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Wednesday

The Lentil Soup Generation


I've always wondered why Esau would so quickly give up his birthright for soup. Maybe it's because I'm a vegetarian, and can't sympathize with being hungry from game hunting. Maybe it's because I can't imagine being so hairy. (By the way, does anyone else have flashbacks to touching fuzzy Sunday School felt board characters when they think of the story of Jacob and Esau?) But in all seriousness, Esau's attitude always seemed a little un-relatable. I mean, I would have to be really hungry before I got that desperate. And if Esau really were so hungry, wouldn't that make Jacob's actions exceptionally mean? No matter which way you slice it, the story seems harsh.


Photo from http://kitchenography.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/02/red-lentil-soup.html


But I saw this story in a new light as I read it today. See, what's really at stake in Esau's choice is the exchanging of the infinite for the temporal. The future for the here-and-now. And that's something we can all relate to.

Again and again, the Bible tells stories of men and women who were challenged to see beyond their current moment in history. And that's what faith is. The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1).

I'm so drawn by this concept of vision. Within the past year, God's been teaching me to put my sights on the unseen. Sometimes it's easy, and sometimes it's anything but. When the unseen means making sacrifices in the seen, or investing your heart in something that doesn't seem so steady--when God promises you something but doesn't tell you the timing--it's easy to want something tangible and "solid" to fall back upon. I put solid in quote marks because reliance on the here-and-now is not always the steady ground it may seem. Problem is, God is preparing us for a greater purpose, and if we never fix our eyes to it-- if instead, we allow our eyes to stray to what's just in front of ourselves-- then we will never know how it feels when the unseen becomes reality. It's living in commitment to the unseen that not only brings greater dreams to pass, but also, and more importantly, becomes an act of faith.

The following are some aspects of Esau's bigger problem that I think impact us so easily and distract us from our greater callings:
  • Undervalue/lack of appreciation for birthright. Sometimes I want to smack Esau across the head when I read this story. I can always remember thinking it seemed almost ridiculous that he would so quickly exchange his birthright for soup. But at the heart of this choice is the idea of value. What we value, we privilege and protect. If that means giving up time, energy, emotion, prayers, sleep, or even (as in Esau's case) going hungry, we will guard and protect that thing with all our strength. If, on the other hand, we don't value our birthright, and we don't value ourselves as children of God, it becomes much easier to let those privileges and callings slip through our fingertips because we don't make them a priority.
  • Lack of vision. As I already mentioned earlier, so much of faith comes back to the concept of vision. Remember that the Bible says without vision, people perish. Is your faith vision greater than what you'd consider your everyday circumstances/reality?
  • Emphasis on here and now. I think Esau would fit in Western society quite nicely with his prioritization of immediate gratification. Part of his problem was that the soup was in front of him, and he was hungry, and that was that. Instead of considering the long-term ramifications of his actions, he made a rash decision that cost him just about everything. We must be careful to live our lives with intention, lest we too get trapped in this here-and-now mentality.
  • Hunger. When we live outside of God's fullness for our lives, we get hungry and are more likely to satisfy that hunger other ways. We start looking for fulfillment in places we were never meant to receive it from instead of from the hand of God. I think it's oh-so-very important that we become more conscious of our hungering, lest our cravings lead us to unwittingly give up the powerful purpose God has for us in His calling. 
What do you think? How can we avoid the "lentil soup obsession" of our modern society,  instead looking to God to sustain us and fulfill our needs?

Monday

The Mitten: DIY Project Week 8

This week's DIY project is a bit... erm... unconventional. Are you ready for this? It's a giant mitten.

See, my mom works at an elementary school, and one of the kindergarden teachers there is going to be reading The Mitten by Jan Brett to her students. This is the cutest little story about a white mitten that falls into the snow and provides shelter for a bunch of animals. So, naturally, the teacher thought it'd be a cool idea to have a giant mitten that she could put small little stuffed animals inside as she reads the book. What a great idea, right?



