"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

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!  

Friday, August 1, 2014

June Finishes

I don't believe I've posted any of my stitching since before my heart surgery on June 13! It's not that I haven't been stitching.  I have!  I've just been lazy about taking pictures.  I don't know why.  I have also been rather lazy reading blogs & every week or so I have to play catch up.  I don't know why this is either.  I will admit that it's frustrating to leave comments for someone only to have them bounce back to me.  I have discovered that they do show up on the bloggers' posts, but I think that unless the blogger monitors his or her comments, they have no idea I commented.  But this in itself isn't the reason for my laziness.  I'll just blame it on recovering from surgery.  Sounds like a good excuse to me   : )

I kitted a handful of projects before my surgery.  Strangely enough, none of them were ornaments!  I either didn't have the right threads or the right fabrics.  This, however, was a bit of a blessing because the projects I kitted were ones I fell in love with at first sight & have been wanting to stitch for months ... even years!

I really enjoyed stitching this first design!  It's supposed to have a date & initials included on either side of the blackbird, but the designer only gives the date of 2005 & her own initials.  I know I could have played around & figured out similar letters & numbers to replace the ones on the design, but I don't much care for dates & initials on projects anyway.  I'm just wondering if leaving these two things off the design makes it rather empty?  What do you think?

Designer:  La D Da
Design:  Act Justly
Fabric:  36 ct Pear linen
Floss:  WDW per designer

This next one was a fun stitch all around   : ) I made a couple changes in floss color with the sheep but otherwise followed the designer's recommendations.  I was surprised when I started kitting this that it was such a small design ... only about 5" x 4".  The words on the right side of the design are all stitched over one.
Designer:  Plum Street Samplers
Design:  Ye Olde Woolery Shoppe
Fabric:  32 ct Vintage Sand Dune linen
Floss:  CC per designer

This next finish was definitely "me"   : )
  Designer:  Threadwork Primitives
Design:  Wintertime
Fabric:  32 ct Apple Brown Bindy linen
Floss:  GAST per designer

I also finished the SAL I was doing with Sally. I opted to use GA's Simply Wool threads & think they compliment the design very nicely  : )   
Designer:  Little House Needleworks
Design:  Warm Winter Woolens
Fabric:  32 ct Vintage Exemplar linen
Floss:  GA Simply Wool

I also finished another punch needle design. I have no idea why the edges of the fabric are puckered the way they are.  Apparently I did something wrong, but I don't think it will affect the finishing.
Designer:  The Old Tattered Flag
Design:  No Two Alike
Fabric:  Weavers cloth
Floss:  Sullivans

I've also been trying to teach myself rug hooking!  I'm not going to show you my beginner's project, still in production, as it looks like Nightmare on Rug Street.  I'm hoping that when I am finished with the hooking, I will be press it into normalcy somehow.  I sure hope so.  

Today is August 1st!  Isn't it wonderful!?!?! Summer will soon be over!  I can't wait. Yesterday John & I went shopping & the store had all the school supplies on display & some winter clothes as well!  Seeing those things brought a big smile to my face, let me tell you!  You may have noticed that I've even brought my Christmas countdown counter to the top of my sidebar!  Life is good   : )

I will try to photograph & post my July finishes in the next day or so   : )

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Storms

I love a good storm.  It's no secret that I don't like living in The Devil's Playground, but I will pay it this compliment ... they have some great storms here!  It's been a while since we've had a really great one, but last night we had thunder, lightning, & rain off & on, & then this morning it was amazing!  It was as if someone was doing a 4th of July fireworks finale on my front porch.  The lightning was so bright, & the boom-boom-booms of the thunder literally shook the house!  Although the storms have subsided for now, more are predicted for today   : )

The word storm, as a noun, has several definitions.  Of course there's the obvious weather-related one ... "a violent disturbance in the atmosphere...with rain, thunder, lightning...."  It can also be a bombardment of something, as in "The soldiers were taken by a storm of bullets."  A storm can relate to an uproar or controversy ... "His book caused a storm in South America."  It can also mean "a violent or noisy outburst" ... "The crowd raised their voices in a storm of protest."

The word storm can be a verb ... "to move angrily or forcefully in a particular direction," as in "She burst into tears & stormed off."  It can refer to shouting ... "'Don't patronize me,' she stormed!"  It can also refer to attacking & capturing a building or other place by means of force ... "The French revolutionaries stormed the Bastille."

A storm can also relate to circumstances in our lives.  Storms in our lives can be situational.  An example of a situational storm would be getting ready to leave for work only to discover your car has a flat tire.  Since your husband has the day off, he tells you to take his car.  On the way to work, you get caught in traffic & end up being late.  When you arrive at work, you have missed an important meeting & your boss is quite upset.  An hour later you receive a phone call ... your daughter has gotten sick at school.  You have to tell your boss that you need to leave work to pick up your daughter & take her home.  When you go out to the parking lot, you find that your husband's car has a dent that wasn't there before.

Storms in life can also be relational.  For example, a friend suddenly starts telling you she's busy every time you ask her to go shopping or have coffee with you.

We can also experience emotional storms in our lives.  A close friend or family member suddenly passes away, or you lose your home in a fire, or your doctor diagnoses you with cancer.

