Diana: In Pregnancy & Painting

I pulled up to the quaint, white house where every window was decorated in green wreaths and red bows. Diana met me at the door with a big hug and led me into the kitchen where she was baking gluten-free muffins. Diana has a glow about her and, it’s not just because she’s pregnant. Everywhere she goes, she carries a welcoming presence with her. I met Diana through a mutual friend, but we’ve only had short exchanges in passing at church, so I was excited to spend time with her. She poured me a mug of coffee, and we started sharing our stories.

As she sat there pregnant with her first baby, Diana recounted the ways God had been faithful in her life. Originally from Canada, Diana spent 5 years teaching in Haiti (during the earthquake). In Haiti she met her best friend, Sarah (our mutual friend). After her time in Haiti, Diana moved to Kansas City where she married Sarah’s husband’s best friend (best friends married best friends--isn’t that perfect?) Now Diana serves the Kansas City community in several ways including advocating for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), where she meets with a local family regularly and represents the foster siblings in court.

I asked Diana about what she’s learned being pregnant. She responded, “I’m in awe of who God is through all of this. There is a baby growing inside of me right now. He really is a creator and invites us to create with Him.” As she shared about the beautiful reality of pregnancy, I couldn’t help but notice Diana repeating the phrase “in awe.” It’s true--this human experience exudes a supernatural beauty within us. Diana reflected on the many joys of pregnancy including the comfort in having a good friend as her doctor, but the idea of labor itself feels daunting. All the unknowns flooded her mind: “What will it feel like?” “Will there be complications?” “Can I do I really do it naturally?” Even in the uncertainty, I see how Diana firmly holds her trust in the Lord’s good character. She reminds herself of truth by memorizing scripture for the times she feels doubt or fear.

Later, we walked upstairs where Diana showed me the baby’s nursery. The winter sun seeped into the room through the big window which highlighted the clean, white walls. Everything in the room felt illuminated. In front of the window, where the the baby crib sits, is the space Diana once claimed for painting. This room is where she’d stare out at the colorful magnolia tree in their front yard and paint snippets of God’s beauty on paper. Now, Diana gladly uses the kitchen as a makeshift area to do her painting, but she still enjoys making gifts for friends and strangers from all over the world through Etsy.

Diana shares her love of painting on Etsy as Open Window Papery. The name of her business reflects that very window in her room where she found inspiration in creating art. It also encompasses the open posture she holds towards God and the beautiful world He leads us to discover. This openness is how Diana receives inspiration to demonstrate and reflect God's beauty through art. In a world full of branding, social media promotion, and making everything big, Diana stays grounded in her business by keeping it simple. She doesn’t get wrapped up in the pressures of business that suffocate her passion but is content using her gifts in the ways she feels called. I admire her desire for authenticity and am glad she shares her talent with us.

During this Advent season, Diana waits in hopeful anticipation for her own baby to arrive. It’s evident how God has used this season of growing life to draw her closer to Himself. I love that Diana doesn’t ignore the fears that the unknown brings but rather embraces them with the truth of God, which keeps her grounded in the midst of change. Diana holds her heart wide open not just when she paints, but as she boldly steps into all that God has in store for her and her new family. That’s flourishing. And just as God has been faithful in and out of every season of Diana’s life, I believe that He will also be faithful as she confidently approaches the gift and uncertainty of motherhood.

 

Created by Diana McLarren with Open Window Papery. Diana is currently on a hiatus while she prepares for her baby to arrive (any day now!) but you can still connect with her on her Etsy shop here and look for updates this spring! 

 

Melanie: Hospitality

When I think about hospitality, Melanie comes to mind.

She is the first to offer her house for a gathering and all the goodies that comes with it. She won't ask you to bring anything and won't ask for anything in return. Gluten-free baked goods are my love language and Melanie makes sure I have my share at every event. At Melanie's house, I've tasted things like devonshire cream (I don't even know what that is) and cranberry scones like I've never had them before.  I first met Melanie when a group of women from our church started meeting regularly for a book study. Melanie spoiled us with her open home, secret tea recipes, and delectable desserts.

I recently went over to Melanie's house to bake with her. By the time I got there, she already had a handle on the homemade cookies, so I picked up the recipe for the gluten- free chocolate chip pumpkin muffins and got started. While cracking eggs into a bowl (and fishing out the egg shells), I asked her what she loves most about baking. I think it dawned on Melanie for the first time as she reflected on the question, "It's not baking in itself that I enjoy necessarily, it's who I am baking for."

It's true. Melanie wouldn't just hand you a plate of cookies by itself, her contagious smile and laughter are offered with it. Melanie reaps joy from hospitality--- that's when I see her most come to life.

Melanie also shares her heart and talents with a Christian women's shelter in Kansas City. The women living at the shelter there are recovering from substance abuse and other unfortunate circumstances while they rebuild their lives and their faith. For 3 years, Melanie has taken dinner twice a month to the shelter. She even schedules special events for our group of women to serve with her there. A few months ago, she planned a tea party for us to help with---full of tiny cookies, tarts, chocolate covered strawberries, and tea. We all sat at the table together with the residents, sipping on tea and feeling fancy. Her reasoning? "Every woman deserves to attend a tea party," Melanie replied. I felt like I was watching Melanie in her element: sharing homemade baked goods and the love of Jesus with other women. That combination sounds like a super power if you ask me.

While the muffins baked in the oven, Melanie and I sat at the table and took in the aroma. I asked her why she's so inviting and hospitable to our group of women, hosting and feeding us without expecting anything in return. She responded, "I remember what it was like to be newly married and with kids. It's a busy and overwhelming time of life. For those who don't have family in town, who else is going to spoil them?" 

I asked Melanie how she would encourage women in my stage of life, she replied:

"I would remind you that you are enough....we spend so much of our lives being hard on ourselves, never feeling like what we do is enough. We always think someone else is doing better and we're not where we're supposed to be. You are enough." 

Melanie's gift of hospitality reflects the generosity of Jesus. I see it in opening up her home, welcoming us to the table, and inviting us to serve beside her. It's not just her baking abilities that amaze me, but the joy I see in her face when she's using them to love and serve other people. 

Thanks for flourishing, Melanie---from all of us.