October 27, 2014

A Safe Place for My Love

I'm going to practice a little transparency here and say that fall is not my favorite season. 
I love the warm sunshine.
I love the trees that catch on fire with color.
I love the crunch of leaves under my feet.
I love the smell of the autumn air.

All this might render fall my favorite season if it wasn't for one thing. 
The transient nature of fall.

I'm a steady girl who doesn't like change or unexpected happenings. 

So the warmth of the sunshine is cooled by the knowledge that it will soon be gone.
The fire in the trees is tainted by a wish that they would stay just like that. But I know they won't.
Crunching leaves remind me that more leaves are falling and they'll soon be replaced with snow.
And the deep autumn smell hanging in the air is almost like the countryside's last sleepy breath before it buries itself in snow-white hibernation.

Autumn is beautiful. But I cannot love it as I long to because it leaves me holding my breath, straining to capture every glory before it drifts away. 
And I think every human being aches to find a beautiful thing to love without reservation. A beautiful thing that will not turn ugly in time. But we can't bring ourselves to love with a passion because we know that this glorious beauty will disapear and we'll be left cradling a disintegrating brown shell of a leaf. 
Is there anything I am safe to love?

Only God.

That God who breathed life into Adam? 
He who picked the lowly Abraham, Gideon, and David and changed the world through them?
The God who healed the sick
Who made the blind see
Who loved the little children
Who died without fighting back
And who rose up alive, brilliant hope fulfilled.

And God? He doesn't change like the shifting shadows.
He doesn't cycle like the seasons.
That life he breathed into Adam is still filling my lungs. 
This lowly girl is being used by God in mighty ways.
God heals my sickness
Opens my eyes
And loves this child of His 
To the grave 
And back again.

He's not transient. He will stay. And stay. And stay with me.

Yeah, I think I could love someone like that. 

Because He won't disappear like the glories of autumn. 

He is a safe place for my love.

October 23, 2014

On the Edge | Little Dresses for Africa (part 2)

So I left you hanging last week from two 7 inch pieces of elastic. Let's pick up right where we left off before you loose your grip, shall we? 

7. Attach a medium/small safety pin to the end of one piece of elastic, like this:
Now thread it into the little casing at the top of the dress. Right before the loose end disappears into the casing, fasten it in place with another safety pin. You don't want it to slide inside.
Once you get the elastic all the way through the casing, safety pin the other side together as well. It will look all bunched together.
Repeat on the other side.
8. Cut two 38 inch lengths of double-fold bias tape. Find the halfway point of each by folding the strips in half. 
9. Line this middle point up with the center of one armhole and unfold the main crease in the bias tape. Re-fold the bias tape, sandwiching the edge of the armhole inside. Pin in place. Keep working your way up both sides of the armhole, sandwiching and pining as you go.
Repeat on the other armhole. The dress should look like this:
10. Sew the bias tape in place. The seam should be fairly close to the edge of the bias tape with fabric sticking out, and make sure you double-stich over the ends a couple times.
11. The dress is done! Now you just have to include a note stating that the dress is a size medium (additional sizing info is here), package it up, and ship it to:

Little Dresses for Africa
24614 Curtis Drive
Brownstown, MI 48134

If at all possible, enclose a donation of $2.00 per dress to help with shipping costs. 

(Disclaimer: the credit for the ideas and pattern in this post go to Little Dresses for Africa)

October 16, 2014

On the Edge | Little Dresses for Africa (part 1)

I have a ton of fabric. And for as long as I can remember I've wanted to do something meaningful with it. I've got a whole cubbard full just waiting for a worthy cause.

I think I've found it, guys.

It's called Little Dresses for Africa; you can read more about the organization here
Basically this organization is asking people to make some seriously simple pillowcase dresses and send them in the mail. The organization takes care of getting the dresses to needy girls in Africa, and they even have a pattern to follow on their site! These dresses can be made from fabric pieces or pillowcases, and the only extra supplies needed are 14" of 1/4" elastic and 76" of double-fold bias tape. If you haven't sewed much, this would be an excellent place to start!  

So that's what I'm doing with the fabric waiting in my basement. I'm planning on sending a box full of hope and sweet dresses over to Africa in the near future! Here are the instructions for you to join me!

If you're starting out with just fabric, start here. If you are using a pillowcase, simply cut off the short seam on the top of the pillowcase and skip to step 4.

1. Cut a piece of fabric 28 inches wide by 40 inches long.
2. Fold in half crosswise, patterned sides together. It should look like an inside-out pillowcase. 

Sew the long sides together, then zigzag/surge the edges and trim.

3. Pick one unfinished edge of the tube and zigzag/surge all the way around. Turn under and sew a simple hem. This is the bottom of the dress.
4. Turn the tube right-side out and fold in half lengthwise, so it's half as skinny as it was before. Cut a 2 inch by 4 inch armhole at the corner where the unfinished top edge and all the side seams meet. 
When you unfold the dress it should look like this:
5. Zigzag/surge both raw edges at the top of the dress (in between the armholes). Turn each edge under about 3/8" and sew on top of the zigzag/surging. This should make a casing big enough to fit 1/4" elastic.
6. Cut two 7 inch lengths of 1/4" elastic. 

So I'm going to leave you hanging right here until next week... Or you could hop on over to the original directions here and finish your darling dress yourself. :) 

(Disclaimer: credit for the ideas and patterns in this post go to Little Dresses for Africa)

October 15, 2014

Just a Thank You

Dear Lord, 
Thank you.

