point’s White Gift Service, riding through the neighborhood and looking at Christmas lights, our hometown parade, photo with Santa, early morning “Christmas Eve Gift” calls, beautifully wrapped gifts, sweet time with family, Ramelle Sewell’s gingerbread cookies, the arrival of Santa and, most importantly, reflecting upon the actual reason for the season, the birth of Christ. I mean, what’s not to love about this time of the year!

My reflection turned to excitement turned to gratitude turned to a great realization… There’s a little more wonderment associated with Christmas when you’re a child because it’s mostly being done for you. Someone was cutting down that tree (my Dad) and decorating that tree (my Mom) and buying those gifts and wrapping those gifts (my Mom and Dad) and getting you ready for that parade (my Mom) and making that candy (my Mom) and the list goes on and on. Christmas, in a sense, is work. It’s stress and strain IF we allow it to be. But, the great news is that we actually have a choice.

So, on that day, I chose not to stress out. At Christmas, really, all the things that I noted are elective. They’re not necessities. You can pick and choose what you want to partake in. But, the one thing, the most important to remember is this… Beyond all the gifts and parties and decorations and Santa, we must remember and celebrate and be in gratitude for- Christ. He wasn’t like little “Saint West,” you know, Kim and Kanye’s new baby. There was no first class hospital or black car service for the mother to be driven to her destination in order to deliver the King of Kings. There was no paparazzi or “push present” for Mary. There was no glitz or glamour, just a sweet little baby, in a manger, that we would one day call King of Kings. Now, if that doesn’t reset your Christmas Clock, I don’t know what will.

In the rush and push of this season, take a moment to reflect and be grateful of all things Christmas, most importantly, this seasons namesake, Christ. You know, Justin Timberlake brought “sexy back.” So, surely we can bring “wonderment back” to Christmas this year.

Stay Divine,
JL PARISH

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