Friday, April 27, 2012

The Courtney Chronicles {Meet the Cats}

It's been a long time since I posted the first video in The Courtney Chronicles.

More than 7 months, in fact.

So maybe it's time for another one?  Yes.  I think it is.

As I was going through photos and videos from my recent trip, I came across these videos of the cats I filmed earlier this month and thought you might find them humorous.  Because, yes, our cats really do walk on leashes.

Happy Friday, Friends!

{Note:  If you are reading this post in a feed reader or via email, you may need to visit the blog directly to access the videos.}

Annabelle Cat Goes for a Walk:

Buddy Cat Goes for a Walk:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

When Hope Is In Bloom

See how the lilies of the field grow.  They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all of his splendor was dressed like one of these.

If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
{Matthew 6:28-30}

While I'm catching up and resting up from my travels, I thought maybe you'd like to see all these beauty blooms from the RoozenGaarde Display Gardens during the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.  If you haven't had your fill of flowers yet, you can view the whole set of photos here.

And as you soak in all this loveliness, may you remember that *you* are His most glorious masterpiece of all.

Monday, April 16, 2012

How A Cup of Tea Can Warm the Soul

Last month I put together a ladies' tea for a few of my friends and I thought perhaps you'd like to catch a glimpse of all the joy we shared that afternoon?  Many thanks to my friend Krista of Krista Lea Photography for all these happy photos--I should have grabbed the camera and snagged a picture of her lovely face for you!

{This is my mom and me}

And yes, a cup of tea between friends, it really does warm the soul.

Giving thanks this week for these...

1447.  Hearing bird songs loud when I first wake up
1448.  Peeking out the window to see one lone bird perched on the tip of the neighbor's roof
1449.  Me unable to tear myself away from this window, this bird song, this hope
1450.  Him restoring my joy day by day, after all the hard losses
1451.  Reading about Frodo and friends before sleep
1452.  Getting so lost in the story that I miss bedtime entirely
1453.  Those recipe-laden magazines that find their way into my shopping cart
1454.  Happy inspiration for baking and cooking filling every page
1455.  That faint half of a moon still high in the sky at 8 am
1456.  Day's first light landing on snow-covered mountain
1457.  Long-overdue date with a friend
1458.  Her 20-week baby bump and her radiant smile
1459.  Us making plans for the dress I'm dreaming of
1460.  Postcard in the mail--from Italy!
1461.  This friend across the world, writing Grace into my life
1462.  A family who gives Grace when dinner plans fail
1463.  Sketching out ideas for an art project in the works
1464.  Saying "yes" to the idea, even when it's 8 feet tall and 6 feet wide
1465.  One more bottle of hope in hand
1466.  The bitter taste as I swallow it down.  Because sometimes hope is hard and we have to choose it anyway.
1467.  Another Saturday afternoon spent reading in the sun
1468.  Cat flopped in the grass, all these birds talking up a storm
1469.  Dad and I leaving the house early, driving long to see fields of tulips
1470.  Clouds lightening, breaking up as we drive North
1471.  That country song on the radio, making us laugh and roll our eyes
1472.  One hour of perfect light in the garden, all this beauty still awakening
1473.  Air heavy with the scent of hyacinths in full bloom
1474.  Rivers of muscari running in the midst of tulips and daffodils
1475.  All this beauty of His covering the ground, us here to breath it deep
1476.  God Who fills up the whole earth with His Glory

{PS--I'm unplugging for a week, taking a much-anticipated trip to rest, reconnect, and create.  I'll be back next week to share photos from my recent visit to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival!  May you feel God near and strong on whatever journey He is taking you, Dear Friends}

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

When You Want To Wear Redemption On Your Sleeve

I slip into
the favorite sweater
with all those
stripes of color
radiating light--
the one I've loved
for long years

I remember how I
used to wear it
to cover up the sadness
and distract all the eyes
from this broken-souled
girl beneath

But I've changed, grown,
healed in ways I
can't even articulate,
and somehow this sweater's
become a silent covenant
between a woman
and her God

Because I wear it now
to remind of what I know--
that life is beautiful
and full of Him,
even on the hardest,
darkest days

And there's
no more need
to cover up
anything at all,
except in the shelter
of Redemptive Grace

{I penned this poem a few weeks ago and it seemed fitting to share it here in this week following the celebration of the Resurrected Christ, our source of Redemptive Grace}

Giving thanks this week for these gifts from His Hand...