For girls who catch my eyes and capture my heart
For blazing gold painted hills
Songs on the radio
The smell of autumn
And raindrops turned gems on a dark drive home
For tears
And the relief they bring
For struggles
Uncomfortable days that stretch me
For clouds that scuttle across the dripping sky
For feedback so I know this life is actually moving forward
Worn work boots and the strong-humble people wearing them
For polka dots
And I could go on and on
Because you've blessed me so much, Lord. 
Help me to keep going, 
keep thanking,
as the days fly past.
Help me to snag the smiles and laughter 
In a blessed net of thanks.

October 10, 2014

On the Edge | Conversation

Some of you may know that I work as a trail guide. I get to spend a whole hour with strangers on horseback in the middle of the woods. Most of the time these people respect me because I know more about horses and the trails we're taking than they do, so it's a perfect opportunity to have some good conversations. You know, about God and life and such. 
But they're strangers. 
And I'm terrified of talking to them, to tell you the truth. But. (deep breath...) Today I'm stepping out to the edge. I'm going to make a concerted effort to hand my fear to God and start a meaningful conversation with someone on a ride today. You can do this too! Even if you aren't on horseback, make a point of stepping beyond the small talk today and showing someone you love them by talking about things they need to hear. Ask them how you can pray for them, or tell them about what God has been teaching you lately. 
For some of you, this will be easier than it will be for me. But let's take a deep breath, step out, and make a difference today! 

God completely blessed my socks off. You know how scared I was about this? Well, I prayed about it a bit, but I honestly didn't expect God to make it any easier than I imagined. But He's God, you know? He doesn't live in my expectations. 
I started talking to a girl behind me on a trail ride, wracking my brain to bring up something about God or church without sounding awkward. It wasn't working, so I ended up just chatting with her about the horses. She asked me if I knew the story behind any of the horse's names, so I told her about one story I knew. Then I remembered the ponies named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. I mentioned them, but it took a second for my mind to adjust to the glaring opportunity staring me down. 
"Do you know the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?" I asked, fully expecting her to know it. 
She didn't.
And then God convicted me and worked everything out at the same time.
See, I know the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. But not well enough to rattle off at a moment's notice. So God convicted me to learn that story well, as a tool in future conversations. 
But He worked everything out anyway.
When I mentioned that the story was in the Bible, the girl told me that she was actually reading through the Bible! This led to a conversation about her Wednesday night church group and about the Bible. 

God showed up, guys.

He showed up when I was terrified but when I stepped out in faith anyway. 

That. was. awesome.

October 6, 2014

This Thing Called Grace

"Are you sure you don't want me to press that piece?" 
She asked it like she was desperate to iron out the wrinkles in this life. To smooth the valleys and mountains and make time run silky-straight. 
Grandma has had lots of hills in her lifetime, I think. 
I handed her the fabric with a smile and a shake of my head. 
I guess we young ones don't understand what it's like to have a mess of wrinkles behind us. 
I don't feel the pain of each jarring bump like my grandma does.
She sure could use a good blanket of grace to wrap herself close in.
Because where she comes from, God lives at church and a Bible is a book and grace might be a dancer as easily as forgiveness. 
That life has been awful bumpy. 
And it makes my heart hurt when she frets about being a pain to us and she wishes she didn't cause so much trouble.
So I stretch out my grace blanket, try to pad some of her pain.
"Grandma, we love you. We want to do things for you because we love you.
And she feels this grace touching soft and her face goes happy sweet.
She brings back the fabric, crisp smooth and warm, and I'm thinking about how a wrinkle doesn't make a dress bad.
But maybe she doesn't see that a dress is a dress no matter how creased. That this dress will get folded and wrinkled and dirty and worn but will remain whole and loved in the eyes of it's owner. 
Life can be like that sometimes. 
No matter how hilly or wrinkled it is, life is still life. 
And we can choose to see it with the padding of grace as a beautiful masterpiece to be loved and worn out. 
Or we can see it as something that needs to be fixed - this life that keeps growing mountains and folds no matter how hard we press our troubles away. 
For some people, each bump just hurts to much to see the beauty of this thing called a life. 
But there is hope. It's called grace. 
And it doesn't numb the pain but it gives a new perspective and a new heart to this life. 
Today I'm choosing grace. You too? I'm glad. This journey is a whole lot sweeter wrapped in His arms.

(tutorial coming soon on little dresses for Africa - my new favorite project with a purpose!) 

October 3, 2014

On the Edge | Homemade Cards

I don't think I've ever gotten a card in the mail completely out of the blue from a friend. As in, not for my birthday or because we're pen pals. But I know if I did get a random card with an encouraging note inside... I'd have a grin plastered on my face for a while! 
This week's outreach is actually something for people I know who are Christians. Unlike some of the other outreaches, this week I'm focusing on encouraging and exhorting fellow believers. It's much easier to share the love of Christ if you've just been encouraged in your faith, yes? So this activity is an outreach... just in a roundabout way. :) 

To bless four people? It takes just two pieces of card stock and a pile of scrap paper. 
Cut each piece of card stock in half. Fold each new rectangle in half. Grab your wild side and make a collage of scraps on the front of the card. (This part was hard for my perfectionist nature) Let pieces stick out on the sides - we'll chop them off in a second. 
Cut off the extra paper on the sides, and admire the beauty that came from a bunch of unwanted leftovers! Think for a second about how God is making your life into a masterpiece that is far better than perfect. 
Now write encouraging notes in each and send them out to make someone's day!