28 January 2012

Weekend Workroom: Squids!

If you haven't picked up on it yet, don't worry: It's new. I'm trying to incorporate regular features into my blog every week.

You know, the whole "being intentional thing."

One of those regular features is going to be a weekly peek in at some of the things I've been making at home for purposes of all sorts, including recipes, craft and sewing projects, home projects that don't quite qualify as "remodeling" (see http://mercuryreno.blogspot.com for that), and who knows what. Making things with my hands continues to be a substantial part of my life, so I'll be sharing that with anyone who wants to stop by regularly...

Anyway, this week was kind of strange one. SALT (youth group student council) concocted this crazy game that mixed perhaps five different games (dodgeball, basketball/soccer, line tag, the whole snitch concept from Harry Potter, and maybe one other? Regardless, it was chaos). The main thing, however, was that at some point during that meeting I mentioned squids? And then proceeded to think on how we could actually have squids.

Which is when I started looking at squid projects online. Amazing, really, that when you type "free squid hat pattern" into Google, you get more hits than you probably should. People love their cephalopods (squids, octopi, and the like).

I landed on this particular pattern:

It seemed easy enough, so I went to Walmart and bought the cheapest fleece I could find that seemed to be a squid color (I chose light blue). Some of it was in the remnant bin. With about a yard and a half of fleece (I think it was 60-in width), I managed to make four hats and have some left over. I picked up some flat-faced, shiny round buttons and some coordinating thread. Cost: $4 for fabric + $2 for thread + $1.50 for buttons = ~$7.50 total.

Everything was pretty straightforward, though the hats came out a bit smaller than they were supposed to be. I didn't realize until a few pages deep in the pattern that the grey border around the pattern pieces was supposed to be the seam allowance. The trickiest part was getting the machine to go over the thicker parts of the hat while sewing on the brim and fin pieces. Other than that, smooth sailing.

I didn't have a chance to put together the smaller tentacles as I had hoped, due to the fact I ran out of time before youth group, but they still look like squids to me, and I figure that's really the level of success I was going for anyhow.

26 January 2012

Thursday Thoughts: Rain is No Measure

[[Because this post will reference several seasons of life, I've decided to add links to some older posts concerning things referenced in the past (where applicable) for those who may not be as familiar with my life and growth in Christ over the past 13 years.]]

It is rare that enough is swirling around in my head late at night that it causes me to lie restless, compelled to write and compelled to seek the depths of my heart - these days, at least.

I have struggled to find a normal routine in recent years (see "A Night Owl's Growing Convictions on the Importance of Daylight"), migrating from night owl to functioning daylight person, and I have yet to strike a proper balance. I'm still often too exhausted in daylight hours to function well, perhaps reinforcing my theory from college that I actually sleep best when I start in the early hours of the morning rather than the later hours of the evening... but I digress.

As I laid in bed this evening attempting (or maybe not attempting so much) to find the sleep my body so desperately craves, several things swirled in my head as I mulled over things that have accumulated over the past few months of our lives. I apologize in advance that this might come across as an incredible and random mixture of thoughts, and put forth that they do coalesce.

The first is perhaps that this last week has seemed a lifetime. Chris shared a verse tonight with the youth kids from James: "So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin" (4:17).

And that might be where my self-evaluation is driven from tonight, casting my own actions and reactions in a fresh glow of saving light.

I know that I can trust God to have the best for me, and I know that it is good to do so - that I should do so. But I fail to, and that is sinful.

As I've mentioned before, my first listens of Sara Groves' albums seem to be ordained for the moments and seasons I need their truths the most (see "Christmas" and "Peace, Peace"). Her latest, "Invisible Empires" is no exception. A few weeks ago, I learned that she had a new album (that I somehow missed) and I purchased it with an iTunes card (a Christmas gift from my parents) the next day. I somehow wound up driving around town for a while trying to find a friend's apartment, which was probably a good thing because I was in tears by the end of the second song.

In the little more than a year since my grandmother died and I woke from my second major bout with depression since being married (see "A different kind of happy"), our lives have certainly been incredible messes. We have seen everything from freak accidents and rehabilitation to friends moving away and substantial delays in what we thought life would be. We have also seen incredible blessings (see "God is not a cashier at a fast food restaurant") and have been shown that God is still gracious toward us in every way.

