Thursday, September 30, 2010

Announcing New Speaking Service

  •  Two friends and I have developed a speaking service to inspire women to reflect God's inviting grace in their homes and from their hearts.  We are calling this venture:  GRACIOUS  INTERIORS MINISTRY. 
  • PJ Duling has filled many roles in life, but none more uniquely and abundantly than that of mother.  Life has handed her numerous twists on the road of parenting:  mother, foster mother, single mother, stepmother, mother-in-law, and grandmother.  "Motherhood:  Compassion, Courage, Commitment" is a topic close to her heart.  Widowed at the age of thirty-five and a single parent for ten years, PJ takes God's charge to teach younger women seriously.  In an age of culturally-confused womanhood, she leads women's hearts back to Scripture, because she believes there you, too, can find strength to lovingly mother.
  • Janette Godfrey teaches ladies' Bible studies in her church and also speaks at women's events to inspire women to reflect our winsome Lord.  One of her studies, "Wings of Grace", leads women to recognize and receive God's confirming and consoling grace in their lives.  Another, "Cherished Friends" offers biblical principles and illustrations of how to become and make treasured friends.  Finally, "Manners by the Book", based on a curriculum Janette coauthored, conveys the biblical foundation and gives practical examples of good manners that moms will want to teach their children.
  • I am the third voice in the trio.  I enjoy demonstrating "Making a Joy-Full Home".  On a deeper note, because the Lord has met me in desperate situations, I have developed a series called "Meeting God at the Wailing Wall".  I love to encourage others using page-turning biblical stories of how the Lord met men and women of old at their "walls", answered their prayers, and sent them away rejoicing.

  • The three of us welcome invitations to speak at women's seminars, club meetings, spiritual retreats, or Bible studies.  Whether speaking singly, as a duo, or trio, we look forward to becoming your spiritual sisters, encouraging one another to mirror our wonderful Lord.

  • If you are interested in more information, leave a comment, and I will respond.  

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Picking up "Prickly Pears"

This afternoon, my husband and I spent a couple of hours raking and bagging spiky chestnut shells. We filled eight bags of the needle-sharp, quill-spiked burrs.
 I like to call these porcupine-like balls evidence of creation's curse.   

As I raked, I thought of several life-lessons these spiky devils teach. 

Just as the shady lawn beneath a beautiful tree is impossible to traverse unless the prickly burrs are removed, so a full life can be over-shadowed by cutting attitudes unless they are swept up and cast out. 

Encased in a barnacled outer-shell is food for squirrels, but the nut must be removed from the needles before it is edible. If I want my life to nourish those around me, I must remove my prickly exterior.
Sharp quills left to rot can hurt bare, tender feet months later. If I let bitterness, anger, judgmental-ism rot in the yard of my heart, it is bound to wound sensitive souls later.
Coaxing the prickly pods out from entangling grass gave me blisters. Likewise, I can expect some pain when the harmful, needling ways entrenched in my personality are being removed.

The chestnut "porcupines" only drop one at a time, but in a few short weeks they produce a harvest of treacherous, harmful remains. A hurtful word here, an unkind reaction there...and before I know it I will have left a trail of broken relationships.
As we finished for the day, I looked up.  Many more spiky burrs are still to fall.

A single clean-up session will not be sufficient to rid the area of the needle-pods. Similarly, hurtful habits aren't broken overnight; rather positive patterns require many repetitions before they become habitual.

Such pondering led me to ask myself, "What prickles do I need to rake up in my life's yard?  Am I willing to do the work to clear my personality of hurtful needles?"

It reminds me of these verses in Colossians 3:8-10:  "But now you must rid yourselves of...anger, rage, malice, slander, and any filthy language...since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which the image of its Creator."

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Cozying-Up a Home

A little design, some serious labor, and ample landscaping can cozy-up a residence in a relatively new neighborhood as my son-in-law's and daughter's home illustrates.
When our daughter and her husband bought their home a few years ago, it was just several years old.  However, it had already been given a major face-lift from the previous owners. In its first life, the cedar-shake house looked like this:
 The owners transformed the front.  
The new front porch welcomes visitors to the home.

