Gift Ideas - Handmade and Other

Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 - A Dakota Tale

Guest writer Dakota joins us for this final post of 2012.  

Here I am again putting paw to keyboard to send you a year end greeting from Mommy and me. She has had a very exciting year and I want to tell you all about it!

In January, Mama was able to live out one of her long time dreams. She went to see “The Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway. Shortly after New Year’s she started listing Bucket List items on Facebook. One of them was to see a Broadway show. One of the ladies from her church saw this and offered to go with her. Then a man from her church gave her a link to a site where she could get tickets very inexpensively. Before Mama knew it, she had tickets to see “The Phantom of the Opera” with two women from her church. She loved it!! (Yeowzer!!) When the music began to play and the chandelier began to rise, she got a chill up her spine and was entranced the rest of the evening. 

In Broome County where Mama grew up, they have an annual weekend event called the Balloon Rally and Spiedie Fest. Mama used to go many years ago, but she hasn’t been able to go since she moved away. This August Mama and cousin Sandra went to the Fest. On Friday night they were able to watch the hot air balloons fill up and take off. On Sunday they went to church at the Fest, heard Mark Shultz in concert (meow, he was good, even though he made people cry with his poignant songs!) and then wandered around looking at the crafts and Mama enjoyed a spiedie sandwich. That afternoon Mama and cousin Sandra were able to hear Lone Star in concert as well. It was a fun weekend for Mama.

Autumn brought another opportunity. Mommy took a workshop.  For 5 weeks she met with several other women and they worked through a book called Sacred Rhythms about how to incorporate different spiritual disciplines into your life so that you can get to know God better. She enjoyed getting to know the other women and learning about them and sharing herself with them. Through this workshop she realized how important rhythms are in her life both those that come naturally like the seasons and holidays and those that she incorporates into her life like work and rest, time with God and time with family.

As for me? Well, I do a good job at keeping Mommy company and she tells me I am a good kitty a lot. I work hard to keep our home free of mice and she is very appreciative. Once in awhile she gives me tuna juice and then I am so happy (meow . . . purr, purr, purr)! 

We hope that you have a Blessed and Healthy New Year!!

Friday, December 21, 2012

My Christmas Memory Tree

My Christmas tree is twinkling in my living room and I love to look at it. A Christmas tree is a memory tree for me. I remember getting up early when I was a young child to plug in my parent's tree and lay on the floor watching the lights blink on and off and the the bubbles in the old bubble lights float to the top. But, what evokes the most memories are the special ornaments on it.

The fan made from a leftover wallpaper border that my parents loving hung in my room. That room and the wallpaper are gone, lost in a house fire, but that little fan reminds me of the room where I grew from a child to a woman.

A lovely rose, lace, and ribbon concoction from a college friend's wedding decorations. Every time I hang it on my tree, I remember this lovely lady.

A small cinnamon hand made by a tiny little girl and given to me for Christmas many years ago.

A tiny handcrafted shadow box, made for me by my mother, holding her favorite collectible - a teddy bear.

A small pewter ornament depicting the nativity - the most important reminder of what Christmas is all about.

A lovely heart, ribbon, lace, and pinecone piece handmade by one of my nieces, many years ago.

As I decorated my tree and now as I walk by it each day, I am reminded of so many loved ones who have given me ornaments over the years - family members, students, friends. I am also reminded of the true meaning of Christmas, of God born in human flesh in a humble manger over two centuries ago. My tree reminds me of love - both human and divine.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mending Broken Relationships

Early one morning, I was awakened by strange sounds. In my sleep induced stupor, I eventually recognized that my cat Dakota was chasing a mouse. Having complete confidence that Dakota would take care of the situation, I rolled over and went back to sleep.

The next morning there was evidence of a cat and mouse skirmish; however the mouse was not to be found, not in the Christmas tree (yeah!!), not in the basket of laundry. In fact, I found no evidence of a mouse dead or alive anywhere.

I continued on with my morning routine and noticed that Dakota was sitting quietly on the floor, something he rarely does unless it is in a patch of sunshine. He sat there for nearly 45 minutes. I decided it was time to investigate. I looked a little, moved a couple things, and then I saw the little critter. He was wedged between two photo albums . . . quite dead I was sure. I put on a glove so I could dispose of him and pulled out one photo album to reach him better. However, he was not dead. In fact judging by the speed at which he ran toward me and when I screamed the speed at which he shot across the room, he was quite alive.

Things may not always be what they appear to be. As we work to heal and rebuild damaged relationships, this is a good principle to keep in mind. We may not correctly perceive the other person’s point of view. In his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey presented the principle: “Seek first to understand and then to be understood.” Solomon warned us that “He who answers before listening – that is his folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13 NIV1984). As we seek to repair broken relationships, remember to humbly approach the other person willing to hear their side of the story, willing to allow our perspectives to be adjusted.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Forgiveness - Repentance - Restoration Part 3

Forgiveness and repentance are choices that you can make as an individual. Nothing is required of another person for you to forgive them or for you to repent of your own wrongdoing. However, restoration is something you cannot do alone. Restoration requires participation of both people in the relationship.

