Gift Ideas - Handmade and Other

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I am Grateful for . . . Photographs

As I look around my home and around my workplace, I am thankful for photographs.

Photographs remind me of people who have been part of my life, people who have added value and sweetness to my life.

Photographs remind me of special events - places I've visited; sights I've seen; adventures I've had; celebrations of birthdays, holidays, baptisms, weddings, showers, new babies . . . the special moments of life.

Photographs remind me of special animals that I have loved and enjoyed.

Photographs also remind me of beautiful places.

I am thankful for photographs!

What is your favorite photo? 
Why is it your favorite?

Monday, November 25, 2013

When the "To Do" List is Way too Long
Laundry is in piles. The Mom Taxi is working overtime traveling in a myriad of directions. Bills are waiting to be paid. Dishes. Meal preparation. House cleaning. A demanding career. A spouse and children who have needs to be met. Friends you value and want to see, yet the calendar is so full. Saying that little two letter word ("no") is so hard. Aging parents that need you. A never ending list of things to do.

The plates are spinning. The juggler is juggling. Any moment this fine tuned juggling act might come crashing to the ground . . . because the reality is, you can only keep up this level of activity for so long before things start to fall apart.

What can we do to keep it from all falling apart?

Remember the Airplane Oxygen Mask Lesson. You know that movie the flight attendants show at the beginning of every flight, the one that tells you a bunch of stuff you hope you never really need to know. On one flight I was traveling with a young child. When they asked the question, "What do you do when the oxygen mask drops?" My immediate response was, "Help the young child put hers on." I was initially appalled when they said, "Put on your own mask first."

"Isn't that selfish?" I thought. But then I realized that if I encountered a difficulty putting her mask on her and I didn't have my own on and I became unconscious, she would be in serious trouble. At that moment I grasped in a way that I never had before the importance of self-care. When we don't take care of ourselves, when our emotional and physical resources are depleted, we cannot care for those we love most. Self-care is very important to our overall well-being and to those we love.

Evaluate priorities. When dealing with a schedule that is overfull and a to do list that is too long, prioritizing helps to weed out what is keeping you from living a balanced, healthy life. Take some time to evaluate your priorities in life. What do you value most? Limit the number of things that you place on this list. I recommend keeping it to 3 or 4 things.

A few years ago, I had 4 things on my list of priorities (relationship with God/self-care, family and close friends, work, and a ministry). If someone asked me to do something, I ran it through this rubric and if it didn't fit, I had to say "no". Although I was busy, I was also focused, purposeful, and largely balanced. Some time later, I changed jobs and found myself trying to find my way to new ministries. Without my earlier rubric, I found it much harder to choose what to say "yes" or "no" to. My priorities had become much more fuzzy and it was harder to determine which things to do and not to do. Life felt much more scattered and out of control. Having a defined set of priorities to evaluate opportunities makes it easier to identify and say "no" to things that don't fit.

Practice saying "No." Although this tiny two letter word slips out of our mouths when we are two with amazing ease and frequency, somehow as we grow older it becomes harder and harder to say. Sometimes we need to practice saying it.

Practice it in the mirror. Practice it with a friend. Practice it in the car. Practice saying it to your children's toys. Say . . .

No with attitude.
No with charm.
No simply and straightforwardly.
No with a gracious explanation.

No can be said in many ways, but in the end, it needs to be said and to be held to firmly, because most people will take advantage of you if you let them. Practice saying "no" until you can say it comfortably to others because it frees you from commitments you can't afford to make.

When your schedule seems overwhelming,
what do you do to bring it under control?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Freedom to FLY
Chains . . . bars . . . painful memories hold us a prisoner to the past, but we can FLY to Freedom. When the past and it's difficulties hold us captive, there is a way to release the chains, throw open the bars and soar in Freedom.

Forgive. People have hurt us. People have done wrong to us. Things have happened, unforgiveable things have been done. Forgive. Forgiving does not say that what they did was okay, only that we will not seek revenge, only that we will not let it hold us captive any longer.

Let go. The past can wrap us up in bitterness. Let go. Rather than hold a grudge, let it go. Rather than rehearse the bad things done, let it go. Rather than nurse our right to revenge, let it go as an act of forgiveness.

Yield. Yield to the Savior who has paid for the sin of those who've hurt us and for our sin. Yield our well-being to Him and allow Him to bring us into freedom, into a place where there is something new, something beautiful. Yield to the peace and joy and love He longs to give us.

