Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Gifts

This Christmas I decided not to spend any money at all on gifts.

Now, before you start thinking I’m a scrooge, let me explain a little further. Instead of going out and spending money I don’t have to buy my family and friends things they don’t need, I used the materials I already had to make something for each person that they will (hopefully) like and use.

It was quite a challenge to figure out what to make everyone. (Rather like a puzzle, but I like puzzles, so it was actually pretty enjoyable.) : ) It caused me, however, to stop and think about each person on my list –their likes and dislikes, favorite colors, whether they would most want a practical or impractical gift– and it surprised me to find that the gifts I came up with this year were much better (at least to my mind) than the ones I bought for each person last year.

There is something about a handmade gift that makes it special. I don’t know exactly what it is, whether it is the thought and time and love that go into it, or the personal touch it adds to the gift, or what it is, but I do know that whenever I have given a handmade gift to someone, it has always been received with that precious look that comes across someone’s face when they receive a gift they really appreciate.

But all this thinking about gifts and people drew my mind to ponder the reason we give gifts at all. I know there are those who find giving Christmas gifts a stressful and tiring experience, as I have in the past, and it seems to me that if we remember the reason for giving, it becomes a more joyful and peaceful experience.

The gifts we give at Christmas time reflect the gift God gave to man by sending His only Son, Jesus, to earth as a baby, who would later die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, and be raised to life again, showing His victory over death. Last week in my devotions I came across a verse that helped me to remember the reason for Christmas gifts:

“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet he became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich.”
2 Corinthians 8:9


When we give Christmas gifts, it is to remind ourselves and others of the gift of salvation, a gift that cost Christ unimaginable pain and suffering, yet willingly given out of love for us.


May the reminder of His amazing gift bring you all great joy and peace this week!


~Merry Christmas!!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

My First Award!

My dear friends at Ebenezer Forest Farm have very kindly bestowed upon
my little blog the honor of the "One Lovely Blog Award".
Thank you, Strang family!

I have awarded the following blogs:

Diary of a Country Girl

Country Diary of a 21st Century Lady

Heirloom Gazette

Home Living

Holiday

Safely To Arrive at Home

According to the award rules, I was supposed to award a total of 15 other blogs, but... I guess I'm picky. : ) (That, and I haven't explored blogger enough to have 15 newly discovered blogs.)

But, for those of you who were awarded, here are the rules:
1. Accept the award (post the picture on your blog, along with the name of the person who has granted you the award.
2. Pass the award along to 15 newly-discovered blogs
3. Don't forget to contact the bloggers to let them know you awarded them!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Proverbs 31 Entrepreneur


“She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.”
“She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.”
Proverbs 31: 19&24

For about 10 years now, mommy has had a small business selling various things she has made. It’s technically a family business, but she is really the only major producer for the business. She designs her own patterns for knitted, crocheted, felted, tatted, woven, and braided items. Everything we sell in our online shop or our booths at farm festivals is handmade from original designs. Knowing that, I think anyone who looks at our booth would agree –my mother is amazing! She is always learning new techniques and figuring out new designs, and seems always to have some project with her to work on in spare moments.

Through the family effort of starting and running this small business, my parents have taught each of us children to have an entrepreneurial mindset which is probably why the three of us each have at least one small business of our own.

Mommy has been to me an example of the Proverbs 31 woman especially in this area of business. There are several verses which always make me think of her.

“She seeketh wool and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.” (v.13) To my knowledge, Mommy hasn’t done much with flax, but she often works with wool. : ) More significantly, she works willingly. She finds delight in the creative aspect of her work, but takes the time to do the more tedious tasks on her own initiative. –Which is a lesson I still need!

“She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.” Mommy is pretty picky about the quality of the materials she uses in her products, as well as the quality of her work. She is not content with “good”; she strives for “best”! She also has had many late evenings getting ready before a show, but she perseveres until everything is ready.

“She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.” (v.19) –She is always working on something. : ) She uses every spare moment, not wasting time even when she would seem justified in doing so.

“She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.” (v.24) Mommy has recently started an etsy shop (www.mountainmistfiberworks.etsy.com ) and has worked very hard to learn the ins and outs of the system, as well as how to promote her items so more people will look at them.

“She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.” Even though the business keeps her busy, Mommy still faithfully attends to the ways of her household. In addition to her housework and business work, she always has time for her family. She would get so much more accomplished if she didn’t stop to listen to me chatter! : )

It is because of Mommy that my sister, my brother, and I each know how to knit, crochet, spin, and weave. It is also because of her that it usually feels like cheating to me to use a pattern. : ) She has instilled in us the creativity and ingenuity that learns the basics, then takes those and uses them to make something much more complicated. That principle shows up in many areas of our daily lives, whether cooking, crafting, music, teaching, or anything else. Mommy has taught us by example to learn the basics well, and then implement them in new and creative ways.

