inspiration

Sharing Thoughts from a Heavy Heart

Love is Beautiful. Styled Floral Hearts by Shay Cochrane.

It has taken me a while to get to the place where I could write this blog post. My heart is so very heavy. A lot of people are apologizing for how long it has taken them to say or write something, but I’m not going to do that – and I’ll tell you why.

When I first heard the news about George Floyd, I could honestly hardly process it and I certainly couldn’t watch the video footage. My first reaction was to pray for clarity and then to wait as I processed mentally a bit. Finally, I took a deep breath and watched the video and my reaction was exactly as I had feared. I could hardly think straight after watching it. I felt positively sick. A dark and stormy cloud moved in over the rest of my day and I have had a pervasive feeling of nausea ever since. I haven’t been able to go very long without thinking about George Floyd and those who came before him. If I’m being honest, when I watched the video of Floyd’s death, I was expecting more of a fight. More danger. More angry chaos. But, it wasn’t there. It was relatively quiet and very controlled. And so cold and methodical. It was absolutely haunting.

In the days since, I haven’t said much on social media, primarily because, as I said, I don’t know that the world needs more noise. We are already overrun with the vomiting of ill-thought out words in short soundbites in today’s world. I always want what I say to be thoughtful and usually that takes time. I didn’t want to just throw out a quick, trite statement. Because that isn’t enough. And yet, I wasn’t entirely sure what to say. I was afraid of saying the wrong thing or offending someone if I wasn’t able to express my thoughts in the right way, but silence can be misconstrued as well, and I am going to trust that we can all give one another grace as we navigate these waters together. And I ask for your grace as you read this post. I won’t get everything right and I will not be able to fully express everything that is in my heart, but I ask that you give me grace in the trying. Another reason that I have kept quiet is because I wanted to yield the floor to those who know more than I do – to those who have experienced more and are “experts” on racism. The problem with that, of course, is that the world doesn’t need more experts. The world needs more individuals who are open to looking inward and making a change in their innermost beings. The world needs people who are honest with themselves about their own hearts, but also who are malleable and teachable. During this time of my quiet reflection, the Lord has undoubtedly been working on my own heart.

In the past few days, I have read a lot of articles, listened to podcasts, watched videos, watched countless Instagram Stories and read thousands upon thousands of comments from people of all races. I’ve heard several popular “influencers” and “experts” as they discuss what the problem is and what can be done about it. If I’m being honest, not many of them sat well with me. My heart was rather unsettled by what many of they said. I heard a lot of vitriol (which is very different from righteous anger). I heard a lot of condescension. I heard some people tearing white people down and others lashing out with hatred. I read some terrible (and untrue) things about police officers on the whole, not just the individual ones involved in police brutality incidents. A lot of things were likely written out of abject anger and fear, which is completely understandable at a time like this.   But the disturbing part to me was the fact that at the base, I heard mostly self-serving language. The focus of almost every person who was speaking was “me”. Whether it was about them personally and what they think is “right” or whether they were taking the liberty to speak for their entire race, it was all very focused on self. Some were giving themselves backhanded compliments and others were using self-deprecating language, but even that still pointed back to self every time. I remember Beth Moore saying once in a Bible study of hers that I attended that whether you are conceited or struggle with self-worth, the root problem is actually the same…It is pride. Whether you think too highly of yourself or think too lowly of yourself, the problem is that you are still overly focused on self. I was rocked by her statement at the time. I had literally never thought about it that way. But, isn’t pride at the very root of the situation in which we currently find ourselves?

Please don’t get me wrong, I think that the statements that people are making are made with the best of intentions. I truly think that most people are appalled by what has happened and want to help. I think that people want to effect change. In no way am I trying to throw anyone under the proverbial bus here and I’m not sitting in judgment. Each person is absolutely entitled to share what they like, given our freedom of speech in this country. It is just that not much of what people were saying was resonating with my own heart in a genuine way. And so I sat, rather shamed by what some of these people were saying and the tone in which they said it. And we all know what shame does – it paralyzes us. And so there I stayed quietly reading and listening and searching for truth amidst the noise. I searched my own heart and I begged God to show me places in my own life that needed change and to help me impart wisdom to my four boys as I raise them up to be a part of the next generation.

A few years ago, my husband and I chose to move our family into Houston’s Third Ward. If you’re not familiar with Houston, the Third Ward has an incredibly rich history. It is also home to a high proportion of the crime in the Houston area. Just a few years ago, it was noted as being the 15th most dangerous area in the United States. The area’s violent crime rate is 75.89 per 1,000 residents, and people living in the area have a 1 in 13 chance of becoming a victim of crime each year. More than a few friends and family told me why our choice was both poorly made and flat out dangerous. The Third Ward happens to be the place that George Floyd was from. It also happens to be where Beyonce grew up.

