Sew it Begins….Sew It is Finished

Lent, the six week period leading up to Easter, is one of the most important times of the year for many Christians. It is usually a solemn observance and preparation for the celebrations of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter.

It’s a traditional time of fasting, abstaining from or giving something up. The more orthodox and traditional denominations will observe a strict fast with the abstinence of  meat, fish, eggs and fats until Easter. Others may choose to give up a luxury item, perhaps chocolate, alcohol or their favorite Starbucks coffee. Maybe they choose to stop watching TV,  turn off social media, or quit dining out in order to refocus on their faith during this time. 

Just as we prepare for celebrations such as weddings and birthdays in our personal lives; Lent invites us to prepare our minds and hearts for remembering Jesus’ life death and resurrection.

Without really realizing it, making BJ’s quilt has been my “Lent,” if you will, this year. 

I began working on it February 15 with a shopping trip with her to select the fabrics and colors. Since then, I spent an average of eight hours daily planning, cutting and sewing.

many hours handstitching
Many evenings of hand stitching

 

There were many evenings that I sat with the quilt in my lap hand quilting late into the night.

Each day as I began work on the quilt, I started the mornings with a prayer, turned my laptop on, clicked on the Bible Broadcasting Network and listened to bible teachings, music and audio readings of Christian Classic books (I really enjoyed “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom), or I would switch to just meditation instrumental worship and praise music. I sat at my sewing machine or favorite chair and stitched, listened, prayed and meditated.

The double wedding ring patterns reminded me that God’s love for me is everlasting, it has no beginning, no end. (Psalm 103:17 – But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—)

The white muslin and colorful squares of patchwork joined together, reminded me that through my faith and belief in Christ, I too am a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.)

Light at the end of the tunnel
There’s light at the end of the tunnel

Sunday, April 5, I could see light at the end of the tunnel. I was on the home stretch. My plans were to have the quilt finished by Easter. 

Thursday I put in the last stitch in the quilt. I exclaimed, “It is finished!” The quilt was finished, but I had not completed the whole job I had set out to do.…I still had pillow shams and throw pillows to make.

 

throw pillows
The throw pillows turned out nice. Don’t you think?

On Good Friday I used the fabric remnants to make throw pillows. As I finished them, again I exclaimed, “It is finished!”   Immediately, I thought of Christ’s last word’s, ”It is finished,” as He died on the cross on this day… I stopped and gave thanks for the depth of His love. (John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life…)

BJ's DWR quilt copy
It is finished.

I marveled at the finished quilt. I still couldn’t quite believe that I had made it. I thanked God for my renewed gift of sewing.

This morning I sent some pictures of the quilt to BJ, telling her it was ready to be picked up. I commented that it wasn’t perfect, but neither are we. To which she replied, “Perfectly done from the heart.”

I believe the words of Billy Graham captures what “perfectly done from the heart” truly is.

“For the believer there is hope beyond the grave, because Jesus Christ has opened the door to heaven for us by His death and resurrection.” -Billy Graham

“Easter always brings hope to all of us. For the Christian, the Cross tells us that God understands our suffering, for He took upon Himself at the Cross all of our sins and all of our failures and all of our sufferings. Our Lord, on that cross, asked the question, “Why?” “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”  And he received his answer, he knew.  To redeem the world, to save you and me from our sins, to give us assurance that if we died we’re going to heaven. He was saying from the cross, I love you and I know the heartaches and the sorrows and the pain that you feel.

Easter points us beyond the tragedy of the Cross to the hope of the empty tomb. It tells us that there is hope for eternal life for Christ has conquered death. It also tells us that God has triumphed over evil and death and hell. This is our hope and it can be your hope as well.” 

BJ and her husband stopped by my house this afternoon to pick up her quilt ensemble. She gave a generous donation to the Run For The Sun mission efforts as a way of  thanking me for making her quilt, commenting on the sacrifice of time it must have taken. (300 hours. Give or take one or two. But who’s counting.) 

Sacrifice? No, just another quilt stitched in love on a journey of faith, drawing me closer to God as I listen for His whisperings of grace.

Now…What to do to fill my time with as we wait out the “stay-at-home” order during this pandemic? Guess I will be making face masks. Quilted or no? 

How have you been filling your time?

Until next time…stay safe, stay well, stay in the Word of God, and always be listening for whisperings of grace.

Sew it Begins…A Ripple Effect

I’ve almost completed the Double Wedding Ring quilt.

Ripples
I decided to hand stitch it using a ripple effect.

 

 

The back side “ain’t half bad” either.

 

What do you think? Tell me. I can take constructive criticism. But I also like to hear encouraging words. Yes, it’s a little rustic looking. But not tooooooo bad.

I have been enjoying the time I’ve had to work on the quilt over these past few weeks. I’ve spent many hours meditating and praying during my quilting time. As I worked on it this past week, I got to thinking how the ripple effect is like our actions. What we do effects others. Then I thought about how this pandemic thing going on around the world is having a rippling effect on all of us.

Life is taking on a new norm in this time of quarantine, isn’t it? So many actions we took for granted, now have to become intentional.

I, like most of you I assume, have to think twice about when to venture out in public nowadays. I find myself asking, “Do I really need to go to market today, or can I wait another week, maybe two weeks? Will I find the necessities at one location, or will I have to visit several markets?” 

For me, the importance of wearing personal protective equipment was something I taught during in-service training when I was on staff at a local hospital many moons ago. I never imagined I would be reminding family members the importance of it just for daily routines when out and about. Nor did I think I would ever have to find or create a supply of items. Fortunately, I usually kept a supply of vinyl gloves on hand (no pun intended) in my kitchen anyway, and had some in the pantry before the panic shopping set in for folks. Now kitchen gloves are even flying off the shelves in the local stores. 

