do what you can.

{well, it was not my intention to be gone from this space for five months, but sometimes quiet is a necessity. funny that the last post is about retreat. I was definitely doing quite a bit of that.}

Fruit salad.

Not just any fruit salad. No, this one had nine different fruits in it. As we devoured it, part of the joy was discovering a new one in each bite, but primarily the warm glow surrounding the table wasn’t due to the gift, but the giver. You see, it was shared at church one evening how our little family had struggled a long time with under-employment. Gathered in the room that night for prayer was a kind, white-haired widow named Irene Margaret Lanser. She was moved that night to help in some way. And I thank God for placing her on my doorstep just a few days later.

Chris and I were both home when the doorbell rang. She carried a large tub of fruit salad and some other treats. Thankfully, I put aside whatever nonsense we were doing at the time and asked her to stay for a cup of tea. We were given the gift of listening to her story. To the many ways God had worked in her life. How grace had been extravagant and enough. As she stood to leave many hours later, I thanked her for the fruit salad. She said she knew it wasn’t a lot, but she was doing what she could.

Do what you can. Make fruit salad. For goodness sake, pray. Visit folks. Care for kids.  Extend grace. Make tea. Love your dear dying dog. Greet your church family even when you are weak.

I will miss you, Miss Irene. Margaret. You were a lovely woman who was willing to bare her heart and show me Jesus.

You can find Irene Margaret Lanser’s obituary here.

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retreat.

retreat
 noun re·treat \ri-ˈtrēt\
1 : an act or process of withdrawing especially from what 
is  difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable
2: a place of privacy or safety : refuge
3: a period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study, or 
instruction under a director

My weekend was spent enjoying the fullness of this word: retreat. Nancy Guthrie, along with more than 150 women from 40 churches other than our own joined more than 150 women from CEFC on Friday for a very moving, inspiring, refreshing and worshipful evening. The title of Nancy’s talk that night was “When God Says No.” We have all experienced, in some form or fashion, God telling us No to a repeated request. Maybe it is little. Or maybe it is very big.  But the answer has still been, at times, no. But Nancy reminded  us that when God says no, we find comfort in knowing that Jesus understands (fully man and fully God). We find companionship in drawing close to Jesus (he came close to draw us close!). We find confidence trusting in God’s goodness. (God did, in fact, say no to Jesus in the garden so that he could say yes to you and me for all eternity!). We are so very loved by the One True God! My scribbled notes from the evening end with this: Satisfying and sustaining you as you endure…ask him to use my weakness to put his power on display.

I have always been acutely aware of my weakness. A cry baby. Nervous nelly. Insecure. Unsure. People pleaser. But Nancy reminded me that my awareness of my weakness, ahem, my sin, is what can make me strong! I am able to fully lay it at his feet and let his power be made evident in this very weak vessel. I used to say I reveled in my geekiness. Well, no, now I will revel in my weakness as I glory in my Redeemer!

Oh, I don’t think I can summarize all that was Saturday here and now…I will save that for tomorrow. But, man. I am so thankful for where I am right now. To be surrounded by women seeking to know Jesus more deeply. To love one another truthfully and honestly. For women who teach the Bible like nobody’s business. Dig deep, layer after layer, revealing Jesus, revealing God’s promises, his hope, his love, unfailing, undeserved, unending.

normal.

I read an interesting article today in the NYTimes. Simply titled, Medicating Women’s Feelings, I was interested and bookmarked it to read later. I am glad I did. I appreciated the tone throughout: medication can be very useful and important in treating psychiatric issues. However, there is a definite overmedication of not only women, but I would dare say all Americans. What I find the most frustrating about the situation is not that people feel the need for chemical help, but that our society has created and seeks to maintain a new normal for all people. But biologically, it just doesn’t make sense.