1418.  Cutting off the curls again, not afraid to change
1419.  Everyone noticing the cutting
1420.  Surprise envelop in the mail from my kindred spirit in Texas
1421.  That tiny, beautiful handwriting of hers, speaking love and hope right into my soul
1422.  Tea bags tucked inside, friendship across the miles
1423.  And that verse-engraved bookmark, lyrics for a life
1424.  The way she knows my heart , even when we've never met
1425.  Saturday afternoon full of cats on leashes and books read in the sun
1426.  Easter morning dawning with clear skies
1427.  Roast in the oven, happy smells filling the house
1428.  Me making deviled eggs while still in pajamas
1429.  Us all sitting down to dinner, too much good food on the table
1430.  White chocolate bunny that hops into my brother's shopping basket, finds its way to me
1431.  Cat wandering the house with bunny ears perched on her back
1432.  Feeling the joy of Him way down deep on this Resurrection Day
1433.  The Resurrected Christ.  Yes.  Always Him.
1434.  Long talk with the doctor who's leading
1435.  Me finally saying what needs to be said, asking the hard questions
1436.  Making sense of this long road and choosing to walk it still
1437.  Fourth day of sun in a row
1438.  Driving with the sun roof open and the windows down and, yes, the music loud
1439.  The way this day feels more like summer than spring
1440.  Whole afternoon of sitting outside beside the sister of my heart
1441.  Chai frappaccino in hand, joy in a cup
1442.  April sun leaving its mark on my skin
1443.  Me laughing sheepish when I see it in the mirror
1444.  Looking back over a week that's been hard and finding there's too much joy to count
1445.  God Who pours out Grace, pours out Himself when the heart needs filling
1446.  Hope.  Yes.  This.

Friday, April 6, 2012

When You've Been Laid Low

It's the first day of April when God brings me a bouquet of flowers.

It begins with a man gathering snippets of Spring from his garden, carrying them to church for the woman I call my second mama.  But my second mama is home sick and these tiny blossoms find their way to another woman's hand, keep her company while we sing loud praise and listen long for His Word.

And it's after everyone's gone and I'm wandering around picking and straightening and turning everything right around--that's when I see this bouquet in a Styrofoam cup, still here on a table, no one near to marvel at it's beauty.

I'm the fragrance-starved woman who always buries her face in the blooms and I can't resist gathering up these tiny pieces of Spring and breathing them in.  And I'm giddy with wonder when I realize why the Grape Hyacinth's been named.

How could I not know?

All these years and all these blooms and have I always just rushed right past, never stopped to discover the fragrance of this one flower?

But maybe it's just this--maybe I've never laid myself down on the wet ground of Spring, made myself small enough to see and smell and know what hides in the tiniest of stems.

I can't bear to leave the beauty behind, so I carry this bouquet home in a cup, keep it close at hand, close enough to breathe.  And it's not long before I know this gift's come straight from Him, God courting this heart of mine with whimsy and patience and love.

Because the Holy Week dawns with warm sun and wide skies, but the losses keep coming and I keep breaking and that bottle full of hope?   It feels more like a bottle full of empty promises, a bottle full of hope that's been deferred for the millionth time.

And yes.  Hope deferred, it really does make the heart sick.

But I keep burying my face in the fragrance of Spring, pondering what it means to be laid low.  Because being laid low, sometimes it feels like being pushed right down in the mud of a life, all that grief and struggle smeared up and down, the stench of loss permeating every fiber.

Yet I can't help but wonder if maybe it's this instead--God laying us down, making us small enough to see Who He really is, letting us find the fragrance of His Love in all the places we've rushed right past.

So the week wears on and I dread the coming of the Friday someone's named Good.  Because I'm not the woman who needs to be reminded of all that grief.  No, I was born into grief and it's rooted deep and it's always a fight to remember the Grace over the Grief--and why do we have to call this day Good?

But He's patient and He's persistent and He doesn't rest until I see what's happening here--God laying low His own Son, making Him small enough to be one of us, because it's the only way for the fragrance of His Love to permeate the whole earth.

And, oh, there's grief in remembering what it cost Him to love us, but isn't it the Grace of His sacrifice that names this day Good?  Isn't it He Who names the laying low Good?

I remember those words I penned on a warm day in October, Him teaching me what hope really means.
It's the laying down of all that we are and all the we have, burying it deep in the soil of the One Who Loves, and waiting in expectation for His Life to emerge within us--this is hope.

And how could I have forgotten what He told me then about the Friday named Good?  That Hope was right there all along and it's not the Grief that needs remembering but the Grace?
Hope holds itself against a cross when the whole world thinks the story's over.  Hope lets go of the last breath of life while the enemy's taunt still rings out.  Hope lets Love bury it in the darkness and waits patiently, expectantly for God to show up.

Today's the day we're remembering those hours of darkness when the Father wept and the Son bled and all of His Beloveds felt thrown down in the mud of a broken life.  But Hope never wavered, kept beating strong through the night, and it wasn't long before His Love poured out on all the ones laid low.

On the Son first and then His Beloveds and now us.

If it's the being laid low that lets us see and smell and know this Love He Is, then maybe there's no muddy stench here at all.  Only Grace and Gift and Good.

And God.

So He's laid me low and I've laid my hope down and maybe I don't know what's coming from all this.  But I do know this:

He lives.

And that's enough to heal us all.

May you know this Hope Who Lives more deeply and surely than ever before as you celebrate this Easter weekend