But in the midst of all of the chaos (that continues), I'm beginning to realize that I have replaced some of my depression with a strong desire to control my life - and I'm finally realizing, more than a year later, that I truly hold no control over anything that I desire to hold firmly in the palm of my hand.

I cannot force someone to hire me. I cannot keep the sins of others from breaking my heart. I cannot control hurtful words others might say. I cannot prevent others from growing up and moving forward in their lives in ways that I feel incapable of doing. I cannot control whether or not we ever have children. I cannot keep others from moving away or falling away.

But I am finding that the things I do have quite a bit of say in are possibly the things that actually matter, which is a strangely liberating thing for me tonight. For the first time in more than a year, I feel I can take God at His word that He is not only good but has good planned for our lives - even if it doesn't turn out as we may have wanted it.

And this is where Sara Groves song, "Open My Hands," comes into the picture and is so incredibly poignant as it pierces my soul at its deepest points:

I believe in a blessing I don't understand -
I've seen rain fall on the wicked and the just.
Rain is no measure of His faithfulness -
He withholds no good thing from us.

I believe in a peace that flows deeper than pain - 
The broken find healing in love.
Pain is no measure of His faithfulness - 
He withholds no good thing from us.

I will open my hands, will open my heart.
I am nodding my head, an emphatic "yes,"
for all that You have for me.

Certainly, this idea of common and special grace has been settling in my head for almost a year now (see "How He loves us..."). One of the most deep-reaching areas of struggle for me has been our desire to have children, with this month marking more than a year and a half since we began this painful adventure. It is something that we have held close and not heavily publicized.

And, no, I am still not pregnant. But God is still good, and I believe that more and more whole-heartedly the longer this waiting continues. The crazy thing is that I'm finally beginning to let go of the need to do all of this in my own timing. My desire is still there, and it sits with me daily, but some of the urgency is receding a bit as I realize it is good to trust the plan God has - and perhaps, for the first time, that to do otherwise is sinful.

Perhaps it is the unfortunate events of the past few weeks that have finally placed everything in the proper perspective, as I haven't had the opportunity to grieve as I typically do. It's amazing how, month after month, one can still have the slightest sliver of hope that things might finally be different than every month that has come before.

I may not be able to control my life, but I can be useful. I can do the good I have been entrusted with (Ephesians 2:10). I can enjoy my dear husband, whom I love and admire more than I did the day I walked to meet him in a church in Aurora, Colorado. I can enjoy the blessing of his friendship, his desire to know my heart, his desire to continue to lead us in the direction of the Kingdom - remaining faithful to the vows we took unto God and unto each other (see "Four Years and It is Lovelier (Still)").

I can choose joy. I can choose to continue my pursuit of the Kingdom. I can choose to be healthy. There is no sin in the pursuit of these things.

It has been interesting since the beginning of the year, when I resolved I was going to finally take control of my body and lose the 20 pounds that make me overweight. To that point, I had hoped they would just be taken over if I were to become pregnant, and had used that as an excuse to avoid being healthy as I ought to be. The strangest piece is that, as I've lost little by little and seen myself become a little smaller, I'm finding that there's life in that.

God has blessed this past year with an incredible and building desperation for Him in my heart. In my weakness and in my emerging into the light of sanity, He has been faithful to restore my awe of the love and grace He has given to me.

I have never longed for heaven more and have fallen in love with the promise of Revelation 21:5 - "And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' Also he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'"

All things new! Do we even dare to begin to think we know the implications of that thought? The world is broken, but the God I serve - the God who sent His only Son to redeem this wretch - is not broken, and is the same today as He has always been and always will be. How glorious!

And so I find myself desiring to embrace all that God has for me tonight, for the first time in a long time. The rain of the past year is no measure of His faithfulness or His love for me. He is good, and I want to open my heart to that truth daily - to see His infinite graces toward me in every star placed in the sky, every time of laughter with Christopher, every impatient pawing from a pup who just wants to be loved, every melody and lyric that resonates deep within, and every opportunity of sweet friendship, fellowship and worship. I am blessed in each and every moment, where there is at the least a hint of grace. 

Common grace, specifically for me.

Listening to: Invisible Empires, Sara Groves
Reading: Emily's Quest, L.M. Montgomery

09 January 2012

Christmas & Crafting

Christmas was a little different this year, as we went to Nebraska to spend the holiday with Christopher's brother and his family (they have a little one who was born at the end of October, and he was still too little to travel). Regardless, it was really nice to get to decorate our home knowing that we are going to be here next December, as well.

