"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 1, 2014

Correction on Yesterday's Post

I research things very carefully before publishing a post.  I knew that the photos I posted yesterday were not those of a male cardinal feeding a baby/young cardinal. That little brown bird did not look anything like a baby/young cardinal.  I guessed that it was a sparrow.  However, I sent the photos to a bird expert who identified the little brown bird as a brown-headed cowbird.  We each had a laugh as she had just taken photos of a female cardinal feeding a brown-headed cowbird in her yard!  I therefore stand corrected. Thank you, Pam in IL, for the identification  : )

Sunday, August 31, 2014

It's the Little Things

God gives us so many little blessings every day ... simple little things that make us smile. I was sitting in my recliner the other day when I glanced over & saw Sophie sleeping so peacefully on the little braided rug at the bottom of the stairs.

Just look at her sweet face   : )
John & I enjoy feeding the birds during the cold months.  In the warm months we let them fend for themselves with the abundance of bugs & seeds they can feast upon.  However, we do toss a piece or two of stale bread into the yard when we have it.  I couldn't believe it when I looked out & saw a cardinal & a brown-headed cowbird, side by side, sharing the same piece of bread!  Here they are looking at me as if to say go ahead, you can take our picture   : )
Mr. Cowbird resumes eating.  
And look at this!  Mr. Cardinal is feeding Mr. Cowbird!
Mr. Cowbird is enjoying his treat!
Mr. Cowbird continues eating.
The birds delight us in other ways as well. We always get a kick out of watching them when they take their baths.  They bathe so enthusiastically, splashing water everywhere! Here are two little finches (I think) sharing a bath.



Although there appears to be only one finch in this last photo, I was surprised to spot the other one perched on the dried daylily stalk (yes, I've neglected tidying my garden) in the upper right corner, waiting for his friend to finish bathing   : )

Little blessings ... little gifts that God gives us every day just to say "I love you" & "I'm thinking about you."  Watch for them ... they're there   : )  

"God smile on you & gift you."
Numbers 6:25 (MSG)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Peace

If people know nothing else about me, this one thing they do know:  I love snow.  I have referred to it as "big fat fluffy flakes of Prozac falling from the sky."  I am happiest in a winter wonderland.  I always have been.  I have special childhood memories of waking up for school & seeing that it had snowed during the night.  I'd smile when I'd hear the sound of the chains on the snow plow's wheels & the sound of it scraping the snow off the street.  I'd literally stand in front of the big picture window in the living room to watch it pass by.  I did this even when I was in high school & beyond.  If the schools were open that day, I'd walk to the bus stop, all the while being wrapped in the beautiful peaceful silence that only early morning walks in the snow can bring.

I searched for various photos of snow scenes & sat here with a big smile on my face as I looked at them all.  I chose the photo above to represent today's subject because it reminds me of a place & time when I was in high school & me & my best friend Ruthie would skip school & spend the day in downtown Pittsburgh.  I wrote about this in a blog post last year.  Click here if you are interested in reading that post.  Our route from the school to where we'd catch the bus to Pittsburgh was about 3 miles along a road that wound through the woods. I can still remember that beautiful peaceful silence & the feel of the snowflakes falling on my face.  I remember very well the laughter that Ruthie & I shared & how it felt to have absolutely no cares in the world.  

Peace has been my goal this year.  My Joyce Meyer devotional last night, based on Colossians 3:15, was about peace, specifically how a feeling of peace is an answer from God when we need direction.

"The peace that Christ gives is to guide you in the decisions you make...."  (GNT) 

If you have been planning to do something or are in the midst of doing something & suddenly realize that you don't have any peace about it, you have heard from God. He is telling you "no."  And if there is something you really don't want to do ... you try to talk yourself out of it even ... but you feel an overwhelming peace about doing it, well, there's God leading you again.  

I think that once someone experiences "the peace of God which passes all understanding," they crave it in every part of their life.  I have experienced it.  It's a wonderful thing ... sort of like the snowy experiences I referenced above which I remember with such deep fondness, only better   : )
"Seek peace & pursue it."
Psalm 34:14

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Simple Gifts

This past week I have had many ideas for subjects to write about in today's post.  In fact, I have spent most of the day thus far going down one road, then another ... starting to write about first one of these subjects, then deleting what I had written & starting over with another.  In the midst of all this writing & deleting & writing again, I couldn't shake a very strong feeling about sharing a little struggle I was having in my life about two weeks ago & how God gifted it right out of me.  It seemed to me to be a very little thing to share, but apparently I'm meant to share it, so here goes.    

I have written before about how unfriendly people are here in The Devil's Playground. I'm not saying that every person in the state of Kentucky is unfriendly, but the people in this particular area are.  We have been living here a little over 5 years now & sometimes I really miss having a friend stop by for a cup of tea, or answering the phone & hearing a friend ask if I'd like to come shopping with her, or gathering my things together to join my friends at the local senior center for our weekly quilting time together.  I love John & he is my best friend on this earth, but there are times when I miss spending time with a woman friend. 