The article discusses, and I agree, that people, and women in particular, have hormone cycles that produce different emotional responses. They are a true normal and healthy. In fact, if we feel overwhelmed at a certain time each month, perhaps we should pay attention to that and factor it in to our lives regularly! No, instead we feel inadequate, unworthy and sick. We need it to go away so that we can get on with life. I beg to differ. Yes, again, there are times that medication is a must. Believe me, I know. But perhaps we need to take a hard look at the demands our society is placing on us, or that we are placing on ourselves, and change the situations rather than alter ourselves. From the article, ” When we are overmedicated, our emotions become synthetic. For personal growth, for a satisfying marriage and for a more peaceful world, what we need is more empathy, compassion, receptivity, emotionality and vulnerability, not less.”

My tears are not a sign that I am weak and pathetic. My concerns are not irrational and unimportant. If they are out of balance, perhaps I should seek counsel. Talk. Pray. Read scripture. Still need help? Perhaps my doctor should be consulted. I don’t know. I am surely NOT a doctor. Each person must weigh the decision themselves. I would just urge you, my friends, to consider that you were created with those emotions and the God that formed you, knows you. He will carry you, he does carry me, through it all. Sometimes with help from friends, sometimes with help from a counselor, and at times in the past, with help from medication.

making it up as I go.

So, I don’t have time to come up with pretty words and deep thoughts lately. Mostly because my spare time has been spent sewing. I have now made 4 t-shirts. Two are great, 2 are good. One of the good ones needs some shaping. The other good one was a poor fabric choice. So….I am not bummed. In fact, I am so encouraged and excited. Next up is a dress. I was tempted to skip the dress in favor of a skirt, but I am sticking to the original plan.

But this blogging thing. I am not doing so well with it. I feel pressure to make every little thing so meaningful, when the meaningfulness just IS sometimes. Do you know what I mean? Like, the fact that Chris took the kids to the library tonight so that I could sew. Two full hours of quiet, machine humming, iron hissing. It was beautiful. But it is nothing that will bring a tear to the eye or leave you wanting more….so, instead of not writing at all, I am giving you my thoughts on where I am in this process. It has been tricky for me lately. So, read on if you’d like, or have patience. You just never know…

thawing.

Glistening drops fall from an icicle that is as long as the boy is tall. Puddles form on the road that once were covered in ice. The pure whiteness of the snow will soon be dingy gray and slushy. But, oh the joy that muck is bringing to this heart!

I normally love winter. Truly, I do. It is second to Fall. Spring is third and summer a big, dead last. But this winter was painful. Crushingly cold. Filled with annoying illnesses. Ice more than snow. And yes, I count my blessings and do see how we have been provided for, gifted time, and loved. But, man, I am showing Winter the door and expecting an exit soon.

I do see a correlation to the frozen ground and my grumpiness. It is pathetic, really. As the days grew darker and shorter, my fuse disappeared. As the air lashed coldly, my words became chilled. I sadly found myself losing hope for Spring. For that Breath of Life to warm the earth back to life. And yet, in spite of my lackluster faith and callous heart, here It comes. The thawing of the snow and ice, the melting of my heart. Why does He lavish grace like this on us? How can he stand to pull my downcast face up to meet His one more time?

Jesus braved the lashing and the coldness, conquered the dark. All so when I am not brave and the dark pins me down, I can point to him and say He did it perfectly…in my place. It is only “because the sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free! For God the just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me.”

I am so thankful that this Sunday brought a hint of Spring, a chance to worship, repent and pray. Oh, my Lord, I need you!!!

wardrobe.

I have become obsessed. Planning, sorting, shopping, dreaming. All about fabric, sewing and creating my own wardrobe. Lofty goal is to not purchase any ready-made clothes. Attainable goal, make as much of my wardrobe as possible. If something is wearing out, don’t buy a replacement, make it.  There are amazing resources, free patterns, blogs about altering patterns to suit my own body or style, etc. available. And I plan on getting some Spring sewing done.