Maybe you have spent years building a relationship. You've laughed with someone, been in their home and they have been in yours, you've cried with them, celebrated and grieved with them. Deep love and trust characterized your relationship. Then something happened - it may have been a small thing that became big or it may have been a big thing, but the relationship was changed, even broken, ended.

How does a person fix a broken relationship?

1. A person cannot fix a broken relationship alone. Relationships are about two people who choose to love and trust one another, who choose to share their life journeys together . . . perhaps for a long time, perhaps only for a season. Both people in the relationship must want to fix what has been broken and both people must be willing to be active in the restoration.

2. Every story has two sides. Each person has a perspective that needs to be heard and understood. Steven Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People advised that people should seek first to understand and then to be understood. Once a person has been heard and understood they are more receptive to hearing the other side of the issue.

3. Repentance and forgiveness must be given and received. When the wrong is owned and forgiveness is given, a foundation is laid to rebuild the relationship. Restoration may not be instantaneous, but rather a process of rebuilding trust, committing to the relationship again, and perhaps even adjusting to a "new normal" (a different, but healthier way of relating).

If you have experienced a broken relationship, one that you have valued and desire to have restored, my prayer for you is that you and the other person will be able to look each other in the eye, hear each others stories, give and receive forgiveness, and experience restoration of what has been lost.

May God bless you with peace on this journey.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Forgiveness - Repentance - Restoration - Part 2

Forgiveness is what Christ calls His followers to when they are wronged. What about when we are the one who has wronged someone else?

Many times our first response when we have wronged another is guilt. We feel a weight, a sense of having failed, a deep inner knowing that we have not been or done who or what we are at our best. We know that we have acted out of the worst in us and that knowledge can be a heavy burden.

How do we commonly respond to this sense of guilt?

1. Sometimes we blame others. The weight of our own failure is too overwhelming, so we seek to blame others, to share the weight of failure or even shift it completely to another. We hope that this will lift the feeling of guilt, but at best it only appeases our guilt for a time.

2. Sometimes we seek to punish ourselves, to lighten the load of guilt by punishing ourselves. By mentally beating up on ourselves, or even sometimes physically harming ourselves we hope that we will pay the debt of our failure and release ourselves from our guilt.

3. We might also do penance to offset our wrongs. We do good things for others, good things that will make a difference in our world to help bring the scales of right and wrong back to a place where the rights outweigh the wrongs.

4. Or, we might anesthetize our guilt through any of a variety of things - food, drugs, alcohol, sex, entertainment - anything that will take the edge off, anything that will give us relief from the pain of knowing we failed, that we hurt someone, that we acted out of the worst in us.

What is Christ's solution to guilt?

The Apostle John wrote: "If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)

When we fail, when we act out of the worst in us, we sin. Over and over in His ministry Christ called people to repent and that is still His call today, still His solution to sin, to personal failure. He calls us to recognize our failure, recognize our sin. Rather than wallow in guilt, He asks us to confess our wrong doing, both to Him and to those we have wronged. HE promises to forgive us. HE promises to remove our sin from us as far as the east is from the west. HIS response to our confession is sure and steadfast. HE will always forgive.

The response of those we have wronged is not as sure and it is beyond our control. The best we can do is to do our part, to confess, to go to those we have wronged and tell them what we have done and to apologize and hope for forgiveness . . . but we'll talk more about that in part 3.

Lastly, Jesus asks us to turn away from the behaviors and patterns that brought about our failure, that caused us to hurt others. In the beautiful story of Jesus' encounter with the woman caught in adultery, we often focus on Jesus' response to the woman. Truly His response is powerful when he tells those gathered around her, "He who is without sin, cast the first stone." That is part of the story worth focusing on, but it is not the end of the story. Jesus also tells her to, "Go and sin no more." Part of repentance is turning away from the behaviors and patterns that have led us to our sin. God will forgive us regardless, but He knows that it is for OUR GOOD to not only confess and seek forgiveness, but also to see a new way of living.

Stay tuned for part three . . . restoration.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Forgiveness - Repentance - Restoration - Part 1

Harsh words . . . disrespect . . . betrayal . . . a lie . . . hurt feelings . . . broken promises . . . gossip . . . theft . . . abandonment . . . broken boundaries . . . abuse . . . special events forgotten or ignored . . . silence . . . angry outbursts . . . resentment . . . unfulfilled expectations

What do all of these have in common? 

These are things that can hurt our spirit and damage or even destroy our relationships if left untended. Human relationships are fraught with rough spots and difficult times. Forgiveness can bring healing to our spirits and hope to struggling relationships.

What is forgiveness not?

1. Forgiveness is not saying what the other person did is okay.
2. Forgiveness is not forgetting. The human mind is frequently unable to forget.
3. Forgiveness is not giving the other person a pass to treat us the same way again.

What IS forgiveness?

