Monday, January 30, 2012

when things are broken and ugly

I realized something about blogging's hard to do so when things don't feel very pretty. That is, it's not easy to write about things that really matter...the matters of the heart. It's no problem to post about fun ideas, endeavors in the kitchen or happy photos - the "Fine" responses to the question, "How are you doing?"

But to post when you feel overwhelmed, uncertain, and the uncleanness of your heart seems to spill out unbidden? Not such an easy thing to accomplish.

For the past few days, however, this post has been writing itself in my mind and I'm sharing the unprettiness because maybe it will encourage another. God's way of turning the ugly into the beautiful.

So often these past few months, in the times when the chaos and intensity of raising children is at fever pitch I feel like I want to take a good long vacation, to run away, to leave what robs me of feeling like "me." This usually happens when I am at a loss as to how to deal with our children's disobedience and when I feel like yelling is one of the few and unfortunately effective ways of getting them to listen. I maybe understand why women leave their children. It's not a pretty thought.

And no question if they were in peril, I would be on my knees begging God for deliverance and if something worse happened to them, my heart would break and these unlovely thoughts be a torment in my grief. And there is no question I do not want this thought to persist or stay because even in our disobedience God still loves us.

I've often asked Him these past few months how He has the ability to be so patient with us, His children born of His love. How He can love what hates Him or worships worthless, dead idols over His living glory. Sure He sent a flood at one time to wipe out all but eight people on this planet because of their sinful ways, but then He promised never to do it again. Even though, in a very short time, they were right back at it. And so are we.

Yesterday, though, He whispered something to me and it's really the something I desire to share, but His Words mean so much more when you understand where I've been in my flesh these past few months...

I stayed home from church with Reese and Ben due to some mild sickness. Reese was playing with Lego in his room and I decided to join him, giving him quality time with me - his love language. If you have boys of Lego- age you most likely will identify with this next part, and if you are from an all-girl world as I once was, this will be a fascinating insight into boy-world..

For some reason, the boys LOVE to take apart their Lego guys...heads, arms, legs, hands. When my sisters and I played with Lego this thought never entered our minds. We occasionally mixed things up, but we always kept body parts in tact.

So I had it in mind, as I was playing with Reese that we would go on a rescue mission and put all the Lego men back together as best we could (some body parts having been lost to the vacuum cleaner).

It's always distressed me to see these Lego men in pieces and I as put them back together I realized how much I enjoyed putting broken people back together.

And that's when God whispered, "So do I."

Oh, how good it did me to hear His voice softly reminding me that though I am broken, He enjoys the process of piecing me back together and perhaps this is the secret of His patience...knowing these shattered pieces of our souls take time to be made whole. But He who is out of time has all the time in the world to work it out. And for that I praise Him. And on that I hang my hope.

To God be the glory! Amen.

The gifts:

  • He can fix me
  • His I might have more
  • restoring Lego men to wholeness
  • time spent with Reese
  • hearing "Step by Step" on the radio...and God ordering mine

Sharing with (SDG on Tuesday):

Saturday, January 28, 2012

something new

Despite my hesitations, I'm jumping in with both feet to the social media pool by setting up a Facebook and Twitter account which combine the names of this blog and my shop: Whispers of Grace. You can find Whispers of Grace here on Facebook and here on Twitter.

Personally, I feel overwhelmed by the amount of information that gets shared in these two forums and I'd rather communicate by email and really, the only One I want to really "follow" is Jesus, but I'm exploring whether these will be a better way to share any updates from both the blog and shop. Mostly, I'll be sharing updates along with new items added to my shop, shop announcements and occasional giveaways and promotions.

(And, something new for Valentine's Day... I have a couple of these listed in the shop:)

Friday, January 27, 2012

thinking outside the (chocolate) box

I love chocolates and flowers, but I also love thinking outside the proverbial box, especially when it comes to giving gifts. If you're looking for something a little different to give this Valentine's Day - or for any other occasion - here are items from a treasury I put together Etsy along with a few additional items and suggestions for accompanying messages. All images are sourced from the owner's shops.