Thank you, Mommy!!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Gentling Influences: Part 1

My brother will often have me accompany him to social events for which I have no other reason for going than the fact that my brother will be there. Usually he has a reason for bringing me, sometimes because he wants me to be friends with his friends, but more often because my presence with him would prevent some sort of awkwardness from occurring. The other day was just such an occasion, and I went with him to have dinner at his friends’ house. If it weren’t for my brother, I would not have gone that night, and as it was, I spent the evening trying not to look as uncomfortable as I felt. On the way home, I told Tris that if I had known how superfluous I was going to be, I would not have gone. Tris answered and said that he was glad I was there, because my very presence had a “gentling influence” on the conversation, keeping it from turning in directions it ought not to go. Suddenly, I was very glad I had gone.

That got me to thinking, though. How does one accomplish such a thing? It seems to me that there are several factors that make one a gentling influence, the first of which is the matter of dress. Do I look gentle? --I certainly don’t mean that we ought to be merely ornamental, or to seek to seem weak and fragile, but there is a gentling effect that comes from the presence of a modest, feminine girl or lady.

One time as I was on the bus, a man across from me began a conversation with the heavily-tattooed man in the next seat. As their conversation progressed, it became apparent that the tatooed man had a rather entertaining way of phrasing things, and was very friendly. Before long, he had most of the passengers listening to a description of the tattooing process. In the course of the conversation, this colorful man used some colorful language. I continued to stare out my window, (very carefully giving no indication that I had even heard him swear) and he kept on with his story. When we came to his stop, he stood and began to say goodbye to all his new friends. On the way out of the bus, he stopped in front of me and said, “Sorry about the swearing.”

There were many other women on the bus, and even a few children, but he only apologized to me. I believe it was because I was (sadly) the only wholesomely and femininely dressed woman on the bus. The presence of a lady who looked like a lady had enough of a gentling influence on this man to make him think twice about the language he used in front of me –enough to make him apologize.

The way women dress has a definite effect on the way they are treated. I know this from personal experience, because I used to dress in a very different way than I do now. –But that’s another post for another day. The point is, if I don’t look like a lady, I can’t expect to be treated like one, and thus am not likely to be the gentling influence God created me to be.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Emotions

I have been thinking about the way I make decisions. There are a few pretty important matters that I need to get settled this next week or so, and while I was thinking about these upcoming decisions, my thoughts turned to the process of decision-making. So many times when I need to make a decision, especially if I don’t have much time to decide, I am tempted to rely on what I feel, rather than figuring out what I know. I suppose it is partly a product of intellectual laziness; I don’t want to take the time to think and determine the facts of the matter, so I go by feelings, which take less effort to determine.

Yet emotions are not necessarily a viable means for making decisions. The Bible tells us that “The heart is deceitful above all else...” (Jeremiah 17:9) and I know from personal experience that emotions can easily be misleading or even false. While the Holy Spirit sometimes uses emotions to speak to us or guide us, it is important to be very careful to make sure that the “leading” we feel lines up with God’s word. I have been tricked by my emotions enough times that I am somewhat distrustful of them now. One way I have found to discern between mere emotional “fluff” and the leading of the Holy Spirit is to pray and ask God to make His leading more clear, to confirm that what I feel is truly His leading. –And He always does!

Emotions are indeed tricky things. So often, it is not what one feels that is most important; it is how one responds to those feelings that truly matters. Today was the first day of a piano camp I am teaching, and I noticed that so many of the problems my students had stemmed from the students being so preoccupied with the things other students were doing, that they ended up doing something worse. It’s important even for adults to remember that we are not responsible for the actions of others, but we are responsible for the way we react to them.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Warm Weather Woes

It was 104 yesterday, and I heard that it’s expected to be 105 today. I don’t mind warm weather too much for the most part, but once it gets above 90, I tend to start melting. : )

My family has never had a house with air conditioning, and on days like today, I wish we did. There is a small air conditioner in a window in the big room that serves as our living/dining/music room, but it is entirely too small for the space it’s in. So, keeping the house cool on hot days poses quite a challenge to us.