So far in 2015, I have purchased one thing out of necessity (and pre-handmade wardrobe obsession kicked in). I bought a new swim suit from Target in order to go to Great Wolf Lodge. I like it. I will make my own one day. I actually spied some Liberty of London swim fabric…dreamy…but that is not a NEED, so…

Here is the fabric purchased so far:

image

The top four are from Organic Cotton Plus. Double Gauze, interlock (stripes and geometric design), and twill. The bottom is a double knit from Joann.

They will become an All Dressed Up dress from Peppermintmag.com, Hemlock tee from Grainlinestudio.com, Kirsten Kimono tee from Mariadenmark.com, Moss skirt from Grainline, and a Wiksten tank with Tova sleeves from shopwiksten.com

Amazingly, there are still two fabrics on the way from Organic Cotton Plus! A cotton voile, for a tunic from one of my Japanese books, Stylish Dress Book: Wear with Freedom (link is to book in English, mine is not, but I can always email Brennan!), and a Cotton/Hemp jersey for another t-shirt (probably another Wiksten hodgepodge).

For a glimpse at some of my inspiration down this track, I need to point you to another blog. If you are into handmade, minimalism, or sustainability, you will find it interesting. I haven’t followed all the steps yet, but plan on following along quite a bit.

I am so excited for this…but I know I get a bit obsessed and one-track-minded. So, I hope I remember to feed my family and do the laundry, and….

March 2.

March entered like a lion, that’s for sure. Chilling temperatures, snow, ice. And a junky cough for Jude that had this mama a little stressed come bedtime. While he tossed and turned trying to fall asleep only to be interrupted with hard barks of a cough, his older brother and sister slumbered. I broke out the nebulizer, preparing for a long night. As I sat uncomfortably twisted up at his side, holding the breathing mask on his face and rubbing his forehead, I had double thoughts.

First and foremost was the thought of just how full my life truly is. Just the day before, Jude turned 3. We celebrated in a low key family birthday party, but sincerely enjoyed him. He is a kid full of life. Energy, smiles, ideas…I am so thankful for this growing bigger boy. And is it any accident that he was born almost exactly one year to the day after losing my dad? I think not.

And this was the second, or double thought. I remember so vividly sitting uncomfortably twisted next to another bedside, rubbing a forehead in need of greater comfort than I could give. This one, four years ago, was the last night of my dad’s life. I thought of that night, remembered his troubled breathing, groans of anticipation. What a painful night, and yet how thankful I am for that memory. It was a gift to me, really.

One year later, we were given Jude. The next year, we were given my niece, Isabel. God gives and gives. And yes, he takes away. But just like Brennan said today on Facebook, I would never wish Dad back. Can you imagine his joy right now? I dream of imagining it. I know I am promised it. No more sorrow, no more pain, no more coughs, no more struggled breaths. And do I feel full now? Yes. But I don’t think I actually know the FULL definition of full. Not yet.  But Dad? Oh, he knows it. He knows it well.

image

so sew.

{missed 6 days in the challenge. I will blame recovering from a tummy bug, girls’night out, girl’s brunch and a birthday. Hopefully, I will get the ball rolling again!}

I spent the afternoon on Sunday sewing. I worked on a small project that has been rolling around in my mind for a couple years. It all began in the ’80s. Remember those purses we carried with wooden handles and reversible covers. They probably were emblazoned with your initials or a whale. Maybe a frog. They were very preppy, a little impractical, and super awesome. Well, a few years back, we were in Jim Thorpe, PA with my sister’s family. We stumbled into a little vintage shop and I scored such a purse in perfect condition. Except for the initials were wrong. I knew I would make a cover some day. Just didn’t realize it would take so long! Fast forward a couple years to a random purchase of fabric. I love Denys Schmidt’s style, so I purchased a charm pack of her Shelburne Falls collection. It stayed stashed away until Sunday.

I sliced it up into strips and pieced together a little cover for my bag. I decided to make it reversible by lining it with a piece of fabric gifted to me by my nephew in Japan. It still needs buttonholes, so as soon as it is complete, I will share a photo. It was so fun to make and I can’t wait to use it this spring!