FLY - Forgive - Let Go - Yield
And FLY to Freedom

Five Minute Friday . . . 5 minutes of unfettered writing . . . every Friday morning at 12:01 a.m. with Lisa Jo Baker. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I am Grateful for . . . Authors who have Touched My Life

When I was in second grade, my teacher read the book Heidi to my class. I can still see the classroom and her standing at the front of the room, a blackboard behind her, a wall of windows looking out toward the grassy front lawn on her right. Her students sitting at desks lined up in neat rows. Daily she took us into the world of the Swiss Alps where the goats climbed high up to the meadows and Peter had to chase them, back at the cabin the Grandfather made his goat cheese, and the fir trees sang in the wind. I loved the characters and I wanted to be able to read that book again . . . and again . . . and again. Suddenly I was motivated to read a "big" book and I worked hard to be able to read Heidi all by myself. It took several months, but at last I could read it for myself and I haven't stopped reading since.

I am grateful for books and for the authors who have written them.

Authors who have entertained me:

  • Lilian Jackson Braun who wrote The Cat Who . . .  series. I was introduced to this series by a co-worker back in the early nineties and from the beginning fell in love with Qwill, Koko and Yum-Yum and their extraordinary exploits.  
  • Margaret Truman who wrote the Capital Murder series. The same person who introduced me to Ko-Ko and Yum-Yum also suggested I would like Margaret Truman's books and indeed I did.
  • Although a children's author, I didn't meet Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables until I was well into adulthood, but her books quickly became favorites to read time and again.
Authors who have taught me: 
  • Larry Crabb who is a Christian counselor and author of many books on counseling. His books were required reading in my counseling courses in college. Now I pick them up because of the impact his words have had on me and the value they hold to me.
  • Another set of Christian counselors whose books have helped to shape and form my thinking are Henry Cloud and John Townsend. From Boundaries to Safe People to Necessary Endings I have found advice and insights that have not only impacted my thinking but my relationships as well.
Authors who have both taught and entertained me:
  • Nineteenth century writer George MacDonald has entertained me with stories of the Scottish highlands with his strong characters like Wee Sir Gibbie, Malcolm, and my favorite Robert Falconer. At the same time the theology that he weaves through every story has given me cause to pause and evaluate my own understanding of God.
  • An avid fan and student of MacDonald's works, C.S. Lewis is another that has entertained me with stories of Narnia and outer space and in his storytelling given me a different perspective of God. One of my favorite quotes is from the Chronicles of Narnia: The question is asked "Is Aslan safe?" and the response given, "No, but He is good."
  • Last, but certainly not least is contemporary author Lynn Austin. The first time I heard of Lynn I was on a missions trip in Belize and one of the women on the team was lying on her bed in the afternoon reading a book. She mentioned that her aunt had just had this book published. I must confess I was a little skeptic since I didn't think I knew anyone related to a published author, but I was wrong. I knew an entire family related to her. Eventually someone loaned me one of her books and now I eagerly read her books each chance I get. She too is a gifted storyteller whose characters teach lessons of living a life of faith.
What about you? 
What authors have impacted your life through entertainment, teaching, or inspiration?

Note: I was not paid in any way for these recommendations. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

When News of the Unthinkable Comes
There are moments when the thing that you know happens, but hope beyond hope never happens to you does happen. The State Police knock on the door with the news of the sudden, untimely death of a loved one. Your doctor speaks the words you never want to hear . . . a diagnosis of a terminal illness . . . an unborn child has a birth defect that will affect all of his or her life . . . a loved one only has a short time to live . . . a diagnosis of a chronic illness that will affect your day to day life. A boss says, "I'm sorry, but today is your last day. We're downsizing and we're eliminating your position." An employer calls you into her office and says the terrifying words, "Your home is on fire."

The unthinkable has happened.

What do we do in the midst of the shock . . . the pain . . . the grief? When the world feels like it is spinning wildly out of control and suddenly nothing makes sense, what do we do? How do we respond?

Know that the shock, pain, overwhelming sadness, anger, and disorientation are normal. Many times we associate grief only with the passing of someone we love, however the feelings connected with grief can apply to many situations. Events that do not involve a physical death are sometimes labeled a death event because there is a death of a relationship, a job, a home, a dream, or physical well-being. The stages (or waves as I prefer to call them, because they often come in waves) of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance - apply to both a literal death and a death event. These feelings are normal - uncomfortable and difficult, but normal.