 More landscaping, particularly in the backyard, also improved the property. The first summer my son-in-law and daughter were in the home, they had a wrought iron fence installed around the backyard to contain their golden-doodle.
Then they placed planters around the patio.
Still not satisfied, the next spring my daughter achieved height in the planters by incorporating wrought iron pyramids.
 To cover a bare electric box, they also added leather-leaf viburnum, lime-light hydrangeas, and roses in a back corner.

This summer she painted the Adirondack chairs black.

 A market umbrella also made table settings more intimate.
 Most recently, they had three red bud trees planted. 

Finally, to fill the only empty corner of the backyard,
a series of Spartan junipers will provide privacy as they grow.

Now, the home enfolds you from front to back.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Autumn's Bounty

One of my favorite things about the Fall are the colorful gourds, pumpkins, Indian corn, and mums. Here's how the season looks at my house:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Outrage over Gang Rapes in DR Congo

Because the heart of the cross is redeeming justice, this former news reporter's conscience forces me to depart in this post from Gracious Interiors' normally pleasant topics. Instead, I want to motivate women to take action on an international news story they might have missed while they were vacationing.

In late August, world headlines reported:

UN investigates claims of mass rape by DR Congo rebels

This sexual violence took place from July 30 to August 3 in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
On September 3, International Medical Corps' regional coordinator, Miel Hendrickson, reported that their team has treated nearly 250 women who were raped in front of their husbands and children by groups of from two to six men. 
A week later, the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief (an international association of fourteen social justice organizations) claimed the number of rapes now stands at over 500, including 28 perpetrated on children.

Such horror calls for more than private sorrow; we must flood the United Nations with pleas to do more than offer strongly worded statements of condemnation.
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has made combating sexual violence a major theme of his tenure.  

The statistics in the DRC are horrendous. According to Voice of America News, about 15,000 women, children, boys and men are raped in the country each year. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) reported more than 9,000 cases of rape last year in North and South Kivu provinces alone.

Ironically, the government of the DRC touts the fact that over the past fifteen years, they have reduced rapes from 42 a day to 14 a day. However, sexual violence is used as a weapon-of-war by all sides--FDLR rebels, the Mai Mai militia, and members of the Congolese army.

In fact, the Voice of America News reported on Thursday that "in a recent study carried out by OXFAM in North and South Kivu," it was found that elements of the Congolese army were "identified by the communities as the number one perpetrator of sexual violence."

 Democratic Republic of Congo flag
Undeniably, the government of the DRC is responsible to bring all perpetrators to justice. However, international organizations must also apply pressure. 

In this case, the UN is not without a measure of complicity. The UN peacekeeping force in the Congo at first claimed they learned of the rapes on August 12, but an internal e-mail alert sent from the UN Department of Safety and Security was sent to UN staff members on July 30, the day the rapes began, warning them "to stay away from the area."

Inner City Press, a watchdog agency covering the United Nations, reported that peacekeepers in fact, decided to "head away from the village with their patrol."

More damning yet, another United Nations officer told The New York Times that a subsequent fact-finding UN team heard from witnesses that peacekeepers had been in the area on August 2, while the rapes were still taking place.

The UN official in the DRC charged with the UN's Organization for Stabilization mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) is Roger Meece, former US ambassador to Kinshasa.  Meece just assumed the MONUSCO leadership in early June.

When he was asked why Margot Wallström, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict, was not told of the mass rapes for ten days until August 21 or 22, when they were known in the international press by at least August 12, he indicated that she was in Europe at the time.
Subsequently, Wallström strongly stated that these recent events “affirm that sexual violence should never again be dismissed as random, cultural, or inevitable” pointing out that in this case “systematic rape was planned, and therefore preventable.”