"You Bring Color To My World"
Gift idea: crayons, colored pencils, paints or other art mediums
Perfect for: children and budding or full-fledged artists

 crayons                                                                     pencil crayons

"We Make a Great Pair (or "Pear")"
Gift idea: mittens, pear-shaped/imprinted household items, pears, socks
Perfect for: anyone!
pear art                                            pear wall clock                                    upcycled mittens

"We're Birds of a Feather"
Gift idea: bird seed, bird pictures or notecards
Perfect for: bird fans

bird seed hearts                                                            bird art

"I Dig You"
Gift idea: gardening tools
Perfect for: avid gardeners, children

"Sow Seeds of Love"
Gift idea: seed packets
Perfect for: anyone

"You Make My Heart Sing"
Gift idea: ipod holder, itunes gift card, personal CD mix, whistle
Perfect for: anyone

ipod case                      whistle key chain

"You Light Up My Life"
Gift idea: candle, flashlight, key chain light
Perfect for: ladies (candle), anyone (flashlights, key chain lights)


"Your Love Warms My Heart"
Gift idea: travel mug cozy, tea, coffee, scarf, sweater,
Perfect for: adults (mug cozy/tea/coffee), everyone

 mug cozy                  freeze dried strawberries for tea                     scarf

"You are Written on My Heart"
Gift idea: pencils, pens
Perfect for: anyone

"You are Always on My Mind"
Gift idea: headgear
Perfect for: anyone
men's hat                            girl's/woman's hat                                         headband

"We Go Together Like Salt & Pepper"
Gift idea: salt & pepper shakers/servers
Perfect for: adults - especially newly engaged couples

Thursday, January 26, 2012

3 gifts on Thursday: love never fails edition

The next three weeks of 3 Gifts on Thursday will have a Valentine's Day theme. This week I'm starting off with one of my favorite things to do - incorporate Scripture into everyday life. So this 3 Gifts post focuses on the passage in 1 Corinthians 13 which describes the attributes of love.

For previous 3 Gifts installments, click here. If you would like to have a "gift" featured in this series, please see the bottom of this post for details.

1. the gift of finding it on etsy
In looking through etsy, I found a number of beautiful items which contain some or all of the words in this love passage. Here are some of my favorites (all pictures are sourced from the owner's etsy shops):

Framed embroidery from PA Country Crafts
Typography print from Define Design
Coasters from The Gracious Home

Metal wall art from The Word Within
Large wall art from Empire City Studios

2. the gift of making it yourself
Though I posted this back in October, it's worth sharing again, especially if you'd like to make a 1 Corinthians garland for yourself and/or for someone else. Please read this post for the instructions on what to do.

3. the gift of song
I love how songs help us remember information better than speaking and here's a song that's a recent favorite of mine and one I happened to be listening to this morning. God's grace in helping me think of a third gift for this post. ;)

If you have a "gift" you'd like me to consider wrapping into a 3 Gifts on Thursday package, please email me the details. It can be anything you are hosting or have heard about: from a giveaways to service projects, household/parenting tips, resources, promotions/coupon codes, items such as books, music, movies, etc (ones available for purchase online). If I choose to incorporate your gift suggestion into a 3 Gifts post, I will email you to let you know when it will be featured.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

crafting love: Valentine's Day idea #1

I originally posted about this idea last year, but am refreshing it for Valentine's Day. (I need to give credit to Tee from Sustainablog for reminding me of this tutorial and suggesting it be used for Valentine's Day - thanks Tee!). I've created a link at the top of the blog for the Valentine's Day ideas I'll be sharing over the next couple of week. Or you can access it, by clicking here.

Because I'm usually opt to toss rather than keep for nostalgia's sake, I have very few cards on hand, except a large stack from our wedding which I dug into for this tutorial. Which come to think of it, does go with the love theme. ;) But I much prefer to re-purpose items where possible, which makes this idea perfect for a heavy card-giving occasion. (If you're a tosser like me, this idea may need to wait until this Valentine's Day is over...then you'll be one step ahead for next February 14th.)

Step 1: Collect Valentine's/love theme-cards and select one of them to use as a template. You may want to use a smaller rectangle - choosing a larger one may mean your template won't fit on the smaller cards. Unless you want to create several different sizes of triangles.

Step 2: Make your template. Tear the card in half along the crease mark. Like this:

Then, using the back half of the card (the one with the main message), fold it in half. Like this:

Next, using a ruler, draw a diagonal line from one corner to the other. Like this:

Cut along the diagonal, unfold, and...voila! your template.

Step 3: Cut out your pennant pieces. Using your template trace around the colorful front of the card and cut out. At this point, you may want to write on the back who the card was from, who the card was for, and the year. Also, you may want to play with the order of the pieces to get a pleasing pattern.

Step 4: String your pennant pieces together. Punch two holes at the top and thread string, ribbon or raffia through the holes. Holes small in diameter are better than larger ones unless you are using a thick material to string the pennants - you want to be able to slide the pennants along and adjust their position easily.

Step 5: Hang up on the day of the celebration and enjoy. Tuck away for the next Valentine's Day and add to it as you collect more cards.