Give yourself grace and protect yourself. It is normal to be overwhelmed and fragile in the aftermath of unthinkable news. Allow yourself to feel the emotions that come your way and to express them in ways that will not cause yourself or others harm. Writing your feelings in a journal; crying; engaging in physical activity; talking to a friend, pastor, or counselor; or listening to music are positive ways to express our emotion. When waves of anger or depression come, it is easy to allow yourself to slide into a danger zone. At times like this, getting behind the wheel of a car, being alone with weapons that can cause you harm are dangerous and it is important that you protect yourself from releasing your anger or depression in a way that can harm you. If you feel overwhelmingly sad or angry reach out for help - call a friend or a local crisis hotline for help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-8255.

 Seek safe places and safe people. Not all people will be safe. Even well-meaning people may not be safe for you as you process what has happened. Find those people and those places where you will be loved, where people will be sensitive to your needs, where you will be sheltered from unsafe people. Look for people who will accept you where you are, help you process what's happening to you, and who are willing to help keep you safe (even from yourself if need be). If you do not have these people in your life, a local support group or faith community may be able to provide these safe people.

Cling to the God of all comfort. In the midst of grief, God is with us. He is there to comfort, strengthen, and support. He even understands if we are angry with Him. He does not promise to take away all the difficulties and pain we face in a broken world, but He does promise to give us the strength to make it through them.

If you have faced a time when unthinkable news has come, 
what did you do to help yourself through that time?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Tree . . . the one with the rope swing

Here we are on yet another early Friday morning, meeting with one another to write for five minutes, on one topic, little editing, no planning, just writing. Thank you Lisa Jo for hosting this party week after week and for inspiring us to write.

Ready . . . set . . . write . . .

When I saw the prompt many trees came to mind: the tree with the rope swing, the tree of Calvary, the row of graceful, ancient maples that arched over the country road in front of my childhood home, the apple tree out back that I loved to climb. As a child who grew up in the country and had a father who ran a sawmill, trees were a treasured part of my life. But the prompt said, tree . . . singular, so I will choose one tree. The tree with the rope swing.

In our yard, in front of a large, 1800's farmhouse stood a beautiful maple tree with a branch that was perfect for a rope swing with a wooden seat. I loved that swing and that tree. As a child I would spend part of many a day swinging on that swing, my legs pumping, leaning back my arms extended, and then pulling forward to gain momentum. Swinging high, looking up at the leaves high over my head.

Sweet memories of a beloved tree . . . and of the man who tended that swing and made sure it was safe and ready for me to use . . . my dad.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I Am Grateful for . . . My Dakota

In November of 2007, I prayed a prayer asking God to bring me a cat. A few days later, I walked into youth group and one of our students excitedly told me that at the end of youth group her mother was bringing her new litter of kittens for all of us to see. Her cat had given birth to four kittens. She could not keep them and needed to find homes for them when they were ready to leave their mama.

Ummm . . . answer to prayer?

Four tiny kittens arrived at the end of youth group. One could fit in the palm of my small hand. One black and white kitten was in the litter. One mewling, helpless, tiny ball of black and white fur. I carefully picked him up and held him against my chest. He was quiet, content. I fell in love.

The last weekend in November, I drove to the student's house and picked up my little bundle of fur.

While I waited for him to be old enough to leave his mama, I searched for just the right name for him. I was going through a period of transition and I wanted his name to have meaning as well as fit him. My search led me to a word that in it's native language means "friend." I hoped he would be a dear companion to me in a season of change. I called him Dakota.

He has been with me six years now. He is full of personality and at times makes me laugh until I cry, at times cry out in pain when he displays his ninja skills, and at times he comforts me with his loving presence.

I am very grateful for my little friend Dakota.

How has an animal in your life given you cause to be grateful?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Truth

On Fridays at 12:01 a.m. Lisa Jo Baker posts a one word prompt and people all over the world pause, then or sometime later, and write for 5 minutes on that one topic. Little editing, just us and our keyboards and our thoughts writing for 5 minutes. Ready? Set? Write.

Truth. Do we speak truth? Do we live truth? How often do the half-truths, the white lies, the things we say that we don't mean creep into our conversations?