I have to remind myself and hubby too, that gloves are meant to avoid cross-contamination. For instance, in a hospital, workers glove up to touch a patient and then DISCARD the gloves before moving on to the next task. If we wear the same set of gloves all over town, we are carrying germs everywhere! Every door we touch, the cart, the supplies, our phones, our faces… each action has a ripple effect.

If you are doing this, I urge you not to. If you are not changing gloves, then it would be far better to not wear gloves and WASH YOUR HANDS after every store or task. It has a ripple effect.

I could paint a grim picture like most news media are doing, but I choose to look on the bright side and try to find something encouraging each day. “Bright side?” you may ask. Well, yes, around here many are trying to anyway.

Teddy in the Window

      Local neighborhoods have begun a “bear hunts”. The idea is to place a teddy bear in a window, on your porch, or stoop, so that children, out for walks or rides with their parents, try to find the bears.

It has had a ripple effect. 

 

 

 

Neighbors are finding new ways to bring cheer to passersby with chalk art.Believe there is Change
We're in This Together

It has had  a ripple effect.

Families are calling and checking on loved ones more often. I especially enjoyed a FaceTime call to wish my granddaughter a happy 10th birthday. We usually go visit for the weekend of her birthday. Of course, being on a mandatory stay-at-home order and curfew, we were not able to travel across state this year. Receiving an unexpected FaceTime call from her PaPa  and Gra’Ma-D brought a huge smile to our “Lil’ Bird.”    It had a ripple effect. 

Churches and houses of worship may have to be empty during this quarantine. However, they are staying connected to their congregations and reaching out to minister to others through different media and social networking platforms such as Zoom, YouTube, and FaceBook.

It has a ripple effect.

Thought for today:

“You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For  not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you…,but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere…”  1 Thessalonians 1:5-8 (ESV)           

As I sat and meditated each day while quilting, Grace whispered reminding me that how I live out my faith has a ripple effect. I can choose to be introverted and not care how my actions affect others or allow God’s grace to flow through me.

How about you? What are you doing to cause a ripple effect during this trying time in history?

Until next time…stay well and be a ripple! Smiles are Contagious

 
 

 

 

Sew it Begins…Piece by Piece

Seeing how I have never made a Double Wedding Ring quilt, I didn’t realize there are so many patterns to choose from. Wow. Thanks, Pinterest. It’s overwhelming.

I narrowed the selections down to two, combined the two to make a third alternate pattern and presented the three to BJ to select from. Thank goodness, without knowing it, she chose the simplest one. Not to say it’s an easy pattern,  just the least complicated. It consists of 5 different shapes  appliquéd onto 12 inch squares to form a Double Wedding Ring. 

Prep-work completed…

Fabric ironed, cut into 520 pattern pieces, and then sorted.

Let the sewing commence.

I’ve always heard a picture is worth a thousand words. IMG_3971

IMG_3973

Pic4 - appliqueing begins

IMG_3979

 

 

pic7 - solid arc appliques

The quilt top got to be more than I could handle on the sewing machine cabinet. I had to get creative and come up with more space to support the growing expanse of fabric. 

Pressing DWR seams
Gotta get those seams pressed!

So, I brought in a folding table and placed a cutting board on top.

Before finishing the quilt top, I ended up bringing in a drop-leaf table and expanded it beside the folding table.

IMG_3981 

Backing, batting and quilt top all sandwiched together and ready for quilting. pic11 - sandwiched

Thought for today:

“Hatred starts a fight, but love pulls a quilt over the bickering.” Proverbs 10:12 (The Message)

As we adjust to a, hopefully, temporary new normal these days, let’s be mindful of our neighbors and all whom we come in contact when out and about. Let all strife you may have with someone go by the wayside … practice a little grace. After all, we are all together in this stressful time,  even if 6ft apart.

Any suggestions on how to practice a little grace? Share them in the comment field below.

Come back next week to see how the quilt is progressing.  Now to decide, should it be machine quilted or hand stitched? …

Until then, I’m praying you have a great week and stay well.

Sew it Begins…Different Tools – Different Tasks

Hmmm… Let’s take a peek into my sewing box as I pull out the tools needed to make BJ’s DWR quilt.

 

Scissors. Will probably need them.

Rotary cutters? Yes, will definitely need them…and tin foil.

Rotary Cutters and tinfoil
Tinfoil helps sharpen the cutters until you can get a replacement blade.

Needles, needle threaders, thimbles, thread and snippers…yep. Got to have them. Oops, almost forgot the baking scrapper.

IMG_4010
The basics for my sewing corner.

The wooden tube needle holder piqued my interest. See it beside the yellow thimble? It was in the things inherited with my mom’s collection of sewing supplies. Printed on it is Boye Needle Company, Chicago, Illinois. “BUY NEW SHUTTLE if machine skips stitches or breaks thread.”  I wondered just how old it may be. So, I went down a few rabbit holes on the web searching for information. Well, come to find out it’s circa 1909-1929… aaannnddd…I just happen to have the treadle sewing machine that it belonged to sitting in my living room. There’s still thread on some of the shuttles in its tool drawer. Grandma's sewing machine.This discovery brought some sweet memories. The machine belonged to my great grandmother and was passed down to my grandmother. I remember “riding” the treadle as a little girl at grandma’s house. She never scolded me for playing on it. It was inherited by one of my mom’s 5 sisters when grandma died. Aunt M gave it to me when I got married. My children used to play on the treadle too. Remembering how I played on it and was never scolded, I couldn’t scold them when they broke the fly arm on it. They deserved the same grace I had received.

Back to my sewing box…

Will probably need a tailor’s cloth measuring tape and yard stick. Most definitely an acrylic ruler and several cutting mats.

