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!)

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

Dusk – The Dark Night Begins

Mountain sunset

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he. – Proverbs 23:7 (KJV)

The “dark night of the soul” is such a cold, lonesome place to find oneself. In his book, “Joy Comes With the Morning,” William Kinnaird titles the first section Encouraging Ourselves. The title for the first chapter is The Surest Ego Builder. As I read that I said to myself, “ I don’t need to build my ego.”

I thought about that title for a while. I continued reading. Kinnaird said, “Unless we feel good about ourselves, unless our ego is healthy, we can’t help anybody else. We don’t have anything to offer.”

Surely, not I. I don’t need encouragement. After all, wasn’t I the one who always offered the listening ear. Didn’t I pray with and for others who shared their stories and concerns with me. I always greeted everyone with a smile. When anyone asked, “How are you doing?” I gave a quick reply, “Fine. I’m fine.”

The more I thought about it though, the more Kinnaird’s comment got my attention. Especially the last sentence, “We don’t have anything to offer.” Again, it was as if he had ripped me open and was peering deep into my soul. I felt I didn’t have anything to offer. But why? I began looking back over the past eight months to search out the reason. Just when did the dark night of the soul began for me? I thought, “a night fall begins at dusk. I needed to discover my “dusk.””

Dusk sets in as the dark night of my soul begins.

November 14, 2015 . . . The beloved 3P Women’s ministry, a ministry of prayer, praise and fellowship for the women in my Sunday School class, came to a close. I had been blessed with co-leading the ministry for two years. 12 precious women met monthly for Bible study, life enrichment discussions, encouragement, developing and deepening relationships with others and deepening their faith in Christ. My co-leader, whom I speak of in the “about” page of Whisperings of Grace, a missionary serving in the local area, would be leaving our church to attend one in her mission field. Oh how I would miss her! Both she and I needed to take a sabbatical and was hoping someone else would take-over. However, no one felt equipped to continue the ministry. Thus, that last fellowship would be our last time together as a group. It was a bittersweet day. Perhaps it was for the best. Our church would be changing its scheduling in the new year. Many of us would begin attending different services and Sunday School classes. It would give us the opportunity to expand our relationships beyond the fellowship that we had grown accustomed to over the past six or seven years. I could only hope the individual prayer and accountability teams that had developed in 3P would continue to meet for prayer and to offer each other encouragement. Letting go was hard to do. Dusk sets in as the dark night of my soul begins.

The dusk deepened on the following Saturday. It was a dark valley for me that day. I am my mother’s only daughter and have been her primary caregiver since my father died in 1980. Her harsh angry words to me and my husband, along with an attempt at striking me with an object, cut me deeply emotionally. So deeply that on the 30 mile drive home I tearfully commented to my husband, “Don’t be surprised if you come home one day and find your gun missing and me laying in the woods out back.”

So, I did as mom asked. I stayed away. Thanksgiving came and went. No visit. No turkey and dressing. No family reunion. She didn’t call me. I didn’t call her. A trip to my daughter’s house in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains did little to lift my spirits. I developed a case of herpes zoster, adult chicken pox, “the shingles” while there. (Oh what a nasty disease.)

December came with all its trappings. There were office parties and church fellowships to attend. Waking up together Christmas morning with the grandchildren. But there was no Christmas visit with mom. Again, not even a phone call. I tried to appear cheerful for everyone. I refused to let the painful shingles interrupt my life. Yet on the inside, emotionally, I was swiveling up. Joy was ebbing away and I didn’t even realize it.

Perhaps my ego did need rebuilding.

Hmmm. Perhaps Mr. Kinnaird was correct. Perhaps the shingles were the result of an unhealthy ego. I was no longer teaching. Teacher identified “me.” The identity of “care-giver” for my mom had been rejected. The next several months would tell the tale. Perhaps my ego did need rebuilding. Indeed.

2016 revealed more than I wanted to admit.

The shadows of dusk deepened

In January, I packed up all mom’s belongings that I had been storing for her since she broke up house-keeping and moved into the independent living facility. I gathered together all of her records, files and financial reports I have been accumulating as her Power of Attorney. I loaded it all in my car and carted it the 30 some miles and deposited it at my brother’s house, who only lives five miles from our mom. He attempted to refuse the delivery. But after the private conversation which my quiet spoken husband insisted on having with him, he agreed to step in and take on the responsibility as mom’s care-giver and give me a year to heal…emotionally, physically and spiritually. Yet, the shadows of dusk deepened.