I value truth. I seek to speak accurately and truthfully. Sometimes I struggle, though. I want to tell the truth and I don't want to hurt someone's feelings. I want to tell the truth and I don't want to get into a big messy conflict. I find myself conflicted, seeking to say the right thing, the truthful thing, the gentle thing, the diplomatic thing. Sometimes it's not easy to find just the right truthful words.

How do you handle those conflicted moments of speaking the truth when it is risky?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

I am Grateful for . . . My Nieces and Nephews

I have enjoyed being called "Aunt Dar" since I was eight years old. Being an aunt has been was of the greatest joys of my life.

My eighteen nieces and nephews came in various shapes and sizes and each one has their own distinct personality, gifts and abilities. Even though there are two sets of identical twins among them, there are none that are exactly alike. Among them are home inspectors, medical records experts, moms, dads, photographers, writers, artists, truck drivers, exterminators, pharmacy techs, architects, farmers, mechanics, students, and police officers.

When they were young I enjoyed swimming with them; planning treasure hunts and scavenger hunts for them; going on hikes, taking pictures, watching movies, playing games with them. I enjoyed their laughter and was saddened by their tears.
Now that they are older, I enjoy catching up with them when we see each other. I am delighted to get to know their children and to see these new little ones growing up. (Some are grown. My oldest great-nephew graduated from Marine boot camp recently. So proud of him!)

Earlier this year one of my sisters visited with three of her daughters. It was a special occasion. Her youngest daughter was pregnant with her first child, my sister's first grandchild. We were having a shower. What a pleasure to be in the same room with my sisters, their daughters and granddaughters as we celebrated the soon coming of this little one.

At one point as we were together in the days before the shower, I walked into the living room and all three sisters were curled up in a corner of a couch writing in their journals. I journal. Their mother journals. My grandmother, their great-grandmother, kept a diary until a stroke took away her ability to write. My heart was warmed and delighted to see this legacy passed on from one generation to another.

I am grateful for each and every niece and nephew that God has given me and for the new ones that are their children.

What about your family has brought you joy and pleasure?

Dear Nieces and Nephews, 
Sorry I was unable to include a picture of each of you. 
I ran out of room and pictures that seemed "right" for this post. 
Love you all!
Aunt Dar

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Shepherd Knows

Friday night Sheila Walsh took center stage at the Women of Faith Conference and talked about God's love for broken people. One story that she told touched me deeply.

She had been admitted to the psyche ward of a hospital with severe clinical depression. She didn't get in bed that first night. She took the blanket off the bed, wrapped herself in it, and sat on the floor in the corner of the room. Early in the morning (around 3 or 4 a.m.) she heard someone enter the room. She thought it was someone doing a routine check as they had been since she had arrived. However, this person walked into the room and came toward her until he was standing before her with his toes touching hers. He handed her a stuffed lamb like one you would give a child. He turned and walked toward the door. He stopped as he was about to leave and said to her, "The Shepherd knows where to find you."

I cried.

His words to her were exactly what I needed to hear.

When she said, "The Shepherd knows where to find you," snippets from my past flashed through my mind . . . the story of "The Little Lost Lamb" from a favorite childhood storybook . . . The Parable of the Lost Sheep from Luke 15 . . .  The Good Shepherd of John 10 . . . how the Good Shepherd knows His sheep. The last few weeks have been stressful and I have been feeling overwhelmed, alone, and lost in some big decisions that need to be made. I have been feeling like the little lost sheep. When she said, "The Shepherd knows where to find you," an overwhelming sense of the presence of God and His profound love flooded over me.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Grace

On Fridays we gather to write about one word for 5 minutes . . .

Ready . . . set . . . write. . .

I remember sitting in a room with two other people. Two of us had failed. We had failed each other. We had failed those we loved. We had failed God. We had failed. The third person in the room who could have been harsh and exacting, showed grace. He met us with love and grace and instead of punishing or making us feel like failures, he showed us grace. He encouraged us. He gave us hope.

He said, "Give this time and one day perhaps you will be an example of God's grace." I clung to those hope giving words and I learned a great lesson of what it meant to have grace extended to me. That human extension of grace gave me a greater understanding of what God's grace is like . . . a gift we don't deserve, but that He gives anyway.

As the old hymn says, "wonderful, marvelous, matchless grace, freely bestowed on all who believe . . . "