Straight pins and quilter’s safety pins for sure. 

Seam ripper? Wish I could say I wouldn’t need it. But, you know that old saying don’t you?

Seam ripper
“As ye sew, so shall ye rip.”

 

Brushes for cleaning out the bobbin case, and teeny tiny screwdrivers for adjusting its tension. Let’s see now. What else? Oh yeah, a utility knife, cardboard sheet cake mats,

Utility Knife & sheet cake mat
I’m always seeking ways to repurpose items and save money. Instead of buying quilt templates, I make my own with inexpensive cardboard sheet cake mats.

a carpenter’s measuring tape, freezer paper, masking and painters tape, and bandaids.

Bandaid thimble
Again my repurposing. Instead of buying an expensive leather thimble, I wrap two bandaids around my thumb and ring fingers. I can still feel the needle to help guide it and my fingers don’t become sore from the constant pressure. See the worn spot? That would have been my finger. Ouch!

I didn’t think I had many sewing tools until I began listing them. Were you surprised when I pulled out the baking scraper, tin foil, sheet cake mats and bandaids?

God has many different tools in His toolbox (the Church). Each is special and has a special purpose. We expect to find scissors, needle and thread in a sewing basket. But not the baking scraper, sheet cake mat and tin foil. In the same way, many times we only expect God to use our pastors, priests, elders, or Sunday school teachers for sharing His grace and love. But really, God wants to use each of us, you and me. He has created us unique and different. Different tools for different tasks. He wants us to use our gifts for Him.

“Different tools for different tasks.”

Now think about how each of the items taken out of my sewing box could be used by God and who might use such a tool. For example: the basic sewing supplies, needle, thread, scissors… may be used by a missionary in teaching a sewing class or a seamstress making tops to be shipped to underprivileged children; the baking scraper may be used in preparing desserts for a homeless shelter; the carpenter’s measuring tape could be used by a construction worker to help build houses for Homes for Habitat; the freezer paper used to wrap meals for hurricane victims or teaching preschool children a fun craft. 

Now also think of other tools, gifts or abilities God has given them, or you and me, that can be used for His glory and to share His grace with others. Can you sing? Can you play a musical instrument? Do you have a gift for writing? Do you enjoy drawing or gardening? What about sports? Ever thought about volunteering in a soup kitchen or perhaps painting a little ladies’ fingernails in a nursing home? Perhaps you could take an elderly friend to shop, or just take them out for a scenic drive.

“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but they all come from the same Spirit. There are different ways to serve the same Lord, and we can each do different things. Yet the same God works in all of us and helps us in everything we do. The Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (CEV)

All are great tools. However, God’s word is the most powerful tool that has been given to us. We must make sure we have it in our toolbox for everyday life. It provides guidance, promises of peace and assurance in times of troubles.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic that’s causing fear to arise in many folks, I find comfort from God’s word in today’s meditative message. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Phil.4:6 (ESV)

Sometimes it’s not easy to “not be anxious,” not to worry and be fearful. That’s our natural tendencies when something comes into our lives and disrupts it’s normal flow. But, trusting in my God who loves me with an everlasting love and allowing my faith in His sovereignty to uphold me, I’m not panicking. I’m carrying on in my daily fashion. I continue to purchase a two week supply of groceries, as I always have. I don’t rush out an hoard items that I already have on hand. There are others who may need it. I wash my hands often and practice good hygiene, as I always have.  I pray daily and thank God for my blessings and lift others up in need, as I always have. And since starting on BJ’s quilt, I work on it daily without fail. 

Do you have any tools that you use for different purposes? Are there sewing tips to help save your fingers? Do you have a favorite scripture verse that whispers to you? I’d love to hear about them.

The quilt is coming along nicely. Come back later to see how it’s progressed. It’s really starting to take shape.

Until then…praying you have a blessed week and stay well. 

(Remember to wash your hands often!)

A Tapestry of Life

Life is woven by a mysterious tapestry that we often don’t see until its end approaches for ourselves or a loved one.  

tapestry-threads.jpg

As we go through life many of us only see the ugly tangled threads running in seemingly disarrayed directions. Some are short stitches, others are knotted together with ends loosely dangling. God revealed to me over this past week just how He has been weaving a beautiful tapestry in my life.

My mom passed from this world into the next this past Thursday. I was not by her side when she took her last breath. It came much sooner than we had expected. When we arranged for Hospice care, we thought she had several weeks, perhaps months before the congestive heart failure and pulmonary fibrosis would take her from us. 

As this was the first week of Hospice care, I had yet to meet the whole Hospice team.

When I met with the Hospice nurse I discovered that she is married to one of my husband’s 2nd cousins. This had to be in God’s divine plan. I had never met her. Nurse Jessica is a very sweet and compassionate person. I think perhaps by she discovering that she would be ministering to a family member, her care became more compassionate. (Is that even a proper sentence? Forgive me if I seem to be rambling. I am still finding it difficult to put together coherent thoughts.)

I discovered the Hospice chaplain was a childhood friend of ours. His brothers and I and my brother rode bikes together when we visited my  grandparents. Even his parent’s and mine were friends in the neighborhood where my dad grew up. I had not seen Chaplain Jarrell since he was about nine years old. His middle brother, Elbert, would give me rides to school when we were in high school together. I did not see Elbert for many years afterwards, until he and I would carpool our own children. Our families lost touch with each other after we moved from that city over 15 years ago. We connected again through FaceBook in recent years.

Mom’s baby sister came by to visitor her the day before mom passed and offered to give me a break from sitting with mom the next day, after she discovered that I had had no relief for over a week, since my brother had been sitting with his 39 year old son who had just suffered two heart attacks and was going through a triple by-pass surgery. It was difficult for both my brother and myself to be torn between two loved ones in life crisis situations. (Oops. Another lengthy, perhaps incoherent sentence.) So it was Aunt Maggie and the Hospice chaplain that was by mom’s side and witnessed a peaceful passing as she succumbed to death. It gave my brother and me much comfort knowing that mom was not alone.