Two weeks ago I was really having a rough time with this.  For several days I felt extremely lonely & I just couldn't shake the feeling no matter how much I prayed, praised, gave thanks, or quoted scripture.  I kept telling myself that I had no reason to feel lonely.  Not only do I have a husband who loves me & cares about me ... I have God!  But the feeling of loneliness persisted. It was like a big dark cloud hanging over my life.  

One night when I went to bed, I prayed again for this feeling of loneliness to leave me.  I always set my radio alarm to wake me early so I can spend some quiet alone time with God.  The radio is set to a Christian station.  When the radio turned on the next morning, a song was just beginning to be played.  It was one of those mornings when I woke up fully awake, & the first words I heard from the song were ...

"You are not alone if you are lonely...."

A lovely gift of words from God to start my day & chase away that dark cloud   : )   The name of the song is All the People Said Amen ... a cheery little tune with a lot of wisdom in the lyrics.  I will put the link below.  I hope you enjoy it   : )

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Choose Joy

There are many choices we are faced with in our lives.  There are those that are typically referred to as the big choices, such as which college we will attend, which job offer we will accept, & where we will live.  Choices such as these are indeed important, but we usually are presented with them only once, or at most a small handful of times, during the course of our lives.

We are often faced with moral choices.  A salesclerk, for example, gives us change for $20 rather than change for the $10 we gave her.  Do we tell her she made a mistake, or do we say nothing & pocket the extra money?

Of course each day presents us with many practical choices such as what we will have for dinner, or should we take an umbrella with us when we go to the store.  

All of these choices can impact our lives in one way or another, but being joyful despite what's happening around us is one of the most important choices we can make. Believe me, I know how hard this is.  Please know that I am not being disrespectful in what I'm about to say ... I am just stating facts for the purpose of my topic today.  My mother was very negative.  She constantly (& I do mean constantly) complained about everything & everyone.  For whatever reason, she seemed to particularly enjoy finding fault with me.  It would be impossible for me to count the number of times I was told that I said something stupid, did something stupid, looked stupid, dressed stupid, walked stupid, had stupid interests, etc.  I couldn't do anything right.  My appearance was always criticized.  I remember people coming to visit & me hiding upstairs in my room because I thought why would they want to see such a stupid & ugly person.  I'm surprised I was able to make any friends at school, & when I did I was told they weren't really my friends ... they were just hanging out with me because I had something they wanted.  She was quick to tell me & anyone else ... including strangers on a bus or in line at a grocery store ... what a disappointment I was.  I could go on, but I'm sure this give you enough information to understand a bit of what I had to deal with.

All this criticism lasted well into my adult years & it, along with my own experiences with life's hard knocks, eventually wore me down to the point where choosing joy was a foreign concept to me.  After becoming a Christian, I would read Bible references about choosing joy & books written about being joyful.  I remember specifically thinking that these people didn't have a full grasp on reality.  It took a long, long, long time for me to understand that joy isn't the result of everything in our lives being perfect.  We can choose to be joyful despite what others think of us, despite how much money we have in the bank, despite how we look or how much we weigh, despite anything! 

I read a great quote from Habakkuk recently ... chapter 3, verse 18 (NIV).
It's a good, strong verse, isn't it ... but let's look at it along with the verse immediately preceding it.

"Though the fig tree does not bud
& there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
& the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
& no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord.
I will be joyful in God my Savior."

The Message translation paints an even more awe-inspiring picture of the point the prophet was making.

"Though the cherry trees don't blossom
& the strawberries don't ripen,
Though the apples are worm-eaten
& the wheat fields stunted,
Though the sheep pens are sheepless
& the cattle barns empty,
I'm singing joyful praise to God.
I'm turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God."

What is Habakkuk's point?  His point is that even though everything in his life appears to be falling apart, he knows that God is in control & it is in this that he rejoices.  Note again verse 18 in the NIV translation ... "...I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior" [emphasis mine].  Habakkuk is making a conscious decision to choose joy despite what is going on around him.  He has the joy of knowing God is in control, & what better joy is there?  

Just for fun, you might want to consider verses 17-18 & see if you can adapt them to reflect things you feel might be draining joy from your own life.  For example, someone might adapt these verses to read something like this ...

"Though my car is making a funny noise
& there is water backing up into my basement,
Though my son has been expelled from school
& my husband is having an affair,
Though my arthritis is getting worse
& the doctor suspects I have lung cancer, 
I will rejoice in the Lord.
I will be joyful in God my Savior."

We can choose to be joyful no matter what because God is in control of our lives.  We are commanded many times in the Bible to be joyful at all times.  When we choose to be joyful, we are choosing to obey God.  When we obey God, we honor Him.  When we honor Him, it pleases Him.  I like to know that I am making choices that please God.  I'm sure you do as well   : )  

Sunday, August 3, 2014

You Can't ... or You Won't???

