Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Blessings

The beginning of each new year is a time we can determine to respond to God’s goodness. It is especially convenient when the new year starts on the weekend and we have more leisure time to think about the past year with all its happiness and regrets; things we did right that we want to repeat, and things best forgotten. We remember dear ones who have passed away and resolve to honor them, and be more like them, this year. It is also a time we can newly commit to God, to be His, and take shelter under His wing.

Sometimes, as at the end of this year, I haven’t known what to pray. But God knows how He is turning all the unfulfilled things, disappointments and sorrows in life into something glorious.  So we look to Him; He’s the only one who can turn the bad into His glory and our good. As 2011 rolls around, I am looking to the Bible to see what its writers thought, struggled with and prayed. I am encouraged by Psalm 86, a prayer of David, and with him I say, “(Ps. 86:4) Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you.” I am confident that as God brought joy to David and watched over him, He will do the same for us. I am determined to trust Him- His plan, His unfailing love. That doesn’t mean I always understand, but it does bring me that deep down heart’s peace that I've never gotten anywhere else. Where does your peace come from?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Joy Persists

We have had a couple of challenging weeks here at River's Edge. But I am glad it is this season. Much as I felt empty a week ago, and I sought God for answers, I find as this Christmas week begins that joy persists in the face of sorrow. Somehow, hope in God finds light of day in our darkest times. 

In yesterday's sermon I was reminded that God knows our most difficult hurts, having had to give over his only Son for the demands of sins' punishment. God knows hurt. This is why He can be trusted with our broken hearts. He is the only One who has the power to redeem even the hardest things in our lives. Christmas couldn't come at a better time than when we hurt. Maybe you need reminding today, as I do, that this little baby, born in a manger,  came to give us hope for the future; and that brings joy in the here and now, even in this broken world. Merry, joyous Christmas.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Here are a couple shots of the poppies quilt I mentioned recently. The center drawing is of a tiny embryo which doesn't show up in the pictures. I particularly enjoyed the free-form quilting in this quilt, looking like ghosts of poppies and their little buds. The here-but-not-here quilting reminded me of the little baby I had carried for such a short time. For me he was here but not here, in our minds but in reality already a resident in Heaven. I mentioned before that in Victorian times and before, poppies were seen as symbolic of fertility, eternal life, and rest.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Coffin Quilts

Coffin Quilt #1 with hand dyed batik fabrics, black silk stuffed coffin sewn closed, and embryo beading on top. This is the first quilt I made after miscarrying Fidget's twin, Josiah Elijah, on 12/10/03. The name Elijah was chosen because like the prophet in the Bible, our baby was not born to die a man, but went straight to heaven and we did not see him go.The parts of the verse I stitched from 2 Kings 2:11 says ...Suddenly chariots of fire and horses of fire appeared and he went up to heaven in a whirlwind. There is no better thing for a grieving parent than to know your baby is in heaven waiting. Because I was still pregnant with Fidget, I found these quilts were the only way I grieved after that day until months after she was born when it hit me. Anyone who has lost a loved one knows there is no guarantee that grief will ever be gone. It strikes suddenly just as new as that first day. This December tenth was hard in that we experienced miscarriage again. But our confidence is in God, the Father of all comfort. He is holding our precious babies and we will see them one day. In the Bible God promises that no one who hopes in him will be disappointed.
Second coffin quilt with empty, closed black silk coffin. Psalm 139:14 quote, I praise you because you are to be feared; all you do is strange and wonderful. I know it with all my heart. This was important for me, to address the awesome supremacy of God in my time of grieving. His ways are higher than ours, and even when some of it doesn't look good, we have to trust his plan. It's the only plan. And he is always good.
Quilt #3 with open coffin of metallic silk. Verse: Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. John 12:24. My thought was this boy's life had come and gone so quickly, but that in that time his life had been an encouragement and I had the comfort of knowing his life had purpose. Besides that I knew he had a glorious home in heaven and would be waiting for me. He is waiting still.

Friday, December 10, 2010


Seven years ago today I miscarried Fidget's twin. 

I don't like the word miscarried. Being told I was mis-carrying seemed to implicate me in my little baby's passing even though I had not even known of my pregnancy a week. I didn't like to hear that I'd lost the baby either. That made it seem like carelessness on my part. But the baby did pass away and to our wonderment when we went to the hospital there was still another heartbeat. And many months later, our beautiful Fidget was born. 

Fortunately for me I was in art school at the time of the miscarriage. I say fortunately because I had something physical to pour my sorrow into. And I had plenty of time and supplies to work on grieving quilts. I made three tiny coffin quilts and another with a tiny baby and poppies, flowers that have long symbolized fertility and eternal life, rest and repose. It comforts me to think of the poppy quilt which now hangs in a children's treatment center in a hospital, and the coffin quilts, which I have lent to grieving mothers in the ensuing years. 