It brought such joy to my heart when I saw a row of bikes lined up in the parking lot and I walked into the chapel and saw the CMA colors ministering as mom’s pall bearers at her celebration of life ceremony yesterday.

One may think they served out of their CMA love for me and my husband and because CMA is “there when you need us”.  But as I look back over the years of my family’s life I can see how it was orchestrated by God in His divine plan for our lives, and it too was part of the beautiful tapestry.

When my brother and I were meeting with the funeral director this past Friday and trying to pull together the details of mom’s service, we came to an impasse. We could not think of a single family member or friend of mom’s who would be available or physically capable of being a pall bearer. After all, she would have been 88 years old this December and was the oldest of eleven siblings. After some thought, my husband and I suggested our CMA family. My brother was in total agreement. We placed a call to our chapter president and his reply was, “Absolutely.” 

Since mom had been in failing health for many years and unable to attend church, she had lost contact with any minister who now knew her personally. I did not want a stranger officiating her service and I wanted someone who also knew the family. We sat again mulling over possibilities, when a voice seemed to whisper to me “Milton.” So, I mentioned his name and how he fit into the equation of our lives and the CMA life. Again, my brother was in agreement. 

A phone call was made and even though Milton already had other time commitments for the afternoon of the service, he said absolutely he would be honored to minister, and rearranged his schedule. 

Needle

We knew nothing of the needle being threaded over 65 years ago that would fashion a CMA blanket of comfort for us.

Milton’s parents and my mom’s family became friends before he, my brother or I were even a glimmer in our parent’s eyes. 

Milton’s family and mine would become neighbors when I was only 6 years old. He & his siblings and my brother & I would spend many hours playing together and helping with each other’s farm chores. He would share many meals with us. He enjoyed my mom’s homemade buttermilk biscuits and southern cooking as much as we did. I have a picture of him and his sister gathered around the table at one of my birthday parties.

Later in life, Milton surrendered his life to Christ and served as pastor at one of the many fine C.O.G pastorates in the area where he ministered to many of my mom’s siblings.

Even though I had heard his name mentioned by my several of my aunts and uncles over the years, I had not personally seen Milton since my family moved from the neighborhood of our childhood farms while I was in elementary school. Then one night, at a Henderson, NC chapter CMA meeting, our paths crossed again. I learned that he was part of CMA and even road his bike quite frequently with my Uncle Hank, who was also once an active CMA member. Later, I had the pleasure of visiting the church he was the pastor of during a CMA event.

Three years ago, God moved on the heart of CMA leaders to begin a new chapter in Youngsville, NC. We moved our CMA membership there and they all became our loving brothers and sisters in Christ and are closer to us than our church family or our physical family.

Sitting with my family gathered in one of my uncles homes after the service yesterday, I had a sweet conversation with my mom’s oldest sister, who is now 86 years old. She made this comment to me, “D, several years ago Ellen and I were discussing the probably of death soon approaching for us. I asked her who she thought she would like to preach her funeral. She told me Milton Abbott. He brought such a beautiful service. You did good. 

Mom had prearranged most of her funeral details over 20 years ago after the death of my stepfather, but had left that information blank. Mom had never shared that bit of information with either of us. Aunt Martha’s statement confirmed that my brother and I had made the correct decision.

God weaves a beautiful tapestry of life we can hardly comprehend and orchestrates our  comings and goings in mysterious and wonderful ways. 

“A man’s heart deviseth his way: but Lord directeth his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9 KJV)

A dear CMA sister reminded me today of this today. I received a sweet email from her that said:

“It’s so like our God to have the provisions for our every need in place long before we ever could know how one day, they would take center stage when great need arises, and so it was with your mother’s “home going”. 

Though we should never be surprised at God’s forethought concerning our needs, we always seem to be so shocked to see that He’s been long at work putting into place all the details of our lives and those of our loved ones. Truly…He knows our needs long before we ever pray.

Even you readers are woven into this tapestry as you allow me to share bits of my life as God continues to whisper words of Grace and Mercy into it. I hope you are able to find bits of encouragement and inspiration through them as well.

fancycrave-224904-unsplash

Words cannot begin to express the love and appreciation I have for each person in this tapestry formed by the Masters had.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, your peace that passes all understanding is for each of us. I cannot begin to fathom the depths of your love for us. In times when we think we are forsaken, we have to but turn to your word to find comfort and hope and promise. When we allow others to minister to us in your name, there we find you in then midst. When in faith we surrender our hearts to you and your son, there we find life of abundant Grace.

You know I have yet to allow myself to grieve as I have many logistics to navigate in legalities of estate execution. When the time comes for the healing release I know that You will be there beside me, beginning to weave a new tapestry for my life. Praise God from whom all blessings flow! – In Christ name I pray, Amen.

A Homegoing

The phone rang at 1:05 p.m. this afternoon. It was the charge nurse at the assisted living complex.

“You need to be here on site immediately.”

I was temping at my old office an hour away. “Lord, redeem my time!,” I prayed. I pulled into the parking lot at the assisted living facility at 1:40 p.m.

I rushed through the doors and down the hallway to my mom’s room. I was too late.

Pulmonary fibrosis had ceased mom’s lungs from working. She had gone home to be with the  Lord.

Mom’s youngest sister, only 6 years older than me, was sitting in my place beside mom’s bed. The hospice chaplain was also there. They told me it was a peaceful passing.