At my old house, we had our hot weather procedures down to a science. The first hot day of the summer, Tristan and Daddy would get all the fans out of the attic, and make sure they all worked. Then each morning, Daddy would get all the downstairs windows opened up with fans in them when he got up for work. We would watch the thermometers carefully all morning, and as soon as the temperature began to rise, we would all rush around to get the windows closed as quickly as possible. All the blinds and curtains on the windows would be tightly shut, to keep the warm sunlight out. We would then spend the rest of the day in our dark house, trying to use the lights as little as possible (because light bulbs generate heat) and to cook as little as possible. When it finally began to cool down outside in the evening, we would open everything up and be comfortable again.

One of the most frustrating challenges of hot weather is finding ways to feed our family without adding to our misery by heating the house up more. Mommy and I could probably live on cold salads the whole summer, but Daddy is a “meat and potatoes” kind of guy, and Tristan works up quite an appetite working in construction, and neither of them is too inclined to eat “girly food”, so, it’s quite a struggle to find things that everyone will eat. We have found that the crock pot doesn’t heat up the house as much as the oven, but cooking on the stovetop is pretty much our coolest option until Daddy gets our grill cleaned up.

Does anyone have favorite summer recipes or tips?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Feminine Hairdos

This is my new favorite hairstyle.

It takes a while to do, but it is definitely worth the time and effort. This works best on thick hair, (which mine is most definitely not), but I have found that using little clips to secure the bun makes it stay in a little better.
This is only one of the pretty and feminine hairstyles available with illustrated instructions on the In Timely Fashion website. The link below will take you directly to the hairstyles page.




Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Importance of Encouragement

I love working children, though many times it is quite a challenge. There is one particular little boy in my NBT class who has been more than a little difficult to deal with. He seems to be always doing something he's not supposed to, without even realizing it. Today I noticed that whenever my head teacher would mention that she was watching to see who was the quietest, the most still booster with the biggest smile, he would sit right up in his chair and give the biggest cheezy grin imaginable. He really was trying to be good today, but at first he seemed very discouraged about it. It occurred to me that, while we always pointed out when he was disobeying, we hadn't been pointing out when he was doing right. I began to praise him for any ways in which he was being good, and pretty soon, he was happy and interested in class, and behaving much better than he had been.

How many times do we neglect to encourage those around us, pointing out every fault, but ignoring everything good they are doing? A little encouragement can indeed go a long way, if only we will give it.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sympathy

Last night at prayer meeting, one of the ladies we were praying with said that sometimes all people need is someone who knows how they feel.

Today I had to go to the bank. There's one teller that I always seem to get, and today was no exception. I noticed right away that his voice was funny, like he was sick or something. I mentioned it, and he told me that he had just found out that a good buddy of his had passed away the day before. He was obviously devastated, but he had to work anyway, and was determined to do his job.

I never know what to say in situations like this. I said I was sorry for his loss, but could think of no other way to help him but hurry through my business and leave him in peace. (Although, since he was the only teller open at that moment, peace is perhaps not the best word for it.)

I think he could see that I had sympathy for him, though, and after all, God did put me right there at that moment for a reason. I just hope I did what He meant me to!

"Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep."
~Romans 12:15~

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Freedom

With freedom comes responsibility.

I have been reminded of this principle recently as I have been driving myself places more often. It is such a blessing to have the ability to go places by myself, but I now have no excuse to put off those things which I have always said I wanted to do, but couldn't actually do because I had no way of getting there. I am now faced with the choice to either do what I ought to, or put it off. It is easy to say that I want to do what is right, but wanting to makes absolutely no difference unless I am willing to exert the effort to actually do it when the time comes.

"Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin."
~James 4:17

Monday, June 1, 2009

I’m Welting!

No, the title is not a typo. : ) Mommy and I made up the word “welting” while we were out running errands last Friday. It is a combination of “wilting” and “melting”, and as it was a very warm day, and I had forgotten to bring some water with me, and we were driving the car that did not have air conditioning, it was not long into our afternoon of shopping before we were both “welting”.

The day after that terribly tiring trip, we had to do our annual day-before-the-recital-frantic-thrift-store-hopping-trying-to-find-a-dress-for-Gwennie shopping excursion. This time, I was resolved to have at least a somewhat more enjoyable trip and not die of exhaustion afterwards. : ) There are some helpful tips I have gleaned from several ladies over the years that make running errands during the summer much more pleasant, and I thought I would share them with you all.