Our family was one of only two white families on our entire street, save for the one biracial family across the way. I was so excited to be living there. God had worked out our moving there with details that I won’t go into here, but let me sum it up by saying that He opened a door and we were thrilled to walk through it. I was particularly excited for both our family and my children to have a more diverse group of friends. We met some truly amazing neighbors there and because of the size of our friends’ home that we were renting there, we were able to open it up to some incredible experiences, like a local church, Restoration Community Church, hosting their baptisms in our swimming pool. It was beautiful beyond words. We attended every neighborhood party and picnic and befriended several wonderful families. During the time we lived there, my understanding of race relations changed a bit. Some things that I thought were fairly simple turned out to be more complex. When I was younger, I truly thought that the answer was to ignore color entirely – to do my best to be “colorblind.” I thought that if race was never brought up, the issues surrounding it would naturally go away on their own. I hoped that if our differences were ignored or downplayed, they would cease to be a real problem. I think a lot of us were taught that race was something not to talk about. Now, however, I really believe that various races, ethnicities and cultures are different in many ways and that those differences should not only not be ignored, but they should be acknowledged and even celebrated.

Fast forward 18 months and we had to move out of our home there because of damage done by Hurricane Harvey. We packed up our things and moved to a rental house quickly, without much time to plan. I was pregnant with our fourth child at the time and a lot happened in the year that followed. When I stop and look back on our time in the Third Ward, I realize that I learned a lot through our time there, on many fronts. One of those fronts was race relations.

I’ll never forget speaking with an older man about the fact that we lived in the Third Ward. He asked me where we lived and I told him and he made a disapproving face, which was not an uncommon occurrence for me at the time when the topic came up. He asked me some questions about it and I mentioned that I was happy that my boys would have a more racially diverse group of friends. He smiled and told me that friendships are formed by shared experiences, not by proximity of living. Ouch. He was correct in his statement, but, in my naivety, I had never considered the distinction. The more I thought about what he said, the more I realized that friendships really are formed by shared experiences – being in classes together, being on the same sports teams together, serving on the same committee or with the same charity organization, attending camp together or pursuing the same hobby – not just by a few scattered playdates or interactions. True friendships are formed when standing side by side and accomplishing something together or sitting across the table from one another and sharing a meal while you talk about life and experiences and ideas. And if you’re really intent on introducing diversity into your world, you’re going to have to include economic diversity. That’s where the real differences come into play.

As we interacted with our new friends there, I noticed many differences between our family and some of our neighbors. Some of them were very small and some of them were quite large. I don’t think that talking about them specifically adds much to this conversation and I don’t want to detract attention from the issue at hand so, suffice it to say, I think we as humans have to learn to acknowledge and to celebrate our differences. I think that it’s normal to notice differences and it’s also understandable to be a bit uncomfortable in the presence of different cultures. The problem comes when we refuse to move from that place of discomfort. When we feel safer in the similarities and refuse to explore the differences at all. When we do that, we tend to get stagnant and comfortable where we are and we tend to avoid circumstances where we might be challenged or have to seek to understand someone who is different than us. And it’s not a far leap from there to fear of the unknown or thinking that we are better than another race or culture.

Almost every interaction I’ve had with someone who is different than me has changed me in some way. I’ve spent time serving people in several countries around the world and my heart was changed by the individuals of different cultures and races with whom I interacted on every one of those journeys. My global perspective was changed, my understanding of other cultures was expanded and my compassion for people was increased. I have never regretted any of the time or money invested on those trips. I grew as a person and I walked away with far more than I gave. But understanding and compassion are simply not enough.

A couple of days ago, I came across this message from a pastor in Dallas whose teaching I have been listening to for many, many years. I’ve heard him speak in person and even met him once or twice. I have always been impressed by both his wisdom and his humility. On this topic, as usual, his words resonated deeply. And I think the reason for that is that he kept his focus on God in the midst of this current situation. In this video, he speaks to his listeners like a father, speaking with conviction and truth and giving practical ways to bring about change. Though he is a black man himself, his words speak nothing of his own experiences with racism. His focus remains on the Lord. You can listen to Dr. Tony Evans’ heart on the matter here. And I really hope that you will. (Feel free to stop and do it now. I’ll be here when you’re done.) It’s really that good and his words are so much more eloquent than mine.