You see, we've never lived in the same place two years in a row - so every year, it's a matter of finding new homes for decorations and merry-making items.

Surprisingly enough, I didn't wrap many presents this year and I didn't take any pictures of the ones that I did. It was kind of an off year because I didn't have my normal warm-up wrapping at my parents' house. It was nice to be able to use that time for some other things (some of which you can see over at our renovation blog, http://mercuryreno.blogspot.com), like a ton of crafting and reconnecting with Scripture.

Our camera is fritzing, so I've been taking pictures here and there when I feel like putting up with it for a while, but I realized after Christmas that I didn't take pictures of all of my projects like I probably should have. They included:
  • A sizable counted cross-stitch pattern of a family of wolves (bought approximately 10 years ago for my dad), that I picked up when our power went out in October and continued because (though I was supposed to) I never went back to work in November as planned. I'll try and grab a picture of it the next time I'm at my parents' house, where it now lives.
  • A few stuffed foxes for friends' little ones. Some turned out better than others, but it was kind of tricky because the actual stuffed animal was much smaller than I had anticipated and a little more complicated to sew because of its size. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), no pictures. I used this pattern: http://matsutakeblog.blogspot.com/2010/10/electrified-fox-lamp-tutorial-and.html
  • Earrings. Seriously, earrings? I never thought I'd see the day when I would make jewelry, but a co-worker gave me a bag of pretty cool beads, so I thought I'd see what I could do with them. I learned a bit about endcaps and spacer beads, bought some tools, and went to work. These are some of the ones I kept for myself, but I made something close to 20 pairs to spread around amongst various friends. Again, some turned out better than others, but it was a great learning experience, and I look forward to learning more.
  • I created an Advent calendar after looking for several weeks for a decent one with which I could do what I wanted - what I wanted apparently doesn't exist. Nobody does a full four weeks, just in case Advent goes a full four weeks (which it did this year). And they all have Santa on them, which is silly because Christmas is about Jesus and not Santa. In the end, I covered a piece of cork board with some fabric and printed off little triangles with names of God and readings from the Book of Common Prayer for each day. It's a little awkward to take them off and put them back on, but it'll work until we figure something else out. Regardless, it helped me remember that Advent is the anticipation of the Savior - and that is always something worth pursuing. The picture I have is bad because I packed it away already, but I'll hopefully get a better one next year.
  • Back in September, I started cutting out felt in anticipation of our nephew becoming a big brother. Due to my job, it took until November to finish the cape and get it shipped to Nebraska, but it turned out pretty well, in my opinion. Not bad for a first go at clothing.
    I adapted it from this tutorial: http://pukingpastilles.com/?p=57
  • Earlier in the fall, we were also trying to find a way to put the people we pray for in a place where we could go and see them and spend some time in prayer. I finally settled on stringing a bunch of ribbons across the walls of our littlest bedroom and using clothespins (some decorated, some plastic) to hang up slips of paper with names. It's been pretty cool, though we've often had a house full of guests - meaning that we don't go in there as often as we would like. When we've prayed for a name, we take it down and put it in the box until all the names are down for a particular row (one row each for the girls and boys from the youth group and one row for friends and family members) and then we put them back up.
  • I also made myself a new cover for my Bible because I got sick of how I had rigged my last one to close; this one's a little easier to manipulate, and I really like it. It's amazing how you learn so much from mistakes you make the first time you do things...
All in all, though, it's been a neat season to see what I can make with my hands. I've been frequenting a lot of DIY/lifestyle blogs and they always make me want to make something or try something different with what I have. Pretty cool.

I got a few crochet books for Christmas so that I can teach myself some new patterns, and I'm hoping to learn a bit more about quilting this year and make my way through some of the stash that I've had for a few years now in anticipation of such an occasion. I recently rearranged closets in our bedrooms, and finally got all of the crafting supplies into their own arena, nice and tidy.

Easy to find stuff = easy to work.

Got lots of books for Christmas, and I'm excited to start in on them once I'm done with L.M. Montogomery's "Emily of New Moon" series.

Listening to: On the Altar of Love, downhere
Emily Climbs, L.M. Montgomery