She put on notice political and military leaders of the armed groups responsible for the rapes informing them that the issue of sexual violence is being elevated on the agendas of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Security Council, and that “acts of widespread and systematic sexual violence can constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

However, actions must accompany words.  Those who are concerned about international justice should write the UN to urge serious consequences for the e-mail's author and for those UN officials charged with peacekeeping-oversight when these horrors were committed.  If we aren't serious about demanding punishment for failure to prevent such atrocities, how can we expect the DRC leaders to bring consequential, forceful legal action against perpetrators?

Office of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
United Nations
760 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017

To tangibly help with medical treatment for victims, support non-government agencies such as:  
International Medical Corps 
1919 Santa Monica Blvd.Suite 400
Santa Monica, CA 90404

or give to an evangelical mission working in Congo: 
Congo Relief Fund, Project 91025.

(For a vivid presentation "France 24 presents "Rape in Congo", the first-of-its-kind interactive documentary designed exclusively for the Apple iPad".  Simply download-- "Rape in Congo: Violated Peace.")

Ignoring such crimes is not an option. The UN must be pressured by citizens of the world to do more than issue statements; they must feel international outrage so they will take forceful action.

God explicitly tells us what is good and what he requires:  "To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8).

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Lancaster's Storybook Houses

I thought you might enjoy a tour of Lancaster, Pennsylvania's historic domestic architecture. Across the county's farmland are stone farmhouses dating back to the seventeen hundreds. 
The Hans Herr house built in 1719 is the oldest homestead in Lancaster County.
In the city, colonial brick row homes line the sidewalks revealing a variety of door surrounds, rippled glass windows with paneled shutters on the ground floor for safety and louvered shutters on the second floor for ventilation.
These 18th century buildings belong to artist Charles Demuth's family for five generation.

As you move out from the center of Lancaster, two older neighborhoods are particularly charming.

Still within city limits is School Lane Hills, mostly built in the eighteen hundreds and early nineteen hundreds. Former President James Buchanan's home, Wheatland, crowns this neighborhood.
Wheatland was built in 1828.
In this post, we will explore the second lovely area, Eshelman Road, which sits just north of city limits in Manheim Township near the Lancaster Country Club. 

Leaving the city, after you pass the country club on New Holland Pike, you can see two particularly charming houses. They are especially endearing, because of the story behind them.

Formerly, a house separated these properties. However, a few years ago, when that home came up for sale, sisters purchased and tore down the intruder so their properties would adjoin. How heartwarming to hear of sisters who get along so well, they choose to live side-by-side! One sister lives in a classic, white, two-story colonial.
Next door is her sister's quaint Tudor. 
Once you pass this family compound, you must turn onto Eshelman Road to enter the main part of the neighborhood. The private street fans out along the fairways passing a number of what I call "storybook-houses" which look like they came out of a Tasha Tudor picture book.

Part way up the street, before it forks left and right, stone "cottages" sit among the trees.
 An American federal sits high on one hillside, resplendent above its manicured gardens.
 When the road divides, some lovely French-styled homes come into view.

 My favorite home is on the left fork, at the apex of the hill.  I love the ivy covered stone, the pitch of the slate roof, and the round-top window to the left of the front door.
To the right of the house, two gazebos linked by a pergola add to the charm.

A stone carriage house on the left completes the picture.
 From the back, the lawn sweeps up to the house providing plenty of breathing room for the owners.
Another treasure in the set is perhaps the most interesting home on Eshelman Road, a modern take on a New England saltbox.

Dubbed "the telescope house", this architectural gem must be viewed from two sides to be appreciated.

Notice the glass between the sections? Those glass peepholes always lead me to wonder what human dynamics transpire inside the walls.

Actually, every home has a story behind the front door; some stories have happy endings, others tragic. What makes the difference?  I believe happiness comes from the choices we make. What or who we decide to serve. Do we live for our property?  Our fortune?  Ourselves?

In a happy home, each person serves the other.  Furthermore, because life involves sickness and sadness, the characters must choose to live with an underpinning of hope in God's grace and trust in His love.

For a truly happy, eternal ending to our life-story we must do as Joshua advised before his death:  "Choose you this day whom you will serve...But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15).