I think that it is dangerous to exclude God from the conversation about race for two reasons. He is the reason for our inherent value and He is the one who can bring about lasting change. At their core, all people have value not because someone else says that they do (or in spite of someone else saying they don’t) but because we are all created in the very image of God. And God Himself is by His very nature both righteous and loving. He is a God who demands both justice and mercy. Because of His creative nature, our world is full of differences, but each one of us bears His signature. Each distinct race and ethnicity comes together in His creation to form a beautifully patterned, complete whole. The diverse nature of our world contributes to its richness and beauty. Of course, our world is also fallen and far from perfect. Often that brokenness leaves me feeling sad, angry and defeated. But, if you are a believer in Christ, then your very faith is based on the power of God to change things. Change is at the very core of the gospel, as God makes us new, through the saving power of His son, Jesus. You cannot believe the gospel and not believe that God can change things – from cultural constructs to circumstances right down to the intricacies of the human heart. Throughout the Bible, He is consistently a God of hope and change who offers us grace. My former pastor from my time living in New York is also one of my favorite authors, Tim Keller. In his book Generous Justice he says, “There is a direct relationship between a person’s grasp and experience of God’s grace and his or her heart for justice.” I find those to be wise words.

What I know about the current state of things in America and around the world is that things must change. There is little doubt about that. We must work harder to fight racism and to build a society where justice for all is upheld. We must fight oppression and stand up for those who are suffering. As I write this, riots continue and people are hurting. My heart is broken for the pain in the world right now. There is such heaviness and it is exhausting and almost paralyzing. But, God. God is not surprised. God sees. He is moved by our situation and He is in the business of changing hearts. I love the challenge that Dr. Evans gives us in the video linked above. We have to act on four levels: self, family, church and community. We cannot simply move on one of those fronts if we want to effect change. We must address all four levels. While I alone cannot really control politics or policies (even though my voice is heard through my vote), what I can do is be malleable enough to allow God to change my heart. I can take actions to learn and to love others better. And I can change the shape of my family as I commit to raising my sons to know that ALL people are made in the image of God. I can work to effect change within my faith community and in the community at large. I can vote. I may be one person, but I can effect change, however small. And if we all commit to doing that, we will see bigger changes. I do not pretend to have the answers, nor am I even sure that I have any great ideas. But, it would be a real problem if that stopped me from doing anything at all.

Recently, a black friend of mine asked me to read a work by James Baldwin. He was so incredibly passionate about it that I did so immediately. He particularly wanted me to read one story because he said it was so much like his own upbringing in Harlem.  I’m a little embarrassed to say that I had never read James Baldwin until earlier this year. I was immediately struck by his gift of writing. He has a masterful use of words that can make you feel things and see things from a different perspective in ways you can hardly believe. I couldn’t put the book down. Some of the stories were hard to read and some were beautiful, but all of them gave me some increased insight into something I really knew very little about. I think you can learn a great deal through reading and I am personally committing to making more intentional time to do more of it to learn more. During this time, it is imperative that we listen to the voices of our African American brothers and sisters and that we do so with open minds and hearts to hear what they have to say.

I serve on the board of directors of Agape Development, which is based in Houston’s Third Ward. The mission of this organization is:  Transforming our neighborhood by preparing Christ-following, independent, community leaders. If you have a heart for the adults and children in the Third Ward community of Houston, I welcome you to getting involved in this organization. Agape was started by a long-time friend of mine and his wife, who moved their family to the Third Ward fourteen years ago to make a difference in the lives of their neighbors. They are doing a mighty work there and we would love for you to join us. The people you meet will be a blessing to you and your family as much as you are to them. I’m certain of it. And that is also true of so many worthy organizations doing important work throughout our country and around the world.

All in all, there are myriad things you can do to make a difference where you are. You can learn more about other races, ethnicities and cultures by reading and listening. You can interact in an intentional and meaningful way with people of other races and ethnicities more often. You can serve others who are less fortunate than you. You can stay open to change, recognize places where change is needed and work towards that change. You can teach your children by example to love others, especially those who don’t look like them. You can peacefully protest, join organizations whose missions align with your values and donate your time and financial resources to them. Through all of that, you can simultaneously maintain focus on the God who never changes. In an ever-changing culture, He doesn’t change. And in a self-focused culture, focusing on something bigger than ourselves is actually quite liberating.

Someone once said that we tend to glance at God and gaze at life when what we need to do is gaze at God and glance at life. (I’m not sure who to attribute the quote to, but if you know, please share!) In times like these, I am reminded of how true this is. Issues of race have existed throughout history in countless times and places. Racial tensions and inequalities are hardly unique to American history. Rather than look to our own culture for the answers, I am reminded that we need to look first to the author or life Himself – the Creator of those many races and ethnicities. In Mark 12:31, He commands us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” and to “Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”

Will you join me in being more intentional in doing both?