It is hard not to get our way, to know we have come up against God and that He did not agree with us in our wants. I have handed my desire for more children over to God countless times these years, and I know I am not done yet. Today is a new day to see His will working in my life and choose to embrace it. This morning I found a verse I want to exemplify, 2 Corinthians 7:4 "...I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds." 

When I grieve what I don't get, I see the way the world does not fulfill me. I have a wonderful family, and friends, and church, loved ones near and far. And still when I grieve the world's disappointments I am reminded none of the good things God has given can fill me. God shows me again and again where my hope must lie. Today I pray God will restore to me the joy of my salvation, the joy of knowing that troubles on earth are light and momentary compared to the boundless joy we will have with Him in Heaven for all time.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Everyday Grace

We are a needy people. No one likes to need, especially in a country that prides itself on independence. It is a lot to get over when you find out you are in no state to help yourself into Heaven. This is the whole reason Jesus came and why we celebrate Christmas. He came and did what we could not. Our sin is a mortal disease. Yet Jesus was the only human who did not have the disease in the history of the world. 

It is one thing to learn you need Jesus and ask Him into your heart. Fine, we say, I needed you for that. But the rest of this, I’ve got a handle on. It brought me up short this week to be in need. Time and again God shows He knows we are a needy people, and He provides. So why should there be any shame? We need, He answers.

 This week I’ve been having a rough time not feeling well. Yesterday I thought, tomorrow for sure I can handle making dinner. But there’s not much to eat after that meal, and the thought of shopping was daunting. I thought, if only someone else could do it. That’s silly though; there are some things you just have to do. So I was floored this morning when a friend called and offered to do my grocery shopping! In fact, I started to cry. Psalm 9:18 tells us God will never forget the needy. In Psalm 69:33 the Lord tells us He hears the needy. Psalm 72:13 says he will take pity on the weak and the needy. So why should I be so surprised that God cares even about me and my needs, especially one that is so comparatively small in light of the many needs of poor countries and oppressed people? He promises, and He means it.

Sometimes it takes being needy to bring me to my knees. This is where God reminds me that grace is not just about Christmas. Grace is for every day.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"One of the most enthralling, if humbling, aspects of being human is that each of us, without any input, finds ourselves in the midst of a world we did not choose, but that obligates us at every turn. It is as though some great hand reached down into the mysterious place from which we all come, hauled us out, set us onto the shores of culture, and said, 'Here, this is where you will become yourself.' " So begins Gregory Thompson’s article “Toward Faithfulness in Our Time” in byFaith Mazagine’s Fall 2010 issue. 

This world is big, and we can feel lost in it at times, but my place is secure. I do not have to fret about how God would affect the "shores of culture" through me. The comforting thing is, I've found when you pray for God to let you encourage someone, He brings you someone who needs encouraging. I am here, "becoming myself" in just the place God wants me, and I am confident He will touch others through me. My confidence is not in myself or my ability to do anything, but knowing that God who promises is faithful. Who will He touch and encourage through you today?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Nothing's Not So Bad

Today a friend called and caught me doing nothing. My family had just left the house. This was one of those times I have a list for. Of course there are the usual things like laundry, dusting, thinking up what's for dinner, and paying bills, but these were not on my list. My list is a fun list. A list of things I want to do when I have time: work on my secret Christmas presents, wrap presents, write letters, write stories, read a book, bake bread. Carefree things. But when my friend called, I was doing nothing, and I sheepishly told her so. "You're supposed to just 'be' sometimes," she said. "I think it's biblical even." 

We talked a bit more and when we hung up I got around to doing one of the fun things on my list. As I did though I kept thinking about just being. She was right, it isn't wrong to sit and think, or just sit and not necessarily think. So after working on Christmas presents awhile I went to the Bible to see what it said. I love doing this because there are many translations, and they are all interesting. 

Psalm 37 tells us to "Be still and wait for the Lord," while in Psalm 46 God tells us, "Be still and know that I am God." or, in another version, "Let go [of your concerns]! Then you will know that I am God." Still other versions began, "Cease striving," "Stop fighting," and "Step out of traffic..."

In Exodus 14, God assures His people He will take care of them, through Moses: "(verse13) Moses answered the people, 'Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. (14) The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.'" Looking at that one, it is comforting to know nothing was required for their survival.