The afternoon seems a blur now. Phone calls made to her seven other living siblings. She was the oldest of eleven. Calls to my children to let them know their Gma-E had passed. Gathering personal belongings that would not be donated. The thirty mile drive home seemed like a hundred. “God give me strength,” I prayed.

I shared with a CMA sister how mom and I had some precious times together this past week. It was as if she was making amends for all of her hurtful behavior over the past several years. Each time someone would visit or a care giver would enter her room, she introduced me and told them how much she loved me and how she appreciated what I had and was doing for her. Something that she rarely has done over the past 30 years. I had to swallow a huge lump in my throat several times.

My CMA sister texted back…

“Oh D. What an awesome gift! How like our God to give you such precious hours and moments to wash over you and fill you. And how gracious is His love to see your mother so sweetly ushered into His presence.

It is such a release when you know the pain, anguish and fear are gone, replaced by the glory of eternity, forever with Him.

Though we know the longing will persist and come at the most unexpected times, the knowledge of a reunion in which all the hard things are erased, is a treasure of great hope.”

When death occurs in my family I tend to go into cleaning overload. I do laundry, sweep and mop floors, wash dishes… I find it soothing to be busy. So, between phone calls and texting tonight, I cleaned. I did laundry, washed dishes and swept the front porch.

When I finally slowed, I took a few minutes to read my FaceBook messages. There was one from another friend from another CMA chapter that spoke volumes. She had reposted a post from “Spirit Food for Thought.” It said…

Jesus Whispers…

You may be facing something today that is greater than what you thought you could handle. This is the battle of life. Some days you will fill stronger than others. Today remember that when you are weak I am strong.

I will carry you through this dark hour and bring you to the other side that is full of light and hope.

You are stronger that you think you are.

I thought how appropriate. She had not yet heard of mom’s passing when she had posted the message.

I’ve received a deluge of texts and phone calls from my CMA family tonight. “Family” is not always a blood relative, it’s a “heart” relative.  I love my CMA family.

Each and every message, be it phone, text or FaceBook,  I consider to be a whispering of grace, reminding me that He’s got me during this time too.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, what a mighty God you are. You give strength to the weak & weary, peace to the battle torn & lonely, healing to the suffering and hope to the hopeless. You are my rock when others forsake me. Hallelujah! – Amen

 

1st Quarter Retirement Ends

“If we see our lives as a pilgrimage, then it becomes an integrated whole. It makes sense.”

The first quarter of my “retirement” has come to an end. I believe God has indeed been “repurposing” my life. “How do you know?” I’m glad you asked. It’s been a wonderful first quarter.

 I’ve learned to slow down and enjoy things I used to take for granted.

I really enjoyed the first few weeks of “me” time renovating the bathroom and repurposing items around my house. I especially enjoyed sitting on my deck in the early mornings and watching the moon in the evenings. 

Moonlit Meditation
Moonlit Meditations

Morning Mimosa
Morning Mimosa

I’ve developed a new joy for baking and developing new recipes along the way.  

Some bombed and some turned out scrumptious. 

Peach Preserves
Homemade Peach Butter

Peach Cobble Bubbling
Bubbling Peach Cobbler – a major fail. I’ll stick with my original recipe.

Lemonaid Pie
Lemonade Pie – The Key Lime pies didn’t last long enough for the photo shoot. A new favorite!

   

Chocolate Banana Nut Muffin
Sugar Free Chocolate Banana Nut Muffins

I prayed that it would be revealed to me how I could minister to others now that I am no longer enslaved to a corporate time clock. 

I have an old friend whom I had not seen in several years. She was injured in a tragic motorcycle accident in May, totaling her bike and putting her in ICU for four weeks out in Tennessee before being transported back home to a CCU rehab for another two weeks. The accident broke all of her ribs, her left shoulder and her left leg in two places. If she had not been wearing complete safety gear she would have lost her life. (I have a new appreciation for modular helmets.) She was told she would be in a wheelchair for up to six months. I was blessed to have been able to sit with her weekly and help during her major recuperation. Praise God she is now able to walk with the aid of a walker. If I had been working, I would not have had the opportunity to spend the time with her as she healed and we reconnected and strengthened our friendship.

Sitting With CMA family
Sitting with CMA family

I also had the opportunity to sit with a friend in my CMA family whose husband had to have esophageal surgery. The day started out at 11:00 a.m. and ended at 10:00 p.m. Other CMA brother and sisters came also. We had the opportunity to also minister to other bikers who were waiting in ICU for word about one of their club members who had just gone down in an accident. 

C.M.A . . . .”THERE IF YOU NEED US.”  

Just this week, a missionary friend/prayer partner and I reconnected. She is fostering special needs infants and can use some support and encouragement as she and her husband juggle missionary commitments with low income families and caring for two babies with life threatening medical needs. I will be meeting with her weekly for prayer and coffee and running errands for them such as grocery shopping and helping tidy the house.

Having time to devote to my family.

My son-in-law just accepted a teaching position at Kill Devil Hills, NC. So my daughter’s little family relocated from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Outer Banks last week. She called and wanted me to come help out with the children and drive my husband’s pickup truck with a load of lawn care supplies across state. 

My what a trip! We left the mountains at 4pm. Son-in-law driving a 26’ U-Haul towing a car; daughter driving their van loaded to the hilt with plants and what-not; me bringing up the rear with the pick-up truck loaded down with lawn gear… we were a caravan driving down the mountains in torrential rain. Each one of us with extra special cargo sitting beside us or in a back seat, the children. We finally made it to my house at 10pm. We rested the next day (sorta) and took the kids to the science museum. The following day we were up at the crack of dawn and on the road again to the Outer Banks. It was a special week for us. I got to spend some extra one-on-one time with each of the grandchildren. Something that I haven’t had the opportunity to do before. It was heart wrenching to pull my self away when it came time to leave. One was saying, “Gra’ma can’t you stay just another night?,” and another saying, “Gra’ma can’t you stay for a year?” Oh, be still my heart. I left with promises of being able to come and visit more often. A three hour drive is a lot closer than a four hour drive. 