 

Some (Very) Last-Minute Mother’s Day Advice

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Mother’s Day is coming up this weekend and it has the potential to be beautiful… or to be an utter disaster. If I’m being honest, this post has been percolating in my head for weeks. I have so very much I want to say on this topic, but I couldn’t quite formulate it into words. So, I waited a while to gain clarity and then waited a while longer in an attempt to gain more around what I wanted to say. I’m still not sure it’s all together, but if I wait any longer, the opportunity will have passed me by. So, while it might not be perfect, I’m going to put it out there, because Mother’s Day is headed towards us like a freight train. And make no mistake, this freight train is loaded with emotion.

I’d like to start by saying that if Mother’s Day is painful for you, you are seen and loved during this time. Maybe you’re not a mom by your own choice or maybe you’ve struggled with infertility for years. Maybe your own mother is no longer living or maybe she is, but your relationship with her is strained and is a source of deep pain. Maybe you’re adopted and never knew your birth mother and the feelings are just complex. Maybe you’ve lost a child and the pain is more than most of us can even imagine in our worst nightmares. Whatever the reason, if this holiday is hard for you, you are not alone. I am holding space for you, however you feel. I don’t have words to heal, but I do know a God who has brought me great healing surrounding the death of my father when I was a young girl. He has the same grace and healing for you. He walks through the valleys of difficulty right alongside you and He longs for you to know His heart of love for you.

If you’re a mother of grown children at this time, I hope that you still get to celebrate in some way amidst the quarantine. I hope you feel like you are deeply loved and I hope that you are getting to rest and relax and remember this weekend. I cannot even fathom where you are, if I’m being honest. I’m simultaneously jealous of your “me time” and terrified of the time when my chicks have all left the nest. But that’s a whole different blog post.

Today, I’m really writing to the mamas who are in the thick of it. A few weeks ago, I saw a meme that said something to the effect of – You just know the quarantine will still be going on over Mother’s Day and then will be lifted just in time for Father’s Day. I laughed to myself because that sounds just about typical, doesn’t it? We moms are used to being fairly unappreciated on the whole. We give and give of ourselves to our children and family and it often feels like no one sees us. Like we all that we do is taken completely for granted, and often times it is. I’m hopeful that one day when my children are older, they will appreciate what I have given to them, both in time and resources, but mostly in love. But that day feels a LONG way off when I’m consoling them for yet another superficial boo-boo or breaking up yet another fight or changing yet another stinky diaper. And that’s under normal circumstances.

In this current world scenario, moms are being asked to pick up SO MANY additional plates and keep them spinning. I know that there are dads who are also doing more at home, but for the most part, the moms are bearing a huge portion of the burden of this quarantine time at home, even if the men don’t agree. (In fact, the New York Times has an interesting article about that here.) In the past two months, we have moved beyond exhaustion to absolute depletion. I, for one, feel like I have absolutely nothing left to offer anyone, much less myself, at the end of almost every day and if I’m being honest, I don’t feel all that much better in the morning after a good night’s sleep. This is such a bittersweet time. It’s so precious to have this much time at home with our children and to be rid of the “calendar pollution” as a wise friend of mine called it recently. It’s wonderful to be together as a family and to be learning more and more about our children as we steep in this hot water together. But, it’s also draining and we are being stretched in almost unimaginable ways.

Moms are stand-in teachers, which has completely changed the dynamic of our relationship with our kids. We’ve been “task masters” around the house for years, but those tasks are generally ones of our own creation. But now, we are being asked to execute the orders of our schools and teachers and to do things they way they want them done and to rally our children and get them on board to do the work. And then to help them in doing it if they struggle at all. For many of us, that is easier said than done. And if you have multiple children, it’s all the harder. It’s enough to make you lost your ever-loving mind. Let me pause here and say, please know that I mean NO disrespect to our schools or teachers. I’m beyond grateful for both of them. Saying that being a mom in charge of virtual learning in our houses is hard should take absolutely nothing away from how hard our teachers are also working. This is not a binary situation – it can be hard for all involved. We’re ALL building a bridge as we walk across it, so to speak, and that is always challenging and requires that we give one another enormous amounts of grace.

We’re also being asked to be one-woman I.T. departments. Oh, the number of apps to download, the passwords to remember, the broken links, the printing and scanning and emailing and troubleshooting and that’s to say nothing of keeping the electronic devices charged all the time! (This has helped me with that some.) Some of us are teaching our young children how to use a laptop or an iPad for the first time. (Don’t get me started on how we’ve been told to keep them away from electronics for so many years and are now being forced to give them a crash-course in using them while they do so 7 hours a day.) We are figuring out how to get simultaneous FaceTime calls going on different devices when your kids aren’t old enough to have their own phone. There are Zoom calls to keep a schedule of and due dates to remember and school/art/science/preschool supplies that are required.

