"Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock & my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken."
Psalm 62:5-6

Monday, September 15, 2014

2014 JCS Christmas Ornaments Issue Review

The new JCSCO issue is now available online in download form (click here).  Being me, although I'll be purchasing a "hard copy," I had to download the issue as well.

In my opinion, the "gotta stitch" ornaments offered last year were many ... more so than in previous years.  This year's offerings have kind of gone back to those prior to 2013.  I did find a few "gotta stitch" ornaments in this issue, however, so without further adieu, here are my Top Nine for 2014 (I couldn't find ten).  They are listed in the order in which they appear in the magazine. Photos of individual ornaments are sadly unavailable at this time.

1.  NOEL - Pickle Barrel Designs.  Maybe it's the word NOEL appearing on this ornament, but there's something about it I like.  Features a banner with the letters N, O, E, & L, separated by snowflakes.

2.  Joyous Square - My Big Toe Designs.  The word JOY designed the way only MBT can design it.  This will be one of the first ornaments in this issue that I'll be stitching!

3.  O Holy Night - Faithwurks Designs.  Extremely simple, quick-to-stitch ornament.

4.  Faith - Nikyscreations.  A primitive angel design. One of my favorites!

5.  Come & Behold Him - Fancy Work.  A simple design honoring what Christmas is all about.  I love it!

6.  A Woodland Wish - Blue Ribbon Designs.  I was lucky to find a download photo of this one.  I love these woodsy designs by BRD.   I'll be leaving off the date though.  You know me & dates   : )
7.  Three Crowns - Cherished Stitches.  There's a whole section of bird designs in this year's issue.  I can't say much for any of them, but this one calls to me.

8.  Star of Wonder - The Stitchworks.  A lovely design of a shepherd snowman looking up at the Christmas star.  Beautiful!

9.  Let It Snow - Dames of the Needle/Finger Work. Dames did a great snowman design in last year's issue (Windy Night, page 56).  This year's ornament has the same kind of whimsy.

And there you have it!  This review probably doesn't mean much to you without photos to accompany my choices, but as photos become available I will add them.  

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Forgiveness & Mental/Emotional Abuse

I've been thinking a lot about forgiveness for a couple of months now.  I know full well that God wants us to forgive others when they "sin against us."  These "sins" could include saying something hurtful to us, lying to us, lying to others about us, stealing from us, etc.

There was once a time when my understanding of forgiveness was, "If someone says something nasty to me & then tells me they're sorry & asks for my forgiveness, I'll most certainly forgive them!"  But that is not what God is telling us.  You can't ignore the fact that when Jesus was hanging on the cross, He asked God to forgive the soldiers who crucified & mocked Him, saying "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)  It is clear that we are supposed to forgive others whether they ask for our forgiveness or not!

Then there is the account in Matthew where Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive someone ... "Seven times?"  Jesus replied, "No, seventy times seven!"  (Matthew 18:21-22) Jesus was not giving Peter a magic number, telling him that he should forgive someone 490 times & that's it.  No, Jesus was saying "never stop forgiving."  Buzz Lightyear would translate verse 22 as "Forgive to infinity & beyond!"

There are many verses in the Bible that talk about forgiveness.  This post would be quite lengthy if I were to list them all.  Some of these verses address Christians forgiving Christians; others appear to address Christians forgiving anyone, Christian or not.  Some include the admonition that if we don't forgive others, God won't forgive us. 

Sometimes it's very difficult to forgive.  This is where faith & obedience comes in.  We may not "feel" like forgiving someone, but we are told not to make decisions based on our feelings.  Feelings are ruled by emotions.  Emotions are unreliable.

Sometimes our pride stands in the way.  We think that if we forgive someone, we are "letting them off the hook" for whatever it was they did to us. There is a saying that someone dreamed up a few years ago that I have heard enough times that it actually nauseates me now, but the message is nonetheless true.  "Unforgiveness is like drinking poison & hoping the other person dies."  It simply means that we harm ourselves, not the person who offended us, by holding on to unforgiveness.  Unforgiveness leads to bitterness, & bitterness causes all sorts of problems in our lives including physical illness!

