Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Beauty



I can feel it in the air this time of year....
the need to freshen things up a bit.
Since we don't have winter and we don't have spring here in Ghana, it seems a bit odd that I'd feel the changing of the seasons so, but I do.
Maybe it's a result of my childhood, but maybe it's something else that can't be seen, just felt.




Easter is past and the decorations are down.
Spring break is a memory and school has slowly started up again.
I feel the desire, no, the necessity to freshen up some corners.
I'm compelled to add beauty.
There is a constant internal push to make our home more......
not more perfect,
not more fancy,
not more impressive,
simply more of what it can be.



I have no redecorating budget.
I have no Target to do a "weekend refresh".
No HGTV to give me ideas of all the latest and greatest things "every home needs" or so they say.
We simply go hunting through our house.
We pull out vases and old glass jars.
We grab scissors and head out to find interesting living things to put in them.






The girls get out the watercolors, and we paint while the lights are out.
We enjoy creating together, even if it's only creating a mess!

I drag out the sewing machine and the black linen towels I bought a year ago.
I dig for the craft paint and the stencils.
I start tackling the list of DIY's that have been floating around in my head for months.

I work hard at having fun in the process.
I must endeavor not to let my perfectionism stop me.
So baby grabbed the wet paint and smeared it a little?
Life goes on. It still looks cute!
Some of my lines smudged a bit when I was painting, should I trash it?
No way!
It looks homemade.
That's okay, too, because my home {and my life} are about so much more than appearances.




I'm learning right now {and hopefully teaching my girls at the same time}, that making beautiful things is an important, fulfilling, amazing blessing from our Creator God.
He is the only One who can make something from nothing, and He gives us the ability to imagine and dream, and then to make.
He's given us eyes to experience color;
ears that revel in the music of life around us;
hands that can sew or paint or draw or cook or serve or do innumerable things;
minds that can learn new skills and bodies that can then apply that knowledge.

He allows us to choose comeliness for ourselves, enhancing the virtue that comes from our Treasure hidden in earthly vessels.
He desires us to curate attractive homes that shine with the light of love.
He commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves and build Christ-honoring community.
He gifts us with the opportunity to bring artistry, order, and truth into an ugly, chaotic, sinful world.



Looking at it this way, I realize that all of this is about much more than a vague, seasonal urge.
This desire for beauty is a calling from Him.
It is another one of the million ways that Christ works in our hearts.
He never stops the wooing, this One who is Beauty, and He lets me find joy in the process.

* The stenciled pillows were Martha's idea, and the no-sew pillow cover idea was found here.
Carey and Ella are holding their finished bags from our vacation. 


Monday, March 30, 2015

For the Days When You Just Need a Vacation.....




After driving around the outskirts of our overflowing city, we head for the bush.
As the road winds and twists, up hill and down, I can feel the tension slowly leaving my body.
We are headed for a bit of a much-needed holiday.
A handful of days to be spent enjoying creation and our Creator and each other.





We've planned, and saved, and dreamed of this day for months now.
Our work here is fulfilling and rewarding, but everyone needs a sabbath from time to time.
It is time for ours.







We reach the turn-off road, but it's not really much more than a two-track.
Our little car is surprisingly resilient, but after the rains last week, this road with this car may not be doable.
We decide to try ~ just 5 km to the guesthouse.
How bad can they be?






We soon realize that we're going to need to lighten the load a bit to make it through some of the rougher places.
The girls and I jump out of the car to walk and direct John over the places where the road is mostly not a road any more.
The hush and heat of the surrounding vegetation settles on us like a wet blanket.
 From time to time we meet villagers on their way to somewhere else, most with a funny smile on their faces as they see the bronis walking because their car is too small.
Birds flit over head, giant centipedes cross our path, and rustling in the undergrowth make us wonder what might be spying on us.




We pass through a few villages, greet the elders sitting by the roadside, and start an impromptu parade of giggling school children who quickly emptied their desks to come follow the white people.
We arrive at our destination soaking wet with sweat and happy.
A step through the bamboo gate, and we have arrived.



The crater lake is shining at the bottom of the hill, begging us to jump in.
We head for our mud-brick bungalows, each a cool and welcoming retreat from the sun.
Simple, clean, colorful, cheerfully decorated by the artist-owner.
A treat for the eyes.







We spend our days exploring, hunting, playing, eating, splashing, resting....
a stone beach crawling with scarlet and black caterpillars that *need* to be caught and put in the rocky castle built just for them {or so I was told by my bug-loving 3 year old!}...
the neighboring cocoa farm skirted with dry leaves and burgeoning with ripening cocoa pods...
fried fish that an hour before were swimming in the lake...
our food for the next two days growing everywhere we look...
skipping rocks, and plunking stones, and soaking ourselves whenever the inspiration hits.




We have some big plans, too, to go along with our quiet ones.
A very first time horseback ride for the big girls.
An hour of learning about and reveling in the beauty of these amazing beasts that carry us far around the shore.
The feel of sitting up high in the sky and swaying back and forth over the beach grass.










We take time for art, too.
Time to learn something new, just because we can.
An experience that fills our mind with imaginings, the possibilities of what we can do with our new found skill.






The artist-owner teaches us about traditional African batik ~ the art of creating intricate patterns with wax and dye.
The girls learn how to use the hot wax, back and forth, print by print, they are creating a detailed pattern that will only be completely revealed at the end.
It's trickier than it looks, but soon the intimidation fades and they begin enjoying the process.






Batik is not a quick form of art ~
a layer of wax,
followed by a layer of dye,
another layer of wax,
then another layer of dye.
They also must decide if they want to use the stamp, the sponge, or the Indonesian wax pen.
And then, how much is enough?





Each layer of design is followed by a layer of time.
The colors must set completely before they can be added to.
It's enough time to run back down to the lake and cool off, or maybe a few minutes to grab nature journals and go "sploring", as Lili puts it.






After allowing the dyes to dry over night it is time to see what's been created.
A hot water bath followed by a cold water bath.
Back and forth between the two pots until all the wax has melted away and their designs can clearly be seen.
Another few hours drying time, and they're done.
A useful treasure to be proud of ~ a memory maker and keeper from our time here.












We enjoy silvery mornings as the sun slowly rises above the surrounding hills,
eternal afternoons splashing in the waves,
long walks along the pebbly shore,
and hushed evenings around lantern light and campfire.










We play games,
and sit,
and breathe,
and discuss,
and love,
and try to gather up all the blessing that is these moments.
Hushed.
Holy.
Together.
A sabbath for our souls.




*We were privileged to visit Lake Bosumtwe as a family last week.
We stayed at Cocoa Village Guest House {which had NO mosquitoes!!!!!}, and rode horses with Elodie at the Green Ranch.
This is the best holiday we've taken as a family since coming to Ghana almost 12 years ago ~ much to be thankful for!