At the same time, over on the home front, obtaining groceries and toiletries and cleaning products has become a monumental task of gargantuan proportions. Going to the store can be a nightmare of empty shelves, limitations on the number of people on one aisle and face masks that make you feel like you’re suffocating. And planning ahead for delivery (if you can even get it) is another difficulty and finding what you need with all of the items out of stock and the purchasing limitations (my family of six can eat a dozen eggs in a day, thank you very much) feels like a game of high-level strategy sometimes. Many of us had become quite reliant on Amazon’s Prime delivery service that comes in two days. That has vanished for most items as they try and prioritize essentials. It takes longer and requires more mental capacity than ever before to execute many small tasks. And if you’re also doing it for a loved one who is elderly and confined to their home? Just one more thing on the tower of tasks. We are figuring out how to make our kids feel special on their birthdays in this stay-at-home and away from friends and family time. We are trying to come up with creative ways to celebrate our spouse’s birthday and our anniversaries and loved ones’ special days from afar. Some of us are working from home, others are trying to keep small businesses afloat, trying to figure out how to avoid furloughing employees or at least keeping health insurance for them. Some of us are working outside of the home or our husbands are, because we (or they) are considered essential workers and that’s another set of challenges during this time.

All the while, our own emotions churn within us. We are fearful for our children, our parents and ourselves. For our collective health, both physical and mental, during this time. We are drying the tears of our children when they are sad and cannot even explain why. Their structure has been yanked from beneath them and it is starting to show up in fits and tantrums or tears that cannot even be explained. And the moms are the ones trying their best to protect this sweet time of childhood for them and not let it show that the world actually does feel like it is falling apart right now. We create a safe space for our families within the four walls of our home and it takes insane amounts of energy and determination.

That brings me to Mother’s Day. If I’m honest, Mother’s Day is always a bit of a struggle for me. Most moms that I know want to celebrate with the day their children, but we also desperately want some alone time. We yearn for quiet and solace and space. We want time to get a massage, a pedicure or just read a book uninterrupted, dare I say with a warm latte in hand. (We are quite used to drinking coffee cold.) We want someone to serve us a meal that we don’t have to cook or clean up after and we long for rest. Yet, we are pulled to be “Mom” even on our own day. It is a 24/7 job, after all. We still need to be up and dressed well for church or brunch or maybe even to host a meal for family in our own homes. Our children still need us on Sunday, so we summon the energy to slap a smile on our weary faces and to praise our littles for their handmade art projects and to celebrate our own moms if we are blessed enough to have them with us. There is a tension in this day. . .and that’s on a normal Mother’s Day.

On this particular Mother’s Day, in the midst of Covid-19, we enter the weekend weary to the bone, unsure of where to get more energy to carry on. We have laid down our desire for the Mother’s Day celebrations at school with our little ones and the sweet memories that those create. We have laid down our hopes of travel plans for the Summer and we are wondering just what we will do with our children over the next few months if the swimming pools and museums and zoos remain closed and now that day camps and classes are being cancelled. We are in need of being recharging more than ever before. Which is why I think this day has more pressure on it than in prior years. I don’t have a perfect answer to our collective problem, but these are my thoughts…

Take a moment to stop and think about what you need right now. Do you need to be left alone for an afternoon or a day to read or sleep or binge watch TV? Do you need some time with your best girlfriend talking on the phone or FaceTiming with a coffee or a glass of wine in hand or do you need to have a cocktail hour with a friend sitting 6 feet apart on her front porch? Do you need to not cook any meals for a day or a weekend and not clean up after them either? Do you need a ridiculous amount of fresh flowers – some for every room? Alone time for a bubble bath? Do you need a little retail therapy online, be it a big budget or a tiny one, just to grab a few things that bring you a dose of happy? Maybe it’s to snag your favorite candle to make your home smell sweeter or to help you relax or some cute and comfortable new leisure wear for all of these days at home. Maybe it’s a gorgeous pair of earrings that make you feel beautiful each morning even when you don’t take the time to wash your hair or put on makeup. Maybe it’s a cozy new throw to snuggle up under on your favorite chair with your favorite book. Or a new coffee mug to make your mornings just a bit brighter. Maybe it’s a purse you’ve been wanting forever or a new pair of running shoes or a cute + comfy pair of shorts for the upcoming warm days in the backyard with your kids. Whatever it is, take the time to notice what your heart really wants and then set your mind to getting it. This likely requires some communication with your spouse or kids, but I would encourage you to let them know what you need and make a plan for getting it. I’ve learned the hard way over the years that waiting for them to figure out what you need or to come up with a plan for you leads to unmet expectations and frustration on the part of everyone involved. A very wise friend in San Francisco told me that a few years ago and while I resisted her idea a bit at first, I realized that she was right.