God freely extends His forgiveness to us, & He wants us to freely extend our forgiveness to others ... but what if we need to forgive something "really terrible," like abuse?  We all know how dangerous physical abuse can be.  If someone in your life is physically abusing you, you can still forgive that person but it would not be wise for you to continue in a relationship with them. Everyone you know would understand you staying away from that person.  People are, sadly, less able to understand you staying away from someone who mentally/emotionally abuses you.  I believe that mental/emotional abuse is even more prevalent than physical abuse & possibly more deadly in it's own way.  There are often no outward scars when someone is being mentally/emotionally abused, but the inner scars can run deep.  I have known several people who were mentally/emotionally abused by one or both parents, siblings, or other family members.  They knew God wanted them to forgive these people, but that did not mean that God wanted them to continue exposing themselves to the abuse.  Some of their friends & family members were very judgmental.  How could you sever ties with your mother, your father, your brother or your sister & claim you had forgiven them?  Mental/emotional abuse is nearly impossible for someone to understand if they haven't experienced it themselves.  You do not need to concern yourself with what others think of you, however.  You are to concern yourself with what God thinks of you. If you have forgiven the people who have mentally/emotionally abused you, & you've gone to God & asked Him for help, & you know that He approves your reasons for cutting that person out of your life, that is between you & God ... no one else.   

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Autumn Decorating, A New Outlet Mall, & Critters in The Devil's Playground

Oh so many things to share with you today!  First of all, the temperatures are staying cool & therefore I am still smiling & singing that Pharrell song   : )   In fact, it's been so cool this morning that I treated myself to a long-sleeved jersey & broke out my fluffy slippers from last year   : )

This past Thursday I decided I should probably put away my 4th of July decor & make the house look more fall-like, so I did a bit of autumn decorating with ...

my autumn painted breadboard ...
my autumn painted sewing drawer ...
& another autumn painted breadboard.
I know what you're thinking.  "Wow!  The Easily Influenced Stitcher must be exhausted from all that decorating!"  Well, there's more!

I brought my autumn/winter colored Fiesta dishes out in front of the spring & summer colored ones. My kitchen walls aren't lime green, by the way ... they just showed up this way in the photo.

Here are some autumn-themed pictures for my walls ...
& here are a few more autumn-themed decor items.
And here are some stenciled wooden signs to welcome the season.
Yes, I was totally exhausted from all that decorating ... but I did manage to add one more decorative item!
I couldn't resist   : )   Now I can look up & see this sign while I'm stitching   : )

A new outlet mall opened in Louisville last month ... The Outlet Shoppes of the Bluegrass.    
The mall is actually located in Simpsonville, but it's close enough to Louisville to be considered a Louisville mall.  John had a doctor appointment in Louisville yesterday, & on our way home we decided to stop & explore the new attraction.  I'm not one who frequents outlet malls.  I never see much in the way of bargains.  When I do find something I like that's a good deal, it's usually not my scent, color, or size.  (Omar the Tent Maker has yet to succumb to the call of the outlet mall.) Yesterday was an exception though.  The Outlet Shoppes of the Bluegrass included a Ghirardelli store!!!  I have seen a few different varieties of Ghirardelli squares in my lifetime (their Milk & Caramel squares have always been my favorite), but this outlet store had varieties I never imagined!  A woman with a basket of Ghirardelli Minis gave John & I a free sample, which just happened to be a free sample of the Milk & Caramel ones, as we entered the store.  I wanted to hug her!  Then after we walked around a bit, a different woman gave us each another free sample of these mini Milk & Caramel squares!  I wanted to hug her even more!!!  But back to the varieties ... there were so many to choose from! John & I were both interested in the Intense Dark Cherry Tango variety but we didn't want to buy a whole bag in case we didn't like them, so we were happy to find a "mix & match" display where you could choose however many of whatever you wanted ... so we bought one IDCT square for each of us.  I think I've now got a new favorite ... they were delicious!!!  If we would have tried them before we left the mall we would've bought a bag or two.  Instead, I thought these two in the photo below sounded good so they are what we brought home   : )
There is a small cafe at the Ghirardelli store which offers several ice cream concoctions as well as a pretty good looking (per the photo on the wall) cup of hot chocolate.  I think we will need to visit again for a cup of that hot chocolate & a bag or two of those Intense Dark Cherry Tango squares   : )

As for the critters, a couple days ago I was able to get this photo of one of our hummingbirds.
Just after I took this hummingbird photo, I noticed that Greta, our groundhog, was in the driveway. Isn't she cute?  

And that's it for today my friends!  I don't know what's going on but I think I've published more posts this past week than I have in a long time! Must be the cooler weather   : )   I finished stitching one of my exchange ornaments last night & will be starting another exchange piece this evening.  Fun-fun-fun!!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Happy!!!