1. Forgiveness is letting go of our right for personal revenge, our right to get even, our right for "payback."
2. Forgiveness is understanding that no matter what someone has done to us, Jesus paid the penalty for that sin, for that wrong doing. Jesus offers the person forgiveness based on what He did on the cross. No matter how high a price we pay for the effect someone else's sin has on us, we will never pay as high a price as Jesus did. God can empower us to forgive, even when we feel it is impossible.
3. Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. Sometimes it is a difficult choice that we must make over and over until the feelings follow. Forgiveness is a choice we make regardless of the actions of the person who has sinned against us. It does not require repentance from the offender or restoration of the relationship. Forgiveness is a choice we make in our own heart and soul.
4. Forgiveness is choosing how we will live with the consequences of another person's sin. We can choose to live in anger, bitterness, and revenge and with all the damage that does to our soul. Or, we can choose to forgive. We can choose to let go and trust God when He promises that vengeance is His and that He will bring about justice. We can choose to let go and live in love and . . . peace.
5. Forgiveness is freeing ourselves from another person's power to hurt or victimize us over and over, even from a distance, even when they are not longer part of our lives. When we choose to forgive and let go, we free ourselves from another person's power to control, manipulate, or victimize us.

Choosing forgiveness is our first step toward healing and health both for our souls and for our relationships.

Tune in for Part 2, Repentance; and then for Part 3, Restoration.

Friday, October 19, 2012


A caterpillar enters the chrysalis and an amazing transformation takes place. A caterpillar enters and a butterfly emerges. Sometimes someone is tempted to speed up the process, to release the butterfly from its chrysalis without allowing it to struggle. When this happens, the butterfly dies. The butterfly needs the struggle to grow strong.

The last four and a half months have been a time of struggle. The central figures in my support system have been stripped away. Chaos, change, and loss have come in wave after wave.

The story of the metamorphosis of the caterpillar to butterfly comforts me. I am reminded that God can bring beauty out of ugliness and pain. I am reminded that sometimes the struggle is crucial to our transformation. As we wrestle to navigate through paths that are unfamiliar and sometimes treacherous, God is at work. He is taking things that the enemy of our soul intends for evil and He is producing good. He is taking what is ugly and destructive and He is transforming it into good. The Lover of our soul is at work to produce fruit, beauty, growth, and strength in the midst of the struggle.

Yet, God does not do this work in a vacuum, He asks for our cooperation. He asks us to obey, to seek Him, to follow His lead. As we surrender ourselves to Him, as we do what He asks of us, as we seek and understand His purposes and cooperate with Him, He transforms us. He changes us not from caterpillars to butterflies, but from humans living in the flesh to His children who are more and more like Christ. Often the good that God is producing is not perfect circumstances, blessings of wealth, or even an easy road, the good that God is producing is the life of the Spirit in us . . . life that is truly life.

And we know that all things work together for good, for those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Living Life Fully

The kids are in bed, lunches are prepared for tomorrow, it's time to relax before bed. But there's no more energy left not for conversation with your husband, not for the things that need to be done around the house. You climb the stairs to drop into bed so that you can get up tomorrow morning and do it all over again. You long for that time when you were younger and felt alive and vibrant. Now you're so busy trying to survive that you wonder if you'll ever truly live again or will life just pass you by?

Christ told His disciples that He wanted to give them life, abundant life. Four principles can help you understand and experience the abundant life that Christ talked about.

1. Realize what truly living is not. The American Dream portrays the abundant life as possessions, wealth, and status. One bumper sticker captured the sentiment this way, "He who has the most toys wins." However, Jesus told His disciples, "a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." (Luke 12:15b) As I have visited poverty stricken countries, I have been surprised to see the joy, love, and abiding relationships that flourish in dirt-floored shacks devoid of a tv or any technology, devoid of indoor plumbing and glass windows -- a single room with no soft furniture, little privacy, and nothing that would be considered by the average American as a necessity. Yet there is a sense of life being lived fully, despite the circumstances. It quickly becomes apparent that real life is not about the external circumstances, but about the internal life and relationships, these are what matter.

2. Surrender to The Source of life. Galatians 5:25 says, "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." True life comes through the Spirit of God living in you. As you allow your thoughts to be directed by the Spirit of God through the Bible, you will gain understanding of what it means to truly live. The Spirit will cause you to experience the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control of God. As God expresses these things to you and you experience them and allow them to settle in your soul, you will begin to know a deep, personal richness that no one can take away and that creates a deep internal spring of life. This life will begin to flow from you as a river flows from a clear spring, free and unfettered.

3. Be open to new experiences and relationships. As the Holy Spirit prompts you to try something new, step out of your comfort zone and try it. Fear, anxiety, and stress can become barriers that keep you bound in old patterns of acting, thinking and relating. Sometimes these old patterns are merely dull and monotonous, sometimes they are unhealthy and even toxic to living a rich, full life. Make a list of things you've never done that you would like to do. Try doing them one at a time. Widen your circle of friends and acquaintances by inviting someone new to join you in completing items on your list.

4. Give thanks. Negativity is another life killer. Look for the blessings that come into your life each day. If life seems overwhelming or dull, you may have to look hard for these things at first, but as you find them, it will become easier to see them more often. Laugh and take joy in the blessings you have . . . from the little things that you take for granted on up to those that seem miraculous. Make a list of all the things you have to be thankful for and post it somewhere where you will see it often.

Seize life and live it fully and abundantly in the power of the Spirit of God.