During this time of staying at home, I have developed a new appreciation for the simple things – time with my family, time spent outside in nature, caring less about what I look like and more about being present in the moment. I’ve been reminded of how important family dinners are and how much fun it is to have a cleared calendar and just enjoy the simple things – slowing down, listening to your children laugh, reading, baking, riding a bike, being creative, just dreaming. You get the idea. I don’t feel like I’ve had a lot of extra time to do those things, but I’ve gotten enough of a glimpse of them that I know I need more of them in my life. Because of that, I’m convinced that this slower Mother’s Day weekend could be really, really beautiful.

If the reality of this weekend of Mother’s Day doesn’t come close to what you hoped it would be, know that you are still loved. You’re doing a great job, mama. If no one else is telling you, let me be the one to say it – Well done. It may feel like no one is noticing all that you do, but God is. He sees you where you are and He smiles upon watching you with your children. He is touched by the very details of your situation, whatever they are. He has chosen YOU to be their mother and He has chosen THEM for you. You are the very best mother for them in the world, even if you question it sometimes deep in the recesses of your heart where no one can hear.

Husbands, this is the time to love on your wife in extravagant ways. She needs you right now. If she is struggling, she needs you to reach down into the pit of exhaustion (and sometimes despair) that we all fall into every now and then and help her out of it. Don’t skimp on Mother’s Day this year. I know that it requires more planning, but such is the state of the world we live in. It’s not an excuse to do nothing. Buy her a gift (or a few!) if you are able. And for that, I would encourage you to shop small and/or local if you can. Small businesses need our support at times like these. Buy her flowers. Grab a card for her or write her a love note on a nice piece of stationery. If you’re struggling in this economy, there is plenty you can do for free. Give her some alone time, protected from the constant needs of the children, if just for a while. Give her some extra time to sleep or just to veg out in front of the television, uninterrupted. Make (or buy) her favorite meal. Bring her a latte in bed. Force her to take some time for herself, be that a bubble bath, a long run, a spa day at home or some time in the garden. Let her know how grateful you are that she pours everything she has into her children constantly. Tell her what makes you proud of her and how she is sowing seeds now that will reap a great harvest later, because sometimes she forgets that. Tell her that she is a good mother, because she doubts that on a daily basis. Love on your wife and I promise that it will pay dividends for your whole family.

And, of course, if you want to spoil her with jewelry, give me a call. I absolutely love helping with that! (And gift cards for handmade jewelry from your favorite designer are always a great last-minute option!)

 

**Disclaimer: This post contains a handful of affiliate links through Amazon’s Affiliate Program, which means that if you click on a link and end up buying something, I make a very small commission, at no cost to you.

Big Bambú

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I adore the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and each time I go, I’m inspired in different ways for my jewelry designs. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the special exhibits there, its that I shouldn’t wait until the last minute to go see them. By that point, the word has gotten out and the lines are insane as procrastinators (like me) realize they’re about to miss something really cool and everyone flocks to see it. It’s happened to me several times and I always think I’ve learned my lesson.

This time, I had a pretty good excuse. I was having a baby when the exhibit first came out and I wasn’t comfortable taking a newborn to a place with so many people. But, as the deadline approached, I realized I had better jump on it before the actual closing weekend or I was going to be sorry! So, today, my husband got off of work a little early and we loaded up the kiddos and headed to the museum to see the Big Bambú exhibit, “This Thing Called Life”. And boy, was it worth it! Our kids had an absolute blast at this interactive exhibit and I’m so glad that we took them.

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The exhibit consists of over 3,000 poles of bamboo tied together. The bamboo forms a swirling bridge pathway from the 2nd floor of the gallery down to the ground level. The artists, Mike and Doug Starn, are twin brothers and their work is truly incredible in scale. This installation is the first one that is completely indoors, interacting with the museum itself. Thankfully, I had heard from some friends that there were guidelines for who could visit and I checked out the museum’s website for the details on restrictions. Pregnant women, babies and kids under 6 aren’t allowed to climb on the 2nd story of the structure. Also, you have to wear closed shoes with rubber soles. (I wore my current favorites from M.Gemi seen below!) You can check out the full list of guidelines here. We took all of our children our youngest two who aren’t old enough for the upper-level pathway still really enjoyed the ground level part of the exhibit. Hubs and I took turns taking the oldest two on the pathway while the other stayed at ground level navigating the bamboo sticks below.