A sobering verse, Zechariah 2:13 says "Be still before the LORD, all mankind, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling." In all this stillness, it is good to think about the enormity of God. He is to be feared in one sense, but when you know Him, when you've pledged your life to Him because Jesus died and rose again for you, you really do need 'only to be still'.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

These days I am enjoying Alexander McCall Smith's No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. In The Good Husband of Zebra Drive, the main character, Mma Ramotswe, thinks about all the bad in the world. It can be overwhelming, but what is there to combat it? "...small acts of helping others, if one could; small ways of making one’s own life better: acts of love, acts of tea, acts of laughter. Clever people might laugh at such simplicity, but, she asked herself, what was their own solution?" 

In the series Mma Ramotswe seems to be a Christian, yet that is not what the books are about. Whether Christian or not, we all want to make the world better. This quote struck me because it got me thinking about what we can each do. Making our own lives better, ironically, comes from doing things not for ourselves but for others. Christ came and showed us the way to do this. He showed us there is no one insignificant, no one not worth His time. In my quiet house at dawn it is hard for me to imagine having a big impact on people. But the little things we do to help, to encourage others really can make a difference.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Who's Got You?

Lately I’ve been really tough on myself. Approving of myself only if I live up to all the things I set out to do, knowing there isn’t time for them all. I shouldn’t say lately, because heck, I’ve always done it. Why do I do this, when I love giving others plenty of leeway? It’s like I’m saying grace is for you, but not me. I didn’t see how prideful that was ‘til I wrote it down. 

So, I was running this morning, and thinking, great now I can approve of myself, I’ve earned my self- respect for the day with this run. Then I was running myself down for being so hard on myself, when I got to this bridge. It looks daunting, but if you were going as slowly as I was, it wasn’t that bad. I was in a great frame of mind (despite the self-recriminations), just enjoying being out, I’m by myself so rarely these days. I looked out across the water and a little boat was heading out, being followed and surrounded by a bunch of seagulls. They were all around the little boat, high in the air and swooping low, and I wondered if there was a bait bucket visible that made them follow. As I made my way slowly up the bridge, I thought, that’s what God’s grace is like. It’s surrounding me, over me, going with me, all the time. And as I thought this, there were noises on the bridge as cars passed back and forth. What if the bridge falls? I thought. And just as quickly as I thought it, I heard God’s assurance, I’ve got you. I’ve got you. I’ve got you

Soon I was over the bridge, and when I came back to it and crossed again, I saw the little boat and another boat, both surrounded by seagulls. Surrounded by grace. There were more bridge noises, and my vision played tricks on me as the water rolling away under the bridge competed with my concentration on the ground 10 feet in front of me. The more exhausted I got, the shorter my thoughts were. Until all I heard was I’ve got you, I’ve got you, I’ve got you. I didn’t really want to go running this morning. It’s not my favorite thing. But I’m glad I went. Not so I could approve of myself. I needed reminding, Who’s got me.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pardon Me, the Back Side of Your House is Missing

This is what happens when the Pres is off work. He tore out the back wall and took the door off too yesterday. The laundry room is open to the world! The Pres began tearing the laundry room up and putting new walls in it a few months ago. But naturally as soon as he began this project, he was sent halfway around the world. Happily, now that he's home safe he is back to work doing his favorite thing: making things better around here one board, one cut, one screw at a time.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Yes, Yes, and Yes

I was reading Psalm 16 this morning, where the psalmist says, "The boundary lines for me have fallen in pleasant places." and in 2 Corinthians 1 it says that all things are Yes in Christ. Even when I don't get my way, or when no matter which way I turn there doesn't seem to be a good choice, it is a relief to know that God's choices, the boundary lines, fall where he wants them. And that in them there is a Yes. Even when it doesn't feel like it. Even when we don't see it. Christ is redeeming all of it.

Here is my little Rose Tree Cottage quilt. When we moved into that house, it was just a house. But somewhere along the lines, while we were doing a lot of physical work on it (the Pres more than me), God changed my heart about the house, and it became a thing of beauty. Looking back on it reminds me this is just a small picture of what God can do with anything. He can change any heart. From weeping to rejoicing, all in His time.

Monday, November 8, 2010

About Blood

I've been thinking a lot about blood. Last week, over the weekend. At the farmers' market I got a package of sirloin from these great free range people, and it had about a cup of blood in the bottom of it. It was a shame to throw it out, although I don't know what I should've done with it instead. My friend Sandy told me at the hospital where she used to work, when the blood got past its expiration date, they were allowed  to take it home and pour it out in their gardens. Apparently it's helpful for enriching soil. I didn't think of it quick enough but I wonder what the neighbors would've thought if they saw me pouring blood outside. 