My husband and I are looking forward to future motorcycle trips down Hwy 64 east. 

Hwy 12
Leaving the Outer Banks. Alone with my thoughts along Hwy 64.

Just yesterday, I had to make some tough decisions concerning my mom. I receive a phone call the day before from the assisted living complex that  mom lives at, telling me she was being transported to the hospital. Yesterday, during my visit to the hospital, the medical staff informed me that mom has a touch of pneumonia with congestive heart failure. This was not the news I was expecting to hear. Mom is 87 years old and not in the best of health to start with. 

The transition nurse came in mom’s room and asked what our plans were for mom’s future health care. I just sort of looked at her like a deer in headlights as thoughts swirled around  in my head. My brother and I had just recently discussed drawing up new POA papers and the possibility of Hospice care. This news seemed to force our hands. So, as of today, I will be having mom sign the new set of documents to include  Medical POA and Advanced Directives that the old POA documents did not include.

Listening to God

This is why I believe the above story tells how God has been answering my prayer for repurposing my life.

This summer I’ve been doing a group study of the book, “A Praying Life” by Paul E. Miller.

He talks about working your prayers. He said for him it is a three fold pattern and shared a story from his life of how it worked. He says he first wrote down the prayer. (Yep. I did that. Readers you are witness to it in “Repurposed”.) Then watched for God to work while he prays.  (Yep. I kept watching to see how/if things would unfold.) Finally, God provided an opportunity where he, Paul Miller, “worked” the prayer request. Meaning God involved him in his own prayers, often in a physical and humbling way. (Can you see how God was involving me?) Mr. Miller referenced the scripture about the farmer spreading the seed then watching and waiting for harvest time, then harvesting the crop. (Mark 4:26-29)

Mr. Miller talks about prayer journaling and how to hear God speaking through them; writing down your prayers and reflecting on them, meditating on scripture, God’s word and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in you and through you. For me, this blog is one form of my prayer journaling. It helps me to “hear” the Whisperings of Grace in my life as I reflect back on what has been happening, my responses and how I can see God at work in my life. I find hope and feel the peace that my faith in Christ gives.

Mr. Miller wrote at the end of the Prayer Journaling chapter:

“If we see our lives as a pilgrimage, then it becomes an integrated whole. It makes sense.”

Prayer:  Father God, Thank you for the pilgrimage you have guided me through this summer. I look forward to the journey to come. I pray that mine and each reader’s pilgrimage becomes integrated with you as we make sense of your will for our lives. I pray especially for the person who is seeking hope and peace and purpose. In His name, who is our hope and peace, I pray, Christ Jesus – Amen.

REPURPOSING

Life Hack, according to Wikipedia “refers to any trick, shortcut, or novelty method that increases productivity and  efficiency, in all walks of life.”

While on Wikipedia’s “Life Hack” page I noticed a link to a book titled Getting Things Done by author David Allen. It’s a time management methodology of making lists. Humph! I’ve been practicing that for years without a book to tell me how to do it.

Now that I’m retired I like to call it repurposing my day. Granted, I will use some life hacks along the way.

I think I can get use to this retirement thing. Rapid responses don’t have to be quite so rapid anymore. I no longer have to get up while it’s o-dark o’clock out. I can leisurely drink my coffee and enjoy listening to the morning chorus performed by nature as it begins to prepare for the day (one of the pleasures of living in a country neighborhood out in the burbs). I no longer have to jockey for lane positions on a commute to the office. Dinners are now healthy home cooked meals instead of quick grabbed fast food fare. Exercise is tackling a “to do” list that has been on hold for goodness knows how long. 

7.12.18 drywipe
A Carry over from being in admin…yes, I have a project dry-wipe board full of wishes

The “to do’s” are mostly wishes. I started them in May, after I completed renovating the master bath, and imagine it will be a long time before I complete all of them. But hey, no rush. Right?

Renovating the bathroom! Now that was a task in and of itself. Painting the ceiling proved more challenging than I had anticipated. I had achy muscles that I forgot existed. It’s amazing how climbing up and down a ladder all day will give you a workout. I have a new appreciation for folks who paint for a living. I just might have to call on them for the other ceilings around the house. 

The walls went much quicker. (Still had to climb up and down that ladder though!)

Then there were the dreaded cabinet doors that needed to be removed and refinished. I’m not a big fan of the Thermofoil coating used for pre-finished cabinets. When it starts to peel there is no stopping it. I should have taken a before picture. Ugh! It was awful.

7.12.18 door prep
Thank goodness for YouTube DIY videos! After some sanding and painting…

 I don’t suggest setting up workshop in your kitchen. But, it rained all that week and I couldn’t get outside to do the work. So one does what one has to do to get the job done. Life hack #1.  

7.12.18 masterbathcomplete
… the cabinet looks better than when new. A big self-pat on the back.

After I finished the bathroom, I tackled the kitchen. The cabinets had brass

7.12.18 boiling knobs
Remove lacquer with vinegar and boiling water bath.

door/drawer knobs. I wanted white enameled pulls like the ones in the bathroom.

7.12.18 cracked lacquer
Allow to cool, wipe off cracked lacquer, rinse and dry

But those jokers costs anywhere from $4.50 or more each. I wasn’t about to spend over $100 for drawer pulls.

So what do I do? Life hack #2.

7.12.18 knobs ready to paint
Knobs placed on bottom of a cardboard box to paint ready for spray painting

I buy two cans of white Rustoleum spray enamel paint for less than $15. After two coats of white enamel and two coats of sealer, I was very pleased with the outcome.