So I volunteered to make the mitten with little idea how I was actually going to do it. I mean, a giant size mitten couldn't be that different from a regular sized one, right? Not that I've ever made a regular sized one either.

Here's what I decided to do. I used chunky white baby yarn and purchased the large size skein intended for baby blankets. Then, I started the project like I was working on a crocheted hat. You can see the inside of it here:




Gradually, I kept increasing my stitches (again, like you would do with a basic hat) until I found it was the width I wanted. Then I just kept crocheting and crocheting until it reached a good length. Keep in mind that at this point, the "mitten" is going to look more like a floppy placemat than an actual mitten.

To give the mitten some depth, I took an extra piece of yarn after tying off the end, and I wove it through every two posts of the crochet stitches. I used double crochet throughout, so I had a nice amount of space to work with when weaving the drawstring through. Single crochet would also probably work just fine so long as you're using chunky yarn. Here's an idea of how it looked once the edge was drawn tight:



And finally the mitten was finished! It was hard to get a good picture because this thing is so big, but hopefully you get the idea! I considered attaching a giant "thumb" opening but decided to instead keep it more like a sack. You could also use this same template to make a really pretty (and easy) purse, or some place mats (in which case you would end your project when you're doing increasing). Remember-- the chunkier the yarn, the faster the work goes!

This would make a perfect craft for anyone looking to read this book to their kids, or to a story time group.





Have you ever made up your own DIY project? How did it turn out?

Wednesday

"To Autumn" --Inspiration from John Keats

I taught my students this poem today, and I'm telling you, it's too good not to share with all of you. Every time I read it, I fall a little more in love with it and Keats. Did you know he died at the age of 25? Yet by age 25, he'd already written enough to later become one of the greatest poets of the Romantic Age. Such a tragedy he never had an idea of the success he would achieve. If you like Keats or Austen, I would definitely recommend Bright Star, a beautiful movie about his love for Fanny Brawne. Such a fascinating story. The imagery in this poem in particular is so evocative and especially inspiring for writers. And the final stanza is just ... wow. Hope you enjoy it!


Monday

The Five Minute Wreath: DIY Project Week 7


So excited about how this week's DIY project turned out! It took about five minutes to make, and I found most of the materials half off at Hobby Lobby. This wreath is not only simple, but it's also relatively cheap, and I love the southern charm about it. My twiggy base cost $2.50, the letter also cost $2.50, my ribbon cost $4, and the flower picks cost $3 and $4. You could easily go without the picks, making a flower out of the ribbon instead, and get this whole wreath for under $10! Really a steal, considering you can personalize it however you like.

MY VERSION:



MY INSPIRATION (from a pin I found on Pinterest):



Isn't the original version so lovely? I like how she wrapped the letter in fabric and created matching little flowers. I actually had originally planned to wrap my own letter in a funky pattern, but then decided I liked the way it looked plain. Plus it was a lot less work! But if you're up for a challenge, I suspect the original version would probably be even cheaper to make.

Here are the materials I used:







I found all this stuff at our Hobby Lobby, but you could probably find it at any other craft store as well, like Michael's or Joann's. I particularly went with a green colored burlap ribbon and some cream flowers, but I can imagine this in so many other color combinations as well. I think a light blue would be nice for the spring!

IMPORTANT: Be sure you get wired ribbon. Otherwise, your bow will look floppy and the ends won't curl. You could hypothetically use tulle or something of that nature, but just realize that it's going to have more of a "poof" effect. 


DIRECTIONS:
  • First, I unwound a good amount of the ribbon until I got it the length I wanted the curled ends to be. 
  • Then, I looped the ribbon through my C letter, around the top of the wreath, and tied a bow in the front.
  • At this point, I did some adjusting to get the bow how I wanted it and to be sure the C was centered correctly.
  • For the finishing touch, I just stuck these burlap flower picks into the side of the wreath, being sure to wrap the ends through the holes in the wreath (otherwise they fall out easily).