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If you’re near Houston, I highly recommend you check out this exhibit before it leaves on September 3rd. It’s really cool and is not to be missed! If you’re not near Houston or can’t make it, visit the artists’ website here. Their work is sure to amaze you!

For a preview of the Houston exhibit, check out our photos below!

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Glamour + Grace

 

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I’m so thrilled to have my some of my bridal jewelry designs featured on the front page of Glamour and Grace today! Its truly an honor to have worked with such incredible professionals on this photo shoot. The sources are tagged at the bottom of this post, so be sure to check them out. Every little detail is just gorgeous!

I’m posting a few of the stunning pics below, but hop on over to the Glamour and Grace blog for even more of this beautiful spread featuring romantic jewel tone wedding inspiration that is sure to make you smile. And be sure to look around their blog if you’re planning a wedding anytime soon – they have such fabulous ideas!

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View More: http://sheradeehurstphotography.pass.us/autumnalcharm

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View More: http://sheradeehurstphotography.pass.us/autumnalcharm

View More: http://sheradeehurstphotography.pass.us/autumnalcharm

Photography | Sheradee Hurst Photography | Styling | Krissi Farrimond | Floral, Stationery, & Calligraphy | Inspire Events | Cake | Amy Cakes | Macarons | Brown Egg Bakery | Vintage Chairs | Borrowed Charm | Place Settings | Culinary Kitchen | Gown | Alvina Valenta from Prescott Bridal | Hair and Makeup | Andrea Lemonds of Trichology Salon | Jewelry | Andrea Montgomery Designs | Ring | Trumpet & Horn | Groom’s Attire | Spencer Stone | Vow Book | Wedding Story Writer

Introducing Our Pritchard Hill Collection

Pritchard Hill Wording

Our Pritchard Hill Collection was inspired by a Summer trip to the California wine country and our discovery of a lesser-known spot in Napa, Pritchard Hill.  Our collection features Pantone’s 2015 Color of the Year, Marsala, where deep brownish-red garnet abounds. Check out a few of the highlights below and then hop on over to the website to see the full collection here.

Interested to learn more about Pritchard Hill? (You definitely should be!) read our blog post about our incredible visit to one of the premier vineyards there. You won’t want to miss those photos!

Pritchard Hill Photo Grid

Upper left: Vineyard soil
Upper right: Marsala Earrings in Garnet
Lower left: Boon Fly Necklace
Lower right: Wine Pour

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Yountville Earrings in Garnet, Champagne Citrine and Labradorite

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Sea Ranch Necklace in Garnet & Citrine

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Petaluma Earrings in Garnet, Citrine and Pyrite

Introducing Our Carneros Collection

Carneros Collection

 

We are launching our latest collection, which was also inspired by a Summer trip to the California Wine Country. For our stay in Napa Valley, we were at the Carneros Inn, which is a serene property with accommodations that are both luxurious and comfortable at the same time. (Just writing about it has me aching to go back!) The muted orange tones and soft grey colors mixed together with stark white was the inspiration for this collection. Feel a bit of the relaxed sophistication of Napa each time you wear a piece. . . See some of our fav items below and then view the collection on our website here.

 

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Upper left: Domaine Carneros 
Upper right: Oceans Eight Bracelet in Moonstone
Lower left: Asheville Tassel Necklace
Lower right: Vineyards

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Oceans Eight Bracelet in Grey, Peach and White Moonstone E7121-PYR_blog

Oakville Earrings in Pyrite

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Yountville Necklace in Labradorite and Carnelian

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Petaluma Earrings in Labradorite, Carnelian and Pyrite N7845-BN&TQ_blog Asheville Tassel Necklace in Bone, Pyrite and Turquoise

The Blues of Bodega Bay

BodegaBayWording

On the Sonoma Coast of California sits the enchanting Bodega Bay where the sandy beaches are met with a beautiful rocky coastline. Tide pools abound, surfers congregate and whales can be spotted migrating through the area. This is the perfect place for a romantic getaway where you can relax on the beaches in the evening, listening to the waves crash, sipping the new wine you discovered during the day in Sonoma.

This collection was inspired by the wide spectrum of blue shades in Bodega Bay. From the coastal skies on a grey, overcast day to the clear blue sky on a bright, sunny day at the beach, luxurious London blue topaz and beautiful Swiss blue topaz abound. Like the Pacific ocean waves, seafoam-colored Peruvian opal splashes up against the shimmering grey of pyrite. Brushed gold vermeil and white freshwater pearls add a sophisticated coolness. Serenity is the overarching theme of this collection and upscale gemstones bring richness and a chic feel to the nature-inspired designs.

I hope that you love it as much as I do!

