Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Happy Birthday to Mary Ashley

Last week we celebrated Mary Ashley's 12th birthday with what was supposed to be dinner but turned into late-night cake shared with the family after Christian's wrestling match.

This year, instead of a party, she has asked if we could give her room a makeover. So once wrestling season has ended for the boys, we will be tackling some redecorating projects to turn her room into a stylish haven perfect for a pre-teen.

Purple is Mary Ashley's color of choice these days, so I incorporated her favorite hue into our birthday tablescape.

This decisive girl knew she wanted chocolate cake with chocolate icing, and the more chocolate the better. We enjoyed celebrating her special day and look forward to continuing the festivities with a bedroom she can call home.

Happy birthday to our sweet Mary Ashley!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Words of Life: Bible Page Prints from Maria Watercolor

"I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds" (Psalm 77:12).

One of the sweet surprises of the new year has been corresponding with Maria Morris, the talented entrepreneur behind Maria WatercolorShe reached out recently to let me know that one of my photographs inspired her design for this Life Is Beautiful print, which highlights the first thought of Ecclesiastes 3:11: "He hath made every thing beautiful in his time." Isn't this a treasure?

Although her degree in commercial art has brought many opportunities for design work through the years, the artist says her passion has always been portrait painting. While living in Paraguay for eight years, she sold more than 150 watercolor portraits of common people, such as street vendors and open-air market ladies. Now back in the States and raising her children in Kansas City, Kansas, Maria started an Etsy shop that features portraits with both hand- and digitally painted details.

In researching the top-grossing vendors on the site, Maria discovered artwork combined with book pages. "I thought, why use the dictionary when the Bible is so much better?" she explains. "Not even knowing it was a great idea, I started overlaying my watercolors on Bible pages." This new venture has generated significant interest in her shop -- in fact, quadrupling business in a matter of months. "More importantly, I'm spreading the Word of God, who is my first and greatest love," she adds. Maria offers a variety of prints featuring passages from the Old and New Testaments, with the option to order custom florals highlighting a verse of choice. When browsing her shop, I immediately thought of Philippians 4:8, a key verse of inspiration for A Little Loveliness.

The artwork above -- a teacup brimming with a lush bouquet rendered in Maria's signature palette of vivid hues -- is the lovely result of our correspondence. She sent me a complimentary 8x10 print last week, and the colors look so rich on the textured watercolor paper. Once framed, this special keepsake will be displayed in a place of honor for years to come.

Another of my favorite verses, Jeremiah 29:11, is showcased in the design above. Wouldn't one of these prints make a wonderful gift? For birthday, anniversary, wedding or graduation, I can think of no sweeter gesture than a word of Scripture. And what an "apple of gold" for a friend who needs encouragement! One of Maria's clients ordered prints for her Bible-study group, but when the highlighted verse was mentioned during her daughter's bridesmaids brunch, she gave them to the wedding party instead. So now she is ordering more! I expect that many of us will be doing the same.

As for the verses she appreciates most, Maria turns to these two passages daily in her own life:

"That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight iweaknesses, iinsults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10). 

"I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13).

She maintains that the greatest blessing of this new professional endeavor is "just knowing that all my art experience, all my years teaching the Bible, and even all the hard times I've gone through are being channeled into these Bible Page prints, which are encouraging so many and bringing the Bible into homes in a fresh, lovely way."

For messages of love, joy and peace, I invite you to peruse Maria's shop! 

Photos from Maria Watercolors. Used with permission.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!

"Approach the New Year with resolve to find the opportunities hidden in each new day." ~ Michael Josephson

Wishing you a lovely New Year
brimming with grace, peace, joy and love!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas from the Lesters

Wishing you a lovely Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Thankful for Family

"Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life!" ~ Albert Einstein

One of the greatest treasures of our recent Thanksgiving celebration was this photograph capturing our family. We were determined to capture some images before the afternoon sunlight faded to dusk, and I am so glad my brother, Nathan, made it happen. I smile every time I look at this beautiful group. My, how we have grown!

My dad and his wife, Vicki, are so proud of this lovely gathering of grandchildren. I can hardly blame them, though. These kids are pretty amazing.

What a blessing to spend the holiday with my paternal grandparents. It is such a gift to have them with us still.

My Aunt Gail, shown here with Uncle Bill and all the cousins, has overcome significant health problems since last year and is still a blessing to us all. We look back on our time together over the Thanksgiving holiday with grateful hearts.