And that's all there is to it! Hope you found this pattern easy to follow and that you feel inspired to make your own. :) I think these would make for a really cute wedding gift.

Do you have a favorite wreath or decoration that makes your house feel cozy?


Tuesday

Environment and the Two Mismatched Earrings

Today I wore two different earrings to class. As I've told people this story throughout the day, I've heard responses like, "Oh, I'm sure your students didn't notice."

Uh, I don't think you realize what kind of earrings these were. Let me paint a little word picture for you. One earring is dangly, about two inches long, and a vintage looking, sparkly flower. The other earring is a giant silver hoop.

Yeah, they noticed. They are the ones who told me.

One girl in particular came up to me after class and said, "Did you know you're wearing two different earrings? I just wanted to let you know in case you didn't realize, so you won't go throughout the day with them on."

Thanks?

Can you say "humiliating"?

I was already off my game a bit today as it was because a couple of the guys in the back of the class seemed a bit giggly. Guess we know why!

This sounds like a stupid thing, I know. But I got to my car, and I sat down, and I felt just completely embarrassed. Thoughts were running through my head like, "What are they going to think of me?" and "How am I going to go back in there with a straight face for their next class?" I started thinking back on all the silly things my teachers did or wore-- the whole chalk-on-the-pants bit or the see-through shirt-- and I realize that all these years later, I still remember.

Now I can officially say I have left an indelible impression on these students' lives. Well, at least there's that.

Then other thoughts started going through my mind. "Someday you are going to be a published author, and then they'll see that you're not a joke." And, "You have friends who really believe in you... even your heros." Now, I know this sounds dumb. I do. It was one of those moments you can only really understand if it occurs in your own mind. But sitting in my car, as I started thinking through the people who God has placed in my path, and most especially my own writing heros who have spoken words of affirmation and encouragement into my heart about my writing, something changed for me. I began to remember who I was again. I began to remember who God saw me as being. The dreams He has spoken over me. The plans.

The point of this whole anecdote, aside from hopefully giving you a good laugh and leaving you all with an indelible impression of me as well, is that our environment matters. I learned that today. Change your environment, and you'll change your attitude. When I was standing at the podium with my newly-realized two different earrings on, I felt like a complete joke of a teacher. When I was sitting in my car, I felt like a literature instructor (albeit a quirky one, perhaps) who has something of merit to contribute to the publishing world. Now I don't mean that to sound pretentious (and if it did, please reread the above anecdote until you realize pretentious is the last thing I was feeling today)-- but confident in my calling.

If you are struggling with doubt, fear, insecurity, or even just plain ol' discouragement, I would encourage you to try changing your surroundings. Become more aware of the soundtrack the voices in your mind are replaying throughout the day. Maybe it means making new friendships and finding mentors who will invest in and affirm your calling. Maybe it's something as simple as getting in a new physical setting, such as a quaint coffee shop, to recharge your batteries, or finding a sentimental place that feels like home. Maybe it means taking a time out today to read your Bible in a whole new light, allowing God to affirm His truths of purpose in your life. But, by all means, position yourself for success. Get yourself in a place--physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, relationally--where you are best suited to develop the skills God has given you and the calling He has spoken over your life.

And take it from me-- you may want to take another glance in the mirror before you head out the door.

Monday

The Super Easy, Super Quick, Super Cheap Scarf -- DIY Project Week 6


This week's DIY project is designed with the new sewer in mind. It's perfect for a first project! This is also a great project to practice sewing in a straight line. If you make a few mistakes, they're easily hidden when you turn the scarf inside out.




You'll need:


  • About a half yard of fabric or a little less, depending on how wide you want your scarf to be
  • Thread
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • A sewing machine

Step One: 
First, you'll want to cut the fabric. If you have a solid colored fabric, you can just make one cut, and then fold it over so it's the width you want. Since my fabric has a pattern, I cut out two different pieces.