Yesterday Fidget and I were reading about how Clara Barton was called the Angel of the Battlefield in the Civil War (wish I was an angel of something. How does Angel of the Laundry sound?); how she was so selfless she drove her wagon out on the battlefield and cared for the sick and dying. It got me thinking about how important blood is. I made a book about blood back in art school- East Carolina U, MFA, 2004- and of course I can't find it this morning. It has a picture of Clara Barton in it from a Red Cross pamphlet and says, "Freely you have received; freely give." I've done a lot of art work about blood. I may not be finished with blood art work. The only problem is that naturally no one wants it. I admit, it's kind of a weird subject.

Sometimes it feels like we're not of much use to anybody, and that is when I like to think about giving blood. I like to be encouraging, but blood is something tangible I can give that is truly needed. I have been turned away by the Red Cross numerous times for having 'tired blood'. Sounds bad, doesn't it. Who would want that kind? Not even me. I really do eat well, lots of irony vegetables, but it doesn't seem to add up. I am taking iron pills and it's put me over the top, fortunately, but the last time I was going to donate, 2 weeks ago, the guy couldn't find my vein and sent me home.

So, I can't always give. But I can keep spreading the word about how good it is to give. If you're wondering what you can do today, think about that. We can all do something.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Blessings of the Day

Happy Daylight Savings weekend from our current house, River's Edge Bungalow! I meant to write yesterday, but as so often happens, the day got away from me. It wasn't a hectic day, but I just never got back once the day started.

I woke yesterday in no hurry to do anything, and though I'm not much into doing a lot for breakfast, I felt like cooking. I offered Fidget what I was cooking: a cheese omelet, tiny sausages, which I am crazy for although I don't eat them often, and toast. Fidget said she wanted a Pop Tart. I was floored that she'd pick that over a home made meal. She had her Pop long before my breakfast was ready, so once it was ready I sat by myself in the dining room with my breakfast and a book. What a welcome feeling for someone who doesn't often get time alone these days. I looked around me and relished the food, savored its flavor, enjoyed the coziness of the house, the light. I sat there and rejoiced in the whole experience. I thought about how many people go hungry, and wondered, despite my prayers, how often I am truly thankful for the blessings of the day.

Fidget picking the Pop Tart started me thinking too, about how often I forgo blessings by choosing what comes easily. My thoughts veered off to the question, does God make us work for blessings? No, blessings from God are freely given despite our inability to earn them, that's grace, but we certainly can choose a path of settling for good when God would want the best for us. How often do I do that? It's something to think about this morning- a Pop Tart weekend morning for both of us- as I enjoy the blessings of the day.

Next week I will start showing some art, maybe some house pics. For now, it's time to work on my secret Christmas projects.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Welcome Home

Two words I hope will describe my blog are comforting and encouraging.  Though it wasn't always true, my hope now is in Christ and I hope to live out the verse from Job 16:5 that says, "But my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief." You may feel fine. You don't need relief. All the same, I hope you will be uplifted whenever you visit this site.

In the meantime, let me tell you about the Jewel of Bayshore. Around sixteen years ago we bought our first place, a matchbox house of brick, only about 800 square feet (hence the term matchbox) and riddled with old termite damage. It didn't take me long to realize I needed an attitude adjustment about this place. Instead of looking at it as someone's fifty year-old rental property, I started to see it for what it could be if it was truly loved. So I named it Peace Garden, having seen a famous British Peace Garden in The English Garden magazine. I went all out imagining how great this little cottage could be. I researched flowers and planted one for each letter in the home's name: P for petunias, E for echinacea, etc. I established a tongue-in-cheek home improvement society (giving my husband and me its top titles Pres and VP) and a newsletter about the house (the short-lived Peace Garden Gazette). Meanwhile, my Devil Dog, AKA The Pres, wasted no time demolishing plaster walls and replacing them with sheet rock, and taking out rotten floor joists and replacing them. But, being military folks, we had to move after only 18 mos. More on that house's progress later.

By the time we moved back I felt the name was wrong and changed it to Rose Tree Cottage, after our dear neighbor Linda Wendt, who sadly died while we were away- she had given me a wild rose from her garden before we'd moved. While we were gone the white wild rose took over and as it scrambled up over the brick and the porch roof, it gave the house the charm I'd pictured it having long before. The new version of my newsletter was called The Rose Tree Rambler, a publication of the Rose Tree Cottage Improvement Society, and its motto was 'Come see the jewel of Bayshore'. We are now several houses later, but treat each one with a fitting name, an improvement society (now happily also peopled with our kid, Fidget), and a newsletter. But we will never forget our roots, at the Jewel of Bayshore.