 The last thing I’ve done thus far in the kitchen is to hang a “towel bar” in front of my sink.

I couldn’t find any towel bars that were the right size or color for the spot I wanted. So what did I do? You guessed it. Life hack #3.

7.12.18 towel bar
A simple little cafe curtain rod repurposed into a towel bar.

I repurposed a cafe curtain rod. It does the trick nicely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then there are things I want to do that I would like to become habits.

-Writing everyday to improve my WordPress skills (I’ve a long way to go on that one. I welcome feedback and comments from readers. Hoping to hear from some of you!)

-Sending greeting cards (Not many people do that anymore. I still enjoy receiving  handwritten heartfelt notes. Don’t you?)

-Studying biblical history (I’m participating in a group study on prayer this summer using Paul Millers book A Praying Life.)

-Visiting old friends (I’ve been sitting with a friend on Mondays this summer, who had a serious motorcycle accident and is wheelchair bound for several months.)

-Volunteering (places are still to be determined)

-Riding my bike with friends on the spur of a moment (More adventures to report on soon.)

-Being a full-time gra’ma, not just on holidays (It’s tough being a gra’ma when the babies live 5 hours away.)

-Develop a hobby. ( I used to sew. Wonder if I’m any good at it now. It’s been awhile. There are quilt scraps stored away. Hmmmm…there may be a new quilt in the future.)

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” – Proverbs 19:21

I’ve yet to set a routine for my days. Right now I’m still trying not to feel guilty for enjoying a day that doesn’t include punching a time-clock. But I know God and His Grace has a new purpose for me in my “retirement.” June Hunt so eloquently reminded me of this today when I read one of her articles in Hope for the Heart.

She wrote, “No one who has ever lived or is living now or will ever live can accomplish your unique purpose. This is something only you can do . . . something only God can do through you.”

Yep. I think I can get use to retirement and HIS repurposing my days.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for giving me a life full of memories and experiences to draw upon as I begin a new chapter in my life. Reveal to me the new purposes and the repurposed walk with you in sharing your goodness with others. Reveal to all of us, the good and perfect purpose you have for our lives when we place our faith in you. In Christ name. – Amen

A New Day Dawning

Nightfall. For most folks, it’s generally a time of rest. Then there are those who long for rest in the evening, yet it escapes them. The mind just won’t shut down. Fears, worry, concerns, conversations, guilt, hopes and plans swirl around and around dancing with what-ifs. It becomes a long dark night until a breaking point is reached. It’s in that darkest part before the dawn when the body becomes so weary until it finally succumbs to rest . . and for a short while the mind quiets.

pre-dawn-harbour-glow

Then a new day dawns. In the faint glow of predawn, the chaotic jitterbug in the mind quietens. One begins a slow waltz of sifting through the what-ifs, of changing partners from worry and guilt to healing and acceptance. That’s how it is in the long dark night of the soul too.

“Joy Comes With the Morning” by William Kinnaird has helped me discover the predawn glow in the dark night of my soul. In the book’s second section titled Encouraging Others, chapters 12 – 28 cover a myriad of topics: Caring; An Invitation to Live; The Seeds of Love; Altruism; A Key to Mental Health; Make My Garden Grow; Affirming Gifts; Warts and All; Support; Acceptance; We Need Each Other; Hand in Hand; If I Were You; Special Glue; Friendship; Priesthood of All Believers; and Charity Begins at Home.

Some of the chapters reinforced what I already know and attempt to practice. To care for another I must be able to understand the person and their world as if I am inside it. (That’s why, as a Stephen Minister, it is so important to be a good listener.) Seeing with their eyes, having empathy, whether caring for a significant other, family, friend or co-worker. Doing so doesn’t mean I have to react the same. But it may be possible that I would if the same circumstance was mine. I agree with Mr. Kinnaird, “Caring is love in action. It is God at work in our lives.”

I think that of all the chapters in that section, the Altruism chapter struck a chord the most. I thought I was an altruistic person, that is until I read the chapter. Mr. Kinnaird tells the story of  the Apostle Peter in the New Testament book of John. Peter’s denial of Christ caused him to be so depressed that he felt no joy in Christ’s resurrection. His guilt deterred his mission works of altruism and compassion he had been commanded to do. But, when Christ reassured him of His continuing Love, Peter’s depression changed. He felt empowered to carry out the mission he was called to do. I had never read the story in the light of altruism before.

Kinnaird says love and kindness are the keys of altruism in the lives of our families and others, “We can use those keys to open up lives to altruism or imprison them in a dungeon of unforgiveness and lack of love. The choice is ours!” I felt like he was speaking directly to me. I had been withholding those keys from a very important person. That has since changed and it is making a difference in our relationship, so far.

Warts and All; Support; Acceptance; We Need Each Other; Hand in Hand; If I Were You; Special Glue; Friendship; Priesthood of All Believers . . . I have been the benefactor of each of these. I have some very, very special friends who accepted me warts-and-all and walked hand in hand with me this summer supporting me as I worked through a deep emotional pain. They have been the special glue that helped me “keep it together” between the hours of 8am-5pm. With our common bond in a belief of a “priesthood of all believers” the healing process is almost complete. It will take some time for the physical side-effects to heal, if ever. But I’m working on those too. (Ulcers seem to have a way of reasserting themselves. Ugh!)  I’m getting pretty good at pain management. What was that I quoted a while back? Oh yeah, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7 (KJV)

Indeed a new day is breaking and joy will come with the morning!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I praise you. You have blessed me with special friends who echo the Apostle Paul, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.”   2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (NASB) – AMEN!

Twilight Zone of Soul’s Dark Night

Cue the guitar, a repetitive 3-4- 3-root lick in the key of E (G#-A-G#-E) topped with a b5 (Bb) pedal tone .. “do DO-do-do-do, DO-do-do ….”