"When you look at your life, the greatest happinesses are family happinesses." ~ Joyce Brothers

Friday, December 11, 2015

Glimpses of Our Holiday Table

So once in every year we throng
Upon a day apart,
To praise the Lord with feast and song
In thankfulness of heart.
~ Arthur Guiterman

I hope you will indulge me in sharing Thanksgiving photos so close to Christmas. We were blessed to host my family for the holiday, and my brother, Nathan, captured some beautiful images of our time together. Unfortunately, by the end of our busy weekend, I was not feeling well. Two weeks (and a doctor's visit) later, I hope I am finally coming out of this illness. I am so ready to stop coughing! In any event, I cannot let the season pass without sharing these memories of our tablescape. My next post will share photos of the dear ones who joined our celebration!

Our dining table seats ten, and I could not wait to gather the adults in our dining room! My grandfather had a life-altering stroke in early spring, but he and my grandmother were able to join us, thanks to my dad transporting them to and from our house. That was definitely cause for celebration! 

Fresh Market offered a lovely array of tulips, a novel choice for our Thanksgiving arrangements. In my zeal to decorate, I arranged the stems too soon and wound up having to clip them short before the meal. Rummaging through cupboards, I found three identical jars perfect for filling with fresh cranberries and flowers.

This year I decided to use our Noritake Chandon wedding china, which looked lovely set against gold chargers.

We used my Mikasa Antique Lace crystal for the occasion and re-purposed four of the water goblets as vases for hydrangeas.

Votives floating atop handfuls of cranberries completed our setting.

White embroidered napkins added softness.

Although my original intention had been to make one floral centerpiece for the table, a series of low-lying arrangements looked lovely and allowed guests to converse easily.

Joining us at this year's festivities were my grandparents; my father and his wife, Vicki; my siblings, Jennifer and Nathan, and their families; and my Uncle Bill and Aunt Gail. We are so grateful that all could gather around our table.

My late mother, of course, was never far from our thoughts. She would have loved this gathering!

Still to come, a few more pictures from our celebration and the loved ones who make the time together worthwhile.

"Thanksgiving is nothing if not a glad and reverent lifting of the heart to God in honor and praise for His goodness." ~ Robert Casper Lintner

Photos by Nathan Prichard. Used with permission.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Our Trip to Neverland

"Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it." ~ J.M. Barrie

I had nearly given up hope that we would come up with a theme for Trunk or Treat that the whole family could agree on when, with days to spare, I tossed out one final idea. "Peter Pan?" I suggested tentatively, turning to Christian to ask if he would be willing to assume the lead role. Imagine my surprise when 16-year-old Carson immediately volunteered, adding that he would do it as long as I made his costume.

"You will?" I gasped with such delight that all the children laughed. This year brought two more surprises in the form of Joe, who agreed to join the fun as Captain Hook, and Carson's sweet girlfriend, Mallory, who was a darling Wendy Darling. Here are a few pictures of our Neverland crew, with quotes from Scottish playwright J.M. Barrie's classic story Peter Pan.

"Proud and insolent youth," said Hook, "prepare to meet thy doom."

"Dark and sinister man," Peter answered, "have at thee."

"The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it."

"To live will be an awfully big adventure."

"When the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies."

"I'm youth, I'm joy, I'm a little bird that has broken out of the egg."

"The boat drew nearer. It was the pirate dinghy, with three figures in her, Smee and Starkey, and the third a captive, no other than Tiger Lily. Her hands and ankles were tied, and she knew what was to be her fate. ... Yet her face was impassive; she was the daughter of a chief, she must die as a chief's daughter, it is enough."

"If you shut your eyes and are a lucky one, you may see at times a shapeless pool of lovely pale colours suspended in the darkness; then if you squeeze your eyes tighter, the pool begins to take shape, and the colours become so vivid that with another squeeze they must go on fire. But just before they go on fire you see the lagoon. This is the nearest you ever get to it on the mainland, just one heavenly moment; if there could be two moments you might see the surf and hear the mermaids singing."

"Wendy, Wendy, when you are sleeping in your silly bed you might be flying about with me saying funny things to the stars."

"Fairies have to be one thing or the other, because being so small they unfortunately have room for one feeling only at a time."

"I'll teach you how to jump on the wind's back, and then away we go."

"It is the nightly custom of every good mother after her children are asleep to rummage in their minds and put things straight for the next morning, repacking into their proper places the many articles that have wandered during the day."

"She also said she would give him a kiss if he liked, but Peter did not know what she meant, and he held out his hand expectantly."

"Young boys should never be sent to bed. They always wake up a day older, and then before you know it, they're grown."

"You just think lovely wonderful thoughts," Peter explained, "and they lift you up in the air."

"I say, Wendy," he whispered to her, "always if you see me forgetting you, just keep on saying 'I'm Wendy,' and then I'll remember."

"All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust."

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