If you decide to click the above link, you can imagine me dancing down the street smiling & clapping & singing about happiness like the people in the video   : )   The sky this morning has been cloudy & gray & the wind has been blowing quite briskly!  I was so excited when I noticed this outside my bathroom window that I grabbed my bottle of Opium & doused myself with what little was remaining in the bottle.  Opium is my cold weather scent   : ) So here I sit, writing this post, smelling like I usually do in the wintertime, & if I close my eyes & listen to the wind I can envision blizzard-like conditions in The Devil's Playground!  Of course it's too early for a blizzard (unless I visit Dairy Queen), but The Weather Channel is telling me that for the next 10 days temps in TDP will be dropping to around the mid 70s during daylight hours & into the low to mid 50s during the nights! Can 40s/30s/20s, snow & ice be far behind???

Sweaters, sweatshirts, furry slippers, hats, scarves, mittens, hot chocolate, soups & stews, homemade bread fresh from the oven, blankets, Sophie getting warm on my lap while the furnace poofs on!  It won't e long now!!!

I'm happy!!!!!    

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

August Finishes

Another nine!  I can't believe I stitched nine ornaments a second month in a row!  I'm not by any means a fast stitcher.  However, I usually spend about 2 hours each night happily stitching away while John either watches something on TV, plays CDs while he's online (Christmas music has been in the air lately!), or reads to me.  The time adds up I guess   : )

The first three ornaments I will share with you were an absolute delight to stitch!  I know they will be among my favorites each year.  I apologize ahead of time for any designs that look a bit "warped" or uneven in my scans.  They are actually nice & straight in person.

Designer:  Blue Ribbon Designs
Design:  Roaming Reindeer
from 2012 JCSCO
Fabric:  40 ct mocha linen
Floss:  WDW per designer

Designer:  Blue Ribbon Designs
Design:  Frosty in the Firs
from 2011 JCSCO
Fabric:  40 ct mocha linen
Floss:  WDW per designer

Designer:  Blue Ribbon Designs
Design:  Christmas Cottage
from JCS July/August 2011
Fabric:  40 ct mocha linen
Floss:  WDW per designer

You probably can't see it but there is a doorknob on the cottage door made from a little French knot.  Most of you are aware of my lack of love for French knots, but I'm quite proud of this one!  It turned out great my first try   : )

Isn't this sheep adorable?  There is supposed to be a little cardinal button attached on the bottom of the design but I haven't added it yet.  
Designer:  Little House Needleworks
Design:  Winter Sheep
Fabric:  35 ct straw linen
Floss:  DMC per designer

I really like how this next one turned out.
Designer:  Midsummer Night Designs
Design:  Christmas Angel
from 2007 JCSCO
Fabric:  36 ct sand linen
Floss:  DMC per designer

I obviously stitched two of the following ornament.  One is for me & one is for a friend.
Designer:  Country Rustic Primitives
Design:  Season of Hope
Fabric:  Osnaburg
Floss:  DMC per designer

I love having Christian ornaments on my tree. After all, Christ is what Christmas is all about   : )

Designer:  My Big Toe
Designs:  Unnamed
Fabric:  40 ct white linen
Floss:  WDW per designer

In September I am concentrating on stitching ornaments for Christmas exchanges.  I therefore won't be sharing them with you until after they have been received.  

Back to my needle! 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Colliding With Destiny: Finding Hope in the Legacy of Ruth

I am pleased to be a book reviewer for Bethany House.  Each month I am sent a list of books that are soon to be released.  I choose a book from this list & am provided with a free copy.  In return I promise to read the book & give it an honest review.

The book I am reviewing this month is Colliding With Destiny:  Finding Hope in the Legacy of Ruth by Sarah Jakes.  I chose this selection because I have always been inspired by the biblical account of Ruth.  I expected that the author would take me a bit deeper into Ruth's character, maybe introduce me to a few things I hadn't seen before, but she far surpassed my expectations.

There are 30 short chapters in this book, each one based on a verse or two from the Book of Ruth & focusing on the changes she experienced & the choices she made after her husband's death.  Briefly stated, her life as she knew it ... as she had expected it to always be ... had ceased to exist.  Her mother-in-law, Naomi, also a widow, encouraged Ruth to return to her parents' home while she herself returned to her homeland.  Ruth, however, loved Naomi deeply & refused to leave her on her own, making the choice to return with her to Bethlehem.

The changes in Ruth's new life were many & her future uncertain.  The author takes the reader step by step through each difficulty Ruth encountered & shows how she overcame them through her deep faith in God & a determination to not let circumstances define her.  She kept doing what she knew was right.