As chapter one came to a close in Mr. Kinnaird’s book, he commented that for a long time he wasn’t able to minister to anybody else. He was to consumed with his own hurts. As I read his comments I empathized with him. I knew exactly what he was talking about. Then what he wrote next seemed to leap off the page at me. I KNEW Grace was whispering to me, reminding me of His promises. Mr. Kinnaird stated that his favorite scripture verse is Romans 8:28. I consider it my life verse. It has been since I accepted Christ as my personal Lord and savior at the age of 17. It’s the verse I go to when I’m hurting or when I don’t understand why things happen the way they do. It’s the promise I cling to.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”-Romans 8:28 (NIV)

Even though the dusk was deepening. I can now see how Grace was and is healing me. An old song from my youth came to mind that reminds me of this. The lyrics to it are:

Are you discouraged and are you blue?
Are clouds obscuring the sun from view?
Keep trusting Jesus, though storms assail.
You have His promise He will not fail.

CHORUS
It’s always darkest before the dawn.
Don’t be discouraged but carry on.
He’ll not forsake you, the sun will break through.
It’s always darkest before the dawn.

He knows your heartache, He understands,
Just put your problems in His great hands,
No trouble meets you but in His will,
He’s not forgotten, He loves you still.

I can hardly wait to see what else Grace has to say as I continue reading “Joy Comes With the Morning.” I hope you will join me again.

Prayer: Father God, your Word also tells us in Romans 8:26-27 “…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” Lord God, thank you for the one who intercedes on our behalf. In Chris name. Amen

More of His Grace

 

“More about Jesus I would know, more of His grace to others show; More of His saving fullness see, more of His love, who died for me. More, more about Jesus, More, more about Jesus; More of His saving fullness see, more of His love, who died for me.”

An old time favorite hymn of mine is titled “More about Jesus” written by Eliza Hewitt. It was first published in 1887. It speaks of the major theme of the Christian faith…GRACE.

The word “grace” has numerous definitions.  Google “grace” and it will return over 54,000,000 results. Grace is more than a brief prayer offered up before a meal. Grace can be defined as having or giving favor or goodwill; such as showing kindness, forgiveness, charity, and mercifulness. It can be defined as mercy, clemency or pardon. It’s an unmerited favor one doesn’t deserve it.

One of the lines in that hymn brought to mind a story shared with me by a friend returning from a mission trip and a lesson about grace while there.

It seems one group of youth and adults didn’t understand the purpose of a mission trip and it sounded as if this group had less than servant hearts. The staff was confused by what they had observed and frustrated that they seemed to have had no impact on the attitude or heart of the group.

After listening to their stories the leader of the group said, “Remember, EGR.”  My friend thought, EGR?  She knew EEG, EKG and even EOG’s but EGR… what’s EGR? So she asked. The response was “Extra Grace Required.” The leader was reminding staff that some people and situations require extra Grace.

We all need to practice “EGR”, don’t we? If someone cut’s us off at the traffic light, think “EGR.” If there’s an empty grocery cart in that choice parking space at the grocers, think “EGR.” If our spouse has a bad day and snaps at us unintentionally, think “EGR.” If our child gets frustrated trying to learn a new skill, think “EGR.” The list could go on and on about when we could practice “EGR.”

But wait! That’s a lot of finger pointing. We must remember the old adage…”When you point your finger at someone, four of your fingers are pointing back at you.” Just as we have the opportunity to practice “EGR,” we probably are giving others a reason to practice it with us. Oh, no, not when we roll our eyes at a spouse’s comment; not when we raise our voice at our children before, we allow them to complete their explanation; not when we become impatient with a new cashier; not when…. fill in the blank.

There are many times when our actions don’t reflect the grace that we have received.

Instead of only looking for times to practice “EGR” with others, perhaps we should be hoping others will understand the mistakes we make and send a little EGR our way. God certainly has and does every single day.

I’m thankful for grace.

That old hymn is a reminder to practice “EGR.” Perhaps, just perhaps … This Is Your Song too. I hope so.

Hebrews 12:15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.

 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, forgive us for those times when we behave in an ungracious manner. Help us Lord to be a reflection of Your grace in all that we say and do. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen

 

 

Just Another Day

Sometimes we get so bogged down in the rituals of our daily lives that we forget to give thanks for what we think is just another day. We worry about completing tasks. We grumble or complain when interruptions get in the way of our plans. For instance, . . .

I hear water running in the shower. Slowly, I force my eyes open. The clock reads 5:30 a.m. “Ugh,” I groan inwardly, “not already.” I lay in bed a little longer while waiting for my husband to finish dressing and start the coffee. This is our ritual most mornings. Just another day starting out the same old way.

I finally crawl out of bed and shuffle into the kitchen for my first cup of coffee. Still trying to get my eyes to focus, I overflow the cup. I chuckle at myself as it reminds me of a commercial I’ve seen with a lady doing the same thing. She wipes the coffee from the counter into her cup. I try to remember the product, but it escapes me. “Humph,” I think, “This is going to be just another day like the others.”