The Bible describes a storm in Matthew 14. The disciples are in a boat on the sea of Galilee when a huge storm develops.  The sky is dark, strong winds are blowing, & the waves are crashing against the sides of the boat.  As if they weren't terrified enough, they suddenly see what they believe is a ghost walking toward them on the water. They began crying out in fear, but Jesus speaks to them & says "Take courage!  It is I. Don't be afraid."  Peter says to Him "Lord, if it's you, tell me to come to you on the water." You know the rest.  Jesus says "come," & Peter gets out of the boat & starts walking toward Jesus.  The storm didn't suddenly stop when Peter got out of the boat.  The sky was still dark, the strong winds were still blowing, & the waves were still crashing. When Peter realized what was happening around him, he started to sink & cried out to Jesus to help him, which of course Jesus did, saying to him "You of little faith ... why did you doubt?"  What is the lesson here?  Peter was not aware of the storm when he kept his eyes on Jesus.  The moment he took his eyes off Jesus & focused them instead on the storm, he began to sink.

When we have storms in our lives ... any kind of storms ... we need to keep our eyes on Jesus & focus on Him only.  Not on our problems or on our circumstances.  Not on other people.  We need to focus on Him.  You may be wondering how we can do this.  Of course should pray ... not only when storms enter our lives but during storm-free periods as well.  Paul doesn't tell us in I Thessalonians 5 to "pray without ceasing" for no reason!  We also need to memorize scriptures.  Matthew tells us how immediately after Jesus was baptized, He spent 40 days/nights alone in the desert devoting Himself to prayer & fasting.  Satan then brought "storms" into Jesus' life by tempting Him.  How did Jesus respond?  He quoted scriptures.

There are many Bible verses & passages that are good to memorize.  The Book of Psalms, for example, is full of prayers that we can incorporate into our own prayer lives.  I also think it is good to memorize verses & passages that describe God's goodness.  The devil can't defeat us if we are focused on God's goodness.  Psalm 145 is an excellent psalm to remind ourselves how good the Lord is & to throw in the devil's face   : )

"I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise Your name for ever & ever.
Every day I will praise You
& extol Your name for ever & ever.
Great is the Lord & most worthy of praise;
His greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends Your works to another;
they tell of Your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of Your majesty -
& I will meditate on Your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of Your awesome works -
& I will proclaim Your great deeds.
They celebrate Your abundant goodness
& joyfully sing of Your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious & compassionate,
slow to anger & rich in love.
The Lord is good to all;
He has compassion on all He has made.
All Your works praise you, Lord;
Your faithful people extol You.
They tell of the glory of Your kingdom
& speak of Your might,
so that all people may know of Your mighty acts
& the glorious splendor of Your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom
& Your domain endures through all generations.
The Lord is trustworthy in all He promises
& faithful in all He does.
The Lord upholds all who fall
& lifts up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to You,
& You give them their food at the proper time.
You open Your hand
& satisfy the desires of every living thing.
The Lord is righteous in all His ways
& faithful in all He does.
The Lord is near to all who call on Him,
to all who call on Him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him;
He hears their cry & saves them.
The Lord watches over all who love Him,
but all the wicked He will destroy.
My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
Let every creature praise His holy name
for ever & ever."

When storms come into your life, keep your eyes on Jesus.  He promises to never leave us & never forsake us (Hebrews 13).  There's no better promise than that   : )

Sunday, July 20, 2014

No OMGs

There are many verses in the Bible telling us that we should honor God's name.  Exodus 20:7 & Deuteronomy 5:11 are two familiar examples.  In most translations, these verses are identical in both books.  

"Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain...."  (KJV)

"You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God...."  (NIV)

I especially like the way the MSG & VOICE translations render these verses.

"No using the name of God, your God, in curses or silly banter...."  (MSG)

"You are to not use My name lightly or flippantly or as a curse...."  (VOICE)

My spirit, in fact my entire being cringes when I hear someone doing this.  I'm sure we have all heard people saying things like ...

"Oh my God, look at that cute outfit!"

"Will you go clean up your room, for Christ's sake?"

"What in God's name are you doing?"

"For the love of God, get in here!"

I remember watching The Weather Channel one day while they were showing a home video someone took of a funnel cloud heading toward their neighborhood. Someone ... either the person filming the video or a person nearby ... kept saying over & over again, "Oh my God!  Oh my God!  Oh my God!"  I don't think I can adequately explain how grieved I was at this.

Did you know that there are words that people use in place of God's name but they are still the same?  I first was made aware of this when I was in 7th grade.  I attended a catholic grade school (grades 1-8) & one day I was standing with some friends & one of us said something like "Geez, will you look at that!"  One of the nuns at the school happened to hear this as she was passing by & she really laid into us for using Jesus' name like that.  It never occurred to my friends & I that "geez" was just a shortened form of Jesus ... a "polite" way to dishonor God's name.  At the time we all thought that nun was crazy, but of course with age comes wisdom (hopefully).  Geez, gee, gosh, golly, egad, "oh my goodness," Jiminy Crickets, & similar words & expressions are all "polite substitutes" for God's name.

If you love God, if He is important in your life, if you want to honor Him at all times, listen to the words you say & to take a good look at the things you write.  If you discover that you are dishonoring God by using His name "lightly or flippantly or as a curse," pray for His help to stop.  In Psalm 141, the psalmist asks God to "set a guard over my mouth."  I ask God to do this for me every day.  I encourage you to ask Him to do this for you as well   : )