We can make the same choices:  to trust God with our lives, to honor & obey Him above all else, & to see ourselves as He sees us.  We do not need to live our lives based on the negative image someone else tries to create in us.  We do not need to allow someone's negative words to determine who we are or who we become.  We do not need to allow circumstances to dictate our paths. We do not have to give up when the going gets tough.

Ms. Jakes ends each chapter with these three things:

1.  A journal entry where she shares personal experiences that reflect upon the chapter just read.  I deeply admire an author who is willing to share his or her own mistakes & struggles.  It is much better to say "I understand" with a personal illustration showing how you understand, rather than stopping with those two words which can leave a person wondering if you really understand at all.

2.  A series of questions for you to answer.  I have read books where an author gives you questions to deepen your understanding of a chapter & how it relates to your life, or to simply deepen your understanding of yourself in general.  In the majority of these cases, I have found these questions to be of no benefit whatsoever.  The questions Ms Jakes gives in this book, however, are both well thought out & thought provoking.

3.  A short prayer to ask God for help &/or healing based on the focus of the chapter.  I have read prayers in other books which have often left me wondering what the author was trying to say, but Ms. Jakes shares prayers that are not only simply & beautifully written but relevant to the subject discussed & easily applied to one's own life.

There is a saying that was popular several years ago ... "keep on keeping on."  It means to persevere ... "to continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success."  This meaning defines Ruth's life.  It can define yours & mine as well.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Seek God First

"Seek first [be concerned above all else with] God's kingdom & what God wants...."
Matthew 6:33(a), EXB

I want to share another Joyce Meyer devotional reading with you this morning.  It is based on Matthew 6:33.  I love how the Expanded Bible translates this verse.  Here is what Joyce has to say ...

"Have you ever thought, 'What is my purpose in life?'  Each of us wants to feel we have a purpose ... that we're making a meaningful difference in the world.

God has a purpose for each of us, & that is to do right & glorify God.

How do you pursue your purpose?  By getting up each day & putting God first. There are many other things we may be tempted to chase after ... job position, education, relationship, money, material possessions, & so on.  But too often when you attain these things your life is just as empty & unfulfilled as when you started."

If you are familiar with the Bible, then you have noticed that I did not include Part (b) in the above verse translation.  

"Then all your needs will be met as well [these things will be given to you]."

What things?  In this particular section of Matthew 6, Jesus is telling us not to worry about things ... what we will eat, what we will drink, & what we will wear.  Food, drink, & clothing ... daily necessities.  Unfortunately, some people take Matthew 6:33 out of context.  They mistakenly believe that God is telling them that if they will get up in the morning & say some prayers before they get out of bed, maybe read a chapter in the Bible as well, that God will honor them by giving them anything they want.  This, of course, is not what God is saying.  I did not include the last line of Joyce's devotional reading above because I think it sort of reinforces this mistaken belief.  

"God knows what you need & is well aware of your heart's desires, & He will grant them if you will just pursue your purpose by seeking Him first."

I'm certainly not more in touch with God than Joyce Meyer is, nor am I as well versed in the Bible as she is.  I am not sitting here on a high horse with a smug look on my face & a judgmental spirit in my heart when I say that Joyce should have thought a little more about this last line before she included it in this devotional reading.  I am not being critical of Joyce, I just believe that at the time she wrote it she maybe wasn't thinking how it might be misconstrued.  

God will give us our heart's desires when they line up with His will.  If our heart's desires are to get closer to Him, to obey Him, & to understand His Word as much as we possibly can, He will certainly grant us these things when we seek Him for them.  If, however, our heart's desires are literal things ... a new car, a bigger house, a new job, or a move to another state, for example ... then we are on the wrong track.  I'm not saying that we shouldn't ask God for these kinds of things, but He knows better than we do what's good for us.  We may be convinced that if we could only find another job or buy a bigger house that our lives would be happier, but God knows best.

My post this morning has not been written to bash Joyce Meyer, nor has it been written to say that asking God for things like homes, cars, promotions, or a week's vacation in Hawaii is wrong.  I have written this post to focus on Matthew 6:33(a) ... "Seek first [be concerned above all else with] God's kingdom & what God wants...."  It is my goal to just concentrate on this particular part of Matthew 6:33 ... to be concerned above all else with what God wants ... without expecting anything in return.  I want to do what He wants me to do.  I want to have what He wants me to have.  I want to be what He wants me to be.  I want to honor Him with the life He has given me. These are the things I seek.