You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension: a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas; you’ve just crossed over into the Twilight Zone.”

-Rod Sterling, 1963 Twilight Zone, season 4

Somewhere between the level headed, keep a smile on your face, don’t let them see you break, perky perfectionist from 8am-5pm and the drop your guard, remove the mask, falling apart, I can’t put coherent thoughts together insomniac from 8pm-5am, I had entered a Twilight Zone of my dark night of the soul during these past six months.

As I began reading, “Joy Comes With the Morning” I could feel Grace whispering encouragement, nudging me to write about this dark part of my faith journey. It’s difficult. However, I know in doing so, Grace will continue to guide, comfort and give a peace that passes all understanding to me and perhaps to another who may be seeking.

In the previous post, Dusk-The Dark Night Begins, I only mentioned the first of ten chapters in the first section Encouraging Ourselves from “Joy Comes With the Morning.” The remaining chapters, 2-An Experiment in Self Love, 3-The Computer of Our Mind, 4-A Human Filtering System, 5-Heterosuggestion, 6-Take Off the Mask, 7-Vulnerability, 8-No-Knock Policy, 9-Family Communication, 10-Don’t Judge Yourself and 11-Dying to Self, helped me label some of the thoughts and behaviors that took place as I begin to balance the scales of those dimensions within the twilight zone.

Chapter 2 called remembrance to the passage in Matthew 22:36-39.

Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (KJV)

Mr. Kinnaird shared how he began an experiment in self-love, that is loving himself unconditionally as God loves him. He said,

Suppose I dwelled on my good points and tried not to condemn myself for my faults. Suppose I forgave myself my mistakes…There is nothing narcissistic or self-indulgent about this kind of love. Rather, it means that I look at myself objectively as another child of God.

How can we discriminate against ourselves? How can we refuse to love any child of God, even our self? Jesus told us to love our enemies, and with so many of us our greatest enemy is our self. Think about that for a minute. How many times have you been your own worst enemy? How many times have you been almost totally self-destructive?”

I thought about what he said. I guess, in a way I had begun an experiment in self-love. Like Mr. Kinnaird, I’m coming to love some of my qualities and saying “so what” to others. Not that I’m unwilling to change them. (I’ve discovered I have more Type A personality traits than I care to admit.) I’ll not get upset if I can’t change a lifetime habit over night by self willpower. Only by God’s power and His will and in His time will some changes come about. I just have to choose to change.

I sit in front of a computer all day. You know the term “GIGO” don’t you, “garbage in-garbage out?” Without proper filters, that’s what happens to our systems, the information becomes garbage, or worst yet the PC becomes corrupted with virus’s and malware. Sometimes we have to do a system restore to get the PC operating correctly. Our minds really are like a computer. If we let negative thoughts in, then negativity is what will come out. If we don’t have correct filters in place, then our perception of people, places and things become skewed. That’s what happened in my twilight zone. I had to distance myself from the negativity in my life in order to do a “system restore.” Grace affirmed that I had made the right decision to limit my visits to Henderson and its negativity to once a month, instead of weekly. I felt guilty about it. I felt I was not upholding my responsibilities. However, I knew it was best for everyone for awhile and doing what is best is upholding the responsibilities I have been asked to do.

The “taking off the mask” and allowing others to see my brokenness has been a bit challenging. The first time was when I had to ask an acquaintance’s forgiveness for a negative outburst I directed towards her back in April. (I think that’s probably when I crossed over into the twilight zone. I kept trying to justify my actions. Even though, deep down, I knew I was in the wrong. Why, I wouldn’t even speak to her after that.) It took two weeks for me to work up enough willpower (again not my desire, but God’s prompting) to invite her to lunch and share with her what I had been going through since Thanksgiving. The mask slipped off a little during lunch. After discussing our different yet similar personalities, she realized that she was partially at fault for the outburst and asked forgiveness also. The lunch became a little like a counseling meeting. She too had some family matters that were heavy on her heart that she needed to share. So, there I was, a Stephen Minister. What was I to do but offer an unbiased listening ear? (Isn’t it amazing how God places people in our lives at just the right time?) It turned out to be a positive lunch. I think it strengthened our relationship somewhat. We agreed that we could disagree on opinions. Personal opinions were just that, personal. She is more considerate of mine and I hers.

The masked slipped a bit more the following month. Friends of mine and hubby invited us to go with them to Gatlinburg, Tennessee for the Memorial Day weekend. We ladies discussed several prayer concerns that were on our hearts. In the course of the conversation, I let my guard down and shared all that I had been experiencing. I knew I could trust her. I didn’t feel quite so vulnerable with her as a confidant. It felt good to finally tell someone else the whole story.

As the months rolled on, my brother kept his promise to give me rest. He protected me by implementing a no-knock policy with mom. Whenever she began her negative comments, insults, complaining and put-downs, he reminded her why he was her caregiver this year. He only calls me when needing advice on handling certain situations, or wants affirmation on a decision. We’ve kept the family communications open.

In order for a new apple tree to grow, a seed has to die first. Then it is re-birthed, producing a new tree and a multitude of more apples, more seeds, more trees. Mr. Kinnaird states it this way, “It may have to be buried for a time while the roots are taking hold, but eventually it will sprout into something better than ever.” Perhaps this twilight zone was just a way for me to “die to self” in order for God to use me in more ways, better ways in the future to share encouragement and His grace with others.

A new dawn is breaking. I can see morning coming. More on that next time.

door-into-the-unknown-13303398429tsPrayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for this twilight zone, another dimension: a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. A place of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. Perceptions and growth. Perceptions can change and growth can be multiplied, especially when you bring joy with the morning. In Christ – Amen