Monday, January 23, 2012

abuzz with love (and photos from the weekend)

Unlike my as-of-late tendency to think of gift ideas in the week before the occasion, lately my mind has been buzzing with Valentine's Day ideas. Perhaps an answer to my prayer to be intentional and take my time over creating gifts. So I thought it would be fun to share these ideas over the next couple of weeks interspersed with my other posts. Mostly, I've been trying to brainstorm fun, yet practical ways to say "I love you" beyond the usual cards which are destined for the recycle or toss pile.

And in my shop, I'll be stocking some special Valentine's Day items in the coming week, Lord willing. I already have these hand-sized pit packs listed:

...and I'll be listing these cloth sacks soon:

And some pictures from the week which began and ended with sledding at one of our favorite spots. I'm having a time of it trying to get Ben to keep his mitts on....after I took this picture, he started dragging his hands in the snow as I pulled him on the sled, lost a mitt, but kept right on trailing his fingers until I noticed what he was up to!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

3 gifts on thursday

For previous 3 Gifts installments, click here. If you would like to have a "gift" featured in this series, please see the bottom of this post for details.

1. the gift of rewards for frequent purchases
As much as possible I try to buy organic. Which can be pricey. So whenever I find ways to save on organic products, I celebrate. Last year I discovered Stoneyfield Organic has a rewards programs for its customers. If you buy Stoneyfield (I love their Yo Baby Yogurt), look for the rewards code on their product and then go here to sign up and enter the codes. According to their site, they are doing the reward program through June of this year, but I'll be praying it stays around for much longer. :)

2. the gift of soy milk coupons
Ever since I became lactose intolerant, I've tried to find alternatives to cow milk. Soy milk is now my "go to" product and makes a great substitute when milk is required for a dish or recipe (soy cheese, however, is not...I have yet to find a suitable replacement for that). If you are lactose intolerant, allergic to milk or just trying to cut back on fats and cholesterol, try soy milk. If you visit the Silk Soymilk site, you can find a printable coupon here when you sign up (it's free). Note: I've heard that if you're going to buy soy products it's best to go organic. And, if you're using it in recipes, getting the unsweetened version is best.

3. the gift of a great cookbook
I checked this book out of the library a few weeks ago on a whim. Reese loves looking at cookbooks and I thought he might enjoy this one given his love of apples. Turns out I rather enjoy it too and it has some yummy recipes. So far we've tried the blue ribbon apple pie (Dave made that one), sweet potato and apple latkes (delectable...the only down side was the house smelled like latkes for a few days afterwards) and morning glory muffins. One of my favorite parts of the book is the guide to apples and the stories behind some of the recipes.

If you have a "gift" you'd like me to consider wrapping into a 3 Gifts on Thursday package, please email me the details. It can be anything you are hosting or have heard about: from a giveaways to service projects, household/parenting tips, resources, promotions/coupon codes, items such as books, music, movies, etc (ones available for purchase online). If I choose to incorporate your gift suggestion into a 3 Gifts post, I will email you to let you know when it will be featured.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

wonder: snow...prints

image source
Today it's snowing. White feathers, shaken gently from the sky. The most perfect kind of snow fall.

Back when I didn't believe God existed, I failed to see the miracle in this seasonal occurrence. At the advent of junior high and biology and a "natural" explanation for the creation around us, I took the faulty leap to believing these natural "explanations" explained away the need for God. I couldn't have been further from the truth.

As I watched the wisps settling on the ground, I thought about how each snowflake is unique. Isn't it mind-boggling to think about how much snow has fallen through the millennium and not one flake is like another? Which reminded me we are like that too.

And it's even crazier to think that no one is an exact duplicate of another...not even "identical" twins.

Dave bought the kids a book on the human body this past weekend and one of the facts pointed out that everyone's fingerprints are unique to that individual. Even "identical" twins grow fingerprints of different patterns.

Though believing in God must be a leap of faith, surely that fact must provide some evidence at His existence. For how else can you explain two individuals split from the same cells to end up with different fingerprints. And this doesn't just happen with one set of "identicals" happens with them all!

How wonderful of God to give us tangible, visible proof that He does not see us as numbers, but as names. Not one like another. Each uniquely special in His eyes. Each created out of Love to be loved by Him.

When you have a moment, peer at your hands. Notice the fingerprints. God placed them there. Chose that pattern specifically for you. Your prints are proof that you were meant to be. He had you in mind before you came to be. Amazing.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


The golden week at the cottage, on the shores of Lake Huron near Goderich, Ontario, is one we anticipate each day we are not there. It's a try-to-make-it annual event, but pregnancy, babies and other excursions creep in between times.