Step Two:
Once you have your two pieces cut out, it's time to start pinning! Be sure you are working with the two "wrong" sides of the fabric because we are going to turn them inside out when we're doing, revealing a nice, hidden seam.



Step Three:
Start sewing! Sew along the edge of the fabric, keeping your seam as straight as possible--but do remember that we're going to turn our scarf inside out, so it's okay if you make a few mistakes! I started with the bottom edge, then unpinned it and pinned the sides, and then the other edge. 

Important: Be sure you leave a gap of about 4" so you have room to turn your scarf inside out when you've done all the other seams.



Step Four:
Reach your hand inside the hole you've left and turn your scarf inside out, much like you would turn a pair of jeans inside out.



Step Five:
Now, you'll want to seam up this last section. Fold the edges under and sew straight across them.



And you're done! 

Now your scarf is ready to wear! Next, try using various fabrics and widths to create different looks. I would definitely recommend a soft cotton to begin with. Jersey fabrics can be really tough to work with, as I recently learned firsthand! :)

Any questions? I made this one for one of my best friends for Valentine's Day... I hope she likes it!

Wednesday

The Beautiful Mess of Art


First off, I'm happy to announce that the beautiful Beth Vogt won my giveaway from Monday's blog! Beth, I hope you enjoy the earrings! :)

Today I want to talk about the beautiful mess of art.

Sometimes my husband leads worship at our church. This week, he had a bad cold. His sore throat got so bad after worship team practice that he nearly lost his voice, and then by Sunday afternoon, he could hardly talk. Needless to say, I ended up singing this week a little more than usual.

Every time I sing, I get nervous. I feel confident and cool as a cucumber going into it, and I really do enjoy singing, but in the actual moments of the song, I always worry in the back of my mind that I'm going to blow it--that my voice is going to crack, or I'm going to sneeze, or I'm going to sing something off key. I know it doesn't really matter. And I don't want to draw attention to myself, but to facilitate an environment where people feel free to worship God. But that doesn't change the fact that man, sometimes I just get nervous. This Sunday in particular, I was singing one song, and I felt like I was on the brink of my voice cracking. I found myself praying that my voice would stay strong and sound okay.

And that's when I realized--I do the same thing with my writing. I expect too much.

See, when I'm singing on the stage, I can't control what's going to happen. I just have to get up there and do my best. The important thing is just taking that jump and doing it. Sometimes it's a beautiful mess. And that's okay.

Have you ever found yourself brainstorming a new story--or maybe even editing an old one--and thinking, "This is not good enough. This is not perfect."? Have you ever struggled, playing the comparison game with other authors and wondering why you can't produce an equally-brilliant book draft?

For me, this feeling of insufficiency comes in the brainstorming stage. I always feel like I need to have more information about the story at the get-go than I do. I feel like all the pieces have to fit right off the bat. Have you ever felt a similar frustration? But God showed me in that moment that the truth is, art doesn't work this way. That's the beautiful thing about life as well. We rarely ever get things perfect the first go around. The important thing is that we're stepping out. Better to have an imperfect first draft than no draft at all.

Sometimes I feel like there is only one "correct" story to be told. I think that's where my sense of anxiety stems from... once I have a sense of my characters, I worry I'm not telling their story in the absolute best way. But the thing is, there is no "best" way. There's the way God calls you, the ideas you have, and the dreams you carry for your writing. Learning to relax and just be sometimes goes a long way.



Today, Schroeder noticed I was making a sandwich with his favorite bread (wheat mountain bread from Publix), and he started following me around as I carried my plate. When I sat down on the couch, he sat on the floor next to me and rested his head on the sofa. Super cute. Then he proceeded to just sit there, looking at me while I ate. Wouldn't you know I gave in? I couldn't help myself--he was being so cute and patient. Meanwhile, as I gave him a little piece of bread crust, Maddie snoozed the afternoon away on the other sofa, oblivious to what was going on. (Not to worry, I did give her a little piece later, because I'm a sucker.)