Getting in front of my machine gave me the itch to sew more often. I have a lofty dream right now to sew my own wardrobe. To stop buying ready made items. I don’t think it is that outrageous. I am a uniform wearer anyway. I have a definite style that I enjoy. It may not be the most hip, but it is me. My short term goal is to sew up two dresses and a couple t-shirts. I will keep you posted!

lent.

I am really looking forward to lent. This preparation for Easter is something I have toyed with, but never sunk into. But since going to our church, one service that I have typically looked forward to is the Good Friday service. That looking straight at the cross. Seeing what happened and why. And who for. Remembering. Repenting. And ultimately rejoicing. Tomorrow I will begin a Bible study online. I have never done this, either. I will join ladies around the world at #shereadstruth as we come near the cross. If you would like to join in, it is free at the website, or available through a free app, as well.

I need it. I feel a bit fragmented, distracted, forgetful. How can I pray, read the Bible, get “ready” for the day only to find myself in anger or frustration an hour later? I am needy. I am weak. Thankfully, that’s nothing new to God.

Romans 5:1-11{emphasis mine}

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

knitting and faith.

{this is a cheat. This was written many years ago on a different blog. I had nothing today, so here is a look at thoughts from the past.}

(this may be a repeat story…but i have to get it down in writing…forgive me if you’ve heard this before!)

In all of this learning and growth and seeking, a certain analogy came to light that has struck a chord in me in such a way that I must share it. You see, in this past year in particular a dominant theme in my personal story is one of learning to walk on my own. Being a complete, full ME. But, you see, I have had to walk in the dark a lot, or in a lot of fog, and, well, I don’t like that. I want the lights on, the cobwebs dusted, and the map out. I want to know where I’m supposed to go and how I’m supposed to do it. So, I pray. So, I read the Bible. So, I seek counsel. And you know what? It is still gray. The Bible holds a ton of conflict. My favorite, and most explicit that comes to mind:

Proverbs 26: 4-5
4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.

Ok. So..do I answer the fool or not???? geez!

While I was trying to figure out how to BE, how to live, how to move forward, how to do what was right in the eyes of God…I was knitting a sweater. The Hourglass Sweater. You know the one. I got this great yarn (Noro Cash Iroha), a great book (Last Minute Knitted Gifts) and set to it. I did it all “right.” I measured myself. I read the pattern first. I bought extra yarn “in case.” I cast on. I knit knit knit. Then I read some reviews and other knitters’ experiences. Hmmm. Seems this yarn grows. Seems folks run out of yarn. Seems you need to go down a size. I was halfway through the body and had a crisis (you may have read about it here and here.) I was so stumped and stressed. I did not like this. I had a stinking pattern. It is supposed to be this simple…cast on x amount of stitches. You knit, you purl, you decrease, you increase, you add sleeves, you bind off…you have a sweater. But nooooooo! oh no. It does not work that way. You have a pattern. You knit. Oh, you knit loosely? You knit tight? hmm. You need to use different needles? oh. I see. You have a pattern, but You have to live it. In your own way. You have to tear out the entire thing and do it over, trusting that You will figure it out. Yes, there is guidance, there are other’s experiences, there is even an author to talk to. But…YOU have to do the knitting. You have to wear the sweater in the end. So…I did it. I didn’t give up. I still trusted the pattern, believed the author (seriously…I emailed her!), and trusted in my skills. I CAN knit (and pretty well, I’d say.) And I made a beautiful sweater.

God takes things from the ashes and resurrects them into beautiful, glorious things. Beings. In some way, this sweater was a picture of that to me. Of God taking me down to my essentials. The yarn, a little worn from being knit once. And reknitting. Not necessarily from scratch. But in the end…well, the story isn’t quite done now is it? I’m still in the process. And I am so very thankful for that. I am God’s handiwork. He has me. I’m figuring out how to live this in my very own way.