For nearly three decades our family has sojourned there, a tradition started by my English born and bred grandmother loved the water.

It's the water which draws me too. Occasionally bone-chilling even mid-summer. Sometimes stirred up by wind and storm, God's washing machine and we are the laundry.

Though the water memory which holds me fast is the sensation of water closing over my head as I dip beneath the surface, raising goosebumps at liquid shock. Then... the cooling of sun-warmed skin, the lifting of hair, the pulling through the water, exploring. It is the immersion which beckons and perhaps we never really forget the nine months spent in a fluid embrace.

Today, I realized it's immersion which my spirit is crying out for - another glimmer of light God sheds in the fog of the past few months. And I think it's why I turn jittery, anxious, edgy when I have too much going on in my head and in my surroundings. I want to sink into the moments, fully immerse myself in them and immersion is impossible when splashing from one puddle to another. I recently read about this sinking into time idea in One Thousand Gifts and it makes so. much. sense.

Which is why I want share about something I'll be doing for this season of Lent which begins February 22. I've been praying about this for several weeks, asking and re-asking God for confirmation. But I think He just wants me to take the plunge. So here goes. Deep breath.

From February 22nd through Easter I'm going to fast, with God's strength and mercy, from the computer. For 47 days I'm going to put it away, bury it somewhere in our house and immerse myself in life apart from the laptop. I need this fast on so many levels, but it seems rather daunting given how much our lives are bound up in technology...even simple things like communicating.

It will take some preparing between now and then and I wonder if those 47 days will seem like months or years. I wonder too if I will feel more apart of the world or separate from it. Questions which can only be answered on the other side.

I wonder if this is something God may be inviting you to do too, whether it is for the complete 47 days or only a portion. An invitation to immerse yourself. Give yourself fully to another area He may be calling you to. A baptism of Spirit to spirit. If you do take up this invitation, will you come back and let me know that we may pray for another to guard against temptation and to open ourselves to receive what God may have in store?

In the next week or so, I'll also share about something I'm working on for Lent, another way to immerse, prepare, receive the gift of Christ's dying on a cross for us.

Linking with:

Saturday, January 14, 2012

hot chocolate

It was a hot chocolate kind of day least it was for Luke and Ben. I chose apple cider, while Brie and Reese were sipping up knowledge at school.

It was well earned after fighting to get the iced sliding doors of the van open while racing against the clock to get the kids to school in the nick of time, then braving the wintry weather to go grocery shopping.

And I was surprised last night at how quickly the week flew by...could it really be Friday already? It seemed we must have one or two more school days before us.

We have fallen into this new routine with an ease that bears the mark of God's grace. It could be nothing else. I struggled to find a like-slipping-on-new-skin schedule for the first part of the school year and it never quit fit just right. There always remained a bunching here, an irritant there and seams falling out of place.

Yet there is an ethereal strangeness to this season. A jumble of peace and wrestling, joy and deep sadness, a lost and findingness. It's God working out His purposes, answering prayers, setting a captive free. It is bitter, but it also is a hot chocolatey kind of sweet.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

3 gifts in thursday

For previous 3 Gifts installments, click here. If you would like to have a "gift" featured in this series, please see the bottom of this post for details.

1. the gift of joy

I've almost finished reading Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts - a profound book that encourages the reader to live out the thanking of God for everything and rejoicing in Him always. And this year, she's adding a new twist to the gift list...counting 1000 gifts in one year and providing 3 specific gifts to look for each day. Dave and I are doing this together with the kids - reading the daily treasure hunt in the morning and sharing about the gifts we found in the evening. Here's the link to her post on the Joy Dare.

2. the gift of tantalizing recipes
I found this blog a couple of months ago. Beautiful photographs, yummy foods to try and a little bit of life mixed this peppermint hot chocolate:

photo source: The Pastry Affair

photo source: Positively Splendid
3. the gift of simple, cheap organizing #2
Last week, I shared this tip in the category of simple, cheap organizing. And last week I was excited to discover this tutorial at Positively Splendid a) because we still are buy diapers and b) because I can always use beautiful ways to organize and stash things. Now I'm kind of excited to buy our next box of diapers, but not 100% excited because I still have to pay more money than I'd care to on something that will end up in a landfill.

If you have a "gift" you'd like me to consider wrapping into a 3 Gifts on Thursday package, please email me the details. It can be anything you are hosting or have heard about: from a giveaways to service projects, household/parenting tips, resources, promotions/coupon codes, items such as books, music, movies, etc (ones available for purchase online). If I choose to incorporate your gift suggestion into a 3 Gifts post, I will email you to let you know when it will be featured.