Hubby kisses me goodbye as he leaves for work at 6:30 a.m. That’s my que to go dress for work. As I shower, my mind flits from one subject to another, thoughts of what needs to be done when I get to the office; prayers for people who are on my heart; grocery lists; lines from a song; it’s been a while since I did any writing. I need to get on the blog tonight…Yep today is going to be just another day.

I make it to work at 8:00 a.m. As I walk to the building, my cell phone buzzes. It is a text from a friend sharing news that her daughter was just accepted by one of the major colleges. I smile to myself. She had been in my prayers. I shoot back a quick congratulatory text. I unlock the office door, turn on the lights, boot up my computer and go make a cup of coffee. Just another day.

Other folks begin arriving and the campus becomes alive. Just as I begin to start on my morning tasks, a teacher stops by my office with a question about her financial statement. I stop what I’m doing to look at her statement and listen to her concerns. I answer her question and advise her on what to do in the future. She thanks me and hurries down the hallway to her classroom. I turn back to my task at hand and mumble under my breath, “just another day.

Shortly after the teacher leaves, an elderly church member stops by with a question about her financial statement. I stop what I’m working on to answer her question. Then the conversation turns to the recent snow storm. I asked if she had any troubles during it and learned she was without power for several days. Warmed only by the fireplace, she and her husband sat huddled together, reminiscing about their childhood in Scotland and how it reminded them of the fireplace “back home.” I smiled at her and commented, “I bet they were some good memories.” She paused for a moment with a faraway look in her eyes and with a smile quietly answered, “Why yes. Yes, they were. Thanks for asking.” As she leaves, I turn back to my task at hand, preparing for just another day in the office.

At 9:00 a.m. the phone rings. I recognize the gentleman’s voice on the other end. He had two college basketball tickets he was giving away and wanted the phone number of someone he had in mind for them. I gave him the information and then asked how he and his family was doing. I learned their well went dry recently, and they finally have water again. His wife was extremely happy about it. He chuckled and said that was why he was giving the tickets away and that he “best keep” his wife happy for right now. I wished him well and turned back to my work again, preparing for just another day in the office.

For the next two hours I worked with very few interruptions, except email. Between answering emails and completing some database updates I nearly finished a project. Just another day in the office.

Finally, lunch time rolled around. I had been looking forward to today’s lunch for several weeks. I had a lunch date with a young married couple. It had been quite some time since we had had a lengthy conversation. We ate delicious barbecue sandwiches in my office while we discussed matters on their hearts. I always enjoy time with them. It’s a blessing to me see how they are growing in their faith.

Lunch finished, they returned to their day, and I turned back to my other tasks at hand. I glanced at the clock and thought, “Good. I have 30 minutes before my 2:00 appointment arrives.”  In 15 minutes the front door buzzer rang. Since the front desk person had left for the day, I looked at the door video to see who was there. (I should have known better than to get 30 minutes more on the task.) The person always arrives early for our appointments. Why should today be any different. So, I put away the papers I was working on and invited the person into my office. We talked for the next 90 minutes. I gave the person an assignment to write down one positive thing that happens each day for the next seven days.

Now…back to the task I had planned for the day. I finally completed the project. Or so I thought. Another email pinged in. Another question about the project. I would have to research it and get back to the person. Perhaps I will have time over the weekend to help them with their part of the task. Perhaps not.

Finally, it’s 5:00pm, time to go home. I get home and hubby is wanting to go out to dinner. We enjoy a dinner of seafood and talk about our day. Just another day.

As I sat here tonight reflecting on this day, seeing the undertones of complaint, seeing the interruptions, Grace gently led me to this verse . . .

Isaiah 41:10  ‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

So, I took the assignment I gave to my 2:00 appointment and applied it to my day. I took my anxieties out. And you know what? Today wasn’t just another day. It was a blessed day.

I am blessed to have a home and warm bed. I am blessed to have employment. I am blessed to have friends who want to share the big and small things in their lives with me. I am blessed to witness the love and share in the memories of an elderly couple. I am blessed to share in laughter when someone shares a chuckle about their home life. I am blessed to be a sounding board for someone seeking an unbiased listening ear. I am blessed to have a husband who makes me coffee each morning and wants to take me out to dinner. I am blessed when writing this blog.

For these things I am thankful for just another day.

How about you? I bet if you look hard enough, you can find a blessing in your day too, even though it may have been just another day.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for strengthening us when we don’t realize you are there. Often we miss the blessings because we don’t look for them. Thank you for helping us see an ordinary day through your eyes, and realize each day is extraordinary when we allow you in it. It’s not Just Another Day.  In Christ name – Amen.