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Tasting at Ovid

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Living in San Francisco spoils you in many ways. Beautiful views at every glance, incredible food, abundant culture and proximity to fabulous vacation spots abound. One such spot is, of course, the wine country.

When we lived in SF, we could be in Sonoma in 45 minutes and Napa just a smidgen longer and we took advantage of that. . .a lot! When driving up for the day was as common as it was for us, we didn’t have to choose our vineyard visits and tastings very carefully – after all, we knew we could drive up again next weekend!

Now that we are back in Texas (and seriously missing those wine country visits!) we were so thrilled to take a trip back to Napa for a visit. Our friend turned 40 this year and his adorable wife planned the most incredible party for him at their ranch in the wine country. It was an absolute blast! (But I digress…)

Hubs and I decided to head up a few days early (our first trip sans kids – yikes!) and do a little wine tasting – and getting to know one another again. It’s amazing how much talking with one another we got done when we weren’t being interrupted by little voices the whole time! As you know, hubs is a major wine guy, so he planned all of the tastings. He loves research and during his reading, he asked me if there were any places that I wanted to visit. Well, hubs may be the wine guy, but I have a dear friend who is a sommelier (which is not an easily-earned title, let me tell you!)  See? I have connections, too! So, I emailed my friend Amy who recently founded the Bay Area Wine Company who gave me a few “not to be missed” tasting ideas, one of which was Ovid. Hubs was ecstatic, as that was one of the wineries on his list, so a phone call later, we were booked!

Ovid sits on Pritchard Hill and let me tell you, I wasn’t prepared for the fabulousness of this wine tasting experience. The surrounding beauty, the gorgeous facilities, the incredible wines and the lengthy two-on-one chat with our friendly hostess, Janet, a managing partner at the winery, were absolutely unparalleled. We had some great tasting experiences on our trip, but this was probably our very favorite.

Ovid makes only three wines and doesn’t even make each of those every single year. They create as the harvest allows and are committed to only using the best of the best in their wines, which means that some years, a particular wine doesn’t get made. Ovid grows four Bordeaux varietals:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot and farms them all organically. Varying proportions of each are used in their blends. You can read more about their wines on their lovely website here.

If you’re near Napa or planning a trip there soon, I highly recommend giving Ovid a call to see if they can fit you in. There is a waiting list for their wines, but we were able to purchase a few at our tasting on their beautiful property on Pritchard Hill. I’m positive that your palate will thank you!

For now, take a “mini tour” through our photos below. As you can see, they are committed to making each visitor feel special and literally set out the silver and crystal for us. We enjoyed such a nice, long chat with Janet and truly felt like we left as friends, having talked about wine, the changes in the California landscape, raising children and just about everything else in between! Did I mention that they sent us a handwritten thank you note after our visit? Astounding attention to detail, my friends. THAT is what great products are made from!

 

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When you first walk in, you’ll notice that your name is written on the Ovid chalkboard.
They’ve been expecting you and you’re an honored guest!

 

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So much so, that THIS is your lovely place setting.

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No attention to detail has been left to chance

 

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It is like a friend set the table beautifully, just for you.

 

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Sweet details

 

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Delicious bites!

 

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Thoughtful details.

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A lovely living-room-like setting for a tasting!

 

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(PS. I fell in LOVE with this glassware!)

 

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How lovely is THIS piece of furniture?

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Beautiful and meaningful – I wanted to open each one of these!

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A fire pit on the balcony

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Stunning views from the tasting room

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You can see so much of Napa Valley from up here!

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Lovely

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The valley

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Pretty sure I could sit here for hours and never tire of it!

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Ovid Vineyards…a must-visit!

An Answered Prayer

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I literally have chills on my arms and tears in my eyes as I write this blog post. A family is finally united. What a blessing. What a journey. What an answer to prayer! Our friends who have so patiently waited for a year and a half for their boy finally have him in their arms right here in the U.S.A. (For the background on this situation, please read my original post here.)

At times on the journey, especially in the past nine months, doubt seemed to be stronger than hope.  Darkness seemed to be hiding the light.  Pessimism reared its ugly head and threatened to snuff out trust.  (Really, isn’t every good work of literature set up that way?)  Deep down in my heart, I know that the Lord is in control and that He can be trusted, but my momma’s heart just broke for a friend who couldn’t hold her baby boy and have her family all together at home.   (more…)

Pantone Colors + Your Wardrobe


Yesterday, I wrote about the Pantone “Color of the Year” for 2014…the lovely radiant orchid.  Pantone has also release in its Fashion Color Report for Spring nine other colors in the palette that they have seen designers using for their Spring collections.  I really love the colors and am hoping to incorporate some more of these bright, breezy colors into my Spring wardrobe in a few pieces. (more…)