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!
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!
Just who are you? Do you ever ponder that question? Who are you at your hearts center?
What work were you created for? What’s your purpose in this life? And, are you spending it for something that will outlast you?
Those questions are hard ones, and, darnit, we rarely touch on them because, when we get into the quiet space of allowing those “heart questions” to enter our minds, we quickly squelch them with some mundane task or Real Housewives episode or that last piece of cake that’s sitting on the counter (with our name written on it in ALL CAPS, of course). Things get in the way. We have a funny way of allowing them to do that. Then, one day, we look around and think these questions, knowing the answers, distraught that we didn’t walk them to the edge.
In my Bible Study, a couple years back, my beloved Wild & Woolie, Kelly Hornsby, made a bold statement. After throwing around opinions on the important topic of someone’s life, Kelly sternly stated, “I feel that we should rely less on what we think and more on what we know to be true (as in, the Bible).” My ego quickly responded silently with, “Well, she must not value our opinions.” Then, the God in me spoke up with, “No, she’s telling you that what we know to be true is available to us, and that’s what we should seek.”
In the last couple of months, I’ve had several meetings with movers and shakers in the jewelry biz. And, much of the conversations in those meetings have made me pause and think about who JL PARISH is in the market place. And, for some reason, it’s put me in somewhat of a tailspin. I would think, “Well, if I am this, then I cannot be that and vice versa.” But, today, through a couple beautiful conversations with friends, mountains of prayer and my memory of Kelly’s words from that Bible Study a couple years ago, I got really convicted on the one thing I know to be true. If I’m not quite sure who I am or what I was created for or what my purpose is or if I’ll spend my life for something that will outlast it, I know who does- God. Yes, our Maker, He’s got all that figured out.
Psalm 139:14 says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” When the truth becomes our foundation, the creative power of God can work through us to fulfill his purpose for us on earth. Those “heart questions” soften because we know who holds the answers. The truth is simple. God says that I’m “wonderfully made.” When I accept that, I no longer want to do that task or watch that Real Housewives episode or eat that piece of cake. I’m actually good in that contemplative moment when those heart questions arise because I know who I am to God. Despite what the world may tell us, that’s all that matters.
So, next time you get into that space, snuggle up there knowing who you are to your Creator. Breathe into the life that He’s afforded you and the opportunities you’ve been given. And, lean into His word and His grace for a deeper understanding of who you are and what you were meant for while you’re here on this earth.
I’ll say this until I take my last breath, God doesn’t waste a thing. Make sure you don’t limit Him in what he can do with your stuff, the good and the bad. And, know this, no matter what age you are, if you’re still living, God isn’t done with you. Let’s dance with the music we’ve been given joyfully in His honor.
I don’t know about y’all, but I’m feeling “wonderfully made.” And, not because of my own confidence but my confidence in Him. Now, as my Mom says, “Stick that feather in your hat,” and, by all means, make today a great day!
I’m such a softy (in more ways than one). My body, my ever evolving, almost forty year old body has softened. But, my heart, oh heavens, my heart is softened even more toward kind, humble, “give you your flowers” people. Kindness is, without question, my kind of beautiful.
When I was a little girl, people who knew my Mom would see my Sister and stop in their tracks with an “Oh, Glenda, this must be your daughter. She’s the spitting image of you.” I knew they meant she was beautiful because, like my Momma, my Sis is beautiful, too. And, closely behind, I would make my way into the picture and the same person would say, “Now, who are you.” Oh, Jesus, keep me near! My Mom would say, “This is Jill. She’s my youngest. And, while she’s so much like me in ways, she’s the spitting image of her Daddy. And, if you knew him, you’d know how special that is.”
I would think to my little self, “Dang, if I don’t look like my Mom, I must not be as pretty.” Do you love that? Not that I wasn’t pretty, but “as pretty.” God love me. When that sweet Mom of mine wasn’t having to reprimand us for bad behavior (mostly my Sister, Susan, of course… wink, wink… love you, Sis) she was praising the heck out of us. “You look beautiful today,” she would say, or “I’m very proud of you.” We could’ve both been headless monsters, but, we would’ve never known. Because, to our Mom, we were beautiful.
Now, when people who were more acquainted with my Daddy would see me, they would and, to this day still say, “You are Don Lide made all over.” That has always made my heart smile because, while he was not with us in a physical sense, he was still very much with us and it showed up in the curl of my hair and the blue in my eyes. He was special. I knew that. So, I was good.
My Sister always felt like the people who thought she was so beautiful also thought she was a little tart. And, I thought the one’s who thought I was like my Daddy didn’t necessarily think I was a raging beauty, but, I had heart, personality and a whole lotta’ spunk. My Sis and I “LOL” at this all the time. But, you wanna’ know something, it didn’t matter what the outside world said about us, in our little world, our Momma was raising us up with confidence in who we were ultimately from, God.
I recognize how fortunate I have been and continue to be to have parents who praised their kiddos when praise was due. I know that sometimes, it was hard to find beauty in us (especially in our teenage years), but my Mom was never at a loss when it came to praising her two daughters. No, she was unabashed in her mission to raise girls who were confident. It wasn’t about having the hottest hairstyle or on trend clothing, no, it was about who’s image we were made in and who we really were on the inside.
To close, this last Sunday at church, we had the opportunity, as we do each Sunday, to turn to our neighbor and say hello. And, so, Patrick and I did just that. The last two women I greeted were seated right in front of us. I noticed how beautifully dressed and perfect their hair was earlier because, duh, I’m a girl. We check these things out like it’s our job. I reached out with my hand to shake their hands and said, “Hello.” And, after one of the ladies said hello, she held onto my hand, looked straight into my eyes and said, “You are so beautiful.” And, I knew that she was seeing ME. She was seeing my heart, the light in my eyes and the joy and confidence that comes from my Maker.
That Sunday morning, I nearly cried like I do almost every Sunday morning. I’m so moved by the music and the scripture and the hearts of the people there. The moment my husband sees a tear, from periphery, I see his half hearted grin and slight shake of his head. God love him. How he puts up with me, I will never know. Point being, beauty is moving. It is everywhere. And, it should command our attention in such a way that we are both moved and inspired by it.
If I haven’t told y’all lately, every single one of you are beautiful. It might be your Carrie Underwoodesque legs or your sweet smile or your heart. But, know this, you’re beautiful. I know because I am a purveyor of all things beautiful. But, that heart of yours, oh, THAT HEART! It’s a perfect TEN!
I hope you’ll take in more beauty today (especially yours). May you give it wings to fly to the person who most needs to see it, be moved and inspired by it. I say, we start an all out Beauty Campaign. It should consist of this… Walk tall, knowing the truth about who you are and where your confidence comes from. And, “give someone their flowers” by acknowledging something beautiful in them today!
Stay Divine, Beautiful!