If one is going to visit more than two stores, food and water are a necessity!
I once read somewhere that hungry shoppers purchase more unnecessary stuff than if they were not hungry. (I tested this out on my family members, and it seems to be quite true.) I also read that the sensation of hunger often accompanies thirst, and that if one is thirsty, he will often also feel hungry. So water is important, not only to keep you hydrated in the summer heat, but also to keep away the “munchy” feeling that can make you buy those extra things that you really don’t need –those things that, upon arriving home and unpacking your purchases, you look at and wonder, “why did I ever buy that?” : )

Bringing a cooler can make one’s trip much more pleasant.
If you’re going to be out for a while on a hot day, having something cold to drink is much better than having something that’s as hot as the car it’s been sitting in. : )

Know exactly what you need and stay focused!
Now, there are two kinds of stores to which this does not easily apply (at least for my family) –thrift stores and antique stores, since they are designed for browsing. : ) Other than that, it is much more efficient to keep on task, rather than spending all one’s time and energy on the first store or two, and being “shopped out” by the middle of one’s trip.

Two drivers are better than one.
Mommy and I usually do our errands together, because it is more efficient that way. This has the added benefit, however, of providing an extra driver, in case one of us gets tired and doesn’t want to drive.

Of course, the most obvious option for making summer shopping easier would be to start out in the morning, before it gets too warm.

Any other suggestions?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Grocery Shopping

Today nearly everyone in my household was sick --except for me. Tristan (my brother) is still recovering from a cough, Daddy, who has the same thing, has just begun to improve, and Mommy has just come down with it. Thankfully, I am not sick at present, having started the cycle of sickness. This means that I get to take care of everything (well, almost) at home until everyone is better. (Which is actually really fun…like playing house, except with a real house!)
It is a great opportunity to learn how to do things on my own, but still have Mommy around to make sure I don’t mess up. : )

One of those things that I had never done on my own before was grocery shopping. And since this was the day we usually do grocery shopping, and Mommy was in no shape to do it with me, and seeing as I can now drive by myself, that task fell to me. Now, just to clarify, I have been grocery shopping before --in fact, I have gone grocery shopping with my family since before I can remember-- but helping Mommy shop and shopping on my own are two very different things.

But I figured it would be a good experience for me, for grocery shopping is a very important skill to have, so I made up my list and off I went.

Now, driving places by myself is a rather new skill for me, and I had never driven to the grocery store alone before. I got there in one piece, however, and even managed to park the car inside the space without having to see-saw back and forth. After calling Daddy to tell him I had arrived safely, I headed into the store.

The actual shopping was pretty easy, since Mommy has been training me for years, and it was no longer than usual before I had gathered everything on my list, and was ready to check out. Thankfully, it was just after lunchtime, and there were not many people in line. I found a line that had just enough people in it to give me time to put my things on the conveyer belt before the lady in front of me had finished paying, and then it was my turn.

This was the dreaded moment. I was going to have to pay and bag my groceries, presumably at the same time. I wasn’t sure how I was going to manage it, but thankfully, the list was a short one this week, and I was able to wait to start bagging until after I had paid.

The rest of my trip was pretty uneventful. (Thankfully!) But it was definitely an adventure. At least now I know I am capable of doing shopping by myself, although I am looking forward to Mommy getting better so she can come with me! : )

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Beginnings

I am at a time in my life where at times it seems as if everything is constantly changing, and that life is all new all at once. Novelty brings to life an invigorating freshness, but because beginnings so often entail endings, they tend to bring feelings of sadness as well as joy. This past year has brought me many beginnings and endings, and it has been exciting to see God working through each seeming ending in my life, to bring about a bright and glorious beginning.

So often there must be an ending in order to make possible a beginning. So it is when one places faith and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. II Corinthians 5: 17 says, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." In order for us to grow in godliness, there are "old things" which must pass away. These might be sinful things that must be given up altogether, or things which, although not entirely sinful by themselves, nevertheless come between us and God. It is hard to give these things up, especially when they have rooted themselves in our hearts, but I suppose part of growing is gaining the strength to do that which is right, regardless of whether or not we want to.

Although endings may be difficult, the joy of the resulting beginning often grows until it completely eclipses the sorrow of parting with that which has been left behind.

My family moved last summer, for the first time since I was born. As exciting as it was to have a new house, and to see the way God worked to give us just the right one, it was very hard for me to give up my old house. I would find myself looking forward to having a bigger house with more storage, that was closer to my church, and at the same time wishing that everything would stay the same, and that I could stay in my dear home forever. Yet, when I stepped into the new house and saw all our furniture there, I felt immediately that this was now "home". Our new house has been such an immeasurable blessing, and I would not wish to be still in our old house, but the transition was harder than I would have ever expected.

I often wonder how many blessings I miss because of my unwillingness to pry my eyes off of that which I have left behind!