This got me thinking. I love Maddie and Schroeder equally and in different ways. I have special "things" with each of them-- Maddie gives me high five's, for instance, and Schroeder comes running any time I'm upset. Yet despite this, Schroeder is the one who racked up all the bread crumbs. Why? Because he was there. He was following me.

God does the same thing with us as we open our hearts. He loves us all, yes. But don't expect extra bread if you're spending your time snoozing on the sofa. Do you have to be perfect? No. Schroeder routinely tries to lick the dishwashing machine, and occasionally even swipes things off the kitchen counters. But still, he wins me over. If you're feeling "stuck" as you face your day, I would encourage you to stop putting so much pressure on yourself to be perfect. It can feel paralyzing. Instead, simplify your perspective-- God only expects one thing from you. That you follow His lead.


Monday

Four Strand Necklace and GIVEAWAY! DIY Week 5





Hello friends! I'm so excited about my DIY project this week. As some of you know, I love making jewelry. If you've never tried it before, you'd be surprised how easy, cheap, and quick it is to make a pair of your own earrings. This necklace was a bit more complicated, but still doable for a beginner.

Here's the final result!



So how can you make your own? Well, first I want to say that this pattern allows for a lot of variety according to different experience levels. I created it by morphing together several patterns I found on Pinterest, so I'd definitely suggest looking there for some inspiration. What you will definitely want is a thicker-sized ribbon for the top half. Without the ribbon, the necklace wouldn't look the same. I wanted my necklace to add a pop of color but still go with a lot of outfits, so I chose a sage green colored ribbon, and beads that were cream, pink, and blue, along with copper colored chain. I've also seen some of these done using pale blues, and those are beautiful as well. Here's a photo of the supplies I used: ribbon, fake pearls, blue and pink glass beads, and a copper-colored daisy chain.




You'll need to decide how many strands you want to create and what you want to attach them to. You could just create one very long pearl strand, wrap it a few times, and then attach the ribbon to each end. That would keep things simple and would be a great variation for a beginner. I chose to make each strand different. One is just blue beads, one is just pearl beads, one is the chain, and the other consists of a combination of the daisy chain and pink glass beads that look like crystal (but are much cheaper!).

If you decide you want to combine chain with beads, here's a quick how-to:

First, you'll need to use pins with a curved end. You'll need a pair of pliers to create an opening in the circle. Then, hook that opening through the hole in your chain. Once you have it the way you want it, either close the circle with your pliers, or a little trick I like to use is to close the circle with a pair of jewelry crimpers. In the second photo, you can see the amount of space you should be creating in your circle.






You'll then want to create a loop on the other end (you can find YouTube videos that demonstrate this technique--it's very easy) and attach it to the other side of the chain.

After you've created the various strands of the necklace, you'll either need to attach them to a fancy strand divider or a simple jump ring. I created a makeshift jump ring out of jewelry wire because I was low on supplies... so do use your imagination! There is no one right or wrong way to do this. Make sure you keep the strands in the correct order as you attach them.



Next, you'll want to measure out the ribbon depending on how long you want your necklace. I cut a little over four feet of ribbon for mine. Loop your ribbon through the jump ring/circle on one side so that it folds in half, then loop it through the other half and tie a bow. Another option would be to knot the ribbon and let it hang, then attach a pretty broach to cover the knot.

Your finished product should look something like this:




GIVEAWAY TIME! I had so much fun making this necklace that I decided to make a pair of matching earrings that I'm giving away! All you need to do to be eligible to win is leave a comment on this blog. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so be sure to check back--and also be sure to leave your e-mail address to I can contact you in the event you win! :)


Have you ever tried making jewelry before? What's your favorite piece of jewelry?