I recently received a devotional email written by Chuck Swinoll regarding our use of the word can't when what we really mean is won't.  Shortly thereafter I was reading one of Chuck's devotional books & once again came across this subject.  I find it quite thought provoking.

Chuck writes ...

"Can't & won't.  Christians need to be very careful which of these words they choose."

He then goes on to list a few examples similar to these ...

"I can't stop eating chocolate."

"I can't find time to read my Bible."

"I can't forgive my sister for how she treated me."

"I can't stop buying pretty handbags."

Chuck continues ...

"Any Christian who takes the Bible seriously will have to confess the word here really should be won't.  Why?  Because we've been given the power, the ability to overcome. Literally!  One of the best books I've read ... is ... by two physicians, Minirth & Meier ... [who] agree that ...

'As psychiatrists, we cringe whenever Christian patients use the word can't.  Any good psychiatrist knows that I can't &
I've tried are merely lame excuses.  We insist that our patients be honest with themselves & use language that expresses the reality of the situation.  So we have our patients change their can'ts to won'ts.  If an individual changes his can'ts to won'ts, he stops avoiding the truth, quits deceiving himself, & starts living in reality.'"

Applying this to the examples I gave above, they would more appropriately be stated ...

"I won't stop eating chocolate."

"I won't find time to read my Bible."

"I won't forgive my sister for how she treated me."

"I won't stop buying pretty handbags."

Chuck goes on to say ...

"Non-Christians have every right & reason to use can't, because they really can't!  But [Christians]?  Let's face it ... we don't because we won't.  We disobey because we want to, not because we have to ... because we choose to, not because we're forced to.  

If there's a won't in your life that you've been calling a can't, talk it over now with God."

Reading Chuck's take on these two words has really made me more sensitive to what I write, say, & think.  If I find myself indicating that I can't do something, I immediately stop & think ... can't I, or won't I?  I anticipate that my life is going to change quite a bit because of this!  If you choose to become aware of your own use of these two words, I'm sure your life will change as well   : )  

Saturday, August 2, 2014

July Finishes

Yesterday I shared my overdue June finishes. Today I am sharing my July finishes ... all ornaments.  Nine ornaments!  I think this is a record for me for ornaments stitched in one month!

This first one is my pride & joy of the month, stitched over one.  The design called for the bird to be back stitched, but nothing else was back stitched.  I decided that if nothing else was back stitched, the bird wasn't going to be either   : )

Designer:  Little by Little Design Co.
Design:  All Is Calm
from 2000 JCSCO
Fabric:  35 ct Sheep Straw linen
Floss:  DMC per designer

I have wanted to stitch this next one for a long time.  I have a soft spot for deer   : )
Designer:  The Prairie Schooler
Design:  Two by Two Deer
from 1998 JCSCO
Fabric:  Natural linen, mystery count
Floss:  DMC per designer

I also have a soft spot for partridges in a pear tree   : )   The designer had included a bit of an alphabet stitched in red on the little hill where the partridge is standing, but I decided not to stitch that.
Designer:  The Prairie Schooler
Design:  Taken from PS Book 134
Christmas Day
Fabric:  32 ct Lambswool linen
Floss:  DMC per designer

One day while Googling round ornament finishes, I was led to my good friend Carol's blog where I found this beautifully finished snowflake ornament.  Hopefully Carol doesn't mind me borrowing the photo to show you   : )
Doesn't she take beautiful photos?  I wonder if I can start sending all my ornaments to her to photograph for me with her professional touch?  Beautiful stitching, beautiful finishing, beautiful photography ... is there anything this woman can't do???  I fell in love not only with the finish but with the design, winter & all things related junkie that I am   : )   Carol indicated that this was a freebie design so I clicked on the link she provided & downloaded it.  After stitching it in red, I thought it would look lovely in blue as well, so I stitched both   : )
 
Designer:  Jacqueine
Design:  Estonian Snowflakes
Fabric:  40 ct Newcastle white linen
Floss:  Gloriana silk - Black Cherry
& Holiday Blue

I stitched the following design in one colorway back in April.  I used 36 ct linen at that time.  I liked it, but I wondered what the other colorways would look like.  (Four colorways were suggested.)  I decided to stitch the same colorway again using 40 ct linen & to stitch the other 3 colorways as well   : )   The designer is Little House Needleworks.  The design, This Is My Joy.
Fabric:  40 ct Parchment linen
Floss:  CC Red Fox

Fabric:  40 ct Cocoa linen
Floss:  CC Collard Greens

Fabric:  35 ct Scuppernong linen
Floss:  CC Icing

Fabric:  40 ct Tin Roof linen
Floss:  CC Cinnamon Stick

I'm all out of ornaments to stitch for now. Don't worry ... I have plenty of charts.  I just don't have them kitted.  I had better get started on that or I won't have anything to stitch tonight!